I must confess though: When I got the go ahead from Casey to begin working on a guest post, I looked over past guest posts to see what had been covered and what hadn't. Almost right away, I realized that the many guest authors, illustrators and editors had already gone over a ton of wonderful and timely topics. I panicked and wondered if I had anything new and worthwhile to add. As I racked my brain searching for just the right thing to talk about—feeling like the biggest failure ever—it suddenly occurred to me.:
Original Ideas. Are there any left? And how do you write one?
To answer those questions, I flashbacked to a time not that long ago, when I taught a writing class at the Community College of Allegheny County. The topic of original ideas was something I had broached before. You see, the entire focus of the first session of class was debunking myths about writing so it could free you to work. One of those myths was that all the storylines had already been done, and therefore, there was nothing new for a beginning writer to add. To prove this myth wrong, I gave the class a simple exercise.
Close your eyes. Imagine a young guy running down a long, dark corridor. He’s sweating, he’s panting, his arms are pumping and his feet are slapping against the pavement. People are behind him, running nearly as fast. Suddenly, the young guy runs into a wall. Now open your eyes.
Next, I told the class to write three scenes that would explain what was happening to this boy. I gave them five minutes. Then, I had each student read aloud what they wrote. Know what I discovered? Not one student—in that class, in that semester, in all the classes I taught—came up with the same situation. Not. A. Single. One.
I remember one girl wrote the scene so it was nothing but a huge game of tag. Another wrote that the guy had super powers and ran right through the wall. Another wrote that the guy hit the wall and was killed by zombies. Some students wrote the scene with complete paragraphs that included actual dialogue. Some just wrote a few key phrases. And some wrote maybe a word or two. See? Not only did everyone come up with different scenarios, they even came up with different ways of doing the exercise!
Everyone has such a different psychology to them. It’s like I handed out a coloring page and they each shaded and filled in the lines with their own colors and experience. Some used colored pencils, some used charcoal, some used paint made from wild flowers. I gave them the exact same picture, but it was each of their unique experiences, likes, dislikes, knowledge and influences filtered through their imaginations that colored it in.
There's only so many storylines, that's true. Let's take a look at a classic: boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl. It's probably one of the most familiar archetypes around. But does Harlan Coben's Shelter read anything like Lisa Kleypas's Mine Until Midnight? Does Cora Carmack's Losing It read anything like Jackson Pearce's As You Wish? The answer: no they do not. But they all have that archetype in it. But the authors are so different and their stories reflect that.
So many times I run into people who want to write but they’re afraid to. They think that they have nothing to contribute, nothing entertaining or worthwhile enough for others to invest their time and money into. How could you possibly know if you never try? There always comes a time when I write something and think it’s the most ridiculous thing ever. In fact, most authors I’ve interviewed have said a similar sentiment. That feeling of fraudulence is normal. In fact, embrace it. It’ll make you work harder to make sure each character is authentic and each motivation true.
Stories come in all shapes and sizes and writers work in all styles and routines. Just like no two people are alike, no two stories are either. Of course, you have to push yourself and stretch your imagination and take the story to its limit, but when in doubt, always go back to yourself. Always remember how wonderfully different you are from the person beside you. And never doubt that you do have something new and wonderful to offer.
Since her breakthrough into publishing in 2007, arts and entertainment writer Bethany Hensel has compiled a vast and varied catalogue of work that includes interviews with television personalities, bestselling authors, award-winning singers, and more; as well as reviews of popular books, Pulitzer Prize-winning plays, and beloved musicals. Her debut book, Unstoppable, which readers have called “sexy”, and “sizzling” released December 3, 2013. It is available through most e-tailers. To learn more, visit bethanyhensel.com
As mentioned, Bethany is generously giving away two e-books of UNSTOPPABLE. Here's the description from Goodreads:
Derek Archer’s life is finally beginning. He’s just about to graduate from high school, land the job he’s always wanted, and move in with the girl he’s always loved, Victoria. There’s no reason for him to question or want for anything. …until the day Victoria’s father is shot and killed, setting off a devastating, heartbreaking chain of reactions.
Now, the race is on, and Derek has only three days to right a terrible wrong. With the help of a childhood friend with a penchant for high-tech espionage, they investigate every lead, never imagining their search would take them deep into the heart of a seemingly perfect family, where old ghosts, bitter lies, and agonizing betrayal all collide. It’s then Derek discovers just how unimaginable the truth can be…and how unstoppable.
Eeek! Sounds pretty intense, right?
If you'd like a chance to win UNSTOPPABLE, please be a follower and leave a comment on this post before December 21st. Winners will be announced Monday Dec 23rd.
If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, leave a link in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. You must be 13 or older to enter.