By Ruth Logan Herne
It’s all in the “spin”. Or, to hear Bill O’Reilly tell it, “The “spin” stops here.”
Told and retold. Every author is familiar with the saying, “There are no new stories, only old stories, re-visited.”
That’s true in a lot of ways, and when you look at the vast number of books now available, the prospect of being new and fresh seems daunting, but I’m here to tell you it’s not. And why not?
Because they’re not Y-O-U.
Every author is unique. Styles vary. Opinions cover a wide range. And just knowing that your vantage point of a story might be different from any other persons can give you the forward thrust needed. Crime scene interviews demonstrate this plainly. If you interview five different eye-witnesses, they’re going to give you five disparate stories and descriptions. Why? They’re all reporting on the exact same crime.
1. Vantage point. We can only “see” what’s visible from our location, and that view is unique to us and our story.
2. Experience. Each witness is an individual with life experiences (or lack thereof) that color their point of view. When you translate that into character, their perceptions will be based on (and follow) their personal history.
3. Line of sight variations. What we “see” is not always what’s there. Our mind will fill in ‘blanks’, a lot like that word puzzle that travels the Internet, showing how the mind will subsidize for missing letters. So we may think we see something that doesn’t really occur. Your characters may make assumptions the same way, creating their own new layer of conflict.
4. Hearing. Sound is an under-used sense in a lot of first-drafts, and the subtleties of what the characters hear… and how they perceive the sound… layer their characters and possibly the plot. Step outside your scenes and look, listen and learn, then make sure what you’ve written speaks to the reader in such a way as to command their attention with warmth, humor, pathos, etc. Draw them into the room your characters share.
5. Emotional punch. Our five witnesses just saw a crime committed. Each one will be affected in different ways based on that person’s character/past/experience/youth, etc. As you explore the emotional punch of your story through your characters’ mindsets, you’ll deliver your own version of that same old tale…
I love to write about small towns. A skeptic might think that every small-town-in-America story has been told. They’re wrong. You can look around the average small town for a week and find enough story fodder to develop a book or a series of books on the standard give-and-take of the inhabitants. The same is true in any genre. Don’t re-invent the wheel. It’s unnecessary. Just use your version of the wheel to get the job done.
Ruth Logan Herne is a multi-published, award-winning author of a dozen 4 and 4.5 Star contemporary romance novels with Harlequin’s “Love Inspired Books” division, the Christian imprint of Harlequin Enterprises. Her latest novel, “Falling for the Lawman” is available in stores and online now. She loves small towns and the quirks therein! Born into poverty, Ruthy’s a pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps kind of gal who loves God, her family, chocolate, dogs and coffee. You can find her on Facebook, visit her at ruthloganherne.com or her blog at www.ruthysplace.com or find encouragement for authors with Ruthy and her Seekerville friends at www.seekerville.blogspot.com, voted a Writers’ Digest 101 Best Website for Writers award-winner.