I do a lot of reading and critiquing of others' work, and I can't begin to tell you how frustrating it is to read the same story over and over. We even see it today on the bookshelves. Publishers obviously love what's hot, but who can't notice that as soon as one thing is popular, suddenly there is an influx of it available. The newest trend I've noticed is the growing amount of pseudo-feminist dystopias shooting up on the shelves.
Now, I have always been one to believe that writers and artists in general have a sort of collective unconscious, where similar ideas spring up at the same times (how many times have you seen this yourself?), but I really, desperately, want to see some cutting-edge original fiction out there!
Of course, to come up with something original we need to have some kind of knowledge in what has already been done, which is pretty much everything. Some may get down-trodden by this, but I think it's even more of a greater challenge. Even if the plot we've been nursing along isn't exactly the most unique, the presentation of said plot is where we can adjust that. Setting, characters, dialogue, there is just so much to work with at the end of the day to make that book unique and phenomenal.
Characters can be tough, as there seems to have developed this standard of female MC who is average looking, of average popularity, and of humble, average background, but is discoverd to have something surpremely non-average about them. This character is without a doubt easier to read than "Special Mary-Sue", but I can say that this "Plain Jane" I've been seeing around is growing a little... plain. When I think of characters, I want to see real people with real relationships. I think it takes years of people-watching to gain the skill it takes to create these pyramids of people.
I love the gritty bits of characters, groups, and families. Just stop and take a look at the people you know. Think of some "I Loves" and "I Hates". Obviously with everyone you know you're going to come up with more than a few bits to put under each heading. So is the way of a character. Everyone is good at something (usually more than one thing), everyone has their glorious high points, as well as their low points. EVERYONE has those embarrassing moments in their lives that they never forget but which changed their lives forever. (Remember yours? haha). There's also an interesting element in groups that I've noticed both in my personal and workplace life. The younger set has clique drama, back talking, pranks, purposeful alienation, etc, but all of those bits of group life don't necessarily disappear when we become adults. (Try telling a teenager this, though. I swear some of the girls I mentor are convinced that adults should know the right answer to everything in life). What about the office? I was doing some training a few weeks ago where there was some definite visual tension between the senior workers of the company, and for that tension to be palpable, I can't even imagine what was going on.
I've been working on this bit in Pirouettes where the MC Aries starts to realize how other people see her, and is very upset by it. It's been an interesting process in my character development, very much like the first time I ever realized that people were talking behind my back. Such a powerful moment of adolescence that often gets missed by coming-of-age stories for bigger issues. But really, it's the small bits that make a story unique and powerful. It's the ability to convey a situation that the reader can relate with, those deep down situations that everyone has been through in the process of life.
What are some of your favourite books that hold this ability?
Right now I'm reading A Game of Thrones in preperation for the TV show *No Spoilers!* and I love how the cliches of the fantasy genre are overtaken by the personal relationships we get to build with each character. It's here where my love for reading began, and where the love of writing really starts to flourish.