Monday, 30 March 2020
The Trials Of A Crime Writer: So What If It's Been Done Before?
THE TRIALS OF A CRIME WRITER: SO WHAT IF IT'S BEEN DONE BEFORE?
This is something that I've heard so much around the writing community, and while I'm sure it's talked about applying to all genres, I wanted to do a piece about the crime and mystery genre in particular. There's a method to my madness, but it's simply that a lot of the time, crime is crime. You can think up motives and twists and turns, but people aren't going to be too convoluted and after a few goes, you'll realise that crime, motives and the twists have all be done before as well, and that seems to stump new authors, or even make them think that they shouldn't be writing their story, and I'm here to tell you why that's just not true!
It is true that pretty much everything, when it comes to the bare bones of the plot, have been done before. The unique part of the story is the spin that you put on it. It's the way you tell it personally. That on its own is enough to make your story stand out. Think about it, when people tell stories to each other about their day, they all have their own spin to put on it. You can't talk to two people and get the exact same wording, emphasis and all the rest, well you can, but usually that's because they're rehearsed their stories and made it sound almost script like, and that's a huge red flag, but this isn't the time or place for that!
So I thought that I would give you a few points on why it doesn't matter if your bare bones plot has been done before, and how to switch things around if you're worried that it's too similar to something.
#1. THE BARE BONES ISN'T THE STORY
At the end of the day, we all write stories differently. Personally I've looked at the bare bones of some of my mysteries and realised that they match a lot of big name author books. The reason I've not just given up and thrown the idea away is because I know I have a completely different writing voice to these authors. Once the book was out and written, it was only really then that you could see the stories only matched at the bare bones, the rest of it was entirely unique and if I was traditionally publishing and querying that story, I wouldn't be using the other titles as comps, because they were too different.
#2. TROPES AREN'T ALWAYS BAD
A lot of the time, people think that because the bare bones, and certain tropes match up to other stories, that they should be avoided altogether, and that's simply not true. Yes, certain readers will dislike certain tropes. The same can be said for any genre, not just crime. The thing you want to avoid are overused clichés, or tropes that people are getting sick of. Like for me, I'm sick of the serial killer trope. I feel like it's overused and there are way better ways to add suspense and tell your story than making everything about a serial killer. But that's just me, it doesn't mean that applies to all readers.
So when writing, when planning and outlining if you do that, remember that not all tropes are bad, and sometimes having them in your story will attract readers who live for those tropes. Clichés are something that you should really avoid, but only because it feels dated and lazy to use them. Too many times the two get lumped together as bad and it's just not true.
#3. TWISTS ARE FUN TO PLAY WITH
This plays into the second point a little in that twists can be seen as tropes. The whole idea of the red herring and the twist people see coming, can be discouraging to writers, but at the same time, just because your book has a twist that another book has, it doesn't mean that you shouldn't write it. If you're really worried about it, try and find a way to turn the twist on its head and give a new perspective to it all. It's something that you can work out while writing, or outlining. There's a lot of fun to be had playing with twists in your story.
And finally, #4. PEOPLE LOVE THE SAME STORIES TOLD DIFFERENTLY
Basically I wanted to end on a good note. A lot of the time, the reason that similar books sell is because people like them. They want to read a different take on a similar plot. It's how the industry works. So even if you can't find a way to change the twist, or to use different tropes, that's not a bad thing. You're writing a compelling story and it's okay if it's similar plot wise to another story. It's your voice, the way you tell it, that will bring the readers in.
So there we have it, things to think about both in the crime genre, but also in others as well. A lot of the angst and worry about writing similar plots is down to the idea that to be a good writer, you need to write something completely unique, and you will, even if your plot is similar to another book out there. It's in the way you tell it, and the way you present the facts, the characters and all the rest. So just keep that in mind, and keep writing!
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