But please, for the love of all that's holy, be original.
Let me elaborate by first going to what appears to be a completely different topic. The rise of self-publishing through sites like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, and others has been phenomenal. It's given authors whose works would otherwise never see the light of day a chance to have their novels read and enjoyed (or not enjoyed, whatever the case may be) by millions of people the world over. Self-publishing takes out the middleman, and gives everyone a shot at making it.
The downside of this, of course, is the sheer glut of people looking to make it. You've got great authors, so-so authors, and horrible authors (you know the ones--you wonder if they've ever seen a dictionary, and for whom "editor" is a foreign concept). Snagging an interesting-looking indie book is ultimately a risk readers take--you never know what you're going to get.
However, one thing you are almost guaranteed to get is the same damn plotline over, and over, and over, and over, and over again. The rise of self-publishing means there has also been a rise in writers all writing the Exact. Same. Story. This is especially true in the romance, fantasy, and YA genres, and it's old. Very old. So old, that these plotlines have gray hair, wrinkles, and one foot in the damn grave.
So incredibly worn are these plotlines, that I have stopped reading most books published by independent authors. I just can't take the unoriginality anymore.
I talk about this somewhat in my post about strong female characters, but plan on going into further detail here. Why? Because it's my blog and I can.
So, we all know that stories follow a basic pattern--you have the character in their normal world, something happens to change it all, whether that's a conflict or threat to their species' existence or whatever, obstacles to overcome, and then the resolution of whatever it was. That's the basic pattern and we all stick to that pattern, and that's fine. What livens up the pattern are the plot twists, surprises, and mystery. Many of us manage to accomplish this. The vast majority of us do not, and instead rely on worn-out themes and old tropes to write a story.
Oh, the male MC and female MC hate each other? I'm willing to bet by Chapter 5 they're banging like rabbits.
Oh, your story is about werewolves? I'm willing to bet there's a whole lot of focus on who's an Alpha and who's a Beta and who's an every other letter of the Greek alphabet. (Ok, to be fair, most authors don't get past Beta, but you get my point.)
Story is about vampires? $1,000,000 says they're either tortured "I'M A MONSTER" emo souls, or they are sadistic and animalistic with no real personality, other than evil, eviller, or slightly less evil.
It's a murder mystery? I bet it's the one guy who no one (except every reader with a brain) expects but who acts super-shady every other scene. (We'll discuss foreshadowing in another post.)
If you're at all familiar with Metalocalypse, you'll get this. Otherwise, get familiar with Metalocalypse, that show is funny as hell:
Ok, not me specifically, but again, you get the point. For instance, I actually caught some flak because my male and female MCs got together with very little fuss. There was some fuss, but not the fuss you'd expect from every other romantic situation out there. There was no triangle. They didn't hate each other. One character had some issues concerning vulnerability, but got over it. That was all the fuss.
And I did it that way on purpose. You see, I'm sick of long, drawn-out romantic bilge. And I certainly didn't want to write a romance the way nearly every other author in existence wrote it. I see no reason why romance has to be all tortured and agonizing and argumentative all the damn time. Why does there have to be misery, or a love triangle, or some other kind of depressing crap? WHY CAN'T IT BE NICE, especially when the book is most assuredly not a romance and more like an action-adventure novel?
Why do werewolves have to live in packs? Why does there have to be Alpha that has to be challenged and there's some kind of fight to the death for the title? WHY?
Why can't vampires actually enjoy their vampireness without being evil? Do they always have to be so damn tortured? (Please see my novels for that exact refreshing breath of vampire air.)
For that matter, why do vampires and werewolves always have to hate each other?
Why can't the killer act more like Dexter and manage to keep everyone off his/her trail? Why can't you actually surprise me, dear authors, with who the killer is?
These are the kinds of questions that plague me. And, authors, they should be plaguing you too.
In other words, stop writing what you're reading. Don't get me wrong--reading is a great way to get inspiration, but stop writing exactly the same thing everyone else is writing. Come up with something new. Like, new new. So new, it's shiny and sparkly and makes your readers go Oooooooooh when they see it.
Indie authors who have managed to pull this off for me include Helen Boswell, Jason Cantrell, Dan Rix, Paul Jones, and Michael R. Hicks. There's more, but those are the authors I can remember right offhand without going through my enormous library. They write about stuff we've all seen before--aliens, magic, demons, angels, the apocalypse--but they do it in such a unique way, with such an original spin to their stories, that I am well and truly impressed. Their imaginations are not regurgitations of what's already out there glutting the indie book market. No, their stories are fantastic and a true credit to writing outside of the box.
Those are the kinds of writers you want to emulate. And by "emulate," I don't mean write the same exact story with slightly different characters. I mean you should emulate them in that you come up with your own spin, discarding all the worn-out dirt-stomped predictable plotlines and creating something truly interesting and different.
So that's your challenge for today to everyone who is guilty of this peeve of mine. Write something different. Do something daring, come up with a new mythology, really make that killer so damn good that I never figure out who it is until you slap me upside the face with it, M. Night Shyamalan-style. Give me a story I can't predict, one where by page 10 I'm still hooked, and where I haven't got the whole thing figured out and can tell you exactly what's going to happen, including the ending.
Surprise me, surprise all your other readers, and stop making me regret all those free downloads that I can't get rid of and that I've only read 1% of because they were so yawn-worthy or in such desperate need of an editor as to be unreadable. They are clogging my Kindle library, dear authors. I'd rather my library was clogged with goodness. So...
CLOG MY LIBRARY WITH GOODNESS. *cracks whip*