It’s not possible in storytelling.
Don’t believe me? Experts far smarter than me have already settled this matter. In fact, some people believe there are only seven story plots in existence, and we all keep reading them in books and watching them in movies over and over again.
“Original is not an achievable goal in novel writing. What is achievable is fresh.” — Jessica Brody, SAVE THE CAT WRITES A NOVEL
I remind myself of this every time I write a book.
The fear of being repetitive is real. Not only do I worry that I’m simply regurgitating a story someone else has already told, I worry that I’m repeating MYSELF. For example, while I was writing AFTER WE FALL, possibly my bestseller of all-time, all I could think was, “For fuck’s sake this is just FRENCHED on a farm.”
But that’s because ALL good stories have a recognizable bone structure beneath their pretty clothes. And all romances do too.
In fact, romances take it a step further with tropes. There is a whole buffet of tropes to choose from (here’s a fabulous list), and they work within the confines of lots of different romance categories, from rom com to suspense.
Your chosen trope(s) will serve as your story’s “premise,” or as Gwen Hayes says in ROMANCING THE BEAT, “the thing that makes readers go all one-clicky on your book when they read the book description.”
She goes on to say this: “Don’t give me side-eye. Tropes in romance are a lovely thing. Tropes . . . make the romance world go around.”
Trying to ignore the popularity of tropes or the existence of story structure because you want to or think you need to be “edgy” or “original” is not only going to make your task much more difficult, it’s going to annoy and disappoint your readers.
They love cake. They want cake. Give them cake.
I’m currently writing a friends to lovers story. Have I written one of these before? Have others? Have they done it better than me? Will someone, maybe even me, write a friends to lovers story again in the future?
So no sense in worrying about it, right? What I CAN worry about is how I’m going to use my ideas, my voice, my characters’ voices, and my writing style to put a new outfit on those bones. I want readers to read the blurb of my book, see that it’s a friends to lovers romance, and say, “Oh, I LOVE those kinds of books!”
They’re not looking for something they’ve never read before. They’re looking for the FEELING they get when they read a good friends to lovers romance. They want THAT cake–I’m going to give them a piece of that cake with all the same ingredients that good cakes have, but I’m going to serve it frosted my way.
I’ll leave you with one last thing. It’s an anecdote from a book called BILL IDELSON’S WRITING CLASS. He says:
“Practically the first thing a toddler says when he learns to speak is . . . ‘Mommy, tell me a story.’ And she can tell him the same story she told him the day before . . . And the kid is happy. It made his juices flow yesterday and it did the same today. He doesn’t need a new or original story. He doesn’t even need a very clever story. It only needs to make the juices flow.”
When I get wound up and anxious that I’m not writing anything new or original or mind-blowing, I stop and think about that. My book doesn’t need to be something new and different and original.
It only needs to make a reader FEEL something.
Hope that helps!