Monday, February 28, 2011

There are no new stories

"There are no new stories. It all depends on how you handle them. In romances the characters are going to fall in love with each other; you know that when you see the syrupy cover. It's how they get there that's the fun."
Jude Deveraux

(This quote has some truth to it. Certain themes will always prevail and it's up to writers to sculpt them in innovative ways.)

For example, the New York Times review on "The Paris Wife", a novel from the perspective of Hemingway's wife, exhibited that women have been competing for men throughout time!

(Quite sad...)
"Pauline, who is as chic as Hadley is frumpy, makes herself an instant fixture in the Hemingway household. She wildly flatters Hemingway about his writing. She gives Hadley the alarming pet name “Dulla,” and then insists on becoming Hadley’s closest chum. She borrows Hadley’s slippers, merrily saying, “You won’t be able to pry them off me.” In a feat of world-class back stabbing she crusades secretly to become Hemingway’s next wife (the second of four) "

(If you are interested, here is an article about publishers looking beyond bookstores and another about why we enjoy writing about grief.)

Things I Learned About Story Telling the Hard Way (a.k.a. after an agent rejection, harsh critique, or hours of research):

1. Don't start a story with a character waking up from a dream or with a hang over

2. Try not to start queries with a question

3. Dialogue is there to move the plot forward...remove all those conversation starters and fillers

4. An unlikeable protagonist better have some redeeming qualities or an exciting enough life

5. Short story collections have a better chance if one of the stories has been published in a literary magazine or journal.

6. Be careful about listening to all of the suggestions from your critique partners. It's valuable to take some time to listen to your own voice as well!


  1. Completely agree with that quote. That is why I get frustrated sometimes. If you want a movie with an amazing twist, see "Up in the Air." Renewed my faith in storytelling.

  2. Those six tips were good. And I know the young rebel/older mentor has been done thousands of times - I just hope my take was original.

  3. Wow. Thanks for those tips, Saumya. It is definitely a good guideline for anyone to begin the writing.

    The point about waking up from a dream - holy smokes! That was so right on spot. That was the VERY FIRST thing I hated about Twilight series. Too many dream sequences. It didn't even have any impact on the story (unlike Kay Hooper's stories where many thing happen during the dream). Ugh!

  4. some excellent things you have learned:)) And the learning never stops-- so I've found out:)

  5. Good dialogue IS crucial to the story. So don't use it as filler. Excellent. Also, do listen to your own voice--and the others too. But often those other voices are conflicting. This is excellent also.

    When I saw your post title, There are no new stories, my first thought was yes there are. A memoir, the story of a unique individual, IS new!

    Thanks for a thought-provoking post, and an excellent list.
    Ann @ Long Journey Home

  6. Great points! I'm trying to tackle #6 right's hard to really listen with open ears and an open mind to feedback.

  7. Hi there! What a lovely blog!! You've got some pretty great tips in this post, too!!!

  8. All great tips. One should keep ears open, but should finally do only what one feels is right from within. Somehow i never panic if some one critises me.

  9. Good stuff.
    And for me, even if the story is the same, it's all about voice and characters.

  10. This list is completely spot on, Saumya! I've discovered most of those things too (most of them the hard way). I think some of these 'rules' CAN be broken if they're broken well, but for the most part it's best to avoid these things altogether!

  11. Yes, I love your list! Another novel opening that's getting a little cliche, for me anyway, is the car accident scene. So many authors are using it. There are other ways to cause trouble/action for the protag right away. Love the one about dialogue. So true.

  12. These are great tips! I especially like #3.

    I hope you have a great week, Saumya!

  13. A great analysis on how to put a little spin on your story because all the plots have been told.

  14. Great quote and great tips!... I've heard number one quite a few times.. and I know in the past I've been guilty of it *shifty eyes* :)

  15. Wonderful Quotes and I loved the 6 tips. I have often heard that its a strict no-no to start queries with questions. Thats a sure fire way of bugging an agent.

    I have a short story collection that I hope to shop around to publishers in India. I was not aware that one of the stories should be published in a literary journal. Thanks for alerting me to it.

    Completely agree with you that feedback though important, one must not ignore one's inner voice.

  16. #6 can be tricky, especially when you are first starting out and desperate for feedback or when you first start working with someone and still don't have a good sense of what their strengths as a writer/critter are. Great post!

  17. Hello!
    I get to be follower #200! how great is that? I Love the quotes--and the tips you gave really are very useful. HOpe you have a smashing great weekend!

  18. I love that Devereaux quote. It's so true! And you're right about the things you've learned. I've learned those same things through trial and error :D

  19. I love your suggestions. And I didn't know about #5 - thanks!