Wednesday, October 28, 2009

WIP Wednesday : There and Back Again


Some of my favorite stories end where they begin, and my WiP is no different. Wait a second, maybe it is...

If you study the tropes of literature and television, you may hear that there are only three plots. Or seven. Or thirty-six-- it's all very confusing, really, but worth the time to study. One of Christopher Booker's supposed seven basic plots is the "Voyage and Return" story. Obviously, this encompasses stories like The Hobbit, Robinson Crusoe, Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, in which the main character leaves home, has an adventure, and comes back home.

Mara's story, however, gives the Voyage and Return a different spin. Yes, she leaves home and has a great adventure, but though she does get a little homesick, she finds a new life and a new home. Before she can start that new life, however, she must take care of some unfinished business at home, which is where she is when the story ends.

What I like about studying tropes is how you can use them to give an old story new life. Everything old can be new again when an author knows what has come before and how s/he can change a trope to suit their story. What I like about this method is that it provides the reader with a story that starts out familiar and comfortable, but in the end winds up surprising them by diverging from the story the are expecting to read. Of course, there's a danger in diverging too much, but a skillful writer can make it work with solid, likable characters, a uniquely lyrical narrative style, or a fast-paced plot.

If anyone still hasn't decided on a project for National Novel Writing Month, take a look at t.v. tropes (see the "television" link above). You may waste hours looking at this site, so don't say I didn't warn you. But knowing what has come before is a great way to decide what you'd like to write next. As my daddy always says, those who don't study history are doomed to repeat it.

Which is why we'll be seeing Lord of the Rings rip-offs for another seventy years. ;)

7 comments:

Susan R. Mills said...

Thanks for the link. I have to check that out. It sounds interesting.

Lisa and Laura said...

The funny thing about this is that even when you think you're writing something new, you're not. We were just convinced that our WIP was SO original only to have a beta reader ask if we'd read a book with a very similar concept that came out a few years ago. Um...crap. We've agreed not to read this other book until our WIP is completely finished. I just don't want it messing with my head. But now that I know it's out there it's a little terrifying.

Although one thing we've learned on our publication journey is that concept and execution are two very different things. The only thing original about your work is your voice. So I guess the good news is that even though we're all just retelling the same 3 stories, we're telling them in a way no one else can.

Tere Kirkland said...

Susan, just navigating that site for a few minutes might give you an interesting perspective on something you've written or would like to write. The hard part is spending only a few minutes there. I've lost whole afternoons obliviously clicking links.

LiLa, it's reassuring to me to think that we're all telling the same basic story. Just another thing that connects us as writers on a more basic, instinctive level. Which is why we often think our ideas are original when someone else has had the same idea. Sorry about your concept, btw. I know how frustrating it can be to keep working on after something like that.

Concept is important, but I think execution is what stands between publication and me. That's what I'm hoping to improve upon with NaNo this year.

Suzyhayze said...

I love this post. I just finished a traveling novel. The one I am researching for Nano stays in one place. I'm having a hard time keeping them off the roads! Great link.

Abby said...

Thanks for the links, Tere. Now my whole day is gone. ;)

I like your new profile pic. Very cute! :) Nice to finally know what you look like.

Tess said...

You are spot on in this regard. It is our challenge to make old things fresh again. Easier said than done, but a worthwhile challenge.

Tere Kirkland said...

Suzanne, thanks. I know what you mean about traveling being addictive. My last trunked novel sent my four MC's off to all corners of the world and some other dimensions. ;)

Abby, I warned you! And thanks about the pic, it's one of the few recent ones of me that I actually like. I hate being photographed. Grrr.

Tess, thanks, and I agree it is the challenge of anyone writing for publication in today's over-saturated market. I'm up to the challenge if you are! ;)