Sometimes stories sound a little crazy. That’s OK.

In his video series on story structure*, Dan Wells makes a comment about how all story ideas sound stupid and that’s OK. Oh, how true this is.

I was telling a friend about my YA manuscript today and getting all excited when I realized how completely insane my story must sound to a non-writer. In my mind, my book sounds something like this:

Mystery, murder, romance, suspense! Plot point, character arc, surprise ending! Game-changer! Best-seller! Screenplay! Movie! Pulitzer! OMG my novel just cured cancer! KITTENS! Kittens? What? (Yes, all my trains of thought have the same final destination: The Kitten Depot.)

Hearing me talk about writing is basically like watching literary word vomit spew from the lips of a girl who’s so overwhelmed by her own story that she literally can’t contain it and must jump up and down, clap or do some combination of the two just to get the excitement out of her system. Essentially, talking about my book turns me into a 2-year-old with ADHD, an extensive vocabulary and a sugar high.

But what do other people hear? Especially non-writers? Probably something more along the lines of this:

So my protagonist is searching for this clue and then… Oh, yeah rising seas! And then she finds out it was murder! And then this boy…OMG. And then he lies to her. And there’s this puzzle she has to solve. Conspiracy! But the dead guy left it behind. And then her dad — he’s been hiding it! Can you believe it? Plot twist! And then he shows up and they kiss! It’s a floating city! But then the bad guy is there…he’s that brother I mentioned. And they have to escape! But he’s in jail! And it turns out it was all a lie! But then she solves the murder! Get it? Do you get it?

Yep, my story sounds like nonsense. Excited nonsense, though.

Still, like Dan Wells said, all stories can sound stupid, but that doesn’t mean they’re not good stories. I’ve noticed the same thing when I’m recommending a book to a friend.

I’ll say, “You have to read this book. It’s about a girl who lives in a society where love is a disease and they’ve cured it and people are basically zombies, but then she meets this boy and she runs away to the woods. And this book seriously changed my life. Read it.


“I just read this book that takes place in the future and when you come of age you have plastic surgery so you’ll be attractive, and then you just live with all the other sexy people and talk about how hot you are. But then this girl finds out that when you get your hotness surgery, they’re also operating on your brain so that you’ll be easy to control.”

These books sound a little crazy, right? But if you’ve read either of these books, you know they’re amazing stories. So I’m wondering…

Does your story sound kind of stupid when you gush about it to others? Or do you avoid talking about it for that very reason? <—- I used to be guilty of this. Of course, now I can’t shut up about my stories. It’s like the characters don’t have room to exist solely in my head or on the page anymore — they want out!

So why not let your stories and your characters out, too? From one writer to another, I promise they’re not as stupid as they sound.

*Yes, I plug this video series all the time on my blog. No, I’m not on Dan Wells’ payroll. The videos are just full of excellent info. Go watch them! Now!

Photo: skippyjon/flickr

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5 thoughts on “Sometimes stories sound a little crazy. That’s OK.

  1. I think my story sounds really boring when I try to explain it, because it deals with such everyday issues. But it’s fascinating, I promise! You’ll back me up on that, won’t you, Laura? Please?? :-)

  2. This post made my night! I’ve been especially guilty of this with this book, I think, but my poor husband has had to endure this kind of “brain vomit” for years. “And then–and then–oh, I forgot to mention this one guy, he’s been there all along, and he’s the bad guy’s friend, and he has a boat, and they spend like a third of the book on the boat FIGHTING FOR THEIR LIVES IT’S THE BEST PART I CAN’T WAIT FOR YOU TO READ IT OKAY I’MDONETALKINGMUSTWRITEBYE.”

    And then it hits me, nobody does that in real life. And then I feel stupid, like my story really is stupid.

    (I’m trying to cure this by remembering what genre I write, too. People don’t go to see, say, James Bond movies so they can experience the same things they do in real life. People don’t watch Star Wars to get a slice of life.)

    I think I might go practice being articulate now. Or, actually, go to bed, because it’s almost 2 AM here. (Let’s be honest: that’s probably when I’m most articulate.)

  3. Cally, your story is most definitely NOT boring. You know I enjoyed it! :)

    Jordan, your comment cracks me up! And did you know that I spent most of the past year living on a boat and FIGHTING FOR MY LIFE?! See? People totally do this in real life. (By “boat” I mean “house in Atlanta” and by “fighting for my life” I mean “going to work M-F and trying to persuade the bf to let me adopt MORE KITTENS.”)

    Michelle, that’s not stupid at all! I think I was way too vague in those descriptions! The books are Lauren Oliver’s “Delirium” (one of my favorite books ever) and Scott Westerfield’s “Uglies.” Enjoy!

  4. Great post! You can imagine the eye rolls I get when I try to talk about any of my stories. I keep thinking I can read their mind and their inner dialogue is, “NERD ALERT! NERD ALERT!”

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