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!
You might also like: