Christine Locke, author of Open Door, is our guest today. She shares her tips for making your stories unique and exciting.
All my kids are writers—well, all the ones over the age of 10. There’s something about being young and exerting your personal power through words that resonates with a bright, creative soul. Our oldest crafted realistic fiction peopled with her friends & acquaintances; her sister wrote poetry. Our older boy wrote a fantasy fiction series set in “Dragon World.” My younger two girls write realistic tales about young people, one in the vein of Christian fiction and the other creating screenplays for videos she acts out using her dolls and stop-motion techniques. I can’t wait to see what my youngest two will write!
Heather has asked me to describe my own process for young writers seeking inspiration. I’d love to help, so here are three goals I strive to meet to make a story original and entertaining.
1. Make it different.
There are so many stories out that that you already know and love; how do you make your story different? You’ve probably heard that all good stories start with the question, What if? That’s important to ask; just don’t stop with the first twist. Take your favorite story and give it the “What if?” treatment. We have a name for this now: fan fiction. It’s a great thing that sometimes leads to new writing careers. But I encourage you to take the story born from your first What if? and ask again, What if? Do this enough times and your favorite story and its characters drop away while an original one with new people moves in. This story is all yours: your plot, your characters, your setting.
For Open Door, I did this with the twin ideas of power and evil (and, ok, at first my process involved a certain popular vampire storyline…). How does power become evil? Is power evil in itself? Even more interesting, how does something evil get powerful? I went on to ask, What if evil did not wear a human face? Voldemort, Darth Vader, and Angelis: these are fantastic fictional examples of evil, but all have a familiar, distorted, almost-human form. What if evil were just as real, but more a potential than a personification? What if the physical form that evil wore was NOT human-like in any way?
2. Make it Personal
Only you can decide how to make your tales personal. For Open Door, I cast a young girl as my heroine. I’m in the middle of raising 5 of them. I remember feeling alone, confused and isolated when I was my character’s age. I also set my story in the 1980’s (my own adolescent years) partly to help myself remember those feelings.
Then, I decided to use a real city as my setting. I love writing about my native Arkansas, but for Open Door, I wanted a unique location. It had to be isolated, recently a wilderness, full of natural beauty, and a place respecting individuality and creativity. It delighted me to “find” Eureka Springs, AR a few years ago. Since then, I’ve visited as often as I can (you will have seen it if you watch the show “Ghost Hunters”).
The small city of Eureka Springs looks, feels, and smells like a place where magic lives. I read somewhere that Eureka Springs is the only city in the United States where no two roads meet at right angles. I don’t know if that’s true, but it’s believable. When we stood in the parking lot of the hotel and looked at the church next door, we were actually looking at the church’s roof. That’s how steep the hills are there, and it seems every structure is on the side of another hill. To get to the church next to our hotel, we walked down steep flights of stairs built into the hill on which both the hotel and the church stand. It’s beautiful, unique, interesting, and mysterious—and it’s great exercise!
3. Make it perfect.
When I say to make your story perfect, I mean come as close as you can to a grammatically and visually perfect manuscript. You want your creation to be a pleasure to read: the reader won’t notice how different & personal your story is if there are too many typos!
I hope you have the chance to read Open Door, and I hope you love it. I want to wish you the very best of future success with your own tales. Above all, I urge you to keep those pens moving across paper, those cursors blipping across screens, and those stories flowing from your own heart out into the waiting world. Good luck and happy writing!