A Star is Born is the best movie of the year.
In my opinion, of course.
Besides the acting and the music, there were themes that resonated with me as a creative artist. The most moving was the speech Sam Elliot gave to Lady GaGa when he was speaking about music. Here it is -give or take a few words:
“Music is essentially 12 notes between any octave. 12 notes and the octave repeats. It’s the same story, told over and over. Forever. Only thing the artist can offer the world is how they see those 12 notes. “
In the romance genre, we are consistently told to think outside the box and bring a “fresh” take to a trope. They urge us to write “high concept.” Yet, there is not anyone who can claim a completely original story. We all use the same basic tropes to spin, from friends-to-lovers, enemies-to-lovers, makeovers, billionaires, best friend’s little sister, best friends’ older brother, revenge, second-chance, etc, etc.
Everything’s been done, my peeps. I’m not saying this to disappoint you, but to free you from these crushing expectations marketing, editors, and publishers try to place on your shoulders.
Sometimes, there’s an easy hook to spin to help sell it to readers. Sometimes, it’s not as clear-cut to pick out one particular piece to sell the sucker.
But I want to talk about story—not selling. And this quote from the movie reminds us all that the only thing you can bring to your book is your personal imprint. The way you see those same notes. Your individual perspective on the world and how you view it.
Transferring it from our minds to the page is the challenge. Like writing a song using the same twelve notes, there is a formula to story we shouldn’t be afraid of. Use the framework and be unique with your imprint. There are a million options and paths a character can choose, and each decision leads to a new outcome.
Structure is good. The challenge?
Use the structure to frame your story, but break open the guts of it and be brave. Take risks. Push characters. Push yourself. Begin with the ending. Make a risky choice.
How do you view love? Pain? Growth? Loss? How do you grieve? How is your character different from any of the other thousands of books you’ve read?
Most of the time, I don’t usually find these important clues until at least halfway through my book. My process is a journey of discovery, and then after the crap is on the page in all its glorious mess, I go back and realize there are plenty of gold nuggets to pick out. That’s when I layer. Add/delete/tweak scenes depending on what I’ve revealed about the characters. I make sure there’s a growth arc, and that he/she has changed on the last page from the person we met on the first page. Sometimes, I have to rewrite a lot because I’ve figured out something about my character I never counted on. That may change my story. Yes, it’s a pain in the ass, but if I ignored the call, it would be someone else’s story, and not unique.
Endless possibilities based on your perspective.
When you begin to doubt and think your story isn’t special—that it’s all been done before—look in the mirror.
You are special, therefore, so is your story. Sure, it may suck in first draft, or even third draft, but never doubt you have something important to say that the world needs to hear.
Use your notes.
We’re waiting to hear them.