The one and only you…


This question arrived via my many wonderful Facebook friends

...could you include a few tips on how to make a story original please? Given that so many are published every month and there are only so many tropes and whatever, how original does it have to be?

As original as you are.

I’m sure none of us likes to think we exactly resemble someone else – in looks we may be similar, but what goes on in our heads is entirely our own. Books are the same. Or they should be.

Each character I write has different characteristics. Not only that, but they respond to the problems I throw at them in different ways.

If i start with a ruthless billionaire and a girl who has battled her way out of adversity, there are two main roads that occur to me immediately – girl doesn’t want to bend and yield to his way, and he certainly isn’t going to bend to hers. Girl needs sanctuary for some specific reason and he can provide it – but what will the payment for this be?

Together with just those 2 out of quite literally thousands of possibilities I might consider, there are as many exciting and original storylines in a particular genre as there are real-life situations in this world. And each pair of hero and heroine will respond differently to circumstance, so the odds for any two stories being the same, shoot off the scale.

If I were more specific, and gave a bio of the hero and heroine as well as a situation to start their journey, each one of us would come up with a different interpretation and tackle the story in our own unique way. We all have learned responses, differing viewpoints and beliefs, and all authors are great observers of human nature, so we have an endless bank of possibilities to draw on right there. You might pull out one thread and develop it, while I might pull out another, and so on.

I am never tired of writing in my genre, or likely to run out of ideas. If a snatch of conversation, or a glance between two people doesn’t inspire you, pick up any newspaper or magazine, and there will be numerous story lines to spark off ideas. My head is full of far too many ideas as it is, but I’m always alert to interesting situations and people.

When Harlequin asks its authors to take part in writing a linked series of books, it’s in full expectation that each author will bring their unique voice and ‘take’ to the overall story, so within each specific genre there will be complete originality and variety for the reader. That’s why it’s so important never to try and copy a particular style, but to show what you have to offer, because THAT originality, your voice, you, is what editors are looking for.

To return to the question I was asked, my instant response was that there are as many original love stories as there are loved up couples in this world, and I never have any difficulty thinking of my protagonists as unique individuals as they are so real to me. Let your characters be absolutely real to you and your readers will believe in them too.

Love to everyone

Susan xx


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