Wednesday, April 15, 2009

In or Out of the Box?

So as writers, we hear a lot about writing "outside of the box." But let's face it: sometimes, staying inside of the box works. Not to mention feels a lot safer. After all, if we've lived inside of the box a long time, stepping out can be a little, um, intimidating. Stressful. Scary!

There are some things in storytelling that will always be "in the box." For example, the formula for romance stories. Boy meets girl. Boy and girl have conflict. Boy and girl end up happy.

OK, so the formula may always be "boring" so to speak, but that doesn't mean your story needs to be. It's your job as the author to come up with ways to make the plot fresh and exciting and keep your reader turning those pages. Who wants to read a story they've read a hundred times before? Readers loved to be surprised, emotionally and mentally challenged, shocked even. So while the formula is in the box, what happens in your novel should be out of the box.

Clear as mud?

Jan Ackerson, a regular FaithWriters Challenge winner, says she comes up with her Weekly Challenge ideas this way. She says, "When I see the topic for the week, I write down everything I can possibly think of that relates to that topic. Then, I throw it away because those ideas are ones everyone has probably thought of." Her goal is to think of something original. Fresh. Out of the box.

Take your thinking to another level. Think about the word or topic from all angles. Say the topic of the week is BLIZZARD. Here's a "box" breakdown:

IN the box: A couple is stranded inside of a cabin during a blizzard.

A little better but still IN the box: A month long blizzard wipes out the entire population except for two people who are now forced to survive.

OUT of the box: A girl goes to the local Dairy Queen because she craves an enormous BLIZZARD ice cream cup.

THAT'S thinking outside of the box.

Here's another example. Say the topic is MEMORY.

IN the Box: A story about computer memory.
IN the Box: A man loses his memory.
IN the Box: A woman reflects on her childhood.

OUT of the Box: Story about a memory foam mattress

Sometimes in the box does work. But your story needs to be excellent in order to pull it off. Otherwise, it just comes across as hum-drum and same-old.

This week, I challenge you to step out of the box. If nothing else, you will learn to use your creativity in a new way. And you may just end up writing something brilliant.

To challenge your "out-of-the-box" writing ability, enter this week's FaithWriters Challenge.


Nicole O'Dell said...

Great post!

Cindy said...

Oh, I loved your post. I really liked your example of what Jan Ackerson does to get fresh ideas. I am definitely going to try that!

Karin said...

I like Jan's idea. I'll have to try that.

The challenge confuses me. I've written a couple of stories with twists and they don't seem to be as well accepted.

I must not mind too much, though - I keep writing them that way! :)

bryan said...

Thanks, Lynda. This was a REALLY interesting visit!

LOVED your profile (especially photo(s)!) Really good to see that I am being "mentored" by such a lovely lady (if mentored is the right word?) Maybe you were just my 'agente d'introduction' to Faithwriters. Anyway, whatever...

I too loved "Titanic" because it so skilfully and beautifully wove fact and fiction together into a seamless whole. It's still one I watch over and over.

OK, i see exactly how busy you are, so, no replies needed/expected.

God bless for now,

bryan (England)