I’m half way through judging entries for a flash fiction contest. That’s 40 pieces and I’ve read 20 so far. The funny thing? The number of duplicates. I’m not saying that entire stories have been duplicated but I will tell you that I’m seeing the same themes again and again. Granted this is a women’s fiction contest, so the duplicates that I’m seeing are husbands women wish were gone, child sexual abuse, negligent parents, and having to deal with aging parents.
Whether you are writing for young readers or adults, the issues are similar. Yes, we need to write about things that will click with our readers but we need to go beyond these “clickable” issues. We need to find a way to make the things that the characters are dealing with new and fresh.
One way to do this is to brainstorm. Go with a theme that will click with your reader but then brainstorm the details. Go beyond the things that other people will have considered. Note: I don’t say the things that other people may have considered. I say will because . . . really? I’m seeing these same things again and again and again. You want to give the reader something fresh.
So maybe you go ahead and write that book about the first day of school. But maybe this is the first day of Martian Kindergarten. Or penguin preschool.
Or you write that book about the character that doesn’t want to go to bed . . . in the morning. Why? Because she’s a vampire and those ridiculous birds won’t quit chirping. Or she’s convinced that her parents go out and sun bathe without her.
Start with that theme your reader will get (step parents, school, moving, breaking up with a boyfriend) and give it a twist or twelve. And before you settle on the perfect twist? Brainstorm. Because the best idea might be number 3 or number 7. You won’t know until you have a list to choose from.