Are all stories the same?

Filed under: Business of Writing Sep 23, 2016

For the past month or so, I’ve been working on a story that, like most of my stories while I’m writing them, has no working title. I’m 19k into it and have no clue what I’m going to call it. For now it’s simply, my new story.

And it was flowing pretty well, too, until one day I sat down to write and thought, “I’ve told this story before.”

Of course I haven’t — the characters are new to me, their situations different, but I’d reached a point where I felt as if it was the same story as all the others I’ve written. Part of the problem is that it’s a gay romance, as are 99.5% of everything I’ve ever written, so maybe that’s why it feels familiar to me. Unfortunately, though, this time I was so upset by the notion that I was just rehashing the same story that I almost set this one aside.

To be honest, I’ve struggled with this feeling for a long while. And by long, I mean since before I started publishing.

To let you in on a little secret, sometimes I think I haven’t actually ever stopped writing boyband slash fan fic.

Every inkling of a story for me starts with the characters. And before I get too far into a story — before the characters come into their own and take over — there’s a very small window in which I insert my former fan fic characters just to get things moving. Granted, the stories would be AUs (alternate universes), since I don’t write about boybanders anymore, but in my mind I still see the same guys whenever I sit down to write a new story.

The only time this doesn’t happen for me is when I’m writing a Vic and Matt story. I’ve written enough of those now that the characters have taken on a life of their own, and when I write about them, I really do feel as if I’m writing fan fic again, albeit set in a fandom I created. Whenever I sit down to revisit Vic and Matt, the stories practically write themselves.

I wonder if other writers don’t feel this way — about their stories all being the same. It’s just another way my own brain tries to sabotage my writing, another attempt at crippling self-doubt to try and crush my creativity. Am I only writing the types of stories I like, and that’s why they seem similar? Or am I trying (and failing) to tell one story again and again until I get it right?

Then I found an article the other day, Every Stephen King Novel Summarized in 140 Characters or Less, and it set my mind at ease a little. For those not paying attention, Stephen King is literally my #1 favorite author (I say that at the risk of sounding like Annie Wilkes in Misery) — I’ve loved him since I read Pet Sematary all the way back in the 6th grade (we didn’t have really good YA stories like kids do now!). Despite the fact that the article writer obviously confused King and Koontz twice (and also included King’s book On Writing, which isn’t a novel), his attempt at humor pointed out that ten of Stephen King’s novels feature writers as the main character. Write what you know, or so they say. Also, four King novels feature demonic cars of some sort.

So obviously I’m not the only one who writes stories about characters with which I’m most comfortable. Stephen King does, too.



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