Pub Rants

Been There Done That?

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STATUS: Busy day continuing all my negotiations.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? SO IN LOVE by Orchestral Manoeuvers in the Dark

On Saturday morning (way too bright and early for my taste), I spoke on a women’s fiction panel at the Pikes Peak Writers Conference.

I decided to tackle the theme of overdone story ideas that we’ve been seeing lately. I promised to share it with the blog readers but I do have to add one caveat.

You have to know that there actually isn’t anything wrong with any of these story ideas. What I’m trying to point out by sharing this list is that if you highlight the story idea as being what’s original about your query, you’re probably going to get a pass because these themes are so common, they don’t come across as fresh.

So if you have tackled one of these story ideas for the basis of your novel, you have to not only focus on that idea but what else that makes the story original or a story that readers will want to read above all other novels with the same theme. Does that make sense?

For example, a couple of months ago I blogged that we had received numerous queries about a main protagonist winning the lottery. People read into that statement by thinking that our agency would never be interested in any story if the lottery theme were present. I just want to say that wouldn’t be true.

That theme IN AND OF ITSELF wasn’t enough to capture our interest because it had been done and done again. However, a lottery theme coupled with some other interesting and original element could potentially capture our attention.

There’s a big difference. So don’t assume, after I share this list, that we would never take on a story with one of these themes. We would. I’m just sharing that the theme alone won’t sell us on reading sample pages.

Overdone Themes In Women’s Fiction

1. 40-something woman discovers her husband is cheating with younger woman and decides to divorce and remake her life

2. Trying too much to be like THE JOY LUCK CLUB – 4 women, who are friends, and we “discover” how they are dealing with the various issues in their lives.

3. Breast cancer – a woman who finds out she has it

4. A heroine in her 40s or 50s who wants to remake herself and does so by moving, or starting a new career, or having plastic surgery, and the impact of that on family

5. A heroine who finds out she is adopted and goes on a hunt to find her birth parents

6. A heroine who wants some sort of change in life and goes about remodeling a house (sometimes with her husband and sometimes alone). Usually if this is done alone it’s because her husband has just passed away.

7. A heroine who is invited to her high school class reunion and the emotional upheaval that creates. Sometimes it revolves around an old boyfriend or crush, and sometimes it’s just the simple dealing-with-aging-and-time.

13 Responses

  1. Candice Gilmer said:

    Wow, that’s completely not what I expected to find on this list… However, I do see that I’m 0 for 7 as well… 🙂

    Hope you had a good time at your conference!

  2. Dave Kuzminski said:

    Hmmm, how about a woman finds she was adopted and that her biological parents were mobsters who want her back now because she’s the heir to the family fortune so she has to disappear?

  3. An Aspiring Writer said:

    How about a 40-something woman who finds out her husband is cheating with a younger woman, so she goes to her 25th high school reunion where spends the weekend hashing over her life with her three closest friends who convince her to hire a private investigator to find her birth parents, talk about recovering from breast cancer, and start a new career her family objects to? The epilogue includes them getting together a month later to remodel her house. 🙂

  4. ORION said:

    How about a Lottery winner with breast cancer who goes to her 20th high school reunion and discovers her adopted sister is having an affair with her husband?

  5. M. G. Tarquini said:

    After surviving communal breast cancer, four Italian cousins move to Cherry Hill, NJ where they buy a fixer-upper, their plan to remodel it and make a killing. Somewhere between stripping wallpaper and and deciding on carpet colors, three of the cousins attend their high school reunion bent on rekindling their romance with Vinnie Delvecchio, who had the best-looking hair in South Philadelphia High. The ladies are stunned to discover that Vinnie, who now owns a lucrative real estate investment firm, has gone bald. Further, they are appalled to find out that despite the baldness, and his gender reassignment surgery, Vinnie still has what it takes to make the cousins willing to forget their familial ties and claw each other into well-manicured ribbons to get to his still oddly appealing, and highly muscular bod. Just when it seems the bedroom hi-jinks can’t get any more complicated, the fourth cousin drops the bombshell – Vinnie Delvecchio is adopted and is actually brother to two of the other three cousins.

  6. Ryan Field said:

    The quasi “Sex in the City” storylines are pretty tired now, too. And they always seem to fall short of the original.

  7. Judy Schneider said:

    Sounds like writing from life experiences is redundant and dull, no matter how traumatic the events become. Guess writers should leave their cheating spouses and face peels behind and, hmm, take up exploring the cave of Lascaux?

    (Enjoyed the story ideas your commenters invented — witty and fun!)