1. Dryriver
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    Dryriver Senior Member

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    Is a story being "Different" a positive thing?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Dryriver, Apr 4, 2012.

    Hello folks. I want to get your opinion on this:

    If you read a story that makes you say "Wow... this is really quite different from anything else I've read", how do you classify that story, personally?

    1) Does it make the story more memorable for you?
    2) Does it make you more likely to put the story in your "favorites" stack/shelf?
    3) Does it make it more likely that you'll return to the story some day and reread it?
    4) Does it make it more likely that you'll recommend reading the story to a friend, relative or colleague?

    Also, what precisely should be "different" about a story that truly - and quite intentionally - wants to be "different" from the rest?

    Should the construction of the story be "different" or unique?

    Or perhaps the dialogue you hear in the story?

    Or perhaps the descriptions of places, objects and characters?

    Or perhaps the overall writing style, pacing, perspective, and the vocabulary choices itself?


    I'd be happy to hear your view on this,

    Dryriver


    PS: This is early research for a story I haven't written yet, and will probably start writing sometime next year (2013)...
     
  2. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    It depends on whether that's "different = good" or "different = What the...". If good, then 1-4 all apply. Otherwise, only #1 applies.

    As to what would make it 'good' different, that's hard to enumerate. All of the things you listed could be part of it, but for me it would be just the right combination. If any of those items goes too far, it could turn the story into the "What the" category very easily. For me, at no point can this "different" seem contrived or artificial or (God forbid) 'artsy'. And of course, every reader is going to have a different combination and thus different 'tolerances' for how far it can go and still remain a delightful discovery.
     
  3. superpsycho
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    superpsycho Contributing Member

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    Some say every story has already been told. To a certain extent this I think is true. Good versus evil , weak overcomes strong, love concurs all, etc, etc, and in every combination there of. The difference in most stories are the characters and specific situations. What makes most stories sell is how it relates to the reader, and of course good writing.
     
  4. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    i agree with SW, it's a positive thing if it's good. Simple as that. I also agree with what Superpsycho said, every story has been written but you can still stand out by the way you write it, which can be a sensational way or a way that doesn't work so well with readers.
     
  5. michaelj
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    michaelj Senior Member

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    To me its avoid cliches... You may have a similar storyline to say like LoTR but you have to make it your own work and avoid copying things such as elves in holy light. Dialogue is very important also.
     
  6. Endovert
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    Endovert Member

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    "Different" can be a strange beast. Many times, we want something familiar, which is why there is a market for romance fiction stuffed with books that are all very similar and formulaic. And it's weird because we avoid things that are different, but when we discover something new it changes everything. So I'm all for you trying to create something different, but remember that many people won't want to listen to you at first.

    And on the flip side, don't be different for different's sake. People can tell when you're trying to hard. I like what michaelj said; avoid cliche. But after that, do whatever makes the story feel right, and don't worry too much about whether it blows someone's mind.
     
  7. Cyrus
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    Cyrus Member

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    I dont think I would ever endorse a book just because it was different.

    It could be transcribed in crayon by a 4 year old and it would be different but it would also be quite terrible.

    If the concept was original, or the characters where refreshing then I would be far more likely to pass it on and rave about it. Ultimately though for me, as long as the story has a purpose and a message the author wants to pass on then I will give it the time of day. If it aligns with my own beliefs and passes a message I believe in...I will endorse it.
     
  8. agentkirb
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    agentkirb Contributing Member

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    I don't think Different = Good, but it doesn't necessarily = bad either. If the only thing the story has going for it is it's uniqueness... you are in trouble. But I think it's possible for parts of a story to be unique enough in some ways where said "unique" aspects of it are strengths. I can't think of a "unique" plot off the top of my head... something like The Matrix comes to mind although people have said that it's similar to other things. As "unique" as that story was, the thing that people probably remember most about that movie was the cool new special effects.
     
  9. Cyrus
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    Cyrus Member

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    Yah! I'm pretty sure most of the audience where in the theatre for that very reason.
     
  10. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Forget different. Just write well. Many new writers try hard to make their writing different, and all they succeed in doing is donning an oversize prison-orange hoodie that reads "I IZ AN AMACHURE."

    As you develop as a writer, your own true writer's voice will shine through. That's all the difference you need.
     
  11. agentkirb
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    agentkirb Contributing Member

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    Here's probably another good way of putting the issue:

    "Uniqueness" in a work is probably a good way to pique someone's curiosity and get them to read your story because they want to see what it is like. But your story actually has to be good behind that to keep people reading and for them to suggest it to others.
     
  12. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'd say that none of these are true for me. I don't find any inherent value in "different". I find value in originality--I don't want the same story, mood, characters, etc., as a bunch of other books. But it doesn't sound like you're talking about originality, but instead about deliberately, pointedly being different, which isn't the same thing.

    ChickenFreak
     
  13. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi,

    First and foremost a book has to be good or enjoyable. If it isn't either of those things, or preferably both, I won't read it. And as for memorability, yes a book that stands out as different is more likely to be remembered by me - but that could be a good thing or a bad one. If it's good it means I liked the book and so will read more by the author. If it's bad it means I thought the book sucked and would never want to read another book by that author. I'd advise that you concentrate on good writing and keeping your readers' interest. Leave the originality, especially the shockingly different type stuff until you've got yourself a name and a readership and can afford to take risks.

    As a slight aside, I'd say that many of my favourite authors aren't particularly original. Dean R Koontz for a start. I love his writing, I'll read all his books, but they aren't that original. What they are is well written and enjoyable. (And I also know he isn't going to kill off his heroes in some nasty way and spoil my read. I can trust him as an author. As a reader I like the sense of comfort that brings.)

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  14. Dryriver
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    Dryriver Senior Member

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    What I have in mind specifically, as far as being "different" is concerned, is a story that has a kind of "backwards" narrative, has characters and dialogue you wouldn't find in other books, uses a very different visual language and vocabulary from other stories, and that twists & turns and surprises in all sorts of inventive ways, at all turns delivering a reading experience that is "different" from what you would expect from this kind of story.

    For example, the title and first two chapters of the story would be quite deliberately "misleading".

    I would create expectation of a "certain kind of narrative" being about to happen, then turn around and deliver a wildly different narrative instead, and then branch away from even this "different" narrative into something else.

    I haven't started writing this yet.

    I'm still chewing on how I can pull this off smoothly, without the whole thing appearing "gimmicky", and with having the reader go "wow... that was refreshingly different and sattisfying read".

    My main "difference technique" used throughout the story would be that whatever you expect is likely to come next, doesn't actually come next, and something completely different happens.

    I'm thinking novel-length (100,000 words) for this story, so there is still a lot of detailed thinking and planning to be done.

    While I'm at it, let me pose a question, too:

    What novels or stories do you know of, that you would class as being "seriously different" from the rest of the pack.

    I.e. very original, different, excentric, and perhaps groundbreaking in some way...

    Thanks,

    Dryriver
     
  15. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    I would love different, if I could find it. Give you an example.

    My wife has been gone for a few days taking care of her mother. I'm the "neat one" of the couple, and I've been cleaning. I sat down and watched TV (no kidding, I really tried it) and saw a commercial for a new movie.

    Briefly, it's about a lunatic gang who takes over a space station, and a "single super warrior" is assigned to win the day.

    My first reaction, it's 'Metal Gear Solid' in space.

    I don't think it's no much creating new ideas, but rather it's sloppy, and with so much now dependent on marketing, no one is going to risk anything on something unproven. After all, 'Body of Proof' is just 'Quincy' with a female lead.

    And somewhere out there is a TV producer who spitballed, "What if the cast of 'Survivor' could dance?"
     
  16. Floatbox
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    Floatbox Member

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    The key to all this is motivation.

    Shifting tone and dashing expectation for no other reason but to surprise the audience smacks of pandering. Pandering occurs when motivation is based in achieving some result in the audience instead of achieving poetic richness in the material.

    Real motivation should sound something like, "I love this tone shift because it says [X] about [the theme, the characters, the conflict, life, etc] or it expresses the quality of [X] about the story that I find so compelling/significant/beautiful and the tone shift is the best way to achieve that."

    Pandering sounds like, "Im going to put this tone shift in because people will find it surprising because tone shifts are different. The audience wants something unique and so the tone shift should achieve that uniqueness if properly applied."

    The result will reflect, as it always does, the attitude you take in crafting your story.
     
  17. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    having been a voracious and constant reader for nearly 70 years, no story could possibly be all that 'different' to me... and 'difference' is irrelevant, anyway...

    i judge fiction by only two things... is it an interesting story?... and is the writing good enough for me to bother reading it?

    gimmicks annoy the bleep outa me and i'll toss unread, anything that even begins to look like the author thinks he's being 'different'...
     
  18. Dryriver
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    Dryriver Senior Member

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    Isn't that being a wee bit cynical, mammamaia?

    An author makes a serious effort to create something that reads truly "different" (which not many authors do at all), and you toss the work in a bin the second you detect it?

    How can we get to read anything "innovative" (as in "fresh", "never-done-before"), if the second you try being "original" and "different", people "detect it" and toss your work away?

    As far as I'm concerned, there is currently a lack of originality plagueing writing.

    If you look at Top 20 lists like Amazon's "current bestsellers", much of the list contains genre-type books and writing, rather than more original works.

    I believe that "different" makes a work good, and memorable.

    Even if this comes at the expense of the reader having to do some serious adjusting to get into and through the story.
     
  19. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't believe she said she would toss anything "different" - the key word was 'gimmicks'. Which is what I, and several others, also noted. If you're doing it just for effect, it's not art or literature. It's a gimmick, a trick - trying finagle the reader instead of engaging them. So if that's your reason for writing the story in the way you described, it's not going to work because the gimmick will be irritating. If the story is written this way because that's the way it needs to be told, and you write the story well, then it will engage the reader, pique their curiosity, and make them want to continue to delve further into it.
     
  20. agentkirb
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    agentkirb Contributing Member

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    You kind of answered your own question there. The books that sell the most are the genre-specific books (i.e, suspense, fantasy, crime, romance, w/e). And I'm not literally talking about the books that sell the most, but just the ones that people tend to read more. So if that is the case, a conclusion could be made that originality isn't necessarily a positive when writing.

    You say that there is a current lack of originality in writing these days. You use the term "plaguing". I don't agree with that. For example, I'm really into mysteries. Other people on this site probably have a favorite genre (fantasy, sci-fi, etc.). And even further than that, I'll find an author that I'll try out for the first time... and if I like the first book, I'll buy another one by the same author. I think a lot of people that purchase books operate this way. So... on two different levels I'm buying a book where I know something about it before I read the first page. I know the author, so I'm familiar with the writing style. I also know the genre and the associated rules and conventions that people tend to use when writing those kinds of books. Now, it's possible to write a book that has some originality within those two levels of familiarity. Usually because of the mass influx of stories that have been printed even in the last 50 years... it's going to be hard to find a story where you can't draw similarities between it and another work.

    There isn't really anything wrong with being original in the abstract sense of it. If you want to go on a limb and write something like this, feel free to do so. And people might like it if it's good.
     
  21. MVP
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    So....this is what its like to have Shiraz out your nose and down your shirt. :eek:
     
  22. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I disagree that being different is inherently good.

    As Floatbox said, there needs to be a reason for the "different." For example, the film Memento had a "different" structure, but that structure was very clearly tied to the plot of the film. In fact, without that structure, the film would lose most of its meaning and impact--the "different" wasn't just bolted on for the sake of being different. If you mean that kind of different, dandy. But if you're just looking for different for the sake of it, and confusing the reader with no particular payoff for it, then I think that's not a good idea.
     
  23. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    thanks for the clarification of my post and defense of my stance, sw!... you're right, of course... and i agree with all you added, as well...
     

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