Depending on who you believe, or believe yourself, there are somewhere between six and nine universal stories or themes. These ideas run the gamut of love found and lost to revenge. They are the universal truths that audience and readers come back to time and again.
But what makes us come back? I would argue that the most successful stories present something new.
This summer, I took my girls to see an off-off-off Broadway play called H.O.M.E. This near-future story features a group of teenagers who have developed super human abilities. Many teens outgrow these abilities as they outgrow their acne. But many do not and are considered a threat to the political, social, and security order of society. The teens in the play find themselves contained in a facility that attempts to educate them and keep them safe. In reality, the idea is to train them for government purposes. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to many of the teens already living there, a growing political movement is disrupting society to allow those with powers more freedom and voice.
I don't think I have to continue with the story because we've heard this one before. In the age of dystopian teen literature, this story or a variation, is no longer fresh. Teens-power-conflict-change-politics...and the world as we know it will never be the same again.
This isn't to say that these stories aren't good. The play we saw this summer had a few compelling characters, mainly because the actors did a good job. But the story didn't light up my teen critics. At times we were bored, and a little confused by misplaced sexual references that I didn't feel added to the story.
Writing in a genre and being inspired by a trend is a great way to connect with an interested audience. The whole idea of comps for your novel (other books that you can compare your work) is based on the idea of your potential audience. But the story still needs to offer the audience something new.
As I continue with my writing journey, this play reminds me how important it is to find that spark of creativity that is original, bold, and connects to my future readers.
I wish the actors in this play the best of luck with their careers. Acting like writing takes practice. Just as a writer needs readers, an actor needs an audience. I was happy to offer a few warm bodies and some applause to help encourage their creative journey.