What Makes Your Story YOU?
All books have themes. Things the author subtly (or not so subtly!) imparts into their stories. Like perseverance or teamwork or whatever. My books have them too and I could probably write a post just about those. But that’s not what I’m thinking about today. I’ve noticed a different kind of consistency in my writing. It’s something that’s evident in each of my three books and evident in my current manuscript. It’s not a theme specifically but a thing that seems to find its way into all my writing. It crept up on me kind of slowly, so slowly I didn’t even realize it until I asked myself, why do kids read my books as opposed to someone else’s? Why do they choose mine, especially for a second time? What makes my books unique or different or special?
If books consist of three things: plot, character, and setting, that special thing could fall under any of them. For example, some authors write with such an authentic voice, their characters leap right off the page. For others, their special talent lies in their ability to craft an intricate plot full of twisty mystery. Some write with humor. Some write such beautiful prose you get lost in every scene. There are so many ways a writer leaves their magic mark on the pages of their books. What’s yours? Do you know yet?
It may take a while to figure it out. That kind of self awareness doesn’t happen overnight. But you can begin to think about it as you’re writing because it may help you to play to your strength. One way, is to think about what comes most naturally when you’re writing. What is the most fun part of writing for you? What energizes you more than anything else? What parts of your story do you LOVE to write?
For me, it’s creating imaginative worlds. That’s my magic. That’s my strength. I LOVE using my imagination to dream up the most spectacular places and objects. If you ask my CPs, I think they would agree. I may struggle with placing enough obstacles in my character’s way (and keeping them there for a bit) and I may struggle to create high enough stakes, but I don’t ever struggle to create fun worlds filled with whimsy and color and awe… places anyone would love to visit—if only they could.
Now this isn’t me patting myself on the back. This is me recognizing a strength I have and using that knowledge to lift my work to the next level. If my readers thought the inventions in Spin the Golden Light Bulb and Flip the Silver Switch were cool, I made sure they were even cooler and over the top in Pop the Bronze Balloon. If they thought the bedchambers and tree suites of STGLB and FTSS were amazing, I knew the living quarters and the Platform in PTBB had to be even more spectacular. I wanted my magic writer’s mark to be stamped all over the pages of that book. I wanted to give my readers more of what I do best. I wanted them get lost in and love every second they spent in my imaginative world.
The same is true for my current middle grade. But how do you make your mark again when it’s a completely different book? Easy. You take what you’re good at and build on it again. My newest book isn’t centered around five kids in a creative, invention building competition. So cool inventions weren’t the answer this time around. This time, I found the answer in my setting… and I went for it. I created the most amazing place I could dream up and sent my characters there. I sprinkled my imagination over every place they traveled to, and now hopefully, I’ve left my magic mark again.
That doesn’t mean that every writer only has one strength. But a magic mark is something that will make your stories YOURS. It give your readers a reason to love your style. to love you as a writer. We all have authors we love to read for various reasons. Their stories leave a mark on us because of something. It’s never to early to try to figure out what your magic something is.