Tuesday, April 24, 2012

U is for... Universal

This morning one of my critique partners mentioned her distress at discovering her book, which she thought was unique, creative and fresh sounded very like another published book when she broke it down and wrote the blurb in the same format as that book.  Now, I've read various drafts of this story and have to agree with her that it is unique and fresh, but the plot did fit neatly into that 'mad-lib' blurb.

It got me thinking.

The stories that touch us most, that really grip the heart do so because they strike an emotional chord.  And why do they strike that chord?  Because they are universal stories, stories that ring true because they deal with emotions and situations we all recognize and understand.  Sure, maybe the action has been moved to Mars in 2089, but if we're looking at a man and a woman falling in love, or someone dealing with the death of a parent, or a person trying to make a significant change to his life, we're going to recognize it.  We've all been there.  These are universal experiences and regardless of the setting, we're going to respond to them.

Someone said once that there are only 7 stories, and we all just go around re-telling them, adding our own flavor and touches to them.  I believe it.  There are only so many stories that can be told because there are only so many things we can experience as human beings.  What makes each writers' work unique is their way of telling the story.  It may be the simplest story in the world, but a great writer can use words in such a way that the story feels like something you've never heard before.

Other writers may not have such command of words, and their way of making the story their own is to place it in a setting we've never seen before.  Perhaps it's an imaginary world, or our own world, but at a time we've never had the chance to experience.

How do you use universal stories?  What makes yours different from anyone else's?


  1. I try to add quirks and lovable characters to make a universal story stand out.

  2. I've heard it said that Star Wars, Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter are basically the same story. Reluctant hero challenges an evil being bent on taking over the world.

    I love worldbuilding. I'll set a familiar story on a new, strange world and figure out how the world changes important elements of the original story, how it affects the characters and plot twists.

  3. I so agree. I suppose mine has a little to do with mad science given a more modern, youthful twist.

    We can all use the same words, say the same things, but in a totally different way and it becomes your story. That's what makes reading so fun and exciting, and writing even more interesting.