Thinking outside of the box

My favorite thing (OK, fine, one of many) to tell my employee’s at work is to think outside of the box. I make a box with my hands and say, “Where are we supposed to be?” and the answer? Outside of it!

Now, I know you’re probably thinking, good grief, thank goodness she’s not my boss! But seriously, I think it’s important. If we are always coming up with ‘in the box’ solutions, we get stuck in a rut. It’s the old excuse of “We’ve always done it that way” or “This is good enough.”

What does that spell? Failure and mediocrity.

In writing, we need to apply this same concept. Have you ever read an “in the box” book? Same ole plot, same ole type of characters, same ole voice. Full of cliche’s and nothing original.

The challenge for a writer is to take an old idea and mix it up. With all the books that have been written, it’s likely, even probable, that the plot you’ve thought up has been done in some way before. So think outside of the box. What can you do to mix it up? How can you give the old story an extreme makeover?

Take the familiar romance plot of “Old boyfriend dumbed heroine at the alter or close enough, and has now come back. They fight and end up resolving their issues and get married in the end.”

Don’t laugh. You’ve all read a few of those, probably way too many times. And I’m not saying it’s a bad plot, just a well used one.

The question is this: You have this great story idea and it involves a heroine with an old boyfriend that’s back in the picture. How do you make it fresh? Unique? How does it get out of the box?

Let me suggest two books that I’ve read in the last year that do it remarkably.

-Surrender Bay by Denise Hunter. Childhood “boy”friend lives next door to her step dad’s house, who died and she now has to come back and sell the house. It’s a romance, so they get together obviously. How did she mix it up? First, the heroine came back with a kid. Children will always put a little twist to a plot (but careful or that could become cliche too.) Second, the heroine is dealing with childhood issues that the hero was deeply involved in. Third, there is an unresolved childhood mystery that must be resolved before they end up together. (I won’t go into details because, well, you need to read it!)

-Stand-in Groom by Kaye Dacus. Again, old boyfriend comes back into the picture. Kaye did a great thing in mixing this plot up, including a great spiritual theme, deception, and great romantic tension, but alas, I won’t delve too much into her masterful plot because I don’t want to ruin the fun! Go read it yourself and you’ll see what I mean. *wink*

So, how about you? What book have you read recently that had the potential of being ‘predictable’ but the author just knocked it out of the box?