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Do you ever feel like all the stories have already been told? Ecclesiastes 1:9 says, “There is no new thing under the sun.” Thankfully, when writing a story, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. You just need to make the reader care about it or see it in a different way.

Whether you want to write romance, epic fantasy, or anything else that’s been done time and time again, here are three factors to think about to help make your story stand out:

  • Writing style
    • Sunsets happen all the time, but we still read Emily Dickinson’s poem, “I’ll Tell You How the Sun Rose.” If you can help me see something in a new way or make me pause and give it a second look, you can hold onto my attention.
    • You don’t need to be a poet, either, although reading and writing poetry can certainly help. Skillful wordcrafting and insights into life are an asset to any genre, from cozy mysteries to grimdark military sci-fi.
  • Quirky characters
    • When I read, I appreciate action and a plot that moves at a good clip. But it’s the characters I care about. I might gloss over a cool fight scene if I’m not concerned about the characters in it and what happens to them. I don’t need every detail about the characters, but I like enough information for my imagination to get a sense of who they are as people.
    • Setting can be a character in its own right and can be used to shape the rest of your cast. A familiar plotline can feel fresh and new if placed in a vibrant setting.
  • Twist of trope
    • Take a common scenario or a character stereotype and turn it upside down. My book, Nick Newton Is Not a Genius, is a twist on the “child genius” trope. Instead of being a genius in a “normal” family, my protagonist is a “normal” child in a family of geniuses.
    • Of course, sometimes tropes get twisted so often that the twists themselves become tropes. It’s a good idea to check out other books in your genre to see what’s already out there.

How do you make the stories that you write stand out? What draws you into stories that you read? Please post your answers in the comments!