Monday, May 21, 2012

Formulas in Writing

Pick up some books any genre and you can find a formula. Patterns that authors follow to tell a story. In romances with vampires or werewolves, one formula I've noticed usually goes like this: Human meets supernatural creature who hides truth from human. Love ensues. Human finds out truth and feels betrayed. Human runs off and gets caught by bad guy. While in grip of bad guy realizes supernatural creature isn't evil and does love creature. Supernatural creature comes to rescue. They declare love and live happily ever after.

Recently I've figured out a formula I like to use. It goes like this: Boy goes through life like normal, but feels something is off. Boy learns he is not human and a new reality is revealed. Bad guy enters story and causes chaos. I've done it in Out of Secrets when JJ meets Cage and learns vampires exist. I do it in Snapshots, but I'm not going to tell you how because that's giving away part of the ending. In Puck's story I did it when he learns he's fae. Even the current WIP I have Hadrian learning that the truth he's been told is a lie.

Now formulas aren't bad, but an author has to be careful. There needs to be enough difference in the details so the reader doesn't feel like he or she is reading a rehashed story. Let's take my two newest characters, Puck and Hadrian. How are they different? Well, Puck's pretty much a normal guy. He has friends, he's on the swim team, both his parents are alive and happy, and he's dated a few different girls over the years. Hadrian, on the other hand, is an orphan and has been isolated. He's part vampire, part human and that has caused the people around him to shun him, the shunning encouraged by his teachers. So when both their worlds expand and things revealed, they both feel a sense of relief, but their reactions are different.

Another way to keep the formula fresh is with bad guys and minor plot lines. Give the villains different motivations for their evil deed. Have something distract the main character and before he can save the day, this little loose end needs to be tied up.

Writers all fall prey to formulas and you can find formulas in any genre. But they are just a part of story telling. If the story is compelling, gripping me and refusing to release me until I get to the end, I can honestly say I don't care if it follows a formula. I can only hope that my stories will be just as gripping, that even if a reader says, "Yeah, she followed this formula." that he or she will still have enjoyed the ride, that it was different enough to not matter.


  1. Hahha,,that's a nice random take...I don't there's a's all about the instinct..nice post..enjoyed reading

  2. My formula... Write. Keep writing. Throw in action, humor, romance and freaky ass creatures. Viola! ;p

  3. There will always be a formula. SO many stories have already been done before us, it's impossible to come up with a completely original plot. The only way that can separate one story from another is the execution of the storytelling (Voice, POV, twists, prose, etc.).

  4. I agree with Cherie Larkins that there will always be formulas, but that doesn't mean we can't put our own spin on things. :)

  5. @Cherie and Cherie, very true. Everything has been done. It's just a matter of putting a spin on it.

  6. Oh nice to learn this, I guess it's true, I just didn't notice there is a formula or pattern...

    I love your background - I have the same at the moment. Great minds think alike

    Roadtrip: On my way from A all the way to Z!
    English Speaking Zone

  7. While I'm aware as a writer there are formulas, I don't normally pay attention to them as a reader. Well, unless I've read more than 5 things by then. At that point it's obvious. But I don't mind if while the formula is the same, the story isn't.

  8. I've got an idea for a book several books down the line, but it drifts a bit too close to another novel at the moment, so I'll have to figure out how to avoid that, or abandon the plot.