Trends vs. Authenticity

Photo Courtesy of Halle Stoutzenberger
The first novel I wrote--the one that DIDN'T make it to publication--was written around a trend. I hate to admit it--I feel like I should be better than that--but I would be lying if I told you THE MERMAID GENE wasn't influenced in some way by the success of HARRY POTTER or TWILIGHT.

That's not to say I ripped off either of these stories. In fact, I was (and am) really proud of the unique and original way I brought a paranormal romance / urban fantasy / mystery to life. But the trend came before the story. I looked at HARRY POTTER and TWILIGHT, and I thought to myself, "What do those stories have in common? They took familiar cultural icons and completely reinvented them. Hmm, what's a cultural icon I could reinvent? I know, the mermaid!"

Perhaps that's why THE MERMAID GENE didn't make it. (That, and my rookie mistakes, and the flood of other writers who also had mermaid ideas.) I learned my lesson, and I promised myself I would never base another novel on something as fluid and fickle as a trend. Because here's the thing. I dig THE MERMAID GENE. I think it's fun and different and deep. Although the story has some structural problems and needs a good dusting, I think there's real potential there. That's why it hurts so much to be stuck at the dock, watching the mermaid ship sail away.

I heard a great quote on Twitter the other day. I can't remember the exact wording, but it said something to the effect of, Don't try to write the next FIFTY SHADES OF GREY. Write what is in your heart, so others will want to become the next YOU.

Yep, I definitely scrambled that quote so much it's probably unrecognizable. But you get what I'm saying. It's wonderful to feel influenced by the work others around us are doing, but we should always try to put our stories first.

If we build a novel around a trend, it will most likely read like a novel built around a trend. If we build a novel around who we are, it will most likely resonate somewhere deeper inside our readers' hearts. And guts. And souls.

Know what I'm saying?