But of course all writing is inevitably predicated on what came before. And I believe by studying stories' commonalities, we can help ourselves to tell better stories (whether by following the expected path, or diverging from it).
During my MA in Writing for Young People, a tutor assigned writing a contemporary, realistic adventure story, with a female protagonist, for ages 9-12. But before we started, we discussed the adventure story trope: distant lands, hot climates, pirates, armed natives, resourceful men, high tech gadgets...
Then the tutor asked what challenges are inherent in writing a contemporary, realistic adventure story for children. Well, if it's going to be a high-stakes situation, you're going to get the children away from their parents, as well as their cell phones. And what kinds of high-stakes adventures could happen in the UK? And how can children possibly (and realistically) be the heroes?
I loved the idea of thinking about these story challenges before getting knee-deep in the writing, mired in an unworkable plot. Since then, I've developed this thought-process into a habit before I start any project. I watch movies in my genre, read books, list the challenges these storytellers encounter, and how they solve them. Then, with a little help from all that's gone before, I can chose my unique path.
Course, when I still end up knee-deep in the writing, mired in a seemingly unworkable plot, I only have myself to blame (and that's the point where I start dreaming about those kits...).
*The picture is mine, from Bristol's SS Great Britain. It's as good an illustration as I have of Anne plotting her own little sea-faring adventure.