"Every story has already been told. Once you've read Anna Karenina, Bleak House, The Sound and the Fury, To Kill a Mockingbird and A Wrinkle in Time, you understand that there is really no reason to ever write another novel. Except that each writer brings to the table, if she will let herself, something that no one else in the history of time has ever had." ~ Anna Quindlen
Depending on which usually-long-dead expert you want to listen to, there are anywhere from two to sixty-nine types of story, but no two writers will ever tell them the same way. Even if you were to follow a formula, there are so many different components to storytelling that it couldn't be entirely the same as someone else's. And that's a good thing, a great thing, because we bring something of ourselves into every story, our own voice, our own perspectives, our own issues to explore. We lean more toward dialogue or introspection. We write in long, leisurely sentences as smooth as chocolate on the tongue, or in quick, efficient prose like goosebumps. Our characters are themselves as well as our mothers, our friends, our enemies.
Every book we write is also a living bookshelf of every book we've ever read. The words of our mentors and the faces of the beloved friends we've laughed with and cried with haunt our pages like shadows beneath our sentences.
So, since we are all unique, we shouldn't be afraid to mix it up.
One of the things I've read in various posts and heard at conferences lately, is that readers (including agents and editors) are looking for new things, new blends of genres rather than variations of what's already out there.
I wonder how much room there is for Paranormal Sci-Fi? How about Sci-Fi Mystery? Think of the books that have really broken out. They always add something completely new to the mix.
A great place to start thinking about your next novel or short story idea is Georges Polti's list of Thirty-Six Dramatic Situations. You can read the English translation of his book, or get a quick and dirty list:
The list basically even writes your one sentence pitch for you, all you have to do is fill in your own characters and your own situation. But is that going to be enough to get your story to shine?
What about mixing up how you tell it? Add mystery elements, or thriller elements, or paranormal elements (no vampires though), or elements of magical realism, or speculative fiction, or whatever strikes your fancy. Think outside the confines of the books you've already read. What can you come up with.
I'd love to hear your new blends. Let's see how creative we can get!