Think back to one of the best novels that you've ever read. What was it about the book that you liked? What set it apart from any book that you read that may share the same genre? Was it the storyline? Was it great characters? Was it the believability of the circumstances that the characters found themselves in? Was it the way the author told the story?
For most authors who read religiously, it is probably a combination of all of the above and then some. One of the best stories that I ever read came from Stephen King. Although I may not be a big fan of his newer works, his older works still entice me; painting vivid images of Maine in the Fall with winding, pitch-black roads and lone empty homes in the middle of nowhere. The story that held me in it's grips (and still does) is 'The Stand.' King cleverly wove a tale of apocalyptic proportions with more characters than perhaps was needed. Yet he wrote the story so well that I continued to turn the pages holding my breath as event after event took the characters on a roller coaster ride of emotional and psychological trauma.
The characters were unique, each lending a certain spice that created the perfect blend of flavors that only enhanced the story instead of taking away from it. In short, it was a story that I have read several times and will probably read yet again.
As an author, it is our job to create something different when we put fingers to keyboard. It is our job to keep our audience guessing. We are supposed to provide twist and turns in our plots to keep our readers on the edge of their seats. That's what we do. Even if our story is similar to someone elses work; as an author, we are supposed to lend out certain flair so that our readers will remember us as a writer as well as our individual work.
So have you done this? Have you written something so different that it will keep your readers on the edge of their seat? Have you created memorable characters or are they the same type of characters that you would find in any other book that shares your genre of choice? Did you add an unexpected twist that your readers didn't see coming? Because if you did...then you've done your job!
~ J.L. Whitehead