Different is bad.
Have you seen the new models of cars that came out for 2018? Look similar to last year’s models? Of course. Have you noticed the plethora of sequels in your local movie theater? Of course. The reason is partly capitalism at it’s finest. Feed the masses a familiar theme and they will flock to the store for it. It’s why there’s a Starbucks on every corner of the globe. Think about it, when you’re traveling and there’s a coffee shop nearby, do you opt for Benny’s Cafe, or Starbucks? My guess, you’re going to Starbucks. Why? Familiarity. You know exactly what you’re going to get and who knows what’s available at Benny’s.
This theme can easily be transferred to books. You want a thriller, James Patterson. You want a legal thriller, John Grisham. But increasingly the most creative stories are being told by independent authors with independent thoughts and no Big 5 Publisher to tell them how to change their story to make it more appealing. That’s code for more cliché. More familiar to readers.
Now that may seem like a huge generalization, but not so fast. If you’ve heard the accomplishments of people like Hugh Howey, Andy Weir, EL James, Amanda Hocking, or John Locke, you’ll realize publishers weren’t knocking down their door for their novels. Their stories were different, edgy, in EL James’s case, pushing the envelope between romantic thriller and pornography. But it was different. And when different becomes popular, it becomes mainstream and it changes the landscape in good way.
Back in the early ‘80’s I was living in Seattle when a friend of mine invited me to go see this band called REM. They were playing in a bar in front of 300 people. I loved it. I’d never heard this type of music before. It was hard to characterize. It was different. Outside of the fact that Michael Stipe spent the entire concert with his back to the audience, it was great. And maybe REM had a record contract, but it was with a small record company that left them alone to do whatever they wanted. The results were magnificent. There are dozens of bands who’ve gone on to imitate Peter Buck’s jangly guitar from Gin Blossoms to Nirvana. It changed everything.
All of these examples come from creative people who were unbridled to do whatever their hearts desired. Hugh Howey imagined a post-apocalyptic society living one-hundred and forty stories below the surface of the earth. Creative. John Locke created an anti-hero in Donovan Creed. A quirky Ex-CIA hitman who straddles both sides of the law to accomplish his goals.
Where is the future of creative fiction coming from? I don’t know, but I’ll bet an Indie author is working on it as we speak.