If you believe all my published stories, I’ve done everything from stitching on a shirt button to jumping off a cliff while tied to another human being. I may not have been born with such a multitude of talents as hitting the bull’s-eye on a dart board, winning swimming competitions, and staging children’s theatre, but I have been blessed with a quirky imagination and a flair for language. These I’ve put to good use by reusing one idea to create many different stories. Call it recycling, re-purposing, re-packaging or re-working, here’s how you can take just one premise and turn it into a folder-full of saleable stories:
1. Vary the audience
Target readers of different profiles, like teenagers, working mothers, or retired grandparents, by changing who your story addresses. For example, a story about a young girl participating in an elocution competition can easily be tweaked into a story about a distinguished senior citizen with a public speaking phobia addressing a school gathering, by modifying the viewpoint and conflicts. A story about an ice-skating date can be rehashed into enduring love between retirees against the backdrop of an ice rink.
2. Vary the subject
Target readers of different niche fields by changing the topic of the story. A template or formula plot like the following:
“Character tries to learn a new skill – encounters challenges — is offered help by family members – situation worsens – comical farce ensues–situation resolves itself by luck as much as design.”
This template can work in nearly all scenarios, whether the skill is sailing a ship or baking a cake. Each new story thus created will fit with a magazine catering to that particular market, viz. sailors or bakers. Offshoots of this can be exploited, too. For example, by having the family be a large traditional joint family, or a modern nuclear LGBT family.
3. Vary the setting
Mundane story lines can be enriched with the addition of uncommon locales and elaborate back-stories of each character. So even if the essential plot is good-boy-overcomes-scary-villain, a light-fantastic children’s setting can make it a Harry Potter, a complex interweave of fantasy worlds can turn it into a Lord of the Rings, an everyday urban setting in ye olde England can turn it into Richmal Crompton’s William, and a science fiction setting can morph it into a Star Wars. Similarly, a different approach can turn a rags-to-riches story from an Oliver Twist into a Charlie and The Chocolate Factory. Revived tales from Aesop’s Fables, cultural mythlore, even the Bible can serve for inspiration.
4. Vary the region
Tie in larger national journalistic stories to a smaller region by highlighting a local or personal aspect, or restricting the scope closer to home. For example, in a story about the benefits of soy, interviewing a local soya farmer or profiling a local restaurant that serves a popular soy menu can make it more appealing to regional markets.
5. Vary the format
Short story, essay, memoir, poem, cartoon, infographic, audio podcast, interview Q&A, blog post, bullet-point list – you get the idea! Diversify your media.
6. Vary the frequency
A newsy story about finding the right childcare is as valid two years from now as it is today. Evergreen stories, for example those around Christmas gift ideas or Independence Day celebrations, can be reprinted endlessly. Think fresh slant, timeless topics, and age-old problems.
Recycling story ideas eliminates the effort required to start from scratch. As long as you steer away from plagiarism, it can be lucrative and a great “re-turn” on investment!
BIO – Devyani Borade is a professional writer and cartoonist, and a regular contributor to FundsforWriters.com. Her fiction, nonfiction and art have been published in magazines across the world. She has much to say about life, laughter, and literature; so mosey on over to her website Verbolatry at http://devyaniborade.blogspot.com where you’re sure to find a story or two that’ll interest you. And while there, don’t forget to sign up for her hilarious cartoon newsletter featuring the adventures of the charming Debora and her incorrigible Pen! Devyani hosts an annual writing competition – the Verbolatry Laugh-a-Riot Contest – for humour writing and art, offering £150 in prizes with publication. Check out the winners of the debut year at http://devyaniborade.blogspot.com/p/contest.html