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I've been planning out the same story and revising it over and over since I was a child (that makes it 10 years now) and finally after so long I'm happy enough with it to consider finally writing the final script and I really, really like it. This is a darling that I don't want to slay, and this is definitely a story I want to tell to the world.

However, being a neophyte, I've decided to first write another story and release that into the wild, so I have a bit more experience under my belt and I know what I'm doing a bit more when I get back to the first story. (The medium is (web)comic, so I'm doing this to improve my art/composition/dialogue/etc. skills first, so writing another story first is a bit of a must.)

I have a few ideas that I really like and am passionate about, but when I develop them further they always turn into a weird variation of the first story (either in a different setting or with different characters) and even with a completely different setup it always seems that the characters' most plausible choice or the circumstances seem to push the plot in that specific direction. Is there any way to mitigate this dilemma?

(For anyone wondering, the story has a whole "anti-hero rises up and takes over the world by effectively manipulating their surroundings" sort of plot to it. I'm pretty sure there are other ways for the hero to rise up against whatever they want to fix in the problem in their life, but it always seems to end up to be this)

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    Once you finish that story you will be free to come up with new ideas. – wetcircuit Apr 16 at 17:09
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Essentially what you've done is spent ten years practicing how to write one particular story archetype - you've trained long and hard in how to use a hammer and now everything looks like a nail.

This isn't necessarily a bad thing - there's been some pretty successful writers over the years who have essentially done just variations on a theme.

But if you want to broaden your range you need to start training those skills - I'd suggest seeking out some writing prompts and pick some that are as different premise as you can find from what you already have. Aim to write short stories at first and if it starts turning into your "same" story then stop. Analyse what choices you made that lead to that point and start again - with either the same prompt or a different one. Practice, practice, practice!

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A popular meme going around is that there are only five/seven/ten/whatever different stories. For example, every love story is the same story. The genders of the players will be different and the specifics of the obstacles that stand in the way of the lovers will be different, but they meet, they have a falling out, they prove their love for each other, and they live happily ever after. What makes the story interesting to the romance reader is the cleverness of the variations on the theme. Vary from that pattern and incur their wrath.

Pick another genre and another pattern is likely to appear. I follow several best selling authors who keep telling me the same mystery or thriller tale. I keep following them because I like the characters and because the authors decorate the story with different looks. It is not mindless fluff but it is also not mind-twisting-plot convolutions. I do not want to read fluff every day but when I need to be comforted, it is just the thing.

These story patterns work. Whether it is a love story or the hero's journey or some other well-worn trope, readers (and other consumers of fiction) understand what they are getting. A few facts about an unfamiliar topic, some innovative complications and resultant solutions, and a sprinkling of non-turgid dialogue make this version of the story (pattern) fresh and enjoyable (but not necessarily challenging).

Perhaps you are fretting over something that is not really a problem. I would suggest that you spend your time on basics of the craft. Create stories that work and that have clever decorations. Accept the fact that you, especially when you are starting out, are going to tread familiar ground. When that ground starts to get too familiar, add in some additional craft aspects: multiple point of view, flashbacks, multiple story lines, different tenses, different characters, and so on. Rinse, repeat! I suspect that you can follow that path (along with faithful readers) for a long time.

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Write the Story Out Completely

It may be that you need to write the story and get it down and look at it on paper. You may think that it would be a waste of time, but as in many things our brains lead us to what we need to see and you are being pulled toward this theme so you should get the words down as fast as you can.

As Fast As You Can

If you're worried about wasting time (this is the root of Writer's Block in many writers) then do a quick outline type of thing and then write it in pure stream-of-consciousness just to get it out.

Most likely once you see it on paper you will be able to know that you've thought the theme all the way thru and you'll be able to set it aside.

Could Lead to Great Things

Also, you may find that you have something far better than you hoped but you'll never truly know until you get the words down and look at it.

After you follow this path, you'll be able to move on to other things.

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    Thank you for the advice but my main problem isn't that I'm not getting words down on paper, but more like all my words seem to lead in one direction, no matter the story. – Spekode 2 Apr 15 at 13:15
  • @Spekode2 I think raddevus means to do this with your original story? – DM_with_secrets Apr 15 at 14:42
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    @DM_with_secrets yes, thanks, I'm saying write out the story to "get it out of your system". – raddevus Apr 15 at 17:17
  • If you literally write the same story every time, then just don't. That's like saying every time you take a walk you walk to the Quick-Mart. Next time you walk, just don't walk to the Quick-Mart. – raddevus Apr 15 at 17:19
  • @raddevus It's more like "every time I try to fake a foreign accent, I wind up sounding German". OP has a conditioned set of notions on how certain types of characters should act in certain types of situation, so the storylines start to converge. It happens to the professionals too - Douglas Adams famously said of "The Salmon of Doubt" (the book he was working on when he died) that "a lot of stuff wasn't really working". Then he realised that despite trying to write Dirk Gently book 3 , it was turning into H2G2 book 6. (After his death in 2001, his widow had Eoin Colfer finish it in 2009) – Chronocidal Apr 16 at 8:37
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Choose Different Conflict

Fiction is about characters having conflict. If you feel like you're writing the same fiction over and over, consciously pick different characters and different conflict.

You said Story One was about: "anti-hero rises up and takes over the world". Your character is an anti-hero and your conflict is between the character and the ruling system.

Make Story Two about fundamentally different characters and conflicts. Maybe your character is law enforcement - part of the ruling system rather than against it. And maybe the conflict is they have to cross powerful people to solve a case - they lose power as they burn bridges, rather than rising up as they manipulate the system.

End State Matters

To continue with the law enforcement example: maybe they end up solving the case, but step on so many toes that they get fired. This is a victory - but not the kind of victory you used in your other story.

TLDR: Choose different conflict, characters, and resolutions.

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