When an editor says they want something fresh, they don’t want something unrecognizable or unmarketable for the genre you’re aiming for. They want a spin on the familiar. Familiar gives editors and ultimately readers a frame of reference for your story. A twist gives stock frameworks new life and dimension.
Tropes are not necessarily cliche. Cliches are boringly predictable, but tropes can be the frame of reference for the magical story you weave. Kerri-Leigh gave a wonderful example in the movie Star Wars. In its time there were no moves like Star Wars, yet it was favored among many because it had cutting edge effect AND a recognizable story structure…good vs. evil, farm boy with a destiny, princess and lovable rouge.
Kerri-Leigh was also a bit of a drill sergeant, one that smiled and handed out chocolate. She paired us off and had us re-imagine standard troupes, make them fresh, and deliver a story blurb in five minutes. Needless to say, if you know anyone in DSRA, the exercise turned out some interesting, some hilarious, and some fabulous stories! The Beast of Wall Street, Goldilocks and the Boardroom, The Spinster in Space, and Gene Code name a few.
Megan Mitcham, Author