Ripped From The Headlines

Many authors today are creating novels based on stories in the headlines. Underage drinking. Texting and Driving. Teens running amok are just a few of the ideas that have been turned into intriguing novels.

What is it about these books that draw readers?

First, you are presenting situations that many readers of teen books have found themselves in. Some may have come out unscathed but others are comparing their experience to what you’re showing them in your book. Second, those reading the book can commiserate with your protagonist, feel what they’re feeling.

For all the draw of these books, the author must take the time to carefully plot out the characters. They need to be loveable, to a degree. You can’t make your protagonist too loveable, though, or they’ll be a turn off. They also have to be tough, to overcome whatever situation they’re placed in. Mostly, you need to ensure the storyline will sustain and move toward not just a satisfying but also believable conclusion.

How does one decide on what story to take from the headlines?

Seems like an easy question to answer. You just grab the currently hot story and run with it. Except…

The currently hot story will be yesterday’s news in less than a week. Then another story will pop up to grab the headlines. Do you stop work on your current novel and grab the new one? Or do you make a note to set up a bare outline for this new story and get back to what you were working on?

If you’re working on a ripped from the headlines story, you will have to accept one thing. You will not complete this book and have it publication ready in the time it takes for the story to hit the back burner. That’s a simple fact of life. In doing one of these stories, you need to do research into the type of crime committed, or whatever action took place to land this story in the headlines. See what the history is. Is there sufficient interest along with a background of this type of issue to sustain the story? Are you ready to spend hours upon hours preparing a book that might be dated and therefore not relevant once it’s finished?

Personally, dated doesn’t bother me. Having an excellent story that highlights a problem is what I’m looking at. If there is sufficient research to indicate this act will happen again, even if it’s not in the near future, I’m moving forward with a compelling tale, one that will attract attention.

You’re feeling the burn. You can’t sleep or eat as you pound out your tale. No matter what you do, you can’t stop writing. What is next?

At this point, you think you’re too well into the story to stop. You dread walking away and losing what’s going on inside your head. And that’s exactly what you need to do. First, though, open a new document and make some bullet point notes about what you want to include. Add just enough detail so you remind yourself where you head was at in that moment.

Once all of this is done, you need to step back from the story. It’s time to take a serious break. Play some games. Watch a movie. Go for a walk. Take a week or so off. Then it’s time to open your manuscript and begin the slow and painstaking process of ensuring you have the details just right—neither too little or too much, just the right amount of angst. Are your characters well rounded? Do they match the persona of an individual in this situation? Have you closed all plot lines? Does the main plot have a satisfying conclusion?

Once you can answer yes to all of these questions, your next step is to contact your beta readers and have them pinpoint the mistakes you couldn’t see. Good beta readers won’t just congratulate you on a book well written. They’ll tell you if something isn’t working. If you need to rework a passage to make it believable. Once you have all of this information, get to work and clean up your book.

Finally, it’s time to find a publisher. But that’s a subject for another day.

About the K.C. Sprayberry

Born and raised in Southern California’s Los Angeles basin, K.C. Sprayberry spent years traveling the United States and Europe while in the Air Force before settling in northwest Georgia. A new empty nester with her husband of more than twenty years, she spends her days figuring out new ways to torment her characters and coming up with innovative tales from the South and beyond. 

She’s a multi-genre author who comes up with ideas from the strangest sources. Those who know her best will tell you that nothing is safe or sacred when she is observing real life. In fact, she considers any situation she witnesses as fair game when plotting a new story.

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Many of my books have plot lines 'ripped' from the news, but changed and expanded in some way to keep them current. Most of what happens, happens again, so major topics like underage drinking, drugs, bullying, etc. never really grow old.
KC Sprayberry said…
So have mine. It's intriguing and sometimes scary to work with this type of book, but always rewarding.