Designer Seeds

“Write the story that only you can write,” one of my writing teachers once told me.

I wasn’t sure at first what that meant.  At the time, I was writing a historical mystery set during the days leading up to the first Turkish coup, when Ataturk’s generals stepped in to restore his vision of westernization, which was gradually eroding.  It was an exciting story, with lots of drama and suspense, and it was inspired from my personal experience.

But it wasn’t my story.  A historian could’ve written it, and probably a lot better.

The manuscript spent a lot of time languishing in the bottom drawer of my desk while I pondered and researched even more.  And then that writing teacher’s advice finally clicked with me.  He had been talking about a sort of “designer seeds.”  The story seeds that were designed especially for me to write weren’t about the historical events but instead about the American dependents living there at the time and interacting with those events.  That was me, and it was my story.

So, my imagination got to work, with the help of those story seeds designed just for me, and I embroiled my fictional American dependents in those events preceding the coup.  It became the story with a slant that only I could write.

Once we writers find our “designer seeds,” I think we end up with stories that are more unique and filled with passion.

Continuing this month’s metaphor, I’m super pleased to announce the planting of seeds of my book.  Dancing for the General will finally sprout in the garden of books in July!


10 thoughts on “Designer Seeds”

  1. That’s the key, isn’t it? Anyone can write a story about murder. But what’s the slant that YOU bring to a particular character/location/time period (or some combination of the three)? Great post here, Sue.

    And congrats on the new book!


  2. SQUEE for the new release!

    That’s an interesting take on that advice. It’s something I’ve never quite wrapped my brain around for my stuff. I absolutely see it for memoirists and writers who pull family lore into their fiction. But I don’t really do either of those, so it’s never really gelled for me. Food for thought. Thanks!


  3. How exciting! Just from the few words you used to paint your premise, I was thinking “I want to read this book!” In fiction, we should all be writing our story. Even if its set a long, long time ago and far, far away, the story comes from inside of us.


  4. Thanks!
    I agree, Liz, that slant is the key.
    @Becky, I bet your personality comes through loud and clear, and that’s really your story.
    Keenan, I think we write our story over and over, but it just comes out in different ways, as in our “theme” question for our interviews. For me, it’s always about finding family, whether it’s Nell’s adventures in Boulder, or my heroine in distant Turkey.


  5. Designer seeds–I love that! It’s so true, Sue. Our true story and passion always shine through on the page, if we let it 😉 Congrats on the new release!!


  6. Readers like “designer seeds” as well but from another perspective. We readers look for our “seeds’ to entice us to read. Of course our first seeds are the titles and covers, over which I know you many of you have little if any control, but those are the first “seeds” we see none the less. As a reader, if I am looking for a new author or book series, I search the descriptions or blurbs for characters that grab my attention, geographic locations that are familiar or interesting, and plot lines that are similar (but not the same) to genres that I have read previously.

    Once I find a writer whose style, characters, and locations I enjoy, I tend to return to those “now germinated seeds” to watch them as they grow book after book. These “seeds” are like favorite flowers that I anticipate growing year after year. I do like it, however, if a few “stray seeds” pop up to mix things up, rather than just row after row of the same plants book after book.

    I do occasionally go out of my “reading comfort” zone if a plot just cannot be ignored. For example, I have started one or two “post-apocalyptic” thrillers but never really “got into” them and sometimes didn’t even finish the book. However, I went out of my comfort zone and read the post-apocalyptic “Blackout” by Marc Elsberg because the “designer seed” of a traffic light outage and the resulting car crash, just sprung from the ground and took over my reading garden. Oh, and if you have read it, you know that I now look at electricity in completely different way.

    We readers like our familiar “seeds” but are also willing to try a new seed packet as well. You writers nurture the seeds, and we readers will cut the flowers and put them on our table to enjoy and share.


  7. Thanks again! I guess designer seeds account for individual taste as well. We don’t always know why we like what we like.


  8. First, congratulations on your upcoming release! Wahoo!!

    I love the concept of designer seeds. Finding a topic that’s intriguing is the first step for me. But the biggest step is discovering the designer seeds… those bits through the eyes and lives of our characters… that fuel the passion.


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