Wash, rinse, repeat...
Have you ever found a new author and suddenly you are in love? Suddenly, you want to read everything they've put out. So you go on a glom. You inhale every book -or near to it. Or perhaps this is a debut author, so you grab each new book as soon as it hits the shelves. And then you realize something.
The author is telling the same story. Over. And over. Again.
The author has fallen into a plot holding pattern. Everything is basically the same. Same plot structure, same heroes and heroines hiding beneath different clothes. The strange thing is that if you read one book on it's own, it would be awesomesauce on a spoon. It's only when you read them in a glom that you notice this.
It's a strange predicament for me as a reader, because I still find myself loving the individual books, and the writer's style, and yet I'm left feeling somewhat dubious about this author. Will she do this all the time? Will the next book be that same? Likely.
As a writer, it gives me a bit of the willies. Will I do the same? Are my books going to be carbon copies of the older ones?
Similarities and themes can be expected. Writers tend to have certain themes and issues that call to them. And when one writes genre fiction, one definitely follows preconceived plot structures -to an extent. Murders will be solved in mysteries, bad guys will be confronted in thrillers, and the girl will get the guy in romances. Even so, how do we avoid falling into a plot holding pattern?
Because I have to believe that this is mainly a subconscious action on the writer's part.
I don't really have the answers. I suspect awareness is the first step. Vigilance is key. But there is also something else to consider. When an author gets to the point of publication, she learns that she is not just a writer, but a brand.
Selling books is a business. The author is the brand. She has to be to develop a fan base. Readers must recognize her, and know what to expect. This creates brand loyalty. So there is somewhat of a double-edged sword going on here. Veer too far off your path and readers feel betrayed; where is the story style they've come to respect? Stay too close in your plot comfort zone and you've got an endless repeat.
No doubt about it, we authors walk along a rocky road. One that can easily make us fall.