Monday, June 29, 2009

Thinking Outside the Box

I'm not sure if I've mentioned it here before, but beverage packaging is quite different here. Cleaning products tend to look like soft drinks (something I have a HUGE issue with for safety reasons) and drinks come in boxes.


What's interesting to me is each of these holds one liter, yet they fit very nicely into the fridge. Much better than awkward round bottles. They also take up less space, both at home and in the store. All in all, smart thinking.

As a designer we always joked about "thinking outside the box". It's such a cliched phrase that we scoffed at the implication that our thoughts were ever inside the box. Who would do that? We took pride in being creative and looking at things from a new perspective. (I admit that got a little tough sometimes -- there are only so many ways to advertise zero percent financing on every '06 in stock.)

The same thing can be applied to writing. Sure, formulaic books sell, but it's the new ideas and the fresh concepts that catch the eyes of publishers and agents. (At least I hope they are!) I'm still rolling my eyes a bit about someone who told me last week that I should downplay the immigration aspect of my novel in my query because it might alienate people (my words). This person said I should emphasize that my MC is searching for a better life, blah blah, and leave the whole sneaking over the Mexican border stuff for later.

Then what's the point? Why write a book I'm passionate about if I'm not going to stand up and proudly show it off? Whoops, I just rolled my eyes again. If I followed this person's advice, I'd be marketing my book to sound exactly like every other book out there, when it's not.

Even though my ultimate goal is to have my story take the shape of one of those boxes -- and hopefully see it sitting nicely with it's friends on a shelf -- for now I'm happy to hang out beyond the perimeter.

(We should be getting home this evening so I'll catch up on comments tonight or tomorrow.)

16 comments:

Allen said...

You have to write the cookie cutter stuff to understand why the inventive and creative stuff works. We have to know how the puzzle is supposed to look before we can start to reassemble it in a unique and interesting manner.

I love vintage hotrods. My grandfather had a 32 Ford, a 39 Ford and built many others. He started out working on those cars when they were new. He new more about those cars than I could ever know. So when he shaved the fenders or chopped the top, he knew where and how to cut to make the lines smooth and sexy. And it didn't hurt that he built some of the fastest motors around.

Melanie Avila said...

Allen, that's really cool about your grandfather. Mine was an engineer for General Motors so I think he probably had a thing or two to do with the cars. (Unless I'm completely remembering that wrong).

I agree about understanding the basics (or rules) before you can attempt something outside the norm.

EriCan said...

I'm glad you aren't listening to this person. If we all wrote what we think people would want us to, and not what we wanted, it wouldn't have the passion and emotion it needs. We need to live on the edge and get stuff out there that is different.

Formula's work- for sure, and that's not what I'm saying, but within the formula can be something new and exciting, something that goes beyond, and if it offends or makes people think more, then I say... Hooray :)

Melanie Avila said...

Erica, I agree. It was this person's attitude that they knew best and no one else could possibly have a different idea that was still good that irritated me.

Allen said...

My Grandfather used to do a lot of work with the Chevy engineers. It is a good possibility that if the two were working at the same time, they met.

WendyCinNYC said...

Market it however you see fit and send it out to a few places. That way, you can send it to a bunch of others if it *is* working and can't revise and re-think if it *isn't.*

Lauren said...

That's so weird that someone told you to leave the immigration thing out. It is a big issue/hot topic right now. People enjoy reading about issues. I totally understand writing something marketable, but I'd think that this would be highly marketable--and fresh.

I'm glad that you are following your gut and not listening to that person!

Robin said...

Eek. It reminds me of advice from one publishing company I got for Shrink Rap. They said they'd snatch it up if I could rewrite it to be more like "The Girlfriend's Guide to Pregnancy". I thought about it, and decided I just couldn't do it. They were talking about an entirely different book. Next, they'd want me to write a book about a female wizard named Harriet Potra.

Nadine said...

Glad you are going with your gut on the book!

As for the boxes, that was fun to see them! Especially the box wine, as the only box wine I've ever seen has been big boxes, and not individual ones.

Barrie said...

I love packaging from different countries. And how smart they are to avoid round. Good luck with your writing!

Melanie Avila said...

Allen, that would be cool. :)

And since we're talking about him, his family name was Allen.

Melanie Avila said...

Wendy, that's a good point, thanks.

Melanie Avila said...

Lauren, that is exactly what I thought. If immigratation were only a small part of my book, then yeah, I can understand not mentioning it in the query. (for the same reason I'm not mentioning my subplot) But it's the main point...

Melanie Avila said...

Robin, you have another good point. Why would I rewrite my book based on the opinion of someone who hasn't read it?

I'm glad you didn't follow that advice. :)

Melanie Avila said...

Nadine, I actually took that picture a month or so ago and was waiting for an opportunity to share it. :P

Yeah, I'm following my gut on this...

Melanie Avila said...

Thanks Barrie! I agree, the boxes make SO much more sense.