First of all, congratulations to Karen Mahoney, who just got the ARC (advanced reader copy) of her book Iron Witch in the mail! (She told me she cried a little. I damn well hope she did. 😀 That is a gorgeous cover, and this is a great occasion.) And now on to content!
So clichés are a problem in writing, right?
Sure. After all, there are only a limited number of stories in the world – love stories, quest stories, revenge stories, coming-of-age stories, etc. The key to writing something fresh is not, in fact, inventing something completely new. It’s kind of like scrambled eggs. You can make them boring. You can also make them cheesy or spicy, or with tomatoes and nutmeg, or with mushrooms and garlic. The spices are what makes your scrambled eggs stand out.
Child going to a magical school stories? Coming of age? Hero saves the world? There are thousands of them. But Harry Potter tastes unique. Why? The characters. The setting. The writing style, which effectively swings between whimsical and dark. A good balance between educating us about the world and never assuming the reader is stupid. Harry Potter is unique because of the way it’s spiced.
Katie Ganshert wrote a post called “plot-check time,” which taps a lot of general clichés, and Jay Lake wrote another one touching on his own personal clichés. We all have them. They tend to be things that move us – and of course, if they move us, they can move other people. The key is making our cliches taste different.
So what clichés do you have in your writing?
I certainly have a few. I tend to bring in the Ignorant Protagonist to introduce the reader to things. I also tend to use physical beauty with all its pros and cons. Everybody Has a Past, too – with big things that tie into the current plot, usually bordering on epic tragedy.
What about you? Tell me about your clichés in the comments!
Speaking of clichés, here’s a funny and informative photo-post about author pictures in books. Next, a great post on the Guide to Literary Agents by author Kirk Faber (Postcards From a Dead Girl) on staying motivated in spite of the publishing odds:
I received the best advice about this particular struggle by listening to a newly published author speak at a book signing. His tactic, and one I also find particularly successful, is to ignore the statistics. Treat writing like any other job, and improve your odds by getting better at your craft. Build your résumé by starting with smaller publications, and consider entering contests while working on your longer work. If you need to focus on a number, make it the number one—it takes one person of influence to see promise in your work. The rest is noise.
Sound advice. You owe it to yourself to read the rest.
And on one final note… Bo’s Cafe Life. Because writer comics rule.