Wednesday, July 16, 2014

CLICHÉS in Writing

Clichés work for a reason. They're universal. Familiar. Tested and reader approved. Whether on a sentence level, character level, or a plot level, clichés flourish and abound. Whether we really want to use the same thing that's been used hundreds—if not thousands—of times before is something to ponder in depth.

What are common clichés, and the pros and cons of using them?

COMMON clichés: (MC=main character)
1. MC finds out he has latent powers—which must be used to save the world.
2. MC discovers she is really the long-lost offspring to a king/millionaire/sea king/famous wizard/vampire/faery queen.
3. MC is hot and gorgeous, with great hair, toned body. Usually athletic. Never overweight.
4. In fantasy or paranormal novels, the MC or supporting character has green eyes.
5. The controversial hated/adored love triangle. The MC must choose between two characters he/she is equally drawn to.
6. The nameless character who joins a dangerous group is the first to die.
7. Grandmothers who knit and crochet, and have a parakeet for a pet.
8. Cheerleaders who are mean, bullying, and beautiful. Oh, and blonde.
9. Using the following for stereotypical comedic relief: redheads with freckles, African-Americans or other ethnic groups, short people, overweight people, the elderly, young children, and pets.
10. The butler did it. (Mystery novel Killer Extraordinaire.)

DANGERS of using clichés:
Your reader may guess your plot and potentially become bored or restless with the story. They'll feel like they've read your story a thousand times before, only with different characters. Yaaaawn. Time to go watch TV or play a video game…

People often crave variety, freshness, and the unique. Add zest to your writing by adding a surprising twist, turning a cliché on its head, or thwarting your readers' preconceived expectations. Keep them on their mental toes!

BENEFITS of using clichés:
1. Sometimes it's fun and useful to throw in a cliché when we're parodying, poking fun of "the usual." Can be accompanied by the word "proverbial," for example: "I ran around like a proverbial chicken with its head cut off."
2. We might purposely want to introduce a character who speaks in clichés. This Shows he's dull or unimaginative without Telling the reader.
3. Readers may actually like a certain predictable formula—such as in the romance genre. How many romance novels end where the guy and the girl do NOT end up together? In these cases, the skill for a writer is to present the same plot cliché in a fresh, engaging way. This is a unique challenge!
4. Love triangles spark interesting and heated discussions, in which readers take "sides" and choose their favorite character—even if the MC didn't choose that character in the book. Team Edward or Team Jacob, anyone?
5. Reading a more cliché, formulaic book can be more relaxing and less stressful. Sometimes it's enjoyable to read a more mellow book, as opposed to an "edge of your seat" type.

What's your opinion on clichés, and do you ever purposely use them?
Do you enjoy reading about a love triangles, or are you TIRED of seeing them?
What's a book you've read where the author totally broke away from plot or character clichés? 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

I'm a Strange Chemistry Orphan

On June 18th, I got a call from my agent, Kelly Sonnack.

Bad news. Strange Chemistry was closing down, effective immediately, and would no longer be my publisher. My debut release for THE BODY INSTITUTE would not be January 2015 as planned. 


That wasn't what I wanted to hear, only a little over 5 months away from being published. Finally, after over 10 years of writing and submitting. Finally, after writing more than 14 novels. At last my book was available for preorder on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, and Powell's--it was so cool! Not to mention I'd started an author page and a book presence on Goodreads. This was NOT a bump in the road I wanted to experience.

But over the bump I went. Kelly and I devised a game plan. I readjusted my mental expectations (no, I probably won't be published before I'm 55). I changed my online bios, tweaked my website, and adjusted my Facebook and Goodreads author pages. Back to square ONE. Ack.

Twitter blazed with wonderful support and sympathy for the Strange Chemistry orphans. So did my friends on Facebook when I posted the news. We orphans banded together via email, commiserating and encouraging each other. We're certainly not the first to whom this has happened, and we won't be the last. Whether a publishing house is small or large, imprints close down on occasion. Merges happen, editors leave, entire houses shut down.

I'm certainly grateful this happened to me this far out, rather than closer to my release date. How horrible it must be for all those debut writers who were closer to their launches. Hugs, everyone. 

The past 2 weeks, I've pushed myself to keep writing. Revising another manuscript. Because I won't make any progress on my writing journey if I stop in the middle of the road.  


Had you heard the news of Strange Chemistry's closure yet?
Are you unable to write when you're sad or upset, or is it a good distraction?
Do you find it difficult to carry on after major disappointments in your writing journey? (Such as query/manuscript rejections, parting ways with an agent, losing a great critique partner, receiving a brutally honest critique, reading a harsh review.)