Monday, October 31, 2011

Rebooting Clichés

After finishing Suzanne Collins’ THE HUNGER GAMES, a YA dystopian novel, it made me think of how the author had managed to make her characters suffer, provide a good pace and write excellent, grabbing hooks while also keeping the story fresh. Original. Now, maybe it’s not as original as I thought--maybe it’s like an awful lot of dystopian fiction out there? Granted, it’s been a while since I’ve read YA or scanned the bookstore shelves for something to read—but it was enough to keep my interest, enough to want to finish the rest of the series.

 I’ve often wondered why I’ve passed through the library or bookstore, looking for something and eventually leaving almost disappointed. I think I’ve finally figured out why: the originality of ideas are slim.

A strange question that’s bugged me all week, while trying to brainstorm an idea for a possible NanoWriMo project, is: How do writers twist things to make possible clichés or overdone ideas fresh again?

Now, I know everything’s already been done. It can’t be helped that something you came up with follows a pattern—whether due to the genre, characters or situation, but something you can help is the uniqueness of the idea. Putting your own spin on it, twisting the cliché into something that readers haven’t heard before or into something relatively new.

Only question is: “How?”

One way is to play around with the cliché. Figure out what makes it cliché and overdone and try to do the opposite or change elements of that idea to create something that is fresh such as the damsel-in-distress becoming the heroine. Another way is—depending on the requirements of your story—is there a way to blend genres or to mix two different pieces of an idea together to put a new spin on the plot itself? A good example of this is the series of Shrek films done by Dreamworks, using clichés to create comedy. You can also use clichés and change them to fit a more serious or dramatic subject matter or genre such as the TV show Heroes—taking the cliché of the superhero and making the characters almost super normal, with no idea how deeply they are connected, or in some cases, that they exist.

However, clichés also appear when creating inhuman characters or entire races of creatures, not just in plotting. When designing new creatures or new races for your world, consider blending animal and human traits in unexpected ways. However, if this creature is to become a major character or have prominent parts in the story, your readers have to be able to relate to him or her—so it’s important to humanize the character.

An excellent example of humanizing an alien or a human with otherworldly abilities is Spiderman. Alternately, the creators could have had Spiderman look like a spider, however, they chose to keep him a human, but gave him spider abilities such as climbing walls and shooting webs from his wrists.

This method of creating a new species and, if needed, adding humanizing traits, allows for a fresh spin on the typical use of creatures that may have either just been used as pets, methods of transportation, or as weapons. Plus it works well with the world-building of your story—with this new creature the myths and origins can be created by the writer, and thus enriches the novel’s culture with something possibly unheard of.

While trying to avoid clichés, questions you can ask while creating your novel, are the typical: who, what, where, when and, most importantly, how? Who is your character? What or who are they searching for in your novel? Where is your novel set? What time period is it set? How do the events relate to each other and the characters themselves?

Also, ask yourself the big question: “What if?” What if the bomb went off? What if one of them dies? What if one of the characters had a terminal illness? What if he or she had this habit? The possibilities are endless. One way to make otherwise cliché things new again is to add something unusual or unheard of to it, to put the theme in a new light or maybe tell the story in a new POV (point of view).

Another important question to ask yourself is: “Why?” Why did you choose to tell the story this way? Why use this POV and what purpose will this character serve? Why blend these two genres or elements, what purposes will they serve in the scope of your novel? Asking why as you build your novel, with the intentions of twisting and changing clichés, will help determine if the idea works, whether or not the changed cliché helps or hinders your intents and direction for the story.

But what if you can’t find a way to mix the plot or change a cliché? Story generators and sites such as Seventh Sanctum and Chaotic Shiny can help with jogging the creativity. Another resource to look in when considering clichés, and changing them into something readers haven’t seen, is mythology and fairytales. Perhaps take a fairytale or a myth and add a modern twist to it or (if writing primarily fantasy) use the myth/tale in such a way that may pay homage to the possible inspiration of your novel. An example of this would be likening the tale of Little Red Riding Hood to a serial killer, the specifics of his victimology and the types of trophies he may collect (such as red clothing).

These are among the various methods you can try out and consider while creating your novel. Asking these questions and using the resources available, will help you battle clichés, change them and, ultimately, enrich the novel—making things new and unique or giving your story a fresh view—for your readers.

Thanks for reading!

- HC

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Whatcha Reading Tuesday!!

Boo! LOL Just kidding :) It's Whatcha Reading Tuesday!! Come and share what you're reading with us, whatever it may be. Whether it be a book, a comic, a script, a sign telling you to stop blogging while driving, anything!! And with Halloween around the corner, what writer gives you the chills?

Monday, October 24, 2011

It's All About Me: Website for the UnPublished Author...Yay or Nay??

It seems like the most commonly asked question about websites among us writers is: "Should I have one?" This is most often followed by: "Is it worth it?"

If you're published--got that deal, got that book *yay!!*--then the answer to those two questions is a big fat YES! Yes you should definitely have one and Yes it is most definitely worth it. You want people to find your books right? And readers will want to know what's coming next. They'll also want to know more about YOU. So Yes, Yes, author website is a must for the published author.

But what if you're not published yet? I mean you could be in the very beginning writing stages, the *shudder* editing stages, or even *gulp* querying every agent you can....should you still have a website? I've heard lots of different opinions on this. A lot of writers claim they just don't have the time. Some even said they think it's kinda pointless when they don't have anything for people to read yet. Not anything that they're willing to let them read, anyway.

So I browsed, read, asked a lot of questions of my already published pals. What's the deal? Is it a good idea or not?


Ok. I'll give y'all a few minutes to shake your fist in fury at the screen....Done? Fantastic. I know that's not the answer most of you were expecting. I think deep down even I was hoping to be able to write out this blog with a sweet little answer like: Nope. It's totally fine if you don't have a website. Don't even worry about it.

But really, there are some very good reasons why the answer is still yes, even for the unpublished author. The best one? Here it is:

Dress for the job you WANT. Not for the job you HAVE.

I'm sure plenty of you have heard that saying before. Unless you're me. Then you're probably kind of lost, much like I was when someone mentioned this brilliant two liner to me. I'm a writer. Any social network that I'm on will tell you this. My occupation on Facebook, Twitter, Webook, etc...?? Writer.

Do I have a job? Um, oh you mean besides writing? Haha--of course I do. I know you might like to know what that is but I'll spare you the details and just say that I can no longer think of bagels without cringing. I cry on the inside. *giggle* No, ok, not really.
But day job aside...I'm a writer.

Are you a writer?

If you are,then of course you want to connect with other writers. With readers. With bloggers, publishers, etc... You might not have a publishing deal yet. Or even an agent. But you need to act as if writing is already your career, regardless of how little time you might actually have to spend on the writing itself.

If you have Facebook, or Twitter, or Google +, or an account on any social network....First of all, if you don't, I want to know who you are! It takes a strong person to stay away. Lol...Seriously though, if you're on any of these networks, chances are you'll have a following of some sort. Big or small. Sometimes even whether you know it or not. You will.

Having a website even though you've yet to be published shows agents and publishers alike that you are serious about this writing business. Why? Because you've put forth some effort, time, and even a little money to make this website. Which means you understand the importance of author branding.

*cough* online presence (see above) *cough*

Sure, some will say creating an author website is not AS important as creating an online presence and this is true. But what's the advantage in waiting? Very little.

Of course there is a negative side to this and time seemed to be the biggest problem. It doesn't take a whole lot to get a site up and running but sometimes keeping up with it can interfere with precious writing time. Not a good idea. If anything, let your website be static. Once it's up...leave it alone. Put up your bio, your contact info, and maybe a brief FAQs page. Yes, you can update it once in awhile but until you get that awesome pub deal, you can pretty much leave it be. Remember that writing comes first. Repeat that will you? Writing. Comes. First!

If you're really against creating an author website, however, I offer a bit of advice from one of the RWA conventions I attended. RESERVE YOUR DOMAIN NAME. You don't need big bucks to do it. Skip a couple lattes. Forgo that new foundation you wanted so badly. But get that domain name before someone else does.

So what do you think about author websites now? Think it's worth it if you're not published yet? Let the debate begin!

Happy Writing!
Ree Vera

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Whatcha Reading Tuesday!!

It's that time again for Whatcha Reading Tuesday!! Yeah, you know you love it :P Share what you're reading with us. Anything at all from novels to works-in-progress to comics to instructions on how to assemble a cybernetic zebra. Whatever it may be, share!! Also answer our little question: With Halloween right around the corner what is your favorite scary story? :D

Monday, October 17, 2011

I Love You

Dear Writing,
Hey...yeah this letter is way overdue, but even now the words don't want to cooperate with me. *Phew* I'm getting sweaty. God, that is so not the right thing to say. What am I saying anyway?
Oh yeah. I was just going over my life and I came to the realization that...I can't live without you. I know that sounds cliche, yet it's so true. You've always been there for me, through thick and thin.
LOL Remember back when I was nine and there was finally a computer in the house. Yeah, that huge bulky refurbished Tandy computer. Do they even exist anymore? Probably not. Anyways it was then that you first came to me.
It was so sudden. Even at such a young age I was taken aback by you. I'd seen you with other people before. And I thought you'd never have the time for me. Then *poof* there you were. My fingers were trembling. My heart was pounding. But before I knew it there were words in front of front of us. It was a great start, a start of something I never knew would be so glorious.
Tell me you remember high school when I would zone out in the middle of class and focus on you and you alone. People thought it was so weird. I didn't care though. I hope you didn't either. Our relationship wasn't meant to be understood be everyone.
Ha! I just thought of when I got my first job. Geez. How many checks went to getting you the best notebooks or smooth writing pens. And that was when I got us that special backpack to carry you and all your wondrous wrappings with me all the time. Most guys my age them were worried about cars, while I worried about you Writing.
Time went on and I thought we'd never part. Just you and me against the world. A little Bonnie and Clyde. Then I let those naysayers come in my ear. I let those words of "you and that Writing are going nowhere" and "why don't you give up on Writing and grow up."
That was a difficult time for both of us. I walked away from our relationship for three years. Three whole years!! The entire time I felt a part of me was missing. That I was an unfinished puzzle. Where was my happiness? My joy? It was you. All that was missing was you.
I came back to you were still there waiting for me. That old happiness and joy was back! didn't trust me. You'd saw my these great ideas and give me glimpses of the right words only to snatch them away.
For the record I don't blame you for being that way. I hurt you...bad. I left you and you want to trust me. That I'll be there like I was in the beginning. That I'll never hurt you again.
My words may mean nothing right now but I promise I'll make it up to you. I'll dedicate myself to you. I want to learn so much more about you. Ugh! Why can't I just say it!!
Writing, I...I love you. Wow, that feels good to say. I love you, Writing. You make me so much stronger. Heck, you define who I am. I love you and I want to spend the rest of my life with you.
I understand if you still don't trust me. If you want to throw a few blocks between us that's okay. I'll be there when you want to take them down, just as you were there for me.
That's all I needed to say, had to say. I hope you know I'm telling the truth when it comes to us. I'm waiting...

With all my love,
D. F. Matthews

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Whatcha Reading Tuesday!!

It's time for the reason you get up on Tuesday. *drumroll* Whatcha Reading Tuesday!! Share what you're reading with us. From books to comics to scripts to pamphlets on how to help a koala give birth. Anything!! And answer our little question: What book or author sparked that light bulb in your noggin that said "I will be a writer" ?

Friday, October 7, 2011

Check It Out!! Mark It To-Read!! Buy It!!

Hey y'all, let's show some love to Kitty K. Free's funny and sexy new book:

Confessions of a Serial Masturbator.

Masturbation is the catalyst for a much needed life change, in this the oft quirky, humorous and inspirational story of a woman's journey of self-discovery.

This is the tale of how mild mannered, utterly lonely, socially inept, thoroughly bored, bookkeeper, Breezy Deigh, transforms her stiff and stifled, lackluster existence, to become a bona fide masturbation cult hero.

Breezy Deigh, has the same frustrations many share; an unfulfilling job, a humdrum social life, and a non-existent love life, all tepidly spinning in a maddening cycle of work, sleep, bouts of TV dependency and strawberry cheesecake.

She also has another frustration that many women share - she's never truly had an orgasm.

But Breezy's life is headed full speed for change. A budding friendship with co-workers Cinderella and Gia, leads to a chance encounter with "Pumpkin Eater Peter,” the man who would bring her to her first heart stopping, breath taking, and completely addictive orgasm.

An evening of frustration, a trip to a toy store, and a dildo fairy, initiates Breezy's obsession with masturbation. Her crave to climax sends her on journey of self-exploration, that will change her life, and the lives of many others. Along the way, she has a falling out with a family member, an affair—of sorts—with a neighbor, opens up to the possibilities of love, is caught in the act, and falls victim to a scandalous masturbation misunderstanding, that will forever alter her life, and catapult her from a super average nine to fiver, to the most infamous masturbator the world has ever seen.

You can find here on Amazon for a steal!

So go get your copy now. And I do mean NOW :)

~Ree Vera

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Whatcha Reading Tuesday!!

On the count of three. One...two...three! Whatcha Reading Tuesday!! Come on and share what you're reading with us. Anything at all. Whether it's books, comics, poems, your own writings or tips on how to outbox bovines, share what it is =) And answer our question this week: One of us bloggers won a copy of The Bippolo Seed by Dr. Seuss and was very excited. *Ahem* I wonder who that was? Anyway it got me thinking, what is your favorite children's book?

Monday, October 3, 2011

Gays in Literature - Avoiding Stereotypes

(Reposted from my Weebly site)

Recently, several readers asked me to do a blog post on an issue that plagues many readers and writers – stereotyping in literature, or more specifically, the stereotyping of gays.

I have to be honest, although I was aware that stereotyping was a problem in literature for any minority, I never really noticed how big of a problem it is for the LBGT community. While doing research for this blog, I found pages and pages of blogs from writers and readers expressing their concerns over the way gays are consistently stereotyped in books. Most have the same complaint. Whichever one the character is (Gay, Lesbian, Transgender, or Bisexual) they are always portrayed in similar fashions. At first, I kept thinking, "Is it really that big of a deal? It doesn't happen that often, does it?" I mean saying that all gays are feminine, skinny hairdressers, who think about nothing but sex is like saying all Jewish people are cheap, or all women are weak. No one thinks that way anymore, do they? At least not anyone outside the dark ages.

It's unfortunate, but yes. They do. Case in point - while looking for a cover to post with the blog, I saw exactly how big an epidemic generalizations, assumptions and ignorance still are today with regards to LBGT's. Since I was asked to do a blog on "Stereotyping of Gays in Literature," that's what I put in the search box. I clicked the images setting in Google, and can anyone guess what happened? I got pages and pages of...wait for porn and naked men/women. I the only one who sees a problem here? So all gays care about is sex? They're all into orgies and porno? What gives? Ok, so it wasn't ALL sex, but the rest was rainbows, which isn't much better. They aren't all about sex, and they are not all bright, shiny, sparkly people either. It isn't all rainbows and shag carpets.

If you read a lot of literature that has gay people in it, you see it. The men are either all feminine and lispy, or they are big, macho type men in the closet, and at the end of a book over which a guy struggles with his sexuality, he embraces his gayness by wearing a lot of pink, and suddenly talking with a lisp. And women are all butch, masculine and against marriage, man-haters, or, again, overly preoccupied with the horizontal mambo. In addition, when gay couples enter the story, they are always portrayed in strict gender roles. That is, one plays the female role, the other plays the male. I didn't notice it until I started doing the research, but when I thought back to all the books I read with someone who is gay, I realized, the complaintents are right. One is hard pressed to find someone who is gay, or a gay couple, who does not fall into one of those cliches. Or if not them, then into another one.

It's true that most of us think of a romance as involving one person who is more male, and one who is more female. One buys the flowers and holds the door open, and the other wears makeup, pretty, clothes, and does all the household duties. And these days, everything is cliche. With so many stories out there, everything has been done. So the question at hand is, if you are a writer and looking to make a character a member of the LBGT community, how do you avoid stereotypes? 

On some of the pages I read, I found some great suggestions for this. For example, lets say you want to portray a two men or two women in a romantic fashion. Why have them placed neatly into the gender role cookie jars? Why not have them both act male? Or both female? Why not have them both buy the flowers, and both wear feminine/masculine clothes? And lets say you want to portray a lesbian with her own story to tell, but you don't want her to come across like every other lesbian character you've seen? Why have her be tough and masculine and hate men? Or overly feminine and meek, in love with said character? Why not have her wear a bit of makeup, have lots of male friends, and in love with a mechanic who is even more feminine than she? And instead of making the story about an overly macho guy in love with a lisping, rainbow toting hair dresser, make him a shy, quiet guy who gets annoyed at people who think he likes pink, and he's in love with a regular Joe bartender whose overbearing mother has no idea he's gay? (You need tension, in there, somewhere. LOL.)

Another thing of note I discovered, in literature, gays/lesbians fall into one of two categories. Recognizing them may help you to form more original characters. In general, there are "gay characters," and then there are "characters who happen to be gay." The difference? With the first, the plot revolves around a character whose gayness is the driving force of the plot. So, someone who is struggling with their sexuality, or whose being gay somehow otherwise effects everything that happens in the story. With the other, the plot has little or nothing to do with his or her being gay - they just are. Like everyone else, gay people like to read stories about themselves. And like everyone else, they want something original and new.

One tip to avoid annoying or offending them is, if your story is about a character who happens to be gay, don't make a big fuss of it.  Just let them be whomever they are without over-dramatizing it. And if the story is about a person whose gayness is integral to the plot, make it only as big a deal as it has to be for the story. Over-dramatizing it is you, as the author, waving your hand at the gay community shouting, "Look, see, I'm writing about gays! See how tolerant and accepting I am? See?"

Ugh. Not only is that annoying, but it actually comes across as though you are uncomfortable with it. After all, in most stories, do characters preach about their heterosexuality? Not if they don't have an issue with gays, they don't.

Generalizing and stereotyping of gays annoys me, and I'm hetero. The more I researched it, the more it grated. Can you imagine how annoying it is for someone who is gay? Another common complaint is how many authors write in a character who is gay, and then kill them off for fear of losing readership. Don't create a gay character just to die.

One other thing I think should be pointed out here. A common question that kept coming up in my research was, how to deal with gay/lesbian sex in stories? How much do you put in? How much is too much? I agree with the writers who answered thus:

When adding gay sex into a story of any kind, show the same amount of sex from them as you do with the hetero partners. So if your story is a hot and heavy romance with a hetero couple always going at it, then the homosexual couple should be getting some too. If the novel has only one or two short scenes with a hetero couple, or it's offstage, then why should the homosexual couple always wind up in bed? In short, treat your gay characters with the same attention, originality, love, and care as your hetero ones. And when in doubt, ask. If you aren't sure if it is original enough, or you're afraid of offending someone, find a gay person and ask them. Ask them what they see too much or not enough of. Ask them what they would like to see in a story that features someone who is gay.

Minorities either get too little attention or the wrong type, so they love having people ask them about their lifestyle. Being someone who has Cerebral Palsy, I am a minority. So trust me, I know. There is nothing worse than a writer who assumes that because I have a limp, I must feel sorry for myself or that I'm bitter and angry. Or that I'm too slow to understand. And if the person you ask gets twitchy, well, then ask someone else.

Originality is hard with any character. But it can be done. Ask. Research. And read. A lot. Trust me, the LBGT community will appreciate it, and so will your character.

Until next time everyone, write on!



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...