Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Writer's Camp [ Day Six ] Break Out of the Mold!





I've been working on this too long and it will probably be very ranty. I apologize in advance.

Day Six: Break Out of The Mold:

Have you noticed that a vast majority of books now days seem to have that certain mold? Now is time to break out of that!  Believe it or not, a lot of people want fresh ideas, despite what you see on the shelves. So today I'm going to write a list of common cliches and mistakes in books today. After you read through my list, I want all of you to blog about authors/books that you see as unique. Books that Stand Out. You can talk about what you think makes them different, or keep the post super simple. Either way. 8-D

Writers I that I think Stand Out:

Jean Birdsall, 
Anthony Horowitz
Katrina DeLallo (She isn't published yet, but she should be.)
Jack Lewis Baillot
Diana Wynn Jones
Brian Jaques
J.R.R. Tolkin
Cornelia Funke
Martin Levitte
Megan Whalen
David Blake. (I've just started his books, but so far they're really good!)

Each of these writers have their own style and voice. Each of these writers have interesting, layered characters, both in protagonists and antagonists. Each of these writers bring something different to their story, even if its an age-old plot. Each of these writers dare to go one step farther, think bigger, open doors wider. They're creative, clever, thoughtful, imaginative and enthralling. They break a lot of molds and they aren't afraid to stray from the recipe of "Proper Social Books."  

Common Cliches/Mistakes (You can totally make your own list, but that's not required. I'm mostly doing this to show you the mold and how to break it. But whichever you decide, please share this list, or the link to this list, on your blog!)

I know this list is really long. You don't have to read the whole thing. I just thought it might be helpful. :-)

1.) The Brooding males with a dazzling smile, muscly arms, and a mysterious attitude.

Boy characters don't always have to be brooding, mysterious, and strong. Write boys who are funny! Write boys who like books! Write boys who are clever! Write boys who are gentle, boys who are loyal, boys that get scared. Write boys that love an awful, awful lot. Write boys that aren't just bags of sarcastic comments and rough, moody smiles. It's really annoying.

Some Good Male Characters: (IMO) Michael Scofield, Prison Break. Lincoln Burrows, Prison Break. Hale, Heist Society. Dustfinger, Inkheart. Eugenides, The Queen's Thief. Jeffrey Tifton, The Penderwicks, Franz Kappel, Brothers in Arms. Arthur Pendragon, BBC Merlin. Merlin, BBC Merlin. Christopher Chant, The Lives of Christopher Chant.

I know guys can be soft-hearted and gentle. I know a couple guys who are very, very sweet and kind. So don't think some of your guy characters can't have those traits. Rule One is, Guys are Human and have as many different personalities as girls. However, you ought to keep in mind that men aren't typically emotional, expressing sorts. From my experience, boys like to be tough and strong. They don't like admitting how they they're wrong, and they don't like getting emotional. They tend to say things how it is. They want to fix the problem. They don't often share feelings or personal issues. They're more likely to seek advice from a sister/wife/female friend, than to seek advice from their 'brother' - though sometimes they will open up about certain things if they've had a really rough time. They express love through actions more than words. They're can be shy or uncomfortable around girls, especially if they're interested in them. This can change depending on the character, but in general this is true for most guys. They're weird. I would recommend talking to boys if you feel like you want advice on how to write for them. Also, watch how boys interact with each other, especially with their friends.

Basically how guys interact.


I know it can be hard to write male characters. If possible, try to base at least traits of your boy characters on boys/men you actually know. This helps a lot.

I found a really great link on How to Write from a Boy's POV on another blog. I found it helpful (and relieving) because it means I have the right idea about how guys think and feel. 8-D

http://inkandquills.com/2015/02/25/how-to-write-from-a-guys-pov/


2.) YOUNG TEENAGE GIRL WITH A BIG DESTINY, WHO MUST SAVE THE WORLD!

Please. Stop. Enough. I'm so done with the special eighteen year old girl who is destined for greatness and has to save the world. It's okay to have special characters with special destinies. I don't mind books like that because they can make good stories. Just do it right. Make the destiny something besides "You are the last of this and that thing!" or "You are the only one who can stop said person!" If you can create a character that is unique and fresh, these plots might seem new, even exciting, but otherwise this recipe for Hero is old and annoying.

I'm not saying plots like this can't be done. But make it your own.

3.) YOUNG TEENAGE BOY WITH A BIG DESTINY, WHO MUST SAVE THE WORLD!

Again. Stop. Do something more interesting. If you're going to go for a Must Stop World Domination story, play around with it and make it your own.

4.) Zombies/ghosts/the undead.

What exactly is wrong with living, breathing people???

5.) Young teenage boy with anger management issues. (And he may really like his childhood friend.)

Again. Not every stupid male protagonist has to fit into the same stupid mold. Stray from the recipe for Male Protagonist. Make your protagonist have other issues. Make him have something besides anger. Do something else with the poor guy! He isn't just an empty vessel capable of one trait!

6.)  Young teenage girl who fights and has a whole lot of sass. (Sometimes said girl is also in a love triangle.)

GUUUUUUUUUYS. Contrary to popular belief, a whole lot of young girls don't freaking fight and punch stuff. Make a girl who is protective and funny. Write girls who are bossy. Write girls who are sweet. Write girls that want to ride horses and pick flowers. Write girls who want families. Write girls who are happy to be girls and don't want to be macho and masculine. Write girls that like being feminine.


"I'm no good at statues and stories; I try."
Girls tend to be more emotional and empathetic. We think things through a lot more, in fact a lot of times we over-think. We're more tactful, and we tend to talk things out. We tend to have a lot of intimate moments, and we like sharing our feelings, concerns or worries. Usually we don't even want a ton of advice, just someone to listen to us and be there as morale support. Again, this can change depending on the character, but girls tend to be more giving, open, and expressive. We also tend to be more gentle, romantic, and sensitive. We're less likely to speak our minds, but in our heads we've corrected you big time.

If you want a warrior girl, go ahead and make one but give her other traits besides sass and the "I am Everything" syndrome. That drives me insane.

Good Girl characters. (IMO) Charmain, House of Many Ways. Eddis, The Queen's Thief.  Juliette Silverton, Grimm. Keturah, Keturah and Lord Death, Sophie, Howl's Moving Castle. Peggy Carter Agent Carter.  Clara Johnson, The Light in the Piazza - (musical)


7.) The Sympathetic Villain.  

Not every villain should be an insane, annoying vessel of rage. Villains have a story of their own, and you should give them depth while keeping them villains. A popular theme in writing today is to make the villain sympathetic and lovable. While I don't mind sympathetic villains, you shouldn't make your villains into the "Tragic Victim," because it's frustrating. Villains are people who do very bad things and have a lot of bad raging inside them. They aren't meant to be tragically heroic.

Good Villains. (IMO.) Loki Layfison, The MCU. The Master not Missy, Doctor Who. Azula, Avatar, The Last Airbender. Paul Kellerman, Prison Break. Capricorn, Inkheart. Opheus, Inkdeath, The General, Prison Break. The Old Ones, The Raven Gate series. Wilson Fisk, Daredevil. Julian Verres, The Masterful Monk.


You should have feared me more!


*note: there is a difference between villain and antagonist. Remember that your antagonist isn't necessarily a bad guy. He can simply be a man in a hard situation, doing bad things. Villains are legitimately bad people who have done bad so long that bad is almost all that's left in him.

8.) Feminism. Feminism everywhere.

Feminism is supposed to mean that men and women have equal rights and opportunity. That is great. I don't think woman she be thought of as less than men, anymore than blacks should be thought less than whites or vise-versa. I get irritated, however, when feminism becomes Woman can be like Men!, instead of Women are Humans too! Almost every girl character in society today is a sassy, snarky woman who is full of herself, some sort of spy/assassin/fighter, and doesn't need a man. I think Feminists are getting out of hand. I love girls. I am a girl! Yay, girls are important, and amazing!! Go girls! But I think the tables are flipping and now it's like Girls are more important than Guys, girls are better than guys, girls deserve more respect than guys, girls can totally wipe guys out! I'm annoyed with girls wanting to prove they are just as tough as guys and basically, trying to be guys. It's really frustrating. It's not bad to be emotional, fellow females. It's not bad to be different than men. It's not bad that we have different characteristics. Stop trying to be so tough and aggressive. And stop making girls who want to be feminine, and kind, who want families, who want to garden, or read books, or spend the day cooking - stop making them seem silly and shallow. They aren't. Not everyone wants to be a violent fighter. And you know what? You can know how to defend yourself and still like cooking, dancing, knitting, reading, being open and friendly.... you don't have to push all female tendencies out to be able to take care of yourself.  

9.) SACRIFICING CHARACTER FOR PLOT.

Oh my gosh. This is the biggest trend in our modern world. Authors just love those plot twists, and who cares if said person acts completely out of character? Now we have more drama!

Please stop. If you need to force your character out of character for your epic drama, it isn't worth it.

Stay true to your characters. Feel free to push them and give them stakes, but don't make them do things that aren't true to the person they are. (For example, Nick Burkhart randomly having a fling with Adalind. No. Sean doing what he did to Meisner. No. Ronan Lynch. No. He wasn't. He wouldn't. That wasn't him. Steve Rogers in the Comics, with the whole HYDRA thing. No. It wouldn't happen! Stop!) You can gradually push a character to doing something drastic he doesn't usually do, but don't don't randomly have him act out of character. You also have to be careful with how far you push them. For example, what Dean Winchester did in S10 of Supernatural was too much. They pushed him too far. He was no longer Dean. He was out of character, even with the whole Mark thing.*

The point of no return.


*I DON'T WATCH SPN ANYMORE, I HATE IT, AND THIS IS ONE OF THE REASONS WHY!

10.) Using lots of adjectives and adverbs. Oh, and freaking CAP LOCKS. 

I understand that you need to describe some things, but it is very annoying when a character can't just say something. It's all, "She snapped" or "He grumbled," or "She said tightly," or "He said hotly," and it's very frustrating. Use the simple yet effective technique. Don't overdo your descriptions. Don't let adverbs and adjectives drag your writing down.

11.) The use of too many commas, dashes, ellipsis, or inflections. (Italics, bold, underlined, etc.)

This goes along with #10. Used sparingly, dashes, ellipsis and such like can be very effective, but they're like salt. Use too many and you taint the whole dish.

I'm not trying to hate on Harry Potter. They're not bad books.
But do you see all the adjectives and the ellipses? And this is only one page!


12.) Modern story telling, especially in Fantasies. If your book is in another world/fantasy setting, please, please don't use modern storytelling! Please use a style that's more old-fashion. Particularly if your world is  in a medieval time frame. 

I understand that there are different styles in writing, but fantasy books typically shouldn't have things like "Shut up," or "Oh my gosh!" or "Holy crap, that's hot!" Those sorts of phrases belong in 21st Century Earth, not a fantasy world. Usually if it is fantasy, you should have a more old-fashion feel. Even medieval. There can be some exceptions to this. I bet some writers could have modern-ish language in their fantasy and get away with it. I'm sure Diana Wynn Jones could've made it work. But as a rule of thumb, you really shouldn't go there. It's too easy to make it sound modern and fake, throwing your audience out of the story.

13.) I'm straight...! No wait, I'm not.

I'm aware this is a dangerous thing to say, but I'm a little tired of the IN YOUR FACE Queer people in books. This is a personal preference. I wouldn't mind so much if they started out like that, but when they turn queer on me, quite out of the blue, its very vexing.

14.) Lack of brother stories, friendships, sisters, and family in general.

I repeat an early rant: not everything is a romance! I like love stories, but seriously. You don't have to make everything romantic. Books are sorely lacking in friendship and family stories. This needs to be fixed.


Skye should have stayed with Jane, not deserted her in her hour of need. No good leader would. Would Caesar have gone off looking for golf balls when his soldiers were at their breaking point? No.
       And neither would he let a wounded soldier be carried off the field alone. - The Penderwicks at Point Mouette

15.) Post-Apocalyptic World! 

I know this idea is fun to explore, but I wish there weren't so many authors exploring it. 8-/ The best thing about Dystopian is that you can use it to reveal a future we might have if things go badly. When handled right, a Dystopian story can send some pretty good messages. Like, The Giver showing that losing sorrow means losing joy too, and that all life is important, and we shouldn't give up our individuality.

What this boils down to:

As Writers, we need to try creating ideas outside the box. There's so much that society thinks we should include in our stories that our creativity is being suffocated. It is my humble opinion that almost every bookworm today has hit a terrible Readers funk because writers have an inability, or perhaps just a fear, of creating anything different.

Try Different Plots.

Everyone loves the Villain Taking Over the World/End of the World as We Know It plots, but when those plots are all you get, it is a little exhausting. There is nothing wrong with war stories, kings trying to conquer other countries, battles, expanding empires; these are all things that happen in our real world and so they are very relatable and realistic. But this shouldn't be the only plot left in story telling and if you go for that plot, make it yours!  Also, try to experiment with villains! Give them back stories, wants, needs, fears, weak spots! Make them human. They don't have to be good. They don't even have to be sympathetic. They can be downright creepy and twisted. Just make sure they are given as much thought as your heroes. There are some exceptions. Demons, dark spirits, and monsters don't need to be so complicated as a human villain, but there should still be enough to them that they aren't just sacks of evil. Take the Black Riders in The Lord of the Rings, for example. Their back story made them even creepier, and there was a sort of horrific pity to what happened to them. Or Capricorn, in Inkheart. He was super evil, but he was human and that made his wickedness worse. There is nothing more evil or horrifying than a corrupted human soul. Make sure to remember that.

Play around with your heroes! You shouldn't make them perfect, but neither do you have to make them obnoxious. Give them depth and interest, give them faults and struggles, and make them human. I have found an appalling lack of truly Good Characters in books. Characters that have morality, decency, a big heart and a lot of love, they don't seem to be very popular. Everyone likes the villains. You can have good men who have depth. Steve Rogers has a lot of depth. Merlin, from BBC Merlin has a lot of depth, and there is a definite struggle that you see in him quite often. Natasha Romanoff, Aragon son of Arathorn,  Tony Stark, John Watson, Juliette Silverton, Eugenides, Eddis, Sophie Hatter, the Black Prince... these are all characters who have very good hearts and try to do the right thing. Are some of them giant brats? Yes! Are some of them bossy, nosy, snarky? Yes! Are some of them flawed and broken? Yes! but they are all good. They are all the good guys. Don't be afraid to write characters who are really good. There seems to be a strange beliefs circulating through society, that if you are good you are flat and boring. That doesn't have to be the case. Good characters can even be more in depth than evil ones! It's harder to be good than to be evil. It's harder to do what's right  than to do what's easy. I really, really want good, kind, strong characters with big, warm hearts and emotional, moral strength. It makes me sad that these characters are thrown to the wayside so often, and I would be very happy to find more writers taking on the challenge of Good characters who have layers and flaws, but are still good.

Eugenides.

Remember to write characters first. This goes for males as well as females. Write people first. Everyone has hopes, dreams, needs, wants, problems, anxieties, inner and outer conflict. Everyone has feelings, even if they don't express them the same way as we do. Write people first. Worry about technicality later.

That's all.

God Bless!

*swings around cape and leaps off stage*



Bella

4 comments:

  1. *generally just dies laughing*

    That was fun to read!!

    ReplyDelete
  2. This has to be my favorite day so far : ) There is so much I wanted to say and I agree with everything you said in your post too. I primarily focused on love triangles, the fighting female and the tragic villain. I hope ramble/rant too much in the last category. http://revealedintime.blogspot.com/2016/08/writers-camp-day-six-break-out-of-mold.html

    ReplyDelete
  3. OH DIS GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOD. DIS REALLY GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOD.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I love that you mentioned your sister as a writer who stands out! That's so sweet!

    Excellent recommendations for writing guy characters! Based on what I've read and heard, guys approach things from a "fix it" mentality, and girls approach things from a "comfort" mentality. Guys and girls will share traits, such as compassion, but fulfill it in two different ways.

    Honestly, I think The Hunger Games did the teenage heroine right, because Katniss isn't the "only one" who can save the world. She kicked things off, sure, but then she becomes, basically, a figurehead and a pawn in the grown-ups' game. And she completely falls apart at the end, which is completely normal for war veterans, much less a teenage one.

    Thank you for mentioning the problem of sacrificing character for plot. (And argh, I had almost successfully forgotten the whole Cap-as-Hydra thing! Now I have to wash my mind out by watching TWS :-) ) I would add a similar problem: sacrificing character for an agenda. Specifically, writing females or an ethnic group in a story just for the sake of having them there. Wouldn't it show your appreciation for those people *more* if you wrote them as necessary and dynamic characters? To include certain people in a story just to have them there is like inviting a Hispanic girl into your group of besties, but then leaving her out of the conversation.

    YES--let's bring back heroic characters!

    Also I've been forgetting to link to *my* posts (sorry!) so here's my Day 6 post: http://www.christine-eyre-writer.com/2016/08/26/writers-camp-day-6/

    ReplyDelete

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Pile of good things

Pile of good things