Why death Needs to Matter in Fiction

What does a world look like without any weight?  What happens when death ceases to matter? Most would say life loses some of its meaning, and those people would be right because in stories where life is on the line death should matter. So why is it we treat it so flippantly when we write?

A Scottish friend of mine recently described X-Files as saying “Well, it’s an American show so it runs on way too long, but its good”. It was sort of jarring because I realized that’s how a lot of American shows look to the rest of the world. Our stories go on for years and years until the audience tapers off out of boredom. Part of why death often stops mattering in fiction is because we just keep bringing characters back, so the show never has to end. But there gets to be a point where no matter how much you love a show your ability to actually invest in it or recommend it to others suffers.

That doesn’t mean a story  with meaningless death can’t entertain you or offer a good time. Look, I enjoy comics and Supernatural. So trust me when I say a lack of death doesn’t necessarily ruin anything. However when a show, movie series, or books begin to constantly subvert death the tension lessens. Unfortunately this is automatic because death is the ultimate loss and many of the stories within these fictional worlds hold up that standard. These stories agree that dying is the biggest way to lose and the worst. Your ability to be a free agent is gone, and unless death is framed as being free of your body it is the end of who you(or a loved one) are as a human. Death is the universal period. For those reasons it appears in virtually every story ever told.  So why do so many stories undermine death? This isn’t me talking smack about happily ever afters. This isn’t me being a morbid person. What happens when death is off the table? What happens when you flip page after page of characters droning on about wanting to live and how much courage it will take to fight to stay alive only for none of the central characters to ever die.  The risk lessens. The tension is the only thing to die.

supernatural

I stopped watching Supernatural regularly because it got boring and I couldn’t care if Sam or Dean died because they were always dying. Several seasons ago they had an entire Groundhog Day episode where Dean was forced by the Grim Reaper to learn that death was unavoidable by endless loops of Sam dying. It is a brilliant episode rendered utterly pointless and undermined by later seasons. You see The Reaper is offended after watching the brothers circumvent death time and again. While they may see it as a sign of their strength and love for each other The Reaper sees it as the brothers as believing the rule simply don’t apply to them. It is unnatural, manipulative, selfish, and against the cycle of things to constantly manipulate the rules of death. Everyone has a time to die and you can’t always save everyone. Lesson learned…or maybe not.
Years later it seems the rules really don’t apply to them. At its core the show is about family thematically, but it’s a monster of the week. The problem with most monsters of the week is that you end up repeating yourself. The trouble with Supernatural is they repeat death to almost comic levels. At this point the show is entertaining, but how can I not roll my eyes as another season builds up to “sacrifice” and “Death” that is ultimately undone  an episode later? How can I feel tension when this has been rinsed, washed, and repeated every single season? How can the writers keep doing this then think the audience would legitimately feel any weight with the brother’s lives?

Now, I’ll say that there is a good thing. Audiences know what they’re getting. Low stress, high entertainment value, and good looking men come to their screens every week. But there gets to be a point where people fall away. Nothing is at risk. Nothing is under threat. Nothing means anything. You’ve seen this all before. Different season same seasonings, and it didn’t matter before so it won’t now.

Supernatural, long standing comic books, games, movies, and novels of all kinds seem to have devalued death. Now each media has its reasons as do the authors. Bottom line is you want people to come back and they’ll probably come back to a character they love. Once again you sit down, open to the page, and know what you’re going to get. But when a writer takes away the real risk, the universal risk, and then keeps saying “Oh this is bad” then you’ll find yourself not believing them. That’s fine for some light reading, but it sucks when you love something and then one day realize it isn’t thrilling you. One day you’re reading intently, but then you feel yourself sliding back. Your favorite character lives, your heart should have skipped in your chest, but no. Why? That’s not normal for you. Well, after some long thought you realize you didn’t believe that character would be killed. Mindless entertainment can’t last forever. And a writer will never be remembered for it.

image-w1280Do you know why Beaches stuck with people? Besides great acting, great writing, universal themes of love and friendship….there came death. Do you know why Steal Magnolias dug into people’s chests and made them cry? There. Came. Death. They were uplifting, but they used death to show the value and the strength of their characters. Everything ends, and it showed the beauty and pain of living. Death made life worth living, fuller and richer and messier, and that’s very human. Without death there is very little life. Without death there is a facsimile of it, a grotesque mirror…a dull mirror with no shine left.

No story has to be chalk full of death and misery to have tension or weight. I am not saying that and never would. But if death is on the line then death should be on the line. If your readers have seen you write Benny nearing death several times across three books and nothing has been lost, no one close to Benny has died, and nothing is really present as the greatest risk and cost then they won’t believe you the eighth time.Maybe that is the time you finally decide to kill Benny, but that won’t necessarily validate all the times you didn’t and Benny walked away unscathed. Death has to have meaning. People we like have to die at some point. IF the only people dying are bad guys then the story isn’t full of real conflict for 2017, and unless you craft exceptionally well you won’t be able to ignore most of the flak. If you keep devaluing death eventually, consciously or unconsciously, people will notice and begin to not see the tension as real whether they stay in the audience or not.

There are ways of getting around devaluing death. A lot of horror posits that the aftermath of death is the problem. The Hellraiser series is a favorite of mine and it isn’t so much the death that is the weight, but the dying. Death is horrid, but it is what becomes of you in the hands of the cenobites, in the hands of someone the cenobites have corrupted, and so fourth that is the ultimate cost we want our protagonist to avoid. And the way this is done is so beautifully simple. The cenobites have grown numb and no longer can differentiate between pleasure or pain. They’re sort of a play on the notion of demons. They aren’t malicious or evil. They invoke and experience sensations. They are not innocents, but they might as well be with their myopic view. The demons don’t tempt you in order to trick you so they can do you wrong. They tell you things without detail, promise sensations you’ve never experienced and simply do not see the big deal about pain. It is sensation. Sensation is good. With creatures like that death is triviality, and if they learn to keep you alive, which they have, they will give you endless sensations of unimaginable horrors. Death isn’t the enemy here. Life after “death,”being stopped from death, and being hunted are the costs. We get that from those monsters.

firefly20cast20364700While some people may not forgive Joss Whedon for killing off characters the notion that he engages in senseless deaths is a wrong one. Sorry to break it to ya’ll but Buffy, Firefly, and Dollhouse wouldn’t give you the same feeling if death wasn’t always on the table. He and his writing teams designed characters who felt like they were part of the main crew or who outright were. Maybe you didn’t know the story or see the adventure, but you knew from the dialogue that the characters saw them as an honorary part of the team. By snuffing those characters out those writers seeded doubt. They taught their audience how to fear and not to trust that everything would be wrapped up. And 90% of the central teams still made it to the finish line. Realistically you could look and say “Oh one character will tap out and it’ll be done” but did the audience do that? No. Whedon’s shows were crafted strategically to make us believe every person was fair game despite the obvious fact that they were not. They weren’t senseless deaths for the writing of it. They weren’t bad writing. If you believe that then you believe wrong. Death can just happen and sometimes it doesn’t need to be built up because life is pain and suffering with real consequences. That is what makes the good parts of life so important.

Truthfully all death is senseless and it can strike at any time. Our media often likes to forget that, but by showing you these characters who get killed you learn not to trust. That makes you hurt and ache and invest. Some of you may turn off the screen, but that’s your loss because:

Death Matters.

Using music to pace your story structure

One little way to help you pace the flow of your story is to make a musical playlist. Obviously this doesn’t work for everyone, but this is for those of us who can benefit from this nifty little tool. Pacing a story or a longer chapter it can be very difficult to know how smoothly emotions move from moment to moment. I’ve always used music with different beats of my story, but recently I’ve expanded it to whole sections of my stories. Whether you’re writing a sex scene or the climax (no pun intended) of a fight the emotional movements from one beat to another should function like the movements of a good piece of music. Whether you’re writing jazz or an opera you gotta get that flow. A playlist can really help you shape your story.

Individual stories tend to have a sound. One story of mine is very old school sounds. New artists like Audra Day, Adele, Lana Del Ray are paired with Eartha Kitt and Nina Simone because their sounds are soulful enough to carry the scenes. The music fits with the atmosphere I have created and want to enhance in the editing process, as well. For individual moments I assign a song, so a scene may have a particular vibe that fits “Young and Beautiful” or “My Baby Just Cares for Me”. And often you’ll find these songs are just ones that fit when you really listen. You’ll be driving in the car or washing dishes and the song comes on the radio. Once you have the songs you need put them on a playlist. I use two services for this…youtube and soundcloud, but there are a hundred music services and playlist makers available. If you’re using music already available I recommend MusicBee. You just put in a CD or a USB with your music and upload.

Like scoring a motion picture or a musical the playlist should fit the tone of the overall story. So the songs work together, and then they work for individual moments. Read the central moments of your story with the playlist. You can replay songs for longer moments, but listen for the flow of emotions, of tone, and to make sure the feeling of the scene fits your intent. This little trick can keep your story crisp and constantly moving. Story structure is damned hard, but any little tip helps. Why not let it be a fun one?

Knowing Your Writer Weaknesses

You never know what you do wrong until someone tells you, or until you do it. That is just how a lot of writing works. Even with critique groups you’re left pulling things apart yourself to figure things out.The broadest question is How to Write? and from there we get How Do I Become A Better Writer (#writelife #writerwednesdays) There’s a reason for that. Writing is a skill that is intuitive and learned, one of possessing talent and crafting skill, one of cultivating your best traits and minimizing your worst. It is easier said than done at almost every possible level. So it pays to spend more time figuring out your weaknesses especially for beginning writers and writers who have primarily written their craft for themselves. Doing the introspection, self-reflection, and criticizing yourself isn’t easy. You have to step away from your work for months if not years to even see how much you have or have not improved. But no matter what we can and must pick apart our writing somehow.

For the last few months I’ve been working on a novel, and truthfully something about it has felt off the whole time. I love the story. I love the characters. I love the central conflict. However something has constantly seemed off. So today I pulled out my book on writing guide: “Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft” (The international edition) by Jane Burroway. I sat down at my desk and began to go through the book. I knew what worked so I stayed away from the chapters on characterization and focused on the other chapters. I reread old notes in the margins, and began highlighting chapters as I reread them. Why? Well the book is pretty damn great for giving you plenty of comparative examples of what to do and what not to do from both published and purely example based writing. It doesn’t speak in absolutes, but pulls from dozens of writers and pieces to give you a concise break down of how to write well, how to write compelling stories, and how to convey theme without sacrificing anything. And I went to the section on filtering.

Yes, I the “show don’t tell” critique queen, have a drastic problem with filtering. Filtering is between showing and telling. For example “She looked out the window and she saw him standing outside her building”, when for the whole paragraph we’ve been in her head so “Outside her window he stood on the stoop of her building, waiting”. Instead of relying on the reader to be smart and follow along; instead of allowing for direct action I present the filters like “seemed”(been using that one alot) “saw”. I don’t just show you what the character sees and that’s a problem. Honestly that is probably why I do it with others. Subconsciously I do know I have a deep struggle with using filters instead of conveying direct action. Why? Honestly it’s a natural inclination, but its also it is the result of careless readers in critique groups. You gotta pick them well people. I spent an hour or two reading the book again, carefully searching for my answer and now that I have it I’m taking action not just by editing, but by rewriting what I’m editing so it is more present, more in the moment, and direct.

It’s hard to be direct as a writer just like it is hard to confront our problem areas directly. I was very lucky that I picked up that book and managed to follow my instincts into what was plaguing me. I didn’t just fall on the page, but I’ve lived with my writer self for long enough to seek out my faults. Why? Because I was in those critique circles to begin with. As much as I did get some perhaps misinterpreted advice in regards to how to clarify who is what and what is in whose view I did get advice. Solid advice and reactions that allowed me to see where I could improve as a writer. Some people really are able to identify those things on there own, but even still other’s input allows you to see how others read. You need that feedback (and you also need to give feedback too because it does make you a better writer, but that’s another subject).

So what’s my point?

Take time to understand your weaknesses, and don’t be afraid to seek them out. Sometimes a writer can be positively wrong about something in their piece. We think the best part is the worst, we think the most nonsensical section is clear as day, and we even second guess out instincts. The only chance you get to know those weaknesses and address them is by digging deep and figuring them out. Get books on craft and read them. Join critique groups. And don’t be afraid to reread your pieces. Most importantly…don’t be afraid to edit. Sometimes out weaknesses are charming and add a particular character. Hell sometimes our weaknesses are so out shined by the good they don’t matter. But no matter what you owe it to yourself to take time to better understand them.

Do you want to know more about filtering? Do you want to know more about my erotica and romance writing?  Ask me below, or just share you thoughts on knowing your weaknesses whether in writing or in life. I have plenty of advice both about writing and about life on this blog, and I think so far I’ve shared one thing…for writers both are deeply connected. We gain a lot by talking and exchanging. So go fill up that comment box!

Music: Depeche Mode’s The Things She Said.

 

 

Editing Chapter One: How to Writing?

How do you edit the first chapter of your story is a question every fiction writer asks, and it is a question I’ve done my share of struggling with. However I think I’ve found the most important bit of advice when dealing with the beginnings of any story, and even any non-fiction piece. Whether you’re doing chapter one or the opening paragraph of an essay, you are doing a fine balancing act. You have to give as much information as possible to the reader without overwhelming them, but also ensuring they’re following along with everything you say. The opening of your story, regardless of genre, will sink or swim your novel. While I don’t claim to have perfected the opener, I do claim to have worked at working around and through common mistakes authors are prone to make. And so I’m going to offer the best advice I’ve ever heard for editing chapter one of a novel, advice I was reminded of by the lovely Stephanie London via her youtube channel.

When you’re writing you feel the pressure to get everything just so because you want to be clear about who, what, where, and why. However, the dangers of exposition are many. Since I’ve been an active member of scribophile I can tell you that I’ve seen my share of wonderful tales bogged down by the exposition fairy. That little butthole flew through the window and just refused to leave from the moment the story began. The exposition fairy encourages telling not showing and harkens back to the way we most naturally tell stories, orally. But away from the oral tradition you have to put people in the story. You have to give them a front row seat, and if the exposition fairy is guiding your hand at every other paragraph, or god forbid every other sentence, the reader will be stuck in the back of the theater.

So how do we deal with this?

Well, truthfully it will always be tempting to have it happen unless you are a minimalist story teller. Fans of grand epics and sprawling worlds fall prey to the exposition fairy most of all, but everyone can be a target. To that end, you have to write smart. BE vigilante of your own bad writing behaviors, and then keep writing. MAke notes, and even make minor changes but don’t edit constantly while your writing unless you truly benefit from it or it has to happen. Then once your opening is written you have to do this one super important thing. This is the thing that will make all the difference in the world….

Go back through your opening and highlight every ounce of exposition.

Reread and highlight. Whether you print it out or do it digitally, go through and highlight everything that is only there for exposition. What lines only serve to explain what isn’t shown? You may wish to use different colors for exposition related to different characters or events in order to keep track. Sometimes I mark exposition important to the plot with stars or sidebar comments so I know why they’re their and that they matter. If your opening is mostly color coded and coated then chances are you need to tighten that sucker up. You will most likely need to rewrite  the whole thing. It isn’t enough to disguise exposition in unnatural dialogue. It isn’t enough to excuse why its there because it is there for a reason. It isn’t enough for it to be there to help your readers understand. If it isn’t furthering your theme, your plot, your characters, and bringing people into your text then it isn’t working. I say to do this because you need to see how much explaining to the reader you’re doing. Seeing it visually becomes a lot harder to justify or overlook. Does this mean all exposition is evil? Not at all, but there are ways to pace exposition and present it that are vastly superior to walls of text that may not enrich the story.

By doing something as simple as highlighting expository text you are increasing your ability to keep the story in action and moving forward, which will keep your audience engaged.

 

 

Wattpad and the Problem of Writer Community

If anything will make you a better content writer and a better writer in general it is interacting with other writers. Reading the works of others and having other others read your work elevates you to another level. However the biggest and most common issue a writer faces is getting feedback. Now that’s a broad way of putting it because feedback is buying your books, views, shares, comments, etc. But in this case by feedback I mean what people enjoy or dislike(in a constructive respectful matter). While there are people who write perfectly well in a vacuum even they could stand to gain from interaction. With all that being said…most writer’s communities suck and unfortunately it is in part because of selfish writers who constantly want to take and never give. Two weeks ago I started using Wattpad and the frustration I have always felt with others began to become clearer. The selfishness of fly-by-night writers who steal into writing communities demanding without ever wanting to give is underscored by communities that are swamped by so many fly-by-nighters that all work gets buried.

So how do you get involved?
Now, my opinions may change, but over all they can only change if the community standards change. Wattpad specifically needs more forums that are better organized in order to connect writers and readers more directly. They also need a search system that is at least on par with FanFiction.com, and can separate newer and older stories…BUT more importantly a can be searched on views in order to give everyone a chance to be seen. But wattpad isn’t the only problem.

The problem is us.
Writers keep acting like we can be selfish  and that if we just market we’ll find readers, reviewers, and beta readers. Marketing is important along with everything else, but you can’t hope to get  anything when you don’t give. Writing communities don’t work if writers don’t actually invest in stories they don’t write and participate in not only dissecting their own work, but other’s. You learn so much by reading and talking no matter how introverted you are. As a teenager I thought I was an excellent writer, but after years of workshops I look back fondly at my work while muttering a “Thank Hera” under my breath because I am SO MUCH BETTER. I am not unique.

Critiquing, sharing, and discussing writing exposes you to a wide range of styles, ideas, and concepts that you can dissect in terms of why it works, why it doesn’t, why you like it, and maybe why you do not. The bottom line is when you exit your vacuum you not only learn, but your brain gets going. You learn how to pull apart your own stories and you also learn what other people pick apart. In essence a group of writers or just readers like Wattpad connects  you to your audience. That is one part why community is important because your writing friends can become your buying friends. Not just because they know you, but because you’ve learned what works in your writing and what works for real people and not just for you.

And yet somehow all of these communities suffer the same problem. Some would say it is accountability that’s the problem. Well, everyone is accountable…only to themselves. Somewhere in writing programs and reading classes we never taught people to value interacting with writing and the writer. Yet this is what keeps writers in business and going because who reads more than writers and creators? If we don’t support each other who will?

So I challenge you now to find writing communities.

I challenge you  to not just read, but review and comment on other authors.
I challenge you to help that friend whose writing a novel or poem, by reading and giving honest thoughts about it.

We make the communities we want to live in. Earlier tonight,and not to get political, I was watching a program and a conservative radio host was laughing at the thought of basically any celebrity or anyone with a platform using it. It was whining. It was grandstanding. And I’ll be real conservative republicans have a very nasty habit of assuming everyone to the left of them is insincere and/or weak. Nothing I or anyone to the left of them is real, which is bullshit. But I bring this up because his point was that no one gets to make their community. In his eyes you don’t get to challenge, change, or make a statement about culture. It’s a very dangerous mindset no matter who you support or what you believe. It is dangerous because our communities support us emotionally, economically, and intellectually. Humanity is interacting. Writing for all the solitary hours we spend with a page and our thoughts…requires interacting. Communities inspire writing. Communities inspire you to dream bigger and do better. No one is an island and we all need to do better by each other, by book stores, by bloggers, and by ourselves by engaging with each other.

So I have one last challenge for you…engage more, have fun, and do better by yourself as a content lover and creator. If you do this you may discover stories, authors, and friends that will enrich your life in ways you can never imagine. Please, support each other because if you don’t who will support you?

Ugh! Anxiety and Deadlines.

How do you react when you don’t finish a project when you plan? When your doing something that is entirely self-driven schedules help hold you accountable, but sometimes for one reason or another you just don’t meet them. Then you wake up one day and realize “Oh…I was supposed to be done by today.” It’s not a fun feeling, and for me it provokes some anxiety.

So I’m finishing Come at Night, which is the first book of The Marquess series that I was supposed to finish months ago. Why has it taken so long? The story was thicker, better, and more interesting than I initially planned. It went from an erotic short story to a sprawling tale of politics, gender, and redemption. And ,as much as I love the dirty business, I love those things just as much when they’re explored in an interesting way. Still that development wasn’t planned. I wanted to have the book done by Christmas, but at this point I’m only going to be able to deliver the “preview” short story. That’s fine, and that short story will be more than worth its small cost. However it is disappointing to be where I am now.

Yet, as I reflect the importance of realizing how and why you miss a schedule is important because you can prepare better next time….or realize what affected your inability to meet the schedule at that time. So what happened to me? I got tired of writing smut. I’m brand new, but I was spending an average of eight hours a day on several different stories…most of which aren’t finished. Most of which people promised to beta read and edit and…never got back to me on consistently, which lead to me saying “I’ll give them a week…I’ll give them another” because I know I need feedback like any other writer. So I sort of burned myself out…however it was sort of a blessing because then I focused on my other stories. Stories you won’t hear much about, but I will  tell you they’re great. One romance is going to be about 200 pages and I’m on page 50, which is actually amazing because I started the story on the first and have been running around for weeks trying to finish paintings and presents for the holidays. Still…it hasn’t made me feel great.

Not completing a task you set out for yourself can be disheartening, especially because you are entirely responsible for it. Whether you just temporarily burn out like me, or whether you’re pushing yourself constantly to finish there is a struggle to reconcile why you couldn’t finish. It’s depressing, but for those of us building a platform and small business it is worrying. You begin to question if you can do it. You begin to make ideas for change but them worry you can’t do what you need to in order to be successful. Some people balk at me when I describe this and say “It’s your own fault. Have a tougher skin,” as though that makes the feelings about the situation go away. It doesn’t. It may be my fault…and what does that matter? We can be upset at ourselves and the situation and still have “tough skin”. When you’re responsible for your business, your books, your blogs, your livelihood, and your dreams it is frickin scary! That’s the bottom line, and when things don’t go as planned it is even scarier

But to conquer that feeling you just have to accept it.

That is something I’m really struggling with because I’m very scared. I’ve been strong armed into spending money over the holidays to maintain certain relationships I need in my life and I have been forced to buy a new phone by relatives(long story). My finances are more than a little tight, which adds stress and anxiety to my life in general. Now writing isn’t just about the money though if you’d like to buy my books please help a sista out. Writing is what I love to do and it is what I can almost always do at any time of the day. My dream career would be to be a team leader/research in a non-profit organization and also have a career writing on the side. I’ve been writing since I was a child and this career is amazing, but it is never stable and always changing with technology and interest. Every day is a gamble. Heck, blogging is a gamble because people make new blogs every day, and even those that aren’t active for more than a week can bury yours to the bottom of the search pile regardless of SEO keywords.

However, to get to where you want to be you have to take that gamble and accept that sometimes you won’t meet a deadline. Sometimes you will discover that what you’re doing needs more time and care than you can give and you have to put it aside. All you can do is accept that sometimes you won’t meet the deadline and that your anxiety about that is ok and normal. More importantly, you can begin to figure out what to do next time. That won’t fix the now. It won’t let you go back in time and finish the project. But it will let you feel like you’re taking a step forward towards completing the goal. That can be the difference between falling into a funk over the situation and finding a new way to push you to completion next time.

What do you all think?

The Real Problem with Cliches

Cliches aren’t an inherent problem. Shocker. I know. You’d never expect Rosie to say something like that, but it is true. Cliches are not an inherent problem in writing or life. The problem with cliches is twofold sincerity and whether or not they’re boring. A cliche fails when it feels insincere. Let’s put it another way your partner can say “You look great”, but you’ll usually be able to tell when they are really serious or just spouting platitudes. Why? Because there is a difference in tone. Whether your reading a book or a blog you can tell the difference between someone writing passionately and with more than a passing interest to get a concept out.

I say this because I think there are a lot of writers who like the idea of writing and the concept of telling a story, but who don’t want to dig into what they’re writing enough to make it feel authentic. You pick up a book or read someone’s story page and your met with an obvious love of the concept of a character or a relationship, but the writer hasn’t made the story worth your while. They love the idea of this handsome young lad sweeping this girl off her feet…but there is actually no relationship between them except for the writer telling you so. They never have serious conversations or bond beyond steamy scenes, and even if your’re left with a bit of enjoyment you can’t quite believe in their relationship.

Plenty of blogs and stories that I started have not been finished for that very reason. They’re concepts with no depth, and that’s how you fall into the cliche. You don’t sound sincere even if you sincerely want to tell your story. D.D Griggs and I talked about this the other day. Whether you are writing non-fiction or fiction there are cliches and themes. She writes self-help books, and 70% of them are similar or have similar themes that are cliches we can all spout to a certain degree. Writers like her put those cliches into a context and a way of living that is incredibly important, but we’re all familiar with self-help stereotypes of conferences, yogis, and hippies. Most people can tell you one common philosophy in self-help, but neither of those things are inherently bad. What makes a self-help book succeed or fail is a matter of someone liking the author’s style, but more so it is a matter of whether that author is speaking from a place of sincerity and belief. That’s what keeps those cliches from being a problem.

When cliches become a problem is when they’re boring and don’t feel genuine. A blogger talking about “the power of positivism” and working out won’t grab your interest if they are just issuing copy-pasted ideas to their audience. If they don’t let you in to who they are you don’t feel like you can trust them because all you see is surface cliches. The same thing happens in fiction. If you have a book about a werewolf romance that is just paint by numbers it may make money…but it won’t make you an audience for the next book. It won’t get you the sort of repeat readers you want because the readers can tell you aren’t in it and you’re not giving them anything interesting. By that same token, someone else can write the exact same plot (and people do this and do it well) but they make the characters more sincere and write with more passion. They try to keep the story interesting and their readers see that. In blogging and ebook writing I see a lot of people just regurgitating what they think will get them blog follows or downloads, and then I go to forums of people upset and complaining about not getting sales. Well, you aren’t giving a unique product. You give something that is pain by numbers…and so have hundreds of thousands of others, which has hurt the market in many ways all on its own. These writers just don’t see how the cliches aren’t what hurts or helps a story or blog or what have you. It is a matter of how something is written and the tone that allows readers to connect.

Cliches can be powerful tools not only when you subvert them, but when you embrace them with the intention of making them interesting and bringing somethign new to the table with all the sincerity you can muster. This not only applies to the page or screen, but to how you talk to people as well. I hope you keep that in mind when writing holiday cards this season or are getting ready for New Years.

Until next time…

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