10 of the Worst Cliches in Fiction Writing

Originally posted on Writing Is Hard Work:

If you like to read like Mr. Bemis, then you notice these, too. If you like to read like Mr. Bemis, then you notice these, too.

I’m a reader because all good writers are readers.  Mostly, however, I read because I love to read.  I am in many ways like Henry Bemis in “Time Enough At Last”, adapted from a Lyne Venable short story which chronicles the sad life of a chronic reader.  I’m so glad I have a Kindle Paperwhite, because if I had to buy all the books I read my house would be full of them.

The beef I have with modern fiction is that it tends to wax cliche more often than not.  I hope I never use any of these horrible cliches I’m about to list.  If you use them, dear writer, I pray you revise them right out of your narrative.  I think when you read them you will agree that these cliches need to go.

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Children of Fire, Writing stuff

True Author

When are you a True Author? Is it when you have published something, like I did this weekend just gone? (http://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B0128D6EZQ and https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/562335) Is it when you’ve written x number of words? Or been writing for y amount of years? Just a thought, a thought without a really clear-cut answer.


Amazon Launch

http://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B0128D6EZQ is the link to Children of Fire on Amazon, (and https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SilentDan on Smashwords) where you can preorder on Amazon. You don’t need a Kindle device to read it, either – you can download the app to pretty much any mobile, tablet, computer or other device out there, so there’s no excuse. So yeah, this baby’s finally done and dusted. Any mistakes left will be there forever. Gulp. I’m a mix of emotions, or I will be when the reality sets in. Of course I’m already a published author with 18 (and we’re doing another one) but this, well this is magnitudes higher in how big of a deal it is. This is the culmination of 8 years work. I hope it has paid off. I think it’s an acceptable quality, I hope I get lots of 5 star reviews, I hope fans love it as much as I want them to. I’m working out how to use everything at the moment. I’m thinking I’ll make separate launch events in the coming week for Inkterra, where 18 is also published, as well as on Smashwords, which distributes to Scribd, Kobo and Nook, among others, where – you guessed it – 18 also is, and the new anthology will most likely be as well. Things are getting pretty busy here, and I’m learning the ropes as I go, so forgive me if I don’t update for a while – I need to get my head around 3 or more services in a short period of time. I hope I’ve given myself enough time to set it all up. Probably not, though. Shit’s cray right now. But a good cray. It’s good to have these problems.

Reading stuff

Book stuff

There’s a fair bit going on in book land lately.

First up, the first trailer for Shannara dropped this weekend. As a massive fan since I was 17, I’m hopeful about this. It looks decent. The trailer shows some features that seem more sci fi, and I don’t remember any hints of the apocalypse in the second or third books, so I’ll have to go back to those two in particular. I know there’s at least one area in the first book that they have to traverse, and it’s a ruined city of the old world. Shannara was always post-apocalyptic fantasy, and it started out in the 70s, so it’s not like this is much of a spoiler, at least not for anyone who’s read the books before now. And then in books 7-9, well, that stuff’s really PA. I’m going to read 2 and 3 again to brush up on Terry Brooks. It’s a pity they’re not starting with the urban fantasy series The Word and the Void (also a spoiler if you haven’t read Armageddon’s Children and the following books) but since I started with Elfstones, their starting with Elfstones too tickles my nostalgia bone (somewhere between my funny bone and my shame gland).


Meanwhile, I hear Patrick Rothfuss’ The Name of the Wind is in the middle of having a bidding war for the tv/movie rights (I think it’s still being looked at for tv). As a writer, a bidding war over who gets to publish you is an amazing thing. The same thing for the tv series adaptation is pretty good too.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock in Canada, you’ll have heard that there’s a sequel to To Kill A Mockingbird. I remember being forced to read that in highschool. It had some good parts, but I found it mostly kinda boring. But man, it’s been a while since that book came out. No wonder people are talking about this sequel, Go Set A Watchman. Whether it’s good or bad, that will definitely be a big ticket book, and a lot of people will be talking about it. TKAMB is one of the best selling novels of all time, since it got into school curriculum (that’s pretty much a guarantee of easy money right there… though banned books probably do pretty well too. GTA V got banned from Target in Australia, and you know what the producers would have done? Bathed in the extra money they got from that ban, due to people hearing all about it and buying it to spite Target, or something along those lines. Controversy is almost a guarantee of commercial success, and while I don’t know whether Harper Lee’s next novel will be controversial, it might get on the school reading list, so it should do really well. Unless it’s too mature for school aged kids, anyway.

At present, I’m reading a fantasy trilogy middle book, Clash of Iron by Angus Watson. How is it? Well the first one sank its hooks into me from page one and wouldn’t let go. The sequel? Not so much. It’s not a bad novel, by any means, but it’s certainly not quite the same magical tour de force as the first, Age of Iron. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s just that it’s filled with bigger scale battles told almost like history books. Maybe it’s just sequelitis. Fantasy trilogy second books tend to fall flat after all. I can name a few good ones – Elfstones of Shannara was what got me hooked on Terry Brooks, and R A Salvatore’s Demon Wars’ second book was good too, though he’d been writing for like 10 years at that point already, so there’s those two at least.

I don’t know if bad books are just a ‘thing’ in speculative fiction, or whether it’s in other genres too, but there’s never going to not be bad books in a series. Nobody seems to be immune to this. Even my old favourite, Terry Brooks, though his not-so-great books are few and far between. If you get through Sword, that is. I don’t recommend starting with that – I would go for Elfstones personally, as it’s much better than Sword, which is a definitely Tolkien ripoff. But it gets better, much better, with books 2 and 3, and if you’re writing a book a year, you’re going to get pretty good at it.

I can’t speak about Literary novels or non-genre novels. The view I have is that they tend to put more love and care into them, though. What do you think?

Writing stuff

Changing Characters (in genre)

Traditional writing books will tell you that your characters must grow and change over the course of a novel.

I think these are talking about Literary novels. The writing books I’ve read that say this are definitely geared towards more Literary novels.

However, I once read in a book on writing genre fiction, especially a series, that characters shouldn’t change.

I think there’s merit in this, because a character changing 20 times from novel to novel would just get tiring. Further, I know genre readers who like things the same way for a good while. How long depends on the reader, or viewer, or player, but most of the people I know who are fans of a genre series, be it book, show, game etc, tend to want the same characters in a vast array of scenarios.

I’m going to cite a few series’ close to my heart.

R A Salvatore’s Drizzt novels – there’s like 30 of them now – seem to have the main character remain the same, or mostly the same, since the 70s. He’s explored darker and more complex moral thinking of late, to be sure, but I think that’s mainly because he’s written 30 books with the same main character. Eventually, sure, Drizzt has to change. It’s inevitable. But when he changes it’s either gradually over several books or because of traumatic experience.

Harry Dresden, of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, stays mostly the same. There might be leeway, sure, but mostly? He’s still the gentlemanly, badass, charming, sincere, bookish wizard PI he’s been since book 1. Changes, as you’d expect, is a book wherein in he does something evil, or at least not good. I won’t tell you what, go read it for yourself, but it’s a new chapter in his progression as a person. But the change in Changes is fairly small in the big picture. He’s been pretty much the same level of awesome for 16 books. What changes is the scale of the threats he faces – The Dresden Files is all about escalation, and Butcher does that EXTREMELY well.

Then there’s Harry Potter. He gets darker and angrier, and guys have responded well to that. You’d change over seven books too if everyone you love and care for gets killed by your nemesis (spoiler alert). I heard that, originally, Harry was going to die, but Rowling got death threats, so she caved. I think Harry’s mood changed, but fundamentally, he didn’t. Then again it’s been decades since I read the books, so my info might be a little unreliable at this time.

So there’s some arguments for stasis, at least in the short term. Do you have any examples to add?