Hi, Gang! Craig with you once more. I’m hacking this out with a glass of whiskey on my end table, so it might be a little more uninhibited than some of my posts. I’ll spend some time censoring myself before it goes live.
Didn’t Hemingway advise to write drunk and edit sober? He might be out of style, but I’ll give it a shot.
My soapbox today involves things that need to retire. In no particular order I have a few for you to consider. This might wind up being an Expansion Pack to my concept of low hanging fruit.
30 Pieces of Silver: I probably write more supernatural/paranormal stories than anything else. I’m seeing too many stories that involve gathering these original coins, or finding proxies for them to do something magical. Traveling all over the world to gather something magical has a lot of appeal. I just think if writers dig a bit deeper they could distance themselves from the crowd today.
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: There’s been an awful lot of work written about these characters. You want harbingers or ancient prophecies, dig into something from China or South America. These are virtually untapped. Maybe something closer to Ragnarok. I’m storyboarding one with Chinese roots right now.
Schools for Magic: This one has been done to death. You probably aren’t going to do it any better than Hogwarts, yet I see it popping up everywhere. I went with an apprentice arrangement for one of my series. If you think about it, you might come up with something just different enough to really engage your readership. If you dig a little deeper, maybe you can come up with something more like a servitude, or an escape from somewhere that your character picked up some tricks. Working on an archaeological dig or in a museum might produce the same results.
Time Travel: I write a bit of science fiction, too. I’m just over time travel. It seems to pop up everywhere, and while it’s a science fiction cornerstone I think it’s time to give it a rest. I’ve even written some, and it took me a while to get to this point.
Dragons: I dabble in fantasy along with the other speculative genres. There are an awful lot of dragons around these days. They serve as mounts for soldiers or as a wild untamable force of nature. There are a lot of untapped fantasy creatures out there that might give you a leg up on the competition. If something from another mythology doesn’t seem to work for you, maybe invent your own.
Anything that ends with Born: Even more so if you spell it borne. You’ve seen them, they’re a special race or group. The hawkborne, wolfborn, iceborn, slugborne, etc. Maybe if you give it a little longer you can come up with something unique.
Men with Boobs: Okay, I may have alluded to this in the comments of one of my earlier posts, but it’s a real thing today. This is often called “The Strong Female Character,” but that’s misleading… and I like my term. We’re seeing an awful lot of female characters that, absent the title of woman, are anything but. Of course women can do manly things, but they react and think differently. They know not to walk down a dark alley alone, they’re more likely to hang out in groups. They might even play on femininity to gain some kind of advantage. I write a lot of female characters, but tend to have them dwell on different things than my male characters do. I remember when Lizzie St. Laurent stared in a mirror and lamented her long face. She’s still an ass-kicker, but has a few moments that a Chuck Norris type would not. She ran home to mother after one of her adventures. She might be more likely to do research than beat information out of a local street thug. There’s nothing wrong with painting her nails before she goes out to stake vampires. Tears are acceptable, even for men, but they could help sell your character as female. Remember, we don’t have the advantage of film by placing Scarlet Johansen in a skin-tight black leather outfit. (We are constantly reminded she’s female.) All we have are words, and those should make us feel something.
I make a lot of use of index cards, virtual ones. Maybe you use a notebook. Go ahead and write down dragon and toss it in the mix. Don’t be afraid to line through it and write manticore just to see how it feels. School for Magic might get replaced by enslavement in a third world country where your character learns whatever is needed for your story. It might eventually help him escape, too.
Just about the time the weather changed, I complimented a co-worker on her boots. They were brown, equestrian-style boots in a land where cowboy boots are king. She thanked me, then went off about how big her feet are. This is about the most female reaction I can think of. Observe people and make notes about things like this.
Want to write a quest story? Make an index card that reads 30 pieces of silver. Underneath that write The Pot of 10,000 Crows, or Uncle Snuffy’s gold pan. You might want to go questing after something else.
I’ve about dropped enough snark today. Have to save some for my WIP. Where do you stand? How do you feel about life or death tournaments for teenagers, vampires, love triangles, or any reference to a light side and dark side of anything? Do you have something that feels overdone you want to talk about? What was awesome, but feels a bit worn these days? Only has to be how you feel about something.
I know you can come up with something better than this: You ride out with all 30 members of the Silverborne, but your man with boobs can’t fight the Four Horsemen yet. She has to go back in time and learn magic at a special school, from a dragon, before she’s ready.