Taking a second thought

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.

58 thoughts on “Taking a second thought

  1. I think a lot of tropes can become stale if there isn’t much originality to level up a story. And that replies to all genres. I think it might be why romances often don’t appeal to me unless there’s another plotline to carry the weight. A thought-provoking post, Craig, and something to think about when plotting a story: How do we make “this or that” feel fresh? Happy Writing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow, Craig, I totally agree with you about retiring some of these overused plot points! I mean, seriously, enough with the dragons already. And don’t even get me started on men with boobs. I mean, what’s the point? Just give us some fully fleshed out, well-developed female characters who are allowed to be more than just tough, emotionless warriors. And as for time travel, I say we leave it in the past where it belongs. I’ve had enough of going back and forth through the ages, can’t we just focus on the present for a change? Anyway, great rant, Craig. Keep that whiskey flowing and keep those creative juices flowing! Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for sharing your thoughts! I found this post so entertaining and insightful! I personally like to write while under the influence of cannabis, then I edit sober haha 😂 I hope that you’re having a wonderful holiday season!


  4. An interesting post, Craig. I don’t read most of the subjects you’re listed here, so I think I’m safe. I do think originality is in short supply among many authors today. If they read a series like, say, Harry Hogwarts and the Magical Kids, they might get the notion they could write it better. Or at least dabble in their own version. The vampire thing has been over played for decades now. But every so often, something original comes along and it starts all over again. I do have a story idea written down involving time travel–though not via a machine or, say, a stainless steel 1980s automobile. This one deals with a dimensional portal. But that may never see the light of day–at least for a while. This is a fun post.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Glad you liked it, Beem. I tried to stay in my lane as far as fodder went. Every genre must have some of these and a good thinking session might find something even better. It’s okay to go ahead and write it, but what if you created the next big thing?

      Liked by 1 person

  5. HI Craig, I would certainly agree with your choices of overdone story ideas (especially schools for wizards and witches), I also see many books about that theme. I only write about things I am passionate about so currently its climate change, the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the Sixth Mass Extinction. I haven’t seen many books about these things despite their prevalence and importance in our lives. Perhaps it is part of the whole ‘if we ignore it maybe it will go away’ thing that seems to be going on. We were in the bush for three days and there is so much flooding in a traditionally dry area. We got caught in a sudden storm and it was icy cold. The foreigners were caught very unawares as they thought Africa was hot in December (it can be cold but not as cold as it got). Yet the lodge owner says she doesn’t believe in global warming – a little weird – if you believe its natural and not man made I can get it, but to not believe at all seems a bit of a stretch.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. LOL! That was a lot of fun, Craig (and probably hit a lot of triggers). Things tend to run in trends so it won’t be long before something else comes along to replace Magical Schools, Dragons, and Time-Travel. I don’t read a lot of epic fantasy, but I do enjoy dragons. Time travel works in just about anything, and while it’s not at the top of my lists, if done well, I do enjoy it. I’m not a fan of Men with Boobs, and normally avoid fiction that falls into that category.

    NY seems to drive the market (even down to what trends in indie pubs). At least, as a reader, I can be selective!

    P.S., really loved the born/borne category 🤣

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Things do tend to get over done until it is hard to have a fresh take on it. Although I will probably never tire of dragons of time travel possibilities. If we tell it through our own voice that sure helps. Great post to ponder upon though, Craig and always new directions to explore.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I’ll agree on everything but the dragons. You can always do something fun and new with dragons!

    Actually, I think we all have a list like this. Mine includes assassins (especially teen assassins) and pirates (especially drunk pirates). Much as I love libraries, I feel like we’re getting there with magical libraries, too.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I’m tired of a lot of tropes. Until NY stops releasing them, I’m afraid they’re here to stay. I’ve grown very selective in my reading choices because so much out there feels derivative and over-done. I love your idea of pulling flashcards that have tired options replaced with fresh ones.

    I’m not a Hemingway fan, but in this “write drunk, edit sober” case, I think you did well following him.

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Most of the things you mention I don’t read. Of course, I have done time travel and am now finished, but your point is well taken. We need to expand away from established tropes. Enjoyed the snark. I’ll take there fingers of what you are having.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. I read different genres than you’re writing about, but I don’t see a lot of these things popping up. I am, however, always up for a well-written time travel story.

    As a reader, if I don’t like something in a book. I don’t read it.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. A fantastic post, Craig.
    Yes, I have dragons in my fantasy books, but they are neither tame, nor rampaging evil beasts. They are vain, self-centred, probably egotistical beasts.
    In my Wolves of Vimar series, the antagonist, as a child, subconsciously performed magic when being bullied. Magic was banned at that time and he was sentenced to death. Then there was a raid by foreigners after riches and slaves. He was given to the Raiders to appease them. He learned magic as a slave.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Thanks, Craig. A fun way of looking at a serious topic. We could have a snarky field day with the overdone silliness in the mystery and thriller genres.

    Liked by 4 people

  14. Pingback: Taking a second thought | Legends of Windemere

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