Walking the Tight Trope

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Tropes are unavoidable in the world of genre fiction. In fact, readers expect a certain level of “tropiness” in storytelling. However, one could also argue that the reader doesn’t want to notice the trope. If it smacks them in the face, well, they might just toss the book across the room, labeling it derivative nonsense. 

Not sure what a trope is? Trope = a common or overused theme or device.

Such as: Boy meets girl. Boy loses girl. Boy wins girl back. Practically every romance novel or romantic comedy written in the twentieth century had a bit of this trope in it. Sure, it may vary. Girl loses boy instead or Girl tells boy to shove off, but the basis of all romance is providing the reader with their Happily Ever After.

One of the most common tropes EVER is the orphan child destined/thrust into greatness or, at the very least, part of an interesting event. With this one trope, I could be describing the hero or heroine from hundreds, if not thousands, of fantasy, middle grade, science fiction, literary fiction, comic books and a zillion movies.

Don’t believe me? The devil is in the details. And as a writer, the details and inner life you give the character is what is going to elevate your story beyond the usual cliches.

For argument’s sake, let’s make the orphan a boy. But, this isn’t enough. Let’s give him more, shall we?

  • Cruel relatives. If I give him a wand and send him to a wizard school – poof – Harry Potter. If he enters a giant magical peach – James and the Giant Peach. Or forget magic – his own sister (basically all the women around him) treat him badly and he comes into his fortune because he helped an escaped convict – Pip (Great Expectations)
  • Caring relatives. Raise him on a world with two suns and hand him a light saber  – Luke Skywalker. Or, he’s an alien from outer space, his planet long dead and behold – Superman! Or his parents are gunned down in alley before his eyes. Bam! Batman! If he lives in a hole in the ground and is bequeathed a magic ring – Frodo Baggins
  • No relatives. Poor or living on his own, surviving with his wits – Oliver Twist, Huckleberry Finn, David Copperfield, James Bond.
  • Animal relatives. Throw in a jungle and some apes – Tarzan is born. Or, if you like historical myth, two orphans raised by a she-wolf – Romulus and Remus – founders of Rome.  Oh, but wait, if the animals talk  then it could be Mowgli from A Jungle Book.

And don’t think there aren’t any orphan girls. Let’s not forget: Cinderella, Heidi, Dorothy Gale, Snow White, Pollyanna, Jane Eyre, Anne Shirley, Little Orphan Annie.

Oh my! The list goes on and on!

One thing these characters have in common besides their orphan status – these are all considered classic characters either in film or literature (sometimes both). The trope was merely the stepping off point to their greatness. Their creators went beyond the cliché. Made us care about these characters and turn that page (or watch the movie again and again).

So, a word to the wise. Go beyond the trope. Really, your readers will thank you for it.

Finally!

I did it. Last Sunday I finished the draft of Mystic Storm. But the work isn’t over yet. Before I can share Zephyr’s story with my trusted first readers, I have to read through it and make sure there aren’t any gaping plot holes.

In the meantime, I’m at the 7 Scribes today  – We Are Family.

Inspired Beauty

Happy Friday everyone! Don’t miss my guest over at the Scribes today – Lisa Kessler, author of Night Walker

This week’s post is a short one. I’m working on MYSTIC STORM, Zephyr’s story, so I’m a bit preoccupied! I’d like to share with you some photographs of the enchanting real world setting for the book.

Stonington Point is a historic area of Stonington, Connecticut. Just miles away from Mystic, CT.

The houses are beautiful! I love the blue door.

Roses in bloom. I like to imagine that Zephyr would stop to smell the roses.

I imagined the Gallup Inn, Zephyr’s hotel and spa before I ever visited Stonington. I was delighted to find an actual house that fit my imaginary vision. And this is actually a hotel. While we visited, a movie with Tommy Lee Jones and Meryl Streep was filming. (No, sightings, but we did see the film crew set decorating.)

I loved all the colorful buildings!

One last look at the beautiful ocean.

I hope you enjoyed the brief tour! See you all next week!

You Want to Know What?

Hi everyone!

I’m over at the lovely Julia Barrett’s site today – answering the question – You want to know what?

Stop by and say “hi.” I’d love to hear from you!

Owl Love You Forever

Happy Friday everyone! Don’t forget to visit me at the Scribes today and meet guest author Donna Shields!

In case you haven’t noticed before, I have a thing for owls. When I updated my blog, the first image I reached for was an owl. I found the owl to the left at a shop in Mystic, CT called Whyevernot. The only reason this guy isn’t in my collection is because he cost $149.00.

I’m pretty sure my owl obsession began with my youngest son and his first stuffed owl – Oogles. We found Oogles sitting alone on a shelf at Old Sturbridge Village. He (yes, he’s a boy), was already looking a bit man-handled. My son reached out from his stroller and latched on.

Over the years, Oogles has had many adventures. He even has his own Christmas hat.

This is Oogles

Oogles is still with us and he still looks a bit care-worn, but he is well loved all the same.

From there we (younger son and me) steadily began acquiring more and more stuffed owls. But we didn’t stop there.

We moved onto to glass ones, owl mugs, owl lawn ornaments. Owl Christmas ornaments. You name it – we probably have one with an owl on it.

Lest you think I’m totally crazy and need a hoarders intervention, I don’t have a zillion of them. Not yet anyway.  Although if you did come to my house, you wouldn’t have to look far to find an owl.

I even have owl business cards

I’ve often wondered what makes us gravitate towards certain animals. When I was growing up I had a thing for unicorns (what teenage girl doesn’t have a brief fling with the lovely unicorn?) and a later I really liked penguins.

I know, I know. I’m strange!

But admit it. We all like some things more than others. And for me, it’s the owl and their soulful eyes and quiet presence. They are silent predators in the wild. But in my house, they are my constant watchers.

And they’ll be my companions as I begin my next adventure.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be writing my next book. Since the release of Mystic Ink and the positive reception, I’ve decided to write the next book in the series – Mystic Storm (one of these days I will complete Devil’s Advocate!). This is Zephyr’s book. God of the West Wind. I won’t say more than that. If you read Mystic Ink, then you know why he’s up next.

Until next time, remember – Owl love you forever!

Time to share. What’s your favorite obsession? Anything you like to collect? Any owl lovers out there??

Something Old and Something New

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! Don’t forget to visit me at the Scribes – I Heart Ebenezer Scrooge!

Since the holiday is fast approaching, I don’t have much to report this week. I’m excited to be on vacation all next week and I hope to make progress on Devil’s Advocate. I had worked on it way back in May and June, then stopped to write The Undead Space Initiative.

Now, I’m in the process of getting back into the groove and submerging myself in the story. I’m excited about this one because it’s based on the very first novel I ever attempted to write. The book was never fully completed and it’s bugged me that I never finished it.

Let’s face it. I had no idea what I was doing back then! It’s better if that story never sees the light of day. Yet, I couldn’t forget my heroine. Devil’s Advocate is my attempt to breathe new life into her.

I still have some decisions to make – first person POV or third? Urban fantasy or romance?

(Who am I kidding? Romance always sneaks into my books.)

Whatever I decide, I’m hopeful to add another manuscript to my completed pile!

Have a safe and wonderful holiday season! Leave me a note and let me know how you plan to spend the holidays!

Hits and Misses

Happy Black Friday everyone! Please be sure to stop by the Scribes and check out – You’ve Got a Friend in Me.

I mentioned a few weeks back that I’m participating in NaNo. I hit the 50,000 word goal on Day 20. I plan on finishing the novel by 11/30. That will make two completed novels in 2011 – The Undead Space Initiative and Redemption (book 2 of my Aethera series).

Sadly, I did not get to finish plotting The Devil’s Advocate or Mystic Storm (sequel to Mystic Ink). But, hey, there are so many hours in a day. And I’ve learned a lot about my writer self this year.

  • I’m not Nora Roberts or Dean Wesley Smith, capable of pumping out high volume, superior quality manuscripts nearly out of the gate. Plotting and characterization takes time (for me anyway). I have to be totally on-board with the characters and plot, otherwise, I can’t finish the book.
  • I can write a novel in a month. I did it twice. See above – I have to know what is going to happen in my books. I don’t need to know the how or even the why. Those details can come out when I write. I don’t have my million words in yet. But I’m working on it.
  • If there is a zombie apocalypse, I won’t survive long-term. I like modern conveniences way too much.
  • I love Twitter. A lot.  See my post here – Twitterpated.
  • Oh, and the big one, I can sell a book!

    A new day is dawning

I won’t be kicking back anytime soon.  I have a busy 2012 coming up, including promo at other blogs, working on edits for Redemption, writing other books, and I’ll be CT RWA’s new Media Director.  Busy, busy.

How’s your 2011 going? What are you looking forward to in 2012?

Now the Fun Begins!

Happy Friday everyone.  Don’t forget to visit me at the Scribes today and say “hi” to our special guest – Frankie Robertson. She’s discussing her move to indie publishing and her new, traditionally published book – Veiled Mirror.

After a few weeks of waiting, I’ve received critique for The Undead Space Initiative. The overall reception has been positive. The book isn’t perfect (nothing ever is) and I have a bunch of questions, comments and “things that may need more explaining” to sift through.

To my beta readers and critique partners – thank you for taking time out of your busy schedules to read and comment on my book. The book will only be better because of you.

How should a writer deal with feedback? Gracefully is always a good place to start. Try not to stress about it or take it personally.

But, practically, you also can’t please everyone. Nor can you re-make the book is someone else’s image. Balance is necessary. Take what works for you and discard the rest. But don’t toss it completely away (more on this at the end of the post).

One of the hardest things I’ve had to learn is what should be changed or not changed based on critique. Monday’s Scribe – Jamie Pope- has done a great blog post on critique and I urge you to read it!

The two questions I always ask myself – Do I agree? Will the change make the book better?

Notice, I didn’t ask, “Do I like it?” It doesn’t matter if I like the feedback or not. It doesn’t matter whether I want to hear that I might need to change something.  If I agree, I suck it up, start evaluating, and make the changes.

Also, notice I said,  “If I agree.”

And I always try to apply the unused, technique-related feedback to my next novel. That way I can grow and improve as a writer.

Besides, I’m still the Author Goddess. And what I say goes.

Evil Plotting

Yay! Another Friday. Don’t forget to check out my post over at the Scribes – I’m late, I’m late…for what exactly? and meet the Naggy Bunny.

Another week has come and gone. And I’m sad to say, not much plotting has happened for Devil’s Advocate.

I spent most of the week helping my fellow writers. I’ve been honored to read their works in progress and provide my feedback. I’ve read some sci-fi, paranormal romance, middle grade adventure and contemporary. I have such talented friends!!

I’ve received feedback on The Undead Space Initiative. So far, no one has told me the story is bad. I’ve gotten mostly high marks, which is always nice. Still, I’m not resting on my laurels. There will be edits. I’m not sure what form they will take yet.

I’ve been mostly reflective this week. Thinking about my new characters. What do they want? How will they achieve their goals?What happens next (my favorite question to answer).  Not all that different from talking to my sons (what do you want to do with your life?).

Just thinking about the word “plotting” brings to mind a different word – scheming. When you think about it, as a writer, you really are contriving an entire story out of thin air – creating a whole new world that didn’t previously exist. Totally cool and frightening at the same time. And once the story is published, then that world is shared with your readers. They bring their own expectations and realities. Your world isn’t only in your head anymore.

It’s a big responsibility, which is why I spend more time on plotting, character creation, etc. than I do writing. I’ve learned the hard way that planning ahead works best for me. In a few weeks NaNo WriMo will begin and I plan to be prepared (like a good Boy Scout mother).

It’s hard to believe Fall is almost here. I’ll leave you with a photograph I took last October at Old Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts. If you live in the area and you’ve never been – plan a trip. Right now.

Here comes Autumn