“Peril”

I felt like I found “the One” moments ago.

Reading through a slew of blog posts I overwhelmed my browser with, I came upon a word that caused whiplash in my eye sockets. Well, almost that dramatic. Once I read the word “peril”, my mind’s eye created a quick crack of close thunder in a very dark, scary place. That place was probably my own head, but I digress.

goldfinch

Sometimes a tiny word in the right place can provide very enjoyable communication for the reader. I wish there was a database containing all of these words, but alas, these word preferences really vary from person to person.

Asking one of my sisters what word gave her the “chills”, she told me, “clock”, an everyday noun.

“Clock” is indeed a satisfying word. It really perfectly captures the staccato of the ticking hand. It doesn’t do me any favors when I’m reading, but that’s the ol’ variation from person to person at play.

Dear “peril”…where will you be next? Part of the excitement for me is not seeing you too often. While I hope to be at peace tonight, maybe you will pop up in a future blog post and perfectly convey the dangers of abusing SEO tactics once more.

 

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How to Stop Going on Autopilot

“I’ll bet a fiddle of gold
Against your soul
‘Cause I think I’m better than you”

You had a five-page assignment due and managed to squeeze it in in a solitary day. You feel proud that you’re so efficient and are one click away from turning it in to your professor or employer. You feel as confident as Johnny taking on the devil on the fiddle. You reluctantly give your work a quick skim and even more reluctantly come to the realization that writing has to be original to be impressive, not just speedy.

The paper is full of cliches and fillers and doesn’t even flow smoothly. Looks like you went on autopilot and just thought you were having a creative streak. It’s a great realization right before a deadline.

Satisfying the Word Count VS Writing

There are no less than five paragraphs in your paper that all say the same thing. When a paragraph ends, the small point should be over. If the reader arrives at the same conclusion multiple times, it’s dull and a dead giveaway that the author does not care about the material.

Genuine Interest

This is the key factor in writing well. You have to engross yourself in the writing. Always make sure you are putting effort to feel something, anything about the topic before you begin. If your interest is being shy and you are tempted to expand contractions to meet your word count, there are a couple go-tos to help make yourself interested.

Compare Statistics

Statistics is a magical world. There’s nothing that sparks interest quite like inferring conclusions from numbers. It is difficult to explain, but you know when an article is backed up by real statistics that that article just came to life.

poowpyouw

Relate Personally

Remember something related to the material that personally happened to you so that you can evoke real emotions to use for solid writing. This goes back to the days when you thought your third grade teacher was very interested in your personal life but really just wanted to prompt you to write well.

Add further ideas in the comments!

“It was a Dark and Stormy Night…” Part II

Part I for those who missed it

Maybe you have decided that if people just want cheap thrills in their reading, you are going to cater to that. The following points are something you should consider before stringing cliches like beads to create a new story.

It Has Probably Been Done Before

You won’t be the first person to create a thrilling murder mystery, a forbidden romance, commentary on a political situation or a summary of interesting content. For every thrilling idea that occurs to you, there are probably thousands of books and articles already using it.

However, readers seem to greatly enjoy reading several books or articles with the same plots of premises. I know I do. I can read a hundred articles online about certain types of birds because I have owned them as pets. But I’m not going to read the same set of facts over and over. I like it when writers bring in their individual stories to help explain points or add a dash of humor.

Don’t underestimate how a focus on details can make a reader want to be carried along through what is essentially the same hill he’s gone over many times before only with different scenery.

Look at the News

There is a reason why journalistic writing is plain; the pure, newsworthy plot moves everything along and keeps readers engrossed. Despite this, most journalists are still taught to avoid cliches, because people also appreciate a touch of creativity. If a piece with an exciting plot that has the added benefit of being real avoids cliches, that should tell you something.

You Can’t Go Too Crazy

In the pursuit of creating something no one has ever seen, you may get very wild with your story. There are two major points to recognize before trying this.  This mainly applies to fictional works.

Readers Will Lose Interest in a Totally Wild Idea

In a world where anything can happen at any moment, people are not as invested in wondering about what happens next. Additionally, people want to relate to what they read to immerse themselves. That’s why fantasy is a difficult genre for a lot of people to be successful with. If you write a story where a talking eagle rides on the backs of dolphins searching for a sacred pine cone disco ball floating out in sea, you better be one hell of a writer.

eagle

It’s Probably One of the Same Recycled Ideas Anyway

Chances are, no matter how wild your plot gets, you can put it in one of many boxes filled with others of its kind. That eagle story is just a jazzed up version of a classic adventure story in pursuit of an artifact.

These points are why writing skill matters!

“It was a Dark and Stormy Night…”

Yuck.

bush

Human beings employ cliches such as the one in the title as a quick, easy way to communicate. There’s nothing artsy about it, but if you’re telling a scary story when you’re out camping, you are going for quick communication of ideas. In that case, you want to have all the focus on the plot and nothing else.

That is sort of the way us humans work in our day to day lives. If you have a huge event that you want to get straight to and convey, you will probably use several cliches while explaining it. The burglar didn’t enter the house with a knife strapped on his leg, ammo in his pocket, holding a revolver in one hand and a semi-automatic in the other; he was armed to the teeth. If you just want to explain that your sister just had a traumatic experience, you probably don’t even know what the burglar was carrying anyway.

So, if this is true, why do people find too many cliches in their leisure reading so off-putting? Obviously, there are many people who like exciting plots and like to get straight to it. But cliches cannot truly immerse someone in an individual event. By their nature, they hide specific details. People most read leisure for…leisure. There’s something to be said for cheap thrills, but value also has it’s appeal.

Would you rather pay $15 for a great plot and rehashed phrases and themes or an entirely new adventure?

Also, try to avoid ironic uses of cliches and parts of cliches as titles, for example, “A Bird in the Hand. It’s been done. I promise. Cliches don’t describe your book or article very well. “It was a Dark and Stormy Night” is also just awful. 🙂

The Real Allure of Being a Novelist

A lot of writers want to write fiction books for a living. A disproportionate amount do. Despite this, most people who write a book will never get it published. In this elite club, 50% of books you see in stores will fail to make any profit. Most are never reprinted.

Publishers want books that they believe will sell. It’s that simple. If don’t want to please the masses, don’t plan on making a living off of being a novelist. I am speaking about fiction here.

turkey

It takes years for the people who do make it into the published world to get there…the traditional published world, that is.

If you’re depressed about this, than you are probably thinking about this the wrong way.

You have very likely defined yourself as a novelist or book writer or fiction writer…But why do you have to get your novel distributed to be a novelist? The key part of being a fiction author vs many other types of writing is about fame. And fame is not something that is easily attained or predictable. Many novelists can spend all day writing, have a day job paying the bills, but still chase what is essentially fame by trying to get published.

Just to be clear, I am not saying not to ever try to get published. (Who am I to dream of telling people that? This is the Internet. You could be Stephen King.) It’s just easy to lust too much after the fame.

Nothing stops you from exploring other types of writing while you’re developing plots and creating dialogue and basing one of your characters off that weird guy at your local gas station who is always drinking an orange soda when you walk in and chews on cigarette filters. And who knows, you may discover that writing for websites soothes your soul…or something like that.

A Set of Tips for the Storytellers

Fiction writing is fun for most of us. The option is there to create a set of characters that interact just perfectly with each other to move the exciting plot along. It’s an amazing experience to inject every location, repertoire, description, etc. into the most customized piece of entertainment for yourself.

blue_jay

Here lies the danger. Ever visit reddit.com/r/writing? (I know, I know, the first rule of Reddit is to never talk about Reddit.) The writing section is almost wholly dedicated to fiction writing. And don’t get me wrong; I am not trying to make anyone feel bad. I know most of us write fiction because of the feeling of having our adventures customized. That said, most of the shared stories are simply awful. Below is a list of my personal pet peeves.

When writing fiction, do not:

  • Over-describe

    Instead of loading down your sentences with adjectives, how about picking a stronger noun? Wouldn’t it be easier on the reader to picture a golden, gleaming braid than a braid pulled and wrapped with no stray hair, showing the shine on every pale wheat-colored bump? Maybe it’s the copywriter in me, but using fewer words helps to deliver the idea more efficiently.

  • Give people artificial dialogue

    Read it aloud. One of the most frequent offenders in my opinion is “brother” or “sister”. I don’t address my siblings like that, and neither does anyone I know. In a similar vein, another one is making people sound very proper. People just don’t eloquently get a message out every time.

  • Forget context

    Many writers forget essential information that clue the reader in on what is happening. Experienced writers can use this to their advantage to make the reader question if they have missed something or it’s all part of a plan to pleasantly surprise the reader with the missing information down the road.

Fiction is not really my forte, but I hope you enjoyed my advice nonetheless. Some subreddits I have discovered that fall in line with my interests are /r/SEO, /r/webmarketing, /r/socialmedia…There really are so many at our fingertips!