Posts Tagged ‘writer problems’

Stock characters. Stereotypes. Tropes. Whatever you call them, they both exist and do not exist simultaneously. They are pervasive, and very sneaky. You sit there writing, and a stock character pops out of your subconscious mind without your realizing it.

A stereotype, according to Dictionary.com, is “a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing.” So you think of a particular place or kind of person, and a certain picture immediately appears in your mind. An “Arab” with a head-rag who is hateful to women and Jews. The country of Thailand as a haven of drug use and prostitution.

This kind of stereotype is not real, because nothing in life is that simple and concrete. When you take the time to learn about the country of Thailand or “Arabs” as part of the world’s heritage, it immediately becomes clear that there is so much more nuance and variation than the trope captures.

Yet stereotypes are real, because they show up again and again. They are ingrained in our minds. One time, I was working on a short story and it felt very off to me. Reading back through, I realized that every one of the men characters was an ugly trope. There was a mean dad, a deceitful preacher, a lazy cop. Actually, there was only one woman character, and she was a stereotype, too — a weak mom who should have stood up to the dad but didn’t.

I was annoyed with myself for falling back on these negative types. As a writer, I pride myself on doing better. So I tore that story down to the ground and started over again. The dad became strict but concerned, rather than dominating his son, who was the main character. The policeman was honestly doing his job. The preacher vanished entirely. The mom offered her son words of support.

When we’re trying to get that first draft down, it can be all too easy to rely on stock characters. But when you get to revisions, it’s always better to resist the stereotypes. Allow interesting variations, or even deliberately turn the character to make readers question that stereotype. Turn those tropes into treasures.

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My first review has come in on The Tower in the Mist, and it’s a lovely one. Alden Loveshade delivers perceptive comments on his Loveshade Family Blog. Thank you so much, Alden!

I also have a minor puzzle. One of my goals for the year has been to revitalize my author newsletter and get more activity going there. They say these can be a great way to connect with fans and perhaps get them to use those purchase links in the e-mails.

So far this year, I have improved my record of putting the newsletter out on time each month. I’ve tried to have entertaining things to say. Although one person does interact consistently, which is more than I had before, I have unfortunately seen more people drop off the list each time I send one.

Maybe it’s natural, and those who were accustomed to the previous moribund newsletter find monthly contact a bit too much. It’s a little disheartening, all the same.

What’s an author to do? Keep on trying until I weed out the disinterested subscribers, I suppose. And keeping peeking back at Alden’s review to cheer myself up!

Did you know I have an author newsletter? You can get it! I’ll even give you a free e-book for signing up. Just click here.

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Word counts can be useful for more than helping you decide where and how to market a particular story. You can also use them to track your productivity. Writing… and productivity. Ha ha, right?

Word counts really can help you set goals, though. Say you’ve been working on your WIP for a while, and you need a push to the finish line. If you have a goal of 7,000 words total, and you have 5,000 already done, you might set a goal such as “write 2,000 words in the next week.” Then, knowing how many words you typically get in a day, you can calculate how many days you need to finish the story. Or, if you usually get a certain number of writing days in a week, you can calculate how many words you need to write each time.

Where word counts can be problematic is when we flog ourselves for not meeting a goal, or when we use them to compare ourselves to other writers. If you’re like me, there’s a steady stream of people posting stuff like, “I wrote 1,700 words today.” For the person who wrote that, it’s a celebration that they met their goal, and maybe a way to inspire themselves for the next day’s work.

But if you’re having a rough day and only wrote 170 words, it can be a real downer. Lots of people get Imposter Syndrome when they hear that someone finished a story, or sold one, or have a new publication. Generally speaking, it’s never a good idea for writers to compare ourselves to other writers. The process and the finish products are so different, it really is like apples and oranges.

For myself, I’m more of a “it will be done when it’s done” type of gal, but everyone has their own ways, right? So try to keep your goals in perspective and be kind to yourself.

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My current writer problem.

My current Writer Problem. What did I do about it? I got to work on the story I dreamed about, of course!

I don’t often base whole stories on dreams. Once you wake, things that made sense in the dream just seem weird.

In this case, my dream offered an image that solved a plot problem. I needed a specific way my character would move her hands and shift posture while casting spells. That’s what I dreamed about.

Guess I’d better give my brain a kiss!

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