Writing Danger: Don’t Create a Cliché

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During last week's discussion of whether or not cursing is acceptable in YA novels, there was one point that came up repeatedly that I thought was particularly important, namely, overuse of particular words and phrases.

Naturally in the discussion, the words referred to were curse words, but I think it's an important point nonetheless that goes beyond cursing in literature, because any word or phrase repeated too often starts to become a cliché.

Most writers will at some point or another realize that they have a sort of crutch phrase, description or word. Sometimes it varies WIP to WIP, other times it's the same word or phrase that slips it's way into every manuscript you write. Whatever the case, it's not an uncommon plight for the writer.

And when you think about it, that kind of issue doesn't sound so bad. Sure, maybe you repeat a word or phrase a little more than probably necessary, but is that really such a sin in writing?

In short? Yes.

The problem with creating these sorts of clichés is that they don't go unnoticed. You see, writing is a tricky thing because your goal as a writer is to create complete images, worlds, characters, and scenes without bringing attention to the words actually stringing the story together. You goal as a writer isn't to rub oh, look at my gorgeous writing in the reader's face—it's quite the opposite, in fact. You want to tell a story with invisible words.

So when you create a cliché in your writing with a particular word or phrase, you're bringing attention back to the words themselves. The overused phrase becomes distracting, because even if only for a second, the reader will come across the words and think, hmm, I've seen that a lot. For a second, the reader has left the story and noticed the writing.

This isn't something you necessarily need to worry about while first drafting—in first draft mode you should be solely focused on getting the words down, regardless of how many times you've repeated a particular phrase. When you're editing, however, keep a sharp eye for potential overused words and phrases and cut them out before your readers notice your words.

It's not a particularly difficult fix (the find function of most word processors is a beautiful thing), but it's definitely one worth doing.

Have you ever overused a word or phrase? How did you amend the issue? Share your experience!

On Being an Unpublished Writer: Enjoy it While You Can

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If you're a writer, then you've probably dreamed of being published. Whether your wildest dreams involve your debut novel being chosen for Oprah's Book Club or reaching Amanda Hocking-like indie publishing success, I'd say that 99.9% of writers have probably at one point or another have dreamed of making it big with their writing and finally earning that coveted title of "published."

The why is obvious—we all want to be successful, and to be successful doing something that you love is even better, so it's only natural that writers would find themselves daydreaming about their book becoming a New York Times or Amazon bestseller. 

But becoming published isn't something that you can do with a snap of your fingers—even independent authors have to take the time to write and edit their book, as well as deal with proper formatting and other issues of the like. On top of that, because developing your writing skill enough to reach the level of ready for publishing takes a lot of time and hard work, most writers will spend years working unpublished before they see their dreams come true. 

Time as a unpublished writer can be difficult—you put a lot of effort into something with very little reward, recognition or monetary feedback in return. Unpublished writers are rarely just writers—they're parents, students, employees, etc. and just finding the time to sit down and write can be a challenge, so it's no wonder that we like to dream of a published future. 

But while making our way through the daily grind, we often forget to appreciate our experience now. We forget that being an unpublished writer has it's pros as well, because while most of us want to eventually become published, being a published writer isn't much easier than being an unpublished one. 

What do I mean by that? Let's take a look at some of the things published writers have to do: 

  • Write under a deadline. The published writer lives deadline to deadline, book to book. Even after the grueling process of fully completed a novel, there's always another book to write with editors, agents and readers all waiting for you to meet the next deadline. 
  • Edit under a deadline. And the same goes for editing. Meeting deadlines are not optional for published authors if they hope to be successful. 
  • Market their book. Regardless of whether you're an independent or a traditionally published author, some aspects of marketing the book falls on the writer's shoulders. How much of it will likely depend on the route the writer takes and the publisher they end up with, but avoiding it entirely is impossible if they want their book to sell. 
  • Write author bios, synopses, back cover copies, pitches, etc. Even when the published author has finished writing and editing the book, there are pitches and synopses of various degrees that need to be completed. And every writer loves writing synopses. 
  • Attend publishing/book promotion events. Whether it's BEA, a panel at Comic Con or any number of book tours, published authors (especially traditionally published ones) have to attend promotional events throughout the year to keep up with the publishing industry and (again) market their book. 
  • Work. Just because an author is published doesn't mean writing is their only job. Many authors, both traditionally and independently published, work a full-time job in addition to juggling the responsibilities that come with being a published author. Time management isn't any easier just because your book is on sale.

Now don't get me wrong—I'm not saying that being a published author is awful, but there's something nice about being able to work off a deadline—to being able to write whatever you want, whenever you want just because you want to, rather than because people are waiting for your work. There's a freedom to being able to learn at your own pace and not suffer serious consequences if you can't get to your latest WIP for a few days, or weeks, or however long you need. 

Yes, we all hope to one day be published, but don't forget to enjoy the freedoms of the unpublished writer while you can. 

What do you think? Am I overstating the pros of being unpublished? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

How to Give a Fair Critique

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Now that we've talked about why critique partners are so important and how to find and choose critique partners that work well with you, I thought it important to talk about the other side of the coin—giving critiques.

You see, while receiving critiques is essential to the learning process for writers, giving critiques is just as important, because giving critiques teaches you to pay attention to things that do and don't work in other people's writing. As a bonus, what you've learned from the critiquing experience you can then apply to your own writing, so in a way you're teaching yourself how to improve your craft.

Before you delve into the realm of giving critiques however, it's important that you remember a few things so that you give a fair and constructive critique.

  1. Establish the rules first. Not all critiques are created equal. Sometimes the writer is looking for more of a polish or copyedit—and in those cases you want to pay more attention to sentence structure, word choice, etc. Other times it's about the plot, or character development, or pacing, and in those cases it's more important to pay attention to the overall story rather than honing in on the misplaced commas. Before you start the critique, talk to your CP about what kind of critique they're looking for, so that you know how you can be the most helpful. 

  2. Read carefully. Reading for a critique is different than reading for pleasure. That's not to say that you can't enjoy the writing while you critique (and in fact, I hope that you do enjoy it), but it's important that you pay attention to whatever the writer wanted feedback on. 

  3. Search for the good and bad. A good critique is balanced—it's not helpful if all you do is tell the writer how wonderful their writing is, but neither is it constructive if all you do is rip their work apart without mentioning a single redeeming quality. Remember: they're critiquing your work, too (or at least, they probably will be in the future), and if you want this partnership to continue, both of you need to be fair in your critiques. 

  4. Be kind. Don't misunderstand me—by "be kind" I don't mean "don't talk about the bad stuff." Your number one goal is to give a fair critique that talks about the beautiful and ugly bits of the writing. By "be nice" I'm referring less to what you say and more to how you say it. Regardless of whether or not you know your CP in person, there's a writer on the receiving end of your critique—an actual person with feelings who is probably just as anxious to see what you have to say as you are to read their critique of your writing. In short, what I'm saying is don't be a jerk. Talk about what needs improvement, but don't bash their work. There's a difference between a tough and constructive critique and a mean one. 

So those are my tips on giving critiques—now it's your turn: what tips do you have on giving fair critiques?

Discussion: Is Cursing in YA Novels Acceptable?

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As some of you may have guessed by my reading habits displayed for all to see on Goodreads, or based off my not-so-subtle theme of nearly all YA books in my book reviews, I write YA novels. Over the past few months I've seen this question that's really made me pause and think come up again and again, namely, is cursing acceptable in books meant for teenagers?

The thing is, there isn't a straightforward right or wrong answer. YA writers face an interesting dilemma, because while we know that most teenagers do indeed use less than flowery language, some wonder if using foul language in books (or other media) just perpetuates the problem.

Personally, I avoid cursing. I make a point to keep this blog clean of any foul language and rarely do I share any posts on Twitter/tumblr/Facebook/what-have-you that contains any sensitive four-letter words. But as I progressed through my journey as a YA writer, I slowly had to come to accept that while I rarely cursed, that didn't mean that my characters couldn't (or wouldn't) either. My censorship of their language felt forced and unrealistic.

You see, we are not our characters, nor are we required to always agree with everything our characters do, think or say, however, that doesn't necessarily save us from the argument that cussing in literature can influence teenagers and young readers in a negative way.

It's a chicken-or-the-egg argument—do teenagers curse because they hear and read it in the media, or is the cussing that they're exposed to in books, music, video games and movies negligible because by the time they start exposing themselves to that kind of media, they've already heard it?

I don't have the answers, but I think it calls for an interesting discussion, so I turn it over to you guys.

What do you think? Is cursing in YA novels acceptable? Does it negatively influence readers, or is it just a part of creating realistic teenage characters?

How to Choose Critique Partners

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Now that we've discussed the importance of having critique partners, I thought it an appropriate time to go over an equally important (and related) topic—how to choose the wonderful writers who will critique your work.

As fantastic as critique partners and beta readers usually are, they're only helpful if said partner knows how to give constructive and insightful criticism. And as nice as it is to receive comments like, "I like it" and "this was good," that type of feedback doesn't qualify as critique, nor does it fall anywhere near the realm of "helpful."

So how do you choose a critique partner who will help you to improve?
  1. Find potential critique partners. There are many different places where you can search for a good critique partner. Part of a writer's group? Start asking your fellow writers if they’d be interested in swapping critiques. Have a Twitter/Facebook/Google+/LinkedIn account connected to other writers? Start networking and see who might be interested. As I understand it, there are even websites dedicated to helping writers find like-minded critique partners. The resources are out there—use them.

  2. The testing grounds. Once you've found a writer (or a couple writers) interested in swapping WIPs for critique, it's time that you do a trial run. While you could hypothetically send off your whole WIP right at the start, it's generally a good idea to start small and just trade a couple pages, or the first chapter, or something of the like before diving into a full critique. This will allow you to a) see you're a good fit and able to critique their work as well (because chances are you'll be swapping critiques) and b) see if your new critique partner’s insight works well with you. If you give a thorough critique and your new partner only mentions things he likes or gives vague, "this is cool"-like comments, it might be a good sign that you should find someone else.

  3. Dive in. Was the critique slightly painful and mostly helpful? Did you enjoy reading the other writer's work and give helpful insight? If you answered "yes" to both, then it looks like you've found a good partnership and it's time to work in larger sections. However you decide to spread out your critique is up to the both of you, but make sure you lay out the rules and timeframe at the beginning (i.e.: what type of critique you're looking for and how long you expect to take). Once the details are settled, it's time to get to work.

Now it's your turn: What tips do you have for finding good critique partners?

Critique Partners: They’re Not Optional

Photo credit: Nic's events on Flickr
Most writers learn very quickly that writing is a close and personal process. Like most artistic undertakings, it takes intense concentration, hard work and quite a bit of patience to complete the monumental task of writing a book.

After writing the first couple drafts, every writer eventually comes to conclude that they can no longer edit their work effectively. For new writers, this often is interpreted as my WIP is finished, but more experienced writers know better.

When you reach this point, it isn't because you've done everything possible to make your book as good as it can be. No, more times than not, this point is reached when you've been working on your WIP for too long—when you know the story, the characters, the words far too well to make any substantial edits.

Just to clarify, this happens to every writer. Reaching this point doesn't mean you're a bad writer or need more experience or anything to that effect
it just means you've been working hard on your project and you need a break. You need to find some beta readers and critique partners.

Writers, especially new writers, often like to skip this step for various reasons, but if you truly want to make your book as good as possible, if you really want your WIP to reach its potential, you need to find some good critique partners.

As the creators of our story, we can only see so much
we're too close to the WIP to recognize plot holes that an outside reader will see instantly; we've been over the words too many times to recognize the weaknesses that permeate our writing. It invariably happens to every writereven the professionals use insight from outside eyes to improve their WIPs, because for writers, critique partners are not optional. Not if you want to make your book as good as it can be, at least.

A good critique partner will take a chapter you thought was fully polished and hand it back to you with enough red ink to set the bulls running.

A good critique partner will gently point out the weaknesses in your writing, so that you can be aware of them moving forward and work to improve.

A good critique partner will show you the worst of your manuscript, but they'll also show you the potential behind your story, the life sitting just beneath the surface that with a little work you can release onto the page.

I won't pretend that critiques are easy
they can often be emotionally and mentally exhausting, and many times will make you want to crawl under a rock with your inadequate manuscript held tightly against your chest. But good critique partners will set you on the right path to improve your story, and with enough hard work on your part and insight on theirs, your WIP will be ready for the big leagues.

So get out there and find some critique partners. You'll be glad you did when you have a new and improved manuscript on your hands.

Do you use critique partners and/or beta readers? Why or why not? If so, have they been helpful to you?

How (Not) to Get an Agent

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If you've been interested in this writing thing for longer than a couple of weeks, chances are you know that the avenue to traditional publishing 9/10 times is through a literary agent. A good literary agent is the writer's advocate, the person who deciphers those confusing contracts filled with legal terms most of us are not equipped to understand, your beta reader, cheerleader, etc. It's easy to understand why writers interested in getting published traditionally work so hard to get an agent's attention, and ultimately, representation.

But getting a literary agent is no easy feat--it's not uncommon for a writer to spend years working on manuscript after manuscript before writing the one that garners enough attention to get an agent to utter the magical words that go along the lines of "I would love to represent you."

So without further ado, I present to you the ten secrets to getting a literary agent to represent you.

10 Guaranteed Ways to Get a Literary Agent*

  1. Cyberstalking. The very first step towards researching agents is to hone your cyberstalking skills--follow your prospective agent on every social media profile possible (even ones you don't already have or haven’t used in ages--hello, Myspace). Don't even think about beginning the query process until you know where the agent lives, the name of his cat, her birthday, favorite food, and, of course, where he graduated high school. You'll want to incorporate all of the above into your story, so they feel right at home reading your manuscript.

  2. Write the perfect query letter. Everything you need to know about writing the golden query letter can be found in this post, but beware: once you send that baby out, you better be prepared for an onslaught of calls from agents dying to get their hands on your work. It’ll be a bloodbath. Don't say I didn't warn you.

  3. Ignore the agency's submission guidelines. Those are for people who don't know how to think outside the box. You're a literary genius. You don't need silly submission guidelines.

  4. Send your query letters to agents who don't represent your genre. It won't matter that they don't represent your genre when they see how incredible your query letter is. They won't be able to resist--you're the type of genius that only comes around once in an agent's career. Send your query letter regardless of represented genres.

  5. Bribery. Since you're going to be sending out those query letters en masse, you better stock up on the chocolate. Agents love chocolate more than mice love cheese. It also helps if you tuck a few Benjamins in there, too.

  6. Be the squeaky wheel. Once you've sent your query letter, it's time to pull out those phone numbers and call the agencies up to make sure they've received your letter. If they haven't, you'll be doing them a favor by telling them to clear their schedules and prepare for your epic query letter, and if they have, chances are they were about to call you anyway. If you can't get answers --keep calling. As they say, the squeaky wheel gets the grease, so start squeaking.

  7. Promise them glory. Sometimes when agents come across incredible query letters, they're taken aback by the sheer awesomeness of the letter. If you haven't heard back from your prospective agent within 24 hours of sending your query letter, chances are they're in shock that someone as talented and incredible as you drafted up such an incredible letter and sent it to them. Call them up or send them a second e-mail to let them know how successful they're going to be after they represent you to seal the deal.

  8. Create a blog dedicated solely to bashing bad agents and books. These rage blogs are immensely popular with agents--they show that you're educated about the literary world, have tact and good taste. As a bonus, you'll make them feel better about themselves because you're a famous rage blogger and you chose to query them.

  9. Create a Twitter account for your rage blog. The nice thing about Twitter is you can mention the bad agents you're talking about when you tell your millions of Twitter followers about your posts. As a bonus, the other agents will see your insightful posts on their feed (because they'd be crazy not to follow you).

  10. Don't write a book. Don't write anything except fabulous query letters about the books you're going to write, for that matter. Attract your agents with your genius, charm, personality and chocolate. Then, once you have one representing you, you can focus on writing that masterpiece without worrying about writing a book that might not get published.

*This is a sarcastic post! Please, please, please, PLEASE don't do these things, ok? Pinky promise?

Now it's your turn: what "tips" do you have for getting an agent?

How to Write Consistently

"The funny thing is that, although writing has been my actual job for several years now, I still seem to have to fight for time in which to do it. Some people do not seem to grasp that I still have to sit down in peace and write the books, apparently believing that they pop up like mushrooms without my connivance. I must therefore guard the time alotted to writing as a Hungarian Horntail guards its firstborn egg." --J.K. Rowling
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Last week I wrote about the benefits of writing blog posts consistently—not just for the readers, but for the writer as well. Most will agree that writing consistently in one manner or another is important, especially for writers, but writing on a consistent basis isn't always as easy as it sounds.

Everyone has their own challenges—even those who write professionally often struggle to find the time to write, as evidenced by the quote I used above, and those of us who don't write professionally often have just as much difficulty (if not more) in finding the time during the course of our busy lives to sit down and write.

But the key to writing consistently is accepting that you don't need to write thousands of words in every sitting. Sometimes all it takes to write a few hundred words is a couple of ten minute breaks scattered throughout the day—and as I mentioned in my post on writing a novel 500 words a day, writing in small chunks is just as productive and helpful as writing in large, hour-long sections.

"I don't have the time" isn't a valid excuse—even ten minutes before breakfast and ten minutes before bed is better than nothing at all. Even just training yourself to write a hundred words a day helps to hone your writing skill slowly over time.

If you truly want to hone your skill as a writer, then your writing time is sacred. Don't let it slip away from you—hold on to it as if today were your last day on Earth and you'd never be able to write again. Guard those precious moments and do the work that writers do.

Because as long as you continue to hone your craft, you'll one day look back and realize just how far you've come.

What tips do you have for writing consistently?

Every Character is Important

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I came across a quote not too long ago that went along the lines of this: your readers should want to read the unwritten book of each of your characters (if anyone knows the full quote and attribution, please let me know. I unfortunately couldn’t find it again when I searched).

It got me thinking, because I’ve seen many books written by secondary characters from a series, like Destroy Me (yet unreleased) by Tahereh Mafi written from the Shatter Me antagonist’s POV, and The Iron Knight by Julie Kagawa written from the Iron Fey Series love interest’s POV. Veronica Roth even released a scene from the love interest’s POV of her Divergent series titled Free Four and Stephanie Meyer wrote The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner, written from a minor character’s POV from the Twilight series.

It got me thinking, because we writers tend to be pretty good at developing our protagonists, love interests and antagonists, but what about the rest of the cast? What about the minor characters and secondary (non-love interest) characters? Those tend to get less attention.

Unless you’re a plotting master/first drafter extraordinaire, it’s not easy to develop minor and secondary characters as well as you’ve (hopefully) developed the protagonist and other major characters in the first draft—hell, even fully developing your protagonist and major characters in the first draft is quite an accomplishment on its own. But as you start working through revisions, it may be a good time to take a good look at the characters that didn’t get as much attention at the beginning of the writing process. How well do you know them? Is there room for growth that you could incorporate into the plot?

I’m not suggesting that you delve into the background of every character in your book (at least, not within the prose, anyway). All I’m saying is that every character is important, and if you intend to make them more than cardboard cut-outs, you’ll need to take some time getting to know them, so that they come alive on the page.

Don’t sell your minor characters short. If you take the time to develop them, I think you might find that many of them will turn out to be just as interesting and fun to develop as your major characters.

UPDATE: I found the quote! It was a tweet from agent Jonny Geller:
Do you take the time to get to know your minor characters? What is your favorite minor character from a book?

Why Write Blog Posts Consistently?

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Before I began blogging, I went through a research phase. I scoured Google and my favorite blogs in search of advice for new bloggers like me. I hunted for tips that could help me start a successful blog, and the advice I saw most often kind of surprised me. It wasn't about bringing in mass amounts of traffic, or SEO, or a stellar commenting system, it was this simple tip: write posts consistently.

What surprised me even more was this: it didn't really matter if you posted every day, a couple times a week, or a couple times a month as long as you posted consistently.

Now naturally, blogs with more frequent posts tend to receive more traffic than blogs that post once a month, as new content brings in new page views, but in this case the goal isn't necessarily to bring in hoards of traffic, it's to get your readers used to coming to your blog. It's to create a posting schedule people who follow your blog can remember, so that they know when to expect your next post.

It's simple, and it works.

But there's an added bonus to writing consistent blog posts that many of those articles I encountered didn't mention, namely, the way it affects you, the writer.

Writing consistent blog posts has many benefits for the writer:

  • It teaches you discipline. Consistency requires discipline. Whether it's three posts a week or four posts a month, it takes discipline to have your blog posts written by the posting date, which brings me to... 

  • It teaches you how to meet deadlines. Most fields require you to meet deadlines, and if you'd like to be a professional writer (indie or traditionally published), you'll definitely have to learn to meet deadlines. These posting deadlines are self-imposed, and they're great practice. 

  • It shows you that you are capable of writing under pressure. Being able to write under pressure is an essential skill for the writer. If you're an indie, you need to be able to write the sequel to your book while knowing that readers are waiting for the next update, and if you're traditionally published, you need to be able to write with many looming deadlines and agents/editors/publishers waiting for your work as well as your readers. 

  • It proves that writing well while uninspired is possible. Once you begin writing consistently for any project, blog or otherwise, it won't be long before you realize that every day is not equal in the eyes of the writer. Some days the writing comes easily and other days it'd be easier to withstand hours of coffin torture than write a single word. But when you have to write consistently you learn something else, too—you don't need to be inspired to write well. You just have to write. 

What do you think? If you have a blog, do you write consistently? Why or why not?

Twitter-sized bites: 
.@Ava_Jae says it doesn't matter how often you post as long as you post consistently. What do you think? (Click to tweet)  
How does consistently writing blog posts help writers? @Ava_Jae shares four main benefits. (Click to tweet)

Character Development: Exploiting Weaknesses

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Earlier this week, I wrote about the dangers of writing invincible characters, and today I’m covering a related topic, which if used correctly can help you to avoid creating the aforementioned problematic characters.

Just as everyone has a weakness (and most of us, many weaknesses), our characters should struggle with faults as well—whether it’s a debilitating fear of butterflies, an injury that never fully healed, or an inability to trust others, the most realistic of characters struggle with various flaws. Once these weaknesses have been established, it’s our job as the writer to exploit them.

Now I’m not saying that because I’m a sadist (although it is helpful for writers to be in touch with their inner sadist), but because there are many advantages to exploiting our characters’ flaws:

  • It gives us opportunity to deepen our characters. With the exception of whiny protagonists, most characters don’t like to reveal their weaknesses—and they certainly don’t enjoy facing them. But forcing your characters to confront their flaws not only make your characters stronger (when they overcome their weaknesses, anyway), but gives your readers a good look at a side of your characters usually hidden away. 

  • It provides extra scenes/plot opportunities. This point doesn’t really need much explaining—those weaknesses don’t exploit themselves, you know. 

  • It cures Superman syndrome. I know that Superman technically has a weakness (kryptonite), but those invincible characters I mentioned earlier fit under this category, and the easy cure is to give them weaknesses and let them be affected by them. Fighting flaws helps to humanize your characters and make them relatable. When your characters start to feel the burn—push harder. They’ll turn out stronger (character wise, at least) and more developed because of it. 

But don’t take my word for it. Here are some quick examples of this very technique used by authors:

  • Insurgent (Veronica Roth)—an injury Tris receives at the end of Divergent lasts for more than a couple of pages in Insurgent, while a decision she made around the same time she received her injury plagues her with debilitating guilt and panic attacks throughout the course of the sequel. 

  • The Return of the King (J.R.R. Tolkien)—Pippin’s curiosity gets the best of him and he steals the seeing stone from Gandalf, nearly dies when he sees the eye of Sauron, and leads Sauron to believe that he (not Frodo) has the ring. While this does help Frodo, it also puts Pippin’s life in danger. 

  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (J.K. Rowling)—Let’s not forget the classic with a certain arachnophobic Ron facing the acromantula Aragog and his…err…children in the Dark Forest. 

In the end, delving into our characters’ flaws provides us with ample opportunity to challenge our characters and further the plot—opportunities that we would miss without a healthy dose of writer sadism.

Do you exploit your characters’ weaknesses? What other examples of this technique can you think of?

Writing Mistake: Are Your Characters Invincible?

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I write stories with a lot of action: explosions, gunshots, sword fights, wars, chase scenes, gruesome wounds, death—you name it, I’ve probably at least thought about incorporating it into one of my WIPs. So as you could imagine, very few of my characters have made it through my stories completely unscathed, but it recently occurred to me that despite the injuries and deaths and fight scenes, I’d often been too nice to my characters.

It wasn’t that I didn’t let them get hurt—I certainly did—my problem was that I often allowed them to recover quickly and with next to no consequence besides a couple scars.

In my case, the problem wasn’t that it was necessarily unrealistic—I’ve written paranormal, straight fantasy and sci-fi, so there was always a valid reason for the quick recovery. No, my problem is that I wasn’t allowing my characters to be truly affected by their physical, emotional and mental damage. I was protecting them without even realizing it, and as a consequence I was missing out on huge opportunities for character deepening and plot progression.

I’d accidentally written invincible characters.

Humans are strong, but physical, emotional and mental breakdowns are all (often unavoidable) parts of life—and our characters shouldn’t be exempt. When we allow our characters to be invincible, we discount the true weight of what it means to be damaged. We are, in essence, telling our readers not to worry about our characters, because they’ll be just fine regardless of what happens to them.

Sometimes we have to remind ourselves (and our readers) that our characters are fragile—that it’s possible for them to break and suffer the repercussions of violence or traumatic experiences. That their injuries and experiences are serious, and that life-altering damage is possible.

I’m not saying that all of your characters should suffer permanent physical, emotional or mental damage throughout the course of your WIP—what I am saying is that sometimes we forget to consider that lasting repercussions are a possibility. Sometimes we forget to ask what if that fight left more than just a scar? Sometimes we forget that our characters can break—even the ones we want to protect from serious damage.

So I for one will be on the lookout for invincible characters in my writing—they don’t exist in real life and they have no place on the page, either.

Have you ever written invincible characters? What did you do about it?
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