Use It? Or Lose It?: Narrative Cliches

This is the first of my three-post blog series, “Use It? Or Lose It?”, where we’ll discuss common cliches in the writing process and what exactly we should do with them.

Use it or lose it

We all know what cliches are, right? Alright. All of the blog posts I have read on cliches say pretty much one thing about them: kick ’em to the curb. I try not to be as hasty as that, because cliches can be pretty awesome if you give them the chance.

So, cliches in a book’s narrative.

Narrative cliches might look something like this:

  • Dead as a doornail
  • Dog days of summer
  • Tip of the iceberg
  • White as a ghost
  • Hard as a rock
  • If looks could kill…
  • Glaring daggers
  • Scared straight
  • Sly as a fox
  • Digging yourself a grave

Those are just a few of the many cliched phrases that make their way into writing and everyday life. You may find that you use some of these in your own writing.

But here’s the thing: cliches aren’t bad. Cliches are just misunderstood little helpers that try their best to aid you in clearly conveying your message. Cliches are popular and widely used for a reason. They make sense and usually apply to the situation.

In my opinion, you don’t need to totally eliminate all traces of cliches in your writing. They’re easy to use and they work effectively. Just be careful not to overdo it. If you have five cliched phrases on each page, you need to dial it back a little. But a cliche here and there? The reader, since they will have heard the phrase before, will understand exactly what you’re trying to get across.

Just pick and choose the times when you want to drop a so-called “cliche” into your narrative. It’s not as bad as some writers make it sound, and it’s your choice. There is such a thing as too much, but all things in moderation, right?

How about you! Do you use narrative cliches? Which are your favorites? Do you think they should be used or not? Do tell!

4 Easy Ways To Find The Perfect Name For Your Character

Naming a character is like naming a child. No, I’m not being over-dramatic. Writers already treat their characters as their children, but throwing in the responsiblity of picking out a good name for them? It’s daunting. The name needs to fit the character, and then said person will be stuck with the name for the rest of the book (or books, if it’s a series). Readers will know this character by their name. It has to be fitting, unique, and interesting. That’s enough pressure to make any writer run for the hills.

(Nametage image from Google Images. All credit to rightful owner.)

(Nametage image from Google Images. All credit to rightful owner.)

It usually takes me forever to find the right name. I adore names and their meanings, but I’m also really picky with what names I give to my characters. After all, they’re going to be burdened with it for the rest of their lives. I have to make it count! But, even if it takes a while, I always end up with a name I like.

If you don’t know where to begin with character-naming (or you just want some more resources), then this post is for you. I’m going to outline four ways that you can get started with finding the perfect moniker for your little written people – hopefully while cutting down on all the stress and the headaches!

1. Browse baby naming sites (or just sites about names in general).

Baby name sites are a writer’s best friend. They provide large collections of names, from the ordinary to the unique. Depending on the site, they also show pronunciation, origin, and meaning. You can find names that you’ve never heard of before, but that happen to fit right in with your novel.

There are two main ways you can go about using name sites for character-naming – casual browsing and going by name meanings. Casual browsing is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. If you don’t particularly know what you’re looking for, then you can search for all the different names provided on a site and see if any catch your eye. However, if you know that you want a name that has a specific meaning, most sites have a filter for that. You type in the meaning you want, and the site will give you all the names it has that roughly mean what you put in. For example, the other day I was searching for names that meant “warrior”.

Below is my go-to site for naming characters:

Meaning of Names

2. Pick names from those around you. 

Do you think your uncle has a really unique name? What about your cousin, boss, or classmate? Do you adore the name of a character on your favorite TV show?

Names are all around us. Sometimes we meet people who have really awesome names, and it’s totally okay to steal those names for your book. ūüėČ Pay attention. If you like any of the names you hear, then take note! Consider bestowing one upon a character of yours.

3. Make up a name.

When all else fails, string a bunch of letters together! Don’t be afraid to make up your own unique name. Mix together a pronunciation in your head and then spell it out. However, make sure that it’s relatively easy to pronounce, and watch the length. Your reader definitely doesn’t want a name like Smeglxflygarop staring them in the face every few paragraphs. Don’t be afraid to get creative, though. Maybe the perfect name for your character is the one you make.

4. Keep a names notebook.

Finally, you’ll probably come across names while searching that you like, but don’t fit the character in question. Write them down in a notebook and keep them for future reference. The next time you need a name, try looking there first. One of the ones you had written down might be just the name you need. While I did end up finding a first and last name for my character that meant “warrior”, I found several others that I liked. I wrote the names and their meanings down, and someday I’ll find a character to fit them.

Try some of these out, and good luck naming your characters!

It’s your turn! How do you find good names for your characters? What are some really interesting names you have found? Do tell!

Writing From the Opposite Gender’s POV

Most of my books center around male protagonists. I am a female writer, but I just find male characters much more interesting (and much less stereotyped). Whether you’re prone to writing from the point of view of the opposite gender or not, at some point, you’re going to need to know how to do it.

(Image taken from Google Images.)

(Image taken from Google Images.)

I’ve seen plenty of blog posts on how to write guys if you’re a female writer, (and sometimes vice versa,) and they’re helpful, but I think they put too much emphasis on getting into the other gender’s mind. Sure, that’s necessary, but it stresses me out trying to be like, “Okay, I have to make sure this male character does NOT think that because guys don’t think that way, he always has to be doing this and this, if he does this thing for certain reasons it’s wrong”.

It’s an obvious truth that boys and girls think differently. It’s a fact of life that we’ll never quite understand how the other works. But I don’t think it’s helpful to constantly be obsessing over your character’s every thought and if it fits with the male/female standard. For me, it’s overwhelming to try to remember everything I read about the male mind as I write a character.

My advice is to look at your opposite-gender character not as a different species, but just as a person. Treat them like you would any other character. Figure out their personality and the other things that make up their character, and run with it. I rarely look at my male characters and think, “You’re a boy, so I have to write you as a boy in this scene. You need to be boyish and you need to not overthink this because boys don’t do that.” Rather, I see it as, “With his personality, how would he act in this situation?”

I would suggest not bothering with memorizing and trying to understand all the different ways the opposite gender thinks right away. Give it time. Write your opposite-gender character, and let people read it. If they raise concerns about, “Wow, this guy is acting totally girly” or “Your girl character just did something a girl would never do”, and you think their criticism is valid, then rethink how you’re writing the character and read some articles on how the other gender thinks.

Of course, it’s always good to get information from people of the opposite gender that you know in real life (moms, dads, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, etc.) if you need help, and keep their advice in mind, but other than that, write your characters without worrying about the schematics of their behavior and thought process. Most times, writing from the opposite gender’s point of view isn’t as hard as it might seem.

Keep your mind open and your pen sharp!

It’s your turn! Do you favor writing in the POV of the opposite gender? How do you do it? Do you have any tips on how your gender tends to think and solve problems? Do tell!

What Writers Can Learn From Inside Out

(Credits for Inside Out image go to Disney-Pixar)

(Credits for Inside Out image go to Disney-Pixar)

Before we get down to business, if you haven’t watched Inside Out, you totally should. It’s an amazing movie that elicits lots of laughs and tears, and also, if you’ve watched it, you’ll understand more of the things that I’m about to talk about.

There may be spoilers for the movie ahead (I’m not entirely sure if I will spoil anything, but better be safe than sorry).

Okay, so basically, Inside Out is a story about the personifications of our emotions – Anger, Fear, Joy, Sadness, and Disgust. All of these emotions live inside 11-year-old Riley’s mind, dictating her actions and working for her well-being. But as Riley is uprooted from her small hometown and moved to San Francisco (and Sadness and Joy are sucked out of the command center, leaving Anger, Fear, and Disgust to run rampant), Riley’s thoughts, memories, and very personality start breaking down.

As a writer, I admire Inside Out’s storytelling. Writers can learn from Inside Out’s creativity. After all, have¬†you ever thought about writing a story about anthropomorphic emotions? Inside Out gets extremely imaginative in how it portrays the inner workings of the mind. For example, the “train of thought” is an¬†actual¬†train that chugs around Riley’s brain. We can’t remember everything that ever happened to us – in Inside Out, those memories fall into a chasm where they are forgotton. Long-term memory is a maze-like place filled with strings of memories from times past.

Inside Out is risky. It takes on a strange concept and turns it into a colorful, imaginative, and memorable story. It could’ve easily fallen flat, but they went out on a limb and succeeded in their efforts. So why shouldn’t we, as fellow writers, do the same?

It’s so easy to want to play it safe. “Maybe this is too weird”. “I’m not sure how I’ll pull this off”. “No one will care about something this strange”. We tell ourselves these lies, when readers actually admire gumption. Something unusual can be an amazing story, if we just give it a chance.

I personally love personifications of places and things. I like picturing countries or states as people. And I adored the way Inside Out gave feelings personalities.

Sometimes, we think our ideas aren’t good enough and we look like this:

(Taken from Google Images. All credits go to rightful owner.)

Our ideas may be zany, but we’ll never know if they work without trying. So get out there and brainstorm unusual ideas! Be creative! Perhaps something will just click, and you’ll look more like this:

(Image taken from Tumblr. All credits go to rightful owners.)

It’s your turn! Have you seen Inside Out? Did you glean anything from it? What are some of your unusual, creative story ideas! Do tell!

The Experts Have It: How To Make Book Research Fun and Reliable

The Experts Have It

Writers like to know things. It’s just part of who we are. We want to understand how things (and people) work. We watch, and we study, and we remain fascinated with the world around us. Our curiosity is unmatched in every other profession.

And it’s good that we love learning about the things around us, because it comes into play in our writing. You see, writers create whole worlds with lots of different people, and we have to write them realistically. However, sometimes we don’t have enough experience with certain things to know what we’re talking about. Writers have to play the part of doctors, lawyers, warriors, actors, engineers, and so much more. But we’re none of those things, so how do we know how to write them? A lot of people turn to the internet for help, and that can be an awesome tool, but I know all too well how easily false information can be uploaded by other people who have no idea what they’re talking about.

My favorite method of researching for books is through people. I may not be a doctor or an engineer, but other people are. And, more often than not, they’re happy to help me out by passing on the knowledge they have gained in their areas of expertise. Since these are people that have experience (and sometimes training), their information is reliable and accurate. Also, it’s really fun to talk to an actual person and ask them all the questions you need.

I ask my cousin, who is a nurse, my questions about illnesses and wounds that I want to inflict on my characters. With her help, I can figure out how much blood someone can lose and still live, and how long a concussion takes to heal, and then I can apply these things to my characters so that one of them hasn’t lost 90% of their blood and is still running around the story in perfect health. My uncle is a retired police officer and a current prison guard. A man from my church is also a retired police officer, and now works as a lawyer. Another cousin of mine is a teacher.

There are so many people around you that can help you out with the information that you need for writing: relatives, acquaintances, friends, classmates, and teachers are all people that you can ask about their experiences and professions. Just make sure that they’re okay with your questions, and that they know that you’re doing research for your book.

Other than that, have fun talking to people and learning all kinds of interesting things!

Who do you go to for questions on certain subjects? Any advice for how to research using people? Anything else to add? Your turn!

Book Tag: Unpopular Book Opinions

(Due to internet issues, my Monday blog post had to be moved to today. Thank you for your patience.)

Okay, so I was nominated for this little thing called the “Unpopular Book Opinions” tag by¬†Jessica¬†over at Simple Scribbles, soooo you get this instead of my normal Thursday blog post (don’t worry, it’ll be fun!).

Basically, when you do the Unpopular Book Opinions tag, you answer a series of questions about your less-than-popular opinions/feelings about certain books, genres, and authors. Then, you tag someone else and they can have the joy of doing it too! Let’s dive in, shall we?

A popular book/series I didn’t like:¬†The Finisher

I know I’ve complained about this book once before, but I just have to bring it up again. I don’t know if it’s considered popular or not, but I strongly dislike it. Some of the reviews on Amazon side with me, while some say that they liked it (but even some of those admit that it is confusing and there is a major plot point that is overlooked).

When I got this, the synopsis on the back made it sound great, the cover looked awesome, and the tagline (“They don’t want you to know the truth”) grabbed me and pulled me in. But man, all of that sets a high (or at least a reasonably attainable) bar that Baldacci completely missed. Whereas the plot has potential, the characters are bland and the storyline gets confusing – and many times, unnecessary. Additionally, the book leads you to believe that the story will be about Vega disrupting her town’s peaceful, sleepy life by bounding into the unknown, dangerous outskirts dubbed the Quag. However, she stays in her village for the entirety of the book, even when she is perfectly capable of escaping to the Quag several times like she wishes. It’s definitely not a book I would read again, or recommend to anyone, for that matter.

A book/series I love that everyone seems to hate: Conspiracy 365

As I thought about this question, I really couldn’t find a novel/series that I love that most other people hate. I mean, there are always people who like a book and those who passionately dislike it. So, I decided to go instead with a book series I love but that no one else seems to have heard of, and that’s Conspiracy 365 by Gabrielle Lord.

The series follows fifteen-year-old Callum Ormond as he has 365 days to figure out this family secret called the “Ormond Singularity” – a little thing that seemingly got his father killed. Also, he’s been framed for the attempted murder of his little sister and his uncle, so he must evade the authorities while trying to prove his innocence. Oh, and there are several big-name criminals that want to get the secret of the Ormond Singularity too, and they’ll do anything to pull ahead in the race – even killing Callum.

It didn’t take very long for me to fall head over heels for this series. It’s so fresh and unique in pretty much every aspect. There are twelve books in the series, and each book encompasses the time span of a single month (hence why the name of each book corresponds with its correlating month). You may think that twelve books would drag on, but not the way Gabrielle Lord does it. Although the series as a whole follows the timeline of a year, she neatly sidesteps most of the boring days and keeps you in the middle of the rapid-fire, fast-paced action. The books were not only funny, but they did a good job of keeping me in suspense. I figured out next to none of the clues before the characters, so I made the revelations and the connections as they did. Plot twists are woven all throughout the story, and they’re surprising and unpredictable. Ms. Lord hit a home run with these books, because they’re pretty much perfect (from this reader’s point of view).

“Conspiracy 365” was even made into a 12-episode miniseries, but sadly, since both the books and the TV show are Australian, not a lot of people seem to know about them. (Also, since the TV show is Aussie, it is not shown anywhere in the U.S. and any DVDs of it won’t work in U.S. DVD players, so I’ve only been able to find and watch one episode on YouTube. I still need to have a talk with Australia about that). However, the books are available in the U.S., so go. Read them. Love them. Come back and chat.

A love triangle where the main character ended up with the wrong person: The Lord of the Rings

(Image taken from Tumblr. All credits go to rightful owner.)

I don’t read a lot of love triangles, and I don’t know if the Eowyn/Faramir/Aragorn thing that was going on in the Lord of the Rings counts as a love triangle, but I don’t like it. I don’t think that Faramir should’ve ended up with Eowyn (however, I don’t think Eowyn was right for Aragorn, either).

Popular genre I hardly reach for: Horror and romance

I don’t like being scared so badly that I can’t sleep and I don’t like mushy, bland,¬†flat,¬†extremely¬†predictable romances.

So….yeah.

A popular character I don’t like:¬†Eowyn from¬†The Lord of the Rings

(Image taken from Google Images.)

I’m not one to criticize Mr. Tolkien (because he was a genius), but I just never liked Eowyn. I have always found her whiny and irresponsible. Sure, it was noble that she wanted to fight to protect her people, but she would have done much more by staying behind and tending to them. But nooooo, she had to go disobey orders to prove herself, potentially putting her citizens in danger. Good job, Eowyn. Abandon your people to go get all the glory for killing the Witch King of Angmar (which technically was Merry’s doing anyway).

A popular author I can’t seem to get into:¬†John Green

John Green and his brother seem like very nice, funny people, but all John’s books seem to be either A) sad, B) one of those mushy romances I so try to avoid, or C) both sad and mushy.

A popular trope I am tired of seeing:¬†“Strong” Female Hero

I am¬†so¬†tired of YA fiction trying to sell the “Girl is physically stronger than Boy. Girl is best at everything. Girl doesn’t need any help for anything. Girl wins all fights.”

I love well-rounded female characters, but I don’t like when authors try to unrealistically portray women. I don’t know about you, but I probably wouldn’t win a sparring match against a guy. Also, I’m not the best at everything, I need help sometimes, and I rarely beat guys in arm wrestling matches (believe me, I’ve tried). I feel like authors try to push female characters too much and then end up making them annoying and unrelatable. Girls can’t be great at everything. Guys can’t either. It’s a fact of life. Please stop making heroines that are unmatched in strength, skill, and power. It doesn’t work that way.

A popular series I have no interest in reading: The Twilight Saga

Noooooooooope. Never doing it. I don’t care about some pale vampire who sparkles in the sunlight and about the girl he desperately loves but can never have because he’s immortal. I just don’t.

The book is not always better than the movie: Princess Diaries

Okay, so I’ve actually never read the books, but nothing can beat Julie Andrews mattress-surfing and eating corn dogs. Nothing.

Whew, it was good getting all that out! I actually don’t have a particular person to tag, so I tag YOU! If you have a blog, or if you want to do it on some kind of social media, do it! Tell them that Kiara (or Bookends) tagged ya. ūüėČ

So, what are some of your opinions that are less than popular in the reading world? I’d love to hear them! (Just be respectful of each other, ‘kay? ūüôā )

Anti-Heroes: What They Are and How They Work

(Image taken from Google Images. All credits go to rightful owner.)

(Image taken from Google Images. All credits go to rightful owner.)

Perhaps you’ve heard the term “anti-hero” before, but do you know what it means?

Dictionary.com defines an anti-hero as this:

A protagonist who lacks the attributes that make a heroic figure, as nobility of mind and spirit, a life or attitude marked by action or purpose, and the like.

Okay, so that’s a lot of words. Mainly, an anti-hero is a character that doesn’t act like the hero, but is put in the position to save the day regardless.¬†Do not get the anti-hero confused with the villain. An anti-hero is ALWAYS a protagonist.¬†The anti-hero is a main character that, although he/she helps save the story, usually has a bad attitude about having to help others. Additionally, anti-heroes display very non-heroic traits, such as readiness to kill, lie, steal, or cheat, and are often self-centered. Anti-hero characters are willing to make the hard decisions that heroes have trouble with.

Anti-heroes are everywhere in popular fiction, from books to TV shows to movies. Some you might recognize are Artemis Fowl the Second (Artemis Fowl series), Sherlock Holmes (Sherlock), Severus Snape (Harry Potter), Shrek (Shrek), Han Solo (Star Wars), Captain Jack Sparrow (Pirates of the Caribbean), Sage (The Ascendance Trilogy), Edmund Pevensie (The Chronicles of Narnia), Flynn Rider (Tangled), and several comic-book superheroes such as Batman, Deadpool, Tony Stark (Iron Man), Wolverine, Black Widow, Peter Quill (Star-Lord) and Jason Todd (Red Hood).

All anti-heroes are major characters, but not all of them act alongside the hero. Some, such as the anti-hero from my book, “Shape-Shifters”, do act in conjunction with the hero of the story. However, many anti-heroes also double as the main character of the book, such as Artemis Fowl or Sage. Therefore, anti-heroes can simultaneously act as the hero of a story. It can get a little confusing at times.

Anti-heroes are pretty popular among most audiences (this writer/reader included). Why? I’m not exactly sure, but I think that people find them attractive due to their overwhelming human-ness. They’re the voice of reality and doubt. They struggle with getting things right, but they try to be good nonetheless, and I think we as fellow humans respect that. These flaws are very relatable.¬†My post on Marvel’s storytelling touches more on flawed characters.

Also, anti-heroes are usually pretty hilarious (see the majority of the characters listed above as anti-heroes).

Some may ask why anti-heroes even try to save the day if they complain about it. They all have different motivations. Peter Quill realizes that there’s merit in helping others (and that, y’know, he’ll die if Ronan destroys everything). Shrek is trying to get his home back. Sherlock solves cases not for the good of others, but because he loves the thrill. My own character, Shard, (who happens to be my most glaringly obvious anti-hero), is thrust into saving his species against his will. Plus, his new best friend guilts him into doing it.

Anti-heroes are classified as such due to their flaws, struggles, and challenges, but remember, even your non-anti-heroes need realistic flaws and obstacles. The hero of your story may not be willing to kill as easily as your anti-hero, but perhaps he wrestles with not thinking before he speaks, and that gets him into trouble. Although anti-heroes are defined as having certain flaws, your hero should not be defined as not having any.

Okay, so now that you know what an anti-hero is, maybe you can insert some into your own writing. Or maybe you’ve been writing one and haven’t even realized it!

It’s your turn! What are some of your favorite anti-heroes? Do you have any anti-heroes in your writing? Has anyone that has read your writing strongly connected with/expressed their affection for said character? Do tell!