Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Can Cliches Save the Day?

Occasionally my characters lead me into a writing trap, an impossible situation where it seems like there's no escape. Or a boring conversation where I'm sitting there thinking "is this going somewhere, do you have a point or are you just blabbing about nothing?" Or sometimes I'll land in a scene where they're literally standing there looking at each other with nothing to say… which leads to frustrated bashing of the computer keyboard, tearing out copious amount of hair, and stomping off to make my fifth cup of tea for the day (I'm Aussie and a few generations back, my ancestors came from England. I'll take tea before coffee any day. And no tea bags for me! It better be made in a pot or I don't want to know about it.)
Anyway, my beverage addictions aside, this often ends with me staring blankly at the computer, wondering how to get out of the snare. I don't want to call it writer's block, because that just scares the bejesus out of me. Like, the day I admit I might have a little bit of writer's block, it will turn into a rampaging virus and melt my brain until I can't even string a coherent sentence together anymore.
So, one day I thought about some of those old clichés they teach you that are supposed to get you out of the vortex of sucky, boring writing.

1) The phone rings. Problem A with this? I mostly write sci-fi paranormal romance. My characters don't have phones. Okay, they have like these comm devices, so I suppose someone could call them on that. But who? And why? I can't come up with anything that wouldn't seem contrived. "Yay! Archangel Michael called just in the nick of time to save this scene from withering into acute dullness. What a coincidence!"

2) Someone pulls out a gun. This solution isn't impossible right off because alleluia, my characters do have guns. But since there isn't anyone in need of shooting nearby, I can't see how this will help, because ultimately it leads to two more bad clichés:

3a) Is that a gun in your hand, or are you just happy to see me? Soooo not going there.

3b) One of the good guys suddenly turns into a bad guy. Didn’t see that coming? Neither did I! Because that character was a good guy. Let's just turn him into a bad guy because the plot has gone stale and I accidentally killed all my bad guys in the last scene. Whoops! Get me the casting agent, we need to turn good characters bad, pronto.

4) Someone unexpected walks into the room. Right off, we have another problem. My characters spend most of their time on a spaceship. It is pretty much impossible for anyone to walk in unexpectedly. "How did you get here?" — "I was drifting aimlessly through space and you just happened to be passing by. Lucky, huh?"

5) It was a dark and stormy night. Wait. That one isn't a plot filler, it’s the exact wrong way to start your book. But still, for argument's sake… hello? Space? Its always dark and night. Although, I suppose I could have them fly through a electro-magnetic storm that would screw with their navigational data causing them to get lost for a while. Then they land on the wrong planet and it happens to be populated by newly conscripted bad guys…. Hey looks like my plot hole has been filled after all!

Check out my Sanctuary series. New out this week, the third book, Singularity.

Marc Andros saved the life of an angel. Now he's mystically bound to her until she can repay the act in kind. To make things more complicated, he's working for Archangel Michael. Not the kind of guy he thought would end up being his boss back when he was spending his days hunting the demons and angels plaguing the universe. And just because fate hasn't quite finished twisting him up, with the bond in place he and his angel can't be separated by too great a distance before they both experience an excruciating level of pain. They are literally. Stuck. Together.
Charmeine thought being bound to a human and forced to interact with him on a daily basis would be about the most tedious thing that had ever happened to her. But instead she finds herself fascinated by her apparent savior and constant companion. On a mission to retrieve a valuable sacred relic, Charmeine risks her life, drawing on a considerable amount of her supernatural energies to save Marc. That single act drains her powers to the point of turning her human and thrusts her into a position of doubt and uncertainty.
With enemies all over the universe and the demon king stepping up his offensive to systematically wipe out humans, Charmeine doesn't know who to trust. Will Marc help her if he knows the truth, or will he use her mortality against her to find a way out of their mystical bond? It's an impossible situation, and the wrong choice could mean death for both of them.


J.S. Wayne said...

Okay. You said the magic word.
I saw "angels" and immediately went "Ooh...SHINY!!!" The story looks great, and I'm SOO checking this out.
As far as cliches, one of my favorite lines (I wear it on a T-shirt until I can find a way to work it into a story) is, "There's nothing wrong with you a little homicide won't fix." I think my Texan might be showing just a little bit.
Terrific post, Jess!

Jess Anastasi said...

LOL I love it, JS... subtle, yet threatening. Very classy.
Hope you enjoy Singularity if you do happen to read it.

Sarah Ballance said...

BUAAAAHHAHAHAHAHA! I loved this. Truly loved it! Congrats on the releases this month, Jess. You are ON IT!