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Battling Clichés & Tired, Old Tropes: Foreigners as Food

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It’s an age-old writers’ question: What do I do about clichés and well-worn tropes? This month, we’ve asked authors about the clichés and tropes they find themselves falling back on, and how they fix, invert, or embrace them. Today, Mitali Perkins, author and editor of , discusses the problem of using food as a descriptor:

CLICHÉ: Using food to describe a character’s skin color or race

Have you noticed how writers sometimes describe the physical appearances of non-white characters? A default strategy is to use food-related metaphors and similes. Does your Chinese character have almond-shaped eyes? Does your Nigerian love interest have skin like dark chocolate or espresso? If so, you may have fallen into the dreaded “Foreigner as Food” trope. (If all your characters are white, you’ve probably managed to avoid this particular trap, but consider asking if your setting and plot truly demands that sort of cast—but wait, that’s not my beef here. Even though my skin is the color of a well-done burger.) 

I have no idea why we default to food when we describe the skin, eyes, and hair of people who aren’t white. And believe me, white writers are not the only ones who do this without thinking. It affects all of us who grew up reading fiction mostly featuring white characters. Maybe we have good subconscious intentions. The edible stuff we use to describe nonwhite appearances typically is familiar and tasty—maybe we’re trying to help our readers feel closer to marginalized characters. Now they are neither strange nor foreign! They are yummy!

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Battling Clichés & Tired, Old Tropes: Hate-at-First-Sight Love Stories

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It’s an age-old writers’ question: What do I do about clichés and well-worn tropes? This month, we’ve asked authors about the clichés and tropes they find themselves falling back on, and how they fix, invert, or embrace them. Today, Susan Dennard, author of the Something Strange and Deadly series, asks you to keep three things in mind when writing this type of romance:

CLICHÉ: Hate-at-first-sight-then-fall-in-love romances

Confession: I’m a huge fan of the hate-at-first-sight-then-fall-in-love romances, so it always saddens me to hear people calling them a trope or a cliché. I mean, as the saying goes: “There are no new stories, only new ways of telling them.”

And therein lies the problem—the reason why I think hate-at-first-sight romances can so easily annoy rather than excite: we aren’t finding new ways of telling that tried-and-true story. We’re falling back on an old formula without actually studying what’s underneath.

In fact, I would even go so far as to say that we aren’t telling real hate-at-first-sight love stories at all. Let me explain.

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thedancingwriter

amandaonwriting:

Cheat Sheets for Writing Body Language

We are always told to use body language in our writing. Sometimes, it’s easier said than written. I decided to create these cheat sheets to help you show a character’s state of mind. Obviously, a character may exhibit a number of these behaviours. For example, he may be shocked and angry, or shocked and happy. Use these combinations as needed.

by Amanda Patterson

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"Creative Ideas Aren’t Enough—You Need the Courage to Act On Them."

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IDEO founder David Kelley, and his brother Tom Kelley have written Creative Confidence: an inspiring book that details the power of unleashing the creative potential that lies within each of us. Former intern Hannah Rubin interviewed Tom about how creative confidence can change your life: 

Hannah: Firstly, what is Creative Confidence? And how does it relate to the average person?

Tom Kelley: Creative confidence is the natural human ability to come up with breakthrough ideas and the courage to act on them. We all have more creative potential waiting to be released. Since everyone was creative at some point in their lives (consider kindergarten), the challenge is more about unlocking creative potential than generating it from scratch.

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thedancingwriter

preparetheships asked:

Hello! I really love writing, but when I read, it would effect the way I write and I always feel as if Im just copying the one I've just read. Could you give me some advice? It would really help :) (thx for following me btw, your blog is just superb)

thedancingwriter answered:

Reading doesn’t affect the way you write. When you first begin writing, you might end up copying the style(s) of the various authors you’ve read, possibly your favorite one, but as you gain more skill, you develop a style of your own, and so reading other books doesn’t affect your style. Reading, in fact, helps you develop your own style. You take all these different styles you’ve read in order to create your own. It’s like my job. When training new people, they copy what each employee does, and then eventually make a style of their own that works for them.

Stephen King claims that if you don’t have time for reading, then you don’t have time for writing, but SK is, well, SK. He doesn’t have to do what newer authors have to do. When you’re a writer it’s imperative you make time for reading, but, for me, I have to squeeze in reading when I can. I haven’t been able to read OR write lately because of school work and my job.

Reading is entertainment for me, certainly, but I also read books in the genre that I am currently writing. These books help me stay true to the genre.

For example, I’m writing a contemporary book, so I’m reading a lot of contemporary books to help me stay true to our contemporary world.

"But you’re living in this contemporary world!"

True, but I’m not a teenager anymore (my boss considers me a teen, but I’m like a daughter to her anyway). I also don’t know EVERYTHING about our contemporary world or what today’s teens are going through. I get to learn this through the books that I read. And of course being on Tumblr.

thedancingwriter

smashfan64 asked:

I'm writing a story that switches between two character's POV's for the first few chapters. These characters are eventually going to meet, but I am unsure of which POV should take over at that point. Have any tips?

thedancingwriter answered:

When they do meet, you can have the POVs switch with scene breaks. Neil Shusterman employes this technique in his Unwind trilogy. Once all the characters meet up, he just uses scene breaks to indicate that another character has taken over. But you’ve also got to make certain the voices are very unique.

And you can still give each character his/her own chapter, even when they do meet up. There isn’t a rule saying that you have to stop once the characters meet. In fact, it might be wiser to employ this technique for your book.

mariahewilsonpoet:

I’m going to suggest that you read Strangers by Dean Koontz. The book follows multiple characters and their stories all eventually collide. It’s written in third person and it’s absolutely fantastic. He has another book that follows multiple character and off hand I’m going to say that it is Winter Moon. But Strangers is just fantastic. I wish I could tell you more about Strangers, but I’d really have to re-read it first. 

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5 Surprising Truths About Book Marketing

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With your first draft firmly in place, your thoughts may turn towards revision and, eventually, getting an audience for your book. It can all seem like unfamiliar terrain after weeks spent with characters and a plot you know like the back of your hand. Today Tim Grahl, who helps authors like Hugh Howey grow their audiences, illuminates the road ahead:

It’s hard to find your place as a writer in this new world of marketing. None of us want to be the self-promotional, in-your-face type of person that is desperately trying to get someone—anyone!—to buy a copy of your book. So before they even get started, many authors decide marketing isn’t for them and their books languish as a result.

Here’s the thing: after working with over 100 authors and studying many more, I’ve found five surprising truths about what it really means to successfully market your books.

1. The definition of marketing has changed.

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Great Writers Never Stop Writing: Establishing the Cycle

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Camp NaNoWriMo may be over, but creative inspiration doesn’t stop. Maintaining a writing habit takes as much care as revising your first draft… today, R.M. Prioleau, an active NaNoWriMo participant and independently published author share her tips for building a writing and editing rhythm:

If you are one of the many who have won this year’s Camp NaNoWriMo, then congratulations! You have done the majority of the hard work—getting your book out on paper. But don’t think it stops there… especially if you are considering publishing your great work of art. Sure, you’ve managed to write ‘The End’, but the manuscript is far from being officially done. This is the first draft. And you’ll need to be prepared to spend a lot of time with that first draft.

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