Despite a writer’s best efforts to be original, familiar plot and scene devices often sneak in. But you’re not a bad writer just because your manuscript contains clichés. Writers with less experience or narrower reading lists are more prone to gravitate to common tropes—not because they lack talent, but because the situations, characters, and settings are new to them. If you’re struggling with this issue, don’t be discouraged. Your storytelling senses are not broken.
I’m selfish. I like to cling to this lie: if I give too much of myself to others, I won’t have enough time or energy for more important tasks. Though I could become toxically obsessed with lending a hand, how many of us actually struggle with that? Maybe one in ten.
When you nestle into a corner of your house or favorite coffee shop with your laptop, you probably think of writing as a solitary activity. After all, no one can finish a first draft for you (unless it’s a coauthored project), so the task isn’t a communal experience. Or is it?
You’ve probably heard the expression “That was epic!” thousands of times. But what does it actually mean? Epic is used to describe a myriad of experiences, but we typically treat it as a synonym for big, awe-inspiring, or just plain cool. Movies are full of epic clashes between good and evil. And if you’re hungry enough, hamburgers can be epic too.
Have you ever filled out a character questionnaire and wondered how the protagonist’s birthday, favorite color, and hobbies are supposed to enhance your story? Many of the questionnaires you can find online focus on superficial details. But even the ones that probe deeper may fail to flesh out a character’s worldview. Every person has one, whether they acknowledge it or not, and it defines who they are, how they think, and why they live the way they do. Without it, you’ll struggle to shape characters readers can empathize with.