The Publishing Bitch-Slap: Porn Novels Have Ruined the Literary Marketplace

X-rated

Consider this scenario:

5 young men wake up one morning and decide they want to form a band and record a record. They have never played a musical instrument or written any songs before, but since they have listened to music their entire lives they are pretty sure they can learn how to do it all.

They spend 4 weeks learning the basic chords and functions of their instruments and can play those chords well, but they have no idea how to string those chords together into music. They know nothing about harmony or melody, nothing about the recording business, nothing about laying down tracks or how to mix the different instruments into a single track.

Despite this, they buy some recording software and record an album, without the benefit of a professional recording studio or the behind-the-scenes professionals that help create a quality album, opting instead to do everything themselves or hire “friends” who know a little bit about the process. Two months later, the album is complete and they start selling it on every available outlet that will allow them to sell it as an indie title. How do you think the record would sound, as opposed to those albums recorded by musicians who have not only spent years mastering their art, but who had an entire team of professionals who knew how to create, mix, and produce a quality product?

Let’s take this a step further. Imagine now that this band starts sending this record out to every small radio station and blog it can find. Under normal circumstances, it would never get a single spin. It would end up in the trash bin because it did not come close to meeting industry standards.

But now imagine that this record and the band gather a fan base. Small at first, but word of mouth spreads. Soon it’s all anyone is talking about.  It’s all over social media. So many people are tweeting about it that more and more people rush out to buy the album just to see what everyone is talking about. It’s not that it is particularly good, but with so many people talking, the curiosity alone sustains it. Soon the band and their album are being covered by magazines and blogs, it’s went from small town basement radio stations to national radio stations. It’s hitting the charts, outranking bands that have been playing music for years.

THIS is what it feels like to be a veteran author in today’s market. I can think of no other way to describe it, when someone who just woke up one morning and decided they wanted to be a writer and two months later upload a poorly edited, literary train wreck to Amazon and then demand the same respect and success as those artists who have spent YEARS of their lives honing their craft, learning the business, and sitting at the feet of their mentors taking notes. They have allowed their work, a piece of their soul, to be ripped apart because, even though it hurts, they KNOW that only by listening to those with more experience than they, can they truly become a better writer.

After 3 DECADES spent writing, I still do not consider myself to be anywhere near the same league as the greats of my generation (Rice, Crichton, Cook), yet I see authors who have literally pushed our 6 novellas in as many months with questionable writing ability act as if they are some great smut Tolstoy. So when you wonder why authors who have spent years learning how to create solid plot lines and rich, well-rounded characters , those who agonize over each word put to paper, those who edit and rewrite mercilessly, those who painstakingly go over each and every word of the manuscript for plot holes, get all bent out of shape over the likes of FSOG, it is because we feel like we have been virtually bitch-slapped by the entire industry.

It’s like being a doctor, spending all that time in school learning the trade, and suddenly that knowledge no longer applies because anyone who took health class in elementary school can now be a doctor … or a lawyer … or a teacher. You get the idea. Just because the usual gates that normally would keep out those without the technical know-how came crashing down doesn’t mean everyone who had a notion to do something should go out and do it now that they can. Just because you sing in the shower doesn’t mean you should start booking concerts and performing in front of people.

In other words, just because anyone CAN be a writer now, doesn’t mean everyone IS a good writer. It takes lots of practice to get good at anything. So exactly why do people think the very first thing they slapped into a word document is worthy of publication?

Veteran authors’ disdain for FSOG and the inevitable pile of porn it has encouraged has nothing to do with envy of success, but everything to do with the level of professionalism we expect not only from ourselves, but from our fellow writers. We feel since we care so much about our readers and providing a well-written tale, everyone else should as well. So while the likes of FSOG may have been wildly successful, it bears repeating E. L. James’s lack of technical mastery is a fact that should have barred the manuscript from ever reaching an editor’s desk.

God Complex: My World, My Rules

 

As a fiction writer, I find the thought of having to write ‘real world’ stories to not only be boring, but, in a sense, a bit scary.  To write a story based in this reality, I would have to play by the rules of this world, bound by its physics, science, and the simple truths that most of us take for granted.  But when it’s my own world, my own creation, I am no longer playing by the tried and true rules that bind mere mortals to this plane.  It is for this reason that I choose to create my own worlds, put my own twist on commonplace other-worldly creatures.  When you step out of this realm and into one that you have created, you are no longer playing by anyone’s rules but your own.  You are no longer just a mere writer, but a creator of something much larger and uniquely yours.  And it is for this reason that many people are just as scared of trying their hand at creating something outside of the normal realm as I am of trying to create something that ties me to this universal existence.

Creating your own world can be a very challenging but richly rewarding exercise into creativity.  While it takes a large amount of creativity to create characters and a good storyline in this reality, creating an entire universe and the physics behind that universe takes a whole new mind-set and, in its own way, a whole new creative level.  Think of it this way:  even if you create a superhero that exists in this reality, you will have to create a whole new set of laws that govern his existence.  What happens when this character jumps up, gets wet, goes out into the sunlight, or gets shot?  Now take this entire scenario and put it on some distance world that no one knows anything about.  Suddenly you are the one playing god, creating the physics, the rules, the laws that govern not only the world you have created, but how the creatures and characters in that world act, react, and interact.  It not only takes a lot of creativity, but it also takes someone who is very detail-oriented, someone who does not mind doing countless hours of research to see how they can intertwine this reality’s physics and science into something new and unique.  It takes someone who can not only see the storyline and characters that they are creating for this storyline, but all the possibilities that could come for future novels, for future characters, and for future events.

Creating worlds, for me at least, works much like the intricate root system of a tree.  It often comes in sparkling bursts, seeing the small plotline that I have created suddenly erupt and scatter out like the delicate tendrils of a spider web.  That one idea snakes out, building atop itself, mingling and intertwining in and amongst itself until that single storyline has fanned out into so many interlocking scenarios and characters that the sheer beauty of the whole series could make one weep with joy.  It is simplistic in its design yet so uniquely complicated at times that the whole process amazes me.

It is not only this love of complexity but also the love of creating worlds not known by mankind, memorable characters and eye-popping scenes that keeps me grounded in a reality that I have created.  It is the love of the creative process, the love of making up my own laws of physics and science that keeps me digging around in my brain for ways to make even the most clichéd storyline seem new and exciting.  After all, when you write fiction, you are stepping out of the normal realm and into a reality that is uniquely your own.  And if you are going to write, wouldn’t you rather write by your own rules?

Keep It Simple, Stupid!

For anyone who has ever set foot inside an English composition class, you are probably pretty familiar with the K.I.S.S. acronym.  Today I’d like to discuss the two extremes of this very misleading, and often misunderstood, writing tool.

On the far end of the extreme are those writers who take this acronym literally and think that simple everything is better:  simple plotline, simple sentences, simple characters, simply dialogue.  This is all well and fine…if you are writing childrens books.  If you are aiming for anyone with more than a 5th grade education, you are going to have to get out of the “See Jane run” mentality.  A manuscript written for someone above the age of thirteen should not sound like it was written by an 11 year old unless:

1.  it actually was written by an 11 year old

2.  you are Stephanie Meyer

3.  you intended for it to sound this way because it is based around the view-point of an 11 year old

Most English instructors make the very grave mistake of telling their students to write everything on a 5th grade level.  Okay, unless you are writing for an audience who is 12 years or younger, then anyone else is going to have more than a 5th grade education.  I have always said that I have more than a 5th grade education, I think on a level higher than a 5th grader, therefore I write subject matter and in a style that is meant for those with more than a 5th grade education.  Most adults who read something as simply written as the Twilight saga are often bored to tears.  (I know I sure was.) They want something that will challenge their minds, intrigue their imagination, and totally engross them in the storyline.  “Here comes Edward” just isn’t going to cut it for the majority of the adult population.  Don’t be afraid to use a large vocabulary if you have one.  You are not the only adult in the world to know big words.  Just be careful to not use too many at one time, try to use more common words that a lot of people would know instead of just a few doctors or lawyers or those with a much higher education, and always look for new, if somewhat simpler words, to use in place of always saying the same thing.

For instance, writing “He exited the building” sounds much better than “He left the building.”  While ‘exited’ isn’t exactly a big word, it gives the illusion of a much more sophisticated sound.  Remember that having a large vocabulary doesn’t just mean knowing a lot of different words;  knowing a lot of different words that mean the same thing is not only included in that vocabulary count, but as a writer, it will help you tremendously.  Other ways to write that same sentence include:

**He departed from the building.

**He headed off into the unknown, leaving the building behind.

**He disappeared out the door, leaving the building behind.  

**He vanished out the door and down the steps.

As you can see, there are many ways to write “He left the building.”  All of the above examples are fairly simply stated, but the way they are written spices things up, uses different words to keep the reader interested, and is not so simple that it would make the reader want to bang their head on their desk in frustration.  That is not to say that using something as simple as “He left the building” should never be used.  But if you are having to write the same scenario over and over, learning new ways to state the same thing keeps the reader interested and keeps the writer from falling into a rut.

On the other end of the spectrum are those writers who write so far above the regular Joe’s head that no one without a Ph. D. would be able to understand what was going on.  This, of course, is fine if the work in question was being written specifically for doctors.  However, if the work is supposed to be for regular, everyday people, it is only going to infuriate the reader and make them feel like an idiot.  Most people, myself included, have the mentality that people use big words to make themselves sound smarter than they actually are.  This means that you, by default, are not as smart as they.  And trust me, no one likes to feel like an idiot.  Not to mention that no one is going to continue to read something that requires them to look up the definition of every other word in a sentence.   

When it comes to writing, a very important first step is deciding who your target audience is.  If you are aiming for children, then you are naturally going to have to write in very simple terms.  If you are writing for adults, however, you are going to have to find a happy medium.  Write things too simply and your audience will die from boredom before they hit the second chapter.  Write too far above their heads and they will quickly tire of trying to figure out what all the fancy words mean.  No one really needs to know that you secretly have a vocabulary that rivals Merriam-Webster.  What does matter is that you can choose the correct words from your vast vocabulary that will appeal to the most people.

But You are not REALLY a Writer

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary describes a writer as someone who writes.  Whether that be stories, articles, blogs, novels, poetry, or the like, if you write then you are a writer.   In order to continue to call yourself a writer, however, you will have to keep on writing.  If you use to write but haven’t in a really long while, then you use to be a writer.  If you have never actually written down any part of that next bestseller that has been bouncing around in your head then sorry, you are not a writer.  In order to be a writer, you have to actually write.  That’s in the presence tense.  “Use to” doesn’t make you a writer any more.  “Going to” doesn’t make you one either.

Now you will notice that the definition did not say that in order to be a writer you had to actually do it full-time or get paid for it or for it to be your actual  job description or contribute to your income in any way.  Which brings me to another one of my pet peeves:  writers who seem to think that because we have not yet gotten a book deal, do not write full-time, or do not hold some type of “writing” job as our career that we are not really writers.  Sorry, that is just wrong.  And it’s also disturbing.  Someone who considers themselves a writer and is actually getting paid for it but does not know the definition of the word “writer” is an insult to writers everywhere.  Saying that someone isn’t a writer simply because he/she doesn’t get paid to write is like saying a woman is not female because she has not yet had children.

I had often thought that the majority of writers who thought this way were those who only wrote articles and other nonfiction.  My reasoning behind this is that a lot of writers who defend so whole-heartedly that writers who are not getting paid are not really writers come off sounding like jealous children who are angry that they do not possess the creativity to write something fictitious and must therefore stay in the nonfiction genre.  Recently I have come across a slew of mercenary writers who write fantasy fiction who seem to also have the warped perception that non-paid writers are not really writers.  So my observations lead me to think that, yes, they are all jealous of the creativity that others possess and are striking out at other writers for being better at the writing process than they are.  What I have discovered is that it is not just nonfiction writers who seem so jealous, but other fiction writers as well. 

Which brings me to my next point.  Why do writers get jealous of each other at all?  What I have come to understand is that it is not just writers who get jealous of others in their field.  Jealousy is just a natural human emotion.  It is only natural for humans to be envious of those whom they deem to be better at something than they are.  What I would like to see is more understanding and support of each other.  Writing is a very lonely and solitary activity.  No one understands a writer and their obstacles better than another writer.  We should be congratulating each other on our successes and encouraging each other to never give up, no matter what our ultimate dream or desire may be in our writing endeavors.   Instead, some writers will be little each other, call each other names, and try to convince each other that they either have no talent or that they are not really writers because it is not their evil day job. 

It makes me wonder if the reason why writers don’t want to confess to their profession is not because they are afraid of what others may think, but because they are afraid that the person they are talking to is a writer too.  Why would you want to confess to being a writer if the person you are talking to is also a writer and insists upon telling you all the reasons why you are not really a writer and all the reasons why they are really a writer.  We get enough people from the outside world staring down their noses at us.  We don’t need to snub each other as well.

Why People Don’t Know that I am an Author

Another blogger brought up a very interesting point.  She pondered the question of why writers have a tendency to freeze up, lie, stutter, or, in essence, deny that they are writers. 

When someone asks me what I do, I don’t immediately shout “AUTHOR!” because of two very important reasons.  First, I have an evil day job.  Writing isn’t a “hobby,” it’s my life’s calling.  But since I have bills to pay, a roof to keep over my family’s head, and children to feed, I cannot rely on my one true passion in life to keep my family from starving.  So I just don’t bring it up.  And the 2nd reason why I don’t shout it to the stars, and perhaps the most important reason, is that all my published works have been written under a pen name.  Most people don’t even know what a pen name is.  I’d have to start off the conversation explaining what a pen name is and why authors use them.   And if I said, “Oh, yeah, I’m an author!” instead of saying, “I’m the manager for XYZ Company” then I have people wanting to know what I write.  So the explanation begins all about how I write erotic fantasy.  Cue the funny stares.  Questions continue about if I have anything in publication, what did I get published, what is it about, etc.  And finally I have to explain why they have never heard of my pen name, etc. 

Then there is the fact that I live square in the middle of the bible belt.  Somehow I don’t think telling people that I write erotic fantasy fiction is going to go over too well with the neighbors.  It brings up the problems of parents not wanting their children near my house because they, the parents,  cannot seem to separate fact (what actually does go on in my home) from the fantasies that I write about.  Let’s not leave out the problems it would bring up for me at work since I actually do have an evil day job.  And I’m not even going to get into the whole thing about how men seem to think that a woman writing erotic fantasy fiction is an open invitation to hit on them.

I see being an author as a lot like being a spy.  I wouldn’t announce to the whole world that I am a spy.  And as a writer who publishes under a pen name, I am not going to try to explain to perfect strangers what my pen name is, what I write about, and give them a detailed list of what is published where.  The only people who matter, my friends, family, and most importantly, my fans, already know who I am and what I do.  Trying to convince someone outside that loop that I am just as good as I say I am (and not in any way morally damaged) is pretty redundant.  It’s just easier to leave it out of the conversation.  And if I think that I absolutely have to explain myself to them, it’s much more rewarding to pull out my latest novel, autograph it for them, and hand it over with a smile.

Are People Just not that Creative Any More?

Today I got a very interesting PM from a fan.   It was in regards to an ongoing little novelette that I had written called “Vindictus, the Dark Lord.”  This was a little story that I had actually started writing on 3 separate occasions, with 3 different takes on the storyline.  I ended up taking pieces from all 3 different parts and wove them into this one tale.  As the story progresses, there are a few flashes of “history” regarding this make-believe world and the characters in it.  It wasn’t anything all that great or special in my eyes, although I did put a good bit of thought and effort into the history behind this story and a lot of time and energy into the creation of the characters.  What had started off as something that I had jotted down and pushed to the back of my mind soon became a story that had fans begging for more.

I have had dozens of comments on this story, all kind-hearted words of enthusiasm and encouragement, and quite a few, “Please!  Write more!  I love this!”  My PM from today was more of the same, for the most part.  Except that it wasn’t all entirely praise.  The reader had made the comment that I had gotten quite a few myths and legends wrong in the story.  I replied with a polite thank you and informed the reader that the story had not been taken from any myth or legend that I was aware of, and if it did resemble something else from Greek mythology, then it was purely coincidental on my part.  After all, I have never studied any of the mythologies of the world. 

I am not saying that I am original in all of my works, because with several billion people on this planet it is really hard to come up with anything that is completely unique any more.  I do put forth a lot of effort and thought into my stories, the plotlines of those stories, the characters, and even the world and culture that the characters live in.  Often times the world gets created before the characters do.  I realize, however, that there are going to be a lot of books and stories out there that are going to sound a lot alike.  But this statement from one of my readers got me to wondering.  Are people really getting to the point where they would rather rip-off someone else’s hard work than come up with their own creation?  Or have readers gotten so use to reading stories that all sound alike that when a writer actually does come up with something remotely unique, the reader immediately assumes that it has been taken from some mythology or legend of old?

It makes me wonder what ever happened to writers depending upon their own creativity and convictions to come up with something that no one else has ever thought of.  It use to be an embarrassment for a writer to come up with anything that remotely resembled any other author’s work.  They would rather cut off their own finger than have a critic compare their work to something else that had already been done.  Writers use to take pride in exercising their creativity and coming up with something so very unique and surprising that the literary world would be forced to take pause. 

Now days it seems that writers either don’t want to take the time and put forth the energy required to come up with their own ideas, or they simply cannot get in touch with the creativity and imagination that it takes to be a really great writer.   Someone had made mention that we were educating our children right out of their creativity.  I believe that perhaps we are, to some extent.

My music appreciation instructor posed the question, “Do you think that Mozart would have been as good of a musician or accomplished all that he had if he had been born in the 20th century?”  My response was, “No.”  While I believe that the raw musical talent would have been there, I do not believe he would have become the master musician that he was if he had been educated in today’s society.  We spend so much time trying to make our children “more well-rounded” that we are, in fact, educating them right out of their creativity.  We no longer try to teach them to “think for themselves” when it comes to creativity, only to do their own work and not copy their neighbor’s test.  Creativity, in today’s world, is being able to put a positive spin on a business’ latest bad publicity.  We are so wrapped up in pushing “facts” onto our children and insisting that they stick to nothing but the “facts” that they are ceasing to be able to come up with a single creative thought on their own.  We are, in essence, trading phenomenal natural talent and creativity for the ability to write computer software programs and build large monetary empires out of a well-planned idea.

With so few writers being encouraged to “think outside the paragraph” and come up with their own ideas, it’s no wonder that a huge portion of today’s literature all sound like spin-offs from the same plotline.   I’m not saying that you can’t write about vampires because all the “good” ideas have already been thought of.  The whole point behind being creative is to look at what others have not already come up with.  If everyone is writing about vampires and werewolves and you know this would be a great hit, why not flex your creativity muscle and try thinking of something unique that would stand out.  Create a whole new species, try a plotline that no one else has ever thought of, or toss in every single element every written about the idea and weave it into one epic novel.  Don’t be afraid to take risks because you think no one would be interested.  If Bram Stoker had not taken a risk and bet the bank on the fact that females would fall in love with an undead walking body that sucks blood to remain active, then our subsequent beating hearts would never know the beauty that is Edward Cullen.

In today’s literary world, finding your voice and speaking up loud and clear will help to separate you from the sea of mediocrity that is the publishing business.  Don’t be afraid to try out new ideas, to think outside the paragraph, to give rise to that frightful creature who impregnates his victims with a phallus tongue.  Variety is, after all, the spice of life.  Unless, of course, you don’t mind your readers asking you which myth you stole your ideas from.

The Right Kind of Wrong: Clichés and Creative Writing

As I have said in previous blogs, most readers fall into two categories:  those who think that a novel is great because the plotline of the novel is great, and those who think a novel sucks because he thinks the plotline of the novel sucks.  If you are a writer who thinks this way as well, then I hate to burst your little bubble, but good writing and good plotlines do not go hand in hand.  I have read many books that had great plotlines behind them but the actual writing was atrocious.  Likewise, I have read some awesome books that really had a very weak plotline but I kept reading it anyway because it was so beautifully written.  As a writer, you will want to strive to have both a knockout plotline and be such a creative writer that people will want to read every word that you have written down.  And if you cannot do both, then you had better either be one hell of a writer or come up with such awesome plotlines that people don’t care that you are not that talented. 

‘Creative’ writing is subject to an individual’s own perspective.  In my opinion, being creative doesn’t just stop at coming up with a great plotline.  Often times writers get so hung up in trying to follow the rules of the English language and ‘proper’ writing ‘rules’ that they forget that writing is still an art form.  You are, in essence, trying to paint a picture, and words are the paint that you use to create that picture.  Creative writing isn’t about following rules and trying to sound like an English writing assignment.  It is about using the English language to create pictures in the mind’s eye of the reader.  For some, it comes natural.  For others, it’s like pulling teeth.  Ultimately, it is going to take practice, practice, practice.

I have read numerous articles and blogs regarding the use of clichés.  Most people know what a cliché is when it comes to single sentences or dialogue or even in some descriptions.  Basically, a cliché is something that has already been written about many, many times before.  For instance, if you have ever read about a grip that was  ‘vice-like’ then you have just read a clichéd description.  Big on romance?  Ever noticed that the man is often described as the clichéd tall, dark and handsome stranger?  Of course, I am guilty of this as well, but not because I want to use the cliché.  The men of my novels usually sound a lot like this simply because it is the type of man who I find extremely sexy, not because I can’t think of any other way for them to look.  Still, I have been accused of using this cliché to the extreme by a very outspoken critic.  What most readers do not understand is that often writers see their characters very clearly in their minds and cannot imagine the story without that character, or even imagine that character looking any other way.  Often times writers will get very emotionally attached to their characters and will not, or cannot, fathom the possibility of changing the way they look or act. 

If you are going to use this clichéd look for a character, then you will need to make him stand out in other ways.  Maybe he has a quirky personality trait or a scar or is blind in one eye or even missing a limb.  Whatever you do, don’t make your characters perfect, not even your vampires.  One of the points of writing is to create characters that seem real enough that your readers can relate to them.  If you have a novel full of absolute human perfection, your readers are going to get bored really quick.  Not to mention that we see enough ideals of ‘perfection’ on the covers of magazines.  No need for anorexic models in your reading material as well.

For the record, I will once again state my opinion that there is no right or wrong way to be a good writer.  Yes, there are things that you can do to polish your work and hammer out the kinks.  But the bottom line on using clichés will ultimately rest with the individual writer.  I myself use clichés all the time, to the extreme.  But I mix them up, change the traditional storyline around and add so many of my own unique twists that for some odd reason, all the clichés work for me rather than against me.  I, however, am not the norm for this.  I have been writing for twenty-eight years.  I have always written with the mentality of breaking every single writing rule that I possibly could.  Actually, I don’t just break them, I stomp all over them with a vengeful fury.  I have made it into an art form all its own.  For most writers, it simply is not going to work.  But I can give you some tips and tricks on why using them can actually work for you instead of against you.  Think of it as being a good writer in reverse.  Or as one writer so eloquently put it, ‘The right way to write wrong.’  This statement has been my motto for my entire writing career.

Using clichés isn’t about just ‘using’ them in your storyline, but putting your own twists on them to the point where they stop resembling tried and true clichés and become something very unique to the writer.  Let me also point out that sometimes when you write about something that has been done to death, like vampires, (cliché alert!  warning!) you are not going to be able to get around the cliché no matter how hard you try.  Take, for instance, the vampire’s ability to hypnotize his/her victim.  If you are going to have vampires that can do this, then be prepared to write about a cliché.  Glamourize, bespell, bedazzle…all clichéd words used to describe a vampire’s ability to hypnotize his victim and make him/her do what he wants. 

If you are going to write about a cliché, then be prepared to embrace it and make it your own.  In this case, writing the word in a story one or two times makes it a cliché.  Constantly bringing it up removes it from cliché status and makes it a very important part of the storyline.   But don’t overuse them.  The last thing you want is a novel full of nothing but predictable storyline clichés.

Which brings me to my next point.  If you are going to use clichés, then you are going to have to keep the reader interested in what you are writing, make them want to read every word that you have written.  How?  By coming up with your own unique and interesting twists to the storyline and, inevitably, the cliché in question.

How can you keep a reader interested?  There are lots of ways, but the easiest way is to surprise them.  And that surprise doesn’t have to be scary, just unexpected.  For instance, a common description cliché would be a storyline that has a female walking the streets, at night, all alone.  There would be no moon, maybe even lightning and thunder in the distance.  Perhaps the night would go quiet all of a sudden and then…well, you already know what happens.  She gets attacked.  Doesn’t matter by what or who, the reader knows she is going to get attacked because the writer used a very cliché description.  But what if you went through all that trouble of building up that suspense, really got into describing her emotions of how scared she is, how dark and ominous everything is…only to release that tension by having the character break her high-heeled stiletto and fall face first in a big mud puddle?  Skip the whole ‘she gets attacked’ crap right then.  You can have her get attacked further down the storyline, like after she gets home and is whining about the ruined dress.  The trick is to release that tension that you built up, let the reader get a good laugh, let the reader realize that what they thought was going to happen didn’t, and give them a false sense of calm and then…WHAM!  Let the attack come out of left field.   The writer used the cliché to his advantage and still surprised his reader.  Now that is creative writing.

Another type of cliché is where you begin writing something that is so standard and so done to death that the reader figures out what is going on, what is going to happen, and, if it’s a mystery of some kind, the who-done-it before the first chapter is over.  Let’s take for example the classic vampire novel.  If you are writing the standard clichéd vampire plotline, you know that there is going to be some biting, some bloodsucking, a main character and the love interest, a nice romance and maybe even some sex to spice things up.  But if this is all that the plotline entails then congratulations.  You just wrote yourself a huge clichéd novel destined to get you a giant “REJECTED” stamp on the front of your manuscript.  Now if you want to save this sinking Titanic of a novel, you had better start pumping it full of unique ideas and plot twists.  Have aliens invade, set the plotline in an apocalyptic world or on some distant planet, hell set the damn plotline on the Titanic if you have to…anything to set the clichéd plotline apart from all the other clichéd novels out there.

Can clichés work to your advantage?  Yes.  But only if you can add your own unique twist to the standard cliché.  You are going to have to be extremely creative, think and write outside the box, and not be afraid to take chances.  If you think a story would be best told by killing off the main character then do it.  If you are wanting a tragedy but are afraid that your readers will turn against you if you write some huge tragic novel, then you are writing for all the wrong reasons.  But don’t off your character because you can’t think of anything else to write.  Taking advantage of a cliché and using it to your advantage is an art form all its own.  It is not going to work for everyone.  Most people would be better off if they avoided clichés like they were Michael Myers because chances are they are going to murder your novel before it ever gets started (see how I worked that cliché in there?).  Although if you are going to insist upon using them, be prepared to make those clichés your bi-och.  If you don’t own them and make them uniquely your own, then you are just another clichéd writer in a sea of mediocrity.