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Story cliches, word fumbles, cringes.....and fixes. Part 2



Part 2 of 3.

A reminder, these are my opinion on what are cliché aspects of MJ FF.  If you find this offensive, you don't have to read. My goal is to essentially get authors' minds to start to play with ways they can make some of these things unique and/or an idea of what they might want to avoid. As such, I am including some suggestions on how to avoid them/remedy them.  Remember that clichés aren't necessarily bad. Too many clichés can kill a story, but used sparingly, they can be fun. 

Please note that the ideas for this compilation were not solely from my imagination. They also come from reader feedback and pieces across the interwebz.





The Love Triangle (insert ex).  An ex comes back, reappears, or suddenly has renewed interest in MJ or the OG. What follows is a fight by the ex (who may have cheated on the OG/MJ and been disinterested in her/him until the MJ-OG pairing) to break the two of them up.

  • FIX:
    • Add a twist to it.
    • Avoid: having the exes join forces to break them up. This just gets to be too much imo.



Going OOC Without a Cause.  This is a bunch of clichés rolled into one.  Suddenly canon Michael is beating people up and/or being nasty to fans. No lead up, no explanation.  Or Michael, who's generally guarded, is spilling everything to the OG and it's not even three chapters in.  Or the once nerdy OG who had no interest in makeup, is suddenly ditsy and solely focused on her looks.  It's like context-free theatre.

  • FIX:
    • Set your character to go OOC (from the personality you've given him/her). Think of circumstances that might lead to behavioral changes. This could mean showing patience for a given action, and building up to it much later than you'd originally planned.



The Dream Sequence. There is debate over this one. Some like it as a way for increasing tension and foreshadowing. I'm not so big on it unless in small dribbles, at most. I'm much more appreciative of Henry James' quote "Tell a dream, lose a reader".  To me, this walks the line of cheating, a cheap way of providing an info dump, and/or can be redundant.  As such, I can honestly say that I can't recall a time when I didn't skim over or stop reading a story during a dream sequence.

  • FIX:
    • Use a dream to enhance realism, but never use one to accomplish something that should've been accomplished in actual interactions/thoughts.
    • If your concern is that you aren't eloquent enough in the normal narrative, don't turn to a dream sequence. Focus more on line editing, reading great writing, and finding beta readers you trust.
    • Have the character reflect back on a dream. This way the dream sequence avoids cheating...it just helps the reader understand a shift in the character's behavior.
    • If you still choose to use one, add a twist that only a dream would have. For instance, people swimming in air, someone walking around naked, a random person acting completely OOC, dancing elephant man bones, Michael turning into a werewolf, everything in black and white, or thoughts being broadcast. Remember, dreams aren't bound by the same laws of reality.



The Codependent Couple.  When one character continually messes with the other, and the other makes excuses for that character.  This could involve cheating, messing with the other's emotions, leading the other on only to pull away, etc.  This is commonly done with Michael cheating/being a jerk and the OG downplaying it. This only works if you are trying to build a dysfunctional relationship, so as to give them something to improve upon.  However, if you want your readers to like the pairing and fight for them to stay together, don't expect this to encourage that response. UPDATED: my main issue with this is when it appears as though the author is glamorizing such a relationship and assumes this type of a relationship is something couples should strive for.

  • FIX:
    • This is hopefully something that was looked at during your outlining and story planning. However, chances are that if it happened, a reader will point it out. If you are unsure of whether to trust that reader, ask a friend. Look at the dynamics. If you end up agreeing with the reader and it was not intentional, don't give up on your story. Maybe you could have a character point it out or have the hurt party finally draw a line.



The Watergun Fight. I know I'm going to get flack for this, but I'm going there. Yes, Michael loved these, but that doesn't mean that they need to be pushed into a story.

  • FIX:
    • Think about where they might fit and how they might get included. If it is a scene with kids (and especially, if the kid brings up the idea), it can work. However, less believable is when two adults who were just sharing a romantic scene in an apartment, suddenly grab Super Soakers.



The Thesaurus/Synonyms Addict. In an effort to vary the word choice, the author heavily relies on a thesaurus.  Yes, changing up your words is a good idea, but remember that just because the word is different doesn't mean it is a good choice. Changing a word could mean making the story less relatable, because the language isn't language people commonly use (e.g. visage vs face).Often changing a word changes the meaning of a sentence. For instance, saying: "she proclaimed" gives the sense that the person is declaring something with emphasis. In contrast, "she stated" just gives the sense that the person said something clearly.  On the more extreme end, this can appear with blatantly inappropriately used words in a story. For instance:


"His flaccid tendrils danced alongside his face as he probed the crowd, viewing for her." (FYI: this is close to some things that I've seen). This is clearly a case of when language can actually detract from a story.


  • One: congrats, you took the first step in diversifying your language. This is a good thing.
  • Two: having taken that step, don't forget to take another step and see whether the message of the sentence changed with the word change. Is this change appropriate? If it isn't, maybe you are better off using the original word.


On that note.....



(more) Common Errors in Diction

princess bride


Sometimes Confused on MJFiction

Rap (as in lyrics and music) vs. wrap (as in a scarf around a neck or your mind around information)

Threw (as in a ball) vs. through (as in looking through a window)

Sweat (as in the stuff that comes with strenuous exercise or a hot day) vs. sweet (as in like the taste of candy or chocolate)

Quiet (as in silent) vs. Quite (as in very) vs. Quit (as in leave your job)

Claws (like on a cat) vs Clause (like in a contract)

Im (not a word) vs. I’m (I am)

Fall through (one’s plans don’t end up happening) vs Follow through (sees a task to completion)

Right (la derecha; correct or the direction) vs. Rite (of passage; rito) vs Write (escribir; pen on paper)


And for the sake of comedy: http://theoatmeal.com/comics/misspelling


Chapter End Notes:


Gripe. Gloat. Rage. Rave.

Part 3 is coming. What have I missed?

Thanks as always for your feedback :)

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