Hey guys! Welcome to this week’s Podcast episode which was all about discussing why toxic relationships are so popular in fiction books, especially when it comes to YA fiction. Keeping in theme with the format of the last couple episodes I start this podcast by proposing this question, I give you real examples, and then we end on a positive note by discussing what we as writers can do to prevent ourselves from indulging in this toxic narrative. I used the Twilight series, 50 Shades of Grey series, After fanfiction/movie, and 365 Days movie as examples. Enjoy the episode!
I'll admit it, I've already started suffering from a second wave of writer's block. I started to do what a lot of us do when that happens: google ideas. Then a random idea hit me. My unpopular opinions. This post will be about unpopular opinions I have about general patterns I notice in fiction novels and I will use examples from popular fiction novels I’ve read in order to illustrate my point. Here are my four unpopular opinions about fiction novels:
The Main Character’s Love Interest
1. I often disagree on who the main character ends up with romantically. I know, you read that and thought to yourself, ‘everyone does.’ As someone who was a die-hard Harry Potter fan since Elementary School, I have to admit that from day one I thought Harry and Hermione should have ended up together. I even thought Katniss and Gale should have ended up together in the Hunger Games series. Hear me out, sometimes it’s difficult for me to ignore two character’s obvious compatibility and submerge myself in the belief that a character who is the polar opposite of them will be what’s ultimately best for them in the end. I can understand why this tendency of mine isn’t always right. In the case of Katniss and Gale, they will always be similar minded but his actions and defining flaw, resulted in an unforgiveable mistake. In the case of Harry and Hermione, reading about their constant spats and at one point, Ron’s complete abandonment of Hermione was excruciating. As writers, I hope all of us try our hardest to do what’s logical for our character in the universe we’ve created for them, instead of using our characters to prove points to ourselves based off what’s going on in our personal lives.
Having a Plot Twist with no Purpose
2. Fairytale endings are not overrated. I remember exactly what I felt when I closed My Sister’s Keeper. Why? Why and how could it possibly end that way? Consider this your spoiler alert if you still want to read this book and you don’t know the ending. I’m not saying every book should have a happy ending and I’m not even necessarily saying the endings to this book was bad. However, I think becoming attached to a girl named Anna battling to get emancipated from her parents who were using her as her sister Kate’s personal marrow donor to help her through her battle with cancer was a heart wrenching battle to read hundreds of pages about in itself. What on earth did we as the reader gain from the ending? At the end of the book, after the emancipation trial was finally over, a car accident happens. Anna had formed a unique and powerful bond with the attorney for her emancipation case, named Campbell. Anna had just been granted emancipation from her parents and the judge appointed Campbell to act as her power of attorney. The reader, who has spent the entire novel empathizing with Anna gets to be excited by this outcome for maybe a few minutes before going on to read that a car accident happens where Anna is killed. There are many more details surrounding the plot and ending but these are the main factors you need to understand to comprehend my outrage at the ending. I don’t think authors need to coddle their readers with a happy ending every single time. I even favor a realistic approach to a fiction novel, but I think several authors are guilty of using a dramatic plot twist to set their work apart, instead of letting the plot speak for itself and come to a natural conclusion. The plot of this novel was so powerful and unique by itself that I wish we could have followed the natural conclusion the rest of the plot had set up instead of settling for an abrupt plot twist.
Not Every Story Needs a Love Triangle
3. There doesn’t have to be a love triangle, or a romantic love present at all. I’ll keep this explanation short because I think the point, I’ve made speaks for itself. Here are some Titles of excellent fiction books that aren’t about romantic love: A Wrinkle in Time, Matilda, The Help, Coraline, The Golden Compass, The Kite Runner. It’s a strange combination of recommendations but just a friendly reminder that stories without a romantic plot are out there and definitely worth a read!
Always Do Your Research
4. Even though you’re writing a fiction novel, you should still do your research. I read Fifty Shades of Grey. Yeah. There’s a reason there were several protests surrounding this movie’s release. I am a huge fan of any author who steps outside of what is conventionally accepted and opens the public’s eyes to more taboo topics. However, the lack of research done about the BDSM lifestyle was extremely evident with this novel and the potential consequences of it are scary to think about. The idea that someone would read about Christian Grey’s behavior and think that this mindset is attractive and healthy to emulate is extremely concerning. If you’re going to tackle a topic, please do enough research about it that you don’t create a harmful message for your readers or disrespect an entire community of people who have been fighting against stigma for years. Do you disagree with any of these opinions or have any unpopular opinions of your own? Comment and let me know!
Earlier this week I uploaded a post about how to edit poetry. Today I wanted to share a checklist of five different tips you can use when editing short stories:
- Read it out loud. The #1 tip for editing any style of writing is to read your work out loud. Why is that? When we read our writing out loud, it’s easier for us to spot grammatical errors, wordiness, repetitive phrasing, and much more.
- Check for consistency. This is especially helpful for character development. I like to read through a story to make sure if I brought up a small detail about a character, for example a character who doesn’t like fruit, that I take time to read through my entire story and make sure I keep this fact consistent throughout the story. I find when I write a story over a long period of time, I can forget small details and fail to deliver on consistency.
- “Trim the fat.” I also gave this tip in my post on how to edit poetry but for short stories the way you can accomplish this is different. Instead of trying to cut down words sentence by sentence, think of this more broadly. If you have clichés, if you have an extremely long introduction that doesn’t contribute to the story, or if you have filler words, try to cut down on these as much as possible. This will help your story have a more efficient impact on the reader that doesn’t linger on unnecessary details or wording.
- There should be multiple drafts. I can’t recommend the exact number of drafts you should write before you’re finished with your short story. What I can say for sure, is that the first draft should not be the same as the final draft. It is exciting to finish a piece of work, especially a short story which can take a much longer time than other styles of work. After you finish your first draft, take a break, the break could be a few days long even. Then come back and read your first draft again. After a break you’ll be able to read your work with more objectivity. Repeat this cycle until you’re satisfied with the end product. Each draft will most likely have less and less edits. If your second draft looks extremely different from your first draft, don’t be alarmed! It’s okay. Sometimes we need the freedom to write down out ideas but once we read it, we realize that it didn’t pan out as well as we originally hoped it would. That’s okay and that’s part of the fun of the editing process, we’ll find a way to work through it and produce an amazing end product.
- My last tip is the same as it was for editing poetry; share your work! Sharing your work with friends and asking for feedback will help you find ways to improve that you might not have found on your own. Everyone has different comfort levels when it comes to sharing their work but sharing your story with at least one person that you trust to give constructive feedback will help you grow as a writer. If you are comfortable, I would strongly recommend sharing your work with more than one person since people’s opinions and critiques may vary. Sharing your work with at least a small group of people can help you get a general consensus on your stories strengths and weaknesses.
I find the editing process the most difficult for any type of writing that I post. I didn’t have a strong method until after I graduated college and I’m still learning on how to improve my method every day. This is to help any beginner or any writer that needs a refresher, come up with an editing method that works for them.
What does your editing process look like?
Forced Writing- How to deal with writer’s block if you’re experiencing 2020 burnout or having a difficult time finding the motivation to write this year. This is advice that any writer can benefit from at some point or another.