Tag Archives: writing cliches

Wrangling Runaway Stories

J. Leigh would like to officially apologize for not blogging in ages.  J. Leigh has been very busy.

J. Leigh will now stop referring to herself in the third person.

Funny how so often my ideas for blog posts are spawned by the various and sundry issues I face while trying to write.  So right now, I’m struggling with what I imagine is a common predicament for writers — stories that just won’t behave.

As I embarked on the sequel to Down a Lost Road, I decided to be a responsible writer and start with a plot outline.  Then I got carried away and actually started a chapter outline.  So there I was, doing a fairly reasonable job following my outlines, when all of a sudden my characters went and got themselves into trouble.  Seriously, I don’t know how they did it.  One minute, they were traipsing along the outlined path, and then, just like that, everything went wrong.

It totally wasn’t my fault, but I wrote them into a corner.  Literally.

So now what?

Let me make up a fictitious example of a runaway story, so I don’t go giving away exciting spoilers about Subverter.

Let’s say you have a character, Bob.  Bob is a rather ordinary soul who is summoned to undertake an extraordinary adventure to SAVE THE WORLD (might as well be cliche, right?).  So Bob goes on a QUEST.  On his way he meets two MIGHTY WARRIORS named Bill and Ted (heh. O.o).  They have a nice chat about SAVING THE WORLD, then Bob goes on his way.  Two cities later, he runs into the SUPREME EVIL BADDY‘s henchman, Vator and Soron.  In your plot outlining, this was the point where Bob secretly spies on Vator and Soron, discovering the true extent of their EVIL SCHEMES, then escaping unnoticed to warn the Impressive Duke of Aussom of the threat.

But unfortunately, as your fingers move over the keyboard, strange new words start flowing onto the screen.  Bob falls from his perch above Vator and Soron, landing right in the midst of their EVIL SCHEMING.  After a moment of shock, when Bob might have gotten away, Vator wields MIGHTY MAGICKS and delivers a devastating wound on poor Bob, while Soron LAUGHS MANIACALLY from the background.  Vator is weakened by his mighty spell, and Soron is laughing so hard his evil eyes are blinded by tears, so Bob seizes the opportunity to claw his way into a DINGY CELLAR.  There he locks himself in as he quavers on the edge of unconsciousness.

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The Face of Terror

Photo courtesy AP

Usama Bin Laden is dead.

The man whose face has become associated with terror, war, destruction, and inhuman chaos has been annihilated.  Crowds outside the White House and in Times Square greeted the news with cheers and celebration.  Al Qaeda greeted the news with vows of retaliation and retribution.

For Americans, this is a moment for relief, for triumph.  It’s been a long time coming.  For me, I’m not sure if the whole thing has quite sunk in.

Maybe you’re wondering what this topic has to do with a writing blog…or a writerly blog…or at least a blog maintained by writers to deal primarily with writing topics.  Maybe it just has to do with me, as an American, celebrating the victory of our forces overseas, and the downfall of one of the most hated men of recent memory.

But I do actually have a writerly reason for talking about UBL.  Usama Bin Laden is — was — one of those devastating figures who was capable of dividing almost everyone who knew about him into one of two camps.  You adored and followed him, or you despised every fiber of his being.  I don’t know many people who would think of Bin Laden and say, “Oh, he’s a decent fellow, but I’m rather indifferent to him.”  No.  You hate him, or you love him.

I think even the people who loathed the man would have to admit that he — in some ways like Hitler — had an enormous power of personality.  You take one look at his face, and you have to say, “That is a dangerous man.”  You take one look at his face, and in some way you can understand why people would follow him.

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