Guest Post by Magdalene G. Jones
I am so excited to have Magdalene G. Jones as a guest blogger! She is the fourteen-year-old author of The Scarlet Archer who has a love for typewriters and dilapidated buildings. She is an inspiration to all writers, especially young, aspiring authors. You can find more of her writing and travels on her blog. Let her take you on a journey with her words. Changing the world one sentence at a time.
Yeah, been there, Meg.
How many times have we thought this about our stories? We look through the post entitled ‘Cliches to Avoid’ and wince as we check boxes. We come across the synopsis for another novel and fall out of our chairs. The plot sounds nearly identical to our own. We sigh and start editing our half-finished manuscript. Trying to erase that which has been done before.
I remember when the latter example happened to me. The Scarlet Archer was at first a Robin Hood retelling. I wasn’t disturbed that there were similar books out there. Fairy tale re-tellings are the vogue right now. However, when the story had shifted to something of my ‘own’ crafting, I was troubled to find another book that sounded a little too close. I don’t even remember what the book was called, but it was what started the whisper in my head.
Someone else wrote my book. (Translation: I’m unoriginal.)
Guys, let me let you in on a secret. A secret literally everyone knows.
You are never, ever going to come up with a new idea!
And that’s fine. Because your idea may not be unique. But you are. No one else can tell your story. Not like you. Now, does that mean you should freely use love triangles, chosen ones, or—God forbid—the prologue?
But there’s no reason to freak out if a certain cliché is imperative to your plot. However, you can still change it up. Use your imagination. Here’s a personal example from my upcoming fantasy series (minor spoiler alert here); the strong and silent warrior stereotype. I have him silent because he doesn’t speak the ‘common’ language of my setting. I bend it further by showing a glimpse at the end of the book of how he’s like in his home setting. Outgoing, loud, and even rowdy. And you can do that with almost any cliché, stereotype, etc.
But, Maggs, you say, if I do that, then everyone will think that I’m using a cliché!
Since when have you been writing a book for ‘everyone’? Not ‘everyone’ will like your writing. Someone somewhere will most certainly dislike it with venom. Heck, Harry Potter is one of the most controversial series written. We write for those who will persevere through the apparent (or maybe not so) mistakes. We write for those who will finish changed. We write because we have a story that must get out. And only you can write it. It will not be perfect, but it will be yours and it will be loved.
What if it’s not clichés you’re up against?
To be honest, the overall plotline of the Scarlet Archer is pretty basic. But no one notices that except me. Because I realized that and I poured my creativity into the character arcs, the setting, the individual scenes. You can do the same. Now, if you don’t have creative characters… you simply need to fix it. And that’s easily done. Dig deeper into your characters and flesh out the things you know about them. Use those character questionnaires you received long ago. Trust me, they help more than you’d think.
And come on, we are all self-conscious about our writing.
I know what you are thinking, “So your published book is not creative…?” No, I fixed that problem. Some people will think otherwise, but that’s not the overall feedback I’ve received. That doesn’t mean I don’t struggle. We all love our stories, but we know better than anyone that they are imperfect. As with anything, we must fight to stay confident in our abilities.
A special note to my fellow teen authors:
We are awesome. We have defied expectations.
…and we’re still growing.
Our writing will reflect that. That’s not a bad thing. We have an amazing perspective that we gift to the world. I’ll admit sometimes our age can be a crutch, but crutches are necessary. Otherwise, we’d be getting nowhere.
Do not use that as an excuse to be lazy.
Okay, okay, it goes without saying that you shouldn’t write another Twilight. The Scarlet Archer took a year to edit. We should write well. We should avoid clichés. We should attempt to be original, but don’t beat yourself up. We are always influenced by those we’ve read. Those we’ve admired. You are physically unable to create anything new. And there’s a strange freedom in that. So write freely. Edit harshly. And when the haters come, you can stand tall. You have written the story placed on your heart. And you are the only one who ever has or ever will write it like you.
Magdalene G. Jones is the author of The Scarlet Archer. She is the oldest of five siblings who are frequently threatened with the deaths of their favorite characters. Possessing the ability of tripping over air and still land spectacularly on her face, she is socially awkward, has social anxiety, and is glad to have the title of ‘author’ to reassure herself that normal is an insult. She travels the world, hoping to find the stories in sidewalk cracks and in skyscrapers. You can find her on Instagram and Pinterest.