3 Common Clichés and Where They Came From

Happy Thanksgiving, y’all! (Depending on when you read this, it might be more like Happy almost-Thanksgiving.) Today, I am going to talk about three very common clichés in fiction. Surprisingly, all of them can also be found in the Bible. Not that that’s a bad thing, because the Bible isn’t fiction. It’s Truth. But it’s interesting to notice.

1. Ancient prophecies about the Chosen One.

Gosh, how many times have we seen this? It’s so common, I actually get disappointed when my favorite books do it. “Seriously? Another prophecy? I didn’t see that coming…” Prophecies are cool and all (especially in Macbeth), but really? Really? Authors can’t be a bit more creative?

And why do the prophecies always have to be ancient? Like, just why? And they’re always about some mysterious, powerful “Chosen One?”

Maybe the reason is because deep down, we long for a story like that. The earliest prophecy about Jesus actually occurred in the Garden of Eden, right after Adam and Eve sinned. And all throughout the Old Testament, we get glimpses of this Chosen One, this Messiah who is to come. There are actually hundreds prophecies about him. 

This brings us right into our next cliché…

2. The Chosen One is just your average Joe.

Once we actually meet the Chosen One (usually the main character), he’s nothing special. He’s the farmboy. The orphan. The nobody. He’s got no special powers, no magic, no knowledge of this greater world all around him, and nobody ever pays him any attention. He’s no one.

Not on the surface, at least.

Once he finds out who he really is, though… That’s when the story really starts to get exciting. By exciting, of course I mean “eye-rolling.” Because it’s so predictable.

But if we look at Jesus, the Bible actually says he was an ordinary guy. He wasn’t particularly good-looking, he was the son of a carpenter, he wasn’t rich or popular. His closest friends were fishermen, tax collectors, and other completely ordinary people.

I think you know where this is going… Jesus was also fully God, given incredible power by his Father, and he eventually saved the world. That’s putting it in the simplest possible terms, but yeah. He died, so we could live…

…which brings us to our next point:

3. If a dead body vanishes, it’s not really dead.

How many times have we seen this one? It doesn’t only apply to the Chosen One, though it certainly does many times (I won’t spoil anything, but I’m sure you can think of plenty of examples). Even villains. “Oh, is the villain dead? Bummer. Well, nobody saw his body, so… yeah, definitely alive.”

As a little side note to all the Sherlock fans out there… this is precisely why I refuse to believe Moriarty is really dead. I mean, who actually saw his body? Just Sherlock? Anyway…

Jesus, of course, was resurrected – and the story was spread that his body was stolen. Interesting, considering the Romans took practically every safety precaution imaginable…

Yeah. The bottom line is, if a dead body mysteriously disappears, then they’re not dead. Or in some cases, they’ve come back from being dead.

So that’s my take on clichés. I think it’s interesting that many of them can be found in the Bible. That just goes to show that there is only one Story, and deep down, all of us want to hear it again and again and again.

Do y’all have any Thanksgiving plans?

What do you think about clichés?

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The Sequel Game

Hi, everyone!! NaNoWriMo’s halfway over, it’s less than a week till Thanksgiving, and Christmas decorations are popping up all over the place. (Like, why? I’m a HUGE fan of Christmas, but I draw the line at getting a tree before Thanksgiving.)

At the end of this post I’ll have a little tip about NaNoWriMo, but first, I need to talk about something. One thing I’ve noticed about the writing world is that there is a plethora of advice floating around on the Internet. Everybody wants to tell you how to write a book. Which is great, because there’s actually a lot of really great advice out there… how to structure a plot, how to develop a character, how to add in backstory, how to do worldbuilding…

But one thing I’ve noticed that nobody can explain is that most of the writing advice I’ve ever seen is for either writing standalone books or the first book in a series.

What do you do with the rest of the series?

The first thing you need to realize about sequels is that there are different kinds of series. Probably the most common type is where each book picks up where the other one left off – think A Series of Unfortunate Events, or the Harry Potter saga. The other kind is where all the books are related, but you can honestly start anywhere and read them in any order because they don’t relate to each other much. The Nancy Drew series is a good example. 

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, we need to look at the very first thing you’ll come to when reading a sequel – the beginning. (duh.) In a first or standalone book, you’ll want to introduce the reader to the main character, give them a reason to like them/root for them/get emotionally attached to them. I’ll assume you’ve heard all that a million times and don’t need a reminder. 

It’s different with sequels. In a sequel, the reader already knows the main character, and they must have cared about them enough to pick up the sequel. It’s a good idea to restate a few basic facts about the protagonist – especially if it’s a series like Nancy Drew, where you don’t know which book the reader will pick up first.

The next point is backstory. It’s difficult for me to give advice on backstory, especially for how to handle it in sequels, because every series is structured differently. Unless the main character’s backstory is a mystery and a central part of the plot, you’ve probably already shared most of it, if not all of it, with the reader.  In sequels, we don’t need to be reminded of all the details. Just go over the main stuff.

And this makes sense, because people naturally think about the important parts of their past. Like in Harry Potter we learn in every single book that Harry is an orphan because his parents were murdered by Voldemort. That’s important. The fact that Dudley bullied him is not quite as important.

Plot structure is the big one. Of course each individual book should have its own climax and everything, and the main character should have a character arc. But in a series, this is multi-faceted. The series needs to have a plot structure as a whole. There should be one point where we reach the climax of the whole series. Like an individual book, the series should have a definite turning point somewhere around the middle. The same idea applies to character arcs.

Of course, I’ve only scratched the surface when it comes to writing sequels… there is SO much more to think about! Real quick, let me give you a survival tip for NaNoWriMo…

If you’re behind (like me), you need to find a way to get those words written. What I’ve done is set a timer for thirty minutes and start writing. Don’t do anything else. Don’t check Facebook, don’t look at Harry Potter memes, don’t do the dishes or fold the laundry. Just write. At the end of thirty minutes, check to see how many words you wrote.

Then, take a ten to fifteen minute break (maybe it’s finally time to fold that laundry), then do it again. Write for thirty minutes. Don’t think about all the typos you’re making, don’t think about how stupid the scene probably sounds, just write.

You can keep going with that cycle for as long as you want. Usually what happens for me is that I get more and more words written every time. Sometimes I can even get up to 2000 words per hour. It’s a very exciting way to see your word count grow!

That’s all I have for now (I should probably get back to my NaNo novel…). But let me know in the comments if you have any advice to share about writing a sequel. And best of luck to you if you’re doing NaNoWriMo!

Have you ever written a book series?

Are you doing NaNoWriMo?