words with kili

[insert some awesome crap here about what awesome crap i write]

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i want female villains whose backstory don’t revolve around men breaking their hearts or wanting to be more beautiful than another girl  i want female villains who are evil for the fun of it and i want female villains with tragic backstories that don’t revolve around men i want female villains with backstories and motives just as diverse and complex as male villains i’m so sick of female villains who are only motivated by men and girlhate

(Source: steveeugenecarlsberg, via awesomenesshasbeenfound)

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How to Use Layers to Show Intense Emotions | Jami Gold, Paranormal Author


One of my most popular posts shares tips for writing heavy emotional scenes. I think that post is popular because we often struggle with including emotions in our stories, especially when those emotions are intense.

In my own writing journey, capturing emotions in words (and in a way readers could experience) was one of the trickiest steps of my learning curve. Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi’s The Emotion Thesaurus helped me with that struggle immensely. However, I’m far from perfect and still need to tweak those emotional scenes many, many times.

(via formywritingself)

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Anonymous asked: When writing an Assassin, is there anything you would recommend us not doing? Like should we avoid having a stereotypical assassin who hates the world but when another character comes into their lives, their view on the world changes? Trope wise, is there any that you would like to see more of? Thank you :)


Ah, assassins.

The Ninja: I don’t mean actual historical ninjas. This is the cultural perception of guys in black masks who leap between buildings like Spider-Man. The Assassin’s Creed assassins a.k.a the guys who can’t kill their way out of a paper bag. The supposedly human character whose training gives them a hefty dose of superpowers with a side of Orientalism and fetishizing of “insert Eastern culture here”. Believe it or not guys, people do look up.

The Forced Prodigy: “My character is a super awesome killer, but they were forced to learn these skills”. No. In order to be good at something, you have to enjoy it and you have to want to be good at it. You have to want to learn. An assassin is a hired killer, they kill people for either money or a cause. They stalk them, they invade their lives, they learn everything they can about their target, and then they hunt them down. It’s not the sort of profession you thrive in if you’re squeamish. More, the sorts of organizations we’re talking about aren’t going to take someone who doesn’t want to learn or train someone who actively resents them. Talent isn’t everything, in the long run it actually means very little. Someone who wants want you’re offering, who sees this new addition in their life as an improvement, is much more valuable. The individual who chooses the life, even if it was originally chosen for them, will always beat out the unwilling no matter how much natural talent they possess. There are plenty of other candidates where your character came from. If you want them to succeed, they’re going to have to prove themselves.

Undone By Love: You mentioned this one. The Best Assassin in the World is undone by… a pretty face? What? Seduction is a standard part of the assassin package for men and women. It’s a lot easier to kill someone by attacking their blind spot and history proves sexual attraction is a great one. Assassins are going to be deeply screwed up individuals, their understanding of normal is nowhere near the standard cultural baseline. It’s easiest to start understanding it by assuming everything you understand is inverted: kindness is a lie, interest means you want something, trust is a sign of an inevitable back stab. When you live in a world of shadows and lies, paranoia is inevitable. “Normal” people are either background noise or enemies in disguise. Staying one step ahead is how you stay alive and if you can do this to other people then it can also be done to you. So, someone who shows them kindness? Why would they ever trust that?

The Oliver Twist: This is like Undone by Love. The idea is that once the assassin gets a taste of real life outside the walls of their compound, once they experience kindness, once they experience normalcy, they’re going to want that and realize their life has been a lie. “I just want to be normal’. Well, this comes from a mistaken assumption on the part of the author about the character because they’re assuming:

1) that they’re baseline for normal is normal.

2) that once exposed, everyone is going to want to have what they have and be like them.

An assassin is trained with the understanding that they will eventually go out into the “real world”. Part of their job is infiltration and that means learning how to fit in, perhaps in a multitude of different cultures. Psychology, human behavior, seduction, and general social skills are going to be part of the package. You can’t manipulate individuals without understanding them, understanding their concept of normal is going to be necessary. Normal is relative. It’s important to consider that a character who kills people for a living may not want to be like the people they kill or like their creator (you).

Biting the Hand That Feeds Them: The assassin goes out into the world, realizes what they are, has an epiphany, and says “I must stand against the evil!”. This is an assumption about morals. Killing is wrong, ergo the assassin must be wrong, when they realize they are wrong they will want to make it right by… killing more people? Welcome to Saturday Morning Cartoon morality, where things are black and white and everyone is immortal until someone slits their throat. Death is the natural conclusion to life. People die. In fact, they die all the time. If your character is a professional assassin, they’ve made peace with murder and the muddy waters they wade through. They kill. Death is part of them. Why is one person more or less worthy of life than another? In their mind, some of the people they kill may indeed have it coming. What makes their organization and what they do so much worse than the good guys?

Writing any character who fights involves wrestling your personal philosophy and your morals. Why we fight, why we kill, why we commit atrocities have been a central focus of human philosophy throughout history. There aren’t any easy answers to those questions, nor are there universal ones. Like spies, assassins are among the hardest to understand because of the manner in which they kill. They have to be able to empathize with their target, they don’t have the same luxury of dehumanization that a soldier does. They get to know people with the intent to kill and if you’re not able to get comfortable with that then writing it can be very hard.

The Assassin With A Heart of Gold: The assumption that turning around on their masters makes them a good person, or that doing the right thing somehow absolves them. Black Widow’s “red ledger” line from Avengers. Essentially, the Atoner. I’m sick of the Atoning Assassin. “I’m doing the right thing because I want to make up for my past mistakes” by killing more people. I mean, sure, it’s funny but really. They’re essentially doing the exact same thing they did before but this time it’s okay because of authorial fiat. They’re working for the good guys now. That makes them a good person.

No. They may have changed sides, but if they’re still killing then they’re still the same person. At it’s heart, killing is killing. There is no good killing and no bad killing, there’s just killing. Every person is someone’s mother or father, brother or sister, aunt or uncle, niece or nephew, every person your character kills matters to someone. It’s not people in general, or those people over there, the person being killed is an individual. Your assassin knows they’re killing an individual, they know that because it’s part of their training.

So, why does this individual matter? What is it about this one that made them change their mind? They go through all their training, fully understanding what they’re being asked to do because it won’t work if they don’t, kill all those other people and then they get to this one person who makes them realize their entire life is wrong? Why? It’s not because they’ve suddenly realized killing is wrong.

Figure it out or become an internally inconsistent cliche.

So, what would we personally like to see more of?

Well, don’t do the above and you’re well on your way to what we’d like to see. The Professional Assassin, The Cheerful Assassin, and The Gleeful Assassin, so long as they aren’t presented as villains. Personality types that go in for something other than “sour, dour, moody, broody” and “angsty, whiny, poor me, victim”. Characters who don’t sit around talking about how awesome and dangerous they are or make grandiose claims about their skill set while never backing it up.

What about you, followers? What assassin archetypes do you hate? What would you like to see more of in fiction?


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Stereotypes, Tropes, and Archetypes


What are the differences between stereotypes, tropes, and archetypes? What are they? How do writers use them? Let’s take a look at some vocabulary and how we define these terms to make sense of them for ourselves.

Stereotype (n): A widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing.

To elaborate on this, stereotypes can be seen as sets of characteristics or behaviors that are commonly associated with one another, thus making it easier to intuit some of them if one or more is known. Stereotypes, though, are not literary. They refer to beliefs held about groups in reality, not types of characters. The literary cousin of the stereotype is the trope.

Trope (n): devices and conventions that a writer can reasonably rely on as being present in the audience members’ minds and expectations.

If tropes seem a little too much like to stereotypes for comfort, that’s because, technically speaking, they are stereotypes. “A Trope is a stereotype that writers find useful in communicating with readers.” (x) However, because the word stereotype has become so stigmatized in society, we prefer to think of tropes as specific to storytelling.

You use tropes in your writing. It is nearly impossible to escape them. And that is okay.

Tropes are things that pop up repeatedly in media as cultural norms in storytelling—types of characters, settings, plot lines, etc.. Stuff like a Manic Pixie Dream Girl who exists to usher a male character to his higher level of emotional awareness or personal growth, or a case of Mistaken Identity where Hilarity Ensues. Tropes are culturally-based, which is what sets them apart from archetypes.

Archetype (n): a very typical example of a certain person or thing; types that fit fundamental human motifs.

An archetype is a kind of character that pops up in stories all over the place. A trope is a character that puts that archetype in a cultural context.

For instance, let’s say you have a character who is a Geek. The role of a Geek in literature is a trope, because it is common in a certain culture (i.e. Western, though depictions of the Geek will vary within Western Civilization as well). Broadly and therefore in terms of an archetype, the Geek is the Scholar, a person who is constantly in search of knowledge. Various stereotypes about the Geek (like poor social skills) might then be inferred by characters or readers based on their understanding of the society in which they live.

It’s important to mention that none of these things are necessarily clichés.

Cliché (n):

  1. A trite or overused expression or idea; often a vivid depiction of an abstraction that relies upon analogy or exaggeration for effect, often drawn from everyday experience.
  2. A person or character whose behavior is predictable or superficial.

For more about clichés, mosey over to this post. Essentially, clichés are boring and overdone by definition, but tropes and archetypes can be useful. Yes, this is a subjective distinction.

So here’s the breakdown:

  • Stereotypes: Not literary. We avoid using this term to talk about classifying characters, settings, plot points, etc..
  • Archetypes: The broad, all-encompassing norms of the stories humanity tells. The same archetypes can be found in all or nearly all cultures.
  • Tropes: Culturally-specific norms in storytelling. Tropes are cultural classifications of archetypes. There can be many tropes found under the umbrella of one archetype. Literary devices are not tropes (i.e. narrators, foreshadowing, flashbacks, etc.).
  • Clichés: Overused and hackneyed phrases, characters, settings, plot points, etc.. Archetypes do not become clichéd. Tropes can become clichés if they are used too often and readers get bored of them. Clichés are defined by a loss of the meaning or as a distraction from the story.

Let’s focus on tropes and archetypes now as these terms are often used as a sort of shorthand when writing. Once you have firmly introduced a character as one type of archetype and/or a trope within that archetype, you do not have to elaborate on the character as much before moving on in the storyline.

While this can be useful and can help keep a section moving, it can also be very lazy, can help to perpetuate unhealthy stereotypes that carry over into the real world, and can make for one-dimensional characters. All of this forces the readers to focus on the way the story is being told instead of the story itself. Not good.

Here are some questions to keep in mind when using trope and archetypes in writing:

  • Is this derogatory? Does this demean or belittle? Is it harmful to the reader? For instance, the Dumb Blonde trope from American culture can assume that all blondes are easily-fooled, flighty, and even promiscuous. In the real world, the Dumb Blonde trope certainly translates into a derogatory stereotype, so is it something you want to use in your writing or can you manipulate the trope to create something unexpected?
  • Is this really necessary? Do you actually need to use a trope or archetype as a base for your character to keep the flow moving or the characters easy to remember, or are you using it so you don’t have to bother to give your character, well, character? Laziness is no excuse for poor writing. Using a trope can flatten a character very quickly if that’s all that they have going for them. There’s even a term for a character whose personality is limited to a single trope; they’re called stock characters.
  • Is this actually the one I want? Perhaps the empty headed and hot cheerleader trope is not the one you want. Maybe the secretly hot booksmart nerd is a better fit for your story. Maybe not. Really think about what base characteristics you give your characters, because they an come in handy farther down the storyline. Browsing tropes is fun, but at the end of the day, try combining character traits to create something that is unique for you is what makes a character worth writing.
  • Am I using this to bash someone? While almost all tropes can be harmful in one way or another, how you present them can have a big effect on whether or not you are actually using a trope or are pulling away from your story to offer the reader a stereotype instead. Being nasty because of someone else’s perceived shortcomings won’t help your story, and, if that’s not enough reason, it can be harmful to you because people will call you on it. Depth is key.
  • How can I use this in a way that is helpful? By making your characters more personalized and three-dimensional, you humanize them and give the reader a better chance of empathizing with them. In Creative Writing Tip: Avoiding Stereotypes, Matthew Arnold Stern says:
    The antidote to stereotypes is to create well-rounded characters with clear and human motivation. Even a character who appears briefly in a story can benefit from depth and complexity. Such characters add realism and depth that draws us further into the story.
    Choose a base trope or archetype for a character, and then elaborate on it in a way that breaks expectations or defies convention. A shy, sweet, nerdy girl who is not afraid to loudly tell someone to stop when she is uncomfortable and is happy with who she is could be a much more interesting character then the throw away filler character of a compliant, scared bookworm. A big, popular jock who is not afraid to stand up against bullying and treats his parents and teachers with respect has more hidden depth than the usual sneering bullies that populate literary sports fields.

All in all, archetypes and tropes can be a handy writing tool when used sparingly, but we have to remember that the stereotypes we perpetuate in our writing resonate with people in real life.

Speaking in terms of subject matter and not story construction, stereotypes have their place in literature, so long as the writer and the reader are completely aware of the fact that they are being used. Perhaps you are using a stereotype so you can later break it in an interesting way as a plot device, or you are driving it home as a stereotype that you feel is justified. For instance, there is the stereotype that drug dealers are dangerous and violent. The fact that anyone who is actively complicit in illegal activities is potentially dangerous is true, and it probably is best to avoid and not trust someone whose livelihood revolves around convincing you to break the law.

In Is Stereotyping Bad?, Brittney Weber said:

"Stereotypes have the potential to show a member of a particular group how to behave or how others believe they do. The latter may be apparent in the way they are treated by society at large, while the former encourages them to remain within the confines of that definition."

So think before you write, and be considerate of the effect your writing may have on others, as well as the effect that devices like tropes can have on your writing.

Further Reading: 

-Ji, O, and C

(via chozoraptor)

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using the prompts below, write a drabble (or whatever) a day for the next 30 days. find someone willing to hit you if you miss a day. look back at the end and go ‘oh! i’m a writer!’.

beginning. accusation. restless. snowflake. haze. flame. formal. companion. move. silver. prepared. knowledge. denial. wind. order. thanks. look. summer. transformation. tremble. sunset. mad. thousand. outside. winter. diamond. letters. promise. simple. future.


using the prompts below, write a drabble (or whatever) a day for the next 30 days. find someone willing to hit you if you miss a day. look back at the end and go ‘oh! i’m a writer!’.

beginning. accusation. restless. snowflake. haze. flame. formal. companion. move. silver. prepared. knowledge. denial. wind. order. thanks. look. summer. transformation. tremble. sunset. mad. thousand. outside. winter. diamond. letters. promise. simple. future.

(Source: anarchivedblog, via chozoraptor)