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Saturday, August 8, 2015

Using clichés as story themes and CHOOSING CARTER

cj Sez: The publisher notified me that the program for Choosing Carter print-on-demand will be in Amazon’s hands on Sept 4 (yay!), but the eBook probably won’t be available on their website until a couple of weeks later. I checked Amazon this a.m., and the pre-order opportunity I expected on August 5 hasn’t happened. I’m a tiny bit antsy, so this waiting jazz gets tiresome, you know?

There were two takers of last week’s offer of an Advance Review Copy of Choosing Carter . . . Mavis Jarrell and Brenda Connors each received the ePub to read and review. Hope you ladies get as much enjoyment out of reading about Bryn McKay’s adventures as I did writing them.

A couple of weeks before, I had made the same offer on my Facebook page and was delighted to send an ARC to Kay George, Deborah O’Neill Cordes, and Vickie Fee.

And I want to thank—very much—Vickie Fee for posting her early review of Choosing Carter on Goodreads! Yep, Vickie sure knows how to make this writer grin.  %>)

Now for the other half of this Lyrical Pens post: Using clichés as story themes.

How do authors come up with a theme for a novel? I usually find something in the news, but that’s incredibly ominous and ugly right now. So, let’s get lighter. First, let's agree that novels need a theme, a premise on which to hang the action and plot points. An overall theme continues as a thread through the novel. It lets a writer connect the dots of subplots to the main plot. One way to get a handle on finding your theme/premise might be to think about describing your novel in one sentence, as with a cliché. The neat thing is that after that, you can polish it into a marketing blurb.

Caveat:  A cliché is, by definition, a trite and overused expression . . . a figure of speech that has become tiresome and uninteresting. Several experts advise against the use of any clichés in your narrative. Author and editor Sol Stein has this advice: “Cut every cliché you come across. Say it new and say it straight” (Stein on Writing, 1995).
From my Facebook page

But what if you’d like one of your characters to be fond of vocalizing a cliché? I say, okay. Use them, but in only that character’s dialogue.  Remember, though, too much can become distracting to your readers. And even clichés voiced new and straight (ala Stein) can become hackneyed when used too often.

Okay, clichés are taboo things that writers should avoid like the plague, but they can be good fodder for a theme. Think about it.

Theme/premise/cliché for a romance story: “Love will find a way.” Then every time you put an obstacle in a character’s path on the way to her happily ever after, that obstacle can be overcome with some kind of act of love . . . even self-love (conceit, egotism) is fair game. 

In the premise/cliché, “All is fair in love and war,” the character is free to do whatever he/she can in order to capture the heart of a lover

For a love story, that beautiful, angst-filled drama which doesn’t always end happily ever after, a perfect cliché might be, “Always a bridesmaid, never a bride.” 

Or this tired, old saw for a YA or memoir: “A coming of age story.” That keeps the threads of the story tied to some agonizing affliction and growth of young people over a longer time span. 

One of my themes for Choosing Carter could be “My brother’s keeper.” Apt, I think, because the novel is about Bryn McKay, a woman who, while pursuing the love of her life (premise/cliche: love will find a way), also wants desperately to rescue her brother, Robbie, from the life-threatening choice he made.

If you have a different way of coming up with themes/premises, let me know how you do it. I love, love, love learning new methodologies.

In the meantime, you-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same.

DEADLY STAR (Publisher: Crimson Romance)   (B&  (
(I’ll be Sooo happy when I can add the info for Choosing Carter.) 

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