Backstory Cliches and Tropes: Beginners Guide to Fiction

When a writer works on their novel with inspiration, they surely think that their novel is amazing just as it is. However, there’s a possibility that editors and literature agents might think otherwise and reject this novel because it isn’t unique at all.
It’s really hard to write a unique fiction story these days: this genre has bloomed over past years and so nowadays the book market is filled with so many fiction bestsellers that are pretty much the same plot. One can read a number of books, trying to avoid the most obvious tropes, and still miss something. However, there are simpler ways to improve one’s writing: all you need to do is to learn the most popular clichés and tropes from others sources.
There is so much information about clichés on-line and it’s simply impossible to fit all of it into one article. That’s why I decided to focus on different types of clichés and tell you about them.

  • Characters.

When a writer adores their main character, they sometimes tend to over-emphasize these characters’ virtues: that’s how Mary Sues and Gary Stues appear. If you are writing about a skilled and beautiful character, who’s immediately loved and adored by everyone, you’re most likely creating another Mary Sue or Gary Stu. 
To avoid this, try making your characters more human: they need to have their flaws, enemies, and weaknesses, make their mistakes, and so on.
“A chosen one” character is another cliché you have to avoid. Though it has been used brilliantly in the past years (remember Star Wars and Harry Potter?), it is also a very common trope. 
Be careful with fantasy creatures too: if you really want to write about them, you’ll have to make them as less stereotypical as possible.

  • Relationships between characters.

Love, hate and other strong feelings have to be described very well if you want your readers to believe you. Sometimes people write about so-called “puppy love”: they make their characters blush, stutter, and act silly in front of their love interest. This can look realistic if you are writing about teenagers, but when two adults act this way, it looks ridiculous. The same goes for hate: when your character is bullied and hated without any reason, this looks weird and rarely causes sympathy.
Lack of characters’ motivation along with various “dramatic” things (like dramatic attraction, fatal desire, etc.) looks bad. Using stereotypical motivations like revenge is bad too. Try developing more deep and original motivation, explaining why your characters act this way, why they have such relationships, and so on. The readers like good justification.

  • Locations.

It isn’t forbidden to write about an old castle, a spaceship, a magic school and so on. However, you have to remember that these things were described in so many details in other fantasy pieces, and it’s quite hard to make such locations really unique. Moreover, beginner authors often make one common mistake when it comes to choosing a location: they choose a certain one but don’t do their research. 
For example, old castles are usually described as big and spooky, when in reality they are quite small. If one is writing about a spaceship but has no understanding of how does it works, this will most likely look bad. It’s always better to write about things that are already familiar to you instead of choosing a stereotypical location because you’ve seen it on some TV show, etc. 

  • Plot.

Most of the clichés are plot twists: you may think they look good, but in reality, they are predictable and boring to your readers. Moreover, some of these plot tropes actually make your fiction worse: for example, when it turns out that all story was just a dream or when everything is explained by magic.
Another popular (and boring) trope is the “Deus Ex Machina” one: when a certain character appears just to drastically change the story by doing or saying something, or solving a certain problem, etc. Though it was used often in the past, these days it has become a cliché, and when you use it, you can look like a weak writer, who’s unable to solve the novel’s conflict in a more interesting way. 
Writing is a pleasant process, but it is complex too: you have to avoid clichés, work on your style, choose the right methods to express something, and so on. I wish you good luck with that and hope that you’ll become a brilliant writer one day!


If you enjoyed this post please check out: Methods of expressive means you need to know

Written by Alice Jones

Hunting For Ideas: Plot Bunnies And Where To Find Them

I was asked what the best pet for a writer would be, my answer: A Plot Bunny. You cannot buy a plot bunny in a store or find it in a field. A plot bunny is born and raised in your head, and if you take care of your bunny, nurture it and give it all of your love, imagination, and creativity, you eventually have a whole farm of bunnies.

John Steinbeck once said: ‘Ideas are like rabbits. You get a few and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.’ These are the words which made a plot bunny a real character or rather a technique for a writer. A good writer knows that feeling when the idea is born and you can do nothing until you write it down. This what your plot bunny does. It generates the ideas which you cannot get rid of until the story is ready. (Removed sentence)

Plot bunny and your creativity

Of course, a plot bunny is not a real animal but it does need to be fed. Another name for plot bunnies is creativity. A creative person has the ability to create a masterpiece from nothing with a little persistence and commitment. The same is with a good writer: he/she can always find a plot bunny in their head and tame it. 

Being creative creatures, plot bunnies live in our dreams, experiences, and observations. It seems that they come from nowhere, but they actually born from our subconscious. The most interesting thing is that one plot bunny always attracts another one. If you treat them well, you will find hundreds of plot bunnies in your garden of creativity. 

Plot bunnies are pretentious creatures. If you do not feed them, do not love them and do not spend enough time with them, they will leave you. Plot bunnies are born when you read, when you listen to other people, when you pay attention to the smallest details that surround you. When they are satisfied, they start to generate ideas which in turn will enhance your writing.

Plot bunnies and their types

Just like real bunnies have different breeds, plot bunnies also have different types. If you know how to nurse bunnies, new breeds of them will eventually come to you.

Killing bunny

If you want to add some suspense to your story, the killing bunny can help you with that. Be unexpected and kill the character which is important to the plot. Once this killing bunny comes, he tells you what to do. Perhaps, you have already thought about killing someone in your story but did not understand how it would affect the plot. Killing bunnies know exactly what will happen after that, just listen and nurture.

Cupid bunny

Unlike his older brother, The Cupid bunny adds love to your story. You can think up your characters even without an assumption that they will end up together. The Cupid bunny knows better and with a bit of nurture he’l show you who can create a perfect and non-boring love story without making the plot predictable.

Travel bunny

Why not change the location of your story? The Travel bunny does not want to sit in one location -neither does your reader. It wants to travel and find new places and ideas to develop your plot. Listen to the Travel bunny: send your characters on a trip or vacation and watch how the plot starts to develop.

Magic bunny

J.K. Rowling has done her best to tame this magic bunny and she did a pretty good job of it! Why don’t you try to do the same? Adding magic to your story could reveal new options for your characters. You don’t have to make them wizards but add some mysterious details − that will be enough to enhance your plot.

Liar bunny

In real life, people lie and it can be aweful but in a fiction, a lie can be the much needed spark of new and unexpected decisions. A liar can change the development of your plot and make your story more captivating. Do you remember Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn? She created the perfect liar. Use this and try putting it into your own work and see where your pot bunny takes you. 

Truth bunny

When a truth bunny comes, everything becomes crystal clear. Remember that the Liar bunny and truth bunny always come in a pair. The truth bunny reveals all the secrets and speaks for the advantage of good characters. As keen as the Truth bunny is, make sure he doesn’t reveal all to early.

Break-up bunny

While the Cupid bunny wants to add more love to your story, the break-up bunny wants to add some drama. Though it’s not necessary the two come as a pair, they do work great together.  The perfect love story with no bumps in the road? It rarely happens in life, so it should rarely happen in fiction. This bunny will break any couple, and who knows what consequences it will lead to…

Add-a-character bunny

A new character has the amazing potential to create a new plot. This character can change everything. Add-a-character bunny is a good friend of any other bunny. It can diversify any plot and make it even more interesting for your readers. If you work on a saga or a very long novel, make add-a-character bunny your best friend. Use these characters to keep your readers guessing at every turn. 

Crazy bunny

Last but not least, The Crazy bunny. No one really expects that a mad man/women will appear in a story. Especially when you write a love story. As a warning, this bunny needs to be handled with care, don’t plonk this type of character smack bang in the middle of your book and expect your readers to just be okay with that. Nurture it and let it grow throughout your story. Just do not go crazy together with this bunny! You need to write your story, remember?

What kind of bunny will visit you next time? What ever bunny it is, make sure to feed it, nurture it and above all else listen to it. Plot bunnies travel in packs, use each one to their full potential and take your readers on the journey of a lifetime. 



Written by Alice Jones

Character Depth: How To Create A Good Background Story - By Alice Jones

What makes a good character is a good backstory. A backstory explains why the character acts in a certain way, what drives and motivates him, but not only that. Setting a character as a mere object of sympathy or pity or any other basic emotion makes him an object, not an actual character. Instead of that, a good backstory makes the character relatable, and the audience are given the choice of how exactly to feel about the character, and people always dig being given a choice.

For example, if the character went to college – we can explain how exactly was it funded. Did he pay himself or did he get a scholarship? Did he procure his funding in a fair way? If not, could his means be justified? What is he doing with the skills that he has gained?

What about the character's view? What does he believe in? Such things do not and should not just pop up at random. Usually, a person shares those with those who raised him – his parents. But not necessarily. There can be any other mentor figure, like a local priest or a renown yoga teacher. Alternatively, views and beliefs can at times be shaped by totally incidental events.

Mind that no way of explaining excludes another way. The influences may be different at different points in time. Moreover, he does not need to always follow tips from other people, he does not need to be a blind sheep following a shepherd, that's a bit lame. He may at times resist the influence that he is undergoing. He may do it out of his rebellious nature (which he may or may not possess) or due to any incidental circumstances.

Anyway, this upbringing may be realised in many different ways when the character faces a real-life problem in a story. The circumstance that he is facing will most surely not be the one that he is prepared for. Therefore, he will handle it in a certain way, indirectly dictated by his earlier influences. Because no other explanation is possible.

The details don't need to be thrown at the audience in all their entirety and complexity at the very beginning. They can be added throughout the development of the story, as soon as they become relevant.

However, one needs to be careful in keeping the character consistent. He cannot act in different ways under similar circumstances. If the audience notices any inconsistency, the character becomes less respectable, thus less relatable and duller.

Let us take an example of a character with a well-written backstory. Dr. Harlene Quinsell aka Harley Quinn from the DC universe was originally merely a one-time character, a clown dressed henchwoman for Batman's adversary – the Joker. However, when the audiences have shown interest in her, she was given a backstory and quite a great one at that. That ultimately peaked in her being portrayed by Margo Robbie in a certain film that is a hit right now. Even Marvel fans cannot help but agree that Harley Quinn's charm is simply irresistible. And that is critically due to her well-written backstory.
At first, she's just a jumping girl on the Joker's team. Then it is revealed that she was actually his psychotherapist during his time at the Arkham Asylum. She got charmed by him and turned to his evil ways. But why was she prone to that? Later on, we found out that she came from an abusive family, thus making her gravitate towards the abusive types – the likes of Joker. At Arkham Asylum she allowed herself some extremely unprofessional bonding with a patient – because she was not actually a good psychotherapist. Her backstory tells us that she got her college scholarship for her sportive achievements in acrobatics, and not for her professional potential. This also explains all those extensive jumping tricks that she does in both comics, animated series, and the movie.

Later on (at least in the comics), we see both her relationship with Joker, and herself as a person evolve. She then realises the abusive nature of her relationship with Joker and moves in with Poison Ivy.

What do we learn from that? First, we have an abusive background. We all have points in our early lives when we suffer some amount of abuse, or at least think so. This abuse may force us into wrong choices regarding both our careers and our personal lives. That's what we see, in an exaggerated manner, in the well-written development of Harley Quinn's backstory. We can all relate to her to some extent, and we are the ones setting the scope of the relatedness.

Writing out such a backstory for a character may seem simple and obvious. However, having such a well-written backstory for a character takes a huge amount of time and effort. Given enough talent and zeal, you can also write such a canonical backstory!


If you've enjoyed this post check out: The Simple Rules Of Good Writing

Written by Alice Jones
 Alice Jones is a tutor and freelance writer from Essays Academic, who is interested in writing, education, blogging and sharing her ideas. Follow Alice on TwitterGoogle+, or find her in other social media, pop in there and say “Hi” to her!

Remember me

Everyday I watch as your beaming smile slowly fades
And watch as the light behind your eyes withdraws with every passing minute
The strength I know you once had is used up on fighting tears 
And the lonely battle you fight with yourself is one hidden behind false laughter
I catch each tear you brush away though now my hands are getting heavy
And every time you fake that smile my heavy burden grows  
I beg for you to listen, to accept you can not cope 
But every time you shut the door and ignore the fact I'm here
I'm trapped inside your head and your crumbling away around me
Pieces of you crashing down like rocks and the ground that is you beneath me is shaking 
My throat is sore from screaming but I have to make you listen
For every time you cry I feel it, trapped inside this prison
You pretend that you don't know me, that I never did exist
but the photos on your wall prove you felt me, your long lost happiness
We used to work together, be united as one
But now you've built this cage around me and I fear depressions won
So I'll stay here in the darkness but know that I've never left
I know one day you'l come back to me and see all our happy memories that I've kept
So when you're ready listen out for me because I'l be calling your name
And know if you look deep enough my lights still burning just the same

J A Shaw

Our World

Our world

O' to be in a world where life is fair
where no one made fun of your clothes or hair
to be in a world where equality thrived
and money didn't control the majority's lives
would be a world that I would covet
a world where we looked out for one and other

A world where neighbours spoke to neighbours
and postcodes didn't separate the races
this world where I long to be
can not only exist in me
a world where we can walk the streets
without the fear of gangs, knives and thieves

A world where war didn't exist
and those lives lost to crime had no need to be missed
A world where no one has heard of terrorism
where countries pull together and share their wisdom
A world where religion didn't separate humanity
a place where no one is lost in their vanity
A world where people live as one
pull together and work as one

A world where no matter the colour of your skin
every person sees what is truly within
A world where peace flows through the nations
can not only exist in my imagination

We live in a world that is not fair
where people make fun of your clothes and hair
a place where equality does not thrive
and money controls the majority's lives

We live in a world where neighbours don't speak to neighbours
and postcodes do separate the races
A world where we can't walk the streets
because of the fear of gangs, knives and theives

And in our world war does exist
and those lost to crime are sadly missed
where we always hear of terrorism
and countries don't pull together to share their wisdom

Where religion separates humanity
and men and women are lost in their vanity
In our world we don't live as one
we don't pull together and work as one

Our world judges the colour of our skin
and doesn't see what is truly within
and peace doesn't flow through the nations
and bombs go off in train and bus stations

So what of this world that we do live in
it can change if we are willing
It can change if we pull together
hold our heads high and stand together
because if we all stand as one
the world will be the world we want

J A Shaw