Michael Young Gives Writing Tips

August 3, 2013

I never got around to asking Michael for writing tips during our interview, so I’ve put together a post with his input.
UBS: What is a favorite writing tip you could give our readers?

Michael: My favorite writing tip is to “avoid cliche like the plague.” There are many aspects of this, including dialogue, characters, and plot points.

UBS: So, how ’bout some of those details. Can you break it down for us?

Michael: You bet. First, some stories include cliche characters. These are characters that are too similar to sterotypical characters. For example, an old wizard with a long robe, pointy hat, a long white beard, and a staff. If you are not careful, having a character like that can feel like a Merlin or a Gandalf copy.

UBS: Very true.

Michael: To combat this, I recommend finding at least one trait (if not many) that you can use for the character that makes him or her stand out. Perhaps the wizard’s magic grows depending on the length of his beard and he’s hydrophobic and so jokes that his most powerful magic is his smell.
Then, we have cliche dialogue, which means using phrases that have been used over and over again. Using this kind of dialogue does not show imagination and effort.
For example, “It was a dark and stormy night”, “the cave was as black as midnight”, “the dragon was dead as a doornail”.
It is often seen in similes and metaphors. Don’t choose the first one that comes to mind. Step back and think about something that is not commonly used.

UBS: Snoopy would not be pleased with that advice.

Michael: Haha…so true.
For example, when describing something as black, you could say “it was as black as a new schoolyard blacktop.”
Then, we have plots that people see over and over again. It’s not automatically bad to have a similar plot like the Hero’s Journey, but you need to work on putting your own spin on it.
Just like with a character, you can take different aspects of these plots and twist them around to something that the reader won’t expect.
For example, your book starts out like a typical Hero’s Journey with a young boy who is the prophesied defeater of the dark lord, who must go on an epic quest in order to save the world…
…but then you realize that the character you first thought was the hero was the villain and vice versa.

UBS: That would be quite a plot twist. Do you want to add anything else?

Michael: Just that a little effort in injecting extra imagination to your writing goes a long way. You have to stand out in today’s crowded publishing world.

UBS: Great tips, Michael. Thank you!!

Heather October 24, 2013 at 5:28 pm

Oh, Michael, didn’t you mean “avoid cliche like defining the relationship?” Or, “avoid cliche like escaped convicts?” or, “avoid cliche like you’re Superman and it’s kryptonite?”

*wink*

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