can you say cliche

laughing-maleficent  asked:

Hello! I saw your post saying that people could send you writing questions, so I wanted to ask you one, if that's ok. I'm in the middle of creating my dragon age character's personality and backstory, but I'm a little lost on how to go about it properly. she's been through serious trauma, and is slightly emotionally unstable becuase of it. How can I portray this realistically without it being too dramatic or inaccurate?

Yes!! Thank you! Great question.

Writing Emotionally Complex Characters

I think the true difficulty here for the writer lies in staying true to character without getting caught up in, as you say, “dramatic” portrayals, which can tend to feel cliche, or generic, and therefore unrealistic. A lot of what we see and know when we think of “traumatized” characters will come from popular media, and there is often an accompanying coping mechanism, like alcohol or drug abuse, and/or pain tends to manifest in the forms of “flashbacks” and nightmares that seem to serve more as exposition tools for the audience than actual moments of deep characterization. These characters will inevitably influence us, of course, always, but they’re not always the best examples when it comes to complexity.

For me, personally, the best places to go to read very believable, well-handled characters who have experienced trauma, will be with short story writers. Granted, I am a short story writer, so this is just my area of expertise. Robert Stone writes excellent post-Vietnam war stories (”Helping” comes to mind), and Joy Williams, whose heroines tend to feel particularly traumatized by the sheer impact of living (”Woods” and “The Farm” are both excellent and in the collection called Taking Care). These writers are very good at locating the coping amidst the denial and sometimes the anger and the fear, and from there, drawing out a lot of intricate and painstaking action that illustrates a character’s pain without removing their agency. They’re complex, layered human beings who inhabit many roles during their day-to-day lives. One of the reasons Sherlock Holmes or Dr. House are such compelling heroes is because, despite their trauma, they’ve adapted in ways that enable them to be in control during very specific contexts. Yes, they both use drugs as coping mechanisms, but their coping is an entire complex. It is not the drugs alone. It is communicated through their routines and interactions on a daily basis. They are true characters who are sometimes villains and sometimes very difficult to like, but that’s their reality. That’s who they are.

In terms of writing characters who are experiencing some sort of emotional volatility based on coping (or really anything), one can almost think of it as magical realism, only rather than magic, the newly integrated element into everyday reality is the coping in and of itself. In magical realism, magic and fantastical elements are not pointed to or announced as being special or otherworldly. They are merely accepted as rule. It’s the same with writing any sort of complex emotional state for our characters. One of the mistakes writers make when writing characters with coping mechanisms is to point to them, constantly. “Billy is a drunk. Billy wakes  up in the morning to a pile of empty beer bottles at his feet. He yells at his wife and stumbles out the door.” But it’s not like that. I mean, it can be like that. But in writing, it can’t be ONLY that, if that makes sense. Coping is not momentary nor is it extraordinary. It is a means of breathing, and so, it is constant, thus, it must appear as a constant in our writing. It is a layer that never goes away. This is why generic coping mechanisms or things like nightmares and flashbacks can be hard to truly earn in fiction, because it lets us think that, just because a character has a certain backstory and then is drinking heavily or smoking a ton of weed, or acting out and yelling at their partner or family members, that communicates their pain. And sure, it does, but if that’s all there is, that character is incomplete. How they “act out” is just one small piece of their complicated emotional life.

So in order to truly communicate that life, a writer must show and explore their character in the small moments, the off-moments, doing things, interacting with people in the mundane, the truly quotidian aspects of life. Making breakfast, talking on the phone, going grocery shopping, hanging the curtains, etc. The more you do this, the more you’ll find yourself braiding these actions and feelings into their entire emotional complex, and the easier it will become to write them, especially during BIG moments, when something comes to a head. When they must, in their way, “act out.”

And in terms of emotional instability, that can come in so many different shapes, it’s important to establish exactly how and when that manifests for your character, and again, to not let portrayals of emotional instability in popular media influence you too much. Find the details. The inventory of their lives. There is no one right way to make characters complicated. They are like people. Their quirks, habits, and compulsions are entirely unpredictable. So as always, my advice comes down to: stay true to your character. In the writing itself, let your characters actions and decisions speak for themselves. Show, rather than tell, and trust your readers to get to know and sympathize with your character from their own perspective and at their own pace. Writing emotionally complex characters can take a lot of time and practice, but it’s really rewarding when you find yourself in the throes of understanding, of empathy, writing a person who you truly love. <3

Final note: A really wonderful way of visualizing characters through their ENTIRE trauma is to think of their backstory from the perspective of Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey. A lot of what we think of as “coping” can be thought of as the hero’s “Return” to ordinary life, their attempt to reintegrate, despite having been changed irreversibly by some major experience, positive or negative. From the craft perspective, reading and learning about the Hero’s Journey has done TONS for me, in terms of teaching me about writing the complexities and sort of chimeric state of character psychology. I’ve applied it generously to how I write Solas (who, in my fiction, is quite emotionally unstable) and more recently, Mythal, who is dealing with traumas that have gone unsolved for thousands of years.

I hope this helps! ^_^

Ask me writing questions! My ask box is always open.


I haven’t been blogging much these days, but I figure I should get back into it now that I’m enjoying photographing everything again!

So to catch up, (mostly my future self), I had the best Valentine’s Day ever this year. Now Valentine’s Day isn’t IMPORTANT. But I do think it matters. Doing cliche things for the person you love can still say A LOT. And also, we had a lot of fun. Our first one was more unplanned, and messy, this one was random and so fun! I was surprised to receive flowers from Dan for the first time (finally 😉) when he asked what I wanted to do I instantly said “bake a heart shaped pizza” without thinking, and it was honestly the best plan ever!
This paired with wine set a fun stage for the rest of the night, and I was OUT for bed by like 9 😂🙈

In other news I passed a licensure exam for my work! After a month of CRAMMING information into my brain! 😅 in fact, I got a 96% which is, so far, the highest in my office!! Totally surprised. I needed the confidence boost since I’ve been feeling like I suck at my job, and everything else lately.

Primarily working on myself. Training for my first half marathon in June. Training for Spartan in August. Trying to improve my close relationships. Improve my performance at work. Not spending more money than I make. Trying to have a good time and not bring along bad vibes. It all takes work and focus and energy, but I’ll never stop trying!

So that’s the quick sitch on the positives in my life right now. Of course there’s a lot of other stuff going on, but it’s primarily my business sooo ;) happy highlights!

Have a great night to anyone reading ❤

I am not looking for someone to buy my loving
Don’t spend no money on me boy I don’t need nothing
And I hope you know
And don’t take it personal
When I say
That you’re acting cliche

Anyone can buy me anything
Any man can buy me
Any gold, some cars, a ring
Is it that bad of an idea to love for love instead of money
Forced to realize that there’s nothing wrong with love like honey

Don’t be scared
Don’t be shy
Stop looking down at your wallet
I’m trying to see your eyes
Not one gift in this world could make me feel more than I already do
All I need is for your love to be raw and true

Im not gonna model us after the couples on the websites
Acting like they’re in love for the fan’s likes
I just wanna know your soul
I’m just trying to discover your likes and your dislikes, your middle name, do you like starlight?
Baby, just let me explore you
And I’m not trying to hurt you
By not accepting the things you wanna do
I’m just trying to show you
That I’m in it with my heart
We could be dead broke as long as we’re together
I’m not leaving you, no matter the weather
Cause I might be in love with you

Anyone can buy me anything
Any man can buy me
Any gold, some cars, a ring
Is it that bad of an idea to love for love instead of money
Forced to realize that there’s nothing wrong with love like honey

Don’t be scared
Don’t be shy
Stop looking down at your wallet
I’m trying to see your eyes
Not one gift in this world could make me feel more than I already do
All I need is for your love to be raw and true

—  Kehlani - Raw and True

News for assholes who send anon hate mail to anyone telling them their character is unoriginal and or cookie-cutter:

No fucking shit.

You think there is ANY character out there whose concept hasn’t already been done?? REALLY?? Let me just go ahead and burst that bubble, we’re all some trope or another. But that isn’t the fucking point of RP to have an ORIGINAL CHARACTER DO NOT STEAL, it’s to have fucking fun.

Dancer cats? Dime a dozon. MILFs? Becoming common. Somewhat-insane black mages? Have like 2 friends just like that. Goodie-good sweet healer girls? Honestly they make the world go round. Snooty Elezen? Pretty sure that’s in their blood.


Portia has fucking magical tattoos that glow when she uses magic. CAN YOU SAY CLICHE?




It had to be you
That blonde hair and smirk
I was about to curse whoever  pushed that chair in my way,
Expecting another creepy asshole trying to be cute
And well i got the asshole trying to be cute part right
You smiled, and even after all this time a part of me died inside
I sat across from you and we started talking
You were drinking tea, and i was trying to swallow black coffee
I could tell we both felt those sparks
From years and years ago still burning in our hearts,
And i know its cliche
But you were my first, what can i say?
We talked for four hours that night
And you kissed my cheek as i left
I still found myself missing your warmth as i turned on that old song of ours
And to be honest,
I still miss you too
—  Inspires by the lovely thesaltypumpkin