Six Relationship Tropes I Hate in Fiction

I don’t know about you, but I have very specific tastes when it comes to fictional romantic relationships, particularly the “I never want to see this” kind. These are definitely personal preferences, and if you like one or more of these, I’m certainly not trying to convince you not to or belittle you for something you like. To each their own! But these are the romantic relationships I could do without in my books.

  1. Student-teacher relationships. Example: Pretty Little Liars
    Especially in YA, I really, really despise these kinds of relationships. In fact, let’s extend this out to any kind of relationship with a dangerous balance of power issue. Student-teacher or student-coach or student-parentofafriend or student/employee-boss. Why, you may ask? It’s gross (if it’s a child or teen and an adult), it’s not legal (or ethical), and I really feel like it gives young readers in particular a skewed idea of healthy relationships. It can blur the lines of right and wrong or safe and unsafe. Any kind of relationship where the balance of power is off (one person has more power than the other, like one controls a job or grade) can be incredibly dangerous and unethical, if not illegal, and it is just as dangerous to idealize or romanticize this abuse of power (as many books do).
  2. Love triangles. Examples: The Infernal Devices, Twilight
    I am so over this one. Particularly as a person who never had more than one crush and never more than one person (if that) interested in her, I find these kinds of stories dull, self-indulgent, arrogant on the part of the one caught in the middle, and unrealistic. That whole “Oh no, two boys like me, how will I choose when I like them both!” thing just grates on me. Yeah, maybe some people can relate to the situation, and that’s fine. And I know enough people like them for it to have become a trope in the first place. But if I never see another love triangle again, it will be too soon.
  3. Distant “family”. Examples: Born of Earth by A.L.Knorr, Newsflesh trilogy (to be clear, I LOVE both of these books/series…except for that relationship)
    These are the romantic relationships that also toe the line between legal and illegal, just barely on the side of “this isn’t actually taboo.” For example, a girl falls in love with her adopted cousin or brother. Yeah, they’re not specifically related by blood, but they are still legally related. It just bothers me.
  4. Actual family. Examples: Flowers in the Attic
    Speaking of family, how about actual family? Like, surpassing the normal family relationship to become romantically involved. It’s just another relationship that weirds me out. I don’t like reading about it. I find it unenjoyable and awkward, and that’s not something I’m looking for in my fiction.
  5. Bad boys/girlsExample: The Infernal Devices and so many others
    I will never understand the books that romanticize falling in love with a guy or girl who treats the other person like dirt. Why would you want to be around someone who is mean all the time or acts like they don’t care about you? A real, good relationship is one where both parties feel valued and loved. Anything otherwise is modeling poor relationships. It’s not as dangerous as the power balance issues, but it can still lead to some bad times for actual humans.
  6. Abusive relationshipsExample: 50 Shades of Gray (I didn’t read it, but I know enough)
    Much like some of the above relationships, abusive relationships are difficult. They can model dangerous roles and choices to impressionable people, particularly if the relationship is romanticized. Personally, unless it is incredibly important to the story, I don’t really want to read about it. Especially with something like 50 Shades, where the characters seem ignorant and tolerant of such behaviors and it is never addressed. Abuse is never okay, and a lot of times it is lazy writing. I will be more okay with it if it is addressed or necessary, but it’s a hard balance, and I’ll need convincing.

So these are my most hated romantic relationships in fiction. Again, please remember that if you happen to really enjoy one of these kinds of relationships in your reading, I’m not trying to dissuade or belittle your choices and your enjoyment; I am merely pointing out the relationships I dislike and find particularly worrisome or troublesome.

Now that I’ve shared with you, it’s your turn! What are your least favorite romantic relationship tropes in fiction? Why? Share in the comments!

Author Interview: Kendra E. Ardnek

Another exciting post today, folks! This week, author Kendra E. Ardnek is preparing to release her newest book, The Worth of a King. This is book one in a brand new high fantasy series, and we will be talking directly to Kendra today all about the book and her life as an author. (How gorgeous is this cover?!)

Kendra is also giving away a paperback copy of her book and a 15 mL bottle of peppermint oil (to US readers), and a special prize for whoever leaves the most comments across the blog tour (open internationally). Check out the rest of the tour here.

Here’s a little blurb to get you started:

32739875Princess Obsidia’s father was killed the night she was born. Since there was no male heir, the crown went to the man who killed him, by Dialcian law. This never bothered her, growing up, and when it comes time for Obsidia to choose her husband, she chooses Prince Delaney, the son of that man, with little hesitation. Only then does her life start crumbling around her.

Adrian expected to live a normal life, taking his father’s place at the print shop when his father retired. But, on his eighteenth birthday, when the princess’ engagement is announced, his world is ripped out from under him when he learns that his life was a ruse, and he is the twin brother to the princess – and expected to take back his father’s throne.

Delaney knows that his country is hovering on the brink of war – and that his father may harbor murderous intentions towards his intended bride due to her Zovordian blood. He wants nothing more than to protect Obsidia and his people, but as merely prince, he has little power against his father.

The ancient war between the Dragons and the Immortal King and Queen is nearing its climax, and the three are already caught in it.

You can add it to Goodreads here
or buy it here
or read the first chapter here!

And now, the main event: interview with Kendra E. Ardnek!

Kendra E. ArdnekKendra E. Ardnek loves fairytales and twisting them in new and exciting ways. She’s been or acting them on her dozen plus cousins and siblings for years. “Finish your story, Kendra,” is frequently heard at family gatherings. Her sole life goal has always been to grow up and be an author of fantasy and children’s tales that glorify God and His Word.
Find her online at: Website || Blog || Goodreads || Facebook || Twitter || Amazon 

Q: Tell us a little bit about your writing journey. When did you start writing? When did you decide you wanted to publish?

I’ve been writing ever since I understood that it was the proper thing to do with pencils – as opposed to having my pencils act the stories out. I think I always knew that I would someday have my name on the cover of a book, though I did distract myself with playwriting for the longest time. I just really wanted to be an actress. Still kinda do, but writing has supersceded it.

Q: Where do you find inspiration most often?

In the question “what if.” And also in the challenge to take cliche ideas and make them my own.

Q: What are your favorite themes to write about?

Trust, friendship, love, hope, acceptance, finding your purpose, and the meaning of womanhood.

Q: What inspired your upcoming release, The Worth of a King?

The desire to cowrite a book with Jack Lewis Baillot. See, she’d confessed that she struggled to write female characters, and at the time, I really struggled to write guys. So, we set out to write a book together where I had the female main character, and she the guy. We agreed that we didn’t want our characters to be romantic interests, and so twins were our natural choice, and we also both had a fascination with king stories. Unfortunately, she had to drop out of the project, but across the board, the book’s inspiration was “what is a story that we can write together?”

Q: What was your favorite part of writing the story? Least favorite?

My favorite part would be the delightful cast of characters we created. Least favorite would be the fact that Jack and I never quite found a rhythm when it came to writing it. (Which wasn’t why she dropped out, mind you, but I’m not sure that it wasn’t a factor.)

Q: Are there any hints for upcoming projects after this book releases?

How about this?

Q: What is your best piece of advice for someone who is either new to writing or new to publishing?

NETWORK. Build your platform and make connections with other writers and potential readers. No matter what route you go with for publication, having a ready audience can make or break you. I published my first book with no audience whatsoever, and it’s been nothing but a struggle to claw myself up since then. There is so much less pressure on you before you publish. Build your audience first.

Q: Do you have any other thoughts you’d like to share with my readers?

Um … I think I need more coffee…

Concluding Thoughts

Those are some really great answers! I also love the idea of “what if” (it inspired my WIP, Sea of Broken Glass), and I love those themes in stories. Thanks to Kendra for her answers, and lots of luck to her on this release! It sounds like an amazing read, and I hope it finds its audience without any hiccups. 🙂

That about wraps it up! To see other stops on this blog tour, hop on over to the main tour page here. And be sure to come back tomorrow for our regularly scheduled discussion!

Until then, happy writing and happy reading!

The Key to Finishing Your First Novel

For most of my life, I never finished writing a book.

Let me backtrack. I started writing when I was in elementary school, a time when I was reading almost exclusively Westerns. I would make the covers (in pencil, on folded computer paper), write the first couple of (extremely short) chapters, then drop it before it was finished. In fifth grade, I finished a few small stories that were class assignments. Then, late in middle school, I finished writing my first book. And didn’t edit or revise a thing. I printed it off and gave it to my fifth grade English teacher to see. But after that came another decade of unfinished work, except for one other story I somehow managed to finish and, again, never touch or revise after the first draft was completed.

Then, in grad school, I finished writing three books within a year and actually went back to polish and revise the first. Since then, I haven’t given up on writing very many books, and then only with good reason.

So what changed? I learned something key: Discipline is a better friend than inspiration.

You see, up until that point, I had only been writing whenever I felt “inspired”. Honestly, I think this is such a common pitfall, particularly for young and new writers. When we start out, we tend to feel like we can only write when we feel like writing or when the ideas are flowing.

But it’s a lie, and honestly, it’s partly laziness and partly a misconception and idealization of the life of a writer.

Writers don’t only write when inspired; writers write out of discipline. As Louis L’Amour put it:

Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.Louis l'amour

We don’t always feel like writing. We don’t always want to open up that document. Sometimes we just want to binge-watch Netflix or nap. But here’s the truth. If you want to be a serious writer, if you might be considering a writing career, you must start to write even when you’re not inspired. Even if it’s just a few words at a time. Start to build your writing habit and schedule and then stick to it! That is the only way you will finish that first novel.

But I am interested in what helps you to sit down and open that last page. Tell me your stories! How did you finish your first book? Do you have any other advice for new writers? Tell me in the comments.

Five Reasons Why First Drafts Are My Favorite

Every writer has a part of the writing process they love most. For some, they love going back to their manuscript and fixing and polishing, so they love to edit. For others, they live for the brainstorming and information gathering that is a pre-write. For many, including me, first drafts are the most desirable stage of writing.

Let’s talk for a moment about the first draft. What exactly is it? Obviously, it’s the first time you write your story down on paper. But there are a few other definitions and ideas floating around that are also useful. My personal favorite is by Terry Pratchett:

The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.
What a beautiful sentiment.

Then there’s Anne Lamott, who said in her absolutely excellent book Bird by Bird: “Now, practically even better news than that of short assignments is the idea of shitty first drafts. All good writers write them.”

It’s awesome to hear someone giving us permission to write something bad (pardon the language in the quote).

Jane Smiley says of first drafts: “Every first draft is perfect because all the first draft has to do is exist. It’s perfect in its existence. The only way it could be imperfect would be to NOT exist.”

Again, someone telling us it doesn’t matter what we write, as long as we write it.

So why do I love first drafts so much? I have five main reasons.

  1. First drafts provide a place for short-lived catharsis. We can say whatever we want, with no fear. We can yell at the top of our lungs about something unjust or painful. We can write something just because we want to write it and for no other reason. We can write scenes that ease our hearts and sing beauty to our souls… and then delete it in a later draft.
  2. There is no judgement. Seriously, this is the best place to write without fear of judgement. I don’t know about you, but some things I want to say or include, I don’t actually want to share. I just want to get it out. But I know it’s for me, not for the people who might judge it. And no one is judging how good it is or if you wrote something correctly. You can write as poorly as you want. An extension of catharsis, this is a place of no fear.
  3. It’s all storytelling and no fixing. It can be one of the fastest parts of the writing process, which can be encouraging to the feeling of accomplishment. I know some people edit while they write, but for me, I just love being able to zip through telling a story without worrying about what I already wrote or fixing keystrokes or scenes. It’s incredibly freeing, to have no worries about what happened before or what the edits will bring. I soar on the pages of the book. I get to live in the story. Speaking of which…
  4. You learn the story for the first time. Just like Pratchett said, the first draft is where the writer really gets to know the story in a way much more intimate and detailed than any outline or plan can give you. This is where the feels happen. This is where the magic happens. This is where you begin to find out what it is you’re actually trying to say with the story.
  5. You get to truly create… it’s magic. Writing is its own kind of magic. You create where nothing was before, and you shape it in the way you want, to play with the world you built and the world around us. You are in complete control of what happens. No other stage of the process can give you that pure creation. Everything else is innovating and improving what you start with. But the act of that first creation, the first keystroke or pen stroke, that is true magic.

Those are definitely my top five reasons why first drafts are my favorite part of the process. It’s a magic, creative endeavor that lightens the burden of everyday living and allows the writer to truly play. What could be better than that?

But what about you? What stage is your favorite? Why? Tell me in the comments!

Making It Personal: The Trials of Writing from Personal Experience

If you’ve been writing for any length of time, you are probably familiar with the expression “write what you know.” And it’s pretty accurate to making a good story. When we write within our experience in some way, we lend an authenticity to our writing and our stories that connects with readers and makes them want to stick around to read more.

But writing what you know isn’t always easy.

Writing personal events, even if they are fictionalized versions that may not address everything you experienced, can be brutal. Especially with a traumatic event or with a situation that the author finds personally triggering. It can bring about inner conflicts just like the ones experienced prior, it can set off new episodes of depression, anxiety, or any other type of disorder it initially triggered, and it can be discouraging and painful to remember.

Recently, I wrote a scene that hit me pretty hard. It was a fictionalized scene of one of the hardest days of my life, and it kicked off a years-long bout with depression at that time. It took me a long time to move past it and sort of be okay with how things went down, three years to be able to write this story, and then I reached this same point in the writing and it’s been difficult. All over again, I am struggling with an old demon.

And then there are other considerations about being completely truthful in an account. First and foremost, how will what I say in this story affect my career outside of writing? And how will my friends and family react to it?

As much as we want to tell the story, there is always that worry about how it will affect us, and it doesn’t matter if the fear is unfounded or not. We are forced to consider how other people will view what we write and how it will influence our real lives outside the story. It’s a messy loop of what you want to say versus what you should say to protect yourself and your relationships. We question whether we should even be telling the story in the first place, but then that gives power to the people or experiences that haunt us. I’m still trying to find this line between telling the story and saying more than I should to avoid hurting myself and the people around me. And I still question how much is enough… and how much is too much.

So why do we do it to ourselves? Why do we torture ourselves by reliving difficult experiences through our writing? For me, there are a few pretty simple reasons.

  1. Writing can be an incredibly cathartic practice. First drafts especially are an excellent place for writers to purge their fantasies, to say things they wished they could’ve said before, or to push all of their negative emotions out onto a page where it’s clearer, less muddled by their own thoughts and problems and pain. I can say anything I want in a first draft; it can easily be wiped away in the next.
  2. Writing can give us clarity. It provides a concise way to state what you know about something and, eventually, a way to look at a situation more objectively.
  3. Writing can give us power over a time we felt powerless. Let’s face it. Life isn’t always in our control, or things happen that we feel we have no control over. But writing? We choose what to write, we choose what to say. Even if we never share it. We are able to write the story as we see fit.
  4. Writing through the difficult times can connect us to other people. Ultimately, this is why I write. I want my experiences and the stories that come from them to give others hope and strength to get through their own difficult times.

I don’t know if everything I’ve written recently will see the light of day, because of my own anxieties and other considerations, but I know, hard as it is, I had to tell this story. I had to set it down on paper, this account of a hard time in my life, if for nothing else than to express it on my own terms. Maybe I can share this story one day without any fear at all, to connect with the people I originally wanted to touch with the story.

But for now, it is enough to write.

What about you? Have you struggled through writing something personal? How did you cope with the difficulties? Tell me in the comments!

Ooo, Shiny! (Or, Managing New Ideas While Writing)

One of the most important things to a writer is simply an idea. A place to spark their next story. An inspiration. A gift from a muse. The shinies we see and chase instinctively in a need to capture and create with them. Ideas are the life, blood, and magic of the writing process; without them, there is no story.

I see you over there, you beautiful new story, you.

However, as good and important as ideas are, they can also be dangerous distractions. They can lead us to lost time on our works in progress (WIP) as we daydream about the new idea, create Pinterest boards, write new outlines for new stories, or even start writing new stories themselves.

And what happens to the WIP when that happens? It starts to stagnate. It lies forgotten in the dust, that story that was also once a shiny worth chasing. It slows, and in many cases, it dies on your hard drive.

For years, this was how I operated. I would get a new idea and dive in head first, starting the new story with impatience while allowing the old one to sit half-finished forever. Because of this model (and how I only wrote when inspired… but that’s a story for another day), I never finished anything. In the years between elementary school and college, when I’d started to write my own stories, I finished two. And they were never edited or looked at ever again (they can probably stay out of the light of day, honestly).

But that all changed in the last five years or so. I still get new ideas all the time that want to pull me away from my WIP, but I manage to finish what I’m writing before moving on to the new story. I’ve learned ways that work for me, that keep me productive and motivated and entertained.

How do I manage these distractions and finish what I’m working on? Three simple tricks:

  1. WIP has priority. That’s right. That simple. Set yourself a goal on your WIP, and make sure you complete it before you let yourself do anything with any new ideas. For example, if I get a new idea, I set a daily goal of 1000 words on the old project before I allow myself to work on something unrelated to my WIP. The trick here is you have to keep yourself accountable and disciplined. You have to do the work to get the reward, not just reward yourself for no reason. Writing trackers can be very helpful and motivating for this. I personally use Writeometer on my phone.

    And speaking of the reward…

  2. Make the new idea your prize. Use it to motivate yourself to finish your WIP so you can indulge in the new idea. Write your WIP goal for the day, then turn on Pinterest.
  3. Don’t start writing until your WIP is finished. Unless you think you can keep up your enthusiasm for the WIP while starting the “more exciting” story in your head, just avoid beginning the writing at all. Instead, start doing the background research, create your mood boards and inspiration boards, create character sheets and plot outlines. Do whatever prep work you need. Just don’t start writing it. Writing the story is the ultimate prize for finishing your WIP… treat it that way!

So there you have it! It can be very difficult to keep writing a story, especially in the muddy middle or if you’ve been working on it for a while, and especially when a new, shinier idea comes around. But with a few changes in your routine or how you think about the new idea and your WIP, you can still finish your stories and enjoy your new ideas.

What about you? How do you manage your new shinies while writing something else? What suggestions do you have for focusing on your WIP? What methods do or don’t work for you? Tell me in the comments!