Cliches. Adverbs. Telling. Flash backs. Talking heads. Exposition. Predictability. Inconsistent point of views.
These are some of the no-no's of writing fiction. There's a ton more. So it's no wonder that writing something original can be difficult. They say there's nothing new under the sun. I don't know who they be, but I never seen them.
It's been six months since the start of the writing group, and so far we've all been pretty consistent. One of the writers remarked that one of my characters seemed to be God-like. Not that the character had magical powers, but the way I characterized him made him seem that way. He's sorta the Yoda of this book, where around he goes and wisdom he dispels.
In one scene right before the first major battle, he flies along side the main character and has a short but deep conversation. One of the critiquers said that a God-like character should have a God-like entrance: the clouds parting and the sun shooting rays. This writer meant well and often has great input. But I can't think of anything more cliche than having such an entrance, except having birds chirp, cherubs circling the character, playing violins and trumpets, throwing flower petals, while angels sing angelically.
Now, doing the opposite is becoming all too common. The anti-hero is one example.
I love Breaking Bad. You have this character, Walter White, a father of a son with cerebral palsy, married to a devoted woman who's pregnant with their second child, working a thankless job teaching high school chemistry, making barely enough money to support his family. Then he gets diagnosed with terminal cancer. The procedures to fight the cancer alone would destroy his family financially. What is a man to do? Partner with a small time drug dealer and make meth.
Unlike other attempts at anti-heroes, Suicide Squad...cough...ahem, excuse me, Walter starts out as a redeeming character in that we can relate to his troubles. We understand not making enough money. We understand working thankless jobs. Corporate world anyone? We understand sickness. In the face of it all, he tries something unconventional to earn that paper. Money for any of you ghetto-challenged.
I think that being unconventional is the key to skirting the trite. But what do I mean by unconventional?
Thinking from a normal person's perspective, Walter could have gotten another job. Or a higher paying job. Or begin a startup. Or given up and die.
However, going the deep end, like whoring out his wife would make Walter unlikeable. At least in the beginning. He does a lot of despicable stuff in the nine seasons that the show had ran. But hooking the viewers first is important. And it's a good hook.
Obviously from a storytelling point of view, he can't sell meth forever, so upping the ante by having Walter commit increasing heinous crimes pushes the envelope. But he's doing them to protect his own interests, his family being one. And that helps keep the audience sympathetic.
In the aforementioned Suicide Squad, no one has any redeeming qualities. The closest that I can think of is Will Smith's character, Deadshot. He has a daughter that he loves, but that's it. To say that a father loves his child isn't enough to hook us to a character. There's no conflict. The film also doesn't do a convincing job showing his daughter being disappointed at knowing her father is a killer. And Deadshot doesn't show that he regrets letting her down. There are scenes that depict these things. But Deadshot doesn't do anything to try and stop. The tone of the the character is that he's an assassin. It is what it is. There's no real guilt, hence, not redeeming.
With Mr. White, we see him taking the time to calculate the cost of his procedures, calculate his family's financial needs after he's gone, assuming the procedures didn't work, and made the total amount as his goal. Noble.
People understand doing bad stuff. But doing bad stuff for the purpose of doing bad stuff has no emotion behind it. For most people who aren't psychotic, they can't understand that and will not feel sympathy for the character.