Why Diversity Matters and What That Means for You

Why Diversity Matters - Image

Diversity has been a big deal with audiences lately. It seems that no matter where you look, you’ll find readers talking about how there’s not enough diversity in one story, or that a film has some great diversity in it. For a lot of people, this seems to have come out of nowhere! I mean, not long ago, we weren’t really spending much time talking about diverse casts and representation. So why does everyone suddenly care now? What’s changed? And what should you do about it?

Why Diversity Matters - Image

There is nothing wrong with asking these questions. I know that it can sometimes seem like people want to scream at you whenever you ask the most simple of things. That’s an awful way to react, but it doesn’t come from nowhere. There is a very small but very vocal group of people on the internet who hate the thought of writers adding minority characters to their stories. The trolls and the racists don’t make up even a small minority of the people asking questions, but they do speak the most and the loudest. It means a lot of minority people out there are on the edge already.

But I’m not here to tell you not to ask questions. I’m here to answer any serious ones that you might have. I’m here to not treat you as evil just because you don’t understand yet. So as long as you’re willing to keep your mind open and keep a rational head, I’ll help you to understand what’s going on here.

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Bad Romance Story Tropes that Make Me Stop Reading

Mistakes in Romance Stories - Cute romantic couple

The romance genre is full of bad stories. Let’s not lie to ourselves! Since it’s such a popular genre to write about, it makes sense that there’s a lot of awful stuff out there. But since we know that, doesn’t it make sense to try to change it? Or at the very least, shouldn’t you use your knowledge to stand out from the crowd? If you recognise the worst of the mistakes in romance stories, you can arm yourself against them and make something that stands out from the crowd.

There’s no reason why you can’t write a great romance story if you put a little thought into it. The first step is to be aware of the issues so that you can avoid, alter or turn them on their head. If you can do that, you have the chance to make something great! It’s up to you. So here are the top romance story mistakes to avoid.

Mistakes in Romance Stories - Cute romantic couple

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What to Do When You Hate Your Story

When You Hate Your Story - Chaotic Deluge

As writers, we often have a love/hate relationship with our stories. One minute they fill us with excitement and give us a reason to get up in the morning. The next, we’re pulling our hair out because they make us so angry. Sometimes, you can jump between these two feelings by the minute. I’ve done that before! And at the worst times, it can feel like there’s no point to your story — like you might as well stop now and get a new hobby.

We’ve all been there, believe me! You’re not alone! In fact, it’s so normal that I’d worry if you didn’t feel that way from time to time. I don’t think you need to spend your whole time writing with a sour look on your face. No! It’s just important to feel like you’re helpless from time to time. After all, writing isn’t an easy task. So hating your story is an important part of the writing process. It gives you a chance to do something about it and make your story even better.

But it’s not healthy to stay in that place. Sure, it’s a good idea to feel those feelings from time to time. However, letting them take over is going to cripple you and stop you from writing anything at all! That’s why it’s so important to strike that right balance. And here are the best tips to getting back on your feet when you hate your story.

When You Hate Your Story - Chaotic Deluge

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Why You Need Good Grammar in Your Stories

Dictionary search for the word "grammar".

You’ve probably heard people say that you need good grammar before. They’ll read your story and point out the smallest errors and that can leave you angry or annoyed. Why does it even matter so much, anyway? If they know what you mean, why should they even care? You’re only human, after all. You’re going to make mistakes! And of all the things they could focus on, they choose the thing that seems to have nothing to do with the story. Believe me! I get where you’re coming from! So why would you need good grammar in your stories so bad?

Dictionary search for the word "grammar".

I understand how tempting it can be to just type away and hope your ideas make up for the language. You have some good points to make, but you just don’t have the language skills to show it yet. Why should you have to limit your imagination just because you aren’t a grammar expert? It does kinda seem like other writers are just being elitist from the outside. I mean, they don’t seem to care if you have the best story idea in the world! Ugh.

Well, there is a good reason why people say what they do. In fact, there are many good reasons! Who doesn’t want to read a well-written story, after all? Stories aren’t just good ideas written down on scraps of paper. It takes care to write well, and that’s what a lot of readers are looking for.

Still not sure? Well, here are some reasons why you need good grammar in your stories.

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Why You Should Write for Episode

Image of Computer: Why You Should Write for Episode

Episode Interactive has its pros and cons. It’s a great app that helps readers to connect with stories in a new and exciting way. Plus, it makes it really easy to chat with your new fans! I loved reading and writing Episode stories during my time on the app. However, learning the code can be a scary prospect for new writers. This is really true if you haven’t read much on the app before you start (which you should do). So I’ve had many people ask me what the point of writing for Episode is. It seems like a lot of work for nothing to them. That’s fair enough, but there are some great reasons why you should write for Episode.

Image of Computer: Why You Should Write for Episode

So whether you’re new to the idea of Episode or a veteran reader trying to decide whether you should join the writing crew, there’s a lot of reasons why you should write. Some of them are good for you and some of them are good for the community as a whole. We’re always looking for new writers and new people to talk to. You’ll be welcome for sure! So before you make your decision, give me a chance to tell you why you should write for Episode.

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Consent in Episode Stories

Consent can be really tricky to talk about. In fact, sex as a whole can be such a tough subject! I don’t blame you if you saw this title and you wanted to run for the hills! We do need to talk about it, though. We need to be able to discuss sex if we’re going to write for such a romance-heavy app. It’s not something we can avoid! If we don’t think about the way we’re portraying sex in our stories, we can run the risk of sending out the wrong ideas. Sex sells, but we need to make sure we’re selling it properly.

Why is this so important? Well, there are thousands of stories on Episode, and many of them portray sex in a very uncomfortable and unhealthy light. They make non-consensual sex seem romantic and okay as long as your character did actually want it deep down, or if they loved the LI. No. That doesn’t make it okay. In fact, that just shows how many people think non-consensual sex can be okay if they show it from the “right point of view”. It’s worrying!

Most of the readers on the app are teenagers, which means you need to be able to write with a teenage audience in mind. They’re young and are just forming their own sexual identity. It is the worst time to give them bad views on sex because they have no normal sexual experiences to go by yet. That means that they run the risk of thinking that these stories are normal sexual experiences because they have nothing else to go by. That’s why Episode authors need to be smart. We have a duty to not normalise toxic behaviour.

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Chekhov’s Gun: Keeping Everything Relevant

A little while ago, I wrote a post about Deus Ex Machina and how it can hinder the narrative of a potentially great story. It’s one of those things that will really get people questioning the quality of your work… and once they find an obvious issue with the story (like an unexpected, random entity swooping in to save the day), you’ll realise it’s much easier for them to pick apart the smaller, usually forgivable, plot holes. So how do you solve that? How do you make sure that the story is succinct, exciting and impactful? Well, I’ll definitely be doing a post on general tips in the future, but one of the most important things is Chekhov’s Gun. It is fundamental to a good story, and so it’s best to understand what it means so that you can utilise Chekhov’s advice in your work.

So what is Chekhov talking about? What does a gun have to do with creating a good narrative? What makes this technique so important? Well, I would argue it’s not just a simple trope or plot device to be thrown around in your story. It’s also a general rule of writing aimed for you to create something that resonates with your readers or audience… in the way Chekhov himself described it, anyway. So let’s take a look at what he actually said:

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Is Elsa Really Gay? Why Should it Matter?!

So, this post has been a long time coming. I mean, I didn’t actually have a blog to write my half-rant-half-informative posts on when I initially found this issue annoying, but it recently came up again, and I felt the sudden need to clear a few things up for my younger readers.

You see, since the release of the hit Disney film in 2013 (oh my gosh that’s five years ago. I feel damn old), people have speculated about Elsa’s sexuality. Initially, I found this really weird. I mean, we have one of the very few stories about a Disney princess (and a Queen) in which the main focus of the plot isn’t the romance! While there is a romantic element to the story, the act of true love that saved Anna was one of sisterly love, which is exciting and wonderful. Even better, it is an act that she performs herself. We have a princess who takes matters into her own hands and affects the plot without the explicit need of a man. Yes, men help her along the way. Everyone needs a little help from time to time. But it’s a world away from the times when women would just have everything done to them instead of trying to actively make their own lives better. I wouldn’t necessarily call this film revolutionary. I mean, by the time Frozen came out, we’d already had Military Mulan, Entrepreneur Tiana and Rebellious Merida, just to name a few! However, I can’t deny that the reception of Frozen and the subversion of the ‘magical-queen-is-evil’ trope helped Disney take a good few steps in the right direction.

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Waste Not Want Not: Hold Onto All Those “Bad Ideas”

So you’re in the shower, scrubbing away when a fantastic idea hits you. It consumes you like wildfire, leaving you with a fervour for writing that you may have forgotten you had in the past few weeks. You think of the intricate plot and allow individual scenes to flood your mind. Vivid images of your new characters walk in and out of your head. You’re hooked on this idea, and you rush out of the bathroom, towel trailing awkwardly after you, in pursuit of somewhere you can scribble down your notes before everything leaks out of your head. You do just that and survey your work with a look of utter triumph on your face. It’s been a long time since you felt so satisfied, and you’re ready to dive right into your new world… once you’ve dried your dripping hair and put some clothes on, of course.

Idea
Artwork by ChaoticDeluge @ DeviantArt

The problem is that when you get back to your desk, armed with a pen and a sense of determination, you start to notice the holes in your story. It seems to have reduced in quality significantly in the time it took you to dress yourself. Now you realise that the characters’ motivations seem to be off… there doesn’t seem to be any point to anything, and everything just seems… well… bad. You spend a few minutes, hours, or even days trying to correct it, but you can feel a deep sense of revulsion growing in the pit of your stomach, working its way up to create a lump in your throat. This idea is just no good. You don’t even know why you thought it was in the first place. You wasted all that time you could have spent doing something else… like having a longer shower. You pick up your notes and, shoulders sagging with defeat, rip them into as many pieces as you’re strong enough to muster, then throw the whole thing in the bin.

Does this scenario sound familiar to you? I’m sure we’ve all been there. Such is the woe of being an amateur writer, after all.

close up photography of crumpled paper
Photo by Steve Johnson on Pexels.com

Well, I’m sorry to tell you this, but you’re all wrong. What you did was stupid. All those good ideas – yes, they were probably a lot better than you’d led yourself to believe – thrown into the bin! Shame on you! So I’m here to tell you what you should do in the future to make yourself a much better writer.

Read moreWaste Not Want Not: Hold Onto All Those “Bad Ideas”

The Art of Using Big Words Properly

If you’re someone who loves the English Language as much as I do, it can be challenging to know how to create pieces of literature that are both easy to read and sophisticated in their vocabulary. Don’t worry! It’s definitely a good thing that you’re looking into the language more than most. Grammar fascinates you? Discovering new words and the etymology behind them envigorates you? Excellent! I totally understand you! Languages can be exciting – especially when you realise that you can never know every single word. There will always be growing-room, and space to learn and make yourself seem smarter than before.

Antidisestablishmentarianism
Artwork by ChaoticDeluge @ DeviantArt

So let’s imagine that you’ve been reading avidly and regularly, and recently you stumbled across a particularly fascinating word. You get it from context, look it up in a dictionary, ask someone, or a mixture of a few different methods to discover its definition. Now, you’re pretty confident that you know what the word means and how to use it. Great! I wouldn’t blame you if you were eager to jump straight into your work and insert the new vocabulary in as many places as you see fit. After all, as someone who studies a few different foreign languages, I’m more aware than most that the best way to consolidate your understanding of a word and make sure that it sticks in your head is to use it. But should you just use it without thinking about the effect it’s creating upon your work? Certainly not!

You’re probably thinking “what do you mean? Of course, I should use the word if I know how! What else is there to think about?” and my answer to that is a lot. There’s a lot to think about. Way more than you’d imagine – and it’s whether or not you think about the effect your words are having upon your story that can make or break you as a writer.

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Breaking the Glass Ceiling: Creating Positive Female Characters

A few years ago, I was doing my AS-Level in Media Studies, and we were given a coursework assignment to make a two-minute film opening. We all split off into groups, and I ended up working with two other girls. Of course, studying Media made us all hyper-aware of the fact that a lot of women are given a somewhat bad name in films and television, so we were adamant about portraying a strong female character. With that in mind, we got to work planning and creating a storyboard, sure we would be able to represent a woman who didn’t adhere to the typical limiting conventions.

The first thing we did was discuss our protagonist. Naturally, it would have to be a woman. She would be strong-willed and independent, resourceful and brave. She would put her mission before her feelings because that’s what we thought would make her comparable to men in the media. We really wanted to make sure we were good feminists (the word didn’t have such a bad name a few years ago) and make the man the vulnerable character for a change. I mean, of course, men are allowed to show vulnerability. Toxic masculinity was stupid and destructive. Let’s create a man who isn’t portrayed as less manly simply because he shows us his feelings.

All was going wonderfully… until my teacher came up to us and, having listened to our great enthusiasm about this innovative and progressive female character, said:

“So you’re creating a femme fatale?”

Oh wow. Change of plans. It seems we did slip into a conventional role for women – just the complete opposite one. We’d added in a cliche without even meaning to… but we weren’t about to change it! I mean, all of that time lost – with all our other coursework? You have to be kidding! We wanted to create a positive female character, but not that much!

The moral of my little story is that it is very easy to fall into the trap of adding in cliches and turning any character into a stock character without realising. This is especially true of women, who have suffered from a long history of being given the shaft in media. There were, however, a few points that we’d failed to recognise when we were beating ourselves up about not realising what we’d done:

  • Cliches aren’t always your enemy. You just need to know when and how to break them if you’re going to use them.
  • Physical strength doesn’t mean strength of character. There are many different types of strength.
  • We should have focused on creating a convincing and interesting character first, instead of simply reducing her to a feminist symbol.

Before you dismiss me as a crazy tumblr feminist and denounce me as a “man-hater”, please hear me out! People love to shout “sexist” or “bigot” whenever they’re met with criticism or alternate opinions in this day and age, but the truth is often far from that. Really, in the West, most guys are absolutely happy to treat women as their equals and give them the respect that they deserve. Likewise, most women act like they’re worthy of the respect they’re given. Women are largely paid the same (with an exception being, surprise surprise, the media industry) and legally, women get the same benefits as men. It’s the media as an institution which just doesn’t seem to keep up with the way our society actually already is. It is the biggest culprit of perpetuation gender gaps and often seems to just be stuck in a time when women were viewed as weak, helpless, sexualised objects. Save from the odd film that’s rare in the grand scheme of things, the media industry is just not as progressive as we are in our everyday lives.

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Is Exposition Really That Bad?

If you’ve been around literary critics or writers who love to read about writing techniques, you’ll most likely have heard of the term “exposition”. No doubt, it probably confused you a little bit. It certainly baffled me when I first heard about it. It can be thrown around as this awful thing that can taint a story when all it really seems to mean is explaining elements of your story to the audience or reader. What the hell could possibly be so terrible about telling the audience what’s going on?

You may have heard the phrase “show, don’t tell”, which seems to go against what you’ve seen written in some of your favourite books. Nevertheless, when people hear this piece of advice, they pounce on their stories and remove all adverbs with extra malice and ruthlessness, thinking this is the best way to “cut all the crap”. In fact, many a friend of mine has overused that little phrase when they’re fresh out of a creative writing class, which leads to frustrating conversations when they ask me to have a look at their work. “Show, don’t tell” is something you will hear people say when they’re desperately trying to prevent new, budding writers from getting their narrator to explain things which can be shown through the dialogue, setting or general encounters. It’s almost like letting the audience figure out a thing or two themselves, instead of overexplaining and spoonfeeding. However, people often go from one extreme to the other as soon as they hear that it’s better to show.

So, I’m here to tell you why exposition is not your enemy, but rather something that can be great in moderation. Hopefully, by the end of this post, you’ll be armed with the weapons to create a story that makes sense and is enjoyable to read.

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“God did it”: the Problem with Deus Ex Machina

You may or may not have heard this term thrown around a lot when you’re writing and reading. It’s actually a massive problem in a lot of stories, published or otherwise, and can leave a reader feeling frustrated, unfulfilled and lost when it comes to tying up the loose ends of your story. Deus ex machina takes away the ability of the reader to immerse in the action, while simultaneously making you seem like a lazy and unskilled writer. But what exactly is this weird Latin term and how can you avoid it?

In Latin, ‘deus ex machina’ means something along the lines of ‘God from a machine’. It refers, in short, to when Greek plays would have a God character suspend from the stage on a crane and swiftly solve all of the remaining problems at the end. No mess, no fuss. God did it. No questions asked. Now it’s come to mean any character that pops out of nowhere to solve a problem (or all the problems) without any prior warning or mention. It can be quite a tempting tool, frankly: when you’re stuck with writer’s block and don’t know how to conclude this elaborate tale you’ve concocted, what better way to solve the glaring plot holes than to plaster them up with a new, unknown character?

Well, I say no. Euripides may have been a fan of that style of writing, and it may have worked for him, but does no one else remember that “what the hell” reaction when a seemingly impossible (and therefore massively intriguing) problem is solved with the wave of some random person’s wand? It’s lazy and useless most of the time. You’re cutting corners and robbing your readers of a genuinely good ending.

Read more“God did it”: the Problem with Deus Ex Machina

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