Sunday, March 31, 2024

Calculating ROI - and Accounting for the Intangible

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is our worst ROI ever. So many to choose from!

ROI is industry shorthand for Return on Investment. It's basically a calculation for financial health of a business. I looked up the origin and found out that Donaldson Brown created the term.

As the Assistant Treasurer [of DuPont] in 1914, Brown developed a formula for monitoring business performance that combined earnings, working capital, and investments in plants and property into a single measure that he termed “return on investment.” It later became known in academic and financial circles as the DuPont Method (or Model) for Return on Investment. The measure was widely taught in business schools and adopted by many companies as a means of benchmarking the financial health of their products and businesses.

That's interesting, because I wondered if it was an old model. Turns out it's over a century old!

Also, the term comprises much more than I think most writers mean when they use it. When I hear writers talk about ROI, it's always whether a particular effort - a conference, buying an ad, buying into an anthology - will be more expensive than the sales it generates. Many reduced it to the simplest math: "If I spend this much attending a con, will I earn more than that on sales of my books?" Often husbands are cited as putting forth this equation, usually as justification for wives not attending cons.

When asked for my opinion there (and sometimes even when NOT asked), I have always said that conferences of all types provide an intangible ROI. Networking and getting your books in front of people give long-term results that aren't always quantifiable. Since I was doing a bit of research, I looked up if anyone thinks the DuPont Model for ROI is antiquated. Turns out there's this:

We demonstrate that firms 'assets are becoming increasing more intangible, and the traditional DuPont Analysis omits this crucial piece of a firm's ability to generate profit.

Those folks are talking market equity, but it occurs to me that many authors looking at simple math and short-term sales are failing to account for the intangible value of building recognition for their work over the long term. 

But I digress. 

The topic today asks about my personal worst return on investment. Since I don't really do the calculations - see above - I don't know a precise metric. I can, however, share an investment regret. When my very first book came out, the essay collection Wyoming Trucks, True Love, and the Weather Channel, a friend of mine, Chuck, told me one of HIS great regrets was not buying a case of his first book. The first edition was worth a great deal and he was sorry not to have done that. So, I bought a case of my books!

Reader: I still have most of them.

See, my first book didn't sell tons of copies and I have not become an NYT bestseller with a TV miniseries based on my books, unlike Chuck. He meant well, and I adore him for thinking that I would have the same trajectory, but I'm not C.J. Box, alas! 

I suppose the key takeaway here is that there is no one size fits all advice. 

Also, that the ROI on cats is always solid.


Saturday, March 30, 2024

Tik Tok Trends - use 'em or lose 'em?


Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

Tik Tok doesn't come naturally to me, as our other SFF 7 authors have also noted for them. But in the last year or so I've been trying to connect with readers on the app--because there are millions of readers on BookTok looking for their next read.

Just as readers go to Amazon to buy books, so readers flock to TikTok to discuss books. They're talking about their latest read, showing off their TBR list, and sharing funny trends and memes that have bookish content. Who wouldn't want to join in on the fun?

Well, introverted authors, or authors using pen names, might not love having to show their faces. Also, it can be challenging for those of us who are over the age of 25 to keep up with the fast pace of the trends. And there are so many users generating content that it is not easy to go viral without devoting a great deal of time and effort into the app.

Some authors seek a formula for success: use these words in your caption, make a book-flip-only account, post x number of times a day. The algorithm has its own mind, though, and what works for one author won't work for you. Although there is no single way to succeed, there are many ways to engage readers on the app. Trends can be a fun way to do this. 

When I started, I found BookTok follow parties were a great way to find like-minded readers and grow your following. The BookTokers I follow use simple and elaborate posts--some take no time to create and others can take hours. I've tried some of the easy kinds of posts that many BookTokers do: Meet the BookToker, Book Challenges, book flips, and book stacks, for example. Most of them can be done with a stack of books or even a single book. Others need you to stand and point, or lip sync to a sound. It takes time, but some authors say this time can be worthwhile to gain a larger following. It's rewarding to make short-form content--so different from novels!--and this creative outlet can provide more immediate gratification than book-writing does.

I'll never be someone who sets a trend, but it can be fun to participate in the community. There are lots of BookTok sounds you can find if you search "booktook trends" that can provide you with ideas. I've only dabbled in using costumes for posts, but I would love to do this more. These are more involved and I don't have the time while I'm teaching. Summer would be a good opportunity to experiment.

Proper BookTokers have a lovely full wall of books, but this isn't a requirement for everyone. TikTok doesn't want everyone to look and be perfect, it prefers authenticity and informal or spontaneous posts (even though many influencers devote a great deal of time to their posts). This approach is appealing to me. Sometimes I feel too chaotic and messy for Instagram, so showing more of my real self on TikTok seems more natural. I'm still getting comfortable onscreen and I haven't found my niche yet, but I've learned to focus on having fun and making connections rather than trying to make the perfect viral post.

Friday, March 29, 2024

Hail the Traveler and Farewell

Today, we pause to wish fair winds and following seas to a friend and author who was a member of the SFF Brigade for a good long while. This week, James A. Moore passed away. 

James wrote over 50 grimdark fantasy and horror novels, games, and comic book scripts. He was a three-time nominee for the Bram Stoker Award. He, in conjunction with good friend Christopher Golden, won the Shirley Jackson Award for editing horror anthology The Twisted Book of Shadows. He delighted in supporting and mentoring other writers. 

Here on the blog, James was a kindhearted contributor who always had encouraging words for the rest of us. He challenged a few of us to write outside our comfort zones. He will be missed. 

Because authors in the United States do not always (or even usually) have anything approaching adequate health insurance, James's illness took an enormous toll on him and his family. As a result, James's friend, Christopher Golden has organized a fund raiser to help offset Memorial Expenses and to support James's widow. The family requests memorials there in lieu of other condolences. 

If you remember James, or even if his name and books are new to you, you can also support his surviving family by picking up his books

Thursday, March 28, 2024

Striking Social Gold

a cell phone sitting on a epoxy-marbled floor with the app store opened and social media apps: Instagram, X/Twitter, and TikTok displayed

Oh trends, what fickle things they are. 

If that sentence doesn’t tell you where I stand…then I guess I need to elaborate. This week we’re talking about TikTok. Technically we’re talking about Tick-Tock trends, Jeffe decided to keep the typo and I kinda like it. 

I also like what Jeffe said: only do the kind of social media you enjoy. I’m paraphrasing, so check out her post for the direct quote AND you’ll see some gorgeous book covers! But back to that author social media stuff. If you don’t enjoy it then you’re not going to do it well. Or often enough. Which means it’ll be difficult to reach readers through it. 

Videos aren’t my creative outlet, so TikTok doesn’t appeal to me. Yes, I get sucked into watching the feed on Instagram, who doesn't, but I limit the amount of time I spend on there. As for TikTok, I long ago decided if I’m not actively participating by posting my own content on a social, I’m not going to spend my time using. So this week’s topic got me curious about the positives that surround trends, specifically BookTok.

There have been a number of books that began as a concept or gainted a pre-pub following on BookTok take off successfully. One that I read and thoroughly enjoyed was Assistant to the Villain. There have been others I DNF’d. I didn't know Assistant to the Villain or the ones I DNF'd were BookTok books until after I'd read them and some because I looked up BookTok books to write this and found out their origin. Maybe I haven’t read enough BookTok-spurred stories, but I don’t feel they’re any better or worse than books I find in other ways. However, I acknowledge it’s a new avenue to reach publication and readers. 

It’s sort of like BookTok is the new Twitter-fest for books. #pitmad and #pitchwars were golden opportunities for savvy writers to craft 35 word hooks for their books. I know authors who landed publishing contracts that way. It was exciting and thrilling—the Twitter pitch-fests ushered in a new way to connect authors with agents online. It blew attending conferences in person for pitch sessions out of the water. Twitter provided authors a way to find publishing contracts and/or promote books from the comfort of their own homes—pantless! I'm sure there was a small percentage of people who were pantless. It seems to be a thing people crow about. 

What it really boils down to is our social media usage evolved and so did the way writers use it. And it’s not going to stop changing.

There will be another new social that people glom to and authors will find a way to sell their books and book ideas with it. And after that new shiny there’ll be another, and another. So it really goes back to: make sure you have fun with whichever social you choose. (if you read between the lines it says: don’t do them all, you’ll burn out) If you’re one of the lucky ones and you find an open door on a social—congrats! And I hope you remember what it was like when all you had were dreams and reach a hand back for someone else when you’re able. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Trendy? Eh, no.

 This Week's Topic: Tik-Tok Trends: Have I Tried Any Reading or Writing Trends?

Oh, y'all, no. Not even when I was in middle school--when being fashionable was a social life or death necessity--was I trendy. These days, I'm vaguely aware of what's what, and even then only the hype in my genre. I'm aware of the Fourth Wing phenomenon and the rise of Romantasy as a marketing category (romantic fantasy and fantasy romance have always existed, it's just that Publishing didn't want to acknowledge it, because ewwww Romance cooties! {eyeroll})

As a reader, I'm interested in the on dit because big sales numbers means the gatekeepers will shepherd some really good books that were previously rejected because "there wasn't a market for that." Admittedly, I usually wait for the second or third wave of the trend, so I reap the benefit of the hidden gems finally getting their due.

As a writer, I pay attention to trends for the sake of my advertising but not for my creative process. I don't write fast enough to release to an ephemeral trend. Ah, if only!

As for using Tik-Tok itself, that'd be a hard nope. Ain't nobody needing to see the disastrophe on this side of the screen.

Sunday, March 24, 2024

New Covers for Sorcerous Moons!

 Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is "Tick-Tock trends—have you tried any reading or writing trends?" 

I'm leaving in the misspelling, just so you get how clueless we are. ~ Shakes cane at kids on lawn ~

Regarding TikTok - lol! - a social media property that originated in China, no, I don't follow or attempt the trends. I sometimes feel like I should. I do have a TikTok account - - and I even have over a thousand followers there, even though I almost never post anything. The followers are due to very kind and generous fellow authors who do the Tiks and Toks better than I do. (Shout out to Vela Roth and Lisette Marshall!)

So, I know that I really should post to TikTok, and I sometimes think about it, and even occasionally do it. But I also remind myself of advice I've been giving since the beginning of social media, which is that you "should" do only the kind you enjoy doing. Social media is social and if you're hating it and faking being social and happy and fun, it shows. 

Therefore, instead of discussing reader trends or writing trends or TikTok dances, I'm going to share these beautiful new covers for my complete, six-book Sorcerous Moons series!!! The spine design with all six together is so gorgeous even Taylor is gasping in admiration! The print editions can be ordered via my website store or the usual retailers. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

On my mind: reading older books


My To Be Read pile is on my mind. It’s gotten so big that I get choice paralysis when I’m trying to pick a book to read next. I decided to try to prioritize working in books that were published a multiple of ten years ago.

Why? As a reader, it’s easy to get caught up in the constant new release cycle. Physical bookstores have limited capacity, and they want to move books as fast as possible. The best way for them to do this is to stock new books as they come out (which I’m less likely to have bought already) and bestsellers. I often have difficulty finding a book that’s new-to-me on the shelves that’s more than a few years old at a bookstore that only sells new books. Additionally, marketing algorithms prioritize new books (again, because I’m less likely to have read them) when I’m browsing the web.

So I’m making an effort to find and read older books that I didn’t know about. I’m not much for nostalgia, but I am interested in what novels looked like ten, twenty, thirty years ago. I want to know what’s changed in writing conventions and what I can learn from that.

So far this year, I’ve read The Charmed Sphere (2004) by Catherine Asaro, and Undercity (2014), also by Asaro. They are very different books: different genre, different point-of-view, different issues tackled, and I’m glad I read both of them. Next up is Joan Vinge's World's End, published in 1984.

If anyone wants to join me in this activity but doesn't know where to start, ten-year-old books by authors on this blog include The Tears of the Rose by Jeffe Kennedy and Nightmare Ink by Marcella Burnard. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

OMM: Compressing Real-Life Politics into a Fantasy Timeline

This Week's Topic: On My Mind -- Compressing Real-Life Politics into a Believable Fantasy Timeline

Today's an election day here in Ohio. We're mostly voting for who will represent the party on the November ballot. As we spin in yet another face-off between tyranny and democracy, it's too easy to see the hellpit awaiting us. As a citizen, it's horrifying. As a writer, it's enlightening fodder. To have lived through 4 years of a massive and flagrant regression in morals, ethics, and basic compassion only to be threatened (again and again) with another 4 years of it, I'm trying to set aside my disappointment and fury so that I can distill the pivotal moments that enabled The Collapse to figure out where to start The Story. 

There are so many inciting moments in real life over the last fifty to seventy-five years that it's difficult to pick where our protagonist's inciting moment should happen. How do I show an audience the erasure of self-regulating concepts like shame and public censure that once held higher authorities in check? That's something that happened over a long stretch of time, but is there a single moment--or three key moments--that can be built up to convey the crumbling of an institutional pillar? How do I show it without screwing up the pacing? It's easy enough to show capitalistic corruption leading to the downfall, it's been done a lot. Showing the process of the extinction of compassion is harder for me, mostly because it's the reality that makes me the most furious. Putting current real-world events into a fantasy setting with a story that expresses the futile yet desperate fight to revive integrity and altruism has to happen in a compressed timeline yet unfold over a believable blip in time. The pivotal events have to be pushed forward by the actions of the protagonist, when the reality involves a confluence of powerful people over generations.

As I head off to the polls, that's what's On My Mind.

Friday, March 15, 2024

Author Websites

The first hurdle an author has to clear in terms of a website is the fear of being perceived. Don't laugh. It's a whole thing. We've lived most of our lives not being seen or attracting attention to ourselves. It's a bullshit cultural feature of patriarchy. It's pretty ingrained in most female presenting folks to NOT draw attention. Fortunately, an author website, hosted by a professional data center, offers you any number of layers for protecting yourself while promoting your writing. 

The second hurdle is getting past feeling like the website has to be utterly and completely perfect for ever and ever. Literally, the only thing your website needs to do is identify you and your books. It's a communication tool and a landing spot for anyone curious about what you write. The most likely scenario for someone visiting your website is that someone found one of your books and they want to look you up to see what else you have. You can make it as fancy and as involved as you like, but don't think you need fancy for your site to succeed. Your only goal is to create a welcoming place for readers to find out more about your writing and books.


  • Design a site that reflects you. Not just your first book. Or your second. 
  • List and describe all your books.
  • Include multiple buy links.
  • Keep the site up to date with new releases and buy links.


  • Offer any information that could be used to locate you physically.
  • Think you have to build a site all by yourself. You can and should hire out the site unless you're trained or a total control freak. (And then, I'll ask if your time could be more profitably used by writing rather than coding a website.)
  • Force yourself to add something to your website that makes you uncomfortable. You won't find a link to a newsletter on my website anymore because my god I hate sending newsletters. Hates it. So I stopped. And Mail Chimp fired me as a customer. So.  

Websites are necessary and help you welcome readers to your work. In a perfect world, the design of the website will reflect your writing persona to some extent. At the end of the day, though, there's no need to spend a ton of money. The fancier the website, the more expensive and time consuming it will be to maintain.  Keeping it Simple Silly has its benefits.

Thursday, March 14, 2024

Author Website Checklist

screen shot of Alexia Chantel's author website that has a background image on the left of chemical compounds and the right sparkling cherry blossoms with the words Where Sci-Fi Meets Fantasy and below the audiobook cover for The Mars Strain showing the red planet and a virid capsid

This week we’re talking about one of the business sides to writing: the author website. 

Funny enough, my writing buddy and I were discussing this recently. She plans to turn her website back on since she’s going back in the query trenches and had been checking out a variety of author websites. She said the one thing that stood out the most was that each site she pulled up told her with a glance what genre the author wrote in. 

First impressions, like first lines, are important.

And you have about a second to capture that visiting reader's attention. Uff dah. The pressure! But what better time to do a little website spring cleaning than now! So, how about a checklist?

  • The Headshot - do you have an updated headshot? I like Mary Robinette Kowal’s stance on author photos: do it more often than not so you’re recogniable to readers who may run into you IRL. Also, like Mary Robinette mentions here, your headshot is a selling tool. Don’t forget to use it.
  • Your Bio - this is one of those necessary evils like a blurb and synopsis. Though hopefully less painful. It may be helpful to have a short bio (100-300 words written in third person) as certain publications have limited space, and also a longer bio, also written in third person, to give people a deeper glimpse into the wizard behind the curtain. Again, this is another selling tool. Drop your hobbies in there and whatever makes you unique as a person. Everyone has something, what’s yours?
  • Awards/Publications - If you’ve won awards or your work has been nominated, list it! If you’ve been published in a magazine, print or online, or really any where else your non-novel writing has been published, list it! If a reader is on your website because they loved somethin you read you definately want to make it easy for them to find more. 
  • Your Books - this is the given, but there’s a lot of information you’ll want to be sure to include. List the links of your books at all the major online retailors and also your local haunts. The book’s back cover copy, this is usually 200-300 words. The book’s cover in the highest resolution you’ve got. And all the metadata that goes along with a book. If it’s a series don’t forget to say which number!
  • Links to your Socials & Platforms - Readers that take the time to check out your website are looking for a conneciton. Let them know where you hang out: your socials. Let them know if you offer subscription access to you: Patreon, Substack, etc. And let them know if you’ll make any in person appearances in the coming year. 
  • Contact - Think about this one. If you’re comfortable with anyone having your email, feel free to list it. Or you can use a contact form to help you filter messages. Or if you have a publicist or agent that can happily handle messages, list their email instead of yours! List a contact option that you’re comfortable with. 

There are countless other options you can add to your website. But the most important is to remember it’s a selling tool and you’ll want to convey your genre in the first glimpse. Start simple and add on as you grow as a writer. And don’t forget to update your author headshot here and there or run the risk of showing up at a convention only to be unrecognizable. 

That’s all the wisdom I have for you this week. Happy writing and reading!

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Website Mins, Mediums, and Maxs

 This Week's Topic: Author Websites Do's and Don'ts

We all know by now that authors need a home on the web that is theirs and not a social network's, right? Is it enough to have just a FaceBook page? No. A TickTok addy? No. Authors must have their own web destination. I'm in the camp that says authors need to have their own domain name too. Ideally, the domain name is the same as the author name/pen name. Main Page Image Home Page

The whole point of a website for an author is so readers can find a listing of your works. Past, present, upcoming. Thus, at the bare minimum, an author should have:

  • their name
    • and any related pen names 
  • their bio
    • this usually includes an author headshot, short and/or long bio
  • their works
    • listed by genre, by series, by reading order
    • should also include links to buy the works
    • nice to provide a printable list
  • and a means of contact
    • whether it's a form-driven contact page that sends to the author's preferred email address, 
    • links to their social media pages
    • links to their discord, private community, etc 
    • links to podcasts

Ought to haves, but not have-to-haves:

  • One-click means to subscribe to their newsletter
    • Also need the privacy policy page and cookie policy page if you're collecting any information on a user such as email address
  • Press packet 
    • Often incorporated into the About Me page, this includes author headshots/preferred images, short bio, and long bio. This is to help promotion/event organizers have the author's information at their convenience, be it for podcasts, blogs, articles, book clubs, etc.
  • Where to Find Me
    • If the author is touring, either virtually or IRL, a calendar of events/appearances with links to the event pages
Nice to haves, but not necessary:

  • Series Extras
    • Be it term glossaries, character guides, world maps, etc, it's nice to have a place where fans can download the extras that'll help them better enjoy the series.
  • Writing Sample
    • While big retailers offer a "look inside" preview of books, that's for audiences who are on their sites. Folks who came across the author's name before their work can get a sense of writing style from the sample on the author's website.
  • Free Story Download
    • This might be part of the author's newsletter lure (subscribe and get a free story!) or a separate short story to attract potential readers
  • Sell-direct storefront
    • If readers can buy books directly from the author, then those links should be on the book pages and on a unified storefront
  • Other Author-Related Revenue Presence
    • From freelance articles to workshops to Tarot readings to private coaching, etc., if the author has a writing-adjacent service or products, readers want to know

Now, as tempting as it is to put ALL THE THINGS on a website, clutter is an interest killer. The best websites are simple and straightforward, delivering what the reader needs.  After all, the end game is BOOK SALES. 

FWIW, there's a saying in web design that each click costs an additional 10% click-through rate. From a marketing standpoint, we have a "two clicks and they're gone" theory, so we try to put the buy option within two clicks of arriving at the main page. 

Saturday, March 9, 2024

Tropes: Love them or hate them...


Tropes. Love them or hate them, as authors, we have our favorites to write and those that just bring us dread or maybe even make us cringe. Tropes play a huge role in the author's book. Maybe more than we care to admit. Do you even think about the tropes your books have? To be honest, I didn’t at first. I didn’t even truly think about it until it came time to market my books. 

    Once I started really thinking about tropes, I quickly realized my favorites. Some of my beloved tropes to write are fated/destined/soul mates. I have this trope in just about every book I write. I can’t help it. The hopeless romantic in me loves the idea of it. I tend to also like forced proximity, enemies to lovers, friends to lovers, and even frenemies to lovers. I also tend to write medium to fast-burn romances because my characters never seem to want a slow burn. I also tend to like the uneven social status. This particular trope is a favorite to write when I’m doing a werewolf story, which I tend to write for reading apps like Kindle Vella and Goodnovel. 

    On the flip side of the coin, there are tropes I simply can’t stand to write. I can’t stand the miscommunication trope. It causes unnecessary drama in my opinion. I also don’t like fake dating. I understand the appeal, but it’s not for me. I also can’t stand holiday romances, mainly Christmas ones. I feel like I have to release the book according to the holiday, and that it’s hard to market all year round. I’m not a fan of mistaken identity/amnesia. This one I’m simply not a fan of. One last trope that I am not a fan of is love triangles. I have never enjoyed love triangles. I think it’s because there is usually someone who ends up brokenhearted or with unrequited love, and those things make me sad. 

    Then there is another side to tropes, the tropes we want to try and write. For me, this is hit or miss. For example, I tried writing an age gap, and it worked out beautifully. I wanted to try a second chance trope and that worked out for a couple of stories. I love the idea of time travel and I’ve tried to do the time travel trope. It ended with scraping what I had and starting over.  Sometimes trying new tropes is fun and it works out perfectly. Other times it’s a complete disaster, but that doesn’t mean I won’t try the trope in another story. It’s good to try and write new tropes, you never know what you might find that becomes your new bread and butter. 

    Now, for one more side of tropes. The tropes I hate to write but love to read. I love a good slow burn. I’ve tried to write a true slow burn on a few occasions. I’ve even had stories where I can see the slow-burn romance working, but my characters have other plans. I also enjoy Reverse Harem, but for some reason every time I try to write one I struggle bus with it and give up. I like reading the step-sibling trope, but writing is just not something I can bring myself to write for personal reasons. 

    Tropes serve a great role in the book world. So whether we love to hate them, or hate to love them, they are embedded into the book world. Some tropes we embrace and others we run from, but no matter what, tropes will always be something we can’t avoid whether it’s for marketing purposes or simply trying to figure out what to write/read next. Tropes drive us to chase the books we love. 

Birdy Rivers is an award-winning author. She was born in NJ and now resides in GA with her family. She has been writing since her teens and professionally writing since her mid-twenties. When she isn't writing she is raising her three daughters whom she jokingly refers to as her baby dragons, working full-time as a medical assistant, and spending time with family and friends. She enjoys reading, the outdoors, video games, and music. Music and writing have served as therapeutic measures for her depression and anxiety. Birdy is a huge mental health advocate and often features the struggles of mental health in her stories.

Friday, March 8, 2024

Tropey Tropes

In all honesty, I don't think much about tropes. Not consciously, anyway. Clearly, though, they're tucked up in the subconscious, because they emerge in writing anyway. If I think about what ends up in my writing, it's always the same stuff:

  • Found family
  • Finding or making one's own place in the world
  • Enemies to lovers
  • Cheating the rules/authority/establishment

The things you won't see from me if I can help it are the same things Jeffe mentioned - damaging, misogynistic, racist, homophobic, transphobic, writer punching down or laterally in any way. Not here for it. Bully trope? Only if they get taken down hard. Even then, the take down needs to happen in the first quarter of the book so the rest of the story can be that bully's redemption tour. Otherwise, I'm out. You wanna kill off family or besties or beloveds in order to motivate a character? I'm going to cringe because it's lazy and it makes a character super suspect in my mind because if someone has to die before the character will move their asses to do what's right, they're either stupid or terrible people. Yes. I'm being judgy. Stuff went down this week and I'm in a MOOD. I'm not saying you can't kill people off in books. I'm in trouble if we can't. But as a driver for a hero or heroine? Yikes. So anyway. Come at me with the torches and pitchforks. Tell me I'm being a small-minded pain in the backside. 

Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Unloved & Beloved Fantasy Tropes

 This Week's Topic:  Which Tropes Do I Love to Write and Which Do I Loathe?

I don't know if there is a Fantasy trope I loathe to write. The Damsel in Distress probably comes the closest, but I'd totally make it "the tribe/village/town in distress" instead of a TDTL heroine. Avenge My Slaughtered Wife/Mother/Daughter? I hate the conceit that women have to die for men to succeed. That's not to say I don't love a good revenge story; just don't bump off the Important Woman...or the dog. No killing the dog, ever.

I'm wholly in bed with The Mentor trope. Magical artifacts and magical creatures? Pffft, hell yes! Antagonist as former bestie? Love it. Chosen One and The Prophecy? Sure, them's a bedrock of Fantasy. Overpowered Protagonist? Done it. Lost family? Any day, any time. Parallel dimensions/other worlds? Absolutely. Portal? Yaaaas. The Dying of Magic/The Birth of Magic? Yup, yup, yup. My list of beloved tropes is much longer than I'll post, but you get the gist.

The trope I'm too chicken to tackle? Alternate History.  I love reading 'em. Writing 'em? 🐔🐣🐔

Monday, March 4, 2024

I don't seek to write tropes, but I end up writing them anyway


Some tropes and storytelling elements resonate strongly with many readers, so I often see them used to market books. When I’m writing a story, though, I don't consciously think about tropes, and I don't aim to include or exclude any of them.

The stories I write explore some themes and conventions often, though. The romantic trope I use most often is "Friends to Lovers." I find I can write more convincingly about a couple who has an existing dynamic and I enjoy writing about how friendships can change.

I don’t hate any tropes, but there are some that my writing hasn't touched on so far. In science fiction and fantasy, I haven't written a "Chosen One" storyline. In the real world, I find the background of extraordinary people is often already compelling story. No predetermination is necessary.

I also haven’t written a story in which two characters in a romantic relationship are "Fated Mates." I prefer to write stories about the reasons why two people may continuously choose to be each other’s partners and how they build a lasting relationship.

Both of these tropes I haven't written rely on fate or predetermination, which I don’t know how to write about in an interesting way. I won’t rule out writing stories with these elements in the future, though! My writing, like the rest of my life, has changed over the years, and I believe it will continue to do so.