When I first looked up writing tips, the word “trope” popped up everywhere – on YouTube, on Twitter and Facebook and Pinterest. Enter in a whole new world of terms to sift through. Let’s begin discussing tropes.
To be unequivocally cliche here, Webster’s Dictionary defines a TROPE as: “a word or expression used in a figurative sense,” and “a common or overused theme or device.”
Storytelling is an art form that’s been around for centuries. Ever open a new book, get four chapters in, and wonder why it seemed familiar? Every genre has its own kind of formula and character traits to go with them – the love triangle in a Rom Com, the wizard who uses a wand to aid him in his spell casting, faeries who are based off Disney’s Tinkerbell from Neverland.
Are they completely untouchable?
What if the author wants to use them in some form or another? Since putting my #histfict series on hold to get this fantasy concept out, I’ve been revisiting the following tropes.
Different genre, different tropes, right?
Here are five tropes I really want to use but won’t
“Girls who disguise themselves as boys in order to adventure” via silverblade.net
“The main character’s parents die in an accident/in war/murdered” via HobbyLark
I’d like to preface this post by stating that I didn’t go to school for graphic design, but it’s something I’ve enjoyed doing for years. In college I wrote fan fiction for the television show, Supernatural, and I made banners and images to go along with them. Sadly, none of my early graphics survived my data purges (I’ve looked), but I can show you how I make my current images. But first, a few tips.
Step One: Choose Your Program There are dozens of programs out there to choose from. So much so that it can be overwhelming. If you’re just starting out, here’s what I suggest. Take the time to play around with a few of them. They range from the super basic to advanced. Adobe Photoshop is still considered the king in graphic design, but if its interface is just too much (like it is for me), you can play around with free programs like Pixlr, GIMP, Inkscape and Paint.NET.
Those are more advanced for my taste. If you want something with an easier interface or one that’s web-based (if, for example, you’re using a netbook or Chromebook), you can try BeFunky, PicMonkey, and Ribbet.
My preferred program is BeFunky (post not sponsored. They have no idea I exist!). I’ve played around with Ribbet, PicMonkey and Pixlr. Photoshop’s intimidated me since college. I also pay extra for access to stock images, more design elements, fonts and filters. All for $6.99 a month. That’s definitely more bang for your buck than having a Netflix account (sorry Netflix).
Step Two: Plan Your Graphic’s Aesthetic What’s your post about? Is it an informational blog? A personal one? Do all your graphics match each other? I do a lot of planning with this step. A graphic’s purpose is to draw readers in and provide the overall aesthetic for your site. It’s all interconnected.
Step Three: Will You Make Multiple Versions for Multiple Platforms? If all you have is a website then yay, you only have to think about one graphic! Most people do that, anyway. But crazy little me usually makes two or three versions of the same thing.
Yes, I’m crazy.
Think about it, though. Twitter has its preferred image size. As does Pinterest, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, etc etc etc. While I do have Pinterest, I hardly post there. So I make them for Twitter, the post itself on my site (obvs) and sometimes Instagram. I don’t have a YouTube channel or a Facebook page.
This is where preset templates come into play. And I can tell you that they’ve saved my butt more times than I can count! ESPECIALLY the Social Media Headers section. I’m terrible when it comes to dimensions. I am attempting to streamline all the graphics for my blog posts. I used to make elaborate, busy titles. You don’t need to use every function available. Find what works best for your site’s purpose.
I used to make elaborate, busy titles. You don’t need to use every function available. Find what works best for your site’s purpose.
Step Four: As with Applying Makeup, Begin with a Base I’m going to show you how I made the graphic for this post (prepares self for taking a dozen screenshots). Under BeFunky’s interface I select Graphic Designer > Templates > Blogger Resources > Blog Titles.
I don’t use any of the preset background graphics, and I very rarely keep the fonts or phrasing they use. I’m just looking for the size. I chose the following because of the slightly opaque rectangle.
Next, decide which elements you’re keeping and which you’re deleting. In this case, I’m deleting the floral images and all but one line of text.
TIP: There are many free images sites out there, but many of those can also, potentially, have malware or spyware embedded in their downloads. I've ruined, ahem, tech due to not being careful with that. (Look at that. I'm already side tracked!)
Step Five: Choose A Background Image (or none at all) I spend a lot of time looking through stock images. Sometimes it seems like I see the same writerly backgrounds used over and over again on social media. You know the one – the overhead shot of the MacBook Pro with a coffee mug and open notebook. There’s nothing inherently wrong with it, of course, but I see it so much that I’m not intrigued.
Why do I feel terrible saying that out loud? It should be about the content itself, right? I think the old adage of, “Don’t judge a book by its cover” applies here. And here I am, teaching you how to create a graphic!
BeFunky has hundreds, if not thousands, of images you can search via key words and phrases. You can also upload your own, in .png and .jpg format.
TIP: .png graphics are graphics with their backgrounds removed, so they can be added in as a layer.
TIP: With BeFunky's interface, you can select multiple graphics at once and they'll be added to your list once you exit out of the search. However, if you clear your browser's cookies and cache, they will disappear.
Step Six: Place the Elements Now that you know what image you’re using you can begin playing around with the elements of your graphic. Move things forwards, backwards, adjust the layering. If the image doesn’t work, keep the other bits in place and just change that out.
TIP: Play around with coloring, opacity, fonts, and more tools to further fine tune your image.
TIP: Don't be afraid to experiment with text blending and styling!
Each photo editing program will have its own set of elements and overlays you can add. For example (Oculus Reparo. Don’t mind me. Every time I see the phrase, “for example,” I can’t get Hermione Granger out of my head!)
BeFunky has a fantastic selection, including social media icons. It could do with a little updating, as Google Plus no longer exists. But they have everything from charges and infographics to basic lines, shapes, ribbons, and more!
TIP: Save. Save save save save save. This is more for when you're building your blog post or web page, and you'd think this would be a common sense kind of thing. But I think forgetting to save (in general) is a human fallacy. BeFunky has a fantastic autosave feature where, if you don't clear out your cookies and cache as discussed earlier in this post, it'll ask you if you want to continue editing your previous project. Cool, huh?
Step Seven: Finishing Up You’ve chosen your program (or programs). You’ve chosen your aesthetic, images, fonts and elements. They’re all put together the way you want them. All that’s left to do is save your work and upload.
As with any project, the more complicated the plan, the longer the task will take to complete. I figured I’d go the easy route, since the format for my blog posts is the one constant thing on my site.
Each graphic you create gives readers a sense of your style. Don’t be afraid to try new things! Start small. Learn, learn learn. And your skills with creating graphics, just as they do with your writing, will grow!
UPDATE: I was going through some of my old files last night and I stumbled across a banner I made for one of my old Supernatural fanficts. I remember being quite proud of how this looked:
Writing historical fiction isn’t easy. There are so many decisions I have to make to prevent myself from overdoing it with language and writing style. Do I try to match it with the time period? Do I use modern slang? How far into 1800s etymology do I really want to go? Research has been key in helping me make these choices and every once in a while I stumble across a gem of an article I couldn’t pass up blogging about. Today I came across a list of 56 Delightful Victorian Slang Terms – some crazier than others – and I’d like to share just ten of my favorites.
Side note: This blog post wasn’t easy to write as there are so many amazing choices!
It took everything in me to not bust out laughing in the middle of Panera reading this one and it’s following definition (according to the article above, “A figure of speech used to describe drunken men. “He’s very arf’arf’an’arf,” Forrester writes, “meaning he has had many ‘arfs,’” or half-pints of booze.”
Sooo many thoughts came to my mind at the description for this phrase, but I’ll refrain from adding in that commentary! This will be enough: “Low London phrase meaning “to thrash thoroughly,” possibly from the French battre a fin.”
I’m honestly not sure if this term is meant as a compliment or an insult. I can tell you that I am not bricky at all. “Brave or fearless. “Adroit after the manner of a brick,” Forrester writes, “said even of the other sex, ‘What a bricky girl she is.'”
BUTTER UPON BACON
I think I definitely need to start using this more often. “Extravagance. Too much extravagance. “Are you going to put lace over the feather, isn’t that rather butter upon bacon?”
DOING THE BEAR
This phrase would not go over well in the twenty-first century (ie too many innuendos which is why I found it so funny). It simply means, “courting that involves hugging.”
While gas lighting and systems were invented in the Victorian era, that’s not what this is referring to. And it’s yet another term I snorted at in a public place, “A term for especially tight pants.”
MAD AS HOPS
Also known as “excitable.” I’m definitely going to start saying this at work!
I certainly have a parish pick-axe. Also known as a “prominent nose.” Though why they use the term “parish” I don’t think I’ll ever know.
SHAKE A FLANNIN
“Why say you’re going to fight when you could say you’re going to shake a flannin instead?” And I wholeheartedly agree with this statement and explanation!
I’m not sure I even know how to say this word, but I wonder if this is where the writers for the Muppet Treasure Island film got the idea for “boomshakalaka.” Eh, probably not. But it’s a fun thought! It means, “Secret, shady, doubtful.”
And there you have it! My top ten favorite Victorian slang terms. A few of them make sense for use in modern times but many of them are a bit out there. Of course this is all in good fun in 2019! Stop on by the main list on Mental Floss’ article to learn more fun terms! Happy writing!
Cliches. There are so many cliches that come to mind when you’re trying to figure out how to start a blog post about writing (in general). It falls under that “nothing new under the sun” mantra.
It’s like comparing every scifi show or book you read to the “Big Three” of the genre – Star Trek, Star Wars and Dr. Who. If you’re a long time reader of this blog or my Twitter, you already know that I’m more than a bit dorky.
My dork levels in science fiction aside, I’ve come to realize a new passion in my own writing journey – researching Pennsylvania history. Have you ever watched those shows on the Discovery or History Channels and wonder why they interview experts on seemingly crazy topics?
It’s because this world is HUGE. That might be a common sensical statement, but how can a historian possibly know EVERYTHING, unless they’ve got an incredibly high IQ? That’s definitely not me. And I know “sensical” isn’t even a word.
So when I got the idea for The Firedamp Chronicle series I knew right away that research would be involved. Intense research. To run the risk of including a cliche here, “In order to write history, you need to know history.” I’m paraphrasing that, of course, but I didn’t even feel qualified to write any of it until I knew about it. So here are three reasons why writing historical fiction matters to me personally.
To Not Forget
On September 11, 2001, the world witness horrific loss of life during the attacks on the World Trade Towers, the United States Pentagon, those on Ground Zero and those on the affected flights. I was in my 9th Grade Physical Science class when it happened. In high school. My dad can count with his fingers how many events in history he remembers. Things like the assassination of JFK, when the Berlin Wall Fell and when the Challenger Explosion happened.
There are many who will never know them like those who saw them unfold their eyes. That’s why I choose to learn more about my own State’s history (ahem…Commonwealth…but that’s just a Pennsylvanian technicality). Which leads to the next point:
To Learn Something New
There is nothing new in the world except the history you do not know.
Harry S. Truman
Libraries. They’re fantastic places, right? You can check out anything you want and no one will judge. And, depending on the size of your library, they usually have a rather sizable non-fiction department. Section 975. That’s where I found myself for three years in Pennsylvanian history. I emailed the research team at the Library of Congress for tiny details and I borrowed books from institutions outside the Allegheny County system.
Because I was learning things about my own city, county and state I never knew existed.
The more I learned the more I realized how watered down the courses I took in grade school and college really were. Sure, I learned new things there, but you can easily spend a whole semester on a topic like “Christmas Traditions from Around the World” and still just graze the surface.
If you’re going to write about history, KNOW that history. Know it inside and out. Backwards and forwards. All the way through. That way, when you’re asked about why you chose specific events or a specific time period, you’ll be able to satisfy their curiosity.
To Hone Research Skills
Call me OCD if you like, but I love going down the rabbit hole of research. As I mentioned earlier, I learned to utilizes resources I never even knew existed before beginning this journey.
In high school I was never a concise writer. To this day I have to work long and hard to get a sentence write. (I’m going to leave that because that’s such a Freudian Slip! I totally meant to use the word “right”).
Not only have I been researching countless people, events, the origins of objects and the like, I’ve also been *attempting* to reteach myself the English language. I’m sure my fallacies are evident in this blog post but I’m working on them. Just like I’m learning to hone my research skills to keep myself focused on the subject and not irrelevant things.
So there you have it. Three reasons why I write historical fiction. There are more but that would make this post far too long and you may/may not lose interest!
Do you write? What genre? Why did you choose it? Knowing the answers to these questions will guide you through your own writing journey. I wish you luck as you find your niche, your drive and success!