What are your personal cliches?

Personal Clichés: Characters

 

What are your personal cliches?
Images from Pixabay. Edits by me.

I’m one of those strange writers who doesn’t mind clichés. What I mind is when they’re slapped on because we all know that’s how the story goes, but delivered without conviction or chemistry. I love war movies and action movies. I like cop shows and westerns. Almost all of these stories are just a change of setting and actors, with the same plots, and the same characters. I eat it up. I’ll watch an anti-hero become good over and over. I’ll watch the drifter save the town and get the girl. I’ll bask in the story of the elite team that sacrifices itself for others, each one getting picked off one by one.

“Please sir, can I have some more?”

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Courtesy of Pinterest.

Because I don’t run screaming from clichés, I tend to have a few of my own. Whether I’m working on my YA Epic, one of my Huntsman and HearthKeeper stories, or a fairy tale retelling, I tend to focus in on four types of characters: the warrior, the dreamer, the forgiven, and the ordinary.

These four tend to make up my teams, my crews. They are my main characters and important secondary characters. And they come complete with their own symbols.

See, I’m a doodler. I love to doodle. Set a piece of paper in front of me and the next thing you know it will be covered with light bulbs, trees, swirling lines, mushrooms, antlers, axes and shields, and favorite quotes. It will also have arrows, feathers, tulips, and dandelions lined up in a row. This is my warrior, dreamer, forgiven, and ordinary.

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A random doodle.

The Warrior: I love humble warriors (proud warriors are dangerous and annoying). I love the broken ones who stand between darkness and the innocent. I love the ones who hunt monsters under the bed, evil, and danger, pouring themselves out for the rest of us. They are often dirty, dark, and cracked. They’re rough. A dull arrow can’t help you. A sharp one, a tested one could cut you, but it can also defend you.
The Dreamer: I love the soft ones who see the joy in life. They’re gentle. They’re quiet. Their strength and power is far more subtle than the warrior. They have seen all the darkness the he has seen, but it hasn’t stolen their laughter. They face the storm with a song and a dance. They’re filled with hope. I often pair a warrior with a dreamer. It helps the warrior not break completely when he has this light-filled creature standing beside him.
The Forgiven: One of my favorite shows is Fringe. It is brilliant, beautiful, funny, painful, oh so very painful. In it they use the Tulip as a symbol of forgiveness. This works for me because not only do I love the show, so me doodling tulip is an ode to my love, but I’m also a 5 point Calvinist. The Tulip is used by us to represent the five tenets presented against Arminianism. One of the beautiful points about Calvinism is that we aren’t good, we aren’t worthy, and we don’t deserve forgiveness. But GOD! God came. God supplied what we couldn’t and forgave us, sinners. Christ came and touched the sick, retrieved the dangerous, and befriended the villain. You will never read one of my longer stories that doesn’t have at least one of the villains being forgiven. I love having someone who doesn’t deserve forgiveness on any level getting it from the hero. Each of my forgiven characters represents my own undeserved rescue, because I didn’t deserve to be rescued.
The Ordinary: In our day in age, ordinary is a bad word. If you want to live an ordinary life somethings wrong with you. Suburbia is boring and only for those who have given up on life. And yet, ordinary is amazing. The Bible often encourages us to be ordinary, to live an ordinary life. Don’t get me wrong, I love adventures, magic, and supernatural things. But, I think there is great magic in living an ordinary life, a quiet life. (My hobbitness is showing.) When I have warriors, dreamers, and forgiven characters running around, I will include someone who is ordinary. They aren’t the fighters, the light, or the villain rescued. They’re just a normal boy or girl drawn into an extraordinary situation. This appeals to me because I believe heroes are often ordinary people. Many men in battle are just like you or me with the only difference being that they’ve been thrust into an extreme situation.

I wish I could tell you, dear reader, who these all are in my YA Epic, The Artists Return, but spoilers. I have yet to introduce my “Forgiven” character. Once my patrons receive The Sparrow and the Star, and have time to devour the epic-ness that it is, I’ll be able to freely talk about my four characters. Maybe that will motivate me to finish editing!

As you read my stories, watch for these four characters. Sometimes they merge and blend, a character being both the warrior and the forgiven, the dreamer and the ordinary. Some of my shorter stories will have only one or two of them. But, no matter what I write, these four ideals rise again and again. They take on different skins, different quirks, different plots, but stay essentially the same: warrior, dreamer, forgiven, ordinary.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Quote of the Weekend

“People do not give it credence that a fourteen-year-old girl could leave home and go off in the wintertime to avenge her father’s blood but it did not seem so strange then, although I will say it did not happen every day. I was just fourteen years of age when a coward going by the name Tom Chaney shot my father down in Fort Smith, Arkansas, and robbed him of his life and his horse and $150 in cash money plus two California gold pieces that he carried in his trouser band.” Charles Portis, True Grit

I’m sure it’s no surprise to anyone that I feel in love with this book instantly. It’s touching, funny, exciting, and sad. I think it’s a book boys and girls can both enjoy, but if you’re a tomboy of any stripe, you will love it.

 

Why do I blend a little western into my faerie stories?

Why Westerns?

Why do western themes and styles keep popping up in my stories?

One of the things I learned from Tolkien, and my own upbringing, was to respect my own mythos. England is an old, old land with lots of myths and legends. They have Arthur, Vikings, Robin Hood, and even Tolkien’s work functions as a myth for England.

I’m not British. I have roots there, just like I do in Ireland and Scotland. (Both have wonderful mythologies and legends.) But, what about here in the young, young land of the United States? We have the Revolution. We have exploration, the constant push west. We have the Civil War. We have winning two World Wars. We even have a bit of Vietnam. All of these shape us, our laws, and our culture. They’ve influenced us for generations. But, my favorite (other than WWII) is our cowboy mythology. Yes, most westerns aren’t historically accurate, or they have many inaccuracies. But, they’re part of who and what we are. We are the drifter who is more than what he seems. We are the gunslinger, the card-shark, the cowboy, the cowgirl, the rancher fighting those who would take all he has. We are long wagon trains. We are laying tracks for technology all the way across the country.  We are all of this and more. My favorite element is the man who rides into town, gets drawn into a conflict on the side of the underdog, saves the day, and gets the girl.

When I was a kid, probably around twelve, I read all my Dad’s Louis L’Amour books. Devoured is maybe a better word. I loved every minute of them. I loved the men. I loved the women. I loved the action. The adventure. I loved his fist fights. I loved the Sacketts. Oh, the Sacketts. My first dream as a writer was to be as prolific as Louis L’Amour. I just wanted to write the same story over and over and over, and only change the settings and names. Why? Cause that was what I loved reading.  (I still love reading things like this, just like I enjoy action flicks that are basically the same guy in different settings.)

I also loved True Grit. That book was one of my favorites as a kid. Here was a girl not being anything but a girl, but getting this old guy to help her avenge her father, it was perfect. I loved it. The writing is top notch, and the adventure is one of the best. If you haven’t read it, you need to.

Now, my favorite western is Firefly. Yes, it’s a SciFi show, but really it’s a space western. They’re cowboys in space. It has all the right elements. It has the rough around the edges hero with has his ragtag crew. They’re pushing out from the government to make a life for themselves. They have a code and each other.

Why do I blend a little western into my faerie stories?
Image by B. Iyata, edits by me.

After Firefly, comes The Sackett movie, the Magnificent Seven, Quigley Down Under, and Tombstone. Doc Holiday is a great example of why I love westerns. He’s loyal to a fault. He’s willing to do everything for Wyatt Earp. He may not be safe, but there is something you love about him. The Magnificent Seven is a redemption story. You have seven guys who’ve lived by their guns their whole life, and now they’re called to sacrifice everything for a small town who can’t pay them. They see this as a way to redeem their souls from all the wrong they’ve done. (I know that theologically they can’t earn salvation, but redemption stories, be they ever so humbly human, are still an expression of us knowing we need redemption. It is a great way to start a conversation about the fact that we know what we’ve done will damn us.)  

The Sacketts is a great family movie…meaning it’s about a family who will do everything for each other. When the word goes out that they need help, the Sacketts all come running. They are the kind of guys you would want your sons emulating.

Another beloved one from childhood is Down the Long Hills. What could be better than a story about two kids and their horse? I watched this movie so many times growing up. It combined two of my favorite things: kids shouldering the hardest elements of life and coming out ahead, and horses.

We also watched a lot of John Wayne growing up. I still love to hear his voice and see him walk. As I’ve developed my style over the years, I’ve found westerns popping up all over. My characters keep leaning towards long coats and tied down guns. They keep riding in on bikes to take out the bad guys and get the girl. They use rifles, shotguns, and revolvers. All the years of soaking in L’Amour pours out between my stories of magic, doors, and worlds.

I realized I was writing modern, faerie story westerns.

Instead of turning away from the subtle themes, I decided to embrace it. Westerns may not be super popular right now, but they are special to me, and these are my stories. I embrace the mysterious man who saves the day. I embrace the woman who knows how to shoot. I embrace the kids with guts. I embrace strong friendship themes, land themes, and family themes. I embrace the man who is mistaken for a backwater yokel who is rich with wisdom and insight. I embrace friendship between natives and newcomers in the middle of war. I embrace hunters, wild places, dangerous animals, and range wars. I embrace the lawless and the lawman.

These themes push their way into my stories, sometimes without me even noticing. Westerns flavor my work with grit and gunpowder. I’m a Texan reaching deep into my countries own myths and legends.

Do you have a favorite Western? Book or movie? Let me know in the comments!