1) Having at least one character with some kind of disease/disability/disorder.
One of these things is not like the others…
I’m especially impassioned about this as a fantasy writer, since these kinds of characters are practically nonexistent in the genre. (And the ones that do exist are often so cliché, like the blind psychic. Really, fantasy genre? You can’t come up with something new?!) I usually try to make this kind of character be the protagonist, but sometimes that’s not possible, so it’s secondary characters to the rescue! Nothing is off limits to me. Diabetes, bipolar disorder, paraplegia, OCD, alopecia, etc, etc? BRING. IT. ON. (I must admit, diabetes is the one I abuse the most, but that’s simply because I’m a type-1 diabetic myself!)
2) Making characters cry.
No, not in a *Hey, look, they’re sensitive!* way. (Although that may be the case for some.) This is more of a *I have just irrevocably ruined your life, then kicked you while you’re down. Then I kicked your puppy in the face, ’cause hey, why not? Here, have a cupcake to cheer you up—oh wait, I already ate the cupcake. Sorry! (Not.)* way. (I’m too mean to my characters, maybe? Nah….)
In other words, I like to stay as true as I can to the original mythos of something, only improvising when I have to. It can be challenging sometimes, since it makes me less apt to change things to cater to the plot I want, but it’s a fun challenge! (Especially when the mythos I’m using are utterly off-the-wall crazy…. *hee*)
All of my books reference something that only I, and maybe some family members and friends, will get. My latest WIP, CM, already has a handful (CANDY CANE CAR!), and FLG doesn’t shy away from it, either. (One of many examples: Arden’s ice skating ability—or *cough* lack thereof—is a replica of my ability. Poor Arden….)
I love making certain scenes and elements mirror each other in some way in a single book or series. (Lynne Ewing did this with the first and last books of her Daughters of the Moon series, and I love her for it!) It helps make things feel as if they're coming full-circle. One example I’m especially proud of is in FLG, where parts of the first and last chapters are basically flip-flopped, funhouse-mirror versions of each other. I hope it’ll give readers a fun sense of closure, despite some loose ends!
Families are very much a part of my characters’ lives, and are a crucial part, even when I can’t have them be around, for one reason or another. (For example, Arden’s banishment in FLG would be a perfect opportunity to make his parents MIA, but no, they still intrude on his life, and even his thoughts, whenever they’re not around.) I adore my family—they’ve played a huge part in shaping the kind of person I am—so why deny my characters of similar growth via their parents, siblings, and what-have-you?!
7) Creating close friendships for my characters.
Fighting evil dressed as a condom is a lot more fun with friends!
Although I always had a hard time forming friendships growing up, I just can’t help but have my characters develop a close-knit group of friends! It’s fun to have their various personalities bounce off each other, and it gives my protagonist a lot more to lose once the Big Bad comes.
For some reason, in my books, I often have Big Bads and betrayals come in the form of someone (or someones!) the protagonist is close to. A friend? Family member? Love interest? All three? Why not! My characters could always use another reason to cry…. ;)
9) Making readers laugh.
This show is about a vampire cursed with a soul, trying to make amends for his past sins. No, really.
I love including comedy in my books, whether I’m writing something super-fluffy or something that’s darkity-dark darkness covered in dark. Books just feel more real when there’s some humor in them. FLG has more than some, if I did my job right, since it was my goal to make readers laugh on practically every page of that book….
10) Proving humans are awesome.
Gotta love a guy who can remain human during the entire course of a seven-season show!
Yeah, I write fantasy fiction, but that doesn’t mean I believe the human characters should be overshadowed—far from it! It annoys me when other fantasies show humans as unimportant and/or incapable of facing the supernatural. I'm just as annoyed when the few human characters that are around all end up becoming supernatural themselves by the end. In my books, humans can be capable, even if the odds are against them. And while it’s impossible for me to keep everyone from making some kind of human-to-superhuman transition, I still try to make sure there’s an equal balance of humans and non-humans in a single project!
There’s probably lots of other elements I abuse in my writing, but this is all I’ll list for now. I didn’t even mention my weird need to have at least one character—usually the most unlikely of the bunch—spontaneously do a round of jazz hands.
Oh, wait, I did just mention it, didn’t I? Whoops.
What about the rest of you writers out there? Do you abuse any of these same elements in your writing, or something completely different? Sound off in the comments—or even better, do a post of your own! I’d love to read it. :)