On writing cliche stories

Many people are allergic to cliche storieshowever, most of the time all we get are cliche stories. This is especially true with romance—a good girl falling hopelessly in love with a bad boy, a rich man falling for a poor woman,  a billionaire and his secretary, a gangster—don’t make me start with a gangster! After “She’s dating the gangster!” hit Philippine cinemas in July 2014, Wattpad, a community of writers and readers, has been flooded by a million other titles involving a gangster.  Talking about cliche stories!

I wish I could say I don’t write cliche stories, but I do.  Cliche stories are not outright bad. In fact, one cannot avoid writing a story with an overused plot because in real life the same thing happens again and again. The only problem with cliche stories is if the writer does not add anything new to the story line.

When I started writing my most popular Wattpad novel, Perfect Stranger, I kind of cringed at the thought that I was just repeating a cliche plot – a girl got pregnant out of wedlock and the only thing she remembers about her babies’ father is the unsual tattoo on his arm.  I knew, as soon as I started the story that it was no different from the other novels written before it of the same theme, but I went on with it because as cliche as it sounded, many readers were instantly hooked on it as soon as they read the story’s description. Because I knew I used a cliche plot, I tried to introduce the couple’s naughty twins to give the story some flavor. I think, modesty aside, the inclusion of the twins and how they relate to the characters in the story gave the plot a little twist.

To sum up, cliche stories in romance are not at all bad for as long as writers give them a new flavor.




Raison d’etre

Raison d’etre is a French expression which means a reason for being.

After watching the Korean romantic drama, Goblin, which stars GONG Yoo (Kim Shin – The Goblin) and KIM Go-Eun (Ji Eun Tak – The Goblin’s bride), I thought about my own raison d’etre. The Goblin’s bride exists to pull out the sword from the Goblin’s chest. If she doesn’t do what she is created for she dies. Although the story is just a product of the writer’s imagination, it makes me think about my own existence, too. Sometimes I just go through my daily chores thinking why am I doing them? What’s in store for me in the end? Does doing all the little responsibilities of being an adult bring me to my raison d’etre just like all the trivial matters in Ji Eun Tak’s life pushed her towards her very reason for existence? How I wish there are also deities living among us, leading us to our fate. Sorry  for my rambling. I just miss the drama because it has already ended.  🙂

P.S. Gong Yoo also starred in Train to Busan.

When the admirer becomes better than the admired

Usually, adolescence is the period in our lives when we get to admire people to the point of hero worshiping them. Though I met this person when I was in my elementary days I only admired her for what she was when I was in my teen years. At that time, she was the perfect person for me (not in the romantic way) and I wanted to be like her. I was always in awe of her scholastic and extra-curricular achievements that I promised myself that I would also do the same someday. Though I did not graduate as a high school valedictorian like her, I surpassed her other achievements. She got zero in one of the quiz contests she joined in during her time (that included both public and private high schools in our province), but I managed to be number one. She didn’t qualify for a regional writing competition but I did. And for the first time in our high school history, somebody  made it to the top five in the national level. I was in the same league as those who went to more prestigious high schools such as ADMU, UP, and DLSU. Who would ever think that a girl from a school no one had heard of would make it to the top five of the country’s junior writing competition – the most prestigious among secondaary schools at that time? And it was all because of my admiration for this girl.

A few years after, I learned from my older sister, her classmate, that she didn’t finish her bachelor’s degree in the country’s leading state university. I was shocked, of course, because everybody, including me,  expected her to graduate with honors. Though I did not graduate with an academic distinction in the same university, I finished my undergraduate degree. I even got accepted for a graduate scholarship in the top three university in Japan.

As I held my PhD. diploma for the first time in March 2007, I thought about her. I knew, I will always be thankful for the inspiration she had provided me.

Be Aware of Titles!

Whether you’re writing a fiction or non-fiction novel, titles are very important. It could make readers check your book or plainly ignore it. I’ve seen some books with long titles that fit almost the whole front cover and give out the whole story. There are also those with just a single word in it. Though there is no exact rule on the number of words a title should have common sense would tell you that it’s not good to have a title as long as the length of the book cover. A single-word title is also not good if it is not accompanied by a cover that reflects the story or genre of the novel.

By now, you might have been told to create a catchy title in order to get reads or views. The “How To…” titles often make me flip through the book. They’re not only instantly appealing, they also answer a specific need of a reader. Someone who’s looking for tips on how to make book covers would instantly click the “read” button for titles that goes something like: “How to Make Awesome Book Covers” and might ignore those that merely say, “Book Covers”. Remember the “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days” movie starring Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey? It earned around 180 million USD in box office worldwide, more than three times it’s production budget of 50 million USD. Although some movie critics put a thumbs down to this movie, it didn’t stop viewers to watch it because it has an interesting title. But this doesn’t mean that you’ll start all your book titles with the “how to”.  There are a number of ways to make your titles interesting without the “how to”. So instead of saying How to Seduce a Billionaire, you could simply say Seducing a Billionaire.  You could even use your character name like Harry Potter, if it sounds unique.

Aside from the catchy title, you also need to bear in mind that credibility is everything in writing. DO NOT write a book that says, “How to Make Your Book Popular on Wattpad” when your profile says you’ve been a member since 2012, you’ve uploaded a few works but none of them made it past the 2K reads. No matter how good and sensible your tips are, readers will doubt its credibility because if indeed you knew how, then you could have already applied it in your own stories. Also, do not give tips on how to earn followers on whatever site you are promoting, if your own number of followers does not exceed a hundred. However, if you’re an established writer like J.K. Rowling, Dan Brown or Paulo Coelho and you want to give tips to newbies on how to make a bestselling novel, your number of reads or followers on social media does not matter that much because you’ve made a name for yourself  in the real world. That alone gives you credibility.

Next time, you think about the title for your book consider this:  Will I check this out myself based on the title?

Why I don’t use the rape theme in my stories

When I first came to Wattpad, I was shocked to discover a lot of love stories that revolve around a rapist and his victim.  I thought, since when did rape become an exciting theme for a love story?  For those who are not familiar with Wattpad, this is an online community of writers and readers where those who love to write upload their novels for the whole community to read for free. Anyways, the thing that shocked me the most was that these stories were written not by men but by young girls!  Yes, you’ve read it right! Young girls!  Though I do believe it happens, just like there is Stockholm Syndrome for kidnap victims, do you really need to romanticize rape?

To satisfy my curiosity, I skimmed through the pages of the rape-victim love stories and these were what I found out:  (1) the rapist is extraordinarily good-looking with a body to die for;  (2) the rapist is filthy rich and a member of a dangerous gang who can have any woman he fancies; (3) the victim is oftentimes depicted as a nerdy-looking woman who’s either stupid or weak or both, and; (4) the girl-victim is dirt poor or indebted to somebody dangerous – thus she needs protection from the rapist-lover. Sigh. What message does these kind of stories tell very young readers, especially girls in their pre-teens? That it’s okay to be raped if the rapist looks like a Hollywood star who just stepped out of a fashion magazine?

You might be shocked to know that many of these rapist-victim love stories made it to Wattpad’s hot list, regardless of genre. This simply shows that a lot of readers are ticked by it. And what’s even depressing is the fact that most of these readers are women themselves. But why do I don’t jump on the bandwagon? Simple. Rape is rape. No matter what angle you’re looking at, it doesn’t change the fact that it is a heinous crime.


False and Positivity

False  False friends, false teeth, false information — they often give us a feeling of disappointment at the very least. Imagine yourself trusting somebody with your deepest secret only to find out he/she is not real behind your back; or receiving a message that you won the contest only to be told that it’s not true at all. Even false teeth can dampen your spirit. Put yourself in the shoes of a person on a first date who’s happily chitchatting with his/her prospective lover when the false teeth comes off! You would die in embarrassment, wouldn’t you? It will surely be a huge letdown.

But false, like darkness, is not always a curse. Imagine being told you have cancer only to find out it’s a false alarm? Wouldn’t you jump in jubilation?  Though the word false always connotes something negative, there are many instances in life when it brings hope and joy.

Why darkness is a blessing

Darkness People always associate darkness with something evil or negativity. But come to think of it. Will you be able to appreciate the beauty of light or brightness without knowing darkness?

Darkness is a blessing. It’s there to remind us to pause and rest our tired bodies so that when the light comes out, we’ll be able to start anew. And it’s also there to help us touch base with our soul and connect with the Mighty One above…