General

Help Wanted: Henchman

We are recruiting a loyal and dependable Henchman to support our villain. This is an entry-level role perfect for those looking to start a career in evil. Due to the high staff turnover in this role, both full- and part-time hours can be provided.

The Henchman will be expected to do the following:

  • Lurk
  • Line up to fight the hero one at a time
  • Guard things, but not particularly well
  • Fall for any and all incredibly transparent distractions
  • Loom
  • Clean up after dramatic fight scenes
  • Follow the villain’s instructions

The successful henchman will:

  • Go “hur hur hur” instead of just laughing
  • Take things excessively literally
  • Crack their knuckles menacingly
  • Fall asleep on guard duty at plot-critical moments
  • Fold their arms in a threatening manner
  • Chime in with “that’s right, boss” at appropriate points

Note: any candidates with excessive levels of personality will not be considered for this position, but will be encouraged to apply for an alternative evil role.

The successful candidate will be provided with a uniform to match the villain’s aesthetic, comprehensive medical care, and an excellent life insurance package. Should you survive in the role for more than six months, you will automatically be enrolled in our Villain-in-Training programme, as you have clearly demonstrated a level of competence which is not appropriate for this role. Should you not survive in the role for more than six months, a full funeral care package will be provided, and your family will be compensated.

How to apply: please lurk around outside the agency’s offices looking sinister and corner a member of the HR department, telling them that “the boss has a message for you”. Please note that candidates who do not deliver their own application, but instead deliver someone else’s, will be favourably noted.

– The Trope Recruitment Agency

General

Help Wanted: Nemesis

We are recruiting a dedicated and diabolical Nemesis to oppose our protagonist. This is a full-time job with excellent advancement opportunities, perfect for an overlooked henchman or neglected childhood friend seeking their next role.

The Nemesis will be expected to do the following:

  • Foil the protagonist’s plans to the best of their ability
  • Maintain a personal interest in the life of the protagonist (romantic interest is not necessary, but not discouraged)
  • Monologue
  • Engage in rooftop battles
  • Kidnap and/or menace the protagonist’s friends and allies
  • Step dramatically out of the shadows at critical moments
  • Laugh evilly

The successful nemesis will:

  • Look good in black
  • Be an excellent duellist (note: we accept all weapons, including rapiers, pistols at dawn, and a mind honed to a razor’s edge by years of careful planning)
  • Maintain a steady stream of witty banter
  • Have an unflinching dedication to taking down the hero, even if it’s in their best interests to focus on something else for a little bit
  • Have high levels of panache
  • Commit to a suitable aesthetic of their choice

A tendency towards puns (e.g. tying the hero’s girlfriend to a chair and answering her mobile with “Jane can’t come to the phone, she’s a little tied up right now”) is desirable, but not necessary.

The successful candidate will be provided with a lair, a full nemesis wardrobe and a weapon that best fits their aesthetic of choice. In addition to a sufficiently evil salary, this role also comes with an attractive set of benefits, including any trophies that you can take from the hero, the knowledge that they shall never be free of you again, and the certainty that you are forty percent of the audience’s favourite character.

Advancement opportunities, whether for those seeking to command their own set of henchmen or those looking for an enemies-to-lovers romance, can also be provided to the right candidate. For more information please contact our HR department.

How to apply: please send your completed application to the HR department in the most sinister way possible. Note that our offices are locked at midnight, but this should not present a problem to the determined applicant. Should you decide to pin your application to the HR Manager’s desk with a dagger, please note that this will not be returned to you, but any knives vanishing mysteriously in the night will be noted favourably on your application. (Please ensure that your dagger is labelled to prevent confusion.)

-The Trope Recruitment Agency

General

How to Survive a Christmas Rom-Com

OK guys, we all know the drill. It’s December, and we’ve all got to come back from the high-flying big cities we live in to the quaint small towns we grew up in. And I don’t know about you but I’m just sick of all those charming yet straightforward lumberjacks/Christmas tree farmers/professional knitwear models who keep trying to teach me the meaning of Christmas every year.* What a gal needs is a handy-dandy guide to get through the Christmas season without inconveniently falling in love, so we can all fly back to our fancy city jobs just in time for the big presentation.

Aren’t you guys so lucky I’m here??

*I am absolutely not sick of this, please call me.

  1. If your small town’s candy cane factory is about to close down, just tell the mayor how to set up a GoFundMe. It is not your job to save Christmas, that sounds exhausting.
  2. You must never be seen without your knitwear. It is December.
  3. For God’s sake bring a pair of trainers, or better yet, boots. Fancy business shoes will only ever break for the sake of hilarious japes.
  4. Never, ever be mean to the old guy in the red jacket, we all know he’s Santa.
  5. Invest in some ice packs, because you are going to slip and fall in the snow at least three times.
  6. AVOID THE HOLIDAY TALENT SHOW AT ALL COSTS. You’ll either fall over or have to sing in public. Or be proposed to by someone you met literally two days ago, which is only ever going to be awkward.
Could we just not. (image: giphy.com)
  1. Learn some basic car repair tricks, because your car is going to break down in a snowstorm at least once.
  2. Look, it’s totally fine to put on an out of office for your work email. The big presentation isn’t ‘til January, and you deserve a break.
  3. You will get tangled up in Christmas lights or tinsel, so practice some escape artistry before you go home. You never know if it’ll come in handy!
  4. Why not give martial arts a try as well? They’re dead handy when it’s Christmas Eve, you forgot to buy presents and THERE IS ONLY ONE TOY IN THE WHOLE SHOP.
  5. There is only one weather, and it is snow.
  6. There are two acceptable ways to dress: bundled up in a big coat OR hideous holiday jumper. There are no exceptions.
Unless you have this specific outfit, in which case: GIMME. (image: tumblr.com)
  1. Do not be tricked by the adorable small child who asks you leading questions about why you haven’t come home more often. I can guarantee you a sweetie-waving relative has bribed them.
  2. I’m not here to tell you not to make out with the charming yet straightforward lumberjack/Christmas tree farmer/professional knitwear model. You do you! I’m just saying, don’t make any spontaneous life decisions if you’ve only known them for two days. LDRs can work!
  3. If you’re going to make a magnificent fancy pudding, always make two. You will drop one.
  4. If you’re introducing your big-city fiancé to your family for the first time, see how they respond to non-business-related tasks. If they go all sneery, save yourself some time and dump them immediately. If they roll up their sleeves and knuckle down, congrats, you’ve picked a good’un.
  5. Do not question the Christmas traditions. We all know they don’t make sense.
  6. Learn how to fake a convincing sore throat to get out of the inevitable holiday singalong.
  7. If you volunteer to cook the big Christmas dinner, I’m sorry to tell you that you are going to burn it for comedy reasons. Or your mixer will break and make a giant mess. Have a ready meal in the fridge for back up.
  8. Resign yourself to the fact that you will be heartwarmed.

And there you have it! One foolproof guide to making a fool of yourself at Christmas. Sort of.

And on that note, that’s me done for 2020! I’ll be taking a break over Christmas and the New Year and will be back some point in January. I’m not sure when exactly, it’ll be when I feel like it. But I can promise there will be some book content – my debut novel, The Shadow in the Glass, releases on the 18th of March 2021 and I shall be getting HYPE about it in the New Year. But until then, have good holidays, and feel free to fall in love with all the knitwear-wearing lumberjacks you want, as long as they support your career.

General

Simply the Worst: My Top Ten Least Favourite Tropes and Clichés

Some of you may remember the blog post I did a little while ago, when I listed my top ten favourite tropes and clichés. They can be really fun, and it’s an easy way for a writer to connect with an audience quickly and easily. Everyone’s got their favourites and I definitely listed mine.

This post is the total opposite of that.

There’s some clichés which really get under my skin. It’s not necessarily because they’re bad, there’s just something about them which I just bounce off of. And because I’ve been busier than I thought I’d be this week with some secret book stuff (oh look who left this pre-order link here) I’m going to list them.

  1. Enemies to Lovers

Don’t come at me, YA readers, but I just don’t like this one. Nine times out of ten it just doesn’t really work for me and to be honest, I’m not always clear on why. All the ingredients are there! When it’s the other way around I totally love it! But this one just doesn’t do it for me.

I think it all comes down to balance. If an enemy is going to be a believable threat, they’ve got to do bad things to the protagonist, but if they’re also going to be a romantic partner that I want to root for, I need to see them do good things for the protagonist. It’s really rare that someone manages to absolutely nail the balance between these two opposing things. And even when they do, it doesn’t always reflect well on the protagonist. If your lead completely forgets about the friends that their new boyfriend murdered last week, it makes them seem pretty heartless.

  1. Alpha Male

OK so in principle, there’s nothing wrong with a confident male hero who knows what he wants and goes for it. The problem is that a) this is now 90% of male love interests and b) there seems to be a competition to out-alpha everybody else and it’s just exhausting. Confidence is fine, following your love interest halfway across the country after she specifically said she wanted some space because “yOu KnOw ShE sEcReTlY wAnTs YoU” is ABSOLUTELY NOT. Can we please just scale it back.

Dogs really are a woman’s best friend. (image: gurl.com)
  1. Standard Female Grab Area

There’s a lady! She’s in a fight! She’s doing really well – look at her punching and kicking and flipping all over the place. But – wait, what’s this?

A MAN HAS GRABBED HER BY THE UPPER ARM.

Now she is powerless and can only struggle, limply, as she is dragged off to a lair.

(I seriously hate this one so much)

  1. “It is the only way”

It is never the only way, you just need to think outside the box a bit.

  1. Straw Sexist

This one really, really annoys me. This is when a writer will introduce a cartoonishly sexist character whose sole purpose is to be put down and/or beaten up by a woman. This usually happens as an introduction to show what a badass our female character is, or dragged out over the course of the whole thing and you only get the fight at the end, as a kind of catharsis.

What makes it really annoying is that as a general rule of thumb, once this trope gets introduced the writer tends to go “welp, guess I’ve fixed sexism forever” and never looks at any other parts of the story. It’s a token moment to show how strong a woman is, not a properly developed sign of a strong female character. You’ve gotta put that in all the way through.

I literally did a whole blog series about this (image: giphy.com)
  1. Two Days ‘til Retirement

I know I’m supposed to feel sorry for characters who are two days from retirement because we all know they’re gonna die, but at this point I just switch off.

  1. Insta-love

Perhaps I’m just being cynical but love at first sight has always rung a bit hollow for me. Real love isn’t only about physical attraction – it runs on a lot of different levels. I’ve never really got it, because I just don’t see how you could fall properly in love with someone without actually knowing them. That’s just me though.

  1. The Butler Did It

No he didn’t, let the poor man do his job.

  1. “We’ve got company”

Saying this is never helpful. Be more specific, Steve, we’re being shot at!

PEW PEW PEW PEW PEW (image: tenor.com)
  1. Don’t Turn on the Light

Why, WHY, must people insist on backing into darkened rooms and not switching any lights on when they’re running away from a scary monster? The light switch is RIGHT THERE and PHONES HAVE TORCHES NOW. There’s literally no excuse for staying in the dark.

And there you have it! My top ten least favourite clichés. I hope you don’t hate me now.

Book Recipes

Book Recipes: How to Write Weird Fiction

Time for another book recipe! This one’s on how to write weird fiction so reader, beware: you must have the words ‘conceptual’, ‘liminal’ and ‘transcendent’ ready to use at all times.

Ingredients:

  • One main character who’s perfectly rational and sane, absolutely completely normal, nothing weird could ever happen to them!! Ever!!!
  • A spooky setting
  • Buckets full of stuff you don’t explain
  • One creepy character to lead our MC astray
  • The word ‘liminal’
  • One concept dialled up to eleven to make the plot
  • Tentacles, or alternatively, mysterious fungi
  • A big ol’ spoon to mix together a bunch of complicated feelings
  • The Unknown

Method:

  1. Introduce your main character with a spooky prologue they’re narrating from The Uncertain Future. Make it clear that they’re very rational and sane but also…haunted.
  2. FLASHBACK!
OOO-WEEEEE-OOOOOOOHHH (image: giphy.com)
  1. And here’s our MC all shiny and new and ready to be traumatised!
  2. Make it clear to the reader that our MC likes science and facts and doesn’t believe in any weird spooky things which definitely don’t exist.
  3. Time to go to the spooky setting! We’ll fix it, with science.
  4. Introduce your big plot concept and GO WITH IT. No, further than that.
  5. Our main character doesn’t believe in plot concepts. They believe in science.
  6. Introduce our other significant character! They’re creepy, but in an intriguing way. Maybe they’re also hot.
  7. Start folding in the first few drops of creeping dread. At this point it’s unease rather than full-blown terror.
  8. Our MC finds themselves mysteriously drawn to the big plot concept, even though they don’t believe in it, no sir, why would you even say that??
  9. Although…
Don’t touch it, Mr Raccoon! (image: giphy.com)
  1. The MC starts looking into the plot concept, just to prove everyone else wrong.
  2. Agree that there’s absolutely a rational explanation for this, yup, definitely
  3. Is it just me, or is the mysterious yet creepy character suddenly looking a lot more compelling?
  4. The MC decides to dive headfirst into the plot concept because surely it’s not real and it’s the only way to prove everyone else is a big ol’ silly.
  5. Welp, turns out it was real. My bad.
  6. Have a transcendent yet horrifying experience, possibly in another world! Comprehend the insignificance of humanity! Use the word liminal!
  7. Stagger back to the real world, forever changed.
  8. But what’s this? Our strangely creepy secondary character has disappeared…or have they??
  9. Tack on an epilogue to make it clear to the reader that the truth is Out There.

THE END. Serve sprinkled with existential horror.

Tips:

  • Never, ever explain anything. Ever.
  • You have a few options for your creepy setting, but these are the main ones:
    • Spooky rural backwater
    • Dystopian capital city
    • Overlooked town near somewhere much more famous
  • Weird fiction is generally much more literary, so your characters’ feelings have got to be hella complicated. When they’re up against a big scary unknown thing, they can’t just be scared, they’ve also got to be a little bit nostalgic/hungry/aroused.
  • Never, ever tie up all your plot threads neatly at the end. It’s conceptual.
Transcendent. (image: giphy.com)
  • Your big plot concept can be anything you like as long as it’s weird. What if eating onions let you tell the future? What if all your teeth fall out every seven years and you can use them to cast spells? What if you wake up one morning and you’re a cockroach? GO FOR IT.
  • Your main character must be aggressively ordinary, but they are allowed one (1) quirky hobby.
  • Avoid all traditional spooky tropes and monsters. They’re so passé, daaaahhhhling.
  • Be sure to work in as many veiled metaphors about contemporary society as you can. Your reviewers are going to put them there anyway.

And here’s one I made earlier…

The Professor knocked back his tumbler of whiskey with a trembling hand, sinking further down into his chair. Outside, the rain pattered against the window of his study; he flinched at the sound. “Another,” he said, holding out the glass.

The student took it from him, but did not pour out a drink. “Are you sure you don’t want me to fetch someone, Professor?”

“No,” the Professor whispered, “it would do no good. After tonight, all I want to do is…forget.”

He waved a hand at the whiskey decanter. The student sighed and poured out another three fingers of whiskey. “I really think I ought to call someone,” he said, “you’ve had a frightful shock.”

The Professor laughed. “Frightful? Dear boy, you do not know the meaning of the word. Nor did I, until…until…”

“Professor, what happened?”

The Professor took his glass and shuddered. “You do not want to know. Some things are too numinous for the human mind to comprehend.”

“I think I –”

The Professor caught sight of something in the corner of the room. He pointed over his student’s shoulder and shrieked. The student whirled around; all he could see was a suit of armour with a feather boa around its neck and a hideous taxidermied stoat, frozen in the act of snarling.

“Remove that abomination from my sight!” the Professor screamed, his eyes wide. “Its presence reminds me of…of…”

The student picked up the stoat.

“Not Wiggles, you idiot!” the Professor yelled. “That!”

He pointed at the feather boa. “This?” the student asked.

“Of course!” the Professor snapped. “Magenta clashes with the mahogany panelling.”

The student bundled up the feather boa and shoved it out of the study door. When he came back in, the Professor was staring at his own hands, an expression of naked horror on his face.

“Professor, are you –”

“Leave me,” said the Professor, “leave me to rot, for I have seen things which will render me useless to society for decades to come! Oh, how will I cope now that I have glimpsed such horrors?”

“What horrors?”

There was a flash of lightning from outside. It illuminated the objects on the Professor’s desk: an ancient leather mask, weathered by centuries of dark purpose; the massive, preserved talon of some hideous, avian creature; and a mug that read ‘World’s Best Teacher’ which held several pens. The Professor shrieked and pointed again.

“There! There! How can you not see such – the pens, idiot boy, the pens!”

The student looked closer. “What’s wrong with the pens?”

“Someone’s messed up the system! The red ones go in the drawer! Oh, it is a sign! They have been here, taunting me, displaying Their unholy powers…”

“To mess up your pens?”

“Yes! What else?”

“Right,” said the student, fishing out the red pens from the mug and putting them in the desk drawer – “top drawer, you imbecile!” – before facing the Professor again. The Professor was pale, sweating, and his pupils were wide and dark. The student had seen that look before, but usually, it was only when Big Dave had been selling magic mushrooms, and the Professor didn’t seem like the type.

“I think you ought to eat something, Professor,” he said, lifting the whiskey out of the Professor’s hands. “Here, I’ve got a packet of pork scratchings…”

The Professor wailed. “No! Not the scratching! Not the abominable, interminable scratching!”

“Some crisps, then?”

“What flavour?”

The student checked his bag. “Cheese and onion.”

The Professor shrieked in fear.

“Or there’s a vending machine down the hall. I could get you some chocolate.”

“Nothing with nuts in. Or dried fruit. Or nougat. Especially no nougat,” said the Professor, with a shudder.

The student leaned forward. “Why? Does it remind you of…Them?”

The Professor stared at him. “No,” he said. “It’s just gross.”

My full book-cookbook can be found here. Let me know what you’d like me to look at next – and as always, take this recipe with a pinch of salt.

Heh heh heh. (image: replycandy.com)