Thursday, May 31, 2012

Thursday Talks about HOT Guys

Now that my title has gotten your attention, have you ever read a book and thought “this guy is a hotness personified, and if he was real, every female scientist in the world would test his DNA to find out how such a perfect specimen could be possible and try to clone him, so everyone can appreciate his hotness”? I know I do.

I was reading a book review that mentioned how hot the guy was, and I started to wonder what makes book guys hot.

If I was Dora the explorer, I would ask backpack to find me all my books with hot guys in it (which is most), but since I’m just me, I had to do it the old fashioned way and look through my bookshelf.

Trends I’ve Noticed in the Truly Hot Guys

THEY AREN’T DESCRIBED AS BEAUTIFUL! I think using "beautiful" to descibe someone is mostly in YA paranormal romance, but this can apply to any genre. Notice how above I said “hot” a lot? That’s because, as a teenager, I don’t stop and go “omg he is beautiful” even with the omg. I would probably think “he is so freaking hot. How am I supposed to concentrate on school when he is here? I got it! I’ll make him the living embodiment of my MC’s love interest, so staring is part of my research ;)”. I actually have once met a guy who seriously looked like my (then current) MC’s love interest. It was weird. SUMMARY: DON’T USE THE WORD BEAUTIFUL (even paranormal book where the guy is *insert beautiful being* don’t do it because it comes off cliché which we all know isn't true since anyone reading this is amazing)

They have confidence: Confidence is attractive. To rephrase Jane Austin for the purposes of this post,
“[he] must possess a certain something in [his] air and manner of walking… or the word will be but half deserved.”
(I found this awesome quote at Austinprose which has a lot of awesome Pride and Prejudice quotes, but I did change the shes to hes and cut a few words to better suit this post). Even though Caroline Bingley was referring to a woman worthy of Mr. Darcy, I think the same can be applied to guys. I’m not saying he should be able to talk to anyone and be super confident. Mr. Darcy himself is shy, and I don’t know anyone (girls at least since guys tend to roll their eyes at him even though they really should take notes on his amazingness well maybe only for the last half of the book) who is like “Mr. Darcy is so unattractive” because he just has that certain something about him. I mean have you seen Matthew Macfadyen in the 2005 movie adaptation? Yeah Mr. Darcy would definitely be one of the book guys I wish were real. Even though he is shy, he has something in his air that makes you smile when you think of him. SUMMARY: Give him something in his air of confidence that FORCES your readers to be like I wanna know more about him

He should have a character arc: Our MC is the readers’ eyes and ears. If your writing is good, we should care about her character arc. Our MC’s love interest should add something to who our character is. They should learn from each other. Together, they should grow as people. Now they don’t have to be interdependent, but they should complete each other. You want your reader to close your book and have no doubt that they complete each other. I think any character is attractive if they not only grow themselves, but they also helps others grow. SUMMARY: Character arc is so important. Even if the love interest or MC don’t start off the best character, together they should grow and learn from each other.

But the most important think to make any character attractive is…
Their personality should shine brighter than any descriptions. Personality is attractive. Use it. Readers should love your characters no matter how you describe their appearance.

What do you find attractive in character (especially love interests)? Do you agree with the traits I listed above? Don’t you think Mr. Darcy is scrumptious?

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Wednesday Is Dancing In Her Seat

Hey, guys! Hope you all have been having a lovely week. I'd like to apologize for missing last week. I don't really have a good excuse other than the fact that school hasn't let out yet and I had a TON of work to do. Please accept this video of a guy rapping about NPR as a token of my apology:

And now (drum roll), for your regularly scheduled blog post.

There are many different ways to tell a story, and I happen to think words are one of the best mediums for storytelling. I might be a tiny bit biased, though. I got a lot of work done on my current piece of fiction last weekend, which might be because I was really excited about the writing software I'm trying out called Scrivener. It lets you do fancy stuff like group chapters and create plot outlines and research all in one program. I may have geeked out a little. As I was writing (and rewriting), I was thinking about the ways my characters tell each other stories. Many of them are word people who love language, so that is their method of communication. But I also have several characters who are very musical and tell their stories through their instruments. The diverse ways characters tell stories also applies to other mediums of art or storytelling.

One example of not quite-so-literal storytelling is dance. I'm still sounding pretty biased here, considering the fact that I'm a dancer, but I have a point. I think. In the show Riverdance, a combination of modernized Irish dance, speaking, singing, other forms of dance, music, and visual sets is used to tell the story of Irish immigration. Although the events in Ireland that increased immigration and the trials immigrants faced in America are part of one group's story, Riverdance is an international hit because everyone can relate to feeling alienated and wanting a better life. Everyone can relate to being part of a family. Because immigration from Ireland such a broad, sweeping topic, the format works perfectly in telling a story of individuals that applies to humanity. I think that is what writers and artists in general  try to do. Although their work may be singular, the best stories are the ones people can relate to on a human level.

As an Irish dancer, I can't really remember ever NOT knowing about Riverdance. Love it or hate it, anyone who has Irish danced knows about it. Tomorrow, I'm seeing the show for the first time since I was six years old. I can't even sit still as I'm writing right now.  I don't think it will have lost the magic. I will appreciate it more because I know more about dance and because stories that we connect with on multiple levels never really leave us, but sort of linger around like nargles, getting in our brains and changing the way we see things.

Because I'm a shameless Irish dance freak, I'm linking you all to to a video of the opening number of Riverdance. I hope I can convert you.


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Tuesday on Pets

I am a fan of big dogs. Labs, retrievers, St. Bernard, et cetera--I'd probably get along very well with Marmaduke. My dog (a yellow lab) happens to be one of my favorite beings in existence. Yet none of my main characters, so far, have had any pet at all, much less a dog.

I mean, I can understand the rest of the pets not making an appearance. I like animals, but don't see myself running off to adopt cats/birds/hamsters later in life. However, I will definitely be getting some sort of large dog. (Preferably lab.) So why hasn't this made it into a story?

Maybe it's because my stories tend to have some sad themes. And adorable large dogs don't fit well into sad scenes. Even if I could make my character have no reaction to the appearance of Adorable Large Dog, I would start grinning while writing and then probably go pet my dog and then finish the scene which would cause an unintentional but likely unavoidable mood shift from sad-talking-about-sad-stuff to weirdly-happy-talking-about-sad-stuff. My head just wouldn't be in the sadness game. Because really, who cares about Main Character's angst over lost love or missing friends or fake reality or saving the world when THIS walks into the room?

Okay, maybe Adorable large Dog won't be all wet. But who knows, maybe Main Character has a pool in her house?
So why don't you give Main Character a different kind of pet, Kieryn?

What? Who are you? And how dare you suggest that absurd idea? I don't think I could muster up enough character emotions to make Main Character care as much about any other sort of pet. And then Main Character would seem somewhat apathetic or fakely (yes, I can use that word) attached to this pet that is not a large dog. And then I'd be annoyed, because what's the point of having the pet there in the first place if Main Character doesn't even care that much? Unless Other Pet is a plot device, a very important plot device, it'll probably be more hassle than it's worth.

However, some fictional pets have worked out brilliantly. Hedwig, for example (if she can even be considered a "pet"--she kind of ran her own show). But the cuteness factor didn't really get in the way there. A typical reaction to "snowy owl" is not usually "awwwwwwwwwwwww."

Do you find fictional pets work well, or not?


Monday, May 28, 2012

Monday Remembers

I sincerely apologize for not posting last Monday; the power box located three feet outside my house exploded, thus destroying my Wi-Fi access. I would have posted the next day, but I promptly left for New York at 4:45 a.m. and spent the next 7 hours wandering around the LaGaurdia airport, so... I'm guilty.

On the upside, my New York birthday trip invigorated my writing spirit and enhanced my desire to someday reside in an adorable flat and write comedy sketches for NBC. A girl can dream, right?

As you all know (citizens of the great USA, at the very least), today is Memorial Day, the day where: if you're still in school, you're probably out; or if you're fortunate enough that this day lands in your summer vacation, congratulations, it's another day of the rest of your life. Wrong. Actually, what I said was exactly right, but there is a better explanation to sum this day up. Memorial Day lets us remember the good men and women of America who died serving their country. In other words, it's a day of remembrance-- which also plays a great role in our stories and novels. Cue the awkward conversation segue.

Flashbacks occasionally (and for some writers, quite frequently) help us out in our writings. Flashbacks present opportunities to further give characters depth and create foreshadowing and dum dum DUM... suspense. I bow down to the flashback god; he gave us a completely ingenious technique of incorporating major details in a funny or dramatic way to convey important character flaws or backstory information. I'm aware I yacked about Harry Potter in my last post (and many thanks to Jewels for her short but amazing post last week with her Harry Potter videos), but J.K. Rowling never ceases to amaze me- especially with her use of the most amazing invention ever dreamed so awesome I could die Pensieve. For those of you who don't know (and shame on you if you aren't educated), the Pensieve in the Harry Potter series served as a source of many nicely placed flashbacks. Located in Dumbledore's office, Harry used the Pensieve in the last book to retrieve a memory of Snape's, which proved crucial in establishing the real man behind the somewhat-creepy Professor Snape. Once fully emersed in the Pensieve, a character can relive any memory he or she extracts from a wizard. So, Rowling created a totally fail-proof way to set up her flashbacks, and it was completely original (to my knowledge, anyway). If you have an uncanny way to set up your story's flashbacks, props to you, because I have not found that way as of now.

I will admit, writers can get a little too flashback-happy. In my younger days (ha- like I'm so old), I wrote a story where I featured a flashback every single chapter. At first, my twelve year-old self was thinking, Oh yeah, I'm so cool, it's like I'm writing a story within a story. If Inception had been out then, I would have thought they ripped off my story-within-a-story idea. But as the plot wore on, it became difficult to keep up with all the details I had given (and not given), and it was evident that my numerous flashbacks drew away from the present story. So, after 24,000 words and the heartbreak of the century, I knew it was time to lock up my flashback obsession and keep it in my back pocket for a rainy day.

When it comes to flashbacks, moderation is key, I suppose. Always make sure that they add, not take away, to your story. If done correctly, you could have a fantastic novel like this one here. The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder is a great example where flashbacks actually make up the story itself. I suggest you look it up if you have never read it.

I hope you enjoy the rest of your Memorial Day weekend, and remember our wonderful American troops! Cue flashback from today's barbecue...

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Thursday Sends Some Harry Potter Love

I have J.K. Rowling to thank for my interest in reading and later writing. I think a ton of other people have J.K. Rowling to thank as well.

I don’t have a ton of time to post today (Sorry :l), but I thought I could amuse you with some Harry Potter Youtube videos.

This is my personal favorite since it is comepletely hilarious. SPOILERS DO NOT WATCH IF YOU HAVE NOT READ OR WATCHED ALL 7 BOOKS

This just makes me smile :)

The ever classic Harry Potter Puppet Pals. I think everyone has seen this at least once.

Sorry for not having a real post, but I hope these videos can amuse you until next week.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Tuesday Likes Bad Weather

Everyone's seen a movie (or two or five or a hundred) in which, during the sad, boy-loses-girl scene, the sky decides to cry along with the protagonist. (AKA, it rains.) This happens in books as well, though sometimes it's not as obvious. (Maybe you just imagine it happening if the weather isn't described.) Then, later, after the happy, boy-gets-girl-back scene, it's sunny and bright (or perhaps it's night and fireworks/aurora borealis fill the  sky, take your pick).

It makes sense--these weather patterns are often mistaken as the outside world having emotions. Also, pouring rain is considered a sympathy ploy. Poor Mr. Protagonist, he found out his girlfriend was cheating on him AND his socks are getting all wet. Conversely, bright, sunny weather makes you want to skip along and tan and be happy that Mr. Protagonist realized he was actually in love with his best friend the whole time and they're getting married tomorrow and oh, his socks are dry now and also he needs to wear sunglasses if he doesn't want to get a headache from squinting, wahoo.

I, for one, get suspicious if I notice this happening too much. As in, hey, my emotions are being manipulated by meteorological phenomena and not the plot itself. In addition, I find rain to be preferable to sun. So next sad scene I write will take place at noon on a cloudless day in summer, because not only will Mr. Protagonist be sad, he will also be sunburnt and in need of tinted lenses and have sweat dripping uncomfortable down his nose and feel like there's a spotlight on him from High Above and therefore everyone is staring at his misery. And when Mr. Protagonist finds his joyful resolution, it will take place in the middle of a thunderstorm because then he has an excuse to go home and take off his wet socks and get cozy in dry sweatpants and enjoy his happiness in peace.

The idea of the post, beyond my rant about runny days: mix up the weather!


Saturday, May 19, 2012

Saturday is a Scaredy-Cat

Or: First official revision day and I'm already procrastinating!

For November 2010, I tried to do NaNoWriMo which was a total failure because I got sick twice that much which is a ton for me (I work with kids so my immune system for the common cold is pretty good) and it totally wiped me out and broke my brain. I ended up finishing the book in January 2011.

And I haven't really touched it since. Berserk kind of destroyed me emotionally. It's a hard book for me to work on and it kind of depressed me to write it. Now, that could very well have been a combination of holidays are freaking stressful and I probably wasn't sleeping so great, not being a winter person and being sick through most of November and probably still being a bit under the weather in December.

But... it's hard to tell that to the irrational part of your brain, you know? The irrational part of my brain blames the book and so I've been avoiding it for well over a year. (It's easier to do this when you write another and a long short story when you're supposed to be revising. And by easy I mean not at all easy because writing books is hard, man.)

So I'm working on my first book again right now (or I will be as soon as I'm done this book) but when I finish this round of revision (which will hopefully be the last for a while), I will be working on Berserk again. Because saying it here helps me commit ;)

What are you guys working on? Summer writing project plans?

Peace and cookies,

Friday, May 18, 2012

Friday is Restoring Normality

I do quite feel like I've been stuck in the improbability drive for a while. Lately I'm not quite sure what I'm doing next or where I'm going and it makes me really busy. Which is why I have not posted in a thousand years. I'm quite sorry about that. But I AM RESTORING TO NORMALITY. My schedule should be settled down now, thank goodness.

This is what I've done in the past couple weeks: finished high school, taken three AP tests that I HOPEFULLY passed, traded off TV shows with my brother (we show each other some of our favorites), been to a bajillion parties, rode a motorcycle, got my cartilage pierced (I'm such a rebel lately), oh... GRADUATED (not as exciting as I thought it would be), working, and today, I got my first traffic ticket. Sigh.

And apart from the three essays I wrote on my AP English test on Wednesday, I have pretty much wrote nothing as of late. But there are things and I will update soon on that. Plus, with normality restored, I should have time to finally do writing related things! XD

This post doesn't have a theme. Just catching you guys up on what I've been doing and why I haven't been around. I shall have a themed post up next week and sorry for being absent! I've missed this!


Thursday, May 17, 2012

Thursday Doesn't Talk About It

So over the weekend, I found out that my mom found my writing journal. It was a weird experience because she doesn't know I write.

I don't tell people I'm a writer. Nobody really knows. I think a lot of people kinda suspect, but I'm not like "hi I'm a writer let's be friends." I'm not ashamed or don't trust my mom and family/ friends. It's actually the opposite. I know a lot of super supportive people, and I just don't want the expectation people put on me once they find out.

I know having people know you write can be a great motivation like your own personal cheerleader, but I never felt that way.
I felt like if I didn't have something amazing written, I was letting them down. I felt like everyone expected my to automatically be like J.K. Rowling on the first draft. I felt like people expect me to be more than I am.

Maybe it's because I don't know where I stand in the writing world. I don't know if I want to an author when I grow up. I'm still a teenager, and I have no clue what I want to do with my life. I started "seriously" writing 2 years ago. I can't imagine a future where I don't feel the itch to escape into my characters' worlds. I think I'll always write, but I don't know if I'll ever publish or make writing into a real thing. Sure I might try to publish if I felt what I wrote would be something I loved, but that's not my ultimate goal.

Alysha Speer said,
“I choose to write because it’s perfect for me. It’s an escape, a place I can go to hide. It’s a friend, when I feel outcasted from everyone else. It’s a journal, when the only story I can tell is my own. It’s a book, when I need to be somewhere else. It’s control, when I feel so out of control. It’s healing, when everything seems pretty messed up. And it’s fun, when life is just flat-out boring."

That's how I feel. I write because I love it not because I want to famous and amazing like J.K. Rowling (though I wouldn't exactly complain).

I feel like if I told people I write that I would be giving up that secret world of mine. People would ask me to make them into characters, want to read my not-so-amazing stories or just ruin my perfect bubble of writing. I'm afraid of losing my love for writing. I think people pressuring me to write would cause writing to be a chore not an escape.

I want to stay in my writing bubble.

Maybe you tell everyone that you're a writer, and your writing is better than ever. I just don't think it's for me. Maybe one day I'll tell everyone, but for now I want to write just to write.

Do people know you're a writer? How do you feel about telling people you are a writer? What are your fears as a writer?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Wednesday Makes Lit Theory Fun

I have a confession to make: I'm a huge, out of control, completely and utterly devoted English nerd. What? You're not surprised? I guess it isn't much of a confession when I've done nothing to hide it. Anyway, at the risk of boring the internet to death, I'm going to be talking about literary theory. Yes, you've come home from school only to find me--a short, agitated teenage girl rambling on about Plato's Cave and the Marxist lens. You'll (possibly) learn to love it if you give it a chance, so bear with me.

There was one method of analyzing literature that I had to use in class the other day which examined the way sentence structure influences the thesis and tone of a piece. It was called Russian Formulaic thing-a-ma-jig theory, or something like that. For instance, in the book Something Wicked This Way comes, Ray Bradbury uses contrasting short and multi-clause sentences to create a creepy, dark atmosphere. The contrasting sentences also mirror the motif of light and dark, which is a central theme in the book. If you haven't read it, you should, because it's running-around-your-house-pulling-your-hair-out good. 

Another example that comes to mind is the book The Woman in Black. I'm sure some of you have seen the movie starring none other than Mr. Daniel Jacob Radcliffe. What a lot of people don't know, though, is that the movie is based on a short novel by Susan Hill. The book is set in the Victorian Era (cue excited jumping) told you I was an English nerd)) on the estate of a recently deceased widow. Aside from being at the end of a causeway that floods every few hours, cutting off the main character from the rest of the town while he is there, the house also has a graveyard and a ghost. I know, right?? Awesome. Because the book is set in the Victorian era, the author uses a very Victorian style of writing--long, windy sentences, flowery language, etc. Not everyone's cup of tea, but it really adds to the authenticity of the writing and makes it even scarier than the movie. 

What I'm saying here (I know I tend to ramble), is that you can use sentence structure to compliment and reinforce themes or ideas in your writing AND you should be on the watch for sentences that don't compliment your character or theme. Say you're writing a tense scene where your character is trying to hide their emotions. Which is better?

Petra's lip trembled, and her voice shook like oak leaves on a windy day, "I hate you," she hissed at him, nearly sobbing, her arms wrapped around her sides as if that could fix everything.


Petra bit the inside of her lip. "Yes. Fine, I'll get it to you by Monday." Her words hit the ground like bullet shells. 

Now, if you were writing a scene with a really emotional character, or writing something that lent itself to longer sentences, the first one might work. But in a scene that is meant to convey an uncomfortable, tense feeling, short and terse sentences help you get your point across better. 

Another thing to watch is your figurative language. Just like sentence structure, your figurative language should usually match up with the voice of you narrator and the tone of your piece. If you were writing from the point of view of a construction worker, you would want to use language that is relevant to their life, not say, a metaphor about owls when they've never had an experience with owls in their life. It doesn't matter if it's the best freaking owl metaphor in the world. If your character doesn't think that way, the cognitive dissonance will have your reader thinking that the story doesn't make sense. Same thing with tone. If you're writing a happy, joyful scene, a metaphor about "winter lingering; an unwelcome guest," isn't going to get you anywhere. If you really like a certain phrase, but it doesn't fit, save it for later. Just don't ruin a story you love by distracting your readers with sentences that contradict what you're saying. Take each piece of your writing and fit it together so that the language, the themes, the characters, and the plot work together, instead of against each other.  

I'm going to leave you now because I have to be up bright and early to take a soul-crushing AP exam, which I'm sure will be written horribly, because they design these things to annoy me. As long as I remember to structure my sentences the way the Mesopotamians did, I think I'll do fine on AP World History. Right?


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Tuesday on Getting a Life

I don't know about you, but there are very few topics I can focus completely on for very long. I will inevitably (and by inevitably I mean usually, and by usually I mean I spend most of my time trying to prevent this) feel my mind wandering to other topics or ideas or daydreams or musings or wonderings (you get the picture) sparked by completely random things, like I Wonder Why That Crack In The Wall Looks So Familiar or What Are The Various Ways That Ladybug Could Have Gotten Into My Room? or Do I Think My Sister Will Let Me Borrow The John Green Book She Just Bought If I Finish My Homework By 9:00 Tonight.

Ahem. Some of the more normal examples. (This is why standardized testing kills my soul.)

Anyway, it's not very realistic to expect someone to spend large quantities of time thinking about one topic and one topic only. The same applies to characters. This is why subplots are important to a story. Any story. Except maybe flash fiction. But in the general world of fictional stories, subplots are key. No matter how exciting and complicated a story about a ninja who fights ghosts may be, it will get boring fast if your main character only thinks about her ninja skills in the ghost-fighting context. I began to eat my sandwich, knowing the lean meat will provide protein necessary to build my ghost-fighting ninja muscles. After finishing, I backflipped out of my chair to hone my impromptu ninja ghost-fighting moves. As I landed, I evaluated how I would exterminate any ghosts that happened to be in my line of vision.

Yeah. This went from Oooooh, ninja ghost-fighter? So cool! To Oooooh...someone needs to get a life. And this is where subplots come in. They make the character more human, perhaps more flawed--flaws are good subplots--and also more interesting, especially if the plot is fantastical or sci-fi or involves a very uncommon situation. The character is a ninja ghost-fighter and she likes to bake? I like to bake too! I feel so much more sympathy for her plight now. And so on.

Most stories have subplots naturally worked in--friendships, love interests, a character flaw to overcome, et cetera. It would probably be a good idea to evaluate your plot for these subplots and flesh them out a bit. My favorite kinds of subplots are the ones that ultimately connect to the resolution. I read a story recently that had a great main plot, but the love story on the side was just that--on the side--and didn't connect to the coolness of the main plot and therefore felt pretty disappointing. Or, how about this idea--two main plots (and some subplots sprinkled in for flavor) that ultimately converge in one resolution and were really connected all along. My next story will be sure to have that setup. Maybe three.

To illustrate, I googled "subplot graph" and found this.

I so don't understand the math here, but it's quite pretty.


Monday, May 14, 2012

Monday is a Ghost

I am obsessed with Pottermore. It's quite sad, actually, because the way I feel about Pottermore also happens to be the way I feel about boys I crush on or good food; they're all worthy of my time. For those of you who aren't Harry Potter fans or live under a rock, Pottermore was created by J.K. Rowling as an exclusive site to browse previously unknown book contents and explore Harry's world along with him through each individual book. I could go on and on all day long about the lovely graphics (squee), enhanced dueling mechanisms (double squee), and the ability to be sorted into different houses (triple Ravenclaw squee), but today I want to share my new favorite aspect of the wonderful J.K. Rowling: her ghost plots.

One of Pottermore's features includes special readings from the author herself, which is every writing Potterhead's dream come true. What's more amazing than that is the fact that nearly every single character is revealed to have a detailed back story (I almost passed out when I read them) that never made its way into the books. Having secondary characters with excessive extra information was puzzling to me at first; Rowling had actually taken the time to draw out these elaborate stories for characters like Quirrel and McGonagall. Perhaps I'm the only one who is amazed by this, but it never crossed my mind knowing every single detail about lesser characters is actually important.

Rowling calls them ghost plots because, like a ghost, they seem to haunt to the living characters in her story. The most fascinating ghost plot of hers (as of now) centers around Professor McGonagall, who was raised in a divided household with a witch mother and a Muggle father and once was married; who knew? While it is not completely vital information to the story at hand, the idea of having ghost plots seems to branch out and give our characters a new sense of importance. We are able to say, well, while this character is not of the utmost importance, she is a well-rounded individual with more than just one dimension. Even if that's not your way of thinking, ghost plots can even leak into the bigger picture of your story.

I want to be able to say that I know my characters down to the nitty gritty, but without ghost plots, I don't see that I can. Sure, filling out a character template is nice, but is it really the same? Get to know your characters by expanding their stories.

Do you have any ghost plots that never made it into your story? Why or why not?

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Saturday Gets Antsy

Or: Saturday has been on a break too long.

You remember that part where I wrote a long short story that took me like three months to write even though it was less than 20k? And then I finished and then I took a not-writing break and then in March I was revising? Well, the last revision thing didn't happen. I was actually waiting for a couple people to get back to me, but they couldn't so my plans had to change.

So this is the new plan: There's one week until I start revising Spyder again. Hopefully for the last time. But, because I'm insane like that, I have things I do to prepare for the beginning of the project. This week's include:

- Two books I want to read because they're out from the library and I don't really read during big revisions or the voice goes wonky.

- Cleaning. (This is also known as the part of not-writing where my brain goes weird and I get restless and try to Clean All the Things. I actually have a list of things to do so I don't just randomly clean everything because that is exhausting and not-productive in the long run.)

- Blogging. (Here and my other two blogs. I like to have lots of things scheduled on my book blog since we've seen how well I remember to blog.)

Then... next Saturday. Because I'm getting antsy to write again.

Okay, so. This is short but, hey, I remembered! Tell me what your plans and goals and stuff in the comments.

Peace and cookies,

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Thursday Tries to be Real

Wow, Thursday just kinda snuck up on me this week. This week has been super crazy, and it’s not even over yet. Tomorrow is gonna be even more crazy.

I’m not here to complain about my hectic week (much). I’m here to talk about being real.

When I first started writing, I read somewhere that set my writing back by a lot. It wasn’t bad advice. It was actually good advice that I took too literally. The advice was to write realistically.

I read this, and the light bulb went off above my head. Suddenly even story that didn’t contain simple tasks like brushing our teeth and taking a shower were unrealistic. I knew I needed to remedy this by writing about every single thoughtless task I did on a daily basis (in my defense I was really young and didn’t know anything about writing other than you write. I was way in over my head). I wrote about everything:

Boring morning schedule either no point? Check!
Boring scenes about my MC stares into the fridge looking for something to drink for breakfast (because everyone cares about my internal conflict between OJ and milk which totally goes with my plot)? Check!
Boring scenes about my MC stressing for her gazillion tests/ projects due that had nothing to do with my plots (okay now I’m done talking about my school life)? Check!

I did this for a while for longer than I’d like to admit before I realized these all knowing, published writers knew what they were doing. Here I thought I was being revolutionary making my writing realistic when really I was making my writing as boring as mangoes (everyone knows grapefruits are the life of the party).

The key I learned (through MUCH trial and error) was make everything directly relate to my plots (yes this was a shocker for me too) while keeping it in the real world. People do NOT run from bad guys for hours without sleeping for the past week and be functional is not realistic (which is what I think the person who gave me the dive was referring to). Heck I’m not functional without at least 12 hours (which is just about never).

Realistic scenes also slow down your story which can be an advantage and a disadvantage.

Advantage: A story shouldn’t be action, action, action. Give your readers time to breathe between the drama. Realistic scenes can give the reader a quick breather between scenes.

Disadvantage: Don’t bog down intense scenes with unrealistic “real” details. Wow that made no sense. What I mean is if you are running for your life, you will not be taking a look at all the cute shop windows to see if there are any cute floral sundresses. Yes there are probably going to be cute things in the windows of stores, but that doesn’t mean you need to stop and look. You run for your life. Realism can SINK an intense moment.

Being real is important, but don’t go overboard like I used to.

There are a lot of exceptions to this (like in fantasy) where you kinda need to stay away from what’s real. The basic laws of life can be broken in writing, but realism makes the story more relatable for readers. It’s easier to relate to someone who faces the real challenges you and I face all the time. A connection between a character and reader can be formed from common real moments of truth in your stories.

Looking back the advice was helpful even if it didn’t help me right away. It taught me how to write plot focused scenes while keeping my foot planted in the real. I just really wish I had stopped and went “maybe I could be wrong.”

What advice have you received that you’ve learned from? Do you try to write realistically?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Wednesday Likes Coffee Drinks (And Poetry)

I think sometimes we all need to take a break. Getting into a writing routine or schedule is a good goal, but sometimes it can harm you more than it helps you. I was having trouble moving ahead with my current work of progress. It was moldering away in a word document while I stared at the screen until my eyes went numb. Needless to say, that was not especially helpful. Or helpful at all.

I was beating myself up because this specific story is very important to me. I just had absolutely no idea what to write. The way to get out of this rut isn’t to keep harping about the piece you’re having trouble with. For me, it helps to take a break and maybe just free write, or write some poetry. Sometimes when I think I’m having writer’s block, I’m just having fiction writer’s block. It’s not that I’ve run out of ideas, but that the framework of a novel or short story can sometimes make it hard to express what you want to say. In poetry, you don’t have to worry about balancing plot and description. You don’t have to worry about staying in character. This can be really freeing after weeks of working on one piece. It helped me to pull some solid ideas out of the jumbled mass of words in my brain, and to realize what was actually going on inside my head. Because, if we’re being honest, sometimes we all have trouble putting abstract ideas and feelings into words.

Another thing that helped me get over this bout of writer’s block was reading. I’ve always thought of myself as someone who reads often, but with so many reading-heavy classes, APs and finals to study for, and what seems like a billion other things to practice or finish, my day seems to have shrunk. If I have a free minute, I usually use it to catch up on some sleep. This past weekend, though, I decided to dedicate my two (mostly) free days to reading. It was incredibly relaxing and it made me very happy. When I finished an amazing book around one in the morning, I no longer was at a loss for what to write. I generally don’t believe in lightning bolts of inspiration, but that was what it felt like. I had so many new plot ideas and scenes planned out in my mind that I could hardly get them down fast enough.

Finally, one of the things that will shake your I’m-useless-and-I-can’t-write mood is going out and, well, doing things. Yeah, you have obligations. Yes, there’s school. But just forget about it for one night and go somewhere with a friend, or go buy a latte and some delicious (unhealthy) food from somewhere. Take your notebook or laptop and write somewhere new, if you like, or just go out and notice things. You’re a writer, but you can’t forget about the living part of writing. Maybe the barista at Starbucks will inspire an entirely knew plot in your story. Or maybe not. But either way, caffeine and chocolate are cures for pretty much everything, even writer’s block.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Tuesday is Awkward

Like most people, I would imagine, I really hate awkward situations. Awkward conversations, awkward making-eye-contact-by-accident-because-you-were-staring-into-space-except-accidentally-were-staring-directly-at-someone-oops glances, awkward silences, you name it. (Fortunately I don't find myself feeling awkward too often--this could mean I'm good at avoiding awkward situations or perhaps my awkward radar is just off.)

My favorite people are the ones with whom I can talk for hours or spend hours in silence, and neither is awkward. And I'd guess most of you would agree. And, by extension, most main characters would agree as well.

Unfortunately, however, I, you, and our characters, cannot always be surrounded with Favorite People. Which means there will be Awkward.

I say "um." I don't realize I say "um" until I catch myself doing it, and then it's like being aware of your own tongue in your mouth--awkward (oh hey), uncontrollable, and all-consuming. I notice every variation. Uh. Um. Er. Well. Ah.... Huh. I was watching my TV interview the other day (because I forgot what I said and was like, oh hey, I don't have to remember because it's recorded!) and ended up yanking on my braids every time I heard myself say "um." It drove me crazy. Crazier. But then again, if I'd articulated everything perfectly I wouldn't have sounded like me. I would've sounded...I don't know...rehearsed. And I'm not a good enough actor to make rehearsed sound natural. (Weird how that circles around.)

ANYWAY. Point being: Don't shy away from um in dialogue. I wouldn't suggest using it as often as a normal person does, because, um, normal people use it a lot. Take note next time you're listening to your friends. (Warning: this will probably cause some excessive teeth-gnashing...)


Also, don't forget about "like." As in, like, this. Because that is something people say. It doesn't have to be a parody, like, every other, like, word, like, that would be so, like, silly and, like, annoying.

But it is used. Sparingly, yes. But 'tis a fact of life. Or, at least, dialogue.

Um, over and, like, out.


Monday, May 7, 2012

Monday is Newbie #2

Happy post-Cinco de Mayo! I’m actually 1/8 Spanish, believe it or not, but you probably wouldn’t be able to tell from my ginger hair and green eyes. Anyway, I didn’t actually celebrate Cinco de Mayo, but my mom did make me tacos on Saturday night. Can that count?
I’m Tori, by the way. High school student extraordinaire (not), the coolest person you’ll ever meet (definitely not), and the most qualified writer to give you custom tips on anything your little heart desires (absolutely, positively, unquestionably not). But you probably don’t want to hear about the girl I wish to be, so we’ll move on to who I actually am. The name on my birth certificate is Victoria Ann, but that makes me sound like a pretentious queen, so I prefer Tori. I’m nearly sixteen (wahoo! 9 days), a sophomore in high school, and I live in Alabama. Claim to fame: I live about two hours away from Antoine Dodson, and that is about the best I can come up with on why my state’s a cool place. Oh, and there’s the fact that John Green used to go to boarding school about half an hour north of my house; that’s neat, too. If you have never read his books, I demand that you educate yourself.

My hobbies past-times activities passions obsessions are writing centered. I’m the yearbook editor for Trinity Presbyterian School, newspaper editor, and English class is where the party is- for me, anyway. I love classic novels (Catcher in the Rye, anyone? Fahrenheit 451?), but I’m also a fantasy junkie as well. Ray Bradbury is my hero, and I recently met an author who was able to do a one-on-one interview with Bradbury; as you can imagine, I couldn’t stop the tears from streaming down my face in reverence. I run a new book review blog that I’m crossing my fingers I stay committed to, but I tend to get my priorities out of order at times. I have a horrible feeling I’m going to fail at marriage if I don’t work on my commitment problems. My long-term goals include publishing and novel-writing in any U.S. state with the exception of Alabama; I’m all too excited to get out of here!

As the new Monday girl here at YA Lit Six, I hope to brighten up your probably monotonous, bleak, and horrible start to the week with a dash of humor and a little bit of writing on the side. Who knows, maybe I’ll learn to be a faithful blogger and actually handle some responsibility! You can all give yourselves little pats on the back for making it through the worst day. 

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Saturday Is Off Schedule

Or: I forgot to blog.

I forgot it was Saturday. I'm all wonky with sleeping and I just forgot. I PROMISE I will blog next week. In the mean time, go say hi to our new members!

Peace and cookies,

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Thursday's Got a Feeling (and Motive)

I wanna talk a little about a song they did on Glee. Whether you love Glee or hate it, just wait. I have a point.

The song in question is actually Cell Block Tango from Chicago. I’ve never seen Chicago, but personally I would love to read about these girls. Maybe I’ll see it one day (Have any of you guys seen it? Was it good? Were these girls interesting?).

Anyways, these girls think what they did was the right thing wholeheartedly. I mean listen to song. The lyrics on the video, but I also copied the lyrics that inspired this post.

“They had it comin', they had it comin'
They had it comin' all along
'Cause if they used us and they abused us
How could they tell us that we were wrong?

He had it coming, he had it coming
He only had himself to blame
If you'd have been there, if you'd have seen it
I betcha you would have done the same

There is no apology. This isn’t a song about how sorry these girls are. No, they are explaining why they did it. As the girls said, “it was a murder but not a crime.” In their minds, what they did is perfectly reasonable, but don’t we think the same thing about our decisions?

Normally, people don’t wake up and think “I’m going to kill someone.” There’s a reason.

We always think we are on the right side. In our minds, our actions are perfectly reasonable. I mean do you think twice about the things you do?

Do you think the French during the revolution thought “maybe this head chopping thing isn’t the best solution?”
The French government thought it was a way to keep down the complaints.

Do you think the Americans during WWII thought “maybe bombing Japan isn’t the best solution?”
If you ask anyone from this time, they’ll more likely say the Japanese deserved it. I mean after Pearl Harbor, everyone wanted to enlist in the war to get revenge. The American government saw it as a quick way to prevent millions of people to die, and hey if Russia gets scared and backs off, all the better.

I’m not saying I agree with anything above. Actually I completely disagree with the decisions above, but the people involved thought that they were making the right choice. I’m not saying some people didn’t disagree, but people still allowed it to happen.

In our stories, we give all of our characters motive and feel something.

One of my biggest pet peeves in book is when a character does something and the motive doesn’t work. Think about horror movies. Don’t you just wanna slap the girl who runs upstairs to get away from the bad guy even though she is RIGHT BY THE DOOR.

They should also feel something. The girls in Cell Block Tango felt angry to the point of murder. I feel like a lot of the time characters just mull over what to do or not to do. Sure some things deserve thought (like whether to eat chocolate or cotton candy ice cream), but don't harp on and on. Decide and act. Harping on and on is a waste of word count. No one likes listening to someone complain for hours on what to do. We like action. Same in reading. Act.

Both of these things make me annoyed with a character, and I probably won’t read any more.

I’m not completely sure I made any sense up there because I’m typing this quickly because really need to write and do my homework. I guess what I want to point out is that motive and feelings say a lot about your character. Don’t make your character into one of those people where you wonder how long it’ll take before you snap and smack them. Think through their motive and feelings.

Everyone has a motive and they all feel something. That's what you should write about.

The girls from Cell Block Tango had clear motive and feelings, and personally I really would like to know more about them. Through motive and feelings, you really have something going.

What are your thoughts? How important is motive and feelings to you?

Also HELLO to our new members! Tori is our new Monday, and Caroline is our new Wednesday. I'm really excited to see what they post.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Wednesday is a newbie.

Hi. I'm one of YA Lit Six's new members, and I'd like to start out by thanking the amazing Laina, Kieryn, Jewels, and KT for reading through the applications and picking me. I can't wait to get to know this blog and its members better.

OK. I'm not the best at introductions, but I guess I should tell you all a little bit about myself. I'm currently employed as a high school student, one of the most hazardous and misunderstood jobs on the planet. My school floods and some of the fire escapes are blocked, but you know, these are the things you just have to deal with if you want to survive until graduation. That being said, I've always been one of those kids who loved school, and I still am. Language-y subjects, anyway. I'm not a big fan of numbers. I've been blogging for a little more than a year on my personal blog. It usually is a combination of blog posts and my fiction and poetry. When I'm not writing, or drowning in homework, I'm usually involved in a play or musical. I love all things Theatre.

I'm also an devoted (read: obsessive) Irish dancer and lover of all things Irish. If you've ever seen Riverdance, that's a showier, more modern version of what I do. I perform and compete at various competitions and I'm always busy every year when St. Patrick's Day rolls around. It's almost always been part of my life and is a huge influence on my writing and of course, on who I am in general.

Despite school, dance, and busy rehearsal schedules, I always make time to read. I'm that kid who sneaks a book into social events. The kid who lies and says they're busy when really, they just want to go home and find out which fictional character dies at the end. I honestly don't know what I would do if I lived in a Fahrenheit 451-esque world where books were forbidden. My favorite authors--J.K. Rowling, Ray Bradbury, Neil Gaiman, Marcus Zusack, and F. Scott Fitzgerald, to name a few--have probably created the person who I am today more than anything else. That's one of the main reasons I want to be a writer. I want to write a book that someone stays up all night to read, or a poem that stays with the reader years after they've read it. That's why I applied to be a member of this blog, because I want to share my experiences as a young writer with anyone who's ever fallen in love with a book, a poem, or even just with words themselves.

Have a beautiful rest of your day, and keep an eye out for more posts from me every Wednesday (my favorite non-weekend day of the week). I'll also be updating our twitter account in the future, if you're a tweeting kind of person. Happy Wednesday. Have some Nutella to celebrate making it half way through the week. I know that's what I'm doing.


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Tuesday wants a soundtrack.

Do you mentally add background music when you write?

(...Don't tell me that's just me.)

I'm not talking about a playlist to rock out to while writing, I'm talking about the music that plays in the background of a scene, in your head. (Unless those happen to be the same songs and line up exactly with the scenes as you write them in which case you, my friend, have enviable timing.)

The thing is, background music is important. When watching a video, the background music tells us when to feel sad, or apprehensive, or scared, or happy, or completely and utterly stunned.

(Take a moment to watch those, they took me forever to choose.)

(After you've taken a moment...) See how the music is the cue for the emotion? When done right, music = emotion in videos.

Which is slightly unfortunate when you consider the fact that books don't have background music.

Therefore, I think we have to set our own. This is with tones. Tones and the right adjectives. Is your character depressed? Use depressing adjectives. Have him/her describe the tablecloth as "faded/puke/moldy green" rather than "grass/key-lime/crayon green." That adjective, like the first "duh-nuh" of the Jaws song or the jaunty beat of Hall & Oates, is a cue. A trigger. "The character is depressed. Feel sympathy."

Of course, adjectives can't be the only hint you offer your readers as to your character's mood. That'd be like...the dance routine for the "happy" link combined with the creepy music in the "scared" link. The actions and dialogue have to match up. But I happen to think the descriptive words are akin to the background music in a video. And background music is quite desirable. After all, Calvin (a la Calvin & Hobbes) once said, "I thought my life would seem more interesting with a musical score and a laugh track."