Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Wednesday Rambles

I don't know if this is just me, but sometimes I get on these kicks where I decide I'm never going to ever show my writing to anyone ever again because it's stressful and I don't like explaining myself etc., etc.

This is a very stupid thing to decide.

If I never shared my writing with anyone, I wouldn't be blogging right now. I wouldn't be having a semi-awkward (on my part, anyway) conversation with a former New Yorker staff member on Twitter. I wouldn't have gone to Chicago last April. I might not even know that Chicago is one of my favorite cities. I wouldn't be able to nag my friends/teachers/family members about helping me edit, or read their comments during study hall and fall out of my chair laughing.

I definitely would not be missing math tomorrow, if it weren't for writing. I get to skip the last three periods of the day tomorrow to crash a creative writing class at the college near my home. Afterwords, I'm meeting with the professor to share some of my writing. I've been waiting for this since June, so I'm a tiny bit excited. Just a tiny bit.

If you ever catch yourself wanting to keep your writing to yourself, think about it first. There is absolutely nothing wrong with writing just for yourself, but you may be denying yourself some incredibly fun opportunities. There are thing I've written that I hope to someday burn because they are impossible to read without throwing up. But there are things I've written that I love (for now). And I like sharing them, even if it makes me feel like tearing my hair out sometimes.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Tuesday on the Floor

Something that is always present in a setting--okay, I shouldn't say always, because perhaps some stories are set in space or a vacuum, but anyway--is oftentimes ignored: the floor. The floor is highly important. It not only keeps you from falling to your death (say, in a skyscraper), it might also affect the movement of your character or the possibility of death. Like, if your character is foolishly wearing socks and running down a staircase. This might not be terrible if the stairs are carpeted, but on marble, your character's chance of death via falling down stairs increases approximately 236.7%.

Floors also provide cool sounds--clacking, if heels are moved across hard surfaces. Shuffling, if the floor is outdoors and maybe gravel or weeds. Nothing at all, if the floor is carpet and allows the Bad Guys to sneak up on your oblivious character.

Definitely add floors to your settings--they also help create a nice 3-dimensional space.

Happy Tuesday!

By the way, I probably won't be blogging next week--it's GISHWHES!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Friday Has Workshop Brain

Heya people.

So, in my creative writing class here at school, we've been workshopping for the past couple weeks. If you don't know what that is, we bring in short stories (3 groups that rotate) and read them, critique them, and then discuss them in class. The writer isn't allowed to justify anything and then they go back and revise the story for our final portfolios. Yes.

I adore workshop. It is so fascinating to hear people talk about your writing in person--especially in such a large group. The majority of the time I hear feedback about my writing is through the internet from my critique partners or my brother who basically reads everything I write (and he is literally the sweetest person ever when it comes to my writing). Whether it be bad or good, what they have to say is always interesting. I think it is a great idea for any sort of writer to just go to a workshop, whether it be through a school or arts center or random writing class, or if you just get a group of writers you know together to do one.

What's interesting to me is that the feedback on my stories isn't what has helped me most with writing this semester. It's reading other people's stories. I have to admit that there are only a very few exceptional writers in my class. Reading their work is so much fun and I've learned a lot from them. But I've learned a lot of what not to do from others, as well as how different writing can be when you've done it for years or you are just beginning. I know a lot of agents and people in general tend to look down on teenage or young writers because their work isn't that well developed. From reading more and more works of such young people writing, I've realized it's very true. A lot of the people in my workshop haven't been writing seriously for as long as a lot of the people I've met on twitter or here on blogger have, and it definitely shows. That being said, I've realized how strong (sorry, not trying to toot my horn here) my writing is compared to most other high school/college students, as well as the people I've surrounded myself with online's writing is.

So props to you guys.

Has anyone else been in a workshop class before? What are your thoughts on it?

IN OTHER NEWS. NaNoWriMo starts in just under two weeks!! Who all is doing it? I am for sure. NaNo is one my favorite things ever. *pumped*

Toodles for now!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Wednesday Says Good People Aren't All That Great

Hear me out on this one.

I think people feel like they have to write archetypes. You know, old men are either wise or grumpy. The bad guys are despicable. The good guys are saints.

While archetypes are cool and everything, they're essentially limiting. They're stencils. You can use them, sparingly, but wouldn't you rather have a painting, or a sculpture?

J.K. Rowling's new book The Casual Vacancy gave me the idea for this post. The characters in her new novel aren't essentially good or bad. Their role depends on the situation. They're all the antagonists and the protagonists because they all are living different stories. To different people, they represent different things.
When making a character, don't get caught up in making them likable, or creating a better version of yourself. Not everyone will like your character. Some people will probably hate them, and those people will usually have reasons for this, even if those reasons are strange, or nonsensical. Our own grudges don't seem nonsensical to us, so why would they to an antagonist?

Your character doesn't have to be objectively good or bad. It's more fun if they're a little bit of both.


Thursday, October 11, 2012

Thursday with how Sentence Structure Impacts Characterization

Sentence structure can reveal tiny hints to your characters. Please note that below are generalizations which you can totally break, BUT there should be a reason if you make a lawyer talk in long, preposition filled sentences or a creative type talking with short brisk sentences.

Sentence Structure in Narration

  • Short Sentences: These are for characters who get straight to the point. No flowy language to make it sound pretty. These characters want to get right into what's import (less likely to give long paragraphs of dialogue) and are very sure of themselves (think lawyers, doctors, over achievers in school, New Yorkers)
    • Ex: "The meeting. Don't be late"
  • Long Sentences: These are for characters who like details. These characters use a lot of prepositions and adjectives. Conflict possibility: information tends to get lost in all the details in long sentences. Long sentences tend to be more flowy and pretty than short brisk sentences. Characters who use long sentences tend to have more to say (think teachers, writers trying to explain their novels ;), love interests professing their undying love) 
    • EX: "Please don't be late for the meeting on Thursday in lecture hall by the office at 3:45 where we will talk about our upcoming service projects like Habitat for Humanity and the food bank." 

Sentence Structure in Dialogue (these can be used SPARINGLY in narrative)

  • Sentences ending with a dash: These are for characters who get cut of in their thoughts. These characters tend think fast and don't care if others follow their train of thought. Conflict possibility: information tends to be forgotten with these fast thinkers. These characters also don't tend to go back and finish their thoughts (think aggressive drivers, gossipers) 
      • Ex: "I hate this song it just- It's called a gas pedal. Use it. You would think- What do you think you are doing. Idiot!"
  • Sentences ending in an exclamation point: These are for characters who are very passionate. Be cautious with exclamation points. I have read that some agents consider exclamation points as a sign of an amateur writer. Even though I am an amateur writer, I think exclamation points with a POINT (did you catch the pun) and used sparingly can be super beneficial for characterizing a character with having to say that they are passionate. While using an exclamation point every sentence to show a passionate character is okay, but the occasion point after a line that is beneficial to the plot makes the reader recognize that line is important not only to the character but to the plot as well. Characters who uses exclamation points want to bring the point across (think cheerleaders, people in a fight, writers after they get "The Call", Bill Nye)  
    • Ex: "Are you ready writers! Give me a W! Give me a R! Give me an I! Give me a T! Give me an E! Write! Write! Write!"
  • Sentences with italics: These are for characters who are like to put extra emphasis on their words (we all know the types of people I am talking about). Notice: which word these characters emphasize can drastically change the meaning of the sentence.  Very often these characters like to emphasize something in every sentences they say (think stereotypical preppy girls, and... okay I can't really think of any other group of people who talk like this). 
    • Ex: "I love these shoes. They are so cute. Why do they have to be so expensive?"
  • Sentences with ellipses: These are for characters who aren't quiet sure of themselves or space out a lot (like me). The two types of characters I mentioned are very different, so I'll start with characters not sure of themselves. These characters might make up information to make it seem like they understand (like me on free response questions in chemistry). The ellipses signals a hesitation which these characters use to think of what to say next. Ellipses are great to show characters in a right here and now situation where they must make something up on the spot (think the kid in the back of class who wasn't paying attention and gets called on, new boss tying to make people like them). On the other hand ellipses can be used for characters who space out (similar to dash characters). I space out a lot. If you are talking to me, I probably won't retain a word you said. I even do this for myself. In the middle of talking, I will space out and lose my train of thought (think creative types, constant thinkers, people really passionate about what they are talking about). 
    • Ex for characters who aren't sure of themselves: "Well isn't the... we talked about this the other day after the thing on electronegativity right... the atomic radius larger at the... *makes left and right fingers* left side of the periodic table towards the... *looks up at the ceiling* top of the periodic table. That can't be right... or is it? I remember talking about... it's in my notes... the atomic radius is largest at the bottom left hand corner? Is that right... or... I know this. I promise. I just... yeah, atomic radius is largest at the lower right hand corner. Final answer. Right?... We have bonus right?"

    • Ex for characters who space out: "I found the cutest... OMG I totally forgot my homework... *digs through back pack* what was I looking for again?" 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Tuesday on Why Being Tired is Good

Who out there hates being tired?

(I see everyone raising their hand. Yeah, me too.)

Who out there is tired right now?

(No hands dropped? It's a big club, we should get t-shirts.)

My suggestion is this: use it. Own it. Take weariness by the horns and turn it into words. ...Dramatic and cliche advice aside, I'm telling you to write. I do my best (and most) writing late at night, when I'm too tired to be distracted by anything. And, also, when I'm too tired to care about every little mistake. Those can be edited out later, once the words are actually written.

Or sleep. Sleeping is good too.

Happy Tuesday!


Saturday, October 6, 2012

Saturday Says Hi

Or: Oh, hey there!

Yeah, I haven't blogged in a while. I had the plague for a couple weeks and I kept forgetting and not having the energy and... well, basically, I just sucked.

Anyways, tomorrow is Thanksgiving in Canada so I don't really have anything to blog about today but I promise I will come up with a good post next week. Okay?

Peace and cookies,

Friday, October 5, 2012



I have been gone for far too long. Okay, not really, I have been gone for around a month. I've just been trying to settle into school and whatnot.

And every Friday I'm like, "Oh yes, YA Lit Six post, must do that." And then I forget. But I am here! I promise! I haven't died!

This is all jumbly. I'm sorry.

I'm rather short on writing news to share, apart from the fact I'm taking a creative writing class at my university. I've learned quite a bit from it. I've been wanting to make posts about it and relay the information I've been learning to all of you, but I'm such a slacker.

I would advise any writer to look into the book 'Writing Fiction' by Janet Burroway, though. There is some great advice and information for both amateur and seasoned writers. There are also some FANTASTIC short stories, and we all know that reading helps you become a better writer. Of course, there are some things that aren't necessarily true of writing and should be challenged (in my and others' opinions, at least). I have a lot of things highlighted in the book, so I think next post I shall share some with you!

Sorry for the shortness!


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Thursday on Problem Solving

Sorry for not posting last week. Some personal problems got in the way. I won't get into it because y'all probably don't care and it is hard to explain.
I wish I could say I took my personal problems as a reason to dive into my writing and find strength like my MC does. Nope. I didn't do that.
I tried, but the words would not come.
The problem is that my WIP is a historical, and I can not nail that era's voice.
I have been doing research, but nothing is clicking for the voice. I have great plot elements to add and all.
This got me thinking about what I was struggling with this time last year.

  • Biology (I still have no idea how I managed to pull an A in that class)
  • Boys (I still have not made any improvements in understanding the male brain- for writing purposes only ;) okay maybe for me too)
  • Books (I noticed I had two other Bs, so I thought I would end with another B)

My writing (or books for the B purpose) had its own problems.
I could not for the life of me develop a healthy, realistic, swoon worthy, unique romance. All of my love interests were carbon copies of every other swoon worth guy in the YA market. Now I have dozens of amazing guys swarming in my head (That sounded a lot better in my head). What I mean is that now I have (if I do say so myself) really amazing love interests in store for my MCs.
I also had problems with writing an accent for my characters voice. Now my MC's southern twang comes out full force, and it is a blast to write (I recently stored that story away because the plot was not working, but every now and then, I get hit by a witty one liner from that character).
I wrote a post a while back about how much I hate themes, and now I am starting to get them. We aren't quite at the friendship bracelet stage, but we are getting there.
I had other problems (some of which haven't been resolved yet), but I have gotten past a lot of them. With time everything worked its way out.
Summary: Everything gets better with time.
Whether its personal drama, school work, boys (okay this has not been proven yet), or your writing; it gets better.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Detailed vs. Still Detailed

As the author, you might have every last detail of your character and your setting in your mind. (Or perhaps even drawn out.) However, not every single one of those details needs to make it to the page.

But why? Shouldn't the story be as real as possible?

YES. And that's exactly why: because unless your character is Sherlock Holmes or Shawn Spencer, your character is not Sherlock Holmes or Shawn Spencer. Your character is probably a mere mortal. Which is why, sometimes, generality is key.

Humans think in generalities, and relate stories in generalities, which is why when specifics are introduced, we know they're important. If someone were to tell a story about one of someone's dozen cookies being stolen in an indoor market, they'd probably describe the indoor market as large and bustling, rather than 10,000 cubic feet with seventy-three independent conversations happening between a ratio of three females for every male present, as well as seven babies crying and... If you did that, the next part about how the cookies were arranged (which would differ after some were stolen) would be less important, and might go over the reader's head.

Besides, large and bustling gives about the same mental image, does it not? We humans share a language for a reason--words have meaning. We are readers for a reason--we have imaginations. Together the two can do wonders, so feel free to let the reader take the reins once in a while.

Happy Tuesday!