Sunday, April 29, 2012

Friday is Late Because of Dragons

Sorry I'm posting on Sunday, guys. But I felt like I owed you one because I've missed two Fridays in a row now.

And I had posts planned for them and everything. The problem is that I haven't been home for the past two Fridays. I went to school, then went out and didn't get home until early Saturday morning.

"Why?" You may ask.

Because I've been playing Dungeons & Dragons with a group of friends (Yes, I know, I am now an OFFICIAL nerd). Anyways, sorry for missing those Fridays. I'm hoping to be on schedule next Friday, but not positive about that - there might be more D&D or The Avengers or studying for AP tests.

Speaking of D&D, though. I think it's actually a great game for writers! Well, fantasy writers, especially. You have to come up with a character and their backstory; you have to know their motives, they powers, their appearance. As well how they came to be about in the group and how they interact with all the other characters. And then there's a whole plot to the game. It's just like coming up with a protagonist/story. The exciting this is that you get to BE the character! You don't always get to be your protagonist when you're writing, do you? *shakes head*

Unfortunately for me, I don't actually have a backstory for my character yet! I've been trying to think of one, but nothing's quite solid yet. And all my friends have awesome stories, so I feel like I need to live up to that string of awesome. I don't suppose all you writers out there might have suggestions for my character? She's an elf with a bow and arrow and is totally awesome. And her name is Keyleth.

Well, I need to get back to studying now. I graduate in two weeks (EXACTLY), but before that I have to take my AP tests... and those begin next Monday, so I'm dubbing this the week of intensive studying! I probably won't be online very much, but I hope to see you again next Friday! And then I will be WAY more regular about these posts! :)



Thursday, April 26, 2012

Thursday Wonders

There are a lot of controversies in the writing world.
• To love triangle or not to love triangle
• To write for characters or to write for plot
• To plan or to sit on the seat of your pants
• To discuss sex, alcohol, and drug in YA or not to discuss sex, alcohol, and drug in YA
• To censor our writing or to say whatever flows

Personally one thing I think should be discussed more is “to create a likable character from the beginning or to create a fuller character arc”. Actually, I don’t know if this is discussed at all. I’ve never seen anything about it before which perplexes me.

Everyone says: start your story with something to make your character more likable
Everyone says: there must be a character arc or what’s the point

My WIP starts with my MC trying to kill someone. Personally, for the well being of society, I really hope many people don’t relate to wanting to kill someone. Spoiler: she does over time grow and learn to accept what’s happened to her life

This chapter was difficult for me because I didn’t want to over ride future reader with depressing thoughts that could make the reader feel distant, but I also didn’t want to make her seem like a warm and fuzzy person that people automatically relate to and risk not having a full character arc.

In the end, I had to decide whether I wanted the chapter to lean more towards character arc or a relatable character beginning.

I choose character arc because that is one of the big things about my MC. I want my future readers to see her grow.

The thing I learned that balanced the two sides out for me was adding in part of one of my subplots (a romantic subplot ;)) that makes my MC relatable. Maybe this was a “no duh” kinda thing, but this took me forever to do well.

What do you think is more important: character arc or relatable character beginnings? Do you have trouble with this? Do you think this should be discussed more in general?

Don’t forget Monday is the last day to submit YaLit Six membership forms. I really hope some of y’all send in an email. Also we also take post suggestions if you feel like there is something you would like our opinion or advice on.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Tuesday is Ironic

So there's this documentary I've been wanting so see for about a year, I think. And today I finally got to see it. It discussed how homework and America's "success culture" is stifling creativity and students' ability to learn. And now I'm home and I have...a lot of homework.


So in lieu of this week's post I'll drop the link to the documentary's site, which is really interesting:

Also, what's with the new Blogger editing layout? This shall take some getting used to.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Thursday is Here to Inspire

I have never understood people who say “I’d love to write a book, BUT I don’t know what to write about.” I don’t know how I manage to nod my head like I understand because inside my jaw is to the ground.

Maybe you have this problem. My best friend even has this problem. There’s nothing wrong with it. I just don’t get it.

Ideas come to me like bugs on sugar. I have dropped more projects than I’d like to admit due to SNIs (Shiny New Ideas). I have files upon files of ideas. There were so many (with super cryptic titles that even I didn’t know what they were about) that I had to divide them into favorites, maybes, horrible, sounds too much like a published book, and books in a series. I haven’t reorganized them lately because it would take me forever.

I can understand not being able to find subplots, but basic ideas? I am completely dumbfounded.

Since there are people out there who feel this way, I thought I would mention a few ways I find inspiration.

Caution: You may soon be overwhelmed with amazing ideas that your fingers fall off from all the writing you’ll do, and you will hate me for making you see all the possible story ideas around you. Heck I hate myself some days (especially during tests) and a new ideas pops up out of nowhere. How am I supposed to take a test on biology when I have characters that NEED to be written about?

Music- I think this is a biggy. Songs are like shorter, catchy novels. A ton of songs are based real life experience. If I remember correctly, The Script (who sings “Breakeven” and “For the First Time”) named their band the Script because they realized all of their songs had a beginning, middle and end. I know a lot of people find an idea THEN find music that goes with it, but sometimes I do the opposite. I was in the car when a song came on the radio that would be an amazing story beginning. I’ve currently listened to it a billion times today even though I don’t intend to start it in the near future. Some days, I put my iPod on shuffle, and an old song I barely remember (but you know I can magically sing along especially for “Beautiful Soul” by Jesse McCartney. Don’t pretend that the second you hear that song you can’t sing along to every word) comes on. Boom! Light bulb turns on above my head. Instant idea.

Places- Street names and neighborhood names (do they have an official name?) are really nice for characters and setting. There is a neighborhood I pass on my way to school that became a major building block for a series of mine. It was one of those things I saw, and it just clicked. Street names are also fun since some of them are named after people. I like to play around with street names and go “what type of person would be named _____?” Sometimes all you need is a character who just starts the idea snowball.

Pictures- On my personal blog, I had a segment called A Pictures Worth a Thousand Words as a way for writers to come up with ideas from pictures. I really believe the statement that a pictures worth a thousand words. I have folders on my computer dedicated solely to pictures that inspire me. I have people, places, situations, love, clothes, makeup, hair, etc pictures that just beg to be written. What were the people in the picture doing? What is their life story? What if _____ happened to them?

Dreams- This is the hardest one for me personally. I don’t really remember my dreams. I think some people keep a dream journal to record their dreams in case something could be used as a novel. If I remember correctly, Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight Saga was based on a dream. This doesn’t work for everyone. I can only remember two dreams that I would ever consider making a real story, but for some people, this is where the gold comes from.

Around and About- This is the hardest for me to explain. I guess this is something that comes from experience though this has always been a gimme for me. Basically, this is where you see something, and it clicks. An idea snowballs from a simple phrase or quote. I guess this kinda just sums up everything above. Over time the ideas will just come from the weirdest of places. They’ll attack your mind. One day one of these ideas might be THE idea that changes you from writing as a hobby to a writer. Sounds scary write (yes I know it should be right, but I couldn’t resist the pun).

I hope you find THE idea.

Now I must sing along with Beautiful Soul. Yes, I remember every word even though I haven’t heard it in forever.

How do you come up with ideas? Do you have problem with coming up with ideas?

Don’t forget we are still accepting membership posts! We would love for y’all to send in your work and join us here.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Tuesday Looks Back

You know (maybe) how when you're driving, and you want to change lanes, you need to look behind you? And not just in the mirrors, but the blind spot as well, to get the full picture? Or else you end up like this?

(Pause for chuckling at above video.)

Turns out you need to do this in writing, too. And by this I mean, before you change a story's direction or move along with the plot, you need to fill in the reader on their blind spot--aka, backstory the character knows but has not conveyed yet that will make changing lanes/directions much smoother.

However, like in driving, you can't just whip around and stare at the blind spot like the freaky chipmunk and forget to look in front of you, because then your driving gets all wibbly and so does the plot. What I'm getting at here is that backstory must be worked in like a cool, nonchalant glance to the rear. The car/plot stays on course, but you know have a glimpse of the full picture.

For example:

UNCOOL FREAKY CHIPMUNK STARE: "Humphrey barreled across the corner, nearly knocking into me. This was significant because the first time we met Humphrey ran into me and we fell halfway down a flight of stairs, but that was okay because he was really hot and had a Hungarian accent and bought me a latte to apologize. Anyway, he didn't actually hit me this time, so let's move along with the story."

COOL REAR GLANCE: "Humphrey barreled around the corner, signature Humphrey style. I automatically stepped out of the way. Someday I might just let him run into me again--last time, which happened to be the first time we met--he bought me a latte as an apology for knocking me down half a flight of stairs. (Really, the Hungarian accent was enough to make me forget the whole bruised-tailbone, thing, but, you know, can't turn down the free coffee.)"

Maybe you prefer the former, but I find that the latter incorporates info in with voice and gives the backstory from the main character's perspective and reads like a conversation rather than notes from a creepy third-party stalker.

How do you prefer to work in the backstory?


Saturday, April 14, 2012

Saturday and the Tale of the Twisted Times

Or: That is one of the worst titles I've ever come up with; also, plot and such.

I've probably blogged about this before, but I can't remember if I have so hopefully you guys can't either.

Here's something you may or may not know about me: I am not good at plot.

Wait, hold on. Bacon.

Okay, I'm back. Also, yum. Anyways, I'm not good at plot. I'm better at the mushy-gushy emotional stuff. And there's nothing wrong with a purely character or emotion-driven plot, obviously, but the books I write need the other kind, too.

Basically, people be dying a lot in my books.

I have a few tips for stronger plots, too.

1. Either before or after the rough draft, depending on which one will make you less crazy, an outline is a great idea. Sometimes an outline before I draft helps me write stronger initially, sometimes I need to just pants things. Either way, rough draft outlining.

2. Update the rough outline. Whenever you change a plot event, update your outline. Otherwise, what good will it do for you, right?

3. Motivation. If your books are anything like mine, someone is trying to kill someone else. This is kind of a Big Deal. Most people don't just decide to murder someone. You really, really need to think about why the character thinks that this is their only option left. What happened that they think they can live with the death of a person on their hands?

4. Cut scenes that are not important to the plot or character development. Sometimes, you will write awesome incredible scenes that you love dearly. Sometimes you will have to cut these same scenes. Not always, but sometimes some scenes are just filler and you don't need them.

5. Make someone else do it. Okay, this isn't REALLY a tip, but honestly, my crit partners have given me AWESOME advice about plot and I couldn't do this whole writing thing without them.

Since this honestly isn't my best area, you guys tell me now! What are your best tips for writing strong plots?

Peace and cookies,

Friday, April 13, 2012

Friday is Different and Short on Humor

Or humour, as Laina says.

Ah, look, this blog I am part of... that I have not written a post for in quite a while. I apologize for that. Wednesdays were just not working out for me, and somehow when it gets to be the last semester of school, time mysteriously disappears and I become incredibly unproductive.

Anyways, I've been on spring break this week! But, today I had work and then I napped and went to a movie. Which is why this is late. BUT ANYWAYS. This is KT. I used to be Wednesday. Now I am Friday. Wednesday will be filled again by a NEW MEMBER. So... send your posts in!! We definitely need some new, awesome members in here :)

Now. To my actual topic. Humor. I don't consider myself an extremely funny person. I'm not very outgoing, not great at telling jokes, and what I find funny, some people just think as weird.

But somehow, I've managed to write some lines in books or stories that people find funny. Though I might mean 'people' as my brother, who is easily amused. But most of these things that I've written that are found funny, are things I haven't forced. And I think that's key in a lot of humor. Forced humor, I believe, is the worst kind of humor. Especially forced vulgar humor. Which is found in A LOT of comedies these day.

Humor should come from being relaxed. You can't really set something up and be like "This is going to be funny. And you will laugh. Mwahaha." It has to be relaxed, so that whatever is supposed to be humorous is unexpected.

So. Do you guys put a lot of humor in your books? Do you think it's funny, or do others tell you it is?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Thursday Likes to Hear Herself Talk

Maybe this is weird, but when I start a project (after all my planning, charting, dissecting, etc), I write the story. How is this weird? I write only dialogue. There aren’t any tags (action or otherwise). For example,
“Give me the remote!”
“No! Big Bang Theory is on!”
“I don’t care! I want to watch the Vampire Diaries!”
“I can’t believe you just did that!”

Do you have any idea who’s talking?
Do you know if it is a boy or a girl talking?
Do you know how old the people (possibly not people) are?
Do you have any idea what they are doing?
Do you have any idea where they are?
Yeah, no details what’s so ever, but it works for me. I know the answers to all those questions.

Maddie (17) is watching the Big Bang Theory on their puke green sofa eating cup ramen noodles when Stacey (11) plops down on the couch steals Maddie’s ramen noodles, drinks all the yummy broth, and makes a grab for the remote. In Stacey’s efforts to get the remote, she spills hot ramen noodles all over Maddie’s new skirt she was wearing for her study date with the cute guy from her math class (he is coming over after the Big Bang Theory because no matter how hot the guy is, no one comes between Maddie and her Big Bang Theory especially not Stacey). Maddie’s new skirt is ruined and she has red splotches on her legs from the hot ramen. Stacey steals the remote and watches Vampire Diaries WHILE BIG BANG THEORY IS ON (not even waiting for commercials).

I could just add “Stacey plops down on the sofa and steals the remote from Maddie”, but tags slow me down. Typing “he said”, “she said”, or action tags ruins my flow. Dialogue comes easily for me, but I don’t have super memory allowing me to remember what I was thinking 30 minutes later. I can remember (or improvise) who did what later. Normally, I get this idea of a witty piece of dialogue that needs to be written, and if I took the time to type tags, I might forget what was said that was so witty.

Pros: I get all my dialogue that I love
Cons: I don’t get internal dialogue which is just as important

Over time, I’ll probably have to find a more effective method, but for now, this is my method.

What weird thing do you do when you write?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Tuesday on Mistakes

There are two main categories of mistakes a character can make:

Category #1: The mistake that seems like a good idea at the time, even to the reader, and later turns out to be, well, not a good idea. But there was really no way the character could've known this (the reader can attest to that). So this mistake is pretty guilt-free, except the character probably will feel guilt anyway, to hammer home what a good and caring person he/she is (not really a bad thing there).

For example, say Main Character Jane gets invited to Big Popular Party Event. The guy who invited her used to be her neighbor, they've been talking lately, all seems just dandy. Turns out her sole purpose is to make Old Neighbor Boy's ex-girlfriend jealous. Big Popular Party ends awkwardly with Main Character Jane alone and a bit humiliated.

Aww, we say. Poor Main Character Jane. She couldn't have known. This is the kind of mistake that builds sympathy for the main character.

However, then there's category #2: The mistakes that are clear from the start. Say Old Neighbor Boy shows up out of the blue. Maybe he mentions how much he hates his ex. More than once. Maybe Main Character Jane thinks this party will be the in she needs to get into the In Crowd. (By the way, who actually thinks like that? Is that a real thing? The In Crowd? Anyway.) She goes in thinking, I'm going to impress the socks off of these people. She winds up, as we saw, humiliated, and everyone's socks remain firmly on their feet.

Please, Main Character Jane, we say. Come on. We saw that coming a mile away.

You might think this is the Bad Kind of mistake. It's not. While category #1 raises sympathy, category #2 ups the suspense. The reader knows this will not turn out as planned. But how? How will the humiliation unfold? How will the angst embed itself into Main Character Jane's psyche?

It's a bit Schadenfreude-y, but it works.

Which category of mistake do you prefer to read? How about write?


Saturday, April 7, 2012

Saturday on Swearing Like a Sailor

Or: Characters that curse.

First of all, don't forget that we're looking for new members! Go to this post for details.

Now, let's talk about cursing! I, personally, don't swear. There's nothing wrong with it, obviously, but I work with kids and I just don't feel it's necessary for me as a person.

That says nothing about my characters. My first book, Spyder, has 97 f-words right now. And I've been trimming them out. But my MC in that book swears like a truck driver. My second book, Berserk, has no f-words but some other curse words. My third book SMN has less swearing but there's still some.

The thing about swearing is that they DO have to matter, especially in YA. If you're cursing for the sake of cursing, it shows and that's something I have to watch myself. My MC in Spyder swears a lot and that is part of her character, but every time a character swears, as a general rule of thumb, it needs to be important. They are words that have power and if you overdo it, you risk losing that power.

It's like... you know those people who every other word needs to be a curse? You know how it just gets old? It's like that.

You also need to keep the setting in mind. There are places where it is WHOLY innappropriate to be dropping f-bombs left, right, and center. (Like, outside of an elementary school right before the bell rings for the end of the day. Ugh. Don't get me started on how rage-making that is.)

For me, too, the age of my character matters. My two main characters who swear more are seventeen and one is close to eighteen. My one who doesn't really swear (but other people in the book do) is fifteen turning sixteen during the course of the book. She's at an age where she still gets heck from her parents, which the other two don't have to worry about, and she's a lot more shy than them.

So. Do your characters curse? How do you make sure that you're not overdoing it? What are your tips about this?

Peace and cookies,

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Thursday Has a Lot of Silly Hopes

Some days I feel really silly thinking I'm a writer. I've read a ton of authors in their 30s talking about how silly their writing was when they were a teenager which feels like a punch in the gut to me.

I know with time I'll probably learn new tricks to make my writing amazing, but I can't imagine thinking my writing now is silly. I might be silly, but I don't know if I could think that about my writing.

My current WIP is so close to my heart right now. I've never had an idea that I cared about this much. I feel like one of those people who loves a different person every week since I can never stick with an idea, but this idea hasn't been able to let me go. It's grown on me in such a way that it's part of what makes me who I am.

Maybe one day, I'll look back and think it’s silly, but I really hope not.

I hope in 10, 20 maybe even 50 years from now I can look back and remember how amazing I felt writing this story. I hope I don't think it's silly.

I know when those more experienced authors say they thought their old work was silly, they are talking about their skills, but I can't imagine a day where I find my writing, even my skills, is silly. I can't imagine looking at my current WIP and thinking how bad it is.

Maybe I'm silly for thinking in the future I'll still feel the same about my writing and not think "was I on drugs when I wrote this? This is terrible!" I feel silly thinking that because of course over time my writing will get better, but today it's as good as it can be. I hope future me won't feel silly or ashamed of my WIP because that breaks present me's heart.

I know this isn’t a helpful tip or thought provoking, but I just want someone so read this and feel less alone. Even in a world with 7,036,722,861 people, it's so easy to feel alone. That's what so great about the writing community. Everyone is so supportive and just get it. I hope I can be that for someone. I hope someone out there is reading this and feels better knowing they aren't alone. I know I felt alone in the beginning. I felt my writing was silly. I didn't have confidence. I hated posting or commenting because I just felt silly. It took me awhile to realize there are people out there who felt the same way. I still feel silly some days like today, but I'm connected to so many amazing people by our love just to write. It's such a great feeling knowing you are connected with such amazing people in such an amazing way.

It makes me so happy knowing that all of y'all took time out of your day to read my posts. Even of you think I'm silly, I hope there is one person who reads this and feels less alone.

I hope some of y'all send in a post to join YaLit Six. Even if you feel silly doing it, you never know whose life you'll change with the words you have to say. My life has changed so much because of people who just wrote little things on their blog. I hope one day I'll be able to thank them, but today I wanna thank y'all just for reading what I have to say and making me feel less silly.

Remember you aren't alone in this. There are so many people out there willing to be there for you. Please leave a comment of something if you ever need to talk about your worries or anything. We are all connected by our love of writing.

I hope that never changes.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Bad People

Characters have to be bad people.

Oh, not COMPLETELY bad. Just bad-ish. Have some bad-esque qualities. Otherwise, they're completely perfect. And we don't like completely perfect people. Know that girl who is/was acing your history class, answered every question, and knew just how to wear a canvas sack so she could jump on the runway at any moment? Yeah, you hate(d) her. Don't try to deny it.

So, then, if readers are supposed to sympathize with your characters, one surefire way to make that not happen is to make your main character perfect. Because, be warned, if your main character (or the love interest) comes off as perfect, she/he may and probably will be subject to criticism and parodies like this. Also, the plot will probably drag, due to the lack of character arc. (Unless, for some reason, the character starts out perfect and turns into a really horrible person. Now that would actually be interesting...)

Also, it usually helps if the flaw is related to the plot in some manner. And while "poor eyesight" is interesting, it and those like it do not really count as "flaws." They're just...things.

An example of a plot-related flaw:

Character has a really poor sense of direction. Then she discovers a labyrinth (like from Greek Myths, yeah?). Not only does this flaw allow for possible humor, it also adds to the conflict of the story.

Flaws aren't exclusive, either. You can have more than one. In fact, do! More flaws = more interestingness. Just be careful on overloading--we don't want readers wondering how your character has managed to even stay alive for x years of his/her life.

Characters making mistakes is worthy of its own post--watch for that one later on.