Wednesday, August 30, 2017

What I've Been Reading -- August 2017

Hey everybody!

School's started up again for me, which means less free reading time, but because I have No Chill, I'm going to be trying to keep up this series.  In the meantime, here's the last of the summer!  It went by waaaay too quickly, and in all honestly I'm really happy to start classes again.  I need some kind of routine in my life.

We'll see how I feel about that in a few months.

So on to books:


The Winter of Our Discontent
John Steinbeck

This is a book that you have to commit to.  While the beginning had amazing character development, and the internal monologue of the main character was intriguing, you had to get to the second half of the book to really get into the action.  The first large portion of the book is all set-up.  Once it got going, though, it really moved, and the ending had me holding my breath, praying that the main character would not do the Stupid Thing.  This was a great book, and I'd recommend it to anyone who appreciates well-done internal conflict.  If you're looking for a lot of action and a fast moving story, though, this isn't the one for you.

“In poverty she is envious. In riches she may be a snob. Money does not change the sickness, only the symptoms” 

“She cared deeply about words and she hated their misuse as she would hate the clumsy handling of any fine thing.” 



A Monster Calls
Patrick Ness

I'm not really sure what I was expecting from this book.  Certainly not what I got.  It only took me an hour to read, but it was probably the best one I've read in a long time.  It might not be that way for everyone, but it helped me immensely and left me pretty shaken up.  It was intense.  While the writing style is more like something you'd find in a children's book, the subject is very heavy.  I wouldn't call it a horror story, it certainly didn't scare me, but it has strong fairy-tale elements and Ness mixed fantasy and reality in a brilliant way.  I would recommend this book to anyone, but be warned, it will make you feel things.  Even just remembering reading this book is making me emote.  It's a very crazy, but very necessary book.

“You do not write your life with words...You write it with actions. What you think is not important. It is only important what you do.” 

“Who is to say it is not everything else that is the dream?” 

“Almost like being in the nightmare, that same feverish blur of the world slipping off its axis, but this time he was the one in control, this time he was the nightmare.” 



Dracula
Bram Stoker

I read this book because I wanted to know where the idea of vampires as we think of them today came to be, and I was impressed.  The story and plot were well-constructed, the reading wasn't nearly as heavy as I'd expected, given the era in which it was written, and the characters were complex.  Not only that, but unlike most Victorian novels, this one boasted strong female characters, one in particular gaining the respect of the entire vampire hunting team.  I would recommend this book to anyone curious about the origin of our idea of vampires, and to anyone who's tired of hearing about them sparkling in the sun.

“You reason well, and your wit is bold, but you are too prejudiced. You do not let your eyes see nor your ears hear, and that which is outside your daily life is not of account to you. Do you not think that there are things which you cannot understand, and yet which are, that some people see things that others cannot?” 


Ta-da! Three of the books I've read this August.  This isn't all I've been reading, I have a huge pile of books on a table in my room that I've determined to read, so we'll see how that goes.

What have you been reading this month?  Put your book recommendations in the comments.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Story Planning: What I've Tried and Failed At

Hey guys!

Random update about my life: I have a new laptop!  I was using a Chromebook before, which was annoying because every time I needed to use Microsoft Word or anything else that didn't use Google, I had to switch to a different computer which ran about as quickly as a turtle and was an ACTUAL ELEPHANT and completely impractical for college life.

So story planning.

As a writer, I'm supposed to plan stories.  I've tried a couple different kinds of planning, and I thought I'd share my experiences in that area.  Note that I am not a planning expert.  Just slightly organized.

Anyway if you like to read about people's failures (SHAME ON YOU), or if you're looking for ideas when it comes to planning and how each kind works outside of Pinterest (because let's face it, none of us are that perfect), keep reading.  Oh, and if you want to try one of these, please do, and let me know how it goes for you.  Everyone's different.


1. Flying by the seat of your pants.
This is what I've called planning for most of my life.  I start with a story idea, and.....

Yep.  That's basically it.

These stories normally fizzle out because my characters just end up wandering around eating pizza and talking about their problems.  I might have a rough idea as to where I want the story to go, but it will never actually get there because I don't have anything for the middle.


Oh, and the one story that did get past three or four chapters was a train wreck, the characters died without my permission, one ended up outlawed, a few got married accidentally, and the traditional mourning colors changed mid-story.  


2. Scene by scene.
Because when one thing doesn't work, you try the EXACT OPPOSITE. 

Yep, I tried to plan a story by working out every scene in detail.  I used index cards and a little index card folder, which was rather cute, but very overwhelming.  After sitting down and planning out the first few chapters, I started writing.  And then I reached the end of what I'd planned.  I knew I wasn't going to be able to keep it up, and I had to find some kind of planning that sat happily in the middle of the two extremes.  I'm sorry, super-detailed people.  Not my thing.


I also found that this gave me absolutely no wiggle room, which is very important to me.  My rough drafts are VERY rough, and I expect to make a lot of changes in the second round.  With this kind of planning I felt like I was trying to produce something final on my very first go, and it stresses me out just thinking about it.


3. The rough outline.
This is the one I started out on with the story I'm writing at the moment.  I had a beginning, a middle, and an end.  It was written down (not just floating around in my head), and I knew where I was going with the story.  The problem?  If I were to write the story based solely on what I had, there would be exactly three chapters.  Three rather short chapters.  That's not a novel.  I had to find filler of SOME SORT, and it had to actually add to the story.  

Which is how my main character ended up following a toddler around New York City, getting into a massive argument with said toddler's older sister, having a huge existential crisis, and ruining the ending I had planned by dropping out of the story.




So what am I going to try next?  Chapter by chapter.

Yep.  I'm gonna take my story, divide it by chapter, and figure out what I want to happen in each one.  This is less detailed than scene-by-scene planning, but my characters won't be wandering aimlessly through NYC, eating pizza, or dying unexpectedly.  It'll also be easier for me to keep them in character, as I'll have a set goal for each of them in mind.  

So what do you think?  Do you have a planning style that works for you?  Have you tried one of these?  Let me know in the comments!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

You Want to Go Home and Rethink Your Resurrected Character

Hello lovelies!

I AM NOT DEAD!
I don't know what happened, honestly.  Blogging just....hasn't been a thing.  I didn't post a thing for ages.  The end of this month will have a "what I've been reading" though, because I went and got ten books from the library two weeks before the start of the school year because I AM COMPLETELY SANE.



So going with the "not dead" theme, RESURRECTED CHARACTERS!

Seriously though.  These are everywhere.  And I mean everywhere.  Here's a helpful list.  Spoilers, obviously.

The Lord of the Rings -- Gandalf
The Avengers -- Agent Coulson, Loki
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes -- Sherlock Holmes
Harry Potter -- Voldemort, Harry Potter
Doctor Who -- Jack Harkness, The Doctor, the Daleks, the Master, various other aliens.

And those are just off the top of my head.

In other words, at this point I just assume that a character could come back.  I'm not in denial, I've just had experience.  Especially if they die early on in the book, movie, series, what have you.

Now don't get me wrong, bringing a character back to life can have some awesome side effects and shouldn't be ignored.  In The Lord of the Rings, Gandalf's return was fantastic and probably one of the best resurrections out there.  And if Voldemort hadn't come back to life after trying to kill Harry, the entire series wouldn't exist.  But this is insanely over-used.  I mean to the point where we should just make everyone immortal because THEY CAN'T FREAKING STAY DEAD ANYWAY!


So I'm going to try to create a helpful list for why this is annoying, and then try and mention some times when it's okay to bring your character back to life.


1. Eventually, no one believes you anymore
So you know the story of the boy who cried wolf?  Yeah.  Same deal here.  After you've done this once, people start hoping their favorite character isn't really gone.  Do this twice, people start assuming recently killed characters aren't actually gone forever.  Any more, and you've basically doomed the entire cast to immortality.  It completely looses it's effect.


Now in the case of Gandalf's resurrection, it was a one-time thing, and Gandalf was already basically immortal.  I mean he'd been around about as long as the elves, so it's safe to assume he's really hard to kill in the first place.  Plus, none of the other characters pulled that stunt, or had pulled it up to that point, so you know, it was pretty important.   A long enough span of time lapsed between him dying and him coming back to life that we had the chance to be sad for him and get over it somewhat, which means we weren't expecting him when he did arrive, and when that finally happened, he'd clearly "leveled up", and wasn't just good ol' Gandalf, being a silly old wizard again.


2. No one is impacted by the death of a character.
In Doctor Who, the only reason people cry when the Doctor regenerates is because they had a personal attachment to his old face.  We're not sad because he's dying, because we know he's not really dying, he's changing.  In The Avengers, Loki's died often enough that people aren't going to cry the next time it happens, even if he really is genuinely and permanently dead, because they won't believe it.  Of course when it finally sinks in, lots of people will be devastated.  Because Sherlock came back from the dead, there are lots of people who watch BBC's TV version who firmly believe that Moriarty and Mary are still alive somewhere.  This is also because the show is written by Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat and to be perfectly honest, I wouldn't trust them with any character or plotline.  They're known for ruining souls.




3. The explanation behind the resurrection can be very poorly done.
If a character is brought back to life purely because the writer felt like bringing him back around or because the fan base demanded it, there's often only a half-baked idea behind their return.  I mean, I'm one of those people who gets frustrated when there isn't a thorough scientific explanation for everything (Doctor Who is exasperating), so I'm never satisfied with a "just because".  I always have to look deeper and investigate the reasons behind the "just because", until you can't throw that excuse around anymore.  That being said, I'm often fairly peeved when a character comes back to life without a decently researched and well-grounded reason.




So when is it okay for your character to come back to life?

1. Doctor Who
Regeneration is a part of a Time Lord's biology, and it's something everyone in their race does (unless there's some minor detail I'm missing and there's like one person on Gallifrey who can't).  Therefore, it's not a surprise and it's not weird.  The Master is also a Time Lord, so regeneration isn't strange for him either.  Not only that, but because The Doctor changes a little every time he regenerates, it's less like him coming back to life....AGAIN, and more like him rebooting.  In fact, he doesn't really die, because the regeneration energy keeps him from doing that.  That's it's exact purpose.


Because regeneration is a part of his character and his race from the very beginning, it's less like cheating when he comes back to life for the twelfth or thirteenth time in a row. 


2. The Harry Potter series.
Voldemort had horcruxes, or things that hold a part of your soul for you so that while it's still intact, you can't fully die.  He picked pretty obvious horcruxes and made some very poor decisions in that respect, but he still couldn't die until they were all destroyed.  Next time pick something like a penny Voldemort.  Or maybe like, a Nokia phone or a single grain of sand.  NOT A FREAKING TIARA. Or, I WONDER WHERE VOLDY'S HORCRUXES ARE.  GOSH THAT SNAKE IS WITH HIM CONSTANTLY.  HE'S LIKE, BESTIES WITH THAT SNAKE.  SURE CAN'T FIND ANY HORCRUXES.  

I mean in his defense, there's a reason why Harry wasn't put in Hufflepuff.  He's not a particularly good finder.  

Back to not dying, when Voldemort killed Harry Potter in the final book, Harry is sent to a kind of limbo area between the world of the living and the dead.  There he meets Dumbledore, who allows him to go back to complete his task of killing Voldemort.  After that he continues living a normal and pretty happy life.  In this situation, we actually see what happens to Harry after he dies and see that he is allowed to return to finish what he was chosen to do, so his return isn't exactly cheesy, and because we see how it happens, we get background and an explanation.  (Although sometimes I wonder if Neville, who technically could have also been the Chosen One, couldn't have just finished the prophecy.  That would have been cool.)  




BUT ANYWAY

There's the blog post.  Sorry that took exactly 100 years, guys.  I was also tagged in a writing prompt post like ages and ages ago and have I done anything about that?  OF COURSE NOT! Although I have an idea and things are spinning about in my head.  

Let me know what you think about characters coming back to life!  Do you still cry if they've already died ten times, or are you like me and you just assume they're not really dead?


The rest of the series:
You Want to Go Home and Rethink Your Strong Female Lead
You Want to Go Home and Rethink Your Universal Language
You Want to Go Home and Rethink Your Superior Race
You Want to Go Home and Rethink Your Chosen One
You Want to Go Home and Rethink Your Redemption Arc
You Want to Go Home and Rethink Your Love Triangle






Sunday, July 2, 2017

What I've Been Reading -- June 2017

Hey everybody!
I've been a bit quiet, and I'm not sure why.  My blogging mind has taken a nap, I suppose.  Plus, Blogger has been stubborn about saving posts, so a lovely thing I'd written up has entirely disappeared because I didn't realize it didn't save.  However, I've been tagged in a post so you should see something soon!  In the meantime, here are a few of the books I've been reading this month.




The Princess Bride
William Goldman

I grew up with the movie, but I didn't know there was a book until a friend of mine said she'd read it.  It's much better than the movie, with a lot more backstory and scenes the movie couldn't include, but I found that a lot of scenes in the movie were taken verbatim from the book, which made me happy.  The book begins a little oddly and I was confused at first, but after getting a few chapters in things began to make sense.  I loved it, and would recommend it to basically anyone.

“Inconceivable!"
"You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” 

“I’ll tell you the truth and its up to you to live with it.” 

“When this is over we will see who is right, and who is dead.” 




Where the Woods Grow Wild
Nate Philbrick

I borrowed this book from Faith, and when I started reading I thought "well, there's some epic-fantasy style stuff in here, but it sounds like a sweet story about a boy and a girl".  And then it got intense.  There were character twists, all kinds of unreliability, and they were so close to finishing the story so many times, BUT NO, one of them takes the wrong path or follows the wrong clue and they're off again.  There was a delightfully happy ending, and although I was a little disappointed because my evil mind thought one of the characters could be A LOT darker than she was written, I was satisfied, and it was nice to read something light.  It actually reminded me a bit of The Princess Bride, although I wouldn't say they were the same book by any means.  I'd recommend this book to anyone, and to a very broad age range.




Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency
Douglas Adams

Douglas Adams is one of my favorite authors of all time, and The Hitchhiker's Guide series is fantastic, so I was looking forward to reading this book.  It started out a little slow, but Adams' signature weirdness was there the whole time, and the story picked up during the second half of the book.  The characters were quirky and strange, and the plot made about as much sense as I expected from one of his books.  I loved it, and might look into the rest of the series at some point.  I'd recommend it to someone who's familiar with his style, but I wouldn't call it the book to read to be introduced to him as an author.

“There is no point in using the word 'impossible' to describe something that has clearly happened.” 

“He turned slowly like a fridge door opening.” 

“I commend you on your skepticism, but even the skeptical mind must be prepared to accept the unacceptable when there is no alternative. If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, we have at least to consider the possibility that we have a small aquatic bird of the family Anatidæ on our hands.”

 “Deep in the rain forest it was doing what it usually does in rain forests, which was raining: hence the name.” 

“The sky which had started out with such verve and spirit in the morning was beginning to lose its concentration and slip back into its normal English condition, that of a damp and rancid dish cloth.” 

“He put some more cold pizza into his face.” 



Ta-Da!  My books.  Sorry this is a day or two late, I had friends over this week so blogging didn't really happen.  The next few posts should be one I've been tagged in by the same Faith who let me borrow her book, and another installment of "You Want to Go Home and Rethink Your ______".  Not sure when exactly they'll be going up, but they will be at some point.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Problems Introverted Writers Have to Deal With

HELLOOOOOOO!!!!!
I get really excited every time I begin a post and have no idea why.
HELLO TO THE PEOPLE!

Anyway
I just got back from the ocean!  It was awesome and ocean-y.

So introverts.
We all know at least one.
I am one.
As an introverted writer, there are things that do not come easily for me.  I'm going to list them and cross my fingers and hope and pray that I'm not the only one who has these struggles.  FEEL MY PAIN WITH ME!  I DEMAND IT.

I don't.  Be happy and make some cupcakes.  Send me some, and I might be your friend forever.


1. Gathering character information.
Google is a gift to humanity, but it can only do so much.  There are times when you must speak to an actual human to gather information on a certain character.  And not only must you talk to them, you must initiate a conversation and not bore then to death or take up their precious time or bother them with your questions or put them to sleep with the story idea that you think is really interesting but they must be so bored by now.  Talking to people is HARD.  It's REALLY REALLY HARD.  And as a writer, YOU HAVE TO DO IT!

2. Sunlight and the outdoors in general.
My bedroom is in our finished basement.  It's my Hobbit-Hole, cave, den, whatever.  All you need to know is I only go up the stairs for food, a shower, and to see my family once and a while when I'm required to communicate with other life forms.  I mean, I suppose I could go write outside, but.......whyyyyyyyyyy......

In my defense, it is a REALLY AWESOME BEAR CAVE.  There are very few things which could bring me out of my bedroom.

It doesn't have to be a bedroom though.  Introverts are notorious for shutting themselves up in small, dark places.  Unless they're claustrophobic, but then they just shut themselves up in larger, lighter places.  This doesn't usually directly affect writing, but I have discovered that when I do go for a walk in the woods or spend time with friends, I feel more creative afterwards.

3. Writing workshops and conventions.
Don't get me wrong, there's something really magical about walking into a large room and seeing it filled with writers.  Knowing you're not the only person who struggles with plot development or internal conflict is fantastic.

But then there's the whole problem of it being a convention.  With other people.  Lots of other people.  And you're supposed to "hang out" with them.  And "mill about".  And "talk to them".  And "be social".  I don't know about you, but I'd much rather stay in my bed and read, even if I do end up missing out on conversations with other writers.

My mom is awesome and encourages my writing, but she's an extrovert, and her way of doing that is to tell me about all kinds of conventions and retreats I should go to.  They sound great in theory, but the more I think about them the more I realize I'd probably shut down on day two and just be trying really hard to fake excitement.

4. Writing extroverted characters.
Extroverts don't always find it easy to understand introverts, but the same is true the other way around.  Extroverts are confusing.  Are they social butterflies who are loud and outgoing at all times?  Or are they like us, just...more excited about social events?  Now I did a blog post about the care and keeping of extroverts a while back, but it's one thing to know one in real life and another thing entirely to create one.  I can understand the thought processes of an internal processing, introverted, and generally hedgehog-like character.  The bouncy, people-loving, life of the party?  Not so much.  It's hard to wrap my brain around the fact that being by yourself can drain your energy, and that someone might actually REALLY REALLY ENJOY the writing convention I decided not to attend.  They don't just to go parties because there's food, and they don't instantly make friends with the cat.  Although if you're like a certain extrovert I know, the second an animal comes into view they must talk to it for a few minutes...at least.

And when it comes to writing, well, lets just say that sending an extrovert on a solo trek across an empty desert may not go so well.  Neither would hiding out for long periods of time, or moving to a new location and not having many friends.  Although extroverts tend to remedy that pretty quickly....

SEE THIS IS WHY IT'S HARD!

5. Promoting yourself.
I don't know about you, but I'm rubbish at promoting my skills.  It involves talking to people, being the center of attention for a moment on at least a small scale, and coming up with reasons why people should focus on you.  All of which are absolute torture.  This can apply to writing, music, or anything that involves self-promotion, and it is the one thing about publishing a book that I am REALLY not looking forward to.

6. Telling people about your writing.
This kind of goes along with the last point.  While I love it when people want to hear about what I write, the fact that I actually have to tell them is...well, it's a bit intimidating.  Verbal communication has never been my strong point, which is partly why I have this blog, so when I try to talk to someone about what I've written, things go a bit pear-shaped.  I've mentioned this once or twice before in previous blog posts, but I feel like it's worth mentioning again and again.

And then, when you've been sitting there for two hours and you're only halfway through the story, you suddenly realize that you may in fact be really boring that person.  So you stop.  And then you think, but wait, should I stop?  or should I finish the story?  But that's got more to do with anxiety than introversion.




So there you have it.  I hope you can relate to this as much as I can (being as I made the list...it would be pretty sad if I made a list I couldn't actually relate to at all...).  Let me know in the comments if there's anything I missed!