Saturday, November 20, 2010

Warning: Autobiographical Ramble, detailing (only without many details) what happened to the author since she abandoned her blog.

It has come to my attention that I have abandoned this blog. 

Of course, the fact that I have now made such a statement on this blog makes the above statement no longer valid.

At any rate, I apologize.

I declared in a previous post that I wasn't going to do NaNoWriMo.  Then I went through a brief phase in the last week of October where I decided that I was going to do it via the pantser approach.  When November actually hit, I did one day's worth of writing.  The story was going nowhere.  I quit. 


Since then, I've been off in La-la land (otherwise known as Trekkie land), enjoying myself in a sort of... well... insanely obsessed and preoccupied and completely unproductive way. 

Has it been good for me?  Probably not.  Sponging off of someone else's creativity is one of the best ways to make your creative mind start to rot.  

So right now, I am trying to drag my brain out of La-la land and find some nice, quiet place where it can learn to be creative again. 

A dear writing friend, when I told her I was in a rut, suggested that I try writing prompts.  I think that is an excellent idea, so if you feel so inclined, dear reader, please leave me a comment with a prompt off the top of your head.  It can be a one-word prompt, a random object, a situation... anything.  I only ask that it not be something inherently goofy, as I want to try writing something serious off of the prompts.  And thank you in advance.

On a final note, every Christian author should go read this post about the Christian imagination.  Powerful stuff, that. 

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Just Blogthings

You Are Shy and Thoughtful

You've always been a bit of a fragile flower. You're easily effected by the world around you.

It's likely that you consider yourself to be a dork or a nerd. You're very involved in your own interests.

While you are quite striking and attractive, you often don't feel that way. You don't see your own beauty.

People appreciate your uniqueness and that you don't try to be like anyone else. You couldn't be like anyone else, even if you tried!

Deep Down You Are Intuitive

You're the type of person who understands other people and the world very well. You don't let on to how much you know.

You can tell so much from someone's facial expressions or tone of voice. And you always know when you're being lied to.

You show the world exactly what you want to show. Besides being good at reading people, you also know how you're being read.

You know when you're being manipulated, and you know how to manipulate someone if you have to. You usually don't resort to it though!

You Are Fantasy / Sci Fi

You have an amazing imagination, and in your mind, all things are possible.

You are open minded, and you find the future exciting. You crave novelty and progress.

Compared to most people, you are quirky and even a bit eccentric. You have some wacky ideas.

And while you may be a bit off the wall, there's no denying how insightful and creative you are.

You are a Dreamer

You tend to have your head in the clouds. You love to be drawn in to a whole other world.

You are a reflective person. You prefer books that make you take stock of your life.

You are a person with a few deep interests. If you're drawn to something, you learn everything about it.

You are a person who values your possessions. You tend to have fewer things but of higher quality.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Why I'm Not Doing NaNoWriMo This Year

Sometimes I get jealous when I surf other people's blogs.  "Wow," I think.  "They have their very own place on the internet where they can post what they like!" 

Of course, the moment that I actually form the feeling into so many words is usually the same moment that I remember I have my own blog. 

I am a silly goose, no?

At the moment, my laptop is back in semi-working condition.  I don't know how long it will last -- I've learned not to take anything for granted -- but I am determined to not be disappointed, no matter what happens with it.  Disappointment, when you really look at it, can be such a waste of energy.  Treat everything like a gift, and with time everything feels like a delightful surprise.  It's a beautiful way to live.

I am thinking that I might not do NaNoWriMo after all.  This morning, I found myself thinking of November, and wishing that I didn't have to curtail all the writing-related things I want to do, simply because I think I should do NaNoWriMo.  It is true that at this stage in my life, I desperately need some time devoted solely to creativity.  But the more I reflect on the matter, the more I think that NaNoWriMo is not the creative activity that I need.  

The reason that the passion and creativity have left my writing is this: since I discovered I could write, I have tried my best to accomplish something with my writing because I wanted to prove that I could accomplish something, not because I loved writing itself.  Sure, I still loved it, but I took that passion for granted as a tool, a means to an end.  The continual pressure I put on myself to perform has driven so much of the joy from my writing.  I find myself longing for the days when I could start random stories in order to play with an idea, without feeling like I absolutely had to finish them.  I want to be able to "doodle" with my writing again.   

So, here is what I propose to do with my writing life: instead of devoting the month of November to writing 50,000 words of a novel, I will devote that time to creativity.  I will play with ideas, construct plots I may never use, scribble character sketches, start stories that I will never finish, draw characters, and care not if I make a mess.  I will do the things that the performance pressure has kept me from doing.  And hopefully, I will heal. 

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Star Trek meets Monty Python

We interrupt our regular content for this blatantly geeky silliness. 

Stolen from med_cat on LJ.  :) 

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Failed Goal

September twenty-eighth, two-thousand and ten. 

I convert the date into letters because it seems so much more harmless when spelled out like that.  I can hear a young lady with a British accent speaking it aloud in my mind, and it sounds nice that way.  If I just blurt it out in numbers then the end of the month seems so much closer, and somewhere inside me a little writer cowers in terror. 

I told myself that I would have the rough draft of Evanescent Moonlight done by the end of September at the latest. 

And... sits at 65,283 words, nowhere near done. 

So I am forced to re-evaluate my situation.  Very well, I don't have it done.  And I do know several reasons why it isn't done:

  1. Procrastination.  (Might as well get that one out of the way first, no?)
  2. My laptop still doesn't work, so I am sharing this desktop with two other people.
  3. I have been reading a lot more.  (Yay!)
  4. School.

But enough of making excuses to myself.  I have to face up to the fact that, little by little, I have become one of those 'writers' who talk and read and think about writing but never actually do it.  I know so much, but what have I done? 

I believe that if you truly love something, you will make time for it.  And I have made plenty of time for reading writing blogs, listening to writing podcasts, talking about writing, and writing blog posts about writing.  I have also spent much time thinking about writing, thinking about interesting character traits or story twists, stealing ideas straight from history, imagining how I could use fiction to convey the things I feel most passionate about. 

So I'm not sure I understand this stranglehold that apathy has on me. 

Is it just another form of my recurring struggle to get things out of my head and into the real world?  That I could very well believe.  The darn beasty came back.  It latches onto my human nature, trying to drown out the voice of reason that says that anything worth doing is bound to be hard. 

I have learned so much in the past six months.  So much!  I look back on the things I knew about writing a year ago, and the difference seems hard to comprehend.  But the gulf between what I know and what I can do has grown so vast that now I am afraid of trying. 

But I know that I can't stop here. 

So I extend my imaginary sword (you know, the one all writers carry, whether they know it or not), and cry that I will do hard things!  I will not stop!  I will remain fully aware of the difficulties facing me at all times, and I will not avoid them! 

And above all, I will not allow how little I have accomplished at this point to keep me from trying.  I am competing against my past self, and no one else.  Productiveness is not always measured by word count, and one cannot judge the success of a multifaceted life based on one single area. 

Friday, September 24, 2010

To be compelled by a being of ink and paper...

So, thanks to Lyla at Read By Flashlight, I discovered The Great Blogging Experiment with enough time to participate in it! 

The prescribed topic is Writing Compelling Characters, which, I think, is a beautiful topic. 

Much has been said on various blogs and in all sorts of books concerning what makes a character compelling.  There are some things that certainly help make a compelling character, and while I agree with many aspects, there is a part of me that rebels at formula. 

I think that in many cases, a better question to ask is why we dislike certain characters, often without a solid reason for doing so. 

My belief: we hate these characters because we suspect that underneath all the description, the character isn't a real person. 

I'm not talking about the author.  The author is certainly real, but is the character that the author has written real to the author?  Does the writer believe that this character could very well exist, and is a valuable and interesting person?  And most importantly, does the author not take that fact for granted? 

We love characters either because we believe they could exist, or because we wish that they did. 

Yes, characters can be unbelievable, but they have the unbelievability that real people have.  Have you looked at real people recently?  Have you noticed the people in your own life who, when it boils down to it, are unbelievable?  We admire great and compelling characters for much the same reason we admire great and compelling people: because they have the audacity to exist as themselves. 

But there's another step between real characters and compelling characters.  There are some characters that are perfectly believable, but we still hate them because we feel these characters latching onto us with greedy fingers and pulling at us, sucking up our attention and our enthusiasm like a sponge, with no recompense.  Yes, we hate them because they give us nothing.  We read to gain.  We are willing to sacrifice our time and attention with the understanding that we will get something in return.   A compelling character is one that accepts the reader's sacrifice, and gives back even more than what was expected.  More heart, more interest, more honesty, more of that audaciously thrilling reality -- so that even when the book is done, we remember the character as if they had been in the same room with us. 

This isn't an exhaustive guide, of course.  But I believe this is the starting point. 

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Bookish Things (Including Book Reviews)

My writing is in a strange spot recently, so how about I talk about reading books instead of writing them?

I picked up Brandon Sanderson’s book, Mistborn: The Final Empire, from the library yesterday.  I’ve decided this will be the final test of whether or not I like epic fantasy – the book is over 500 pages long, and it’s the first of a trilogy.  So far, I’ve only finished the prologue.  It is interesting so far.  The style doesn’t pull me in immediately – methinks I’ve been spoiled by the Douglas Adams and Oscar Wilde I’ve been reading recently, as both of them have distinct styles (and in the case of Adams, his quirky, unpredictable style was the main reason I kept reading – more on him below).  Ah, well.  We’ll see how it goes.  I suspect it will end up in the large stack of books I started out of curiosity and never finished, but I’ll give it an honest go.  At any rate, I will write a review of however much of it I do read.

I have decided: I want to read The Hunger Games.  After so many years of resisting bestsellers and YA (and particularly best-selling YA), I’ve decided to yield to both of them.  Since there are over 250 requests on the copies at the library, I have decided to ask for it for my upcoming birthday.  (Which is soon.  Far too soon.)  It is rare for me to buy a book without having read it first, so I am both excited and a little apprehensive.  Apprehensive?  Yes.  I seem to have terrible luck with books that I just pick off the shelves.  Oh well.  Anything that is an adventure is bound to have some element of danger, and if reading books is the former (which is certainly is), then I can’t expect to always be successful in avoiding the latter.  And some things are worth the risk.

And now for brief reviews of a couple of books I finished reading recently:

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

If you have anything remotely resembling a quirky streak, this book is for you.  Douglas Adams uses randomness, implications, digressions, and the surprisingly logical absurd to take the reader on a wild ride and leave him giggling and spouting quotes from the book.  This book was so much fun.  I enjoyed every minute of it, and I highly recommend it. 

-But Be Forewarned:  There is much cussing of the British variety, along with one or two occurrences of the s-word.  References to drinking.  The cost of losing a drinking game is described as being “obscenely biological.”  References made to Christian themes and beliefs that aren’t at all reverent (of course).  A consistent theme is the insignificance of humanity. 

Modern Art and the Death of a Culture

Even though this book was written nearly forty years ago, H. R. Rookmaaker’s words still have relevance and power.  Coming at art with a Biblical worldview, he dissects Modern art and exposes it as the product of an anti-Christian ideology nearly 500 years in the making.  After laying out the history of Western art and thought, he offers an insightful solution for what to do to confront this godless tide of destruction.

-Personal Note-  A lot of my material for my research paper on Modern art came from this book.  After a while I had to stop and remind myself that for a research paper I did have to take from other sources.  If it were possible, I would have quoted the entire thing.

-But Be Forewarned:  Since Modern art is frequently grotesque and obscene by nature, Rookmaaker must occasionally touch on topics that are inappropriate for children.  But he does so tactfully, and I did not find the references offensive at all.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Writing Meme: Character Ages [5/30]

5.  By age, who is your youngest character? Oldest? How about “youngest” and “oldest” in terms of when you created them?

A lot of my youngest characters appeared in stories that I wrote before I started writing my ‘official’ novels – and since there are more than seventy of these stories that are only a couple of pages long each, I am not counting them.  

My youngest character is Sarie, the six- or seven-year-old girl who was an important character in Tears for the Silent Lands.  However, she is blessed with the gift of insight and is much more advanced mentally than a lot of girls her age, so writing her character was not exactly like writing a typical young child. 

Everlyse from Enchantress is next at fifteen.  She is the age I was when I wrote the story, and I based much of her character and circumstances in life off of my own.

As for my oldest characters, all of the Keeper characters in Evanescent Moonlight are multiple thousands of years old.  Aside from them, Mirriae from Tears for the Silent Lands is 500 years old by the end of the story.

Considering ‘youngest’ and ‘oldest’ by the time of creation, Byeron and Faeryn from The Prophet of Aenerowaye come first (they were both born about the same time).  Byeron is tall, broad-shouldered, and blonde, while Faeryn is a short, slender teenager with wavy hair down to her knees.  Yes, they both are about as Mary-Sue and Gary-Stu as they sound. 

And the most recent character… from an ‘established’ novel, Leiss from Evanescent Moonlight was the last character to have significant details finalized, and I’m still not sure about his name.  Now, there is the secret and rather embarrassing detail that I took a little break from EM and randomly started a different story about an evil sorceress named Estella and her crazy pregnant sister, but I’m sure it’s not going to last very long and for goodness’ sake don’t tell anyone about it! 

View the complete list of questions

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Remarkable Profanity

I know the title sounds a little scary, but believe me, I won't subject you to anything profane.  Everything questionable in this post is represented by asterisks. 

I was scrolling through the Word document that is the compilation of everything I wrote for NaNoWriMo 2009 (since in my quest for 50k I didn't exactly stick with one novel).  I found this little tidbit that I had forgotten about, and upon rereading it I rather enjoyed it, so I thought I'd share. 

The Remarkable Profanity
by Cherise

“Corianna, where the ******************** is the next inn located?”

“I didn’t know you knew a cussword that long,” Corianna pointed out. “Twenty asterisks just to bleep it out.”

“I asked you a question,” Pippers said. “Now tell me, or by ******************* I’ll knock your head off!”

“I think you missed a letter,” Corianna mused, swirling the peppermint tea in her mug. “Or perhaps three.”

“What the ******************* does it matter???” Pippers demanded. “Just answer the question!”

“But I have to hand it to you, that still is talent. Where did you pick it up?”

“Corianna, you ********************!!!!”

“Although perhaps if that’s the only colorful word you know….”

“I know more than that! Why, I bet you haven’t heard ***********************************************!!!”

Corianna sat, stunned into silence. “How on earth do you keep track of that many syllables?” she murmured, after the minute of reverent silence had passed.

“Easy,” Pippers said, leaning back in his chair. “You live with a people that use it at least three times in every sentence.”

“And who would that people be?”

“A particular race of dwarf.” Pippers grinned, beginning to take delight in his tale. “They speak an old dialect in which every word is five times as long as it ought to be. *********************************************** is the equivalent of a four-letter word in our language.”

“Like ‘scram.’”

Pippers frowned. “But don’t ‘scram’ have five letters?”

Corianna shook her head. “S – C – R – M. Scram.”

“Ah.” Pippers continued to look at her with a puzzled expression. “You sure?”

“Didn’t I just spell it for you?”

For a moment, Pippers’ face betrayed his cluelessness. But then his pride took over, and he nodded knowingly. “Right you did! Forgive my mistake!”

Corianna nodded, and then hid her face behind her mug of tea to hide her grin. Unfortunately, when the grin slid out it brought with it a laugh, and the laugh happened to immerge at the same moment that she was taking a gulp of tea, the result being that a moment later, Pippers was violently slamming his broad hand into her back to try to dislodge three ounces of tea from her windpipe. At last she had coughed it up, (spewing it, unfortunately, all over the wooden table), and looked up to find Pippers scowling at her.

“***********************************************! Don’t do that to me, Cory! This journey is plenty enough *********************************************** fun without you choking on everything you put in your mouth!”

“I do agree that it is becoming much more a frequent occurrence than I should like,” Corianna said, wiping her mouth and pulling a handkerchief – the only one she owned, which was red with a swirly design embroidered on it in black thread – to mop up the mess she had made.

“A *********************************************** frequent occurrence!” Pippers cried. “If you keep it up, I’ll have to ban you from commestabibles for at least a day, just to teach ya’ to behave!”

“I believe the correct word is comestibles,” Corianna remarked.

“Who cares??” Pippers stomped back to the other side of the table and resumed his seat. “You won’t get any of them, that’s what matters!”

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Best Progress Bar Ever

This is the cutest progress meter ever.

I am so using it during NaNoWriMo.

Visit this page on Writertopia to find out how it works (and to snag it for yourself). 


(It's obvious which mood is my favorite, right?  The top one all the way.  *has Trekkie moment*) 

Writing Meme: Firsts [4/30]

4.  Tell us about one of your first stories/characters!

Since in my mind I had two first novels... can I talk about them both? 

My first attempt at a novel (when I was about nine or ten years old) was called Return to Romelia.  It centered around a girl named Leslie who was transported by a unicorn though a magical portal in a diamond to the fantasy kingdom of Romelia, where she discovered that she was the long-lost eldest daughter of the king and queen, and that she must save the kingdom.  The main reason I quit was because I couldn't figure out how on earth she would do that (and because my young mind finally realized how cliche it was).  I decided at that point that while I had some talent for writing, I didn't have enough talent yet, and until I had a good idea, I should give up trying to write fiction.

So I did, for the most part (even though the whole time I was sneakily scribbling the first pages of novel wannabes). I didn’t entertain any serious novelist thoughts, though, until I joined Homeschoolblogger and found a whole host of teens my age who were writing their own novels – and who were doing a pretty good job! I congratulated them on their success in comments I left, but secretly I burned with jealousy and found myself wishing that I had a novel I was working on. So I waited impatiently for a good idea to come around.

Even so, the beginning of my second ‘first novel’ came unexpectedly. It was right after I’d finished my schoolwork for the day, and I was messing around on my parents’ old laptop and decided to start writing a random story. But that random story became more interesting as I typed it – a man lying hidden watching a road and thinking he must warn the king of something, and a princess who longed for adventure and was vaguely troubled by things she saw in her own life? I had to find out more.

The man became Byeron, a prophet who condemned the savage religion that enslaved the kingdom, and the princess became Faeryn, a girl who risked her father’s anger to free Byeron, on the condition that he would take her to meet this God he spoke of. I put in the story everything I wanted – mountains, forests, dragons, elves, nymphs, and even a great battle at the end. Faeryn embodied all the things about myself that I liked, but she was also everything that I was not. Mary-sue? Yes. Cliché in many ways? Yes. But I loved that story, and even though I often wince when I think about the faults, I still look back on it fondly. The colors and contours of that world felt so vibrant, and I could see everything clearly in my mind’s eye – more so than most of the novels I’ve written since then.

I never finished The Prophet of Aenerowaye (generally abbreviated POE, from the days when the last word started with an E.  The spelling kept changing). That’s fine with me. The novel would have been a misshapen behemoth, and in any case, I learned all that I could from it. It did make it to 68,000 words, which is not a bad number at all (and more than my current WIP has at the moment). Sometimes I entertain thoughts of using the world that I created, or maybe taking one or two aspects of the story for use in some later work. Old stories are wonderful places to hunt for ideas to steal and reuse.

View the complete list of questions

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Forums, Memes, and Writing Revelation

Yes, I confess that I am madly in love with numbered lists. 

1. Thank you so much to everyone who commented with advice about Inkpop.  I decided that instead of joining it, I would join Nathan Bransford's forums.  The experience has already been wonderful.  I have been able to talk with other teen writers who are completely serious (and who don't use chatspeak or internet slang!), and visit their awesome blogs.  So many of the discussions are helpful, and when I do end up participating, I feel like I'm practing for being a professional adult writer instead of languishing in the teen world. 

2. I've complained in recent posts about how poorly my writing was going.  Well, last night changed a lot of things.  I made my first attempt at drawing Joremn (the main character from Evanescent Moonlight), and it didn't turn out too bad, for a first attempt.  (I've decided that unless you're a genius, it's impossible to draw a picture of your characters that looks just like you imagined them to be.)  And then later that evening when I sat down to write, I wrote 700 words and enjoyed writing them!  

This is huge for me.  I had confessed to my journal that it felt like it had been months since I had actually enjoyed my writing.  For so long it has been a drudgery, merely cranking out words whenever I could work myself up to it because without a climbing word count, I could never finish the novel, and thus never be free.  But last night, I rediscovered the joy in it.  I walked away from the computer to get ready for bed, and found myself thinking about the next bit of dialogue and how to describe my character's eyes.  I had to dash back to the computer to get it down. 

I think three things contributed to this: one, I downloaded Q10 on sunday. 

(We interrupt this blog post for an impromptu promo:  Q10 is one of the most helpful writing programs I have found.  It takes up the entire screen so that you can focus on your writing alone, and it keeps constant track of your word count at the bottom of the screen.  The best part is that it is completely free!  Now, back to the post.)

Two, as soon as I sat down to write, my mom told me that she needed to use the computer, so I had ten minutes to write (as it turns out she got a phone call so I got to write for longer).  This gave me a time limit and motivated me to get my fingers moving whereas I might have just sat staring at the screen if I had all the time in the world.  And the third and most important thing was that I had been reflecting on the characters and how much I loved them.  It just goes to show that good fiction is all about characters: the more you try to write a story independant of characters you love, the harder it is. 

3. In other news, both Hannah and Mariella have both stolen the writing meme off of me (which I think is totally awesome -- if you want to read their answers, scroll down to the bottom of the writing meme page and you'll find the links to their posts).

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Writing Meme: What's In a Name? [3/30]

3. How do you come up with names for characters (and for places if you're writing about fictional places)?

Coming up with names is one of my favorite aspects of character and world creation. When I have time for it, that is. So many times I just want to go ahead with my writing, but I’m hung up with having to name this character. Usually I have to pause while I come up with a decent enough name, telling myself that I’ll fix it later. Most of the time I can’t get around to finding a better name before the temporary name starts to stick, so it’s better for me to do it right the first time.

Here’s my system for completely made-up names: I choose sounds and letter combinations that convey a certain feeling (at least to me), and then I try combining them. For example, here are some feminine sounds that I favor:

  • riel
  • lyn
  • ae
  • etta
  • v
From these we get:
  • Vettalyn
  • Lynariel
  • Lynetta
  • Aelyn
  • Ettariel
  • Vaeriel
  • Lynaev
...and more!

Another thing I do (particularly when I’m trying to come up with a guy name – I’m not as good at coming up with masculine sounds) is go to Rinkworks’ Fantasy Name Generator and generate a couple of dozen names (or so). There are bound to be a few that look promising, and after a little tweaking (and sound stealing), I almost always end up with a few good names.

View the complete list of questions

Thursday, August 26, 2010

I think it was Authorial Indecision, in the Closet, with a Bad Haircut.

And now, because I cannot think of a single topic worthy of an entire blog post, how about a bombardment? 

1. I would like to join Inkpop.  I need to ask permission of my parents before I can join any site (family rules), and I know that if I asked I would most likely get a yes, but I've put off posing the question. 

Why?  Whenever I visit the site and browse the forums, I wish I was a member. 

But at the same time, I don't feel ready yet.  For one, I don't have a story that's in good enough condition to post on there.  And for another, I want to be sure that I'm not jumping into something that ends up being a drain on my energy and doesn't add anything to my life.  I've had enough of those experiences, and I want to break away from my habit of over-committing myself.

On the other hand, I would like to be involved on a site where I could exchange reviews and work on refining my craft without worrying so much about running into evil adult writers.  (And no, I'm not talking about stalkers.  I'm talking about adults with trashy minds who write what's in their heads.)  At least with a teen-oriented site there might be a little more quality control than, say, FictionPress.  (I have an account on there and was looking at getting involved, but as soon as I started posting on one of the forums, I looked around and realized I'd thrown myself into a crowd that might say adult things at any moment.)  

So... I don't know.  I'm still debating. 

2. Meanwhile, I have my little Writing Conscience in the back of my mind jumping up and down and screaming, "FINISH EM!!!!"  So perhaps my struggles in coming up with a brand-spanking-new story for Inkpop are deserved, since I'm being unfaithful to the story that really deserves to be worked on. 

("Deserves," scoffs the inner editor -- or Inner Ed, as I like to call him.  "Bah.  What a misapplication of a perfectly good word.  Or have you forgotten about the poor characterization, lack of description, contradictions, structural faults, boring chapters, unrealistic dialogue..."  And on he goes.  I can't wait for NaNoWriMo when I get to tie him up and lock him in my Trunk of Things To Be Stringently Ignored.)

3. Oh yes, EM?  Going well, if you can say that about a story where the two main characters just lost their wits and got in a fight without my permission.  Since from certain points of view character rebellion is a good sign, I'm taking it as such -- even if the 'good sign' does involve me hanging on for dear life and wondering where this is going to end up... 

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Writing Meme: Male or Female Characters? [2/30]

2. How many characters do you have? Do you prefer males or females?

I don't think I can put a number on my characters. Counting both major and minor characters, each novel I've worked on has at least ten, sometimes more. That would put the number of characters I've worked with at more than 50. No wonder I can't keep track of them.

For me, the answer to the male/female question is full of irony. I love male characters: you can do more with them, and they pack a punch that you can't quite get with a girl character.* On the other hand, I'm not good at writing male characters, while I can write female characters pretty well. (I am one, after all.) The problem is that I don't come into contact with males frequently. (Aside from my dad, but there’s only so much you can learn when you only have ONE specimen to observe in detail.) Ever since I discovered just how effeminate I'd made my guy characters, I've been trying my best to fix the problem. It's difficult for a girl to ‘think man’ when she doesn’t know what exactly that means.

But now that my eyes are opened, I see many girl writers falling into the same problem. I think that female writers who don't have a lot of guys in their lives tend to believe subconsciously that at the heart of every man is a woman that needs to be emotionally liberated. It’s absolutely ridiculous, I know, but I believed it myself for a while. I have read so much fanfiction (even from fanwriters who are excellent at their craft), portraying guys having emotional breakdowns that mirror what a woman would have in the same situation. Granted, the writers had the decency to put the guys through a lot more to get them to break down, but the end result was still the same.

Girls, be careful about your guy characters, especially if you don’t know very many guys.

To everyone else, do you have any advice on writing guys? I am trying to garner as much wisdom on this subject as I can, because I respect mankind and want to portray them accurately.

*Note -- I am not trying to discriminate against anyone, but you cannot get around the truth: a woman can never be a very good man, just as a man can never be a very good woman. The two sexes are equal, but they specialize in different areas. And when I say that a female character cannot 'pack the same punch', what I mean is that there are some character roles that are better suited to men. We women get so used to dealing with emotion that in some ways, it doesn't mean as much. But when a man feels an emotion, it is rough-hewn and stronger. That's why when an author wants to get across the grave emotion of a situation, he will so often use a male character. Tears from a man tells the reader that this is real.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Writing Meme: Playing With Worlds [1/30]

I must confess to being a shameless copycat.  Instead of writing a brilliant and original post for you entertainment, I have stolen a writing meme from Onna.  I am going to borrow her method of doing it, too: instead of filling out all the questions at once, I will make each question into a blog post.  I have also created a handy directory of all the questions for those who wish to steal the meme. 

1. Tell us about your favorite writing project/universe that you've worked with and why.

I am so tempted to say ‘the one I haven’t worked with yet’, but that would be unfair. I’d be a fool to let discontentment color my view of the past.

Each novel that I’ve worked on has had its own charm and its own give-and-take. With each one, I would be justified in saying, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Tears for the Silent Lands, which in my memory always feels bland and hopelessly riddled with errors, is the only novel I’ve finished. POE, my first attempt, had all the magic of a first love along with all the clichés. Enchantress, the novel that completely swept me away, I ended up abandoning because the premise went against my conscience and my faith. And now, two-thirds of the way through Evanescent Moonlight, one of my more stable works, all I can see is the lack of characterization and description, the inconsistencies, the chapters that need to be taken out, and the overall un-stellar-ness.

So really, I could almost say that my favorite universes are the ones I’ve stolen from other writers – namely, fanfiction. The time I spent writing for the Sherlock Holmes universe was an absolute blast. I loved being able to dive into a complete and fascinating character, along with the moody, nostalgic world he lived in. The experience taught me so much about what a true character is, and why we love some books and forget about others. Compared with such brilliant craftsmanship, all of my ‘children’ only seem more and more like cardboard cutouts.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Writing Prompt Wednesday: The Aliens Invaded

I'm starting a new weekly meme for myself.  Every Wednesday, I'll hunt for a writing prompt (or make up my own), then post the prompt and what I wrote for it on here.  If you want to do it with me, then write something and post it on your own blog, and comment to this post with a link to your post.  I would love to see what you write! 

This week's prompt comes from Writing Excuses Episode 4.32: First Paragraphs.  

Writing Prompt: You’re writing in your journal for the first time in ten years, and the last ten years included the invasion of Earth.

What I Wrote:


If I needed proof that I’ve changed in the last ten years since I actually wrote in a journal, there it is. I’ve practically forgotten how to do it. That was the most idiotic way to start a journal ever. I used to be able to think of the right way to start, and I wasn’t always so nervous about starting. If Dan hadn’t insisted, then I’d feel absolutely horrible about wasting paper like this. I do anyway.

He handed this book to me when he came back to our pod last night, and told me that I needed to start writing again for my own sake. I don’t know what on earth he had to go through to find a book, much less a blank journal, but he won’t tell me. He doesn’t want me worrying. (And if I know my husband, then what happened is something I would worry about.)

And there, look, I’m starting a new page now, and what did I even say on the first page?

Perhaps he was right. I needed this more than I thought.

I am laughing right now. I’m not really amused – it’s more like irony. Laughing at irony can be dangerous. But I used to do it all the time, back when I was writing. It’s funny how paper can make you remember who you used to be. Welcome back, Cheryl.

Where do I start?

Just saying ‘the aliens finally invaded’ sounds so callous. But it’s true. A decade ago UFO’s belonged to conspiracy theorists and strange cults, and then BOOM! There they are! And BOOM! There goes everything we ever knew. All governments, all economies, all nations, all communities, all businesses, organizations, schools – gone! Overnight those monsters set up their own system, using their advanced technology and their unfeeling ideas on how humans should be governed.

Everyone is a widget now. Children are kept in an alien-run ‘education’ camp until puberty, then either drafted to work as soldier-slaves in the human contingent of the aliens’ army of conquest, or put to work on the factories producing their weapons and machinery. If you can work, then you do until you die. Reading, writing, and any ideas are forbidden. The aliens raided every home, business, and library for everything printed on paper and locked it all in a giant archive to be ‘studied.’ As if they’ll ever really look at it. They might have been curious in the beginning. But they’ve been in control long enough to know the one thing they wanted to know – that humanity doesn’t pose a threat at all.

Dan and I are among the lucky few that escaped. Apparently the one place where the aliens hesitate to go is underground. That’s where we are now. ‘The Underground’ is made up of a network of large metal shipping crates connected by collapsible tunnels. Directly above us is a natural cave with a steady supply of oxygen from the surface, so we’ve cut hundreds of air passages up to that cavern so that we don’t suffocate.

I said the tunnels are collapsible. Thank God for engineers – they devised a system so that if one pod is discovered, the press of a button will shut down all the tunnels so that the other pods won’t be discovered. It’s the only way we worked up enough nerve to live in a single, interconnected group.

I try not to think about the way things are too much. It’s so easy to hate the situation that we’re in, but we can’t do anything about it, and allowing ourselves to be miserable is one of the slower and more painful ways to die down here. One learns to be grateful for small things. Like life. And freedom. I think often of all the people on the surface, and how they must wish with all their hearts that they were with us.

But sometimes this all sounds so much like a bad science-fiction film. We’re not even trying to put up a resistance. We can’t. All we dare to hope is that we continue to stay unnoticed and free for another month.

I guess I have to come to terms with the fact that this time, the good guys will never ‘win’.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Conservative Propaganda

I have created some images that I would like to call conservative propaganda.  The first one is of Woodrow Wilson, who instituted a fascist regiem in America during World War I:

And this second one is of Nietzsche -- the German philosopher who famously declared that "God is dead." 

These two men were among the many thinkers who worked to bring about the social and moral crisis we have in the West today.  If you don't believe me, I suggest you read Jonah Goldberg's excellent book, Liberal Fascism.  I am reading it right now, and it is very informative about the history of the liberal movement and its ideological link to socialism and fascism. 

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Best Book on Writing Ever? Really?

I have a complaint about the book On Writing by Stephen King.   It is this: there is so much bad language in the book that a nice teenager like me cannot read it without feeling slimed.  This by itself would not be so bad, except for the fact that I am tired of people recommending it and saying it is the best book about writing ever.  Perhaps it is.  But it seems contradictory to me that the 'best book on writing ever' should be littered with obscenities.  I believe that frequent cussing is a sign of bad writing, not of good writing.  Good writers should be able to communicate feelings and concepts without offending people for no reason whatsoever. 

So I'm going to take the one piece of good advice that I did find in the book, which went something like, "Most books on writing are junk, and you don't need to read them." 

Thank you, Mr. King.  I now feel no qualms about laying down your book.  And to the masses of writers out there who think that you can't possibly make it as a writer without reading this book... how can submitting yourself to all sorts of obscene things possibly make you a better writer? 

Friday, August 13, 2010

Phase Outlines

Yesterday as I flipped through my expanding folder of writing papers, I came across a collection of papers that went with my NaNoWriMo 2008 novel, Tears for the Silent Lands. In it, I found something I’d nearly forgotten about – the phase outline. A phase outline is an outline that details every scene (or part of a scene) in a novel. It can be as short or as long as the author wants, but the longer it is, the more effective it is. It’s designed specifically to include the little details that the author sees in a scene ahead of time, but would be out of place in any other kind of outline. Here is an example of part of a phase outline:

34. Katharine turns the corner and finds a flight of stairs leading up to a door at the top. She is angry, and is determined to no longer feel fear. She climbs the stairs. Boards creaking like moaning ghosts.

35. She opens the door. As soon as she does, a bullet whizzes past her head. She screams, runs back down the stairs, and does not stop until she is out of the building.

36. Katharine sits at the base of one of the building’s brick walls, knees to her chest, and tries to figure out what to do. Wishes she hadn’t lost her cell phone. Wonders who she would call even if she did have it.

This type of outline is particularly useful during NaNoWriMo, because you can look to the outline to see what you’re going to write next, and then just elaborate on what’s already there. It helps you get through the slow days when you have no inspiration whatsoever. And if you think of something better than what’s on the outline, great!

As it turns out, this is exactly what I needed for outlining Part III of Evanescent Moonlight. I know what things the third part needs to accomplish, but I wasn’t sure of the sequence of events and I was afraid to try to plan. Now with the phase outline, I can give the ending a test-run, telling the story in condensed form to see if it works. For example, I’m only a page into the phase outline, but I’ve already discovered that I need to include a battle I was not anticipating. Going through the story beforehand gives me a chance to work out all the little problems that arise when you have as many characters as I do.

The one downside to the phase outline is that it takes time. My outline for Tears for the Silent Lands ended up being about 10,000 words long. But it was worth it, because what I spent in planning beforehand, I didn’t spend in headaches during November.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

"I saw their souls rise up on the wings of a phoenix, and I cried, 'Let me follow!'..."

Before you read this blog post, you need to open up Onna’s musings on ‘writing what you know’ and Pip’s two-hundred-dollar response in a separate window. They covered the idea in such a thought-provoking and beautiful manner, showing where the idea was correct and where it was wildly misinterpreted.

I read what they said, and I remembered what I had forgotten. I had forgotten the passion of writing! I had forgotten what it felt like to pull a word from the depths of one’s very soul and throw it on the paper, leaving it to be admired or spat on. I had forgotten what it meant to be a mediator between What You Were Trying To Say and the blank page, finding the one language to great to comprehend, and the other woefully inadequate for a true translation. Of all the things for a writer to forget, to forget passion… that is a slow death.

It all makes sense now! All the hours spent wondering why I could make no progress on Evanescent Moonlight – how could I, when the very reason for progressing had become “word count, finish chapter, must finish …” That’s no way to write a novel about emotion. The joys and sorrows have to be your own. You can pretend, but no one will remember what you said afterward.

And here I am, on the brink of one of the most important scenes in the novel, and once again, God has given me the revelation I needed at the exact right moment.

I am off to write with passion.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Very Last First Post

One of the lessons that is often repeated in the writing world is that a good beginning is worth all the excellent middles one can conjur up. Without the spark of interest that captures the mind from the very first, one generally never gets to the middle -- and thus never knows what the author is really capable of.

Me? I say that yes, beginnings are important, but at the end of the day, beginnings aren't the things that we remember. Most likely it's the moments somewhere in the middle, where unfamiliarity has warn away, and we discover things that surprise and excite us.

If I keep going, I will eventually talk myself out of writing this blog post altogether.

How about I do an About Me -- in bullet points!

  • I am sweet sixteen. Or sour sixteen. Personally, I prefer vanilla maple sixteen.
  • I am a passionate Christian.
  • I love to write. Fiction, nonfiction, and poetry all draw me.
  • Although I don't write poetry much anymore, poetry has heavily influenced my writing.
  • I am inspired by forests, waterfalls, rainy days, the moon, and starlight.
  • My favorite books include Jane Eyre, A Tale of Two Cities, and The Last Unicorn.
  • I fell in love with the original Sherlock Holmes.
  • One of my favorite authors is G.K. Chesterton.
  • I love thinking and writing about worldview.
  • I am homeschooled.

Those are the essentials. The rest... well, what would be a blog if I said everything in the first post?