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. 


...it 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! 

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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.

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