Monday, March 23, 2015

Maniacal Mondays: The Blind Leading the Blind

This blog is meant to give people some new perspective on writing, a place for me to talk about some of the things about the YA industry - and writing industry in general - that bother me. It was a place for me to shout into the void and have people at least see. Understand, maybe. I'm supposed to have some sort of experience and some sort of handle on things enough to talk about things like this.

And the reason that I haven't been blogging so much? Because for the past three weeks, I haven't. It's been a wild roller coaster ride of stress, doubt, and all those other delightful emotions that I love writing and actually hate experiencing. I couldn't even think about writing a blog post or really even stomach reading any from others. Every writer has Impostor Syndrome, the nagging feeling that you're a fraud in what you've worked so hard to build for yourself. Mine went into full overdrive to the point where I was considering if I even belong where I am right now. Even the first few days of classes, even on move-in day, I never even considered it.

So that's what's been going on with me. I've haven't written much of anything all semester, I feel like I've been ripped apart and sewn back together really terribly just for my stitches to be pulled out again. And so I'm going to take a break from blogging for awhile and relax, unwind, and maybe refresh myself before going back to class for another six weeks. We'll see what happens.

Hoping your month has been better than mine,
Brie

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

WTF Wednesdays: Going Like the Weather

Hello everyone!

You might see that my Wednesday post is sporting a different name today. Bear with me, like the title says I'm changing things up a bit. If you didn't know, where I am right now the weekend was balmy with sunny 50 degree days, only to drop back down to the low 20s earlier this week and become sunny and around 40 today. Typical for where I live, unfortunately. I'm taking a page from Mother Nature's book today, because with a different me there's going to be different things going down on here now.

First off, I'm no longer going to be blogging every single day. Clearly that just doesn't ever work, and half the time I think 'oh, I have time today. But it's Wednesday. Might as well wait until Monday.' That spirals viciously out of hand. So I think that Monday, Wednesday, and Friday posts are okay. Enough for a post about what's going on with me, a post about craft and whatever advice I can give, and a post about various things, book reviews, industry things, or whatever else. Sound good?


Good, glad you're still with me.

Since today I've spent all this reading space telling everyone what's going down, my writing advice is going to be short and sweet. I'm sure you'll all be glad for a short post for the first time in forever. Friday I'm finally responding to the lovely Rae Slater's nomination for some blog questions I'll have to answer. I won't nominate anyone, being so late (what else is new?) and knowing everyone else has done this already.

ONTO WRITING ADVICE.

In the vein of change and transformation, I'm talking a little on how characters go through small changes - something that I think can make or break a character.

So you've got the big character arc: Darcy learns to be humble and Elizabeth learns to not be so hung-up on first impressions. Harry accepts his Chosen One status and makes the ultimate sacrifice.

But the thing is, these characters aren't awesome because they're the protagonists. Trust me, I've seen a protagonist or two in my day that makes the hero's journey or overcomes something huge, and at the end I still don't care about them and don't think they changed.

What makes these characters so great is that they go through many small changes in order to enact the big change. Some changes are completely extraneous, like Ron's eventual support of SPEW and Hermione's other magical welfare initiatives. Those are just as important as the ones that make the big arc. Because writers, especially newer writers or writers who have just had an idea and have fallen passionately in love, make sure these all work out. Harry obviously has to become more selfless in order to sacrifice himself if he's going to go up against Voldemort. No more kicking and screaming. Those are almost always in place.

But the thing is, guys, we have to think about the readers.

Your reader wants to love these people in this book. They want to join your book's fandom and fanfic all over tumblr and go into metas about how wonderful these characters are. No one reads a book to hate it. No one whose opinion is worth paying attention to, anyway. But they meet your character in a way that  you will never have the pleasure of doing - with no back story. They don't know that you agonized over this character's family tree for days or that you have a whole reason for why they're named how they are. They just meet them. They're waiting for them to blossom before them and give them a reason to keep reading and fall in love.

The point is, all the little nuances that you know your character has need to be communicated to the reader. All the little changes. Ron's tolerance, Elizabeth and Darcy's pride, all these things. Not every character is perfect, and you can't make someone a likeable rogue forever. They need to have depth, have little changes based on what's happening in the plot or with the people around them, like a real person. That's where the life in characters come from.

Example: Isaac stands whenever a woman enters the room. Truly gentlemanly, a good guy. Not even the fedora-wearing kind. But whenever Laura comes in, she yells at him for standing. She doesn't like it when he stands and makes her feel awkward and uncomfortable. She feels like he's giving her too much importance because she came in. So whenever people come in, Isaac stands for the ladies. Then he locks eyes with Laura and sits back down.

Do you know a little more about Isaac now? I know I do. Do you like him more?

The answers you give show that the little things really do mean the world. Don't be afraid to nitpick, because that's where the real life, and the real love, come in.

Brie

Monday, February 9, 2015

Maniacal Mondays: Diamonds in the Rough

Happy 2015 guys! It's been...haha only two months since the ball dropped?

Ay ay ay.

Actually, it's kind of good that I took a bit of an unintended hiatus from the blog - I got a chance to give it a little bit of a facelift that's infinitely easier to look at, and the few months I went blog-silent really have given me some new perspectives on what I'm putting on here.

Here's a quick rundown of what's been going on with me since you last heard from me:

1. I reconnected to my friends back home during winter break and spent a good amount of time with my crazy family. If that isn't just a bag full of writerly people-watching research I can't tell you what is. Between working the Christmas season, playing the awkward catch-up game between everyone who went off to college and is afraid to like being back home, and realizing that your entire family is a whole other level of bizarre, it's not even like you're going home. It's like you got off two exits early from the highway and you're in a city that seems to have all the parts of yours but just isn't your home.

2. I officially decided that I will be going to Spain this summer from May 15th until late July to finish my minor in Spanish and become truly exposed to a nation and culture that is so close to my heart. VIVA ESPA√ĎA.

3. One of my favorite things from break - I took a course over winter break for two weeks that was an intensive novel writing course. Me, fourteen other people, and non-stop reading and writing. The Artist has since blossomed from the dying plant it had been last semester, and I am now incredibly lucky to be closer to the people in my English frat.


I'm not sure it was a divine thumbs-up or not, but who doesn't love Atlantis? And who doesn't love Vinny?

Finally, I thought I'd just throw out that I'm not only a brother but a sister, too! Yesterday I officially accepted my bid to Alpha Delta Pi, one of the sororities on my campus. I'm excited (SO excited, as the sorority community apparently says as a giant sarcastic joke about recruitment), and hopefully it brings good things. I spent about an hour accepting friend requests, responding to welcome messages on my wall, and mutual-following new sisters on Instagram.

(c) 2015 The Embroidery Shop
This week, I'm talking a bit about some of the things that I learned in my classes, experiences, and just about everything else that happened over the winter. As one of my frat brothers would say, living life is the best thing for writing. Queen Bey would say that the rough times are what buffer you until you shine. Can't argue with that, huh? Lest we end up like Andrew Garfield.



Until tomorrow,
Brie

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Think Tank Tuesdays: What Do You Think?

This has been on my mind for quite some time now, especially now that I'm part of a 15,000 person nation, essentially, where this tends to be a very visible difference between people. Changes of perspective come in different forms. Visiting another country, getting a new experience, becoming politically active, going to college. In fact, just today when I was studying with a friend I was given an 'awareness' survey and asked various questions about on-campus and off-campus happenings. The girls who gave me that survey probably regretted it, because I elaborated on every non-multiple-choice question. But then again, if you're going to ask me about American history and what America has learned from it, sit back and make yourself comfortable because I will talk about it for at least ten minutes.

One of the very vital parts of a person, the part that differentiates one from another, is ideology. What another person thinks, their perspective of how the world works, and how they plan to do in that world are very individual. This part of a person is one of the most important factors in characterization, as well. Why? Someone with no drive and no sense of how the world works is either a badly done character no one will root for or connect to, or they're not long for this world. Diverging ideologies separate hero from villain, families from each other, or even individual people from others.

Take, for example, Anthem by Ayn Rand. Prometheus's diverging ideology that being just like everyone else is a waste of human potential separated him from everyone but his lover, Gaea. He's the hero of the story because his ideology is different. To go a little more contemporary, the ideological difference between the Order of the Phoenix and the Death Eaters shouldn't even need explaining. Magical genocide versus inclusion and support? Are you kidding?



I've been chugging my way through my second draft of TA, and I've noticed that as I write the characters again, they're becoming more distinct. Not because I've decided that Oliver suddenly has freckles or that Collins now seems to have more of a law-abiding nature, but because I've delved into their ideologies. Ideology stems from your background and experiences along with your knowledge, and the more you learn about a character's past the more their ideology stands out. There's always the flat, isolationist 'if it doesn't benefit me, I'm not doing it'. Yawn. That's always part of an isolationist ideology, but it's not very interesting. In fact, it's the basis of just about every 'edgy' character you can find in literature.

Instead of something simple, complexity is important. Take, for example, Collins, my protagonist. She's grown up in impoverished conditions, relying on her brothers to take care of her and feeling responsible to pay it back in spades. Her ideology is shaped by the way she was raised and the experiences she had - be more open to taking care of the family first, if people approach you then they definitely want something, decisions made always need to be made with family in mind, with work and security in mind. This thought process differentiates her from the artists, especially Oliver. Having lived in relative comfort and security most of their lives, their ideologies are varied, but a serious divergence from hers. I mean, the reason they meet is because of Oliver's ideology: Do what you love, make time for what's important, take care of the artists, fly below the radar, but say what needs saying. Collins wasn't going to seek him out, he had to have the mindset to find her.

And I think that this lacks in literature in general. Especially now that I'm in writing classes (for real, not just an English class creative assignment that allows anything with good grammatical structure), and I'm reading about many different protagonists experiencing many different events, reacting to them in many different ways. If you're looking for a great example of divergent ideologies and how that changes characters, I highly recommend the graphic novel Watchmen. It's a masterpiece (won a Hugo award, you know. No graphic novel has done that) and with the format it's very easy to see the differences in thought and how that makes a person act.

Hey, I just made two posts in a row, go me! Stay tuned for more posts on depth, and stay warm, dear followers. I just had my first snow of the year, and it's nineteen Fahrenheit.

Hot cocoa and political discourse,
Brie

Monday, November 17, 2014

Maniacal Mondays: My Arsenal of Weird Noises Has Only Increased

As if I didn't already seem weird enough, my time spent with other students complaining about assignments, exams, and people leaving their laundry in one of the ten dryers meant to service over 200 people for three hours, my vocabulary of grunts, moans, weird Wookie-esque calls, and banshee screeches has become more complex. One is a very distinct 'I need to do this action but don't want to leave my bed', another being 'why am I craving food when I literally just ate', and my personal favorite, 'this is a place of higher education, how are you this stupid?'

Anyway.

Unfortunately, college continues to be a roller coaster for me in terms of time, energy, socializing, and eating habits. Some days I feel like I have all the time in the world, others I'm sprinting from place to place. And as someone who has friends in college but never knew what the world was like, it's pretty weird. In fact, I'm actually writing a manifesto for a friend as a graduation present that's essentially 'How to Succeed in College Without Really Trying'. Everyone's experience in college is different, but she should definitely know how much Easy Mac will change her life and not make my mistake of only stocking the room with Kit Kats in three-pound bags following the Halloween sale at Kroger. Even now, it tempts me with its chocolatey deliciousness and wafer crunch.

Hopefully with Thanksgiving coming up and my assignments winding down as finals loom instead I have more time to post, and while I'm home I'll try and rack up some posts to queue up. I don't really like queuing, it seems artificial to me, but at the same time I don't think I have time each day like I used to for just writing a blog post. I also have a research paper to do before I go to Pittsburgh this coming weekend, so there's that, too.

Suffice to say that this upcoming blog series is going to be something different than my usual. I'm getting introspective, as I'm prone to do when days get shorter and nights get darker and I lose feeling in my fingers after ten minutes of walking. I hope that the shortening light has treated everyone well, and that my American readers are gearing up for exciting Thanksgivings - I'm salivating at the thought of stuffing already. For my other readers, just the weekend is a long time coming, right? Stay warm, make yourselves some tea, and get ready for depth.

Big sweaters and wool socks,
Brie

Monday, October 6, 2014

Maniacal Mondays: My Conversion to Easy Mac

Hello, everyone.

The last post on this blog was over a month ago, August 27th. I was still reeling over the fumes of the first week of classes, joining clubs like it was going out of style, and trying to meet people. This whole period of freshman year is wonderful, but when it's over, it hits you like a truck.

It hit me like a truck that was full of bricks. I went down, hard.

My departure from the honeymoon phase of Welcome Week wasn't really noticed in my classes - I turned in assignments, got good grades on papers, whathaveyou, but personally my life was falling apart. I had no time to be social, I was constantly doing homework, staying up late. I hadn't written in two months, The Artist sat in it's finished form untouched, unedited, unseen. I was having trouble concentrating on my work and my studying because characters would fly into my head like neglected baby birds. It was a dark time.

But now, I think I have a handle on things. I'm writing for English now instead of just reading, so that's a wonderful outlet, and when I can I slip some things into either book two or I go back and see what to do with The Artist. I literally had a talk with my first year advisor, also a writer, who pretty much freaked out when I told her what was happening. She ordered me to make time to write, and it has been absolutely wonderful. I feel so much better.

Anyway, college is getting cooler now, I can finally wear pants (and not shave...sorry, boys), my scarves from Spain, and not come back to the dorm covered in sweat. And I have discovered the joy of collegiate life that is Easy Mac. Seriously, within three minutes you too can have melty, cheesy, ultimate-comfort-food goodness in a little handheld bowl. Pro tip, though: use that Parmesan cheese powder stuff and mix it in. It adds just another cheesy element and makes your belly happy. These can be found in any dining hall, or at any grocery store for dirt cheap in nice shaky containers.

On a final note, one of the best parts of being a writer in college? The people watching is utterly spectacular. Where else can you find people in droves walking dimly lit sidewalks in togas, American flag garb, or see someone play bumper cars with their body and the cars parked on the street? Ah, college. A writer's paradise, except that whole thing about socializing. Whoops.

I'm going to be doing my best to start queuing up posts for this week early, as I'm currently writing this on a Wednesday. Maybe I'll get really lucky and be able to do a week of postings! I hope you've all been doing well since I've been gone, and have a great week!

Easy Mac and Goldfish,
Brie

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Witty Wednesdays: Free Brownies, Steve, and Other College Nuances

And, like I said, my posting might be sporadic. So of course I missed the post yesterday, I practically prophesied it. But lo and behold, I have returned! Between my 8:30 classes and my Bio, I have a little smidgen of time to blog, and after this long weekend (All hail Labor Day!) I can probably start to queue up some stuff, get it all going, and keep this blog alive while I panic-flail through my first few  weeks of classes. How does one read a syllabus? Through guessing, my friend, always guessing. Though I have to say that some profs' syllabi are better than others. The ones dripping with sarcasm are my personal favorite.

So you're probably wondering why I titled this Witty Wednesday post with free food, some stranger, and the promise of an explanation. Well, you're in luck. College is great, and I'm all for the college life, but there are some things here that just aren't permissible anywhere else. On one hand, they're kind of random things that make you smile, but on the other you kind of end up looking like this:



To start at the free brownies: During move-in and Welcome Week, free stuff is everywhere. Free shirts. Free food. Free ice cream, music, and bubbles. My History professor, a perfectly adorable beanpole of a Dutchman, walked into our Monday 4:00 class with a tray of brownies, blondies, and other goodies. He believed that on our first day, particularly at the dreaded 4 pm time, we'd be burnt out and need the sugar. That was delicious free sugar. Is a tall, accented man giving out free sweets normal anywhere else? Of course not! But in college, it's free food, which means it's automatically okay. We're weird like that, we really like our stuff to be free. But if you see how much meal plans cost you'd be in line for those free breadsticks, too.

On to Steve. My roommate and I were sitting ourselves in our rooms, studying away in what we had deemed our temporary 'studyy dungeon'. I had even written a note by our door that she was studying for a huge math test and to please let her accumulate genius in peace, and some of the girls in our corridor wrote really nice notes of encouragement. But when I went out to find our RA, I saw that each and every white board by the doors had an arrow, a room number, and the name 'Steve'. Upon searching the basement, I realized that this occurred on all floors. My roommate and I followed the arrows, wrote on Steve's board (yeah, that's right, mess with us. Try it.) and met the kid. He's very nice, and there's a meetup for Steve this Friday. It's a really creative and non-creepy way to meet people, especially girls. Apparently his friends decided he needed to make some girl friends and took it upon themselves to subtly advertise Steve. And while I was looking for him, I met some other cool guys, Nate and Cal. Again, could you graffiti your friend's name, address, and an arrow pointing to him on other people's apartments and get away with it without being arrested or at least hated? No. But it's college. This stuff flies here.

Moral of the story is, whether you want to take this as a part of life or as a part of writing, the rules change. People are weird, but they're also creative in how to get what they want. It's really inspiring. Keep in mind when you're writing that the social rules change every time your setting does. It's like the handshakes vs. cheek-kissing thing. In college, you can walk up to anyone and start a conversation. In real life? You'd get plenty of weird looks and the occasional cursing-out for getting in their way. They're not kidding you when they say college is different, but everywhere is different. So don't be afraid to be Steve and try and meet people in some crazy way that's totally acceptable for your environment. Seriously, be like my History prof and bring free food, that doesn't turn anyone away. Get out there, do you, and find the other people who do them, too, and like you for it. This wasn't actually very funny (I mean, I thought the Steve thing was genius), but it just goes to show you, anything can happen. People draw cartoons of themselves on the doors, one of my friends' door tag is a picture of Beyonce. Let your freak flag fly, and see who else comes around. And for now, I must leave you. My Biology lecture calls.

Clickies:

Everyone knows that lots the food in college is free. @themoorewriter talks why this is weird anywhere else. [Tweet it!]

@themoorewriter on Steve: the man, the myth, the legend. [Tweet it!]

Scrounging for free pasta,
Brie