Wednesday, April 24, 2013

"The One"

You always hear writers talk about their books as if they're their children, which isn't always that far off. But in the case of book ideas, they're more like matchmaking. For writers, we're always in search of "The One", the story idea of story ideas, the one you're going to see through to the end.

Many writers agonize over whether or not their current idea is "The One", the idea to write and rewrite and query until you drop. So how do we know when we have this elusive perfect match? Here are a few clues:

1) You can't stop thinking about it.
Ideas will always come and go, and there will always be the 'Almosts', the ideas that could've been "The One" but just weren't. But if you've already outlined the book(s) in full, characterized and developed the setting, and done all the research necessary, and you're STILL thinking non-stop about your idea, it's a pretty good bet.

2) You look forward to writing it.
Even on your worst days, writing your ideas can be fun. Until to hit a rut. Many writers simply stop there and pick up something new, or return to an old project. But if you brave the ruts and plot holes out of sheer love, you're meant for each other.

3) It excites you.
Books are only as interesting as you make them, and i you find your book really fascinating, chances are that others will, too. You're your own book's fangirl. (Or boy.) So if your idea keeps you up to all hours and every song with a good beat reminds you of some scene in the beginning or you see people who look strangely like your characters, you've probably got your hands on "The One". Congratulations, send me an invite to your wedding.

Now, contrary to popular opinion, there is more than one "The One". Once one is finished, there's always an opportunity for another. Don't think you're a one-and-done kind of deal. There's always a new idea out there, a new adventure.

To first encounters and honeymoons,

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Next Aristotle

Hi guys! I meant to post this and start off your weekend with a post that's not me flailing and just having crazy feelings, but Special Needs Prom, an event that my Key Club hosts for special needs kids around our area every year, swallowed up most of my time.

Anyway, my topic for this post is, as you might have guessed, philosophy.

And no, I'm not going to talk about whether I like Aristotle or Socrates better. That's what Philosophy courses are for and for you to decide. That's why it's philosophy, there's no right answer.

I mean the philosophy of characters, and those ever-coveted, quotable lines that characters seem to randomly spout that the book's fans will quote until the movie adaptation comes out. These tend to be the most memorable lines from a character or long bits of dialogue during one character's drawn-out monologue to make a point. You can find them all over tumblr, reddit, and even Facebook nowadays.

A few examples:

"Not all those who wander are lost." ~J.R.R. Tolkien in the Lord of the Rings series.

"My thoughts are stars I cannot fathom into constellations." ~Aristotle, NOT Augustus Waters from John Green's The Fault in Our Stars, said this.

"You cannot change your journey if you are unwilling to move at all." ~From the book Reached, part of the Matched trilogy by Ally Condie.

(You also have what are more like 'trademark sayings' by characters, such as Severus Snape's famous "Always", but we'll get to those another time.)

These kinds of ideas are wonderful to put in books, because they give books substance. Anyone can write a book about wizards and witches battling an evil master wizard trying to take over the world. It's been done and done again.

What makes Harry Potter different? J.K. Rowling's philosophy. She very casually slips in deeper meanings in the book, generally from Dumbledore or one of the other adults, while they're still alive. They're comments given when they're comforting Harry, or explaining why he's the Chosen One. You read them and then sit back and think, "Oh."

J.K. Rowling is a great example of good philosophy writing. However, there are many, many more authors who aren't so graceful. In fact, it's getting to be more of a problem in YA fiction, because it seems like the authors are trying too hard. Not everyone in a story is going to be wise and able to say these things.

For the sake of my argument, we'll take some characters from The Artist as an example.

As much as I love my characters, and believe me, I do, many of them aren't really qualified to be saying such deep things. A character with experiences, generally older or at the very least someone tried and tested, is a good character for this kind of writing. Therefore, someone young and inexperienced, like Razzo or Eoin's sister, Eire, are probably not good candidates.

We'll take Rowe, Collins' oldest brother, for example. He is twenty-four years old and a miner. In a normal case, he'd be considered rather young. However, he and his siblings were orphaned when he was eleven, when he was forced to become the head of house and try to provide for all his younger siblings, all of whom are ten or younger. He's been forced to do things he isn't proud of, face imprisonment and beg for food to provide for his siblings. He has had an extremely difficult run at life, and so him saying something to Collins would make sense.

However, Razzo is different. He was forced into exile around the time he was fourteen, and then has lived in Haven ever since. Haven sheltered the artists, including Razzo, from the outside world, allowing them to live almost like children. Therefore, Razzo probably wouldn't have many worldly things to say.

So, who would say, "Claro...It’s like he’s sticking his head into the beehive and is too distracted by the honey to see the bees." More than likely someone older, and who has seen that kind of behavior before.

Who would say, "Tough as nails, are we? I always thought there was something in the water over there."? Probably someone more immature, light-hearted, someone who is still pretty young.

So make sure that you're not giving someone like Razzo big, beautiful, deep-thinking lines. Wisdom comes from experience. Just because you want your love interest to be philosophical doesn't mean that he can say things like that if they're nothing more than a rich kid from old money at a prep school. Give them something they would know best about, and that's their source of wisdom. We can't all be Dumbledore, unfortunately.

Wishing you a most excellent adventure,

Monday, April 15, 2013

My first ever video review!

Hello everyone! I'm super excited to show this off - in fact, when I saw this first I pretty much Facebook Chat-bombed most of my writer friends using a shameless amount of caps lock and flailing emoticons.

I asked for a video review of the portion of The Artist I have up on Wattpad, and Ms. Dunbar was very kind and said she'd be happy to.

Little did I know she'd have such a reaction to it:

Due to the website, I can't post the video directly here, but scroll down until you see 'The Artist' in the title and that's her review.

She gave it a perfect 10, her first, and proceeded to spend about a minute telling me how much she loves my book. She loves Ollie, she loves Collins, and she's apparently a new fan of mine.


Flailing and screaming with joy,

Friday, April 12, 2013

Long ago, in a galaxy far, far, away...

When I first told one of my friends that I write, and plan to publish novels, the first thing she asked me was what I wrote about. When I told her my favorite genre was sci-fi, she looked a little confused. And I can understand. I don't exactly look like the kind of person to be sitting on the edge of my seat watching Star Trek or running around wielding a plastic light saber. When I explained it to her, it got me thinking how I'd wound up in this genre, a typically small one.

How, out of the dozens of genre choices, did I choose sci-fi and dystopian as my two go-tos?

copyright 2009

The answer is how I was raised. I think each writer (and to an extent, each reader) is influenced in their genre by what they read, watched, and experienced as kids. I'm the proud daughter of two 'Trekkies'; my mom even has a Starfleet communicator pin. I grew up watching Captain Jean Luc Picard and Captain Kathryn Janeway command their ships and always end up saving another planet or, as in Janeway's case, make the agonizingly long trek home from the Delta Quadrant. (If you don't know, that's at least a twenty-year journey.) But I wasn't just into those shows. I watched cartoons like Jonny Quest (a little before my time, but still pretty great classic sci-fi) and I still watch Eureka, Warehouse 13, and Falling Skies. I would recommend them to all of you, they're awesome.

And as I grew up, I fell in love with the dystopian genre reading books like Fahrenheit 451, Animal Farm, and Anthem. Dystopian generally meshes with sci-fi, and I think that when you're in the future it won't always be better. Enter my genre of favor.

The same applies with readers. Like many people my age, I grew up reading Harry Potter. People who read and loved Harry Potter would grow up to read similar books: Percy Jackson and the Olympians, The Kane Chronicles. Once we hit the Young Adult and Adult genres, we've decided what we like in books and what we don't, and that further guides us. We love the mystery, the romance, the twisting plots, the characters.

So how did you come across your genre, reader or writer? Read a book in it you fell in love with? Had to do a class assignment and realized you liked it? Let me know!

Space ships and totalitarian governments,

Saturday, April 6, 2013

I Have Three Rules in Life. 1) Look Good. 2) Don't Die. 3) If You Have to Die, Make Sure You Look Good While Doing it.

Although that pretty much is my list of rules in life, this post is less about rules and more about...helpful hints.

Think of them as sort of pro tips.

I was on yet another college visit today and I was listening to the president of the College of Arts and Sciences talk about all the sorts of programs they offer and internships and whatnot, and I heard that most people, unlike me, were Premed, Allied Sciences, or other sorts of applied science fields. I didn't meet another person who was interested in the Liberal Arts there. I was the only English/Linguistics focus, and I got some weird looks from others.

So I guess when they were giving tips and tricks around the campus tour, I thought up some of my own. Not for success in college, of course, but in life in general. This goes for writers, athletes, musicians, anyone.

1. Don't walk the path everyone else does.

I'm serious, not everyone needs to be a doctor, a lawyer, or a business executive. You have your talents, and not using them is like using a manual can opener when you have an electric one next to you. Figure out what you're good at, and run the course that suits those talents. I mean, I can't do math to save my life, becoming a math major is probably not a good idea for me.

But an English major, Linguistics major, a minor in Creative Writing or Spanish? That's all for me. I'm one of those people who can sit and read for hours and not notice the time pass. Language makes sense to me. Why waste my natural strengths in that field just because it's not the most popular major? Do what makes you happy. It just makes it better for the rest of us.

2. The world is run by those who show up.

I was told this in my freshman Honors English class and I've learned it always proves true. I mean, Bill Gates showed up to create the first Macintosh computer, and look where he is now. Nelson Mandela showed up to end apartheid, Martin Luther King, Jr. showed up to a integrated racial relations rally. If you want to make a difference, show up. To class, to work, to whatever your responsibilities are. You never know when life throws you a day that will always stick with you, that will change you. Figure out what you love, and chase it.

And finally,

3. Do YOU.

Whether you love to read and write books like I do, or you'd rather go out for a run or paint a picture or lie around and watch television, do it. Don't look at others and try to emulate them because they're what's 'normal'. You've probably heard it before, but there's no such thing as normal. Trying to fit in only causes you to fall where everyone else falls, and do things you'd never do otherwise. Be yourself. Those who stand behind you will always stand behind you because they know who you are. When I decided I wasn't going to hide my writing anymore, my friends accepted it because they knew that that was me. (Not to mention I'm now their go-to editor for all their English papers). Just decide what you love, chase it, and define yourself.

And now I'm off to go write more dystopian chaos.

Regulations and riots,