Thursday, February 27, 2014

My Thoughts Thursday: Neuroses.

I said it Tuesday, I'll say it again: I love it when writing is like real life. There's awkwardness, people speak like they normally do, there are people of different races, ethnicities, and cultures, sexualities. The world is a beautiful, complex, random cosmos inside our enormous universe.

Characters are my babies. I love them. They're one of my favorite portions of a book or a piece of literature besides writer's craft. How else do you get another person's thoughts, feelings, dreams, and ideas into your head? You never see someone else's perspectives like you do when you read a book. You go through life with really only your perspective of the way the world turns, hearing about others' but not really living them. This is one of the reasons that books have endured for centuries, they do things for us that nothing else can.

But back to characters.

Giving characters 'quirks' is always a goal for a writer, because that makes them stand out. There are literally millions of characters who have brown hair, blue eyes, pale skin, or who are strong or smart or a jock with a soft side or a badass with a sad backstory. How are these characters to ever find a way to stand out from the others? By their own little neuroses, that's how. Maybe a love interest hates being cliche and always shows affection in the strangest ways possible so as to be 'original', or one always night showers or walks in the early morning outside to be by themselves. It's the little tidbits that aren't relevant to the plot that make them breathe.

Finding out things about a character depend on how you meet your characters. For me, it's almost like I run into them on the street as I'm out doing whatever I'm doing, where they look a certain way, speak a certain way, and have a name before they introduce me. I'm not scrambling to build them like in a Sims game, like some authors. They come as they already are, and so for me finding their little quirks is about getting to know them. Some authors need to carefully plot out each hair on their protagonist's head, but that's not me. We're a varied breed, writers.

The problem with these quirks are the balance of them. Too much, and your character is suddenly a manic pixie dream girl (or boy) that seems to not be able to hold a conversation or live conventionally due to his or her neuroses. Too little, and they appear contrived, deliberate, they're trying too hard to seem normal. Let their humor sneak into dialogue for the sake of them speaking, have someone trip up their need to color-code their closet and see what happens. Not every piece of a character is relevant to propelling the plot forward. Not every detail of our lives comes into play significantly. If it were true, we wouldn't be characters or people: we'd be puppets, doing what entertains our puppet master and disregarding free will. Which I'd hate for that to happen.

I'll keep this brief, because my last couple were super long. But moral of the story, characters are fictional humans (or whatever they're meant to be). We can make them as perfect and neat as we'd like, but they're boring that way. Give a girl frizzy hair. Give a guy an inability to mismatch his socks. Make them laugh, cry, smile, crack jokes because they are people and need air and want to be known. Let them come alive, and readers will go nuts. And maybe, just maybe, you can bring us one step closer to the world on the page.

Meet-and-greets and tea parties with fictional characters,

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Think Tank Tuesday: Relationships

If you can't smell it in the air, you can hear the legions coming. Ah, the scent of amour. They see each other. There is this instant attraction. They try to hide it. Oh, so flirtatious. Then BAM. Romance. Hopefully you read that in a really cheesy, bad French accent a la Genie from Aladdin.

But I'm serious, relationships in literature are great. Some of them make us go:

 Others make us go:

 Some of my favorites are more like:

And then there's always that one ship that's your NOTP and it just turns you into a pirate.

A good portion of readers, especially in the YA genre, read for the relationships. If you can't tell, ask anyone about The Hunger Games. Most of them will tell you, "I'm on Team Peeta", "I'm Team Gale", and then the original 'teams' of twenty-first century young adult literature, "Team Edward", "Team Jacob", "Team Guy-Who-Hit-Bella-With-His-Car" (Catchy, eh?) There's the coveted OTP, the relationship you want to be more than any other relationship, ever. The guilty pleasure relationships. Ahh, I'm getting all warm and fuzzy just thinking about them.

But wait, you think. It's Think Tank Tuesday, she'll have something to say about this!

Ding ding ding, winner, my friend! 
As great as YA relationships are, has anyone besides me noticed that they kind of take a similar route in most books? I referenced it at the beginning: Boy meets girl. Both avoid each other or otherwise attempt to hide initial attraction. Some event brings them together. FEELINGS. Awkward not-friends-but-not-together phase, then BIG KISS. Then relationship, ahh. Some end there, some go on to test the couple's relationship by adding love triangles, in which case it's the same formula with two boys at one time, where one kisses the girl before the other and somehow that 'wins' the girl for them.

Can we please freshen up the romance we've got going here? I'm tired of taking a look at a book and thinking, 'oh, this boy is strong and handsome and tall. He's totally going to get the girl over that scrawny, nerdy guy'. Most of the time (in my experience) the girl goes with the new guy come to town over her old asshole boyfriend, takes the new hottie over her best friend since FOREVER, or automatically gravitates towards the hottest guy in the room, who just happens to have a thing for 'average' girls like her.

Where are the best friend couples? What about the ones who met while one was chasing someone else and decided they liked each other better? Do I see the idiot couples who are completely stupid around each other but love each other anyway? Or the ones who fight but come back at the end of the day because no one will put up with them like they will (and love it)? Come on, now.

I'm all about literature that parallels life, and I don't know about you, but I don't see hunky, muscular guys as far as the eye can see stopping to check out the nice girl reading a book across the street. That would've made life so much easier for me. People are attracted to all kinds of traits in other people - kindness, intelligence, physical appearance (which is generally what a person sees first), etc. Now, I know that these successful books have to be commercial, so pandering to the heterosexual female audience with a 'hot' character makes sense, but who defines attractiveness? I'm all for rippling pectoral muscles, but I prefer a guy who is a good hugger. Personally, I'm very physically affectionate. Not everyone is, but why are all the characters super-stoic and good-looking? Where are the snugglers? The ones who make you laugh by making a fool of themselves? The ones who find something in your favorite color and gets it for you because it made them think of you?

I'm not telling you who to ship, or that your favorite male character's amazing six-pack isn't necessary, but...I'm just saying we need more Peetas and Erics (Twilight), more guys who aren't 'conventionally attractive' or super-masculine, who are more like...real guys. Jokers. Nerdlets. Jocks with such tight friends it's like a seven-way bromance. Gimme a heavy dose of male reality, YA industry. You're just killing me with the perfection.

May your ships always sail,

Friday, February 21, 2014

Free-for-All Friday: Spotlight on the World

This week has been one of turbulence. From the riots in Venezuela that have claimed many civilian lives and the riots in the Ukraine that have been the focus of American global news to my week of being injured, cripple-swagging my way to my classes and wading through school work that obviously pales in comparison. I was going to do something stupid and happy for Friday, but I think that something that everyone needs to address, no matter who they are or where they come from, is that the world turns in ways we don't always want to watch.

America is famous for it's global ignorance. We're the go-to butt of stupid jokes in the global consciousness. And why? Because from our media and our own apathy to finding sources, we just don't get the memo. I had friends today who didn't know about the riots, nor the flooding in England or even the droughts in California, which is (in case you forgot) IN our country. Both as a dystopian writer and as a citizen of the world, I think we've got to wake up. Not just in one country, but in all of them. We are a human family, we affect each other. And to sit in our own respective town, city, state, province, country, and flip the channel to something happier is just a symptom of some of the problems we have.

This is a reason why dystopian fiction is so popular right now: everyone's seeing that the world seems to be getting darker and darker. Riots, rebellions, threats of war, economic turbulence. It's not a great thing to see, and at the scale these things take place in it's easy to feel helpless. But what we can do isn't always necessarily attacking the problem like you think you should. We can't all be Tris Prior or Katniss Everdeen and head a revolution. That would be actually awful. But what can we do? Be more like Emma Stone. And as much as I would love to do that all the time, I'm talking about this instance of her:

I know it sounds ridiculous and stupidly simple, but being better to each other really helps. And not just the holding-the-door-for-strangers thing. Although that's nice. I mean we have to really think outside ourselves and our microcosm that we call life here. The United States did it in WWII - we sunk a bunch of money into Europe in an action known as The Marshall Plan that acted as an economic stimulus to keep European countries in the black and strengthen them against communism. Regardless of political analysis, countries helped each other. Countries who had been fighting against each other a few years before were helping. And we need to do so in a similar fashion today, whether it's showing humanitarian aid, supporting on social media, or simply talking about it with your friends, family, teachers, coworkers, or anyone who will listen. It's a great big world out there, and we can't afford to live on it like we're the only ones.

What makes us unlike Tris, Percy, Katniss, Clary, Harry, and other heroes/heroines that save the world? We don't have legions, nor opportune chances or prophecies or 'chosen one' status. We don't have a clear enemy, whether it's President Snow or Voldemort. There is no 'us' and 'them', no 'good' and 'bad'.

What DO we have? We have their traits. Bravery. Passion. Kindness. Intelligence. A sense of duty. Compassion. We all can recognize that something needs to change, and that we have to lend a hand if things are going to get any better. We have hope they can be better. We are just like these characters, which is why we're attached to them. Bits and pieces of you are in every character you read - the good ones, anyway.

I can't single-handedly bring peace to the Ukrainian riots, nor stop the killing in Venezuela. But together, we can all make a difference, big or small. Let's be better citizens of the world.

Live long and prosper,

Thursday, February 13, 2014

My Thoughts Thursday: New Writers

Starting out on the road to being a writer is kind of like high school: you go through awkward phases, you're embarrassed about the things you did a year, two years, or three years ago, and you try to avoid anyone in that dreaded 'freshman' area. For those of us who have been exposed to the writing life for long enough to consider ourselves upperclassmen, a lot of us shirk and downright abuse those freshmen, the 'new writers'.

I myself have never been one for cutting down a tree because it hasn't grown yet. In the words of one of my favorite Disney princesses, 'How high does the sycamore grow? If you cut it down, then you'll never know.' (Pocahontas, if you were wondering).

What people seem to neglect to tell you about writing, whether it's prose, poetry, or editorial, is that you're going to majorly, majorly suck at first. All new writers do. There's none of this 'hit the ground running' shtick that can happen in academia or athletics due to talent. You may have all the talent in the world. You will still suck when you start, it's just the way it is. J.K. Rowling sucked, Steven King sucked, Shakespeare sucked, everyone was atrocious at one point. But what separates that 'suck pit' from the road to awesomeness in whatever your medium is is what tells you that you suck: your instinct. You already have great taste in your genre, but when you look at your stuff, it's just not great. And that's how it'll be for a little, but that instinct is what will pull you through.

So as much as new writers have to learn about craft, grammar, and worldbuilding, I think us veterans have something to learn from the frosh of the writing world. In a list, complete with appropriate gifs: 
Five Things Experienced Writers Can Learn From Newbies.

1. You wrote because you wanted to.

Sure, the whole dream of being published, amassing a militant fandom and taking over the film industry with your epic writing of unbearable awesome sounds great. It does. But no one writes for that. That dream isn't realistic enough for anyone to write for the sake of the fame. (Did I say fame? What fame? Writers don't get fame.) Whenever someone writes, they pick up their pencil, laptop, or whatever mode of writing because they want to tell a story, and they want to share something with others. Poets don't open their ribcages to let the bad things pour onto the page in beautiful lines because they want prestige. But the thing about young writers is that they don't know anything else. They want to write badly. They want to be good, great, super awesome, and a lot of us vets sometimes lose sight of why we even started this blasted business in the first place. I know I sure have. Whether you do it because you can't live without it or just need a way to express your thoughts, new writers remind us that we're all here because at one point, we wanted to be. Thanks, newbs.

2. Enthusiasm writes better than derision.

Truer words have never been spoken. As someone who's been seriously writing for three years now (and writing for ten) I will be the first to tell you that there are days where you look at your work and you just think, 'no'. You don't want to work on it, you don't want to look at it, you don't want it to be there. But you do it because you need it done. And then when you go back, you hate what you wrote. New writers haven't hit that wall yet, they're like toddlers on caffeine. They run with their ideas and write everything they can about it because they want that idea to be real and they want their story read. And if they don't want to write that day? They don't, plain and simple. They're not feeling it. We could definitely take a page from them and get back in touch with our inner crazy writers.

3. There's no such thing as dignity.

I love that chicken. But it's true, and something that people who have been writing for awhile need to get through their (at times) thick heads: we're all in this together. Asking for editing help, using people as soundboards, querying shamelessly, promoting yourself like a street walker on saint's day, whatever. We're all just trying to get our foot in the door, trying to stand out, trying to reach that dream of seeing your idea in real hardcover. Ask for help, take criticism, look at your work honestly. New writers are unabashed when it comes to asking questions. They want to know everything there is to know about anything there is about writing. As a veteran, you like knowing, and looking like you know. But we all know that isn't all true, huh?

4. You're never too veteran to make a mistake.

Ah, internet, you never fail to amaze me with your gif arsenal. But this one is especially important for veterans. Like I said, we all like thinking we know all there is to know about the industry, about craft, about writing, and about being writers. But we don't grow in our work if we don't make mistakes, and new writers are famous for unapologetically making mistakes. They fall, get up, brush themselves off, and run right back in to play. Like my man Callan McAuliffe here, they're taking that backward somersault like a champ. Vets get creaky and refuse to believe they're in the dirt, but they are. Come on, guys, we gotta let ourselves screw up. It's how life works, and taking it gracefully makes it all the easier to get back up.

5. There is hope.

Keep in mind that these new writers are the next generation of authors. Whether they all stay or not is up to them, but as veterans we have to have a good group to hand the reins off to when we all get too old and crusty to write anymore. It's like planting a tree. You won't sit under it, but your child might. Help out the newbies, give them a path to walk that will get them where they want to be, and just let them feel like a part of the group. We all know how the writing world is kind of outcast as it is, don't make it worse and cast out the outcasts from the bigger group of weirdos. I was a newbie once, we all were. If I hadn't had an older writer to grab me by the wrist and (somewhat aggressively) demand that I at least step on this path, I wouldn't be blogging, writing a trilogy, or really doing much of anything with my life. So I have her to thank for that, and it's my responsibility to do that with others, too.

And a final word to any new writers I may be reaching:

Gif frenzy and bold overload,

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Think Tank Tuesday: The Dark Side

So I promised that I would start updating the blog more, and hopefully I'll be able to pull through on that by naming days and deciding what I'll do on each. Lo and behold, Think Tank Tuesday. If you think that's great, you should see the other ones I have planned, ahaha.

Oh, and NOTE before I go onto my TTT:

I'm now part of a collaborative blog called Inked, and I'll be posting on there, as well! So head on over there and follow to hear not only from me but from all my other fine writerly ladies who I'm pleased to call friends. Together we can slowly take over the blogosphere one post at a time ;)

Back to TTT.

Think Tank Tuesday (noun) - Tuesday blog posts that refer to writing craft, character development, and the other nitty-gritty wonder-bits of writing that so many people seem to overlook.

Not to be confused with My Thoughts Thursday.

We're talking about the Dark Side today. And not just any old Luke Skywalker 'use the force' dark side. Characters' dark sides - much more interesting. To put it another way, Carl Jung said that "Where love rules, there is no will to power; and where power predominates, there love is lacking. The one is the shadow of the other." This shadow, which is another term for a character's dark side, is what makes characters so awesome.

Because when they've got shadows, they're just like us. No one can relate to someone who is never selfish or rude or angry or vengeful. Even the kindest and most angelic of us have little shards of dark in our souls. This darkness is what intrigues us about other people, and about characters, too. What a person, fictional or not, does with this darkness tells about them.

Lemme break it down for you.

Let's just build ourselves a nice character. We'll name him Dan. Hi Dan. You're looking swell today. Dan is kind, relatively intelligent, generous, likes long walks on the beach, dipping his toes in the sand, and poking dead things with a stick.

My guess is, you probably got to 'generous' and stopped because you saw that I was just rattling on good traits about him until the end. I tried to get you with the stick thing. But that's not bad. Better to know it's dead than be unpleasantly surprised. But you got bored, right? Dan is no fun just being a good guy. That's why Superman isn't as popular as Batman or Spiderman, because Superman is an all-over do-gooder who really doesn't have many flaws. But Batman is about as close to his shadow as he can get while still being considered a 'good guy', and Spiderman...well he battles his demons, too.

Let's get a little creative with Dan. Good-looking guy, an accountant, brings home bacon for his lovely wife and adorable little two-year-old son Ned. (Why Ned? Why not Ned. Let him make his choices.) But what we neglect to share with the lovely lady and their bouncing offspring is that Ned isn't necessarily always accounting for some good people. He's had a few mafiosos come in, ordering him to clean their money. Dan wasn't into it, but after some well-placed threats regarding his new family, he does as he says. More interesting, right? And that's just the gateway. Before he knows it, Dan's busting kneecaps, has mafia bosses on his speed dial, and can get anywhere in the city without so much as a nod to the right guy. Dan has become someone we're curious about now, right? But how did a well-meaning, moral man end up in the mafia? His dark side. Dan wants to protect his family, and will go to questionable lengths to get it. His dark side is his ability to shirk morals, his 'the ends justify the means' mentality. Keep in mind that this is basic and generally a character's dark side is a bit more involved than that.

Let's try a character we're all familiar with at this point. Hmmm....Katniss. Katniss Everdeen, Girl on Fire. Her dark side is gorgeous. Don't mind me, crazy characterizing nut here. But we see the good in Katniss as we follow her through the books - courageous, protective, logical, intelligent, resilient, survivalist. But she's also got herself a smattering of bad traits - cruel, suspicious, manipulative, quick-tempered, cunning. She is willing to use the parts we consider 'bad' to supplement her goals towards her good parts, even though she admits that she's not a good person. (That's debatable. We'll talk.) But why she makes for such a relatable character is that she's selfish sometimes, she says things she shouldn't that set her back from her goals, she fights, she loses, she gets up and she essentially gives the Capitol the finger and says 'You've taken everything from me, you can't stop me anymore.' Her ability to kill without a second glance is capitalized on.

And then there's her sister. Darling little Primrose Everdeen. Even though you probably should know what happens by now, if not to at least prepare yourself for J. Law's rendition of her in Mockingjay Parts 1 & 2, we can definitely say that Katniss gives all for her sister's safety, to keep protecting her and allowing her to have the childhood and freedom that Katniss didn't get. To (futilely) keep Prim from developing a dark side. But Katniss has no problem using all of her 'dark' traits that she's generally ashamed of in order to help Prim, Peeta, or anyone else she loves. She's not always kind and polite and good-natured. Sometimes, she's downright villainous.

Characters need that, as much as you may hate to make them anything other than perfect or ridiculously evil. Everyone is a mixture of light and dark - in different proportions, obviously, but it's still true. Katniss is loving but cruel. Gale is righteous but dogmatic. Peeta is a persuasive speaker but angers easily.

So I'll wrap this up before this gets too long, but this is what characters need. In the immortal words of Kelly Clarkson, "Everybody's got a dark side/Do you love me, can you love mine?" (answer: Yes. Especially if you have cookies.) People are capable of beautiful and terrible things. Light and dark. Love and cruelty, rebuilding and destruction. Characters that stick with people do that, too. 

Got something to say?
Tell me what you think about my first TTT. Too long, not long enough, have a subject you'd like me to talk about? Hit the comments below.

Complexes and neuroses,

Wednesday, February 5, 2014


So now that I've got a bit more time on my hands since the passage of the first semester of my senior year, I'm resolving to be more organized in how I update this blasted thing. Unfortunately, my lack of tech-savviness is making it hard to figure out how my followers count is still not working, nor how to link this up to twitter or Facebook automatically, but hey. I'll get there sometime.

What I resolve to work on:

-at least 2 posts a week
-Some regular day posts, like Writing Wednesdays or Topic Tuesdays
-Including more pictures and gifs in my posts (because pictures)
-Talking about more things rather than just things about the industry

Although, on a completely unrelated note, I was looking back through all my posts about being excited to be a senior, and I'm laughing because it is not what I expected at all. In fact, this year has probably been my hardest, not my easiest. But hopefully I can enjoy the last few months. Hopefully.

Also, I protested today. The revolutionary that lives inside me was proud. ^_^

But thanks for putting up with me, you guys. I'm glad you've all stuck around!

Senioritis and ice storms,