Archive for the 'Writing' Category

Inspiration.

I just finished Mockingjay a couple of nights ago, even though rightfully I should have been doing homework instead of plowing my way through one of the most impressive series I’ve ever read.  I could fill this post with spoilers, but I’m not going to; I’d rather have people actually go read the trilogy.  I’ve actually been pushing it in the general direction of a lot of people.  Most of these people – to their own loss – have been ignoring me.

The writing style really struck me as I read the trilogy.  At first, I didn’t like it.  It was first person.  It wasn’t first person present, though, so I didn’t hate it.  I got over my frustration with that pretty quickly, though.  I began to notice the setting and the characters.  The descriptions weren’t too much, though.  They were enough.  Enough to spark my imagination.  Collins said “electric fence” and from there I created the interior of the coal-mining town that was District 12.  She described the clothes that Katniss was wearing, but only when it was important and related to Cinna.  It wasn’t over-detailed, like some aspiring authors do, and it’s wasn’t brand specific (it couldn’t be, of course).  Nobody could feel out-of-the-loop about her descriptions.  I think that’s really important.

Her plot was mind blowing.  I keep saying “it’s just a distopia book” and it is… but at the same time, it isn’t.  I really want to go back and re-evaluate ‘Tweens now.  I want to look at my characters and make sure they’re flawed.  I want to describe more.  I want to pinpoint specific references to popular culture and eliminate them.

I want to make my stories very real.  Fantasy enough that the reader can step out of them, but real enough so they cannot forget.

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The Importance of an Interesting Character

Picture by Ben Gagnon Photography

I consider myself an artistic person.  If something has words or pictures, I can create it.  I’m not blessed with the gift of agility and balance, or with a lovely voice, so dancing and singing is pretty much out of the question.  Everything else, however, is free game.  Writing anything, sketching, painting, scrapbooking and other various crafty things… love ’em.  Writing (obviously) is very close to my heart, but so is one other thing – the theatre.

I made my first stage appearance as Clara in a production of the Nutcracker Suite.  Granted, it was fourth grade, and I hit some guy in the audience with my slipper instead of the Rat King… but we don’t need to go there.  Ever since, I have been theatrically inclined.  When I learned that I fail at projection (and singing.  and dancing) I moved to the world of improv theatre, and it came to me naturally.

In theatre, the creation of character is essential.  In larger productions, someone has already created the character for you and all you need to do is apply it and expand it within certain limitations.  Improv is much different.  You step on to that stage a blank slate, and you have about thirty seconds (if you’re lucky) to create a fully rounded character.  You can’t go on stage and say “hi!  I’m like, Mary Sue, and I like,  like, stuff!”  No.  That is fail!improv.  You have to create insta-backstory, motive, fears, likes and dislikes, consistent personality traits, allegiances… everything.  And if you don’t do it well, you lose your chance to charm the audience.

Writing isn’t a whole lot different.

I’m not going to under-appreciate essential points like plot, theme, setting, style, spelling and grammar… but characters are incredibly important in the creation of a good story.  I have kept reading books that I disliked because I liked the characters in them.  I know there are other readers out there like that, too.  I want to feel, breathe, and embrace every major character (and some minor characters) I come across.  I want to feel like, as I read the story, I can step into that character’s shoes and actually be in her world.  Don’t you?

Obviously, we shouldn’t make them too complicated, because then the audience won’t relate at all, and we’ll get those metaphorical tomatoes thrown at us.  But it’s the little things that arouse sympathy and empathy that are important.  I have an acquaintance who loathes the Potter books, but loves Harry because they share a birthday.  We don’t call Marion a traitor in Scarlet because we know that she loves Bran (even though she hasn’t said) and what she’s doing, she is doing for him.  All the bits and pieces.  I can say honestly that I am upset with J.K. Rowling because I feel like Draco Malfoy showed definite signs of redemption, and she denied him that opportunity.  Who knows?  Even a well-placed character may turn your audience against you (but they’ll keep gobbling up your books).  But Kristin Nelson reminds us that appealing a character to the reader is important.

So.  My questions for you are:

1.)  Who are your favorite characters in fiction of all time, and why?
2.)  Have you ever put down a book because you didn’t like the characters?
2b.)  Have you ever kept reading an uninteresting book because you loved the characters?

Flash Fiction Thursday: Thief in the Temple

Ruins of the Temple at Delphi, google search image.

Thief in the Temple

As Artemis’ moon hung big and round and orange in the sky, and Zandra hid behind the towering stone columns and glanced over her shoulders, down the steps of the temple at Delphi.  In the darkness, the streets were empty.  She clasped her hands close to her breast and felt the pounding of her heart.  It was so terrifying and different, it could hardly be her own.  She felt the eyes of Athena on her, and was unprepared for her wrath.  The Oracle was corrupt, and she took the sacrifices and indulges the people brought to her to give false prophecies.  Only a fortnight ago the Oracle had assured her brother’s survival, but now he was dead, in the skirmishes in the countryside.  Adelphous’ story was not the first of the Oracle’s treacheries; he was one of many casualties of her clouded eye.

And so, taking back the gold pieces that they had given the Oracle to barter with the Goddess… it wasn’t thievery.  She could steal nothing from the goddess if it had not been presented to her.  Without Adelphous to mind the household in their father’s continued absense and to help with the grain harvest, they could scarce afford food to survive.  Her mother had already dismissed what servants they could  afford, and now, the family was desperate.  So Zandra had said nothing and disappeared with the cover of night.  She would not tell her mother, her sister.  She would not shame her family.  She would not be caught.

Zandra took her sandals in one hand and took the hem of her white linen dress in the other.  From her many visits, she knew the layout of the temple well.  At night, the Oracle disappeared to a separate room, where she attended to herself, for nobody could see her face.  The priestesses would be retired throughout the temple.  In the moonlight, she could barely make out the shapes of them as the rested on the stone floor.

One step at a time, she walked between the soundly sleeping priestesses.  The altar was at the farthest end of the temple, and she need only to be slow and soft in her footsteps.  There was no sound but her own footsteps, and the breathing of the priestesses.  Sometimes she could feel their breath on her feet as she moved.  The altar stood in front of her now, piled with treasures.  She let the hem of her dress fall to the ground and reached out her free hand to grasp some coins by the edge.

“Awaken!  Awaken!”  a female voice rang like thunder to the sleeping priestesses.  Zandra froze, but even as her mind was paused with fear, her feet knew to flee, and between the rousing devotees of Athena, she ran.

“Awaken!” the voice continued to appeal.  “The Oracle!  Athena has taken the Oracle!”

Zandra did not stay to hear the details.  She ran as quickly as her feet would carry her and did not stop until the Temple at Delphi, now lit with candles, was less than the height of her hand.  In the escape, she had dropped both of her sandals, but it hardly mattered.  She would do without.

Goddess protect them all, the Oracle was dead.

.

Author’s Note:
I’ve been sitting on this idea and will definitely come back to Zandra and Adelphous in a more refined short story, preferably not written while watching Pirates of the Caribbean:  At World’s End.  I don’t think that I could comfortably write a full-length historical fiction novel, but sometimes it’s nice to work with it in short stories.  Gotta use my degree for something, after all.  Was inspired to write something ancient-Greek since I saw My Life in Ruins and Cassandra Jade’s recent post inspired this specific story.
Much love,
Amber

Good Things Come to Those Who Wait

Friends, Romans, and Countrymen!

Guess what!

Something awesome just happened.  Like, two minutes ago.

I finally finished editing chapter four of Fate.  I added a new part to the plot so that I have the theme running more clearly through, and I’m incredibly happy.  Um, I am pretty sure it’s longer than Version 1, but I don’t care.  7,808 words!  DONE!  So excited.

I am going to put off the editing of Chapter Five until next year, though, because I really want to focus on writing, and finishing, ‘Tweens.

Excited!

Admiring Fledglings

If I Eat Pencil, You Cans Not Write.

I got to do my favourite thing at work tonight, and nothing and nobody could stop me.

Once a year, we get these books to photocopy from a local elementary school.  It’s part of a program called WII (and I don’t remember what it stands for, only that it has nothing to do with wars or video games).  Through this, fifth graders write and illustrate (through paper-making, and cut & paste) their own books.  I was in Advanced English in fifth grade, and I remember doing the project.  I don’t for the life of me know where the book went (I suspect my mother is hiding it) but it was called “Jonathan and the Magical Easter Eggs”.  … Yes.  I’ve always been a sucker for the unreal.

I love photocopying this job, because it’s a slow process, and it gives me time to read the books and admire the illustrations.  Some of the kids touch me – there was one dedication that read “I dedicate this to my Oma, who has been battling cancer for two years”.  So sad, and sweet.  And sad.  And some of the kids make me giggle.  One boy wrote a story about being able to make his parents disappear… and of all the things in the world he could do, he went to the beach.  Oh, and no worries, he was lonely at the end, so he made his parents come back.

Aside from simply being adorable, these books give me hope.  Why?  Because out of every batch of twenty, there will be one child that decides to write another story.  And another.  And another.  And a new generation of writers will be born.

The Edit Monster Says “OMNOMNOM!”

Heather Eats Cupcake, 2005

Yesterday I blogged about my difficulties with one of my characters and speaking in her voice.  That is part one of my difficulties with editing Fate, and this is part two: the Edit Monster.

I think everyone has their own Edit Monster.  Mine has wrinkly orange skin and bronze-colored plates like a stegosaurus.  He’s reasonably well-trained and never nips at me.  Edit Monsters certainly do tend to have their own qualities.  Mine, like any child, loves eating out.  Meaning that if I’m editing a friend’s story, it will bleed.  Lots.  And when I edit my own, it bleeds lots too, but later on I find that the Edit Monster hid the brussell sprouts under the napkin and put way too much ketchup on its meatloaf.  After the whole process, yes, I’ve cut out a great deal, but suddenly it seems as though I have a thousand words more than when I started editing.  Um, doesn’t that kind of defy the point?

Personally, I’ve always been a prolific writer.  I volunteer to do the single twenty-page essay because I know that if I try to do the 3-seven-page essays, I’ll end up doing 3-twelve-page essays.  It’s a gift, and sometimes it’s a curse.  I know I’m not alone.  Sammy, over at Access Approved, finished her first novel at over 200 pages.  Mine doesn’t get that far.

So what I want to know is… what type of writer are you?  Does editing sometimes seem add to your work instead of fine-tuning it?  And, most importantly, what does your Edit Monster look like?

Cheers!

Hello Darkness, My Old Friend

Deviant Artist Self-Photo (not me)

Let me set the scene for you.

The air inside the cabin is dank and musty, and you feel your allergies acting up, so you step outside on to the rough wood porch overlooking rolling fields.  The sun is just creeping up behind the farthest green hill, and the sky is splattered in pink and blue.  You’re not alone on the porch, even though it’s just barely sunrise.  But you’re not surprised.

Leaning against the dipped wood rail, her hands are wrapped tight around the bone china teacup.  She doesn’t say anything to you; just flicks her short red hair over her shoulder and takes a sip.  It’s a little strange, seeing an experienced army pilot watching the sunrise and drinking herbal tea from a cup painted with dainty yellow flowers.

Meet Jylouna Martin.

She is my nemesis.

For the last I-don’t-know-how-many-weeks I have been fighting a silent battle with her.  I avoid writing in her perspective because she simply disapproves of it.  Just.  Can’t.  Get.  Into.  Her.  Voice.  Ever. I love her character (I love all my characters) but whenever I read back what I have written I feel like crumbling up a piece of paper and throwing it violently at… something.  Only I write on my computer, and it’s harder to crumble my laptop screen.

I was pacing back and forth in my room when I reopened Chapter Four of Fate for editing.  Partially because Jyla was up to her old “you’re-going-to-write-in-my-voice?–I-think-not” tricks, but my difficulties were also coming from a different character:  Timothy Brown.  Since my goal is to finish ‘Tweens by the end of the year, I’ve been writing, even thinking a lot in Timmy’s voice.  So as I was trying to write Jyla, I was writing Timmy.  Editing is slow.

Ever have that problem?  A character voice you have a lot of trouble writing in?  What is your greatest difficulty when switching efforts from one work-in-progress to another?

Also, I wanted to share this.  I know I’m three months early, but I just discovered the band All Caps and I thought maybe some people could relate to the sentiment of this video.


tweet-a-twitter-twoo?

something to think about

"You know, I don't know if you'll understand this or not, but sometimes, even when I'm feeling very low, I'll see some little thing that will somehow renew my faith. Something like that leaf, for instance - clinging to its tree despite wind and storm. You know, that makes me think that courage and tenacity are about the greatest values a man can have. Suddenly my old confidence is back and I know things aren't half as bad as I make them out to be. Suddenly I know that with the strength of his convictions a man can move mountains, and I can proceed with full confidence in the basic goodness of my fellow man. I know that now. I know it." ~ End of Act I in the musical You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown.

competing for the house cup

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