Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Letter to Vorsilla

To Vorsilla, protagonist of my Camp NaNo novel,

I know our time together has been short, but my dear, things must change. To be blunt, you are not sympathetic. Instead of hating Mr. Snyder and feeling sorry for you, I think he's being reasonable and you're letting your emotions control you. Did you really think that insulting him was going to do any good? You kind of deserved to get thrown out of the house.

This will not do. If I don't like to write you, no one will like to read you. I want to feel sorry for you, but I don't. I sympathize with your situation, not you. You are a frosty, unfriendly, rude, and so blinded by your rage and jealousy and hatred that you don't realize you're only making things worse for yourself. Instead of feeling your rage and jealousy and hatred right along with you, I'm shaking my head at your complete incompetence at dealing with people.

I know this is not entirely your fault. It's my fault, actually, as I am your author. And while starting out as a very flawed character means that you have a great deal of potential for a character arc (more than all of my previous MCs combined, actually), you are so flawed as to scare the reader away as you scare everyone around you away. My dear, you have no redeeming qualities. Your competence at running a household does not make up for the fact that you are unlikable.

This, however, is fixable. You may be a little rain cloud of anger and despair at the moment, but we will find your silver lining, and from there build a beautiful rainbow of a character arc. (Yes, this does mean that at some point you will have to experience positive emotions. and crawl out of your frostbitten shell.)

It will not be easy, and we may not make 50k by the end of Camp NaNo, but at the very least I will have learned a great deal more about working with a character like yourself. And I promise, you will have your happy ending. If any character of mine has deserved it... well, actually the person that deserves it the most is Viola, but you are also deserving, and I will deliver. (Though it won't be anything close to what you expected or think you want.)

I ask that you assist me in this matter. Perhaps together we can resolve this issue and see your happy ending come to pass.

Ever imaginatively,
Your author. 

Monday, March 31, 2014

Finishing Party, Camp NaNo Plans (or the Lack Thereof), and Another Frozen Parody


I am so thrilled to be done with this draft. It's just as holey and in need of fixing as the first draft, but the holes this time are slightly smaller and lots of loose ends have been cut away.

The final word count is 83,165, though there are several spots where I glossed over what happened by putting down [Stuff happens.] I'll fill those in later. I also broke my record for most words written in a day. It was previously somewhere around 6k, and now it is somewhere around 8k.

Many thanks to those of you who have encouraged me throughout this process, and extra thanks to Christophe Beck and Frode Fjellheim for the Frozen score. I think I must have listened to it half a dozen times last night. The pieces The Great Thaw (Vuelie Reprise) and Epilogue were perfect for finishing this story.

What's next for me, you ask? Well, the sequel to this book, brilliantly titled Book 2, which will be my Camp NaNo project. And which apparently I'll be pantsing, as I have very little idea as to what the plot is. Here's the basic blurb:

“For the last three years, Silla has run her father’s household for him while an illness slowly drained him of life. Now that he’s dead, the estate should be hers. But her father’s will says otherwise. He left it to her vile cousin, Mr. Snyder. And he’s just kicked her out of the house.
Homeless, hurt, and confused, Silla gets taken in by her second-least-favorite relative, Gwendolyn Copperstone. Silla's life looks like one doomed to misery until she hears about [crime], and she has evidence that Mr. Snyder did it. Unfortunately, revealing this evidence would mean revealing a secret she'd rather keep hidden. So she decides to take the investigation into her own hands. If she can prove Mr. Snyder did it, he’ll go to jail, and she’ll have the estate that rightfully belongs to her.”

So, I have motive for my MC, but I have no idea what crime is to be committed, or what that secret of hers is. The plot bunny that was the original idea for this book was "Hey, if I stick Gwen, Silla, and Merig under the same roof, there will be fireworks, as they all don't like each other. Cool! Let's do it!" It's changed a bit since then, but that's still the gist of it. I also know that I want Lord Delstone, the "nomantic" interest from Noxumbra to be involved. There are things about him I'd like to reveal.  Other things I've been thinking about with this are story telling bits I'd like to try out. More red herrings, a villain you really wish had done it but didn't, perhaps some political intrigue. We'll see. If I'm pantsing, who knows what will happen. 

In celebration of the slightly-panicked, plotless state I'm in, I wrote a short parody to the first verse of For the First Time in Forever from Frozen. 

"My plot folder’s empty, this is bad. What will I do without a plan? Camp NaNo’s gonna start in two days. For years I’ve plotted out my books, figured out the characters, subplots, and hooks, but this year all I have are ideas vague. I won’t know what’s going to happen, it’ll be totally strange. I am so not ready for this change. ‘Cause for the first time in forever, I won’t have any plans. For the first time in forever, I’m gonna have to pants. Don’t know if I’m nervous or crazy, but I’m somewhere in that zone. ‘Cause for the first time in forever, I’ll have my wits alone."

Good luck to those of you doing Camp, or any other writing project. 

And with that, I bid you adieu. I'm off to try and figure out Book 2's plot a bit more. Kirk out.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Some Thoughts on (Somewhat) Deceptive Back Cover Blurbs

This week I finished reading The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde. It was fun and funny with some cool alternate-reality worldbuilding and I enjoyed it. However, the story I read was not the one the back cover blurb led me to expect.  Here's the blurb:

"Welcome to a surreal version of Great Britain, circa 1985, where time travel is routine, cloning is a reality (dodos are the resurrected pet of choice), and literature is taken very, very seriously. England is a virtual police state where an aunt can get lost (literally) in a Wordsworth poem, militant Baconians heckle performances of Hamlet, and forging Byronic verse is a punishable offense. All this is buisiness as usual for Thursday Next, renowned Special Operative in literary detection, until someone begins kidnapping characters from works of literature. When Jane Eyre is plucked from the pates of Bronte's novel, Thursday must track down the villain and enter a novel herself to avert a heinous act of literary homicide."

Here's what I deduced about the story from this blurb:
- The worldbuilding is going to be lots of fun
- Jane's kidnapping is going to be the inciting incident
- We won't know who the villain is until the end
- Thursday is going to enter the novel fairly early in the story

Only one of my deductions was correct: The worldbuilding was really fun. Jane did not get kidnapped until around page 300, we knew who the villain was in the first five chapters, and Thursday didn't enter the novel until near the end (the novel is where the final battle took place.)

Now, everything the blurb talked about did happen. It wasn't that the information it presented was wrong, but the way in which it was presented led me to believe certain things about the story that weren't true. This took a little of the fun out of reading, because I was expecting things that weren't happening and weren't happening and weren't happening. As a result, the beginning felt a little slow. I kept waiting for the mystery to start, and it was taking it's sweet time. Who cares about Thursday's nutty inventing uncle? Why does it matter that she meets the werewolf-catching guy? Do I really need to hear more about that war she fought in? I thought I'd been promised Jane's kidnapping, so where was it?

As it turned out, the nutty uncle and the werewolf catcher and the war were all important pieces of groundwork that played huge parts in the climax (in fact, there wouldn't have been a story without one of the uncle's inventions,) but because I expected something different, they felt like they slowed the story down.

Here's what I think would have been a slightly better blurb (may contain mild spoilers, as it includes information not presented in the actual blurb, and I'm a not the best blurb writer):

"First the original manuscript of Dickens' Martin Chuzzlewit is stolen. All clues point to one man, Acheron Hades, a villain of the basest sort. Who is also invincible. After a showdown in which Hades supposedly died, Thursday's uncle and aunt are kidnapped, along with her uncle's Prose Portal, a device that softens the line between fiction and reality, allowing people from either side to cross to the other. Again, all evidence points to Hades. The official record may be that he died, but Thursday is sure he's alive, and that he has both the Chuzzlewit manuscript and her uncle's machine. If the Prose Portal is used on an original manuscript, the user could change the story forever. He could kill characters, and they would simply disappear, never to be read about ever again. Thursday and the other literature detectives must stop Hades before he does something to Chuzzlewit, or any other original manuscript he can get his hands on."

That isn't a great blurb by any means, but it is (in my opinion) truer to the story. We know who the villain is, so it looks like a "How're we gonna stop him?" as opposed to a "Whodunnit?", we know that Thursday's uncle's machine is involved in the story, and that the villain now has some serious power over what happens in Martin Chuzzlewit, or whatever other original manuscripts he can get his hands on.  And it doesn't mention Jane Eyre, who doesn't really make an appearance until the end anyway (though there is foreshadowing from the very beginning).

Now, that could be considered a good thing, in that it adds some surprise to the end of the story (Oh, no! Hades has Jane Eyre! What ever will Thursday do?!), however, from a marketing standpoint, it could be considered a weakness. Jane Eyre is far more loved that Martin Chuzzlewit. Readers, I should think, are more likely to pick up a book in which Jane Eyre is harmed than Martin Chuzzlewit. Chances are most people have never even heard of Martin Chuzzlewit, so who cares about him? Mentioning Jane instead of Martin raises the stakes by putting the more beloved book in danger.

From that standpoint, I can see why they'd mention Jane instead of Martin. But the cost of that is annoyed readers waiting and waiting for Jane's kidnapping. And possibly putting the book down when that doesn't happen soon enough. (At one point I read the first chapter of Brandon Sanderson's The Rithmatist because The Eyre Affair was too slow.) I'm no professional nor do I have any experience in marketing, but potentially annoying the reader seems like a kinda steep cost to me.

The Eyre Affair was still a really fun book, and I might pick up the sequel, but I do think there's a lesson to be learned from it in how readers interpret back cover blurbs: Don't make the book look like something it isn't, and by talking about the climax instead of the inciting incident, you risk annoying the reader. Readers are impatient and want to be thinking "What happens next?" not "When is XYZ going to happen?"

What do you think? Have you ever been annoyed by a deceptive back cover? What were your thoughts? 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Scholarships and Song Parodies

So, this morning I did something new. I applied for a scholarship to the Writing Excuses Out of Excuses Writing Retreat. If I get it, I'll be going to a week-long writing retreat in Tennessee in September. The chances of getting it are extremely slim, but a girl can dream, right?

In other news, I've written two writerly parodies of songs from Frozen, which I shall post below for your enjoyment.

Let it Go

The page glows white on my Word doc tonight, not a letter to be seen.
A kingdom of prose and plot holes, and it looks like I'm the queen.
The wind is howling like this new idea inside. Cannot keep it in, I won't even try.
No don't come in, just let me be, write the story inside of me. Put on some tunes and start to think, get in the flow!

Let it go, let it go! Won't hold it back anymore. Let it go, let it go! Turn the lock and slam the door. I don't care what my inner heckler says. Let the words rage on. Late nights never bothered me anyway.

It's funny how some distance, makes plot bunnies seem small, and the fears that once controlled me can't get to me at all. It's time to see what the story will do, to test the charries and hurt them too. They'll right the wrongs, just wait and see. I'll set them free.

(Demi Lovato version: Out here in my own new world, I'm finally free. Sometimes I like reality, but tonight I need to dream.)

Let it go, let it go, watch my words and fingers fly. Let it go, let it go, and make the readers cry! Here I'll sit and here I'll stay. Let the words rage on.

The letters fill the page with inspiration found.
My soul is flourishing in plot threads twisting all around.
And one thought crystallizes in an evil laugh.
I'm never giving up, I will finish this draft!

Let it go, let it go, I'll sleep at the break of dawn. Let it go, let it go, my story will be done. Here I sit in the light of day. Let the words rage on! Late nights never bothered me anyway.

Bonus lyrics from Connie Jean:
I don't care what beta-readers say
Let the charries die
Death threats never bothered me anyway.

Do You Want to Have a Word War? 
(Thanks to Robyn Hoode for giving me that line.)
(There are two characters in this song, who I've called Lizzie and Phillip.) 

Lizzie, at Phillip's door: Do you want to have a word war? Come on let's write away. There's not a single word on my page, I've been stuck all day, this scene I kinda hate. I've been procrastinating, on my Facebook wall, just watching the hours fly by. Do you want to have a word war? It doesn't have to be a long one.
Phillip: No, I have to study.
Lizzie: Okay, fine.

Lizzie: Do you want to have a word war? It's been an awesome day. I brainstormed nearly half the night, and I need to write, before my inspiration fades! I might have to kill an MC, but I'm not sure. Competition will help my flow. Will you please come have a word war?

*A scene of Lizzie at her computer. Her expression changes from neutral to horrified and sad.*

Lizzie: Phillip, I need your help please. I need you sage advice. This scene hit me in the feels. It really hurts. I think I'm gonna cry! I tried not to kill the MC, I really did, but the plot said otherwise. I don't know what to do now...

Later, Phillip, at Lizzie's door: Lizzie, I know you're in there. People've been asking where you've been. I know the end was really hard, and awfully sad, and left your heart in shards. But look your story's finished. You met your goal. Just look at what you can do! Do you want to have a word war? Here, I brought some chocolate.

Those were so much fun to write. If you have any of your lyrics to add, post 'em in a comment!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Ten Books That Have Influenced Me (and a Free Ebook)

Hello, chaps.

Bethany from Ramblings of a Young Author tagged me in with the Top Ten Most Influential Books tag, so here's my list, in no particular order.

1. Embassy by S. Alex Martin.
This one is free this weekend on Amazon, which is why I put it first on the list. Go download it. It's fun.
I started reading Embassy last summer when Mr. Martin put out a request for beta readers on the Go Teen Writers Facebook group. I'd been thinking about reading someone else's story at the time since my dad and I had recently talked about critique partners, so I thought, "Why not? He only wants someone to read the first chapter, I'll give it a go." Three other readers and I worked with him over the next several months as he polished and polished and then published it. The book itself didn't influence me much (though it is a good book and I did enjoy it) but the process of working with Mr. Martin and the other betas was hugely influential and I loved it. So, go download Embassy while it's free. Read it! Enjoy it! Find my name in the acknowledgements!

2. The Harry Potter books by J. K. Rowling.
When my parents read me the first one when I was little, I thought "I want to write books like J. K. Rowling does!" Did I write any stories then? No. (Though for a while I told my sister bedtime stories every night.) Writing was for the future, and why worry about that when there were imaginary friends to play with? I didn't really start writing until I tried to get out of writing a book report by writing a story instead. I think I was about twelve. Mom didn't go for that, but I kept writing that story anyway. That awful thing was the inspiration for my first, awful novel.

3. The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede.
Dealing with Dragons and the following books were the first fantasies I truly fell in love with. I've read the whole series at least twice, and plan on reading them again someday.

4. The Trixie Belden books by Julie Campbell and Kathryn Kenny
My mom bought all but four of the Trixie books while she was growing up (34 total), and my dad read all of them out loud to my sister and I. (He read out loud to us every night for YEARS.) They are falling apart, especially the oldest ones, but I loved them and they fostered my love of mysteries. Same can be said for The Boxcar Children books.

5. The Hank the Cowdog books by John R. Erickson
These are some of the funniest books I've ever read. Or, listened to. The author reads the audiobooks and sings all of Hank's funny songs, and they are fantastic. Like plastic. (Bonus points if you get that reference.) Many a long car trip or day helping my dad at work was spent listening to Hank.

6. All the Shakespeare I read in middle school.
Gotta love the Bard and his poetic, if sometimes practically indecipherable dialogue. I know, technically these are plays and not books, but whatever.

7 and 8. Little Dorrit and Bleak House by Charles Dickens
Little Dorrit is actually the only Dickens I've read, but I've seen the TV miniseries for each a couple times, so I know the stories. As I've said before, I love the complexity of the plots and the characters and how everything ties in at the end.

9. Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson
I read the Mistborn series last summer, and was blown away by the characters and the plotting. Yes, the books are sometimes creepy and bloody and gruesome but they are AMAZING. I'm thinking about dressing up as Vin for Halloween. Mr. Sanderson was the first author in recent memory to do something I usually dislike in a story and make me love it anyway.

10. The textbooks I've read over the years, especially the science ones and my American government book.
Call me a nerd if you want, because I am one. These books have taught me so much and helped me understand the world better and write better. Pretty much the only reason I read the gov book after that class was cancelled is because I knew I'd be able to apply what I learned to worldbuilding governments. (And I was so right.)

Other books worthy of mention, because top ten just doesn't cover it: almost anything by Dr. Seuss, Eragon and following books by Christopher Paolini, the Bible, Laddie by Gene Stratton-Porter, Gone-Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright, The Blood of Kings series by Jill Williamson, and all that poetry Mom made me read in middle school.

I'm not going to tag anyone specifically, so if you want to participate in the tag, go for it! Or feel free to tell me about some of the books that have influenced you in a comment.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Fear, Loneliness and Love: Themes in Frozen

Last weekend, I got to see Disney's latest movie, Frozen, a retelling of Hans Christian Anderson's The Snow Queen. 

It was fantastic. I cried. Twice. The characters were, in my opinion, some of the best and most three-dimensional in Disney history, and the music was wonderful. But what made me love it the most were the themes and messages that went along with the story, which are going to be the subject of this post.

Just a quick warning, I will divulge SPOILERS. So if you haven't seen it yet, read at your own risk.

The three biggest themes were Elsa's fear, Anna's loneliness, and true love. I'll talk about Elsa first.

Elsa's fear is actually the biggest antagonist in the film. If she didn't fear her powers and what might happen if they are discovered, it would be a very different story. Fear is Elsa's prison, and in the first act, she flees to the mountains to try and escape. She thinks isolation and freedom will free her. But by the end of the movie, she realizes she's wrong (more on that in a minute.)

In reaction to her fear, Elsa takes steps that could easily lead her down a path to villainy. At one point during the song "Let it Go" she sings "No right, no wrong, no rules for me. I'm free."  Not exactly something you generally hear from one of the main characters in a movie meant for children. However, I think that's Elsa rebelling against the strictness of her past, and she's caught up in the joy of not being afraid. She's so grateful to be free from fear that she's taking it a little too far. (Very human thing to do.) 

Fear informs a good  portion of Elsa's actions. Fear of hurting someone, fear of being found out, fear of doing something wrong. By fleeing to the mountains, she's freeing herself of that fear. (Or thinks she is.) If there is no right or wrong and she's alone, then she doesn't have to worry anymore. She doesn't need to fear herself anymore. But that's not how it works out. You can't just run from the things that cause you fear, especially when the person you fear hurting loves you and is willing to climb a mountain to find you. When Anna comes to find Elsa, Elsa clings to her isolation because it's the first time she's felt safe and unafraid. The same happens when Hans and his posse come to find her. Then the Duke of Weselton's minions try to kill her, only because they're trying to kill her, she reacts more violently (completely understandable). It's not until Hans says "Don't be the monster they think you are" that she realizes she has one foot on the path to villainy, (much as you hate him by the end, he did do something right) and she pulls back a little from said path to the dark side. Like I said before, the characters in Frozen were arguably some of the most human and three-dimensional in Disney history. Humans have flaws, and they make mistakes.  Elsa's flight to the mountains and saying "no right, no wrong, no rules for me" illustrates one of her flaws, or at least a flaw in her thinking.

The lyrics in "Let it Go" highlight her emotional state, and give a glimpse at what's in her head. She thinks freedom and isolation will solve her problems. In the end, she's wrong. Love solves her problems. Like the troll said at the beginning, fear is her enemy, but it was her own fear that did most of the damage. Fear was her prison, but it wasn't isolation or freedom from rules that freed her. It was love, conquering her fear, and accepting her power that set her free. 

Now that I think about it, you could find a message of acceptance in there too. Trying to be who everyone wants you to be will only make you unhappy and drive you crazy. You will be much happier of you accept yourself for who you are and stop telling yourself that the things that make you awesome aren't good enough because society doesn't think they make you awesome. (Obviously you wouldn't want to tell a psychopathic killer that, but no piece of advice or anecdote works in every situation.)

Side note: Since fear is the antagonist, by extension, her parents could be considered accidental antagonists, because it was they who taught her to squish her powers. As a friend of mine pointed out, the unsuccessful squishing of the powers only made her more afraid of them, which only made them more powerful because they're worse when she's upset, which made her more afraid, which made them more powerful... A never-ending cycle that made things worse and worse as she grew up. But bless her poor parents' hearts, they thought they were helping, even if they were totally blind to the fact that Elsa shutting herself away was not the best option for anyone. Which brings me to Anna...

Because Elsa shut herself away, Anna got terribly lonely, as illustrated in the songs "Do You Want to Build a Snowman?" (the first thing that made me cry), "For the First Time in Forever", and "Love Is an Open Door".  Loneliness is her prison. She's spent the majority of her childhood alone, wondering why Elsa suddenly abandoned their friendship. 

Fast-forward to the night of Elsa's coronation, and Anna meets Hans. Adorable, charming Hans, who talks to her and likes her. For the first time in forever, she doesn't feel alone. Someone is actually paying attention to her and cares about her. (Well, so it appears to her.) She thinks he's the key to unlocking  her lonely prison. But, just like Elsa thought isolation and freedom were keys to her prison, by the end of the movie Anna finds out she's wrong. 

Anna lets us know just how much loneliness influences her worldview when she and Kristoff get to Elsa's ice palace. Kristoff says "People generally go to the mountains to be alone," to which Anna replies, "No one wants to be alone." No one wants to be alone. She's been alone most of her life and she hates it, so she cannot comprehend why someone would want to be alone. And she's so desperate for love that she's willing to marry a man she just met.

Over the course of the movie, these two themes, fear and loneliness, come into conflict repeatedly -- Anna at Elsa's door during "Do You Want to Build a Snowman?", Anna wanting to marry a man she just met, to which Elsa says no (yay!), Anna chasing Elsa up the mountain -- which makes the story all the more interesting. There's another vicious cycle there, actually. Because Anna is lonely, she tries to get Elsa to play, but Elsa just draws further back because she's scared of hurting Anna.

Anna's life has been one of closed doors -- the castle gates and Elsa's door -- and then she meets Hans and they sing "Love Is an Open Door".  She jumps at the chance to love and to be loved by someone. But in the end, it's the door that's been closed to her for so long that needs to open before they can all find resolution.  Which brings me to the last theme...

True love. This is a Disney princess movie, so of course true love was a theme. But what was really marvelous about Frozen was that it wasn't a romantic true love that saved the day. It was the love between sisters. The key to both prisons, fear and loneliness, was sisterly love. After however many years of Disney movies where "true love's kiss" saved the day, it was really nice to have a story where that didn't happen. 

At the very end, when Anna has to choose between saving herself or her sister, she throws herself in front of a swinging sword. Despite the fact that Elsa has shut her out for most of their lives, Anna still saves her. That would be the second scene that made me cry. This type of love is so much more powerful than "I met you yesterday, and now I'll kiss your seemingly dead body so you'll wake up!" Though I will give Flynn Rider from Tangled some credit. Romantic love based on a short acquaintance that may have been, the scene where he cuts off Rapunzel's hair is so sweet. 

Another friend of mine was disappointed that Kristoff's love of ice had nothing to do with helping Elsa deal with her ice powers, and I see his point, but I love that it wasn't romantic love that saved the day in the end. The way Frozen ends breaks two tropes: the "Prince saves the Princess" trope and the "True love's kiss" trope. Anna got to save herself by sacrificing herself, odd as that sounds. In a way, Elsa saved her life by nearly causing her death. If Anna hadn't frozen to ice when Hans brought down his sword, she would have died. That's kinda twisted, but fun.

Those three themes--fear, loneliness, and love--wind around and feed each other in a complex web of emotions and motivations that makes the characters feel real and relatable, and that is what, I think, makes Frozen such a good movie.

Also worth checking out: my friend Sarah from Inklined is doing a wonderful series of posts about the plotting of Frozen, examining the main characters' arcs and the plot points in them. As I write this, she's posted part one and part two, and there's more to come.

While you're here and we're talking about Frozen, go check out the Africanized version of "Let it Go" by Alex Boye (that sounds kinda weird, I know, but trust me it's fabulous), the hilarious Google Translate-slaughtered version of "Let it Go", and the equally hilarious, but decidedly morbid parody "Will You Help Me Hide a Body?" 
If you've seen Frozen, what do you think of my analysis? What did you think about these or other themes in Frozen?

Monday, February 10, 2014

Smell the Paint and Taste the Sawdust

Hello, Chaps.

As you probably noticed, I've made a few changes to my blog's look. We're under construction. I'm still figuring it out, so you'll see some other changes as I procrastinate writing to make them.

That's about it. I have a post half-written about character-driven vs. plot-driven stories... but it turned into this weird, nonsensical, paradox thing that had my head spinning. So this is all for today.

And a lovely day to you.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Character Study: Rumpelstiltskin


My family recently finished watching the first season of the TV show Once Upon a Time, the premise of which is that the Evil Queen has banished all the fairytale characters to a world where there are supposedly no happy endings: our world.

My very favorite character arc is that of Rumpelstiltskin, one of the villains. Now, I'm not a girl that loves villains. I know there are people out there who just love Loki and Moriarty, but I am not one of them. Rumpel was the first villain (in recent memory) that I really, really liked. For this post, I'm going to try and explain what I think caused me to like him so much, and what makes him such a compelling character and villain. I've thought of two big reasons.

1. His back story. Actually, I just looked at his page on the OUAT Wiki, and there's a lot about him that I don't know yet, so I'm not sure I can accurately speak on this subject. The point I had in mind was that before he got his powers, he was very weak. He walked with a limp, he was scared of losing his son, and he was a bit of a coward. After he got his powers, though, that all changed. He went and single-handedly stopped a war, he had powers that let him do pretty much whatever he wanted, and people were scared of him. He wasn't the weak man people picked on any more. After a lifetime of being a weak coward, I imagine the confidence and powers he gained were addictive, and fed something in him that relished being the powerful one people feared. Therefore he loved his powers, and never wanted to go back to the way things were before.

We sympathize with that. We feel for the underdog and like to see him rise to greatness... it's just that Rumpelstiltskin's form of greatness was also a form of evil.

2. There are things that he loves, and they come into conflict. I've heard the advice before that giving your villain something he loves makes him more interesting, and Rumpel really drove that home. There are three big things he loves: his son, Belle, and his power. Twice during this season, he has to choose between a person he loves and his power. Both times, he chooses his power. And he regrets it.

I think part of what makes this work is that we also love the people he loves. We want to see him pick them. Because the people he loves are good, and they have just a little bit of power over him, there's always a shred of hope that they'll turn him to the good side. And that doesn't fade when he chooses his power over those he loves, because he regrets those choices, and we hope that he will learn from his regret and become good.

And despite the fact that he's freaky and scary, we feel sympathetic toward him, because he lost someone he loved (and we loved), and that's sad. 

If what he loved was a really nasty cat that bit and clawed everyone but him, we wouldn't care. He's evil, and he loves and evil cat. So what? That's not as interesting as an evil person loving someone good, and seeing the conflict between their goodness and evil. In the cat example, we'd just want to see the cat die. Now, if the cat DID die, and we saw him suffer for it, that might be interesting, but I don't think it would have the emotional impact that Rumpelstiltskin losing his son had.

In my opinion, the things Rumpel loves and the fact that they conflict with each other are the main reasons why he's such and interesting and complex character. The back story just informs this and makes it all the more powerful.

And just for fun, what if cat in the cat example were actually a person? Say, and evil wife or brother or best friend, but who was just as evil as the villain. If he lost that person, the audience wouldn't care as much. Actually, depending on the context of the story, it could still be interesting, but my point is that if the audience as well as the villain cares for this brother/best friend/wife/whatever, then we will mourn their loss with the villain, instead of just understanding why he's upset and waiting for the heroes to shoot him.

What do you think of my analysis? Have you come to other conclusions? I'd love to hear what you think, even if you've never seen Once Upon a Time and want to use another character as an example.

And a lovely day/afternoon/morning/whatever to you. 

Sunday, January 12, 2014

TCWT January 2014 blog chain: Dream Co-authors

Time for another Teens Can Write, Too! blog chain. This month's theme is:

“If you could co-write a book with one author–living or not–who would it be and what would the book be about?”

This is a good one.

First of all, I'm not sure I'd want to actually co-author something, but maybe just be apprenticed to a great writer and learn from them. Of course, if I did that, I'd probably give my input on the book, so I'd sort of be co-authoring.


Since this prompt includes dead authors, I choose Charles Dickens. I've only read Little Dorrit, and the first chapter or so of Bleak House, but I've seen the miniseries based on each multiple times, and the characters and plotting are amazing. Everyone is connected to someone else and influences the plot in some way. It's spectacular.

Example from Little Dorrit (CONTAINS SPOILERS): Ms. Wade, a side character you don't see too often, meets Arthur Clennam (the love interest) in Marseille, where they also meet the Meagles. Arthur starts to fall for the Meagle's daughter, Pet. Pet, however, as the story progresses, falls for Mr. Gowan. Who you later find out jilted Ms. Wade. Now, Ms. Wade also tries to lure Harriet, the Meagle's adopted daughter-but-they-treat-her-like-a-favorite-servant away from the Meagles. When, in the middle of the story, Harriet finally leaves the Meagles and goes to live with Ms. Wade, you find out Ms. Wade is involved with Riguad, a creepy-as-all-get-out murderer. He gives her a box to her for safe keeping. Eventually, out of boredom, Harriet opens it, and finds blackmail-worthy documents about Arthur, his family, and how it connects to Little Dorrit's family. Ms. Wade is also involved with Mr. Casby, who monkeys with the plot in other ways, and who's daughter was once in love with Arthur.


Oh, delicious complexity. I could learn so much from Dickens. About characters, plotting, weaving together subplots...

The downside, other than his being dead, is that while his stories are genius (at least the one's I've read/seen) his prose can be kind of... tedious to read sometimes. Given that the man was paid by the word, this is not surprising, but it might drive me crazy. However, the opening chapter of Bleak House starts with this wonderful description of fog, so I could still learn from it. I could learn to be patient with lengthy and verbose prose if it meant I could write with him.

As to what our book would be about... Well, it'd be set in Victorian England, obviously, and be nice and complex, with lots of different emotions and subplots. Maybe the MC(s) would go through a couple of changes of circumstance. Rags to riches, perhaps. Maybe it could involve pirates. And one character could be a grave digger. (Random ideas.)

My second choice would be Brandon Sanderson (and he's even alive!), the author of the Mistborn books, which are currently my favorite series. I've learned so much from his Writing Excuses podcast, I'm sure I'd learn even more working with him. (Confession: I've daydreamed about being a guest star on Writing Excuses.) Like Dickens, his plotting and characters are wonderful, as are his magic systems. The biggest downside to working with him would be the fact that he writes books the size of my thesaurus. Of course, so did Dickens, and Sanderson's prose isn't such a loquacious quagmire. So, were I to co-author with either of them, I would have to learn to be patient with very long books. There are worse things to endure.

If I were to write a book with Sanderson, it would have an awesome magic system, mind-blowing plot twists, and characters I adored. Maybe it, too, would be about pirates and grave diggers. Grave digging magic system, maybe...?

Maybe not. 

I believe that is all I have to say on this matter at this time. Be sure to check out the rest of the posts on the chain!

5th –
6th –
7th –
8th –
9th –
10th – [Andrea. No link for her yet.] ... Hmm. Okay then.
11th –
12th –
13th –
14th –
15th –
16th –
17th –
18th – (We’ll be announcing the topic for next month’s chain.)

And a lovely day/night/whatever to you all! 

Sunday, December 29, 2013

You Know You're a Writer When....

Sarah of Inklined has tagged me in the You Know You're a Writer When tag! To participate in this tag, I have to list four to six signs of being a writer, without knowingly copying anyone else, and then tag as many other bloggers as I want.

You know you're a writer when....

1. You look up pictures of small pox and burn scars on Pinterest.

2. You have a little scribe in your head taking notes about politics/people/human nature/whatever when your parents/other people have conversations in front of you.

3. You sometimes psychoanalyze yourself and the people around you and characters you see in books and movies, and then apply what you learned/figured out to your own characters. 

4. Most of the time you spend on Facebook involves interacting with other writers.

5. You have this morbid fascination for really old cemeteries and the people buried there and their stories.

6. You daydream of people drawing fan art of your characters.

And now to tag people...
Bethany (Thanigan) of Ramblings of a Young Author
Leah (Canon) of Apassionata
Liam of This Page Intentionally Left Blank 
S. Alex Martin (Scalex) of Get it Write Tonight!
And YOU, fair reader, should you wish to participate.

And a lovely day/night/afternoon/whatever to you.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Giving My MC Flaws (and Also My Birthday)

So, for the past...Oh, I forget how long, I've been worried that my MC, Gwen, is not flawed enough and too much like me.

I think I have fixed that. Here's what I did:

Sitting at the table the other night I thought "Well, if she needs flaws, and I'm worried about her being too much like me, why don't I give her flaws I don't have?"

Obvious though that may seem in hindsight, it was totally a light bulb moment. So, I started brainstorming a list of general flaws to pick-and-choose from. Greed, pride, prejudice, vanity... And after a few minutes I went and did a Google search to see if anyone had already made a list so I wouldn't have to do all that list-building work. What I found is this: Dark World RGP Character Flaw list. This is actually something I'd seen before in a Character Therapist blog post, but this time I actually looked through the list for possible flaws for my MC.

So. Much. Fun. Yes, I know that's weird. But I love brainstorming, and basically what I was doing was going through and picking out potential flaws and brainstorming why she might have them and how they might affect her and the story. Doing that helped me dig into her character and made her feel less flat and me-like.

Something else I thought: Not all flaws are created equal. Some flaws will be more prevalent in your character and do more damage than others. I haven't really put this to use yet, but I have it written down to think about as I revise/write.

(Another resource I found, but didn't really use is the TV Tropes Character Flaw Index. It looked useful too.) 

The point of this post condensed into one sentence: If you're having trouble with your MC being flat or too much like you, try brainstorming flaws for him/her that you don't have and that fit into the story, hindering or helping the characters as need be. Actually, let me rephrase that. Give them traits that make them act in ways you wouldn't.

So. That's that. Hopefully someone will read this and it'll help them figure out their characters. In other news, today is my 18th birthday, and also the two year blogoversary of this little corner of the Internet. This means I have now known some of my online friends for over two years, and that makes me happy. In celebration of all this, I might be changing the appearance of this blog soon. I've been thinking it needs a makeover, I just haven't done it yet.

Chances are I won't post again until after Christmas, so happy holidays to you!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

TCWT: If I Could Live in a Book...

Hello, chaps.

The Teens Can Write, Too! blog chain is back! This month's prompt is:
Which fictional world would you most like to be a part of, and what role do you think you would fulfill within it?

Oh, this question. It's almost as bad as "What's your favorite book?" or "Who's your favorite character?"

I've read lots of books with cool worlds. For this post, I've narrowed my answer to this question to three.

Hogwarts from J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series
Harry Potter is and shall always be one of my favorite fantasies. I wouldn't mind being an herbology professor at Hogwarts. Or maybe a shopkeeper in Hogsmead or Diagon Alley.

The Enchanted Forest from Patricia C. Wrede's Enchanted Forest Chronicles
I have read these books three times (I think), and I could read them all over again. The Enchanted Forest sits under the Mountains of Morning and is full of cool creatures and witches and people and magic things. I would probably be a witch like the cat-loving Morwen.

Alloy of Law era Scadrial from Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn series.
Mistborn is my favorite fantasy right now. Alloy of Law is the fourth book in the series, taking place three hundred years after the original trilogy. To avoid spoilers, all I'll say is it's set in an Industrial Revolution kind of setting. If you want more details about this world and magic system, go read Liam's post from earlier in the chain. He explained Scadrial already, so I won't bother doing it too. Not sure what role I'd fill in this society, though.

Hmm. I picked three fantasies. Can't say I'm all that surprised. For a bonus, non-fantasy fourth world, I choose Gone Away Lake from the Gone Away Lake books by Elizabeth Enright, in which two kids find an old, nearly abandoned town next to a dried-up lake. I'd live in Mrs. Brace-Gideon's mansion.

Be sure to check out the rest of the chain!
4th December ~
5th December ~
6th December ~
7th December ~
8th December ~
9th December ~
10th December ~
11th December ~
12th December ~
13th December ~
14th December ~
15th December ~
16th December ~
17th December ~
18th December ~
19th December ~
20th December ~
21st December ~
22nd December ~
23rd December ~
24th December ~
And a lovely day to you.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving and a NaNoWriMo Update

Happy Thanksgiving, chaps! I hope this lovely day of thanks is treating you well. I'm grateful for a great many things, far more than I could ever list, but here are ten examples:
  1. Books.
  2. Music.
  3. My awesome family for putting up with my writing crazies.
  4. Food.
  5. My awesome writing friends.
  6. The great writing resources I've found, such as Go Teen Writers and Writing Excuses.
  7. Things that make me laugh, smile, and curl my toes with glee.
  8. Glitter.
  9. Textbooks, experience, and other things that help me learn. 
  10. Our garden.
And a bonus number 11: NaNoWriMo!

As you may have noticed, I won NaNoWriMo! 50 thousand words in 21 days. This is my best time for NaNo yet, even if I didn't write a full novel (I think that may be one of the reasons I won faster than in previous years--I didn't worry about things not making sense and plots falling apart.)

And now that I'm done, I'm jumping back into edits for last year's NaNo. I take that back. What I will be doing is not editing. It is full-flung, head-on, rip-it-to-shreads-and-put-it-back-together, revision. Yeah. Should be fun.

Those of you still writing and trying to hit 50k, YOU CAN DO IT! I believe in ya.

And a lovely, mashed-potato-filled evening/morning/afternoon/whatever to you. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

NaNoWriMo Update and a Short Story

Hello, readers.  NaNoWriMo is going exceedingly well this year. I'm a whole TEN THOUSAND words ahead.  How did this happen? I'm not sure. It probably had something to do with the fact that I wrote nearly 6k on Sunday. How did that happen? I am an OCD overachiever and the next round, even number or milestone was always just a few hundred words away.

I've deviated quite a bit from my plan this year. I intended to write short stories and use them as practice. But I haven't figured out how to make writing short stories fun. Also I haven't read very many, which probably aided the lack-of-fun-ness. Since I haven't read many of them, I don't know how they work, which is frustrating when I'm trying to write one. However, since the month is not yet halfway over, I might figure it out before this wonderful month of words ends.

What have I been writing that I am TEN THOUSAND words ahead if I haven't been writing short stories or a novel, you ask? I've (mostly) been writing scenes from last year's NaNo novel from the points of view of side characters. And I love it. I love getting into the heads of the other people of this story and seeing what they think of the situations I've put them in. I get to kill two birds doing this: I participate in NaNo AND do something that will help me edit last year's novel.  My MC seems to be the center of attention a lot, which actually makes sense, given the fact that nearly all the other characters are constantly lying to her and trying to keep things secret and disapproving of her. There is this one maid though who is too focused on herself (for good reasons, she's not just selfish) to pay much attention to the MC (also she's being told the same lies as the MC). Her character arc is great.  Not that you see much of it. Anyway. The side characters are starting to feel more fleshed out, which makes me very happy.  I highly recommend this practice of writing scenes from alternate POVs.

This year's NaNo, aside from being different in that I'm not writing another novel, has been different in that I'm writing faster (I can consistently write 1000 words in one hour) and I feel like showing everyone what I've written about my side characters so I can fangirl over them with someone else comfortable sharing what I've written, which is very different from how I felt about my first NaNo.

In accordance with said comfortableness, I shall post the one short story thing I've written that I like. (Also because this post is really just drivel and you deserve something moderately cool as a reward for slogging through it, unedited and potentially full of errors as said reward may be.) For those of you who liked Adventures in Editing, I have written more of those (I did have fun writing them) and I will post them once I figure out where the story is going and I get them edited. 

So, without further ado... no, wait, there is more ado. I wrote this story based on this prompt that a friend posted to the Go Teen Writers Facebook group. Basically it's "What if people were born with a clock that ticked down to the time they met their soul mate?" The Pinterest pin that link takes you to has a bunch of little blurbs that other people have written off this prompt, and they are great. Probably better than what I'm about to share. I'm also told that there are short stories similar to this on WattPad, but I haven't read them. (Here's one someone on GTW said she liked. Again, I haven't read it, so I can't say whether it's good or clean or whatnot.)

Okay, ado being done with, here's my story. It's only 571 words long, so it's a quick read. Please feel free to give any feedback. Personally, I think the beginning feels off, but I'll fix it later.

My parents say I was born with my clock at zero. I have no soul mate. I am doomed to live a life alone.
That was hard through high school and college as I watched my friends find those they were destined to love, knowing that there was no one destined to love me.
One day, as I sat at lunch, a man about my age sat down next to me.
“Mind if I sit here?” he asked. “This is the only seat left.”
I smiled. “Go ahead.” I turned back to my salad. As I was finishing, a teenage girl stood and ran outside, looking frantic, holding her wrist up to her face. I’d seen it before. Her clock was about to run out. A few seconds later, a teenage boy walked up to her, also looking at his wrist.
They’d found each other.
The man sitting next to me pulled up his sleeve and looked at his own wrist. It was at zero. He cursed quietly.
“Trouble in paradise?” I asked.
He looked at the newly acquainted teenagers and shook his head. “I don’t know who mine is.” He sighed. “Somehow between the time I was born and put in the nursery at the hospital, my clock ran out. No one knows who she is.”
I held up my own wrist. “I was born at zero.”
A sad look filled his eyes. “I’m sorry.”
“It’s no worse than your situation. You know you have a soul mate, but you don’t know if you’ll ever see her again. That must be hard.  My situation is stable. I know I’ll never meet anyone.”
He shrugged, and turned back to his food. A few seconds after he got up to leave, he came back. “I’m sorry, but I have to ask: When is your birthday?”
I blinked in surprise. “November ninth.”
“November ninth?” A strange look came over his face. Something like excitement, but more… hesitant. “What year?”
“Nineteen eighty seven.”
A smile stretched on his face. “What city?”
“Indianapolis. Why all the questions?”
“Indianapolis General Hospital?”
“Yeah, I think so. What is all this about?”
His smile broadened, and he briefly put a hand over his mouth. “I was born on November ninth, nineteen eighty seven, in Indianapolis general hospital. That is where my clock ran out. Are you sure you were born at zero?”
The implication behind his words surprised me so much I didn’t know what to say. And that’s when it hit me. “No, no I don’t know. I was premature, so I was put in an intensive care unit before I was placed in the nursery. They…they wouldn’t have paid attention to my clock. They were focused on keeping me alive.”
“Were you placed in the regular nursery with the rest of the babies?”
“Yes. I remember my mom saying how she wished I’d stayed in the intensive care unit because it was quieter. There was this one baby boy who screamed all the time. Though she said his mom was nice.”
All of the sudden he burst out laughing, and his eyes grew shiny. “My mom said I screamed constantly, and she felt bad because there was this one little preemie girl who needed sleep.”
We stared at each other, letting our unspoken conclusion rule the silence.
Then he stuck out his hand. “My name is William Tate, and I believe you are my soul mate.”

Why is that last line in a different font? All I did was copy and paste from Word. Weird. 
 Anyway, hope you enjoyed that a bit. Hope NaNo's going well for my fellow WriMos!

A wordy evening/day/mid-morning/whatever to you.