December 11, 2011

Special Announcement: I Have an Agent!

I am now represented by Suzie Townsend of Nancy Coffey Literary & Media Representation.

Yes, I know. SUZIE TOWNSEND. *mental freak out*


This is my agent :D :D :D MY AGENT. I'm never going to get tired of saying that.

I still can't quite believe this is happening, despite that I've had a week for it to sink in. Suzie is nothing short of my dream agent, and I'm fully aware of how fortunate I am to have her. *still freaking out*

I began querying this project in early November, and Suzie was pretty much the first agent I contacted (she was expecting my submission--I won a crit from one of her authors a couple months prior, which turned into a referral to Suzie). She finished my manuscript quickly, but due to an email malfunction, I didn't get her email asking to talk until almost a month later! But it all worked out :D

This past week has been insane--full of uncertainty and excitement and really tough choices. I found myself in the unbelievable position of having multiple offers, which was a dream I never quite dared to have. In the end though, my heart was set on Suzie.

If you have any questions, I'd be happy to answer them as best I can, but otherwise... *eee* I have an agent!!!

December 5, 2011

The Mighty Archetype: Good Guys Gone Bad

Good Guys Gone Bad - These are the ones who break your heart.

Exhibit A: Phoenix from the Marvel Universe

*Official art*
        When Jean Grey apparently died saving the rest of her team from a shuttle crash, she emerged from the depths of the ocean in X-Men #101 as The Phoenix, an incredibly powerful being.
        She maintains her new power level as a hero for about two years, before the Hellfire Club starts messing with her mind, guiding her toward, for lack of a better term, the dark side. (Source.)


Exhibit B: Chun-Woo Han from The Breaker
*Official art by illustrator Jin-Hwan Park*
        Also known as Goomoonryong, or "Nine Arts Dragon," he had some ambiguous morals, but he always pulled through in the end, including nearly getting himself killed a couple times to protect his pupil. But when the girl he's been pretending not to be in love sacrifices herself for him (and he fails to save her), it pushes him over the edge. He abandons his pupil and sets out for revenge.

So, as you can see, the transformation from good to evil can be a result of both external and internal causes. Maybe the character gets captured and fitted with a device like Sam's watch in Transformers: Dark of the Moon, which forces him to betray his friends and comrades. Or maybe making the "wrong" decision becomes the right one in order to save someone important. Or, like Chun-Woo (and Riku from Kingdom Hearts or Sasuke from Naruto), maybe he's always had a little bit of darkness inside him, and all it took was a compelling push to cross the line.

It hurts most when, like Chun-Woo, the character starts out perfectly likable. He's flawed and kind of shallow, but he's a good person. Readers grow to love him, to see him as their security blanket for how insanely kickass he is and how he always pulls through. So when something happens and the light switches, it's devastating. If you can do that to your readers, you're doing something right :) (and they might hate you for it, but that might be okay too lol)

So what do you guys think? Harvey Dent from The Dark Knight would also be a great example of this archetype! Who else fits?



Previous posts in the archetype series:
1: Broody Jerks with Hearts of Gold
2: The Hero Who Hides Behind a Smile
3: The Goofy Guy Who Secretly Kicks Ass
4: The Designated Psychopath
5: The Mad Scientist
6: The Child Prodigy

Have a great week!

November 21, 2011

The Mighty Archetype: The Child Prodigy

The Child Prodigy - This is the kid too young to drive or even sit in the front passenger side seat, and yet makes the adults feel inadequate. What others would normally struggle with comes naturally to them. But with great power comes great--er. I mean. Sometimes being a prodigy is awesome. Sometimes, it sucks.

Exhibit A: Toushiro Hitsugaya from Bleach

*Official art by creator Kubo Tite*
        Hitsugaya's actual age is unknown, but he is the youngest of the thirteen captains of Soul Society. Despite entering the Academy far behind a couple of his older friends, as a prodigy, he quickly rose through the ranks and is now their superior. (I adore his serious little face lol)

Exhibit B: Hatake Kakashi from Naruto

*Official art by creator Masashi Kishimoto*
        Kakashi graduated from the Ninja Academy at the age of five (yes, FIVE). He became a jounin (top ranked ninja) at thirteen, and joined ANBU (Special Assassination and Tactical Squad) shortly after.

Yes, Doogie Howser was a child prodigy =P

The most interesting part of creating a child prodigy, imo, is throwing these kids into positions adults have spent years vying for and watching the resulting human interaction. Do the adults around them respect them? Resent them? Sabotage them? Either way, conflict is inevitable.

Did the kid take on the adult role willingly? And as a child, regardless of intellect and skill, are they capable of understanding an adult's world? In Naruto, the third ninja world war was happening when Kakashi was promoted to jounin, and he lost one of his teammates (and his eye) in a battle. Things like this, in addition to all the responsibilities typically given to adults, force the child to grow up far more quickly than other "normal" kids.

I've found that a lot of these child prodigies are rather angsty kids. But I like my literary angst :D While there's always that good old 'just want to be a normal kid' trope, I'm more a fan of the 'yeah, I'm younger and smarter/stronger than you--deal with it' mind camp :D Which one are you?

Old artwork of Edward Elric from Full Metal Alchemist, another child prodigy who could understand complex alchemy texts before his age hit double digits. And then he tried to unsuccessfully resurrect his dead mother. Sorry, kiddo.

Previous posts in the archetype series:
1: Broody Jerks with Hearts of Gold
2: The Hero Who Hides Behind a Smile
3: The Goofy Guy Who Secretly Kicks Ass
4: The Designated Psychopath
5: The Mad Scientist

November 7, 2011

The Mighty Archetype: The Mad Scientist

The Mighty Archetype 1: Broody Jerks with Hearts of Gold
The Mighty Archetype 2: The Hero Who Hides Behind a Smile
The Mighty Archetype 3: The Goofy Guy Who Secretly Kicks Ass
The Mighty Archetype 4: The Designated Psychopath

The Mad Scientist - You guys know the one. He's typically a supporting character (although not always), the scientific and/or medical genius the main antagonist goes to to do his dirty work, whether that's to brew up biological weapons, design highly advanced laser weaponry, or perform a good old-fashioned torture and dissection of helpless paranormal beings. If he's a protagonist, then... well, nothing changes except the people he's working for lol.

Exhibit A: Dr. Franken Stein from Soul Eater

*Official art by creator Atsushi Okubo*

        Dr. Stein works as a teacher at DWMA (Death Weapon Meister Academy), and he views everything in the world as a specimen to be experimented on, including himself, leading him to drive a large screw through the side of his head and interweave his own skin, clothes, and even his laboratory with stitches. Other than being a scientist, Stein is considered to be the most powerful meister to ever graduate from DWMA and is a master martial artist, making him a deadly opponent in any situation. (Source: wiki)

Exhibit B: Mayuri Kurotsuchi from Bleach

*Official art by creator Kubo Tite*

        Mayuri is the current Captain of the 12th Division in Soul Society. He views everyone as objects to be dissected in the lab. He has even made extensive modifications to his own body. Mayuri has little regard for life or allegiances, even going as far as turning his own subordinates into human bombs on one occasion. In the past, the potential danger he posed to the Soul Society led to his imprisonment when he joined the Soul Reapers. Kisuke Urahara (see: Goofy Guys who Kick Ass) recognized his potential as a scientist and released Mayuri to help him with his research. (Source: wiki)

The interesting thing is that both these characters are supposed to be protagonists. Mayuri, I would argue, is neither--he serves himself and his pursuit of knowledge only. He just happens to be on the side of the protag. Stein, on the other hand, might have a number of questionable morals (and an underlying "madness" that he oftentimes fails to suppress), but he is very clearly a "good" guy who protects his students.

Good or bad, these characters aren't necessarily motivated by ideas like "right" or "wrong," which is why they can be either. Their motivations stem from the desire to learn, to dissect a problem (both literally and figuratively), to uncover and extend their abilities for the sake of science and knowledge. And, oftentimes, out of hubris. High intelligence often breeds big egos lol.


*Official art

What do you guys think of this archetype? Who else fits?

Have a great week! ♥

October 24, 2011

Nanowrimo: Plan Ahead - by Patricia

Patricia is an awesome writer, an old friend, and a new blogger. She's just started Swimming in Words, but her posts are both fun and informative. If you've got time, please stop by her blog and check it out.

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Nanowrimo: Plan Ahead by Patricia

A couple of weeks ago, when Lori asked me if I'd like to guest post for her, I was super excited but at the same time, at a bit of a loss as to what to write. But then with NaNo WriMo so close and me trying to fit time in to do my planning, I decided to focus on that.

For me NaNo WriMo is a good time to be strict with myself and get the writing out. Everything else, all the fine tuning, I'll have time to do it after my first draft is done. At the end of the day, there's no editing if there's no story to edit. Planning ahead is the way to go!

Now, everyone works differently and I'm the type of person who, when I write, not only needs to know what my end goal is (even if this end goal changes later on), I also need to have a word count in mind. It doesn't have to be super detailed to begin with, just something basic works.

I jotted down my idea, then tried to flesh it out a bit just with the little specific scenes and characters that are already in my head. They don't amount to much yet, but it helps with the rest of my planning. I start from the beginning by answering a question from Fiction Writer's Workshop by Josip Navakovich:

What do your characters treasure?
1. Basic values – what they treasure most
2. What happens when these are threatened?

This gets me thinking about my main character, the things she values and what she's willing to fight for, what she'll do when those things are under threat. It helps me decide the path that my MC will start out on. Makes a nice kick start!

With that, I can move onto my next stage, which is the 8 Point Story Arc.

The 8 Point Story Arc fits into most of the stories we've read or watched, and it helps you structure your own story. It goes like this:

1. Stasis (or routine)
2. Trigger (or inciting incident)
3. Quest
4. Surprise (or complication)
5. Critical choice
6. Climax
7. Reversal
8. Resolution

The thing is, at this point my main character, and maybe her closest friends, are all I have so I work entirely off of them, which is why the question about my MC's values is a helpful one. It gives me the start I need for the 8 PSA. Based on her history and keeping it as brief as possible, I start going through the points and jotting down something for each one, trying to get them to feed off of one
another. It doesn't always work and even if it does, chances are it could end up changing completely, but I do end up with a basic outline to follow for when I begin to go into more detail in the outline.

You can find some good, clear examples of how the 8 PSA works over here at parafantasy.

And then last but not least! I round up my basic plan with fractal planning!

This is where knowing my word count comes in. For this new novel I'm planning, I'd like the end result to be 75-80k. Because NaNo WriMo's word count is 50k and that's hard enough, I'll be working to that instead and then see what happens during the editing process.

The reason why I need to work to a word count from the beginning is because it helps me split my time and figure out how much I'll be able to get done each day. Like the majority of people doing NaNo WriMo, I'm going to have the crazy task of fitting in all this writing around my working days and other chores. Knowing my word count helps me stay a bit more in control while still letting me focus on just writing. It also helps because I'm used to working in scenes (not scenes and sequels, more along the lines of a screenplay scene), so if I know the word count, I can figure out possible chapters and then fit stuff in.

So! Fractal planning! Basically, you've got your total word count (50k) and then you break your story up into three acts: beginning, middle and end. The middle is usually double the word count of both your beginning and end.

I end up with:

Beginning – 12.5k
Middle – 25k
End – 12.5k

And then I break those down too:

Beginning, B – 3,125 / M – 6250 / E – 3,125
Middle, B – 6,250 / M – 12,500 / E – 6,250
End, B – 3,125 / M – 6,250 / E – 3,125

And then I break down the remaining 12.5k and 6,250, until I end up with all of them about 3,125 words. It probably sounds like a bit of a dragged out process, and there are plenty of simpler ways to work out your story. This just happens to work for me. Because then, if I turn that 3,125 into a chapter word count, I end up with:

ACT 1 – Beginning, 4 chapters
ACT 2 – Middle, 8 chapters
ACT 3 – End, 4 chapters
Total: 16 chapters

That's by no means anything concrete, but this is what I'll work towards and fit my 8 PSA into. Chances are each of these chapters will grow to about 3.5 – 4.5k but it's something that can be worked out later. For now though, this, is a lot easier to work into my routine.

So why the completely unnecessary roundabout way of doing this? It helps me focus and makes me feel more in control of the process once I actually enter the madness of NaNo WriMo on the 1st November. From now until then, I'll even have the chance to do small basic outlines for my chapters too!

Well, that's pretty much it. There's still an entire week to get yourself in order and make the most of it. The more you prepare, the better the chance there is of you having a novel come 30th November.

Good luck to any fellow Nanoers and to anyone about to start a new novel too!

My NaNo Page

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Have a great week, guys! ♥

October 21, 2011

Seven Things I Did to Prepare my WIP

Cherie from Cherie Writes..., Ani at Anime's Musings, and Bonnie Rae from Bonnie Rae, Just Words gave me these rocking awards:



Both rules state I need to list 7 things about myself, but considering I've done that ad nauseam, I figured I would instead list 7 things I did before I starting to my latest WIP :D

Seven Things I Did to Prepare to Write HARBINGER (YA cyberpunk fantasy):
1. Research! The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse - various myths, permutations, biblical references, etc. Also Babylonian and Sumerian mythology. Super interesting stuff. Also nuclear power, which was both fascinating and alarming lol.

2. World build - politics, social heirarchy, cityscapes and other settings, a technological system along with a magic system, and world history. For more about world building, see this post! :D

3. Create character profiles - physical traits, personal mannerisms, an entire back story for each character, and how each character relates and/or feels about the other characters.

4. Procrastinate >_>;;

5. Outline in detail - I broke up the story into three acts first. Then broke those acts down into chapters. And then even further into each scene.

6. I wrote down several sets of dialog exchanges. It helped to move the story along even if it often changed and/or was left out in the actual writing.

7. Procrastinate some more. I wrote the first couple sentences, and then dithered around for a week or two before finally sitting my butt down and starting the story. (And finished my first draft in four weeks :D Who says I'm not determined once I get started?)

Thanks for the awards, ladies ♥

Also, I just reached 300 followers both here on my blog and on twitter! WOO~ That means I now have to think up an epic contest. HRMMMM. More on this later, o-hoho.

Have a wonderful weekend, guys!

October 17, 2011

The Mighty Archetype: The Goofy Guy Who Secretly Kicks Ass

The Mighty Archetype 1: Broody Jerks with Hearts of Gold
The Mighty Archetype 2: The Hero Who Hides Behind a Smile

This archetype appears first as that guy you're not entirely sure you can take seriously. He's a mixture of comic relief and idiot, and you start wondering if he serves a purpose other than to amuse and/or annoy readers. But then something happens, and you catch a glimpse of something more behind the fool's smile.

And when the shit hits the fan, it's this guy who pulls out the guns and shocks everyone by kicking some srs ass, often enough to turn the tide.

Exhibit A: Kisuke Urahara from Bleach

*Official art by creator Kubo Tite*

        Urahara was once one of the thirteen captains of Soul Society, the place where souls go after they die. As a captain, he commanded an entire division of soul reapers. But he was framed for a series of murders/experiments and forced to flee Soul Society. Now, he runs a shop in the real world and presents himself as this goofy guy in a hat and sandals who often behaves in typical comedic relief fashion. But he has also proven to be one of the most helpful and powerful of the MC's allies.

Exhibit B: Tobi/Madara from Naruto

*Official art by creator Masashi Kishimoto*

        Tobi is introduced first as a rookie on the bad guy team--and not a very good one. He's funny and melodramatic and kind of a coward. His fellow antagonist view him as a troublesome comrade. But as the story progresses, you learn that his real name is Madara and he is, in fact, the one pulling all the strings. He becomes the series' main antagonist.

What's cool about this archetype is that not only can it take the role of either a protagonist and antagonist, but oftentimes, their alliances are deliberately ambiguous. The mystery of who they really are behind the antics creates tension in everything they do--are they helping the protagonist out of a good moral compass or do they have ulterior motives? And why the idiotic front in the first place? What do they have to hide?

Of course, sometimes, they are simply what they are--idiotic and fun characters who can also kick butt. (See Yamamoto below lol)

What do you guys think of this archetype? Who else fits it?

For today's bit of artwork, Yamamoto Takeshi from Katekyo Hitman Reborn. He behaves like an idiot, but if he's holding a sword, then bad guys better run =P He's one of my favorite characters because he's just that awesome. And I'm convinced there's more to him than how he presents himself.



OTHER COOL STUFF:
♥ My CP Ani also has a great post about archetypes in general
♥ My fellow writerly friend Patricia has a new blog called Swimming in Words. Please support her by following and poking her to update =P

Have a great week, all! And I hope you guys aren't tired of this archetype series yet because I've got a lot more coming :D

October 10, 2011

The Mighty Archetype: The Hero Who Hides Behind a Smile

The Mighty Archetype 1: Broody Jerks with Hearts of Gold

The Hero Who Hides Behind a Smile - Specifically the ones who put up happy, go-lucky fronts in order to hide complicated, often dark pasts. Mmmm.

At first glance, their appearance plays at a carefree if honorable attitude and they may even be a little goofy, making them easily underestimated. But the deeper you delve, the more you discover that what lurks behind the happy mask isn't all sunshine and rainbows. AND I LOVE THAT ♥

Exhibit A: Kenshin Himura from Rurouni Kenshin

*Official art by creator Nobuhiro Watsuki*

        Kenshin was a teenaged assassin during the Bakumatsu (think The Last Samurai), but his reasons for killing involved protecting the people of Japan and helping to bring about peace. He ended up accidentally killing the woman he loved, along with his enemy, when she jumped in front of his blade to protect him from an attack. When Japan enters the Meiji era and his job as an assassin is no longer needed, he becomes a wanderer (the word 'rurouni' means 'wanderer') and swears never to kill again (and keeps that promise).
        When we meet Kenshin, it's been eleven years since the end of the Tokugawa shogunate. He presents himself as this goofy, penniless guy who smiles a lot. But when his past rushes up to meet him, he slips back into the cold, ruthless assassin he'd been while everyone around him fights to return him to the warm person they know and love.


Exhibit B: Allen Walker from D.Gray-man

*Official art by creator Hoshino Katsura*

        Allen was a street rat with a dirty mouth and a bad (if noble) attitude. His left arm is what's called his Innocence--a God-given weapon that only exorcists can wield and the only thing that can kill akuma (demons). Allen's arm activated for the first time when his adopted father returned from the dead as an akuma and tried to kill him. Allen killed him instead with his Innocence (by accident since he had no idea what his arm could do), and the experience was so traumatizing that his hair turned white.
        When we first meet Allen, he's a harmless-looking kid who smiles a lot, is unfailingly polite, and just wants to be an exorcist.


In spite of Kenshin's past, his goodness really, truly shines through. And Allen is my hero. He's good and kind and amazing and fights so, so hard for what he believes in. He always smiles to put everyone around him at ease despite whatever he's feeling inside. He's an extremely complicated and tragic kid, and I love him to pieces.

So what is it about this archetype that gets to me? Maybe it's the fact that they've overcome these overwhelming tragedies and have somehow managed to remain untainted. They have complete hero complexes, always coming to the rescue, always shouldering everyone's burdens, and always the one to turn to when things get rough. But it's not just because they're good people--it's because they have lived and learned and have become better for it. And when their pasts come back to haunt them, they don't run from it. They face it and accept the consequences.

And there are usually hefty, hefty consequences.

Oftentimes these archetypes are driven by a sense of remorse or twisted justice. Kenshin protects who he can with his reverse-blade sword but never denies or excuses what he's done when his past is thrown in his face. Allen wants to be an exorcist in order to save not only the humans the akuma attack but the souls of the akuma themselves.

So what do you guys think of this archetype? :D Who else can you think of who would fit this mold?

Allen Walker, my hero ♥
(with Kanda, the only person who can turn sweet Allen into the bratty, foul-tempered street rat he'd been as a kid--it's kind of hilarious actually)

Full image here.


Have a great week! ♥

October 3, 2011

The Mighty Archetype: Broody Jerks with Hearts of Gold

No, the 'Broody Jerks with Hearts of Gold' isn't an official archetype name :)

In manga, I have always been drawn to the same sort of character--dark, broody, jerks who hide their high morals and tragic pasts behind a bad attitude and fortified emotional walls. A lot of times, they also have fabulous hair and carry a sword.

Exhibit A: Sasuke Uchiha from Naruto

*Official art from the creator Masashi Kishimoto*

        Sasuke, whose entire clan was murdered when he was a child by his older brother, and has spent every minute of every day since training for the day when he'd be strong enough to face his brother and avenge their clan. He's antisocial, speaks his mind, has a superiority complex and is quick to insult others. But he's also just as quick to risk his life in order to protect his teammates, and he did nearly die to protect Naruto, the title character.
        At the moment, he's in the middle of a huge character arc in which he has become Naruto's enemy. But I have complete confidence that, by the end of the series, Sasuke will find the right path and redeem himself.


Exhibit B: Yuu Kanda from D.Gray-man


*Official art from the creator Katsura Hoshino*

        He's the result of an experiment, with little memory of his previous life aside from the vision of a woman he has devoted himself to finding again. He's technically a failed experiment and he was almost disposed of, but his first and only friend (a fellow experimentee) saved him. That same friend later went mad and Kanda was forced to kill him. Despite his bitterness, he still fights to protect people from the akuma (demons) and remains loyal to the Black Order, the same religious organization that created him.

What draws me to this archetype is that s/he is so intensely layered. Sasuke and Kanda have both buried their pain beneath these rude, arrogant exteriors that shatter in the face of their pasts. And with such difficult pasts, it would have been easy for them to have grown distorted and corrupt as they pursued their goals, but they didn't. They clung to their morals, to the good in them, and it's the one defining thing that sets them apart from the antagonists.

How do you guys feel about this archetype? And what's YOUR favorite archetype?

Who are some literary characters you can think of that fit this archetype?

Naturally, I've drawn my two favorite swordsmen:


Have a great week! ♥

September 26, 2011

The Handy Book of Villainous Dialogue

My crit partner Anna wrote a fun and informative blog post last week about antagonists and dialogue.


One of the danger zones when fleshing out characters is the overuse of cliches and cliche-like dialogue. The heroes talking like heroes, the damsel in distress talking like damsels in distress, and the villains talking like, well, the villains. *laughs* This creates a one-layered depth to the character - something that would either:
a) incite some eye-rolling from the reader
b) make them stop reading completely because the characters seem so predictable or
c) wonder what the hell they're still doing reading something that feels like it's been overdone loads of times when they could be watching the new episode of True Blood instead.
-.-

All those aforementioned things = BAD

Check it out

Have a great week, guys!

September 19, 2011

Beta Match - Are you looking for a critique partner or a beta reader?

Rachel Harrie, our Campaign General, has a Beta Match post for writers looking for critique partners and/or beta readers. I thought I'd take this opportunity to refresh an old post of mine about the value of CPs.

So What Makes a Good Crit Partner?

Well, that answer depends on what you want =D

Better bloggers have said this before, but I think it bears repeating. When looking for a crit partner, keep in mind the following:

1. Goals - What do you want from a CP? Frank, brutally honest feedback? Line editing? A friend and cheerleader? Your goals should match up, at least mostly.

2. Understanding - Even if your goals match up, it doesn't help if you don't click as people. No one wants to take critique from someone they don't respect or like (no matter how accurate the critique might be).

3. Skill - Ideally, you want a CP who is either a better writer than you are or who is at the same level as you. I say this because I've improved by reading those better writers, and if I could get their feedback on my writing? Score! But with a CP at the same level, you get to learn together, and that can oftentimes be even more rewarding. Of course, I believe that every writer has something unique to offer so as long as you can find that CP who makes you look at your manuscript in a new and better way, I'd say you're fine =)

Personally, the best thing about having more than one crit partner is that each one tends to have their own strengths and weaknesses, and there's a really neat balance that forms. I have something to learn from all of my CPs, and that's what I love every time I pick up one of their chapters to read.

Great places to find crit partners:
Rachel Harrie's Beta Match
Maggie Stiefvater's 2011 Critique Partner Love Connection
YALitchat.org's Crit Seekers Group
Adventures in Children's Publishing: Alpha & Beta Reader Exchange
Natalie Whipple's Crit Partner Classifieds
Nathan Bransford Forums
Let the Words Flow Crit Partner sign ups

CPs: Friends and Comrades in Arms. Or like a squad of vampire hunters--you can always rely on them to stake you if you f#@! up and get bitten ♥

Good luck finding yours! ♥

September 12, 2011

When Music and Writing Collide - by Anna

Today, I'd like to welcome my first guest post, woo! Meet my fantastic critique partner and friend Anna from Anime's Musings. If you've got time, please stop by her blog as well and check it out. I love her posts!

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When Music and Writing Collide by Anna

Musical impacts on writing projects are often tell-tale. More often than not, for those that work with, live, and breathe music, there isn't a single scene written that isn't fueled by its influences. This isn't true for all writers, however, in my experience, most write with the help of those muses. Melodies could be playing quietly in the background to drown out all other noise, or blaring inside the writer's head with the help of trusty earbuds, but always ever present.


Music has always been present in everything I've ever written. Actually, it's present in everything that I do. I can never go anywhere without my iPod and there is never a car ride that goes without tunes. I find that the type of music I listen to always sets my mood. This is a good preparation for any scenes that I need to write or emotions that I want to convey to the reader through the pages. The varying beats and rhythms in each song tell a different story and in turn, help the writer to incorporate those differences in their own story. Ever been blood red pissed off and turned on Yiruma's River Flows in You or Debussy's Reverie? Or emo sad and turned on Train's Hey Soul Sister? I don't know about you, but the aforementioned songs are a few examples of ones that instantly change the mood I'm in.


Along with mood setting, music also helps with thought processing. I always have a jumble of thoughts floating in my head (okay, more like beating the crap out of each other for space in my head *laughs*), and music helps to act as an organizer, a sifter of sorts, so that I would be able to pull out those thoughts that I need for whatever I'm doing at the moment. This goes for all activities, but for the purposes of this post, we'll focus on writing.

Have you ever had an instance happen when you hear a song from your past and you're instantly reminded of an event? It's because we're programmed to connect our senses to different catalysts. Music is a catalyst. We immediately connect it with events, with emotions, with certain people - depending on what was happening at the time we heard the particular song.

I've gotten accustomed to assigning songs to different scenes that I write. Most times, in preparation for a particular scene or to help me pick back up from where I left off in the scene, I use the song to get my mindset back to that time, that place, with those characters, and the emotions they were feeling when we last parted.

How does music tie into writing for you? Is it helpful when constructing scenes, plots, characters, etc.? Do you work better with or without it?

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September 5, 2011

Drafting and Editing from Artwork to Writing

Happy Labor Day! ♥

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In the first draft of a wip, I write quickly. I don't focus on details, but I give a general idea of what I want to get across. Emotion is at its most basic. Stage direction is kept to a minimum. Setting is bare bones, and the dialogue is often stilted and unnatural. As long as I get down a general sense of setting and what needs to happen both internally and externally to move the story along then that's all I need for the time being.

Just like in writing, when I draft a new art piece, I start messy. Quick, unrefined lines. Basic outline. Overall flow. No real idea yet of a background, but an idea of my light source and what I want to convey.

I am going to let you guys see a tiny snippet of the first draft of my wip to demonstrate. Be warned, it's pretty awful lol.

First drafts:
Writing:
He grinned and gestured with his head for me to follow him. We headed down the river, along the opposite bank across the docks. The Labyrinth loomed behind us as the river snaked north and the continued east towards the old freight yard. Like the Labyrinth, the residents here lived in boxcars, but they were place in rows, one level only, and with enough space between them to provide an illusion of property. It wasn't much, but Avan had beamed the day he told me he'd moved out of the apartment above his dad's shop.

Terrible descriptions. Typos. Flat. Blegh.

Art:


Messy. Rough lines. Basic idea.

On my second draft, I'll typically rewrite the sentences, this time choosing my words more carefully. I'll flesh out the descriptions to paint the image of the scene I initially had in my head.

In art, likewise the first I do is redraw the lines. Clean lines this time. Then I begin to block in color and work in large details at first before narrowing down on the finer ones.

Second drafts:
Writing:
He grinned and, once we reached the other side of the river, gestured with his chin for me to follow. We walked along the bank, the waning light turning the river to ink. We kept above the sinking mud and the stripped trees that stood like pale corpses in the gloom. The Labyrinth loomed behind us like a black shroud across the sky as the river turned north, and we continued east towards the freight yard. Like the Labyrinth, the residents there lived in boxcars, but they stood in neat rows, one level only, and with enough space between each to provide the illusion of personal property. It wasn't much, but the happiest I'd ever seen Avan was the day he moved out of the apartment above his dad's shop.

Better, but now it feels too wordy. I will have to refine in my next draft and be even pickier about my word choices.

Art:


Clean lines. Color and light source are laid out.

With each pass, I refine and refine. Add details. Take details away. Make sure the whole picture/scene blends together.

Keep going until you're done!


FINAL:


Of course, my wip isn't complete yet so I don't have a final scene to show you =P But you guys get the idea ♥

Any of you willing to share a paragraph of a first draft and then compare it with a recent version? *bats eyelashes*

Have an awesome week, guys! ♥

August 29, 2011

Interview with a Teen Reader #2

Here is my interview with my second niece, codename Souki =P

Souki is sixteen and an avid reader of manga. I love this because we have that in common =P She reads books less often, but I will change this! *shakes fist* I loved how different her answers were to S-EmeraldEyes despite that the two of them are oftentimes attached at the hip.

1. Is there a specific genre you gravitate towards?
Souki: I tend to lean toward genres involving mystery, dystopian, fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal, and thriller. I don't mind a bit of romance between the characters but if the story strongly revolves around romance like contemporary romance then it holds no interest for me.

2. Do you prefer male or female protagonists?
Souki: Usually, people prefer reading through the viewpoint of characters that are the same gender as them because it is easier to relate but for me, I don't mind either as long as the story and protagonist is interesting.

3. Do you find yourself identifying with characters?
Souki: I find that when I read I try putting myself into the characters shoes to understand what they are going through. When a character resembles a certain trait or past experience similar to me then I feel that I can really relate and connect to them.

4. What are you tired of seeing in books?
Souki: I guess I'm tired of reading stories that have love triangles in them. It irritates me when there are two love interests and you never know which one the protagonist will end up with. And even if they do end up with one of them, you might get disappointed with the one they chose.

5. What do you want to see more of?
Souki: I would enjoy seeing more original and creative stories as well as in depth character development. I appreciate the character better when I can further understand them. Also, I look for stories that are not constantly reused or recycled and that are just completely different and unique.

6. What makes you want to pick up a book to read?
Souki: If the cover looks intriguing then I pick it up and read the summary. I think the summary is the most important part to pull in the reader and allow them to continue with the rest of its pages. Otherwise, if someone I know recommends a book to me then I check it out.

7. What's your favorite book you've read in the last 6 months?
Souki: My favorite book that I've read recently would be Across the Universe by Beth Revis. I'm really looking forward to reading the sequel!

Thanks so much to both of my girls for indulging me ♥

Here's another crop of a commission:

Have a great week, guys! ♥

August 22, 2011

Interview with a Teen Reader #1

Today, I'd like to share an interview I did with one of my two nieces (second niece's interview will be up next Monday so please look forward to it!). They'll be called S-EmeraldEyes and Souki (they came up with their own codenames) since they both prefer to remain anonymous online. Smart girls! :D

They were nice enough to indulge their kooky aunt when I pounced on them and insisted they let me interview them. They grumbled about how it was like doing homework, but they still did it for me. That's love ♥

S-EmeraldEyes is sixteen and, this summer, discovered a love for reading, which I shamelessly credit myself with =P I sat her down, handed her Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins and ordered her to read it. She read it in one sitting and, since then, has been devouring books one after another. Hurray!

1. Is there a specific genre you gravitate towards?
S-EmeraldEyes: I prefer any kind of genre as long as it contains a strong portion of romance in the book. I favor romance a lot and I don't mind any other genre as long as the book doesn't end in a tragedy.

2. Do you prefer male or female protagonists?
S-EmeraldEyes: I prefer the protagonist to be female because I feel that I can connect to the character more.

3. Do you find yourself identifying with characters?
S-EmeraldEyes: Usually I do find myself relating to the characters which for me, is important because if I can't seem to understand the characters then I think that the story won't really be interesting to me. It's a whole lot better and interesting to journey with a character through their life or adventure when you can actually relate or understand them.

4. What are you tired of seeing in books?
S-EmeraldEyes: I like stories that involve romance but something that annoys me are sequels that usually ruin the first book. I don't like to read about two people falling in love and their struggles to be together only to find that in the second book or at the end of a book, that they're not together. I find it frustrating and irritating.

5. What do you want to see more of?
S-EmeraldEyes: I just find it very amusing in romantic books when the male characters are jealous and I think that it's fascinating to learn their reactions. To be honest, I want more jealousy in books and more of a variety of reactions-from both the female and the male- due to the jealousy.

6. What makes you want to pick up a book to read?
S-EmeraldEyes: The summary of the book on the back or inside a book are usually what pulls me into a book. If the summary doesn't catch my attention then I usually don't read it, so for me the summaries are very important.

7. What's your favorite book you've read in the last 6 months?
S-EmeraldEyes: I have many books I enjoy but if I had to choose the one I favor the most it'd be Tempest by Lori Foster. It's about an innocent and pure woman who has two protective brothers and two best friends. The woman falls in love with her older brother's best friend as well as her own but he's been a friend and like a brother to her so long that he doesn't know if it will work out, which leaves her to only one option, seduction. The story also consists of the woman's best friends falling in love and including a detailed version of their insight version in falling in love as well. This book was one of the most cutest, sweetest, and funniest romance books I've ever read.

Hope you found her answers as interesting as I did! Souki had some very different answers, so please look for hers next Monday!

Here's a crop of a commission I did a couple years ago:

Have a great week, guys! ♥

August 8, 2011

On the Inequality of Switching Gender Roles

Caveat: I'm not saying this is how EVERYONE thinks. There are wonderful, open-minded, and thoughtful writers and readers out there. These are simply my observations about the vast majority of many blogs and articles I've read.

You see a lot of applause given to female characters who defy the conventions of traditionally female roles. Example? Katniss Everdeen, the consummate hunter. The provider, breadwinner, protector. Practical. Aloof. A little emotionally constipated, which only seems to make her more endearing.

But why is it that, when a male character (particularly the main protagonist) falls too far from his traditional roles, it doesn't garner the same level of applause, if ANY? Make a male character sensitive and a bit clumsy and, suddenly, he's just not MANLY enough. Or *gasp* he's a WIMP. And he will only shed that stigma when he goes out and kills something with his hands! As if a man's character should be defined by his physical prowess and little else.

If the male character in question is a side character, then he's relegated to comic relief. B/c we all know male characters who exhibit traditionally female traits are SO FUN TO LAUGH AT, RIGHT? (note: sarcasm)

But what does this mean then? That traditionally female traits are undesirable in a protagonist? But that's both ridiculous and insulting. And not at all true considering the number of female protagonists who do not kick any butt at all. To stick with the Hunger Games characters, Prim was a stark contrast to Katniss in every way, but her strength, although quieter, was just as significant as her sister's.

Well then the next logical conclusion is that traditionally female traits are undesirable in a MALE protagonist. But... why? Why the double standard? Why are women applauded for not having perceived female traits, but men are considered emasculated for doing the same?

Is this a symptom of a larger issue? (Yes) Has the historical efforts of women to obtain equal rights with men given us the notion that only qualities found in men are what we should aspire to? INTELLECTUALLY, we know this isn't true. Then why is it socially acceptable for a girl to play with toy trucks, but so many parents throw a fit if their boy wants a doll?

(And by men having perceived female traits, I do NOT mean anything that women have been fighting for hundreds of years to overcome--the inequality, the diminished sense of being simply for having a different sex organ, the lack of civil rights, etc.)

I'd love to know what you guys think ♥

I say we just do away with the notion of gender roles :)

Have a great week, all!

August 1, 2011

On Subtlety and Romance

When it comes to romance, it's easy to get melodramatic. So what makes an effective romance without laying on the poetic monologues? For me, it's always been about subtlety.

No words necessary.

The characters don't need to exchange proclamations of love. It should be apparent by how they behave around each other. Simple things like his fingers at the small of her back. Her eyes following him across the room. Him noticing the way she rubs her knuckles when she's nervous. His smiles leaving her helplessly smiling in return.

Or, depending on the book, more dire things like her rushing into danger to save him, or him standing up to insurmountable odds to protect her. But these are things that should happen at the end, after the two have spent 300 pages or so getting to know each other.

There's more to character development than the progression of a romantic relationship.

One of the biggest mistakes I've seen writers make is introducing the love interest too early. For me at least, I have to care about the characters as individuals before I can care about them as a couple. If I'm introduced to character A, who then immediately decides s/he likes character B and sets out to make something of it, then I'm left wondering who these people are outside of their attraction to each other. When the romance is the only thing that defines the characters, then I find it very difficult to care or like either of them.

Now, of course, this isn't always the case. Love interests can sometimes be introduced in the first chapter and, in addition to being attracted to each other, they're still complete individuals with their own issues and character arcs.

Wait, what?!

And then there's the other side of the spectrum. The two are so subtle, barely ever thinking about each other outside of their own problems, that when the romance happens, the readers are left reeling and flipping back through the book to find some indication that they were meant to be attracted to each other.

(Not to be mistaken with the rivalship, in which the chemistry is still very much there, just on a competitive or unexpected level)
---
Some of my favorite YA romances:
• Anna and √Čtienne (Anna and the French Kiss)
• Kaye and Roiben (Tithe + Ironside)


So what do you guys think? What makes an effective romance for you? What are some of your favorite romantic titles (YA or otherwise)?

July 11, 2011

Villains Who Switch Sides

I realized there was yet another villain I had yet to discuss--the ones who, after undergoing a character arc, end up on the hero's side.

These antagonists are rarely the Big Bad. Main villains who "turn over a new leaf" and join the hero at the end usually only happens in media for very young audiences (while hitting us over the head with a ~moral~). No, these guys are usually either the villain sidekicks or the red herring villains.

What reasons might a villain switch sides?

• an acceptance of moral responsibility
• to spite the main antagonist
• for love (family or romantic)

The only character who comes to mind immediately is Zuko from Avatar: The Last Airbender. He was the main antagonist in season one, although, even then, he displayed some moral integrity, choosing to save his Uncle instead of pursuing the Avatar and there was a lot of focus on his complicated past. But for season two and half of season three, the main antagonist switches to his sister Azula (and father the Fire Lord) while Zuko struggles between the destiny he thinks he should have and the destiny that's truly awaiting him. He's my favorite character in Avatar :D


I think the Malfoys might also fall into this category. They oppose Harry the entire series until the end when Narcissa lies to Voldemort in order to get back to her son. Harry even saves Draco at one point, and I'm pretty sure that was a symbolic olive branch.

What do you guys think about these antagonists? Love them? Hate them?

Have a great Monday! ♥

June 13, 2011

Villains We Love to Hate

Last week, I posted about sympathetic villains. Today, I want to talk about the flip side--villains who love being bad. (And fans love them for it.)


Azula, princess of the Fire Nation

One of my favorite villains is Azula from Avatar: The Last Airbender (the original animated series, not that monstrosity Shyamalan turned it into on the big screen). She's ruthless, cunning, manipulative, a firebending prodigy, and loves the power she has.


Azula in action!

Captain: Princess, I'm afraid the tides won't allow us to bring the ship into port before nightfall.
Azula: I'm sorry, Captain, but I do not know much about the tides. Can you explain something to me?
Captain: Of course.
Azula: Do the tides command this ship?
Captain: I'm afraid I don't understand.
Azula: You said "the tides would not allow us to bring the ship in." Do the tides command this ship?
Captain: No, Princess.
Azula: And if I were to have you thrown overboard, would the tides think twice about having you smashed against the rocky shore?
Captain: No, Princess.
Azula: Well, then, maybe you should worry less about the tides, who've already made up their mind about killing you, and worry more about me, who's still mulling it over...

Another villain fans seem to love (I don't, personally, but he is obscenely popular in the fandom) is Sephiroth from the game Final Fantasy VII.


Cloud and Sephiroth from the movie Final Fantasy: Advent Children

Sephiroth could be considered a sympathetic villain b/c of his background. But he becomes so undeniably evil that I can't say the sympathy lasts very long. Plus, he kills one of the game's characters and one of Cloud's potential love interests.




Both Azula and Sephiroth are still complicated villains. They wouldn't kick puppies just for fun--they would do it for specific reasons usually pertaining to hurting or manipulating their protagonist counterparts. And like sympathetic villains, they both have difficult pasts.

So what sets them apart? Intent. Motivation.

Azula controls people with fear because she doesn't trust anyone. In her own words, her own mother thought she was a monster. And it's sad and a bit tragic, but she also enjoys making people fear her. She enjoys the power. Sephiroth is a bit more complicated and it's hard to get into it without explaining his entire backstory. He didn't start out evil, but he ends up twisted and ruthless, someone who wants to "become a god that rules over the entire planet by merging with the planet life force, known as Lifestream, and taking control over it" (from Wiki).

These two are so good at being bad, that fans can't help loving them for it.

What do you think? Which kind of villain do you prefer? Loki or Sephiroth? Nuada or Azula?

June 6, 2011

Complicated and Sympathetic Villains

A few weeks ago, I went to see Thor. While I thought Thor was entertaining with beautiful visual effects (tons of eye candy, both in scenery and characters =P), the character I most loved was Loki.


Loki was manipulative and clever and angry and deceptive. But he was also hurt, uncertain, and so obviously lonely. He lived in the shadow of his brother, the heir to the throne and their father's favorite. Despite what he does in the film, he's still a sympathetic character, and I LOVE that.

So what makes a sympathetic villain?

Complicated pasts

In the movie, Loki is the son of Laufey, king of the Frost Giants (interestingly, in the Norse mythology, Laufey is actually Loki's mother). Loki, having always felt inferior to Thor in both abilities and his father's love, discovers the truth and is stricken.

Another villain I adore is Prince Nuada from Hellboy II: The Golden Army. Prince Nuada went into exile, I suppose to protest his father's peace with the humans who, according to the elves, were born with holes in their hearts that could never be filled. He returns in the present to stop the humans from unwittingly annihilating his people with their ever expanding industrialization.

Likability

It's hard to sympathize with a villain if he's a complete jerk who kicks puppies, right? And he's not all that complicated if he does.

Loki genuinely loves his family. His father's love means everything to him. In fact, I'm pretty sure Loki loves Thor too, despite that he wanted to first exile and then kill him. Loki has a thin skin--he's easily hurt by his family because he loves them so much. And he's lonely, something all of us can sympathize with at some point. Throughout the film, you see Thor surrounded by his friends and comrades, and then by Jane and her colleagues. In contrast, Loki is always alone.

Prince Nuada loves his family too. Perhaps he loves his sister a bit too much *cough* but he shows genuine remorse for having to kill his father. Doesn't make it any better, of course, but it wasn't done in cold blood. And he cares for his companions. When he's told that Mr. Wink is dead, he appears shaken by the news.

Badassness

Okay, fine, this one is just me lol. I like my villains to have that badass factor.

Loki's abilities are pretty badass. He can create illusions of himself (kage no bunshin?! lol) and use magic. And he's intelligent and articulate, which I certainly think is a plus!

I loved the Asian influences in both Nuada's clothing and his fighting. The knife that turned into a staff was pretty awesome too.

Motivations

Loki wasn't driven by greed or a desire for power. He was driven by the certainty that if he just DID THIS then his father would love him best. He plotted and lied and did some terrible things, all for the sake of earning his father's love and proving his worth as Odin's son.

Loki: (to Thor) I never wanted the throne. I only ever wanted to be your equal!

Nuada, likewise, wasn't driven by greed, but by the desire to preserve his people. His father meant to keep their ancient truce with the humans, which Nuada knew meant they and their kind would die out. As a prince and a leader, he did what he felt was necessary for the survival of his people, even to extreme lengths.

Nuada: (to Hellboy) Is it them or us? Which holocaust should be chosen? We die, and the world will be poorer for it.


Prince Nuada Silverlance

What do you guys think of sympathetic villains? I know not everyone is a fan. My husband prefers villains he can hate lol.

May 9, 2011

On Etiquette and Honesty

On Agent Interaction

The internet opens up this amazing space to interact with industry professionals that older generations didn't get. With blogs, twitter, facebook, tumblr, etc, writers have the ability to reach out and actually talk to the people capable of making their careers--or, at least, opening the door to them.

Don't abuse this. Don't get me wrong, I totally support doing your research, finding all interviews by that agent, stalking their blog/twitter/tumblr and their clients' blogs/twitters/tubmlrs. The more you know, and all that.

But don't pitch to them via twitter when they're just trying to have a helpful #askagent chat. Don't message them on Facebook asking them to look at your manuscript. Don't schmooze with the intention of sneaking your query to the top of the slushpile.

Agents will remember your name if your comments are thoughtful and engaging and honest. They will also remember your name for less favorable reasons.

Agents can be intimidating, but they are only people (people with magical door-opening abilities, possibly like Door from Neverwhere), but still just people looking for genuine human interaction. If you make an honest mistake, they'll forgive you. But don't shoot yourself in the foot by committing those mistakes again and again.

I was once advised to lie to an agent. I went to an author I knew for advice on how to resubmit a newer version of a manuscript to an agent in possession of the full. Her advice was to shoot an email to the agent under the guise of checking in to see if she'd read my full yet and if not, hey, attach the newer version of the manuscript so the agent wouldn't have to go back and dig through emails and would think I was being considerate.

Ummm. Okay, while it isn't ill-intentioned, it is deceptive, and that didn't sit well with me. So I ignored her advice and just asked the agent if I could submit a newer version, to which the agent graciously accepted.

Do not lie to an agent. I can't believe that even has to be said.

(BTW, said agent later sent me the nicest rejection I have ever received lol. And also welcomed me to send her the manuscript again after I finished editing. That's another thing you shouldn't do--send continually newer versions. Fortunately, like I said above, agents are human and will forgive your mistakes as long as they don't keep happening.)

On Feedback to Other Writers

Whether you're a beta reader or a critique partner, always be honest in your feedback and your reactions. If there was a sentence that made you pause and go 'wow,' let the writer know. If there was a passage that made you pause and go 'wth?' let the writer know.

You aren't responsible for quality control, but--if you're a beta reader/CP--you're someone the writer allowed to read their work for the purpose of giving them a truthful and thoughtful reaction. Don't tell her the book is awesome if it isn't. That writer might end up shopping a book that isn't ready, and potentially ruin her chances with agents she shouldn't yet be querying.

But also be balanced. If you loved the book, say so, but try to pinpoint a few areas the writer might be able to improve. Likewise, if you hated the book, then you should also say so. But explain why, and try to do it in a way that isn't insulting or inflammatory. Honesty is important, but so is common decency.


On Social Media

Blogging is awesome. It connects you with other bloggers and aspiring writers who share mutual interests and passions. But, as with everything else, you should be honest in who you present to your readers. Who you are on your blog/twitter/etc won't reflect who you are completely, but it should be a facet of you, and not just a guise.

So, be honest about who you are, but also keep etiquette in mind. Don't turn your blog into a personal diary in which you publicly complain about the publishing industry and/or lambast agents who have rejected you.
---
In almost any situation, when in doubt, choose honesty and tact.

Keep an eye out Wednesday for my Followers Contest post! :D

Happy Monday, everyone! ♥

May 2, 2011

On Description and Senses and Distancing Point of View

I love writing that evokes all five senses. But one of two things usually happen in rough drafts:

1. Writing feels too heavy--too many descriptions and observations slow down the pace.
2. Writing uses language that distances the reader and results in the opposite desired effect.


I am particularly guilty of the first one. Fortunately, fixing it is easy.

Just cut words. Sentences. Entire paragraphs if you must. It's great when a characters sees and hears and smells new surroundings, but these details must hit hard and fast, and then retreat to let the action continue. If the description is either too long or only there to look pretty, delete it. It must serve a purpose.

My first few drafts of Soul had paragraphs of setting description because it was new to London, my MC. Several awesome critiques later, 90% of those descriptions were axed because they were only, I sheepishly admit, indulgent writing.

Fixing the second issue is also easy, although it requires a little bit of tweaking as well.

Distanced point of view happens any time you approach a description as sensed through the character: I saw, I heard, I smelled, I felt.

Remove and reword to make the reader feel more present:

I saw a temple at the top of the hill.
vs.
A temple sat on top of the hill.

I heard the church bells toll the hour.
vs.
The church bells tolled the hour.

I could smell the smoke.
vs.
Smoke burned my nostrils.

I felt the rough bark against my fingertips.
vs.
The rough bark scraped my fingertips.


You can see that, while the first sentence uses the 'sense' word (saw, heard, smell), the second feels more sensory.

Another way you distance your reader is when you include unnecessary thought tags.

Thought tags that distance point of view: wondered, thought, mused, realized, etc...

Dad probably wasn't home yet, I thought.
Mom must have left the car in the garage, she mused.
The cows were aliens, I realized.

Sometimes those phrases are necessary to understand what you want to get across so don't eliminate them all--just the ones you can reword to strengthen the manuscript. There is no right or wrong, really. When in doubt, use your best judgment!

Happy editing ♥

April 25, 2011

On Dialogue (or another 'He said - She said post')

First! If you follow me, please edit your Google Friend Connect profile to include a link to your blog so I can follow you back!
--
It's back to basics today with dialogue! I'm a grammar freak (*cue groans*) and nothing pulls me out of a story faster than poor grammar.

To help, I've brought in Kai and Avan, two characters from my latest WIP.

"Hi," Kai said with a wave. "We're here to... make mindless conversation in order to demonstrate Lori's dialogue points."

Avan grinned. "Let's start!"

When followed by a dialogue tag, use a comma instead of a period to end the spoken statement. Likewise, use a comma to separate the dialogue from the tag if the tag precedes the spoken statement:

"You live in the old freight yard now," Kai said, settling on the first topic that came to mind.

Avan hooked his thumbs in the pockets of his jeans and looked down. He said,  "Bit of a downgrade, but at least I've got it to myself."

Dialogue ending in a question mark or exclamation point:

"You still working for the District Mail Center?" Avan asked. "The White Court must be something."

Kai's job as a courier meant she had a pass to enter the South District--the White Court according to everyone who lived outside its twenty-foot stone walls.

"It's crazy!" she said, loud enough to warrant an exclamation point even though she wasn't much for shouting. "Colors everywhere. They should have named it Rainbow Vomit."

Dialogue without any tags, and using action instead to indicate who is speaking:

"I do like to let my actions speak for me." Avan smiled and pushed messy brown hair behind his ear.

Kai suspected it was a calculated move to take full advantage of his dimple. She rolled her eyes. "You could stand to speak less."

Breaking up dialogue with a tag:

"So," Kai said, "how long do we have to keep talking? I have to take Reev his dinner or he won't eat at all."

"Speaking of dinner," Avan said, leaning in close enough that Kai raised an eyebrow and told herself blushing was not an option, "have you eaten yet?"

"Yes." It was a lie and Avan probably knew that, but he smiled anyway and drew back. Kai glanced away.

Don't bury the dialogue in the middle of a paragraph.

Buried:
Kai shoved her hands into her back pockets and hunched her shoulders. "Are we done then?" They'd known each other for almost a decade, and they'd been friends for most of that time. She didn't know when things had grown awkward, but she blamed Avan. Namely because most things could be blamed on Avan.

Better!
Kai shoved her hands into her back pockets and hunched her shoulders. "Are we done then?"

They'd known each other for almost a decade and they'd been friends for most of that time. She didn't know when things had grown awkward, but she blamed Avan. Namely because most things could be blamed on Avan.

Um. Kai and Avan have both informed me that they're leaving now. Which is just as well since their unresolved attraction is leaking into this lesson.

"What?!" Kai said, providing an opportunity for Lori to point out that using the interrobang is considered poor form in formal writing.

Avan smirked. "I thought you were leaving."

"I am," Kai said, glaring. She turned her back, and Avan's smirk wilted, transforming into something else... something softer. With a sigh, he followed her.

(Lori would like to point out that you shouldn't alternate between third person omniscient and third person limited the way she just did, but that's a lesson for another day.)

*Cough* Right. Let's end this.

Final pointers:
• Keep creative dialogue tags at a minimum - 90% should be 'said' because 'said' is invisible to readers and, therefore, doesn't disrupt the flow of the dialogue. Excessive creative tags is a sure sign of a new writer.
examples: exclaimed, muttered, cajoled, teased, commiserate, hedge, proclaim, etcetc DON'T DO THIS

• Make sure all adverbs tacked onto dialogue tags are necessary. Most of the time, they're not. Trust your dialogue to deliver the nuance instead of relying on creative tags and adverbs.

• Dialogue by a new speaker always begins on a new line.

• Any action by the speaker associated with the dialogue should be in the same paragraph.

And there you have it. Did I miss anything?

"Say it like you mean it!"

April 18, 2011

On World Building

First, don't forget to sign up for the Voice Matters Blogfest Challenge (to be posted on Wednesday FRIDAY - changed the date)! And don't forget to drop by tomorrow for the Query Blogfest and, if you can, offer some helpful feedback ♥

I'm outlining a new WIP that I'm super excited to start writing. When I outline, I need to know what the purpose of every scene is and where each plot point will fall. Bits of dialogue usually come to me as well, and I jot them down as I go. But in order to outline at the level of detail I prefer, I first need to have my world fully fleshed out.

So, how do I do that? I make... more outlines lol. And maps. And lists.

World building points and questions to help guide the process:
History - My WIP takes place in a post-apocalyptic future. Even if it's never mentioned in the book, I need to know why and how the world my MC lives in has reached this point. Details like this are relevant to developing the world's political and social systems.

Why were there separate districts in The Hunger Games, and why were they forced to sacrifice their children? What was wrong with Sol-Earth that Amy (and her parents) in Across the Universe needed to be cryogenically frozen and placed aboard the Godspeed? What is the One Ring and how did Sauron use it to nearly enslave all of Middle Earth?

The history of your world affects everything from political and religious beliefs to the development of technology and warfare.

Politics - Who's in charge? Is it a dictatorship or a democracy? A feudal system? A monarchy? A perceived utopia? And how will these things help and hinder your MC?

Society, culture and religion - Is it a rigidly controlled society like in The Hunger Games and Matched? Or is it more diverse and rich like in The Lord of the Rings? Is there a division of classes or a social hierarchy? Are the people technologically dependent? Is there a predominant religion or a wide range of beliefs? Are the people monotheistic, polytheistic or atheistic?

Magical system - If magic exists in your world, are there rules and restrictions? Is the "science" of it explained like in The Sorcerer's Apprentice or is it simply an inexplicable phenomenon? Is it genetic or random? Is it common knowledge or kept secret? Is there an entirely different magical history/politics/society from the "normal" one? What is the purpose of the magic? Are there magical instruments as well, such as wands and time turners like in Harry Potter?

Technology - Since my WIP is a cyberpunk dystopian, there are cybernetically enhanced humans in it. I need to know all the hows and whys of their creation. I also need to come up with how this futuristic world uses technology in its every day routines, and how machines are both conveniences and restrictions to the people and my MC.

If your story is a steampunk, how might technology be unique to that world?

Maps - A map of the world is usually handy if your story takes place on a finite stage, like the ship in Across the Universe. Or within a sweeping fantasy world like Narnia, or in a distant future like The Hunger Games. This can be taken even further with detailed maps of smaller areas and countries, like a map of both Middle Earth and then zoomed in maps of each of its countries. Or a map of the ship Godspeed and then detailed maps of each floor.

Locations - Similar to maps, but not quite. I like to list every location my MC will eventually come across and flesh it out--how to get there, what it looks like, the atmosphere, the people there, and its purpose.

Ultimately, all these questions are linked together, each answer dependent on the next to grow and transform into a fully realized world.
Have fun world building! ♥

April 11, 2011

Editing - Easy Ways to Cut Word Count and Tighten Writing

If you're like me, you probably end up with a higher word count than is typical for your manuscript's genre. But before you start ripping out entire scenes to the soundtrack of a lonely violin, start with the basics. Simply by cutting adverbs and repeated words/phrases/descriptions, I was able to shave 3k words off my manuscript without even touching the scenes at large. Of course, THEN I addressed my plot as a whole and removed scenes I didn't think were necessary, but my word count was looking pretty good by then.

Easy ways to cut word count:
adverbs - I'm not anti-adverbs. I quite like them. But, in excess, they tend to overpower the narrative. Less is more, and when you use them, make sure they're important to the prose and not just used to cover up lazy writing.

crutch words - Most common I've come across are 'just,' '(a) little,' and 'sort/kind of.' These words and phrases can almost always be cut, and the sentence is usually stronger for it. If you're not sure what your crutch words are, have a beta reader evaluate for you, or read your work carefully and when you notice a word repeated even once or twice, use Word's highlight feature to find all repeated instances of it.

Click ctrl+f to open the Find and Replace box. Enter the word you want to search for and then select 'Reading Highlight > Highlight All.' It will then tell you how many times the word was highlighted and display in your document.




extraneous words - typically words that are redundant and state the obvious

She sat down. or She stood up. - She's not going to sit up or stand down (and if she is, then she's doing something very different).

She touched his face with her hand. - It's a sure bet she's not touching his face with her feet.

She let her mouth curve into a smile. - Shortened to: She smiled. or, if you must, Her mouth curved into a smile.

She took a step back. - Shortened to: She stepped back.

His voice flutters around her, quick and elusive, impossible to track. - Repeating the same thing in a different way.

Now consider this example:

Original: Carl turned to look at his Aunt Sue who'd come to stand beside him, her hand resting on his shoulder. She'd taken off the hat and now she stood in front of him, a small smile curving her mouth, gentle and warm but there was a tinge of sadness on her face, in the crinkles at the corners of her blue eyes.

Edited: His Aunt Sue came to stand beside him, her hand resting on his shoulder. She'd taken off her hat. A small smile curved her mouth, but sadness lingered in the crinkles at the corners of her blue eyes.

The second version is much tighter, but still conveys everything the first version does.

Good luck editing! ♥
 

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