Monthly Archives: October 2012

Top Writing Quotes – The Sequel

Considering how popular my last quotes post was and how hard I’m trying to revive the blog, I thought a sequel was in order. Luckily for me, there is no shortage of sage remarks on the life and times of writers. Salud!

If you are in difficulties with a book, try the element of surprise: attack it at an hour when it isn’t expecting it.

  -H. G. Wells

I like the image of attacking a misbehaving manuscript (since there are times I’m tempted give up on mine and delete all traces of its existence). And Wells is right about it being helpful to hop out your routine to jumpstart your work. Some of my best stuff has come out of times when I’ve been writing at odd times or in odd circumstances.

Don’t ask a writer about what he’s working on. It’s like asking someone with cancer about the prognosis of his disease.

Jay McInerney

Unless you’re one of my editors, if you ask about what I’m working on, all you get is a tight smile and a vaguely nervous, slightly annoyed look. It’s not pretty.

There is a splinter of ice in the heart of a writer.

  -Graham Greene

Yeah…Most people don’t hear about grisly murders, horrific deaths, and the misfortunes of their friends, then go “Huh. I could use that.”

Don’t tell us petty stories of our own pettiness…Go back where there are temples and jungles and all manner of unknown things , where there are mountains whose summits have never been scaled, rivers who sources have never been reached, deserts whose sands have never been crossed.

-Willa Cather

I miss that about today’s writing. I end up reading a lot of 19th century fiction and being slightly in awe of the spirit of adventure and the hope for the future that went into them. Can we go back to that now? Please?

I know no person so perfectly disagreeable and even dangerous as an author.

-King William IV

Hmmm…I like “dangerous.” And it’s quite true. We can be very dangerous (“the pen is mightier than the sword”). And also highly disagreeable, especially if forced to get up before 8 a.m.

Characters take on life sometimes by luck, but I suspect that it is when you can write most entirely out of yourself, inside the skin, heart, mind, and soul of another person who is not yourself, that a character becomes in his own right another human being on the page.

-Eudora Welty

I haven’t mastered this yet, and probably never will. All of my character have some part of me in them. But it would be an amazing skill to have, and I’m in awe of the writers that can do it.

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Mwuhahaha! : Writing About Fear, Horror, and Other Delightful Things

Just to be clear, I don’t do horror. Being a writer, I have a despicably overactive imagination and it makes monsters out of shadows often enough as it is, even without adding fodder to it. I once accidentally read (yes, it is possible) a gothic horror novel and didn’t sleep for two days afterwards. But, even in genres other than horror, there are still sections that involve a little suspense and a little terror. Some writers do them well. Some not so much. This is what I’ve noticed about them.

1. Emotions

If something’s really gone and shook your puddin’, you aren’t going to be calm, cool, and collected. Yet, in a disturbing number of books, the characters go right on with their adventures, even after supposedly being terrified moments beforehand. I was in my first car accident last week, and, despite it being minor with no injuries, I still didn’t stop shaking for a good hour afterwards. Though, that was partially because the first responders were rude and rather scary, but I digress. If you’re really and truly scared, the feeling doesn’t  just evaporate once the danger is past. Granted, you can’t take it too far, or it will throw off the rhythm of your story, but it’s still something to think about. Also, it depends on the character you’re writing. Some are cool through the crisis and fall apart later, some bawl throughout the duration, and some lock up like clams. Whatever works for your story.

2. Details

As I’ve mentioned before, I am aware that adjectives aren’t exactly cool in the writing world right now. And I understand why. They can be a real nuisance if used incorrectly. But when you’re attempting to pull off a good scare for your readers, mood is everything. And without adjectives to describe it, there is no mood. You don’t have to use a lot (In fact, you shouldn’t use a lot–bad form. Very bad form.), but a few well-placed descriptors can work wonders.

3. Pacing

This can be a major issue. If it drags on for too long, you lose the sense of urgency that makes suspense and horror what they are. If you cut it too short, there isn’t enough time for the reader to become invested in the scene and therefore become frightened. The age-old writers’ advice of reading aloud really helps with pinpointing areas where the action is either too choppy or dragging. Also, having a disinterested party (who has a decent ear for words) read through and highlight areas where something feels off can be a lifesaver, since we all know how blind we writers can be to the failings of our own works.

4. Excessiveness

According to Google, that really is a word…It still doesn’t sound right. But I digress. While trying to write something capable of keeping your readers up that night, the tendency is to go overboard. If a little is good, a megaton is better, right? In writing, no. Definitely not. With blood, gore, monsters, and the abilities of said fictional monsters, it seems to work better to keep it realistic. Well…as realistic as you can while writing about fictional beasties. If the terrors you describe in your tale are too out of the bounds of reality, then it may very well pull your reader out of the story long enough for them to put the book down. If your monsters are too powerful, then your readers are going to hate you for writing a perfect character, evil or not. And I’m going to stop here, because doing more would be…excessive.

 

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Writing Prompt Monday – Entry #8

Well…I’m back in one slightly traumatized piece from what was quite possibly the most harrowing trip of my lifetime thus far (I’m sure that, with my family history, I’ll one up myself eventually.). We were in the first car accident I’ve ever experienced, ended up with a pair of grumpy, rude, inefficient officers taking our statement and leaving both of us in tears, and came back to the hotel to find our bathroom ceiling dripping.

No offense, but I hate Ohio.

Still, it wasn’t all bad. No one was hurt in the accident, we didn’t get dangerously lost, the ceiling was eventually fixed, and the Youth Challenge services were awesome. God is good, even if I tend to forget it at times.

So, on to the business at hand! This was inevitable, considering the time of year. I know it’s predictable, but it’s also fun.

Q. What would your character dress up as for a costume party?

A.

Zissa Churchill:

I had a surprising amount of trouble pinning down what Zissa would wear, but (bending the time-line slightly) I think she would’ve picked Irene Adler. I get the feeling that had she read that particular Holmes story it would’ve been her favorite solely because of Adler.

Irene Adler

Irene Adler (Photo credit: Arkana de Eidos)

Flynn Churchill:

Flynn would sulk in his room, refusing to dress up until someone dragged him kicking and screaming out to a costume shop and shoved him inside. But I think he would choose a pirate after he finished seething. He was mistaken for one after he was shanghaied in San Francisco and he loves sailing the seven seas anyway.

Will Turner

Will Turner (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Enola Graves:

A vampire, most likely. She’s about as much a creature of the night as they are.

Vampires

Vampires (Photo credit: Velovotee)

Alec Griffin:

Robin Hood. It was his favorite book growing up and he’s rather a kindred spirit to the character.

With Errol Flynn in The Adventures of Robin Ho...

With Errol Flynn in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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I’m Dreadfully Sorry…Have Some Photographs!

Guys, I’m so very sorry I haven’t posted much this week, but it’s been madness. Utter madness! And, by all appearances, it isn’t going to slow down for a bit. I’ll be gone all of next week (YAY ROADTRIPS!!!!!!!!!), and therefore it’s going to be an even slimmer week for posts, but all I can say is…I’m sorry. And here are some fall pictures as a peace offering.

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Expanded Soundtrack

…Because I’m bored and I skipped a lot of characters in the first post. Therefore, here. Have more soundtrack.

Enola’s Theme

*snickers* This is entirely too perfect for her.

Alec’s Theme

I thought it was apt, considering the subject matter of the show and Alec’s character.

Alistair’s Theme

Because this is just the kind of self-important man he is.

Inigo’s Theme

Inigo is the human incarnation of Puss. ‘Nuff said.

Flynn’s Theme

Not only do the words fit him, the melody is perfect. Haunting, a little mournful, but optimistic.

The Final Chapter

It has the funeral(which they crashed), the awkward invitation(which she rejected) from Benedict, and lots of other sweet, emotional stuff.

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4 More Writing Resources!

Since the last “Writing Resources” post was so popular (and I do love popular posts), I decided I’d do another one with all of my newfound writing loves. There are a surprising amount of awesome tools out there, and, though not all of them were actually intended for writers, they can come in pretty handy.

1. Bubbl.us

Bubbl.us is a free, online mindmapping program that I found a week or so ago, and I love it. It’s nice for doing character sheets, plot maps, outlines, brainstorming–whatever you can think of. It’s pretty easy to use, and you can store up to three maps in their cloud without having to go pro and pay for the service. Also, you can export your work as jpegs for easier reference.

2. BBC’s Victorian Franchise

For those of you who write Victorian or Edwardian historical fiction, these shows are goldmines. There were five shows (that I know of): Victorian Kitchen, Victorian Pharmacy, Victorian Farm, Victorian Flower Garden, and Victorian Kitchen Garden. All of them delve into the culture and the practices of the day, not only in their title areas, but in others related to them. They’re detailed, well-researched, and very, very informative. Despite all the books I’ve read on the era, the shows still managed to enlighten me on a lot of things. For example, did you know that pharmacists were responsible for everything from rat poison to electroshock therapy to fireworks back in the day? I now want to be an 1800’s pharmacist…A word of warning: these aren’t necessarily great for entertainment purposes. Some of them can rather dry. But they are vastly intriguing to history buffs and writers, and well worth your time if you need to research any of the aforementioned areas.

3. HeroMachine

This is awesome for those of us without the necessary artistic talent to get our characters from our heads to a sketch. It’s a free online program for creating comic-book style portraits of your characters. It turns out surprisingly detailed portraits, complete with backgrounds. They can either be saved to your computer as a document (V. 2.5) or exported (V. 3) or printed directly. Fair warning, though, Version 3 can be a bit of a pain to use unless you do quite a bit of tinkering around with it. Still, it’s a really handy tool. It has a lot of variations and the finished sketches look professional. Also, it makes me feel somewhat productive while not actually writing.

4. Henley’s Formulas for Home and Workshop

This is a find from my dad’s amazingly varied library, and I was practically giddy when I got ahold of it. It has (obviously) formulas for everything from cosmetics to antidotes to explosives, all in one handy (and massive) volume. Be warned, though, the book was originally published in 1907, so be careful what you use, in either reality or fiction. Some of the formulas are pretty outdated. It’s perfect for period pieces, but if you show a modern character whipping  up a lead-and-mercury-laced face cream, your readers are going to think them idiots. As they should. Still, for more obscure things–explosives, acids, adhesives, this is a handy way of finding out how to make them and describe the process.

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Writing Prompt Monday – Entry #7

I am in the draining process of coming down with the latest virus circulated by munchkins under age five (a.k.a.- my babysitting kids). Therefore, I’m forced to stumble around the house like a feverish, light-headed zombie who craves a nap instead of brains. It’s not fun. Which brings me to this week’s prompt, and–surprise!–it’s a two parter.

Q. Suppose your main character is sick. How does he/she deal with it?

A. Zissa would probably hide out in her room, burrowed into her bed with a book and a cloud of handkerchiefs and only emerge from her cocoon to find fluids and deal with…erm…bodily functions. Also, she would either ignore anyone who tried to talk to her while she was so utterly miserable or she would snarl at them, and leave them with singed spats from her patent deathglare.

Q. How would you plot change if your main character fell ill, and the narration was handed off to a secondary character? Would it still work? 

A. Well, generally speaking, the plot that I have wouldn’t work. All the things that Zissa has at stake are the kickers of the conflict. If I dropped it all on Alec or Prilla, it just wouldn’t have the same impact. But if I absolutely had to…I suppose the romance element would end up becoming the main focus if Zissa was sick, because Alec would have to take care of her. *gag* Not happening. Ever. It’s hard enough to write as it is. And if Prilla was stuck with it–chaos. Utter chaos (Hi, Prills! 😉 ). I can’t even describe the madness that would occur if she became the main character in that plot. The interactions with Enola, dealing with Alec, the ball–it would be a mess. A hilarious mess, but a mess.

Your answer?

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My Top 7 Writing Quotes

I love quotes. Particularly when they pertain to writing (my other love). It’s perfectly epic to know that somebody, somewhere has felt exactly the way you have about the exact same thing. And chances are, they’ve explained it better than you have. It’s lovely. These are my favorite writing quotes, and why they resonate with me.

Writers see the world differently. Every voice we hear, every face we see, every hand we touch could become story fabric.

Buffy Anderson

Speaking from only a couple years’ experience, I can definitely deem this true. Every outlandish news story, every goofy classmate, every daily mishap has the potential to become your next great plot twist. Therefore you live on the edge of a pins-and-needles seat, notebook and pen/phone with notepad app surgically attached. But I still think it’s a good way to see the world. It seems to leave you more…open-minded. More ready to believe the impossible, or at the very least, the highly unlikely, just for the sake of having new experience from which to write.

Writers aren’t exactly people…they’re a whole bunch of people trying to be one person.

-F. Scott Fitzgerald

In getting to know people, you generally discover that they have many more facets than you first realized. With writers, it’s even worse; they don’t have facets, they’ve got whole other people hidden in their personalities who only come out when they write. And yes, I speak from experience. My teachers, parishioners, and the majority of the adults who know me consider me the quiet, meek, perfect pupil who wouldn’t dream of getting into any sort of trouble. And everybody else knows I would probably have gotten myself killed by now, if not for the fact that you actually need money to buy plane tickets and parental approval to play with explosives.

I felt a tremendous distance between me and everything real.

-Hunter S.Thompson

This is one of my favorite things about writing. I get to completely disregard reality whenever I sit down with the laptop. I can be whoever I want to be, do whatever I want to do, and all without worrying about physics, legal worries, or the space-time continuum. It’s lovely.

I put all my genius into my life; I put only my talent into my works.

-Oscar Wilde

You don’t have to be a genius or a philosopher to write something brilliant. It isn’t the point (at least not in my opinion). I think modern literary society has gone a bit astray on this; they seem to think that unless your piece is a piercing, thinly-veiled essay on the human condition with overdoses of death, despair, and tragedy, it’s utterly worthless. To my way of thinkin’, we’re supposed to be simple storytellers. To bring people up rather than tear them down.

Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.

-E. L. Doctorow.

Did you note the blog title? You can see why this quote resonates with me, since I am obviously not normal. Though, honestly, I have my doubts that “normal” exists anymore (normal is boring anyway).

A writer only begins a book. A reader finishes it.

-Samuel Johnson

I pinned this on Pinterest, and someone posted a comment refuting it within minutes. *facepalm* Granted, it’s a bit out there, but I think it’s accurate. Writers (myself definitely included) tend to need heaps upon heaps of encouragement to stick to their work once they get started on a novel or a story or whatever. In my case, I’ve got a friend/editor, my mother, and an aunt all breathing down my neck when I work on a project. The fact that someone is actually reading and enjoying something I wrote is a big part of why I keep writing. Therefore I think it’s accurate.

An artist cannot fail; it is a success to be one.

-Charles Horton Cooley

Another one of our many foibles? If we hit one singele snag, then we’re automatically terrible writers, the concept was stupid, the manuscript is rubbish, and we should probably become accountants. In the process of trying to revise my novel, there have been countless times when I wanted to scrap it all and move on. But, as the quote says, we’re already sitting pretty. There’s an outrageous amount of people in the world who can’t string two words together(example: all of the Internet), whereas we can (and do) do that in our sleep.

Anybody have more lovely quotes? Feel free to share!

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If Not for Physics, Finances, and Reality…

There seem to be a lot of things that, no matter how much we want them, are impossible or at the very least highly unlikely. But dreams (and about a billion daydreams that I play over and over in my head) are perfectly admissible. As are lists of said things. I came across this idea on a post on Through Two Blue Eyes which I have wanted to copy since I saw it, but haven’t been able to since I was planning on doing just a writing blog. But since I’m having difficulty generating ideas, I’m loosening the blog definition a bit.

Things I Would Do If I Could

1. Travel with the Doctor

Sorry in advance to my friends and family and all, but I’d take off to see the universe in a heartbeat. Besides, I’d come back eventually. As long as I didn’t die. Which, considering that I’m a really slow runner, would be a distinct possibility. Still, I’d go.

2. Go to ALL the cities

This one is technically possible, but highly unlikely with my limited funds. Traveling the world is one of my bigger (real) dreams, and unfortunately, not an easy one to manage in the current economy. But I shall do it. Eventually. And even if I can’t get to the rest, I. Am. Going. To. London.

3. Be a superhero for a day

Honestly, I wouldn’t want it for more than a day. Being super, while endlessly entertaining to read about in the comics, would be utterly terrible in real life. You’d have friends always dying and coming back to life, people trying to kill you for no reason, powers that could go haywire, aliens attacking every five minutes–yeah, it’s a mess. But it would be awesome for a day.

4. Serve on a Federation starship for one adventure.

Because, again, it would be a terrible long term lifestyle. If you aren’t a main character, your chance of survival is practically nil what with spatial distortions, temporal rifts, hostile species, and…Q. But I think one adventure would be a lot of fun. As long as I wasn’t wearing a red shirt.

5. Become an amazing archer

Again, this one is…possible(though I doubt I’ll be jumping off buildings), though I’m still in the process of saving up for equipment. It’s always looked so awesome in movies when the hero/heroine takes a shot and it comes out perfect. And it felt wonderful even taking terrible shots at the archery program I went to. So, Hawkeye is what I’m aiming for (pun not intended, but kept).

6. Be a fly on the wall for a Sherlock Holmes case

Because I’m not smart enough to keep up with him and I’m too sensitive to take hanging out with someone who routinely insults people less intelligent than himself. Still, I’d love for him to be real and to be able to see him work.

7. Star in a real-life Disney film

Hey, what could be better than having an epic adventure with a happy ending and your perfect hero at the end? It would be lovely if real life could turn out the same way. And speaking of happy endings…

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Book Review #8 – Michael Vey: The Prisoner of Cell 25

“To everyone at Meridian High School, fourteen-year-old Michael Vey is nothing special, just the kid who has Tourette’s syndrome. But in truth, Michael is extremely special—he has electric powers. Michael thinks he is unique until he discovers that a cheerleader named Taylor has the same mysterious powers. With the help of Michael’s friend, Ostin, the three of them set out to discover how Michael and Taylor ended up with their abilities, and their investigation soon brings them to the attention of a powerful group who wants to control the electric teens—and through them, the world.

 

#1 New York Times bestselling author Richard Paul Evans introduces a character whose risk-filled exploration marks the beginning of a riveting new series. With only his powers, his wits, and his friends to protect him, Michael will need all his strength to survive….”

 

-Amazon Summary

 

 

 

MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD! The author is incapable of reviewing without them.

 

This was another book club book. It didn’t count towards my lit credits, since it was simply one of our fun books, but I’m still going to review it. To be frank, I have quite a lot of issues with this book. The story itself (concept wise) was quite good, hence why I kept reading(besides the fact that I have to discuss it in detail on Thursday), but outside of that…it was terrible. At least to me.

 

For starters, the author (Richard Paul Evans) had a rather irritating style. Granted, if you aren’t a writer wanna-be or some other form of literary personage, then it may not bother you, but it had me almost gritting my teeth by the last page. There were quite a lot of awkward phrases, and that proved to be quite distracting from the story itself. Particularly when you seem unable to turn off your internal editor. *headdesk* Also, in regards to style, there were billions upon billions of unnecessary words. My inner editor about had a coronary over that several times throughout the book. Evans rather liked to state the obvious, as well. That’s one thing if you’re writing a picture book, but quite another in YA. There are some things which really should be left to the imagination. It really makes for a better story if you don’t try to explain every little movement in exquisite detail. And finally, there were the adjectives and adverbs. Now, I know the current trend in the writing community is to cut out all descriptors to create a sharp, clean tone, but I’m personally quite fond of them. Unless they’re dull. If you’re going to use them, go for dynamic, heart-rending, vivid words that scream their meanings and don’t allow the reader to skim for even a second. Evans didn’t. It didn’t work too well.

 

English: Richard Paul Evans

English: Richard Paul Evans (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Secondly, the characters had…issues. The majority of them were flatter than notebook paper and about half as interesting. I tended to forget who was who and who had what powers and why they were there in the first place. Hatch’s electric children in particular had very few distinguishing qualities, and the few they had were shared by every other character in the book. Michael and Jack were better than most, but the rest were fairly 2-dimensional. And on a sidenote, they thought and spoke like junior high students rather than high-schoolers. If you’re going to write about teens, do your research.

 

Also, there was Taylor. Outside of being there as a love interest for Michael and an author’s tool for revealing information, she had no discernible purpose other than being kidnapped and rescued. Token girl characters tend to be rather annoying to me, and she was no exception. Also, she was described as being essentially perfect. That again is somewhat annoying.

 

All in all, it was sad. The story had a lot of potential, in the fact that it was actually an interesting concept with a well-executed plot. But the other factors dragged it down so much that it was hard to pay attention to the good points and easy to focus on the bad ones. I may find the sequel at some point and see if it’s any better. Hopefully so.

 

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