Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Rants....can I?

How many of you start writing a novel, you just love EVERYTHING about it, and then..horrors, you lose interest?

Maybe I should explain in more detail?

I started Philestia with only pure love in my heart. I realized it had flaws, and I didn't expect it to do for me what The Hunger Games did for Suzanne Collins. But I adore everything about it.

But, as in every relationship, you will have that wee wedge that starts tearing you apart. You can either toss the wedge out of your life, or leave for the wedge. But what if you don't realize the wedge IS a wedge? As in my case, what if it started at first as a innocent, helpless, struggling plot idea? Just an idea, mind you!

Ah, but even Great tigers start small.

Masqueraders. It was just a rough, course idea. Mutants who didn't Want to be mutants, and a super cool cat woman. That was it! Just that!

That little idea was the starting wedge.

The next problem came dressed in deerstalker cap, Victorian gowns, and a bad guy named Moriarty. My 'Miss Holmes' idea. At this point it was just a 'what-if'. A small conversation with my dearest friend about Sherlock Holmes brought up the idea of a Holmes sister. Little did I know it would be the straw that broke the camel's back.

I shamefully tell you, I haven't even thought about Philestia in a whole week. What do I do? I've ditched too many novels. I don't know how I could ever actually finish and publish a novel if I keep this up. Should I just lay Philestia aside until my obsession with Masqueraders and Miss Holmes cools? Or should I push my other ideas aside, and consent are solely on Philestia? But, I don't know if I can do that either. I'd feel trapped writing just one novel.

Darn it, being a writer is harder the it looks.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

I was going my happy, merry way..

WHEN I REALIZED! It's Tuesday. My Day to post.

I'm honestly a forgetful girly.

Anyway, I ACTUALLY have a lot to say about writing...Maybe not in Character Development (I don't think that is current...or am I wrong?), but in writing stuff.

I'll just start off with Masqueraders.

I just LOVE this banner I made for it...
Have you ever seen a book, heard about a book, or read a book, and fallen head over heels in want for it? Thought, "Oh my Goshbubbles, THAT is a good book!"?  Thats the way I am feeling.  Only, I'm WRITING the book.  This is a really great feeling.  It is something I have never really felt before.  I get all excited just thinking about it.    Despite the name, this book has NOTHING to do with a masquerade ball.  But, rather Mutant.  But, they call themselves the Masqueraders.  I have to throw my mask love into everything, now mustn't I? 

I'm just going to say, I can hardly wait to start writing this novel.  I'm at the almost there point.  A few more plot tweaks, character bios (I wrote a rough one, and even though I already know every character like the back of my hand, I want to concrete it by writing it down), and then I'll be ready to race off.

For once, just being a writer has made me very happy.

Oh, ETA:

What did y'all ever decide about the blog's background? Naturally, I'm not present at your meetings..(We should see if we could get skype...) but I might be able to help obtain a new (customized) background for Inkblots.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Writers: The Natural Enemy of Trees.

Sometimes I think there should be a sort of writer's guild or writer's union that helps you get through things. I guess, a little bit at least, that's what Inkblots is. But in my idea of a writer's union writers would be compensated for printer ink and paper.

There is nothing as terrible as printing off a eighty thousand some word novel. I didn't count this time, because I was terrified of the number, but my last novel was about three hundred pages and I know this one was significantly longer. I'm guessing it's about four hundred and fifty pages long. It took me at least two hours to print off. I write novels, but I always find myself printing off phonebooks.

The printing off process on my latest novel wasn't nearly that bad. Mostly because my siblings were watching television behind me and I was half heartedly watching that. It surprised me that the printing off didn't irk me as much as it usually does. To be perfectly honest, my new novel, In Transit, offers nothing but surprises. 

I was surprised I first got the idea, which happened about a week after I shipped my old book off to friends and promised not to write anything new for a while. The outlining process surprised me because it was much filed with gaps when my usual outlining was meticulous. When I started writing, it surprised me also has I, a writer with very written out paths for my writing, was really just winging it. Sure enough, reading it for the first time surprised me as well.

Usually, my first reading of me work surprises me. It's an expected surprise, if there is such a thing. I anticipate hating my work, but then I always end up loving it. It's happened with everything I've ever written. 

After putting whatever I've written away long enough to forget what I was thinking when I wrote it, I end up loving it. For In Transit, the same happened again. The surprise there was the same though. I'm always surprised what I've written is good, or at least what I deem good. And I'm always surprised at the way it turned out, which is usually hugely different from what I pictured it turning out as. 

I blame this on my characters. 

Writer's like to blame things on their characters. Much like children blame accidents on their imaginary friends. Fictional characters I create are of course not real. I often forget this, which is insipidly stupid of me. But they are not real. Not at all in fact. They are slaves, I create them, and then I make their lives terrible and write their reactions, but they are not real. 

How though, if they are not real, do they turn out so differently from what I seemingly thought they would turn out as? 

My answer to this is that I wrote them like this. I don't know how, but I'm sure that I probably did it. 
After three novels it still amazes me. It amazes me that my character is so amazingly strong when, while I always pictured her a strong, I never remember writing her as so unrelenting in the face of opposition. I was blown away by my character's strength. And I was blown away by her family's warmth, and her extended family's zeal. I was blown away by the intimidating atmosphere I put my character into, even though I exactly planned it to be like that.   

I'm still blown away by the fact that I wrote all these pages too. The very fact that I have the ability to write novels is still crazy to me, but it's also common place. Yes, I've accepted, that is my defintion: writer, tree killer, stringer of words, creator of characters. But when I think about it, it's just insane that I do this for fun. And that I exceed at surprising my own self with my writing. 

I'm not sure what brings the most surprise: The fact my heroine doesn't break under everything I throw at her, the fact I get worried about her when I know what happens, the fact the plot twists make me gasp,  the fact I'm gasping at something I wrote, or the fact that I wrote it. Whatever it is, I'm sure my new novel is good because it surprises me. And that's all I ever want out of my writing. 

PS What do you guys want out of your writing? Do you read your own books differently than you read other people's books? Do you hate printers too? Do you think I should plant a tree to cover up my guilt? Do you want to read my book? Do you think a union should cover the cost of printer ink? Do you leave your book alone? Do you like all these questions?

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Anatomy of a Name

Yeah... I couldn't help myself. I love names, and I love the art of naming. While coming up with a name is not the most important step in creating a character, it does help bring him or her to life. I mean, if you just referred to your main character as The Hero, that would probably get rather boring by the third page. Names ground your characters and contribute to the illusion that these are actual human beings (or elves, or dragons, or aliens... whatever). There are exceptions or course, usually in short stories, but in most novels and movies, the main characters' names are key elements that help bind it all together.

I tend to name my characters early on in the development process. Often, the name is so wrapped up in who my people are that I can't imagine them being called anything else. When an author assigns a name to a character, we latch onto it and begin to associate all kinds of meanings with that name.

For example: Jason Bourne


For those of us who have seen the Bourne movies, instantly we've got a plethora of words pop into our heads-- action, intensity, running, danger, intelligence, shooting, memory loss, intrigue.

Now let's analyze him a bit more, starting with the name Jason - This harkens way back to the mythological hero Jason and the Argonauts, searching for the Golden Fleece, traveling the world, battling evil. But the name also surprisingly means "healer." Interesting.

And then there's Bourne - This brings to mind rebirth, new life, bearing weight, and second chances. Put the two names together and you get someone who's fast, cool, yet has a subtle compassion about him. But that's not it! You see, Jason Bourne is not his real name... he's actually David Webb - an ordinary citizen who was trapped in the web of a secret CIA operation.

The key is not to come up with some witty, telling name (like Boris Badenov), or a cliché symbolic name (like Raven), or a name that just describes their appearance (like naming someone Ebony because they have black hair). Instead, take it a step deeper and find ways to evoke certain feelings about your character with a subtle name that represents the heart of your character well. One writer who I think does a marvelous job with naming is Suzanne Collins in The Hunger Games: Katniss Everdeen, Prim, Haymitch, Effie Trinket, Gale, President Snow. Each unique name has so much life and meaning behind it, without being in-your-face obvious.

Right now I'm working on developing characters for a possible webcomic. The main character is a superhero, but she's also deeply troubled with multiple personality disorder (a result of the event that gave her superpowers), and she tries to cover up her fear and anger by becoming goth. I've decided to name her Sydney. Without giving too much away, she's edgy and modern, and now that she's goth, she goes by Syd.

So, one last thought: Why do you think God left it up to Adam to name the creatures of the earth? Why do they need names? Why didn't God just name them himself? What is so important about the names we assign to things?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

What Your Character has in Common with . . . Math?

To me (and I think that a lot of you agree), characters are what make or break a novel. The plot can be wonderfully paced, the concept can be incredible, but if the people aren't either of those at the least, a dimension (the best dimension!) of the story is lost.

So for this topic, I went to my bookshelves and notebooks to find characters who exponentially enrich the books they live in. The ones that immediately came to mind: 
- Kathy from Mrs. Mike. I'll limit my (nearly unending) praise of this book here to this: This is a true story, so it's not  like the authors or the MC had any control over events, but the way they make her change and grow her is inspiring to behold. (Homesickness --> Belonging)

- Ponyboy from The Outsiders. His unknown mission is to find his feet and conquer his fears, but he doesn't realize that until the end of the book. By then, he has a pretty solid grasp on to go on. (Fear --> Purpose)

- Symone from The White Darkness. She becomes so strong over the course of the novel and has such a good voice that I could feet the heart-pounding, ice cold gravity of her circumstances.(Desire --> Satisfaction)

- The narrator from A Separate Peace. I honestly cannot remember his name, but I do remember the way he started out as a shaky, rambunctious schoolboy and ended as a shaky, bleakly-inclined young man. That was interesting.(Youth --> Wisdom)

My favorite way of thinking of these goings-on is as their arc.

It's like a function that has a power of 2 in algebra. You chose a number for x, plug it into the equation, subject it to the trials of being stretched and shifted however called for, and, if your professor is like mine, graph it. And because it's x2, you'll get a lovely parabola - an arc. All of that gritty math happened to make x (aka your character) change and grow.

(I had a math test today, if you were wondering.)

Good writers yank the reader into their character's lives so subtly that she didn't even notice. The fun I have experimenting with this is the best part of mylifeasawriter. *mushy grin*

I'd love to hear your takes on the characters I mentioned above, or tell about others who fit the nicely-developed bill.
Ps - The copy of Leviathan that I finally ordered arrived today! So next time Mr. Westerfeld is in town, maybe another autograph outing is in order? ;)

Monday, February 13, 2012

Getting a Grip on Character Development


A couple weeks ago, after a starry-eyed breakthrough in Seaspear, I sat at the kitchen table, my notebook in front of me.  Inside, I had written Cheryl Klein's "Plot Checklist" from her writing book Second Sight (I heartily recommend it) but I was stuck on the very first question.

1.  The overall change my character experiences is:

I just sat there twirling my pen and feeling growing panic.  I had had my suspicions that Ren was rather flat, but I had always passed over the fact because I didn't think I could fix it at the moment.  My parents were washing the dishes and so finally I decided to ask for some advice.  I did this by giving a loud sigh and exclaiming, "My story is TERRIBLE.  It's awful! I don't know what to do!"

Not the most admirable way to get advice, I agree, but hey, it worked.  My dad turned around, ears almost visibly pricked and said, "Why?"

"Ren doesn't change!" I wailed.  "She's just the same through the whole story.  I tried to..." From here I went on to despair over how weak, pale, fragile, and useless my main character was.  "She's too passive.  And that won't work in a book."

"Of course it will," Dad said.  "Ren is great because she knows what's right and she does it."

Now if someone's ever complimented your character, you'll know that it's like someone's complimented you personally, but ten times better.

Now that my mood had lifted, both my parents went on to help me brainstorm a way for Ren to develop through the story.  They knew as well as I did that even if they kept on bringing up ideas that would never fit with my current plot, they were sure to spark an idea of my own that would work, which is exactly what happened.

Why do we character develop?

I can think of three reasons why we character develop.  Please add to the list in a comment, if you so wish :)

1.  To make our characters and our stories realistic.  Close your eyes and think of something BIG that has happened to you.  For you to even call it BIG, it must have inwardly changed you in some way, no matter how slight. A lot of times, stories center around big things that happen to normal people.  After a story character goes through one of these ordeals, there is no way he or she can be the same.  It's only natural for he/she (okay, I'm going to say 'she' from now on, don't perceive me as feministic) to have changed in some way, due to her experiences.

2.  To make our characters loveable.  For one, it is very hard to love and sympathize with a character who has no faults.  A long time ago, my mom said she picked up the Elsie Dinsmore series, to preview it for then 10/11 year old me.  She told me later that she was disgusted with how perfect Elsie was! (My apologies, any Elsie-lovers.)  For two, we as human readers, YA at that, are always changing as we search for our identity.  Static characters who never change are not appealing to us.

3.  To further hook our readers.  We could throw a character into a pandemonious roil of car chases and flying bullets, but if the character wants nothing from it, if she has no reason to be there, then she isn't truly engaged in the action.  And if our character isn't truly engaged in the action, then no reader will be either.

from national treasure 1 via

Where do I start character developing?

Good question.  I'll do my best to answer it, for myself as much as for the rest of you.

One way to start is to figure out what fault your character has that (1) you want to change into a positive thing, and (2) that by being changed, relates with and enhances the other elements and themes of the story.

How do you figure out this magical fault?

You can figure out what your character WANTS.  What drives her very being? What is she striving for throughout the story?  I'll use Ren from Seaspear as an example.

Ren wants: To recover the magic spear, which was stolen.

The want will sometimes be something physical, like the above, and in that case, narrow down the WANT (physical) to a DESIRE (emotional).  Okay, so Ren wants the magic spear.  But why? Why is it so important? The answer:

Ren desires: The trust and approval of Captain Ajax, which she lost.

Now take this and narrow it down even further into a CHARACTER TRAIT.  This will usually be what you're going to change throughout the story.  Again, ask why:

Ren wants Capt.'s trust because she bases her opinion of herself on other people's opinions of herself.  If the Capt., her hero, thinks ill of her, than she thinks she must be very bad indeed.

Ahhh....so now we get to the root of the thing! The above is obviously bad; Ren needs to learn to accept herself no matter what other people think and no matter how influential those said people are.

So that's one way you can get started on your character developing.  Other times, though, characters aren't very clear on what they want.  I haven't read Pride and Prejudice in a while, but I did just watch the ('05) movie for the millionth time.  *mushy smile*

Lizzy Bennet wants:

What? She's just a normal girl living a normal life.  She might want to get married, I don't know.  Maybe she wants a new tea gown.  Or ribbons.  Or a new supply of smart remarks for Darcy.  (That last one seems the most legitimate.)  But Pride and Prejudice is known for its character development, because at the beginning Lizzy perceives Darcy as cold, stiff, and insulting and at the end she sees that she misjudged him and he isn't that bad of a guy after all.  In fact, she wants to marry him.

So the point of all this - another thing that can influence character development other than her WANTS are the other people she interacts with and who influence her.  For Ren, that's mainly Captain Ajax, because he is the one whose opinion she values most.  Grailyn and several others are also involved.


Once you figure out what it is about your character that you plan to change, you can go forth and do so as you write the rest of your story.

Well, of course it isn't that easy, but I don't know how to explain it yet....we'll see how I do with Ren.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

New Topic and Housekeeping

Thanks for a great week, everyone! I enjoyed reading about your editing adventures.  (Even though my hog-be-tied vlog wouldn't work for several of you.)

So for this coming week, we're going to be talking about character development.  All our characters need to change from when we first meet them to where we leave them at the final pages of a story.

If you haven't directly worked with this story element, you could bring up some characters you've read about who had great development or didn't.  You could even do some research and find out what different authors think of it.

As for house-keeping, there are a few questions we need to discuss.

1.  What topics are you interested in seeing in the near future? Tell us your forte, your favorite part of writing, that you really enjoy pouring passion into.
2.  The blog design we have now is rather....blah.  What do you think of a redo? If 'yes,' I have some ideas, some of which involve a physical club meeting and Mia the photographer. :)
3.  What do you think of recruiting authors to do guest posts on here?

Can't wait for our new topic week! Really throw yourselves into this one, gals!