Thursday, October 27, 2011

7x7 Link Award!

The most observant among you may have noticed the new award on my sidebar, like a badge of honor. Thanks to the lovely Bailey Hammond, from Over Yonder, I’m now the proud holder of the 7x7 Link Award.

And you’d best prepare yourselves, because more (albeit hesitant) pride is on the way: the basis of this award involves several categories. You choose past blog posts that encompass these categories, and basically link back to posts on your own blog.

But not to worry! This post isn’t all about me! Because at the end, I shall be linking to three lovely bloggers who will then receive the award themselves. J
Let’s begin, shall we?
Most Beautiful: Meaning of a Username

I just about put this post down for ‘Most Underrated’, because it’s a post from soon after I started trying regular updates, and it hasn’t gotten much exposure. But after reading through it again, I like what I was trying to do with the language. I’m not sure if it’s ‘just’ a blog post, or a personal essay, or something else impossible for me to classify, but I was at least trying to do something… And I kind of like how it turned out.

Aside from being my most-viewed blog post, this contest to celebrate Pro(b)logue’s first anniversary offered critiques to the winners. Hopefully, they found it helpful in regards to their own writing. ;)

Most Popular: Ending Eternal Despair

This is actually my third-most popular blog post (in terms of page views, at least) but… My legitly most popular posts fit into other categories, so...

Most Controversial: When to Hit the Backspace Key
Considering this whole post is actually about controversy in writing…

Most Successful: Sparkfest - Ted Dekker Exaltations

I’d say my Sparkfest post was pretty successful; nine comments – more than my average – and most of them were from people who’d never been to my blog before.

Most Underrated: How Heroes Are Made

I think this post is underrated, even by me. It was one of my first blog posts ever (so it, uh, might be a little rough) but reading it back reminds me that I had some nice ideas floating around in the jumble of “How exactly does blogging work?” This post was basically me, cementing certain ideas on a topic that I love (character reactions!) through the use of some nice examples. I think it was actually a precursor to the next post I’ll link to.

Most Prideworthy: Stay in Character
Okay, so I’ve linked to this post repeatedly, in more recent posts, and even as a guest post on Young Writers Society’s ‘official’ blog. But honestly, I think it’s one of the best posts I’ve written so far, and as I’ve mentioned, I absolutely adore this topic. ^^

And finally, the blogs I’m passing the award on to…

  1. Claudie A. at The Novel Experiment! -- On a side note, her last post was about a Kraken. How could I NOT link to her?
  2. Amanda the Aspiring at Truth, Justice, and Other Stuff!
  3. Julie Musil at her self-titled blog!

All great bloggers, guys, so check ‘em out. ^^

Thanks for reading. :) It was interesting looking back through my old posts, and seeing how my blogging style has already changed from how I started.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

An Example of Voice: The Knife of Never Letting Go

                “Howdy, n’ welcome to this here blog o’ mine.”

                “Greetings. I would like to extend my deepest appreciation to you for visiting this online expression of my thoughts.”

                “S’up dudes. This be my blog.”

                Hi. And welcome to my blog.

                Hopefully these examples have highlighted the importance of today’s subject: Voice. It’s a crucial part of writing a story worth reading, and it’s a great way to introduce readers to your characters, and the world your story takes place in.

                Recently, I found a book with a voice that exemplifies this very well. The Knife of Never Letting Go, by Patrick Ness, involves mind-reading. Lots of it. Not just a focused look into the mind of a single person at a time, but everyone projecting their thoughts into the air, all the time, to everyone.

                There are no private thoughts. Where there are people, there is Noise.

                This concept, plus talking animals and a main character who’s practically illiterate - yet often profound - make for an interesting voice indeed. Remember that post on breaking the rules?

                The First Pages:

                The first thing you find out when yer dog learns to talk is that dogs don’t got nothing much to say. About anything.

                “Need a poo, Todd.”

                “Shut up, Manchee.”

                “Poo. Poo, Todd.”

                “I said shut it.”

                We’re walking across the wild fields southeast of town, those ones that slope down to the river and head on toward the swamp. Ben’s sent me to pick him up some swamp apples and he’s made me take Manchee with me, even tho we all know Cillian only bought him to stay on Mayor Prentiss’s good side and so suddenly here’s this brand-new dog as a present for my birthday last year when I never said I wanted any dog, that what I said I wanted was for Cillian to finally fix the fissionbike so I wouldn’t have to walk every forsaken place in this stupid town, but oh, no, happy birthday, Todd, here’s a brand-new puppy, Todd, and even tho you don’t want him, even tho you never asked for him, guess who has to feed him and train him and wash him and take him for walks and listen to him jabber now he’s got old enough for the talking germ to set his mouth moving? Guess who?


                We don’t need apples from the swamp, truth be told. Ben can buy them at Mr. Phelps’s store if he really wants them. Also true: going to the swamp to pick a few apples is not a job for a man cuz men are never allowed to be so idle. Now, I won’t officially become a man for thirty more days. I’ve lived twelve years of thirteen long months each and another twelve months besides, all of which living means I’m still one month away from the big birthday. The plans are being planned, the preparayshuns prepared, it will be a party, I guess, tho I’m starting to get some strange pictures about it, all dark and too bright at the same time, but nevertheless I will become a man and picking apples in the swamp is not a job for a man or even an almost-man.

                But Ben knows he can ask me to go and he knows I’ll say yes to going because the swamp is the only place anywhere near Prentisstown where you can have half a break from all the Noise that men spill outta theirselves, all their clamor and clatter that never lets up, even when they sleep, men and the thoughts they don’t know they think even when everyone can hear. Men and their Noise. I don’t know how they do it, how they stand each other.

                Men are Noisy creachers.

                I think The Knife of Never Letting Go is the kind of book where you’ll read the first page and either love it – like I did – or run screaming in pursuit of a grammar textbook. It all goes back to those ‘rules’ of writing, and how attached you are to them. If you need the standard rules, you will probably not enjoy this book.

                If you’re willing to suspend those rules, just for a while… Just long enough to catch a glimpse into a new planet where grammar doesn’t matter and thoughts run over each other just like in real life so it’s all on the page and it’s real

                Then you probably will like this book.

                Artfully misspelled words, run-on sentences galore, every sentence mimicking the thought process of someone surrounded by thoughts all the time. All this, plus the usual terminology of a science fiction tale – fissionbikes, ‘Askings’ instead of questions, etc. A slower beginning as we’re introduced to this world, then almost nonstop action, taking the reader to those Scenes of Ultimate Despair again and again. Then, a cliff-hanger ending that leaves you desperate for the next book in the series.

                It’s messy in places. It’s violent. It’s awful and tragic and – above all – unflinching.

                And I loved it. Even the things I wouldn’t exactly be thrilled about in an average book (some profanity for instance – not my cup of tea) were overshadowed by the plot, the characters, and the voice.

                Which would you rather hear? A tone-deaf amateur mangling your favorite song? Or your favorite singer in all the world singing ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star’?

                Voice is like that. A good one can save a book, or a bad one could doom it.

                What’s the voice of your story?

                Are there any other books you can think of with a fantastic – or at the very least, distinctive – voice? Any books that lacked a distinctive voice? And what are some ways you’ve tried to develop your voice when writing?
And finally, the inevitable excuse: This post is late due to school stuff, musical practice, my sister home from college for a few days... And I've been making paperclip jewelry and a clay/wire doll based on the main character of this year's NaNo novel. I've been productive... Just not in a blogging way. XD

Saturday, October 8, 2011

First Impressions: How to Introduce Gripping Characters

Today's post about introducing characters that will grip a reader is located on the new collaborative blog I'm contributing to:


Short version is, we can get readers to care about our characters by giving them humorous, heroic, and relatable traits. We want to get deep inside their heads.

For a more in-depth explanation, click the link.

And guys? It involves a video of Captain Jack Sparrow.


Saturday, October 1, 2011

Lack of a Reaction: When Questions Go Unanswered

**Scroll down for an important exciting announcement! 8D**

Now, on to the post:

Supernatural Boy: “I don’t have much time to explain, but long story short, you’ve just been sucked into another dimension and are actually our long-lost princess. You’ll also develop astonishing powers you’ve never even hinted at possessing before in about fifteen seconds, after we’re attacked by the witch trying to steal your throne.”

                Female Main Character: “Okay. Let’s do this.”

                See any problems here?

                Yes, there are a few, but the one I’m going to focus on is our FMC’s reaction to the news that her life has just gotten a whole lot more complicated.

                Specifically, I’m going to focus on her lack of reaction. There’s no frantic questions, no denial, no burst of laughter, and no sarcastic comments regarding the sudden need for an insane asylum… She just accepts it. And the story moves on. And any questions the reader has – which, by the way, should be more or less the same questions this MC would have – are completely and totally ignored.

                We do not want to ignore our reader, folks. Not once you start preparing your book for others to read. We have the answers all in our heads. Our readers, and often our characters do not.

                A show I rather like kind of inspired this post, because I see the writers ignoring readers’ questions on a regular basis. Granted, there’s only so much you can fit in a 30-minute episode, but isn’t that what cliff-hangers are for?

                Take for example one episode in particular. Up until that episode, our MC was an amnesiac, and his whole ‘thing’ was trying to find out his past, where he’d come from, why he had the abilities he did…

                And then suddenly, in this episode, his long-lost brother appears! His bro should have all the answers! He can finally clue the readers in on what’s going on! Finally, things will start to make sense!

                Except they didn’t. Partially because his long-lost brother is a quirky, crazy guy, a bit out of touch with reality, but mostly because our main character didn’t even bother to ask the questions in the first place. This is his chance to find out everything, and he doesn’t seem that concerned about it. There wasn’t a single question about his past, or his life before amnesia. At the start of the next episode, it was like his brother had always been around. Still no answered questions.

                Which left me, the viewer, wondering two things.

o   What is he waiting for? This is his chance, so why isn’t he taking it?

o   Now that he potentially has all the answers… Where are they taking this character, and this plot, and this series?

                It also made me start to think, “Is this show really as fantastic as I thought at first?”

                And this is not something we want our readers to be thinking about our books.

                Like I said, there’s only so much the writers of that show could fit into one episode. Similarly, there’s only so much we can fit into a novel, or a chapter, or a scene. If our characters are right in the middle of a chaotic battle, they’re not going to have time to sit down and talk things out right away.

                But that shouldn’t stop the questions from eating away at our main character. It shouldn’t stop them from asking those questions at the earliest opportunity, and it shouldn’t stop them from demanding answers. It shouldn’t keep our characters removed from all the emotion they should be feeling after a major development…

                Because if the emotions and questions in our reader’s mind keep prying them away from our character’s thoughts, things won’t match up. Our reader will feel disconnected, and frustrated, and they might even feel like closing the book entirely.

                The show I’m referring to, I think, has been trying very hard to keep things light. Comedic. ‘Fun’. Which is good, I suppose, except I feel like they’re sacrificing all the messy, emotional meat of the character reactions that I love. The questions are still roaring through my head, episodes later, as a new huge event was just brushed over with little fanfare. The long-lost brother is still there, but I’m no longer sure why he matters, or if he matters, or if our main character’s history was ever really important (even though that was the whole starting premise of the show).

                I’m not matching up with the characters. They, and the plot of the show, don’t feel as real to me as they once did.

                And if your characters or plot don’t feel real… Then it’s just a show. Or just a book.

                I can turn off a show. I can close a book.

                Appropriate reactions aren’t just a matter of scenes and chapters. They’re a matter of keeping your characters believable. And they’re a matter of making your story more than ‘just’ a book.

                Have you ever read a book or watched a show that skimmed over extremely important events? Have your characters ever inexplicably accepted something impossible? What do you think the balance is between addressing questions, and getting overloaded with them?
And perhaps a better question, have you figured out yet that I get really excited about Character Reactions?

Announcement Time! 8D

I'm proud to announce that I shall henceforth be contributing to a new collaborative writing blog, begun by myself and three amazing friends from Young Writers Society.

Scratchlings is now officially in business.

Feel free to check it out. :)