Saturday, December 26, 2015

Writing Tips: Believable Male Characters

In a day and age when so much talk s focused on writing strong women, males are getting rather pushed to the sidelines. But if you look through writing history, the male character plays a crucial role in literary works over the ages. It wasn't until the twentieth century that such a thing as strong and independent females broke out across America and the world.
But does that mean that male characters are now worthless? Certainly not! The trouble is, it is getting harder and harder to find advice on how to write them. So, here I add some of my own advice.

First of all, let's throw out all the clichés. I mean, how many guys do you know that are tall, dark and handsome, with flashing green or piercing blue eyes? How many men have you met that are sweet and selfless and have troubled pasts, so they want to shield you and everyone around you from their own childhood horrors? Or have "devilishly crooked grins"? I mean, come on. Sure, there may be some guys like that out in the world; I haven't met all of the males through the ages, so I cannot say that they do not exist. But they are few and far between. They are rare. And, quite frankly, they are not very believable.



So, having thrown out clichés and stereotypes, where do we go from there? Well, the first thing I would do is find a list of flaws. It doesn't have to be overlong, but there have to be some flaws. I'd say at the very least, one major, three minor. Whether it is he has a tendency to drive to fast, or he is overly proud, there has to be something that is the matter with him. After all, any good story is about change, and if one is perfect at the beginning, how will one change by the end?

Another thing to add are some fears. It can be a superficial fear, a fear of spiders, or of heights; or it could be a deeper, more emotional fear; a fear of commitment or abandonment, for example. Take your pick; there are any number of fears out there. Your character just has to have one to four. But a fearless character is an unrelatable and unbelievable character.

Now we have flaws and fears, what about interests or hobbies? And if you say his interest is in football, girls or cars, I will cyberslap you. Guys are interested in WAY more than sports, cars and Playboy. In fact, many are not interested in those stereotype AT ALL. So pick something else. (Hint: He can have a lot of interests. I bet you have more than two or three interests or hobbies. So let him.)  Be creative. Be original. Chances are, your character will end up being just as creative as you are. And that is good and admirable. Remember, his interests make him interesting.

Flaws, Fears, Interests. Now we need some qualities. This guy of your creation will not be without some kind of quality; even evil villains have qualities. So dream some up. He could be and introvert, so he likes to help out behind the scenes. He could be arrogant, with a puffed out chest, so he would never tell anyone that he likes to volunteer at a retirement home. Maybe he loves deeply. Maybe he's empathetic. Again, be creative. Oftentimes, some of his qualities will be related to some of his interests. As long as you steer away from the Stereotypical Male aisle in Character Mart, you should be good.

These are just some tips to creating a more three dimensional and well rounded male character. If you have any tips or tricks, I would love to know them! Feel free to comment below.

And, as always, my dear Writerverse, Happy Writing!






Friday, December 25, 2015

Some Christmas Wishes and a Writing Update--

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

Can you believe that the end of the year is upon us? I know that I surely can't. But, nevertheless, I wish you all the best of Christmases, and a wonderfully-fabulous and absolutely-jovial New Year. In short, I wish all my readers all of the very best!

But I have not been unproductive this Holiday season. No, I have actually been in writing overdrive of late. When I am not furiously typing on my laptop, filling in a new story idea, or refining my newest outline (the one for next November, of course), then i am watching. I am looking, observing, and thinking. There are so many things in the world to notice, things to put together, ideas to formulate, that there is no time for dilly-dallying. No time for that at all. Ergo, I am constantly at work, if not always tangibly.

Also, I wanted to share my December Books-on-Writing Haul with you. Today, I got several new books which I want to recommend to you all.

Book One: The Writer's Journey, by Christopher Vogler.

This book is one that I have turned to time and again. True, I was borrowing a copy of it, but do not let that hinder you from purchasing (or at least reading!) this book. It was written aimed at writing Screenplays, but that just makes it all the more valuable, for it will force you to learn how to write concisely. It is also home to the fabled (by me, at least) Hero's Journey, which has helped me structure and write meaningful and strong stories.

Book Two: The Elements of Style, By William Strunk, Jr. & E.B. White

Though I have not finished this book, I will already recommend it from what I have read today. This book is small-- pocket sized and thin-- and already I have found several wonderful little nuggets that have my mind whirring with possible ways to realize them. (I would share them here if not for fear of copyright infringement.) So, yes, I recommend this book to all who have written, write, or plan to write in the future.

Book Three: The Art of Fiction, by John Gardner

This book. I cannot say enough good about this volume. It is not very long (150 pages? 200?), but so chock full of good advice, beautiful language and thought provoking ponderings that it will keep you on your proverbial toes in writing.

That said, I again wish you all the best Christmas and even better New Year!

And, as always, Happy Writing!



Saturday, December 19, 2015

Character Voice- Part II

Hello, my faithful readers!

Many weeks ago, I began a line of posts on Character Voice. Sadly, I never finished it, instead leaving it to be pushed further and further down into the archives of Writerly. But today it will resurface. It will come up, came alive, and came anew. Are you ready?

Character Voice: What is it?

"Voice is the characteristic speech and thought patterns of a first-person narrator; a persona. Because Voice has so much to do with the reader's experience of a work of literature, it is one of the most important elements in a piece of writing." (Quoting Writability, The Blog.)

I think that that gives you a good definition of character voice, what it is, and why it is important. So, bearing that in mind, let us discover how to make it good.

So, when creating a character that is believable, one should not focus so much on physical descriptions as on said character's character. As I said in the first post on this, trial and error is really the best way to go. However, you can have less error if you take the following into account the following.

1. Every Character is Different. Each different person will have different speech patterns and vocabularies. For instance, if a character grew up in the slums of New York, they would have more of an accent. But if they are tenured professors, or even teens growing up in a home where proper English is spoken, they may use more uncommon words (like indeed, mayhap, nevertheless, to name a few). Think about that.

2. Speech Tics. Is there a word one character insists on using, be it with the correct meaning or not? (The word Inconceivable comes to mind.) In a novel of mine, one of the main characters uses the word Seriously all. The. Time. And, because that is just how she is, another character from the same story accuses him of constant austerity (because he's always so serious). Is there a word your characters use a lot? Or a phrase? Do they have a motto of sorts? These are good questions to ask yourself.

3. Tone. Ah, tone. Tone is more important, I would say, than either of the above. But it is also harder to pin down. This is when you really have to think about your character. Think about their outlook on the world around them. Whereas the top two tips were more for dialogue than anything, tone should be consistent whether spoken aloud or being narrated. Is your character snarky? Sarcastic? Do they turn a blind eye to all the bad things they see? Do they have a troubled past? What about their sense of humor? Do they have a facade they have to keep up? These are all things to think about.

Bearing all of the above in mind, you should think about your character's voice. But do not just think of that; think of the character. For there can be no voice if there is no voicebox.

And, as always, Happy Writing!



Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Writing During the Christmas Rush--

So.

Next week is Christmas (can you believe it?), and here we are, at the brink of the New Year. People are busy, bustling from place to place, whether it is to purchase gifts, or perhaps to meet people. The air is full of bells ringing, voices laughing and carols being sung. There are candles in windows and trees in houses and stockings over fireplaces. When you step outside, the cold wraps itself around you. It is, in short, Christmastime.

But here is the question of the hour: What Are You Writing?

Have you forgotten about that notebook and pen? Have you neglected that laptop? Are you turning a blind eye to that dust-collecting novel, or are you saying "Oh, I will get to writing in the New Year"? Here's a little hint: If you put it off now, you'll put it off later.

Being a Writer, an Author is not just a once a year deal. Yes, you did fabulously in November, but you can not just stop now. Now is when you need to write more than ever. After working so hard in NaNoWriMo to get started, to gain momentum, to force yourself to write, now is when you prove you are a writer. So you got your rough draft down in a month-- Good! But I am here to tell you that rough drafts do not make it into publishing houses.

Just like I said in November, Suck It Up And Do It Anyway. You don't want to write, you're just not feeling it, you have too much else to do, Christmas is too busy, you have a stack of laundry a mile high... These are all excuses I have heard before. I have even used a few of them before. But guess what? You can still make time to write. Maybe you could only watch one episode instead of the usual two of that show you are binge-ing. Maybe you will not go out dancing tonight just so you can have some alone time with that laptop. Or maybe you will just grab snippets of time here and there all throughout the day. (Those five minute intervals add up.)

It is Christmastime, I know, and the world is crazy busy, yourself included. But heck, why not add a little more crazy to your holiday? Eat some figgy pudding while you write. Stick some sugar cookies in the oven with a timer, and then make your way to your desk. Or maybe you can go for a walk and see all the blinking holiday lights, gathering inspiration for your literary concoction. Just don't stop at looking for inspiration. Even if none comes, you still have to write.

So, now you have to strap yourself into that chair at that desk in that room and focus. There is so much going on this time of year that your mind will be abuzz with activity. Pull from that and find a way to weave it craftily into your story. Does it have to be your NaNo Novel? Of course not. Now you can write anything. You can work on some short stories. You can start that biography you've been meaning to get around to. Or, if you are daring enough, you can even start a brand-spanking-new novel. It does not matter what you write, so long as you actually write. 

So stop reading blog posts meant to inspire (or guilt) you into writing, and write. Remember, some letters make a word, some words make a sentence, some sentences make a paragraph, some paragraphs make a chapter, and some chapters make a book.

So go make a book.



Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Writing Journal- December 9, 2015

I know it's not November, and that NaNoWriMo is over (cry cry), but today I thought, Hey, why not keep everyone posted on the Writing Process? I am, after all, always in the Writing Process.

Today was kind of special for me, actually, because I have kind of been in a writing lull since NaNo ended. That was ten days ago (my, my, where did the time go?). I have been writing everyday, as usual, but I really wasn't feeling it. I had to push myself to just get a couple hundred words written. And though I have had this idea for a new story formulating in my brain since the second week (or so) of November, I have had a TON of plot holes in just the general gist of it that I had going. But tonight, I decided, that would be no more.

I got home tonight after a long day (Wednesday's are always long, and Wednesday's in December are even worse), and all I wanted to do was curl up in bed with a good book, read, and go to sleep. Problem was, I finished my book yesterday, and have yet to go to the library. And I don't feel like a reread at the moment. So, I decided I would focus on the next best thing to reading. You guessed it! Sleeping. Just kidding, you were right the first time; Writing.

So, I sat down at my desk with a notebook, a pencil, and a three foot stack of 3x5 cards, ready to set to work. But, as always, there was a problem starting. I wanted to do an outline of one of two story ideas that I have fresh in my mind, but I had no idea where to start. So I knew it was time for a Plot Vomit (see The Planning Process for more information on this). To do this, though, I had to choose quickly which plot to go with. That seemed like a momentous decision right then, because whatever story I outline now is bound to be the next one I write. And that is no small commitment, as well you know.

But in the end, I chose a plot (the very one that I have spoken of before, the one that came to me in week two of NaNo.). Then, at the top of the page, I wrote in bold letters:

                                                                 Plot Vomit

Then I commenced to staring at my page for a few minutes. Sipping my chocolate milk (guilty pleasure). Crossing and uncrossing my legs. Doodling in the corner of my page. In short, I was Procrastinating. And not the good kind that I encourage when in the act of writing. But finally, I buckled down, I vowed to never look at a blank page again without wondering, dreaming of what I could fill it with. I took one final empowering drought from my plastic tankard of milk, rolled my shoulders, and wrote.

It was beautiful, what happened next. I had expected my plot vomit to be about, oh, I don't know, a paragraph or two. Really just a place to start, an idea to work with. Ha.  Well, five pages later, I had something very close to my preliminary outline. I even began typing it up. For me, that is totally amazing. I am feeling good, and ready to write. Or, at least, to outline.

But now it is late, I am still tired (tired-er?)  and bed is beckoning to me. So, goodnight to all, and to all a goodnight! (Or something like that.)

And, (yes, you know what comes next), as always, Happy Writing!




What's She Writing?

Greeting, Writerverse!

So, I realized just today that I have told nothing about what I wrote for NaNoWriMo, and what I will be revising this January. For this I apologize, and I intend to remedy that problem right now.

I have been asked frequently over the course of November what I am writing, and never have I had a good answer for it. I could tell you what it's about, but not verbally, and in under twenty minutes. So, I spent some time writing a short synopsis. It is just a rough draft of it, but it should get the point across.

    Princess Zara Chriselda Valdus-filla has it all. She's strong, independent, beautiful and wealthy. There has never been anything that she could not handle on her own, and in her mind, there never will be. But when faced with a changing prophecy, Zara must embark on a harrowing journey to preserve Endoria from dire evil. Along the way, she begins to question everything; including herself. Why would someone like her ever need help?

                                           And if she does, will she realize it to late?

So, that is what I am working on now. I think that it will be considered either middle grade or young adult (or, really, whatever is in the middle of those).

Now, during November I posted an excerpt of my novel on the NaNo website. I will add that here, too, as long as you promise me to remember that it is just a rough draft. A very rough draft. Bearing that in mind, I hope you enjoy this brief excerpt from somewhere near the middle of my story...

   Half snake and half dragon, the creatures expertly avoided every arrow. My vision began to blur with pain, and I smelled smoke. I gave a satisfied cry when I finally managed to slice off one of the creatures heads. A yank at my hair, a claw at my side, fire on my arm, they were all over me, and there is nothing I can do about it. The horses have bolted but there is no time to think on that as I swipe at them, ripping my skin to shreds. Blood is pouring from a wound in my side, and I can't even feel my left calf anymore as I battle furiously. The beasts will not win.
   “Cayden!” I call breathlessly. “Run! We have to run!” Even as I say it, I have begun sprinting away from the swarm of Drakes. I hear Cayden following me as I whip my sword through the air again, killing two of them at once. I feel one on my back and another on my left ankle, but there is nothing I can do about that now. My heart is pumping uncontrollably in my chest, thundering in my ears, and all I can think is away, I have to get away, away. 
   A sharp, deep pain erupts in my ankle where the Drake was just a moment ago. A scream rips from my throat as I stagger on. But the Drakes are relentless. They follow us for miles, long past their wooded homes. We have come out of the Redwood part of the forest, but the swarm follows us still. I am losing all feeling in my left leg below he knee now, and it becomes harder to move. Cayden comes up beside me and wraps a strong arm around my waist, half helping, half dragging me along the path. All I hear is my own heartbeat now, and the thick, hot blood rushing in my ears.

Yep, that's that. As I am sure you can tell, that is only a rough draft. I hope to clean it up soon. But hey, that's what the revision process is for right? 

I hope that that was somewhat beneficial or at least a bit entertaining for you, but now, friends, I think you have some writing to do. Hop to!

As always, Happy Writing!  

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Book Review- Book of a Thousand Days (Shannon Hale)

Hello, my fellow readers!

Today begins the book reviews fabled of old (or, as the case may be, fabled of yesterday). When thinking of a good book to begin this new leaf in my blog, several went through my mind. There are a lot of good books out there! But I wanted to do something good, a book that I love and have read and reread over and again. So, this was the first book that popped into my mind.

Book of a Thousand Days, by Shannon Hale


Summary:

"When Dashti, a maid, and Lady Saren, her mistress, are shut in a tower for seven years because of Saren's refusal to marry a man she despises, the two prepare for a very long and dark imprisonment.

As food runs low and the days go from broiling hot to freezing cold, it is all Dashti can do to keep them fed and comfortable. With the arrival outside the tower of Saren's two suitors--one welcome, the other decidedly less so--the girls are confronted with both hope and great danger, and Dashti must make the desperate choices of a girl whose life is worth more than she knows." (From Goodreads

This book is one that I fell in love with when I first read it. It tells a complete and fulfilling story of a girl full of unwavering faithfulness, to her Lady, her Mother, and her Khan. Dashti is so easy to relate to, and such a wonderful narrator. Told in diary format, this book takes you an a journey with her, both emotional as well as physical.

Pros:

There are so many pros to this book, it is hard to choose a select amount. I love the lyrical language that Shannon Hale uses. I love the clear and personal character voice that Dashti has. I love the plot, the twists, the intrigue, the suspense and the characters, every one. I do not even know how many times I have read this book, but each time that I go back to it, find more hidden gems in the familiar pages. It is easy to get in to, and the story flows beautifully. And Dashti. I seriously love that girl. So much.

Cons:

Actually, there is only one Kahn in this book. (Yes, that was a terrible pun.) So, one of the biggest things for me with this book is Lady Saren. She is a bit whiny (okay, maybe more than a bit), and there are some times when all I wanted to do was slap her across the face. That was a bit annoying, I know, but that is really the only thing. This story is one that is so full, so poignant at times, and so rich, though, that Lady Saren should not be the reason you refuse to pick up this book (or put it down).

Rating: 5 Stars

Readablity: High. Easy to get into, captivating and exciting.

Age Range: 14+ (My mother read it, too, and she loved it, bawling at the end, saying, "It's over, it's over.")

Is it Rereadable? For sure. Read it a million times, loved it each and every time.

Would you buy this book? Totally.

Would you read other books by this author? I would and I have.

Additional Notes: If you have not read this book, I beg of you, give it a try. It is one of the best books that I have read. Do not deny yourself this pleasure!

Happy Reading!

Visit Shannon Hale's website here.

Find out more about Book of a Thousand Days here.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Where's She Been?

Hello!

So, I know I have been out for a while, and for that I apologize. I have been getting some questions, though, asking where I have been, so I am here to tell you where she's been.

As soon as November ended I was picked up in a whirlwind of activity and busyness. I have barely had a spare moment since Thanksgiving, actually. But I have not been neglecting my dear writing and reading worlds.

I have been piecing together another idea that I got in the middle of NaNoWriMo, and I am near the outlining stage. So that has me very excited for the upcoming months. I have also been working on a story that I have that I call my "In Between Stories" Story, because it is one that is not thoroughly planned, but I write in it just to keep up my momentum and stay in the habit of writing everyday. So, do not think that I have fallen off the face of the earth-- I haven't, I promise!

I also thought that this would be a good time to announce a new path of this blog, now that NaNoWriMo is over. I will be reading books and writing reviews of them here. I will try to make them comprehensive and helpful, so that you can read more of the good stuff, and less of the bad. You will also be able to see what I have been reading of late, with this new blog development. I hope that you will all stick around to see it!


Also, if there is ever a book that you wish me to read and review, I would be more than happy to do so. Just let me know in the comments of this post, or other review posts. I would love to hear from you! (My only requirements to this is that the book must be in English, originally or translated.) 

Well, until the next time, then. And thank you, my faithful readers, for your support and constant faithfulness. You are gems!

And, as always, Happy Writing & Reading!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

NaNoWriMo Journal- November 30, 2015

It is the last day of NaNoWriMo. Where did the month go?

Tomorrow begins December. Where did the month go?

I wrote a novel. In one month. Where did the month go?

As it is the last day NaNoWriMo, I thought that I would give an overview of the month, a brief survey, if you will. I will start with my word count, day by day. Shall we begin?

1. 0
2. 4,491
3. 7,215
4. 8,173
5. 11,110
6. 13,974
7. 16,527
8. 16,527
9. 20,411
10. 21,004
11. 23,334
12. 25,351
13. 26,158
14. 26,158
15. 26,158
16. 29,239
17. 32,488
18. 34,496
19. 36,228
20. 40,026
21. 40,026
22. 40,026
23. 40,452
24. 44,584
25. 45,461
26. 48,575
27. 50,106
28. 50,106
29. 50,106
30. 50,220

So, I think that day four was the only day that I really felt like I would rather gargle battery acid than write in my novel. That isn't to say that I did not have bad days; no, I had plenty of them (as you can see by the incremental changes in word counts some days listed above). But I pushed through, everyday, and I simply wrote. 

What have I learned through this crazy process, through this month? I have learned that, even when you do not feel like it, or you don't particularly like what you have written so far, push through it, write harder, more, and in the end, you will have something to work with.

I hope that you will continue writing, keep the momentum, and churn out your next masterpiece. Next November cannot come quickly enough!

Until the next time,

Happy Writing!