Every Writer is a Little Insane

This month’s Teens Can Write, Too! prompt was as follows:

“What are your writers’ habits and eccentricities?”

The thing about me as a writer is I like quiet.  I like everything to just be still.  I don’t like noise or activity when I’m writing.  That usually means me sitting alone in my room with the door shut and no music playing.

I know the whole thing of, like, having a playlist for characters and playing it while writing certain scenes is a common thing among writers, but I’ve never been a part of that.  I feel like music just distracts me from what I’m really supposed to be doing, which is focusing on the story.  In fact, I’ve never been able to listen to music while writing anything, and that includes homework.  Aside from maybe math, I don’t have the capacity to have two things going at once.

So that covers what I do while writing.  It turns out, though, that I perhaps do just as much for the story when I’m not writing as when I am.  I can’t think of things on the spot when I’m sitting at my computer.  A lot of times I’ll have an idea while just laying around the house.  I’ll work through an upcoming scene or flesh out a character, all in my head without putting things to paper.  I find that I can’t fully represent my ideas in writing when it comes to tools that other writers use, i.e. outlines, character charts, et cetera.  It’s a lot easier if I just think about it and then go straight into drafting.

Speaking of thinking about it, I do have one rather strange habit.  On rare occasions- rare, mind you- I will roleplay my characters.  Now, I don’t mean to say that I’ll dress like them or anything (which I know some writers do), I mean I’ll put myself in their shoes.  If I’m having trouble imagining how a character is going to react to an event in my plot, I’ll say to myself, “Okay, self.  You are now this character.  This thing happens.  What do you do?”  I’ll go through a whole scene that way, becoming a character and acting out what they would do.  It used to be I would, like, really act out the scenes, but nowadays it’s mostly all in my head, though I will blurt out a line here and there.

I make sure to do this when I’m alone, for obvious reasons.

My eccentric side doesn’t stop there, however.  In fact, it really never stops until I’m finished, because here’s the thing: I absolutely hate people reading something I’ve written before it’s finished.  I’ve touched on this subject before here on the ol’ blog, but there’s just something really personal about my fiction, especially unfinished fiction, that I don’t like people seeing, not even my family.

Well, that’s my little batch of crazy cakes for you.  If you want to see what some other teen writers do, links are below the cut.  For those of you readers who aren’t part of the chain and who write things other than blog posts, what are some of your quirks?

Happy reading.

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Is This A Kissing Book?

Readers, I’m proud today to be kicking off this month’s Teens Can Write, Too! blog chain.  Honoring Valentine’s Day and Cupid and whatnot, this time around the theme is:

What are your thoughts on romance for your typical genre?  Do you tend to have a little, a lot, or none at all?

I’m not sure if I really have a typical genre, but I suppose lately the majority of what I’ve been writing is dystopian (yes, technically a subgenre, but you can’t expect me to simply call it sci-fi when dystopia is barely that).  Ah, yes, Dystopia, Land of the Love Triangles.  With such hits as The Hunger Games and Matched featuring this particular shape, it’s no wonder I’m perfectly okay with a bit of romance in my reading.  Even novels in this category that don’t favor three sides to their relationships have some sort of love story mixed into the plot.

Love is sort of hard to avoid in the future, it seems.

Writing is much the same.  When I write something like this, sure, I’ll have some romance here and there.  It’s my opinion that every great book has at least some such aspect to it.  However, just as The Hunger Games leaves its share of infatuations in the background in order to focus on the larger plot at hand, a dystopia shouldn’t just be about the kissing.  A dystopian novel, almost by definition, is about a group of oppressed people making a stand against a corrupt and unlawful society.  It’s about fighting back and being strong in the face of adversity.  It does not leave room for the main characters to be obsessing over whether their crush is going to call them or not.

Readers, this is something that must be kept in the right balance in order for it to work.  I understand that in stories, people do find each other, and yes, maybe they fall in love.  That’s okay.  A lot of times it might even be better for the overall arc of the story to put that in there.  In dystopia, though, the romance angle must be kept backseat to the larger plot, which is of course fighting aforementioned corruption.  That’s how I try to write my dystopias.

Of course, that being said, I should probably address the preferred geometric state of my characters’ love lives.  As attractive as it may seem to include one to mix up the plot a little, love triangles are a bit overdone in my opinion.  I mean, essentially they were run into the ground by the whole Twilight/Teams thing, and although that’s not even in the same genre as dystopia, it seems to me that any book today featuring a triangle will inevitably be compared with the Saga. (For more of my opinion on love triangles and Teams, see this post.)  Sure, I’ve considered a love triangle, but to actually put one in my writing would require a lot more thought and planning in order to make it seem somehow different from all the other ones out there.

I mean, really?

In the end, though, this post isn’t about triangles.  This is about how much love and romance and such I like in my dystopian writing in general.  My verdict is this: it’s all right when doled out in small portions.  Even in a terrifying future, people can get together and break up and marry each other.  However, dystopia should very rarely, if ever, feature this in the forefront.  That’s the job of the action and politics that form the core of this genre.

Most of that isn’t a problem for me, since I’m not what you’d call a romantic type.  I’m in no way a poster child (poster writer?) for a Valentine’s Day-type novel.  I do find it interesting, though, that our society seems to think that romance must be in any book that’s halfway good.  What if writers of this genre moved away from the relationships?  I’d like to see a dystopian series that has none of that kind of love in it, just to see if the story by itself can still be just as good.  Say, that gives me an idea…

Happy reading.

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A Matter of Character

Hello, readers!  Once more, it is my turn to contribute to the terrific Teens Can Write, Too! blog chain.  This month, we get into the nitty-gritty parts of writing, those elements that regularly induce psychotic meltdowns and reduce even the hardiest writer to screaming at his or her keyboard in a fit of unbridled literary rage.

This month’s prompt was, and I quote, “How do you develop and relate to your characters?”  Let us begin.

I generally assume when writing posts that you have at one time or another attempted to write a novel.  Therefore, you’ve had some dealing with characters and how…complex they can be.

I’ve had my fair share of character encounters, but I’ve never really thought about how I develop them until now.  So, let’s delve into the word-filled land that is my writerly brain, shall we?

Let’s use an example for this.  We’ll call him Ryan, and for the sake of context let’s say he lives in a spaceship on its way to colonizing an alien planet (did you really expect me to make a realistic example?).  Now, I have some say in the basic personalities of my characters, but beyond that they like to surprise me by taking control- that is, it’s extremely hard for me to simply do whatever I want with them.  A lot of things I try will just not work.  Instead, it’s up to me to figure out what they want to do and to make sure their roles and actions within the plot fit their personalities, not the other way around.

So how do I get to know Ryan?  Well, I’ve found that a good way to test a character’s…um…character is through reactions.  How does Ryan react to other people on the ship?  How do the other colonists react to him?  How do I want my readers to see him?  If Ryan accidentally locks himself out of the ship with only ten minutes of air in his helmet, will he freak out?  Call for help?  Or find a way to get inside without any assistance?  It helps if I try to put myself in Ryan’s shoes and see through his eyes, as it were.

I think having a good background for a character also goes a long way towards deciding why they act the way they do.  For example, Ryan might have been raised on the spaceship.  He knows his way around everything.  Therefore, he wouldn’t be the type to freak out and he would calmly open the air lock using the external switch.

I was going to draw a picture of Ryan...but then I remembered...I can't draw.

I used to think it was strange when an author said they felt like they had no control over their characters, but now I completely understand.  When something feels awkward in my writing, most of the time it’s because I misrepresented a character somewhere along the way.

I can’t try to force Ryan to suddenly become a different person or make a decision that he wouldn’t normally make.  Once his character is set, there’s no going back, and more often I’ll change the plot sooner than I’ll change the characters.  It’s more work if I have to perform my own version of Extreme Makeover.  I speak from experience.  I’ve scrapped entire plots because early on I made an assumption about a character that turned out to be wrong.  It simply could not be fixed.

My advice is this: please, PLEASE, for the love of ALL THAT IS BOOK NERD, don’t go against what your characters want!

As for physical traits, I have a lot more control- at least for basic things (hair color, skin tone, etc).  Sometimes background information helps with this, and sometimes not.  The physical traits that can be changed, like hair style and clothing, are determined by personality.

On to names.  Names are tricky, and for this type of thing I absolutely love websites like this one when I need a little inspiration.  I’ve posted before about the importance of picking a good name for your character.  Essentially, if one decides that a character is going to have a name that means something, that name should completely fit the character.  That includes not only the meaning of the name but also, if it works with the story, the region or language from which it originates.  Again, background comes in handy.

And that’s basically it.  I love all my characters because they’re all unique and they all have a different story.  I don’t believe in there just being one story (the protagonist’s) for every book or series.  Every character has something to contribute and a different tale to tell.  It’s how you learn to use your characters in the most efficient way possible, how you combine all of the intersecting threads that make up their storylines to create the best one, that counts.  When I learn to do that, I’ll have made it as a writer.

Happy reading!

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In Which I Find Out How You Found My Blog

It’s that time again: time for this month’s Teens Can Write, Too! blog post.  As always, a link to the Teens Can Write site can be found in the sidebar, and I have once more linked to the rest of the chain at the end of this post.  This month’s topic was, “What are the wackiest, funniest, most disturbing search terms anyone has ever used to find your blog?”  In addition, we chain-bloggers are required to tell readers about the novel we are currently working on.

This site has been going strong since July.  Well, technically since June, but that was just when I had secured the domain and “officially” started my blog.  But I started posting on July first.  Which is when this all started in my mind.

Anyway.  Over the few months this humble blog has been struggling along, there have been A LOT of search terms used to find it.  Now, while I have no doubt that most of the people searching these terms clicked onto my site, saw it was not what they wanted, and clicked right back off again, their ventures are recorded forever on my dashboard (that would be the part of WordPress where I control and shape my blog).  And it is to these ventures I now turn.

Without further ado, I give you a list of the search terms I thought were the funniest, weirdest, and/or most interesting, separated into four semi-distinct categories.  (In the interest of sanity, I have capitalized the first word of each phrase, regardless of original form.)

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Did I Mention He’s Cute?

A note: this is for the Teens Can Write, Too! blog chain.  Look at the bottom of the post to find the rest of the participants.  This month’s prompt was, “What is the first thing you can remember writing of your own free will?”

My mom, like many mothers, loves keeping scrapbooks of her children’s lives.  Every vacation, every award, every teensy insignificant detail of our lives is right there in plastic-covered pages, preserved for anyone who gets my parents reminiscing.  In one of those books is the first piece of writing I ever did on my own.

Before I get into what the writing was, you need a little background information.  When I was a wee youngster, climbing over everything and amusing my family to no end, what I wanted more than anything else was a cat.  A soft, adorable, frisky little kitty to play with and cuddle and keep me company.  For years, it felt like, I campaigned relentlessly for an animal to call my own.

Which brings me to the summer after kindergarten.  I was six, and we went up to Rochester, New York to visit my cousins.  It just so happened that they had a neighbor whose cat had just given birth, and the neighbor oh-so-kindly would bring those kittens over in a big plastic tub for us kids to look at.  A week went by, and long story short, I brought home one of the kittens as my own.  His name was Tiger.

My dreams had come true, and I loved him, loved him so much, to the point where I wrote a poem about my intense excitement.  It was called “My Cat,” fittingly enough, and it explained how much I LOVED him.  There was much repetition involved, short as it was.  These lines are a good indicator of how the whole thing went:

My cat is soft, cute, and furry.

It is so cute, I could go blurry.

Here he is today. Well, a couple of days ago.

Young as I was, and with very little writing experience (again, I was six- no one has much experience at that age), not all of it was perfect, or made perfect sense (hey, at least it rhymed.  Rhyming was ALL THAT MATTERED.  Even more than proper pronouns mattered).  But I didn’t care how it sounded.  At the time, all I was doing was celebrating an important thing in my life.  I just happened to use writing as a way of expressing it.  Now, though, I realize what that moment meant for me.

It meant the moment when I became a writer.  It was when I first picked up a pencil with the sole intention of contributing something to the literary world.  I wasn’t doing this for a teacher or my parents.  I was doing this for me.  Today, this feeling has grown.  That’s why this blog exists: for me to express myself through writing.  And to think that it all began with a tiny poem about my cat.

Sure, I wasn’t the best writer at the time.  Now that I’m older, though, I’ve gotten better.  I’m able to craft my words into more poems and stories and be proud of them.  This is who I’ve become, and this is who I am: a writer.  Yes, I’m a teenage writer.  But that doesn’t mean I don’t have something to contribute.  Even when I was six, I had something to say; why shouldn’t I have even more to say now?

It doesn’t matter how old I am.  It doesn’t matter how many writing awards I have or how many people follow this blog.  What matters is that I have something to share, and through writing, I have a way of sharing it.  I have a way of expressing myself that makes me happy, and that has always made me happy from the time I was six years old.  When I’m older and published, I’ll look back on this scrapbook poem and not be ashamed, because this was where it all began.

And because Tiger really is cute.

Want to follow our blog tour? Here are the participating parties, day by day:
October 15th — http://delorfinde.wordpress.com – A Farewell To Sanity
October 16th — http://eatsleepwriterepeat.wordpress.com – Eat, Sleep, Write, Repeat
October 17th — http://taystapeinc.wordpress.com – Tay’s Tape
October 18th — https://noveljourneys.wordpress.com/ – Novel Journeys
October 19th —- http://greatlakessocialist.wordpress.com/ – Red Herring Online
October 20th —http://kirstenwrites.wordpress.com/ – Kirsten Writes!
October 21st — http://incessantdroningofaboredwriter.wordpress.com – The Incessant Droning of a Bored Writer
October 22nd — http://herestous.wordpress.com – Here’s To Us
October 23rd — http://teenscanwritetoo.wordpress.com – Teens Can Write Too! (We will be announcing the topic for the next month’s chain)

Late Night Brain Parties

I don’t know about you, but it seems that my brain does most of its thinking when it’s least wanted.

I’m sure you’ve had the experience.  It can come upon you at any time: you’re minding your own business when suddenly you slip into daydreaming.  Your mind wanders and you end up thinking about tons of unrelated things.  According to my personal experience, as well as what Facebook tells me, I find that most of this kind of thought happens at night, before one goes to sleep.  I suppose there’s just something about the lack of stimuli that allows me to process the events of the day in peace.  Unfortunately this leads to my brain touching on every subject known to man, none of them having anything to do with sleep.

Someone get this dude some sleeping pills.

Most of the time it will be some obscure topic having to do with a TV show, or a book I’ve read.  It can be anything, really.  Sometimes I’ll think about plots I’ve made up, work through a problem or consider how a certain character would react in a certain situation (kind of like the nighttime equivalent of a short story).  Or maybe I’ll come up with a few ideas for future blog posts.  It really depends on the night, I suppose, as well as on the person doing the thinking.

Maybe this is our brains’ way of connecting things, the way dreams do.  Maybe we’re just so pummeled with other things during the day that there is literally no other way to get this stuff out there in the open.

Searching "Daydreaming" to get this made me think of that Adele song...

It seems that even published authors have this problem, if it even is a problem.  In The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide, there is an interview between Stephenie Meyer and author Shannon Hale.  In the interview, “SH” is Hale and “SM” is Meyer, just in case you’re confused, and part of it goes like this:

SH: It’s like having a newborn, writing a book, isn’t it?

SM: It is.  Well, because you lie there in bed- and, oh, heaven help you if you start thinking about plotline.  If you start getting a little bit of dialogue in your head, you’re doomed- you’ll never get to sleep.

SH: It is so true…If, for whatever reason, I wake up…and if my mind, for one second, goes back to the book I’m writing right now, I’m done for the rest of the night.  I can’t go back to sleep, because my mind starts working over and over it…so when I sit down to write it it’s more productive, because I’ve been working over it in my brain.  But…when you do that in the middle of the night you’re doomed.

SM: …I have about fourteen different books, and every night it’s a new one.  And I’m coming up with solutions for this one point that really bothered me in one story.  I thought maybe I couldn’t write it because of this one point.  But then I’ll wake up at four o’clock in the morning with a perfect solution, and then I can’t go back to sleep.

The book in question.

Maybe this is just a symptom of having a writer’s brain.  Maybe this makes me a better writer by helping me work things out and never letting go of something until it’s done.  It’s like school for my creative side in that respect.  (And here I go, “NO!  Not more school!  Why did I just make that connection for myself?!”)

Whatever the effect, it would be nice to fall asleep tonight before sunrise…*

Also.  Just wondering about this, but: I’ve written a couple of song parodies.  They’re about Harry Potter and The Hunger Games (so far- maybe I’ll expand in the future), and I was wondering if you guys would want to see those.  Just an idea.  Comment if you have an opinion on this.  If it seems agreeable, I’ll work a couple in someplace.

Also again.  There’s a new blog out there, and it’s called Teens Can Write, Too!  As you can probably see from the name, it’s about teens (of which I am one) who can and do write.  The plan is for various teen bloggers to contribute a post in a blog chain for each month, centered around a theme.  It’s a group effort, which is really cool.  I’m glad to say I will be a part of October’s blog chain.  If you want to check it out, click on that link and subscribe if you are so inclined.

Happy reading!