Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Going in circles...

Am I the only one who finds that my writing progression and techniques seem to loop back around to the beginning every so often? Or that there seem to be phases to techniques and productivity?

For instance, I used to outline. Obsessively. It was over-outlining that actually killed more than one project, because I would write myself into a corner. I tend to take deadlines and outlines and any other kind of line seriously. I was one of those kids who learned to color inside the lines very, very quickly, because the idea of going outside the lines and making a mess was nigh-on sacrilegious.

And then, one day, I just decided to go with it. To just write and let what happened happen. I think I can thank my first NaNo for that. While that project was the offspring of an older, outlined project, and thus had a lot of paper fostered in, it was all background information. The actual story was new and thus I just had to roll with the punches as they came.

Now, I'm at sort of a middle-ground. I'd still classify myself very much as a pantser, but occasionally, I find myself scribbling out a tentative plan for the future. Not even a real outline, or anything really in-depth, but a plan for the future nonetheless.

I don't imagine I'll ever regress back into over-outlining, but I do find sometimes that outlining even that little bit can kill an idea, or at least my enthusiasm for an idea. But I don't count that as a bad thing. The advantage that does exist in outlining is that it can show me the weaknesses in an idea outright, in the beginning stages, before I get too emotionally involved.

Of course, sometimes that is a bad thing. I tend to over-think things sometimes and instead of just rolling with the idea, despite the weakness, and figuring out something along the way, identifying the problem can sometimes just cause me to freak out and avoid it.

But it fluctuates sometimes, which is the entire point of this post. Sometimes I find myself writing notes - outlining, if you will - to avoid forgetting things for the future. Sometimes I find myself actually planning out storylines and character development in advance. Sometimes I don't touch paper outside of actual story. It goes through phases. But those phases happen in a pattern. It's weird.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

On justification...

No, the blog's not dead.

Just resting.

I can be very good at justifying things to myself, especially in writing. For instance, I can totally justify my lack of blogging lately. I graduated my community college and summer craziness began. Hours at work picked up,  other projects began, family members moved, I'm getting ready to move, etc. etc. Blogging sort of took a back seat to other activities. I didn't mean for it to happen, and I'm sorry that it did, but it did and that's what happened.


Except, sometimes that just doesn't cut it. I mean, I totally could have blogged. I spent way too much time on the internet, watching parody music videos and reviewing other people's stories. I totally could have made the time. But I didn't. 


It's like that in writing. My angel project from months ago was shelved. My reasons ultimately came down to that I couldn't seem to make the characters mesh the way I had wanted and it fell apart. But the thing is... I totally could have made it work. I could have written another character in, or restructured the plot so that it would work. It could have been done, which is why the project is "shelved" as opposed to "dead". It really was because I lost interest, though I maintain that the characters weren't working and that was the reason behind my loss of interest.


I'm sure there's many writers out there that would leap at the chance to tell me that is entirely unfair. If I want to be a writer, I have read, I have to actually write. Even on days when it doesn't flow, or I don't feel like it. And normally, I stand by this. I really do. Part of writing is work and it's not always fun. I wonder occasionally why I do this to myself.

But the thing is, I do do this for fun. I don't make a living off of it and while I would love to one day, for real, right now, it's just a serious hobby. Like making fishing lures or raising pet alpacas. If it's not fun, why would I do it? If it became too strenuous, or too expensive, or just too much, I could just stop. Which is what I did.

Still justified?

I'm not trying to make excuses. Well, I am, but it's not because I'm trying to dodge work or something. I still keep writing and putting myself through all the trials and tribulations entailed therein, and I do it without compensation beyond the feeling of a job well done and the occasional word of praise or constructive crit when I'm brave enough to post something somewhere. I do this for me, but as a circle of influence grows, I feel myself feeling more responsible for my writing, like there is someone out there expecting more of me all the time. And I want to live up to it, so justifying things to myself isn't cutting it anymore. 

I dunno. Maybe I'm just thinking too hard about it all and feeling sentimental about coming back and writing in general. 

The point? 

It's good to be back. 

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Exactly like this, except not at all...

Despite all appearances, this blog post is not a cleverly disguised advertisement for TVTropes. Even if it is one of the greatest websites on the Internet.

Personal preferences in writing and reading can be wildly different, occasionally even within the same person's head. Doublethink is often a reality.

For example, I'm not much of a romance buff. I don't like romcoms, rarely venture into the "romance" section of any bookstore or website and just generally don't care for it. However, I do love me a good love story. My shipping goggles are custom-made and quite nifty, with night-vision and everything.

It's quite a strange phenomenon. Thing is, I like my love stories/ship teasing in the midst of something else, as sort of a secondary element. Romantic plot tumors drive me up the wall. Less is more and showing is so, so important rather than telling.

For a minor example, I've been working my way through Gargoyles lately *minor spoiler alert* and seriously fell in love with the minor characters (three "minors" in one sentence there...) of Princess Katherine and the Magus. They have an interesting, downplayed dynamic. It's adorable and it makes my inner fangirl shamelessly go *squee*.

But it was such background information, more character motivations than overt plot. The Magus is obviously doing things because he cares about Katherine and they hang out a lot together, but it's all in favor of the bigger story. We see them together and it is sweet and we know something is there because of how he looks at her, but  we don't need it to go into details because we see it.

And it even gets some more coverage in later episodes when *slightly more major spoiler alert* they are in Avalon and raising the gargoyles' eggs. But then, that beautifully subtle character development suddenly goes all dark and tragic on us when it turns out that the Magus never told Katherine how he felt and so she fell for another guy. And he stepped aside because he wanted his beloved to be happy and he had a slight inferiority complex. It gets its own little flashback/monologue and everything and yet... it isn't the focus of the story. It explains why he is doing what he is doing and it makes the end of the episode all the more bittersweet, but it isn't what the show, or even the episode, is about. We get it and there are beautiful little moments were it is explored and focused on, but the story moves on.

It's how I like my romance. And it's odd, because it's also subjective. I'm usually interested in the characters and if they fall in love, they fall in love. They drive the story so that's what the story becomes. But I like it to be limited. Usually. Stick to the story, let it proceed. Don't make everything come to a standstill because two characters are making googly-eyes at each other. It's why rabid shippers have shipping goggles: so we can take the little subtle moments and run with them, rather than have stuff smushed in our face. Then just give us our happy resolution in the end and we're good. (Yeah, cuz I like my happy romantic endings. I'm a sap like that. Every time I watch/read any version of "Romeo and Juliet", I honestly wonder if they're going to manage to stay alive long enough to get together. Even though I honestly can't stand the original play.)

Thursday, March 31, 2011


Alternate title: Why I liked Megamind better than How to Train Your Dragon.

Spoilers for both movies below.

So I finally saw Megamind. I liked it. I liked it more than (what many people consider to be) the better/more acclaimed How to Train Your Dragon. HTTYD was one of the first DreamWorks animated movies to take itself somewhat seriously. Megamind plays with its genre all over the place and feels way less serious, but I felt like it was a stronger film.

I'm an advocate of character relationships and development driving a story. I harp on it all the time. It's one thing that DreamWorks films seem to be lacking. It's a bit old-hat to compare DreamWorks unfavorable to Pixar, but it's done for a reason. Many DreamWorks films seem to be lacking some kind of heart that Pixar just seems to exude.

Megamind gets the closest to that heart in my opinion, rather than many peoples' favorite, HTTYD. I was left wanting... something... in HTTYD. Having seen Megamind though, I decided one of the reasons is that love story in HTTYD feels phoned in.

Sure, Hiccup starts the story wanting to become a dragon slayer so that he can impress the girl of his dreams. And she gets to take the freakin' cool dragon-back ride into the sunset. And then she's suddenly giving him a pep talk, supporting him staunchly when before, there was really no indication that she should trust him or vice versa. It just sort of ran straight forward to the support and love, when before that, I didn't feel the mutual attraction, chemistry or growing closeness. Hiccup and Toothless felt far more real and heartfelt, because it was given the time to develop. (Though even that seemed really fast. I dunno... The pacing in that film irritated me for some reason. It just felt so lacking in something.)

The romance in Megamind had the progression happen. All the interaction and time that went into developing Hiccup and Toothless' friendship went into developing Megamind and Roxie's relationship. It was the crux of his Heel Face Turn and her encouragement was genuine, as opposed to the sudden phoning in of cheery words in the third act of HTTYD.

Character development is key. In HTTYD, the relationships all start from scratch. Hiccup and Astrid barely know each other and Hiccup is his whole new thing. We have to see the progression from the very beginning. Which is fine. There are many stories in which this happens and it works fine. Most romances do. But here, it feels rushed and we are painfully aware of the fact that Astrid and Hiccup barely interact amiably from the beginning of the film to the end of it. And suddenly they are close?

In contrast, Megamind starts with relationships already laid out clearly. Minion and Megamind have fantastic repertoire as the bestest of buddies, the clear nearly-scripted roleplaying between Megamind and MetroMan is pulled off wonderfully, and Roxanne and Megamind have this strange flirty smarmy familiarity with each other. The progression still works, however, because we get to see their roles change. They go from these familiar roles to something completely different and we spend the time watching them make those changes. And we accept the rather fast pacing here because we already have a frame of reference for these characters. They all already were familiar with one another (which is, like, the first step of any meaningful relationship) and from there it can change and grow. This was the step that was missing from Astrid and Hiccup's relationship.

Personally, I think the HTTYD would have been stronger without Astrid in the film. Make it about Hiccup and his dad and Toothless. No need for a love interest. More time to focus on those important relationships. Either that, or have her be a more integral part of the film. As it was, she just sort of felt like eye-candy.

In Megamind, every relationship shown was vitally important. Between Hal and Roxie, between Megamind and Minion, between Roxie and Megamind, between Megamind and Metro Man, etc. etc. Take away one, and you lose some of the emotional impact of the film. And the most important ones were given the most time. Minion and Megamind didn't have a whole lot of time singularly devoted to their relationship, but we see constantly them interacting in the midst of other happenings and the two very vital moments of argument and apology were given the spotlight they deserved. It all felt very real and much of it was actually very subtle. In contrast, the romance between Megamind and Roxanne was given most of the focus, seeing as how most of their character development hinged on it.

Is Megamind a perfect movie? No. It's certainly just having fun with itself, some logicality be hanged. It's not a classic film. Some things irritated me, like how quickly Roxie accepted Megamind again after she dumped him (personally, I would have liked to have seen a little more of her emotional turn-around).

 But I loved the music (seriously, every time any classic rock started playing, I freaked out my siblings by air-guitaring rather showily), the tongue-in-cheek treatment of super-heroics/villainy, and the animation was freakin' amazing. And it had real emotional impact, which was often treated very subtly. (For real, watch the scene of Megamind being dumped in the rain. Just watch his face. The expressions are almost barely there, but they just exude volumes of his past and his dreams and his despair, in just a few quick shots. Gorgeous.) And it got me thinking, which is always good, yes?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Farewell and thank you...

It seems to be turning out to be one of "those" years. Similar to how there seemed to be a rash of celebrity deaths a few years ago when Michael Jackson, Billy Mays, Ed McMahon and Farrah Fawcett all passed away, there seems to be a string of authors dying, all of whom I loved very much as a child.

First, there was Brian Jacques in February, and then I just found out (via Twitter again) that Diana Wynne Jones passed after a long battle with cancer. Supposedly, she was in the midst of a book, with plans for another, and now she's just gone. 

She was a powerful influence on me, though I began to read her much later in life. Her writing was an acquired taste that I'm still getting used to, but this really hits hard.

Rest in peace, Diana. I'm going to miss you.  

Thursday, March 17, 2011

On story pirates...

Well. 's been a while, no?

Every so often, a character swaggers, fully formed, onto the page and demands to have the story revolve around them. I've had it happen several times with several different characters, the latest of whom are running rampart through my hedgehog project, upsetting all of my original idea's plans, but leaving a much more coherent and interesting story in their wake.

It's funny how this can work sometimes. In the most particularly egregious example, a background character I needed for one tiny subplot ended up getting his own entire novel for NaNo. Yes, my leading man Red started as a walk-on who popped into my head completely fully-formed. He came in with motivation, character description and everything. The only thing that really changed from beginning to end was his role in the story and how he acted in it. While his motivation remained the same, he acted a bit different in several different drafts as how I treated him changed.

It's pretty cool sometimes when it all comes together like that with seemingly no effort on the writer's part. It's like having all the work done for you as this character provides you with a blueprint for everyone else in the interactions between the cast members. Other times, it can be a nightmare as it begins to shift everything around for better or for worse.

Because this can be a not-good thing. Dangers of Mary-Sue-dom abound, as does losing sight of the original story. When one strong character begins to shift all the other character interpretations really quickly, it can show how weak the other characters already were and that can throw you into despair. I know it does me occasionally, as I bang on the keyboard in frustration as each new acquisition to the cast seems far more interesting than all of the originals. Then I wonder why bother with the originals if the new guys are so much stronger and more interesting, but then I remember what made me love the original so much that I would want to write it at all and I get all flustered.

For right now though, I'm still infatuated with these new characters. Two of them this time, they suddenly are giving me long-term goals in the story and background stories to explore in the present action and even shifted the dynamics of the cast around enough that I have new relationships to explore that I think are far more interesting than what was there before. Time will tell if this is true, but for now, I'm happy.

In terms of discussion: has anyone else ever had one of these story pirates as well? Also, does anyone else have another name for them other than "story pirates"? Because they are like pirates, in how they catch you unawares and take control of the reins, but c'mon, there has to be a snazzier title somewhere.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Thoughts on characters (part 3)...

In which there is no crying…
So I was thinking recently about characters crying in fiction.

Very often, to try and evoke a sense of the character's frustration and build some sympathy, a writer writes about how a character is "fighting back tears" or "breaks down crying" and so on and so forth. I've done it myself. But the thing is, it can lose its effectiveness very quickly.

One thing I recommend very highly when writing is to go back and retype it. I've recently been in a handwriting phase and so everything I write has to be typed up eventually in order to back it up. It seems like a waste of time, seeing as how I could be spending the typing time writing more things, but I find that it gives me some down time to think. I can examine my characters' actions and sort of see ahead to what those actions might lead up to. Plus, it shows me how frequently or infrequently I mention things.

When I'm handwriting, and even sometimes when typing, I tend to be thinking ahead. My writing seems to stretch itself out as I keep chugging along, and I'll be shocked to look back and realize that I've only written a few paragraphs when I think I've written a few pages. And because I think more time has passed than it has, I often find that I've put in things far more frequently than they belong. In my current project, it's one character glaring at another. In a particular past project, it was a character crying.

Crying can be effective, whether it's stoic tears or full on sobbing. But too much gets grating really quickly.

Adults don't cry that much. But then, most adults hopefully don't have to go through whatever you are going to put your characters through, so it could be understood if your characters cry a bit more than normal folks. But you can't show every time they cry.

A lot of your character's life can be covered in a short amount of time when writing and so we are seeing the important snapshots from their life. It's why we don't often see characters in the bathroom or sleeping (unless there is some sort of important event happening then). If every single one of those moments involves the character crying, we lose sympathy for them because we become desensitized to it.

Pick the moments that are important for a character to be crying and just have them cry at those moments. Even as stress builds towards the climax, pick important moments and stick to them. It's an example of fiction having to be unrealistic in order to seem realistic.                               

Using the game that started this whole "character thoughts" pseudo series, Tales of the Abyss was sort of irritating at a few points about this. Take the character (ironically enough named) Tear. She comes into the game as a complete badass. She's an awesome character with a wry sense of humor, great skills, and not really willing to put up with any of Luke's crap. Slowly over the course of the game, she grows to care very deeply for him as he matures. And his maturation is done in such a way that I can see how she came to love him. But with her falling in love with him comes the tears.

There are quite a few stressful happenstances in that game, many of them revolving around potentially fatal experiences. And every single one of them is worthy of tears for all of the characters. But the thing is, we only really see Tear crying, seeing as she's the one closest to Luke.

Since she didn't cry once over the first entire half of the game, seeing her cry the first few times is really effective. We have the understanding this is serious stuff if it would makes Tear cry.

But after the game goes on for another ten hours, it becomes ineffective. We've seen her cry and as things get worse and worse she continues to cry at each new development. So by the time the final confrontation does come around and she's crying at that, we've lost the impact. We don't care nearly as much.

Fortunately, the other characters are also crying at that point, which brings up the effectiveness again. Some characters that we haven't seen show any emotion other than snide sarcasm or clever evasion are suddenly baring their hearts and the heart strings go "twang". They don't do this until the final confrontation and it makes it that much more powerful.

Now, before this, there were several instances where the characters have no way of knowing that they are only three-quarters through the game and thus by all rights, they should be thinking they're going to die and so should be making these speeches and they don't. It's because the writers know that they aren't at the final confrontation yet and chose to hold off. Except with Tear, which drives me nuts.

My suggestion? Pick two or three moments in the story that are the most gut-wrenching and stick to those. Now, this can be hard to do during a first draft (especially for a pantser like me), but it's something to look for in a second draft. Pick those two or three moments and that's where the characters are going to cry if they're going to cry at all. Even if lesser moments come before and a real person would actually cry there, avoid it. Yes, people might cry a great deal before and after a loved one dies from a terminal illness. I know I have. But fiction is not real life. Have an emotion moment with the loved one in the hospital and another after the funeral. And that's it.

Are there exceptions? Most certainly. Is this healthy behavior? In real life, no. Human beings have emotions for a reason and we cry for a reason. It's good for us. But no one likes a crybaby and characters have it tough in that we judge them much more harshly and much more quickly. Even if they only cry every time it would be normal for a person to cry, because that makes up a good percentage of the time we spend with them, it feels like they are crying at the drop of a hat.

Anybody have any thoughts on this? Arguments? This is entirely based on my own preferences, so by all means, tell me what you think!  

Thursday, March 3, 2011


In which there is much bashful blushing.

So, as it turns out, I was still more sick than I thought (if you watch the video in the last entry, you can hear the beginnings of the congestion that reared its ugly head again) and so I was laid up yesterday and most of today again. So that "video everyday" thing sort of died before it started.

I'm debating whether or not to take another shot at it next week (sort of starting afresh on Monday), but it might not happen.

There are times when jumping in without any sort of planning can be a good thing (i.e. NaNoWriMo) and times when it is not. As it turns out, videoing actually takes me more concentrated time. I knew that, but I sort of didn't think about it. While writing can be done anywhere and at any time (boring classes and long waiting room stays are ideal), a scripted video can only be made at a particular time in a particular place with particular equipment. I didn't really take this too much into account, simply looking at all the free time I have in a day and not really thinking about what was actually available in that free time (there's a reason I write most of the time).

So, that endeavor has been shelved, thankfully before I got too involved or emotionally invested. I haven't given up on it yet, but I'm content in just writing and blogging for a while (and preparing for Screnzy, which is coming up faster than I realized).

Plus, I'm still sick and all I want to do right now is curl up and watch movies.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


Not quite done yet with character thoughts, but been a little distracted the past few days. I got super sick over the weekend and began to watch Gargoyles for the first time.

Oh. Em. Gee.

What was wrong with me? Why didn't I watch this show when I was younger?

Been tearing through the first season and I have to say, I'm hooked.
In other news, I've been planning a project for the past month or so and it has finally kicked off today! In the spirit of joining the YouTube community a bit more and just because I want to, I'm going to be trying to make a video every weekday for the entire month of March.

First vid of the month already online!
Here's to a successful 22 more!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Thoughts on characters (part 2)...

Part Two: In which there is a struggle for power...

A good cast of characters will let you get away with a lot. If the reader really cares about them, he or she might be willing to go along with a little more nonsense. Some backtracking or tangents might be a little more allowable, because they let the reader spend more time with the characters.

This doesn't mean that you can sacrifice plot for the sake of your characters though. Even with the greatest cast in the world, a movie will suck if the story goes nowhere. Sure, people will love the characters and quote their lines back and forth, but without something for those characters to be doing, it'd be like watching a bunch of one-liners with  no real context.

On the other hand, you can't sacrifice your characters for the sake of plot. If your plot dictates that your character must do something that character would never do in a thousand years, the character can not do that. In that situation, you can only a) change the plot or b) change the character.

Now, I'm not talking about the sort of difficult decisions that face characters all the time. Like, if your character would never kill someone but they are forced into killing for self-defense or as a solider or something, that is different. This is like that same character suddenly shooting someone in cold blood with no provocation at all.

But say your plot demands that Character A kill Character B, when it is fairly clear that Character A would never do such a thing unless absolutely forced into it. The solution? Either change Character A to make them more likely to kill Character B, or change the plot so that Character A is being forced into it.

Out of character moments are allowed. We all have them, whether we're having a bad day or something we've never encountered before occurs. But we usually at least acknowledge the differences. If a character who is usually very kind is suddenly brutal to someone, there is usually some reason behind it. It's when there isn't beyond "the plot needed to move forward" that it becomes a problem.

Usually, it's never addressed why that character acted so out of character. It's as if the author didn't even notice that their character wouldn't do that. No guilt, no one else asking what was wrong, nothing. It just happens and is treated like a normal interaction, leaving the reader going "huh?".

Any examples you can think of where a character does something blatantly out of character, just to move the plot forward?

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Some thoughts on character (part 1)...

Part One: In which there is mostly fangirl squee...

First of a few-parter musing. I've been stewing on a lot of character-related things lately and to put it all in one entry would be far too long. Yay for my first foray into multi-part blogging!
I've never really made a secret of the fact that I am very character-oriented. I wasn't always this way (as evidenced by my flirtations with plot-based outlines) but I'm very firmly convinced that character is key. Plot is certainly vital as well, but you can't have a plot without characters and the plot arises from those characters. You'd be surprised what you can get away with plot-wise if you have characters that an audience can become invested with. Though, on the other hand, you'd be shocked how much you can not get away with character-wise once that investment is made.

A bit of video game talk follows, but I do have a point. I'll get to it eventually, I promise...

Some might remember my ramblings about receiving the sequel to my most favorite video game of all time. I finished it a little while after that and I have to say: I didn't like it as much.

The plot for Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World was quite contrived.  It was rather short comparatively and I hated quite a few of the puzzles. But the real gamebreaker was the cast.

The original Tales of Symphonia wasn't perfect. I hated some of the puzzles in that game too, some of the storyline is painfully predictable, and let's face it, upwards of fifty hours of gameplay (just in the story, not going into sidequests or anything) is a long time to spend with a group of pixelated folks. But you want to spend that time with them, even through the frustrating boss re-fights and pushing oodles of boxes around all the time. Their trials and tribulations are so engaging, the relationships, the friendships, between the group are so endearing, so well-rounded that you just want to see it through to the end, to make sure everything is going to turn out all right.

Dawn of the New World, on the other hand, didn't know what it had. The romantic couple is forced into a relationship almost immediately. It seems like the entire point of the game is to show how perfect they are for one another, and yet... I don't really see the attraction between them. Character development doesn't progress to a point where I could realistically see these characters liking each other. Most of the in-game banter is backbiting, most of the original cast has been flanderized for their cameos and it just seems like the members of the party don't really like each other at all. I didn't feel the tight-knit family atmosphere of the first game, the atmosphere I fell in love with. And because I didn't have that redeeming quality, the game fell through for me.

Do I regret playing it? I don't think so. If I hadn't, I likely would have been driven crazy with curiosity. So if nothing else, it gave me some moments of nostalgia and a few lulz. Would I recommend it? Meh, probably not, or at least not until you've played better Tales games.

Because Tales of Symphonia was not a fluke. A few weeks ago, I bought Tales of the Abyss, another (completely unconnected) game in the series and after many gaming sessions that stretched waaaaaay longer than they should have, I finished it just yesterday.

First, because I am such a fangirl, the intro:
I actually hated the music here the first time I heard it. Used to the lovely orchestrations of the Tales of Symphonia beginning, this rockin' intro was a bit jarring. After a time or two though, it really grew on me and I would actually watch the entire thing every boot up. Plus, this remix later in the game seriously gave me chills.

The story here was far more complex than Tales of Symphonia, with a much darker tone and a whole bunch of international politics and the hard decisions therein. But it all boils down to a young man named Luke and his life after he accidentally gets kidnapped. A lot of debating about person-hood, a lot about trust and friendship, a lot about growing up.

It isn't a perfect game either. I hate hate hate the map, the loading time is a little lengthy and sometimes the story is, again, a little contrived. But again, it is the characters that make it worth sticking around for.

I plowed through this game because I cared so much about them. I wanted to see what was happening to them, why such horrible things were going down and how exactly they were going to go down. Even with the occasionally predicable twist, I cared about the characters. The protagonist starts out as a real jerk. He really does. But he has a heart of gold in there somewhere and it shines through enough that you care about him. You want him to get better and let everyone else see that heart of gold. And so stuff happens to him that breaks away his jerkish exterior. But boy does he suffer in the meantime. There is a lot of death in this game, not all of it anonymous mooks. There were several scenes of genuine heartwrench.

But I kept playing, despite being mildly confused at times, despite the stupid map, because I was watching the characters grow together. Unlike in Dawn, where the characters' awkward "attraction" is shoved down our throats from moment one, these characters start out not liking each other. And they have very good reasons not to like each other. But they grow into it, everyone having to give (some more than others) in order to take. And because there is growth, there is change and because there is change, there is a little leeway in what I am willing to accept from these characters.

These characters can fight and I can't be assured that they will make up. They felt like real people in that sense. And if they were to make up, they would have to apologize and really change. A great deal of the story was about people atoning for their mistakes and mistreatments of the other characters. But not everyone does. Because these were people, not ideals. They went kicking and screaming into their plot and they weren't compliant for one minute of it. And it was awesome.

Part two will hopefully have less of the nerdy game references and more of the actual thoughts on original character development.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Crazy little thing called 're-writing'...

So, what with Valentine's Day having driven off the advances of the shameless Shiny New Idea and rekindled my love for my hedgehog project, I found myself taking a swing at beginning again.

I've written before about rewriting a beginning over and over again and that leading to stagnation of the story. It's one of the scariest parts about this rewrite: knowing my history with this whole thing. But I think this story needs it.

See, even when I say things like "just keep writing", there remains the Golden Rule of Writing: there are no rules. While, yes, there are rules about grammar and such, even they can be broken if you have a legitimate reason for breaking them. And when it comes to a process, there really is no "right" way to write. I myself never seem to follow the same pattern twice, which is one of the reasons I'm giving myself the go-ahead with this re-write.

I am a pantser through and through and it took me that original six thousand word beginning I had to see that it wasn't working. I had to take it that far to see that it wasn't working, or else I would have regretted a flighty change. This latest beginning is actually something like Version 2.5, being a sort of rework of an actual second beginning idea.

Now, if I were to have followed my own advice and "just kept writing", I would have been banging my head against a brick wall, frustrated by lack of enthusiasm and progress. And, despite the fact that ninety percent of writing is just the muscle action of putting pen to paper and keeping it there, some sort of inspiration is necessary to keep the story going.

And if anything, this is part of my planning process. Testing out what works, experimenting with styles (yay for out-of-order flashbacks and unreliable narrators!), and just generally hashing it out. I can't let the fear of a past failure stop me from progressing, nor let my own sensibilities stifle my story.

Does part of me panic at even the possibility of letting another story head towards the shelf? Yes. Is part of me frustrated at not having gotten it right the first time and now being almost entirely back at square one without having gotten all that far to begin with? Yes.

Is it going to be worth it? I think so. Worst case scenario, as always; I'll have learned something from it.

Anyone else ever rebooted a project more than once in the early stages? Did you ever finish? Still working on it? Relegated it to the shelf?

Monday, February 14, 2011

On slaying the Shiny New Idea (a love story)...

Because I thought about slaying:
Quite possibly one of my most favorite performances of my most definitely favorite poem.
So, a few days ago, I contracted a case of the Shiny New Idea. I blogged about it. And, in blogging about it, I found that I was able to counter it.

See, the thing is with Shiny New Ideas, at least for me, is that they tend to fall apart if I think about them too hard. Actually, this is true for most ideas I have, but the difference is that I'm still excited about my current hedgehog project and so the Shiny New Idea doesn't hold the appeal it did because it is being overshadowed.

And so, on this, Valentine's Day, I'd like to share a short love story about my hedgehog project.

Young Writer's Society has a group called "Your Novel" in which members post short open letters to their novels. Often just a few lines if that, they are a cathartic way of venting frustration or love about a project. Recently, my own posts have followed an arc of sorts.

GryphonFledgling: Dear Novel, 
Be patient with me. It takes some time to move from one relationship to the other. NaNoWriMo took a lot out of me and I want to be able to give you my everything. These scribbles in-between are actually working for us, I promise.
Wed Dec 22, 2010 
GryphonFledgling: Dear Novel,
It's not cheating, just flirting. I'll come back, I promise. Just give me a little time to realize just how amazing you are and then you'll have the satisfaction of seeing how I come crawling back to your pages.
Mon Feb 07, 2011 
GryphonFledgling: Dear Novel,
See? I told you I'd come back. Here's chocolates and a rose to prove my love for you on Valentine's Day.
Tue Feb 15, 2011 
The first was right after NaNo, when I was sort of scribbling little scenes and things in lieu of actual writing on anything besides this blog. The idea was there, the want was there, but my heart just wasn't ready for that kind of commitment yet.

The second was right when the Shiny New Idea struck. It was all awhirl, with its glitz and glamor and snarky humor. I saw it for what it was, but I still begged for the time for a little excitement, a little adventure.

The third is self-explanatory. I wasn't dumped, I walked away before I got too involved with something that wasn't worth my time. I went back to something that I loved and that loved me and together we're going to make something amazing.

This is a project meant to last, methinks. Or at least I hope so. Right now we are going through a little rocky spot with regards to a beginning (seeing as how the beginning is going to drive the rest of the story). I'm thinking I may actually have to (*le gasp*) do a little brainstorming / outlining (*more le gasp*).

But despite being at a point where I'm feeling lost enough to want to do that, I feel good about this project. I might regret saying that in three months, when I'm mashing my forehead into my keyboard with frustration, but I've been with this project long enough for the puppy love of a Shiny New Idea to wear off and I'm still giddy with excitement at times.

Because, this project did start out as a Shiny New Idea, if you recall, in the middle of November. But, unlike this last Shiny New Idea, the hedgehog project stuck around long enough to be called a project at all, even to the point of getting me writing again after a post-NaNo funk.

I did write down my Shiny New Idea and maybe one day it will inspire me again, or at least let itself be hacked to pieces and stitched into other stories somewhere, but for now, true love triumphs and the hedgehog story and I march forward together into the great unknown.

Saturday, February 12, 2011


...Let's be bad guys.
Yes indeed.

Well said, cat of questionable literacy but many lulz, well said.

If there is one thing more dangerous than the dreaded Writer's Block, it is the Shiny New Idea.

So you've got a project that you love, and you're working hard on it. Life gets in the way sometimes and the last few days haven't been so hot, but you still feel like this could go somewhere. It's just taking a little time.

Then, suddenly, from the blue, comes a Shiny New Idea. It's an idea! It's new! It's shiny! It seems to flow from your brain like a chocolate fountain, chock-full of marshmallows, strawberries and pound cake!

Suddenly the current project is exposed for what it is; a lukewarm Hot Pocket, full of congealing cheese and mystery meat dressed up as ham for Halloween.

So you want to drop that Hot Pocket and go for the Shiny New Idea, this lovely critter that demands nothing from you, just allows you to channel awesome from brain to pen.

And you do... for a while. But there will come a time when the Shiny New Idea is not so New anymore and eventually it will not be so Shiny anymore. And along will come another Shiny Newer Idea and then a Shiny Shiny Newer Idea and so on and so forth, in a horrible rampage of frustrated inspiration but no production.

The moral of the story? Stick with a project. If a Shiny New Idea pops up, demanding your attention

... indulge it for a minute or two. Take the time to write down that scene that is bugging you. If it turns into a little more than a scene, fine. But know where to put the brakes on.

At the same time, sometimes projects need to be taken a break from. I've blogged before about letting projects go. Sometimes they do need to go. But they shouldn't be dropped like a Hot Pocket. Lain carefully down like the inedible bits of lobster, maybe.

...because otherwise they might eat you?


I actually secretly like Hot Pockets.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Bursting at the seams...

First off, a big thank you to Hannah from Musings of a Palindrome for her shout-outs to me and other small-time bloggers!
A sedentary body equals a sedentary mind for me. I find that the less I do in a day, the less I end up writing. It's why NaNoWriMo is such a frantic month, but always one of my most productive, while my writing always seems to stagnate during the summer months when all I do is laze about. Many a writer has bemoaned a surplus of free-time as hindering their writing.

That said, it seems like after a period of non-activity, my brain always seems to start cooking stuff up, just when I don't feel like writing at that moment.

For real, haven't been feeling fantastic lately (everyone else in my family has gotten sick and I'm the only one hanging on to health) and have been sleeping a lot. The other day, I spent the entire day sleeping, eating and playing video games (class had been mercifully cancelled due to snow) and while it was somewhat refreshing, I was frustrated afterward when I realized how little of anything I'd gotten done.

Cut to yesterday, when I had a full day of class and two essays to write. Suddenly my brain seething with inspiration and ideas, but I don't have the time to write any of them down.

Cut to today... The inspiration is still knocking around, but I am still feeling under the weather. I've been browsing the internet, reading a little and just generally not doing anything again. And I'm driving myself crazy because while I want to be writing, I really don't want to be writing.
Of course, the key is often to just start writing anyway. As I write and moan right now, I'm feeling the urge to simply grab a pad of paper and start writing something worth writing. So I likely will.

Funny how just taking a moment to purge and whine can actually set you on the path to activity. Anyone else find that they tend to follow any of these patterns? Or do you do something completely different?

Thursday, February 10, 2011


I hate double-spacing.

I never really noticed how much I hated double-spacing until I had to write a research paper for Psychology my first semester of college. Before then, the longest paper I'd written for school had been maybe ten pages. It was about breeding mice for a science project and at the time, I was too caught up in mouse-care duties to really care too much about the paper itself. I wrote it, turned it in, got an A, was done.

This research paper was different. Something like fifteen pages and I agonized over that thing for months, writing several different versions, nitpicking over the formatting. And in the end, after all that work, after all that stress, the finished product looked so... soulless.

The extra space between every line made it look so empty, so lifeless. I can't really explain it, but it bothered me.

I still can't stand double-spacing. I don't know why it was that Psych paper that exacerbated that dislike, because I'd worked with it before. I didn't typically write in double-spacing before, usually just writing in single-spacing, then punching the button to spread it out at the end. Now, what with professors wanting a particular format, I generally work with double-spacing from the beginning, making sure to follow the format as much as possible from the beginning to avoid stress later.

And I hate it. Even if I do work from single-spacing in the beginning and then switch before I print, the print-out always bothers me.

It's a silly thing to get worked-up over, but get worked-up I do. I'm so visually oriented and writing holds such a special place in my psyche that things like that get me rankled. The same part of my brain that does this to me is the one that makes me drool over stacks of books and obsessively read every scrap of text I can get my hands on when I'm eating (for real, I especially can't get through breakfast without something to read). Books with funny margins cause me literal headaches and huge walls of text make my eyes slip up and water.

But double-spacing. Oh that double-spacing.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

In which there is a great deal of poetry...

you pretend not to watch me
I pretend not to judge
a half-baked soufflé
too early and it will fall
too late and the cement has set
unyielding, uncaring, cold
just right and the lantern rises
held up by wishes and hot air
careful not to catch on fire
hope it doesn't cool
your hand is warm in mine
grip too tight and bones will break
too loose and the darkness will eat you
having me alone with an empty page
don't blink
I'll make my verdict
thumb pad on an ice cube
ridges and slick
two steps removed
watching the world go by in slow motion
count the hummingbird's feathers
catch the cold breath in a balloon
let it squeal out in a fog horn
calling in my imaginary friend
keep up with me
moving banana peels from underfoot
chasing fruit flies
waiting for the light
switch it on
write on the bathroom mirror
ghost letters
from the great beyond
two steps away
snail shell spirals
warm chocolate curls
eyes ask a question
while your smile tries to mitigate it
walking on monkey grass
blades of shattered knives
trying to dance a tango
when one only knows how to samba
a box of chocolates
gun barrel hiding under your ear
not sure whose finger is on the trigger
or if its just a lump in the pillow
I'm not sure of the answer
but ask anyway
I'm in class and randomly scribbling things. Stuff happens. I have to admit that the first one is my favorite. I don't often write poetry, but I often seem to find myself inordinately proud of the result when I do, even if it is complete nonsense.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Thank you and farewell...

Brian Jacques passed away Saturday, February 5.

I got the news from Twitter and I was actually struck with physical shock when I read about it.

I can't say that I was always a big fan of Jacques, but he was definitely a huge part of my childhood. I loved Redwall, even if the other books in the series sometimes seemed to regress into repetition. My younger siblings loved the series and so I constantly was surrounded by the books all the time. I loved his narration in the recording of his books and I actually still use my CD of Redwall to fall asleep sometimes. His voice was just so soothing.

And now he's gone. It breaks my heart.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

A daily record...

faux amis
false friends
sliding on an oil slick of french
thinking you're ice-skating
olive oil instead of hinge grease
gumming up the works
blowing bubbles of smoke
bright pink sludge
filling up plastic bottles until they're dry
cracks in the mask
deer in the headlights
raccoon eyes hiding gecko pads of want
eyeshadow sliding into lipstick
faux animals
fur amis

Yay for complete nonsense? 

Yeah, that's the kind of stuff I scribble in class when a lecture lapses into boring. 

There's something to be said for a daily journal. It could be about your daily life or about your writing or for collecting pictures or for writing poetry. Mine is sort of for everything and it goes everywhere with me. I went through phase towards the end of last year, scribbling notes and rants and stuff on scrap pieces of paper, but there is something to be said about having an actual notebook. It makes it easier to keep things together (remember my word of 2011 is to be "collected") and there is really gratifying to watch a notebook fill up, even if it is just with insane scribbles like that above. I'm barely a week into February and already I'm half-way through a notebook I started on the first of January.

Though I think someday I'm going to need to go through my notebooks and binders and write out a timeline for when each one fits so that if I ever need to put them in order, I can without having to actually put them in order on my shelf (seeing as how most of the binders are full-size and most of the notebooks are only like half that size and they would just fit awkwardly).

Saturday, February 5, 2011

In defense of fanfiction...

Before anything else: The wonderful Elena Solodow over at You're Write. Except when you're Rong. created a super-cool new hashtag for Twitter.: #lastlinetoday. At the end of the day, post the last line of whatever you wrote that day. I intend to start, seeing as how my Twitter tends to lay dormant for months at a time when it's not NaNo. Though my last lines tend to be long after I've shut my computer down for the night, so maybe they'll be posted the next morning? As sort of a start to the new day? Hmm...

Now onto actual blog posting!
So, in one of my late-night deliriums of inspiration I've been talking about lately, I started a fanfic. Just a short little drabble, brought on by the superficial similarities between two characters of two different fandoms. It's fun and it's something outside of my other projects, giving me somewhere else to flex my writing muscles a little without having to worry about world-building or character casting or anything. I've never really written fanfic before (aside from one alternate character interpretation fic for two minor minor minor characters of Tales of Symphonia that can be found here for the interested) and I have to say: it's hard.

I have respect for fanfic writers. I think I've blogged before about literary sandboxes and whatnot (though I can't find the post and if I haven't, I will soon) and how fanfiction can be really awesome. I enjoy reading my share of good fanfiction (because there is certainly a lot of not-good out there). I mean, good writing is good writing is good writing, right?

I can see where haters of fanfiction are coming from. I mean, most of what you'll find is badly written, etc. etc. etc. and the authors aren't coming up with the characters and setting themselves, but there is something to be said for writing a character that isn't your own.

It's one of the reasons why it is so hard to find a good fanfic. When you are writing your own characters, you're allowed to flub them at first, finding their voices, exploring their psyche and letting them grow organically. But in fanfic, you've got a character already laid out. They've already been made to someone else's specifications and you're not really allowed to tailor them all that much. Out-of-character moments run rampart in bad fanfics because the authors try to fit the character into a role rather than letting the role grow out of the character.

It's hard for someone like me who never knows anything about her characters unless she sees it unfolding in front of her. It's very easy to fall into flanderization and pick just one trait of a character and let that be the basis of the story, which isn't fair to the characters or the original creators. 

The whole thing is very foreign to me, but I think it's good practice. It is nice being able to think about how an established character would react to something, rather than trying to make up my own character's opinion on a matter. And that's good for me, maybe teaching me some of the benefits of different styles of writing. 

So yeah, I'm having fun with it. That and I'm writing it mostly on WriterFeedPad, which is always a pleasure. Every time I use it, I like it more. 

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A little pimping...

So, I'm a member of Young Writers Society, run by the ever-fabulous Nathan Caldwell. It's a online community of writers, mostly aged 13 to 25, with wonderful reviews, a chat room, forums about just about everything, live feeds of friend activity, blogs, and a whole crap-load more. I've been a member for three years and running now and I can't think of leaving. The people are awesome, the site is awesome, it's just awesome.

But there is something even more awesome looming in the future...

Nate is currently working on a sort of sister-site to YWS, called Writer Feed, which he has developed based on all the things he knows now that he had wished he had known about when he began YWS. The idea behind it is social networking for writers, aimed mostly at writers 18+ as a more serious alternative to YWS. It's set to launch really, really soon (the date's sort of nebulous, since Nate's programming in his free time - something like 20 hours of work remain, I understand) and I am super-crazy excited. A review and more pimping will come when it does finally launch (right now, the above link just leads to a spiffy "coming soon"-type page).

But, in the meantime...

Nate has given us WriterFeedPad, which is simply awesome. Similar in concept to Google Docs or other online document sites, it gives you a place online to type up documents and the like. The formatting tools are fairly simple, but for a short story or novel or just notes to yourself, it's perfect. Plus, the really cool things about it are the way you can make a pad public or share it with other users (so that more than one person can be working on the same pad - each shows up as a different color) and it tracks the revisions in real time (and has the niftiest slider bar thing that will literally take you through every change you make in a document in a sort of running film way, allowing you to stop at any time and export that particular place in revision as a document). It's already linked to YWS, but apparently it's also going to be hooked up to WF when it finally launches!

Super, super excited. I've been using WriterFeedPad for several documents already, putting in some handwritten notes and drafts of my hedgehog story and even hashing out some scenes from an idea that just won't leave me alone tonight (for real, it's again around midnight and my brain won't shut off).

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

An ending...

Whew. One month into the new year already.

With the end of January comes the end of a sort of unofficial-yet-very-resolved resolution to post every day of the month. I sort of decided to do it after a day or so in the new year when I was being consistent and I never actually made it official because I was afraid that if I said anything, I would jinx my resolve. But now it is over and I can celebrate my completion of another resolution this year already!

That's not to say I won't be posting every day or nearly-every day in the months to come (in fact, I want to keep it up for as long as possible for the rest of this year) but I won't do the "Oh crap, it's 11:49 at  night and I haven't posted anything yet" panic that I did a few times last month. It's a good exercise in consistency for me and it helps me hash out a lot of things about storytelling and writing.

For this new year, I'm going to be trying a lot of new things, both in my writing and in the rest of my life, and perhaps in my blog. Anything you guys would like to see me try here? I'm open to suggestions as I turn another corner this year.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Advice to my past self...

I was looking over my archives the other day, just sort of skimming through notes and revisions and scribbles and if I were to give my past self a few pieces of advice, they would be:

1) Just keep writing, 2) don't throw anything away and 3) put the date on everything.

They both seem rather simple and sort of "duh", but really, I wouldn't have known back then just how much I wish I'd done those things then.

1) Just keep writing. Even if an idea isn't working or you don't know how it should turn out, just keep writing it. It's sort of the golden rule of NaNoWriMo especially, but it can be applied to just about any other piece of writing. If nothing else, you'll figure out what doesn't work. In the best cases, you can end up with character motivations you didn't see coming or a plot twist that incorporates a throw-away mention you made earlier. In the worst cases, you simply have to throw out some stuff that wasn't working anyway when you edit.

However you won't really throw them away because

2) You shouldn't throw anything away. Even if that one chapter is just awful, the idea makes no sense or it's a conversation from the more bland regions of Blahsville, keep it anyway. If nothing else, you can look back on it and laugh at yourself. In the best cases, you might reincorporate it somewhere in another story or it provides the perfect inspiration for something else. In the worst cases, you at least have material for your future biographers and literary scholars to look back on and write books about.

And to help them out, you should

3) Really, put the date on EVERYTHING. All-caps was warranted there, because you have no idea how many times I've looked back at stuff I know I wrote more than a few years ago and have wondered exactly when I started writing it. Or I find a scribbled sentence or idea and I have no idea when I came up with it. If nothing else, you'll have a timeline of papers. In the best cases, you can track how long you've been on a project and keep track of your consistency and inspiration timeline. In the worst cases... Well, there really are no worst cases here. You just had to take the split second it took to write the date up in the corner. And I really do mean everything. Even if it's just a post-it note you happened to scrawl "two months instead of three?" as a note to yourself for your novel, date it. It makes things so much easier in the future, in ways you wouldn't even imagine now.

Well, unfortunately, I can't tell my past self this, but maybe my future self can put it all to good use.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sweet lullaby...

There are times when you run into a book or a movie or a piece of music that is just too powerful. It literally pains you to read/watch/listen to it because it is just too beautiful.

Going through a music phase right now, similar to that of pre-NaNo frenzy, and just aching at the gloriousness that is Joe Hisaishi.

One of my favorites from the first Studio Ghibli movie I ever saw: Howl's Moving Castle (whole rant about that here). Seriously though, the entire soundtrack is pretty much win.

Been listening to a lot of foreign music (and a lot of foreign film/anime soundtracks) lately, mainly because even when they have lyrics, I don't understand the words and thus aren't too distracted. Typically, if I listen to a song with lyrics that I know, I inevitably end up singing (for real, it actually requires concentration for me not to sing along to any and every song I know) and if I sing, I end up typing or writing what I am singing rather than what I actually mean to be writing.

'Inasmuch' still won't leave me alone until I scribble down some notes, but the good news is that I can sleep in tomorrow, so it can keep me up all it wants. I have pretty music to listen to, so I don't mind.

Saturday, January 29, 2011


...does inspiration have to strike in the middle of the night when you have to get up crazy early the next morning?

For real, I have to get up at five tomorrow for work and 'Inasmuch' just won't leave me alone.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Beneath the mask...

In fiction, it seems like if you are a) a nice person, you can hide all sorts of mental issues, but if you are b) mean in an attempt to mask your mental issues, everyone can see right through you with their psychiatrist-vision.

For examples of this phenomenon, I present to you a) Tohru from Fruits Basket and b) the titular character from House.

a) Fruits Basket 

There's this trope called the Stepford Smiler where a character seems cheerful and all, but is really masking a deep-seated pain or crazy or whatever. The thing is, no one ever seems to see through it except the audience. The rest of the characters remain painfully oblivious until something happens that causes the mask to break. 

Exhibit A: Torhu Honda 
Just look at those big eyes and bright smile. So cute! She's kind, caring, unrelentingly cheerful...

But then she's so accommodating that she's practically a doormat, has deep-seated self-esteem issues (as does everyone in the show) and just generally has quite a few sucky moments in her past. Yet, the other characters would never have known if there weren't moments where she breaks down and says something she doesn't mean to. No one; not her friends, not her adoptive family, not even her real family. The audience sees it more than the other characters do, because we see her at her most vulnerable. 

Contrast this to:

b) House M.D.

Exhibit B: Dr. Gregory House

Bitter, sarcastic, drug-riddled... He's a bit of a mess.

And everyone seems to know why. Patients he's only just met are monologuing at him, telling him all the reasons for why he acts the way he acts. Sure, sometimes he himself tells us about his past, but it's because people have been poking at him, prodding at him, explaining to him (and via him, the audience) why he acts the way he acts and how beneath his jerkish exterior there is a heart of gold.  

I picked these two examples because they are particularly egregious. As mentioned, House's patients almost always seem to know exactly what his game is after just meeting him, and Tohru goes for a long, long time without anyone noticing that she was, oh, living in a tent, abused by her family, blah blah blah. In fact, she has to tell them mostly or have people see it for themselves. And the reverse is true in both examples as well: in early seasons of House M.D., no one seems to see how messed up Cameron is and all through Fruits Basket characters are explaining other character's issues to each other in response to bursts of temper. 

And it always seems to be this way. If a character is a jerk, another character almost always has to insist that there is actually some sort of good in him and it will almost always turn out that there is. But if someone is indefatigably happy, it could be anything really hiding under the smile. 

It's like characters (and I guess people in real life too) would like to think that when something seems all right, it is, but if something seems to be wrong, we have to pick at it until we find an answer.

Any other examples you guys can think of for either extreme? Or, conversely, any examples that completely defy these generalizations?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Laughing at myself...

Funny that right after I should write an entire blog entry about how I seem to be unable to write anything but angst, I sit down with a fresh notebook and wrote two entire pages of a non-angsty beginning to a second draft.

Yes, I'm starting afresh. Probably something like over six thousand words on my last draft and I'm sort of ditching them and beginning again.

Do I consider those words a waste? Do I consider that time and the act of throwing it all away to be completely pointless?


This is how I write.

It's a messy mess of a mess. Full of false starts and redundant redundancy. Those thousands of words I wrote showed me what didn't work and gave me ideas for things that would work. And now I have a quirky beginning, the sort of light-hearted prose I was whining about not being able to write.

The moral: I shouldn't whine about how I can't do something until I try.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Not-so-happily ever after...

See, here's the thing: I write angst.

I don't want to. It's not like I mean to. But it seems like, because I take my characters so seriously, they start to take themselves too seriously and I end up with these serious stories, filled with psychological issues and just general not-fun.

It just sort of happens, even when I mean to write something a little more lighthearted. I mean, for NaNo10 even, I wrote a zombie story. How can you take a zombie story too seriously? The entire point of a zombie story is to have fun with it or scare the crap out of people. It's a survivor story and because there is no society, you have no rules and so you can go on a rampage of awesome.

But I had to bring character angst into it and it became one of my darker things to date, I think, simply because of the protagonists' lack of morals. It has a relatively happy ending, but still...

Then comes my hedgehog story. I meant for it to be light-hearted, sort of like Princess Tutu, which manages to make me smile every single episode, even when it descends into the dark and heart-wrenching. There is something just so heartwarming about it and funny and cute and just plain sweet, that manages to make the darker moments all the more dark. The ending is happy, if a little bittersweet, but it manages to still feel light and cheerful despite it all.

However, my projected ending for the hedgehog story (at least as it stands) is not really happy. If anything, it's bittersweet, with emphasis on the "bitter". There is a potential for a happy ending later, but the actual last event shown on the page would be heartbreaking (y'know, if I actually succeed in the correct mood in my writing).

The problem is that I can't think of a way to make a happy ending feel like a cop-out. After all I'm going to put my characters through and the world I have established, the happy ending I want wouldn't fit. It would feel like a deus ex machina, or just simply a saccharine ending. It would feel like I was forcing a happy ending on it.

It drives me crazy when stories do this, putting us through so much and then at the last minute pulling the ridiculously happy ending. And while it feels good the first time you experience it, the second time it doesn't feel quite the same. It can feel like a let-down, sort of negating all the suffering that came before it. I'd rather have it end with hope; maybe everything isn't perfect, but there is a knowledge that the future will improve and be happy.

That's sort of what I'm shooting for with my hedgehog story, but at the same time, it just sort of makes me super-aware of how angsty my stories seem to be all the time.

Quite angsty.