For the A-to-Z Challenge 2017 I’m writing all about myself. Every post will be some random fact or bit of information about me that you may or may not have already known. Maybe you’ll learn something! Feel free to let me know! ^_^
Every author has parts of the process that they enjoy more or less than others, and just as we have things that we hate (editing, oh my god, the editing…), we obviously also have things that we love, things that define why we became authors in the first place. One of those things for me – and the reason I titled this post as I did – makes me look like a really, really EVIL author.
I love writing torment. I don’t know what it is or why, but I think part of it is that I’m addicted to very strong, powerful emotions, and while things like lust, true love, elation, and so on can definitely fall under that category, I prefer the negative ones: terror, misery, pain.
Some of my favorite scenes to write in a book are the ones where a character has just sustained an extremely painful injury, or has just been absolutely shredded emotionally. I love delving into the psychological, feeling out the character’s mind, and expressing just what the character is feeling on any level that I can get my hands on. For that reason I also love torturing my characters, putting them into absolutely horrifying situations, dangling happiness in front of them and then snatching it away. I live for those scenes. I thrive on those scenes.
And if that doesn’t make me sound totally evil, I really don’t know what would.
Mind you, I’m not a psychotic person. I’m fairly certain I lean pretty much as far away from the sociopath scale as you can get. But I’ve always thrived on those types of moments, both in my own writing and in the fictional creations of others. Perhaps it’s a cathartic thing – the real world seems a little less scary when the fictional world is made out to be beyond horrible – but I’ll probably never know for sure exactly what it is that attracts me to these kinds of moments. For now I’ll just accept that perhaps, just maybe, I’ve got a little bit of evil in me at any given time.
So…what do you think? Am I evil? Go on. You can tell me. I won’t get upset. 😐 Feel free to leave a comment!
We’ve done a fair bit of personalizing on our blogs so far, and today we’re going to talk about a little bit more, specifically with regard to our “sidebar”. Depending on the theme you chose for your blog, your “sidebar” could be in a number of places, but a rather large number of themes involve said “bar” being either the far right or the far left of your blog. It is a spot where your posts do not reach, an empty slate that you can fill as you so choose. So today’s assignment is to add and/or customize two widgets, one text-based and one image-based.
Now, as with many of these assignments, this is something that I’ve already done since I’ve already been around the block a few times. Therefore, instead of adding or changing anything, I’m going to explain why I chose the widgets that I chose.
The very first widget on my sidebar is a simple photo. I chose that widget because, as a writer, I want people to be able to instantly recognize me. Eventually (based on my own cursed willpower) I will have published books, and those books will have a photo of me inside their covers. If the people who read my books choose to seek out my blog I want them to be able to immediately know that they’ve got the right place. Additionally, a photo is a nice thing to have on a professional blog (not that I think my blog is professional…haha) because it gives visitors that instant feeling of having made your acquaintance, which might help them decide to stick around.
The second widget on my sidebar is an invitation to “Like” my Facebook Author Page. This is a newer addition, as it took me a while to finally decide to actually make a Facebook Author Page. In the end I decided that it was an important step, and the widget reflects that. Facebook is a big deal these days, and while not everyone who stumbles onto my blog may be the kind of person who follows blogs, there are plenty of people out there who might click the “Like” button and thereafter return to my blog as Facebook lets them know what I’ve posted recently.
Thirdly, we have a Twitter widget. I’m not a huge Twitter user myself, but it’s another one of those “important” sites that can be very useful for networking. I chose to add the type of widget that shows the last few things I’ve “tweeted” along with the ability for visitors to tweet directly to me without having to open a whole different browser page to go directly to Twitter.com. Though it is not used as often as I thought it might, I think that it’s nice to give people the ability to speak to me without having to comment on a particular blog post.
The fourth and fifth widgets are organizational in purpose. They simply give visitors the option to browse my blog posts via the full archives, or the categories that I place my posts under.
The sixth widget is a simple “Follow Via Email” button, important for visitors who are neither members of WordPress, nor choose to use the Facebook link.
And the final widget is your basic search which, while not necessarily very useful to visitors, is important for helping me to go back and find things that I wrote about in the past.
Do you see a pattern? Most of my widgets are based around the idea of gathering a following and networking various aspects of my “author platform” together. The widgets I chose are the kinds of widgets that a writer should have in order to effectively use social media to her advantage. However, each individual blogger has to decide for themselves what will work well for their blog. If you’re a private person who wants to talk anonymously you’re probably not going to want to use things like Facebook and Twitter, but if networking is a major part of your platform you might want to add even more social site widgets to your sidebar. If you’re a member of any clubs, challenges, blogging circles, etc, you might want to post your badges on your sidebar. If you’re into any kind of marketing, there are “blog stats” widgets that would help let potential buyers know how popular your blog is. If you hold events via your blog, there are widgets to help you organize and display them. Take a look through all the available widgets and determine what would work best for you. 🙂
Since today is a bit of a milestone for my blog, I thought I’d take this moment to express my amazement of the follow set of statistics.
This post that I’m writing right now is my 400th post. To many of the bloggers whom I follow and commerce with that won’t seem like a huge deal because some of them have thousands of posts. But to me, it’s positively amazing. I gained access to the internet sometime around the fourth grade, and in that time I’ve hopped on several bandwagons and tried dozens of times to express myself in one way or another. I’ve “designed” websites (oh…dear Geocities…) and been an active member of several forum communities; I’ve posted web-comics and even had a couple of other blogs. but I never stuck with any of them. Eventually they would get boring, or I would fail to find the time to keep up with them, or some other issue would send me wandering non-nonchalantly in the other direction. But this blog? I’ve stuck with this, even when I couldn’t think of anything to write, and even when I didn’t have the time. I’ve stuck with it for 400 posts and almost two years straight, and I have to admit that knowing that makes me very proud of myself. Maybe I am becoming a responsible adult after all.
Oftentimes I’ve found myself wondering at the lack of comments on my blog. I see that people are reading my posts, but rarely does it seem that anyone takes the time to say anything. But today I saw this number – 336 – and thought, “You know what? That’s not too shabby.” My blog, after all, is not a viral sensation. I’m not a famous person that people flock to speak to, and even 400 posts is nothing in the grand scheme of the internet, so 336 comments is actually a pretty decent collection. So thank you to everyone who took the time. 🙂
Best Ever: 208 Views Again, to many bloggers this number is going to seem piddly, but to me it’s simply amazing. On March 18th, 2013 I wrote a post expressing my feelings about my grandfather’s death and sharing some of my favorite memories of him, and 208 people read it. For a small-time blogger like me the thought that 208 people came to my blog on a single day and, for a few moments, shared in my grief is absolutely unbelievable. Someday I hope to break that record, but for now I just say thank you for choosing that particular post to show that you’re here.
13,524 Views Someday I hope to have the kind of blog that gets this number of views in a month, but for the time being I’m amazed to know that my blog has gotten this many views since it’s beginnings. As mentioned earlier I’ve had several webpages since I first started being allowed to roam the internet, and I’m quite certain that this number is the highest one I’ve ever seen for views on something of mine.
103 Blog Followers I don’t count Twitter and Facebook followers in this stat because, let’s face it, most of my Facebook followers are family members, and most of my Twitter followers are fellow writers who may or may not have the time or care to bother with my blog. But on WordPress itself, the follow specifically meant for reading blogs, I have recently surpassed 100 followers. Again, someday I hope that my blog gets that many followers in a month, but given the relative infancy of my blog I’m amazed and gratified that more than 100 people have said to themselves, “Yeah, I want to keep an eye on this blog and read what the author posts.”
And so here we are, me and my 400 posts, my personal-record-breaking views, and my followers with their comments. It’s been an excellent run so far, and I hope it continues far, far into the future. Cheers!
As I mentioned on Tuesday, this week I have a mini-goal to wrack up enough of a word count to bring my yearly total thus far to 200,000. As such I’ve been doing everything I can to get words down. I’ve been blogging (obviously), doing morning pages via 750Words.com, and repairing scenes in my supernatural romance. What I haven’t been doing is writing anything new.
Here’s my problem: since I’ve been home from out West, I’ve only been writing on my laptop. I type a helluva lot faster than I write by hand, so it only makes sense to use that speed. But for months now I’ve been writing in notebooks; thousands of words of long-hand.
Why is that a problem? Well, I have tons of my works-in-progress in notebooks…none of it on my laptop. For instance, I have the first four chapters of my epic fantasy novel on my laptop, then about a dozen chapters in notebooks. So if I want to continue on with that work-in-progress, I either have to skip a bunch of chapters in my Scrivener file in order to move on, or take the time to transcribe all the notebooks onto my laptop
Maybe I’m alone in this, but it would drive me absolutely insane to move on with the story without most of what I’ve written actually being in the Scrivener file. It’s just one of those things. I’d absolutely lose my mind. But on the other side of things, it will take me ages to transcribe everything that I’ve written in notebooks, and that will be time that I could have spent writing something else and wracking up word count. I suppose I could count word
s transcribed as words written, but that feels like cheating, since they’re technically words I’ve already written.
So I leave it to you, fellow bloggers and readers: should I take the time to transcribe, or move on to something else? If I take the time
transcribe, should I count the words toward my word count or not? Your thoughts are greatly appreciated!
Recently I came upon a contest that Amazon is having. It involves writing a blog post that talks about the moment you knew – really knew – that you were a writer. I decided to give it a go, and before long I had surpassed the word limit that the contest set. I didn’t want to change anything, because what I wrote was truth, plain and simple, so I thought I’d just post it here anyway.
I’ve wanted to be a writer since the third grade. That was a revelation in and of itself, but it isn’t the same as actually knowing that you are a writer. Many people talk about that moment when they knew, that singular event that caused them to realize “I AM A WRITER!”, but for me it’s a little more complicated than that. My “I AM A WRITER!” moment was less a moment and more a culmination of the passage of some 15 years of growth.
I knew I wanted to be a writer after a school assignment in the third grade. We were to write a short story, print it out neatly on white paper (this was before we had regular access to computers), draw a cover, and bind it all together with construction paper and string. I can’t recall the exact plot of my story (although I could probably locate it in my parents’ attic if I looked hard enough), but I remember that it was called “The Mystery of the Emerald-Eyed Cat”. My cover featured two glowing green cat eyes below the title, and it was all bound with green construction paper. I also recall that I signed the cover “by Tracey Lynn MARIE Clarke”, not because I had any sense of what a pen name was back then, but because I was a little gone in the head and often changed my name a bit to suit my childish whims. (My teachers just kinda…ignored me, I guess…lol) I was very proud of that story, and my teacher at the time was a truly awesome man by the name of Mr Power who praised it and suggested that maybe I might consider writing as a career choice in the future. Though I was an avid reader, this was thought that had never really occurred to me before; but in that moment I knew for sure that this was what I wanted to do when I grew up.
Around the same time that I made my startling future career revelation, I met my best friend Kelly for the first time. As chance would have it, she loved writing too, and over the course of the rest of our grade school career we wrote a series of stories called “The Game Masters”, an adventure tale of a group of kids (ourselves and a few friends) who could travel in and out of video games. What Kelly and I had was an odd kind of a beta-reader relationship. We each wrote our own versions of the story – similar in many ways, but different in quite a few as well – and whenever we had each finished a chapter or two we would swap notebooks and read what the other had written. We praised each other for how clever we were, marveled at the amazing ideas we came up with and how “great” our juvenile writing was. We taught each other very little because we were so in awe of ourselves and how awesome we were, but it was excellent practice none-the-less, and it taught me another one of the joys of writing. I would strive daily to write as much as I could so that Kelly could read it. Even if the writing wasn’t perfect, it was a great thrill for me to have her read it and tell me that she enjoyed it, and so with that rush of fun and reader-acceptance I continued on with the belief that I absolutely wanted to be a writer.
Junior high school marked the turning point when Kelly and I both began to dabble into more mature original fiction. I can’t remember much about those first original stories because I personally tended to jump from storyline to storyline; whenever I would get a new idea I would drop the old one and start anew. Even so, it was excellent practice in creating characters and worlds and coming up with compelling plot lines. This era also marked my first foray into fan fiction, although I hadn’t ever heard the term at this point. Kelly, her cousin Melissa, and I became enormous Star Wars nerds in these days, and part of the way I expressed my nerdiness was by writing my own little Star Wars stories. I read a lot of Star Wars novels, and I got it into my head that I was a big enough fan that I could write one as well. My story involved Luke Skywalker discovering another lost Jedi – a gorgeous young girl, of course – and training her while trying to keep her from going over to the dark side. It was incredibly geeky. In these days I began to discover that I really had quite a lot to learn. My grade 8 English teacher, Mr Reilly, was not shy about telling me exactly what I was doing wrong when I wrote, and I would regularly compare my writing style to Kelly’s, which always seemed much better to me. I learned a bit of humility, but I was still totally wanted to be a writer.
By the time Kelly and I hit high school writing time became significantly more scarce. There was more work to do, and our social lives (such as they were) became more important as well. We started dating boys, we had extracurricular activities and lots of other unrelated hobbies. Regardless, Kelly and I still found ourselves writing little stories, only now they were quickly-plucked-out mini-chapters that we would write on typewriters during our keyboarding class. This time, rather than writing two different versions of the same basic plot line, or writing our own personal original fiction, we would take turns writing chapters of the same story back and forth. The “story” was loosely called “The Day the Earth Blew Up” and featured ourselves and our friends in an ever-more-ridiculous plot of adventurous hyjinx and tomfoolery. For all intents and purposes, the point of the story was to keep trying to make it more and more foolish. At one point there was an invading army of flying mini-pizzas. Yeah, we were a little bit loopy. But this little exercise of ours taught me a few more things about writing, such as the art of collaboration, and how to keep your mind fresh and new, constantly churning out interesting ideas. Though there were now many other things in my life vying for attention, I was still certain that I wanted to be a writer.
High school graduation was a turn in the wrong direction. When it came to the desire to be a writer, I dropped the ball. I’ve mentioned it before, but in these days I made a conscious decision: I was going to put my focus into technology. I still wanted to be a writer – oh lord, how I wanted to be a writer – but I was scared of failure, scared of the financial implications, and so I made the decision to move into a field in which I knew I could still thrive, but in which I was significantly more likely to obtain gainful employment. My inner child, the little grade-3-aged girl who had just written her first story, was positively screaming at me. “You want to be a writer!” she shrieked. “What is wrong with you?!” I hold that the decision I made was a good one in the long run, but it definitely set me back several years on my true desires.
I wrote nothing for a long time. As many young people do I spent my university years cramming for exams at the last minute, ripping out assignments on the bus on the way to class, and drinking away the weekends. The work load was intense, and I had to work part-time jobs to help pay for it all. My long-time boyfriend broke up with me and I started dating the man who would become my husband. We moved out on our own and had to learn to feed and clothe ourselves while somehow paying for rent and taking what felt like hundreds of hours of classes a week. At one point, sometime during my fourth (and final) year of university, I had an extreme loss of confidence in my future. I had done fairly well in all of my courses – aside from Calculus (which we won’t talk about) I made 80s and 90s in most of them – but I had this moment when I looked at myself and thought, “What the hell am I doing?” I had no idea what kind of career I was going to end up with, I had no confidence that it was going to be something I actually enjoyed or was good at, and I’d already spent upwards of $40,000 to come to this conclusion. It was around this time that Kelly reintroduced me to what we now know is fan fiction. She’d been reading a ton of the stuff on FanFiction.net, and encouraged me to do the same. The result was somewhat different; I ended up writing on the website. I didn’t really have the time to be writing, but I became somewhat obsessed and did it anyway. The one story I managed to complete, a Harry Potter fan fic called “Cry of the Wolf”, became surprisingly popular on the website, and with that I remembered something: I still wanted to be a writer. I had put a lot of time and effort into becoming a technologist, and I was going to finish that journey for sure, but all the time, no matter what else I did, I still wanted to be a writer.
It’s been seven years since I completed my university degree. In that time I got a job, moved away from home for it, bought a car, married my husband, bought a house, gave birth to my daughter, lost my job, found a new one that required me to travel back and forth across the country, and recently got laid off from that one because the job is over. And throughout all that I kept writing whenever I could. I wrote more fan fiction, I participated in several NaNoWriMo‘s, I set daily word count goals for myself, and I started this blog. I did all of this because regardless of what else might be going on around me, of the turns my life had taken, I still wanted to be a writer. Notice that I keep using that phrasing, over and over again: wanted to be a writer. That’s the phrasing I always used in my head when I thought about myself. I always used a future tense.
“I want to be a writer.”
“I’m going to be a writer.”
“Someday I’ll be a writer.”
That has been my thought process since that first story back in the third grade.
That is, until about a year ago. I’d written a zombie apocalypse novel for the previous years’ NaNoWriMo, but over the course of the month-long challenge I’d only gotten about 2/3 of the way through the story. I desperately wanted to finish it, as I’d never finished an original piece of fiction (that wasn’t a school project). So I set myself a goal: I would write at least 1000 words a day until the novel was complete. I can’t honestly say that I stuck to it every single day – sometimes life gets in the way, after all – but in what seemed like no time at all, suddenly I had a finished story. Sure, it still has to be revised and edited, preferably beta-read as well, but I had it; I had a whole original story, from beginning to end. That was the moment, though it wasn’t as much a revelation as a slow realization. Looking at the last sentence of my novel, and thinking back to everything I’d done up to that point, that was when I realized “I AM A WRITER!”
I may never succeed in becoming traditionally published, and I may never gain financial compensation for my work, but I’ll always be able to look back on that little third-grade girl and say, “Hey, guess what? You are a writer, and you always will be.”
I thought I’d switch things up a bit, so this post will technically be more “Things I Know About Being a Parent”. I was inspired by this blog post, in which the author talks about all the reasons you are not a terrible parent. For my part, I thought I’d share a few truths I’ve learned over the past two and a half years (my baby girl is two and a half! Holy crap!).
– In those first few months of every new parent’s life there will be moments when you break down and feel like you’re going to die. It’s a mixture of forced fatigue and a radically changed lifestyle. I myself burst into hysterical sobs a few times when I was all alone with the baby and couldn’t get her to stop crying. Don’t worry. It feels like you are absolutely going to lose your mind, but it does get better.
– Kangaroo care sounds silly and made-up, but it is remarkably soothing for both baby and parent, and I strongly endorse it. The idea is to strip the baby down to just a diaper and lay them on your bare chest (with a blanket over both of you if necessary). It has all these great physiological benefits for the baby, but it is also responsible for some of the most relaxing moments I had in those early months.
– The people and the media around you will try to tell you all kinds of things about the “best” way to feed your child. You absolutely must breast feed, and it should be exclusively the breast because bottles are bad for their teeth, and you should only give them fresh, homemade baby food, and feed on a schedule, not on demand, because you have to put that little mooch in their place right away!
The truth? The “best” way to feed your child is whatever way works best for you and your family. Some women can’t breast feed, not every family has the time or resources to make baby food from scratch, and not every child will react the same to the same options. As long as your child is happy, healthy, and growing, don’t let anyone make you feel bad for not doing things the “best” way.
– Parents have to be the bad guy sometimes. It sucks, and no one likes to do it, but it has to be done. You know why? Because kids who get their way all the time become adults who expect to get their way all the time. Think about that. When was the last time you met a spoiled, entitled ass of an adult whom you didn’t want to smack the face off? Now, do you really want to be the parent of that person?
– Alternatively, pick your battles with kids, because parents should be disciplinarians, not dictators.
– Kids learn a lot from their parents. They learn to walk and talk, to recognize letters and numbers, to eat on their own and dress themselves, and a thousand other wonderful things. Do you know what else they learn from their parents? Bad habits, bad attitudes, racism, gender stereotypes, how to talk behind people’s backs, how to judge people by their looks, and a thousand other horrible things. Kids aren’t born with these things; they get them from us. Always keep that in mind.
– Your kids will drive you absolutely out of your mind. There will be times when everything they say or do makes you want to scream. This does not make you a bad parent or a bad person. It makes you human. If an adult treated you the way your kids treat you, no one would blame you for punching them square in the nose, so don’t beat yourself up for occasionally thinking your kid is a teeth-grindingly annoying little twerp.
– In a world in which every gadget comes standard with a high-quality digital camera and a thousand photos can be stored on a memory card the size of a fingernail, it’s easy to get caught up in preserving memories. The problem with this is that sometimes in focusing on preserving the memory, we fail to experience it. Take a few photos here and there, but don’t watch your child grow up through your smartphone screen. Put the cameras and gadgets away and get down on your hands and knees with your kid for a while. Trust me, they’d rather have your attention than thousands of pictures of themselves.
– Lastly, kids aren’t perfect, and neither are parents so don’t be too hard on them and don’t be too hard on yourself. The world these days throws a lot of information at you about the way things should be and the ways you can screw up, but it really just comes down to this:
Love your kids, play with them, praise them when they’re good, discipline them with they’re bad. Then love them some more. Do your best and encourage them to do theirs, and hopefully one day you’ll be able to look back and be proud of all you’ve taught each other.
Last week I wrote about how kids see things from a different perspective and that we have to remember that when dealing with them. For writers, perspective can be a powerful tool because a story is never truly whole until you’ve seen it from all angles. To illustrate this concept, I’m going to use the example that made me come up with the idea for this post in the first place: coworkers.
My day job is as a commissioning technician in the Alberta oil sands. For those who don’t speak “tradesperson”, that means that a bunch of people built a plant to extract the oil from the sand, and my company makes sure that everything is set up properly before it runs. To this purpose we have two major groups; field technicians and control room technicians. Field technicians deal with the physical equipment in the main area of the plant, while control room technicians are the ones watching the computer screens that the plant will be controlled from, and they deal with the internal programming.
Both field techs and control techs are required to commission any given piece of equipment (okay it to run). They have to work together constantly. But here’s the thing: control room techs are (gasp!) located in the control room, while field techs are out in the “field” (the main area of the plant). Neither can see what the other is seeing or doing, which results in many instances of failure to communicate and/or jumping to conclusions. I started this job as a field tech and was later moved to the control room, so I am in the prime position to give a few examples of the different perspectives and the animosity they can cause.
Say, for example, that you’re a field tech working on a transmitter that measures the flow of liquid through a pipe. Your transmitter has been set up to read a range of 0 to 100 meters per second. So you call up your control tech and ask to test the transmitter, but the control tech asks you to hold on for a moment because there’s a problem…his computer shows a range of 0 to 200 meters per second. So you wait…and you wait…and wait…and wait… You wait so long that you begin to think that your control tech forgot about you, so you try calling him on the radio again. He doesn’t answer. You try again. He still doesn’t answer.
Now you’re starting to get mad. Where the hell did he go? Finding out the proper range for the transmitter can’t possibly take this long. Is he just ignoring you? He must be fooling around up there in the control room with his other control tech buddies. He doesn’t give a rat’s ass that you’re standing out here in the cold, ready, willing, and able to get this job done. Damn him and his cushy, stress-free desk job… What an asshole!
I can’t honestly say that this exact thought process never went through my head. More than once my field tech buddies and I put in complaints to our bosses that were along the lines of, “We can’t get a damn thing done because we spend all day standing around waiting for the control techs to get back to us!” Then I moved up to the control room myself, and I got to see the story from the other perspective.
Say, now, that you’re a control room tech and you’ve just had a call from a field tech. He tells you that he wants to work on a transmitter and that his range is 0 to 100, but oops! The range on your screen is 0-200. So you ask him to hold on and you go out to find out whose numbers are correct. This involves flipping through a several-hundred-page document that, maddeningly, is organized in no logical way known to mankind. It takes you a good 5-10 minutes to finally locate the information on this transmitter and lo and behold, the field tech’s numbers are correct. Okay, so the numbers in the program have to be changed, but you don’t have the authority to make the change yourself, so you grab the necessary paperwork that must be filled out to request that an engineer do it. On your way back to your desk the control room coordinator snags you and shoves some more paperwork at you from another group of field techs. He also gives you a second radio because the second group is on a different channel than the first group. So you get back to your desk with your two piles of paperwork and your two radios, and you’re just about to call your tech to explain what is happening when your boss appears at your desk and asks you to look something up for him. You do so, because he’s your boss, and he immediately launches into a veritable Spanish Inquisition’s worth of questions about something you worked on over a month ago. You can’t recall the exact details so you sweep aside your pile of paperwork and your two radios and you dig through the mess of your desk to find your log book. While flipping through weeks worth of notes with your boss hanging over your shoulder you hear your name being called on the radio a few times, so you grab it quickly and respond that you’ll be right with them. In the stress of the momenet you don’t realize that you’ve accidentally grabbed the second radio and are actually broadcasting to no one.
In short, you’re trying your damnedest to organize a dozen things at once, and yet there’s a field tech out there in the field, fuming about what an asshole you are for making them wait. You see how perspective can dramatically change the story?
This can work in both directions as well, of course. I’ve been in the control room waiting for a field tech to disconnect a wire for the purpose of a test and found myself wondering what was taking so long. I’ve even considered how incompetent a person would have to be to have so much trouble with a single wire. Then, inevitably, I would find out afterward that the wire in question was fifteen feet in the air and the tech couldn’t find a ladder, or that the wrong type of screw had been used on the wire and the tech had to go hunt down a different screwdriver.
The whole world revolves around the different perspectives from which we each see things, and this is important to remember when writing, because it is a constant source of conflict. For instance, there’s the antagonist who truly believes they’re the good guy because they see their cause as idealistic. Or there’s the protagonist who loses all their friends by doing something stupid that they felt at the time was the right thing to do. There’s the age-old story of how men and women can’t understand each other, or how children see the world in a completely different way from adults. The world is swarming with conflict because different people of different genders, ages, races, religions, creeds, classes, backgrounds, educations, and so on all see things from vastly different points of view, and that is fiction gold. Think about it and use it. Some of the best books I’ve read make excellent use of showing how the “good guys” and the “bad guys” really just have a very different perspective on things. After all, rarely does anyone believe that they themselves are the problem.
Perspective. How do you use it in your writing? Where do you see it in daily life? What books have you read that make good use of this idea? Please share!
Every reader has something (possible multiple things) that ruins a book for them. These are little pet peeves that are unique to each individual reader and do not necessarily have anything to do with the writing skill of the author. These are simply things that a reader does not enjoy reading. For me, my reader pet peeve, my little brain tick, is pop culture reference in fiction.
It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but pop culture references in fiction really, really bother me. If a character refers to using her cellphone, that’s okay, but if she says the word “iPhone” I get a twitch in my jaw. If a character is playing a video game, no problem, but if they’re playing a Nintendo 3DS I start grinding my teeth. A character can be watching Saturday morning cartoons, but if the specific cartoon happens to be the most recent incarnation of Pokemon, I want to tear the page out of the book.
This pet peeve has made itvery difficult for me to get through some books that I otherwise enjoyed very much. In one particular series the main character makes constant reference to her MacBook Pro… That’s a triple whammy for me because it’s not just a Mac. It’s a goddamn Mac Book Pro.
What’s really funny about this little tick of mine is that it’s present-time exclusive. Only pop culture references that are current to the times bother me. Ageless pop culture is perfectly fine. So a character is safe if they’re watching Star Wars, but not if they’re watching The Hunger Games. I don’t mind if a character is listening to ACDC, but I can’t handle it if they’re listening to Justin Bieber. By all means, have your character own a mobile phone, but if you feel the need to tell me that the phone is the latest, greatest Samsung Galaxy S4, I might just toss the book out the window.
I suspect that the problem stems from a pop culture reference’s ability to forcefully mix fantasy and reality, while additionally forcing the reader into the present. Say, for example, we’re talking about an alian invasion story. Okay, well we know that aliens have never yet invaded Earth, so we suspend disbelief and imagine that the story is taking place in a time that hasn’t happened yet. But if a character starts talking about their PSP, we get hauled back to the present and suddenly it’s hard to get back into the story because we are fully aware that an alien invasion is not currently happening.
But Tracey, you might ask, what about stories that take place in the past, but crazy things like alien invasions happen, like in the movie Cowboys and Aliens? Easy. Those stories occur in alternate timelines or parallel universes, thus the differences from reality are fine…unless you use current-time pop culture references that bring the reader back to the present and thus screw up the illusion.
Okay, okay, it’s a flawed theory at best, but it doesn’t change the way that I feel about these things. Being slapped in the face with a piece of information that proves a story is meant to be taking place in real time, right here, right now, takes me out of the story and makes it harder for me to enjoy. To me, even if a piece of fiction occurs in modern-day Earth, I like the illusion of it being some other world. I read to escape the real world, and trying to make me feel that the story world and the real world are one in the same ruins that mood for me. I’m certain that not all readers think this way, but I’m also sure that there are plenty of readers who do. Keep pop culture out of my fiction!
How do you feel about pop culture in fiction? Annoying or unnoticeable? Do you have an other reader-specific pet peeves? Please share!
There are many aspects to writing that are difficult, frustrating, and sometimes downright miserable. Choosing a title is not one of those things. Oh no. Choosing a title is so, so much worse.
The title of a book is the most immediate of first impressions. It (along with the cover of the book) is the first thing a prospective reader will see, and with that in mind, you have to determine what exactly you want that reader to think when they first look at your book. A terrible title could completely destroy a book’s chances of being picked up, browsed through, purchased, and read. Imagine, for a moment, some alternative titles for your favorite books. Would you honestly have picked up that same book if it had had a ridiculous title? Can you imagine purchasing The Lord of the Rings, for example, if you knew nothing of it beforehand and it’s title was actually A Really Long Journey? What if The Chronicles of Narnia had been titled, Stories About Another World? What if Dracula had been titled, A Very Old Vampire?
These are extreme(ly silly) examples, of course, but never-the-less, you must agree that many an attitude can rapidly change about the readability of a book if you fail to title it properly.
Take, for example, my current work-in-progress, Parallels. This story, at it’s heart, is about a young woman who is pulled into an alternate universe – a parallel world, if you will – and discovers that she has been drawn there to save it from an ancient evil. I began writing this particular story almost ten years ago. It is the work that I’ve mentioned before…the one that I’ve re-written so many times that I’ve never gotten anywhere near to finishing it. When I first started this story, it was my intention that the world the woman comes from and the one she travels to would be very different, but also have many parallels between them. It was my intention that as she travelled along on her journey she would regularlty become confronted with people and places that mirrored the world she grew up in, which would force her to confront many personal issues. However, as the story evolved, was rewritten, changed numerous times, and eventually became the piece I’m working on today, that no longer became the root of the story. Yes, the two worlds are still parallels, but not nearly as much so as I had originally imagined. There are only a handful of these parallels left in the story I’m writing now, and that got me thinking that perhaps the title didn’t make much sense. Then I started really thinking and it occurred to me that even if the title did make sense, it’s really not a very catchy title at all, is it? Tell me truthfully now, if you were browsing through the fantasy section of your local book store and came across a book with the word “Parallels” emblazoned across the cover, would it catch you? Draw you in? Would you even notice it?
Now perhaps some of you can say yes to these questions. Perhaps even many of you can. But that is the hell an author has to go through when choosing a title : relentlessly wondering if it’s the right one.
Now maybe the title will just come to you and you’ll know, inside, that it’s the right one. Maybe you won’t even be given the chance because your publisher will retain the right to title your work as they wish (does this happen? I honestly don’t know). Or maybe you’ll be talking about your book someday and someone will say, “You know what you should call it?”, and it will be the greatest title ever and you’ll hug them and kiss them and be their best friend forever.
But chances are you’ll be like me, bashing your head off a wall, thinking about what a stupid title you’ve chosen and desperately wracking your brain for another. Many people have a very difficult time choosing a name for their baby. It is really no different for an author naming their book. So think about it hard, consider all the angles, and when you figure out the best method for making your final decision, please feel free to come back to this blog and let me know.
Oh man, this post could go in so many different directions depending on how we think about the word “depth”. My brain is beginning to hurt just thinking about it. Couple that with the fact that I’ve never so much as submitted a manuscript to an editor, agent, or publisher, and I find myself wondering if I’m really one to talk. But as with several of the other posts I’ve written in response to the 101 Blog Post Ideas, I’ll go ahead and give you my thoughts and opinions, and you can take them for what they are. For additional info, I suggest wandering over to Kristen Lamb’s Blog. She’s written advice on almost every aspect of writing and she’s about as close to an expert as I’ve ever come across.
So…depth. There’s no doubt about it, you want your writing to have depth, but that’s a fairly broad term. Are we talking about emotional depth, depth in the plot line, or depth within our characters? Are there other forms of depth we could be considering? Probably, but these three are the ones that come to mind right now, so let’s talk about those.
First of all, emotional depth and character depth, which actually go hand-in-hand. Maybe this isn’t an important aspect to all readers, but for me it’s an absolute necessity. If I, at some point during the reading of the story, do not feel emotionally attached to a character (not necessarily the main character) then I feel like the author has not done his or her job. If the book in question is part of a series, failing to make me feel emotionally invested in a character will result in my failing to continue on to the second book in the series. That’s not to say that every character has to have an elaborate back story that endears me to them, but someone in the story has to make me care about them. Otherwise why do I care what happens to them? This sort of depth is best achieved, in my opinion, by finding reasons for your readers to bond with your characters. Harry Potter gains our empathy because he’s an orphan and we feel sorry for him for having to grow up with his awful relatives. Eddard Stark gains our approval because he’s an honorable man who cares deeply for his family and finds himself in a difficult situation that pulls him from them. Frodo Baggins has us rooting for him because he’s clearly the underdog with no discernible skills or abilities. Your characters have to have both upsides and downsides, merits and faults. The main reason that so many people hate the character Bella Swan is because she’s too goddamn perfect. Even her “faults” are played off as things that make her more adorable and endearing to the other characters. It pulls the reader away because you find yourself wanting to see her fail just to prove that she’s capable of failure, and that’s not a great way to think about the character who is meant to be your hero. Your characters have to be human (even when they technically aren’t) or else your readers can’t get inside their heads and feel for them, become them, and find themselves desperate to see them succeed.
As for depth of the plot, this is something that will vary from book to book, genre to genre, but the basic element remains the same. You do not want your story to be predictable. Now obviously a psychological thriller is going to have a lot more plot depth than a supernatural romance, but the point is that you have to occasionally give your reader something surprising or upsetting. If your reader is constantly thinking “this is what’s going to happen next” or “this is totally the big reveal” and it turns out that they’re right, that’s not a good thing. Sure, some level of predictability is to be expected, and there are always going to be those readers who somehow always seem to know what the author was thinking while writing the story, but most readers crave some kind of mystery to their books. You don’t want to be able to figure out exactly what is going to happen because otherwise you could just write the story yourself. One of the reasons the A Song of Ice and Fire series is so interesting is because it constantly has you guessing. You’re never quite sure who is a good guy or a bad guy, or what might happen next, or what just happened ten pages ago for that matter. You don’t have to create a labyrinth of mystery, confusion, and intrigue, but you have to give your readers something worth looking forward to. Reveal a good guy to actually be a bad guy or vice versa. Throw in something magical or otherwise supernatural just because it would be surprising and interesting. Kill off a character that the reader would have thought was important or had become attached to (this one doubles for emotional depth). Keep your readers guessing, basically, because that’s what keeps them moving on to the next page, and the next, and the next. Why do you think so many television shows end on a cliffhanger every single freakin’ episode?
In general, when writing your book, think about what it was you liked about the books you’ve read. Think about the types of things that made you like the characters, what events made you gasp or cringe or cry, what about the story made it impossible for you to put the book down. They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and that all the different types of books have already been written, and any truly good author will tell you that part of being a writer is stealing from other writers. Use those concepts to figure out what is good about other books, and to imbue your own stories with those successful elements. Build depth by learning to recognize it in the writing of others. And when in doubt, remember what I always try to remember: if my writing doesn’t affect me, emotionally and mentally, then how can I possibly expect it to affect others?