Wednesday, March 30, 2011

No sides for me thanks!

I'm going to make an outrageous statement (you've been warned).

There should be no side characters in your novels

In real life, there's no such thing as a side character. Everyone is the main character of their own story. Everyone is interesting in their own way. Everyone has something to share, learn and grow from. Everyone has battles. No ones sole purpose is to help someone else's storyline. 

It should be the same in books. 

Characters should never do something based on plot reasons alone. They need their own motivations and reasons for doing everything. It doesn't matter that the reader knows it, it only matters if you do. They should have backstories and an arc, basically, they should be eligible for their very own companion novel.

Because people will notice if your characters are only tools, if they're only there for the MC. And it will make all your characterization seem flat.

Are your side characters fleshed out? Can you think of any examples where every character had their own story? 

Monday, March 28, 2011


Double-sided tape is the best invention ever. Seriously.

And I think you should aspire to the awesomeness of double-sided tape. Here's how:

1. You're story should be smooth with no creases and wrinkles. It should look and seem flawless. (Even if every writer out there knows it took a crapload of effort. It shouldn't look or feel that way.)

2. You want your story to stick with people. You want them to feel it long after they've put it down.

3. You shouldn't waste any words, sentences or scenes. Everything should be multi functional and serving double duty to create layers and impressions and inspire feelings.

How do you achieve all these? With some natural talent, a desire to improve your craft, critique partners who will point out the flaws and a whole lot of revision.

But, if you work hard enough, you can be as awesome as double sided tape!

Good luck.

I apologize for the lameness of this post. School is currently frying my brains. I don't have enough cells left to create something brilliant.

What do you want to be like? How was your weekend?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Zombies should be dead

I understand the interest and psychological associations with vampires (death and lust), werewolves (beast within), goblins (greed), etc, etc. The roots of most mythological creatures have some form in logic. And I appreciate that.

There's one that doesn't. Zombies. What the hell is the point?

They are mindless, rotting corpses, have no character and are obsessed with eating brains. Maybe they are rooted in our gluttony? Maybe people write zombie apocalypses as a way to illustrate how the destruction of mankind will be from us mindlessly turning on each other? Maybe people just want violence?

I don't know.

But with zombie's, we're being cheated of the best part - a villain. 

When a protagonist struggles against the threat, I'm sorry, but they look like morons. If you can't protect yourself against something that can't think...I don't know how you make it through the day. (I do understand it's about the numbers but that just isn't enough to satisfy me.)

Zombies are all the same. The associated plots aren't any better: Impossible odds (numbers and hard to kill), some weird sickness (that is never explained) started it all, it's the apocalypse, blah, blah, blah. They are interchangeable in the worst way.

They're supposed to be scary. But, they aren't. Empty bodies walking around, groaning and moaning doesn't inspire any sort of fear. What scares me the most? The fact that so many people like them. 

Are you pro or anti zombie? 

If you're into zombies please explain why, argue your point! I really do want to know why people like them.

If you hate them, tell me why (so I don't feel like the only person on the planet who does!)!

Is their any other mythological creature you hate/don't understand?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Don't settle, you deserve more

People, I'm telling you, you need a critique group (or at least a critique partner). Seriously, if you don't have one, you need to go out and get one. Now.

That being said, the first group you join may not be the right one for you. And if that's the case you need to consider cutting them lose. 

Here's some things to keep in mind when deciding if a group is working for you:

1. Are they investing as much energy into your work as you're investing into theirs? 

2. Do you share different writing strengths so that you can truly compliment and help each other?

3. Are your writing levels moderately the same?

4. Are you interested in their stories? (If you aren't, you are setting yourself up for a whole world of pain and agony.)

5. Is the group operating in a way that works for you? (However formal or informal you want that to be.)

6. Do you get along with the other members?

7. Are you happy? (This is, by far, the most important and all the other factors will play into this one.)

Having people you trust who can look at your work objectively is very important. But, don't settle for just anyone. Look for the group that is going to fit you and your story the best.

Do you have a critique group? How did you know it was the right one? 
Have you had any bad experiences with Critique groups? 

Monday, March 21, 2011

Act first, think later.

Mia (my cat), my dog, Mom and I were all enjoying a nice walk. Another, off leash dog, came towards us. I put Mia on my shoulder. Unfortunately, her tail was hanging down and the, nameless, black dog sniffed it. 

Mia freaked. Hissing, spitting, and twice her normal size from her fur standing on end, she leaped from my shoulder and hit the floor. 

I tugged so hard on her leash she was airborne, flying back towards me. I grabbed her round the middle and she scrambled onto the back of my neck, all puffy and perturbed. 

I laughed my (according to Mom) nervous If-This-Situation-Actually-Scared-Me-I-May-Burst-Into-Tears-Any-Second laugh. 

Later, Mom described it as just seeing a giant Mia soaring through the air, hitting the ground and then flying again. The entire thing took seconds. Mom couldn't even sort out what was happening while it did. 

But to me, the situation was very clear. Mia, my four pound ball of fluff, being on the ground with two 60+ pound dogs who want to play with her, while she's terrified, was an awful situation. 

I didn't think. I just reacted. Thoughts and all that other stuff came later. 

And that is something every writer should keep in mind when writing an action scene. Your characters aren't going to be thinking about what to do or how to do it. They are going to react. Immediately. They can think later when they, and everyone they care about, is safe. 

Just something to keep in mind while you are writing or editing this week. 

Do you react before you think? Are action scenes easy or hard for you? 

Friday, March 18, 2011

Demotivational posters are the new motivation!

Sometimes, it's better not to look in the rear view mirror. 

You may not like what you see. 

However, this weekend, you should look at some of your old writing. Feel free to cringe and groan and laugh at what you thought was a brilliant metaphor. 

And then, see how far you've come. 

Then, recognize this: you are only going to get better. 

It isn't even close to Game Over for you yet. 

Sometimes, you just want to go out and have fun. 

Allowing yourself to relax is important, but make sure you're getting everything you need to get done first. 

Otherwise, you'll regret those hours of nothingness when you have to get back to work. 

Besides, you'll enjoy the free time more if you've earned it. 

Give yourself a couple of goals this weekend, complete them, and then, celebrate!

How far have you come in your writing? What are your goals this weekend? 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The results are in!!!

Remember two weeks ago when I was freaking out about an interview and wouldn't tell you what it was about?

It had something to do with:

The type of streets you just can't find in Canada.

A place called Amiens.......

Which just so happens, has the largest Notre Dame cathedral.....

....Amiens is also only an hour from the  Eiffel Tower. 

It's always been a dream of mine to go to Europe.

And I'll be living and studying there, for a month this summer. 

I'll get to visit both Paris and London and do awesome things like climb the Eiffel Tower, go to the Tower of London (torture devices rock!), and stroll along Kensington gardens. 

Yeah, life is good. 

Again, thank you for all your support with the interview, it helped me get through it and of my dreams is coming true!

Do you have any good news to share? Have you ever studied abroad? Been to Europe? Where are some places I should look at going (in France or England)? 

Monday, March 14, 2011

Kill doubt in five simple steps

I'm a doubter. 

I have a giant Doubt Monster lurking behind me when it comes to the quality of my writing. (I would really appreciate it if two extremely hot brothers who deal with the Supernatural regularly would get on with killing it. I mean, it might as well be a demon.)

When it  comes to other books, the Doubt Monster and I curl up on the couch together. I can only suspend my disbelief so far. 

Here's some general rules to slay my Doubt Monster when I read your book. (This message is to unpublished and published writers alike. Also, while I say my, I'm positive this can be generalized to encompass most readers.)

1. If two characters are going to be madly in love, I need a bigger reason then she/he's hot. That isn't love, it's lust. And, I'm sorry, but lust isn't worth much more than a quick wham, bam, thank you ma'am!

2. If your character is going to go into a dangerous situation, they need a really good reason. Humans have something called a sense of self-preservation and if they're going to ignore their instincts, I want a why.

3. If there are paranormal or fantasy elements or you're creating a new world (dystopian, fantasy, sci-fi, even a tiny town) then you need a solid and logical foundation. Without a basic set of rules and standards, you have nothing to offer me but chaos and a world that makes no sense. 

4. Never use characters for plot purposes alone. I don't care if you need Minor Character X in a bar to let slip Important Fact Y to your MC. If Minor Character X is only there to tell MC something, I will notice. And I will not be happy. Just like Main Characters, Minor Characters need to have their own purposes, motivations and goals - it doesn't matter if the reader knows them but it sure as heck matters if you do. 

5. A plot twist is only a plot twist if it happens right in front of me. Meaning, that, once the twist is revealed, I should be able to look back at your story and see there was hints the whole time, they were just so subtle and well done that I didn't pick up on it. Blatant lying to create a plot twist isn't a good illusion, it's a cheap parlor trick and breaks the author/reader trust. 

How do you feel when you encounter things on this list? Do you have anything to add? 

Friday, March 11, 2011

If pictures say a thousand words....

It's final project time now. My next month or so is going to be a study in sleep deprivation and working myself into a coma. But then I'm off. I can't decide whether I want time to speed up (so it can be over already) or slow down (so I can finish everything without killing myself - accidentally, of course). (Also, I probably won't be as good at getting to your blogs so I'm sorry and I still think your awesome but something has to give!)

So today, all I've got for you is this: 

A collage of ******** 
(AKA pictures that remind me of My-Top-Secret-Fantasy-World)

Do you make collages or draw pictures? 

Also, please let me live vicariously through you, What are your plans this weekend?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

It's the little things

When your having one of those days, the kind where you just don't know how you're going to make it through.

Opening your messages to something like this, hits you just the right way. You can feel your stress evaporating because no matter how bad your day was going, someone gives a crap. They're there, even  when they didn't know you needed them. And that's special.

I've had enough superficial and fair-weather friends to know that finding true, real friends is rare. Take in the odds of how big the world is and you could never find anyone whose going to stick with you no matter what. Who understands you and your dreams, who you can both laugh and be vulnerable with, who is unfailingly encouraging and supportive.

I owe blogger a lot because it made the world a small enough place for me to find a person like that.

This post is dedicated to Erica Mitchell-Spickard for being the kind of friend I've always needed. And the twin I always wanted. Applebee's won't know what hit em! I hope this post makes your day as much as you made mine on Monday.

And seriously you guys, you need to check out Erica's blog. She's doing this awesome series on her writing journey and the things she's learned along the way. You'll find yourself relating, laughing and cringing, all at the same time. Plus, it's illustrated so there's fun pictures like this:

What has blogger done for you? 

If there's someone in your life whose awesome, and makes this journey easier and better, tell them. You never know, you could be turning a bad day into a good one. 

Monday, March 7, 2011

It's all about the framework

When I was younger, Mom bought a Tiger T-shirt. She loved the imagery on it so much, she framed it. 

That sounds kind of silly, doesn't it? Framing a shirt. 

But, people comment on how gorgeous the Tiger picture is. They choose it over the other pictures and paintings in our living room. I always laugh because I know it's a shirt. When I tell them, they never believe me. 

If Mom had just worn the shirt, people would've probably thought it was nice, but they wouldn't be stunned by it. And, from this scenario, I've learned a valuable lesson. 

Presentation matters.

What you show and don't show counts. Where you draw the readers attention counts. 

Framing your story incorrectly can make an excellent idea boring just as framing a mediocre idea well can make it a huge success. 

Do you struggle with framing your story?

Friday, March 4, 2011

Imagination will be the death of me

I just want to thank everyone for all your encouragement on my last post. I was totally freaking out and yet again, you guys amaze me with how supportive and understanding you are. It wasn't as bad as I feared - my interviewers were very kind and the interview was much more like a conversation than an interview. And conversations...I'm good at those. I'll know the results by March 15th, and I'll obviously let you know (and reveal what this whole thing was about!). 

I honestly think I'd be bored all the time without my imagination. But sometimes, I wish it wasn't so hyperactive. Especially on nights like last night.

Picture it:

You're home alone, trying to write an essay. You're dog starts barking and growling like he's been possessed. It startles you so badly you knock your laptop to the floor. You tell your dog to cut it out but he's staring out the slightly open window, hackles raised.

There's something out there. It's just a cat or a squirrel, you tell yourself. But your heart still beats too fast. Then there's a flash of light followed by the rolling boom of thunder. The lights in your living room flicker, briefly plunging you into darkness.

You know what this all means. You've seen enough TV, read enough books. It means there's a demonic spirit or ghost and you're going to die......

Every creak and shadow in my house had me gritting my teeth and picturing my own murder. Needless to say, I didn't get any sleep.

I wouldn't trade my imagination for anything but boy, sometimes I wish I could turn it off.

Does your imagination ever get away from you? 

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Fake it until you make it

I have a really important interview today. If all goes well, one of my dreams will come true.

Talk about pressure.

I'm pretty sure three people are interviewing me at the same time. Those odds are imposing. I'm already shrinking. My insides are ripping themselves into bloody tatters (yes, it feels as gross as it sounds).

I've never liked interviews. (Who does?)My aversion is kind of weird though: I'm extroverted and social, I love being the center of attention and, at the risk of sounding narcissistic, I can talk about myself for hours. I think it may have something to do with the formality of it all. I'm not good in formal situations, they never fail to make me fidget.

There's only one way I'm going to get through tomorrow. I'm going to have to fake it - plaster on my charming smile, laugh instead of puking, and project confidence. I have to make them want me as much as I want this.

But, I figure, if I fake it with enough conviction maybe I won't be faking it at all.

How do you get through uncomfortable situations? Have you ever done something you hated to make a dream of yours become a reality?