I'm still toying with the beginning of my latest, and still title-less, WIP. I've already written two different beginnings. Neither of them really sat well with me, but I think (after talking with my ever-supportive roommate) that I've settled on a new way to open the story.
I don't know about everyone else, but openings are the most important part of my writing process. I have never been the type of writer who could "just start" and then go back and revise the beginning. I might cut things (as I did with ANJIDIA), but those first few sentences set up my narrator and his/her/its voice...for me.
That first sentence, first paragraph, first page — they're like a first date. "Hi, I'm your narrator. Here are my attitude, diction, the things I notice, the things I don't." It's a familiarizing process that takes place over time, but all begins the moment I move that blinking cursor with my words.
Anyway, with writing and starting a new story on my brain, I thought it fitting to share some beginnings with you — a few of my faves, a few of my own, and a special commentary by yours truly.
"I have just returned from a visit to my landlord—the solitary neighbour that I shall be troubled with." ~ Emily Bronte, WUTHERING HEIGHTS
Brilliantly establishes two things: 1) This story is not going to be about the narrator, most likely. The focus of this sentence is on someone else — this "troubling" neighbor. 2) This narrator dislikes his landlord and isn't afraid to say it. It also begs a few questions: A) Why is the narrator renting? B) Who is this landlord? C) What's his problem?/Why is he troubling to others?
"Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, 'and what's the use of a book,' thought Alice, 'without pictures or conversation?' ~ Lewis Carroll, ALICE'S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND
Breaks almost every rule in the book, but also brilliantly sets up that Alice is a curious and shallow type of girl. It also hints that she is the type to get into trouble.
"Geoffrey Barnes prides himself on being a practical man." ~ Sam Elliott, THE ROSE
Opens a short story I had published in college, and hopefully leaves you wondering what's his deal and what does that even mean?
"Instead of enjoying the comfort of the plush private jet smoothly slicing its way through the clear morning sky, Kate Stephan was on the phone, arguing with the President of the United States of America." ~ Sam Elliott, SPIRITS OF CHANGE
Sets up two things: 1) Kate is a badass. 2) This is the type of book in which key players can argue with the leader of the free world and be annoyed by the inconvenience of it — hinting that the scale is going to be VERY large.
"When I returned to Anjidia, I was naked (save for the towel vainly shielding me from the biting wind), standing in ankle-deep mud, and being drizzled on." ~ Sam Elliott, ANJIDIA
Intended to achieve two things: shock and curiosity stimulation. Bam, just like that she's there? We've started? Why yes, dear reader, yes. And that's exactly how she feels. Where's Anjidida? Exactly. Who is she? Exactly. Where is she coming from? Exactly. Why is she back? Ding, ding, ding.
Any thoughts? Wanna share a few of your firsts with the class?
As the bus pulled up to my stop today, I couldn't bring myself to put the book I'm reading, PRINCESS ACADEMY, into my bag and give it up for the morning. I thought, 'I still have a five minute walk, why shouldn't I keep reading?' And then I walked down the street with my nose stuck in a book, like my beloved Belle.
I used to do that all the time as a child and teen. I would read while walking, while in the car (until I got sick), while in bed until the wee hours of the morning. I don't do that anymore — at least, not with the same frequency.
I have a bachelor's degree in literature. I am an author. Still, I don't read nearly as much as I did when I was 10. I tell myself that I have a (more than) full-time job, a social life, responsibilities. But the truth is that I've changed, not my circumstances.
I had a full-time job back then too. (Don't even try to tell me that school isn't a full-time job. I was far busier back in elementary, jr. high, high school than I've ever been since.) I had friends and after-school activities to contend with. Yet, I managed to read several books a week.
The fact of the matter is that I had my priorities straight back then. I don't know how or when they got crooked, but somehow I lost sight of the things that mattered most (and I'm no longer just talking about books).
Maybe that's why I'm drawn to YA and MG fiction? Maybe there's something inherently wise about a world free of the crap we adults think matter? Maybe that's why less savvy readers dismiss YA and MG as "simplistic" or "less complex"?
Not everyone believes that people are fundamentally good. But I'm reminded on a daily basis that it's possible, and those reminders are often the littlest and simplest of things.
On my daily walk to the office, I pass a youngish man (late twenties to early thirties) who looks like a lunatic — or worse a peeping tom — to the untrained eye. In reality, he's just got a ritual that looks bizarre if you aren't paying attention.
Every day, as he leaves for work, he exits his townhouse and then steps up to the window and says goodbye to his adorable little son, who's probably about 2. He waves, he makes faces, he blows kisses. And the boy just laughs and laughs.
The universe, as I've experienced it, is not known for its subtlety.
In the past two months, I've had three new story ideas bombard my brain — the latest showing up on my cranial doorstep this very afternoon. I've been largely putting them off so that I could give ANJIDIA the attention it needs to be presented to the publishing world once again. I don't have to tell you all how well that's going.
I fear that soon my mind will become overcrowded to the point of needing to implement some sort of population control. As you may imagine, this idea terrifies both me and my as-yet unwritten characters. (Imagine that camera commercial where the photo-people argue over who'll be deleted this time.)
My latest idea, untitled for the moment, actually seems like a project that could be undertaken in spite of my current schedule, and energy levels. So I'm going to do it.
Those of you reading this blog for more than a week undoubtedly are staring at your computer screens thinking, 'ANOTHER one? How did this chick ever focus long enough to write a novel?!'
My answer is simple: I have no idea.
But, I do know that things cannot continue as they have been and that AFTERLIFE OF THE UNDEAD and SHUT UP AND KISS ME, CUPID (have I mentioned that WIP by name before?) are no where near developed enough to be the catalysts for change I need so desperately.
Wish me luck and continued obsession with this new idea!
It has recently come to my attention that I may need to cheer things up here at Wuthering Life. (Although, to be fair, the blog's name is pretty depressing. No one should be coming here expecting sunshine and kittehs.)
Considering that, I thought I'd do a lighthearted, fun meme. You know one of those things people are always pestering you about on Facebook and whatnot?
Several potential topics tickled my fancy. 25 Ways I'm Awesome was a top contender, but then I thought it might come across as atad bit vain. I ruled out 25 Things that Make Me Happy for the same reason. 25 Ways I Don't Want to Die seemed a little too morbid. 25 Reasons Why I'm Doing a Meme Instead of Writing an Original Post seemed a little too obvious. And, 25 of My Favorite Letters seemed unfair to poor U.
Instead, I settled on something more faithful to the original meme.
25 Random Facts about ANJIDIA:
(in no particular order)
I wrote the first draft in 4 weeks.
A hand-drawn map of Anjidia, gifted to me by beloved beta reader, Kim Bowen, hangs in my bedroom.
Earliest beta readers formed two vehement camps regarding Aryli's love interests.
I hoped one of those camps would blow the other to smithereens, because I couldn't decide who Aryli should end up with.
In the end, the characters made the decision for me.
Two of the main secondary characters were never supposed to exist.
Another of the main secondary characters was supposed to be a redshirt.
My mom took news of the death of the character named after her fairly well.
I cut the original opening and rewrote the original ending of the novel.
No one other than those early beta readers will ever read that first draft.
I'd written off ANJIDIA six months before I started writing it in earnest in favor of a story that has since been shelved permanently.
The names of the protagonist and antagonist began as placeholders and were an inside joke between one of my best friends and myself; they wound up fitting.
I've planned a prequel and a sequel to ANJIDIA.
Both the prequel and sequel would explore the stories of secondary characters.
My first query for the novel garnered a partial request.
Flyleaf's debut cd, Flyleaf, was a key source of musical inspiration for the novel.
There are 37 songs on my ANJIDIA playlist, and they range from Josh Groban to Metallica.
One of the major plot twists originated from a conversation I had with beta reader, Kat Kuhl; I don't think I would have had that "D'oh!" moment without her.
I only pulled two all-nighters while writing ANJIDIA — one while writing a key climatic scene, and one while writing the last three chapters.
The amazing Sci Fi (excuse me, I mean SyFy) mini-series Tin Man greatly influenced ANJIDIA conceptually and visually (in my head).
One of the secondary characters who was never supposed to exist is named after a character from a poem (styled after medieval lais) that I wrote for my Medieval Lit class in college.
My favorite line from the book is probably: "Blind faith is an incredible thing — an incredible, scary thing."
One plot twist earned me death threats from beta readers (though I'm sure they were issued in jest...probably).
Star Wars is referenced three times in the course of the novel.
So there you have it. Surprisingly, 25 non-spoilerific things were incredibly difficult to think up. The goods news is that climbing through the dusty cupboards of the novel and its history brought up some really great memories. Sadly, it's easy to become so focused on the destination that you forget what you loved about the journey.
If any of you decide to take up the task yourselves, please let me know. I love knowing the Behind-the-Scenes stuff!
For the past two days, I've been struggling to draft a blog post about originality versus archetypes. I could never quite get the tone right. (I didn't want to come across like a whiny, self-indulgent author.)
Today, just as I'd decided to shelve that blog post and write about something else, Nathan B. tweets that he's updated his blog, which today discusses...original concepts.
WTF, universe? Even my blog post ideas aren't original?
In the Twitterverse, it's called re-tweeting (RT). In the "real" world it's called plagiarism, or borrowing if you're being generous.
For the sake of argument, I'm going to call it "guest blogging" (someone else's idea, by the way).
Over at Words, Words, Words, blogger Litgirl01 posed a very interesting question. One I thought worth repeating here at Wuthering Life.
"If you could bring to life a character from one of your stories and hang out with him or her for the day, which one would it be? Why? What advice would you give them? (Include name, personality traits, etc.)"
I commented that I would like to hang out with Kobos, the kind-hearted, intelligent gryphon prince from ANJIDIA. But, in many ways I feel that picking Kobos was a cop-out. Not because he wouldn't be interesting to hang out with, and not because he's not human.
I picked him, because when I started imagining spending 24 hours with the main main characters of my stories, it wasn't pretty.
Though it's hard to think with the indignant shouts of protestation coming from the now offended characters in my head, I'll try to explain.
Most of the central characters in my stories exist for me like children exist for mothers (or so I hear) — as precious newborn babies running around in the world before they've evolved and learned lessons. Spending an extended period of time with them (Sight-seeing? Touring the monuments and museums? Playing Rock Band 2 and eating take-out?) would be a bit...unfun.
No offense to my beloved characters, but really?
If I chose Aryli, the protag of ANJIDIA (an amnesiac would-be ruler), I'd have to spend all day explaining things to her and helping her figure out who she is. Not. Fun.
If I chose Gabrien, the indecisive Captain of the Honor Guard (henchmen of the usurper of Aryli's throne), all he'd care about would be the technology of Earth. It'd be like hanging around with a smart, but very ignorant tech nerd. Not. Fun. (Though, the eye-candy would be nice!)
Draven, rebel-leader extraordinaire, is another great candidate for eye-candy. But, he'd be the worst wet-blanket EVER, and I'd have to resist being very spoilerific.
Miqqal, Aryli's drunken hobo of a father... enough said. Really, Miqqal would be high on the list, because he's a very fascinating man. I feel like he'd be the best conversationalist, were it not for the aforementioned drunkenness and poor hygiene. But, something tells me he wouldn't like me very much. I kind of destroyed his life for the sake of "story". Whoops.
Last, but not least, there's Arybin. Oh Arybin. You are a truly psychotic person. I'm way too scared to ever wish to meet you for reals. Not. Fun. To the extreme.
There are, of course, a plethora of other viable candidates, but I feel that dragons might stick out a little in D.C. (hey, I said might!), and all of my characters from other stories are a little too nebulous for me to trust meeting them right now.
Now, if we're talking about other people's characters... Someone sign me up quick!
DeanWinchesterDeanWinchesterDeanWinchesterDeanWinchesterDeanWinchester. Talk about "fun".
What about you all? Which of your characters could you stand for a day? Etc., etc.
There are some things in life that will always be viewed as pains-in-the-butt to be slogged through and resented — like taxes. Very few people (and I withhold any judgment of them) enjoy sitting down with dozens of receipts and forms to enter financial information into little boxes.
I certainly don't. In fact, I put it off for months (completing them only two weeks ago), despite the fact that I received all of my necessary tax documents by the end of January and the fact that I was going to be getting a decent refund. Yes, the IRS owed me money and all that was stopping them from returning that money to me was my own reluctance to fill out a few forms (which only took about 20 minutes, by the way).
What? Is? Wrong? With? Me?
Who drags their feet on receiving money? Apparently, I do. And I know I'm not alone.
It made me start thinking about what else I've been dragging my feet on that could be great for me. And why.
I'll give you three guesses, but I bet you'll only need one.
Writing. And more specifically, revising/editing ANJIDIA so that I can start the query process again and more forward with AFTERLIFE OF THE UNDEAD. The worst part is that it's just like dreading filing my taxes; it can only lead to good things — good things that won't happen if I don't get the editing done. So what's the holdup?
Frankly, it's a frame-of-mind problem. Much like query writing and pitching and really every part of the publishing process that isn't awe-inspired, frantic writing, most writers treat editing/revising like the bane of their existences, like a chore, like something they just have to get through, like a necessary evil.
Were I an author on a deadline, maybe that attitude would make sense. But, considering ANJIDIA has not yet been picked up, this time really provides me a chance not only to improve the manuscript, but also to hang out in a world I love with characters who fascinate me for a little while longer.
I think a revision of my thinking is what's really in order. The question I must ask myself when approaching any task henceforth should be: do I want my refund or not?
To which I shall forever more respond: Yes, please. Thanks!
As an extreme optimist by nature, I have a tendency to see the empty glass as full. Some people might call me delusional, but they've been drinking too much haterade. Please ignore them.
My point is that while most people choose to think of shame as a negative feeling — one to be avoided or overcome — I choose to think of it as a great motivational tool. Take, for instance, this blog entry. It is the byproduct of shame, and a bit of extra energy this chilly April morning. (The ratio is something like 85:15.) Score one for shame.
While I'm here, I suppose I should assure you all that I haven't been dead, just a bit too stressed to go home and get on the internet. However, I have been working on TWO new stories. I'm not very far along on either (and, in fact, I'm currently rewriting the opening of AFTERLIFE OF THE UNDEAD — my VWI novel), but I'm writing. I consider that a pretty big deal, especially since I've been in a writing dry spell since finishing ANJIDIA.
That reminds me, I'm also revising ANJIDIA based on general feedback from ABNA and will be sending out more queries soon. For the record, the "expert" reviews I got for making it past the pitch stage of that contest were possibly the least helpful feedback ever. Apparently, I got reviewers who weren't fans of the YA fantasy genre. It's a shame, but I'm embracing shame. It works out in the end, you see?
Until later... (Although, hopefully a sooner later than last time!)