22 May 2009

Embracing Freaky Fridays: Heathcliff Heathcliff

Before agreeing to participate in a Freaky Friday, I poked around on this blog. The emphasis everyone here seems to place on choice intrigues me. Never before have I seen such a concentrated amount of optimism in one place. And it is optimism that has this group thinking that people, fictional or otherwise, have free will. There is no "choice" in life; people simply comfort themselves with the illusion of options.

From birth, each person is set on a path—one path—that leads only to his or her final destination. Along that path, there appear to be forks, but just the one path exists. 

Imagine a traveler reaches the his final destination and reflects back on his life's journey. Though he may want to believe it, our traveler was never going anywhere other than where he went. As he passed each fork, making a "choice" about his path, he only reinforced the next "choice" he would make, until his life reached its end.

I, for instance, was always going to become Heathcliff Heathcliff. I remember my mother reading WUTHERING HEIGHTS to me around Christmastime every year when I was a child. I never forgot the fascination she had with the character I abhorred, or the words she used to describe him. She said, "Poor Heathcliff. If only he had been able to give up the life he imagined was supposed to be his..."

That vague sentiment came back to me clearly the day I joined the ranks of the Undead. What other name would I have "chosen" for my new life when Miss Xavier asked me to supply one?

Think about it, and you'll realize that all the things you've convinced yourself were choices in your life weren't. You wouldn't be you if you had chosen anything other than what you did.

Your life, your path, already stretches out in front of you. The best you can hope for is that you like it even part of the time.

19 May 2009

Embracing Free Will

Now that the maniacal laughter has subsided... I thought we could discuss free will and our characters' abilities to act on their own. Because I believe that by providing our characters specific personalities governed by specific laws and by allowing them to reside in our subconscious minds, we hand them that proverbial apple.

For non-writers, it's hard to grasp the idea that characters have the ability to act on their own. We've all heard a writer say something along the lines of, "And then Sally decided she wasn't going to break up with Tom, and I had to rethink my entire ending," only to hear non-writers respond with something like, "Sally's not real. You control her. Just write her breaking up with him."

If we embrace reality long enough to be honest with ourselves, the reason behind this behavior can be boiled down to one sentence: the author didn't have a firm grasp of the character when planning that scene/plot point and discovered at the last minute that it was no longer in-character.

If we're avoiding reality, the reason is equally simple: our characters lash out against us for complicating their lives (no matter how well we have it work out in the end) and do things to intentionally mess up our master plans.

Aryli and her Anjidian companions most certainly fall into that latter category, reality or no.

Throughout the course of the novel, various characters have:
  • stormed out of rooms when I wanted them to stay and have a conversation;
  • gone to one locale when I wanted them to go to another;
  • revealed things I didn't want revealed;
  • betray characters I didn't intend for them to betray; and
  • killed characters I didn't intend for them to kill.
I often found myself wondering who was actually telling the story. Based on how much the characters changed my pretty little outline, I'd say it wasn't me.

What have your characters done that messed up your game plan? Or improved it?

18 May 2009

Mini-Blog: Embracing Turning into Our Mothers

I am God.

Thank you, Litgirl01 and Beth, for helping me realize that this morning.

I can create. I can destroy. I can shape destinies and control lives. I am the ultimate mother. I can say, "Because I said so."

Remember that, Aryli, when you want me to explain how you traveled from Point A to Point B. 

Remember that, Draven, when you insist on monologuing about your troubled childhood. 

Remember that, Sam, when you start letting the characters walk all over you...

15 May 2009

Embracing Freaky Fridays: Ilyra

Despite the fact that Sam almost forgot about me... I have agreed to pop by here and share whatever I want with you. 

So I've decided to talk about advice—more specifically, knowing when to listen to the good advice of others, who obviously have more common sense than you, and knowing when to show a little spine and make up your own mind. If you were wondering, no, I'm not directing this at any one in particular, Aryli.

Let's take Sam for example. 

She just entered the first 250 words of Aryli's story into some contest for something. If you don't know what I'm talking about check a couple of posts ago, because, frankly, the whole publishing thing confuses me. Besides, I'm still not sure how exactly Sam got her hands on that story in the first place. I mean, don't you people have rules about using other people's lives without their permission to tell stories? And don't think I don't see through that whole calling it "a novel" thing. Please.

Where was I? Oh, right... Sam as an example. She's gotten all this feedback on the opening, and she's printed it out. Now what? 

On the one hand, books are written for readers. These commenters are readers. But, just because some anonymous Internet reader thinks she's an authority on all things pertaining to first pages, does that mean Sam should start changing everything blogposter1 didn't like?

(By the way, Sam, obviously the answer is no. I'm not sure how well my sarcasm comes through on this thing, but I was rolling my eyes. This is why in-person conversation is SO much better. Ugh.)

On the other hand, clearly these people don't know what Aryli's story is about, and they don't know were it's headed—like Sam does. Does that means she should just laugh at their ignorance, call them fools, and burn their comments in a trash can?

(Okay, Sam, not only is that dangerous, but I've never heard you mention winning any of those fancy writing awards you people crave. It's not like you're so much better than other writers that you get to sneer down at them from your ivory tower. Plus, this is Aryli's story. You damn well better make it the best it can be, especially the parts with me. Speaking of which, I've got a bone to pick. See me after, young lady.)

Anyway...where does that leave Sam and her helpful (or not) comments? Should she just continue staring at them and ANJIDIA hoping they magically address themselves?


No, really, that was a question. If I told you the answer, then this wouldn't be a post about advice. It'd be one about answers. Obviously.

Fine, I will say this: If a majority of readers are saying the same things, then it's no longer "one person's opinion"; it's crossed over into public opinion territory. I'll let Aryli or Miqqal tackle a conversation about public opinion some other day. But even I know that you can't ignore public opinion if your goal requires it to succeed. And you can't argue with it. All you can do is locate its source and start making changes, which will always take time.

Have fun with that.

14 May 2009

Embracing Identities

The writing blogosphere has been abuzz after Nathan B's post about writing as an identity. I read it, found it interesting, and then avoided the comments section of that post like I avoid having to sit next to the smelly guy on the bus in the morning. ("Yes, I realize there is an empty seat, but just look at that view...I think I'll stand, back here, far away.") Anyone who's ever met a writer would know that post was going to call them to arms.

And then I saw people tweet about it. And then I saw people blogging about it. And finally, I collected my thoughts to respond to my dear Captain Monkeypants' post about it, only to realize that my "comment" had rambled on to the length of a blog post. So here we are.

My thoughts on the matter are this:

I got from Nathan's post that he was referring more specifically to writers' attitudes toward themselves re: rejection once they cross the line into identifying themselves as "Writers"—as in they respond to "so what do you do?" with "I'm a Writer."

I think that, sadly, unless you have a paycheck coming in to back that claim up, you're messing with fire (which is why I don't tell people I'm "a Writer"). At the end of the day, a paycheck is validation. I am an Office Manager. Every other week, my boss pays me to validate that as my role.

When an unpublished author, or even a struggling published one, claims to be "a Writer", he is fundamentally tying his validation to that fact in the questioner's mind, at the very least. The questioner will undoubtedly follow up with "oh, really? what do you write?" meaning "is it in bookstores? have I heard of it? how much have you sold?"

When the implied questions go unanswered due to a lack of impressive details, the questioner becomes a skeptic. She gets that face—the one all writers have seen on some family member, friend, or coworker at one time or another. The conversation fades out into an awkward silence. And the "Writer" feels like crap. (Ditto when critters slam their work. Ditto when agents reject them. Ditto when editors pass.)

Unless I'm wrong about him, I believe that was Nathan's point. Tying your identity to something that so very often has no tangible pay off is a very risky move. Others need to see some results to validate your claim, and identity requires validation.

I could bring some philosophical theory in to this, but I hope you all know what I mean. I'll just leave you with two examples-for-thought.

If I said I was "a Astronaut" and read everything I could about being an astronaut, and trained like astronauts do, but had been rejected by NASA and had never been to space, would I be an Astronaut? Would you think me one?

Would you consider Nathan an agent if he loved repping books—ate, slept, and breathed repping books—but had never sold a single one? Or would you be laughing his reality tv-obsessed @ss right off the internet?

13 May 2009

Embracing Secret Agent (Wo)Man

Authoress is busy posting Secret Agent entries. Exciting, no?

I will be depositing my two cents on as many of the entries as I can, and it'd be cool if you all would do the same. If, while you're there, you happen to stop by Post 12, please feel free to leave your inarticulate and excited "OMG"s and "FANTASTIC!!"s. (The more caps locks and exclamation points, the better! ;)

Seriously, though, it's a great chance to see what's floating around out there in the Queryverse. Those are the first 250 words YA-repping agents are seeing right now. What do you think?

12 May 2009

Embracing Linkspam

If you don't know about Miss Snark's First Victim, click don't - wow, that analogy really doesn't translate well to Internet-speak - um, just go over there and check it out. There, you'll find not only a fantastic blog and a very kind and generous blogger, but also a very supportive community of authors and great contests and other ways to get feedback on your work.

Speaking of contests, this month's Secret Agent contest will feature yours truly. Yes, after a few months of watching these things roll by and never matching being the right fit for ANJIDIA, finally an agent has stepped forward (masked, for now, in anonymity) and called for YA fantasy entires.

Mine will be Post 12, so feel free to stop by tomorrow and offer your feedback on ANJ's 243 words. (Just don't point out any of my flaws in front of the SA, okay? ;) 

Boy am I glad that I'm set to wrap up my last run-through for typos and whatnot tonight! What perfect timing...and, yes, this does mean that poor Bassak is gone. We'll always have the first draft, my removed friend.

In other Authoress-related news, her lovely husband just finished a trailer for her book, AGENT: DEMYSTIFIED. I thought it'd be fun to share. It's awesomely ridiculous — the way book trailers ought to be:

Know of any cool book trailers I should check out? Know of any Godawful ones? Man, I saw one last night that took itself WAY too seriously. I wish I could remember the name, but then I'd have to try and remember the trailer itself and...*makes retching noises, very maturely*

Ahem, I have to go back to work now.


11 May 2009

Embracing Loss

My excitement about (finally) finishing up "one last" editorial run through on ANJIDIA is back. I actually think having Vituya stop by here helped with that.

Anyway, the return of this excitement led to a very interesting and productive conversation with my beloved roommate and beta reader. I think I may cut one of my tertiary characters from the novel entirely. It will be the most major revision I've made since the second draft. I like the character, but she suggested (and I agree) that divvying up the role this character plays between a couple of my secondary characters will strengthen them without adding unnecessary words. It's brilliant, really.

Alas, farewell, my dear Bassak. You were a good character, and friend. I'm afraid your time has come.


08 May 2009

Embracing Apologies

So sorry about that. 

Vituya is... Well, Vituya was not meant for the blogosphere. Perhaps we'll have more luck with another of the dragon species. Or, maybe I'll see if someone socially inclined will take the reins next Friday.

For the record (and since Vituya was too rude to introduce itself), Vituya is the dragon who saves Aryli when she arrives in Anjidia at the beginning of the novel. Vituya only refers to itself in the third person (as is dragon custom). And, Vituya doesn't have any social skills.

Yeah... choosing it as my first character blogger was really not an inspired choice...

Embracing Freaky Fridays: Vituya

Vituya does not understand the purpose or utility of blogs and will, therefore, not be participating in this experiment. 

The need for humans to be so completely connected to one another completely defies reason. Then again, humans are highly unreasonable, and Vituya has long be unable to make sense of their follies.

07 May 2009

Embracing Creative Stimulation

I think Big Brother Blog has tapped my brain and is syphoning my ideas.

Last night as I was laying in bed, willing my brain to shut down, I had an idea for a weekly blog post. I decided that it would be fun and incredibly helpful for me (and hopefully entertaining for you) if I have one of my characters write a blog post each week — say Fridays.

Well, this morning whilst perusing the blogs I follow, I noticed that something similar is already happening over at Carpe Mousa. It's not that inventive of an idea, but I was still a little disappointed. Why does the universe keep proving to me that there really is no such thing as an original idea?

(A little backstory: Some of you may remember that Nathan B. posted my post about originality the same day I was going to, and then yesterday I was catching up on his blog and discovered that last Thursday he hosted editor/author Rakesh Satyal's post on finding time to write. Sound familiar?)

Anyway, I've dismissed my angst (for now) and will be moving forward with the posts. Regardless of how much of a copy-cat I am being, I like the idea of bringing out my darlings to speak to you about...well, whatever comes to them. 

The only decision left is who will be my first victim...er, I mean participant.

Any requests?

06 May 2009

Embracing Names

What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet."
~ Juliet, Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)

There are some names against which I am already biased. There are some names that have associations for me that may never be able to be broken. But I believe that a name is everything, especially in literature.

We can talk about originality all we want, but names are the most basic way by which we irrevocably tie our characters to a gender, or a nationality, or an image, or a feeling, or a persona.

Juliet, for instance, will always be a simpering, apparently brain-dead, 14-year-old girl who gets what she deserves. And, I'm even friends and colleagues with a very smart, mature, and capable Juliet. Still, "Juliet" can't escape it's association with a stupid, impulsive teenaged girl.

Another perfect example is my name, Samantha. In everything I've ever read or seen (on television or in movies), Samanthas are one of two types of people: extremely bitchy and self-centered sexoholics, or tomboyish, but kind-hearted Sams. I can't think of a single exception to this rule (but please share them with me if you have them!) — oh, except (ha!) Samantha of American Girl fame, but I strongly believe she would have grown up to be one or the other (and can make a case for both if you've got time).

What are some names that strike nerves with you? Or always seem to be associated with particular traits or stereotypes? How do you choose names when you create a character? Do you try to honor or oppose the traits typically associated with the name?

Come on, don't be shy!

05 May 2009

Embracing Hermitism

When I wrote ANJIDIA, I had a virtually non-existent social life. I vaguely registered the fact at the time, but I chalked it up to a lot of things — the least of which was a dedication to my writing. That was in Washington state.

Now that I'm back in D.C., and back in the land of the living, I have friends who consider interaction a caveat of continuing said friendship. Instead of a part-time job at which I can write, or at least plot and daydream, I have a full-time job that requires the full atention of my mind and often pushes to 10-hour (even 11- or 12-hour) days.

One of my beta readers, Kat, was in the same position I am now back when I was living on Easy Street. I used to admire her ability to work 40 hours a week minimum, go out with friends, and still make time to read my stuff and write her own. Only now do I realize that I did not give her (or any of you full-time-job-having, non-reclusive writers) the proper amount of awe and worship. 

I am tired all the time. I feel guilty choosing to hide in my room typing away instead of talking to my roommate. And, when I finally get the mental energy to pick up my WIP or revisit ANJ, I get slammed (which is what happened last week and why I'm not proudly telling you about how well the new, and still untitled, story is going) and actually don't have the time to write — unless I give up my four hours of sleep.

So you tell me, what works for you? How do you do it?

(Please note: "Suck it up" is an acceptable response, as I realize that I do, indeed, need to suck it up.)