Friday, March 28, 2014

When the Past Isn't Really the Past

For today's Questions and Quandries, I thought I'd hit up something especially important, especially (in my case) for writers of futuristic fiction. in particular, I'm looking at anything that involves a war, an uprising, a revolution. You've probably heard people say that history repeats itself; yes and no. But, to take a page from Rafiki's book (that is one wise baboon): we can learn from the past. In the world of fiction writers, you can even use it to your advantage.

I'm going to pull from my own experience this semester. Currently, I'm taking a history class called: The Holocaust. If the title doesn't give you enough information, we're studying Europe from 1919 (the end of World War I) through 1945 (the end of World War II) with a focus on how this time period affected the Jewish people of Europe and the many causes that led to the effect of concentration camps, ghettos, and the eventual death-camps (fact: concentration camps and death camps are two immensely different things).

While it's one of those "black marks" on world history, this is also a time period that's extremely interesting to study. And, apparently, it's one of those time periods that's helpful in exploring war.

Fun Fact: much of The Hollow Men currently has bases in World War II. Basically, Nazi Germany is the inspiration for the world that Moe and Ronnie live and fight in.

History is extremely helpful in that it makes your fiction more believable. Planning a war? Study World War I, World War II, the Civil War, the American Revolution, the Vietnam War. Study wars that took place within your own country (sorry, guys, I'm in America so I have a lot more easy access and knowledge to our own history; delve into your own country's history and see what you find!).

Here's an example or two of how WWII is helping me to plan the war that takes place within the realms of The Hollow Men (warning, some might be a bit graphic or difficult to read):

-The T-4 euthanasia program was created in around 1939. It included rounding up sick and disabled children (later the scope was widened to include adults) and killing them. In The Hollow Men, the secret laboratories within Theta stole a program that would aid physically disabled children by creating advanced prosthesis. They bastardized the program; the result is that the sick and disabled children they kidnapped were transformed into bionic super-soldiers with no will of their own.

-Ghettos were sections of the cities that were walled off and literally stuffed with people (mostly Jewish). There was no room and extremely poor conditions; whatever food the inhabitants could get was extremely lacking in the nutrition department. Concentration camps were facilities that originally housed political enemies. Conditions here weren't great, either, and forced slave labor was a large part of their lives, as well as an attempt at "reeducation" for the inmates. Both of these aspects are going to be combined to create the setting for a large portion of The Living Wastelands.

Futuristic fiction is a great place to pull on aspects from our own history, in order to make some details more believable. Motives and methods, and even battle strategies can all be pulled out of events that exist within textbooks and online articles; you've probable heard that research is a critical part of writing? Put it to the test.


Thoughts or Questions? Let me know what you think!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Les Petites Sont Mauvais?

(Roughly translated: "The Small Are Bad?")

A discussion I saw crop up this last week was on the physique of many heroines in YA action books. And, to be honest, this is an argument that crops up everywhere. No matter where you go, you see a physically small girl or woman on posters for clothing, makeup, etc. Small waists and average height (5'6" - ish).

Now, this is something that hits kind of close to home. I'll admit to ya'll that I wear small/x-small clothing, I'm 5'6", and I weighed in this morning at 113 pounds. So with all of the arguments circulating about how characters in books aren't diversified enough, I feel like I can't honestly involve myself in the debate since, hey, my body type is being shown.

Then again, it feels like a personal insult when people say, "give her a hamburger" or "what about showing somebody with real beauty."

The entire conversation I'm leaning toward comes from this article written by Julianne Ross of The Atlantic, in which the leading sentence is:

"From Divergent's Tris to The Hunger Games' Katniss, the women of young-adult fiction can be strong, independent, and mature-as long as they're also scrawny."

Right there. The word "scrawny" really grinds my gears, and not in a good way. Why? Because it's insulting. To me, and to the authors who envisioned their main characters certain ways. The article later goes on to say:

"It seems literature only goes so far in its message of female empowerment, routinely granting its most kickass heroines classically masculine-levels of strength (physical or otherwise) only when cloaked within the trappings of a more delicate-and recognizable-femininity."

Looking at this critically, yes. There are many YA heroines who are just small, naturally. My own main characters, Moe and Ronnie, are the same way, but then again I'm not sure I actually point out their actual sizes. But here's where the tricky thing comes in:

Ask any author how they came up with their main characters. Most of them will tell you that they just appeared that way; they envisioned them with certain bodies and characteristics, and when they write them their voice just flows. You won't hear of many people who create the character, and then change their body types to conform to societal expectations.

Personally, I write from experience. I've already told you that I'm pretty dang slender (something nobody ever lets me forget about), so I can't accurately depict the struggles of a size six or even twelve. I don't know what it's like to be super tall, so my characters tend to not break the 5'7" mark. It's just the way I think, the way I write.

I have friends, however, who admit that, "Hey, I'm freakishly tall so my characters are freakishly tall," or "Hey, I'm a size eight, so why should my character be any smaller?"

Granted, I'm not speaking for everybody. But the discussion of body image in the media is one that's been growing exceedingly large, as are the insults thrown at those who aren't "curvy" or happen to be naturally smaller than others. When it shows up in our literature, it's another tally mark on the list of things where it's slowly becoming "not okay" to show a skinny person cast as the main character.

For a link to the article that spurred on these thoughts, look here:

Personally, I say to write the character however they show up. What do you say?


Thoughts or Questions? Let me know what you think!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Thoughts & Things: Inked

I was going to go on a rant today about how people don't pay attention to pedestrians in crosswalks, but I figured that you don't want to hear me talk about that. So, instead, I'm going to talk about something I'm much more passionate about: ink.

And I mean tattoos, more specifically. Do I have one? Why yes, yes I do. And I plan on having many more.

While there's always been debate about tattoos and other forms of body modifications (like piercings, for example), I honestly feel like the taboo on tattoos is dying down (at least, in my part of the world). I can't go a day without seeing at least five people with tattoos: friends, strangers, even professors. Not only are they becoming more accepted, but even more visible; sleeves and wrists, for example. In many books and films, as well, you can see a lot more characters as well as actors/actresses sporting some pretty cool ink-take Divergent, for example, where both Tris and Four sport some pretty fantastic artwork:

I approve. So, so much.

Tattoos, for me, are the prime way of expressing yourself without words. You can permanently put something on your skin, and it stays with you forever, something that you can look back on and hopefully smile, and something that others can look at as a much more obvious way of saying that there's more to you than meets the eye.

I mean, I don't mean those stupid tattoos that somebody got on a dare, or when they were drunk, or just being stupid. In all actuality, I hate those tattoos. It's disrespectful: to yourself, to the artist, to the world.

But when there's a story behind it? Je l'aime. I love it. They're beautiful and wonderful and every single time I find somebody with an eye catching tattoo, I will walk right up to them, compliment them, and more often than not ask why they got it. It's fascinating.

This is also the reason why a lot of my characters tend to have ink, if I can spare the characterization. Because it stands for something; because my characters stand for something. And not just tattoos, but many of them have eye-catching physical features that they weren't born with: Ronnie's got a bionic arm, and Moe has a scar that reads 'thief' on her forearm. Now, neither of these things are good, necessarily, but it's that sense of permanence that I feel really affects my characters and the choices they make.

So for the love of god (and unless you want me getting REALLY angry at you): if you ever get a tattoo, or you ever give your character a tattoo, make it mean something. Put a story behind it; it shapes yourself, and it shapes the decisions and opportunities you make and accept in the future. And as much as others might tell you not to do it, that you'll regret it in the future, it's a decision you have to make for yourself. And I feel like that's an important quality to pass on to at least one character in your book; the fact that they either chose to change their body, and did it for a reason, or that maybe it was forced on them, and that's what drives them in the future.


Thoughts or Questions? Let me know what you think!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Red Pen Has Friends

We've all either seen it, or at least heard rumors of, the dreaded red pen. That's right, the editing tool that makes your manuscript bleed. Literally.

I'm not going to deny the fact that I totally love using the red pen of death. Last week, I was in the coffee shop with a friend of mine and she had me edit a short story for her Creative Writing class. So I pulled out my Iron Man pencil case, opened it up so she could see all of the pretty colors inside, and grabbed the red pen. Because, honestly. How official and terrifying do you think you look when you're using the dreaded red pen?

Pretty darn official and terrifying. Yep, that's right.

But what about when it's your own manuscript? When it's just you and your own short story, or novel, or poem, using the red pen puts you in both the power position, and the victim. You look at the red pen and suddenly feel pained to use it against your precious.

I mean, maybe it's just me, but I can't stand using a red pen on my own papers.

So I came up with a solution that fits me. See, I love using colorful pens. Green, purple, blue, maroon, and my favorites are pink and orange. So instead of using red, I use pink. And orange. And light blue. And then by the time I'm done, my manuscript has turned into a rainbow that I actually want to look at it. I see fun, and bright, an cheerful, and not the horrid and depressing color of bleeding words.

And let me tell you, this is a purely mental thing. Because if I give my papers to somebody else, that's when I want the red pen to be used. Because it's them cutting up my hopes and dreams, and not me.

Yeah, I don't know if it makes sense, either. But it helps.

The next time you have a paper version of one of your manuscripts or essays, choose your favorite color of pen to write with (preferably not black or that dark blue that's really common). You'd be surprised at how much of a difference a bright color can make, even when it comes to ripping apart your most prized collections of words.


Thoughts or Questions? Let me know what you think!

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Basics of Character Descriptions

**Note: I've had a conversation about this with a few friends, and I learned that apparently this issue bothers me more than most. As you should with everything I say on my blog, take the advice with a grain of salt, and remember that it's my own opinion. If you disagree, tell me! Politely, though; leave a comment, or shoot me a message. I'd love to hear what you have to say on the matter.**

So one of the books I'm reading kind of made me think about the ways I don't like characters being described. And this strays from that cliche no-no of having the character wake up and look in the mirror and then boom description.

Just look at this example (completely made up, even though I really wanted to use the sentence that irked me):

Her velvety, golden hair was spillling over her shoulders.

And then a sentence later:

Her big, shockingly green eyes stared up from from her round face.

So we know that she has golden/blonde hair and really green eyes. Don't get me wrong, it's good to know what characters look like, especially important ones. What bothers me are the words 'velvety' and 'shockingly.'

For one, they're adverbs. And while I know that they're occasionally essential to typical grammar and sentence structure, there's a time to use them and a time not to use them. Guess which of those categories those examples fit under? Because the problem isn't that they're being described, it's that they're being described too much and at the wrong time. I'll break it down for you:

Hair: golden, yes. Velvety, no. Take velvety out and put it somewhere else in the novel; maybe somebody's feeling her hair and they describe it as velvet without using the -ly version. Seriously. What's wrong with saying, "He ran his fingers through her hair. It was soft, like velvet." Or even: "She brushed her fingers through her hair; it felt like velvet."

Boom. Just look at what a simile can do.

Eyes: green, yes. Big and shockingly, no. Remove those, save them for a later date. My advice would be to even remove 'big' altogether unless somebody else in the book describes them like that, and without two other descriptive words right next to it. And instead of the word 'shockingly,' why not something snazzier? Try electrifying: "Her eyes were an electrifying shade of green." Dude, shivers.

But my little rant doesn't stop there.

It's my opinion that descriptions that venture beyond basic hair color, eye color, height, weight, and those that need fancy descriptors, should only be used in areas where it's important, where it has some kind of significance. I'll jump into two of my own characters for you:

Ronnie has gold eyes. Gold. And not just that really light shade of hazel kind of thing; like, they're unnatural, and it's due to her bionic nature. In fact, everybody who's been bio-mechanically enhanced her has gold eyes, so it represents a certain type of people. The only time I use an adjective like shocking or piercing is when it's from Moe's point of view, because it's something that Moe has never seen before.

Moe has a scar on her arm. Not just any scar, though: somebody carved the word 'thief' into her, and it's a mark that both defines her and makes her extremely recognizable. Here, I tend to mention is sometimes because it's a habit of hers to subconsciously  run her fingers over the scar. It's a painful memory for her, something that haunts her, and that makes it more significance than mentioning how dull her eyes might be.

In both of these cases, I haven't yet used an adverb in my manuscript (at least, I don't think I have). And I don't use more than one adjective in a row on them. More often than not, I'll stay simple, and not even venture further than saying that somebody has gray eyes and black hair (*coughs* Jackson and Lyle).

Why? Because more often than not, the physical descriptions of characters aren't important. Unless you're talking about a brown-eyed girl living in Nazi Germany, her eyes don't really need much more of a description than that they were brown. Her eyes being brown have no impact on whether she's going to slay a dragon. But, you could have a situation like:

Bob: "You have brown eyes."
Sally: "So?"
Bob: "They're pretty. They remind me of the color of soil after it rains."

See what I did there? To Bob, they might be the most beautiful thing in the world. So let him tell the reader that, not the narrator.

Stay Crazy,


Thoughts or Questions? Let me know what you think!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Banning Books: Are They Helping or Hurting?

This bothers me. A lot.

I was on Facebook, and a blog post came up from John Green that caught my attention. Now, I'm not a complete, die-hard Green fan, but I have read two of this books (The Fault in Our Stars and Paper Towns) and they currently stand on my list of favorites, both in terms of fictional plot and characters, but also for the fact that they're books that really get me thinking about life and society and people.

So this blog post was about a group of parents in Colorado petitioning to "cleanse" the reading list of a literature class at their students' high school. I won't summarize, here's Green's words:
"Earlier today I received an email from a high school English teacher in Strausburg, Colorado who plans to teach an elective Young Adult literature course. A group of parents created a petition to "cleanse" the book list, claiming that the majority of the books on the curriculum, "are profane, pornographic, violent, criminal, crass, crude, vile, and will result in the irreparable erosion of my students' moral character.""
(read the entire post here:
In my opinion, this is one of the most ridiculous things I've ever heard, and it's also something I hear a lot of (I also tend to use more swear words when I'm talking about it in-person, too). And I'm not going to talk about just John Green; I want to talk about everything. I want to talk about the fact that Thirteen Reasons Why (Jay Asher) and The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini) were among the top ten Frequently Challenged Books of 2012, as reported by the American Library Association. Reasons for challenging these books include: "Drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, suicide, unsuited for age group" (Thirteen Reasons Why) and "Homosexuality, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit" (The Kite Runner).

I read both of these books when I was a 13 year-old freshman in high school. One was assigned by my English teacher, and the other was a book I bought myself at the book store. Like Green's books, they're both the kinds of novels that make me think about everything by the time I'm done with them, and that's a tribute that I really appreciate in books.

If my parents had seen me reading them and proceeded to take them away and tell me I wasn't allowed, do you know what I would have done? I would have gone to the bookstore, the library, a friend and read the book anyway. Now, trust me, I wasn't a rebellious teenager; the most rebellious thing I've ever done is get my cartilage pierced and get a tattoo, and both of those weren't until I was 18 years old and in college. But the fact is, the only person who can tell me not to read something is me.

Guess what? We all have the power to stop reading something if it makes us uncomfortable. Shocking, isn't it?

If I went to my parents and told them that the book I was reading for class made me uncomfortable, or that I didn't like it, do you know what they would have asked me? They would have asked me why. And then I would have to think about it. And isn't that the point?

It grinds my gears when I hear friends say, "I've never read that book because my parents wouldn't let me," or, "If we were caught reading that at my school we would have gotten into trouble." And I sometimes feel bad for them, because it wasn't them who were able to make the decision for themselves, it was somebody else. And it just reminds me of how many authority figures try to control what we think and what we learn.

Guess what? Teenagers drink and do drugs. Sex exists. There are a variety of four-letter words that aren't the nicest of things to say and there are more religions in the world than I could ever hope to memorize and not everybody is heterosexual. Instead of banning books to keep our young adults from being exposed to it, why shouldn't we let them decide for themselves, instead of letting society tell them: "This should make you uncomfortable."

Stay Crazy,


Thoughts or Questions? Let me know what you think!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Love in YA

So today's thoughts are kind of a bit of a rant, and it stems off of the review I gave on Throne of Glass on Tuesday. I already mentioned that I love the book, but when I was sitting down and thinking critically, I realized that the characters were all mainly romantically-inclined love-struck fools.

And I mean, let's be fair: love is an extremely powerful emotion. Disney plays with the concept of True Love all the time, and Harry Potter was saved from death by an ultimate act of love from his mother. I totally agree that it's an amazingly powerful emotion and that it can drive characters to amazing things.

But do we sometimes forget that there's more emotions we can feel than love (the romance kind)?

We've seen it a million times. Girl/Boy meets another girl/boy and there's a spark, and their lives are never the same, and all because they love each other. Thus the majority of the book is spent by their chasing after each other in one way or another. Pretty much sums up at least seventy-five percent of YA fiction, right?

And don't get me started on the fact that they tend to fall in love with each other after only a few hours/days together.

What about hate? And I don't mean the: girl/boy gets irritated by girl/boy, who purposely picks on the first girl/boy because they like them a lot. I mean: girl/boy's blood boils when they think about certain people, or certain laws, and it drives them to commit felonies.

Fear? Not: girl/boy is terrified of losing girl/boy because they just found each other and realized their feelings for each other, so they need to stop the evil before one of them disappears for good. I mean: girl/boy is terrified of death, or any punishment that awaits should they get caught, but knows that unless they stop the evil, it will carry on and continue to destroy everything.

Is my point making sense?

And what about the fact that a lot of familial relationships are toned down so that the plot can focus on girl/boy and girl/boy? The parents and siblings can sometimes be villain-ized so the main character is often 'alone' and therefore more susceptible to the charms of the significant other that comes along. Why can't we have a main character who's fighting for their loved ones first, and their love life second?

What about friendships? That girl you've known x amount of years and is always there for you. That guy who doesn't want anything but somebody who'll talk sense into him when he's thinking crazy thoughts.

This is coming from a girl who's constantly getting guys to want to go out on romantic dates with them. This is coming from a girl who has extremely few friends, because everybody else wants something more. Is that really the kind of society we live in? Where it's expected that everybody has a boyfriend/girlfriend, and if they don't it's expected they're searching?

I'm not saying that the romantic love we see so often is fake. I'm saying it's overdone. I, myself, have fallen prey to the concept of searching for that one mysterious guy who catches my eye, who for some reason finds me interesting. I have, it's true. But at the same time, I've come to realize that it's my friends who I can turn to, and it's a friend that I want more than a boyfriend.

Why can't we see more of that in YA right now?

I mean, if anything the least you can do is make the characters know each other for awhile. One of my friends is writing a book where the MC's first love is a guy she knew her whole life. Another has her MC know the love interest for a few weeks/months before anything gets super serious.

Remember, I'm not saying that love should be a taboo. I just think we too much of our attention on a romantic kind of love, instead of highlighting the other kinds of love that are out there, too. Love that, sometimes, we seem to be oblivious to.

Here's an exercise: if you took your love interest away, what else would your MC have to fight for?

Stay Crazy,


Thoughts or Questions? Let me know what you think!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Editing: Don't Freak Out

So just a little heads-up in case you didn't notice the title (*coughs and points*): my schedule will still follow the same thing you see on the side of the page (under the snazzy little group of letters that says 'Schedule'), but I'm not going to keep writing the titles.

For the last few months (even longer, actually) a good friend of mine has been editing and re-editing and re-editing her book, sending it out to agents, editing again, and so forth. And this week she's been stressing out as a new round of edits started. Every time I see that this is happening, I comment on her posts or message her/wait until she messages me, and I realized that I give her the same advice every time, and I think it's advice everybody needs to hear multiple times throughout their lives:


Seriously. Just chill. Editing is overwhelming. It's critically looking at every aspect of your novel that you've spent months, or even years, perfecting. It's tearing the plot apart, re-describing the setting, analyzing every situation your characters get themselves into, adding words, deleting words, changing words, and ultimately making yourself question every decision you've ever made in your life that has led you to this point.

Breathe. In, out, in, out. Your brain won't function properly without oxygen so don't deprive it.

Editing is like writing. Only it's entirely different. Hear me out.

When you've been writing too long and get a headache, or your sentences stop making sense, or you try to spell the word 'the' five different times without ever getting it right, you take a break. You rest your eyes. When you're stumped, you change the song or go for a walk, or pop in a movie. Right? There's basically a solution for everything. So why don't you apply those strategies to editing?

Now I'm just speaking from experience, and I know that I'm not nearly to the stage that my friend's at, but if I'm staring at my notes and both manuscripts (the old version and the new), and I have absolutely no clue what I'm doing, I step away. Do I occasionally bang my head against the table or wall or laptop, and then proceed to drown myself in a sea of chocolate? Occasionally. And is there anything wrong with that? Not really, but my waistline would beg to differ.

Editing, like writing, is a state of mind. It's hard. You're going to want to quit more times than anybody could ever hope to count. You're going to throw fits that'll make your roommates/family question your sanity. And I want to let you know that it's okay.

It's okay as long as you sit back in front of your keyboard and/or manuscript and start editing again. Because you owe it to yourself. Just keep calm and write on. Take a breath. Go on a run. Get back to your book.  Keep climbing that ladder and keep trudging on.

Stay Crazy,


Thoughts or Questions? Let me know what you think!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Tea Time: Throne of Glass

Guess what, guys? I finally finished the book!

**Warning: Spoilers May Abound**

Throne of Glass, Sarah J. Maas

In a land without magic, where the king rules with an iron hand, an assassin is summoned to the castle. She comes not to kill the king, but to win her freedom. If she defeats twenty-three killers, thieves, and warriors in a competition, she is released from prison to serve as the king's champion. Her name is Celaena Sardothien. 

The Crown Prince will provoke her. The Captain of the Guard will protect her. But something evil dwells in the castle of glass--and it's there to kill. When her competitors start dying one by one, Celaena's fight for freedom becomes a fight for survival, and a desperate quest to root out the evil before it destroys her world. (source:goodreads)


I have a few awesome words to say about this: there's no fancy dress! I mean, sure, there's a girl, but she looks totally kick-ass in the same kind of outfit I only wish I could pull off. Granted, I honestly don't have a problem with the 'girl in fancy dress' kind of cover that's been circulating the shelves, lately, but it's only when it's appropriate (as in: the girl is in a dress at some point in the novel). This book would have fallen into that category.

Want to know what I love? As I mentioned: she looks totally kick-ass. She's in a get-up that's easy to move around in, there's weapons in her hands,  her get-up is easy to move around in, her face is dark and twisted: she looks like an assassin, which, plot-twist (*coughs* sarcasm): the book is about an assassin. Case-in-point. You're welcome. Not only that, but when I got the book in the mail, and I opened it, I started mildly shrieking because I honestly thought the cover was so beautiful.



Alright, it's told in third person, occasionally close. The majority of the book is from Celaena's POV, but it occasionally switches to Prince Dorian's point of view, or else Captain Chaol. All of them were extremely interesting, although I would honestly say that Celaena's was the best since she was in the middle of all the action.

What I love about the style, too (this is also concerning my love of when 3rd POV is done right): is that the narrative, itself, is written to match the setting: long eloquent sentences. But it's not overly flowery, and there's definitely a hint of Celaena's voice in there (which is lovely).

My only issue: I can't stand exclamation marks in the narrative. Dialogue? Totally workable, because who hasn't shouted in their lifetime? It's just my opinion that exclamation marks do not belong in the narrative, first person or third POV. It's kind of a weird thing with me, so . . . yeah.



First thing's first: Throne of Glass definitely reminded me of The Hunger Games: there's twenty-four competitors rounded up with their own sponsors, all set to compete in a tournament in which the last-man-standing is the Champion. Sounds familiar, right?

What I appreciated was the way it diverged. These aren't random people: all of the competitors are criminals of some sort, with the exception of some being soldiers. And I've mentioned that the main character is an assassin, right? I seriously have a thing about assassins: they make the most interesting characters.

Another separation from THG: there is way more going on here than meets the eye. I'm talking a court lady trying to marry into her crown, a princess who you're seriously unsure about, the motives of the king, the motives of a certain duke, a ghost/spirit who seriously needs to work on decoding her sentences before speaking, the fact that the main character has mixed motives of her own, and the big tamale: there's this weird magical beast thing that's killing the contestants of the competition when magic hasn't existed in this world in supposedly a really long time.

My mind was continuously blown, to be honest. The events were spaced out extremely well, and except for the occasional slow valleys that the plot crossed through I was never too bored. And despite that huge plot and the multiple plot arcs I already mentioned, I was never lost. It was so easy just to keep turning the pages until somebody texted me at an odd hour of the night, which distracted me and made me realize how late it was and that I had work/class the next day.



This part I'm going to be a tad bit harder on. Because while the plot is complicated and involves many different players, there's only a few /main/ characters that are worth mentioning. I've already talked about how I love assassins; no matter what genre you're looking at, the main ones are super interesting.

So if I'm honest, I was slightly disappointed in Celaena. There was conflict in her, sure, and I love the ending where all she's talking about is her freedom, and that freedom is her dream. But that's the end, and while there were  a lot of moments in the book where the reader gets to see how epic and awesome and kick-ass she is, there were a lot more moments where all I saw in her was a flirty girl who was playing with two suitors. And . . . honestly it bugged me at times. The only redeeming qualities here were that there were moments where you find out more about her past, glimpses into who she used to be. And those moments were fantastic, but few and far between for a 300+ page book.

The other two most noteworthy were the Captain and the Prince. And both of them came off as love sick puppies who were vying for Celaena's affection. And competing against each other, sort of. Granted, one of them was able to pass it off as trying to protect the other from Adarlan's Assassin (aka: Celaena), but . . . honestly. By the time you're about 75 pages in you realize that both of the men are falling in love, and it's extremely obvious.

I'm not saying that characters that run off their emotions are bad; in fact, they're good, because those emotions cause them to do things they might normally balk at, and they tend to add bumps in the road to make sure their journeys aren't too smooth.

I just wish there was more to them.


Final rating: 4 / 5

Stay Crazy,


Thoughts or Questions? Let me know what you think!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Character Weaknesses

Everybody has a weakness. They're controlling, kryptonite takes away their superhuman abilities, they're deathly afraid of spiders. In some cases, strengths can be their weakness, too: their intelligence makes them unable to empathize with others, or they care for their family so much that it ultimately endangers their friends, as well.

It happens, sometimes, that you envision an amazingly strong, no-nonsense character. They have physical strength, the ability to complete any task set before them; they're unmatched in everything they do and nobody can compare. Sometimes they're witty. They're the ultimate superhero, even if they have no superhuman abilities.

But as much as we want to strive for perfection, even these guys have a weakness. It might not be obvious, but it's there, and it's what makes characters believable. And because I recently watched Catching Fire, take a few noteworthy characters from The Hunger Games as an example:

Finnick Odair had Mags. Katniss is impulsive and distrusting. Haymitch is a drunk. Peeta has Katniss. Wiress lost her sanity. Johanna was filled with hatred.

Here's a mixed bag of characters who both have weaknesses, and strengths that are weaknesses. Finnick nearly ran into the poison fog after his former mentor, which would have cost him his life; Haymitch tries to forget so much that he lives on alcohol; Wiress is super smart but her mind is so shattered that it was pure luck that somebody figured out what she was jabbering on about in relation to the Quarter Quell arena.Everybody else's 'weaknesses' are also the only reason they survived for so long, by channeling their fears and emotions into keeping them moving forward.

And guess what? Everybody loves these guys. Everybody can relate to them. Everybody thinks they can reach into the book (or, heck, even the films) and shake their hands. They're believable simply because they're not as perfect as some of them look.

Everybody has a weakness. Even my super-strong, super-fast bionic super-soldier has a weakness. Want to know something fascinating? Take a second look at the list of THG characters: only one of the weaknesses that I listed was a physical weakness (Haymitch's drinking; although, that stems from a lot of psychological issues). Everybody else has emotional or psychological weaknesses.

Take a look around you. Study your friends, your family. Odds are that whenever they founder, it's something that's not manifested in a physical thing.

I'm not saying that weaknesses can't be physical. Maybe they're sick, or they have a broken arm or a leg, or they can't run as fast as everyone else. It happens. A weakness is a weakness, though; it's something that will make your characters believable and help your readers to empathize and sympathize with them. Often a certain part of the plot arc will even focus on a character trying to overcome their weakness, and that right there is a great piece of character development.

Give your character a weakness. It makes them human.

Stay Crazy,


Thoughts or Questions? Let me know what you think!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Rae's Writing Weakness

We all have one. And while I plan on having a future post dedicated to weaknesses in characters, I thought I'd use today to talk about my own weakness in the writing world: world-building.

Seriously. World-building is my kryptonite for writing. And settings. I'm more apt to focus on the characters, and what the characters are thinking and doing, instead of diving my time equally so that my reader has some sort of context and an idea of what the world looks like.

Describing their immediate surroundings? I'm average. I tend to be able to paint a few pictures here and there, but actually finding a way to narrate the history of their cities, for example, or provide some sort of background to their society is like pulling fingernails: not that it's painful (well, the fingernail thing is), but it's hard.

And I fully recognize that, for some, world-building is their favorite part. it's where they shine.

Unfortunately I wasn't built with that gene.

So I read a lot of articles. And books. I study how other authors do it. I ask questions, especially to my other writing friends who I deem as absolute perfection. What bugs me, today, is that a lot of people I know, non-writers included, don't want to ask for help when they don't understand something or want some advice. Yet I say that we won't get get anywhere if we aren't willing to be honest with not only ourselves, but with others.

I edit a lot. You've already read my post on taking time with my manuscript, and here's another plus side to having many drafts of the same book: draft one is about getting the plot down. Draft two might be about getting the characters right. Then, with draft three, I can focus entirely on what I know needs the most work: the world my characters live in.

Probably my biggest advice ever: don't be afraid of weaknesses; they only make you stronger.

Stay Crazy,


Thoughts or Questions? Let me know what you think!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

When Inspiration Strikes

I am going to begin this post by telling you this: never ignore an idea. And I don't care when or how or where this idea came to you: don't ignore it.

And I don't mean that idea that tells you to go skinny dipping or suddenly yell out FIRE in a crowded room. No matter what anybody says, those aren't good ideas. Just no.

I'm coming at you from a personal experience. From Monday morning. That's right, this is recent. Picture me being a good, studious little student, sitting in my 9:00 am class, and then BAM. A combination of boredom and thoughts about the current book I'm reading (Throne of Glass, by Sarah J. Maas) led me to an old idea I've had simmering in my brain for quite awhile now, tentatively titled Piper.

What is this idea? Honestly, I'm not going to tell you. But that's only because I don't want you to be all, "oh my god, that sounds fantastic, write it!" Because I don't have time to write it. No matter how much I want to.

Let me just say it's awesome.

The point is: I was in the middle of class, and suddenly I couldn't think about the poems of Troubadours, anymore. Suddenly I was thinking about a girl who was imprisoned and beaten, who was taken to the leader of the guys who killed literally everybody she cares about, then proceeds to kill said leader and earn the respect of the soldier who brought her there in the first place.

So what did I do? I wrote it down.

Inspiration can strike anywhere. Just because it's the "wrong time" and/or you have other things to do, doesn't mean that idea should be scrapped on impulse. Because no matter how hard you try, it won't leave you alone.

Take it. Indulge in it. Let it simmer. When you've got time, write a bit. Even if it's only 100 words, or a page, getting it out on paper or the computer screen will effectively get it out of your head.

And, hey, look at that. I kind of told you that idea that I said I wasn't going to tell you. My bad?

Something else, and I'm probably going to stress this a lot: music. Music definitely played a role in this idea that I got today. The song, Guilty, by LNYX includes the lyrics:

I've been busy burning all my bridges.

BOOM. Idea. Because what else is there to lose when everything's already gone?

Stay Crazy,


Thoughts or Questions? Let me know what you think!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Tea Time: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

I'd been hoping to get to finish Throne of Glass in time for this week's post, but I've been swamped with yet another tidal wave of homework.

So let's explore the book that this blog got its namesake from, shall we?

**Warning: Spoilers May Abound**

The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Stephen Chbosky

Charlie is a freshman.

And while he's not the biggest geek in the school, he is by no means popular. Shy, introspective, intelligent beyond his year yet socially awkward, he is a wallflower, caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it.

Charlie is attempting to navigate his way through uncharted territory: the world of first dates and mix tapes, family dramas and new friends; the world of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite. But he can't stay on the sidelines forever. Standing on the fringes of life offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a deeply affecting coming-of-age story that will spirit you back to those wild and poignant roller-coaster days known as growing up. (source:goodreads).


So, to be perfectly and brutally honest, I'm not a fan. Not of the original, and certainly not of the movie-version. Then again, I usually hate the movie-versions of any book cover. If I'm being fair, though, it's not absolutely horrible. It has that same sort of simplicity that The Fault in Our Stars had, so I guess I can't complain too much.



As far as epistolary novels go, this has to be one of my favorites. Granted, I don't tend to come across too many of them, but still. I think what gets me the most is the fact that throughout the novel, you have no clue who Charlie is sending these letters to. On top of that, Charlie isn't even his real name. Mind blown, huh? So we have a book in which the narrator never actually narrates anybody's real name.

But I guess I'll get into that later.

It's short and sweet and to the point. What I love most? It reads true. The narrator is pulling out all the stops in telling the story of his freshman year of high school to this unnamed receiver of letters. he's truthful. He's confused. He gets excited. I mean, yes there is a such thing as an unreliable narrator, but I felt like Charlie is exactly what the title hints at: he's a wallflower. He watches and observes, and while reading I felt like I could believe him because there wasn't any attempt at getting into anybody's psychology.

It was just plain, simple, truth, through the eyes of Charlie.

However, I'm taking one star off on account of the fact that the narrative was too simple at times. I mean, I get that it's written from the POV of a high school freshman and all, but there were points where it was just too much to completely look over.



Here's another of those "to be honest" moments that I'm famous for. TPoBaW isn't really a plot kind of book, you know? I mean, of course there's a plot: Charlie is a freshman in high school, trying to navigate the realms of friendship. Basically, he's exploring himself.

I mean, there isn't a lot of OH MY GOD moments. Or anything like that. So I guess this section's really short because I can't, for the life of me, figure out exactly what to say. The entire narrative is carried on these letters that I explained above, and it's through the lives of other people that the plot is advanced. Which isn't bad; personally, I love when the plot is more internal than external. Therefore:



This is the moment I've been waiting for. Why? Because this book is literally all about PEOPLE. And I love when that happens.

Charlie: freshman, awkward
Patrick: senior, extrovert
Sam: senior, beautiful (and I mean in the way of personality, but according to Charlie she's outwardly beautiful, too)

In my opinion, the book is about these three. of course, it's all told in the POV of Charlie, but it's when he meets step-siblings Patrick and Sam that his life starts on its roller coaster. And, honestly, it's these three characters who I found myself relating to SO much, Charlie and Sam most of all.

Charlie's just that awkward, confused person who's just trying to figure out life. Aren't we all? I also think it's a nice change to have a narrator/main character who isn't extraordinary. While for more exciting novels I suppose it's nice (heck, who am I to talk? I've got a thief and a super soldier as my main characters), but for this one in particular, I found it refreshing. Since Charlie doesn't have too much of an attitude or bias towards much, you get to see a through a strangely clear window into his world, and into the lives of his family and friends, since he's a 'wallflower'.

Honestly, I found him, and Sam, and Patrick, and most of the other characters truthful. While I said this book is a window, it's also a mirror, and in a contemporary novel like this, I think that matters.


So, drum roll for my final rating: 4 / 5

Stay Crazy,


Thoughts or Questions? Let me know what you think!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Character Charts

There's a lot of debate over what really makes a book what it is. Is it the plot? Setting? Narrative? Do the author's words just come alive and sound like poetry? It's all a possibility, and it's my own humble opinion that every writer--and even reader--has their own idea and preferences about what makes a good book.

In my opinion, it's the characters.

Don't get me wrong: everything I just mentioned is all equally important, and I'll have my own little rants about them. There's just something about characters that I understand so much more than everything else.

From their names down to their quirkiest little personality trait, I love characters. I love knowing what they look like, what they sound like. How do they talk? What's their personality like? Most of all, my favorite thing to do is look at a handful of characters put in the same situation, and figuring out not only how they react, but why they react differently.

I'll be getting into some of that in later posts (if I don't, somebody slap me). Something that I think is probably the most important, though, is for a writer to be able to keep their characters straight. Some things are simple: hair color and eye color, for instance; and heaven knows you should be able to keep their names straight. But when you get down to things like: which leg do they limp on, which arm is their tattoo, what does their scar look like and at what age did they get it? These are the smaller things that you might mention once, and then not again in specific until later in the novel, when you sit at your computer with a completely stymied look on your face, and your roommate asks you what's wrong and they don't understand your problem when you explain it (okay, maybe this is just me).

So the million dollar question: what's the best way to keep your details straight?

There's lots of methods. I've heard of index cards and tried those once, and all you have to do is type "character sheet" into Google to get a million five pagers that many people swear by (and believe me, those things have EVERYTHING). None of those ever worked for me, though, so I designed my own process, and all you need is an excel spreadsheet.

So now you've got a completely blank spreadsheet, and let the fun begin. The first row will be your categories; each column with something different. Typically, having the first and last names, age, gender (it might be obvious to you, but I enjoy having it just because), hair color and style, eye color, other identifying physical traits. These are the basics that I suggest to everyone. After that, things get sketchy and awesome at the same time, because you can tailor it to your own book and genre. If you have a series of shapeshifters, you can have a column that tells you what they can shift into, and another for what they look like. Do they have scars? Add a column. Need to know who they're related to? Add a column. Fears? Column. There's infinite things you can do, here, and it all depends on what you need to know about your characters.

So you have your columns, and now all you have to do is fill them in. Each row is a new character, with different details than the ones before and after. Not every column has to be filled right away; start with what you know. Personally, there's things about certain characters that I don't know until the moment I'm writing it; once I write it, I go to my spreadsheet and fill it in. Sometimes you just have side characters; my advice here is to include them, but you don't have to have everything filled out.

So here's an example using the original version of The Hollow Men: there were thirty-three characters I needed to keep tabs on. About three-quarters of them were side characters, or maybe I want to keep an eye on them for a later date. Here were my categories:

  • First Name
  • Last Name
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Hair
  • Eye
  • Other (physical)
  • Current City
  • Past City
  • Special
  • Family
  • Other
Looks like a lot? It's not. It's just the main details I needed to keep my characters straight. Most of them were fairly universal; "special" included any special roles I want to remember, such as a doctor or a tech specialist. "Current City" refers to where they live, now, and "Past City" helps me remember where they were from. "Other" is details that don't fit anywhere else, but don't actually warrant another, full, column (for example, if somebody has OCD, or a secret, or there's a piece of their history that might be useful).

Like I said, every writer and every novel is different; these categories vary to fit my book at the current moment, for those little details that I want to remember.

Something else you can consider is color-coordinating things, or separating characters out. I tend to put black bars (just fill a row with black) between lists of characters to distinguish them into different groups: antagonists, side characters, protagonists. Some characters have red behind them to distinguish them as dead (but I still want to know things about them).

In the end, mine looked like this:

Yours will look different, once you figure out how you want to arrange things.

Like I said before, everybody's different. I know people who keep their information in notebooks, index cards, or who use those character sheets. The most important thing is to do what feels organized and right to you; it's right next to the importance of making sure a tattoo doesn't jump around your character's body because you think you remember where you put it, but you're not quite sure. This is my own way of keeping my details straight, so they're right at my fingertips every time I need them, and it's easy for me to navigate.

Stay Crazy,


Thoughts or Questions? Let me know what you think!