Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Honoring God in Fiction Writing

Lately I've been thinking about God, and how I can honor Him in my writing. Now I've never tried writing "Christian" fiction - I write and read fantasy - because I don't particularly enjoy reading it for a few reasons:
  1. The characters often start off as Mary Sues or transform into Mary Sues, making them completely unrelatable. Because they become so spiritually perfect they no longer resemble real human beings with real flaws. 
  2. At least in the Christian fiction I have read, the authors tried too hard to make certain that readers knew that their book was Christian. The books were often filled with references to prophecy, lectures about things from the Bible, etc, until the actual plot was stifled. 
Now I'm not saying any of this is particularly bad. But at least in my experience, it makes for an annoying, self-righteous sounding book, and if you just want to read a story things like those can be irritating. 
I'm not saying all Christian fiction is like that, either - it's just my experience. 
So, while avoiding making characters unrealistic and the writing itself a lecture, how can we honor God in writing fiction (even fiction that isn't in a Christian genre)?

1 Corinthians 10:31 - Pin found on Pinterest at

With some conversations with friends and family, I've come up with the following ideas.

Portray good and evil as they are
We know that in every story there is a bad guy and a good guy. It's the same in reality, except instead of both the antagonist and the protagonist being people, the protagonist is God and the antagonist is Satan. Evil exists in the world, and when writing a story I don't think sugarcoating it to make it more palatable is a good thing to do. I'm not saying that you should make your book filled with the worst evils you can think of in order to get people to think, "oh, this is evil." I'm saying that you shouldn't try to disguise evil as goodness. I'm aware that evil can also be disguised as goodness by Satan, and I think it is alright to show this aspect of evil in a story - as long as it is ultimately revealed to be what it truly is. 
Likewise, there is good in the world which comes from God. In writing, show this goodness, even if it is just one righteous character in the middle of an evil world. Provide readers with a character (or several) to point to as people who don't have messed up moral compasses. 
Readers will recognize good and bad, especially if you have both. Contrast is good. It helps people see the truth. Above all, portray both as what they really are. 
"Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down - that ancient serpant called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him." - Revelation 12:7-9 (New International Version) 
"Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter." - Isaiah 5:20 (New International Version)
Show the consequences of evil and the rewards of doing right.
I know that during life on earth, following God is not often easy. A lot of people are persecuted for following Him - people are punished for their faith. Additionally, it sometimes seems as though evil is rewarded. 
But we can't forget that ultimate justice happens after we die. At that point, righteousness is rewarded and evil is punished. I feel (and feel free to give me your opinion on this) that this justice should be represented at least in some small way in your writing. Even if the good guys don't win - good people don't always win in the world after all - at least show the evil baddies reaping the consequences of their choices. Remember that even though good people don't always win, God does - evil does not go unpunished.
"Don't be misled - you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant." - Galatians 6:7 (New Living Translation)
"As I have observed, those who plow evil and those who sow trouble reap it." - Job 4:8 (New International Version)
"He will judge everyone according to what they have done. He will give eternal life to those who keep on doing good, seeking after the glory and honor and immortality that God offers. But He will pour out His anger and wrath on those who live for themselves, who refuse to obey the truth and instead live lives of wickedness." - Romans 2:6-8 (New Living Translation) 
Show humanity truthfully.
Humans are not perfect - we all know that. This is why I get so annoyed at Christian books which portray their characters as perfect angels. This just isn't realistic or truthful. The truth is that humanity is a cursed race, living in a cursed world. We all have evil in us and sometimes it shows. When we lie to our parents, let our pride get the better of us, or give in to the temptation of eating from the forbidden cookie jar. Those are all "minor" examples of sin, but of course there are sins which we, at least, consider much worse. However, no matter what people do all are in need of forgiveness and salvation from God. It is unrealistic to make righteous characters who never do or think or say anything wrong (right now I'm thinking of Bonnie from the Dragons in Our Midst series, if anyone knows who I'm talking about).
That isn't to say that characters can't or shouldn't be righteous. Just do it realistically, because even the most godly people have their downfalls and sins. There's no escaping that - we're all human.
"As it is written: There is no one righteous, not even one." - Romans 3:10 (New International Version)
"If we claim we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and His Word is not in us." - 1 John 1:10 (New International Version)
Keep what you write clean.
I've heard the excuse that characters aren't righteous - that they curse, cheat, etc. -  and that the author wants to portray the character accurately. I can understand that logic, but I want to add something onto this.
What you write is your words. Don't write curse words, or word porn. There are ways to accurately portray a cursing character without using curse words ("Let loose with a string of swear words," "He cursed," etc.) and ways to show that a character had an affair without writing every detail out. I know that what you read and watch stays in your head, often as very vivid images. Writing is the same. If you don't want your thoughts muddled by gross images and forbidden words, don't write them!
"Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips." - Proverbs 4:23-24 (New International Version) 
"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things." - Philippians 4:8 (New International Version)

So those are my ideas. I think that they are pretty basic principles which can be applied to any genre I can think of right now. As I rewrite my projects (I've got two to do now - ugh) I'm going to try keeping these three things in mind so that I can better portray truth in my writing. A reminder, neither of my works-in-progress is in a Christian genre. Both are fantasy.
If you have any ideas of your own, by all means leave me a comment. I'm still growing in my faith and I can't claim to have the answers - I'm just doing my best to honor God with the knowledge and skills that I have.

Merry Christmas! 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Beautiful Books Linkup #3: Let's Talk Editing

This is the third post for the Beautiful Books Linkup series by Paper Fury. You can find the explanation of it all here. This is the last post of three - the first was on planning a novel, the second about writing a novel, and the third about editing.
So! Onwards to the questions!

1. On a scale of 1 (worst) to 10 (best) how well do you think this book turned out?
Eh. Certainly not ten. Maybe a five? I don't think I really need to change anything already written - I just need to add a LOT of stuff. Like a whole other point of view and several more scenes from the first point of view, which is all going to require just as much planning as I've already done. *sigh*

2. Have you ever rewritten or edited one of your books before? If so, what do you do to prepare yourself? If not, what's your plan?
I've never finished rewrites or edits before, but I've started both for last year's NaNoWriMo project (progress was stalled because of this year's NaNoWriMo). I didn't really do anything to prepare myself other than let myself take a break so that I'm not still emotionally invested in the project once I start hacking it to pieces. That's the plan I'm sticking to - right now I'm on a writing break.

3. What's your final wordcount? Do you plan to lengthen or trim your book?
53,453 words. I was aiming for 54,000, but the book finished before I reached that. What I wrote is really fast paced - there is nothing extraneous at all and I probably didn't take enough time to write the descriptions I should have. So I don't think I need to trim anything; however, I definitely need to add stuff. A few more scenes to enhance the tone of the book and to develop characters, and an entire new point of view in addition to the one I already have. It's going to be like writing a whole other book, then splicing it with the one I've just written. Ugh.

4. What are you most proud of? Plot, characters, or pacing?
As I said, I feel like my pacing is rushed, so that isn't what I'm proud of. Plot I like, but I don't think it's absolutely genius. I like my characters but there are things about them that could be better. What I really like about Shadows & Light is the world. It's basically real world + magic + Destiny, but that mix makes it so much different, and I love it. It's both incredibly relatable and completely foreign.

5. What is your favorite bit of prose or line from this novel?
I was reading through the beginning and found this line. Ace wouldn’t dare try cooking for himself. They’d end up calling the fire department.

6. What aspect of your book needs the most work?
Pacing, namely adding some slower pacing. Also, I have a dog which mysteriously disappeared and then reappeared in the second half of the book. He needs to come back. And as I said, I need to add an entire point of view. Descriptions, also, are going to need quite a lot of refinement, namely because they're barely there to begin with. 

7. What aspect of your book is your favorite?
The networks of relationships between all the characters, and between characters and their Destinies. 

8. How are your characters? Well-rounded, or do they still need to be fleshed out? 
They're pretty good, I think. Ace is going to need some more work since I'm going to have to write from his perspective - and I suppose I'll have to work on his gang of friends some more. But yeah, I think the characters I've got are pretty good.

9. If you had to do it over again, what would you change about your whole process?
Nothing. My process worked fine. :D

10. Did anything happen in your book that completely surprised you? Have any scenes or characters turned out differently than you planned?
Well a dog named Lancelot mysteriously vanished, which was unplanned. And I had a surprise scene come up which was adorable *fangirls over the cuteness of Gabriel and Mara, even though they're not dating*. 

11. What was the theme and message? Do you think it came across? If not, is there anything you could do to bring it out?
The message was supposed to be that we all have to be responsible for out actions. And no, I don't think it came across as well as I would have liked. :\ This is why I'm adding the other point of view. Mara's is too limited. It doesn't show enough so that the reader can clearly see just how bad she's gone. I'm adding Ace's point of view to contrast Mara's descent into evil with Ace's maturing into a hero.

12. Do you like writing with a deadline (like NaNoWriMo) or do you prefer to write as it comes?
Deadline. Definitely. Without one, I don't get anything done because I don't have anything to aim for.

13. Comparative title time! What published books, movies, or tv shows are like your book? (Ex: Inkheart meets X-men, etc.)
*wince* I don't really know. It's a little bit like the book V is for Villain, with a little Harry Potter substituted for the superpowers and government. That's the best I can think of on the spot.

14. How do you celebrate a finished novel?
I haven't really celebrated. I've allowed myself to stop writing for a while until such a time as I want to start editing (that could take a while). 

15. When people are done reading your book, what feeling do you want them to come away with?
Bittersweet, I think, is how I want them to feel. Maybe just a bit excited for a sequel, too. ;)


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Best Blogging Buddies Award

Wild Horse nominated me for this. Thanks!
You may grab this cute little owl for
your post, too. 

So I know I haven't been blogging for the last week or so - I have valid excuses in the form of NaNoWriMo and Thanksgiving. But I'm back! Off schedule, but back, nevertheless.

The Rules:

  • You must make a post to show your award on your main blog.
  • You must tag the person who nominated you in your post.
  • You must nominate all your best buddies, and those whom you want to be best buddies with, who, to your knowledge, have not been nominated for this award.
  • You must ask your buddies at least fifteen questions in your post.
  • You must answer all the questions your buddies ask you on this post.
Alright. Let's do this thing.

Why do you blog?
Honestly I want to be able to share my writing with people, and hopefully get others to share theirs with me.

Purple or pink?
Purple. Pink is too . . . common. And it reminds me of Pepto Bismol (yuck).

Summer or winter?
Errr . . . winter? I hate the heat because I sunburn at a ridiculous rate and don't even get a tan out of it. That being said, I don't really like either one. I much prefer spring.

Have you read/seen The Book Thief? Tell me if it ripped you up like it ripped me up.
I've seen the movie - and I think it was a good one. It did get an emotional response from me (not to the point of tears, though). It wasn't really my kind of story, though. It was good, but not a favorite.

A book you keep re-reading?
I've re-read many books. But in my memory the record holder for the most re-reads is John Flanagan's The Ranger's Apprentice #1: The Ruins of Gorlan. Eight times. Maybe more. I'm losing track. And that doesn't even count the number of times I go and re-read just sections of it for the humor.

Do you have any pets?
I share a house with four cats and two parakeets. Only one cat is officially mine, though. His name is Joshua, but his name should be Mr. Grump.

Type or handwrite?
I prefer handwriting for most things. I find that I'm more creative when using a pen and paper than when I'm banging on keys. But handwriting isn't efficient for writing 100+ page novels, plus character sketches, plus setting sketches, plus outlines, etc. Nor is it efficient for any writing that I actually will have to show someone someday. Therefore, while I would love to handwrite everything, it isn't feasible, and I type everything instead.

Has a book ever made you cry?
YES! When I first started reading at bookworm levels, I basically read this one series by Erin Hunter called Warriors. I cried several times through the course of that series, but it's been so long that I couldn't tell you which specific books. I have also cried during John Flanagan's The Ranger's Apprentice #9: Halt's Peril. Probably a few others jerked a few tears but I can't remember them.

Favorite school subject?
Hard. I don't feel like I have one particular subject I'm good at (except English, but just because I'm good at it doesn't mean it is my favorite). It's either between science (Advanced Chemistry this year) or my Omnibus class (sort of a mash up of history, literature, worldview, and Bible). Probably the latter because it doesn't cause as much stress.

The best sport in the world is . . .
Umm, for me, none. Does chess count? Or writing sprints?

Do you live in town or the country?
Town I guess?

What is better? Sunrise or sunset?
I haven't seen many of them because I'm lazy and like my sleep, but I like sunrise better.

It's midday, you're still in your PJs, at home alone, when someone knocks on the door. What do you do?
Ignore it and stay away from windows where they might see me. Also make sure I have a phone nearby. Wait until the person goes away (and if he doesn't I've got my phone). I may even try to sneak over to the alarm system and set it without the person seeing me through the windows. What can I say, I'm a bit paranoid.

A quote that is important to you?
They're all Bible verses and the one that means most to me depends on how I'm feeling or what I'm struggling with. Most of them relate to peace, and I usually only know snippets of the verses and not the location. Most of them are along the following lines:
"And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." - Philippians 4:7
"When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul." - Psalm 94:19

If you had to eat one food forever, you would eat . . .
Gosh. I don't know a lot about nutrients but I'd choose something that would keep me healthy. I wouldn't want to die from poor diet.

And now I nominate . . .
Morgan LeAnne

Questions for nominees are . . .

  1. Silver or gold? Why?
  2. Action movie or romance?
  3. Favorite super-hero?
  4. Favorite character of all time? (Yours count).
  5. What is your favorite thing about blogging?
  6. What story has made the biggest impact on you? (Again, yours do count).
  7. What book/movie/tv show that you've read/watched was the biggest waste of time? 
  8. Real book or ebook? Why?
  9. What is the weirdest thing you've ever researched?
  10. Who are your writing/blogging role models? 
  11. What character (any character) do you identify most with?
  12. What fandom are you most obsessed with? (If there aren't any, don't be ashamed. You're more sane than us, if that is the case.)
  13. Have you ever met one of your favorite authors in person? Tell me about it.
  14. Here's a big question: Loki or Thor?
  15. Have you ever been obsessed with something typically considered academic? Like astronomy, ancient history, psychology, mathematics, economics, physics . . .something along those lines?

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Nitri's Interview

Hello everyone, and welcome to today's post, where I am entertaining a very special guest. Meet Nitri! *Nitri walks on, grinning widely and winking at all the girls* Yes yes, Nitri, very good, now just sit down for a moment and then we'll get on with the questions. 
(He's got a Jageran . . .ehem, sort of Arabic . . .accent)
Can't we get on with them now?
No, we cannot. I have to do an introduction.
Didn't you just do that?
Partially. I'm not done yet; now stop trying to out-sass me. I invented your sass. Anyway, Nitri has obligingly shown up to answer all the questions you wonderful people have asked. Actually, he's been waiting in agony for this day to come for over a week. He's been more than happy to get an approved opportunity to brag.
I'm not bragging, I only state facts.
I'm not buying it since you're a certified liar. 
Oh come on, Annie - can I call you that? - stop being . . .
NEVER call me Annie; I will put you on board even more boats!
*raises hands* Okay, nevermind then.
Good. Anyway, back to business . . .the questions!
Finally! Ooh, a picture of me!
*rolls eyes*

"Nitri Sketch" by Annika S. 

What kind of knife do you use? Have you ever cut yourself? (Would you even admit it if you had?)
*takes out a knife from its sheathe and holds it out for examination* My knives are very special; very rare.They are Jageran fighting knives, a matching set, crafted by best smith in Jager, using the finest steel the nation had to offer. As you can see, the double-edged blades are unlike those found in any other nation of the known world, with a double curve tapering to a needle-sharp point. There are no cross guards because only a useless knife fighter would need them, and Jagerans are the best knife fighters in the known world. And see here, how the hilt and pommel are made of quality bronze? These knives are coveted by every man who knows about them. I cannot tell you how difficult it has been to hang on to these exquisite blades, defending them from all sorts of murderers and thieves!
May I point out that you are a thief, Nitri?
*starts flipping the knife into the air and catching it* Details. And for the last part of that question, I must admit to cutting myself a few times when I first started. But I pushed through the pain to learn this skill, and now, as you can see, I have no problem catching them by the hilts. Obviously, yes, I have admitted to it. My honor is nothing if I lose my reputation for honesty.
I am offended by your distrust, Annie . . .Annika. You have wounded me to the depths of my soul!

Watch it, mister. Now how about this interesting question: would you ever buy an elephant? What about a panther? If so, how much would you consider a decent price?
Elephants? Panthers? What are you talking about!?
Elephants are large animals, gray with lots of wrinkly skin, which are as big as houses. They're got long tusks and can be used for work and riding, if they're trained properly. Panthers are huge black cats, about three feet high, with wicked claws and teeth. They're both very dangerous animals. 
But you can train them, you say?
Yes, if you get them as babies and know what you're doing.
Ah, I see. Well, I must say that the idea of having a panther, as you call it, to assist me in ruling my subjects is a very appealing one, despite the apparent risk to life and limb. After all, that risk could be turned onto others, couldn't it? Like an attack dog, but scarier? I wouldn't have much use for an elephant, though. As for price, I wouldn't pay it! I'm a king; I don't have to pay.
And just how would you go about that?
Well, I'd get close to the seller, make him think I'm preparing to buy. Then, I don't know what I'd do. *shrugs* Either grab the beast and run, get Tyv to hold him, or have Tyv cause a distraction - there are really any number of ways to go about it. I don't really plan these things out, you know.

Oh, trust me, I know. Here's a similar question to the last one. Would you ever buy a cat?
A cat? What would I want a cat for?
Well, they can catch mice - 
And eat my food, and get fur all over my nice black coat!
That thing hasn't been "nice" for three years, but I presume the answer, then, is no?
No! And if I did get a cat, I would steal it, obviously. But as I said, no point . . . *whispers* unless I ate it.

That is absolutely disgusting and barbaric! Remind me never to let you get near a cat. But on the topic of stealing, what sort of things do you like to steal in particular?
Oh, lot's of things. *begins tossing knife again* I steal useful things, like bread and money and fabric. But what I really like to steal are things that are just fun to have. Like colorful beads, or a Jageran turban, And of course, this captains' coat. I stole it from a Mejoran ship when I was fifteen. Snuck right into the captain's quarters, then had to duel the fellow to make my escape! It was hard, and I doubt anyone else could have managed it. But it was worth it, because now everyone can see how important I am.
Explain that.
Well, length of coattails is a sign of how rich someone is, right? These coattails are nice and long, so I have high rank. Everyone knows that.

Actually, not everyone does. Have you ever been caught?
*Holds hand to chest importantly* Well I'm known amongst all the ladies as being very hard to catch -
I think this question refers to the Town Guard.
Oh, you're no fun. *sigh* I have never been inside their filthy hole of a prison. I have, however, heroically escaped their clutches several times.
Yes. Heroically. Several times they have nearly beaten me, even tied my hands behind my back once! But I have always fought my way free before they can drag me away to be tossed into the jail. I'm smarter than them, see? *taps temple* Not to mention a better fighter! They should know better by now than to try to catch me, the Street King of Bemark!

You'd think, wouldn't you? Now here's a different sort of question. Do you collect anything in particular? Like keys or rings or something of the like?
Well I do like spices. They're not particularly useful for trading, but they smell good. Sometimes I sprinkle some on my coat, or mix a little with water and rub it on my skin. It makes the girls swoon. *winks*

I'm sure. Ooh, a good one: Why did you  pick Tyv to 'protect'?
Tyv? My right hand man?
Yes, there's only one Tyv in Bemark.
Well I came across him when I was fifteen, and Tyv was just thirteen. At first I was going to go take his steals away, because he's Kampene, and Kampenes and Jagerans don't get along. But then Jasp and Trint attacked him first and I decided to save his little hide, to get him indebted to me. It worked, but I realized that he didn't have a Kampene accent and seemed completely clueless that he and I should be mortal enemies. I made a . . .ehem . . .deal with him - he was a good thief, fast, and though he wasn't the best knife fighter back then he had potential. He also had nerve. I figured that under my influence he'd make a good second in command. I was right, except he still needs to loosen up a little. He's so uptight. Oh, and he's now taller than me thanks to his Kampene genes, which is not on. Can you believe it? My right hand man is taller than me! I've forbidden him from growing any more.

Good luck with that - he's still got a few years left to get even taller, whereas you're just about done. Last question, and a warning: you're not going to like it. What do you wish you were able to forget?
*silence**clutches his knife hilts*
You have to answer.
I won't. *clutches knives tighter*
Do it. 
At least a hint? The readers will love it. It will add to your mystery.
 . . .
Come on. Everyone loves a tragic hero.
They do?
*nods vigorously* Yes, they do. They absolutely love tragic heroes. It will make you swoon-worthy. Girls fangirling all over you.
 . . .Just a hint, then. *releases knives*
*sighs in relief**nods encouragingly*
I wish I could forget my family.
 . . .
 . . .
That all you're willing to say? 
Clammed up for the rest of the night?

Well, I guess that's it! Sorry to leave it off on that note, but I had to save that question for last. I knew Nitri would clam up after he heard it. Honestly, we're lucky he didn't pull his knives and throw them at me. 
More character interviews may be coming in the future! Sorry that there wasn't a regular post this week - NaNoWriMo and school have made things hectic. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Character Interview: Ask Nitri

Most of my writing-related focus has been on my Shadows & Light project. In fact, I've written so much about it on this blog that you could nearly not even notice that I have another project in the works called Taken. This one is my first original novel idea, and is the one I've made the most progress on. I have a full rough draft with minimal revision. It's been put on hold for NaNoWriMo to give me time to write out the first draft for Shadows & Light, but really, Taken deserves some more attention.
I've been wanting to do a character interview, and since most of you probably know a lot about my Shadows & Light characters anyway from previous posts, the focus is changing to Taken for a couple weeks. Today I present you with Nitri, a secondary character (though he'd like to think he is the main character) in Taken. Below is a short blurb about him, and a few pictures and quotes to help you guys get a better feel for him (if you want to get a really good look at him, he's got his own board here. *looks over shoulder* Yes I know, Nitri, you're very special. We all know it. Now be quiet.). Ask whatever you want; I'm sure Nitri will be more than happy to boast. He's already starting.

Nice collage, pretty collage . . .

Taken Chapter 1, Scene 2, by Annika S.

Taken Chapter 1, Scene 1, by Annika S.

Nitri is an orphan but no longer a child at age eighteen. As you may notice during the interview, his supposed adulthood doesn't improve his maturity in the least. He is a pro joker, making light of any and every situation (it annoys poor Tyv no end). Nitri also takes risks without caution, throwing himself without thought into any kind of dangerous situation just for kicks. One of his favorite pastimes is escaping from the Town Guard by the skin of his teeth after successfully stealing some flashy (but probably useless) merchandise. He's got a habit of tossing his knife into the air and then catching it, repeatedly, without even glancing at it. Thank goodness he's gotten quite good at it or he would have lost a hand by now. Nitri lives in Erober, but is originally from Jager and he is shamelessly proud of the fact (he came to Erober because of a shipwreck, which also killed his entire family - but he has never told anyone about it and good luck trying to get him to open up). He makes a living off of thievery, threats, and blackmail; every other lowlife in the town's slums is petrified of Nitri because of how ruthless he is in getting what he wants. He calls himself the king of the Quarantine (the slum sector of Bemark) since he does, in effect, rule the lawless. Since he took Tyv under his "protection" his effectiveness in ruling others has only increased, now that he has a backup fighter.
Some other facts: Nitri is a expert knife-fighter but has other difficulties due to being deaf in his left ear. He is vain and almost never takes off the black captain's coat he stole hmm. . .let's see, three years ago (*gag* Gross.) His main rivals are a pair of thieves/murderers named Jasp and Trint, and the Town Guard, some members of which can now recognize him by sight because of how often he slips away from them.
So that is some basic stuff about him. Nitri is already talking his head off about all his greatest achievements; he obviously can't wait to get his chance to spread his fame. I'm sure he'll be more than willing to answer nearly any questions. Ask away!

Questions now closed - interview posted here.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Beautiful Books Linkup #2: How's the Writing Going?

This is off-schedule, but I've got another post scheduled for Tuesday. So, since this was ready and not really a usual post, I'm just publishing it now.
It is the second post in the Beautiful Books linkup series. This is November's post, all about actual writing. I suggest that if you haven't yet done this, do it. It really gets you thinking about your novel, your characters, your writing, process, etc. Even if you don't want to publicly answer some questions due to spoilers, at least write the answers somewhere private. Now, let the interrogation commence!

1. Be honest. How is your writing going?
So far, pretty well. I'm actually ahead of the NaNo goals. Yesterday I didn't make my daily goal, but I'd been writing for a couple hours and I was far enough ahead that it didn't matter. I also had more important things going on, so I couldn't spend too much time staring at my laptop.

2. What's your first sentence/paragraph?
"Mara turned away from the lunch lady who’d refused to make eye contact with her, and scanned the cafeteria for a place to sit. Across the way, Ace and his friends were laughing. Loneliness stabbed at Mara’s gut." (Yes, this is the writing font I'm using. I hate Calibri and Arial. Also, this paragraph needs serious revision.). 

3. Do you have a book cover and/or pictures that reflect your book?
I found the basic b&w picture of the silhouette on Pinterest (I have no idea who to credit) and then added the color and text myself using a mixture of Paint and Pixlr Express.
I'm rather proud of this cover, because it's a second draft. The first one was black and white and boring. I've also got a few other pictures which capture the spirit of the book, though what they depict isn't completely accurate. These, also, are from Pinterest, and again, I have no idea who to credit for them.
Mara first discovering how to use magic.
This one makes me think of Mara and Gabriel.
Mara, using magic for her own ends.
I'm actually writing a scene soon based on this picture.
Inspiration for my resolution scene.
4. Do you have pictures of each of your characters? If not, describe them to us!
Mara Harrod:
Mara - Minus the birthmark.

My sketch of Mara from the first half of Shadows & Light
My sketch of Mara from the second half. 
Ace/Julian Harrod:
Ace in his Mage gear.

Tempe Donoghue:

My sketch of Tempe
Gabriel Young:                                         
Gabriel Young

This art isn't mine, but I love it as a representation of Gabriel.

Victoire Delaney:
Victoire Delaney - Ace's Girlfriend & Apprentice
Kendra Earl:
Kendra Earl - Ace's Team Member
As you can see, I've got plenty of imagery. I either drew it or found it on Pinterest. Seriously, if you haven't gotten onto that website yet, go.

5. What scene are you most excited to write?
The midpoint, when Ace clearly betrays Mara. It's going to have so much intense emotion and action! I can't wait.

6. Share a snippet or a scene that you really enjoyed writing.
Warning, this is a rough draft.

The hallways were practically deserted, so Mara had no trouble walking as fast as her legs would carry her. She wiped tears from her eyes as she went, sniffing and not certain of her surroundings because her eyes were so blurred over with tears.
“Mara! Mara!” Ace called out from somewhere behind her. She heard him running towards her, but she didn’t turn to look.
He grabbed her shoulder and spun her around.
“Mara, stop!” He said. If Mara had hoped for brotherly encouragement, she was wrong. His eyes were furious.
“How dare you threaten Victoire!” He said.
“How dare I?” Mara said. “She’s been torturing me for ten years! I think it’s time I stood up for myself!”
Ace leaned back and looked at her with stern disapproval. “See Mara? This is why no one would believe you before. We all knew what was underneath, waiting to come out.”
“Ha! No, no one wants to believe me because you’re all stupid, hopeless, morons, who want me to fail!”
“No one is a moron except for you!” Ace said. “You’re just an idealistic idiot!”
“It’s funny how one minute you think of me as genuinely idealistic, and the next as someone evil who’s hiding their ‘true’ nature!” Mara said. “It’s funny how you switch from one to the other, whichever suits your purposes!”
“I doesn’t matter which one you are because it’s all going to end up the same way!” Ace said.
“Really? And you can tell the future now? You must be going through your apprenticeship must faster than anyone else! So fast, in fact, that you’re better than the Interpreters!”
“Don’t be ridiculous Mara!” Ace said. “This isn’t about you and I; it’s about your threatening Victoire!”
“You know what? You can join your girlfriend in staying as far away from me as possible!”
“Or what? You’ll kill me too?” Ace asked.
“Maybe! With how unpredictable I apparently am I could go on a killing spree!” Mara said mockingly.
Ace gritted his teeth and blue cloud suddenly appeared around him, licking like flames at his body but flying away like smoke. His hand flew up as if to ward her off, his palm facing her and his fingers spread.
Mara stumbled backward, her breath coming fast. Ace was literally coated in magic, and he was aiming at her. Her own twin brother was about to use magic on her.
“Ace. . .” she said, her voice trembling. She backed into the wall, her palms pressed against the cool metal of the lockers. Her legs were shaking. All she could see was that wonderful blue magic, poised to strike her. That dangerous blue magic.
The fury left Ace’s eyes, and the magic dissipated. His hand lowered, but his eyes stayed trained on Mara.

“Don’t threaten Victoire again.” He turned and walked calmly back down the hallway, leaving Mara, still trembling, alone.

7. Now that you're writing, have any of the plot details, or the process itself, turned out to be different from what you planned or imagined?
Mara turned out to be more forgetful than I'd thought. Gabriel is way sweeter than I expected, and Tempe knows how to act, which I hadn't realized. I did end up extending a certain scene, which wasn't in my outline, but made me crush on Gabriel even harder. At the end of it I wanted to throttle Mara and scream "WHY AREN'T YOU IN LOVE WITH THIS BOY!"

8. Is there a character or aspect of your plot that is difficult to write?
I'm having a hard time controlling the escalating conflict between Ace and Mara. It can't be too intense too soon,  but it needs to scare her enough that she's driven to learn magic. It's a fine line to walk, and I'm beginning to wonder if it's gone too far too early.

9. What's your favorite aspect of this novel so far? Favorite character?
I'm loving everything. The relationships, the conflict, the foreshadowing (*evil cackle*). My favorite character is probably Gabriel. I think I'm crushing on him, which isn't good because I shall soon have to do something horrible to him. Poor baby. He's so sweet and sincere. 

10. Have you drawn off of any life experiences or people you know to create your novel and your characters?
Yes, mostly for characters. I have nothing in common with the plot or setting - I don't even know what it is like to go to high school! I don't live in a small town. I haven't been asked to illegally learn magic. I don't have an arrogant twin brother. I don't live in a world where everyone knows at least one thing they will accomplish in life (thank goodness). However,  I have drawn extensively from my family and a little bit from my friends for characters. Gabriel shares some traits with a friend of mine and my sister. Mara shares her procrastination and forgetfulness with my mum (they actually share the same personality type). She gets her ambition and determination from me, as well as her good grades. Tempe also shares some traits with myself (something which scares me). Ambition, long memory (especially for wrongs done), determination, extensive planning, strategic skills, love of being what people don't expect. We differ in that I've got morals. She doesn't. 

11. Do you have a playlist or certain song for your novel and/or characters?
Yep! There are a lot of songs from Nox Arcana, with a smattering of other artists. Each song has been assigned to a scene which it fits best, or which feature predominately a character it fits best. For instance, "Say Something" cover by Pentatonix is assigned to a scene when Gabriel is begging Mara to stop all her badness before she goes too far. He's looking for something to show him that she's redeemable.

12. Let's have some fun for a moment: imagine you are somehow transported to your book's world. Which character are you most likely to be found hanging out with?
Although I'd like to say that I'd be a kind soul and go speak to Mara, it isn't likely. More likely, Gabriel would be his outgoing self and come hang out with shy me, because he's nice like that.

13. How do you keep yourself motivated to finish your daily word count? (Pinterest? Internet breaks? Chocolate?)
I frequently check my facebook writing group to see what other people are up to (seeing large word counts inspires, seeing low ones makes me realize what I've done). I eat Halloween candy. I laugh at the very writer-cliche research and jokes fellow writers post on facebook. And I watch the graph on my NaNoWriMo page change, which is the most motivating thing of all. I also do lots of number calculations to re-estimate my end word count goal (It's gone down by about twenty thousand - I think I'll only have a couple thousand to write after I cross the NaNo goal, so I'm now aiming to finish the whole thing by December 1st). Setting goals and having new ambitions keeps me motivated pretty well.

14. What inspiring quote keeps you writing?
I don't really get a lot out of writing quotes, but I do have one that has stuck with me because it reminds me that I've got no excuse (aside from no time) not to write.
I understand that writer's block is a difficulty for writers. I'm not saying that I think this difficulty is a load of nonsense. Nevertheless, it is not an excuse to give up or put a pause on writing until the "muse" comes back. I believe that writer's block is just something that you have to work to end. I don't want any excuses, from myself or anyone else.

15. How does his book make you feel so far? Are you laughing? Crying? Frustrated?
So far, excited. I just can't wait to finish it and get all of my ideas down on paper. I've also felt immense "awwww!" moments, surprise, and tension as I watch Mara journey. It has also made me hate Ace with a passion. And Victoire. And to some degree, Tempe, because I can see some of my own usually "good" traits being used by her for evil. Maybe that scares me a little. It makes me grateful that I know what my values and beliefs are, thanks to my Lord and His Word.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Epic Relationship Between Music and Writing

Ah, the daunting topic of music and writing. *sighs in satisfaction and leans back comfortably* There are a few different opinions on music and how it can tie in to your writing, so I'll just tell you my own thoughts. I believe that music, as long as you know what works for you and your writing process, can definitely help your writing along in several ways.

Music can inspire you.

This is true whether you're searching for fitting music for a work-in-progress or whether it's happened the other way around and the music inspired a story. 
To inspire, the music can have lyrics or not. What matters is that it leaves an impression on you or makes you feel something as you listen to it. There are songs with lyrics that do this (a few examples for me include "Angel With a Shotgun" by The Cab, "Everybody's Fool" by Evanescence, "Viva la Vida" by Coldplay, "Laura Palmer" by Bastille, "Shatter Me" by Lindsey Stirling, "Say Something" by Christina Aguilera, and "War" by Poets of the Fall), and then there are songs that accomplish this without lyrics ("This is the Future" by Epic North, "Good Morning, Jack" by Gabriel Hudson, and "Heroes May Cry" by Stefano Mocini are a few favorites). Some of the artists on Youtube even accompany their music with neat little videos or pictures which can aid in the plot-bunny creation. 
I was browsing Youtube for new writing music to accompany a character who has a fantasy Middle-East sort of background and came across a song which inspired a full-blooded scene. Its lyrics were in some Arabian language, but it sounded like the kind of music a tribe of Bedouins would sing together at a celebration out in a desert oasis around a campfire. I could picture where all my characters would be, what they would be doing, and I even could picture the character with the Middle-East-ish background singing a certain section of the song and the expression on his face as he did so.
If you are searching for music to create your own little playlist for your WIP, then I'm afraid I can't help you. You know what music will best help you write.

Music can set the tone of your scene.

Do you realize why movies have soundtracks? It's because sometimes setting and dialogue and action can't convey enough emotion to give the movie sufficient punch. The music can make you feel uneasy in a way that a dark room and a scared-looking actress can't. It can make you lean forward in your seat during that fight scene, which would be pretty boring if it was just a bunch of actors banging swords around.
I have no idea who to credit for this. Oh well. I tried.
Now I ask: how often do you feel emotion as you write? Are they the emotions that you want your readers to feel as they read your novel? If you aren't feeling those emotions as you write those words, how are your readers supposed to feel them? Get yourself into the emotion of a scene by finding a song or soundtrack that could be used a background music for that scene if your novel was ever made into a movie. 
I usually use instrumental music, simply because I find that lyrical music can distract me from actually writing ("when I thought that I fought this war alone, you were there by my side on the front lines. . ." whoops, sorry, listening to a song as I write). That being said, lyrical music is sometimes too perfect to pass up as writing music. The lyrics perfectly summarize a scene, and the melody conveys the emotions beautifully. Perfect. As long as it won't distract you, use it!
I've put together an entire album of music in ITunes as a sort of "soundtrack" for my next work-in-progress. I assigned each song to a scene that I thought it fit best with, and then ordered them so that I could "listen" through my book. Each song also has a specifically chosen cover art (I raided Pinterest) which is either a quote summing up the message of a scene, a picture of something happening in that scene, or a picture which conveys the emotions in that scene. I also added parenthesized titles of my own to the original title of the songs, so that I could quickly identify which scene I assigned the song to. Now I have a beautiful musical representation of my novel. Whenever I play it, I instantly become excited and inspired to write that project. 
My "album" for my new WIP, Shadows & Light

Music can act as a tool to end writer's block.

I read it on another blog post about breaking writer's block a while ago. The theory is that your brain will respond to recognized stimuli by automatically shifting into "time to write" mode. If you have a certain song you listen to every time you sit down to write, after a while that song will become a trigger for your writing groove. Having issues with writer's block? Play the song and see if it helps. I have an entire album of music, as mentioned above, which automatically puts me in the swing of writing when I start playing the first track. 

Music can block out distractions.

I don't know about you peeps but sometimes there are too many distractions to seriously focus on writing. Your dad has the TV on, your baby brother is screaming and running around the house in circles, or the Starbucks guy has a voice that sounds like a guy narrating a commercial. Anything can be a distraction (especially fluffy cats prancing into the room, purring, then coming to stomp all over your keyboard and power button - still purring). Obviously, music can't help with the visual distractions (you'll have to figure out a solution to that yourself) but it can block out the audible ones if you've got a good pair of ear buds/sets/phones/whatever. Even if you think the music will just be another distraction, I find that it is easier to block out a single noise than a crowd of them. It's gotten to the point where I don't even think about it; I just open my laptop and plug in my ear buds and turn the volume up loud enough so that the music is all I can hear (don't do that if you have a baby you're supposed to be watching, or you're waiting for the cookies in the oven to finish baking and they'll burn if you don't hear the timer *firetruck sirens wail, getting louder, coming down your street. . .*). I hope not.

What are you habits in regards to listening to music while you write? How has it inspired or helped you?

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Recommendation: "The Art of SpeedReading People"

This post is not on the usual Tuesday. But this is not a usual post.

Turns out I should have left that post on Myers-Briggs & Characters until this Tuesday. I received a book I'd been waiting for in the mail yesterday which would have added some content to that post. The book? The Art of SpeedReading People: How to Size People Up and Speak Their Language by Paul D. Tieger and Barbara Barron-Tieger. This book basically goes over the Myers-Briggs Theory and tells you how you can determine people's types and then use that information to better communicate with them. I'm only one chapter in and I'm fascinated.
As I was reading the overview of the different functions (Introversion, Extroversion, Sensing, iNtuition, Thinking, Feeling, Perceiving, & Judging) and the questions the text asks you in order to determine your own type, I thought "Wow. I wish I'd had this when I wrote that post on Tuesday, because these questions are perfect for determining your characters' types." It seemed especially useful if you're the kind of person who finds it hard to get accurate results from an internet test.
I wish I could copy out that list of questions here, but alas, I must abide by copyright laws. I don't want to step on any toes. But for those of you who are interested in figuring out your characters' types, or just interesting in MBTI in general, check out this book.
I have nothing more to say. Go forth.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Characters & Myers-Briggs: Why and How?

When I told my non-writer family that I'd given my characters a personality test, they laughed at the idea. Then they realized I was serious. I had, for real, given personality tests to every character who plays a role in my work-in-progress. Like them, you may wonder: why on earth should you give fictional people a personality test? And how would you even go about doing such a thing if there was a valid reason?

Why on earth should you make your characters take the test?
If you know your character pretty well, the Myers-Briggs test can help you understand where a lot of his behaviors come from. You may think, "Oh, that's why he's clueless when it comes to so-and-so's feelings!" or "That's why he's such a perfectionist!"
If you don't know your character very well, running through an online Myers-Briggs quiz can help you get to know your character better. Once you've actually seen the results, you may be able to use the character's type to fill in some of the gaps. If your character is a P as opposed to a J, he probably prefers the "wing it" approach opposed to the detailed plan approach. You may be able to realize that since he's a Perceiver, he's also habitually messy, or doesn't really care if his outfit is color-coordinated. Knowing that your character is an extrovert and not an introvert will give you a basis as to how he'll act around people, and knowing that he's a T and not an F will tell you whether he trusts emotions enough to make a decision based on them.
For example, I gave Tyv, my protagonist, the test and his results were ISTJ (introverted, sensing, thinking, judging). After reading the type descriptions, I saw that ISTJs are known for their reliability and loyalty, for not being naturally in tune with others' emotions, and for their love of tradition and rules. While Tyv doesn't follow the law (there are always going to be exceptions for anyone trying to find their type), he does love routine and hates risks. He's ridiculously loyal and honest, and can be oblivious when it comes to emotion. Reading his type overview just made me realize that he had those traits, and now I can emphasize them as his redeeming traits.
On the other side, I gave another character named Gabriel the test, and got ENFP. Now I know a few ENFPs, and Gabriel doesn't act like they do. So I decided that he fit more in with the INFP profile. There are always going to be little instances like that. But you know what? Getting ENFP for Gabriel made me realize that he does have a huge passion for other people. Giving him the test let me get to know him better, even if I disagreed with a portion of the results.
So, giving your characters the Myers-Briggs test can be useful for developing them or understanding them.

Okay, but how are you supposed to give someone who isn't technically real a test?
In the past, I've taken the test for my characters by putting myself into their life. I read my character sketches over, read all my notes. Study my drawings and imagine their reactions to situations and people. Then, with all of that swirling inside me, I go to the online test and begin answering the questions. I don't think about them too much. I just start answering whatever feels right for that character swimming in my head. And by the end of it, I read over the results and decide if the type I got is really the most accurate. Most of the time it is.
But what if it isn't?  What if you begin reading the type description and think,  "Wait. None of this sounds right." In that case I always look closely at the description and really try to find similarities between it and my character. If I still fail to believe that the description is the best fit for my character I pick out which initials in the four letter code are wrong. With Gabriel, it was the extrovert part that I had an issue with. The rest was alright. So I went and read the introvert alternative, INFP. It seemed to fit much better, so I deemed the test results off and officially put Gabriel down as a INFP.
Sometimes,  I know,  it isn't that simple. Two or more initials are wrong. Well, I have a plan of action for you, too. Usually the sixteen types are divided into groups of four: the rationals (NTs), the idealists (NFs), the guardians (SJs), and the artisans (SPs). Read the group descriptions and decide which group you character fits best into. Easy, now you've got two initials settled. Now you just have to decide the other two. This will be a choice between introvert and extrovert, and then  perceiving or judging if your character is in the first two groups or thinking or feeling if he was in the last two. 

Let me also point out that you don't need to be certain of your character's type.
Many real people swing between types, even between groups. The object of all this is to gain a better understanding of your character. If you know that he prefers to wing it like a perciever but finds stability in rules like a judger, that's fine! You've still gained some understanding of how he behaves and thinks, so the purpose of the test has been achieved.

Another few disclaimers:
Beware turning generalities into rules. While it is true that some of the basic "facts" are very accurate regarding a certain type, facts often get distorted and set down as a rule. "Research shows that ESTJs often love sports" and "ESTJs all love sports" are two different statements.
And. . .
Beware the stereotypes. True, I get a great amount of enjoyment from the stereotype humor out there. But the stereotype is often not the reality. I'll use an example from my own type, INTJ, because it is the type I know the most about (stands to reason, I suppose).  "INTJ's are emotionless robots" is a immensely popular falsehood circulating about us INTJs.
Really? Who on earth started this? Just because INTJs are known for being detached, uber-introverted (some would say anti-social, but that is another topic for another day), logical, and hard to read does not mean we are emotionless. I'll let you all know that INTJs can be very emotional - we just try to base our decisions on dependable logic rather than those emotions, and we like our privacy so we tend not to advertise our emotions for all to see.
See what I mean? Now, there are stereotypical types of people out there, who would probably make wonderfully entertaining characters. But base your type knowledge (and character typing) on the facts, not the exaggerations or rumors. And lastly. . .

Type is not all there is to it.
The Myers-Briggs test describes basic behaviors - it doesn't dictate everything about people. Far from it, in fact. People have different abilities, likes, vices, family issues, weaknesses, appearances, histories, and dislikes which all affect who they are as a person. Your character should, too. The Myers-Briggs test is just one thing that you can add to your characters to make them as layered and multidimensional as possible.

What about you? Have you ever given your character the Myers-Briggs test? Why? What did you learn, if anything, about your character through it?

A few other useful/fun links:
Post-Apocalyptic Survival by Type (warning: if you enjoy a slightly wacky sense of humor this will keep you occupied for hours).

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Beautiful Books: NaNoWriMo Plotting Questionare

I came across this...thing (eloquent, I know) while perusing some blogs of fellow writers. Check out what the "thing" is here. Quick summary so you can understand what the rest of this post is about: the blog I linked to above is going to post a list of questions once a month for three months. Each list of questions relates to NaNoWriMo. The first list of questions relates to planning (October); the second, writing (November itself); the third, editing (for December). The object is to get other bloggers to answer the questions and post them, so that the bloggers can get a good handle on their NaNo novels. After posting their answers, the bloggers "link up" on the main page.
So mostly because I couldn't think of much else to post today it will help me with my novel, I decided to participate.

Question #1: What came first: characters or plot idea? Are you a plotter or a pantser?
First off, I am most definitely a plotter. This doesn't seem to be the normal modus operandi of most writers on the internet, but it's how I like it. Second, what do you mean? Character and plots are separable? Usually it comes to me in a package: abnormal main character along with an issue (the start of a plot).

Question #2: Do you have a title and/or a "back cover blurb"?
Yes! I can't seem to get myself to start plotting out an entire novel before I have a title. I need something to call my project apart from "the second book" or "the-one-with-the-villain-main-character-and-the-magicky-world." And I wrote out a synopsis and excerpt-style blurb for my NaNo novel page (which can be found both on my Projects page on this blog or on my NaNo site, which has a button somewhere in the right sidebar).

Question #3: What wordcount are you aiming for when your novel is finished?
Well, I counted my planned chapters and then multiplied that by my average wordcount per chapter for my last novel, Taken (You didn't believe me when I said I'm a planner, did you? Do you believe me now?). I came up with the estimate of 77,000 words. So I suppose that is my goal, though if how things went last time the rough draft will end up quite a bit longer than my estimate.

Question #4: Sum up your novel in three sentences.
First off, let me just point out that that wasn't technically a question (I'm an INTJ, can you tell?). Still, I shall oblige.
A girl is born Destined to murder, and is ostracized for it, but she plows through high school regardless in the hopes that she can beat her Destiny. Her twin brother reveals that he doesn't believe in her; she is subsequently deemed a sorceress for using magic illegally and she runs away from home. Her life spirals into chaos as she tries to get revenge on her brother.

Question #5: Sum up your characters in one word each.
Again, not a question! But this should be an interesting exercise nevertheless.
Mara Harrod: Driven.
Julian "Ace" Harrod: Learning.
Tempe Donoghue: Vengeful.
Gabriel Young: Encouraging.

Question #6: Which character are you most excited to write? Tell us about him!
Well, boy...I don't know. I love all my major characters, because they each have good traits and bad traits and issues. I think they'll all be interesting.
I'll answer Tempe, though. Her character is so darkly intense.

As far as character summary, I'll start by telling you her Myers-Briggs type: ENTJ. Same as me, but extroverted. Honestly, I think that ENTJs have the scariest personality stereotype, but that's just me - other people would probably say INTJ (we do have most of the movie villains).
Tempe is poisoned, I think you could say. She started out at a good spot in life, but when she was sidelined by the Mage League (sort of like a magical law enforcement that deals solely with magical criminals) she grew resentful. Then she fell in love with a sorcerer (someone who uses magic illegally) and was persuaded to betray the Mage League and become a sorceress herself.
As I said before, she is intense. Whatever goal she has in mind is sure to be big, and she'll have a step-by-step plan for getting there, too. She doesn't care what she has to do to achieve her ambitions, and she enjoys exerting control over other people. She'll use her appearance, magic, words - whatever tools are at her disposal. She is an extrovert, though, so she does enjoy being with people. This doesn't necessarily mean she has to be on good relations with those people, though. She'll gain energy arguing with someone while magic flies. However, I will point out that she was genuinely pleased to meet Mara and persuade Mara to illegally learn to use magic. She enjoys the companionship.
Tempe enjoys dramatics, especially in regards to appearance. She's a tall woman, but she emphasizes her height even more by wearing stiletto heel goth boots.She'll swap her outfits between goth ball gowns and bomber jackets with leggings. I presume she enjoys shopping in costume stores.
Last fact about her: she carries a black scorpion that she tamed with magic on her shoulder.

Question #7: What about your villain? Who is he, and what is his goal?
Okay, this is where this project is interesting. My villain is my MC, Mara. Yeah, a villain protagonist. It took me a while to work out the kinks that causes as far as character arc advise.
Mara starts out in the first act as a girl who the world has wronged. However, she is virtuous and idealistic. See, her situation was this; she was born Destined to murder. But she believes that she can ignore her Destiny and live life without ever fulfilling her Destiny, something that the rest of society believes is utter nonsense. Everyone around her either fears her or treats her like dirt. But she holds fast to her beliefs despite the naysayers all around. She even stands up for her twin brother, Julian, who has an awesome Destiny but gets the usual jealousy taunts.

She ends up meeting a disguised Tempe, who persuades her to start learning magic illegally. Eventually Mara grows more and more bitter to the world as she spends more and more time in Tempe's company, everything culminating when Ace (his birth name is Julian, but he prefers to be called Ace - it confuses me since I switch back and forth) reveals that he can be lumped in with the rest of the naysayers. Mara runs away and vows to get revenge on Ace and basically everyone else.

Question #8: What is your protagonist's goal? And what stands in the way?
Okay, remember I said things could get confusing with a villain protagonist? This question is an example. I'll sub out "protagonist" for "hero," since. . .well, you get it. My hero, in my topsy-turvy plot, is my antagonist, Julian "Ace" Harrod, Mara's twin brother.

Basically he comes to the realization that he played a huge part in sending Mara off to villainy-world, and feels guilty about all that since she begins wreaking havoc and mayhem all over the place. Partly because of the guilt, and partly because Mara is after him specifically, Julian (told you I swap around) makes it his personal mission to stop Mara's rampage. Some difficulties he faces in this include the death of...ehem, someone close to him; inferior magical skill compared to Mara herself; inability to locate Mara and Tempe's hideout; and his own arrogance.

Question #9: What inciting incident begins your protagonist's journey?
Another question's meaning twisted by my strange set up of character roles. This time I will take "protagonist" literally, so: Mara.
Inciting incident. Hmm. I suppose it is when Mara truly begins spending a lot of time with Tempe, when she accepts Tempe's offer of learning magic. Tempe begins to influence Mara in some decidedly not good ways, and Mara begins to experiment with using the fear her Destiny creates to get what she wants. All of which lead up to the midpoint, when Mara swears to get revenge on Ace.

Question #10: Where is your novel set?
A tiny fictional town in western Virginia (state subject to change - perhaps to somewhere in the North East) called Creektown (title subject to change). Very small population, very remote location either in or beside the Appalachian mountains. The novel starts in September and moves right up to Christmas, so the weather goes from fall to winter.
Some other settings include the Creektown high school, the Appalachian mountains, and the Harrod household.

Question #11: What are the three big scenes in your novel that change the game completely?
First plot point: Mara agrees to begin illegally learning magic under Tempe's tutelage.
Second plot point: Mara gets into an argument with Ace, accidentally shows off her newly acquired magical talents, swears revenge on Ace, and runs away from home with Tempe.
Third plot point: Mara's bskjdfnorngvgverlgiunevonevsobeoivnesdfn. Can't tell you. Major spoilers. Let's just say it sends Mara into a tailspin.

Question #12: What is the most dynamic relationship your character has? Who else do they come into contact with or become close to during the story?
I presume you mean my main character. *raised eyebrow*
Dynamic? Hmm. Difficult. I don't know about dynamic, but certainly the most crucial relationship Mara has at the beginning of the book is her relationship with her only friend, Gabriel. They met when they were still very young, young enough that Gabriel didn't fully understand the circumstances surrounding Mara's life. Then when he figured everything out, he didn't abandon her like she feared. Instead he showed up at her house with a bar of chocolate and a handful of wildflowers tied with a yellow ribbon (her favorite color) to prove that he had no intentions of going anywhere. Through the years, he has defended her from anyone and everyone, while simultaneously listening to her secret doubts and fears and encouraging her to keep going. Honestly, this sums it all up:

I won't deny that I ship the two of them so. darn. hard. And I'm not usually a sap for romance.
As far as people she grows closer to, the obvious one is Tempe. That woman just about took over the role Gabriel played in Mara's life, except she was a dark influence instead of a light one. Another character I feel like I should mention is the Harrods' golden retriever, Lancelot. Over the course of the story he is separated from Mara and then reunited with her, and she can open up to him like she can to no one else besides Gabriel (we all know we can do that with our pets). But he is also a symbol of changing loyalty throughout the book, which I find interesting. He sort of just nuzzled his way in.

Question #13: How does your protagonist change by the end of the novel?
Again I'll sub out "protagonist" for "hero," since I already covered Mara pretty thoroughly on this point.
Let me explain this first: Ace is the name I tend to use when I think of his personality in the first portion of the book, while Julian is the name I associate with his personality towards the end of the book. This is partially because as he changes for the better, he starts using his birth name and acting more responsibly in general.
So, I'll talk about the Ace version first.
Ace is arrogant, superior, popular, over-confident, and vain. Not very likable at all. He's the one who sent Mara downhill, the one who is largely responsible for the chaos that ensued.
Julian is who Ace becomes as he works to stop Mara and comes to understand his own role in events. Julian still retains the popularity, but the arrogance changes to confidence, the superiority changes to humility and respect. Essentially, he matures. He accepts that he wasn't a good person and he walks around bearing a lot of guilt for what went down between himself and Mara, and for what happened to a lot of people in the process.
In a more physical sense, Ace/Julian changes from a Apprentice Mage and high school student to a graduated Mage leading his own team in a quest for justice. Pretty sweet.

Question #14: Do you have an ending in mind, or do you plan to see what happens?
I'm an INTJ plotter. What do you think?
I'll admit it took me a while to decide on an ending, but eventually I settled on a version of events that will allow me to write a sequel, which I have a vague idea of plot for but as of yet, no outline. That will come soon enough. ^ ^

Question #15: What are your hopes and dreams for your book? What impressions are you hoping this novel will leave on readers and yourself?
The impression this story idea has made on me is the same one I want it to have on readers. I want this novel to make people realize that, in the words of C. S. Lewis, "Suspicion often creates what it suspects." I hope that Mara's story will make people realize that everything we say and do to others can have a huge impact. People often aren't totally in control of their own lives, both their circumstances and their reactions. Outside influences are a heavy part of how we behave. I want people to realize that we all need to show love and kindness to everyone we meet, no matter how undesirable or unlovable those people may be, because if we're not, we could be a catalyst for something terrible. I don't think many people want to be that; I just hope that reading this will make them realize the importance of how we treat others.