Tuesday, August 18, 2015

What Doesn't Help Writer's Block . . . Plus a Dash of Motivation

(Alright, this post started out as a "I'm stuck in a hole and can anyone relate" and somehow turned into the motivational speech of a drill sergeant - read on at your own risk).
I'll say it right out: if you're anything like me, you can not stop writing unless you admit that you will stay stopped for a very long time. 
Has anyone experienced this besides me? You're plowing along, writing happily, making lots of progress, and then suddenly something happens to break your flow. Motivation goes AWOL, you hit what seems like an unfixable plot hole, or life itself throws you a plot twist. Point it, you get stopped dead in the water.
And then you can't get the boat's engine to start again. Maybe you make a few valiant attempts to restart that writing streak you were on - a hundred words here, a thousand there. But no matter what you do you can't seem to get back into that flow. You're stranded, all forward momentum lost, and you want to just give up because hey, if you can't do it then that's that, right?

If you've ever been there, gosh, I feel you. Because confession time, right now that is where I am. With writing (yeah, two projects and I haven't touched either since Camp NaNoWriMo flopped) and with blogging. Truth is, my writing motivation went AWOL sometime in July and hasn't shown signs of returning and I've had no time at all to write blog posts lately because, haha guess what, I'm starting college on Friday, and that means shopping and packing and paperwork and banks and emails and phone calls and general stress.
A blog sort of begins to feel like a very tiny priority in the middle of all that.
*flops onto floor and cries*
"So what can be done about this situation?" I ask myself. Well, I could have forced myself not to stop writing despite all my craziness but that would have probably been bad for my mental health. Truth is, there are more important things than writing and blogging and we all need to make sure we have our priorities straight. Things like family, life responsibilities, friends in need, and keeping up a relationship with God are much more important than writing up two to three blog posts a week and over a thousand words of a novel a day. While it may be nice to fool around with some lighthearted writing in the midst of all that to give your poor overworked self a break, it isn't okay to put your writing schedule over things that are going to really impact your life significantly like education and your relationships (unless writing is actually your job . . . then it gets a little more importance).
Okay, that's pretty obvious, but what about actually getting out of a writing stall?
Well I only have one answer I can think of, honestly. And I'm sorry, it doesn't involve sitting around procrastinating while waiting for your away-without-leave motivation to come back, or for the inspiration to hit and get your going after that life plot twist. Because guess what? In all likelihood those things will not come back unless you make them come back. You have to take action if you want to get out of your writer's block. It's your writing and guess what, you're the one who has to make the move to get going again. Those attempts to get back into the writing groove? You can't stop no matter how pathetic they seem. Those times when you've got nothing else to do but decide to browse Pinterest instead of write, even though the idea of writing is niggling at the back of your brain? Guess what, Pinterest probably won't help either - but opening up that word document and forcing yourself to start typing something - anything - could.
It's great to tell yourself that maybe you'll see a pin that will add to your story and give you more ideas to work with. Sure, sometimes that happens, but what are the chances? More likely than getting hit with a brilliant bolt of wonderful writing-inducing inspiration you'll end up wasting two or three hours looking at jokes. You'll be no further along and you won't feel proud of yourself afterwards.
You can be proud if you do the hard thing and face that novel though. It doesn't matter if you only write a hundred words. Who cares if you're not doing as well as you once were. Point is that you are DOING it.
It will be painful. It will make you want to throw your laptop across the room in frustration because the words just won't come. It may even make you cry and want to quite writing completely but you cannot give up because giving up gets you nowhere and that novel, no matter how much work it needs, does not deserve to be abandoned. You owe it to yourself - for all the hard work you've already put in, and for the satisfaction you'll have when that thing is finally moving along again - to keep going.
So what are you doing here? What am I doing here! Let's WRITE!

Oh um, but if you could take a moment to pop over here and leave a few questions for Mara that would be much appreciated.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Characters Interviews: Ask Mara Harrod

So the first thing you'll notice is that the blog looks quite a bit different . . . and that is because a wonderful girl named Niki Agoston redesigned my blog for me! Big round of applause! Thanks so much, Niki!

But now, it is time for another character interview! This one is going to be a little different . . . Mara is a unique character because really, there are two versions of her. Her character arc is so drastic that, depending on the time period we're talking about, she's pretty much two different people. For that reason, although I'm only taking questions once . . . I'm going to post two interviews. The first one will be Mara at the beginning of her arc -
- and the second will be Mara at the end of her arc.
Drawn by Annika Smith.
You can address questions to either version of Mara or to both, but since I know her storyline I reserve the right to choose which questions get applied where to make the interviews good. Got it? Okay, here is Mara's bio.

Mara Ebony Harrod was my original protagonist in Shadows and Light, despite her character type actually being more along the lines of "villain" as opposed to "hero." She is about 5'2", has naturally silver hair, and at the start of the book she is a little younger than eighteen years old and trying to finish up her high school education. Her dream is to be a neurosurgeon and she is hopefully applying to colleges, but isn't having any luck in getting accepted because of her Destiny.
Speaking of which, Destiny is the major influence on Mara's life, just as it is in her twin brother Ace's. Mara's birthmark makes it look like she is crying blood, and the Destiny it symbolizes is (simply put) that she will kill someone. For this reason she is rejected everywhere she goes - she can't make friends, can't get a job, can't get a volunteer position at the hospital, can't can't can't. Her Destiny throws up roadblocks at every turn but Mara has been doing her best to fight it since she was old enough to comprehend her situation. She fiercely defends the idea that she can live her life without fulfilling her Destiny, despite the fact that no one has ever been known to do something like that. Her only friend Gabriel Young encouraged her in that dream.
Mara even styled her appearance to contradict the impression made by her Destiny. Her favorite outfits (at least as first) were frilly skirts and tanktops and flip flops. She never wore eyeliner for fear she'd look too gothic. Her favorite color is pale yellow. At this point in life Mara is an optimistic but emotionally unstable INFP.
After Mara met Tempe is when things began to change. Mara began to let the bitterness created by repeated rejections take over her determined positivity when Gabriel had to leave for a multi-week time period and Mara was left with Tempe as the only person who seemed to be befriending her. Mara even agreed to start learning illegal magic in this time period to empower herself to stand up to Ace, should she need it.
Arguments with family, bullying at school, Gabriel's absence, and college rejections snowballed along with Tempe's subversive influence to make Mara snap, creating the bitter and dark sorceress she is at the end of the book. She starts dressing in dark reds and blacks to highlight her birthmark instead of trying to hide it. She becomes obsessed with getting revenge on the world which rejected her. She mentally replaces her real family with Tempe. And she becomes Tempe's apprentice in waging a two-woman war on the Mage League (still working on renaming that by the way). 
At the end her Myers-Briggs type isn't even the same - she becomes ISFP when she loses her idealism.

Remember, there will be two interviews, one for INFP Mara and another for ISFP Mara. As I said above, address questions to either one individually or two both. You don't have as much time to ask questions this time around, since I'll be at college in two weeks. Therefore, you've got a week to get questions in. Then I'll use the next week to get the interviews finalized and they'll be  scheduled to post the week after questions close. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Fear: What, Why, When, and How

Tomorrow (today by the time this is published) I am having my wisdom teeth removed. This got me thinking about fear, and namely, how different people experience fear in different ways. (Yes, I intend you to apply this to character creation).

Take my own upcoming experience. I could be scared about being put to sleep using anesthesia, or about having a doctor I don't know making incisions inside my mouth, or about something going wrong during surgery. However, I find myself scared of how I'll be affected by the pain medication I'll be on after the surgery itself, because I am scared I will lose a certain amount of control over myself. Although right now I am not feeling nervous, I probably will be tomorrow right before I go to sleep for the procedure. If things happen as per normal, I will feel those nerves first through my stomach and those physical sensations will clue me in to the fact that I'm actually nervous at all.
So there are three main things to take note of there:
  1. What the person is scared of and why
  2. When they will feel the effects of their fear/nerves
  3. How they will feel their anxiety
So let's talk about point one. Everyone has different core fears. One of mine is lack of control - from that core fear comes my fear and/or dislike of boats, ice-skating, letting people see me when I'm overly tired, and being put on medication which is known to make people a little crazy. If you identify even one core fear for a character you can find multiple surface fears to use in the story to torture them  to advance the character arc!
Point two - everyone gets hit by nerves at different times. They could obsess over an upcoming stressor for months or feel fine right up until they are actually facing their fear head-on. They could have "moments" for weeks ahead of time when they suddenly feel scared and then they feel fine again, or they could live with a constant sense of fear for a long period of time. When would your character be feeling the effects of his fear?
And now we come to three. People feel fear in a myriad of different ways. Some get nauseous, I get gassy, some get shaky, some just start snapping at people verbally, while in others it will be completely unnoticeable until they break down either in public or in private.
Brainstorm and figure out how your character feels fear uniquely.

I am sorry this post is so short today. It was last minute and I don't have time to add anything more to it before my surgery. 

What are some of your characters' core fears? And what are some more surface fears that stem from them? What about the timing? Also, how is your character affected mentally and physically? 

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B, Half Blood

Finally, another book review post! These books weren't even read this week but over the course of July. Rather pitiful as there are only three but . . . no, stop looking at me like that! I've been reading a nonfiction behemoth in preparation for college instead! . . . *grumbles* Let's get on with this.

Reading an old book is always an odd experience for me. The descriptive and advanced vocabulary words and complex sentence structure make the writing style is always so different from the concise and simple words and sentences pushed as good writing nowadays. With my head attuned to the modern novel it can be hard to understand or even enjoy a classic. So understand that when I give this book five stars, it is for completely different reasons than I would award a more modern book the same rating.
So, why did it get five stars from me? At points I had trouble understanding sentences or was a little lost as to what was being described. However, I think that that is my fault (or maybe the culture's) and not Stevenson's.
I gave Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde five stars because I WILL NOT FORGET IT. Unlike many books that I pick up, avidly enjoy, but then forget within a year or two, this is a book I won't be able to forget despite that it wasn't a thrill ride or an emotional roller coaster. Instead, it explored a very hard to answer question: what is human nature? We all wonder what makes up identity and about the balance of good and evil in us, and it is because of this that the story if Jekyll and Hyde is so fascinating.
Are we largely good, or largely evil?
How much control do we have over ourselves when we are tempted?
How many faces can an individual wear, and which is his "real" self?
If you want to explore those questions, read this classic. It isn't that long (the actual story is less than 100 pages).
(Five stars.)

WHAT EVEN. I enjoyed the book completely but the ending left me very VERY confused. I feel like Toten should have taken more time at the end to wrap things up more because now I have no idea how Adam is doing or ANYTHING and this bugs me, but I suppose the fact that it bugs me is evidence of how good the rest of the book is.
This book was about a teen guy with OCD who has a "love at first sight" experience. His parents are divorced (mother is a hoarder and his father is remarried) and he is beginning attendance at an OCD support group where he meets Robyn. The whole book was very cute but serious at the same time and was a fantastic read. 
Just . . . the ending. Ugh.
Go read it yourself.
(Four stars.)

First off, I loved the chance to know Jace's backstory. It made his character so much more real. Second, the book was well-paced and didn't lose my interest. I liked reading it and it was enjoyable.
However, I was expecting something more. I'm not sure what but this short book didn't really pop. I feel like Knight may have been hesitant to get dark, so I felt like the book lacked some of the depth and emotion I was hoping for.
That said this really does add to my perception of Jace as a character in the Ilyon Chronicles series - I just don't think it would do well if it had no other books linked to it. It was a good short backstory novel but I don't find myself with all that much to say apart from if you like the Ilyon Chronicles you'll probably enjoy this short book. I give it three stars.

Not a fantastic reading month but not a terrible one as far as quality of books go. Any of these familiar to you? What's your opinion?

Friday, August 7, 2015

Unpopular Opinions Tag

I am very sorry for missing the Tuesday post. While I apparently was prepared for July I am not prepared at all for August. Bear with me.
Opal over at Opal Swirls tagged me for the Unpopular Opinions tag, which I've been watching going around the blogosphere and have been itching to get into because I'd like to display some rebellion against bookish culture because why not. So thank you for the tag, Opal.

A Popular Book/Series You Didn't Like
So everyone seems to adore this book. All reviews are good and I haven't seen anyone complain. And I can't complain about most of the book either, but I absolutely HATED the ending. Despised it with all my being. At the time, though, I thought it was a stand-alone novel. Now I realize that there is a second book out and I'm going to read it to see if the series will redeem itself.
The Mortal Instruments also fits into this category.

A Popular Book/Series Everyone Hates but You Love
I don't think that there is really any book but Twilight that is popular but everyone hates. That kind of thing shouldn't be possible . . . *ehem* anyway. So this book isn't popular - it's pretty unknown, actually, but it gets a lot of reviews saying it is too dry or too boring. But I remember finding it at a used book sale and devouring it, despite historical fiction not really being my thing. It's about a mute Briton boy in the time of the Norman invasions of England. I absolutely love this book and frequently reread the very memorable parts.

A Love Triangle Where the Protagonist Ended Up With the Person You Didn't Want Them to Be With
I mentioned this love triangle two weeks ago in my post on the YA love triangle cliche. I was so unhappy about the result of this love triangle but I saw it coming from a mile away . . . basically I thought the guy she ended up with was just a bad choice morally all around. Unwise, plus I didn't think the triangle was well done in the first place.

A Popular Genre You Hardly Read
Technically this isn't even a real genre, but a sub-genre. Still, at one point it had it's own section of shelves at Barnes & Noble so I think it counts. I have tried to read one or two books in this category but I couldn't finish them. (City of Bones by Cassandra Clare and I tried The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater, but there was witchcraft/seance type stuff in it and I try to stay away from that kind of content. I didn't finish City of Bones either.) My issue with this genre isn't the paranormal stuff like vampires - it is the romance and the witchcraft. I've formed a few more reading rules since I read Hex Hall (above) and at this point I wouldn't have even read that trilogy.

A Popular/Beloved Character You Dislike
Every Character Except Fang from Maximum Ride.They seemed too . . . annoying. I didn't like Nudge, or Gazzy, or Angel, or even Max. Maybe the audiobook's voices turned me off but I just couldn't enjoy any of them. Fang was the only character I was even marginally interested in. Once they got to the arctic and became a load of kids taking care of penguins my patience expired and I ditched the series.
I also am not a fan of Hazel from The Fault in Our Stars. I read the first few pages and her attitude was extremely off-putting. 

A Popular Author You Can't Seem to Get Into
There are a lot of these. However I rarely try more than one book because if I read a book and it was uninteresting enough that I'll drop it it isn't likely I'll pick up another by the same author. 
  • Cassandra Clare (dropped The City of Bones)
  • James Patterson (dropped Maximum Ride after three or four books, dropped Confessions of a Murder Suspect because it got me freaked out)
  • John Green (dropped The Fault in Our Stars because Hazel's attitude gave me a bad attitude)
  • Maggie Steifvater (tried The Raven Boys but put it down due to communing with the dead and other magic which struck too closely to real witchcraft for my comfort)
  • Becca Fitzpatrick (put down Black Ice because I hated the idiocy and niavete of the two female characters within fifty pages, bought Hush, Hush used but haven't stirred the interest to pick it up and read it yet)

A Popular Trope You're Tired of Reading
"*insert uncommon/made-up female name here* *insert normal but rare family name here* is a normal girl who lives in a society where everyone must do blank and blank is against the law. *uncommon/made-up female name* goes along with the system until she meets the mysterious *insert exotic male name here*, who shows her that everything is not as it seems." (Blah blah blah.) 
"But then she meets *insert second exotic male name which no father would think was masculine here* and begins to fall for him. Her heart and her loyalties are torn. What will she ever do?" 
Poor girl - actually, I couldn't care less. Every time I see a back cover blurb that resembles this in the slightest I re-shelve the book immediately. So. Done. And what is with the main focus of fantasy and dystopias being romance nowadays anyway? If I wanted a main plot of romance I'd go into the romance genre!

A Popular Series You Have No Interest in Reading
There are many -
 - but that list will have to do for now.

A Show/Movie Adaptation You Liked Better Than the Book
I just mentioned I didn't get very far into The Fault In Our Stars and didn't like the few pages I did read. I did like the movie, though. Quite liked it, actually.

A Popular Style of Cover That You Can't Stand
I realize those look quite different but I'm tired of the streaky light and/or tech theme. Think of something more original for sci-fi, please.

All the blogs I follow have already done this tag - I'm late to the party. So I'll just open it up to anyone who thinks it would be a fun thing to do. If you do do it, leave a link to your post in the comments!

Well that was a long tag! I have a few more to do which got neglected during July but maybe they're short enough to combine into a single post so the rest of August's Friday posts aren't taken up with tags and I can get to that character interview I mentioned. *takes moment to catch breath after long sentence*

Have you read any of these? What were your thoughts? Any of them I should try to give a second chance? What is a trope you're tired of hearing about? How about genres - what is your favorite and what is one you stay away from?