Archive for April, 2013

Tragedy seems to be striking us – as people, not just as Americans – more and more each day. Or maybe we’re just becoming more aware of it considering how connected everyone is to the world these days.

There’s a lot to be said about the Boston bombings. There’s a lot that has already been said. But words, in my opinion, don’t console people in this type of situation. Therefore, all I will say is that I was as surprised, shocked, horrified, and saddened as everyone else. And leave it at that. I’ll be following the news and keeping everyone in my thoughts. There’s no point in turning this post into another memorial for the victims. My philosophy is to mourn and move on as best we can, but to also never forget. The best of life comes from those moments you don’t think you can get through. And only by moving on can we get to that point.

Young Bruce Wayne after his parents were murdered

Young Bruce Wayne after his parents were murdered

So, the topic today, while still related, is about something else. It’s about the fact that it’s important for us to realize fictional violence is a completely separate matter from real violence.

Chuck Wendig, writer and blogger extraordinaire, wrote a post titled “A thrown fist always hurts the hand” that really got me thinking about this, and although he took the words right out of my mouth (and probably used them better than I would have), I thought I’d add my voice to the air.

In particular, it was this passage that struck me:

Someone then responded on Twitter with an interesting question of whether or not I feel bad about the violence in my fiction, and my thought then and now was, well, that’s a bit different, isn’t it? Violence in fiction is, first of all, fiction. But it’s generally expected — we read a crime novel or a horror novel, that violence is usually part and parcel. And in the realm of fiction, violence can be framed by context and informed by consequence.

One of the writers I edit for ran into a similar situation in one of his novels. There was a section where several kids were gunned down. He wrote it before Sandy Hook, but he e-mailed me after the tragedy and asked my opinion. “Should I take that section out?”

My answer was a pretty resounding no. It might be a harsh reality, but if we took out parts of our story every time something happened, we’d have nothing left of our book. Art imitates life, and so readers have to expect violence is going to crop up in a lot of novels. Every genre and every category, except maybe picture books for children, will have violence.

That’s not to say we shouldn’t be careful. There’s definitely a possibility of stepping over a line. But feeling guilty about putting violence in your story is like feeling guilty for putting romance in your story. Will everyone enjoy it? Maybe not. Is it necessary? It depends on the story. Will it offend some people? Oh, absolutely.

Beatrix Kiddo

Beatrix Kiddo avenging her near death

But here’s the thing. Heroes are born of tragedy and pain. Violence in stories serve to bring someone down so low that you’re unsure they’ll ever be able to make it out of their hell hole. And then when they do, it makes it more fulfilling. Static characters are boring. Having to deal with all that suffering makes readers empathize with the characters and consequently cheer for them when they finally make it to the top.

One final thought: violence in fiction does not mean the author supports violence in reality. I guess this is the point I’m really trying to drive home. Just because a writer has a character that tortures people for information doesn’t mean they believe in torture. Just because their hero goes around killing criminals doesn’t mean they think real life people should go around taking justice into their own hands.

That’s why it’s called fiction.

Violence in fiction is a means to an end. It has a calculated purpose, and that is to make the character change and evolve and ultimately end up being the best version of themselves by the end of the book. Readers and writers alike should realize that fictional violence and real violence are two completely different things. If you’re uncomfortable with violence in your books, that’s completely fine. Find another book, another genre, or another writer. There’s no harm in that. But making someone feel ashamed of the story they’ve written because it’s gritty and realistic is out of line. It truly has nothing to do with real world events, and I hope no one out there bends themselves over backwards to please people who, frankly, will probably never be pleased no matter what you do.

What do you think?

Advertisements

Why Twitter is awesome for writers

Posted: April 15, 2013 in Writing
Tags: ,

Twitter

Sure, you can go for the obvious in that it’s a great way to connect with other writers, as well as your audience. And, yeah. That’s totally true. But I love Twitter for another reason.

Simplicity.

Some of you may argue that fact, but I’m not talking about simplicity of use. I’m talking about the fact that it causes us to simplify our sentences, to get to the bare minimum truth of what we’re trying to say. We must condense our words. Minimize. Purify.

This is something that I’ve always struggled with. If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, you’ll know this to be true. I don’t always go for the direct approach. I tend to ramble. This isn’t a terrible thing, but ambiguity isn’t exactly the mark of a great writer.

Twitter makes me pause and look over what I’m trying to say. 140 characters isn’t a whole lot to work with. I tend to throw in words I don’t need. Instead of thinking about which verb would paint a stronger picture, I tend to write out a phrase that isn’t as full of imagery.

As a writer, that’s not a habit you want to hold onto.

Sure, rewriting my tweets can be time consuming. I could just send out two tweets instead of one. It’ll get my point across. People will read them and probably not think anything more about them than what I’m trying to say. My followers probably don’t even take stock of how I’m saying something. They just notice what I’m saying.

But that’s no excuse.

Twitter presents the opportunity to challenge ourselves. It gives us a set limit – absolutely no more than 140 characters. It’s a fair amount. You can say quite a bit in that amount of space. But it’s still an amount that makes you thinking about your punctuation, your word choice, your sentence structure.

Being a writer, I bet you’re like me and don’t want to break any grammatical rules. This is yet another dimension added to the game. How to be grammatically correct and get your point across.

It’s definitely not easy.

But I’ve learned a lot about my style of writing. Particularly that I do tend to throw in unimportant words. I’ve noticed that, recently, it’s been easier to part with some words. Or, at the very least, replace them with something better. And I’m not just talking about in my tweets.

In blog posts, in my WIPs, in my articles on Hypable, I’ve noticed a more streamlined approach to what I’m trying to say. It’s getting much easier to avoid fluff words (the word ‘that’ is, apparently, a personal favorite). It’s also getting easier to choose a single verb compared to a string of words that don’t paint as vivid of a picture.

Dare I say I’m learning?

Looks like it. And even though a big part of this comes from editing other people’s works, I definitely know  Twitter has also helped me out quite a bit.

What about you? Has Twitter taught you anything about writing? Has it made you better at choosing your words with more care?

ROW80LogocopyLast year I told you guys I had a special guest for my second round 2 check-in, but in actuality I just put in a picture of R2D2. That still makes me laugh. 🙂

Main Goals

  1. Write or edit every day. 2/7 Just two days this week, but I’ve been slowly chipping away on my latest short story for my collection, and I quite like the concept for this one. It isn’t going to be long, so even though I’ve only added about 1100 words to it, it’s close to being completed.
  2. Read every day. 5/7 I finished City of a Thousand Dolls Friday night (er, Saturday morning?). The last 50 pages were great, I just wish it hadn’t taken 200 pages to get to that point. Now I’m reading 17 & Gone
  3. Exercise three times a week. 3/3 Bingo! And, you know, these were some solid exercises. I’ve been using ankle weights to add a little more resistance. I think it’s going to really help. Bummer is, though, that I just beat my Just Dance 4 game, which means I have no more upgrades to strive for. I may have to find another game so I can keep my motivation up.

Bonus Goals

  1. Rewrite one of my short stories. Elected to start a new one before the idea left me, rather than finish up this one. Hopefully I can tackle this next week.
  2. Catch up on my e-mails. Done! I totally did this. It’s a great feeling to get down to the point where all you really have are a couple of e-mails in your inbox. Some I have to keep until I deal with them, but I’ve only got a couple of them left!
  3. Update my contests doc. I did not get a chance to finish this, but I definitely started it!

List of Awesome

  1. I did an interview with one of my favorite contemporary artists, Karen Hallion. She draws a lot of pop-culture things, including Doctor Who. I focused on her Doctor Who and Disney Heroines collection.
  2. Natalie and I interviewed someone from Teen Wolf on Not Another Teen Wolf Podcast! Check it out.
  3. C.G. Cooper has another short story up on Amazon called Running. This was an interesting look at Cal (his main character) before we saw him in the Corps Justice books.
  4. The other day I went for a walk around our yard and ended up finding a lot of garbage strewn around the place (we live next to a highway). I picked up 2 WalMart bags full and three medium sized boxes in about 15 minutes. It makes me so mad when people litter, but it was definitely a great feeling to do something about it.

Points and Words

Each of my main goals gets FIVE POINTS. Bonus goals get TEN POINTS if they’re completed.

  • Week 1 – 15 points
  • Week 2 – 60 points

This week I wrote:

  • Week 1 – 0 words
  • Week 2 – 1,188 words

Total words written in round 2: 1,188 words

Total words for the year: 58,702 words written since January 1, 2013

Have you done anything outside since the weather has been getting nicer?

Ten movie cliches I can’t stand

Posted: April 12, 2013 in Movies
Tags: , ,

Just about every movie or TV show is filled with some sort of cliche. And, you know, it’s not always a bad thing. One or two movie cliches seems to be the norm per flick, and sometimes you just have to put them in there to get from point A to point B, or to show what you need to show in terms of character development.

But, most of the time, they’re just annoying.

Hence, my list of ten movie cliches that I can’t stand (in no particular order):

1. When a character rips his shirt open. This only works when you’re the Hulk. Other times, it’s just an obvious ploy to get the main character shirtless. Most of the time I don’t complain. But usually it’s just unnecessary.

2. When a character looks up and yells, “Noooooo!” Look, if my best friend died in my arms, I probably wouldn’t even be able to speak. There’d be tears and snot and general disgustingness. I wouldn’t look up and yell at the heavens, shaking my fist at the universe. This also wouldn’t cause me to get up and seek revenge. I’d probably spend the next six months confined to my bed wondering if I would ever function normally again.

3. Super obvious product placement. You know the kind I’m referring to. It’s when the camera lingers just a moment longer on a bag or a piece of technology and you can clearly see the logo. Now, I totally get why product placement is necessary – especially for low budget TV shows. But, come on. There are better ways to do it than the main character not-so-subtly holding out the iPhone for everyone to see a text message that they could’ve read out loud for more dramatic effect. Get creative, people.

Buffy is Awesome4. When a character just has to get in that one-liner right before they kill someone. This drives me bonkers. I’m sorry, but no. You’re not going to hesitate before you shoot the guy that murdered your entire family just to say something witty. You’re going to put a bullet in his brain and be done with it. With that being said, the only time I’ve ever actually enjoyed this was on Buffy. It works on this show because it’s actually part of Buffy’s personality, and the dialogue often pointed it out and made fun of it. That sort of self-awareness makes it okay in my eyes. Plus, Joss Whedon.

5. When someone has to crack their knuckles before they get into a fight or begin torturing someone. What? Is this supposed to make them look tough? Like, all of a sudden it makes them more badass? Sorry, but it doesn’t work that way. And it always makes me look at the bad guy as the dumb brute hired to be the muscle. You’ll notice the people with brains don’t usually do this.

6. Insta-love. And, in addition to this, trusting someone the minute you meet them. It’s hard to pull off an on-screen relationship that runs at the right pace. On the one hand, one of the major focuses of the story is probably the romance between the two main characters. You don’t want to drag it out too long because your audience wants to get to the good stuff. However, making two strangers fall in love at first sight is super unrealistic. And it’s been done before. A million times. In the past five years. Literally. It’s hard to find balance, but I usually like to err on the side of slow-burn rather than insta-love.

7. When someone is dying, they have enough time to say something witty or heart-wrenching, but not enough time to tell you highly important secret information. I mean, come on. My first objective if I was riddled with bullets would be to tell you who shot me, not to apologize for whatever I did that got me into that situation in the first place. Screw forgiveness. I’m dead. I don’t need it anyway. Avenge me!

Jawbreaker Poster8. The “ugly girl” is never ugly. Like, seriously. I enjoy makeover movies like Jawbreaker and Mean Girls, but those girls are not awkward and ugly. And a little bit of makeup always transforms them into super models. Obviously nothing much can be done when you’re working with beautiful or high-profile actresses, but a little bit of normalcy would go a long way with the plebs (ie. me).

9. Saying “I love you” brings the main character back to life. They’re dead. They’ve flatlined. You’ve given up hope. Banging on his chest and shaking him back to consciousness hasn’t worked. As a single tear falls from your eye and onto his face, you whisper, “I love you.” That final admission, that thing you had been holding inside this entire time, has seeped out. His eyes flutter, he coughs, and says he love you too. …………Yeah, right.

10. Good guys rarely get shot…no matter how many times they’re shot at. Okay, really? You’re an FBI agent in a firefight with members of a notorious gang, all armed with semi-automatic weapons. You’re dodging bullet. You’re rolling on the ground. You’re jumping from one place to the other. And you never get shot. Yet, you manage to take them all out one at a time. Life is just not that clean. It’s actually one of the reasons why I respect Firefly so much. Those guys get shot and cut and beat up all the time. And the doctor has to fix up their wounds. It’s realistic. Plus, you know. Joss Whedon.

What are some movie cliches that really bug you? Any that you’ve seen pulled off well, like those witty one-liners in Buffy?

Unless you’re a Time Lord, this has nothing to do with changing your face and suddenly having a hankering for fish sticks and custard.

As I’ve said before, I’m the type of person that like to have a full plate. I like being busy. But every once in a while, we have to recharge our batteries.

This is easier said than done.

I don’t like slowing down. I don’t like relaxing. And I don’t like doing one thing at a time.

It’s actually hard for me to just stop and do nothing. To not multi-task. To not plan out my day in a myriad of lists and deadlines.

But it’s also difficult to do this day in and day out. There are some things I do to wake myself up, wipe the slate clean, and have a clearer head when I get back to work. They are:

  1. Sleep. There’s nothing like taking a good nap or actually getting eight hours of shut-eye. You feel 100% better when you’re on a full night’s rest, and it allows your brain to function much quicker. Plus, you won’t be nodding off at the computer every five minutes.
  2. Shower. This always wakes me up and makes me feel like the whole day is ahead of me. It’s refreshing and relaxing and comforting. Plus, I always do my best thinking in the shower.
  3. Exercise. Whenever I’m super tired, but I know have a lot more to do, I’ll go exercise. There’s nothing like getting that adrenaline pumping to wake you up and make you feel better. However, I always get that inevitable crash once my body returns to normal. Therefore…
  4. Eat. I don’t know about you, but I sometimes forget to eat during the day. I’ll realize I’m hungry, but I also want to finish what I’m working on. Hours will go by before I realize I still haven’t eaten lunch. I always get hungry after I exercise too, so I try to take in a light snack or a healthy lunch. It gives your body nutrients and energy to keep going. I always feel more awake after I’ve eaten.
  5. YouTube. Some would say this is procrastination. And maybe it is, but it’s also motivation. If I’m editing something that doesn’t interest me at all, I find that I’m more likely to scroll through Facebook or check Twitter or do a hundred other things that have nothing to do with the project I need to work on at the moment. And there’s no set time on that, because you can get lost down those time-wasting avenues. Instead, I pull up some Whose Line is it Anyway? on YouTube and play one scene from one episode. Once I’m done with that, I edit five or 10 more pages. Then I play the next scene. It helps me to get through the work a lot quicker, and there’s a set time I “waste” between those chunks of pages – usually only a couple of minutes. It’s a reward system that doesn’t involve food, which is a habit I seriously need to break. (But, man, I don’t know what I’m going to do when I finish all eight seasons of Whose Line on YouTube.)

This is just what works for me, and I’m always looking for some new ideas. I tend to do #1 the least, and not often by choice. It’s unfortunate that the other solutions are just quick-fixes, but a more permanent relaxation is tough when you have a full schedule.

What sorts of things to you do to stay motivated and rejuvenate your body?

ROW80 – R2C1 – Wait, What?

Posted: April 7, 2013 in ROW80
Tags: , ,

ROW80LogocopyEr, so this week snuck by me pretty quickly. I did my “State Your Intent” post on Wednesday, so I really only had half a week to work on my goals. And work on them, I did not.

I know, I know. Excuses. Well, I did a couple of things this week. And I have a pretty solid List of Awesome. Right now I’m just buried under editing projects. I hope I can find my way to the surface soon. It’s been far too long since I last wrote anything.

Main Goals

  1. Write or edit every day. 0/7 Saddening.
  2. Read every day. 1/7 I may have read another day, but I’m not sure. All I know is that I didn’t pick it up as much as I would have liked this week. I’m still reading City of a Thousand Dolls.
  3. Exercise three times a week. 2/3 Actually not a terrible start this week. I did more exercise than anything else, even if I didn’t manage to hit my goal. I’m still happy.

Bonus Goals

  1. Rewrite one of my short stories. I’ve been thinking about this, and I know which direction I want to take it in, but I just haven’t sat down and done it yet.
  2. Catch up on my e-mails. I did a big purge the other day, but they’re stacking up again…
  3. Update my contests doc. Ah, the goal that has – literally – been around since the beginning of round 1. Nope, didn’t touch this one either.

List of Awesome

  1. The next episode of Not Another Teen Wolf Podcast is out! This one went to some silly places. It’s called “Magic Spice Rack.” We also got a little makeover to our logo. Check it out!
  2. My interview with one of my favorite authors of all time, T.A. Barron, went live on Monday. He talks about writing, his next novel, and the movie he’s helping to pen!
  3. If you’re a Firefly fan and want to watch the third episode with some commentary, check out our latest episode of ReWatchable! It’s mighty good fun.
  4. I’ve got another interview written up, set for Monday. This one is about the amazingly talented Karen Hallion. Wait till you guys see it!!

Points and Words

Each of my main goals gets FIVE POINTS. Bonus goals get TEN POINTS if they’re completed.

  • Week 1 – 15 points

This week I wrote:

  • Week 1 – 0 words

Total words written in round 2: 0

Total words for the year: 57,514 words written since January 1, 2013

How was the start of your round 2?

I’m totally going to preface this by saying it was brought about by the whole Sterek phenomenon with Teen Wolf, but I don’t want to make this about that in particular. (Mostly because the Sterek shippers can be a little intense. And I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was a little frightened of them.)

But let’s take a look at this on a wider scale.

Say you’ve written a book. Because this is hypothetical and we all love to dream, say it’s your debut book. It does well. Really well. Like, New-York-Times-Best-Seller-seven-figure-deal-and-a-movie-adaptation-in-the-works well.

Hey, it’s happened. Once or twice.

Okay, so you’ve published your book. Fans love it. You have a kick-ass heroine and and a sexy hero. There’s action and adventure, romance and humor. It’s the real deal. You have a massive audience, and they’re clamoring for more. They want a sequel.

No brainer, right?

I mean, if you’ve got more story to tell, and people want to read that story, what’s there to think about?

Not much. But I will ask this – to what extent do you owe your fans a nod in their direction?

Say they really want to see two characters together. You’re not opposed to the idea, and it would work in the story line, but you never really envisioned them together. But you’re fans want it. Like, they really want it.

Envision Tumblr pages dedicated solely to this ‘ship (that’s short for ‘relationship’ for you that aren’t in the know). Fan-fiction. Role playing pages. In depth meta. Angry letters threatening your life if you don’t pair the two of them together in the next book.

Whew. *deep breath* This business can get a little scary if you have overzealous fans.

Now, remember. You’re not opposed to this couple being together, you just never envisioned them as a pairing. So, what do you do? Do you put them together in order to please your audience? Do you owe that to them for loving your work so much? Would you be afraid you’d get more angry letters if you didn’t do what they wanted?

Or would you write what you wanted to write, and to heck with them? It isn’t where you intended the story to go and, by gosh, you’re sticking to your guns. If they don’t like it, they can find another book to read. This is your story, not theirs. You’re the creator, and you’re not going to be influenced by what other people have to say if that’s not what you want for your characters.

And this doesn’t just apply to character pairings. It doesn’t just apply to books either. I think I see it most often with television shows (think Glee). Sometimes the creators pander to the fans. The fans are paying the bills after all, right? So, why not give them what they want?

Unfortunately, or at least in the case of Glee, the story can suffer because of this.

Maybe fans wanted to see your character wandering off into the desert on a horse with no name, but once he got there, your audience decided the desert was boring. A horse with no name is boring. And now your character is boring.

Humans are fickle creatures.

But if you don’t listen to your audience, if you don’t grow and expand and learn from your mistakes, you run the risk of alienating your readers. And that can be a very, very bad thing.

So, what do you do? Put those two characters together and please your fans at the risk of murdering a perfectly good plot line, or do you ignore all those outside influences and stick to what you want to write about, even if that means your audience isn’t happy with the direction you decided to take the series in?

Or is there a balance? Let me know! Leave a comment, and let’s discuss this. (Also, if you’re familiar with Sterek, let me know your thoughts on that matter too.)