Happy National Book-Lovers Day!

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It’s National Book-Lovers Day apparently and what does that mean for people in the United States? Well, really nothing but I guess it means something to book-lovers.  I, myself, am a book-lover.  I’ve always have been ever since I started reading when I was four years old.  It’s amazing how many books I’ve read throughout the years, and even amazing to see how the book industry has changed/stayed the same.

I  love reading books, always have.  I’m actually starting Harry Potter for the first time *gasp* because I’m an adult now and I can choose what I want to read.  But let me tell you, reading Harry Potter for the first time at 22 is one of the best things that has happened to me in a very long time.  I won’t go into the details but, these past couple of years have been very hard on me and greatly affected my writing and my ability to imagine.  Harry Potter gave that back to me and I have never been so happy and full of life.

(Side note: I’ve never seen the movies so I am going into this pretty blind.  I’m so glad I didn’t watch them.)

Throughout my years I’ve read countless of books from Eragon to The Bluest Eye.  As a child my favorites have always been of the science fiction and fantasy variety and boy did I didn’t regret it.  But even though science fiction and fantasy had a GREAT impact on me in terms of writing, it also had an impact on me on something I wasn’t aware of until I was in my late teens/early twenties.

Representation.

Yes, representation.

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As an African American child growing up loving fantasy and science fiction, everything around me was constantly surrounded by white faces.  Then I didn’t quite get what was going on because I didn’t really care.  But one day, like someone threw a ball through my window, my view was shattered.  Why don’t I see more people with brown skin? I wondered why I didn’t see more black faces in fantasy, and so I began to lament.  I didn’t think they were able to exist in fantasy and that was just how things were.  Sometimes I felt afraid to like fantasy because I didn’t feel like I could be part of that community; I felt like I was…trespassing.  To this day I feel left out.  At one point I became so tired of reading about sixteen year old white girls and their adventures to the point that I just stopped reading YA.  I wanted something new and an adventure that I could see myself in.

So that became the reason why I wanted to write.  One of my favorite quotes by Toni Morrison is, “If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, you must be the one to write it.”

That’s what I’m set out to do.

I’ve mentioned representation before in another post, but this issue stands to close to my young, twelve year old heart than I can bear.  Young people of color can relate to dragons, wizards, and secret wardrobes.  They are interested in commanding starships and saving galaxies.  They too can be the chosen one to bring balance to the Force, but we just have to make it happen.  It should be normal.

Like any other type of change it’s going to take time.  But change isn’t going to happen on it’s own.  Action and time coincide.

With that, happy reading/writing!

 

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Literary? What’s Literary?

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Have you ever picked up a book and was just profoundly overwhelmed by the intelligent flow of the prose? Or maybe you picked it up, read the first paragraph, and had no idea what it was talking about.  Maybe you did, but the style of prose was so high that it wiped your confidence off the face of the Earth.

There’s a chance that you have encountered a “literary work.”

Should you be afraid of them? Not at all! Literary fiction is by no means scary.  If you’ve been to high school, you’ve read literature.  Among the canon of classic literary novels include Huckleberry Finn, The Scarlet Letter, To Kill a Mockingbird, Pride and Prejudice, Catcher in the Rye, The Great Gatsby, Lord of the Flies, Frankenstein, A Tale of Two Cities, Native Son, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, The Bluest Eye, Beloved, etc. The list really goes on because there’s A LOT of literary novels.  Literature doesn’t just include fiction, but since I focus on fiction, that’s what I’m going to talk about.  Chances are you’ve read at least one of these mentioned, or more.  I’ve read a lot of literature in high school and even more since I’m in undergrad, but if you haven’t read any of these, don’t sweat.

The next question that you may have asked is, “Why did I have to read these in high school? What makes them so important?”

Good question! Literature in general provides us with a sense of human existence and purpose through a language medium.  These books are also meant to give students a different worldview than the one that they have now by reading an experience that is not their own.

For example, The Jungle gives readers an idea of what it’s like living in Chicago as an immigrant in the early 20th century.  And when I say “early 20th century,” I really mean the very, very beginning.  The book was published in 1906. And let me tell you, the book is NOT pretty because America in the early 20th century was NOT pretty.  But through historical knowledge, the reader is able to grasp what it may have been like to be an immigrant in 1906.  In some cases, parts of the The Jungle are even read in American history classes, most notably the meat factory scene.

Though the idea of grasping a certain view may be a bit difficult, that’s only one purpose of literary texts.  Another reason for literature is for the writing itself.

I’m currently reading this book:

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And this is literature.  Zadie Smith is still alive (by the way), and this book was not published in the early twentieth century, rather it was published in 2000.  This book is considered to be contemporary fiction, and it literature for the modern age.  What makes this book different than Old Man’s War for example, is the prose.  When I read White Teeth, I’m getting an experience that is wrapped inside the prose.  When I read Old Man’s War, I’m getting a character experience that is driven by action. Literary fiction isn’t necessarily driven by action.  In essence, it’s what you would call realistic fiction.

Now, how’s literary fiction different than mainstream fiction? Let me direct you to this article first:

Literary and Mainstream Novels: What’s the Difference?

This Huffington Post article is directed towards writers as well, eliminating the difference between literature and mainstream novels.  Mainstream novels are driven by action, literary novels are driven by prose.  Most of the time.

Now, if a novel isn’t realistic fiction, that doesn’t mean that it’s not literary.  That’s when debates arise, fire ignites, and critics come out and breathe their wrath.  I’m being a bit dramatic, but it can happen.

Whether your work is literary or not shouldn’t be your main concern.  Write your story and change it how you wish when you believe that your story is told.  Your decision to make it more literary or not is up to the story you want to tell.

Happy Writing!

 

 

 

Killing Off Characters (It’s just about inevitable)

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Ah yes.  If you have read any of George R. R. Martin’s works you know the risk of loving anyone, and I mean anyone in his books.  Over the course of George R. R. Martin’s literary career, readers have flipped desks, yelled angrily at the sky and viciously spat their emotional venom across Twitter.  Is his character killing extreme? Maybe for some.  Possibly.  Probably.  But that’s not up to me.

Killing characters is probably my favorite plot device to use for several reasons, but most of all for character development.  I personally haven’t planned many deaths in my work, but I have planned a few.  They are precious characters, but the world must continue without them.  What, you say? Yes, killing characters are probably inevitable.  Of course, there are books that don’t have any character deaths.  Sometimes that was a purposeful move on the writer’s part, sometimes I think that the story needed deaths in order for the story to change in a direction more suitable for the purpose of the end goal.

The main character of my fantasy series is very attached to her older brother/guardian, who is in turn very protective of his little sister.  In order for my main character to be who she is destined to be she must release her attachment from her brother, which is difficult without…well, death.  As you probably guessed, her brother dies (Don’t worry, it’s a major spoiler from a story that no one knows about yet) in order to form a catalytic development that is necessary for the plot.  Of course this may be harsh, and yes readers will become attached to the  mc’s older brother, but do I care? No, I do not.  This death will cause my mc to shift her worldview and in turn shift her thought process.  That grief and her experiences through the process of recovery will allow her to grow.  Character growth is a very good thing.  Believe me.

Not only does this death cause my character to grow, but it also allows the reader to understand the different sides of the protagonist.  The reader can watch what will happen to this character after the death of dearly beloved one, how she will respond to other things, whether she will become cold or sympathetic to others, or whether she will avenge her brother in a way that will seem rational to her, but irrational to others.  The possibilities are ENDLESS.

Is death the only way to initiate character development? No. Nononononononononononononono.  No.  Absolutely not. It just happens to be my favorite.  It is the only way to shake up the story? No, but it’s a very good way to shake things up.  At least when the deaths make sense.

Happy character killing!

Starting that Adventure

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I sit down behind my desk and move all of my desk trinkets aside.  I am left with my small desk library, some tissue, coffee, and a world of silence.  A notebook with a blank page is under my hand as I twirl my pen, hoping that my first word would appear on that blank line at the top.

Starting a writing project can be daunting, but at the same time there’s an intriguing sense of excitement that comes from placing that first word on a blank page.  It’s like opening the cover of a brand new book that has an adventure that you have waited to embark on for a very, very long time.

Every time I have a chance to sit down and write with my fresh cup of coffee, I feel that excitement running through my fingers and the veins of my arms.  But sometimes that excitement turns into frustration as I rip the page from my notebook and throw it behind me with a sigh of exasperation. The excitement I felt doesn’t flourish, but instead it seeps into a discomforting wave of disappointment.

Frustration isn’t what I expect from writing, but that’s part of the adventure.  Writing is hard.  Writing is frustrating.  The purpose of being a writer is to write through the hardship and reap the rewards from the precious time that we place into our stories.  After all, we write for ourselves before other we write for others (unless you happen to be a ghost or freelance writer then…writing for people is your sole purpose).  For us fiction writers we have tales to tell, worlds to explore, characters to kill, and we enjoy it.

My life as never been the same since I started my writing adventure.  I have built worlds, created characters that have become a part of me.  Has anyone experienced my worlds and characters? No.  They may have read chapters but I haven’t gotten to the point where they have read a single work and have fallen in love with my characters.  My readers’ time will come soon enough.

Writing is a privilege and such a great way to emerge into a world that is far away from our reality.  God I love being a writer!

I have so many ideas, so many things that I want to get out of my head even though it may be a bit difficult.  But that’s okay.  That’s perfectly okay.  I live to place words on paper.  So do you.

Happy Writing!

Planning vs. Winging it (Both involve magic)

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In honor of Camp Nanowrimo and writing in general, I decided to make a post about planning out your novel versus winging it.  Actually, I’d like to mention from the beginning that planning vs. non-planning is completely up to you.  One way may benefit you more than the other. I am a planner.  I write faster when I plan what I’m going to write because I find that I manage my time better when I choose to write down what I’m going to type.  Usually I will plan on actual paper instead of using a word processor but sometimes I will write my summaries into the little summary boxes in Scrivener.  But usually it’s on paper.  Why paper? I just like handwriting my outlines. Simple.  If I had two monitors then maybe I would thing about using my computer, but right now I’m set on using my paper.

There are benefits to planning your novel.  It gives you a sense of what you’re going to write once you sit down at the computer so that you will have more time actually writing words than staring at the blinking cursor.  It happens.  I also plan because I always get stuck and having a roadmap leads me by light as I get deeper and deeper into writing.  Planning may also help with continuity and getting all those small details right in the future.  If you’re writing something that may require a lot of details (ex. sci-fi, fantasy, etc.) planning may become of use to you.  Planning is also a great anxiety reliever.

How do you plan, then? Well, that could be up to you, but I usually use a composition notebook for my novels.  Every single time I start a project, I use a composition notebook.

They come in different colors, yes.  I like to use the standard black ones though.
They come in different colors, yes. I like to use the standard black ones though.

I like to use one page per chapter for several reasons: It allows me to plan thoroughly, I don’t feel overwhelmed when I begin to write my novel, I can look back and track my continuity without going through a sea of words.  The more drafts I spew out, the more complicated my novel becomes and the more continuity problems I have.  I’m so sorry, beta readers. Like I said before, I use composition notebooks so that I can look at things in my own handwriting.  It’s also great when I forget to back up my stuff (a post on that coming soon).

I sometimes use legal pads, but those are mostly for chapter drafts.

When I first started writing I didn’t do anything that resembled planning. It’s perfectly okay to not plan your novel because writing off the top of your head may increase your creativity.  Don’t know what’s happening in the middle of the story? No sweat! Just write what comes to your mind and you may have a better story than what you came up with in the beginning.  That sounds like magic.

But, it didn’t work out for me because of the fact that I kept forgetting what I wrote previously.  But at the same time, not planning allowed me to discover new ways to tell my story.  It didn’t go where I wanted to go, but hey, I discovered something better.

You can also be a mix of the two. Maybe you have to plan the middle of your story, but the beginning and the ends are in the hands of fate.  Maybe the beginning is all down packed but you just want to let the middle and end fly away in the wind, see where it takes you (sorry if that was a bit cheesy).

Whatever your method is, use it!

Happy planning!