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!

Myers Briggs and Characters

I just did some Myers Briggs tests for some of my characters and boy don’t they make sense.  I’ve been wanting to do this for a while but I was always afraid that I didn’t know my characters as well as I thought I did and because I didn’t know them as well as I did I wouldn’t get the right results.

I’m happy to say that I received results that were not surprising, but rather satisfactory.  Doing these tests also helped me distinguish different behaviors among my characters which is a great relief.  Sometimes it’s difficult to say tell what a character will do in a specific situation and that confusion is likely due to a misunderstanding of your character’s personality.

Sometimes when I read stories of beginning writers they tend to be a bit shaky on the character personality part.  Their character may do one thing, but later in the story the writer forgets about their past actions and…well, the character does something that seems “out of character.”   Not only is this confusing to the reader, but it also prevents readers from understanding the character’s motives or understanding who they really are as a character.  Now, having a character who is naturally unpredictable is a different story (but would probably still be frustrating as a protagonist).

There are 16 personality types according to Myers-Briggs, and each one has 4 letters.  Yes, each letter means something. For example, my personality type is INTJ.  This means that I am an introvert (I), I rely on my intuition(N), when making decisions I am more likely to make them based on logic rather than emotion(T), and I love control and decision in my life (J).  Many villains are INTJs but that’s beside the point.  As you can probably guess, ESFP’s are the complete opposite of INTJs.  They are extroverted (E), they are less intuitive and rely more on sensing (S), they rely on their emotions when making decisions (F) and they tend to be more spontaneous and don’t need anything decided before hand (P).  Want to learn more? Look here.

An important to mention is that this is a theory.  But they tend to work as a method for learning about your fictional characters (real people are a bit different).  The other thing that’s nifty about this test and creating characters is the fact that you can create non one-sided characters in a flash.  It’s also helpful if you are writing about characters who are twins (because they are very different despite what people say) and it could test your knowledge on how well you actually know your characters.  At least it helps me.  Want to try it? Take the test here.

Also as a side note if you get really into the test you can look up other fictional characters and what their personality type is like.  I heard Black Widow could be an ISTP.  Interesting, yeah?

Happy personality typing!

Procrastination the Killer

It’s a bight and clear sunny day and I’m sitting in front of my computer with my cursor blinking before my eyes.  I know that it’s going to be a slow pace today because every time I look at the cursor it seems to slow down without warning.  It keeps blinking, and blinking and yet I don’t write anything.  I place my document into focus mode, but because of my tendency to look out of windows, I don’t proceed with focusing.  I stare out the large, glass window of my dorm room and I wish that I had something to write.

I do have something to write, but I’m not writing it.  Instead, I wish instead of following my own advice, waiting for something to make my heart bleed with passion.  This is a mistake.  I shouldn’t have waited.  I let one hour go by.  Two hours.  Three.  My document is as blank as it could ever be and I’m not doing anything about it.

This, my friends, is called procrastination.   As a college student I have mastered the art of procrastination to the point where all I can do is procrastinate, and it has become a very deadly habit.   It will kill me one day if I don’t change my ways and it could kill you too right when you don’t expect it.

If you were to ask me how my writing is going I would say, “Terribly,” because that’s the fact.  Writing is hard.  I state that boldly under the name of this blog, but I haven’t given up yet.  No, not yet.  There is passion within my bones that cannot cease, and I will boldly go where I have never been.  I am fully aware that there is a lot that goes into being a writer, published or not.  Procrastination shouldn’t kill us writers.

So write on, and stop procrastinating (or try not to)!

Setting the Summer Routine (Or just one in general)

It’s summer.  At least school-wise it is summer.  I’m only taking three classes which means that I have plenty of time to read, write, and watch anime.  Well, I have to work but that’s besides the point.

Actually, no.  It’s perfect.

Who knew that it’s possible to be busy even in the summer? Of course it’s easy to be busy within the summer because for us students, it’s almost impossible to get everything that we need to get done during the school year.  As a full time double major I barely have time for sleep and eating (in fact almost didn’t eat for a full three days before someone asked the question).  Truth is, we are all busy with something even if it’s doing nothing.

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Thank you, Ernest Hemingway.  You’ve summarized this post in one gif.

Making a routine can be difficult but it’s helpful (I’m writing this to help me as well so you’re not alone).  When you have a routine and you push through it, you have the ability to control your progress.  If you don’t have a routine you’ll probably end up lying about how you didn’t have any time to write (which you probably did but won’t admit it out of guilt).   Little progress is better than no progress and no one wants no progress right? Of course not! I mean, why are you trying to write anyway?

Here’s how I usually go about finding a routine:

1.  I look at my schedule.  I’m free for most of time this early on in the summer, but I also have no writing routine.  It’s time to fix that.

2.  When do I work best? Ah, yes.  I am night owl, but my sleep patterns suggest that I go to bed at 12 and wake up at 7:30.  Great.  I work best between 2 and 3 am and ironically when I’m sleep deprived.  I don’t recommend trying to lose sleep in order to write.

3.  Add in writing to my schedule.  I usually write out my schedule when I’m busy but since I want my summer to be productive, I’m still going to write down my schedule.

If the routine that I have doesn’t really fit, I’ll change it up as soon as possible.  Another important thing, it usually takes 14 days for a routine to become a habit so don’t delay and push through those fourteen days.  Same for me, ha.

Setting up a routine doesn’t mean that you have to limit your writing to your designated time.  What if an idea pops into your head right after you exit the movie theater? Not your designated time? WRITE.  Making a time just allows you to write when you appear to not have any time to write.

Take the time to plan your story, create characters, write a short story, whatever during your writing time.  Some progress is better no progress.