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Redeeming Your Adverbs

It’s no secret that writers have preferences when it comes to the kind of words they like using in their work. Some people like to drown their paragraphs in adjectives, while others would rather use the most complex verbs to describe the simplest of actions. Some people like to be flowery and lyrical in their prose, while others like being sober, and direct. But there’s one thing these groups have in common.

They HATE adverbs.

If you’re familiar with the generic writing advice that’s often thrown around, you’re probably familiar with Stephen King’s quote on the subject, so I won’t bring that up here. But nevertheless, there is much truth to what many of adverb’s detractors (including myself) say.

There is no denying that the vast majority of adverbs are too vague and open to interpretation to create even the plainest of images. There’s simply nothing to entice the imagination when you say “He ran quickly down the hall.” When compared to “He dashed down the hall.” The latter image evokes a concrete picture with the word dash, rather than relying on the abstract notion of what is quick.

But here at QuestingAuthor, I try to see a positive angle to all things (well, [most] things.). So I propose that there are two instances in which the use of an adverb tends to be justifiable.

As I’ve spared no time in mentioning some posts ago, I am in the process of rethinking my prose style from the ground up at the current moment. As a result, I’ve taken a look at basics, (Such as adverbs) and found a new spin on them.

But which these instances, you ask?

Well, let’s take it through baby steps first. For starters, adverbs can be an invaluable tool when it comes to summarizing long periods of time. Where a concrete piece of prose is capable of describing a singular instance with good detail, it is incapable of doing this with a series of instances. If we used concrete prose to describe actions taken over a long period of time, we’d end up with many needless paragraphs.

Suppose you have a character walking through a city and he happens to be in a bad mood. What would take more time? Describing how he turns every corner with a somber look in his eye, how he wades through crowds while keeping his hands tucked in his pocket? Maybe describing things like this would be a good idea in any other scene, but if you want this scene to pass immediately, you shouldn’t use this style.

It’s far better to just say that he sullenly ambled through town. This doesn’t give a concrete image, but evokes a series of possibilities, allowing the reader to think about the many ways that this characters actions could have actually gone down.

The other instance where adverbs tend to be justified is when they fit the rhythm of a particular paragraph. I can’t go too much into detail about this, mainly because this is one of those parts of writing were all rules dissipate into mist and are swept away. But it can’t be denied that some words flow better in sentences than others, and in these occasions, you might find that an adverb might work well.

The reason I mention this was because in my previous style, I avoided adverbs more out of irrationality and pride than anything else. Even when I felt I should use an adverb, I went through painstaking effort to avoid it. Sure, I knew how they could harm my style, but I really only avoided them because it was cool and edgy. And if you learn anything from life, let it be that these are the two worst justifications for doing just about anything.

In the end, we can infer that adverbs with suck in most situations. They are terrible for trying to immerse a reader in a specific instance of the story, and they are almost always piss-poor at conveying emotion.

BUT.

This does not deny the practical applications they can sometimes have. Namely in the forms of summarizing long stretches of time or when they fit the “lyrical” quality to your prose. The question is, how often do you use adverbs? Do you think there are more circumstances where they can work? Then please tell me in the comments!

As always, this has been the QuestingAuthor. Keep writing, my friends.

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The Double-Edged sword of Ambition

I’ll be the first to admit that I have trouble writing something that’s short. Believe me, I’ve tried and it’s a skill that I would love to have, but it’s never fit me as a writer. The last time I tried to make a short novel ranging around 90,000 words, I ended up creating one that was closer to 220,000 words. I’d taken every care and measure that there was to take, but the wild fancies of my imagination ended up overpowering me.

After completing that first novel of mine, I realized it was a natural thing for me to up

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Imagination is not always as smooth as we’d want it to be

the scale on the projects that I worked on. Due to my background as a reader of primarily epic fantasy, I find myself falling into this trend every time I work on even a short story. But when I came to accept this undeniable aspect of my nature, there came a rather pressing question. Why was it that I wanted to write something that was short in the first place?

It struck me as odd how I’d so willingly chosen to limit myself and my potential work. Especially when I was so early into my hobby.

One would think that it is the youthful writers that have a tendency to be the most fiery, passionate, and reckless when it comes to their novels. And for the most of our tiny community, this proves to be the case. Not a single peer of mine that has ever spoken to me about writing has deliberately chosen to lower the scale of their work. They would always go on about the ideas and concepts that were bubbling up in their heads, and as a novice myself, I can’t blame them. There are times when I fantasize about being able to go back to the first time I tried writing a book. Not so much to actually finish my endeavor, but because I can recall how giddy it all made me.

 

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It hits us when we least need it

 

I too was obsessed with dozens of ideas that my mind could never hope to keep track of. I wanted to make the next big thing when I first started, and I was many times more obsessed with originality back then than I am now. Which is natural.

Being introduced to writing is, quite literally, being brought to a whole new world of information. There are so many routes that one could take, so many options between genres to write, and so many stories that we want written from the get-go. But when I was still early in my passion, I’d decided to tone down the scale so that I could actually finish the next idea I set my eyes upon. By this point, while my friends flaunted about with their ideas and how they kept “mental” outlines, I had written a detailed outline of my work and had struggled to maintain a grounded view of it.

As a result, those friends of mine had long ago given up on their work. And I remain here today. Originally, I had meant to ascribe my success to this slightly more cynical view of my work that I had taken on. But as you can see by how the work ballooned to the point of reaching 220,000 words, that there was no doubt that I’d let my imagination get the upper-hand.

The sweet prospect of being able to add depth to my work was unavoidable. There were just too many ideas waiting to be written. And while I’m glad that my first draft is larger than those I’d seen from other authors, I would be kidding myself if I said it was all rosy.

While it brought a smile to my face to see that my work was growing, the stress

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The chance to extend my story was as repulsive as this cheesecake. As in, not at all.

that came with writing intensified to the proportion that I had added length to my work. I had come into my project expecting to be finished in two months but I ended up getting sucked in for four months and a half. When I knew that the burden on my shoulders was, it only increased the stress that came with every sentence that I put down, it really made me doubt myself. Every writing session was one that, should mistakes happen, could lead to the whole plot imploding on itself. I was afraid. I was convinced that there was no way that I’d be able to tackle such a large project. A part of me that was filled with self-doubt was convinced that I should have stayed with my 90,000 words. Yet it only grows more confusing.

In a strange way, that doubt also served to inspire me at the same time!

While I knew

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For me, when my ideas started going further up and further up, that only increased my desire to chase them

that my scope was growing far beyond what my mind would be able to process, deep down I knew that a 220,000 word book was just the length I’d longed for. While the writing sessions I participated in had no shortage of stress, while my inner-critic grew even more dubious of my ability, and my plot seemed about to explode, I didn’t want to have it any other way. One of the reasons that I continued on my novel was because I loved writing it the way that it was. I intrinsically knew that the story being told just had to be that length, and that limiting myself would have only proven a detriment to me.

But I’m not going to take the idealistic route and tell you to chase your dreams and everything will be fine. From an objective standpoint, my writing sessions proved to be a greater strain on my mind because of what I did. I had to ditch my outline and make up the latter half of the plot as I went along, and there was an entire story arc that I added. For all I know, I could have only been a rare exception.

Yet there is certainly a case to be made for ambition. A person working on something that they truly enjoy will undoubtedly produce a work that is of higher personal enjoyment to them, but at the same time, the price comes with doubling your workload to chase ideas that you might not feel ready to take head-on. I’ve done my greatest efforts to remain neutral with regard to ambition, and this post should only be a cautionary tale. As I’ve stated previously, we need to be aware of the limits of our skill if we want to grow in our craft. So I can only say one thing to those of you with big ideas. Yes, it’s possible to follow through with them, I’m an example myself. But don’t be like me and trick yourself into believing that chasing your dream won’t come at a price. It might just make the path that you tread narrower than you could have expected. But, hey, some men prefer to walk a narrow path that they enjoy versus a wide path that they’re indifferent to.

As always, this has been the QuestingAuthor. Keep writing, my friends.

 

 

Edgy Teen’s Guide to Making a YA Novel

   Hello, guys! Just wanted to say I’m sorry for so many reposts this week. I’ve been in a strange mood, and I’ve been trying to focus on my prose and catching up on my reading lately. I have a few ideas for next week, so make sure to stay tuned!

For now, enjoy this older post!                          

                                  *** 

 I’ve always been the snobbiest person that I know. I’ve taken pride in knowing that much of my interests are not the sort of things that you would find on other people’s radars. When gaming was my main hobby, I played games that no one inside my circle of friends had even heard of. When I watch anime, I never watch the shows that everyone  raves over in my school.And from the perspective of much of my friends, the books I read seem like they come from some alternate dimension.

Due to this, I developed an unwarranted superiority complex (which still persists to this day), in which I was the individual with the most refined taste in entertainment that could ever be found. I’d sneer at individuals whom idled away their time by playing casual games on their smartphones, and I’d mock the losers whom watched all the popular animes. All the while I’d lounge in my corner with a monocle and a glass of aged champagne being twirled in my hands.

*Sips glass of Champagne*

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Accurate portrayal of my usual behavior

Naturally, since humility has never been my strong suit, this habit of mine crossed over to my taste in literature. Which is to say that while I read my ADULT and SERIOUS novels, I groan in aristocratic displeasure at the sight of those whom partake in reading Young Adult literature. Whenever I see meaty books that have a font size of 14+ and are virtually double-spaced, it makes me want to gag. To think that so many trees were sacrificed for the sake of a sub-par piece of literature that should be rotting in the very depths of hell and festering in the pits of–

Well, you get the idea. In all seriousness though, this is actually an opinion that I genuinely hold. Young Adult Literature has rarely been able to impress me. One could say that perhaps I’m too old to understand the message of these novels…but that doesn’t take into consideration that I’m currently seventeen years of age. And even before I had my latest birthday, I don’t recall taking a fancy toward any of the YA series that are currently out.

Now, before start losing sleep tonight, allow me to clarify. When I say that I hate YA “literature”, I mean to say that I hate the majority of what comes out of the genre. I’ll be the first to admit that the first fantasy books I read were The Chronicles of Narnia, which I still respect (Even tho

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YA novels are my kryptonite. And not in a good way.

ugh they might technically count as Children’s Fantasy). And I have read a couple contemporary YA books that I enjoyed.

But these are an EXCEPTION.

For the most part, I wouldn’t hesitate
to dismissing the whole genre as being utter rubbish. And it’s not to say that those whom write in this genre are untalented hacks, despite my suspicion that most of them are, many of them are good storytellers that condemn themselves to the same recycled techniques that hold this genre back. So knowing that I’m incapable of explaining why I feel the way that I feel in the regular format, allow me to share the pet peeves that make me loathe this genre.

1. They read like an essay

And not a good one either. Think of the very worst report you’ve ever heard anyone utter back in your schooling days. Remember how monotone the speaker was? Remember how

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“Um…what was I talking about again?”

their language was lacking in any pacing or character? Ever wonder if they wrote it during a bout of crippling depression?

Well, the standard YA novel shares a lot in common with that report. Allow me to start with a quote of sublime prose from a YA “Masterpiece”.

“It’s too bad, really, that they hold the reaping in the square — one of the few places in District 12 that can be pleasant. The square’s surrounded by shops, and on public market days, especially if there’s good weather, it has a holiday feel to it. But today, despite the bright banners hanging on the buildings, there’s an air of grimness. The camera crews, perched like buzzards on rooftops, only add to the effect.” -The Hunger Games

From the moment this perfect, godly, and majestic piece of description is given to us, we are swept away with the vivid storytelling at play. Notice how the author takes great care in mentioning the banners, but not once offering any further sensory stimuli save for the word “bright”. Notice how we are told that this marketplace could have the atmosphere of the holidays, but we are never told how. Oh, and I just adore line in which she mentions there are shops but doesn’t bother to mention what kind of shops they are!

If you haven’t noticed the sarcasm, you should consider reading another blog.

It’s one thing to summarize an area in the middle of your book. It’s one thing to describe a tiny location that doesn’t require that many sensory details. But when this is in the first chapter of the book–IT’S UNFORGIVABLE! This is supposed to be the part of the story that I get hooked with the setting. If there is anytime to be showing me what it feels like to live in this city, it ought to be now! 

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As you can see, I don’t have a positive opinion of the Hunger Games.

Where is the wonder!?!? Where is the immersion? The beginning of a story is when an author is MOST invested in it. The writer here sounds like they made the setting for this novel back in fifth grade, and is somehow being forced to write it into a book as an adult! There is no passion here, nor is there any sense of being in the dystopian city.

Unfortunately, this isn’t a trait that’s exclusive to The Hunger Games. Countless young adult novels suffer from this dreadful Beige Prose!

There seems to be a frame of thought pervading the writing industry, one that dictates that teens and young adults are illiterate barbarians that cower in the face of a mere metaphor! And independent of whether or not this is true (knowing today’s society, it very well might be), many YA authors use this as an excuse to write unimaginative description. Maybe I’m the exception, but I’m quite sure that a little poetic language here and there wouldn’t kill anyone.

Now I’m not asking those whom write YA to make purple prose in the way that they describe things, but PLEASE, if you’re trying to drag us into the setting, give us a bit more to go off of. A reader is a voracious eater as well. We take in sensory details like a conveyor belt on overdrive.

2. Sarcastic protagonists stopped being funny a long time ago

So you’re in the middle of reading Vampire Romancing Saga: Lover’s First Bite. So far you think you’re enjoying the story (you probably have bad taste in literature if you are) but you find that the main character is pretty bland. Chelsea, a new resident in Genericville after moving from Nameless City X, is a cute girl with freckles on her cheeks. Her hair is a perfect pumpkin color and she’s always enjoyed wearing it in its untamed form. She loves books, writing, philosophizing, daydreaming, being a loner, and an overall attention whore. But you find that she’s lacking in flaws. Sure, she’s clumsy, but that isn’t cutting the chase for you. Her narration is still dry and lacking in character. How would the author go about fixing this?

AHA! Clearly, all we need to do is add

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I only wish my eyes could roll that far

copious amounts of sarcasm into our characters! It’s not like that’s ever been done at all?

*AUDIBLE SIGH*

Let’s get one thing out of the way, I don’t have an issue with a character just because they are sarcastic. My problem is when the sarcasm is so obviously stuffed into the character in order to give them a superficial semblance of personality. Sarcasm can often create a very sharp and gross contrast when it suddenly shows up in bland narration. So what makes the dry wit of Katniss from the Hunger Games (1st book, I haven’t read the others so I can’t speak for them) different from that of a good sarcastic protagonist? In short, it’s that the sarcasm complements the narration rather than being the only thing worth noting in it. And to show what a good sarcastic narrator looks like, allow me to use Jalan Kendeth from Prince of Fools as an example.

Jalan is as snarky as they come. He’s gross, witty, a wisecracker, and an arrogant young gentleman. But it goes with his character. He’s a member of decadent nobility and the tenth in line to the throne of an empire, he’s become a spoiled brat. But over the course of the book he grows into a slightly more mature brat. And this shows with how often the sarcasm came in the first half of the tale when compared to the latter half. The more that Jalan grew as a character, the less sarcasm we saw coming from him. This is an example of having sarcasm be of actual use in the plot.

Again, I’ve no issue with using it in the occasional joke here and there. But when sarcasm is the only defining feature of your narration, you should start looking deeper into your characters. Because they deserve more, and so does the reader.

3. “Tabula Rasa” Main Protagonist

This factors in a great deal with the previous point that I put forward. I’ve spoken about this before in my post Blank Slate Disorder (BSD), but it bears repeating for young adult novels.

These often make the fatal mistake of allowing the main character to be as bland and utterly unremarkable as possible. This is an MC that WILL have characters traits, but they will be character traits that are unoriginal in every sense of the word. Usually they are good-natured, kind, brave, and optimistic. If they have flaws, it will be something along the lines of having a short-temper or being a loner. Yet the problem is that these characters don’t really grow away from these.

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This brick has more personality than the character I’m describing

I have no issue with assigning any of these traits to your characters, after all, unless you’re creating some reptilian monstrosity, these are human traist that could easily be given to human characters. The problem is that these traits ought to be a starting point from where our characters are able to evolve. Yet this is rarely the case.

It’s either one of two things. There is no change at all, or what change there is occurs over an expansive period of time (An entire trilogy, for example ;D) and would be impossible to notice without any in-depth analysis.

I like to call this the “Watered-down” Mary Sue, main because it lacks the perfection of the Sue, but you can be sure that it’s DAMN close to reaching it. What people fail to understand is that unless we are playing a video game or a choose-your-own-adventure book, bland protagonist do the very opposite of placing us in their shoes.

They drive us away from immersion.

Teens have the capacity to be very colorful individuals with all manner of tastes and preferences from all corners of the spectrum. And as a sort of spokesperson for them, I’d venture to say that it is rather patronizing to be expected to relate with a character that’s actually a pile of bricks in human clothing. You could argue that authors are afraid they might alienate some segments of the market for their book, which while a genuine concern, only furthers the fact that this character type is only created for personal gains.

***           

All in all, each to their own and everyone ought to have their own preferences. YA is a genre that has the potential to bring in scores of new readers of books, yet these habits that I’ve mentioned can drive many people away. If somehow, one of you people reading this work on YA, then I don’t necessarily mean to insult you. This is only me mocking the general trend with young adult literature.

As always, this has been the QuestingAuthor. Keep writing, my friends.

An older post of mine that I’d like to see getting a little more love. Christmas is fast approaching, but school remains unrelenting! Either way, I hope the rest of this month ends quietly, for both you and me.

– QuestingAuthor

Flow? The Hell is That?

In writing circles, we tend to develop our own little dictionary of concepts and phrases that could only ever apply to weirdos like us. I mean, who in their right mind could coin phrases as oddly specific as “Writer’s Block” or “Worldbuilder’s Disease”? When you see weird crap like that, you just KNOW it was some pretentious author type that had to invent a phrase just to express his personal frustrations.

But hey, I’m not complaining.

It’s really one of my favorite parts of this community, all the peculiar slang and implications that come with being a novelist. It let’s you know that you’re a special snowflake in a community of special snowflakes. Which would imply that we’re not that special to begin with.

ANYWAY, it goes without saying that I love to dabble in the art of coining “pointless” terms and other such time-wasters. But today’s pointless term is not as oddly specific or precise as the one’s I’ve mentioned earlier. In fact, if you were to ask your standard author what they thought of it, they’d tell you it was more ambiguous than a starfish’s gender.

And whom is the recipient of this finely tuned metaphor? Well, the concept of Flow no less! But before we get down to the nuts and bolts of this headache waiting to happen, let’s see what the ever-reliable interwebs have to tell us about this.

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For some reason, the dictionary is obsessed with telling us it has to do with streams

 

Okay, so ignoring the fetish that the internet has with using streams as a definition, let’s see how we can apply this to writing. Flow, is a type of movement, but as you’ve already guessed, it’s very specific in how it works. To be true to the internet definitions, let’s use the stream as an example.

A stream always moves in a winding, smooth fashion that is seamless in its execution. There are barely any abrupt stops when it comes to them, as they would rather curve around in a flawless pattern. If we were to abstract this definition from its natural and concrete conception and place it in the context of novel-writing, we could replace the pattern of the stream for a word that novelists are more familiar with. Consistency.

So, Flow in a literary work would be the measure of how consistent the aspects of a novel are to one another. But what does this even mean you ask? Well, my dearest readers, a HELLUVA lot of things.

For starters, to the superficial mind, Flow’s use could seem very apparent when it comes to the style of writing or language in a book. If you want to find out how a book’s prose is consistent, you can see it in a variety of areas. When it comes to word choice, a similar pattern of word “categories” can be seen. A novel won’t usually contain complex language unless all of it is composed of language on the same level, and the same goes for the opposite. But this is obvious.

In the literary device department, it can come off as more nuanced. For example, I find that whenever I use alliteration, it’s almost always in a lighthearted scene. To contrast this, I usually only use metaphors during heavy sessions of description and in moments were there exist no words to express an emotion. But either way, these literary devices crop up at a consistent rate during these specific portions of my writing. Of course, this is different for everyone.

So yeah, now you know everything there is to know about Flow in your narrative. Bye, bye, everyone!

Did you seriously expect me to just end my diatribe right then and there? I haven’t even gotten to the DEEP and EDGY portions of this post. So what if I told you that Flow had a whole other level of complexity attached to it? Would you believe me?

Of course you would! This is the internet, where misinformation and gullible spectators abound! But yes, as you MUST have guessed, the plot does thicken.

You see, while it is true that Flow’s most apparent use comes in the form of language, there’s another use of flow that doesn’t come to mind as often. Yet this one is just as important, if not, more important than the Flow of your prose.

And this is Narrative Flow.

Narrative Flow is a whole other can of worms that opens up so many subtopics that I won’t be able to capture the entire idea in this one article (foreshadowing!?!?!?) but to me, it boils down to just a few things.

The Flow of your plot, the Flow of your themes, and the Flow of your characters. Inside of these one could get into all sorts of detailed micro-categories, but since I’m not fond of giving my readers headaches–usually–but let’s shoot down the simple ones first.

The Flow of your plot is basically your pacing. I’d use that word, if it wasn’t for the fact that it wasn’t enough of a vague definition to cover all of the topics listed in this article. Both have to do with the order in which events in your story occur and the speed with which they are dealt with.

See? That’s already one down. Only two more to go.

The Flow of your themes is how consistent the message you’re trying to put forward in the book is. For example, if you want to write a book that is anti-war, chances are that you don’t want to treat your battle scenes as glorious and epic sequences. You’re likely going to portray war as something nasty and brutal. Instead of opening with a charging squad of bayonets, you’d probably prefer opening up with a man getting amputated inside of the trenches.

This of course, means that you’ll have to make sacrifices. But what’s life without sacrifices?

If you want to make an action story, chances are that you can’t dedicate too much time to that romantic subplot. If you want to make a story that deals with the evil nestled in the hearts of men, chances are that making most of your protagonists into a bunch of goody-two-shoes is also a bad idea. If you want to make a story centered around finding your identity, you probably don’t want a protagonist who is already self-actualized. So on and so forth.

Finally, there is the Flow of your characters. This deals with the kind of people who your characters are. This is centered around the idea that our characters should be treated as human beings, not as pawns that are being dragged around for the sole purpose of story. What does this mean? A couple of things.

For starters, to keep consistent characters, you must come to grips with the fact that some of the personalities you crafted will prevent your plot from moving forward at the rate you want it to. Let’s say that your MC is named Billy, and Billy is a paranoid freak. Suppose that Billy get’s an email that says he needs to write down a special code in a website in order to stop the nuclear apocalypse (this is an example for a reason).

Now, any ordinary person would just rush down to write the codes, but a character like Billy complicates matters. He’ll probably be more reluctant to write down the codes. What if it’s just a way to hack into his bank account? What if it was just spam? Or worse, what if typing down that code was the key to activating the nuclear armaments? Billy is paranoid, so these questions will have a toll on his mind. And this is a good thing.

While it might slow down the plot, it will make Billy’s character seem real. Instead of just having Billy get a burst of common sense all of a sudden, you decided to make him react according to what you had built him up to be. And readers will appreciate that far more than speeding along the plot.

So, as you take all of these into consideration, why not ponder a few questions? Are there literary devices that you use in specific portions or moments of your books? Do you find one of the types of Flow more confusing than the others? Are your characters often the reason for your story being so slow? Do you think everything I’ve said is meaningless drivel? If so, type down in the comments!

As always, this has been the QuestingAuthor. Keep writing, my friends.

5 Pet Peeves with Writing

Irrational hatred is a specialty of mine. As a person whom prides himself on not being particularly open about his anger, I find that common outlets for my wrath tend to be in activities where I do things on my own. Namely, my hobbies. Even more namely, writing. And no, you have no right to look at me with jduegmental eyes, as I have no doubt that you would also face similar struggles were you in my situation.

Whether this rings true for you or not, here’s a couple aspects of the creative process that kill me a little inside.

1. Sitting Down for hours

You know what’s fun? Creating your own world and characters that can interact in this world. You know what’s not fun? Being as inert as a potato for hours on end while you mindless bash your fingers on a keyboard hoping that something coherent will pop out.

Sure, when you first start writing, it looks like this won’t be a problem. I mean, you’re too busy lost in that landscape of your world, trying to feel what it is that your characters feel. That brief window of escapism that comes with your first few writing sessions is delightful! Naturally, however, all good things come to an end.

Before you know it, you’ll start wandering into an existential mood fueled with frustration that nothing is going as you planned. Speaking of which…

2. The Story never doesn’t come out right

We’ve spoken before about a Story’s Vision and how it serves to galvanize an author into work. Having this is all nice and dandy, as it gives the writer a set of goals that they should strive to achieve. Pretty neat right?

Wrong.

Withing a few weeks you’ll see that that image has a few smudges around its corners. You’ll pay little attention at first, but then you see that it’s a tidbit hazier than it had been before. You’ll shrug this off as well, and before you know it, you’ll realize you’ve been staring at an entirely different image than you were before.

And very rarely does this image look prettier than the original.

3. Words, where have thou gone!?

This is a common one, to the point that it’s a trope present in the media. Have you ever had an artsy friend who was into a creative hobby? Remember how often they complained about the ideas never being there? Like, never? More importantly, do you remember rolling your eyes whenever they said this?

Well, if you want to become an author, you’ll probably be saying the same damn thing.

There’s nothing scarier than you being on a writing streak only to pause when you realize the proper words for a scene are not in your mind. You know the feeling, that satisfying taptaptap…taptaptap sound just stops out of the blue. In the worst cases, you could be left staring at your blank Word document for half an hour.

4. Knowing that you’re working to make garbage half the time

I love writing, and if you’re reading this blog, you probably share this opinion. But let’s face the facts, half the time you spend typing that your monitor is going to be on your first draft. And if you know anything about first drafts, then you probably know that they tend to suck.

Oh sure, you can have scenes that you love in that first draft, maybe even scenes that you could consider to be masterpieces. But this never rids them of the possibility that you might have to eliminate them entirely. Be it for poor quality or consistency reasons, this is just another unfortunate truth.

5. An original idea you say? Nope, that one’s taken

There is a 99% chance that your brain is incapable of truly coming up with anything that has not been done to death up to this point in literary history. I’m sorry fellas, but that’s just the simple truth. In the 2,000 years we’ve been given of formalized history, humanity has made its goal be the milking of any and all intellectual properties that have come to be.

Go ahead, struggle to see if you can find something only you would have been able to spot. I’m just saying, that your efforts might be futile.

***

As you can tell, a certian author had some steam to blow today. Regardless, I hope you enjoyed it! Which one of these did you find the most devastating when you realized it? Do you have anymore to add?

As always, this has been the QuestingAuthor. Keep writing, my friends.

 

 

Manuscript Separation Anxiety…Revisited

Howdy, comrades! It feels like it’s been a while, but quite frankly, it’s only been a few days. But as with all my posts, I’ve been musing on some thoughts that have cropped up in my old noggin. Suffice to say, it was rather nostalgic for me this time around.

You see, I’ve you’ve been gullible enough to stick to this blog for the six months it has existed, you most likely recall a post I made a long time ago. Namely, it was a post in which I penned a disease called Manuscript Separation Anxiety.

I’m not usually the kind of person to bring up topics which have been discussed in the past, but I find that this old post relates to me now more than it did in the past. You see, I recently scrapped my novel, and only now am I beginning to feel the after effects of my actions. This manifests in various ways.

I’ve had a harder time composing short stories, due to my development of a new writing style, I’ve been doing a lot more tinkering from behind the scenes in order to plan out my next written work, and I’ve been brainstorming on the kind of tone that I want with my story this time around. Perhaps to some of you this could seem rather negative, and to a certain extent, you are right. The process of making fiction has become a tad more cumbersome than it was beforehand–yet, for some reason, this doesn’t bother me as much as I thought it would.

Back when I wrote that old post of Manuscript Separation Anxiety, I’d treated it as though it were a plague. As though it was a herculean task to return oneself to the story, a kind of task that was nigh impossible to perform. Yet, as is the hum-drum pattern of life, I’ve been proven wrong on this.

A story is an experience meant to be taken as a wholeso it’s only natural that when I separate myself from it, I’ll be disoriented. But the fact of the matter is that not all experiences are good. Sometimes, we have to abandon the bad experiences so that we can gain a new perspective on how to achieve the good ones.

And this was the case with my old book.

I took in a lot of stupid ideas back then, and I’m not afraid to admit it. But I came out both a better person and writer for being able to feel the dread that came through working with these ideas. I bore through the brunt of the storm that was the old book, and this allowed me to gain a new perspective on how to brave the murky waters that might lead me to a newer, and ultimately, better story.

As always, this has been the QuestingAuthor. Brave the storm, my friends.

The Enchanted World: Fairies and Elves, A Forgotten Tome

So once upon a time there was a certain author who was stumbling upon YouTube for irrelevant information (that’s me), and as though it were fated, this author stumbled upon a video with less than 30 views at the time. The video was titled something along the lines of “Enchanted Worlds Books…”. In essence, this video was composed of a gentlemen leafing through a rather large tome.

At first, this anonymous author thought nothing of it. But then the man in the video opened the book, revealing a myriad of classically painted art with fancy text printed over it. From that moment on, the author was interested.

An odd way to start a blog post, I know, but what’s even odder is that this story is true. Just thinking about it this way reminds me of how easily I could have just skipped this obscure video, and have missed out on this rare gem of a series.

Luckily for you, my curiosity has a habit of showing itself in the oddest moments. But what the hell is this book? Well, I’m glad you asked.

The Enchanted Worlds series of books is among the more unique pieces of literature you could find. From the peculiar size of the texts themselves to the stunning art that garnishes most of its pages. But what is truly unique about this book is the kind of narrative that it is telling.

Just by reading the title you could fool yourself into believing this was just another run-of-the-mill mythology encyclopedia. But the moment you fathom this is the moment your are a hair’s breath away from dismissing this as generic drivel. But it’s not.

Elves and Fairies is a title broad enough for it to give the vibe of an academic work, which in one sense, is a vibe provided by this book. A lot of knowledge of particular subsets of mythology from all over Europe is present here, and you can learn a fair bit from it. But that isn’t ALL there is to it.

This story is more akin to a collection of folklore compiled into a manuscript. Except that…it isn’t!? Well, I guess it kind of is but–its weird is all.

The stories compiled in this book are about Elves and Fairies (what else were you expecting?), and it tells of their encounters with the human race over the course of ancient and medieval history. You have tales of forbidden love between the two alien races, tales of fairies whom would snatch infants from villages, tales of people turning into swans, and much more!

The reason I say it’s strange is because it’s hard to tell whether this book tries to present itself as a compilation of stories told by ancient people or as a compilation of fictional stories inspired by ancient mythologies. The stories present here have just the right amount of lack of detail and tropes to fit in with common fairy-tales we hear, yet, the tales are so different from the ones we are used to listening to, that one can’t help but speculate if the writers made them up on their own.

It’s a very peculiar experience. If I had to summarize it in one way, it would be this. This book chronicles the dealings of Fairy-Kind with the Mortal world through the views of many European cultures, all the while giving you a neat index of historical beliefs regarding these beings. I don’t think I’ve read anything like it either, and I don’t think you have either.

I ask that you please give this a shot, I’ve only read one book but my imagination is already enthralled. As for the price…would you believe me if I told you that a good portion of these books are available used for only a cent on Amazon? A cent.

With those kind of prices, how could you NOT get it?

As always, this has been the QuestingAuthor. Keep Writing, my friends.

Amazon Links to early books in the series:

Wizards and Witches

Fairies and Elves

Ghosts

 

Image:

goodreads.com

Characters Make Story

So sometime ago, I, being the grumpy gremlin that I tend to be, got into a mildly heated debate over the quality of the most recent Star Wars movie. Rogue One. Now, if you want my whole opinion on the movie, then all you need to know is that I found it to be a good, albeit, forgettable experience. Without spoiling too much, I found that the ingredients for an engaging story existed within the movie, I just find that how these were moved around was disappointing.

All those days ago, I wondered to myself why in the Nine Hells (I’m going to start a counter for whenever I use this phrase) these ingredients didn’t come together. I mean, when I say it had the right ingredients, I’m not mincing words.

Cool spaceships, interesting landscapes in a boundless world, laser guns that make silly noises when they are fired, and a whole dose of epic explosions. Yet bearing all that in mind…

I wasn’t feeling it.

Believe me, gentlemen, I tried. I really did try. Since I’m a rather snarky person, I tend to go into all movies expecting to be met with poorly written plots, but I enjoy the Star Wars Universe, so I decided to set my scale down. This did not work.

In most occasions, the elements I stated before should be enough to leave dangling off the edge of my seat. But the opposite was true. I found a cynical text exchange I was having on my phone more interesting than the film.

But why was this?

Well, when I try to narrow it down, Rogue One nailed almost everything. The plot was on point, the visuals had my eyes bulging out of their sockets, and there was a certain visceral edge added to the film that one does not usually see in Star Wars. But there was one thing it got wrong, the characters.

I’ve stared at bricks that have more personality than the statues that starred in this movie. With the exception of a certain snarky robot and a particular naive monk whom came across as likeable, just about everyone else was bland. It took only a few hours after I left the movie for me to forget the names of most of the “Heroes”. And while people say that I’m just nitpicking when it comes to this, I beg to differ.

I don’t care what kind of twists or world-building you have on your sleeve, the fact is, if the characters through which we experience these things are bland, I won’t give a damn about the experience. When I saw all this awesome stuff panning out in the story, I wanted to care, but the lack of any immersion on the part of the protagonists made me indifferent to it all.

In the end, you can distract people with explosions for a little bit, but if your characters suck, we won’t care as an audience. The reason we like stories is because we care for the people going through them. So simply put, if you don’t have likeable people, I won;t care for the story. And this is a valuable lesson for writers.

Of course, these were just my two cents. Maybe you fellows loved the movie? Or maybe you found the characters to actually be relatable (God Forbid). Either way, feel free to say it in the comments!

As always, this has been the QuestingAuthor. Keep Writing, my friends.

PS: Maybe some of you QuestingAuthor veterans will notice that this post is shorter than usual, and that is because I’m trying to develop a shorter style. The idea is that if I get used to writing in shorter lengths, I’ll be able to get back to daily posting in a near future. But please, tell me what you think.

 

The Holistic Core of the Story

We love discussing writing strategies down here at the QuestinAuthor H.Q., it’s sort of our thing. We love tearing through sentences and breaking them down to their most basic elements to see how they work. We love fretting over word choice and pondering on which literary device is best fit to convey the image of a scene. And while our love for tinkering with the finer aspects of will never wane, a series of insights have dawned upon us as of late.

You see, it is not a matter of what we said in the best being untrue, as to my knowledge, everything we have said is rather solid. But like all complex things in life, writing prime among them, we were reminded of something paramount. And that is the simple reality that context matters.

What’s that you say? Our language is still too vague? Well then, let me take you through some baby steps.

In essence, while everything we advised was true, the manner in which the QuestingAuthor team went about doing so was flawed. For an author such as yourself, it is pertinent that you know of the technical use of language, the use of proper figurative devices, and the most efficient rituals to help your writing routine. But wherein does the flaw lie? Well, it lies in the fact that we were teaching you about this in a void.

We alloted separate articles for each of these issues, and it was not from a malicious desire that we went about doing this. For the purpose of clarity, it was best that we introduce the ideas to our audience in a singular fashion, this way, we could stay concise on the subject at hand. But my personal gripe with this is that I feel I might have come off as being too absolute or preachy in how I went about this message. To the point where it might feel as though an individual author’s agency to deviate from my advice would seem moot.

And let me be clear, if you feel that there are circumstances in which my advice does not apply, you are by no means obligated to ignore your gut. The only truly constant rule when it comes to writing is that all standards are meant to be broken. Granted, perhaps some attempts breaking standards go too far, but even these have certain value to them.

But the last thing I would want to do is narrow all of this down to the idea that what constitutes a quality story is subjective, which I disagree with. What I will say, is that there are two different ways that one could go about looking at their story’s faults. Firstly one could take the traditional Western process of boiling everything down to be tackled in parts, which has its merits. But, this does not mean that it is the only method of analysis that a story should be subject to. A novel must also be examined as a holistic beast. This means we must also view it as though it were a whole.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that all problems in a book should be zoomed in on, but, they should not be viewed as though they exist only in their particular category. For example, one could look at an example of faulty word choice as though it were only an issue of grammar, which it is. But this faulty word choice is not limited to that. The kind of words that you use do not only affect grammar, but could affect the tone, the themes, and the intentions of a character or the nature of a location. Where you see one sentence, there is actually a minute aspect of the entire narrative.

We need to realize that when we tinker with any part of our stories, the effect of this tinkering always has the potential of cascading through the rest of the novel. And unfortunately, due to the very nature of this blog, I am incapable of rendering a concrete image of how you might go about doing this. As it stands, I can only tell you that you ought to do it. This is because to give you advice on how to “Holistically” approach your work, I would need to personally examine your writings. And not only am I a lazy person, but it is quite literally impossible for me to do this. However, you can.

If there was any piece of advice that I gave in this blog which I considered to be truly essential, it would be this. By all means, continue applying the advice of my posts, but know that sometimes, in the context of your story, you might have to go about it in a different way than what I described.

I hope you found something in all of this. It’s more “meta” than my usual posts, but understanding this could be the key to fixing a lot of problems that seem invisible in your manuscript.

As always, this has been the QuestingAuthor. Keep Writing, my friends.

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