Writing Lessons from Death Note

Spoiler Warning: I’m assuming that if you’re nerdy enough to have clicked on this post, you’ve either (a) watched Death Note to completion or (b) just love to read everything I write. For the sake of those who fall under (b), if they exist, I will try to keep spoilers to a minimum because YOU SHOULD WATCH THIS SHOW. However, it’s hard to discuss Death Note at all without giving away minor spoilers about certain episodes, so You Have Been Warned.

I have recently fallen into the black hole known as Death Note. For those of you who aren’t aware, this anime’s about Light Yagami, a brilliant student who discovers a notebook with the power to kill anyone whose name is written inside it. He decides to use it to judge the criminals of the world, quickly attracting the attention of the police force and a mysterious detective known as L. Infuriating mind games ensue.

While watching this show, I felt alternatively disgusted, angry, depressed, awed…and yes, in the end I was satisfied. (I suppose that’s a minor spoiler but really if a show isn’t going to leave you feeling satisfied in some way…why bother?) You may notice that most of those emotions are negative. Why would I watch — and furthermore, recommend — a show that made me feel this way? Well, that brings me to the first writing lesson from the unique storytelling style within Death Note.

  1. Writing must produce emotions. Any emotions. But they must be STRONG.

That doesn’t mean you should have your readers weeping in despair or dying of laughter at every scene. But in my experience, the stronger the emotions a story produces — even if those emotions are negative — the greater my drive to finish the story. And, if the story pays off in the end and leaves me satisfied, I’m much more likely to proclaim its brilliance to the world, even if while I’m watching/reading I feel like this most of the time:

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My response to pretty much everything Light does

A common pitfall when trying to achieve this goal is melodrama. Never once did I feel like the creators of Death Note were trying to FORCE me to feel something. The feelings arose naturally from the situations the characters were in. In fact, that leads me to point number two…

  1. Your protagonist DOESN’T have to be likable.

WHAT? Faith!! You’re contradicting the oldest writing rule known to humankind! Well I’m SORRY, but when I spend the majority of the show flat-out hating the protagonist and yet still loving the show as a whole, I’ve got to investigate.

Yes, it’s true. Light is arrogant, narcissistic, manipulative, has a godhood complex, and considers human life to be of no value once that human has broken the law or opposed him. His only winning features are his intelligence and his good looks (which I think was a devilishly clever choice on the part of the artists — gives him points for both types of fangirls). And yet I love this show.

Be warned with this piece of advice: it can backfire. There actually was a point where I considered stopping watching the show because he was making me so angry, but at the same time I knew I had to continue. The plot was so gripping that I HAD to find out what happened. I took a short break from the show to cool down, but unlike most shows that I take “breaks” from, I remembered to come back.

The key to this is control. The writers were fully aware Light would turn some (most) people off at some point. My hate of him actually spurred me to keep watching, because I needed to know if he got what was coming to him. (Did he? I’ll never tell.) It also made me feel deeply conflicted, because as a protagonist I had initially bonded with him, then recoiled when he started murdering. It made me ask: would I do the same in this situation? Who would I kill?

When a writer wants their character to be likeable but they aren’t, that’s a problem. When you know that most readers will probably hate your protagonist, and this decision is purposeful on your part, you can really twist this to your advantage.

However, I really might have stopped watching the show if it hadn’t been for this next piece…

  1. Write boss minor characters.

I ADORED so many of the minor characters, from Light’s family members to L himself to the adorkable police force member Matsuda…even Light’s self-proclaimed girlfriend Misa, although the “fangirl” characters aren’t usually my favorite. With the exception of Light’s mother and sister, each character had a well-rounded personality and backstory. Even without that, I didn’t feel Mrs. Yagami and Sayu Yagami were lacking. They had the amount of development they needed…nothing more.

I think we need to talk about Matsuda, even though his role is downplayed throughout most of the series. While everyone else is super intense, Matsuda is more laid-back and plays the part of comic relief extremely well. He also has a real need to prove himself, a motive which (in my opinion) makes him even more adorable. And of course, because of this, he gets into shenanigans. My favorite. (I also may have a fan crush on him but shhh.)

If you decide to go with an anger-inspiring protagonist like Light, make sure your supporting cast is extremely strong, and that at least one of them is likable to some extent. There should be balance between intense characters and people who are good for a laugh…and don’t be afraid to switch things up, either. L has his comic moments while Matsuda has his serious ones.

  1. Then kill those boss minor characters.

I absolutely refuse in any circumstance to tell you which of these characters die. Some do. That is all you’re getting. After all, a show about a notebook with the power to kill anyone wouldn’t make any sense if, you know, it didn’t kill someone we CARE about.

Which brings me to this: don’t be afraid to kill characters. Be ruthless. As a contrast, I’m going to pick on the Star Wars prequels for a moment. (I know, I know, they have it rough already. I’m sorry.) When the famous Order 66 comes along, no one we care about die. It’s like George Lucas is screaming “LOOK AT THE BIG BAD KILLING THINGS!!! ISN’T IT SAD??” But unless you’ve watched Clone Wars (which, may I add, was made after the prequels) and recognize a few of the deceased…it’s hardest to care. The worst part is when (spoiler) Anakin kills the younglings, and that’s only because they’re children. We don’t KNOW anyone. Not even that kid that manages to hold his own against a stormtrooper for several minutes. Seriously, who is that guy?

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Spoiler: It’s Zett Jukassa. Can we just have a moment of silence to appreciate that Star Wars has a name for every. Single. Minor. Character?

Oh right, this is about Death Note. Sorry.

The Death Note kills people. Obviously. And when it kills people that we actually care about, we know that literally anyone could die, which ups the stakes dramatically. And, it makes us angrier at Light and more anxious to see his demise.

Do we get to see that? I’ll never tell…

  1. Don’t be afraid to pull out the big guns whenever you want.

After the first few episodes, I thought I had a pretty good idea of where the show was going; how it was going to end, who would die, etc. Why would I think I could know such a thing? Well…I do have a writing blog. It’s kind of my thing to try to find stereotypical plot points and predict what happens next.

Well, Death Note didn’t let me do that. There were several elements I had been sure would come at the show’s climax that showed up before the show was halfway over. I was flabbergasted. If this is happening NOW…what will happen NEXT?

Death Note is also a pro at giving you just enough info to let you THINK you know what’s going on, but do you? Bwahahahaha! NO!

The danger with this, of course, is that if you pull out the big guns too early, you might not have anything left for the climax. On the whole, I think Death Note did well with this, although I was a bit skeptical of a few characters who showed up to fill voids left by our deceased friends. If you choose to use this element, make sure you’ve planned everything out to a T. Or to an L, I suppose. (What? I tried.)

Finally, Number 6.

  1. Let your readers make their own choices.

When I watch Light Yagami heartlessly write hundreds of names in the Death Note, I feel slightly sick, but I’m not sure if everyone watching feels the same. I’ve seen evidence on the Internet — whether it’s a ‘would you rather’ style button asking if you’d murder someone for immortality or a quiz on if you’d side with L or Light, there’s always a percentage of people who choose Light’s side. True, usually the minority, but they’re out there. Personally I find that scary, but the anime doesn’t discourage this behavior. In fact, I think it encourages it.

Although Light is the protagonist, the other characters — particularly the police force — get a lot of screen time. More than your average minor character and even more than your average villain. I think the writers did this on purpose in order to give the audience a fair chance to choose between Light and L. And even after the climactic ending (which I will not reveal), the show never announces its own opinion on the subject. Sure, we know what the CHARACTERS think, but it’s what many of them have been saying all along. The show doesn’t come with a clear-cut message. And while that may seem like a downfall, I prefer it.

So many stories, especially Christian fiction, come prepared with anvils to smack their viewers/readers over the head. While this might be enough to convince some people, I think it’s more effective to let your reader actively think about your story. This will provoke deeper consideration of your story question than if you just whacked them with your prescribed answer.

The risk, of course, is that they might not come to the same conclusion you have.

While I know I’ve been pushing y’all to watch Death Note like there’s no tomorrow, I admit the show might not be for everyone. Because it’s so intense and doesn’t have a clear “good guy,” it would be very hard for children to watch…or even teens who don’t yet have firm-set beliefs. (Who does that remind me of? Oh, right. Me.) In my opinion, Death Note definitely falls under the psychological horror category, and you’ve got to be ready for that. In particular, Light starts proclaiming that he is god, and numerous characters begin to follow him, which I found very disturbing. Also (this one is a spoiler, so quickly skip to the next paragraph if you don’t want it), the story world does begin to improve due to Light’s actions — crime rates dropping and such — which makes the watcher question if Light’s philosophy might actually be beneficial.

Definitely a challenging show, but worth watching. The writing, art, and voice acting are all phenomenal. I haven’t read the manga, but I’d like to someday.

Oh, I almost forgot #7!

7. Cake.

Faith out.

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Taking Writing Seriously

Hello, friends! It has certainly been a long time. I apologize for abandoning you, but I had school, and about three internal crises. But I’m back now.

So what have I been doing over the past two or three weeks? (How long has it been? Even I don’t remember.) Well, I went home for Easter break and visited my family for the first time since Christmas…that was fun. I’ve also struggled VERY MUCH to write a short story by mixing a modern day family crisis with the fall of the Aztec empire (sadly no time travel involved, sorry). I’m getting feedback on that today from my professor, so we’ll see how that goes. And I went to a job fair. And at that job fair I had an Epic Realization (TM). I need to start…

(Yes, that is my realization-face. Why do you ask?)

I don’t treat writing like it’s an actual job option. Of all the recruiters who asked me what I wanted to do after college, I didn’t tell one of them my actual current dream, which is to live in a tiny apartment with a moderately nice roommate and work a nice day job editing or something, while hiding under the covers and writing novels in my free time.

Partially because I’m salty that I didn’t realize this was my dream until AFTER I spent two years and $60,000 in loans at college. What is life. Why does my brain work this way.

But seriously. Why didn’t I tell anyone? Maybe I’m afraid that they’ll laugh at me, or give me a weird look like “what are you doing at a job fair then,” or a sad look like “ah yes, there goes another delusional millennial down the moldy drain of debt and tears.” Which is probably true. But don’t ruin this for me yet.

The thing is, I’ve never treated novel writing as a viable career option, which is 80% of the reason I went to college in the first place. I understand that yes, I will need a second job (see apartment dream above), but I believe novel-writing can be and is a viable career path in itself and I SHALL BRAVELY FOLLOW.

So as the last two weeks of school wrap up (amen hallelujah), I’m thinking about plans for this summer. Hopefully plans that will send me on my way to making novel-writing my career. And because I know you’re all extremely interested, here they are.

  1. Build a better blogging schedule. I want to try for at least once a week (which I was already kind of doing until Giant Final Projects hit), and since I won’t have as much to do, I might even try to post twice a week. (Gasp!) Of course, summer includes me forgetting what day of the week it is 90% of the time, so we’ll see how this goes.
  2. Take a REALLY good look at my Nano/Camp Nano novel. So my Camp Nano has been a total flop this year, mostly because I wrote 2500 words, got super discouraged, and have not worked on that story since. (Not a normally recommended writing strategy, but we all need breaks sometimes…right?) I was on the verge of scrapping it, but when I went to my Camp Nano page to delete the project and replace it w/ the short story I’m writing for English, something inside of me said… “Look at this one more time. It’s still kinda cool.” So this goal might involve a lot of tears, but hopefully it’ll be worth it.
  3. Write something NEW! Faith, don’t you have 5 or 6 projects you could edit? Yeeees…why would you bring that up? Anyway, what I have in mind isn’t technically completely new. For Camp Nano July 2016, I started writing a time-travel story that I didn’t get very far on because time travel is a butt and I didn’t have the timeline mapped out. But, I still really like the idea so I’ll be going at it again. Screams to follow.
  4. Write something ELSE new!!! Okay Faith stop it! You’re going to die! Look, I have justification for this one. I’ve been wanting to write a fantasy novel for a while BUT I don’t really know how, so I’ll mostly just be worldbuilding. Not writing. You hear that, brain? NOT WRITING YET. Honestly, the amount of energy it takes to keep these brain cells in line…
  5. Reading quite a bit. I have a lot of books on my TBR (most of which are currently eluding me in the void of my memory), and as long as I can get to the good library a few miles from here, I’ll be set. (My school library is quite good for research but very lacking in the novel department.) As anyone who follows me on Goodreads knows, I’ve fallen behind on my 2017 Reading Goal of 52 books, so hopefully I’ll catch up in the months after finals.
  6. Watch Netflix. IT’S NOT PROCRASTINATING IF IT’S ON MY TO-DO LIST, IS IT? I actually just got Netflix and would like to catch up on some shows my friends have been watching so I can be Educated. So it’s a real goal. Really, guys. I’m serious.

Of course, I’ll also be working 40 hours a week at my school’s dining hall, and socializing when I have the chance. (I do that. I’m an ambivert. Sue me.) Not to mention planning my trip to Spain this fall, and who knows what will happen to my goals when I’m abroad. But we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

TL;DR: I wanna start treating my writing like an actual career. So this summer I’m gonna woman up. Hopefully.

(Inspiration for this post comes from Hannah Heath’s recent post that inspired me to give up and then un-give up on my NaNo novel, and from Nate Philbrick’s resolution to write 500 words a day before work. Maybe I’ll do this too. Even if it means getting up at 5 am…)

 

Stay crazy, friends.

Worldbuilding According to Sims 4

I have fallen, my friends. I have been sucked into the all-consuming world of Sims. They warned me that it would tear my world apart, but I never imagined it would be like this.

Thankfully, while I’m getting my soul sucked out, I’ve been able to notice some nice worldbuilding tips for y’all.

In case you don’t know, Sims is a virtual reality game in which you create animated characters to inhabit a small town (or a city, if you have the right expansion pack). There isn’t a stated goal, but I think it’s to live the “ideal life,” whatever that is.

Now, the Sims games are owned by Electronic Arts, an American company located in California. For the most part, the in-game culture reflects American styles, values, etc. However, there are a few notable differences, and this is what I think we writers can learn from.

  1. No personal space.

This was the first thing I noticed. Your Simmy friends will just walk right into your house, eat your food, use your stove, play your video games, and sleep in your bed, and no one bats an eye. The first time this happened to me, I’d made a lovely plate of hamburgers in the park, and another Sim just waltzed up and started eating my food. What’s up with that, bro?

A logically minded person might argue that because the Sims are automations they can’t be expected to comply to social rules, but I say nay! The programmers could have put this in if they wanted! The Sims society seems to be a strange mix of pluralism and individualism — although each Sim is pursuing their own goals, friends are quite open with each other and expect all houses to be open spaces.

Notable exception: Bathrooms. Apparently they’re still not okay with undressing in front of each other, even family members.

What writers can learn: When designing a new culture, you’ll unconsciously model the social rules after your own. Think about bending this, even though the results may seem inappropriate or offensive at first.

  1. Lax parenting.

I’d really like to get the Sims 4 City Living expansion pack to see if this holds in that environment. (Someone tell me please.) It’s not unusual to see kids walking around the neighborhood with no parent in sight. Sim parents don’t seem concerned if the toddler wanders out the front door naked. (This did happen. I am not making this up.)

From a creator’s standpoint, I wonder if this is supposed to hearken back to the “good old days” when kids could run all over town without fear of muggings or alien abductions. (Oh wait. Alien abduction is a thing in the Sims. Never mind.) But no matter what they were thinking over at EA, it seems that Sims expect their children to be much more independent than your average American child.

What writers can learn: Think about how safe your society is, or how safe it’s perceived to be. Think about familial expectations. Do the kids do chores? Do they wake themselves up in the morning? Who gets them to school? Who stays home with them? Do both parents work? Do they hire a nanny? The possibilities are endless.

  1. Time has no meaning.

The last two cultural quirks I suspect were borrowed from other cultures. After all, if Sims is going to be played internationally, it’d be nice if the “ideal life” isn’t exclusively American. However, I don’t just think this one’s borrowed. I know it is.

Being late isn’t a problem in the Sims. If your job is set to start at 8:00am, you can head out the door around 8:15. Same with school. There doesn’t really seem to be a standardized bussing system. (This may have something to do with the fact that Sims just teleport from place to place, but shh.)

In America, we tend to be pretty uptight when it comes to time, but I know that some cultures are not. It seems that Sims Culture is one of these.

What writers can learn: How does time factor into your society? Must you arrive early? Late? Have futuristic teleportation devices affected the way your society sees time? What about stories set in the past? What about before clocks were invented?

  1. Goodbyes are optional.

This one I find particularly interesting. Occasionally the Sims will say good-bye to each other, but the majority of the time they just leave. As an American, this seems incredibly rude to me. However, my good friend Maggie recently told me that in France people don’t say “you’re welcome,” and my Chinese professor told me that in China you don’t say “excuse me” if you bump into someone. So every culture’s different.

What writers can learn: Don’t be afraid to remove components of conversation that you think are crucial! On the other hand, you could add a component that you don’t generally have. What if every conversation had to be preceded by remarking on the color of each others’ clothes?

Well, who’d have thought I’d make a whole blogpost based around the Sims 4 game? I guess the purchase was worth it after all. Now to go procrastinate some more…

Stay crazy, friends.

Beautiful People ~ March 2017

Well. Here we are. I knew it would come to this one day.

I have finally decided to take part in the Beautiful People linkup.

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Now, if you’re not sure what that is, let me give you a quick rundown. Beautiful People is hosted every month by PaperFury and Sky. They ask a series of questions to help us get to know our characters better. Isn’t that nice of them?

I’m simultaneously excited and scared to share my character with you. She originated in my NaNo novel (although she was male at the time; I gender-swapped her during the Months of Edits), and is now making a full comeback in my Camp NaNo rewrite. Exciting stuff. However, she’s also my first LGBTQA+ character. I and most people I know are still just getting to know that topic, and it comes with its own questions and concerns. I’m really concerned about portraying the community well and also figuring out my own thoughts on the issue. Prayers and helpful comments are appreciated.

So without further to do…please welcome…(drumroll)…Dan Scott!

1. What’s their favourite book/movie/play/etc.?

Dan is a big fan of anything Marvel. Her favorite character is Iron Man (because who doesn’t have plans to attain Tony Stark levels of wit and awesomeness someday…let’s be honest), but Black Widow is a close second. However, her favorite movie is actually Captain America: The First Avenger. When Civil War came out she was honestly at a loss for who to root for. She ended up siding with Tony Stark because that’s who her friends were rooting for, but she kinda felt bad the whole time. Fan problems.

2. Is there anything they regret doing?

This one’s hard, because once Dan’s done something, she sticks to her guns and refuses to admit it was a bad idea. Even if it involves many sick and wounded. (Okay, not that bad.) She more regrets what she hasn’t done. She went to an inner city Catholic school from K-7, and there was a lot of bullying and other things that went under the radar. She knew people who were being victimized, but she didn’t say anything about them until she came out in seventh grade (and thusly got kicked out of school), and then she became much more vocal. She regrets letting people get hurt in the past.

3. If they were sick or wounded, who would take care of them and how?

Well, up until the beginning of the story, it would be her wonderful mother, Angela. Angela has put up with so much crap from Dan, whether it’s driving her to the E.R., waiting up for her to come home at night, bandaging her wounds, etc. Unfortunately, as our story begins, Angela dies, and Dan is left in the care of her unmarried, reclusive uncle Harold. So we’ll see how that goes.

4. Is there an object they can’t bear to part with and why?

Dan isn’t really affectionate towards inanimate objects. Probably this would be her phone or her laptop.

5. What are 5 ways to win their heart (or friendship)?

One. Know who you are and what you stand for.

Two. Always defend the underdog.

Three. Have a quirky/clever/morbid sense of humor that you execute with a smile.

Four. Be flexible and open to rapidly changing plans.

Five. Defend chocolate with your life.

Five and a half. Defend Marvel with your life. (The lack of this one’s not a deal breaker, but it does give you a serious disadvantage.)

Five and three quarters. Never seriously disparage Captain America. (This one does not appear to be a dealbreaker but inwardly she smites you every time she sees you.

6. Describe a typical outfit for them from top to bottom.

First, there’s her hair, which her mom has always said is somewhat of a statement. Dan’s hair is short and curly, and she rarely does anything to rid it of frizz. Occasionally she wears a faded baseball cap she stole from Jared. She has a stud in her nose and in her lower lip, both plastic but imitation diamonds. She has small gold hoop earrings. In the summer, she wears jean shorts and a tank top, occasionally with a jean vest. In the fall and winter, she wears jeans or sweatpants and T-shirts with a sweater overtop — generally and old, baggy grey or blue sweater. She always wears tennis shoes. When she’s skateboarding or doing other vaguely dangerous things, she doesn’t tend to wear safety equipment, but instead wears long pants or something like that to absorb some of the damage if she falls. (Most of her pants are ripped at the knees because of this.)

7. What’s their favorite type of weather?

She actually likes beating hot weather when the miserableness is pretty much oozing up from the pavement.

8. What’s the worst fight they’ve ever been in?

Probably during the month she came out as lesbian. She was attending a Catholic program for a very low price, because of their programs for kids far under the poverty line. (She has a single mom, and her family was struggling even before her dad suddenly left.) When she came out in seventh grade, the school threatened to kick her out if she didn’t take it back. Her mom was raised Catholic and hadn’t thought much about the LGBT issue until this moment, and she wanted Dan to stay quiet about it so she could stay out of inner-city schools. Dan refused, and in the process lost most of her “friends” and got her girlfriend kicked out as well. Because of that, her girlfriend broke up with her (she had wanted to keep things quiet). Her uncle Harold, who lived nearby, tried to convince her to recant her sexuality as well, which resulted in a huge fight as Angela finally sided with her daughter. Dan is tough when it comes to fights and actually finds yelling therapeutic — when fights are one-on-one they resolve quickly, usually with both participants happier than before. During this time, she felt like everyone was yelling at her, and no one was letting her yell back. She transferred to public school where she was also discriminated against and fought with nearly everyone, until she met her current friends.

9. What names or nicknames have they been called throughout their life?

Her full name is Danielle, but she prefers Dan. As a child her mom and some of her teachers called her Dani, but now it exists solely as a pet name and sounds very strange to her if someone she doesn’t know well uses it. Angela was the only person allowed to call her Danielle, and only when she was in big trouble. (She’s heard “Danielle Yolanda Scott!” quite a bit in her lifetime.) Sometimes when her friends are joking around they’ll call her Ella, Ellie, or Yelp. (She has many opinions, which is where Yelp comes from.)

10. What makes their heart feel alive?

Standing up for people results in an adrenaline rush that she doesn’t always enjoy, but which definitely sustains her. And if someone stands up for her — not in a patronizing way, but in an instinctive way that shows she’s intimately important to them — that makes her happy like nothing else in the world.
Welp. There you go. Don’t forget to check out Paperfury’s and Sky’s blogs. Stay crazy, my friends!

Lessons in Faithese

I haven’t posted for awhile and my brain is shot, so let’s do something fun today, shall we? I thought so.

In my childhood, I lived in many different locations. I was born in Virginia, then moved to Massachusetts. My earliest memory is from Pennsylvania, where we lived for five or six years before moving to Louisiana. Then we went to South Carolina, and finally returned to the mountainous state of PA. For good. Or so we think anyway.

Because of this, my dialect is…quirky. Not to mention that my family has a tendency to make up its own words for things. So today’s blog post is all about teaching you to talk like me, because who wouldn’t want to know that? Let’s start with the fun stuff.

Expletives

  1. Meep!

I think I got this from an episode of Phineas and Ferb, where an alien named Meep landed in their backyard. All this alien ever says is Meep. I picked it up because I like languages, obviously. It’s also a really easy non-offensive sound to make whenever anything unexpected and slightly devastating happens, from stubbing my toe to dropping my pencil or homework behind the bed. It also displays distress much better than a traditional swear, I think.

  1. Mark!

See Meep. I have no idea where I got this one. I don’t even know a Mark.

  1. Ow!

Contrary to what you might think, I do not say this when I get hurt. Okay, sometimes I do, but mostly it’s an expression of surprise.

  1. Hello!

I got this one from British books. Uttered upon encountering something (or someone) unexpected.

  1. AKF EAFEH IEAGELA (or gutteral screams that sound like Dark Speech)

THIS one is for when I get hurt. Or am just very upset. Sometimes I will howl. Most of the time I sound like I’m trying to call demons down upon the earth. (I’m not, I promise.)

Nouns

  1. Chippie

A chip. Or, if you’re from Britain, a crisp. This one comes from my younger siblings.

  1. Loopie.

A hair tie. I was legitimately surprised when I learned no one else says this.

  1. Delicious

Ham. This also hearkens from the children of my family

  1. Snail.

The hand motion in which the middle and ring finger touch the top of the thumb, while the fore and little finger are raised. Many people call this a llama. I have met one individual who calls this a slug.

Verbs

  1. Any noun with -ing at the end. Or any noun, period.

See fooding, storying, and verbing. Oftentimes a legitimate verb exists for this, but shh.

Adjectives/Adverbs

  1. Monstrously

I picked this up from Paperfury. I’m sure she would be monstrously pleased.

  1. Delicious/deliciously

Basically synonymous with “extreme/ly.” Deliciously frustrating, deliciously good, deliciously bad, deliciously hard… Don’t ask me when I starting wanting to eat everything. I have no idea. I don’t usually say this one out loud for obvious reasons.

So there you go! Tidbits from the Faithian dialect. Hopefully y’all enjoyed this…and of course, don’t forget to stay crazy.

 

I’m In Michigan!!!

Hey guys. I know I’ve gone AWOL for a bit, so here’s what’s going on.

I’m in Michigan!!!

Yeah, big surprise, I know. The title says it all. Okay, so Spring Break has finally sprung, and while I have a few homework assignments to complete, I’ll finally have time to get back to writing and beta-reading (and hopefully, blogging). So I should be more visible this week.

As for what I’m doing in Michigan (I’m normally a PA girl)…I’m visiting my roommate’s family. We split the 10-hour drive into two parts, stopping overnight in Ohio. To keep ourselves from boredom, we compiled a giant Spotify playlist comprised of songs from Sweeney Todd, Into the Woods, Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables, Hamilton, and In The Heights. And we put it on shuffle. It was HILARIOUS. You haven’t heard anything until you’ve heard these songs juxtaposed…

“Silence! A message from the King! A message from the Kiiiiiing!”

“He means to marry me Monday! What shall I do? I’d rather die!”

Okay, King George. 😀 (The songs, respectively, are “Farmer Refuted” from Hamilton and “Kiss Me (Part 1)” from Sweeney Todd. If you get these references, you win everything.)

We visited some friends who own 20+ animals and gave me all sorts of story ideas. Then we made the trip up here. And here I am, experiencing suburban life again. (I’ve lived in the country the past seven or eight years of my life, and let me tell you, it’s nice to be five minutes from the store.)

As of now, I’ve just finished watching Revenge of the Sith, during which my friends and I discussed fan theories and made many hilarious jokes. It’s nice to be living with the Star Wars crowd.

That’s all I’ve got for now. I’ll keep y’all updated. Stay crazy, friends.

February: It’s Been Crazy

In fact, it’s been so crazy that I don’t even have time to make an image for this post. It shall go image-less. Unfortunately I don’t have time to bestow any grand nuggets of wisdom on you today, but because I would like to keep up with this blog, you’re going to get an update on my life. Plus it’s the last February post, so I have to do something. You’re welcome.

So what have I been up to that’s kept me from posting? Well. Let me tell you. A research paper on the motivations of one Marcus Brutus; a Spanish presentation I forgot about until my partner so kindly reminded me; a Chinese character quiz; ordinary Linguistics homework; and the occasional Writing for Social Change reading that I keep forgetting to do.

Most of these trials are based on my own lack of planning but shh, no one needs to know that.

This week I’ve done a lot of thinking about Julius Caesar, for one, but also a lot about racism. (What?! Faith! We weren’t going to get deep in this blog post!) I’m sorry, okay! It’s just that my school had an awesome English symposium based on the history and present reality of race relations, and boy, were some of the speakers good. Especially Mark Charles and Dr. Kelly Brown Douglass. Look them up sometime.

And being the writer I am, I had to think about race relations in novels. Obviously every novel isn’t about race. In fact, the genre where it tends to pop up most is fantasy, because we have elves and dwarves and the like. Now I’m wondering, would enhanced awareness of race relations help write these stories? Is fantasy an appropriate place to work out these issues? Is it easier in a fictional setting? Harder? As part of the majority in my country (I am very white, no doubt about it), I feel that those of us who are considered the “norm” forget about the impact centuries of socialization has had on the world. Could THAT viewpoint be worked out in fantasy?

And look, I’ve hit on a controversial topic without even trying. Go brain. A more in-depth blog post is probably forthcoming. However, I have a test on Friday and a research paper due the Wednesday after, so you may not get another post until next Monday. (I’m sure you’ll make it through fine, tears of sorrow notwithstanding.)

So if you’re still with me, I have a quick question. What do you think about more blog posts about my daily life? Would you be cool with those? Should I give my “Life” posts a separate page, or just sprinkle ’em in with the writing posts?

Thanks for stopping by. Stay crazy, friends. 🙂

The Real Reason I Write

I was going to do another post about characterization and all those things we writers like to go on about, but I did homework instead. And through a strange chain of events, I got another idea for this post.

Event 1: I realized my English professor had graded the prospectus I wrote for my research paper.

Event 2: It was an awesome grade, with some really encouraging feedback.

Event 3: I was flooded with joy, sunshine, and flowers, and dashed down the hall to the water fountain for the sheer pleasure of sprinting 30 feet (I’m sure this is normal college behavior).

Event 4: The emotional release reminded me of last time I worked on something fictional.

Event 5: I decided to write this blog post to explain the correlation between Event 3 and Event 4.

For the last year, I’ve been busy. Really busy. College busy. Because I’m in college. And on the rare occasions I got to work on my fiction, I felt stilted and uninspired. Yes, I had a good NaNo season, but that story fizzled out during editing. (Not saying I won’t come back to it. Fingers crossed.) For a while I focused so much on plot, characterization, and all that good stuff, that I fell into the bottomless pit of perfectionistic procrastination, waving my arms in helpless terror reminiscent of the demise of Darth Maul.

Needless to say, I stopped writing for a bit and focused on my research paper. It’s looking to be a ten page paper on the motivations of Brutus from Julius Caesar, and I was sifting through pages and pages of scholarly journals. Honestly, Plutarch and Shakespeare are easier than some of those academic papers. It ate up all my time, and I nearly blew a blood vessel trying to get enough read and annotated before the prospectus deadline. (If you’re not an English major, please don’t run away. We’re not always this scary.)

One night I had it. I knew I ought to read some more articles and do another annotation — actually, I needed to write two annotations to stay on track — but I couldn’t. I’d had it. I needed to get away.

Drowning in rules and regulations, I shut off my project and turned back to fiction.

Uh…Faith. Didn’t you just say your fiction was full of rules and regulations?

So glad you asked. I didn’t work on that project. Instead of that, I worked on a high fantasy idea I’d recently thought of.

Um…isn’t creating a new project just going to aggravate the problem?

SHH! I’m an ENFP! Brainstorming and ideas are kinda my thing. And besides, I wasn’t focusing on rules and regulations. I was simply making up ideas I liked. Designing a culture. Coming up with a character. Possibly planning death and despair for millions of fictional minds. (That part may or may not have been influenced by Julius Caesar…just saying.)

I needed to get away, and that’s what I did. For an hour or so, I played in my mind, doing what I wanted, throwing rules and regulations to the wind.

When I think back on my writing life, the times I’ve written best were when I worried least about my project. As a kid, that came naturally. Kids don’t worry about these sorts of things. But as I’ve grown up, I’ve needed real-world stress to bring me to that point of not caring about anything except the world inside my mind. No three-act structure. No elaborate character arcs. Just me and my imagination.

Rules and structure are fine — essential, really — but there comes a time when it’s best to let it go. (Please don’t start singing.) Just write. Get away from the world for a while. Do what you want, how you want. The real world isn’t that accommodating, but your mental playhouse can be.

Then, of course, you can edit it, and I’ll beta it. If you want. Just saying. Contact info’s up there.* (Coughs nervously.)

Thanks for reading, guys. Stay crazy.

*Actually I’m really busy right now, but I’m assuming it’ll take you at least a year to write a novel based on my excellent advice, so…planning ahead, right??

 

Power Couples

So I’ve been keeping a list of tropes I like in fiction, so I can figure out what sort of book I might like to write. (I may or may not be having a writing crisis. Carry on.) Anyway, here’s a sample of my likings.

  • Awesome, meaningful death scenes
  • Life-ruining secrets
  • Amnesia
  • Power couples

What are power couples? Well, I’m glad you asked!

Given the above list, it shouldn’t surprise any of you that my writing isn’t exactly, um…fluffy. So if my definition of power couples is a bit disturbing, I’m sure you’ll understand. (Probably. Hopefully. Right?)

Okay. So a Power Couple is a romantic pairing that…

  1. Has equal power dynamics (surprisingly rare, actually)
  2. Has amazing chemistry (prerequisite to romance, really)
  3. Always has the other’s back (nice, right?)
  4. Kicks amazing butt together (this is really everyone’s fav, I think)
  5. Is usually evil.

Alright, fine. FINE. The “usually evil” part is my preference. Why? I don’t know. Perhaps I like to explore my dark side? There are nice, law-abiding Power Couples out there, but let’s start with my fan favorite, shall we?

Sweeney Todd and Mrs. Lovett.

These two are my fav. Not an OTP, really, because they do deserve to crash and burn. But they’re still my fav. And let’s discuss equal power dynamics, shall we? This is 19th century London. Women can’t do squat. Unless they’re motivating a sociopathic barber to take revenge on an evil judge, of course. Mrs. Lovett does at least as much for this plot as Sweeney does, and if it hadn’t been for her, he would never have gone back to barbering in the first place.

sweeney-todd
Nothing says love like making people into pies, right?    Photo not mine.

And besides, what’s not to love about a pair of cannibals who constantly make puns about their victims? They bounce off each other and THE MUSIC IS AMAZING and I’m fangirling now.

Pro tip: When designing cannibals, include music.

Speaking of the Dark Side, let’s talk about a few evil couples that didn’t make the list. Joker and Harley Quinn are one. Although both of these characters are awesome, I think it’s pretty clear that Harley is nowhere near as in control of the relationship as Joker is. Maybe Suicide Squad changed this; I don’t know. I didn’t watch it.

Another diabolical duo that doesn’t make the list is (drumroll)…Anakin and Padme. And why does it fail? (Is that a question?) IT’S NOT ACTUALLY DIABOLICAL. Yes. I would like it better if Padme were evil. And here’s why.

Reason One. People constantly blame Padme for Anakin’s fall to the Dark Side, and I’m tired of it, okay? It wasn’t her fault! He did everything Dark-Side about this! The only thing she did was stick around when she should have left! So it would give me great pleasure if she actually had taken an active role in this Dark Side.

Reason Two. I like Padme’s character. I would have liked to see her do more (especially in Episode III) even if it were evil.

Reason Three. I want more morally grey Dark Side users. I want Sith Lords who can banter wittily together and maybe realize it’d be a good idea to have more than two of them alive at a time. I WANT A DARK SIDE REVOLUTION! But that’s a post for another day.

hahadarthpadmekids.jpg
I kind of just want this to happen. Drawing not mine.

But Padme’s lack of involvement brings up a good point. Perhaps the most important element of Power Couples is that both members are equally important to the flow of the story. It’s not enough for them both to be necessary to the plot. They both have to be protagonists, in a way. One of them might have a bit of an edge — Sweeney Todd is named after the titular character, after all — but in the end, they both have to have gone on a transformative journey, for better or for worse.

Take, for example, Tony Stark and Pepper Potts. I love this couple. Pepper is amazing. Personality wise, she’s just as strong as Tony. But there’s no doubt that Tony is the star of the show. He has all the powers, all the cool gadgets, all the attention…heck, the movies are even called Iron Man! Pepper Potts, awesome as she is, is really just a side character.

So what’s an example of a morally good Power Couple? Well, here’s my favorite…Mr. and Mrs. Incredible! Again, the story line tilts toward Mr. Incredible’s journey, but Elastigirl’s struggles are just as important. And you had better watch out if you get both of these supers teamed up against you.

incredibles
Forget Power Couples…we need more Power Families! Pixar outdid itself on this one.

I’d really appreciate it if y’all would let me know your favorite Power Couples in the comments. Did I miss anyone? Are any of you currently writing a Power Couple, good or bad?

Stay crazy, guys. I’ll see you on Monday.

Freestyle Writing Challenge

On Friday, Victoria Grace Howell posted the Freestyle Writing Challenge, and although I wasn’t tagged in it (boo! Just kidding), it was too awesome to pass up. So I am taking the liberty of considering myself tagged by default, and sharing this wonderful challenge with you.

What happens is this: I will give you a prompt. The second you see the prompt, set a timer for five or ten minutes (whichever you prefer) and write without stopping or editing until the time runs out. Then, copy and paste your response into your own blog post — without editing —  and include your word count.

Your prompt is at the bottom of this post, but WAIT! Don’t go there yet! Let me show you mine first. (So you can see how it’s done, obviously.)

Victoria’s Prompt: Moonlight.

My response:

Moonlight. Shimmering on the surface of the ocean, breaking into pieces as the waves hit the shore. I stand on the stone wall, fifty feet above the sand, and look down. Crashing. Crashing. The moon drifts behind the clouds – or do the clouds drift in front? I don’t know. Does it matter? Crashing, crashing, crashing…

The light reflecting off the waves is white. Pure white, unlike the heavy foam clogged with sand and shells. It glares into my eyes, almost painful. Searing, but unlike the sun. Like a ghost charged with murder. Crashing, waving, shimmering, dancing, killing, slaughtering, shattering. I shiver in the breeze and inhale the salt air. The sand wavers beneath my feet, beneath the wall fifty feet high.

I look up. The stars are out, interspersed between the clouds, twinkling at me. There could be little moons up there. Perhaps every star is a moon, reflecting the light of each other. I shake my head. That’s idiotic. No amount of light could ever reach all the way to each star, then get all the way back to me. And even if it were, stars and moons aren’t like mirrors, playing tricks on the eyes like a stage show. A cloud drifts in front of the moon and the stars shine brighter. The wind bites my nose, freezing. The moonlight reflects off the ocean like ice.

What else do I do while I stand here, looking down, clutching my nightgown around me? The sand whispers along the shore. I whisper back. Far down, at the bottom of the wall, is a small gate to let in the waters at high tide. Now, the moon casts shadows and eliminates it.

281 words in 5 minutes.

There you go! Make sure you don’t go back to edit as you do this…as Victoria says, it’s “only meant for you to reflect on your own control of sensible thought flow.”

I tag…

  1. Grace @ Writerly
  2. Miranda @ Dreams and Dandelions
  3. Nate @ You Write Fiction
  4. Maggie @ Maggie’s Musings
  5. Hannah @ Hannah Heath

Ready? Here comes your prompt…get your timer ready…

5…

4…

3…

2…

3…

(Psyched you there, didn’t I?)

2…

1…

Laughter