#MondayBlogs: Writing Relatable Teens

16 Feb

Intro:

What better way to start off the week than with a great guest post from YA author, Ava Bloomfield? Writing is a complicated journey, but with Ava’s help, everyone can create believable teen characters. Feel free to share your tips in the comments below!

Writing Relatable Teens

Nobody wants to grow up. We learned that in Peter Pan. So how does an adult write a relatable YA character? How does anyone write a relatable character?

It’s a subjective thing; we all know that. It’s impossible to wholly judge a character for their realism while we go about our particular lives, with our particular experiences, in our particular way. It fits that novel writing is such a personal process, in that context; our characters are born from us after all.

AvaSo what makes Charlie from The Perks of Being a Wallflower just as ‘relatable’ as, say, Bella Swan from Twilight?

Some argue those two aren’t remotely comparable. Some would say they’re too different; one is ‘deep’ and one is…well, Bella Swan. It’s all subjective anyway, so how do you guarantee you’ll write a Charlie and not a Bella?

The answer is simply that it depends on the journey, not the character itself. We can relate to almost anything if the underlying themes ring true to its audience.

While Charlie is coming of age, Bella is experience her first love. Or infatuation. Whatever you call it, there are inferences to be drawn. Just because Perks examines abuse and mental health issues doesn’t mean that Twilight’s love story is a vacuous waste of time by comparison. Didn’t Jane tell an unconventional love story with Mr Rochester in Jane Eyre?

Granted, Meyer doesn’t hold a candle to Charlotte Bronte.

But when we put the calibre of any particular writer aside, it’s easy to see that there’s room for any variation on topic. It’s how the writer weaves their message through a character that makes them believable, relatable.

Characters in YA aren’t just reflections of ourselves, or unfathomable things we just dreamed up one day. They’re extensions of ourselves. Teen characters are ghosts of our past, holding hands with today. In my experience, the whole process of writing about a young character is as familiar as it is daunting. We set out to write about a ‘real’ teenager, with battles to face, and through their development we thread together the fragments of our experience.

That ‘thread’ I’m talking about is a sensation that never leaves us. It’s the sensation of being on the cusp of adulthood, unprepared; plunged utterly defenseless into the wolf-pit that is the world. And it’s that thread that binds the YA writer with their characters and entwines them; it’s a natural occurrence. It’s necessary. It’s our link with our former selves, however near or far that is.

But therein lays the opportunity for disaster. By the logic of what I’ve just described, writing YA characters would be purely therapeutic. We’d confront our demons and wrap things up neatly in the end. We’d snuff out conflict in a way we never could in the real world, because we’ve walked that path before. And that’s not realistic at all.

Teen characters have to be monumental screw-ups in one fashion or another. They’re the lessons we wish we’d learned, failing all over again. There’s nothing palatable about success without sacrifice, is there? It’s as true for the protagonist as it is for the writer.

To write an authentic teenager, we give away the depths of what makes us who we are today. It’s not slaying the demon that wins the battle for any YA character; it’s the metamorphosis they experience on their journey. It’s the awareness that they aren’t the same person they were before.

And you, the writer, will have experienced it with them.

Charlie from Perks wasn’t the same come the end. Bella from Twilight wasn’t the same either. It’s all in the journey. It’s in the believability of their transformation.

The reader will experience that metamorphosis and evolve. The writer connects with its reader by way of character. Within that thread of experience, binding it all, is a common vein we share.

Isn’t that why we read YA, after all? It’s more than just an escape, and it’s certainly more than nostalgia. It’s a way of holding hands. It’s a way of saying, ‘I hear you’ that transcends any other medium.

Writing a relatable teen character is like shouting your deepest secrets into the void and waiting for them to echo back to you. Just know you’re not the only one listening out for it.

Bio:

Ava Bloomfield lives by the sea with her partner Matt and their Scottish Terrier, Sputnik. When she’s not busy with her day job as a transcriber, Ava can be found rummaging in charity shops for hidden treasure, mooching about in her local library, or writing her next novel.

Ava writes stand alone books about angsty teenagers. Check out: Honest, All Girls Cry, Leap and Beyond on Goodreads.

Ways of chumming up to Ava: TwitterBlog.

Alternatively, send her a psychic message over the cosmos. She’s not quite tuned into it yet, but she’s certain it’ll happen any day now.

Want to be a guest blogger? I would love to have you on! I am accepting original posts that focus on reading and writing. A picture and a bio are encouraged. If you qualify, please email me at shannonathompson@aol.com.

~SAT

#SATurday: The Lesson of Macaroni and Cheese

14 Feb

#SATurday: The Lesson of Macaroni and Cheese

When I was little, my mother was making me Macaroni and Cheese – something I continue to love to this day – and I was horrified when she poured it down the sink right in front of me. Of course, that isn’t what she had actually done. In reality, she had poured it into a strainer I couldn’t see from my position near the kitchen’s island. But I still screamed.

I started crying uncontrollably. I was starving (at least, I was starving in my kid mind), and she had just made food for me only to throw it away. As my five-year-old self began crying out my explanation (because she had asked when I was so upset), she began laughing uncontrollably. Now – in my tiny dramatic brain – she was laughing in my face. Of course, she hadn’t thrown out my food, but I think my panic surprised her so much she had no other way to react. Because she couldn’t stop laughing, she actually had to pick up the strainer to show me that my food was fine. After that, we were both laughing.

It might seem strange – and perhaps, it is – but this memory is one of my fondest memories I have of my late mother. Probably because she later taught me how to cook Macaroni and Cheese before she died, but I mainly love this memory because we were doing something together.

kft-288b_1z

I only had eleven years with my mom, many of which I don’t remember, and she was often too ill to do much, so my memories with her are fleeting – probably unmemorable to the kid who gets a lifetime with a mom – but then again, maybe not. I guess I’ll never know, but I do think about aspects of my life like this a lot, and I’m very grateful for even the tiniest moments because even the tiniest moments last a lifetime. Her lessons have stayed with me, after all.

Let’s take this memory for example. When she started cooking, I was really excited, and then, when she “poured it down the sink”, I was crushed, but then, I realized it was not what it seemed, and everything was fine. In fact, I was one step closer to eating, and I got to laugh so hard it stuck with me for life.

On my bad days, I try to remember Macaroni and Cheese. Aside from the pasta being possibly the best comfort food in the world – no exaggeration – I think there is a lot to learn from the lesson of the strainer. When everything appears to be going down the sink, so to speak, maybe it’s only being strained of all the bad stuff so you can move on to the best part – eating. And I do love eating.

We’re only getting closer to enjoying it, but that doesn’t mean we can’t laugh along the way.

~SAT

TTSP.S. I am taking on more clients who need book reviews, interviews, and editing! I provide the first chapter’s edit for free. If you’re interested, please email me at shannonathompson@aol.com.

In the meantime, check out Tiger Tail Soup by Nicki Chen. This historical novel was inspired by true tales about the Japanese occupation, and I recommend it to readers who enjoy historical fiction, literary fiction, and women’s fiction like The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan.

#WW Huzzah! I Have A New Publisher

11 Feb

Huzzah! I Have A New Publisher

The day has come! If you follow me on Facebook, I promised today would be the day I announce the future. Let me start off by first saying something so cliché, we all know it is true: I couldn’t have done this without you.

Really. I couldn’t have. In fact, it was one of you who helped me connect with my new publisher.

That’s right. If you haven’t guessed from the title, I have signed with Clean Teen Publishing. I am unbelievably grateful for this talented and passionate group of people taking me in, and I look forward to the future more than ever before! The Timely Death Trilogy will be re-released this summer and fall, and I will keep everyone updated as the books receive new covers, new sneak peeks, and more!

::dancesaroundmylittleoffice::

I cannot contain the excitement long enough to write a comprehensible declaration of admiration, but here is the official Clean Teen Publishing Press Release.

Facebook Banner 9-17-14

Check out these novels from Clean Teen Publishing!

Fine Lines

Fine Lines

If you’re searching for the second announcement I promised to make today, don’t fret! I haven’t forgotten. My personal essay – Nowhere – was published in the winter edition of the literary magazine, Fine Lines! This has also been one of the most wonderful moments of my writing life recently because I’ve always wanted to get a piece of nonfiction published. This is one of my “bucket list” writing goals, so to speak, so look out for more information on that as well.

::takeshugebreath:: (I sometimes forget to breathe when I get excited).

Oh, what an emotional month this has been. A little over a month ago, I shared I Lost My Publisher with you, and I wrote this:

“I am thankful I had the opportunity to share stories with the world, and I will never forget the readers and writers I’ve met along the way. I can only dream of ever meeting this surreal reality again – not as a future fantasy or a broken past – but as my writer life reborn.”

Now, one month later, I am here to write a follow-up: This is my rebirth, and you all have brought me to this moment. If I could hug you all, I would, and hopefully, I’ll get the chance to meet you one day. Until then, I am proud to announce I am continuing this writing dream of mine, and I am grateful to have your support and encouragement along the way. You will always be the ink in my pen.

I love you all,

~SAT

For more updates, connect with my new publisher on their Website, Facebook, & Twitter.

#MondayBlogs: The Merits of Fan Fiction

9 Feb

Intro:

With Monday’s arrival, we meet another guest blogger. Today is brought to you by S.A. Starcevic, the writer behind the website Bookshelf of Doom. As an aspiring author, Starcevic shares his thoughts on writing and publishing often, and today is no exception. He is talking about Fan Fiction, a type of writing that is debated regularly, so feel free to share your thoughts over this controversial writing style in the comments below!

The Merits of Fan Fiction

I have a confession. Like a lot of authors, I started writing as a way to reimagine characters from much-loved books and TV shows in fresh and interesting scenarios. Nothing was ever published (thank God), and I quickly abandoned the exercise. Why?

It felt like cheating.

I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was taking the easy way out – which, now that I think about it, it probably is because I’ve always had lofty dreams of writing a bestseller and sitting cosily alongside other authors whose work I adore on the NYT Bestseller List. As such, writing has never been just a hobby, meaning I always had publication* in mind. Even as a kid, I wrote the way an accountant crunches numbers – as a professional pursuit. Oh, it was also incredibly fun and satisfying, but those authors who labour over a first draft, submit the story to a publisher, and then sit back while the trained publicists do all the promotion? Yeah, I’m not like them. I actually find the marketing and publishing process more fun than the writing itself.

*(Fan fiction cannot be published. Ever. Making money off somebody else’s world is not just a breach of copyright, it’s morally reprehensible.)

Cassandra Clare was catapulted into the Holy Grail of movie deals with her YA series. Amazingly, she started out writing Harry Potter fan fiction - some of which is still floating around the internet today.

Cassandra Clare was catapulted into the Holy Grail of movie deals with her YA series. Amazingly, she started out writing Harry Potter fan fiction – some of which is still floating around the internet today.

I know a lot of people scoff at fan fiction authors, which is silly, because some of the most talented writers of our age cut their teeth on sites like Wattpad and Fan Fiction Net. The majority of fan fiction is terrible, and that’s OK too, because for a lot of teens (and adults too!) who are just tentatively beginning to write, having an established setting and a cast of characters to draw upon is kind of like a crutch. It allows them to develop their voice, test what style suits them, and receive feedback from readers who won’t judge or criticise.

I don’t read fan fiction. I think it’s an important foothold in the writing industry, and authors shouldn’t resent it, because a lot of fan fiction authors are actually fans who love their work and will happily buy their stuff at a bookstore. However, I just can’t stomach the grievous spelling mistakes and clunky sentence syntax. Sorry.

That said, if you want to use Untouchable as a foundation to write your own worlds and stories, knock yourself out. Just don’t plagiarise, because then I’d have to release the hounds. And by hounds, I mean lawyers. Lawyers who are the equivalent of rabid Rottweilers.

Ahem.

Bio:

At age 10, Seb wrote his first novel and convinced himself it was going to be a bestseller. Spoiler: It wasn’t. Since then, he’s dreamed of being a great many things, such as: historian, writer, editor, and paleontologist. While he is none of those things, he still retains a childish fascination with dinosaurs, and can be found agonizing over correct comma usage. Nowadays, he lives out his editor fantasies through the Corner Club Press, and dreams of the day he finally finishes a novel. In the meantime, he posts about writing and other assorted nonsense here, and is currently querying his superhero story, Untouchable. Oh, and he’s still in high school.

Want to be a guest blogger? I would love to have you on! I am accepting original posts that focus on reading and writing. A picture and a bio are encouraged. If you qualify, please email me at shannonathompson@aol.com.

~SAT

#SATurday: I Am Not Special

7 Feb

#SATurday: I Am Not Special

Some nights, I do not feel like writing – but, in all honesty, I understand that I do feel like writing. After all, I always do. Even when I “hate” it, I redefine my hate as fighting through a passionate struggle – or I label it with some other momentary expression to explain my lack of love. It is a temporary disconnect, one that always – and undoubtedly – heals. That being said, a contradiction timelessly arises.

What happened to all my passions I disconnected with forever?

Allow me to clarify…I truly believe writing is my all-time passion, my purpose in life, per se, but there have been other activities I have loved and admired and explored and lost. While I’ve always wanted to be a writer, my preschool self wanted to try cheerleading, and my later school years brought basketball, yearbook, photography, track, tennis, gymnastics, a part-time job, and a little club called Goal 0 into my life – all while moving around and writing novels in my free time.

I guess I could call myself an overachiever – at least, at that age – but I never considered myself one. There was always a boy who went to school more than I did or a girl who ran faster or a new kid who had lived in more places than I have.

I’ve never seen myself as special.

Although those six words may sound dreary or in desperate need of some self-confidence training, I don’t read them that way. I look at them backward.

“Special as myself seen never I’ve.” may not make sense, so please allow me to reword it slightly to explain further:

Special as myself, seen never have I.

To me, focusing on oneself too much does not allow us to truly see the world around us. In contrast – because I always love a good contradiction – I believe we must know ourselves before we can help others or the world, but stretching self-knowledge into too much self-importance is where we destroy ourselves and each other.

four2

The ways that make us special are not meant to outshine another person’s unique traits. When I was younger, I did not understand that, so I overcompensated to try to seal a hole in my heart I held toward myself, and some days, I still succumb to this pain. I am human, after all.

During times I consider myself to be overcompensating, I have fleeting but terrifying emotions that consume me. Instead of realizing that I am already helping people, I irrationally desire to become special because I believe that “special” label will finally allow me to help others. In fact, I believe it will be the only way for me to achieve my goals. This is where my soul’s focus is confused. No matter what happens, I now feel as if I am failing, even when I am not, so I continue to push, push, and push forward – often, in the wrong direction – as if it will help, and the longer it continues, the harder I push. This is a breeding ground for overcompensation.

During overcompensation I fail to recognize the destructive nature of this thought-process – how it can deter your focus, warp your goals, and desensitize your true wish that you want to fulfill. In the example above, this happened when I thought being “special” would allow me to help people rather than simply trying to help people.

In writing, we often see this happen in the writer who always talks about writing but never actually writes – and oddly enough, that is how I began this piece, and in reality, that is also how I’m ending it. I am not an exception, I am not perfect, and I am not special. And I am accepting how perfectly okay I am with that.

Being special isn’t about sticking out or labeling someone as unique or even changing the world. It is about fighting every day to be honest about who you truly are while finding the energy to fulfill your life role in whatever way you decide it should be. Whether or not you change the world does not matter in the end.

In the end, the important lesson is not to see yourself as special, but to see the world for what it is and everything we can be every day.

I don’t see myself as special.

I am too focused on seeing the life all around me. Perhaps, it’ll even inspire me to write again.

~SAT on #SATurday

#WW The Greatest Conversation All Authors Have

4 Feb

Please donate if you can – I am hoping The Timely Death Trilogy can get new covers so that they can appeal to new audiences! You will also receive a personalized picture of Bogart the cat, and I will mention you right here on ShannonAThompson.com if you want your website shared. :] Just click the link and check your email! Thank you so much for your continuous support!

#WW: The Greatest Conversation All Authors Have

I don’t go out in public often. I like to believe this isn’t uncommon in the world of authorship. Even if authors have free time, it generally becomes devoted to typing away fantasies on our laptops. Because of this, I am home. A lot. Or in a café. By myself. (Free Wi-Fi, right?)

But every now and then, a friend is having a going away party or a birthday party or a graduation party or some other kind of get-together celebration I find myself attending. And yes, I’m the cliché chick in the corner, not talking to anyone, who oddly attracts someone’s curious attention as to why I’m standing in the corner. “People watching” is my go-to answer, but eventually, the question “what do you do?” comes up, and all hell breaks lose.

Yes. Yes. I’m an author. Now, let’s chat about it.

My party depiction

My party depiction

When you say, “That should be your next book.”

This sentence generally comes up when you’ve heard an interesting story – possibly on the news, from a friend, or…in a book. The fact that it already exists should hint that I can’t write it, but I’ll probably just say, “Yeah.”

When you continue with, “I should be in that book – your next book, right?”

No. Please, no. I’ll only offend you – either by detailed descriptions or impending doom. That’s honestly the only thing I could do with you (probably because I just met you, so I don’t know enough to truly base a character off of you, even if I wanted to). But I’ll probably just say, “If you don’t mind dying.” Sometimes – and these moments are rare due to my collection of odd character names – I already have a novel with your name in it.

That’s when you ask, “You already have a character in your book named after me?”

Well, no. Not technically. You two share the same name. Kind of like the barista that shares your mother’s name on her nametag. Doesn’t mean they’re the same person. Or based off of one another. It just means Laura was a popular name that summer.

When you ask, “Do I die?”

::sigh:: Again, the character is not you. They’re not based on you. They…Never mind. I’ll say, “Probably.”

When you reply, “You suck.” Followed by sarcastic laughter.

I say, “I know.” Followed by sarcastic laughter.

When you continue with, “Why do authors always have to kill off characters? And it’s always my favorite characters, too. I mean, they kill villains all the time, but I kind of like the villains…”

I might cut you off because I love, love, love talking about my undying love for villains, but if I fail – which I probably will – I’ll probably just nod in agreement. Authors know they’re terrible. We create imaginary friends for you to love and cherish, only to take them away. But it’s necessary. If nothing happened to any of the characters, then…well, you wouldn’t have a bunch of stories to talk about. Libraries would be collections of happy, non-dramatic anthologies of extraneous giddiness.

In the end, when you say, “This has been an awesome conversation.”

You know what? It has been. Thanks for chatting with me. Even if I held back, it was mainly out of my own…well, chaotic confusion I’ve built up in my own mind. You probably wouldn’t have been offended if I killed your character off, but I came up with that scenario because…well, authors spend a lot of time in their own heads imagining the next scene. This often bleeds over into real life, which causes those awkward pauses I’m extremely sorry for. I’m simply thinking too much. But if it’s any compensation, I was probably concocting my next novel from whatever you just said – so, in a way, you are in my next book.

Thanks for talking with me.

I mean it.

~SAT

Please donate if you can – I am hoping The Timely Death Trilogy can get new covers so that they can appeal to new audiences! You will also receive a personalized picture of Bogart the cat, and I will mention you right here on ShannonAThompson.com if you want your website shared. :] Just click the link and check your email! Thank you so much for your continuous support!

#MondayBlogs: The Importance of Setting in a Novel

2 Feb

Intro:

Monday has reached us again, and today brings us another guest blogger. Today, I am pleased to announce Tara Mayoros, author of Broken Smiles. This well-traveled writer has written a wonderful post about the importance of setting in a novel, and her writing tips are sure to stay with us the next time we pick a location for our stories.

The Importance of Setting in a Novel 

Write what you know. How many times have I heard that? Oh man, probably at every conference I have ever gone to, multiple times.

know setting.

Long before I was ever an author, I would surround myself in settings which filled my soul with wonder. I would cover my limbs and face with autumn leaves to feel the smell. I would spend many nights under the stars, listening to the scurrying of little animals and the sounds of wind applauding my appreciation through the trees. The stillness would settle in my heart and when I began to bring pen and paper with me to different settings, my world became magical.

To me, setting should breathe like a character. It isn’t just streets, buildings, and names of towns — it is the lifeblood which weaves your characters and plot together. It shouldn’t be tacked in, but rather an integral part of the story. It grounds the reader.

It should also ground the author. The author carries the responsibility to bring details that are often overlooked. Especially, in my opinion, when it comes to nature.

Image-3

Pilot and Index Peak – Cooke City, Montana

Recently, I returned from a long trip through Montana and Yellowstone. I have visited many times and even lived there at one point. Those wild, rustic places are some of my favorite spots in the world and I felt the heavy burden to show my love for it in one of my novels. I hadn’t been up there for over a dozen years and I started creating the setting for my novel through memory. When I had finished my book, I was satisfied. But something tugged at me to visit those places again. Either my wild heart, or the pull to immerse myself in those mountains.

Arming myself with laptop, pens and journals, I was ready to take my story to battle and add details that were missing and change a few things. I was surprised when I came home and realized that I had never even written one word when I had surrounded myself in the nature I so dearly love. Why? It wasn’t a conscious decision by any means, but looking back, my body and soul yearned to feel the lifeblood of the setting. I didn’t need to muddle it with words, I needed to experience it and let the setting wash through me.

In this world where setting and placement are so often overlooked or replaced with handheld devices that capture our attention, authors need to work harder to ground the reader. We need to scream at our readers to notice detail. It breaks my heart every time I see someone surrounded by stunning scenery and their faces are aglow with the pale light of a handheld device.

Here are a few ways you can bring your setting to life in your novel, followed by some examples I have written.

*Be specific – it isn’t only a flower, describe the details. example: The vibrant purple petals stretched beneath an indigo hat which drooped over a white lip and a yellow bearded pouch.(Calypso Orchid)

*Sprinkle in similes and metaphors to connect – example: His temper was like a loose cannon. It could explode at any given time and I would be the set target.

*Use the senses; sight, sound, smell, taste, feel – This one is huge! I love to incorporate the senses. – example: My stomach was empty, which was good, because the smell hit me, and I heaved once more against the vacant remains of my belly. The putrid, decaying stench of rotten flesh made my eyes water.

*Show, don’t tell – instead of stating that its raining, describe the dripping trees, the puddles gathering in the crevices of rock, and the pattering on tin resembling tinkling bells.

Here is an excerpt from my novel contemporary clean romance Broken Smiles. The setting is in China, another one of my favorite places. I hope you can feel my love for it as you read my words.

Here and there rocks were covered with ancient moss. Orchids blossomed spontaneously upon the trees. Vines hung like ropes and twine, twisting upon the rubber and the banyan trees. Bamboo stood proudly against the moonlight, casting shadows that had been the same for thousands of years. Away from big city lights and pollution, it was easy to be transported back in time to ancient China. This land had managed to remain untouched throughout the different emperors and dynasties. As they walked, they passed a small ancient graveyard built against the hillside. The limestone shrines glowed mysteriously in the moonlight. Chinese characters and mini-sculptures were carved in the pale rock. Incense smoldered on the top of an old gravestone…

Thanks for stopping by –

Tara Mayoros

Bio:

As a child, Tara Mayoros moved to Asia with her family where her love of different cultures and travel began. In college she satisfied her wanderlust by moving back to China, filling her head with countless stories, and occasionally writing them down.

Years, marriage, children and many adventures later, she picked up her dusty pen and paper (or laptop) and realized that writing took her to different worlds and gave her the experiences that she yearned for. As an author, artist, baker, music teacher, gardener, and nature lover – she sees the beauty in the process, and the miracle, of creation. The Rocky Mountains are her home and they call to her whenever she finds herself in need of inspiration.

Connect with her: Website, FacebookAmazon, Twitter.

Want to be a guest blogger? Wonderful! I am accepting guest posts that focus on reading and writing. You are allowed a book link in the post as well as in your bio. A picture and a bio are encouraged. If you qualify, please email me at shannonathompson@aol.com. I’ll look forward to hearing from you!

~SAT

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