Tag Archives: am writing

#WW Finding Your Style as a Writer

24 Jun

#WW Finding Your Style as a Writer

So, I just turned 24 yesterday. That means, I’m 113 in cat years (according to this calculator.) Since I’m 113, I thought I’d share some of my personal, cat lady wisdom, and by “personal” wisdom, I mean self-awareness in regards to my writing style. (Plus, a good portion of you have let me know you’d like to hear more about my writing and what goes on behind it, so I thought this was a good excuse to share some information about how I’ve gone about writing novels . . . a little extra insight, so to speak.) That’s why I’m going to splurge a little bit. While this looks like a long post, it’s really divided into two parts: Finding Your Style and Aspects of my Style that I Figured Out

Feel free to read one or both.

Finding Your Style

This July, my first novel—November Snow—was published eight years ago. Eight years. (49 years in cat years.) I’ve definitely learned a lot since then, but one of the things that took the most time was figuring out my “style.”

We hear that word a lot. STYLE. It is normally followed up with “finding your voice.” And all those years back, this entire conversation would’ve freaked me out. It made me feel inadequate—mainly because I could not pinpoint my “style” or “voice.” Now, that I’m a couple novels deep, I get it, and I’ll tell you a secret.

And we're writing...

And we’re writing…

It will happen naturally—so naturally, you won’t even realize it—so don’t worry yourself silly. (Us authors are good at that.)

But here’s the other side of that token: Not only is it different for everyone but also discovering it is different for everyone. It takes a level of self-analysis, but that’s just my little opinion. For me, it took a couple of novels and a large amount of readers to point out a few reoccurring themes for me to realize that there was a pattern to my writing. That pattern was my voice and style. Basically, pay attention to what beta readers and reviewers are saying. You might learn something about yourself. But it’s also important to decipher that pattern:

What is you (your voice and style) vs What is other (maybe the genre, for instance)?  

In order to explain what I mean, I want to share what I learned personally over the last eight years. Since a lot of what I learned came from beta readers, many of the works I’ll reference aren’t published yet. While I will refer to my published works as November Snow, Minutes Before Sunset, Seconds Before Sunrise, Death Before Daylight (The Timely Death Trilogy), and Take Me Tomorrow (The Tomo Trilogy), my unpublished works will still go by their abbreviations. If you’re a beta reader, you’ll recognize the titles: HBBL, TGO, D, TMG, S.

What is other?

These are themes that happen because they simply work for whatever reason. For instance, there are dances in both Minutes Before Sunset and Take Me Tomorrow, which caused a few readers to think I have a thing for dances. I do and I don’t. I mean, who doesn’t love a good dance scene? (Insert my love for a cheesy trope.) But while it’s cheesy in Minutes Before Sunset, it’s rather chaotic and uncomfortable in Take Me Tomorrow. There isn’t a single dance in November Snow either. (Sorry.) But there is one in HBBL and in TMG…but not one in TGO or D or S. And all of the dances happen under very different circumstances. That being said, there’s a larger factor to consider here. The characters’ ages. Most of my characters are young adults. They are in high school or some form of high school, and high schools—more often than not—have dances. So, it’s not just about me liking them. They happen naturally. They work with the story and with the lives of the characters. This isn’t technically my voice. This is the genre or the setting. It happens, not because of me, but because of the circumstances.

What is you?

These are themes that happen because of me being me (or you being you). These are your life experiences, your character, seeping through your words. For instance, in many of my novels, you’ll probably always see a character who struggles with memories. Mainly because I struggle with memory loss, although I’m not quite to the point in my life where I’m very open about that. In fact, I’m pretty sure this is the first time I’ve publically stated I struggle with memory loss. But it is a part of my identity as a person, so it will more than likely be seen in my novels one way or another. For instance, the second book of The Timely Death Trilogy, Seconds Before Sunrise, has A LOT of memory loss. It’s practically the central theme. The Tomo Trilogy is that way to some extent as well, but you don’t see the effects of it until the second novel, Take Me Yesterday. That being said, memory loss doesn’t appear in anything else. Not HBBL, not TGO, not D, not TMG, not even S…okay, wait. No. S has a stupid amount of memory loss. But you get my point. Even when some themes come from my personal struggles, they don’t always show up in my work. But here’s the difference: memory loss affects the voice of the character. It affects the vocabulary used and the emotions involved. It develops everything else and with everything else. The difference with “other”—in my opinion—is “other” just happens. (The dance discussed above, for instance, was an event in the novel that pushed the novel forward, but the dance itself did not affect the character’s overall personality.) The “you” is your style because it is your unique voice, your vocabulary, your way of explaining.

The “you” is the way you write about the dance; the “other” is the dance happening. 

Aspects of My Style I Figured Out:

Now that that has been said and done, I thought it would be fun to show three other ones that I’ve realized about my style. This is really just for my readers who might want to get a larger grasp on who I am as a writer and what future novels might entail, as well as why current novels are the way they are:

Perspectives:

While I generally write my novels in dual first POV—like Eric and Jessica telling The Timely Death Trilogy or Daniel and Serena telling November Snow—I do have exceptions. For instance, the only POV in The Tomo Trilogy is Sophia Gray (although I have admitted changing that in a possible future rewrite, but I probably won’t.) This happens because I love writing in first POV and I love writing from both a male’s perspective and a female’s perspective. Fun fact: I actually prefer writing from a male’s perspective.

Family structure: I grew up in an unusual household. At first, it was the “normal” household: two parents, two kids, one dog. All-American, you know? But then my mom died. And then I had a stepmother and three stepsiblings. And then my father divorced. And then it was just my brother, my father, and I. So, you’re going to see a lot of different types of families in books, but I can also admit that you’ll probably rarely see a mother-daughter relationship. Not that I can’t do it. I can. But I would rather explore other relationships in fiction. In fact, I remember as a reader after my mother died, I wished there were more novels where daughters were close to their fathers or brothers. So, you’ll see more of that in my work. But there are exceptions. On a side note, I also write about orphans a lot, mainly because my mom died and my dad traveled, so I was often alone as a kid. I find a lot of comfort in writing about characters would had to be independent.

Violence vs Romance: I’m a violent writer. The Timely Death Trilogy is actually my least violent work, and if you get a chance to read the first few chapters of Death Before Daylight, keep that in mind. It’s still lighter. November Snow is often seen as my most violent. Why? I used to wonder about this myself, and I think I just realized why recently, but that’s probably for another post in the future. (Hello, July.) In contrast, I find romance difficult to write about. I dread writing kissing scenes. I think I get weirded out because I feel like I’m being a Peeping Tom on another couple . . . and I’m being a Peeping Tom who is writing about it. It gives me the heeby jeebies. That being said, every single one of my novels have a romantic factor in them. HBBL is probably my only romance-romance, and I doubt that I’ll write another novel that is just romanced based again. I like dystopian. I like sci-fi and fantasy. I like the plot to be character-oriented and action-orientated and in a new world. Love just falls into the slots.

I know this post has been longer than usual, but I’m trying to listen to what you all have expressed wanting to see! I hope you enjoyed seeing a little more in-depth information about my life and work. Maybe it’ll also help you analyze your own writing to see if there are certain themes that correlate with your voice as a writer. Or maybe you’re just a reader and learned something new about my stories. Either way, thank you for reading!

~SAT

#WW The Joy of Progress Bars

17 Jun

#WW The Joy of Progress Bars

If you’ve been with me for a while, you might remember when I used to have a progress bar on the right side of my website. I no longer have one, but I’ll talk about that in a minute. Since I no longer have on, my progress bar revolved around my current writing projects. Generally, I had two novels at once, and I included the status (ex. Editing) as well as the estimated release date. I have samples below, but I mainly outlined when my novels were being written, edited, and formatted until the release date. That being said, I loved having progress bars on my website, and I encourage every writer to at least try it for three months. Why?

1. It’s interactive with readers!

A progress bar keeps your readers up-to-date. Not only do they know where you are in your work but they can also talk to you about where you are. Everyone can be a part of the process now, and as a reader myself, I think it’s exciting to see all the steps as they happen. Want to know if I’m editing? Want to know if I’m reviewing edits? Now you know, and you can know where I’m at during every step of the process as the weeks pass. It builds up all that hype, and you can celebrate every milestone with your readers! This is actually the reason I started doing it. When I began receiving regular emails about my current status with my next novel, I wanted to find a way to keep everyone updated by just visiting my website, and it worked wonders for everyone! We could chat whenever we wanted about where we were at and skip the questions so we could go directly to celebrating progress.

Progress from June 3, 2014 - September 28, 2013

Progress from June 3, 2014 – September 28, 2014

2. It reminds writers of how far they’ve come

I definitely recommend progress bars to new writers because it will help you from getting discouraged. At first, it won’t seem like a lot, but when you see your bars over months right next to one another, you can see how much you are accomplishing, and that’s a great feeling! It can help you set goals and encourage yourself. But be warned. Some writers have the opposite feelings about bars. They feel discouraged, like they aren’t moving forward, and it sometimes puts too much pressure on writers, so while it works for many—it’s fun for me—it has also felt worse for others. So, figure out what type of writer you are. If you love writing goals, this might be for you. If you love keeping track of your word count, this might be for you. But if writing goals and word count makes you shrink away from your computer screen, I wouldn’t do it. I would just write.

So why don’t I have one anymore?

Well, I probably will again soon! Honestly, though, I deleted mine when my old publisher closed down because I knew I couldn’t update anyone. Now that I’m back in the swing of things, I will probably keep everyone updated on my writing progress with November Snow and other projects as we move forward. If you want to try one, I make mine via PicMonkey. It’s simple and free—and fun! I love looking back on mine, and I love looking forward to new ones.

What about you? Have you ever tried a progress bar? Would you ever consider trying one?

~SAT

#WW Judging An Author’s Life

10 Jun

Judging An Author’s Life

The photo

The photo

Recently—and by “recently” I mean a month ago—I posted this photo on my Facebook page, Instagram, Twitter, and . . . well, pretty much anywhere on the Internet that I have an account on. To my surprise, (and still to my confusion), I received a bit a slack for this. It was a Wednesday afternoon, fairly nice outside, and due to the events of my day, I ended up in my hometown with one of my best friends. When it started raining, we ducked into a bookstore, and I couldn’t help myself. I bought a book—Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan to be exact—and some sticky notes for work since my stockpile was dwindling. The caption of my photo read, “Silly rain. Forcing me to hide in a bookstore to collect books until the sun came out.”

I didn’t think anything of it. I simply thought, “Hey! I am having fun. This has to do with reading, and I bet my readers would enjoy sharing this moment with me.” Because that’s what I think every time I post something—I think about how much fun it is to share these bits and pieces of my life with my wonderful followers. I don’t think much beyond that. So, I guess that’s why I was so surprised when I received a message, stating that I was adding to the misguidance of the industry and how authors live—how our lives actually are and how much of a struggle it is to be a writer—that I was adding to the “problem”, to the mirage of authordom.

And this is my open letter to you, dear sir, about that photo and my life as an author.

First and foremost, social media is up to the individual controlling that social media. No one else. I share what I choose to share, and I choose to share my fun and delightful moments. That goes to say that I’ve often—more often than not—discussed many difficult aspects of my life on my blog, particularly my mother’s death and my college roommate’s death. I’ve discussed moving around a lot as a child and finding myself creating stories and characters to make up for my lack of real human connection. I’ve confessed to doubting everything, and I’ve strived to remind myself (and my readers) why we write . . . which is always because I love to write and read. All of these topics have been on my blog. Numerous times. Throughout almost three years of blogging. But I’m assuming you’re judging me based on one or two photos posted during the afternoon. I know which ones you’re looking at. After all, I’m the one who shares all the moments of coffee, cats, and books. And guess what? That is my life. But it isn’t my whole life, and by no means have I ever expressed that “I do this every day.” Take this photo for instance. At no point does it state, “Here I am on my daily afternoon walk, just buying a dozen books for me to read this week.” In fact, I only bought one . . . with a gift card that my older brother bought me for Christmas . . . five months before this photo was taken . . . five months in which I saved that card just for the perfect moment to buy a novel on a day I needed some cheering up.

You see, back in January, I lost my car and my job, and I had to move to another state. (Something I openly discussed on my blog, by the way.) And ever since January, I’ve been building myself back up. On the very day this very photo was taken, I had finally saved up enough to buy a car, and I did, but I was broke afterward. That gift card was then used to help me buy office supplies (the sticky notes) that I had run out of, and I happened to see a novel I really wanted. Did I have to buy it then? No. Of course not. But it was a way of reminding myself that I am proud of how much I saved from my hard work and how far I’ve come in the five months since hitting rock bottom. My car was a long-needed necessity. This novel was a reward for the five months I’ve worked and saved and walked without one.

Why didn’t I put that story as my caption? Well, aside from the fact that it would be the longest caption in the world, the caption was my decision—and my decision was to express how much fun I was having and how much fun I wanted to share with my readers.

By no means was I trying to portray myself as an author who spends their days browsing bookstores. By no means was I trying to pretend I could afford every book left and right. By no means was I trying to prove something at all. I was just being me. I was just sharing me. By stating authors have to share ugly moments of their lives, we’re stating something ridiculous—that we assume they don’t have human lives—and that is a ridiculous presumption to have about anyone.

There is ugliness in everyone’s life, but I choose to focus on the happy moments, and I want my readers to know that they can have fun and encouragement when they come to me. I choose to share laughter and coffee and silly cats and paperbacks slung over my shoulder. I choose to post only when I’m smiling too—because I want to smile with my readers. I want my readers to feel encouraged when they come to me, not discouraged, and that is my choice, just like sharing my emotions around my mother’s death is my choice. I am not perfect, and I do not pretend to be, but no one should assume that about me either. Authors are human, after all, but not every detail of my life needs to be publicized all across the web (even though a large portion of it is).

Take my cats for instance. They’ve stared in my YouTube channel. They’ve done interviews on my blog. They’ve popped up on my Instagram and even shown their kitty faces on my Twitter. I love them, and since I work at home, I spend a lot of time around them. I share them in the grass, on the couch, while they are sleeping and playing. I make cartoons with them and pose with them and cuddle with them all the time (sometimes even when I don’t want to cuddle). And when I share them, people have fun—because most people love animals—and I have fun—because most people have shared their pets with me—and it’s a fun way to connect and relate to one another as friends instead of Internet strangers. I’d even like to exchange photos of my pets with you. But if you really want to see the ugly moments instead, I’d be more than happy to send you photos of me cleaning out the litter box instead of my three cats cuddling on the couch. (Just kidding, of course . . . I think.)

~SAT

#MondayBlogs: Never Give Up On An Idea

1 Jun

Intro:

Pau’s Castles is a website that has a special place in my heart. I first met Pau across the blogosphere when I asked her to read The Timely Death Trilogy. Her reviewing style blew me away, and we ended up chatting—and never stopping. Her friendship is something I continue to cherish. Pau is a writer and an avid book reviewer, and I know you all will enjoy her blog as much as I do. She’s cheerful, insightful, and passionate—and today’s topic covers all of those emotions. If you’re a writer, you have probably written a story, then walked away, then came back, then walked away again, and then came back again. It happens all too often. And we wonder why we keep returning. Is it worth it? Well, I’ll let Pau explain that, but I will say this: I have been trying to rewrite and re-release my first published novel, November Snow, for eight years now. I understand leaving and coming back and leaving and coming back. This topic is something Pau and I have discussed in great depth before. Writing a novel is never going to be the same for everyone, and as an author, I know writing one novel isn’t going to be like writing another novel. (Writing The Timely Death Trilogy wasn’t like writing November Snow.) I believe leaving and coming back is significant, and Pau explains it beautifully. Please visit Pau’s Castles. She’s a wonderful writer well worth knowing!

Never Give Up On An Idea by Pau’s Castles 

lucian-and-luna

(On the photo: Lucky Blue Smith and Pyper America Smith)

The reason why I’m using this photo is because these two models are my character references for Lucian and Luna (originally named Danae, but the name didn’t seem right) Malliarch—two of my leads in a current work-in-progress called Between Two Worlds.

Between Two Worlds started out as an idea back in 2013. Initially, the title was Attachment, which didn’t feel right at the time so it took a turn to being called Samantha’s Diary, but eventually, that didn’t feel right too, so now it is finally called Between Two Worlds. As you can see, I have already changed a character’s name once and the title had been changed twice. My point in saying all this is that if you have an idea, which does not seem to rest, don’t let it rest! Since I started with the idea for Between Two Worlds, I had two other story ideas. One even reached so much research and conceptualizing, but everything didn’t seem to fit in. The characters of Between Two Worlds were screaming in my head, telling me to finish their story first.

So what’s the good thing about not giving up on an idea?

1. You get to know more things every single time you try to write about it again

The original piece for Between Two Worlds was very different from how it is now. I never actually finished the original one because I did not know how to end it at the time which makes not giving up on the idea even greater. Eventually I discovered a lot of things which can help on the major points of the plot so it led me to a perfect (for now) ending.

2. The smaller details cascade in the thought process

When an idea is fresh, we’re all excited to write about it. We’re all excited for the big stuff to happen that we fail to recognize the importance of the smaller details. For example, there’s this scene on the novel about a fork road. On the first time I wrote it, the fork road was just an insignificant path on the forest. Now that I’m writing in the third time around, the fork road suddenly had a back story which is significant to the characters.

3. The characters are easier to write about

Sometimes, not giving up on an idea makes us know about our characters on a deeper level. Sometimes we discover things which didn’t seem right on the first times we wrote about them. My example on my work here is Danae Malliarch, now known as Luna Malliarch. I felt quite detached to her because there was something off about her name back then, but it never occurred to me what it was. It turned out that I have a personal admiration to the name “Danae” but it didn’t fit the personality of character. Now that she’s named Luna, it sounds a lot catchier next to her brother’s name — Lucian.

4. The plot is easier to write about

This is simply because you already know the general flow of events. Maybe you can just add a few more scenes to not make the pace too fast (but be careful! It might get too draggy. Remember to include only the necessary ones to the plot) but other than that, you know where it’s going.

5. You find out the reason why you never gave up on it in the first place

A friend who’s currently doing Lucian Malliarch’s digital painting told me, “Pau, Lucian is a lovely character. I don’t see him as a character stuck in your laptop. Instead, I see him as a character people would know and love.”

Personally, I don’t know the reason yet as to why I never gave up on the idea surrounding Between Two Worlds, but I am excited to find out. Hopefully, you guys will get to read about it in the future.

Found this post helpful? Let me know what you think through the comments below or email me (pauscastles@gmail.com) if you have questions and suggestions for future writer-related posts!

Connect with Pau:

Website, FacebookTwitterInstagram

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. You do not have to be published. If you qualify, please email me at shannonathompson@aol.com.

~SAT

#MondayBlogs: When Writing is Not All You Do

4 May

Intro:

Back in February of 2013, I wrote a little blog post called Writing Tips: How to Handle Rejection. A huge part of this post was dedicated to John Tompkins. At the time, he wrote a blog called Rejection Love Letters (Or How to Lose Agents and Alienate Publishers). That blog no longer exists, but it was one of my favorites. Why? Because John Tompkins had a fearlessness many crave. He shared his rejection letters from publishers with humor and honesty, and while I think every writer has been rejected, he was open about it, and that is rare. Since then, he has since self-published, and today, he is writing an article for us about another topic many authors can relate to—working and writing, as two separate full-time jobs.

When Writing is Not All You Do

Writing is easy. Getting published is hard. This is especially true for those who work and have families. It’s pretty difficult to advance your writing career when you’re alternating your time between a job, washing dishes after dinner, bathing your child and helping with laundry.

A writer recently posted an item on Salon claiming that authors who do nothing but write, thanks to financial security, shouldn’t be judged because they have the luxury to live all writing all the time.

cover 2One encouraging thing the writer did say, however, is that those who are privileged should disclose that and not pretend that they had to fight through the clutter on Amazon or through the slush pile with a publisher to get noticed. Many of them have connections in the publishing industry and quite simply don’t know what it’s like to struggle. The Salon writer offered two examples of successful writers. One is due to inherit a sizable fortune and has time to do nothing but write. The other is a young woman who was the only child of a couple heavily involved in the New York literary scene. Her being published was foregone the moment she was born.

I’m a married father of one with another one due in June. I also work full time, mostly writing at night while my wife’s asleep or during King of Queens reruns. Have to fit it in somewhere.

I’ve written now, three books (ok two books and one novella) all of which have been rejected (I’ve got more than 100 reject letters). Most of the letters I made fun of by posting to a now defunct blog. Reading the rejections, I noticed that they all pretty much sounded the same. “Sorry, you’re good, but you’re not spectacular.” I gave up with agents and publishers and decided, after having two PhD’s edit my book, to just put it out there.

I posted it to Amazon about a month ago. Hopefully it will make it through all of the clutter but I guess we’ll see. I’m doing my best to market it and I’m also struggling to find reviewers.

I think my problem with the publishing industry is mostly the second example. Too many people who are talented with something valuable to say are ignored by publishers because they didn’t grow up in the Northeast or have connections from graduate school. So they’re ignored. It’s a disservice to readers and the art in general. I said as much in a comment to the Salon story.

It shouldn’t anger me so much to hear authors who start off wealthy and have nothing to do but write. But it does and it is easy to get discouraged.

There are the handful of success stories, notably E.L. James and a series of books you may have heard of, Fifty Shades of Grey. She self-published her novels originally as e-books. You know the rest of the story. One of the tidbits I enjoy about her success is when the director was making the ending to the recently released movie, James ordered him to make the ending she wanted. That’s control that most authors never get because so few have subsidiary rights. (Further ironic because the whole story is about personal control and giving it up.) This all being said, James was a television executive when she was writing Fifty Shades. But unlike other privileged writers, she released her works as any other independent author. Her books actually started out as fan fiction of the Twilight series.

This is about the only thing I think that keeps me going. When I’m sitting in my bed at 12 a.m. trying to hit my daily 1,500-word quota on number four, I can only dream about the day when I can type at a desk during the day. I will probably still have King of Queens on in the background though.

Bio:

John Tompkins is a writer living in Texas. He is a former newspaper reporter specializing in court coverage, education and government. He is now working as a communications coordinator at local college.

Book & Blog

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. You do not have to be published. If you qualify, please email me at shannonathompson@aol.com.

~SAT

#WW Writer Problems 1–5

22 Apr

#WW Writer Problems 1–5

If you’re on my Facebook, then you will be familiar with today’s content. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been sharing little cards that I make called Writer Problems. I only have a few out, but I decided that I wanted to share them on here too. So today was born, and hopefully, more days like today will follow. Basically, I’ll be sharing 5 cards at a time and explaining where the inspiration came from (because there are too many hilarious stories that go on behind the scenes of these), and I think many writers can probably relate to my writer problems.

Adding this information since I received an email requesting it: I highly encourage you all to share these photos if you want! Never be afraid to take anything from my website. In fact, I love it! But please give credit to one of my websites. If you want to use these photos, for instance, please don’t crop my website name out. Thank you!

Writer Problems #1

No matter how many times I press SAVE, I still think I’ll lose the entire document when I close it (even though I use a flash drive).

1

I’m currently working on…well…so many projects. Like most authors. But I have a problem. I’m a very neurotic person – very superstitious, very particular, and I have my rituals and my fears and they practically control my life. ::takes big breath:: So, one of my OCD issues is closing documents. I can’t. Whenever I am working on something – like a novel – I seriously struggle to close the twenty documents I have up at all. Even though I also save every five minutes, which is a problem in itself, I say a little prayer before I ever close anything. On top of that, I’ve been known to reopen everything after I close it just to check. And then I save it anything. And I might open it again. It’s exhausting.

Writer Problems #2

Eureka! I have a new idea! Now if I could only finish my other ten ideas… 

2

This goes back to my first problem. I never read one book at a time, and I never write one book at a time. I’m constantly working on different projects at the same time, so it isn’t rare for another project to sneak its way into my schedule. I’ve found that it’s both a blessing and a curse. My biggest issue is picking which novel to write next.

Writer Problems #3

Strangers catching you staring at them because they look like your characters.

3

Oh, goodness. On top of being neurotic, I’m always rather awkward, and one of those things that I tend to do (which often gets me in trouble) is staring at people. A lot. Even if people don’t look like my characters, I’ve found myself staring at someone that I WISH was one of my characters. You would think that I would get better at hiding my stalking eyes, but…I haven’t. I just stare. Creepily from my corner. Taking notes.

Writer Problems #4

Having nightmares about your novel during writing, editing, publishing, and after publication.

#4

It’s sort of like having the classic dream of showing up at school in your underwear. It happens – even though you’re no longer in school – and I find it’s even more frustrating when you’re out of school and have dreams like that. I have dreams of never finishing novels that are already finished. I have dreams of being called the shittiest author of all time. (But I think Honest Trailers already gave that to someone…) I have dreams of characters never coming out and talking to me again. Ah! I could go on and on about all the dreams I have revolving around books, but my heartbeat is racing.

Writer Problems #5

Hearing a song that inspired a novel…and now all you want to do it WRITE.

5

This particular card had a funny backstory to it, but I first have to explain how I make these. Basically, I pay attention to my everyday life, and when something reminds me of a writer problem I have, I create these. So, I might not even be going through what is on the card, but I will be going through something similar. For instance, in this case, I was doing the dishes, accompanied by my handy iPod mini – it’s green – and I Follow Rivers by Lykke Li came on. For those of you who listened to the 8tracks soundtrack for Take Me Tomorrow, you will know that this song heavily influenced my writing time, so just hearing it, made me want to go work on that trilogy. I struggled to continue washing the dishes, and it reminded me of times I’ve been out in public at an event and heard a song like this, which made it difficult to even concentrate at all. Writing consumes you.

Have any of these writer problems affected you? Have any funny stories to accompany them? Share below! And let me know if you want me to continue these cards and stories in the future. If you like them, be sure to follow me on Facebook because that is where I share them first.

~SAT

#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

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