Tag Archives: debate

Writing Tips: Technology

2 Sep

I promised I’d post more writing tips today, and I am following through with that promise. (Thank you for being patient with my hectic schedule.) So on to it:

I wrote Minutes Before Sunset (the entire trilogy actually) when I was in high school (2005-2009) so I’ve had some funny things happen to me during the current editing process that I thought would make for an interesting and fun post: technology. It’s a gift as much as it’s a curse. It’s constantly changing, and it’s changing rapidly, and if you’re lucky, you’re able to keep up with the latest and greatest. I have to admit that I’m not one of these people. I didn’t get my first touchscreen until a year or two ago, and I was really sad to see my flip phone go. (Who doesn’t enjoy the little slam of the plastic device when you hang up?) But I’ve found out something about my characters from 2005: they also miss this technology.

In the original version of Minutes Before Sunset, I’ve come across scenes and scenes of technology that have since been outdated. Here’s just a little list:

  • Flip cellphones, let alone who carries them.
  • AIM (AOL Instant Messager)
  • No Facebook, Twitter, etc. (Now I have to clarify Facebook did exist at the time I was writing this, but it was strictly for college students, and my young-adult characters are in high school)
  • Laws have changed in the Kansas setting (now, this isn’t technology, but I find it to be easily adapted into what I’m going to talk about)

I had to deal with this scenes with care. How was I going to get my characters to communicate over AIM or any other social media? And laws. They’ve altered dramatically since I was 14, and now the lives of my characters are altered as well. This is where I’m faced with a decision: do I use the current technology, knowing it will also be outdated in a year (or maybe a few months) or do I find a way around using it completely?

I went with a mixture of both, and this is where the writing tips come in. Granted, please keep in mind that using today’s technology isn’t necessarily a bad thing when it gets outdated; however, I want readers to be able to relate to it for years instead of weeks, so I decided to use it as little as possible. This was a personal decision and not necessarily the right one for everyone who writes. I’m merely sharing my solution as a way to bring this debate of technology dependence to light:

1. Cell phones: When I was writing A Timely Death trilogy, most of my friends in high school didn’t have cell phones. It wasn’t standard. But, in 2013, most young children have them, so I couldn’t completely take them away. They had to be present, but I didn’t want to rely on them. If you’ve read Minutes Before Sunset, you know my protagonist, Jessica, has a bad habit of forgetting to take her cell phone wherever she goes (to the horror of her parents and friends trying to reach her) and Eric doesn’t need one (although he has one that he barely pays attention to. He has telepathy with other Dark members, after all–though there is one scene he uses it at the beginning.) You will, however, see Crystal, Robb, and other characters flip through theirs.

2. Social Media: So Facebook is used every day by millions of people. Same with Twitter. But MySpace was once used and so was Xanga, and they are practically as obsolete as AIM. I was so frustrated with this that I knew I didn’t want to have to deal with it again. This is why I cut AIM scenes out completely, incorporating them elsewhere. I left out Facebook and Twitter, and I don’t even regard it as something that exists. This was completely a moral decision for me: I cut it out on the question of why should I bring this up as an importance to teens? I want young adults to spend more time outside (or reading) and putting an emphasis on social media didn’t sit well with me any longer.

3. Laws: It’s hard to guess what will change. I’m sure there are books out there with a kid texting and driving, and look how much that has changed (for the best, of course.) I can’t guess what my setting (a small town in Kansas) will be like years from now, but I can adjust to what it is like living in Kansas now. For instance, I had a restricted license when I was 15. It was 2006, but the laws changed in 2010, and my characters’ lives had to as well. Originally, they all had licenses they used on a frequent basis. Although most of my characters still have a license or a permit, Eric, Camille, and Robb are the three who use it frequently. And the smoking. That was a big law change here, and the smokey bar, (spoiler) something you’ll see in Seconds Before Sunrise, is no longer smokey until you step outside where it is allowed.

As I said, it’s hard to guess what will change, but so is technology, and we, as writers, have to edit with care in regards to our characters and setting. 

So here’s a writing prompt: go back and read something you wrote a long time ago. Search for aspects of life that might have changed over the years. Is it something small or something that changed overall lifestyles? How can you adapt to this?

Have you used technology in your stories? How do you feel about it changing as rapidly as it does, and how does it affect your style of writing? I’d love to hear other writer’s stories when it comes to this ever-changing subject. Comment below!

~SAT

My Thoughts On: Fifty Shades of Grey

6 May

One Announcement: I’ll be reading poetry at the University of Kansas this Wednesday at 11 a.m. until 12:15 p.m. in the English Room. If you live in Kansas, come out and support some talented poets! 

Back on April 10, 2013, I introduced a new topic, My Thoughts On, and I posted My Thoughts On: Young-Adult Fiction.

I did this for numerous reasons, but it really came down to the fact that I feel as if the analytical structures behind very popular novels do not seem to get discussed anymore. Sure, the plot, characters, and overall story does. But what about the sheer reasoning behind why it became so popular in the first place? I restate this, because I want to clarify that, although theses are “My Thoughts,” they are not my personal opinion on whether or not I enjoyed the novels, but rather why I think they became what they are. And analyzing popular books, especially as a writer, can help anyone understand the mainstream industry (even more so when the book isn’t originally considered mainstream.)

Book cover of Fifty Shades of Grey

Book cover of Fifty Shades of Grey

So I asked followers to comment on what they wanted to hear about, and here were the suggestions (with votes)

Fifty Shades of Grey: 2

Twilight: 2

The Hunger Games: 2

Eragon: 1

And, since there was a tie, I decided to go with the first mentioned novel, and that was Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James. However, I am not going to bother going into description of the novel, as I’m going to assume this conversation is more about the why, and the plot will come out during the discussion.

I highly encourage everyone to comment as a healthy debate, which means, to me at least, to please keep out personal like or dislike (ex/ I hated this novel!) because, again, that is not what this is about. I encourage, however, “I don’t think the novel worked because of A or B, but rather C or D. I hope this makes sense. If it does not, I apologize. But, without further ado, this is my analysis on the popular, English erotica. (WARNING: There are spoilers below)

1. Language: In this specific case, I think it’s really important to remember where this novel came from. It was originally Twilight fan fiction, and it was written on a blog. The author is British, and, when reading this novel, knowing these few facts can change the opinion of the reader. Some of the slang my come across as awkward to American readers, but this is not something James should be judged for. She’s British. Of course her writing will have British terms. Granted, the argument I’ve heard about the setting taking place in America means it should use American slang makes sense. But I can sympathize with a writer, because she was a blogger. It wasn’t expected to get popular, and it first came out in Britain. I’ve read plenty of American books that take place in other countries that do not have that country’s slang.

When it comes to the explicit language, I had no problem with it. After all, it is an erotica (And, again, it’s English erotica, and Britain is more open towards sex than America is.) To me, complaining about sexual language in a British erotica, is like complaining about blunt honesty in a memoir. It’s the point, and it wouldn’t be true to the art without pushing boundaries held within the norm.

2. Characters: To me, the characters were the most important part of this novel and why I believe it went mainstream. James, unlike many erotic authors, had a reason behind the extreme sexuality of Christian Grey. He was abused sexually, and then he was taken under the arm of another woman who was sexually abused. She showed him, through a series of what is legally sexual abuse with a minor, how to control his fears by exposing him to S&M. Granted, he was the submissive, but the explanation given from Grey later (when he talks about how the submissive does not have to worry, because everything is chosen for them) explains how Grey was finally able to relax within his inner demons. (I am by no means saying this is right. However, I am saying it showed a reason behind his actions, and I commend James for creating a believable background story that led up to his present self.) A perfect example of this believability, although sickening, is when Grey confesses to Anastasia that all of his previous submissives, and Anna, resemble his mother. Another example happens at the very end of the three novels when we finally are able to see Grey right after he was adopted. He cannot hug his own adoptive parents, and the woman who takes him under, because he learns how to deal with it, is now able to touch his parents and other loved ones. He is attempting to defeat his problems, even if he isn’t consciously aware of it.

Now, Anastasia Steele. She’s a different story. I found parts of her to be completely contrasting to her behavior and background, especially in the first novel. However, she is an adult, and she can make whatever sexual decisions she wants to make, and she does. Even while being a submissive, James shows Ana’s ability to rebel when it came to the “hard limits” in the contract. This showed a realistic part of her I think many readers forget. However, I think Anastasia becomes much more believable in the end. And, in my opinion, she definitely becomes the dominant one once Grey realizes she isn’t a submissive, but rather a lover willing to be dominated in the bedroom but not in nonsexual parts of life. I think it’s also important, again, to go back to the Twilight fan-fic part. She was based off Bella Swan, a human who dates a vampire. That’s a very submissive role, so Anastasia being submissive is necessary in the sense of who she is based on.

3. Plot: Sex. Sex. E-mails. More sex. An argument. More sex. Everyone knows the basic plot, but I found the scenes between the sex to be the most telling, because that is when readers learn of Grey’s past and such. However, there was one scene to particular that struck me as brilliant, considering the context of sex. I have to admit that I cannot remember which of the three books it appeared in (and I leant my copies to a friend) so feel free to remind me (please!) It’s the lipstick scene. As all readers know, Christian Grey, because of his abuse (specifically with cigarette burns) he cannot be touched on his chest, and Anastasia pulls out her lipstick. She draws “barrier lines” on his body, so she can literally see the places he cannot handle. And, eventually, she breaks through these. This scene, from an analytical standpoint, not only stays true to the eroticism but the emotional boundaries of sexual abuse that I thought the author ultimately succeeded in. Basically, in terms of plot, it seems very pointless at the surface if the reader only pays attention to the sex. But, if someone looks into these scenes deeper, they will see a very dark reality many people struggle with on a day-to-day basis. This is, quite literally, a couple who works through it together, and, ultimately, ends with a connection created from the suffering they’ve endured. Fifty Shades of Grey really isn’t just an erotic adventure, but an exploration of sex under the pressures of extreme sexual abuse and the relationships (and people) effected by it.

4. Movie Adaptations: Seeing as this is not a movie yet (but is in the process) I cannot say much here. But I can say one thing. I hope the directors are honest to the work. I hope it is rated R, as it is meant for adults, and I hope they do not hold back on sex. However, I am not saying every scene should be explicit. In fact, I hope the focus isn’t necessarily just the sex, but the point of the sex, which truly revolved around Christian Grey’s abusive past. I’m afraid they will not explain how he became the way he is, because sexual abuse is often very difficult for viewers. I understand not having some of the horrible scenes (like being next to his dead mother or having S&M sex with an older woman) but my hopes is that they explain it (or at least hint to it) in a way that a viewer who has not read the book will understand. If they don’t do this, I’m afraid the novel will come across as what many already see it as: a pointless S&M novel. And, under analysis, I do not feel this way about the piece.

So why was it so popular? Fifty Shades of Grey pushed through the barrier of erotic fiction by facing a dark reality many struggle with. Instead of only being sexually based, it had a promise. One that suggested there are ways to deal with sexual abuse (Again, I’m not advocating S&M, but rather showing a specific way one couple was effected by it.) And, because of this, the appearance of a simple plot deepened into a complexity many erotic novels have not done before. It was also based on an already popular novel, and she gained many older followers that way. Hence the mainstream.

I hope you enjoyed a more specific “My Thoughts On.” Feel free to suggest more novels in the comment section and/or debate away! I love hearing what other readers and writers have to say. It’s fascinating, and I thrive on meaningful conversations that can potential show the meaning of art and where art can go in the future.

~SAT

P.S. Don’t forget that my young-adult novel, Minutes Before Sunset, is now for sale for $6.99 (plus a 20% discount until Wednesday)

There’s also an array of favorited quotes on Goodreads: two examples below

“Her kiss could kill us, and my consent signed our death certificates, selfishly and without control. (Eric)”

“I knew nothing of death, and, for some unexplainable reason, I was beginning to feel guilty for that. (Jessica)”

Thank you for all of your support! This release week has been very exciting! And Bogart is very happy you enjoyed all of his tips. I promised I’d post his collection of toys he’s received:

Bogart's pile of toys he collects in places on a regular basis.

Bogart’s pile of toys he collects in places on a regular basis.

My Thoughts On: Young-Adult Fiction

10 Apr

21 days until the Minutes Before Sunset release 😀

So I’m trying out a new topic, “My Thoughts on,” because I get asked (mainly in my every day life when people find out I’m a writer/author) about my opinion on certain aspects of the publishing industry, and I think it’s a topic worth exploring.

Today I want to talk about young-adult fiction for two reasons: it’s a very popular genre, and I write it (so I obviously love it.) But I also wanted to explain why and what I don’t like.

1. Language: Many complain about the simplicity of language within young-adult novels, and, honestly, it’s one of my biggest pet peeves. Of course it’s simple. It’s marketed towards readers as young as 10 years old. (I am not talking about New-Adult Fiction, which is marketed towards 18 to 25 year olds, but is often mistaken for YA Lit. I don’t blame readers for this, however, because many booksellers haven’t adjusted to this change in the market, and numerous novels blur the line.) But (::breathing break::) I still believe the language is allowed to be simple in both, not only because of the readers, but the characters, which are generally younger and (probability speaking) have a simpler vocabulary base.  It honestly depends on the speaker.

2. Characters: Again, this is probably another complaint about readers and their analysis of characters. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read “the protagonist is incapable, whiny, stupid, naïve, etc.” I don’t understand this complaint. Most protagonists in YA Lit are teenagers. Of course they don’t have everything figured out. Most adults don’t. So why do we expect a fifteen-year-old to be this perfected virtuous hero? I’m unsure. When I read YA, I never expect the character to be all that capable. Instead, I expect them to learn throughout the novel and possibly grow (not always) because that’s how real people work, and I find believability in characters when they have human faults (just like we do.) Nevertheless, I hear this complaint about YA Lit more than adult fiction, and this astounds me. I will get into more depth when I post “My Thought On” specific novels. If you’re interested in a certain piece, such as Twilight or Fifty Shades of Gray, please post below, and I’ll talk about it.

3. Plot: Personally, I enjoy the simplicity of relationships and life. You have friends and girlfriends/boyfriends, and then their world flips. I like the equation. It isn’t distracting. I’m not waiting for the protagonists to sleep together (because they are so young) and, honestly, I feel super awkward when that happens in YA Lit. I realize it may happen in real life, but, considering the audience, I feel like we are pressuring that audience to abide to societal expectations of sex when we place things like that (which should be an adult matter) in YA books.

4. Movie Adaptations: I generally love them. I’ve talked about this before in a previous post, Movie Mention: The Host, when I elaborated on how different kinds of art brings different aspects to the table. I never expect it to be the novel. If movies were like that, they’d be hours and hours long, full of narration, and I don’t think I’d enjoy watching something like that. Instead, I go for the cinematic experience, normally glad I read (so I can understand some things that are lost) but I try to take it in as art standing on its’ own—basically, I try to pretend there wasn’t a novel, and the movie is new. That way, I don’t get caught up in the little things while watching, so I can reflect when the movie is over.

I realize this may have been a general post, but I made it that way, so my basics are out of the way when I analyze specific pieces in the future. Every post is an encouragement towards a healthy debate, rather than my personal opinion of whether or not I enjoyed it, and I’d love to hear what you’d like to discuss.

Comment below! 

On my Goodreads page, you can look at my bookshelf, which includes a lot of novels I’d be able to discuss. I think I have an array of adult and young-adult fiction, along with poetry and nonfiction, but if you see something that isn’t on there, let me know.

Just an example of one page of my Goodreads bookshelf.

Just an example of one page of my Goodreads bookshelf.

~SAT

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