I was working on my WIP recently when I started talking about my book with a librarian friend. Specifically scenes where my main character fixes up an old sports car and starts racing around her country town. To my surprise, my friend assumed she would crash the car and eventually learn that this behavior is unsafe. But nope. That isn’t my plan.
My character will learn many life lessons in this book, but will she learn everything she does wrong is wrong? No.
I have literally no plans of writing a scene where her reckless driving results in a massive punishment or obvious lesson. It isn’t the theme of the book. It isn’t necessary to the story. But being a thrill-seeking teenage girl is. She will fix up a car. She will speed with the windows down and her hair whipping wildly about. She will know it’s wrong, and she won’t care, and she will get away with it. Other parts of her life, though? Not so much. There is a lot that will go wrong in her life, and she will grow from them, but I still wouldn’t necessarily call those moments a lesson.
A lesson insinuates that you plan on your reader learning something—generally the same thing from the same content. But books aren’t lessons. They are stories. If lessons or messages happen to come across, great. But I don’t believe an author should set out to write a lesson to a young reader. Sure, we have fairytales where that was the intention. (You know the ones. Don’t go into the woods; they’re wicked witches and scary animals in there!) Those certainly serve a purpose. I would even say there’s room for both kinds of books—stories that are designed to teach and stories that are just stories. That doesn’t mean stories that are just stories won’t have lessons that readers can infer in between the lines. It just means that the story did not intentionally set out to teach anyone anything specific.
To me, it isn’t the author’s job to teach. It’s the author’s job to tell a great story. It’s the reader’s job to identify their feelings about the piece. If that means they learned something, great. But it’s also fine if the reader walks away just feeling happy, sad, or simply entertained. (Not to mention that young readers are super attuned to an adult trying to “teach” them something. Spoiler alert: that’s often the worst way to teach a young person anything.)
In my WIP, my character likes to put the windows down so that she can feel the Kansas winds whipping through her hair while driving down country roads. It makes her feel alive. It puts her in the present. And when I personally think of being a teenager, it was moments like these that I remember best. I didn’t learn to slow down until I was older. My character might learn that lesson when she’s older, too, but she’s only a teenager in this WIP. That lesson simply isn’t going to happen in her life yet. The reckless driving serves a different purpose in the story. It’s a metaphor for her internal struggle. One that doesn’t completely end when the story does. Hence while she’ll continue to speed all the way to the last page. In contrast, my main character in my paranormal romance, the Timely Death trilogy, crashes his car and learns from it. So, I have written that “lesson” elsewhere—where it worked, for both the story and the character. And, of course, my main character in my current WIP will confront other life lessons throughout the piece. But in the end, I don’t expect my reader to walk away with any lessons internalized. Most lessons folks have to learn for themselves. I only want to tell them a story.
In the end, I believe that characters must learn and grow in a story, but that doesn’t mean the reader has to. And your character and readers do not have to have the same feelings/thoughts. In fact, the gray spaces are where the best stories often take place. Sometimes that means driving writing recklessly on a backcountry road with all the windows down, full speed ahead.
Every month, I share all of the websites I come across that I find helpful, humorous, or just awesome. Below, you’ll find all of March’s Website Wonders categorized into Writing, Reading, and Mind-Blowing.
If you enjoy these websites, be sure to follow me on Twitter because I share even more websites and photos like this there.
Aside from loving The Ravel Cycle series, Maggie Stiefvater continues her awesome blog (that I also love). This article in particular is great, because I think many writers struggle to write, which makes it even harder to throw out certain scenes…or even whole books. The creator makes the idea; the idea doesn’t make the creator. You can move on, and you can improve. Much love for this article.
I met Cassandra Clare this week! She is definitely one of my favorite YA writers, so I jumped at the opportunity to meet her. We even geeked out over Twitter before the event, and I had two books signed by her. She is super sweet, and I definitely recommend attending her events if she comes close to your town!
What I’m Writing:
I’m 59,000 words into Take Me Yesterday…which means I’m officially in the last act, and I’ll tell you what, book two is much more twisted than book one (not that anyone has the chance to read book one…but I promise I’ll let you know when I start pursuing publication on The Tomo Trilogy. Right now, I’m focused on getting Bad Bloods out there.) That being said, this sequel is one of those books that I have to keep pushing myself away from my desk and reminding myself that I’m not psychotic…right? I’m particularly loving the new setting in this book, the new characters—especially the focus on female characters—and Sophia’s change in emotional state. But that’s all I’ll say for now.
I received the complete interior design for Bad Bloods: November Rain, and Bogart reviewed it thoroughly. We are both in love. If you read the sneak peek of Chapter Two, then you saw the first chapter from Daniel’s POV. We see him with Old Man Gregory, a man who owns the convenience store, which also serves as an illegal bar (the one I talked about in the content disclosure). Fun fact, I named Old Man Gregory after my older brother Gregory, but the two are nothing alike…even though he would be an old man in 2089. Like 101 years old.
We also received the content disclosure for November Rain, so I thought you’d like to know our rankings. If you need a handy guide about what these rankings mean, click here to read more details about November Rain’s disclosure.
First off, November Rain was rated YA(m) – Young Adult Mature – which means it’s written for a mature young adult audience.
Violence: 5: Um. No surprise here. Bad Bloods is a fairly violent duology, revolving around a political debate eradicating an entire group of people, which mainly consists of homeless children…but I promise you, the violence is not as graphic as the original book? Okay. That’s not saying much. But there is meaning behind it. The violence isn’t gratuitous.
Romance: 1: I promise, there is romance in this duology, although it’s more “intimacy” than lust, and the reason for that becomes pretty clear within the first two chapters.
Language: 3: Shit. That’s all I have to say.
Drugs/Alcohol/Smoking: 3: There is an illegal bar the main character attends for supplies, but he himself doesn’t drink. That being said, Diet Coke plays a major role in Bad Bloods as a type of drug, but I think I’ll leave that up for a surprise.
In other publishing news, I updated my author bio, which now includes my obsessions for rooftops, cookies, and murder shows.
This weeks’ #1lineWed preview was “now,” so here is this week’s preview: Her once moonlit eyes were now the dark sides of the moon.
In Bad Bloods, the moon and stars are very symbolic. The children, for one, are homeless, so many of them lived under the sky, and even when they form flocks, they travel at night, so the stars and moon are often the only light they see. Because of this, the symbolism becomes very nature-focused, including…you know…rain and snow. So, you can expect a lot of comparisons to nature throughout the duology.
I finished Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare, and of course, I gave it 5 Shadowhunter stars. You can read my full 5-star review here. Don’t worry, it’s spoiler free (including spoilers from The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices, both of which I highly recommend you read before reading The Dark Artifices.) My favorite quote? And if there were two things he believed were limitless, it was love and imagination.
I also began The Young Elites by Marie Lu, and even though I’m about ten pages in, I love it!
What I’m Listening To:
Gooey by Glass Animals. It will not get out of my head. (Not that I want it to leave either.)
What I’m Watching:
It all started with a little research…and then, I found the perfect murder…and then I found a TV show that talked about said perfect murder…and then I was binge-watching Murder Maps. These things happen.
On a not-so-light note, I also watched The Hunting Ground, the Oscar-Nominated documentary about sexual assault on college campuses. I could say so many things about this documentary, but I think time is better spent if you take an hour out of your day to watch it. That being said, I am a graduate of one of the universities under investigation for Title IX, and I can say that I am not surprised they are under investigation. This is an epidemic for men and women, and I hope the country as a whole can come together to address this issue in a productive way that prevents sexual assault from continuing for future students.
What I’m Baking, Making, and Drinking:
Mango lassi and cream cheese lemon glazed cookies! I also made dark chocolate chip cookies this week too. (I really like my cookies.)
What I’m Wearing:
Green, for St. Patty’s Day!
What I’m Wanting:
Honestly, I want more of those lemon cookies. I already ate them all.
What I’m Dreaming Of:
I was a magical general of 13 magical warriors, and we were fighting 13 other magical warriors. (Okay. This is where if I turn a dream into a book I would add more detail, so magical warrior will have to do.) That was when my best warrior went missing for 3 days, and on return, he asked to go on a walk with me. Of course I said yes, because he was my best warrior…and also, he was quite handsome. But he had been brain-washed! And he set me up to get kidnapped…so I was kidnapped by the other warriors, and they sedated me while they were waiting for their general to arrive (to kill me, I assume). But 3 days passed, and one of my warriors showed up to see if I had been kidnapped. Of course they denied it, but I tore out of the sedation long enough to crawl on my hands and knees to get to him. He tossed me Chapstick, but in this world, you ate the Chapstick to get special energy, and upon eating it, I sprang to my feet and ran…right into a shopping mall. (Sorry, my dreams are strange.) In this shopping mall, the cops were standing all around the escalators, talking about how I was most likely to escape there…and I ran right past them laughing! Of course they chased me, but I’d already vaulted over the fountain and headed for my main exit—the women’s restroom. (Fun fact, I’ve had this part of the dream before, and the women’s restroom worked, but this time…) A NO EXIT sign was plastered on the door, and a man was trying to push through it but couldn’t. I didn’t let it stop me. I laughed and went into the men’s restroom…where the exact same exit waited, and then I woke up in real life. I also had a dinosaur nightmare this week…but those are too traumatic to write about.
What Else Is Going On:
As many of you saw at the end of my last article, this was the week that my mom died thirteen years ago. (Thirteen years, that blows my mind.) Spring Break, for many, is a time of vacations and beaches (or snowboarding), and getting drunk on St. Patty’s Day, but Spring Break, particularly March 16, is a reminder of my mother’s sudden death and everything I’ve done since that life-changing moment. I promised myself back then that I would strive to follow my dreams, and I still am. I can only hope that I will continue to keep my promise, and I promise to try my best every day.
If you would like a signed copy of any book in The Timely Death Trilogy, e-mail me at shannonathompson.com. Barnes & Noble in Wichita has a few copies left from the Valentine’s Day Romance Author Event this past Saturday. It was AWESOME. I met some wonderful readers and authors.
Thank you for coming out!
Every Monday, I cover an older post but in a new way. In fact, today’s post comes from my very first year of blogging. (It’s really surreal to see how much my website has changed since 2012, so feel free to read the original post here.) Basically, I covered one song I listened to in order to get inspired, but that was it. Today, I want to talk about music in general in regards to writing and how you can use it as a tool to help enhance your work, make connections, and understand yourself better.
1. Trick Your Mind with Classical Conditioning
This is, by far, my favorite aspect of music in regards to writing. You can use music to trick your mind with basic conditioning. (You know, that famous psychology term defined by salivating dogs and bells…but we’re going to use authors and music instead.) Basically, find songs that have the same mood or tone of your story, and listen to them while you write or right before you write. That way, when you’re having a day where you don’t feel like writing—or you’re just having a difficult time getting into the mood—you can listen to these songs, and it “tricks” your brain into knowing it is time to write. In fact, I’ve used this method before, even though I rarely listen to music while writing. I still have “trigger” songs I listen to while brainstorming, so when I’m having a harder time than usual, it can be fixed with an energetic song my brain correlates with successful writing time. Thanks, Pavlov.
2.Inspiration, Of Course
A lot of writers find inspiration in music. Whether it’s the lyrics or the sound or the mood it invokes, music can serve as a starting point for writers. When I was younger, I was *kind of* like this. I loved to listen to music while I had to take long drives to school (and this was when gas was $5 per gallon, yeesh). The combination of movement and music helped me zone into movie trailer type scenarios. I could picture snippets and high-action type scenes that I could shout at myself (at stoplights as well) and later write down when I was…you know…not driving. I don’t do this anymore, but I have had great moments where a song really sticks with me and can help shape a scene or a character. In fact, I recently couldn’t get enough of Railroad Track by Willy Moon in relation to Take Me Yesterday, book 2 of The Tomo Trilogy. Even though it didn’t inspire anything, the music (and the video) fit what I had in my head perfectly, and seeing it played out helped energize me enough to write 10,000 words in one night. For that one night, that song was everything.
Extra: The top two songs I listened to while working on Bad Bloods: Murakami by Made in Heights and Black Crown by Silent Rider and Camille Corazon.
Okay. The title of this section is a bit of a stretch, but I think every writer—whether they are looking for a traditional agent or not—can learn a ridiculous amount about the industry and writing trends by following the #MSWL feed on Twitter. #MSWL is Manuscript Wishlist, which is where agents post what they are looking for. Surprisingly enough, a lot of agents will post song titles and say something along the lines of “If your manuscript is like this song, I want it!” Isn’t that awesome? A single song—lyrics and all—could inspire an entire novel…and an agent who wants to sign it. Why? Because songs are powerful. It doesn’t hurt to understand why either. Just like how we tell writers to look at their favorite books and ask themselves why they love them, I suggest writers research their favorite songs and ask themselves the same question. You could have a story hiding in you.
How has music affected your writing life?
This THURSDAY, I will host #AuthorinaCoffeeShop Episode 7 on Twitter at 7 PM via @AuthorSAT. I normally host it on Friday, but a few of you have expressed Thursday as a better day, so I will probably test out the next few episodes on Thursday to see which days are best. I hope to see you there!
The Timely Death Trilogy is now available!
Get SIGNED copies by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org
My first blog post was on September 25, 2012. I never realized how much my life would change once I started this blog. For instance, back then, I had just started my last year of college at the University of Kansas. I lived in a townhouse with two other girls, and my bedroom was painted a deep merlot red. Bogart was almost two years old. I wasn’t publishing at that time, but I was studying English, specifically poetry. I didn’t have a job that year, but I did have my eyes set on a couple of master’s degree opportunities and law school. I drove a manual, a silver RX-8. I was writing Take Me Tomorrow. I almost always wrote in a hookah house. My laptop’s name was Weebo. I was twenty-one years, three months, and two days old.
Since September 25, 2012, my life has changed irrevocably. Two weeks after starting my blog, one of my college roommates passed away. I moved back home. I was published. I graduated from KU with a bachelor’s degree in English, with an emphasis on creative writing. I was published again, and signed on with a publisher. I started working for a publisher. My car stopped working. My publisher shut down, and I lost my job. I moved to another state on my own. My bedroom is now baby blue, and I drive an automatic pickup now. I signed on with a new publisher, and I started my own company. Bogart just turned five, and I have two other cats in my life, Boo Boo and Kiki. I write in coffee houses now. My laptop’s name is Luna-P. I’m currently writing many things. I am twenty-four years, three months, and three days old.
Back then, I just wanted to have a place to share books, music, and movies. I never knew it would change my life forever. I cannot explain how much blogging can change your life, but I guess I can share my story.
I’ve thought long and hard about what to say today, but I don’t feel like
there’s anything I can say to express my gratitude for these past 525 blog posts. Today is my 526th article. I’ve been on here 1,096 days. I’ve had over 72,000 unique visitors. I never thought my silly voice would ever be heard, let alone by that many people. I am humbled.
Thank you for giving me a place in the blogosphere that I can call home.
Minutes Before Sunset hit #12 in overall Free Kindle yesterday! (Woot. Woot.) We were also a #1 Bestseller in YA Science Fiction and Paranormal and Urban Fantasy! Way to go! Stay Dark!
On October 19, the paperback of Death Before Daylight releases! Two days later, on October 21, you can come see me at Headrush Coffee and Tea Roasters in Kansas City, Missouri for a paranormal talk and book signing. It will be tons of fun!
Every month, I share all of the websites I come across that I find helpful, humorous, or just awesome. Below, you’ll find all of June’s Website Wonders categorized into Reading, Writing, and Simply Amazing.
If you enjoy these websites, be sure to follow me on Twitter because I share even more websites and photos like this there!
Another month has passed, and during the month of March, we were able to meet more guest bloggers, read more news, and discover additional websites for writers and readers.
For those of you just now checking in this month, Ketchup actually means “catch up”. At the end of every month, I write these posts describing what goes on behind the scenes at ShannonAThompson.com. Some of the topics I cover include my big moments, top blog post, my top referrer, SEO term, and more in order to show insights that will hopefully help fellow bloggers see what was popular. I also hope it entertains the readers who want “extras” for this website.
Thank you for being a part of my life this March!
The new cover for Minutes Before Sunset, book 1 of The Timely Death Trilogy, was revealed, and what a delight that moment was! I am so happy you all enjoyed the new cover so much. It only makes the upcoming release more exciting. Because of all of the excitement, Clean Teen Publishing is hosting a Goodreads Giveaway. Staring on April 1, you can enter to win 1 of 3 ARCs, so look out for that!
In other news, I also received my copy of my first piece of nonfiction that was ever published. My personal essay, Nowhere, was featured in the 23 volume of Fine Lines, and now it sits on top of my desk, reminding me of why we continue to write and submit and share our work with everyone.
Thank you goes out to all of the readers who’ve supported me – novels, poetry, nonfiction, and all.
At the end of the month, I also like to take a moment to thank all of the websites who supported me by posting reviews, interviews, and features. If you would like to review my novels or interview me, please send me an email at email@example.com. I always love speaking with new bloggers, writers, and readers! And I will share your post on all of my websites.