Tag Archives: writers

World Building: Where to Start, What to Consider, & How to End

17 Jul

I mainly write science fiction and fantasy, and both of those genres tend to come with heavy world building. A few of you have asked me where I begin. How do I start? How do I know when to write? When does world building end? Well, if you read my editing tips series, then you probably know my answer to most of this.

I don’t think it’s that important to have your world building down in your first draft or while you’re outlining. Why? Because you don’t know everything your world needs yet in order to tell your story. All that matters is having your world building down by the end of your drafts. That being said, I tend to spend more time on initial world building than I do with character profiles or plot outlines. Why? Because my world will affect my characters directly—and that tends to be when I start writing.

That’s right. I begin most of my stories with a scene or an idea, and then I world build…and I keep building until the world affects my characters directly. Then I start to write.

So how do I build my worlds?

Extra tip: World build together. Try to explain your world to a friend. If they ask questions you can’t answer, find an answer.

Well, let’s start with the foundation.

Think of the basics. Where are we? What is the climate? Is it temperate, freezing, humid, etc.? What are the seasons like and which season/s is your story taking place in? How does this location relate to the locations around it?

My favorite place to start is clothes. Why? Because clothes tell us about societal structures—like income class, careers, etc.—and also about the land/weather patterns. Are they wearing cotton? If so, where does the cotton come from? Who collects the cotton and uses that cotton to create clothes? How much does it cost, and who would wear it? Example: Throughout history, the upper-class generally wore clothes from far away to emphasize how rich they were; those clothes were expensive because of how far the materials had to travel (and how expensive the upkeep was.)

The next element I consider the most is water. Why? Because water is essential for life, including animal life, which means you’re looking at how people eat, clean up, make medicine, etc. Not to mention that water, like rivers and lakes, have been used as natural borders for a long, long time (along with mountains). So where does the water come from? How were borders decided? Start thinking about other natural materials on your land. What materials are used to make buildings, for instance?

Now time: What year is it, and how does that year in particular define your character/s? I tell new writers to at least understand their main characters and their family structure for three generations back. This information doesn’t have to go into your book, of course, but knowing where your protagonist came from, including how their parents raised them and why, will help you shape their family unit and beliefs. This brings me to my last two topics: Religion and language.

  • With religion, personally, I think the most important part of a person’s religion can be summed up in their burial practices. Start there. Most of the time, burial practices relate to how that person sees life, death, and how both their life and their death is connected to the land. This includes if your characters don’t have a religion at all.
  • When I am building a language, I focus on two elements first: How do people curse and how do people say I love you. Why? Because humans are built on emotion, and hate/love are the two strongest emotions and the biggest umbrellas of emotion out there. By finding out how they express those emotions, both as a culture and as an individual, you can start to shape everything in between.

Please keep in mind that this information—like where materials come from—doesn’t have to be explicitly stated in your book. In fact, I can’t recall a time where I talked about where water came from in most of my books. But it can help to know the simple, basic elements of your world. They are your foundation, after all. And the stronger your foundation, the stronger the rest of your world building will be. In fact, I only covered where I begin. I didn’t even get into magic systems, for instance. (Another favorite topic of mine.)

Build and keep building. Don’t be afraid if you feel intimidated, and don’t get frustrated when your world contradicts itself or doesn’t make sense at all. You have all the time in the world to…well, build your world. Take your time. Take notes. And enjoy the journey of discovering a brand-new place that your characters—and you—will call home.

~SAT

Website Wonders & Four-Year Blogiversary

26 Sep

bloggiversaryFirst, I want to give a shout out to WordPress and everyone I’ve met in the blogosphere! Today is my four-year anniversary with WordPress, and I’m still totally, completely in love with this community. Thanks for having me.

~SAT

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 September’s Website Wonders categorized into Writing, Fairy Tales, Mysteries, and the Best Person Ever.

If you enjoy these websites, be sure to follow me on Twitter because I share even more websites and photos like this there.

I hope you love these articles as much as I do!

See you next month,

~SAT

Favorite Article: Do Better: Sexual Violence in SFF

I feel so strongly about this article. And I completely agree. We can do better. This article is on point.

Writing:

This Book is Broken, and Other Things I Tell Myself While Writing by Victoria Schwab: I really love her honesty in this article. A must-read for writers.

The Five Elements of a Story: Brush up on the basics in a new way.

Proust’s Questionnaire – 35 Questions Every Character Should Answer: What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Fairy Tales:

14079612_1189549304445899_2149284556800308199_n15 Fairy Tale Cities That Actually Exists In Real Life: So cute!

Enchanting European Landscapes Inspired by Brothers Grimm Folk Tales Photographed by Kilian Schönberger: Can’t you tell I was feeling in need of a fairy tale this week?

Mysteries:

10 Ancient Books That Teach Supernatural Powers: Looking for book inspiration? Write a tale about one of these.

10 Unbelievable Urban Legends That Are Actually True: Chills

The Best Person Ever:

Man Devotes His Life To Adopting Old Dogs Who Can’t Find Forever Homes: Can we just give this guy a hug? What a wonderful thing to do. Adopt an old dog today.

See you next month!

~SAT

Penned Con 2016

Penned Con 2016

I had a ton of fun at Penned Con in St. Louis this past week! Thanks for coming out and seeing me. Now it’s time to cuddle with my three cats… 😀

#MondayBlogs Writing Tips: Different Perspectives

8 Aug

I love writing from different perspectives. Both my YA series—The Timely Death Trilogy and Bad Bloods—are written in first POV but from two different speakers. I love using this technique for novel writing, because I enjoy first person, but I dislike how it restricts the storytelling to one character, especially when a scene would be better from a different perspective. So, I have two protagonists, and of course, there are complications that come along with this. What’s the most common question I am asked?

How do you make each voice unique?

I’ll provide a few aspects to keep in mind, but of course, this journey will be different for every writer and every novel. First, know that every character should have its own distinct voice. A reader should be able to open the novel and know who is speaking immediately. This is more difficult than it sounds, but it can get easier over time.

1. Perspective. 

The most obvious change between one voice to another is their unique perspective. What is their background? How do they feel? Where were they educated? Are they affecting the words, or are you? It’s important that characters have their own voice, and that voice will come out in combination with their personalities and backgrounds. For instance, your character who is a fashion designer would definitely use specific colors and fabrics to describe clothes, but your mechanic character might not.

2. Pay Attention to Diction and Syntax

Just like authors have their own “voice,” so do characters. Because of their backgrounds, characters will have different vocabularies. One character may use very flowery language, while another may have less of a need to elaborate. Consider their education, where they come from, and what they might know. The way they speak should differ, whether they are talking out loud or explaining the scene inwardly. Sometimes, syntax can be used to emphasize certain speech patterns, but be careful not to overuse syntax. Too many exclamations or repeated habits/phrases can become tedious and boring rather than unique and fun. Sometimes less is more. Little clues are normally enough.

3. Consider Rhythm

Honestly, I think rhythm is often overlooked, but paying attention to subtle changes in sound and length of sentences is important. One character’s thoughts may drag on, so their sentences are longer, while another might make short lists to contain their thoughts. Like everything making up your character, a person’s rhythm will depend on their personality, background, and goals. It could even change from scene to scene, but consistency is key.

All four of these women would tell a different story about this picture.

All four of these women would tell a different story about this picture.

One of my favorite exercises:

Write a chapter in which the two characters are talking. Write it from POV 1, and then, rewrite the exact same scene from POV 2. Check to make sure the dialogue and the physical actions are the exact same, but then, compare the thought process. How did the scene change? What does this change mean? Do they each bring a unique perspective? And out of those perspectives, which one is best to use?

As an example, two people can be talking and Person A could notice Person B is fidgeting. Person A may assume Person B is nervous, but when you tell it from Person B’s perspective, you learn that they are distracted, not nervous. These little bits can truly morph the way characters interact. I always encourage this exercise when starting out, even if the writer isn’t planning on telling from another’s perspective.

This exercise helps me understand the characters, and I feel more confident when I move onto a new scene. (Sometimes, it even helps me choose which scene to use…and worse case scenario, you have an extra scene to release as an extra for your readers.)

Have fun and good luck! 

Original posted March 31, 2013

~SAT

Bad Bloods: November Rain is FREE across all eBook platforms right now! (And I’m dutifully working on the next installment, too!) Happy reading. 😀

November Rain

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November Snow, 

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Bad Bloods Free Book

Bad Bloods Free Book

 

#SATurdate: Book Release, Stranger Things, A Thousand Pieces of You, & Swiss Army Man

23 Jul

What I’m Writing:

First and foremost, Dreammare—my YA fantasy—moved on in Adventure’s in YA Publishing’s Red Light / Green Light writing competition! That means I’m in the TOP FIVE! I am thrilled to be here, and I’ve loved reading everyone’s work so far. Next week, the winner is announced, and honestly, these manuscripts sound bomb. Check them out. Also, you’ll get to see more of what Dreammare is about.

I’m writing Bad Bloods 3—July Thunder/Lightning—and though I’m aiming for it to be one book instead of two this time, the Bad Bloods books are generally 600-800 pages long, which is why it has two titles like November Rain and November Snow. If you’re reading Bad Bloods: November Rain—because it’s OFFICIALLY OUT—then you might pay attention to the wall separating the Highlands and the outskirts. Bad Bloods 3/4 will focus on this part of the political spectrum. If you’ve read Bad Bloods, then you know a huge factor of my latest work was WWII and the horrendous genocide of many types of people. The next Bad Bloods book is no different. I’m definitely influenced by major political events of the world and history, so the Berlin Wall largely affected this next segment. If you want to learn more about the Berlin Wall—because something I quickly realized while writing this book is how much I DON’T know about the Berlin Wall—watch this short documentary. I will try to release new information about the book every week. I’m currently 10,129 words in and on July 4, 2090. Also, I wrote Blake’s origin story for the FREE Bad Bloods Prequel on Wattpad, so if you ever wondered how a blond-haired, blue-eyed baby boy ended up in the Northern Flock (and how a preteen flock handled it), it will release July 29. My goal is to also have a prequel for July Thunder/Lightning, because trust me, you’re getting a whole new cast of characters there, too.

What I’m Publishing:

RELEASE99cBAD BLOODS: NOVEMBER RAIN IS OUT! (Is all capitals reasonable? I think so!) For release week only, you can get Bad Bloods: November Rain for only .99¢! That’s quite the steal…especially since Bad Blood: November Snow releases THIS Monday!

What is the latest reader saying?

“I was in love with this novel right from the first page. It’s such a page turner and definitely a unique concept. I haven’t read anything like it so far. I love how fast paced and intense it is.” –Teen Book Lit 101

Bad Bloods: November Rain OUT NOW!

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November Snow, Part Two, releases July 25, 2016

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Bad Bloods: November Rain book reviews

Bad Bloods: November Rain book reviews

What I’m Reading:

A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray

A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray

I picked up and finished A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray in one sitting. This book is sci-fi perfection. I cannot believe I waited so long to finally read it, because it is officially one of my favorite reads so far this year. I already cannot wait to get my hands on the sequel, but I highly recommend this book if you love YA sci-fi, multicultural casts, and romantic subplots. Also, dimensional travel! Are you kidding me? This book is awesome. Basically, you jump from dimension to dimension—worlds only slightly different from ours—and you jump straight into yourself. So, you control your other life…which has some interesting effects. Though the premise and protagonist is interesting enough to propel the story forward, the overhanging mystery of a murder is engaging and thrilling. The ending is satisfying. I absolutely recommend this read. Favorite Quote? I meant it when I said I didn’t believe in love at fight sight. It takes time to really, truly fall for someone. Yet I believe in a moment. A moment when you glimpse the truth within someone, and they glimpse the truth within you. In that moment, you don’t belong to yourself any longer, not completely. Part of you belongs to him; part of him belongs to you. After that, you can’t take it back, no matter how much you want to, no matter how hard you try. Read my full five-star review here.

I’m also starting An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir, so expect that review next week.

What I’m Listening To:

The female protagonist of Bad Bloods: July Thunder/Lighting picked her favorite song, and she has not let go of it.

What I’m Watching:

Like everyone else this week in the Netflix world, I binge-watched Stranger Things, and I LOVED it. I mean, I wished we had more small town stories in fiction. Considering 90% of the US doesn’t live in Chicago, New York, or LA, I’m amazed that 90% of fiction seems to only take place in the big cities. Watching this Indiana paranormal/horror tale was awesome, and I loved how nostalgic everything felt. Down to the cinematography, Stranger Things FEELS like the 80s. Definitely recommended.

Stranger Things on Netflix

Stranger Things on Netflix

To celebrate release day, I went to the theatre and saw Swiss Army Man. Honestly, I had no clue how I would feel seeing this movie. (Farting is not my type of humor.) But without a doubt, I would recommend this movie to pretty much anyone. It’s hilarious, it revolves around philosophy, and the ending is phenomenal as much as it is emotional. I don’t want to spoil it for you, but the ending is both fantastic and sad—and it opens room for really important discussions. A must-see film.

Swiss Army Man movie

Swiss Army Man movie

What I’m Baking, Making, and Drinking:

As per tradition, I baked chocolate chip cookies on book release day.

What I’m Wearing:

I wore my Pokemon T-shirt this week, which was really bizarre. I mean, I wear this shirt all the time. I bought it two Halloweens ago, and nearly everyone scoffed at it. Now that Pokemon Go is out, I couldn’t be cooler. I even had a discussion with a stranger at the grocer store about it, which basically went like this.

Stranger: “I mean, everyone’s into this stuff now.”

Me: “I’ve always been into this stuff.”

Stranger: “You don’t look like someone who would be.”

Awkward pause as I considered not responding

Me: “I’m not sure there’s a ‘look’ to someone’s hobbies. I mean, I have a Sailor Moon collection at home.”

Stranger: “REALLY? No way.”

Me: “…Yes. What’s the big deal? Not everyone is going to like Game of Thrones. Not everyone is going to like Pokemon. We can all just like what we like and get over it.”

Stranger: “Good point.”

Conversations like this really throw me off guard. I’ve always loved what I love. I feel sorry for those who don’t. I feel sorry that we live in a society that shames people for liking things like books, arts, and movies.

So, I hope you’re enjoying something you love today.

What I’m Wanting:

Well, obvs. I want Ten Thousand Skies Above You by Claudia Gray.

What I’m Dreaming Of:

There was this magical world divided into four sections, but the ones discussed were basically heaven, hell, and earth, though they didn’t work like our belief system. You could visit any of them at any time, and it had nothing to do with death and life. It was more symbolic than anything. Though, I played the part of this blond girl who’d been turned into a vampire? Which meant I had to live in hell, of course, and my best friend needed to escape to heaven, so we were going to escape together. We built this crazy slingshot, but it only shot him into heaven and I got stuck in hell. Yepp-ee! Eventually, I made more friends, and we moved to earth legally and without any problems, but my best friend didn’t know I was a vampire somehow? So when he came down from heaven to see me, he was shocked but ultimately didn’t care, because his sister was missing. (I know. This makes no sense.) So, we all went on this otherworldly adventure to this fairy’s house, and we had to climb a bunch of gigantic flower pots that had miniature water falls. And the entire time I kept thinking, Of course this would be a fairy’s house…and it’s really not handicap accessible. Which is messed up. But we finally got inside, where the fairy was throwing a birthday party for her daughter. (I also noticed this home plan was completely open, no walls, no room unattached from another.) Most curious of all, the fairy didn’t know why we came in through her garden. The front door was easier. ::facepalm:: I woke up.

What Else Is Going On:

I went to the bookstore to get my hands on Ten Thousand Skies Above You by Claudia Gray, but Barnes & Noble didn’t have it in stock, so I told customer service about it. Why? Because bookstores and libraries largely design their bookshelves based on what readers ask for. If you visit a store and they don’t have a book you want in stock, please tell them! It helps authors, publishers, bookstores, and YOU out. ❤

~SAT

#SATurdate: Salt to the Sea, Death Note, The Turncoat’s Gambit, & Tallulah

2 Jul

What I’m Writing:

Honestly, I go through phases where I dread writing. Mainly because I’m stretching myself too thin and/or trying to find my footing in my next project. I think I’m in the middle of both of those issues. I have three completed manuscripts—one of which needs editing—I want to start something new, but I’m also EXHAUSTED. All that being said, I started yet another novel. It’s my second attempt at a contemporary, but again, I. am. struggling. I know I’ll find my footing in one of my projects, but I haven’t hit solid ground yet. Between BFest, Bad Bloods releasing, and my day job, life hasn’t afforded me a lot free time for writing either (which might be part of the problem). Let me put it this way, I only wrote 5,000 words…in June. IN ALL OF JUNE. I need a hug. But I will power through it!

What I’m Publishing:

A new review is in of November Snow! “Truly, Thompson has done an incredible job here of story weaving. Just wonderful. Don’t underestimate your need for tissues here people, don’t do it. Prepare yourself with tissues and a cuddly stuffed animal.” – Babbling Books (Seriously, listen to her advice. Tissues will come in handy.)

Catelyn's Story on Wattpad

Catelyn’s Story on Wattpad

This week, Catelyn’s Story released on the FREE Bad Bloods Prequel on Wattpad. This is also the first origin story seen from the Southern Flock’s perspective. They formed later than the Northern Flock, so from now on, you’ll see stories flip back and forth between the two flocks. If you ever wondered why the groups of bad bloods are called flocks, this origin story explains why! In Bad Bloods, Catelyn is Serena’s best friend. Here is a preview: The girl was pretty enough for plenty of crimes. Read her story by clicking the link.

Also, because I created three cartoon photos of the first three characters, here are three cartoon versions of the most recent stories: Ryne, Violet, and Catelyn.

Ryne, Violet, Catelyn

Ryne, Violet, Catelyn

The #1lineWed theme was “sky” so here is your weekly preview:

Pre-Order Bad Bloods

November Rain, Part One, releases July 18, 2016

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November Snow, Part Two, releases July 25, 2016

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Visit the Pinterest and Facebook Pages.

Preorder Bad Bloods

Preorder Bad Bloods

What I’m Reading:

Salt to the Sea

Salt to the Sea

I began and finished Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys. Heartbreaking and terrifying, yet informative, Salt to the Sea is an emotional story about the Wilhelm Gustloff, the single greatest tragedy in maritime history. Told from four different perspectives, Sepetys focused on young adults and how World War II was affecting their lives forever. I highly recommend this book to everyone, especially those who wish to learn more about how WWII affected the youth and what happened to the Wilhelm Gustloff. All that being said, this book is not for the light-hearted. Though I still think the light-hearted should read it, Salt to the Sea is graphic. I know there are scenes that will never leave me. But if I can call something graphic and beautifully written in the same breath, this book deserves that statement. You can read my full 5-star review here.

What I’m Listening To:

Wounded Rhymes album by Lykke Li. I was driving between cities a lot this week, and this was my soundtrack for the week.

What I’m Watching:

I saw Death Note for the first time! (I know. I know. Crazy, right?) I LOVE anime, but I’ve never seen Death Note despite the crazy big fan base. (Perhaps that’s why I haven’t seen it?) I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I LOVED it from episode 1. I have about 10 episodes left, but I think it’s fantastic. And I definitely think the shinigami are adorable.

I also watched 10 Cloverfield Lane, which I have mixed feelings about. I actually remember seeing Cloverfield in the theatre when I was 16, so seeing this kind-of-sequel-but-not-a-sequel of Cloverfield, was interesting. I think I had a more uncommon opinion by actually liking the first half more than the second half. I thought it was more psychological suspense at first, and then, it turned into a crazy sci-fi battle. The genre mashing didn’t feel very smooth, but it was an entertaining movie!

What I’m Baking, Making, and Drinking:

I baked stuffed peppers this week, and they were awesome! I’ve never made them before, so it was a plus that the recipe was easy. No desserts this week, but I promise they are coming.

What I’m Wearing:

I took new author photos this week, so look out for that! I wore two different outfits—one pink one, one blue one—and I’m excited to change my look. I saw a preview, and the photographer is awesome. 

What I’m Wanting:

Tallulah! That movie looks awesome. Why oh why was the release date July 29 and not June 29???

The Turncoat's Tambit by Andrea Cremer

The Turncoat’s Tambit by Andrea Cremer

Also, I LOVE The Inventor’s Secret by Andrea Cremer (and the sequel, The Conjurer’s Riddle). They are some of my favorite reads, so I cannot WAIT until November when book 3 of the trilogy releases. The Turncoat’s Gambit looks fantastic! November cannot come fast enough. Click the links if you wish to read my reviews of the first two books. I highly recommend this steampunk series.

What I’m Dreaming Of:

So, I became the first American to become the Queen of England. (Don’t ask me why or how or even if I understand why I had this dream…I mean, I do stalk the Queen’s corgis.) But, yes, I was “voted” in to become the next Queen of England, and everyone was—naturally—very put off by this. Even I was like, “Are you sure? I don’t know about this. Seems strange.” But everyone who voted was like, “You MUST!” So, I had to accept during this party, which was, apparently, only on the other side of the castle, but I had to go through all these secret passageways to get there, and there were assassins around every corner trying to kill me. They never killed me, but they did trap me, and it took me three hours to get out, but I got to the party…and everyone had left. The big surprise was that the Queen owned a Wheel of Fortune game that every Queen has to play in order to become Queen? But of course I was too late, so I didn’t get to play or become Queen. But I did get to play with her corgis.

What Else Is Going On:

I did a podcast interview this week. I look forward to sharing it, since the podcast focuses on Kansas City writers!

~SAT

#MondayBlogs Writing With Barbie

13 Jun

Authors use various methods to write novels. Some of these strategies are popular, while others are simply bizarre, and two years ago I confessed one of my strangest approaches.

Barbies.

You see, I began writing what would be my first published novel when I was 11, and because I was 11, I loved to daydream with dolls. Instead of plotting with a pen and paper, I pulled out those Barbie dolls—the same dolls that told me I could be anything while I was growing up—and I assigned each one to a potential character. I played out scenes, I tested dialogue, I assessed locations, and I watched my book come to life…Well, a plastic life. And the results were pretty humorous.

Many of my characters’ physical descriptions were actually based on the dolls I used. You can see more of this in the original novel, but some of the characters changed in the remake. That’s right. I’m talking about my upcoming release, Bad Bloods.

Bad Bloods began as a game I played with my Barbie dolls when I was a kid.

Now, if you’ve read the original or even the back covers, then you might be concerned for 11-year-old Shannon, considering how violent the book is, but there’s no need to be concerned. (I think.) Today is meant for laughter. Today, I wanted to share that funny truth behind Bad Bloods, no matter how dark the story is. Even better, I still have these toys (and I definitely still use them to this day), so I’m sharing a few of them as well as small excerpts from Bad Bloods that prove this goofy aspect of my writing.

You’ve been warned.

A little background before we begin:

Bad Bloods in 35 words or less: 17-year-old Serena is the only bad blood to escape execution. Now symbolized for an election, she must prove her people are human despite hindering abilities before everyone is killed and a city is destroyed.  

Bad Bloods is told from dual, first perspectives: Daniel and Serena. Unfortunately, I lost the Serena doll (she might have lost a limb or two or maybe even a head), but I still have Daniel, who you will see soon. I’m going to share two pictures. Read below for info on the characters, including a one-sentence background and a real excerpt from the novel. I’m also including a little note, explaining how my 11-year-old brain worked. Got that? Okay. I think I’m even lost, but trust me—it’s organized. I hope you chuckle as much as I did while writing this post! Traveling to the past can be a funny adventure.

theboys

Robert: 20, leader of the Southern Flock (hates hugs)

“Everything is fine.” Robert’s light voice didn’t match his stiff movements. When he ran a hand through his hair, his brown bangs stuck up. “But everyone needs to be quiet.”

11-y-o Note: Believe it or not, he’s not the antagonist. Sort of? Okay. Let’s go with antihero.

Daniel: 18, leader of the Northern Flock (all around hunk)

Daniel walked through the crowd, but it wasn’t much of a walk. It was more like stumbling and I had never seen Daniel stumble. Not once. Not even when he was fighting. But he was wearing the blue-and-white plaid jacket and it fluttered amongst the crowd of black coats and gray sweaters. He was practically asking to be arrested.

11-y-o Note: So, if you didn’t notice, I even based some clothes off of these toys.

Calhoun: 57, Daniel’s mentor (kind of a hard ass)

Before I had the chance to knock, the door swung open and smacked against the brick wall. An enormous man filled the entrance. The muscles in his left arm were hard to ignore, but the sleeve that should’ve been tightly wrapped around his right arm was dangling at his side, limbless. Despite his injury, Calhoun wasn’t troubled one bit. A shotgun swung outside and pointed toward my chest.

11-y-o Note: So, my one-arm GI Joe helped create this character, but this character’s personality is very similar to my father. Though, my dad has both arms…and he’s not a vet. But I swear they are alike. You might also remember me mentioning Calhoun in Tackling YA in Diversity, where I explain how I went about writing a character with a disability.

girls

Michele: 17, mother figure of the Northern Flock (Her origin story is up on Wattpad: Read Michele)

But the most beautiful one was the woman. She was tall and willowy, with long white hair and gray eyes like mine. Unlike me, though, every part of her seemed soft, like a warm glow followed her around wherever she went.

11-y-o Note: I definitely kept her white hair, and the character is almost always wearing black in the book as well.

Ami: 14, member of the Southern Flock. (Hates being called “Ami.” Her name is Ameline Marion Lachance.) 

When I first laid eyes on the girl, she was dressed head to toe in pink. Her blonde hair was threaded back into intricate braids, and a bow sat at the end of the braids where the golden strands came together. When Ami cried, she swung her head back and forth, and the bow swayed like a pendulum, all neat and tidy like a present.

11-y-o Note: You can’t really see the doll’s hairstyle anymore, but it was there. I promise. I also used pink on this character a lot.

Tessa: 9, member of the Northern Flock (too small to crush on Adam, but apparently, all the girls like Adam…maybe I should’ve shared Adam…Adam’s origin story is also up on Wattpad: Read Adam)

I pointed to the girl with pigtail braids. “That’s Tessa.”

“So what?” Tessa said, looking over her shoulder at Adam, then to me, her earthy brown eyes matching her powers and her complexion.

11-y-o Note: Her hair, like Ami’s, used to be tied up, too.

The End.

On a serious note, I think writing can be explored in a million ways, and I love my shameless Barbie play. I’ve legitimately called my #1 beta reader complaining of being stuck and she has asked me if I pulled the Barbies out yet. Having a physical representation works for me. I definitely don’t use their descriptions in newer writings, but I wanted to keep what I could for the rewrite since this particular work was built upon them. Imagination shouldn’t be chained to rules. Find what works for you, explore how you want, and daydream until the end of time. Even if that means playing with dolls.

Original posted April 19, 2014

It actually has different dolls and characters, but some of those characters have changed, so I didn’t include them in this post.

~SAT

To everyone I met at BFest this week, thank you for coming out! 

I had a blast!

BFest2016

If you missed out, you can buy signed books from Barnes & Noble in Oak Park Mall in Overland Park, KS and in Zona Rosa in Kansas City, MO!

For you online readers, don’t forget that Minutes Before Sunset, book 1 in the Timely Death Trilogy, is FREE right now. (And book 2 and book 3 are available, so no waiting!)

Minutes Before Sunset: book 1:

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Pre-Order Bad Bloods

November Rain, Part One, releases July 18, 2016

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November Snow, Part Two, releases July 25, 2016

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#WritingTips Music Muse and Tricks

15 Feb
At the signing :)

At the signing 🙂

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!

~SAT

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.

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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.

3. #MSWL Correlations

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?

~SAT

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!

Another wonderful picture of the authors from the Barnes & Noble signing!

Another wonderful picture of the authors from the Barnes & Noble signing!

The Timely Death Trilogy is now available! 

Get SIGNED copies by e-mailing shannonathompson@aol.com

Minutes Before Sunset: book 1: FREE 

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Seconds Before Sunrise: book 2:

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Death Before Daylight: book 3:

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