Wednesday, April 28, 2010

I hate blue cheese and snakes and so does my MC

I'm reading a new book I downloaded on my kindle today. It's a romance about a hot firefighter, if you're interested. Blame it on the wine store patio next to the smoothie shop catching on fire and the subsequent firefighters. Sadly for me, the sprinklers had already put out the fire so I didn't really get to see them in action....I'm getting off track. Sorry. What I wanted to talk about was how writers insert their own opinions/pet peeves/dislikes into their writing, and sometimes it's downright amusing. I read one scene in this particular book and thought "Well, I guess I know how the author feels about that!"

In the scene, the damsel-in-distress is picking her heroic firefighter (is firefighter one word or two? firefighter. fire fighter. I could go look at the book but I'm lazy) up from the hospital and has to bring him clothes. She brings him bright pink boxers with smiley faces on them. He balks at them and she says he could just not wear underwear (she'd also brought him jeans). He then tells her (his lip curling) "That's gross. Not to mention unsanitary."

Umm, seriously? I don't know any guy who would be so disgusted at the idea of not wearing underwear. In fact I know several who don't wear underwear at all, ever. (Not gonna explain how I know that.) I suppose there are men out there who don't like not wearing underwear, but it is such a woman thing to make a fuss about, yet she had a male character saying it. I found it pretty amusing, but I now know where the author stands on men's undergarments. I'd venture to say her husband would never dare to go commando.

The author did this again a few pages later, when the heroine asks the sexy fire fighter what his favorite foods are and he tells her he hates pasta. She replies "That's not normal." He tell her he knows but "It's slimy. Blech." Would you guess that the author doesn't like pasta for that reason and has had numerous people tell her that's not normal? I would.

I think that most authors do this. I know I do. I will never be able to write a character who likes blue cheese. I think that inserting little quirks that are your own pet peeves can help make your characters more interesting and more real, and it's probably easier to remember what your characters quirks are when they are the same as yours. has to make sense for the character.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Writing Slug


That's me. As a writer, I am a slug. I open my document and drag myself along, a few words here and there smeared along behind me on the page. I pull myself forward, inch by slimy inch. Oh, it's a long sidewalk I journey across, finally slipping down into the grass when I write "The End". But sluggy me only gets to rest in the cool grass for a few luxurious moments before I heave myself back onto the rough pavement and scrap my belly through revision after revision.

Haha, that sounds kind of gross. Still, it's accurate. I'm a slow snail of a writer. I can't sit down and write for hours at a time. I can't churn out pages and pages of words and make them a coherent story. I write scene by scene. Sometimes it gets so bad that I write sentence by sentence. I might get through one scene before I stop writing and go do something else. Sometimes I'll come back to writing after a few minutes, sometimes I don't. Sometimes I write a paragraph and stop. The fastest I ever write is when some lightning bolt of inspiration strikes, and I can write an entire scene in one sitting. And those lightning bolts? Well, the Gods of Writing don't favor me with those very often.

This is something that I've struggled with for as long as I've been writing (ahem, forever.). I can't write fast. I know writers who can write an entire book, granted a very rough draft, in three months. Sometimes less. It took me over two years to write my first book, a little over a year to write the second (although, I have to factor in being in college and working and then graduating and working full time, and I also started several other books which are unfinished). Still, I'm not a fast writer. I sit down, tell myself I'm just going to get it all on the page and revise it later, and ten minutes later I stop.

Any advice on writing faster? What do you do when you reach a place in your writing and don't feel like going further at that moment? How fast do you write?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Be a vengeful writing god

You are a god.

In writing, that is. Not in your day to day life. Sorry, didn't mean to get your hopes up. But in terms of your writing, you are a god. The creator. All-powerful. You hold the fate of your characters in your hands. Now the hard part about being a god. Sometimes...most of the have to be a vengeful, angry, cruel god.

I love my characters. They are my babies. I want them to be happy, smiley people walking under a rainbow with a bird singing on their shoulder. I don't want them to be sad or upset or hurt. But guess what? No one wants to read about Snow White playing with little animals. They want to read about Snow White being attacked by her stepmother and poisoned. Oh yeah, waaayyy more interesting. You have to be hard on your characters. Putting them in bad situations and seeing how they react is the best part of your story. Make things bad. Then make them worse.

Aren't these the books that we love the most? Perfect example -The Hunger Games. Things never stop getting worse in this book, and I love it. The Twilight Series? Same thing. I highly doubt Stephenie Meyer enjoyed sending Edward away and making Bella a completely depressed zombie chick.

So, are you making things hard enough on your characters? Or are you going easy on them out of love? I don't know who originally said it but it's good advice my mom always tells me "Push your characters out on a limb. Then cut the limb." (Or something like that.)

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

This made me smile

At work yesterday, a woman came in. I'd never seen her before, but she was very nice and polite. As she was leaving, she said "You have a great day!" (which is usually my line) and I replied "Thanks, you too!"

She beamed and said enthusiastically "I will!"

I'm ashamed to say that sometimes when people tell me to have a great day I think "ha, too late!", while I smile and walk away. This woman reminded me that sometimes all it takes to make it a great day is believing that it will be.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Finding Motivation

What do you do on those days where you just. don't. feel. like. writing? Because I'm having one of those days. I'm laying in bed, and I know I should be writing. I've been repeating it in my head. "Danielle, open the computer. Start working on Banished. Write. WRITE DAMMIT!" And, no such luck. I have no motivation to write (which, rather ironically, motivated me to write this blog). I don't feel like it. I kind of have a headache and I'm kind of hungry and it's kind of hot. Plus I took a nap which made me feel more tired.

The dilemma now is, do I force myself to write, knowing that I really don't feel like it? I didn't write yesterday either. And I've given myself a deadline for the end of May to finish revising Banished. Or do I give myself a pass? Assuming that anything I write won't be as good as it could be if I truly felt like writing?

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Being Descriptive

I'm baaacckkk!

I took this week off, mostly because of too much work, followed by an amazing weekend off - I took my best friend to my hometown. We stayed with my lovely parents and spent all Saturday getting nice and red at the beach. Now if only I didn't have to get up at the crack of dawn and go to work tomorrow....

Revisions on Banished are coming along, I'm up to chapter six!

Now. Down to business. Descriptions. How much is too much? Less is more? What do you go by?

I know that I'm like a lot of writers in that when I write it's like watching a movie in my head and I'm just describing what I'm seeing. Of course, in my head, I know exactly what everything looks like. What's going on in the background. What the characters are wearing. The weather. The colors. The sound. But usually when I'm reading what I've written, I've left a lot of those things out.

Because I forget that whoever is going to read this can't see inside my head.
Sounds ridiculous, I know. Of course the reader only has the words that you put on the page to tell them what is going on. That's why it's a book and not a movie. Duh. I get so wrapped up in dialogue (because that is waaaayyy more fun to write and also comes more naturally to me) that I forget to describe the setting as much as I probably should. Here's where I admit that as a reader, I skim. I really don't care about the little details. I want the action. I want the dialogue. But as a writer, I have to be aware that some people need the little details, the descriptions, to truly make the story come alive.

However, I think it's a fine line between setting the scene and getting bogged down in useless information. Case in point. Stephenie Meyer. I love the Twilight books as much as the next person (Unless the next person is a fourteen year old girl convinced she's going to marry R-Patz. In which case, I don't love it quite as much), but I feel like she includes soo much extra description that I just skipped over because I really didn't care. For example, this is from when Bella is at the beach:

"The bouquets of brilliant anemones undulated ceaselessly in the invisible current, twisted shells scurried about the edges, obscuring the crabs within them, starfish stuck motionless to the rocks and each other, while one small black eel with white racing strips wove through the bright green weeds, waiting for the sea to return."

Now, clearly, this kind of descriptive writing works for her. But I am never, in a million years, going to be able to write like this (even if I wanted to).

So, how do you know how much description to give? How much detail do you include? Where do you cross the line between giving the reader enough to picture the story and making their eyes glaze over?