Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Nine Noteworthy Novels I Read in 2016

Merry Christmas! This will likely be my first and only post of December since it's a busy month. While I didn't prepare a writing blog post, I thought I would share some of the noteworthy books I read this year. The good and the bad.

Nine Noteworthy Novels

Winter by Marissa Meyer: Winter was my favorite book I’ve read this year. It had action, romance, great characters, and a great plot that loosely followed that of Snow White. Winter is the fourth and last book in The Lunar Chronicles, one of my all-time favorite book series that is like a sci-fi fairytale. I absolutely loved it. 10/10

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo: I read Six of Crows in my library’s book club over the summer. It was one of the few I liked this summer because of its dynamic characters, interesting premise, and storyworld. I also liked how Bardugo intertwined her characters’ backstories within the story. 8.5/10

Eragon by Christopher Paolini: I just finished Eragon yesterday. While it wasn’t the best book I’ve ever read, it wasn’t as terrible as people make it out to be either. I liked most of the characters, but I felt like the plot could have been more original. I also think I would’ve liked it better if I read it before other fantasies like Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings. 6.5/10

The Space Trilogy (Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength) by CS Lewis: As a big fan of Narnia, I was eager and curious to read The Space Trilogy for my literature class in school. I honestly thought The Space Trilogy was a little weird. It was geared toward the philosophical aspects of things and while I have read Lewis’ other non-Narnia books like The Great Divorce and Till We Have Faces, I found The Space Trilogy a little slow in places and sometimes hard to follow. 6/10

Looking for Alaska by John Green: Looking for Alaska was another book club book over the summer. I liked Paper Towns, but LFA just felt like a rough draft with all characters stripped of their likability. The plots were similar: dorky boy falls in love with mysterious girl, but I didn’t care about the characters in LFA and I’m not a huge fan of Green’s portrayal of teenagers as being obsessed with drinking, smoking, and having sex. Yes, some teens are like that, but not all of them. I also find it highly unlikely that everyone would have alcohol at a no-alcohol boarding school. 2/10

S by JJ Abrams and Doug Dorst: Someone described this book as “Every episode of Lost dumped on your head at once.” While Lost is one of my favorite shows, I couldn’t get in to S. It was basically telling two stories at once, one in the narrative and one in the margins. I cared about the story in the margins, but not the narrative. But I had to read the narrative to understand the margins. I didn’t finish the book because it was long and I felt like I had to re-read it three times to fully understand it. 4/10 (what I did read)

Harry Potter and The Cursed Child by JK Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne: Oh where do we begin? I was disappointed with TCC. The characters I loved were still in it, but it centered on Harry and Ginny’s son Albus Severus Potter. Albus struck me as a whinier and not as likable version of Harry. While it was a page tuner, I thought some of the plot twists were far-fetched and a very certain plot twist seemed to come straight out of a bad fan-fiction. It was obvious by the way some of the characters acted that Rowling wasn’t the main writer. She did make up for TCC with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, a great movie that managed to capture the magic of Harry Potter that TCC couldn’t. Overall, I would give TCC 5/10

If you want to check out any of these books, they are all available on Amazon. Some of them are definitely worth the read. 
Anyway, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year,
Final Fantasfiction

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Music and Writing

I don’t know about you, but I have to listen to music when I write. It really gets creativity flowing for me and when I don’t listen to music, my writing seems to fall flat. My characters don’t seem to be as alive, my descriptions are dull, and my style itself becomes a huge mess. While listening to music (of course), I started to think of the different kinds I listen to and how they help me with my writing.

Ways Music Helps with Writing
Atmosphere: The setting is one of the most important things about a book. Whether you write fantasy or science fiction, historical or contemporary, or something else, you want your setting to feel real to your readers. I know I do. And as a teen, primarily fantasy writer living in America, I can’t pack my bags and hike to the nearest medieval castle to get the atmosphere right. I’d have to swim an ocean. So, after doing the research on what medieval castles are like on the Internet, I turn on some music. For castles and any descriptions of a place: villages, forests, mountains, houses, etc. I like to listen to music from The Legend of Zelda video game series. One of my favorite soundtracks and favorite franchises. The music helps me get into the mood of fleshing out places.

Characters: Every so often, I’ll hear a song on the radio and think, “This describes my character so perfectly it could be his theme song.” Then I have to hop over to YouTube and listen to it over and over again. Or put it on a “Character Playlist,” something I listen to while profiling characters in my notes. These songs mostly have lyrics to them that, I think, fit well with a character or two characters’ relationships. Songs tell stories of they’re own. It’s amazing.
For example, I listen to the song Arms by Christina Perri a lot while figuring out the romantic subplot between two of my main characters in my WIP. I think it sums up their relationship well.

Writing Itself: When I’m working on my actual story, I mostly listen to instrumental music. Sometimes I listen to vocals. It all depends on what type of scene I’m writing. If I’m writing a battle scene, I listen to parts from The Lord of the Rings soundtrack. If I’m writing a more adventurous scene, I listen to music from Pirates of the Caribbean or various Final Fantasy games. (They have amazing soundtracks) If I’m writing a romantic scene or heartbreak scene, I like to listen to Taylor Swift. My go-to writing music that works for almost anything is violin music by Lindsey Stirling or Taylor Davis. I have a playlist of both of their original music on my iPod and a Violin Covers playlist on YouTube that’s a hodge-podge of music from movies, video games, TV shows, and a few pop songs.

I Want to Hear from You
What kind of music do you listen to when you write? Do you have a go-to artist or album? Or do you prefer not to listen to music at all? I want to hear your thoughts.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

What Nanowrimo Taught Me

I’m not doing Nanowrimo this year. Between college applications, keeping up with school work, and writing the second draft of my untitled WIP, I feel like I don’t have the time. Still, with Nanowrimo upon us, I’ve been reflecting on last year when I somehow managed to write 50k words in thirty days. Nanowrimo taught me a very, very, important lesson on writing: it doesn’t have to be perfect.

My novel from last year was actually my first novel. It’s still a mess. I cringe every time I open the document and see every writing mistake, plot-hole, and continuity error. I’m rewriting it now and it’s barely the same story, but at least the bones are there. At least I know where I’m going. I have an outline now (and I’m still deviating from it a lot). I know my characters better. I’m trying not to get ahead of myself. I’m okay with making errors.

When I started writing my novel, I felt like everything had to be perfect on the first draft. At least most everything. I knew there would be some grammatical errors that I could fix in the editing stages. I didn’t know anything about writing, but I was trying to write almost 2k words every day.

It only took the first day for me to know I didn’t have to have everything perfect. I just had to write it. I’d be rewriting, revising, and editing later. Nanowrimo is about writing a first draft, getting your story down. It’s the first step to sharing your story with the world. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

How Hogwarts Houses Help You Know Your Characters Better

Characters are my absolute favorite thing about writing. Naming them, coming up with what they look like, their personalities, and writing their backstories is all great. I love it, but my favorite part is when they spring to life on the page and disregard everything I have written in my outline.

Even when I love coming up with characters, I get stuck on getting to know them on a deep level. I’ve tried character interviews before, but they have to stay in character and most of mine wouldn’t answer blunt questions. A great way, I learned, to get to know characters better is to take quizzes from their perspective. Specifically Hogwarts House quizzes from J.K. Rowling’s fantastic Harry Potter series.
Image result for hogwarts logo
How Hogwarts Houses Help You Know Your Characters Better

Your Results
At the end of the quiz, your character will be sorted into one of the four houses: Gryffindor (values bravery and chivalry), Ravenclaw (values intellect and wit), Hufflepuff (values hard work and loyalty), or Slytherin (values ambition and cunning, which does not necessarily mean evil). Being sorted into a Hogwarts House shows what your character’s core values are. One of my main characters in my fantasy WIP is a Hufflepuff because loyalty is important to her.

The Questions
Okay, this really depends on what quiz you take. I personally try to find one like the official Pottermore sorting hat quiz that has vague questions so you don’t really know which answer goes with which house. Questions like “You enter an enchanted garden. What would you be most curious to examine first?” can bring insight into what piques your character’s interest.

It Opens a Whole New Door of Wizarding World Related Questions
After knowing my character’s Hogwarts House, I usually wonder what they would be like if they lived in the Wizarding World. What class would they like best? Would they play Quidditch? What would their boggart be? Their patronus? What would they see in the Mirror of Erised? Asking yourself even more questions about your characters helps you know more about their interests, fears, and desires.
Links to Hogwarts Quizzes

Sunday, October 9, 2016

How It All Began

I’ve always loved stories. Listening to them, reading them, and now writing them. Although there was a time in the dark years of tweenhood where I hated everything- including stories. So I’ve almost always loved stories. I did when I was little. I love them even more now.

When I was little, I used to play out stories with my Barbie dolls. They were cheesy. They often involved relationship drama that I knew nothing about. Most of them were basically Barbie, who was usually a princess living in modern day, being in the center of a love triangle between Ken and another Ken doll who I called Ryan. Barbie always chose Ken right away because he was everything a good Prince Charming should be, while Ryan was always despicable from the start.

I got too old for Barbie, Ken, Ryan, and Barbie’s friends when I was ten. They were put in a tote and put in the storage part of my basement, someday to be played with again, but not for a long, long, time. After an “I hate everything stage” I decided I needed something to do with the ideas still floating around in my head.

That’s when I started writing stories.  

Like most of the Barbie stories, the ones I wrote in my spiral notebook that was supposed to be used for school, these stories were about cheesy relationships in both modern and fantasy settings. They also had hordes of grammar errors that anyone would cringe at. I cringed so much reading them that I ended up throwing them into the garbage. 

Even though I wrote stories cheesier than macaroni and cheese covered in a twelve-cheese cheese sauce and the occasional prompt-based story for school, I wasn’t really interested in writing until my friends were. It was a phase most of them went through that I was still stuck in. I was part of a writing club one summer- and loved it. Loved spending time with my friends, creating fantasy characters, discussing writing, actually writing, and seeing my not-so-secret crush every week. I learned a lot just over that summer. The best part was I enjoyed it.

I had an entire binder full of character profiles after that. Then I lost it. When I found it again, I started making dialogues, more character profiles, and a fantasy world.

Then I started writing.