Monday, April 18, 2016

On Writing the Brave and the Crazy

Back when I was a little baby writer, I had this weird thing in which I always “played it safe” with my stories. As in, I never wrote anything outrageous. I stuck to what I knew, kept to the clichés, never made anything different or interesting or unique. You can probably guess by now that my old stories came out very bland, and often pathetic copies of Lord of the Rings and Narnia.

I can’t really tell you why I never ventured out and tried crazy, original ideas. I guess I was scared. I was scared to tackle tough issues lest someone think my stories weren’t “clean” enough. I was scared to kill any of my precious characters. I was scared to make big, epic things happen. I felt the need to stick to the basics. Keep things simple, lighthearted. As a Christian, that’s what I was supposed to do, right?

Well. . .not really.

The lighthearted stories with perfect characters that pretend tough issues in the world don’t even exist don’t exactly pack a punch. They don’t really make me feel. . .anything. It’s those deep, heavy stories that slam me in the gut and open my eyes to how bright God’s love is in this dark, dark world. I think Christians most of all need to write about the deep issues. But I actually wrote a blog post a year ago about why we write and enjoy the hard things. (Don’t worry, I also wrote one about happily ever afters and why I think we need those, too.) So I won’t get into that again.

The point is, it’s okay to write about dark, hard things. It’s okay to get into the nitty gritty. It took me a long, long time to realize that. And even still I have to remind myself from time to time.

But it’s not just the hard issues I’m talking about here. It’s the FUN things.

I remember one day in particular, probably some 4 years ago, I was thinking about a series of mine. I don’t recall what the idea was exactly, but some plot idea popped in my head that would cause all sorts of crazy, dangerous things for my characters. And you know what I thought to myself? “Haha. That’d be fun. But of course I could never do that.” Yeah, that was my thought process. And did I write that fun, crazy, dangerous thing? No! Because “Oh, I could never do that.” That wouldn’t be playing it safe.

*GROOOANS* That doesn’t even make sense.

It was about a year later that I recalled that particular incident, and many others like it. And it hit me. “Why not?” Why couldn’t I write crazy, fun, dangerous things? Why not go all out with an epic plotline instead of some bland, clichéd thing? WHY?

It was at that point that my stories began to improve.

Slowly, slowly, slowly I became braver. I actually went with my crazy ideas. I started making my characters’ lives much worse. I even began writing about some more uncomfortable issues. And you know what? It was fun! It felt good. It felt right. I discovered I actually could write my own unique stories instead of some carbon copy of Tolkien’s. The more bravely I wrote, the more comfortable I became doing it, and the more interesting my stories grew.

It was by my fourth NaNoWriMo in 2013 that I was really getting brave and learning to go with my crazy ideas. I had many first drafts finished, had ventured out with new genres outside of my normal medieval fantasy comfort zone, and had learned what I like writing and what I don’t. My stories were finally starting to become somewhat readable. So as NaNo approached and I was getting ready to plot More Green than Envy, the fourth book in my Colors of a Dragon Scale series, I gave myself a single order: “Make it awesome.” I wanted to love this story. I wanted to enjoy every single scene. I wanted to put elements I loved and do crazy things and make it big and epic and emotional and just around AWESOME. While plotting, I stuck to that order. (Usually I ignore myself, no matter what I tell myself to do. Such a problem.)

Guess what? To this day that is still my absolute favorite NaNo, and my favorite book to write thus far in the series. I had such an amazing time with it. Why? Because I wrote things I love, and I wrote them bravely.

I have this thing for stories where characters are trapped in semi-small places. So the majority of the story is about my characters stuck inside a city, and mostly inside the castle of said city. I absolutely adore a good, fun brotherly friendship. So I gave my two male characters one of my most favorite friendships I’ve ever written. I had characters fall in love, I had characters die, I made big characters arcs, I even wrote a torture scene which is something my younger self would have never, ever, ever done. But it was necessary for the story, so I did it. And I don’t regret it. It was one of the few stories where I enjoyed writing almost every. single. scene. That basically never happens! There’s always going to be some scenes I have to force myself to get through. But with this one I made it fun for myself. And, as a result, I think it’ll be fun for the readers.

After that amazing experience, I didn’t stop. I kept writing bravely. I kept finding elements I liked and implementing them in my stories. This last NaNo I made a huge city collapse and things explode and destroyed one of my favorite characters and just made a huge mess.

I loved every second of it.

These were things my younger self would have never been brave enough to do. But these are the things that made the story. (I mean, it’s a NaNo draft, so it’s still a complete disaster, but I know I’m improving with my writing anyway.)

It took a long time, a lot of years and a lot of stories, but now when I go to write, I don’t ever say no to my crazy ideas. I snatch them up and run with them. I turn them around and around and wonder how I can make them even bigger and crazier.

With so many stories out there, we need original ideas. We need crazy stories with epic plotlines that keep us on the edge of our seat. We need brave writers.

But it doesn’t have to be all drama and danger. I personally enjoy writing big, dark, dramatic scenes, but I know a lot of people don’t like that at all. And that’s good. We need a variety. What I’m getting at here is to write what you want and what you love. To have fun while writing. To not hold yourself back like I used to. I mean, sometimes ideas can get a little too crazy, but. . .maybe not. Again, we need unique ideas. If you can make it work, then do it! Evil flying monkeys sounds absolutely absurd. But what would the world be without the flying monkeys of Oz? In Rick Riordan’s The Lightning Thief there was a pink poodle that one of the characters could talk to. Ridiculous, right? But Mr. Riordan made it work and I loved it. So go, write crazy things! Write about your secret agent fighting off half a dozen bad guys when suddenly his mother calls to complain about the squirrels in the attic. (Yes, that is a GEICO insurance commercial, and it’s hilarious and epic.)

Write the things you enjoy and have fun with them. Never, ever limit yourself. Make it as wild and crazy and dangerous and big as you like. Or make it simple. Not all stories supposed to be huge and emotional. We need the fun, lighthearted ones as well. Basically, write what you want. If you love it, your readers will too.

Go kill a character, have them fall in love, give them an embarrassing phone call. Tear down a city, make a character tell a dumb joke, destroy their lives, make their lives beautiful, throw in a flying monkey or two.

Go write what you love. Write bravely. And have FUN.

Writing is endless. There are no boundaries, no limitations. You stand in a never-ending world of ideas. So go snatch them up and fly.

What do you think, dear writer? Am I the only one who used to limit
themselves for some reason? Are there ideas you’ve been scared to write?
Or do you love to throw in the craziness? What are YOUR thoughts
on the subject? I want to hear them all!


  1. Another fabulous post, my dear! One that leaves me all inspired again. ^_^

    I love your journey from safe to crazy awesome! It's so wonderful how you've stopped limiting yourself and are taking the plunge into the wild side of writing. (And you're making me want to read Colors of a Dragon Scale even MORE badly. I know you say it's a mess--I mean, that's kinda what Nano is for--but stiiiill. Dragons and high fantasy awesomeness and scores of epic characters? It screams my name.)

    Another thing this post is doing is making me want to write Welcome to Absurdity. >.> (Shush, brain, that comes later. Shoo. Back to The Prophet's Key with you. Put some wild craziness in there.) Ahem. I never talk to myself. o.o *whistles innocently*

    You've also hit on one of the reasons The Brightest Thread was such a joy to write! It was exactly what I have FUN writing. :D

    Let's go write out-of-this-world awesome things! No more playing it safe. The best stories are found beyond the sheltered harbours anyway. :)

    1. Awww, that makes me happy to hear!

      It's been a journey for sure! I don't know why I ever limited myself. Silly little Christine. *shakes head*
      Oh goodness! XDDD I still cringe reading the first few books in that series. Like I said, it wasn't until the 4th book that I began improving a smidge. The rewrite of those books is going to be such an enormous project. But your enthusiasm makes me excited for it! ^_^

      *cackles* I mean, ahem. Whoops. I didn't mean to bring out those rabid plot bunnies. They are little pests. >.> But when you DO decide to write Welcome to Absurdity I will be very excited! Just from the tiny bit I know about it, I KNOW it's going to be way too much fun! But your epic fantasy awaits. So yes, listen to yourself and keep pushing on. :D (I neeeever talk to myself. Never. Nuh-uh. Not once. *cough, cough, cough*)

      And that shone through in TBT. Your love of it just made it blindingly bright with awesomeness!

      Let's do it! *fistpump* (I may need coffee first though...)

  2. I NEEDED this! You have impeccable timing Christine. I think it's time I step out of my comfort zone.

    1. Really? That's awesome! I'm so very happy I could be an encouragement.

      Yes! Do it! :D I think you'll love it. The moment I first stepped out of my comfort zone was the moment I discovered how much I love writing, and I began to really improve. You won't regret it. Go, go, go! *waves pompoms*

  3. I think this is so true! Wonderful article :)

    Ellie | On the Other Side of Reality

    1. Thank you so much!

      Oh my goodness gracious. Welp, my day. is. MADE. You sweet thing!!! It's going to be a loooong road with that series, but I do want to try one day. And your nice words are the best motivation. Thanks, Ellie! ^_^

  4. Wonderful post, and so true. It is definitely important to write daringly. We should step out of our comfort zones, because we rarely grow inside of them. Of course there are lines that shouldn't be crossed, and some of those lines are personal convictions, while others may be set in stone type moral boundaries... but I agree that we shouldn't be scared to write big, bold, crazy stories and characters. Thanks for writing this. Also, your stories sound quite thrilling and fun!

    1. Thanks! ^_^

      Oh yes, I agree with that! I probably should have specified as Christians we're limitless as long as we're still keeping to Biblical principles. But I meant for this to more be about having fun with your writing, not so much about writing dark and deep things. I think I got a little sidetracked at the beginning. XD

      But anyways, I love all your points and agree completely. Thanks, Jenelle!

    2. I kind of figured that's what you meant :)

  5. I have definitely experienced this. Even now, when I write stories, there are certain sentences I think of that I hesitate to write at first because they're super crazy, or really emotional. But as I've gotten older, I've started to overcome those hesitations. Just to go for it and get that sentence down on paper, to step out of my shell.
    I still don't like to make things very gruesome in my fantasy tales (because I don't like reading about that in other books, much less my own) but I am getting better at throwing constant conflict at my characters. And making them die. ;)
    Excellent post!


    1. I am with you! I've gotten much better, but I still often second guess myself about certain scenes and sentences and things. What I've started doing is paying close attention to scenes in books, and if I particularly enjoy them, remember that for my own writing. Not copy those scenes of course, but apply what I've learned to my writing. If it improves the story, then I say go for it!

      Oh, that's fine! This wasn't about writing dark, gruesome things. I just want to encourage people to be brave and write things they particularly love. You definitely shouldn't write the gruesome if you don't like it! We don't need every book to be dark, that'd be pretty awful. You just keep writing what you love and have fun with it! ^_^

  6. This post is so great, Christine. I've definitely experienced this (and have (mostly) grown out of it, for the record), and the stories in which I took chances and wrote what I thought needed to be written, no matter what it was, are always the ones I end up loving the most :).

    And also, I agree with Ellie 100%. IF YOU DON'T GET COLORS OF A DRAGON CALE PUBLISHED THE WHOLE WORLD WILL SIMPLY COLLAPSE. *whispers* and we don't want that. So get them published, okay?

    1. *whispers* and also, I'm basically sitting here just dying from lack of reading COADS. So get them published soon so we readers don't simply shrivel up from lack of aforementioned series. Agreed? Good :D.

    2. Awww, thank you!
      Yes! I've been the same. The stories I just let loose and did what I love were always the most fun, and my best written ones I think.

      *collapses from all the niceness* YOU!!! <333 Now I'm getting all anxious to revise this series! Your evil plan is working. :P I'm going to write the last book of the series this NaNoWriMo and then...well, then we'll see. ;)

    3. Ooo, you're writing the last book in the series THIS NaNoWriMo? How exciting! Does it have a title yet?

    4. Yes I will be! And I'm soooo excited. I've been working on this series for the last 6 NaNos (7 come this NaNo). I cannot believe I've made it to the final book. Right now it's tentatively called More Gold than Sunlight but all the names are definitely subject to change.

  7. This is such a great and inspirational post, Christine! I'm at a crossroads with my writing right now, so reading this really made me feel a lot better. Thank you. :)

    But yeah, my earlier youngling writing were basically just copies of my favorite books haha. They were safe, bland little things. Now I'm worrying over how my readers will react to my bolder, less squeaky-clean writing and it's really terrifying. *le sigh* I think, though, that the only way to become a great writer is to not be afraid to write anything. That's just my little opinion though. :)

    1. That's makes me happy to hear it was an inspiration! It was a reminder to my own self to keep being brave. Sometimes it's so hard, but it's also so worth it.

      I agree completely, that to really improve we need to step out of that comfort zone and be brave. I think that as long as we're sticking to godly principles we should write what's on our heart.

  8. This is a great post! I had copycat syndrome when I was a kid that I had to grow out of. I don't know why I had it, but I've also learned to write about the darker gritty stuff and it's helped my stories be deeper. Sometimes you have to show the dark so we can see the light.

    1. Thank you! I think that's natural. I've actually heard people say that new writers should maybe try starting out with fanfiction, until they learn how to create their own voices and characters. So copying your favorite stories when you were young were probably stepping stones for your wonderful writing now. ^_^

      And YES. The darker, deeper stories portray God's light so much brighter than simple, bland ones.

  9. Wow, what an insightful post! In order to write well, we need to stretch out of our comfort zones. :)

    1. D'awww! Thank you! <3

      Yes! I've definitely found pushing outside of my comfort zone really exercises my writing and helps me grow.


    But, yes. For a long time I was scared to include allegories, mentions of God, and making them slightly "Christian." I'm still scared of that, honestly. I don't know why and I know it sounds silly. I shouldn't be ashamed of writing about the One who REALLY matters. But I love to write about it, because it teaches me more about how important He is through the process.

    So I completely agree. Write what you want to write. Write a little bit out of your comfort zone. This has definitely been something I'm trying to overcome. :P

    // katie grace
    a writer’s faith  


      What's funny is I was kind of the opposite. My old stuff was a little TOO preachy and my characters TOO perfect, etc., etc. But I was too scared to tackle anything real deep or gritty. So my preachy self came out shallow. I'm learning to balance those things now, though it's still definitely a work-in-progress.
      But I agree, whenever I'm writing about God the words just flow and I grow closer to Him and learn more about Him. It's a beautiful thing!

      Yes, yes, and yes! Writing the things we love and trying new ones can be a lot of fun AND help us grow as writers.

  11. <- Dat geico commercial, tho. XD This was such a great and inspiring post! *I* wanna write bravely, too! I'm a little squeamish when writing, sometimes. A lot of times. XD And I'd love to try breaking out of the fantasy genre, too, but I've always been hesitant. Like, I'd love to write a mystery, but those just seem HARD to write. 0.o Aaaanyway, guess I'll have to try now, eh? No more excuses after this post. X)

    1. Oh my goodness, you've seen the commercial too! :D And you found a link to it! I should have added a link in my post. That's the best! I watched all the videos on that page and am just dying now. They're perfect. XDDD

      D'aww, thanks! I understand. I don't think everyone should write dark, icky things, just things they WANT to write but may be too scared to. Oh man, mysteries. I'm the same way! I enjoy mysteries and think writing one would be fun, but I don't think I CAN. I'm not sure I'd be clever enough to do it. But I guess you never know until you try. So yes, maybe we should both give it a shot sometime! I bet you'd write a super fun mystery!

  12. YES TO THIS POST! I am so bad about just writing... WHATEVER. So yes, being brave and crazy is something I need to work on. XD I think I made huge steps in that direction by being a rebel and totally abandoning my NaNo to write something else because my NaNo need to be redone because of all the awesome ideas that changed everything? Like, I totally could have stayed with it and ignored the new awesomeness, but instead I chose to do the hard thing and pretty much scrap it in favor of awesome. (I mean, obviously I haven't actually ACCOMPLISHED said awesome since I haven't started rewriting it yet but pffft I'm totally taking large strides... *coughcough*)

    Your writerly posts are so LOVERLY and INSPIRATIONAL and AWESOME and I loveth themmmm! ^_^ <3

    1. You were totally crazily brave rebelling during NaNo! Like seriously, I was so in awe. I don't know if I would have been as brave, and then my story would have suffered for it. Not to mention my time wasted writing something I knew I'd completely erase and change later anyway. You were AMAZING, and totally inspired me. You made sacrifices for the good of your story, and that's the mark of a great writer. And, girl! You haven't had *time* to rework your NaNo. It's okay!

      D'awwww! THANK YOU!!! <333

  13. Um. WOW. SO THIS WAS APPARENTLY POSTED LIKE TWO MONTHS AGO, AND I'M JUST NOW COMMENTING?! *shakes fist at life* Hehe. Well, I'm on summer break now so...*cracks knuckles* LET'S DO THIS.

    OH MY WORD, LAURI. Your writing posts are just the most inspirational things EVER. SERIOUSLY. I'm at a loss for words right now. I know that I've always struggled with originality and not copying other people's works. (Mostly when I was a fledgling writer. WE SHAN'T EVEN DISCUSS THE BOOKS I WROTE IN SIXTH GRADE.) Still to this day I feel a bit confined in my writing. For instance, the pirate story I'm working on is just...flat. I'm not letting myself explore enough. I'm just settling for "average." AND IT'S SO FRUSTRATING. So before Camp NaNo starts (NEXT MONTH!!!), I'm going to attempt to completely change my story. It's so bland right now, and honestly? I don't love it. It's a struggle to make myself sit in front of my computer and type out the next scene. My creative life is just dry, and that's reflected in my writing. SO I'M GOING TO DO CRAZY STUFF. It's going to be a weird, wild, not-your-normal-pirate-story. At least...I hope so. And I owe a lot of my motivation to change it to you. YOU AND YOUR FABULOUSNESS HAVE POSSIBLY SAVED MY STORY.

    THANK YOU SO MUH FOR THIS POST OF EPICNESS. I actually feel a lot better now. This has been a bit of a weight on my shoulders for the past few months as I've struggled to find my "purpose" in writing. It's time to add some spice to those bland manuscripts of mine! *nods*

    1. Also, that Geico commercial is the bestest. I crack up every. single. time. XDDD

    2. THAT'S OKAY. I'm so very much loving all your comments!!! And hey, it's taking me foreverrr responding. Sometimes life just gets in the way!

      I...I...I don't even know what to SAY. I'M SO HAPPY THIS WAS ENCOURAGING. Like...SO happy. I understand feeling confined and dry. Boy do I ever! That's something I still have to fight every. single. day. Most of my posts are just pep talks for myself, because I have to tell my brain to stop being so rude. XD

      BUT MARY. YOUR PIRATE STORY IS GOING TO BE AMAZIIIIING. I wish you the very BESTEST luck on Camp NaNo. I'm not even attempting it this year. One NaNo a year is enough for me. Heh. I'm so in awe of all you people diving into Camp NaNo. Good luck!!! I cannot wait to hear how it goes! :D

      (Another person who has seen the Geico commercial! Isn't it the best?)


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