Monday, April 16, 2018

7 Things in Fiction I Wish to See More Of



Looky here, another list of 7! I make no apologies.


Lately I’ve been pondering stories (lol like I ever think about anything else), and was thinking about the types of things I wish I found more of within the fictional world. There are a looooot of things that bother me about the fiction we’re fed these days (which I’m sure you’ll get plenty of posts about ‘cause that’s who I am as a person), and there are a loooot of things I want but don’t find too often.


SO THAT’S WHAT WE’RE TALKING ABOUT TODAY. 7 things I wish was in fiction more! I’m sure there are 1939489234 others besides these 7, but these are some things that have, honest to goodness, been needling at my brain for YEARS.

 

SEVEN FICTIONAL NEEDS

 

HUMOR + EMOTION


Let it be known that if I am fed a book that manages to make me laugh out loud and tears my heart out into teeny tiny pieces, I WILL LOVE IT FOREVER. That’s kind of the key to good storytelling for me.


And, actually, I think we are getting a lot of books like this these days, especially in the YA genre, and it muchly pleases me! Buuuut it still is sometimes lacking.


Too often we seem to only get one or the other: Super dark and depressing with literally nothing happy going on everrrrr and like can someone please give these characters a hug? OR, it’s just a straight up comedy and even the serious parts are made fun of.



I ADORE The Hunger Games. It’s one of my favoritest series EVER. But, well, they were really depressing books. I can think of…one scene that made me chuckle out of the entire trilogy??? Obviously those books were meant to be dark and serious, AND THAT IS FINE. I just feel like they could have been even better with a smidge more humor sprinkled about.


I think Marvel nails this balance to perfection. Think about Guardians of the Galaxy. Yes, you will laugh until you lose your voice. But you’re lying if you tell me you didn’t shed a tear at “We are Groot!” THIS IS THE KIND OF STORYTELLING I’M HERE FOR.

 

SUPERHEROES/CHOSEN ONES WHO ARE EXCITED ABOUT IT


You know the drill: Boy/girl turns 16. Suddenly obtains phenomenal powers. Is told they’re going to go on an epic adventure and be the one to save the kingdom/world/entire universe And they…whine about it.


“I just want to be normal.” “Why did this have to happen to me?” “I don’t want these powers.” “This isn’t fair.” “I wish this never happened.”


Um, EXCUSE YOU?


My brother and I joke about this one alllll the time. Think about it, have you ever met a 16-year-old who says they wouldn’t want magical powers and to be a hero??? Come on, we all wish we could obtain some sort of superpower or magical gift.


Yes I know, “with great power comes great responsibility” yadda, yadda. I GET IT. Being the chosen one is hard. Going on adventures isn’t comfortable. BUT, at the same time, I’d looooove to find a story where the protagonist gains these gifts and acts like a teenager normally would and be totally stoked about it. And then maybe even use said powers for dumb, everyday activities. Like oh, I’m telekinetic now? SWEET. Now I never have to get off the couch to reach the remote.


REALISM, PEOPLE.

 

They totally nailed the realism in Spiderman: Homecoming.
MARVEL DOES EVERYTHING RIGHT, OKAY?

 

GRITTY STORIES WITH STRONG CHRISTIAN MESSAGES


This is such an important one to me! It has been something I’ve wanted my whole life, but don’t often get. And I should probably turn this into a whole blog post, but I’ll sum up my thoughts as briefly as I can here.


It seems like Christians are afraid to get gritty. We produce fluff because anything else might not be “clean”. WELL. Have you read the Bible? That’s some pretty gritty stuff right there. Being a Christian is HARD. It is not a smooth life, and we can’t pretend it is. We can’t turn our backs to the deep issues of the world. In fact, as followers of Jesus, it is our job to face the hard, gritty things in life and make them better. To talk about the deep subjects, not avoid them.


And yet, Christian media still seems to focus on the fluff, the mediocre. Fearful of getting into the nitty gritty. And, frankly, I’m tired of it.


Recently I read the Out of Time series by Nadine Brandes and oooooooh my! NOW THOSE WERE GRITTY BOOKS. But they were also Christian. Dystopian, YA, Christian books. Not something you see everyday. BUT I WISH WE DID.


These books were not afraid to get down and dirty. The characters did not have it easy (like…at all o.o). But, woven all throughout it, there was HOPE. Parvin, the protagonist, learned to trust in God and grew in her walk with Him in each book. I was slammed hard with so many realizations, so many lesson of God’s love and power. I was shown how hard the Christian life is, how hard it is to do the right thing and love people and stand up for what is right. But it is so, so worth it.


These were not fluffy books by any stretch of the imagination. But they were not preachy, in-your-face books either. These were powerful, gritty stories with a beautiful, powerful message AND I WANT MORE. I am so absurdly proud of Nadine Brandes for writing these, and of her publishers for not being afraid to put them out there.


This is the sort of fiction I want to see more of than anything else.

 

OBSCURE FAIRYTALE RETELLINGS


Sooo I may sound hypocritical since I’m literally editing my own Beauty and the Beast retelling right now. Annnd I have a Cinderella retelling percolating in my brain. Why yes, there are approximately 33 billion Cinderella retellings out there. But, truthfully? I’m not picky when it comes to fairytale retellings. I WANT THEM ALL.


BUT, at the same time, I’d looove to see more obscure fairytales (a.k.a. fairytales Disney didn’t make popular), turned into retellings. Because THERE ARE SO MANY FAIRYTALES IN THE WORLD. The possibilities are endless. Seriously, every single time I read a fairytale I get inspired to retell it.


And it doesn’t even have to be a fairytale. What about myths and legends and folklore in general? There is an infinite well of story inspiration out there. In fact, I have a King Midas retelling cooking in my brain that I’m absurdly excited about.


RETELLINGS, GUYS. GIMME ALL OF ‘EM.

 

COUPLES WHO STAY HAPPY COUPLES THROUGH THE SEQUEL


This is a huuuuge pet peeve of mine. I think we’re all aware of the trope. The boy and girl meet in book 1, fall in love, and live happily ever after at the end…OR NOT. Because by book 2 they’ve broken up, seem to hate each other, and we get to go through them getting back together and living “happily ever after” allllll over again for the sake of TENSION.


STAHP.


People seem to think that once the couple gets together, it’s not interesting anymore. Well, excuse me, but I quite like reading about or watching couples love each other and have a healthy relationship, thankyouverymuch. It’s inspiring. Where watching the whole breakup, get back together, breakup, get back together fiasco over and over and over again gets tiiiiiring. Like, if they really loved each other would they let these little tiffs separate them half a dozen times??? Ooobviously couples are going to have problems, BUT WORK THROUGH THEM. Having characters walk away from each other every. single. time. something goes wrong in the relationship just gives me a headache.


I think this is also a case of trying to avoid the “sequel blues” because apparently the story is only good if you have romantic tension. After all, it’s boring once the couple is together, and no other types of plot devices work besides romance, right??????


*HEADDESK*


Again, seeing a couple that got together in book 1 and then ACTUALLY LOVE EACH OTHER through book 2 excites me more rather than watching the same romantic tension I had to deal with through book 1 all over again. TV shows are the worst about this. Because when you have 8 season of a show, you’re probably going to be forced to watch the couple breakup and get back together at least 20 times. Uuuuggghh.


The How to Train Your Dragon 2 movie is the best example of how to do this RIGHT. Hiccup and Astrid did not go through the whole breakup thing. Instead, they were a happy couple throughout the whole movie. And it was beautiful and precious watching them fight for each other and care for one another. Did it make the movie boring? NO. It made it inspiring and left room for more interesting plot devices.



Can we please just have happy couples being happy couples and loving each other? It won’t make your plot boring, I PROMISE.

 

IMMORAL BEHAVIOR HAVING CONSEQUENCES


This is probably what I see the least of in fiction, especially mainstream fiction, and just… *sighs for a millions years*


In pretty much all secular fiction, we have these heroes/heroines we look up to and yet…they live horrible lifestyles. They lie, they cheat, they might steal, they lust and sleep around, they curse, and they do it as if that’s just life. That’s the normal thing to do, and there are no repercussions afterwards. Aren’t these supposed to be the good guys??? The people we aspire to be?


Immoral behavior has consequences. That’s just how it works. The consequences may not come right away, we may never even see the consequences, but they will be there. And I’m really tired of fiction—the very thing that supposed to inspire us—portray immoral behavior as an okay thing to do. Because hey, my favorite hero did this no problem, so it must be acceptable.


BUT, on the flipside, in most Christian fiction the characters neverrrr do anything wrong. They live completely moral lives and are perfect little Mary Sues/Gary Stus. Which is completely unrealistic. We all sin, we all stumble and have our fallings. But, again, immoral behavior has consequences.


What I want to see in both secular and Christian fiction are characters living realistic lives where they stumble, yes, but there are consequences. I don’t want my protagonist to be some lying playboy and that’s accepted. I want him to have consequences to his behavior, and grow from that. I want to be reminded that sinning is wrong, not told time and time again that these things are okay.


Please, let’s not have Mary Sues. (Again, we’re allowed to write gritty fiction.) But let’s also not have heroes/heroines that live awful lives and it’s portrayed as perfectly fine behavior either.

 

WORLD HOPPERS GET TO STAY IN THE FANTASY WORLD


Another one that has bugged me since I was like…3.


I love world hopping stories, I do. I think we all wish we’d find a magic mirror or an enchanted wardrobe or a wormhole in our bedroom floor that transports us to a fantasy world. (YOU CAN’T DENY IT.) The idea of people from our world getting to have an adventure in a new, magical land excites us because it feels like that could happen to us. It’s so wondrous and appealing.


But the thing I don’t like about portal fantasy is that in pretty much every single one, the characters have to come back to this world in the end.


Um. NO.


I’m sorry, guys, I love you and all but if I stumble into Wonderland or Peter Pan flies me off to Neverland I’M NOT COMING BACK.

 

“BYE!”


I mean, that’s probably immaturity on my part. Usually in these stories it’s inspiring to see the characters grow up and learn from their experiences in the magical world and know they have responsibilities and family here that need them. That's supposed to be a happily ever after. But, erm, it actually depresses me??? I get so upset to see the characters leave the fantasy world and all their new friends there and be stuck in this world for the rest of their lives.


I want, for once, a portal fantasy story where the characters actually stay in the fantasy world and live happily ever after there. BECAUSE THIS NEVER HAPPENS AND I NEED IT!


Fun Fact: My first ever fantasy story (I wrote when I was like…10), was portal fantasy in which the main girl got sucked through a mirror into a fantasy world. And, at the end, she got to go back through the mirror, gather up her family, and take them to said fantasy world where they all lived happily ever after. XDDD That is how much and how long I’ve wanted a portal fantasy like this. I finally just wrote one myself. LOLZ.


I grew up on Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan and then later Narnia and it still to this day upsets me that everyone had to come back to this world!

 


WELL. This post got a bit rantier than I meant it to. Oops. Ahem. But these are my fictional needs, guys! Things that have bugged me for AAAGES. (It was all bound to explode out of me eventually.) I guess I need to take a page from my 10-year-old self and write stories like this myself, yeah?


As the saying goes, “Write the story you want to read.”

 

TALK WITH ME!

What are some things you wish there were more (or less) of in fiction? Do you agree with any of mine? Or completely disagree? I looove discussing this, so share away!

Monday, April 9, 2018

{Book Review} The City Beyond the Glass by Suzannah Rowntree





As a daughter of nobility in Renaissance Venice, Gemma Caloprini must marry - or die behind convent walls. When an unwanted betrothal goads her to defy her father, she risks her most dangerous secret: the Glass Doge, a sinister nobleman living behind the glass of her mirror.

Now Gemma faces a brutal dilemma. If the suitors competing for her youngest sister's hand discover her secret, she'll be locked in a convent. If the Inquisitors find out, she'll burn as a witch. And if she can't pay her debt to the Glass Doge, she'll lose her soul forever.

THE CITY BEYOND THE GLASS is a dark and spellbinding YA retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses.

 

AMAZON | GOODREADS | AUTHOR'S BLOG

 


Wow! What a unique, heart-pounding fairytale retelling. I’m still reeling from this story and don’t know if I’ll ever recover.


As a 40k novella, you may pick this up expecting a fluffy, quicky romance story well…HAHAHAHAHAHA!!! Just make sure you have your seatbelt on. You’re gonna need it!


This is a Twelve Dancing Princesses retelling which, if you didn’t know, is one of my most faaaavorite fairytales. But not only that, this story involves magical MIRRORS. Which is also one of my favoritest things. Why I’m obsessed with magical mirrors in stories I DON’T KNOW. There’s just so much fun to be had with them! So when I discovered this was based off one of my favorite fairytales AND the plot was centered around a world behind a mirror, I WAS SOLD. And let me tell you, I wasn’t disappointed.


THE RUNDOWN


The City Beyond the Glass is such a unique take on the Twelve Dancing Princesses story! The way Suzannah Rowntree weaved so very many elements from the original fairytale while still making this her own utterly original tale was brilliant.


This is both historical fiction and fantasy—set during the Renaissance age in Venice (how cool is that???), but where a few myths and dark magic come into play.


Narrated in first person, we are told the story through Gemma’s point-of-view, a young woman who is imprisoned in her own home and seeks freedom for her and her sisters more than anything. But she soon learns “freedom” is not actually free, and her desperation and impulsive behavior brings a terrible price on her head, as well as her two sisters.


In good ol’ fashioned Twelve Dancing Princesses style, the story is based around the girls disappearing each night and wearing out their dancing slippers in the process. But where they go is a dangerous secret, and their short-tempered father has had enough of their secrets, causing him to put forth a reward to any man who can figure out where the girls vanish to.


Though this is the base of the story, that’s where the similarities to the original fairytale end. The depth, complexity, thrills, and chills of this plot blew me away!


CHARACTERS


There are three sisters instead of twelve in this story, which, honestly, was kinda nice. Trying to keep up with twelve sisters in the span of only 40k would be a biiiit overwhelming, I think. Having just three was perfect. The sisterly dynamics were really fun to read about. In fact, all the character dynamics really popped off the page. Every single character was so human and alive.


Gemma: As mentioned, Gemma is our protagonist, the eldest sister, and point-of-view character. Sadly I…wasn’t really wild about her. She kind of frustrated me to no end. It was hard being inside her head the whole time because she was kinda…rotten. She’s selfish, impulsive, rebellious, and fiery. And makes many, MANY mistakes. BUT—and this is a big but—I absolutely understand why she was the way she was. Because see, THE WHOLE PLOT probably wouldn’t have worked if she had had a different personality. So, honestly, I’m not sure I can say her rather irritating character is a negative or not. It was necessary. AND she had a very interesting character arc which I’m ALLLL for. Gimme ALL the character arcs. So yeah, she made me want to get a brick and knock some sense into her head for basically…the entire story. Buuuut her behavior moved the plot along, and she was so very, very human. Any one of us could have made the same mistakes she did. She was a brilliantly written character. I just…got really, really frustrated with her and it made it hard to be in her head the whole time.


Filippa and Lucia: Gemma wasn’t my favorite, but I LOVED her younger sisters. Filippa, the middle child, is the levelheaded one of the three, and keeps the other two a little reigned in, which is a good thing (they need it)! While Lucia is the picture of meekness and innocence. I wish Filippa had been in the story more. Her role wasn’t major, and thus we didn’t see her a whole lot, but I enjoyed it when she was there. Lucia plays a slightly larger part, and I was very happy about because she is SO precious. I adored that sweet girl! She was the breath of fresh air to Gemma’s hotheadedness.


Gonzaga: This man played a verrrrry intriguing role and just…wow. I really can’t say much because #SPOILERS but…yeah. He made the book so interesting!


The Glass Doge: The Glass Doge is the man behind the mirror (and he gave me serious Phantom of the Opera vibes which is a plus in my book!) whose intentions are a bit of a mystery. Is he frightening? Is he charismatic? Does he want the best for people or not? WHO CAN KNOW? He’s both chilling and alluring and added a whole ‘nother layer of epicness to the tale.


There were other characters as well, like the girls’ father (who I also wanted to throw a brick at) and some side characters who each had important parts to play. Every single one served an important purpose and, as I said, was so human. They were all different and real. This author has some serious talent when it comes to character creation!


THINGS I LOVED


- IT’S A TWELVE DANCING PRINCESSES RETELLING. I mean…obviously that’s a huge plus.


- THE SETTING & RICH HISTORY. As I said, this is set in Renaissance Venice and aaaaahhhhhh!!! You couldn’t ask for a more gorgeous setting. I just soaked up all the glitz and glam of the Venice life. (Except it wasn’t really that glamorous for most…heh. BUT STILL.) And it was so full of history, without once bogging the reader down with historical facts. Each thing was woven perfectly into the story. You can tell this author knows her stuff! The setting felt like a character on its own. This was absolutely one of my favorite parts of the story.


- INTENSE, DARK, & HIGH STAKES. Good gracious me alive. THIS PLOT. It is a thrill of a ride. I honest to goodness was tensed up almost the whole way through. This story did not coddle its characters or readers. It’s a nail-biter and heart-pounder. I honestly didn’t know what the outcome was gonna be. The stakes were so, so, so high. I was terrified for the characters. And I loved every second of it. Gimme all the thrills! The way this story pulls you along and makes you more and more nervous with every turn of the page was pure brilliance. No fluff here!


- PLOT TWISTS. Oooh, the plot twists. DAT ENDING DO. *collapses* Again, this plot is INTENSE. And also complex. Which is my faaaave. I was soaking up every bit of it.


- SNAPPY DIALOGUE. The dialogue was one of my favorite bits of this story. It was so sharp and punchy! Again, this author knows how to bring her characters to life, and that shows more than ever through the dialogue.


-THE MIRROR AND MAGIC. I…really shouldn’t say much because I don’t want to give away spoilers, but I adored how the mirror and magic of this world came into play. It was such a fascinating idea, and mixing it with historic Venice made it even more engrossing. Venice seems like a place where there really would be secret worlds and magic.


- THE POWERFUL THEMES. The beauty of this story is that it made me examine myself, without ever once preaching to me. The themes and messages were woven so deeply into the plot, they utterly captured me without me even realizing what had happened. Now that is what a story should do. I never felt preached to or like some Important Message was being shoved down my throat. No, this story tells its tale in such a deep and powerful and beautiful way, it will naturally root its morals and values inside you and stick with you far after you’ve made it to the end. Exactly what you want in a fairytale!


THINGS I DIDN’T LIKE


- COULD HAVE BEEN LONGER. I think this is probably just a me thing, but I felt like the story was a little rushed. Now, it worked, because it strung the reader along for a wild ride without ever pausing for any boring parts. But it almost seemed too fast. A few pauses for breath wouldn’t have been a terrible thing. Eheh. There were some scenes that felt…condensed. Like there should have been more to them. We’re also dropped slap dab in the middle of the tale, which was all right, because it added a bit of a mystery as we learn the girls’ secret. At the same time though, I kiiinda wish the story started at the beginning of their adventures. I felt like I was missing out on something. Buuut, again, this is more a me thing. I’m partial to longer books and even love me some ginormous series, so I don’t think this will bother everyone. Most people will  probably enjoy the quick pace.


- GEMMA WAS HARD TO DEAL WITH. I pretty much already covered this, but I wanted to put it here because, honestly, if I had liked the protagonist more, this may have ranked as one of my favorite reads. But, as it was, being inside the head of someone who infuriated me on every page docked a star for me. Which I feel bad about because, again, her personality was necessary and so brilliantly written and served the powerful message of the story and made it all the more meaningful. I don’t think she should or could have been written any differently. She just…wasn’t very likable.


Those are really the only negative things I have to say about this story. And they’re simply personal opinions, nothing against the book in any form or fashion. THIS WAS JUST SUCH A GOOD STORY, GUYS.




CONTENT CAUTIONS


Reputation is the most important thing for the people of Venice in those days, and it plays a key factor in the story. The girls are accused of having their, erm, innocence soiled and reputations ruined. And there are a few other scenes implying some men’s sensual desires and the mention of a harlot or two. It is all very delicately handled, but do be aware it’s there.


Also, I’ll repeat, this is a dark and intense book! There’s not really any gore (that I can remember…?), but whew! You’re going to be biting your nails to stubs with this one.


Otherwise, this was a very clean book. No language or anything of that nature. And, like I said, beautiful messages woven through it. But because of the darkness and the subject matter I mentioned above, I’d probably recommend it to ages 15 or 16+?

 

CONCLUSION


For a novella, this packs in a LOT of feels. Sometimes I felt like I was holding my breath while reading it.


If you’re looking for a lighthearted, lovey-dovey fairytale retelling, this one isn’t for you. But if you want a deep, dark, intense story with characters who leap off the pages, a historically rich and ritzy setting, a shiver-worthy antagonist, a complex plot that keeps you reeling, and a powerful message which will stay with you far after you’ve closed the book, GO BUY THE CITY BEYOND THE GLASS.


 

TALK WITH ME!

Have you read The City Beyond the Glass? If not, are you going to go get it now? (Because you shoooould.) Who else totally loves Twelve Dancing Princesses retellings??? And who enjoys dark, intense stories? (I’m all for ‘em! Though I don’t mind a touch of fluff in my literary diet as well. Gotta stay balanced after all.)


NOTE: I received a free ebook copy from the author in exchange for a honest review.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Five Ways To Expand Your Story



Some of you may know that my current WIP, Burning Thorns, was originally a 20k novella that I later turned into a full novel. That was my first time ever doing anything like that. I’ve always written novels, but I’ve never turned a novella/short story into a novel. It was a new experience. But it went well. Surprisingly well. That little 20k novella is now a 95k novel and I’m currently editing the 3rd draft.


Crazy what little story ideas can become, amIright?


I probably should have done a post like this during the expansion days (that was like 2 years ago or something crazy). One would think I’d do a post on editing or something since that’s what’s been consuming like 87% of my time these days. Buuut logic has never been my style.


So today you’re getting a post on tips of how to expand your story!


I think this process came easy for me because I’m infamous for writing gargantuan books. (Like seriously, I need to read posts on shortening novels. #HALP) Not only that, but I already felt like Burning Thorns was a bigger story. There was so much I wanted to explore that I couldn’t in its novella state. It was for a contest and the word limit was 20k, so I didn’t have the freedom to chase those side-plots that kept enticing me. But basically the day the contest was over and I wasn’t on the winner’s list, I realized HEY. I CAN DO WHAT I WANT WITH THIS STORY. Thus I did. And I’m so glad.


ANYWAYS. (I’m so longwinded, guys. Proof I’m qualified to write this post. *grins*) I had an utter blast figuring out ways to expand my little novella into a much grander story, and I learned a lot along the way. So if any of you have stories you’d like to expand into something bigger, or just tend to write shorter novels and need some help upping those wordcounts (I wish I had that problem), this post is for you!


5 WAY TO EXPAND
YOUR STORY



ADD CHARACTERS


The second I made the decision to expand BT, I knew I should add at least one character. The cast was already small as it was, and I knew if I wanted to make it a full novel, there needed to be more players on the board. (Plus I’m just obsessed with characters, so…)



The world is set in a land where different fae creatures roam wild, but I didn’t get to really explore these fae people much in the novella. Now I could! I decided I needed at least one fae person to really bring alive my fae world. And thus Lark was born. And…well…these days I forget he wasn’t even a part of the novella because he’s kind of the driving force of THE WHOLE THING. (*shoots him accusatory glare*) It was easy expanding the story once he came into existence, because he plays such an important role and is very…active, shall we say.


I think adding characters is the best way to really up that wordcount. After all, each character has their own motives, goals, maybe a side-plot or two, personalities, backstories to explore, the list goes on and on. But, of course, don’t add character just for funsies. They have to have purpose. But hey, that is the fun part!


Like I said, Lark became a huge driving force and interwove himself so deeply into the plot and other characters’ lives. My simplistic plot suddenly became much more complex and fun once he arrived. That was the goal! It’s my favorite thing to connect the characters in some way. Give them backstories that interweave, make one of the characters move the plot forward in a good or bad way, add some entertaining character dynamics. All delightful things to brainstorm, right? I promise, once you thread someone new into your story, you’ll suddenly have a horde of expansion ideas!

 

GIVE YOUR SIDE CHARACTERS BIGGER GOALS


In the Burning Thorns novella, I had basically 2 main characters, a side character, and an antagonist you see like…once or twice. That was about it. By the end of the story you meet a few other people, but the wordcount was too limited to explore any of these side characters. I had one character who literally only had one line for the entire novella. But in the novel? That character has multiple points-of-view, entire chapters centered around them, and a side-plot.


I was ecstatic to have the freedom to explore the lives and full motives of all my side characters and antagonists. Again, each character needs to play an important role and continuously drive the plot forward, but the protagonist is not (and should not) be the only one doing this. If you’re looking to expand, explore each of your characters, figure out what their motives are, give them purpose and intriguing backstories. Make their goals even bigger and harder to achieve.


It’ll boost that wordcount like crazy, bring lots of interest to your story (come on, we all love learning about those side characters, don’t deny it!), and is just a lot of fun! (Character exploration is my favorite thing ever, if you can’t tell.)

 

RAISE THE STAKES


I loved doing this for BT. I’m…erm…not one to write very fluffy, simple fiction. So of course the novella wasn’t all fluff, but it wasn’t exactly dark and complex either. The story really only centered around my two protagonists and their problems.


Well, for the novel I expanded their problems to affect…the whole world, human and fae world alike. Because why ruin only two peoples’ lives when you can ruin the lives of ALLLLL the people??? #EvilAuthor


But really now, if your story is feeling like it needs a bit more complexity, raising the stakes works wonders. For example, with BT I made the fae world a much more dangerous and dark place than the sunshiny world it was in the novella. I also made the “beast’s curse” (this is a Beauty and the Beast retelling, which I think you all know because I TALK ABOUT IT WAY TOO MUCH) doesn’t just affect him. The entire fae world is cursed, which also puts the human world in danger.


Make the villain’s goals reach farther out, add worse dangers to your characters, throw in an extra antagonist or two. Maybe you’re writing an urban fantasy in a struggling city. Well, what if it’s not just that city that’s in ruins? What if there has been an apocalypse and the whole world is in partial ruins and struggling? Or perhaps you have an epic fantasy where the antagonist is looking to take away the protagonist's kingdom? Maybe the baddie is in league with other kingdoms as well and now the protagonist has to deal with three invasions instead of one. The possibilities are really endless here!


Higher stakes means more trouble for the characters which means lots more work for them which means bigger book!


Plus making more trouble for your character is always a good time.


 

ADD WORLD BUILDING


Everyone loves a story that really brings the setting to life and awakens our sense of wonder. Are there things to your world you can add? More culture and history? Cool creatures? A whole other race of people?


I’m a fantasy writer, so of course I’m dealing with made-up worlds that can always be expanded on. But even if you’re a contemporary or historical fiction writer, there’s still so much to explore. You can really dig into the history of your setting, add fun places for your characters to meet like a local pizza place (adding pizza in your story ups the quality 5000% #FACT), bring out the culture and way of living in that certain place. Really getting deep into the setting can add some words and make your story fully come to life.


(Except I’m not the best at original worldbuilding. Eheheh. But I did add a lot more to BT’s world, especially the fae world, which was so fun!)


Just don’t go completely overboard. We don’t want to accidentally turn our stories into history textbooks… Just like with the characters, each aspect of the world needs a purpose.

 

EXPAND CHARACTER ARCS


Whoops, I’m back to characters! (Notactuallysorry.)


This was another trick that really helped stretch BT from a little novella to a far wider, sweeping novel. I gave literally every. single. character. a much deeper arc. (I may be a bit obsessed with character arcs???)


The fun thing about this is it can tie in with raising the stakes. Got a utterly selfish jerk of a character who loses a loved one and, in turn, learns to value the people he does have in his life? What if throughout the story he loses multiple loved ones to really whip him into shape? (Ehehehe. I’m so nice to characters.)



Hey, you can even double arcs. First have them good, then turn toward bad, then work their way up to good again. (I kinda love doing this. Again #CharacterArcObsessed) For example, maybe you have a gal who is fairly trusting and open, but for the course of the story, she is constantly being betrayed by people she thought she could trust and becomes closed off. Then she meets someone who is constantly there for her and slowly pulls her back out of her shell and helps her learn to trust again. Ta-dah! A double arc.


Character arcs
(to me anyway) can totally make a story, and making them big and impactful is even better. So don’t shy away from really upping those arcs if you’re needing more story!



I hope this was sorta helpful? Maybe? (Probably not.) Basically all my advice includes ruining your characters’ lives even more annnd maybe some of the world ending on the side. FUN STUFF.


Oookay, really, the best advice I can give you for expanding your stories is HAVE FUN! Or, in Loki’s terms, DO WHAT YOU WANT. I added a character because I love characters and wanted another one, and I raised the stakes because the more complex and convoluted my plots are, the happier I am. But maybe you have no use for another character and are satisfied with the overall plot and just want to expand on character arcs. That’s great!


Write the type of book you love and add things that you enjoy. Don’t force yourself to throw in a ton of stuff you hate just for the sake of a bigger wordcount. The key to good storytelling is writing a story we’re in love with. After all, if you love your story, then your readers are sure to as well.


TALK WITH ME!

All right, guys! I need to know. Do you write short or long novels? (Surely I’m not the only monster-novel writer out there…) Have you ever expanded any of your stories? What methods did you use? I’d love to hear about it!


P.S. If any of you ever have any writing questions, please, please, please don’t hesitate to ask! I certainly don’t have the answers to everything. (Hahahahahaha! Not even close.) But I love talking writing and am always looking for blog post ideas and to provide content you’re interested in. So if you’ve got writing questions (or any types of bookish posts you’d like to see from me), shoot me a comment, email, Twitter or Instagram DM, GoodReads message, anything! (Seriously, there are so many ways to contact me. XD) I’d be thrilled!

Monday, March 26, 2018

The Spring Cleaning Writerly Challenge Tag



Can you guys believe we’ve made it to spring? (Probably not judging by the frigid temperatures…) Hoooow is it nearly April? Pretty sure Christmas was yesterday!


But since spring is pounding on the door like an uninvited guest (seriously, I want it to still be January!), I suppose I better let it in and offer it cookies and tea or something. (Please don’t waste your precious lives trying to make sense of my analogies.)


In honor of spring arriving and the urge to spring clean, my frabjous and brilliant friend Deborah O'Carroll has created a spring cleaning tag. But we’re not talking housecleaning. Nooo. This is WRITING CLEANING!


As a total neat freak and a writer, this tag is pretty much the most me tag I’ve ever seen. It’s basically a quick challenge to get our writing/writing plans organized and return our enthusiasm for our WIPs! Because ya know all those big, thrilling goals we had in January? Well, they maaay have tapered off a bit at this point, amiright? NEVER FEAR. If you’re struggling to keep up with those big, writerly plans, this challenge is just the thing to get you pumped and organized again. Deborah is a GENIUS.


If you want to get a full explanation of how the tag works, you can check out her ORIGINAL POST to get all the details. But it’s not complicated, I promise!


Alrighty, lets get to some (writerly) spring cleaning!


 


RULES

  • Link back to the person who tagged you. (Deborah herself tagged me. Thanks, Deb! <3)
  • Share the picture. (*points to pic above*)
  • Answer the questions (naturally…) or even pick and choose which ones you answer. (Almost to that part!)
  • Tag 3 other writers and inform them that you tagged them (via comment/message/email or hey, even carrier-pigeon or smoke signal; I’m not picky). (*see end of post*)


 

. . . THE TAG . . .

 

1.) Dust-bunnies and Plot-bunnies:
Reorganize Your Writing Goals (Or Make New Ones)


In a extremely shocking turn of events, I’m actually sorta kinda mostly keeping up with my 2018 goals??? Like…WUT. This never happens! But here we are.


I know I’m falling so short on many though. So let’s reexamine them and see how I’m doing.


EDIT BURNING THORNS

Working on it! In fact, I’m roughly halfway through the draft, and making fairly good progress. Which is good, since this was my main goal for 2018. I need to get this thing into tip-top shape and ready for…querying. *gulp* I’ve been doing quite a bit of rewriting with a lot of bits and then more tweaking and polishing with others, so it’s been a mix of uber major editing and easier stuff. And…strangely? I’M LOVING IT. Every bit of it. Sure, I’ve had a few headaches, but after every single writing session I feel excited about the story.


Yes, editing is hard work, but GUYS. It’s the most satisfying feeling in the world seeing a WIP you love shape up into something even better. My young self would never, ever believe it if she heard this but…I like editing. Actually, I kinda love it. I KNOW! I don’t know who I am!


Anyways! BT edits are definitely fully underway and going well so far!


ATTEND REALM MAKERS

My other big goal for this year and biggest dream for this season in my life and…IT’S HAPPENING!!!!!!!! I am officially registered, been plotting the trip there with my awesome dad (who has graciously agreed to drive his directionally-challenged daughter), and have even listed out all the things I need to do/get done/buy/prepare for the event. REALM MAKERS THINGS ARE HAPPENING. At the beginning of the year it was still a hopeful dream, NOW IT’S A REALITY AND I CAN’T STOP SHRIEKING IN EXCITEMENT ABOUT IT.


This is also why I’ve actually been getting on top of editing. Because I gotta get Burning Thorns polished enough to pitch at the conference. Deadlines give me anxiety but they also push me to DO THE THING so yay?


RESEARCH LITERARY AGENTS
AND WORK ON A QUERY LETTER

Erm…okay, I’ve kinda failed on these things. I have looked into the agents that will be at Realm Makers though. I’ve actually decided to wait to do some of this until after Realm Makers, once I get some professional input on my book. There are some query-ish type of things I need to prepare for the conference though. So yes, that is one thing I need to get going on! But the actual looking into literary agents and querying thing will probably be a second half of the year goal. I think I’ll feel much more prepared after Realm Makers. *nods*


EXERCISE

Again, shockingly, I’ve mostly been keeping up with this. o.O I’ve definitely missed lots and lots of days, but for the most part, each evening I do some stretches and things. Seriously, WHO AM I???


READ MORE

Eheheheheh. Not sure this one is going over well. Especially these past few weeks. I just never seem to have enough hours in the day to do all I want to. I’ve got to make more time for reading!


PARTICIPATE IN NANOWRIMO

Well, obviously I can’t do this yet. *grins* BUT OF COURSE IT’S HAPPENING. Annnd I have two particular books that have been fighting to be my NaNo 2018 novel (yes, I’m already totally making NaNo plans #Obsessed), and both of which have bombarded me with plot ideas. So I’m more or less pre-planning for NaNo? Or at least brainstorming…?


UNPLUG MORE

*cricket, cricket*


Welllll. Remember how I said I don’t have enough hours in the day to get everything done? Yeeeah. My plan was to unplug by 7 or 8 every night. And, actually, I was doing just that back in January. But at some point in February things fell apart, I got busier, editing BT became more demanding, Realm Makers plans started gettin’ serious, annnnd yeah. These days I’m barely clocking out by 10. O_O AND IT’S NO GOOD. I have basically zero time to read or just unwind and I’m feeling the negative effects it’s having. So much stress and exhaustion. So this is definitely one I need to brush the dust off and get back into! Recharging time is SO IMPORTANT. (<--- Preaching to myself.)


ORGANIZE MY TIME

Mmmm… Half and half on this one. Originally I was thinking about doing hourly goals, but that hasn’t happened once. :-/ BUT every day I start off by writing out a to-do list which has helped SO MUUUUCH. You guys have no idea. I think it’s 97% why I’ve been able to stay more or less on top of things. That urge to check off every. single. thing. by the end of the day is STROOOONG.


BE INTENTIONAL

Intentional—my word for 2018. And…I’ve stuck to it-ish. That whole Realm Makers deadline has been my biggest push to be intentional about my writing and get things done, and done well. For once, I’m being serious about pursuing my dreams. THIS IS HUGE, GUYS. I have never been one to do hard things and intentionally make my dreams a reality. But this year I have been extremely motivated (again, can probably thank Realm Makers for that) and getting things done. And I’m realizing I’m a much happier person because of it. I feel productive and accomplished and braver and more confident with my writing. I still fall so, so short, but I can see growth taking place this year and I hope to continuously be intentional about my dreams and my entire life in general. Not for just this year, but the rest of my life!


Wow. That was…longer than it should have been. But I love how this tag made me examine my big goals and reevaluate them. So basically…


GOALS I’M ACCOMPLISHING:

  • Editing Burning Thorns
  • Attending Realm Makers
  • Exercising (ish)
  • Participate in NaNo (brainstorming!)
  • Organizing my Time (we can pretend I’m doing okay???)
  • Living Intentionally (trying, at least!)


GOALS I NEED TO REEVALUATE:

  • Research Literary Agents and Work on a Query Letter (Yeah, definitely need to do more there, but will probably get real serious about it during the second half of the year.)
  • Read More (MUST. MAKE. MORE. TIIIME.)
  • Unplug More (Or unplug at all. SHEESH!)
  • Organize My Time (Yes, this is one both lists because I can aaalways do better with this!)


A bit half and half there, but it’s so good to really look at my goals and remember what I should be working on. Plus I’ve got you guys keeping me accountable! *grins*

 

2.) Which Stage Are You At? Expound!

    • a. Remodeling layouts (planning the story)
    • b. Painting the walls in colorful hues (writing)
    • c. Polishing the windows and scrubbing the floors and putting flowers in vases (editing)
    • d. Blueprints (not to the cleaning or remodeling yet… just drawing up plans for the very beginning inklings of a story)
    • e. Some combination of those things (cleaning out a closet)


I love the comparisons here! I’m definitely polishing the windows and scrubbing the floors and putting flowers in vases a.ka. making Burning Thorns as pretty as I can make it a.k.a EDITING!


Although, like I said, my potential NaNo novels have been bombarding me with ideas. (Because whenever I edit or do something that’s not first drafting, the plot bunnies attack ruthlessly. Is that just me???) So just the smidgest hint of blueprinting on the side.

 

3.) Treasure From the Back of the Closet:
Share one to three snippets you love!


Well, since my focus is Burning Thorns, I guess I’ll pull out something from that. I’ll share some rewritten scenes for funsies!


Her feet went before her mind, veering from the muddied road to the meadow where wet blades of grass scratched at her ankles. Through the blur of rain, a mass of pure blackness covered the way ahead. Ominous, daring her to draw any closer. Only the rattle of the prison wagon pursuing behind pushed her forward until the dark splotch took form. Twisting, gnarled trees appeared before her, deformed behind sheets of rain.

She halted just at the edge of the trees—the Forest, named thus because something so old needed no other name. It had stood at the center of Elda Grae long before even humans began inhabiting the continent.

Nightmarish stories of wicked creatures and dark fae slithered through her thoughts with an icy chill like the rain down her back. The land of the fae was no place for a human.

 


Rose did not know how long she stayed in that state—neither awake nor asleep, stuck in a dark restlessness in between—but when she opened her eyes the dim light of dawn cast the Forest in a hazy green. Her eyes ached from tears, and she could barely move her cold, stiff body.

 


The Dragon thrust her out the door, and once more their eyes locked. All his years of pain, anguish, loss, regret, poured from that single gaze. His lips parted and closed several times before the quiet, strained words came out. “You are no longer welcome in this castle.” Licking his lips, he grabbed the edge of the door. “Goodbye, Rose.” With that, he shoved the door and it closed with a resound click.

 

Lolz. Look at all that drama. XD

 

3.5.) Bonus: Do Some Actual Spring Cleaning of Your Writer Self! (and share a picture!)


Confession: I don’t actually use a physical “writing space”. I basically sit in my recliner during all my writing. *sheepish grin* Sure, I have a desk. But why use that when I can sit in a big, comfy chair?? And I pretty much keep all my writing work and notes and all that fun stuff on my laptop itself. So yeah.


BUT. Just about a month ago ago I created a doc called “The Writing Space” for all my writerly thoughts, and it has basically been one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself.


A lot of amazing people keep writing journals or physical notes and all that fun stuff. I’ve tried…for years. But, despite my unhealthy love for pretty journals, I never keep up with them. I’ve lost many a plot bunny due to forgetting to jot it down. Eventually, once I realized how many ideas I was losing due to my laziness of using pen and paper, I took to keeping notes on my phone. But, as I’ve discussed, I’ve gotten much more motivated and intentional about my writing this year. Thus I decided it was time to get ORGANIZED.


I sat down, made a new Scrivener file, and titled it “The Writing Space”.


I think I need to pause here to scream about MY COMPLETE AND UTTER LOVE FOR SCRIVENER. I am a perfectionist. I love things to be organized and all together. I like putting things in categories and listing them and color codes and all that delightful stuff. And guess what? SCRIVENER DOES ALL OF THAT. I honestly can’t even fully express my obsession with this writing program. It makes me want to work on my stories just so I can use it. THAT’S HOW FABULOUS IT IS. Yes, it does take a bit of time to learn, but it’s so worth it. I adore Scrivener with my entire being!


With that out of the way… BEHOLD.


MY WRITING SPACE

 


See that binder on the far left side? (You can click the pic for a full view.) That’s all the documents and folders and folders within folders. It’s basically like having a bunch of word documents all in one place!


ANYWAYS. As you can see, this is where I keep my hodgepodge of writerly business. My goals, my story ideas (why are almost all my ideas retellings though???), character name ideas, magazines and contests I want to look into, writing tips I’ve gathered and want to remember, interviews I’ve done on the blog, blog posts ideas, etc. Since it’s fairly new, I’m still adding stuff as it hits me. I don’t even have ALL my story ideas on there. Just the ones I bothered to make notes of on my phone and then copied over to there. There are pleeenty more in my head that need jotting down!


But basically, this is a place I can keep ALL THE  WRITING THINGS, and it motivates me to keep up with it. Because it makes my organizing-loving self happy! (Have I mentioned how much I love Scrivener???)


Essentially, I “spring cleaned” my writerly thoughts into that document. And though I did this weeks ago, I can count it, right? #Cheater



WELL. For a tag with only 4 questions, I sure turned this into a monster post. (What’s new?) BUT I LOVED THIS TAG! It was both motivating and eye-opening. It helped me see my accomplishments, but also look at the things I need to work harder on. I told you guys Deborah is a genius!


Now to pass this on to others! *rubs hands together in glee*


TAGGING


Sarah @ Sarah Plain and Average | Savannah @ Scattered Scribblings | Victoria @ Wanderer's Pen + anyone else who wants to steal the tag. GO FOR IT! (But nooo pressure to those tagged or anyone else to do this.)


Here are the Questions
(For copy and pasting purposes)


1. Dust-bunnies and Plot-bunnies: Reorganize Your Writing Goals (Or Make New Ones)

2. Which Stage Are You At? Expound!

a. Remodeling layouts (planning the story)
b. Painting the walls in colorful hues (writing)
c. Polishing the windows and scrubbing the floors and putting flowers in vases (editing)
d. Blueprints (not to the cleaning or remodeling yet… just drawing up plans for the very beginning inklings of a story)
e. Some combination of those things (cleaning out a closet)

3. Treasure From the Back of the Closet (Share one to three snippets you love!)

3.5. Bonus: Do Some Actual Spring Cleaning of Your Writer Self! (and share a picture!)



Thanks for putting up with all my writerly ramblings! You guys keep me constantly motivated to pursue my dreams! <3

 

TALK WITH ME!

Tell me some of your 2018 goals you’re totally rocking! I’d love to cheer you on. If you’re working on a writing project, what stage are you on (editing, writing, brainstorming, etc.)? How’s it going? What do you use to log those slippery plot bunnies and writing thoughts? (Am I the only one who totally fails at keeping up with journals?) Annnd is it feeling like spring at all in your neck of the woods?

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