Monday, April 25, 2016

My Favorite Story Elements

Last week I posted about being brave and writing the things we personally love. That got me thinking: “What do I love to write about?” Well, that’s a good question. And since I love lists, I decided to make a list of story elements I love to read and write. It’d be very useful to have a handy list of some of my favorite story things to keep in mind whenever I’m plotting a new book. Then I thought, why not post the list? Because, hello? books and lists are like my favorite things. So!

Convoluted Plots
On occasion, I enjoy a fun, simple little story. But the majority of the time, I absolutely crave complexity. I want a thousand different plot threads all twisting and tangling together. I want ginormous wars with three or four different sides. I want dozens of plot twists that absolutely blow my mind. I want a sense of vastness. I want depth. As a result, I tend to lean in favor of larger books or series. Small, standalone stories are often too short to give that scope of broadness. Now, that is absolutely not always the case. Many authors are extremely skilled in packing a whole lot of awesome in small packages, which is fantastic. (I wish I had that talent.) But most of the time I get more out of series.

This kind of goes along with the big plot thing. I get ridiculously excited when a story reveals all those half dozen different plots each actually connect in the end. Those two different people we’ve been following on separate adventures for a while? They were childhood friends. That character over here that died was actually the sister of the character over there. And so on and so forth. Such connections are so fun, make great plot twists, and can add a lot of depth to the story.

Imaginative Worlds
J.R.R. Tolkien is the father of fantasy for good reason. Not only did he weave loveable characters and beautiful stories, but he spent so much time creating an enormous, complex world. The very thought of his dedication to world-building blows my mind. I love, love, love stories with big, beautiful, fascinating worlds. You can always tell if an author worked hard on world-building or not. And this doesn’t just apply to fantasy. Suzanne Collin’s futuristic version of North America in The Hunger Games was heavily thought out. It feels so real. Jill Williamson in her The Safe Lands trilogy did the same. It’s set in the not-too-distant future of our world, but the unique technology and even lingo Mrs. Williamson created just brings the novels to life. (Though I’ve actually only read the first book, but I plan on remedying that soon!) Creative, well-thought-out worlds can make a story for me. And I really admire authors who manage it, because that’s one of my biggest weaknesses.

Character Arcs
This one! This is probably my most favorite story element in the history of story elements. I’m obsessed with big character arcs. And not just the bad-guy-becoming-good ones. I’m also fascinated by decent people turning into villains. I love it all! But of course, watching a villain turn over to good is so, so satisfying. I always lean in favor of anti-heroes. If there’s an anti-hero in a story, almost every time he or she becomes my favorite character. Watching these people slowly turn away from their own selfishness to join the good side just. . .AGH. I can’t get enough of it! But there’s other types of character arcs as well. Such as a hero learning a valuable lesson and becoming even better. Or a semi-villain turning over to complete evil. I will read it all! If there’s a good character arc in a novel, there’s a 97.4% chance I’ll love that story.

You probably picked up from my last post that I enjoy the drama. In real life? Uh, no thank you. But in fiction? Gimme all the drama! Give me the tension and strife and danger around ever corner. Put me on the edge of the seat. Make me feel something. If a story doesn’t give me emotions, I’m not going to enjoy it. I actually want a story to make me an emotional wreck. I like stories that make me cry. Or cringe. Or even scream on occasion. The deeper a story makes me feel, the more and more I’ll love it. I’m not much on light reads. Destroy my emotions, please and thank you. But some stories can lay it on a little too thick, which brings me to. . .

Yes, I want all the drama, but I want a mix of emotions. I don’t want to be depressed the entire story. I love to laugh. (Though, really, does anybody not enjoy laughing?) Little jokes and fun characters and hilariously embarrassing moments in between the emotional trauma is a perfect balance to keeping me happy. Some stories slather on the sadness so much it just gets tiresome. Using The Hunger Games as an example again, those are some of my absolute favorites stories but I would have loved a bit more humor. I can think of about two parts in the whole trilogy (both involving Finnick) that made me chuckle. As my brother said one day, it almost felt as if the author was trying a little too hard to make us readers depressed. But again, they’re amazing books, I just would have loved a few lighthearted jokes every now and again.

Speaking of not too much drama, I’m a sucker for a good happily ever after. There’s nothing like reading that last page of a novel before closing the book and breathing a satisfied sigh. Now, I understand not everything can turn out well. Characters may have died, others may have scars for the rest of their life. After certain ordeals, nothing can ever be perfectly happy. I’m okay with bitter-sweet endings if it has to be that way. But what I’m not okay with is endings that leave me feeling empty. Reading takes a lot of time, and I don’t want to waste my valuable time reading something that just leaves me depressed and hollow by the end of it all. I don’t want to fall in love with the characters only to have them all die or their lives be ruined forever. I want to be shown that there is hope in this dark world, that things can be okay. Traumatizing middles to books are fine. Like I said, I want ALL the drama and feels. But when I finish a book, I want some form of satisfaction. There’s too much depression in this world. Books are my escape from that.

Character Relationships (of all kind)
What really bugs me is when characters in novels really don’t seem to have any sort of bond with each other. What’s more fun than a deep friendship? Or some brotherly and sisterly love? Or a bonded family? And most of us are pretty partial to romantic couples, am I right? But hey, the relationships don’t have to be all positive. What about some rivals? Some strife between families? I’m even one of those few who actually enjoys a love triangle (I know, it’s true). Actually, I’ll take a love quadruple! If it adds tension and is entertaining, I want it. Interesting character dynamics make the stories for me. Relationships with our friends and family and co-workers and everyone we come across shapes who we are. I just don’t enjoy stories where the author merely moves the characters along with so much action that they forget to give the characters deep interactions and complex relationships.

Admirable Heroes
I’ll admit, I have this pet peeve that has grown and grown through the years the more modern stories I’m introduced to. This could probably be a topic for a whole other post, but to sum it up: I’m tired of heroes with absolutely no morals. Now, like I said, I love me some anti-heroes, and I am all for making characters flawed. People aren’t perfect, and we want our character to feel real. Perfect characters drive me insane. I want flawed people. BUT if our supposed hero is living immorally and it’s never once portrayed as bad, that’s when I get veeery annoyed. I more see this in TV shows than books, but the problem is still there. What happened to the days of looking up to heroes? I read books to be inspired, to read about people that will motivate me to do better, to stand up for what I believe in and fight for good. These days we’re getting heroes that go off and live immoral, selfish lives in between the “saving the world” bits. Again, character that live wrongly are okay as long as there’s character growth and these wrong things are portrayed as just that—wrong. Character arcs are my favorite, remember? I have plenty of characters that do things I’d never do, but in the end I do try to make them turn from their sin. (And by that I mean I destroy their lives and completely break them until they have no choice. *cough, cough*) Anyways! (This is getting long.) Like I said, I could probably make a whole post about this. But the point is, I miss heroes that are admirable. Flawed, yes. But ones that learn from their mistakes, strive to do better, fight for the good. I miss heroes that I can look up to, and I absolutely love when I find books about people like that.

Character Centered
This is probably the biggest reason I love the YA genre the most. There’s something about YA books that centers so deeply on characters that I don’t see much in other genres. Intimate points-of-view are my favorite. I want to be inside the characters’ heads. I want to feel their emotions, to be right there alongside them. Stories that feel detached from the characters just don’t interest me at all. I want to see them grow, and hurt, and laugh, and form friendships, and fall in love. I want to become so attached to the characters that when I close the book I start missing them. The deeper a story gets into the characters’ lives, the more I’ll love it.

~ ~ ~

So, there we have it! My favorite story elements. Well, a few of my favorite elements. My list actually got a bit longer than I wanted, so I limited myself to ten for this post. I may just have to do another list with yet more one day. I seem to have a lot of story elements I love. I guess that’s not a bad thing though.

But, basically, characters are everything to me, if you didn’t notice. Being as how half my points had something to do with characters. That’s really why I read, for the people between the pages. If a book has every single point I listed—an epic plot, imaginative world, drama, humor, etc—but ignored the character bits, I wouldn’t enjoy it. A lot of people categorize stories as “plot driven” or “character drive”. But why can’t we have both? I want a big complex, epic plot with deep characters points-of-view and growth amidst it all. Those are always, always my favorites stories.

All right, I’ve shared more than enough of my thoughts. It’s your turn! Remember, these are only things I personally enjoy, not things that should be in every single story by any means! I’m allll for variety. So I want to know what some of your favorite story elements are. Do we share any? Do you absolutely detest some of my points? We all have different tastes, and that’s awesome. So do tell! I seriously want to know.

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!

Monday, April 11, 2016

The Circle of Creativity

We’ve all had it happen, that exhaustion of the imagination, the drought, like someone took a straw and sucked up all the creative juices right out of us (okay, that was a weird analogy, but we’re going with it).

I have it happen to me all the time, way more than I’d like. I just don’t want to write. Every word is forced, and comes out horrible and flat because of it. Every second staring at the blank page and blinking cursor feels like agony. I’m like butter scraped over too much bread, as Bilbo would say. A lot of people would tell me to buck up and just keep writing, which isn’t always bad advice, especially if you’re under a deadline. I see the pros of it. Often continuing to write breaks loose a new dam and the juices flow once more. But sometimes we can’t. Sometimes writing on and on drains yet more of our already depleted creativity and leaves us frustrated and ready to give up.

So instead of using up our own supply of creativity all the time, why not soak it in from the unending imagination around us?

This is by no means a new idea, I’ve seen others talk about it, but my first real understanding and awareness of it was a little over a year ago.

I was spending two weeks out of town with my best friend, not writing or blogging or hardly even touching my computer. Merely having a rollicking good time with my partner in crime. Of course, our idea of a good time is shopping for books (there’s no question why were friends).

I had been there for quite a few days already, and as we were on yet another shopping adventure in one of the many thrift stores scouring the bookshelves, a longing slammed right into my very soul. As I slid my fingers over the smooth spines, reading intriguing titles and admiring pretty cover art, I had a sudden urge to CREATE. I wanted to write, make beautiful words, weave intricate and interesting tales and fun characters and wondrous worlds, like the ones I perused. I had not written in a while, and suddenly I was surrounded by stories. Suddenly I was soaking in all the creativity encircling me, and itching to get my hands on a keyboard.

The feeling and experience was so strong and delightful, it stuck with me. Ever since, I’ve been fully aware when that feeling strikes, and have learned how to bring it about.

These days, it comes on me a lot. I work part-time in a quaint little bookstore, so a couple of times a week I get to completely surround myself in imagination. I sell books and shelve books and peruse books and organize books (and yes, sometimes smell books). I see dozens and dozens of titles and covers coming in and out over the course of the day, and my imagination soars. That urge to create sparks almost every time I’m at work. I don’t even have to be reading. There’s something about just being around books and wondering what lies within the pages that fills my creative juices to the brim.

Of course, reading is absolutely a complete, and necessary, source of creativity for writers. Last year I did not read many books at all. I was so consumed in writing the first draft of Burning Thorns and then doing NaNoWriMo, I left myself no time for reading, and I hurt my writing because of it.

I’ve found I always write so much better when I’m reading heavily. I firmly believe our brains retain words, structure, plot devices, etc. even when we’re not trying. Subconsciously, I’m taking in knowledge from well-written books I’m reading at the time and applying it to my own writing. But when I go a while without reading, my writing feels flat and forced. I suddenly forget how to do something as simple as form a proper sentence. In the end, taking time out to read for a while actually helps my own novels, not hurts.

This year, though I’m still reading a bit slower than I’d like, I’m making effort to read at least for a while before bed. Sure, I could be editing, but I need that reading time. To learn, yes, but also to refill my ever dwindling supply of creativity. To remind myself why I love stories so much, and why I want to write my own.

Movies and TV shows can have the same effect (at least well-produced ones). Almost every time I watch ABC’s Once Upon a Time my desire to create is overflowing. That show has such an epic scale and masterful storytelling, I can’t help but soak in its creativity. The Marvel movies do the same. How can a writer not itch to create their own fun, adventurous tales after watching such well-told stories? And what about music? You can’t tell me a beautiful dramatic piece hasn’t tugged at your fingers to write some bittersweet fiction, or an epic score to weave a tale of great heroes and triumphant battles.

The thing is, the world is doused in creative juices. You just have to allow yourself to soak it up. So next time you’re feeling drained, don’t scrape at the bottom of your own barrel. Take a break, but use the break to refill yourself. Go out, visit a bookstore, watch your favorite show, listen to a moving song, read vivaciously, even peruse Pinterest for a while. Dip into the creativity others have already produced. They don’t mind. Because, in turn, you’ll use it to make your own creativity that others can take a drink from.

And the circle of creativity goes round.

What do you do to refill your creative barrel? Who else soaks it up by merely being inside a bookstore (or am I just weird)? Any specific TV show/movie/book/song that overflows your juices? I’d love to hear them!

Monday, April 4, 2016

What I Learned from The Lunar Chronicles

For the last couple months I’ve been enjoying a book series, The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer. And by “enjoying” I mean flailing and screaming and crying and fangirling and all around obsessing. It has kind of been my world.

As I writer, my brain automatically soaks in writing lessons while reading. Subconsciously, I’m constantly asking myself questions as I read like, “Why do I love this part so much?” “Why does this feel slow?” “That was such a good scene, what type of wording was used?” It’s a curse of the writer, we can’t help it.

So since I enjoyed obsessed over The Lunar Chronicles so much, I decided to share some writing lessons I learned along the way. (No, this is not an excuse to fangirl about the books. Of course not. . .)

Unique Conglomeration

On the back of one of the books it has a quote by Entertainment Weekly saying, “A cross between fairy tales , the Terminator, and Star Wars.” They weren’t even kidding. This series is fairytale retellings, but set in a futuristic, sci-fi version of our world. The Cinderella character is a cyborg. Then you have a little Rapunzel who can hack her way into any computer. Little Red Riding Hood wears a red hoodie, flies a spaceship, and is a good shot with a shotgun. While Snow White lives on the moon. That all sounds absolutely crazy, but Marissa Meyer made it work, and made it fun. It’s own uniqueness causes it to stand out, to be intriguing. Marissa Meyer thought of something insane—Cinderella being a cyborg—and turned it into one epic tale.

Writerly Tip: In a large world with so very, very many books, movies, and TV shows floating around, it can be hard to write something unique. Choosing two or three or even a dozen completely unrelated genres and smushing them together (such as sci-fi fairytale retellings) can make one’s story stand out amidst the millions.

Varied Cast

When I first started diving into these books, I feared a lot of the characters would be similar. At first, Scarlet seemed a lot like Cinder, while Winter reminded me somewhat of Cress. But after first impressions, I quickly realized these characters were all very different people. Not a single character in the entire cast were copies of each other. Every single one had unique traits and personalities, resulting in the perfect mix of people. I loved how their opposite personalities bounced off each other, each in different and interesting ways. I also liked how there was at least one character for everyone. This cast had enough diversity that anyone could find someone they liked. For example, Scarlet wasn’t my favorite character, but I’ve seen a lot of people say they loved her. There was a nice balance between each character and points-of-view, to keep everyone happy, no matter who is their favorite and least favorite character.

Writerly Tip: If you’ve found you have similar characters in your novel (I’ve been soooo guilty of this!), try changing one of them up, give them something to set them apart from each other. It’s also great when there’s a mix of people in the cast. Readers are going to be various, and though no writer should ever attempt making everyone happy (trust me, you’ll never be happy yourself if you try that), it’s good to have some diversity in your cast.


These are fairytale retellings, so obviously there’s a lot of romantic relationships (which is another thing the author did so well, I was shipping everyone like crazy!), but what really struck me were the friendships. We start out with complete strangers and follow their journey and get to know them for a while. But then, by the end, we have a crew of wonderful friends who makes us readers yearn to have our own awesome friendship group to save the world with. As I said in my last point, each unique character bounced of the other in an interesting way. What I really liked is how they were all constantly paired off in different sets. One would think whenever they split up, the couples would stay together, but that wasn’t the case. Sometimes you’d have Cress and Scarlet’s guy off on an escapade. Sometimes two of the guys would split off together for a mission, etc. As a result, even though there were quite a few characters, they had each formed special friendships with the other, and all together made a spectacular (and adorable) crew.

Writerly Tip: I’ve found people love reading about friendships (I certainly do!). So even if you’re writing a romance book, don’t forget friends can be a fun part of the story as well. It’s also important to establish the different dynamics between each character. Character A and B may be in love, and character C is A’s best friend. But what kind of relationship does characters B and C have? Everyone reacts differently toward people. It’s important to remember that while writing, especially if you have a large cast. Plus, establishing different relationship dynamics between all the characters is just FUN.

Large and Diverse
(without being overwhelming)

One of the biggest things I noticed while reading this series is how the author seamlessly made it seem so large and diverse without overwhelming her readers. Essentially, this story is about an evil queen who lives on the moon attempting to take control of Earth. So, basically, you’ve got a story about all of Earth and a big civilization on the moon. That’s two entire planets and, somehow, Marissa Meyer magically made it feel like both planets and all the people within were ALL characters. I know that sounds crazy and overwhelming but don’t worry, there was obviously still just the few main characters. These main characters, though, traveled a lot, and met a lot of people, and dealt with a lot of world leaders and aristocrats and laborers, etc. etc. As a result, it felt so big, like all of Earth and the moon were included in the series. And yet, sometimes it feels like a simple storyline. The way Marissa Meyer managed that blows my mind. It was masterfully done, and I only wish I could make my stories have such a large scale! Without completely confuzzling my readers that is.

Writerly Tip: As I said, the characters traveled a lot and came across many different people groups, which I think was the biggest key in making it feel so large and diverse. The characters themselves were also varied (as mentioned) and had drastically different life experiences that added in the diversity and impression of largeness.

Body Language

This was another thing I absolutely loved about Marissa Meyer’s writing. Her writing style is very simple, not heavy or flowery (which I actually love with these types of books). So very, very many times I got so lost in it I completely forgot I was reading, to the point that one time I got disoriented after reading because I seriously forgot I even existed. That’s always what I want in a book! But what I found was the best part of her writing style was the body language descriptions. I fail at describing body language so bad. Far, far too often I fall into that “he smiled, she laughed” pit and can’t find the imagination and words to climb out. Like I said, these books have a simplistic style, and often there are “he smiled” descriptions. But between those are little gems of body language that gives you such a clear picture of what the character is doing.

For example: “She sniffed, then tilted her head way back and inhaled deeply in an attempt to keep tears from falling.”

See? It’s nothing complicated or flowery, yet it gives you such a clear picture. We’ve all done this gesture before. I bet you’re seeing yourself doing this at some time or another right now. I found all sorts of these little descriptions in the books that gave me such a vivid picture, while steering clear of the cliché “she smiled” sentence.

Writerly Tip: You can tell Marissa Meyer studies people and takes note of our little everyday gestures. As a writer, it’s important to observe. To grasp things from real life and put them into words to give readers a clear, realistic picture. Like I said, body language descriptions is one of my weaknesses. This series has inspired me to be more observant, maybe even jot down little gestures I take note of and see if I can describe them well. I think it’ll be very beneficial for my stories.

Love the Story

I have absolutely zero doubt in my mind that this author loved her story and characters. The passion she put into these books oozes right from the pages and makes them shine.

Writerly Tip: We should all write what we love. Yes, we’ll have bad days and struggle to get the words out and need breaks. Even feel like quitting. But, deep down, we keep going because we love the story. If you’re writing a novel just to get it done, that’s going to show. If you’re writing a novel because you love it, others will love it too, because you put your love and passion right into the words. You put effort into it. I’ve read books that were bland because the author just wanted to get it done and put no real work into the story. Writing is HARD. We should only ever put all that time and work into something we absolutely love. Trust me, your readers will thank you.

Give Us ALL the Feels

This sort of goes along with the last point I made. This series gave me allllll the feels. One time I was so amused I had to put the book down and take a second to compose myself. Multiple times I got teary-eyed. A few moments I wanted to scream. My heartbeat sped up during plenty of scenes. It was intense and hilarious and ridiculous and fun and heart-wrenching. It had it all, and I believe that was because the author loved it. She wasn’t just trying to get from point A to point B and be done with it. She put effort into making her characters loveable, into causing all sorts of crazy disasters for them, into making meaningful scenes and ridiculously amusing ones, sometimes both at the same time! That kind of writing takes work, but if you love your story, it’ll hardly feel like work at all.

Writerly Tip: I strongly believe filling a novel with a mix of emotions is important. I don’t want to read a book that makes me depressed the whole time. Give me a few laughs, please! Yet I also enjoy crying over fiction. I don’t know why, but I know I’m not alone. Us readers want to feel, in every way. I personally believe pacing is a strong factor in this. (Which may become a topic for a blog post, I have quite a few thoughts on the subject, but I’ll summarize it here.) I’ve read books that were so action-packed they left no room for me to feel anything for the characters. On the flip side, I’ve read plenty of books that dragged on and on and oooon and was basically nothing but the character talking about their feelings. Balance is key here. The Lunar Chronicles provided plenty of sweet scenes with the characters talking and pouring out their feelings or just having some deep inner monologue. But in between these scenes there was action and danger around every corner. It sent my emotions on a whirlwind, and I absolutely loved it!

~ ~ ~

In conclusion, this was a really, really good series! It wasn’t perfect, no story is. To contradict my last point, the pacing sometimes felt slow. Well, not slow exactly, there were just a lot of scenes that I felt could have been skipped or compacted into smaller scenes. Mainly in the last book, Winter. While the first book, Cinder, was a good size with tight writing, Winter was a 800+ page monster and had a few parts I felt weren’t entirely necessary to the overall story. But I didn’t even mind because I didn’t want the story to end at all. Aside from that, a lot of the plot was cliché and I didn’t absolutely love all the characters. Though I came to love most of them, two in particular are officially some of my favorite fictional characters ever. All in all, it was a well told story. And hey, even though I chose to focus on the positive parts of the book to glean writing knowledge from, we can absolutely learn from negative parts of books just as much.

Note: These books are a secular YA series, but as far as secular stories go, they were quite clean. There was the occasional curse word, and I very much mean occasional. There were about two or three bad words per book. Nothing major at all. The violence never got too graphic. These are fairytale retellings, so there’s definitely some lovey dovey stuff. Lots of touching, hugging, kissing, etc. But again, everything stayed surprisingly clean.
With all that said, the prequel novella Fairest was not clean. This little story is about the villainess, so I guess it’d make sense it had some pretty icky stuff in it. But I was still disappointed. I very much think series should stay consistent with the type of material they have, and Fairest almost felt like a book from an entirely different series. It had a lot of adult content that I felt did not belong in The Lunar Chronicles.
But anyways, I didn’t mean for this post to be a book review or anything (though it kind of turned out that way). I just wanted to give a warning before anyone goes rushing out to buy the books. If you do read the series, I’d suggest skipping Fairest. It’s not important to read it to understand the rest of the books.
Also, in addition to the prequel, this series has a ton of short stories that go before or between and even after the series which can get confuzzling, but I enjoyed the overall story way more reading the short stories along with the main books. If you’d like a list of them and my personal recommendation of what order to read them, do ask in the comments!

Who else ends up accidentally (or purposefully) analyzing books to improve their own writing? What’s the biggest writing lesson you’ve learned from reading? Most importantly here, have you read The Lunar Chronicles? If so, FANGIRL WITH ME. Who’s your favorite character? (Cress and Thorne forever! <3) Do you agree or disagree on any of the points I made?  Share away!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...