Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween all! I hope your day is full of candy and scary movies and awesome costumes and other Halloweeny-stuffs.

Here's a Halloweeny thing I wrote weeks ago for a 500 word writing competition on Go Teen Writers.  The inspiration for this came from a combination of an old epitaph and this really weird story idea I had a few years ago.   If you like, critique it and tell me what you think. 

Something warmed my face.  An orange glow illuminated the insides of my eyelids.  The smell of grass tickled my nose.  It was a lovely day.
Something told me this was wrong. But how could it be?
My stiff eyelids fluttered open.  Blue.  All above me was watercolor blue. The warmth on my face seemed to say “Stay and look at this blue.  The sunlight will keep you safe.”
Sunlight. That was the warmth I felt.  How could I have forgotten?
I curled my fingers to feel the grass.  The cool ribbons felt good against my stiff fingers.
Why was I so stiff?  What had I done yesterday? I didn’t remember. What about this morning?  Who had I been with?  I didn’t remember.  A shot of fear ripped through my stomach.   I couldn’t remember anything before lying here in the sun.
Surely there was someone in my life, someone I loved, and who loved me.  No memories of family, friends, or foes came to me.
Who was I?
My mind was blank.
My breath came in panicked bursts.  Who was I?  Where was I?  How had I gotten here? What had happened?  Why did it feel so wrong to breathe?
My back creaked with pain as I sat up.  I was in a field bordered by trees.  Ink spots appeared before my eyes, blotting out the landscape around me. The world began to tip.  My head hit the ground. 
What was happening to me? Who was I?
Something in my mind whispered Tess.
My name was Tess.  Tess Who?  
My heart pounded. My ears rang. I put a hand to my face to shield my now burning eyes. 
My skin was white. White like the skin of a corpse. White like death.
Was I dead?  Is this what death felt like?  If this was death, what had my life been like?
A memory penned feint words on the backs of my eyelids. 
Remember friend as you pass by…
Remember what?
… As you are now so once was I…
The words sharpened in my mind’s eye.  Dark words, written in stone.
… As I am now so shall you be…
“Prepare for death, and follow me.” My throat felt rough, and my tongue felt dry and awkward in my mouth and on my parched lips as I formed the words.   They felt so strange, yet so familiar.  Why did I remember such an eerie verse? Because I remembered death.
More memories formed as death painted a picture in my mind.  A woman looked down on me, her brow creased in worry and her eyes full of love and…sadness? 
Colors shifted and the scene changed. I looked down at the woman dressed in black as she stood by a small stone church. Others stood with her.  A train of gloomy figures dressed in black.
The picture blurred as though it were wet paint being washed away.  A tear ran down my cheek, the warm water soothing my burning eyes.

 I'd forgotten how creepy this is.  Hope you...enjoyed it.  Happy Halloween! Because, ya know, saying it three times in one post is absolutely necessary.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Development of Characters is a Difficult Matter...

Over the last few weeks, I've been working on prep work for my NaNo novel.  One thing that I severely stunk at last year was character development, so I've been working more on characters than plot lately.  I saw somewhere that someone said that strong characters can carry a weak plot, but weak characters will wreck a strong plot.   I don't know if the former is true, but I had a decent plot for NaNo last year, and my shallow, cardboard-cut-out characters made it seem shallow and cardboard-like.

For character development advice and ideas, I went to Go Teen Writers, a seriously awesome writing site that you should check out as soon as you're done reading this post.

One thing I did was label my characters (as a hunter, giver, monster, ect.) , as Jill Williamson suggests in this post, using her list of archetypes in this post. Once I had labels, I started asking the question "why?", like Susie May Warren said in this post. Why is this character a giver? What made her think that way? Why did that occurrence happen? And so on.

This really helped me to begin fleshing out some of my characters and their backstories.  Take, for instance, my character the late Lord Wycliff Copperstone (Gwen's uncle).  Once I found a label for him, (actually, it was three) and started asking why, I got some tidbits for potential backstory.  Here's what I have for him in my character development Word doc:

Uncle Wycliff was a tyrant, bully, manipulator.  [He liked to be in control, had no tolerance for weakness (especially in himself), he played with situations and people to get what he wanted.]  He didn’t tolerate weakness because someone he looked up to did something he considered “weak” and it crushed him. He wanted to be in control because he felt like he didn’t have control of his life, so he controlled everything else (and thus his life, kinda). He manipulated people and situations because it was a way for him to control things, and he felt manipulated, possibly by the person that let him down by showing “weakness”, or, someone he looked up to later was a manipulator, so Wycliff copied him/her.
I don't have a lot yet, but labeling and asking why helped to get ideas flowing.

The latest thing I've done was answer the questions from Susie May Warren in this post:

What was the darkest moment of your childhood that shaped your past?
What kind of a person are you today because of that?
What lie do you believe?
What emotional wound do you carry?
What's your greatest fear?
What are your motivations and values?
What would you die for?
What are you good at?
When the going gets tough, what do you do?
What was the happiest moment of his past?
What's your character's greatest dream?
What truth will set you free?
What was a black moment in your past/childhood? (The black moment has to do with romance. If you're not writing a romance or at least including it in your book, you don't need this question.)

I finished doing this for most of my characters this evening, and the results were so interesting.  For instance,  both Yoreth, one of the villains, and Bevanne, one of Gwen's friends, have a love of reading/learning, but for different reasons.  Yoreth wanted to learn because he used to get teased for being dumb.  Bevanne just loved learning. There were other interesting things, but that's the one I can remember right now.

I finally understand what I've heard about character backstory making all the difference.  It made sense before, but now I get it.

One semi-good, semi-bad thing I discovered is that I'm really good at creating "broken" characters. By broken, I mean psychologically messed up in a big way (like my character who can't get over his brother's death). I almost titled this post, "Help! Get the duct tape! My characters are broken!"  Being good at creating such characters is good because "broken" characters are interesting to write about.  The bad side is I don't necessarily like "broken" characters.  They can get morose really fast (like the guy who can't get over his brother's death), which is really annoying.  This is not post-Donna Doctor Who. Though come to think about it, I can fix my "broken" characters in the story, and that will lead to a happy ending, plus be relatively interesting story content.  That was really obvious, wasn't it? *Shakes her head at herself*

The other thing I did for some character development was take some Jung/Meyers-Briggs personality tests as my main character.  That was interesting, but I liked the above methods better.  If you want to know more about those personality tests and how they relate to character development, read this post on Go Teen Writers. 

How do you develop you characters?  What helps you find your characters hidden depths?

Friday, October 19, 2012

National Teen Read Week

Today I'm posting for the National Teen Read Week blog tour hosted by Inklined

My name is Lily, I love to read, write, play the piano (badly), and sing (also badly). As a gift for my last birthday, my mom created this blog for me.  I still have no idea what I'm doing with it, but it's been fun so far.

For my Teen Read Week post, I'm going to list some of my favorite books that aren't super popular. 

1. Gone Away Lake and Return to Gone Away by Elizabeth Enright.  Written back in the '60s, these books tell about the adventures Portia and Foster Blake when they discover an old dried up lake and the ruins of the town that used to surround it. Only two people still live by the lake, a brother and sister who grew up by there, and they tell Portia and Foster wonderful stories of what the town used to be like.  In Return to Gone Away, the Blake family buys and moves into one of the old houses by the lake.

2. Laddie: A True Blue Story by Gene Stratton Porter.  This one is about a girl called Little Sister (I don't think you learn her real name) and her adventures growing up in Indiana in the 1910s.  Little Sister is the youngest of 12 children, and her favorite sibling is her older brother Laddie. There's not really a central plot, per se, other than Laddie's crush on "The Fairy Princess" Miss Pamela Pryor, but the individual little stories told throughout the book are charming.  The blue goose, the Easter egg hunt, the evil ram, the spelling bee, those weird curtains that no one can agree on, and Leon reading from the Bible.  Seriously, you have to read the book if for just that scene.

Keeper of the Bees is another great one by Gene Stratton Porter. 

3.  The Enchanted Forest Chronicles (Dealing With Dragons, Searching For Dragons, Calling on Dragons, and Talking to Dragons) By Patricia C. Wrede.  When Princess Cimorene gets sick of being a proper princess, she runs away from the castle and volunteers her service to a dragon.  I can't tell you too much more about them without giving away spoilers, but these are great.  Cimorene is awesome.

4. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman.  Since it's by Neil Gaiman, this one may be more popular than I think, but I'll include it anyway.  This story is about Bod, a boy whose family was killed when he was a baby, and afterwards was raised by the ghosts in the local graveyard.   It's dark, and weird, but really good.

There are more books, of course, but I think I'll confine this post to the ones listed above.  Thanks for stopping by! And thanks to Sarah from Inklined for hosting the blog tour.
Here's the rest of today's schedule:
Friday, Oct. 19

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

National Teen Read Week and The Fantastic Blog Award (Again)

Sarah over at Inklined is putting together a blog tour for National Teen Read Week.

I had no idea such a week existed, but it sounds like fun. 

Anyway.  Sarah is looking for more participants for the blog tour.  If you'd like to participate, you can find the details in this post. 

Also, I was nominated again for the fantastic blog award.  About two weeks ago.  So, my apologies to tomte from Inside the Junk Drawer and Katelyn from The Life of a Teenage Writer for not getting this up sooner.
Thank you for nominating me, ladies.  The funny part is that you two nominated me within six minutes of each other.

Since I have already passed this award on once, I will just answer the questions this time.

Katelyn's questions:
What is your favorite book? Hmm.  I can't say that I can honestly answer this one.  I love lots of books. 
When did you start blogging and why? My sixteenth birthday, because my mom created a blog for me for my birthday.
What do you hope your blog has/will accomplished? Um, still working on that.
Do you prefer to be indoors or outdoors during Autumn? Depends on the weather.
What is your favorite thing about Autumn?  Hmm, it's a toss up between the colors of the leaves and NaNoWriMo.

tomte's questions:
What is the name of your bedroom door? Why does it have that name?  It doesn't have a name.  Though I do have a turtle shaped door stop named Titania.  I don't remember why she's named that.
What is the most recent WORST book that you read? Hmm.  I'd probably say Firestar by Chris D'Lacey. The book itself was pretty good, but the ending made me mad.  For those of you who have read it, the part that ticked me off was Zanna's......situation, at the end.
Do you enjoy old-fashioned telephones? Why/why not? Yes!  Just because.
If you could only read one book through the whole year, which one would it be? That would be torture. I'm not sure on this one.  Something really long, like something of Dicken's, perhaps.
What is the best part of your blog/your favorite widget?  I can't think of an answer to this one. Sorry.

I think that's all I've got to say in this post. See ya!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Mark of Athena, Reviewed

I finished reading The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan this morning. I'm still reeling about the end a bit.

But I'll get to that in a minute. Below is my spoiler-free review of the above book.

The Mark of Athena is the third installment of Rick Riordan's Heroes of Olympus series.

Overall, I really liked The Mark of Athena.  The romance was mostly boring.  Why is it people are always going on about how handsome/beautiful their love interest is?  I mean, really, of all the things to go on about, they choose something as blah as that? 


The humor was fantastic, as usual with Mr. Riordan's writing.  The plot was good; full of action and monsters that alternate between being terrifying and as-funny-as-possible-while-trying-to-kill-everyone.  I love all the characters.  And the end was blinken brilliant.  Annoying, because of the humongous GAH-I-have-to-wait-a-year-for-the-next-one! cliffhanger, but brilliant.

Okay, that's the end of the spoiler-free zone. So, those of you who haven't read The Mark of Athena, DO NOT PROCEED!


Random things I liked about The Mark of Athena:

I LOVED that Percy had a fear of drowning in this one.  I'm not sure I can explain why, but I loved it nonetheless.

One of the few parts of romance I liked was when Percy and Annabeth were reunited at the beginning, when they just sort of stare at each other for a minute and don't run to each other until after Reyna begins speaking. 

And the end. THE END! I was nearly in tears when I realized that Percy and Annabeth were going to fall.

So.  That's my pathetic excuse for a review.   I thought I'd be better that this.  Ah, well, I'll just have to keep practicing.  Have a nice day!

Friday, October 5, 2012

TCWT! October Blog Chain, NaNoWriMo Edition

Today, with this post, I kick off the Teens Can Write, Too! October blog chain.   This month's prompt is:

“What are you writing for NaNoWriMo? Briefly explain how this book idea come about. Then write a mock first page for the novel.”

For those of you unaware, NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month.  (Also known as November)

This year for NaNo I'm writing my first fantasy. The working title is Noxumbra Manor.  Here's the blurb I wrote for the NaNo website:

"Gwendolyn Copperstone has been a peasant all her life, but when she inherits the insolvent estate Noxumbra Manor from her uncle, she gets flung into a world of deceit and mystery. Gwen's uncle had secrets, and someone will do anything to make sure Gwen doesn't find out what they were."    

The story of how I came up with this idea kinda.... I dunno, funny?   Once my mom asked me what my pseudonym would be if I were to publish under one.  After some thought, I decided on Gwendolyn Copperstone.
A few weeks later, I found NaNoWriMo, and I signed up using that name.  Over the course of the month, Gwen sort of....evolved.  Kinda.  She wasn't just my NaNo username.  I'd come up with an appearance for her: long, red, wavy hair and green eyes.  Don't ask why, I don't really know myself. 

Sometime after NaNo, I started thinking about Gwen, and who she was. For some reason I decided she should live in Spryll, a fantasy world I'd made up a while ago and hadn't done anything with.

When I started thinking about what I'd do for NaNo this year, I thought about Gwen.  I decided she should be Lord Gwendolyn Copperstone (she inherits a title as well as the manor).  I don't remember why.  Gwen was one of... 3?... characters I was thinking of writing a story for during NaNo.  The problem?  She had no plot.  I knew she inherited a manor that was in horrible shape, and her best friend's name was Sydrian. That was it.

Then I the brilliant idea of someone wanting to scare her out of the manor.  And once I had that, a plot began to form.  I've been thinking and planning and profiling characters and outlining since then, and I'm almost ready for NaNo, and seriously hoping Gwen turns out to be a lot better than Lizzie (the main character in my 2011 NaNo novel).

So, with the backstory finished, here's my first page:

The early spring wind kissed my face with frostbitten lips.  I pulled my cloak closer.  My horse shifted beneath me. 
“Do you hear them, girl?” I asked.  She tossed her main and nibbled at some new greenery poking out of the ground.
Then I heard the sound of hoof beats and ringing of laughter.  
“Ho, Gwendolyn!” A young man’s voice called, “Do you wait for us?” He rounded the corner and came into view, brown hair ruffled by the wind.  A young girl sat on his lap.
I smiled.  “Good morning, Sydrian and Nidia.   You seem to have left the rest of the market train behind.”
“They’re coming,” said Nidia. “Can I ride with you, Gwen?”
“Oi,” said Sydrian, “Why don’t you want to ride with me, your favorite brother?”
“Gwen smells better.”  Nidia wrinkled her nose at Sydrian.
Sydrian and I laughed.  “Yes, you can ride with me, Nidia,” I said.  Sydrian moved his horse next to mine and handed me his sister.  As Nidia settled in front of me, I heard the rumbling sound of wagon wheels.   A wagon piled with goods for the market rounded the corner, followed by a smaller wagon carrying stall pieces and children, and some adults on horseback.
“Good morning, Gwen,” said the man driving the first wagon as he came to a halt.
“Good morning, Arvel,” I said. “Sydrian, seeing as I now carry your load, would you please add my box to the rest on the stock wagon?”
“Of course,” he said.  He hoisted my box into the wagon.  Once it was secure, he jumped back on his horse and struck a dramatic pose. “To Plarn!” he said as though we were headed to battle. Nidia and I laughed.  The wagons lurched forward and headed to the market at Plarn.

Want to be writing buddies?  I'm on both the Young Writers Program and the NaNo main site.

Be sure to check out the rest of the blog chain!!

Want to follow our blog chain? Here are the participating parties, day by day:
October 5th  – Lily’s Notes in the Margins
October 6th – Reality Is Imaginary
October 7th – One Life Story
October 8th – Of a Writerly Sort
October 9th – The Leaning Tower of Plot
October 10th – This Page Intentionally Left Blank
October 11th – What Updates?
October 12th – Miriam Joy Writes
October 13th – Between the Lines
October 14th – Inside the Junk Door
October 15th – Musings From Neville’s Navel
October 16th – Kirsten Writes!
October 17th – A Mirror Made of Words
October 18th – The Teenage Writer
October 19th – Platonic Pencil
October 20th – Mark O’Brien Writes
October 21st – It’s All In My Head
October 22nd – The Incessant Droning of a Bored Writer
October 23rd – Teens Can Write, Too! (We will be announcing the topic for next month’s chain)