Wednesday, May 28, 2014

I read an excerpt of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings sometime in eight grade, after getting my classes transferred around a lot and ultimately being shoved into third period English. The class was studying just one passage from the novel rather than the whole book. I knew next to nothing about the narrative, just that the little girl didn't seem to speak much. When I heard that the whole novel had been banned multiple times for containing controversial content (intricate exploration of racism, descriptions of sexual abuse, trauma, teenage pregnancy, etc), I jumped to find it because I was thirteen and loved controversy.

It sounds like a stupid reason to try and read a novel, but I was just a kid, barely entering adolescence (and it's not like those have been my smartest years either). As a preteen, I didn't know why I liked literature. I didn't pay attention to style, or voice, or structure, or capturing the complexity of an individual through the written page. And those years were filled with so much stupid, insipid thoughts about my life, that I can't even remember when or how I found Maya Angelou's first autobiography. It must have been at the library because I don't have the book here anymore. I know I spoke with my dad about it back then, as I spoke with him about it again, by coincidence, just a few days ago. And I know I loved her writing, even if I couldn't tell you why.

Sometimes it's hard to see the little things that influenced me. And sometimes I forget to be thankful to the people who impacted my thoughts and my writing (so, practically, my whole self) when I was an erratically annoying but painfully human thirteen year old. It might not have been obvious then, but I know her writing helped me and a thousand others grow; great authors have that effect on people.

RIP  Maya Angelou. And thank you for making us listen.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

More Distractions!

Now Playing: Nine Inch Nails - March of the Pigs, Even Deeper, and Letting You (All live)

Hah. Guess what? It's another One-In-The-Morning-Why-Am-I-Awake-And-Avoiding-My-Novel post! :D

Mostly because this:

Yes. I suddenly know way too much about bloodletting. I also know now that the black plague killed people in a matter of days. Which, like, is terrible, but has the "oh at least their suffering was cut short" feeling. Granted, it doesn't even matter because this character didn't have the black plague. She just had black-plague-like-symptoms...which I stretched out to three years. OH GOD. THE GUILT. I'm sorry Imaginary Head Person--I know it's gotta suck. But it's the dark ages--it sucks for everyone.

Oh, speaking of twitter: for the past few weeks, #amwriting has been trending like mad. Pulling myself away from distractions is even harder than usual. Since I get the house all to myself on most weekdays, I've been blasting music on the speakers and trying to write as much as possible. (Mostly, I keep putting up the live footage of the NIN Tension 2013 tour).

Which works out pretty well. Kind of. Before I bring up twitter and absolutewrite and /r/writing, etc.

But I am definitely writing more now in the summer than I ever have, so clearly this is a good time of my life. I am both old and disciplined enough to concentrate, but also young enough that I'm granted long periods of time where I have nothing but hours and hours of free time.

Which is not to say I don't get distracted. Like right now.

Last week I was checking the amwriting hash-tag--trying not to tweet every insipid thought that popped into my head and mostly succeeding--when I came across something that hit close to home. This other writer said something about a difficult scene he was working on. I favorite'd, replied, and checked out his twitter profile and website.

And I saw this post.

I feel like being super self-absorbed and wanna distract myself after a long day of writing. Sooooo...

Q: What am I working on at the moment?

A: Millennium Girl! Which--in my infinite talent of getting attached to stories in super hard to publish genres--is an adult Urban Fantasy novel I'm about 55k words into. I've been working on it since January because I'm a slow-poke who can't finish something within three months like some other writers >_> It was partially inspired by a scene at the very end of Beyond Two Souls, which led to the age-regeneration concept behind Lilith's immortality. And that's all I can say without making it sound idiotic >>

Q: How does my work differ from others of its genre?

A: Uh. It...doesn't, as far as I can tell. Like, okay, I actually am not a super well versed urban fantasy reader (I know, that's really bad. But I didn't exactly pick the genre, it picked me) so I'm not sure.

From what I can gather, basic archetypes of urban fantasy novels with main female characters have this: sassy, mature, sexy woman with sexy and badass fighting skills deals with [INSERT MYTHOLOGICAL CREATURE HERE] and the occasional sexy bad boy(s) as romantic interest(s). And sometimes she's a mythological or super powerful creature herself. I guess...the main difference is that Millennium Girl has zero romance? Or well that's a lie. Yuki and Wendy are in a long-term, serious relationship. And I think Lilith once accidentally hits on Wendy's brother but it doesn't go anywhere (and I might delete that scene--unsure). So technically, there's no actual focus on romance.

I can also say without a shadow of doubt there is nothing sexy about Millennium Girl >_> Which might admittedly kill my chances of reaching a broad adult demographic? (I don't know. I'm not...really good at knowing What People Want).

But yeah. I'm making assumptions here. I'm actually 90% sure there are plenty of Urban Fantasy novels that differ from the common archetypes. But I'm not yet sure how mine does.

Oh! I suppose there's this: I don't use any established mythological creatures. There are otherworldly entities discussed in Millennium Girl, but they're not demons or ghosts or vampires or whatever. And--I haven't gotten there yet so take this with a grain of salt--there's a scene in the later half of the book that feels like a genre shift. I haven't really fleshed this out yet. Hell, I don't even really know how the entities look like. But it is an important aspect, and it's probable that it'll become more substantial to the plot later on.

Q: Why do I write what I do?

A: I wasn't sure if this question is suppose to relate to the genre or not. Since I don't really know if Urban Fantasy is going to be a thing for me in the future, I guess I can't answer this question. But why do I write speculative fiction in general? It's fun :P

But I can think about it. If I give the complicated answer for why Millennium Girl started to subconsciously go down this way, it's this: I was bitching the other day about the use of women as martyrs, or props, or as helpful objects meant to push leading men to be the heroes of their stories. This is an old feminist criticism of media, one that is sadly both super relevant but also kind of talked about to death. And that's probably because there's been no visible, substantial change just yet. We're getting there, but it's still a while to go.

I think my real beginnings as the writer I am now started off with Hitomi and Redemption. Hitomi's arc was very personal, but it was also very grand in scale. She changes for herself but also because humanity needs her. And sometimes, that's what divides my heroes and heroines. No one is truly in one extreme, but there is a tiny division of people who fought for themselves or fought for others. The latter has more characters--which might also be because I've tried to write large scale epics of war and massacre and great power.

But I want to write about deeply empathetic women who become heroines for the world and also want to write about those with only personal stories, in control of nothing but their own destinies. Admittedly, one of Lilith's motivations is the well-being of innocent people who may have been indirectly hurt by her and Ansel. But this is still mostly about her. It is her well being on the line. And I think that might sound selfish, but I also think that's okay. I think Lilith is both empathetic and a little bit selfish. I have to assume a balance can be achieved. I want, even if just for once, my protagonist to be a heroine mostly for herself and no one else.

I don't know if I'll manage to get that across without making it too on-the-nose or butchering Lilith's chance to be likeable, but I'll take the challenge and hope for the best Dx.

Q: How does my writing process work?

A: Badly >_> I try and write every day, but am nowhere near disciplined enough for daily word-count goals.  And am also a slow drafter, so I don't think I can really get away with it. When I was younger, I used to hop around story to story. This, combined with constant attempts at editing the first draft before it was done, meant I never finished anything. I've certainly gotten better now, but it doesn't stop the occasional wandering thought of "GO AHEAD AND FINISH THIS SO I CAN WRITE THAT OTHER THINGY." Which is...counter-productive. And makes for some rushed scenes. And temporarily slaughters my fun.

The good thing is that I have never, ever relied on inspiration, not even when I was little. I've never felt the need. I don't want to make it sound like I'm saying writers who do rely on inspiration are doing it wrong or--god forbid--"are not real writers" (gag). I'm saying that I would personally never get anything done if I did.

But I like getting hit with tiny doses of it. So in general, here's how it works:

I listen to music (Trent Reznor, Martin O'Donnell, Yoko Kanno; in general, my favorite movie/video game/show soundtracks) to get the initial waves of inspiration. I almost never pay attention to lyrics--if there are any--and instead try and imagine scenes with whatever emotions the music invokes (...evokes?). Characters come to me visually. I learn how old they are, as well as their race, age, height, sexuality, nationality, career of choice, and even clothing style. It's oddly detailed and sometimes changes around, but it always comes out in chunks. After a long while, I look around for a name and test it out. Before typing anything, I scribble ideas down on notebooks. Occasionally, I fill up a character bio.

I never know that much about my stories when I start them. I see scenes but I don't usually know the plot. And I only ever know if a novel is going to last if I can write the first two pages in full. (It's kind of surprising to see how quickly some ideas fall apart after those two pages >.>)For a while, I tried to type up scenes out of order so I could up my word count and not have to slug through some slow moments, but I've found it works better when I write said scenes in my notebooks and revisit them a long while afterwards.

I can't quite figure out if I really outline or not. Some writers say they know when they write, and so they discover the story as they craft it. I think it'd be the same for me if I wasn't constantly thinking about it. I see what happens progressively even if I'm not actively working on it. (But sometimes, I get so excited about a scene, I jot it down even if I know I'll remember it).

It does take me a while to really get to know my characters. But when I do, I start to love them as if they're real people. And I'm thankful for their presence and proud of their growth, as if they were living, breathing individuals rather than pieces of me.

It takes me a long while to get through first drafts, which can be super frustrating. But when I finally know my characters the writing gets easier, and there's nothing else I'd rather be doing.


Okay, back to Millennium Girl. If anyone/another writer is reading this--SwankIvy? :D--I TAG YOU.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

How I Waste My Time >:(

Now Playing:
It's like one in the morning. I've spent the last hour and a half playing with these three (1) dress-up (2) games (3) and then promptly formatting the screenshots into one pretty picture on Paint. >_> I do these things when I'm bored senseless or can't seem to write. Right now, it's sadly the latter. I scribbled down a version of this important scene in my notebook a few weeks back, but on paper and ink it's super short and vague. Now that I'm transcribing everything, I have to expand it, focus on more details, keep the emotion just right, etc.

And I' Both out of fear that I'm not going to get it right, and out of doubt of how graphic or disturbing I can or should make it. I'm not one for gratuitous violence/gore/horror, but this whole scene is suppose to be traumatizing as hell for Lilith. (My sweet immortal. I'm sorry Dx. The turn of the story demands it.)

So instead, I played around with dress-up games. Boom! Courtesy of Rinmaru.

Wendy, Lilith, and Yukiko
It took forever to get those tiny scars on Lilith's face. It's like...a million times worse in the actual story, but it also happens after this scene. Which is why I'm flailing around. UNEASINESS LEVELS RISING.

I did figure out a reason for the weird way my descriptions sometimes get when Lilith and Ansel are physically interacting. I read somewhere that sometimes when people go through something traumatic--like a car crash--it feels like the world starts running in slow motion. But it's not because your perception of time is changing through adrenaline or whatever. It's because your brain is storing more memories, so when you think back and remember all the little details, it feels like it all went down slowly.

I'm thinking that's what's happening with Lilith. When Ansel gets close to touching her, she's in such terror she feels and hears and sees his every move. Nothing escapes her. So it's not so much that Ansel is pulling me into his thoughts, it's that I'm seeing it as Lilith sees it.

Which I like to think is the reason I end up feeling so uncomfortable. I'll have to check, wayyy down the line, with beta readers to see if it's the same for them. It might be too underwhelming to them or they just don't notice it at all. Maybe I feel it more because I'm too deeply attached to the characters. Or it comes across as just right. (It can also be even more disturbing, which I'm totes fine with. Overwhelming is fine. Under is not).

Okay. I will force myself to write this. Somehow. Someway. Gha! I'm so worried. I'm so sorry Lilith I love you don't hate me Dx.

Despite this, I am weirdly happy with Millennium Girl. Mostly because of Yuki and Wendy. I adore those two so much.

*I can't find the original recording of this song, just live footage and slightly altered uploads. It's so annoying! @_@ I might put up the version I have on YouTube or something. It's too good not to be heard D:<
I can't believe I hadn't realized Enrique Bunbury was the lead singer of Héroes del Silencio. In my defense, he had short hair for a while. So...not my fault.
EDIT: Wait, I think I FOUND IT. 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Lilith. Ansel.

Now Playing: Red Dead Redemption OST - Far Away

[There was an excerpt here. I decided to remove it].

...I don't know how I feel about these lines out of context. I mean, the obvious is that they're kind of meh because my prose is bland (I hate my narrative voice--it's so freaking comatose I want to stab it stabitstabitstabitSTABIT AND PUT IT OUT OF ITS MISERY). But aside from that, what do I think about them?

Even in rewrites, the basic images will remain. Ansel, consumed by desperation, searching for her, wishing she would give in.

For a few moments, when I write their confrontations, I feel Ansel pulling me into his head. And I see her as he sees her. I feel what he feels. I know he craves to hold her. I know he blames her for his pain and yet longs for her touch.

And if I was another person, and this was another story, it'd be a love of tragic beauty. (Gag).

But Lilith's terror always yanks me out of his head, and I feel the usual disgust and anger at his obsession.

In context, these scenes are getting weirdly uncomfortable. It's not a love story. That much I know. But when these moments spring up, and when I think about the concept and the little images, I start to wonder if they're spinning out of my control. I wonder if I'm writing it correctly, or if, in the grand scheme of things, it's coming out as romanticized.

They're just my characters right now. Immortal individuals who've drifted through the world, one as a wanderer and a runaway, the other as a hunter with a one-track mind.

But I'm worried that the more I write, the more they'll start to represent other things. What will that say about me and my little corner of the world?

I guess that's the scariest part of writing: losing control.

And this all probably sounds perfectly nonsensical.
"Science and science fiction have done a kind of dance over the last century... The scientists make a finding. It inspires science fiction writers to write about it, and a host of young people read the science fiction and are excited, and inspired to become scientists...which they do, which then feeds again into another generation of science fiction and science..."
- Carl Sagan, in his message to future explorers of Mars.