Monday, January 26, 2015

30 Week Writing Survey - Week 20: Interactions

Now Playing: The Smashing Pumpkins - 1979

I've been spending an awful lot of time avoiding schoolwork this weekend. I don't really have a lot, but I should be reading for classes and working on Serena's short story*. Three pages doesn't allow for much room of action or conflict, so I just went with the flow and hoped for the best. Now I'm left wondering if my professor will find both my stories too similar to each other and she'll give me the disapproval glare and wagging finger >_> Also, how the hell do I introduce Serena's name if I'm obliged to make this version in first person? The only other sentient being she interacts with is a dragon, and they sure as hell don't exchange pleasantries. Ughhh. I hate first person. At least I get to rewrite it in third for next week.

Good news is I got titles for both of the stories. Serena's story for my remix/style exercises is called Oculus and I'm definitely sticking with Pulse for Breathtaker's story. I usually dislike one word titles for novels, but they come up a lot more often in short stories. And they seem to work better :P

*I spoke with like two other classmates in the last week or so, and was super happy to hear they hadn't written nor even started their assignments. NO GUILT, BABY. We're all last-minute people. My professor will probably notice, but I spent the first few days trying to figure out a plot to shove into three pages. Damn restrictions >_> restrictions that actually fall into super vague instructions...

But yeah. I barely did anything this weekend Dx Hopefully I don't suffer this week for that.


QUESTION 20: What are your favorite character interactions to write? (Arguments? Love scenes? Brawls?) 

You'd think it'd be fight scenes, since I can't get away from them. But that's somehow a sort of favorite and yet the most painful thing ever--I never know if I'm doing it right. Like, am I going too fast and making it too vague? Is it the equivalent of the super stupid shaky cam that's done in action scenes? Or am I slowing down too much in the details and not really letting the scene carry any momentum or sense of urgency? So it becomes the super annoying unnecessary slow-mo version of things? And...are some of these moves feasible? Too much, too little? And what about repetition?

So not brawls. They stress me out.

I considered picking just casual conversations too, but I also struggle to keep the voices consistent if I've just barely gotten to know the people, and in rewrites there's a lot I have to take out or alter. Sometimes they fidget around too much, and sometimes it's just sentence after sentence after sentence of uninterrupted talking. So that's also a struggle.

But after I thought a bit about my current and past novels, I figured it out: moments without any speaking or complications, just people keeping one another company. Those are my favorite interactions.

Ex: Two characters sitting at a cafe after a long day, eating croissants and sipping coffee. Three girls giggling or exchanging smiles while they're all stuffed inside a shuttle or a closet of a bedroom. Friends piling up over a small love seat couch to watch a German movie on a tiny screen. At an alley, one person spray painting on a wall while two others keep her company by hanging out on the sidewalk and watching her work. Two people resting underneath a crimson tree in an alien planet. Wandering through a forest. Friends or a crew staring out the window of a bus or starship, entranced by the scenery.

I have a lot of those moments, and I think I'm really fond of them. I'm fond of conversations too, but I like scenes that can go on for a bit with as little to no dialogue while still involving two people sharing some kind of emotional connection or goal. They're difficult, but they're nice. And I like the silence.
~Becky

Monday, January 19, 2015

30 Week Writing Survey - Week 19: Minor Character

Now Playing: Fever Ray - Keep The Streets Empty For Me

I keep getting assaulted by the idea of dying my hair again--at least a strand or something--before I graduate and neon pink hair becomes a no-no in the business world.

But look at my poor curls:
Descentttt into burnt blonde >:(
Dx they're still recuperating...oh what should I do?

ALSO, I forgot to mention last time--on top of a bunch of reading and writing assignments for the creative writing workshop class, we have a project presentation (15-18 minutes long) about something we're passionate about. And after some thinking and whining to Silvia, I've decided on a thing--I'm gonna do it on Halo >> I ordered a poster, have a book to show to class, and hopefully two to three clips if my professor allows me to use the computer--and they'll be the Starry Night trailer, Covenant Bomb clip from the second game (remastered), and maybe the Halo 4 prologue. I can talk so much about my background with the series and gush about Master Chief being my childhood hero for hoursss, so my attempt to be concise will probably end up being the required 18 minutes ;D

That presentation won't be for a while. I got elected for Week 7 (HOW. FITTING >D). And then two weeks later my story goes up for workshop.

The poster I ordered has this image. (Though proportions are a bit different).
Hopefully it looks super cool when it arrives.

It's pretty blatant what I'm trying to do--open up the class to the idea of sci-fi being really integral to the human experience and emotion on top of often being pretty grandiose--but hey, not like I can be stopped, right? It's required that we're super mega into the thing we're presenting, that we should be hyped as hell and energetic, and practically convince the rest of the class to be into it as much as we are. So that makes Halo freaking perfect. People have their Star Wars and Star Trek and their Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, etc, and I have Halo. Gotta spread the love.

And random note before I move on--this tweet by NASA is so freaking cute...
Now, back to the survey~

Original Challenge!

QUESTION 19: Favorite minor character that decided to shove themself into the spotlight and why! 

Y'know what? I'mma just make it official. IT'S ATARAXIA MONTH. I'm gonna keep bragging about that book for some mystical reason and no one can stop meeeeeeeh.

I'm surprise I almost never talk about dis guy, because I absolutely adored Xuan. He only showed up at the eleventh hour of the book--though he's been mentioned before as the husband of a woman named Charlie, whom Katya fought and executed. I was afraid I'd write him badly and he'd be a stereotypical Evil Albino, but I think I managed to keep him on the grey scale of morality (or as much as I could, since it is a pretty flawed first draft). He's on the darker side of that grey, a criminal after revenge who sees no fault in outright harming people or letting others come to harm.

But he's not a brute. Once Xuan listens to Sonya, he realizes she's trying to come up with a compromise and he doesn't harm her out of pure blinding rage despite what's happened before. He also never harms Caesar and is very kind to the boy. He's open minded and is a strong leader to those who've chosen to follow him.

Xuan is also a bit educated. He explains to Caesar the concept of ataraxia, which leads to a better understanding of how to trigger his powers.

Though he helps and is friendly with Caesar, he's still smart to keep his guard up around Sonya even when they're working together. He's not the savior of humanity, but he doesn't want to be.

He's so, so snarky, which I loved. And even though he tries to hide it often, it's obvious he's still grieving after the death of Charlie. It's clear to me that he loved her deeply even though they never share a scene together. He's not the greatest fighter and Katya exploits his weaknesses in battle, but he's smart and cunning and manages to put up a good fight.

And I really hope I see him some day again >.> One way or another.
~Becky

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Infamy (and more planning)

Now Playing: Chromatics - Tick Of The Clock

This is another one of those "I debated posting this" entries. I don't think I could technically get in any huge trouble for this, but you never know how people could react if I do anything less than gushing and praising.

But it's one of those rambling posts where I jump topic to topic and I need to write it and archive it. So up it goes!

I went to my creative writing class on Tuesday. And this is the part where I say I'm not in any way shape or form making it sound like I'm not grateful I got into the class. Because I am. I am really happy and excited. There were a lot of interesting people; the usual gathering of hipster looking peps, there was a girl who liked video games and wanted to write for them as much as I did, and another girl who I've had for two literature classes (with the same professor, two semesters in a row). That last one was super surprising--all this time, I'd thought she was an English Literature major, not a writer. We got to talking and are gonna go to a poetry reading next Tuesday--because that's the kind of thing English majors do D:< (also, it's required for a grade so we kinda gotta do it, might as well not do it alone).

And my professor seems cool, nice, funny, and has some interesting ideas for the class. There's tons of reading and writing, and it's all about experimenting with styles which I DEFINITELY NEED.

There was this thing in the syllabus--which was the same thing she had in the application--that said if we already like our style and don't want to change it, then the class probably won't be so helpful/for us. Which is perfect because I hateeee my style. It's lifeless and stupid and repetitive and honestly the more I can strangle it into submission and rebirth it into something beautiful--well, the better :D

So that was a good thing.

But The Warning happened. Because god forbid I so much as have time to sneeze in a creative writing class without first getting The Warning.

And this is just a weird incarnation of the Warning. Previously, the general consensus was, "oh I guess you can write genre fiction if you want, but, you know, it's gotta be to our standards, the great, superior literary fiction standards."

(which is what I hear no matter how nice the professors try to phrase it >> Bias. I know).

It roughly translates to--don't think vampires and laser guns and time traveling aliens are going to make your story better. Character comes first, not the fantastical elements.

And fine. I have the rest of my life to argue about the substance and depth of genre fiction, I don't have to spend my university life doing it too.

But it just got really weird with this workshop. There was this entire paragraph at the bottom of the syllabus that said it's a literary fiction class, not genre fiction, and it's not the same, and you don't take up biology  and expect to learn physics even if some things overlap, but we're still allowed to write genre fiction except, and I quote, "you have the added challenge of making your work beautiful on the subtext and prose levels while adhering to the constraints the genre places on your story."

...ehhh?

Constrains? Genre fiction has constrains? What are they?? How do I adhere to them??? What does this even mean????

There was also this other weird thing she said: we're not really suppose to be aiming for commercial fiction.

It's not that she's against us being writers who make a decent living off of our books--she's a working writer,after all, and it'd be great if we could all live off our life's passion.

But but but but

she wants us to aim for infamy, or something. We should strive to write one of those books that are read hundreds of years after the author's death. So it has to be complex, prone to analysis, beautiful and meaningful, timeless, that kind of stuff.

And I get what she's going for--I really do. Pretty much all my creative writing classes hammer on the importance of subtext and complexity. All good stories--in all categories and mediums--have subtext and complexity to a certain degree. And that's the kind of book that survives for hundreds of years and gets torn to pieces by literature aficionados everywhere.

But it's just such a weird thing to say.

This is not the first time I've heard it phrased this way. I remember in reddit, in /r/writing, someone asked why we write and what we hope to accomplish. And someone said that once they die and their family members and friends die, the only thing that will be left of them--their legacy--will be their writing, and they will live on forever through their books.

>_> I...I am becoming a broken record by now. I'm going to spend the rest of my life asking: what the hell is it with people's obsession with immortality?

No, I get it. Death is scary. The unknown is scary. We're a self-centered group of individuals, we want the world to bow at our feet and chant our name hundreds of years from now.

Except why?

Like,

WHO GIVES A SHIT?

Who cares if you're forgotten after you died? You sure as hell aren't going to know if or when that happens. You'll be dead. You won't know.

I don't write to be remembered. I don't even write to make a difference. Oh, I hope my stories will make a difference, but I don't sit down when outlining and think "hmm, how will this story impact human existence in the present and future?" Does that inherently make my approach to writing shallow?

So those two things do make me worry about how well I'll do in this class. I'm sure I'll learn a lot and I hope I'll improve, but there's already that gap on the foundation between what I want and care about and what the professor wants and cares about. It's not a gap that's insanely big, but it's noticeable. It won't swallow you whole, but it might make you trip and break your teeth.

The class is suppose to be difficult. She's not like other professors that give out A's as long as the story's got the basics in place. An A in other classes means, "I don't know if I have the right to truly judge the quality, but it's technically a full story, no grammar or spelling mistakes, adheres to the format requirements, etc."

Nope! Not here. Here, the basics get you a C.

Which I am totally fine with, tbh. I'll take the challenge, even if it means it'll make my GPA nosedive.

I wasn't fine with it Tuesday. I was freaking out and worrying about everything and then somewhere between 11pm and midnight, when I was staring at the rainbow cornucopia of sticky notes on my wall, my brain went "lol  just write mythic sci-fi."

So I'll do it. I always wanted to frame a fairy tale within a sci-fi backdrop, in the same way that Dune and Destiny have a fantasy feel to them with their lore. I'm planning it out now, getting some of the mythology down, the reasons behind why the world is what it is, and trying to figure out who my protagonist is.

Actually, I already have an idea.

Remember how I said I loved the design of my inquisitor and guardian and wanted to do something with them in the near future?

I'm gonna do it now. All I have is their appearances down and some vague ideas of who they could be and who they might be in the present--but that's a lot on its own.

Through the winter break, I was also reading Halo: Cryptum, and in it, the translations of the Forerunner names are super literal and kind of poetic >.> The main character is named Bornstellar Makes Eternal Lasting. And I just think that's so adorable. (Another example is Glory of a Far Dawn--action girl Forerunner).

And yeah, it's all rule of cool and might be ridiculous but WEEEEE I do what I want and what I want is my blue girl with black lipstick to have such a name >.>

And I actually have one already! It happened a while back.

See, I couldn't think of a name for this blue girl for agesss until my brother came up with one. We were going back and forth, and on a lengthy drive and after some brief discussion, we settled on Breathtaker of Nightfall. Bree for short ;D Which is actually not as long as I intended. I wanted like six different titles, but nothing sounded right. He was pretty adamant about keeping "Nightfall" in there, and I kind of like it. Because my special nickname for Serena is snowfall WHAT DON'T JUDGE MEEEE DX

And that's where my story idea for this class started--how does she get that name? Because I don't think it sounds like something she'd be given at birth, it sounds like something she would have to earn.

And while this short--working title Pulse--may not be canon if Serena and Bree end up in their own novel, it'll still be interesting. I got to know other characters through these kinds of exercises, and they're always fun and informative even if the actual short stories don't end up being part of final products.

(Important side note: And no, I'm not going to take anything from DA:I or Destiny. This isn't fanfiction. It's going to be my own original stories and characters and worlds. I'm using the appearances as a launching point to their stories, and even then the appearances will change. I already know--because of the setting--one of them is going to have some kind of facial deformity. It's the usual routine for character creation: I get glimpses, I see how they look like, and then I get to know them).

For the style exercises, I'm going to use Serena since I truly don't know anything about her. I don't know where she comes from or what she's like. I know she has albinism and I know her name, but nothing else. This'll be the chance to find her voice.

Then for the workshop story draft, I'll use Bree. I already know she's going to be really young--somewhere between 12 and 14--and definitely not an action girl yet, just resourceful, terrified, and brave. Should be awesome~

Plus it's my excuse to write about giants and blue girls.

Which reminds me...

I still have Vanguard's Exodus, of course, (also chock-full of giants and blue girls; you know me, I'm a one trick pony) but as this is my last semester and I do have slightly challenging classes, I'm not going to beat myself up if I can't get more than 10k words a month. I'm at a healthy 65k into it, so if I finish by May or whatever, it'll still be 6 months of writing, which seems to be my average. Millennium Girl also slowed down a ton during my Spring 2014 semester and I picked up speed and finished and did the first round of edits through summer.

So. Uh. That's the end of this rambling post. Wish me luck?
~Becky

Monday, January 12, 2015

30 Week Writing Survey - Week 18: Antagonist

Now Playing: Nine Inch Nails - The Wretched

>_> Ughhhh my classes are being mean. Asking for so much group projects and exams. Whatever happened to good ol' essays? I can do essays. I can crank out a million essays in a month. Why does my last semester have to be so evil? Dx

Some good news: I'm going to my creative writing workshop tomorrow. Because last week started classes on a Wednesday and my workshop is only on Tuesdays I haven't yet met my professor or the other students. And I'm so freaking fracking EXCITED!!! I hope she/they like my writing. And I hope I can get some pretty cool stories out of class. I met Dr. Monroe, Valentine, and Kaede because of some workshop stories, and I really got to know Isadora through a couple more. So I can't wait to see who comes along this semester >:D

But that's it for updates.


QUESTION 18: Favorite antagonist and why!

>_>

<_ p="">

Uhhhh.

For some reason, this question is even more difficult than the protagonist one. At least with that one I could have picked any character and ran with it. But here, I like some antagonists but I also hate other ones, and I'm trying to decide what exactly favorite means. Favorite writing them? Favorite developing them? Favorite as in love-to-hate-them? SO MANY OPTIONS.

Y'know, since I gushed about Caesar last week, I'mma keep it fair and gush about Ataraxia's antagonist. From the beginning I knew the central conflict would come from Katya and her deteriorating relationship with her sister as well as her desires for revenge, so I was super hyped to write her wayyy before I even got started.

About two years ago, I expressed some concern about some unfortunate implications that could be found in Ataraxia. Among them was the idea that I'd written a stereotypical mad woman in power with Katya and even with Maria.

But you know what? Fuck that noise! This quote from Gillian Flynn, writer of Gone Girl, really changed my mind about that:

"Libraries are filled with stories on generations of brutal men, trapped in a cycle of aggression. I wanted to write about the violence of women...Isn’t it time to acknowledge the ugly side? I’ve grown quite weary of the spunky heroines, brave rape victims, soul-searching fashionistas that stock so many books. I particularly mourn the lack of female villains — good, potent female villains. Not ill-tempered women who scheme about landing good men and better shoes (as if we had nothing more interesting to war over), not chilly WASP mothers (emotionally distant isn’t necessarily evil), not soapy vixens (merely bitchy doesn’t qualify either). I’m talking violent, wicked women. Scary women. Don’t tell me you don’t know some. The point is, women have spent so many years girl-powering ourselves — to the point of almost parodic encouragement — we’ve left no room to acknowledge our dark side. Dark sides are important. They should be nurtured like nasty black orchids."

^so on that note, I like to think I got close with Katya. Or at the very least, I attempted it. So many times, in literature, film, real life, women are hardly seen as a threat. We're weak, vulnerable, in need of protection. Sometimes fictional women use that facade to their advantage. If a man thinks you're not threat, he'll never see the knife you're wielding, ready to strike. And that's interesting, but it's been done a lot. What about women who are scary from the beginning? We don't always have to hide behind the veil society's thrown at us because of our gender. I want women to be scary--to be feared, in the same way some men are. (Not that I'm encouraging a world built on fear of one another, but it's not like we're at a balance nowadays either.)

Ataraxia doesn't work for a great deal of reasons--the worldbuilding and writing and pace are all over the place--but I'm proud of Katya, and just how much power and control she exerted. She always had a plan and she was always working toward her goals. Sure, she had a bit of a temper, but Maria and sometimes Sonya balanced her out well enough. I'm so glad I finished Ataraxia and saw her story through to the end.

So here's to more female antagonists! I hope I write many more.
~Becky

Monday, January 5, 2015

30 Week Writing Survey - Week 17: Protagonist

Now Playing: Trevor Morris - Maker and Enchanter (Dragon Age: Inquisition OST)

I'm going to try and do this even though I have to start packing and stuff. School is starting so...*panic*

But at least I'm picking up the weekly survey again~


QUESTION 17: Favorite protagonist and why! 

D:< Ask me to pick my favorite child, why don't you?

No jk. I'm sure I can pick. Uh...err...



Okay, okay. I could ramble and ramble and ramble about every single character/protagonist of mine, but I don't want this post to be two hundred pages long.

So I'll pick Caesar, from Ataraxia.

Gushing begins here: A lot of the time, my protagonists are adults who have to deal with past mistakes, or with reevaluating things they've done or how they've acted or what their future might be. Caesar is young. He's in the thick of the action while also not exactly capable of putting up a fight against fully grown people that might try to harm him. While he's an orphan, Caesar was lucky enough to have two foster fathers that care about him and want to adopt him, but he rejects them often and is confused about his place in the world. The death of his parents still affect him, and he's incapable of feeling comfortable within close proximity of people.

He is a lot more prone to follow people's orders, but he's also always trying to prove himself to them, trying to show that he's not useless. It's pretty easy to offend or anger him, by insulting him, talking badly about his foster family or his birth family, or trying to harm Sonya. It was actually kind of amusing to see him snap after the halfway point and become more assertive and outspoken.

While circumstances places him in dangerous situations, he's never at a standstill. He's always moving forward. He's young, but he's also often willing to shoulder great responsibility. He's not incredibly inquisitive in the beginning, but that's mostly because he's trying to focus on developing his powers, and is a tad oblivious to the world around him after living a pretty sheltered and safe life. While Caesar is often nicknamed the Prodigy for his great abilities, he still has to work hard and suffer a lot before he gets better.

Caesar is one of the closest characters I have written as being a true hero. I reject the idea that the only way a character can be interesting is by being a Deep, Troubled, Brooding Man of the Shadows with a Dark Past. I do love my antiheroes, and I agree that flawless characters are boring. But good people are not, and Caesar helped prove that to me. I really miss him and Sonya.

...okay, wow, it does sound like I'm gushing about my child >.> Sorry 'bout that.
~Becky

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Tomorrow/Today

Now Playing: Staind - Mudshovel

Happy New Years! It's 2015, and I'm back to freaking out about school and graduating and whatever else. Loans are gonna bury me alive if rejection letters don't get there first, but that's actually a negative from a positive--I will graduate on time (OH PLEASE GOD) and I will start querying (NO BACKING DOWN ON THIS ONE). So...yayyyy for 2015?

First, a quick review. Last year, these were my resolutions for 2014.
  • Get straight A's (or with one B) in the next two semesters [✓] 
    • No B's!
  • Finish a novel before November [✓] 
    • That honor goes to Millennium Girl.
  • Win NaNoWriMo [✓] 
    • Vanguard's Exodus--though it's not yet done by any means.
  • Read over 50 books [✗] 
    • DAMMIT. I fell like 10 books short...T_T
  • Get into an internship and/or a 4000 level workshop class [✓] 
    • workshop, not internship >_>
  • Do well in my school's lit magazine [✓] 
    • whatever the hell "do well" means. I've fought for stories I loved and had some nice conversations with my editor--so...win?

Welp. Uhhhhh. That books one is kind of embarrassing >_> Now granted, school reading is actually an annoying thing that gets in the way, fanfiction doesn't count (and who knows how many Dragon Age: Inquisition and The 100 fics I've read by now) and neither do Destiny's Grimoire cards (so gooood). But it's NO EXCUSE. I should be reading more! It's pathetic of me to fall so behind. So I'm going to try again. I'd hoped to bump it up to 60, and then keep doing that every new year, but I won't make the count above 50 till I've actually managed that goal. And it's not a difficult goal, I've just been slacking.

That said, I still did pretty well. The writing ones were especially nerve racking back then, but the fact that I managed them gives me a lot of hope for the near future. I managed to finish Millennium Girl's first draft and get some good feedback on it and got a good start on Vanguard's Exodus, so 2014 is my most successful writing year SO FAR :D

But yes. My 2014 resolutions were good but improvements can and should be made. 2013's resolutions were too ambitious/ridiculous. 2014 aren't nearly as ambitious. (Plus, that last one's kind of vague.) I should try a balance.

So my 2015 resolutions are:
  • Read over 50 books.
    • Generally more adult speculative fiction. It is my market, after all :P
  • Make the President's List for spring semester and graduate with a GPA above 3.9 
    • (and ON TIME. None of this "staying an extra semester" BS!)
  • Get a job!
  • Start paying back student loans and saving for an apartment of my own.
    • Is that too much? Maybe just start paying back student loans...but it's not like I have any choice with that.
  • Finish Vanguard's Exodus.
  • Polish up both Millennium Girl and Vanguard's Exodus--multiple rewrites and some beta reading for MG.
  • Start querying literary agents.
    • ^This one is admittedly a bit lenient. Like I said, if I send a single query letter the day before I turn 20, I'll consider this goal met.
  • Start planning for new novel. Get at least the outline or character sheets written down before the year ends. 
    • (I will forgive myself if I don't write yet another novel come 2015. It's going to be a busy year with other writing stuff, after all)

I left NaNoWriMo off the list just in case I don't have time to write it. I have no idea how my life is going to be post college, so who knows what shenanigans I'll be doing come November. Hopefully nothing soul crushingly horrible...but chu never know.

Here's to a great year! I'm sure there'll be a lot of despair and frustration, but I doubt that's the kind of thing I can avoid. And I always have this blog to rant on :D
~Becky
"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.