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Friday, August 24, 2012

Writing Tidbit #1

"Writing Tidbits" is something I totally just made up and they are quick, short post about something writerish.  

I've been reading Agatha Christie's "Death on the Nile" for school.  I've never really gotten into mysteries before, but I have LOVED "Death on the Nile."  I write adventure novels.  Mysteries are a form of adventure novel, but I have noticed some interesting differences.  

1.  In adventure novels, a death of a main character is supposed to be surprising.
2.  In mystery novels, you typically already know who is going to die before they die.     

1.  In adventure novels, you usually "see" the death.  Which means you know how the character died, or who killed the character.
2.  In mystery novels, you do not "see" the death so you do not know who killed the character.  

1.  In adventure novels, the death is usually the result of the plot.  
2.  In mystery novels, the death is the plot.  

1.  In adventure novels, you feel emotion at the death of the character, be it anger, sadness, happiness, relief, etc.
2.  In mystery novels, the emotion comes with the tension and anxiety to find out who committed the murder.


Friday, August 17, 2012

The Importance of Fantasy

Actually, a more appropriate title for this post would be "The Importance of Speculative Fiction," but that just does not sound as good.  :P


Fantasy is my favorite genre, to read, write, and watch.  I've been watching fantasy since I was, I don't know, probably three since the Disney princesses are mostly fantasy.  My first introduction to book fantasy was probably when I was seven because my mom read "The Chronicles of Narnia" series out loud to me.

But I think I can say when I finally decided I loved fantasy was when I was nine years old and read "The Hobbit."   I just remember thinking "Yes!  This is great!  This is what all books should be!"  And then I read "Lord of the Rings" the next year and I was sold.  Fantasy was the best genre ever.  (I vowed when I was ten to read the Lord of The Rings at least once every year for the rest of my life.  I just finished reading The Two Towers for the eighth time.  :P)

I bet you want to know what my point is.  Okay, I'll speed things up.  There are many people in this world that believe that fantasy, or more importantly, speculative fiction, is a waste of time.  They think it does not teach you anything about a historical time period, or about our modern society.  They think it is a cowardly way of leaving this world and into a fairy land.

I can respect their opinions...if they have actually read or watched fantasy for themselves.  One of my biggest peeves is when somebody judges something they have not experienced.  It is the reason I don't post reviews or opinions about Twilight.  I have never read nor watched Twilight.  I'm allowed too, I just have not.  I have my reasons for not reading or watching Twilight, but they are my reasons.  Who am I to impose my reasons for not reading them on somebody else?

Even Tolkien battled with this.  Several critics were saying that fantasy was only for children, and even then it should be limited.  They said that it was not instructive for adults to read a fantasy.  Tolkien's reply was that "people often don't see the difference between the desertion of a soldier and the escape of a prisoner."  (paraphrased)

And that is one of the many reasons I love fantasy.  It's an escape.  True, everybody should be grounded in reality, but good fantasies help us cope with that reality.  My family is going through a very sad time right now.  I'm reading The Hobbit right now.  Middle-Earth is one of my favorite places to be, and The Hobbit is an innocent, humorous read, but still assures me that good will always triumph over evil.


Which reminds me of yet another reason I love fantasy.  Good fantasy will re-inspire awe and wonder at the amazing world God has made for us, for me.  I remember when I was five I would stand back and stare at a tree in childlike shock, wondering how anything could ever get that big.  What is the tree made of?  How did it get there?  Why is it there?  Being five, you can't exactly get answers to these questions...and I'd probably have been bored if someone had told me the molecular structure of a tree.  As I got older, I quit even bothering to ask these questions.  Trees were just a part of everyday life, nothing special.

But then I read Lord of the Rings with the Ents, and I look at trees and just wonder how.  And why.  Why would God make something so magnificent for me?  Does He really love me that much?  And the answer to those questions are yes.  He really does.


Ted Dekker's "The Circle" series caused me to look at the Bible differently.  So many people, myself included, get so used to the Bible as a household object.  I'm sure I could easily find twenty in my house, and that is a wonderful thing, but it is easy to become numb to what the Bible truly is.  God wrote the Bible.  God.  He wrote it.  God's words are powerful, with words he created the world, and we have His words.  In a book.  Is that not amazing?

Bill Myers' "Eli" has made me look at Jesus' life and death in a totally different light.  "Pilgrims' Progress" teaches the journey of a Christian.  Wayne Thomas Batson's "Sword in the Stars" shows just how wonderful the birth of our Savior truly was.  I could do this all day.

Even speculative fiction that is not Christian can inspire.  "Star Wars" says that good will beat evil, the battle won't be easy, but it will be worth it.  "Pirates of the Caribbean" (it is a type of fantasy/sci-fi because it is history with fantastical elements in it) shows that everyone, even someone as bad as Captain Jack Sparrow, can make the right choice.  "The Hunger Games" says that no society is ever lost.  I could do this all day too.


A recurring theme that appears in almost all speculative fiction is good v.s. evil.  G.K Chesterton once said, "Fairy Tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten."  I love to be reassured that good will always win.  No matter how bad the situation is right now, Jesus has already won.  I am a Christian, so what should I fear?  Jesus has already beat evil, and someday, he'll defeat it again, once and for all.  But it is easy to lose sight of this amazing truth, good fantasies remind me of it.

Now, I do not deny that there are bad fantasies that can prove harmful.  But isn't that true of all genres?  It takes wisdom to discern what is good and what is bad, and that wisdom can only come from God.

Everybody needs to escape from time to time.  There are bad escapes, and there are good escapes.  Reading a good book, and for me, a good fantasy, is a good escape.  And everybody needs to dream.  Who would not want to defeat a dragon and save the world once in a while?  And God gave everyone an imagination.  Writing and reading a good book, a good fantasy, helps stimulate that imagination.  God gave me an imagination, and I intend to use it.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Swearing in Stories


I'm not going to use or allude to any curse words in this post, in case you were wondering.  :P


I just finished reading Arthur Miller's classic play "Death of a Salesman."  It was an interesting story and the dialogue was great...when it was not peppered with foul language.  Okay, yes, I know Arthur Miller lived during a time when that language was the norm.  But lets be real, don't we live that way now?  I am a Christian and my entire family are Christians, so we don't say anything worse than "stupid" around here.  Even then we usually get told not to say that.  All of my good friends are raised the same way, so I never hear language from them.  On top of it all, I'm homeschooled so I don't hear it in school.  But I know that many families hear that and speak like that daily.


Last November, I was fourteen and was looking into doing the National Novel Writing Month for the first time.  Since I was older than thirteen, I had to choose between the adult site and the young adult site.  The young adult site allows you to set your own word count goal and any amount.  But you can only be on the site until you are seventeen, then you have to go to the adult site.

I was leaning towards the adult site.  The adult site also allows you to set your word count goal, but it had to be over 50,000 words.  I also assumed that I would learn more writing techniques and get better tips from the adult site.  But then I read that the adult site allows swearing and "mature" content.  The young adult site did not allow swearing and you had to keep all conversation rated G.  Needless to say I opted for the young adult site and I had a blast.

But even there, I saw a discussion about swearing in novels in one of the high school forums.  Even though I like debating, I know better than to join a forum debate.  So I read through it, and I have to admit, both sides had some valid points.

One side was arguing that swearing is needed in certain genres to make it more realistic.  They also said that it is a good way to show emotions and to portray character.

The other side said that it is a lazy way to avoid thinking of something better for your characters to say.  They also said that it is more respectful to your readers to leave bad words out of a novel.

They both have good points.  Curse words do display emotion sometimes, but other times its just white noise.  They do make certain genres seem more realistic, but I often feel uncomfortable when reading a book with ugly language because I am never sure how far they will go with it.

I thought about this for awhile.  I already knew I did not want to put any bad words in any novel I wrote, and its not just because, in the words of the illustrious Candace Flynn, I would be so busted.  The Bible clearly says not to use ugly language.  (Ephesians 4:29, Ephesians 5:4, Proverbs 4:24)

 But sometimes, I have characters that will crop up where it would make sense for them to swear.  In "Ember Flame" Hail Frost, one of the main characters, is an extremely tormented person.  He has done a lot of terrible things and even though he is trying to change he never feels like he is good enough.  On the outside, he seems cold and sure of himself.  When he gets angry, he does not say much.  He gets quiet and grim.  It would make sense for him to swear every now and then.  Its a way to get rid of some anger.

I settled for throwing in "He swore" and "He cursed" every now and then.  When I am reading a book and I see that, I don't typically substitute my own curse word.  Actually, my brain just kind of glosses over it.  Its just words.  I still get the idea that the character is angry, but I don't get exactly what he said.  Plus, "Ember Flame" is a fantasy novel with a totally different world than the real one.  Maybe curse words in Holdinus are different than curse words here.  I don't know.  That's not typically something I put in my outline for a story.  ;)

I'm sure there are some people who will substitute their own words for "He swore."  But that's not really my problem.  If they already know the words then there is nothing I can do about it.  Some people might think I'm too conservative about the whole thing, while others might think I push it too far.  That's okay.  I have prayed about it and I feel like its okay for me.  I'm sure God lays down different standards for different people.  Plus, my parents are good with how I write so I don't really feel a need to change.

Sorry for the super long post.  I just wanted to get my thoughts straight on this.  :)


Monday, August 6, 2012

A few scenes

Hi everyone!  I'm sorry I have not blogged recently, but my family and I are going through some pretty hectic times.  Soo, I thought I would share a quick scene from the story I am writing, then one of my favorite scenes from "Ember Flame." 

This scene from Midnight Warrior takes place near the beginning.  Josten, the hero and the narrator, has lead a crew of pirates out of prison and into an abandoned warehouse.  He has been recruited by Narcul, the villain, to find out who is the infamous Midnight Warrior.  He is trying to discover that...and flirt a little bit while he is at it. (eye roll)

********************************


I'm beginning to get sick of this eerie feeling that they can tell when I am lying. And I'm getting sick of telling the truth. I decide to keep going with it though, so I grin and nod, “Who wouldn't want to know who the Midnight Warrior is? Anyone who can make the Fastons squeal that much is someone I would love to meet.”

“Its not Caid,” Aralyn says quietly, “Does that help?”

“Nope, not a bit. You could be lying,” I point out. I sit down beside her. She does not move, and the air around her seems to be a bit colder. Probably just the wind.

She smiles, “A liar knows a liar. You would know if I were lying.”

“So you think I'm a liar? How could you!?” I exclaim.

Aralyn laughs, “You are a liar.”

“Are you a liar?” I ask.

She shrugs, “Depends.”

We are silent for a moment. I stare through a crack in the roof at a large cloud that is moving through the sky, covering the stars. I look back at her, “Okay. So I want to know who the Midnight Warrior is. How about I walk around the room and you play 'hot or cold' with me. Deal?”

She smiles, “Who do you think it is?”

“Hmm...well,” I nod towards each person as I say their name, “Nyra is creepy enough, but she's stupid. Nibor is big enough, but he seems too nice. Gelane is bossy enough, but she is too small. Trent is a prince so that could work, but he's too young. Caid is certainly mysterious enough, but you have denied his being the Midnight Warrior. I think you are a liar, but I don't think you were lying. And you?” I grin at her. Her icy blue eyes are large and sparkling in the light, “You're too pretty to be the Midnight Warrior.”

She smirks, “Thank you. So you think the Midnight Warrior is a creepy, big, bossy, princely, mysterious, ugly Illapulian? That sounds more like a Faston guard to me.”

I laugh, “Agreed. When you lump it all together, it doesn't sound right.”

“You never said who you think is the Midnight Warrior,” Aralyn points out.

“I'd say the most likely candidates are Nibor or Caid, perhaps you. But, no offense, every story of the Midnight Warrior says that he is a man.”

Aralyn nods, “Yes. They do.”

***********************************

(facepalm)  Typical Josten...  It's in need of some serious editting I know, but I don't have much time to blog right now.  Any suggestions on what to fix would be appreciated.  :)

Here is a bit from "Ember Flame" too.

Ember, the heroine, has been captured by slave traders and has been in a cage all day.  Nobody has bought her yet because she has made herself such a pain. 

***********************************

Five young men were walking by, seeming to pay no attention to the slaves. They were talking boisterously, their armor clanking and reflecting the dying light. They all paused in front of Alenand.

“I wonder why old Alenand has not sold this one yet?” One of them asked, pointing to Ember.

One of his comrades nudged him, “Brodin, he's probably priced her to high, and I don't really blame him.”

“Stupid fool!” Ember snapped. They were quiet, “He hasn't actually priced me at all, in fact, he offered to give me away for free to the last insignificant idiot who was by here. Obviously, I have caused such problems that I am not even worth that, so hopefully, you will use some remnants of this amazing organ everybody allegedly has. Its called the brain, ever heard of it? Now, before you waste your time and I waste any more of my breath, I suggest you hurry along before that pathetic oaf Alenand returns from the wine shop, odds are drunker than a duck, and wanting to make you pay some obscene price for me. Obscene meaning free. So, to sum it all up in case you didn't understand. Go away, if you don't, I'll kill you somehow, someday, I promise. And I enjoy keeping those promises.”

A few of the young men huffed, “Who do you think you are?” The one addressed as Brodin bellowed.

“I think I'm someone with a good deal more intelligence than you, which is not that hard a feat to accomplish.” Ember retorted.

“Why...why...you little....!”

Brodin spotted Alenand crossing the courtyard, holding a wine glass in his hand.

“I suggest,” Brodin exploded as Alenand neared, “That you find a way to destroy this wench immediately! You will help everyone in the city by doing so!”

Brodin grabbed three of his friends and stormed off.

Only one remained.

Ember fixed her angry, sardonic glare on him. His face would place him at late thirties, but his eyes were young and alert. He was very tall, about as tall as Coal, with silver black hair. His face was taut, and was clear of any emotion. He looked as hard as stone, even his bright blue eyes were piercing and harsh.

Ember hated him.

“Mr. Alenand,” He said, offering a deep nod, “I would like to buy this girl. Would you take one hundred?”

Alenand was so stunned, he dropped his glass. It shattered on the pavement.

Ember began to panic, but she didn't show it. Instead she leaned casually and let out a brisk laugh, “Wonderful! I'll have fun here, if you buy me, do make sure you don't leave knives, rope, wood, discarded paper, cloth, or practically anything where I could reach . I'm sure you would hate for anything to happen, though I certainly would not. I thought it only fair to warn you, poor fool.”

He looked at her for a second and paused. Ember glared at him. He smiled, “I'll take that under consideration. Thank you for your concern.” His voice was dripping with a cynical but amused mockery.

Ember hated him. But now....now she feared. And she hated fearing.

He turned back to Alenand, “Come now, man, actually, I'm sure one hundred is too low....what say you too one hundred fifty? Seventy? Name your price.”

“Ohh...sir,” Alenand said, “I couldn't...she is...I just...”

“Stop stammering please, I really don't have all night. Just name your price, anything, come now.”

“I..I...I don't take or give refunds you know.” Alenand said.

The man waved him off, “Yes, yes, I know. Your sign says as much, please your price sir?”

“Oh...uh...fifty.”

“One hundred fifty it is then...”

“No! Just fifty!”

“But sir, you must be crazy! That is far too low. I think one hundred fifty is too low, but as you are being so generous...I cannot decline.”

“But...but...”

“Here you are,” He said, dropping a bag of coins into the man's reluctant palm. “Now just open the cage and get her out.”

“I...I...thank you sir! Yes, yes I will!” Alenand grabbed the keys and rushed inside the cage.  Ember wasted no time in kicking him. Alenand groaned in pain and glared at her.

The man chuckled, “Those won't be necessary.”

“Those?” Alenand asked.

The man nodded, “Yes. The bonds, you can lose them...” After looking at Alenand's expression, he chuckled again, “Or...I'll lose them. Whichever works best.”

Alenand pushed Ember down the ramp and tossed her at the man. “Thank you! Thank you!And..er...no refunds!”

The man nodded and smiled, then immediately yanked the ropes off Ember hands. She jerked around and landed a slap on his face. Well...that was the theory anyway. The man ducked as Ember swung. She stumbled and nearly fell.

“I suggest not doing that again,” He laughed. Then he stopped, “I highly suggest not doing that again.”

*******************************

(sigh)  Typical Ember.  She needs counseling.

Anyway, hope you enjoyed it!  And I hope to do a real post soon!  :)