Book Recommendation: Steal the Stars

Hello Fiction Lovers!

This week I thought it would be interesting to tell you about an audio book that I just finished listening to recently: Steal the Stars. This book is different from books I would normally pick up because it’s sci-fi and includes aliens. I like sci-fi books, but I’m much more likely to read a fantasy book. However, I’m very glad that I decided to give Steal the Stars a try because it was a wonderful, well-written story and it had an ending that I wasn’t expecting, but also felt much more satisfying than the ending I expected. The reason I decided to give it a try was that along with including an alien and a crashed UFO it also includes forbidden love and a heist–both of which are plots that I love to read about.

It was also interesting to listen to, because instead of the standard one or two readers you normally would get for an audio book, they used a whole cast. It was really more of an audio play than an audio book, and they did a good job of making it more immersive by using some sound effects and playing with distance. If a character was supposed to be across the room they really did sound farther away (but the difference was never enough that you had to mess with the volume a lot, if that’s something that annoys you). Another thing to mention is that even though there is a full cast of characters with different voices you won’t have trouble remembering who is who. All the actors did a good job making their character distinctive. There is also an actual book, I believe, that you can buy and read, but I haven’t read it so I’m not sure how it compares to the audio book.

All in all, I would definitely recommend that you listen to/read Steal the Stars even if it has an element that you normally wouldn’t be interested in. You can find it on Audible and Amazon as well as Barnes and Noble.

I hope you all have a wonderful week and please let me know if you have any questions! Also if you have listened to/read Steal the Stars feel free to post your thoughts in the comments, but please no spoilers.

Active Characters

Hello Fiction Lovers!

First of all, I want to apologize for getting this out late. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to write about this week and I took so long debating it that Monday was over before I got to writing it. That said, lately I’ve thinking about active characters and so I finally decided that I should write about them.

In my experience, readers a very partial to active characters over passive characters. I think this is because we would rather see someone working toward something instead something being done to someone. The latter can be frustrating, especially when it happens over and over again, which is never a terrible fun emotion to feel. The frustration with the character can lead to frustration with the book/story and can cause a reader to stop reading–something no writer wants, and most likely the reader isn’t satisfied with having to put a book down either. That isn’t to say that a character can’t be passive, just that they shouldn’t be passive all the time. When a character, especially a main character, is passive continuously it raises the question of what they are contributing to the story, why they are there, because it feels like they can be replaced with any other passive person and the story would be the same. So, when you’re writing make sure that you give reasons/let the characters take actions to show why they are the ones that must be in this particular story.

There are two reasons why I think some writers have trouble writing active characters: they think they are writing active characters but their characters are reacting instead of acting, and they place their characters in confining places/situations so it seems like there is nothing for their characters to do. To solve the first problem, I would ask yourself if something happens and then your characters act, because that is an example of reacting and reacting is more passive. Let your characters make a plan and act on it to move the plot forward instead. Reaction can be fine, especially when characters are caught off-guard but please don’t use it for every plot point. As for the second problem, remember that every action doesn’t have to be some huge story altering thing. Maybe your character just wants a piece of cheese or to make friends with the prisoner in the next cell over. If they are stuck in a cell or some other place where they can’t move around much let them make a plan to escape or to minimize the danger/discomfort they are in, and then let them act on that plan.

I hope that this was helpful and please let me know if you have any questions! Feel free to post your thoughts on active characters in the comments and I hope you all have a good week!

The Clues to a Great Story

Hello Fiction Lovers!

So I’ve been watching TED talks recently and this week I thought I’d share one with you that I thought made some good points. The speaker of the TED talk is Andrew Stanton and he talks about the clues to a great story. He doesn’t specifically talk about writing but a lot of what he says can be related back to it. I hope you like it and let me know what you think in the comments!

Here’s the link: https://www.ted.com/talks/andrew_stanton_the_clues_to_a_great_story?referrer=playlist-how_to_tell_a_story

Reading Recommendation

Hello Fiction Lovers!

Today I thought I’d recommend a book I reread recently: Trickster’s Choice by Tamora Pierce. This book has been one of  my favorites for a long time and every once in a while I’ll take the time to read it–and its sequel–again. Doing so is always worth it.

Trickster’s Choice is about a young woman, Aly, who wants to become a spy in the field but her parents won’t allow it because of how dangerous that work is. However, Aly ends up getting captured by pirates and sold into slavery. From there she is recruited by a god and must use her wits and the spy skills she was taught from a young age to protect a family and help a rebellion.

The book has a good romance that isn’t rushed, interesting magical creatures, complex characters, and is paced well. I enjoyed it when I discovered it in middle school and I still enjoy it now in college so I believe that it can appeal to a wide range of ages. You don’t have to read Tamora Pierce’s other books to understand Trickster’s Choice or its sequel, but doing so can give you a greater appreciation and understanding of Aly’s parents and the family’s connection to several other characters that get mentioned. Her other books are also enjoyable to read as well, and if you like Trickster’s Choice I would highly recommend that you read them if you haven’t done so already. If you have then I would recommend that you read them again for pleasure’s sake.

If you’ve read Trickster’s Choice feel free to post your thoughts on it down in the comments (but no spoilers please). Also please let me know if you have any questions and I hope you all have a wonderful week!

Why I’m Glad I Started Blogging

Hello Fiction Lovers!

First of all, Happy New Year! I hope all of you had a good end to 2017 and that the new year is going well. Now that 2017 has ended I’ve begun to reflect more deeply on the new things I started during the year. There are several different things I’m glad I did, but the pertinent one is starting this blog. Truth be told, I was hesitant to start blogging for a long time because I was worried about having enough ideas to post something every week and because of the time commitment. Even though I do struggle with those things from time to time I can say that it has been worth it for a few different reasons.

The main reason is that I’ve become more connected to other writers and people interested in fiction. Blogging has connected me to people from all over the world, and that is a wonder and joy to me that I wouldn’t have known in the same way otherwise. It’s also opened up a way for me to find more blogs about writing and fiction than I had been able to find just by googling. I hope that in the year to come blogging will continue to expand my awareness of the community of writers and readers that I have the privilege of participating in.

Another reason I’m glad I started blogging is that it has helped me put my thoughts about writing and fiction into words. What was before an abstract idea or feeling in my head now has a place to be formed into words. By expanding my awareness of other writers and their ideas, blogging has also helped me augment and revise my own ideas. Since I find it enjoyable to deepen my understanding of the craft–and because it is good to learn about something you have an interest in–that has helped my writing as well as given me fun, new blog posts to read.

Has blogging helped you in some way and–if you have a blog–why are you glad you started blogging? Feel free to answer in the comments or let me know if you have any questions. I hope you all have a good week!

Rereading

Hello Fiction Lovers!

So lately I’ve been thinking about reading some of the books on my shelf again and made me realize how little I’ve reread books in the past few years. I used to be better about rereading books, but now I tend only to reread my top five or so books and even then I’ll skip to my favorite scenes in the book. I guess my perspective switched from wanting to immerse myself in the world again and delighting in finding out what I missed the first time to feeling like I already remember everything that happened in a book I already read and craving something new. Has that happened to you at all? I am starting to find a balance between reading old books and finding new ones, I think, and enjoying both experiences. I’ve learned that if I listen to a book I’ve already read on Audible I won’t skip through it and that experiencing the book in a different way helps me pick out the things I didn’t remember or realize from the first time I read it. It’s helping me realize that I really don’t remember a lot of what happened in the books I read years and that reading them again can be like reading them for the first time–with just a tad more insight into what might happen.

I’ve also started rereading more books because when I get in the mood for a certain type of book (romantic fantasy, for example) the same books that I’ve already read pop up, and it can be difficult to find new ones even though I know that thousands of books get published every year. Do you have difficulty finding new books as well? Also, if you have any recommendations I’d appreciate it if you put them in the comments. It would be interesting to see your favorites and what you all are reading. I’ve been listening to the Codex Alera series by Jim Butcher on Audible and it’s been pleasantly surprising to see how much I didn’t remember and fun to try to make connections based off of what I did remember.

In short, I guess, is that I would recommend rereading some books along with reading new ones. It’s fun to rediscover what made you love a book/series in the first place and to realize that sometimes your memories of a book don’t actually do it justice.

Thank you all for reading this post and I hope you have a great week! Again, please let me know if you have any recommendations for books to read in the comments or feel free to post your own thoughts on rereading books. Also, please let me know if you have any questions about writing or fiction books.

Favorite Quotes

Hello Fiction Lovers!

For this week I thought I’d share some of my favorite quotes about writing. Whenever I see them I start thinking about how I can write better and/or these quotes make me want to write. So without further ado, here they are:

“If there is a book you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”

–Toni Morrison

“This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until it’s done. It’s that simple and that hard.”

–Neil Gaiman

“A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.”

–Thomas Mann

“There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”

–W. Somerset Maugham

“Be ruthless about protecting writing days, i.e,  do not cave into endless requests to have ‘essential’ and ‘long overdue’ meetings on those days.”

–J. K. Rowling

“Have a point.”

–Phillip Round (My Lit. Professor)

Most of these are classics that I’ve seen time and again when I’m looking up stuff about writing, but even with that repetition they still hold true for me and don’t get old. Do you have quotes or sayings that stand up to the test of time as well? Let me know in the comments. Also, if you have any questions feel free to ask me those as well and I hope you all have a good week!

 

 

The Difficulties of Writing With a Cat

Hello Fiction Lovers!

So today I thought I’d write about how difficult it can be to write (or simply be productive) when you have a cat. I love my cat, Carmel, but she seems to have an agenda to keep me from writing. She’ll ignore me when I’m seeking her out to pet her or when I’m procrastinating, but as soon as I’m ready to be productive there she is, ready to be petted and generally admired. So I thought I’d share some of the common scenarios that seem to happen and see if any of you had similar experiences.

The most common is when I’ll sit down in a chair and start pulling out my laptop. Suddenly, she’ll be in my lap, purring, and begging to be petted while taking up the room where the laptop was supposed to go. Since it’s almost a crime to push a cat off your lap or get up once they’ve chosen you I’ll typically end up having to put my laptop off to the side on the armrest and type one-handed. If I try to type with both hands she’ll generally get in the way even more until I actually pet her with one hand. So writing is still feasible when this happens, but a lot slower and a little tedious.

Another scenario is when she’ll actually sit or lay across the keyboard to stop me from writing. That’s typically a progression from the last scenario because I wasn’t paying attention to her enough. Given that Carmel is adorable and that writing is next to impossible when she does that, the best policy is to pet her until she has enough and leaves. A bittersweet moment, but then I can do what I set out to do.

The last situation I’ll mention is when the weather is nice and I’ll have noble intentions to write outside so I can also feel the sunshine. I’ll get outside and set up my writing spot–whether that’s a blanket on the ground or in a chair–and be already to write, but she’ll conspire with my dog to be as cute and needy as possible. Pictures will need to be taken, bellies rubbed, and some failed attempts at fetch with the dog before writing can occur. However, by that point I’ll tend to be too hot or realize I can’t see the computer screen in the sunlight and I’ll have to retreat inside before the writing actually happens.

Do you have stories of trying to write but pets getting in the way? Let me know in the comments! Also feel free to let me know if you have any questions and I hope you all have a great week!

Character Motivation

Hello Fiction Lovers!

First I would like to apologize for getting this post to you late. It’s midterm season and studying has made me busier than normal. This week I’ve been thinking about character motivation because on of my professors pointed out that writers, typically, seem to focus on more what a character fears or dislikes rather than what they love. She challenged us to come up with three things the main characters in the short stories we are writing for the class love. It was more difficult than I thought it would be.

The challenge served as a reminder that even though what a character fears/dislikes. what bad things happen to them, typically drive a story forward a writer can’t forget to add in good things too. You don’t have to force the good things into the story, just like it’s a bad idea to the same for more tragic things, but knowing what they are and keeping them in mind as you write can help flesh out a character and the story. The character will strive just as much, if not more, to obtain the things they love rather than just escaping the things they fear. Often too fear and bad decisions can come out of love and good intentions. Knowing those things can make your character’s motivation more nuanced and realistic. And that will be more interesting for your readers.

It’s good to remember to let the motivation flow from the story instead of trying to force a trope or other idea to work. It might take you a few tries but the character will let you know why they are doing what they are doing as you write and edit the story. It might seem clunky at first when you are getting the basic idea for the story down but as you flesh out the story and learn more about the characters their motivations will be more clear, and those motivations won’t always be a tragic backstory. A tragic backstory is good for some types of characters but others accidentally became involved with whatever the story is about and are trying to return to their normal life or want to make the best of it, a few had good childhoods and want others to have the same or got bored by it and decided to something a little more exciting. It all depends on the character. Write the story and listen to them.

Thanks for reading and let me know if you have any questions! I hope you all have a fun week.

A Bit of World Building: Resources

Hello Fiction Lovers!

Today I thought I’d a little about world building and how deciding on a certain climate and landscape combined with the society’s values that live there can vastly influence influence your story, even if only in the background. I also thought that since I’ve been talking more about my current writing recently that I’d continue on that theme.

In A Cursed Blessing for nine months out of the year it is snowy and cold, the other three months have comparatively mild weather. This makes agriculture more difficult but the society is not a hunting and gathering one that follows an animal’s migration. As for the landscape there is a large forest in the south and a few smaller ones scattered throughout the country. The rest of the landscape is more hilly and the whole country is surrounded by mountains. Because, of the society’s fear of their goddess, however, they rarely cut down the trees for fuel or to make things. The cold climate has also caused them to put extra significance on fire and they’ll heat brands with it to mark themselves with symbolic symbols.

All this, I hope, creates an interesting background for my story, but it has also raised some questions that I didn’t have when I first started writing it. Issues such as what do they make their houses and furniture and writing implements out of if they don’t use wood? How do they feed themselves and what do they eat? What animals and plants can survive under such conditions? How does the climate affect the society and religion? Some of these questions I don’t have answers to yet, but I’ll need to know them to fully flesh out the world my characters are living in and make sure there are no logistical errors that will break readers’ suspension of disbelief. Of course, not all the questions always need to be answered but the big ones do such as the problem of food. Everything still has to be believable. Also, you don’t need to worry about the questions right away, but as you write and the world is created it can be good to consider them. Sometimes they can lend a whole new depth to the world and influence the plot in ways you couldn’t have imagined before exploring them.

Resources are important; survival depends upon some of them and wars can be fought over both necessary and luxury resources. Climate, landscape, and society’s values all affect both the availability of resources and the lack of them. They will affect your story, even if only in the background, so they are important to consider once you’ve made decent headway into your story or during the editing process.

Thanks for reading and let me know if you have any questions! I hope you all have a great week!