Everything You Need to Know about The Conductor

In case you missed my last post, I’m publishing my first novel!!! To say I’m excited would be an understatement. Today, I’m going to be introducing you to three things: the book, myself (whom you probably already know), and the illustrator (whom you might not know).

First things first: The Conductor has an official release date: December 3, 2021! It will be available on Amazon, and I’m hoping to get it into bookstores and libraries as well.

The Conductor is middle grade fantasy, aimed at 8-12-year-olds. Or anyone, really, if you’re still a child inside like me. Seriously, do we really ever grow up? Below is the excerpt from the back cover.

A brewing war. A dead kingdom. A stolen crown.

And only six who know the truth about who stole it.

Alekos, rightful king of Basileia, doesn’t just see Gahfa as an evil tyrant. He sees a powerful Conductor with an entire Orchestra at his fingertips. As long as Gahfa wears Alekos’s crown, Alekos can never restore his kingdom to the way it used to be.

But Gahfa always has another trick up his sleeve. Waging war against his Music would be suicide. Even with the help of Alekos’s scheming best friend, Oliver, and his not-girlfriend, Ashla.

And his fuzzy visions aren’t helping… is there really another Orchestra out there somewhere?

Also, look at that gorgeous silhouette on the cover. It was drawn by my cousin, Elizabeth Tilly (she’s an amazing artist), and this is also her first published work! It was so much fun working with her on the story. We’re basically the dynamic duo. You could look at our official author/illustrator pictures, but this is what we look like most of the time. (We had just finished making a lasagna and were very excited to eat it.)

I suppose you might like to know a bit about myself as well. I’m a college student, but I like to procrastinate by writing stories. I have found that the two ways I best express myself are through words and music. This story is a marriage of both. It’s a piece of my soul, where paragraphs and melodies blend together into a kind of storytelling I’ve always dreamed of.

If you like music, if you’re in the mood for a good adventure, if you believe that there is a layer of magic in this world that we can’t often see, this book is for you.

Be on the lookout for more upcoming posts! And if you’d like to help by spreading the word, it would be much appreciated!

Meanwhile, do you have any questions about publishing or illustrating or cover design? I may be doing a Q&A type post soon, so feel free to send any questions my way!

So, I’m Publishing

An exciting thing is happening. I have a story that’s stayed in my heart for six years now (aside from the few trusted friends I’ve shared it with), and now you get to read it yourself.

Before you get bored with a bunch of backstory, let me show you what my book looks like, because that’s probably why you’re here.

For the first time in my life, I have something I want to say. I say a lot of things, like how much I love LotR, but that’s just my random musings, and if you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, it’s just that. My thoughts.

But now? Now I have a message. A message which started out as a story for my brother and which I now strongly feel must be shared with more people. The world is a dark place, and sometimes we don’t know why the things that are happening are happening in the first place. But just like my tattoo, there’s a reason for it that we can’t often see.

Have you seen my tattoo? It’s this little conductor guy. The thing about conductors is that they know their music so well, they can shape it however they want, even if the audience can’t quite tell where they’re going with it. Music tells stories. Even if some of the notes don’t make sense, and even if you can’t tell how the symphony will end, it’s all there for a reason. And oftentimes, that reason is only known to the one holding the baton–the conductor.

So I guess part of the reason that I’ve decided to publish (finally!) is because of my tattoo. I mean, it was definitely inspired by this story I wrote, which is appropriately titled The Conductor.

Real quick, let me get something really important out of the way. I wrote this story for my brother. My goal of publishing is not to get rich or impress editors or wow fellow authors. Sometimes I still want all that, but it doesn’t matter as much now, because ultimately, I write for an audience, and that audience happens to be middle-school-age readers, people who love music, and anyone who needs a storyworld to which they can escape.

Above all, this story is not perfect, and it never will be. And I have come to realize, perfection isn’t the most important thing to me anymore. This is an adventure story, a story I still hold very close to my heart. But I’m ready to share it now. As a wise man once said, “I’m looking for someone to share in an adventure.”

So, what do you think? Will you join me for this adventure?

By the way, next week I’ll have a post officially introducing the book, and some more fun stuff after that, so stay tuned! ūüėČ

Oh, I almost forgot: The Conductor will be releasing at the beginning of December. I’ll announce the exact date soon!

How to Write an Unforgettable Villain

Well. Spring Break is just about here, which means extra writing time! Today, I have a very fun post about my favorite type of character.

If you’ve spent any amount of time reading fandom blogs, you know how much fans love villains. Don’t ask me why; it’s just a fact that we love to fangirl over Mr. Bad Boy. I’m the same way–have I mentioned how much I love Moriarty?

Maybe it’s just a trend, but regardless of the reason fans are so enamored with villains, writers can utilize this fun little fact to add in some extra tension and emotion. There are several ways to do this–today I’m going to go over a few of them, and show how they work with some examples of well-known villains. Plus, that gives me an excuse to fangirl over them.

The Redeemed Villain

Oh, redeemed villains. My weakness. I don’t think I have to do any explaining here… a redeemed villain is simply a character who comes into the story as a villain, and by the end, they have changed from their evil ways. I’ve written a couple of those myself.

Now, it’s very easy to slip into clich√©s when writing redeemed villains. But when pulled off the right way, an audience can go from completely hating this character to crying over them. Redeemed villains offer so much opportunity for tragedy, made all the more potent by the fact that we started off (presumably) hating this character.

A famous example of a redeemed villain is Darth Vader. Anakin’s journey to the Dark Side, and his eventual redemption to the Light, makes for a classic character arc.

The Tragic Backstory Villain

*eye roll*

How many of these do you see every day? It seems as if Tragic Backstory Villains are so common, they elicit annoyance rather than empathy, and definitely not fangirls. But when done the right way, a tragic backstory can be a powerful tool.

You see it in heroes all the time… which, again, can become clich√©. But a common technique is to have your villain be a mirror of your main character. Think of Tom Riddle and Harry Potter. Or the Doctor and the Master. Similar backstory, very different outcomes. This can often be a very haunting facet of a story, actually, and when done creatively and proficiently, is a powerful emotional tool.

The Villain with Human Needs

All I’m saying is… that until we understand that our enemies are also human beings… we will never defeat them. Yes, they are bad guys, but that is what they do, not who they are. 

-Maxwell Smart, Get Smart

Villains are people, too. Just like your hero, they have emotional and psychological needs. And when these needs are not met, a void is created.

Some of my favorite villains of all time are so fearsome and evil to begin with, when all along, all they needed was for one of their needs to be met. Oftentimes this need is love, but it doesn’t have to be that.

Have I mentioned Erik before? Well I’m going to mention him again. The Phantom is one of the most fangirled-over villains of all time. In the end, even though he was creepily stalking Christine throughout the entire story, even though he killed a bunch of people and blew some stuff up and ruined a perfectly good chandelier… all he wanted was for someone to love him. For someone to look past his physical deformities and accept him. And when Christine did that, fangirls’ hearts everywhere melted, and Erik suddenly didn’t need to be villainous anymore.

This can sometimes be more effective when we get to see the aftermath. What happens to the villain after his need is met? What does the hero do?

The “Let’s Play a Game” Villain

Ooooooooooooohhhhh my favorite.

Moriarty. Moriarty all the way. What is it about villains who play games? Why are they so likable? I’ve written a couple of these too. These villains add a whole new level of creepiness, because while normal villains would just kill the hero (or whatever it is that they’re trying to do), these villains take risks by playing games.

Villains who prefer to compete intellectually with the hero are obviously a bit more dangerous. Because they believe they are better, stronger, or smarter than them–and they are going to prove it. Tire the hero out before they move in for the kill.

The Villain who Acts like a Hero

Who are the heroes we remember?

Fangirls love a good hero-has-to-sacrifice-himself-to-save-the-day trope. I could go into why exactly, but that’s a whole other story for a whole other time. The fact is, one of the the most heroic things the protagonist can do is to sacrifice himself for the good of others.

So. Beware of any villain who would die for their cause. That is the mark of a truly evil man. A villain who is willing to sacrifice himself for his cause and not live to see the fruits of his work is perhaps the most fearsome villain out there. Because most villains are completely selfish and will stop at nothing to rule the universe or whatever it is that they’re trying to do. But a selfless villain? A villain who would give his life for something greater than himself–however evil that thing may be?

Be careful with this one and use it sparingly. It’s hard to pull off well, and fangirls might be disappointed you killed their favorite villain. (I’m lookin’ at you, Sherlock writers… and don’t even get me started on my Moriarty’s-not-really-dead theory.)

The Snape Syndrome

I believe I’m the first one to coin that term, by the way. The Snape Syndrome is exactly what it sounds like, and I’d like to warn you against it, for one reason: J. K. Rowling already did it, and now no one else can do the same.

Now before you throw a big hissy fit about the fact that I’m classifying Snape as a villain, hear me out. Because I don’t think he’s a villain. My official stance on Snape is that he is an antagonist–yes, I know he ended up being a good guy in the end, but Harry spent years thinking he was truly a villain, and no matter how heroic his death was, that doesn’t excuse all those years he spent being absolutely horrible to Harry. Got it? Good, I’m glad we cleared that up.

It’s fine if you want to have a double agent in your story. It’s fine if you want them to act absolutely horribly towards the hero. And you can and should give them a motivation for it. But please. Don’t attempt to justify their actions and make it seem like they were right. It makes me so mad when people try to justify Snape’s Most Horrible Action (<–you know what I’m talking about). Regardless of whether or not they were right, that does not change the role they played in the previous parts of the story. Even if they have a heroic end–Snape is actually an example of a redeemed antagonist–that doesn’t change what they did in the rest of the story.

Other Great Villains?

Guys, there are so many villains I like, I just don’t have enough room to list why I like all of them. But in the meantime, I’d like to hear who your favorite villains are! Let me know in the comments why they’re your favorite. Also, don’t forget to hop over to Wattpad and read my short story–I’ll leave it up to you to decide what kind of villain it has. ūüėČ

For the Sake of Relevance, here is a post about covid

Everything has to be relevant now. It’s kind of annoying, to be honest. You can’t even watch a commercial nowadays without seeing people in masks and on Zoom calls.

Aren’t people tired of all this? Doesn’t everyone just want a break? Don’t you want to read a normal blog post without hearing about how it’s somehow relevant to pandemics and social distancing?

Good thing most writers are introverts. Works out well.

But one of the things I like most about writing is that I can go to Starbucks, order my favorite mocha, and sit for hours working on my book. And now… are you kidding? Who can even drink coffee in a mask? And it’s probably illegal to sit in coffee shops for hours anyway.

And marketing? Don’t even get me started. It’s a gamble. The economy’s not what it used to be, so I know a few authors who had to change their publishing plans.

And what about research? I hop on the good ol’ internet to look up a fact, and everywhere I see virus this and government that, and all I wanted was a sample class schedule for the university my character is attending, and all I’m getting is a long list of safety precautions.

There is no more getting together with your writer friends to have a nice, carefree, caffeine-filled afternoon of stories, unless you want to sit in a mask so far away from everyone else that you have to yell to hear each other. I mean, you could always video call, but after just two classes on Zoom, everyone was already tired of video calls.

The next thing you know, NaNoWriMo is going to be illegal because novel writing season happens to correlate with flu season, and flu symptoms happen to be pretty much identical to corona symptoms. Therefore, writing increases the spread of the virus, because that logic is totally sound, just like all the other logic going around nowadays.

this picture has nothing to do with anything, it was just to get you to click on the post

My point? Writers, it’s hard. You may feel overlooked because everyone assumes that because you’re a writer you’re an introvert and never leave the house anyway. And even if you are that type of writer, it’s hard. Heck, even if you’re not a writer, this is for you to hear too.

The world is changed.

I feel it in the water.

I feel it in the earth.

I smell it in the air.

Much that once was is lost, for none now live who remember it.

When all seems lost, Lady Galadriel’s voice rises out of the golden light of Lothl√≥rien speaking words of wisdom. Listen to the Elves, guys. They know what they’re talking about. Most of the time.

But the world is changed, and writing is not what it used to be. You can’t just expect writers to adjust easily because they stare at computers in their pajamas all day anyway. Writers have feelings too–lots and lots of feelings that get spilled out in the pages of stories. Check on your writer friends; make sure they’re not getting trapped in the darkness of their own minds.

Someone once told me that it’s okay to feel sad about sad things, and I wish I remember who that was, because I would credit them. And I know lots of people react to the changing world with anger instead of sadness, but sadness and grief are equally valid emotions.

Writing may sound like a great activity to do during pandemics, but the truth is, it is so much richer in community. And, like many things, community has suffered. It’s not what it used to be. And it’s okay to be sad about this.

Like Lady Galadriel said, the world has changed, and it feels like the next big disaster is lurking right around the corner. But, do you know what is actually lurking around the corner right now, that no pandemic can get in the way of?

National Novel Writing Month.

And now, without further ado, may I present you with the following covid-free paragraph that has nothing to do with pandemics. That’s right, just a normal ol’ paragraph like the ones from the good ol’ days.

November is, like, a month away already, which means I’m going to be writing another novel, which means this is my official invitation for you (yes, you) to join me! Wanna stay up into the wee hours of the morning with me, drinking coffee and eating chocolate and stringing words together until they no longer make sense? Wanna go on an epic adventure with me, through strange lands yet unexplored? Wanna defeat impossible odds and earn lifetime bragging rights? Of course you do! Join me, and we can rule the galaxy together. (Here’s a link to the NaNoWriMo website, if you’d like more official information.)

I’ll probably be writing more about NaNoWriMo in the future, so keep a lookout for those posts. Happy writing! And as always, feel free to reach out to me if you need something. ūüėČ

That Fateful Night in August

Written by my newest main character

Aside from December, August is pretty much my favorite month. Like, it’s hot and boring and end-of-summer-but-not-quite-school-again, but good writing things always happen to me in August, big defining moments that affect my career as an author.

Fateful nights are phenomena that get talked about a lot in order to seem dramatic. They seem to favor December, because of the magic of Christmas and all that. As if the dead of winter is more prone to fateful things happening than the heat of summer, or the romantic rains of spring, or the mysterious aesthetic of crunchy-leaf-ridden fall. Fateful nights are always defining moments left to be explained by the supernatural, either because there is no other explanation, or because it sounds more dramatic that way.

Sometimes someone dies on a fateful night, but not all the time, otherwise they’d just be called fatal nights, but the word fateful is more versatile, and can encompass not only death but fate and destiny in their larger meanings.

Fate is a strange being who works in mostly unexpected, slightly unethical ways. Fate prefers to work at night, because fateful mornings belong in office romances and adventures with all the dark parts taken out, fateful afternoons are devoted entirely to bad weather, but fateful nights have so much potential for drama and mystery and tragedy.

Fate rarely chooses August, because nothing of significance is ever supposed to happen in August. So when people refer to “that fateful night in August,” it’s a fair bet they’re either mistaken, making up stories, or being over-dramatic about a perfectly normal event that wasn’t fateful in the least bit.

But when a story haunts you for three years and you make no noticeable progress of the half-finished draft you have, and then one ordinary day in August at 4:30 in the morning you realize you’ve actually just reached “The End” and now have a complete, fully-fleshed-out draft, you can’t help but wonder how drunk Fate was that night, because things like that just aren’t supposed to happen.

All this to say, one time I finished a story in August and it was really exciting and now I’m almost done with the sequel. So even if you’re struggling to finish a story and it feels like you’re not going anywhere, don’t give up on it, because the worlds needs it. The world always needs stories like yours.

Rebel.

It’s not a word you’ll hear people using to describe me. I have never been a rebel. I’ve never fit the stereotype or the aesthetic. Teenagers are typically stereotyped as being rebellious, but that’s just not me, and it never has been.

I have always been known as the good one. I was the oldest child who grew up more sheltered than her siblings. I always got perfect A’s, I always excelled at everything, and I always followed the rules and never did anything to test the limits. In my friend groups I was always the cautious one who got anxious whenever anyone even suggested we do anything slightly rebellious.

Sure, I have a rebellious streak that comes out every now and then. People know that about me. Every once in a while I would let it come out for a little bit. If you know me well, you’ve probably seen it.

Notice I’ve been speaking in the past tense this whole time.

Because although I am nineteen, my rebellious phase is just beginning. I’m not rebelling against my parents, or against authority in general. I’m rebelling against myself.

I’m tired of being the good one. I’m tired of being the rule follower. I’m tired of doing everything perfectly all the time. I’m tired of being so afraid of breaking the rules that I give them first priority over more important stuff. I’m tired of being so preoccupied with my grades that I miss out on other things. I’m tired of holding it all together, and I’m tired of pretending I’m okay when I’m not.

If you’re familiar with the alignment chart, you might say that my alignment is changing from lawful good to something else. Something chaotic. Maybe neutral on a good day.

My friends, I must be honest, I worry about myself sometimes. Over the past two semesters, I’ve let myself break the rules a little bit. I let my grades slip sometimes. I’ve stopped holding myself to the standard of perfection I used to have for myself. I’ve stopped pretending to be holding it all together when I’m not.

That doesn’t really have anything to do with being a perfectionist, but I guess it makes sense, in a way. Perfectionism is one thing if you’re applying it to academics or your job or rule following. But the moment you start applying it to the way you present yourself to other people, it’s a bigger problem. Fun fact: pain doesn’t go away if you hide it. I guess I thought that since I was always so good at school and stuff and everyone praised me for it, I should be good at life too, and it should never cause me any suffering at all.

Why am I sharing this, you may ask. Because, I think it’s important. The world is crazy right now, and everything is broken, possibly even my soul. But when has it been any different? This broken world as we know it has always been broken, and it was never meant to be this way. It was perfect, once. A long time ago. People say all of this will be okay, that it will all work out. But it won’t. The world will still be broken and groaning. Until the very end, and then it will be made good again, and all the sadness and pain will go away.

So I’m a rebel now. I’m not trying to be perfect anymore. I’m not pretending I have it all together. Because I don’t. And I’m not perfect. Wanna join me? Then we can go be rebels together and do something slightly edgy, like going to get coffee at midnight when we should be doing homework. ūüėČ

4 ¬Ĺ Ways to Survive NaNoWriMo as a College Student

Co-written by me and my newest MC

Happy November, everyone! Seeing as I’m clearly qualified to write this post, I thought I’d share four and a half expert tips on how to survive NaNoWriMo as a college student.

First off, I’d like to say I’m sorry for not updating this blog in, well… months. Adjusting to college life is harder than it sounds, and learning to balance classes, homework, getting enough sleep, social life, a job, procrastinating, self-care, and blogging on top of all of that takes a lot of time. Just add in NaNoWriMo and you get what could be a recipe for disaster.

Fear not, friends! NaNoWriMo is not impossible even if you’re a college student. In fact, so far, it’s been going better than it has in years past. So, without further ado, may I present to you four and a half expert survival tips.

1. Be insane. You pretty much have to be insane to even attempt this. People will tell you that it’s not possible, that there’s no way you could complete NaNoWriMo and thrive at college at the same time. And I’m here to tell you that those people are probably right. Please, for the sake of your own sanity, stop reading and run in the opposite direction.

In all actuality, though, it may help to be slightly insane, but it really isn’t as drastic as all that. If you’re like me, if writing improves your mental health, then it might be just what you need. It also helps alleviate procrastination – instead of wasting time while procrastinating homework, I procrastinate by writing a novel, which is still productive. And when it comes time to procrastinate novel writing, I just do homework. It’s a win-win.

2. Take care of yourself. Please. Sometimes self-care trumps all projects waiting to be finished. Sometimes, going to bed at a decent hour is the best option. Remember to eat meals and lots of snacks, and don’t rely on caffeine and energy drinks to survive. Those do help, though. Not gonna lie.

Chocolate-covered espresso beans are my current favorite. If you eat enough of them, you’ll be awake for hours, plus, they’re covered in chocolate, which is the number one scientifically proven magical NaNoWriMo food.

3. Be patient. It’s likely that many people will ask you what you’re writing, and why you’re even writing at all. It’s just something that you’ll have to explain many times, so you might as well compose an eloquent speech to recite as soon as you see those questions coming.

Based on my experience, there are two types of writers. On the one hand, you’ve got the writers who are totally happy with telling you what they’re writing and what their story is about. If you’re lucky, they might even let you read some of it. And on the other hand, you’ve got the writers who keep their stories a complete secret and might kill you for even asking about it. If you fall into the second category, you have my empathy. May you be granted strength to resist all the questions. (We secretly like it, though. The fact that someone cares enough to ask what our stories are about makes our day.)

4. Listen to the story. You’ve heard the phrase “the wand chooses the wizard.” Well, it just so happens that every once in a while, the story chooses the author. And if that is the case for you, then what other option do you have but to listen to the story?

Even if you choose the story… characters have a way of taking charge. Before you know it, your main character might have gotten himself roped into a quest to kill the Archduke of Mordor, and you will have to go along with it instead of dragging him back to finish his tea and studying for finals. Little did he know that had he finished his tea, he would have found a message on the bottom from the Archduke himself revealing that he is his long-lost brother.

Oooh, plot twist!

4 ¬Ĺ. Do something else creative or out of the ordinary. A lot of people are saying this already, so it’s probably cliche by now, but it actually works. For example, try building a blanket fort that can be your little writing cave. Normally, people might chastise you for being childish, but this is college we’re talking about. No one will judge you for building a blanket fort. In fact, they’re probably jealous they didn’t think of it themselves.

That’s all I have for today, but I hope you benefited from these tips! And now, I’m off to work on my novel!

Are you doing NaNoWriMo this year?

What are your best writing survival tips?

Camp NaNoWriMo Questions: Plotting vs. Pantsing

It’s the age-old debate. Plotters form one side of it and pantsers form the other. The two groups of writers have gathered to hold a debate to decide which method of writing is better. There’s a twist, though: the plotters have all of their arguments carefully planned, written, organized, and well-rehearsed. The pantsers haven’t prepared at all. They don’t know what they’re going to say or what arguments they’re going to make. They’re winging it.

Obviously, this debate never took place, but if it did, it would probably go exactly like that. Most writers can be sorted into one of the two groups. Summed up in a sentence, plotters know what they’re writing, and pantsers… most of the time don’t. Plotters like to start with a lot of materials: outlines, maps, character charts, plot boards with sticky notes… you name it. When they finally start the actual writing, they know what they’re writing, where they’re going with it, and how it will all end up.

Pantsers, by contrast, like to start with next to nothing (if they start with anything at all.) They start writing and… that’s just it. They write. No outlines, no characters, no plan whatsoever. They figure it out as they go. They don’t know their story as a whole until they see the finished product.

So without further ado, welcome to my new-ish hopefully blog series: Camp NaNoWriMo Questions! I say “new-ish” because I’ve done a similar series before, and “hopefully” because trying to consistently blog in the summer when I’m also trying to get ready for college is a lot harder than it sounds.

I’m also not even doing Camp NaNoWriMo this month… yet. That may change. Who knows? With two novels sitting on my desk arguing over which one of them is more important (and my Muse not showing up at all), I might just have to set some goals for myself and go for it.

Now I am pretty much a full-on pantser. Which honestly is surprising even to me. Usually I can’t stand not knowing everything, but when it comes to writing, I guess my brain works oppositely.

But… want to know something? Most writers are neither. I know very few plotters or pantsers. Most writers I know, myself included, are somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. A lot of people tend to lean one way or the other, which is why we like to use these terms to describe them.

With Camp NaNoWriMo in full swing, and regular NaNoWriMo looming just three and a half months away, you’re probably wondering which method of writing is best for this particular challenge.

Okay, first, if you’re asking that question, I would like to ask you another question: why would you write any differently than you normally do? If you normally write outlines, then spend a few weeks before NaNoWriMo starts working on all your planning stuff. Then you can just focus on writing once it starts. And if you’re a pantser like me, then jump in on the first day and go crazy. It’s one of the best feelings in the world!

I love pantsing during NaNoWriMo, because it’s so fast-paced and high-adrenaline and intense, it kind of just fits. Every time I sit down with my notebook, I have no idea where the words will take me. But I also wish I was a plotter, because the idea of writing outlines and then actually having a plan sounds so inviting. (I tried that once and it didn’t work. But it sounds lovely.)

So that’s my take on plotting vs. pantsing: why change you usual writing style? Especially during Camp NaNoWriMo, when the stakes aren’t as high, and you can set your own goals? The point of these challenges is to get you to write, and what better way to write than to practice the way you’re used to?

Have a question about Camp NaNoWriMo? Or a question about writing in general? Fill out the form below and I’ll do my best to answer it in a future post!

The Idea that Haunts You

I bet you know exactly what I’m talking about. I may only be a writer, but I bet all creatives know the feeling.

^^Five years’ worth of ideas!

If you’re anything like me, you have dozens of notebooks and Word documents filled with old ideas that never made it off the ground, snippets of scenes that got discarded, and characters whose names you may not even know. And I’m willing to bet you have at least one that you keep going back to.

You know, The Idea?

No matter how many other stories you finish, you keep going back to that one half-crazed idea. Or do you? Maybe it keeps coming back to you, like the ghosts that haunt people in those old horror movies. And maybe you keep pushing it away because even when you try to work on it, it doesn’t really take you anywhere.

Enter J. R. R. Tolkien.

I know I talk about Tolkien a lot on this blog, but I’m going to tell you about him again, because he’s my favorite author of all time. LotR is my favorite book, my favorite movie, and contains some of my favorite characters. You could for sure consider me a Tolkien geek (and yes. I know Elvish.)

Everyone knows that The Lord of the Rings is one of the most well-known, most quoted, most memorable classics of all time. But how much do you know about the man behind the story? Did you know that it took him twelve years to write it? Not counting the time he spent perfecting it? Did you know it started out as a sequel to The Hobbit, but ended up being a sequel to The Silmarillion? Did you know that he kept giving up on it, but found that he just couldn’t get away from it?

It is written in my life-blood, such as that is, thick or thin; and I can no other.

-J. R. R. Tolkien

Obviously I can’t get into Tolkien’s mind, but to me, it seems like this idea haunted him. It followed him around, and no matter what other things he wrote, he couldn’t get away from it. Even when he tried to write it – and kept trying – it didn’t work.

How discouraging.

Or does that make the finally finished story that much more beautiful? You decide.

But no matter how inspiring Tolkien is, we still have a problem. You have an idea and it won’t leave you alone. What should you do?

Well. Unfortunately I can’t read your mind. But if your idea is tugging on your heart this strongly, then maybe it really was meant to be, and it’s not just your Muse being annoying.

Can I tell you a secret? I have one of those ideas. It’s been haunting me for years. My notebooks are filled with many failed attempts at it, and vows to never come back to it.

And then, one magical day, I found the right story to go with it. Pretty fun, right? And I did end up finishing it. It was finally a complete story. So now I can finally let it rest, right?

NO.

That’s the bad thing about these ideas. They never leave you. Even after Tolkien published The Lord of the Rings, he couldn’t let it rest. The land of Middle-earth was forever his true homeland, and that other idea he was working on – the bigger idea, the idea which LotR came from – was still in his heart. It never left him alone.

And I suspect it will be the same for me. And the same for all of us. But don’t let it get you discouraged. In the words of Tolkien himself (and don’t bug me about how I’m totally taking this quote out of context):

Not all those who wonder are lost.

3 Tips for Showing Character Emotion

Ah, character emotion. It’s one of the hardest things to write right. It’s also one of the most important. You can have a deep, complex character, a compelling, well-crafted plot, and the setting descriptions nailed down to the tiniest details. But if you can’t write character emotion in a compelling way, your book will be only half as rich as it could be.

second-edition21As you may already know, if you’ve been hanging around the writing world for a while, Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi of Writers Helping Writers have just released a new book! So, to celebrate¬†The Emotion Thesaurus: Second Edition,¬†I’ve compiled several tips I’ve discovered while on my own writing journey.

1. Don’t Resort to the Face

Many authors, myself included, tend to go straight to the face for signs of emotion. In my first drafts, all my characters smile, frown, and glare; their eyes shoot daggers and glisten with tears and shift away slyly. It’s true that the face does show emotion, but other parts of the body are equally good–or even better at it. When was in my Sherlock phase (if we’re being honest, I never grew out of it), I learned to watch people’s feet to deduce their emotions. Crazy, right?

unhappy-389944_640That’s not to say you can’t use facial expressions. When done right, these can be powerful descriptions. Take the following passage for example. I’ve read this book a total of one time, and that was two or three years ago, and yet I still remember how much this description stuck out to me:

[A] forehead with a singular capacity . . . of lifting and knitting itself into an expression that was not quite one of perplexity, or wonder, or alarm, or merely of bight fixed attention, though it included all four the expressions[.]

Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities


Just to be clear, I wouldn’t suggest actually writing descriptions like that (unless you’re actually Charles Dickens); the point is, it is possible to write good emotion through the face.

2. What is your character thinking?

Any good psychologist will tell you that there is a thought behind every emotion. It’s not always a conscious thought–in fact, unconscious thoughts and underlying beliefs are often more powerful. The¬†Emotion¬†Thesaurus (including the Second Edition) has a section all about thoughts and mental responses.

This isn’t something you do every single time your character feels an emotion. It also doesn’t have to be internal monologue (though it certainly can be). In other words, you don’t want a character who’s all emotion and no conscious thought, nor do you want a character who’s all thoughts and no feelings. That would just seem… odd.

3. Every Character is Different

Just because Ron Weasley has the emotional range of a teaspoon… yeah you get the picture. Every character will probably have a different emotional range. On top of that, some people tend to be very private about their emotions, while others spill them openly. And guys and girls experience emotions differently. (I hadn’t quite nailed this down when I wrote my first novel. You do not wanna read it.)

And, of course, different characters will express the same emotion differently. Just as a quick example, I have one character who tends to snap at people when he gets angry, but when presented with the same situation, another of my characters will have a full-blown temper tantrum.

The best advice I can give you is to get to know your characters. Showing emotion is just the tip of the iceberg. Beneath every emotion and reaction is a history, a backstory, a wound, a set of beliefs. Of course, there’s no way I can get into all of that today! (Hint: Angela and Becca have a bunch of other thesauruses that talk about all that!)

Giveaway!

One last thing here: there’s an epic giveaway going on right now!

To celebrate the new book and its dedicated readers, Angela and Becca have an unbelievable giveaway on right now: one person will win a free writing retreat, conference, workshop, or professional membership to a writing organization, winner’s choice (up to $500 US, with some other conditions which are listed on the WHW site).

What conference would you attend if the fee was already paid for…or would you choose a retreat? Something else? Decisions, decisions! This giveaway ends on February 26th, so hurry over¬†and¬†enter!

Are you excited about the new Emotion Thesaurus?

Do you have any tips on showing character emotion?