The Writing Bubble

Ah, here we are, at the very end of summer. It sure went by fast. School’s about to start (if it hasn’t already), and it’s almost the season for pumpkin spice and apples and crunchy orange leaves and NaNoWriMo. Perfect time for writing, if  you ask me. It’s very cozy to sit in Starbucks with your laptop and the rain drizzling down the windowpane and the steam from your latte warming your face.

Writing is interesting in that it has bubbles. You know what I mean. Genres, audiences… the like. Lots of people will tell you to stay in your bubble, but those people are only concerned for your public face and not your actual self.

the writing bubble

It’s okay if you want to stay in your bubble. Lots of writers do. They find their niche, settle in, get comfortable, and stay there. Personally, I like my little YA Fantasy bubble, but occasionally I’ll branch out into sci-fi or middle grade fiction or poetry. There’s nothing wrong with bubbles, it’s just that… well, if you stay in them, you’re missing something.

It’s just like music. You can spend your entire life mastering one instrument, but by doing so, you miss everything else. You miss an entire world of skills, songs, and beauty. I’ve spent about ten years of my life taking piano lessons, and it’s taken me that long to realize that there is so much more out there. Music is more than mastering one classical song after another. There are hundreds, probably thousands, of other instruments. And if that’s not enough, there is so much more you can do with music. You can compose a film score. You can be in a band. You can become a YouTube star. You can conduct an orchestra. You can write Broadway musical.

The same goes for writing. You don’t have to stick with your genre, for example, YA Fantasy. You could try writing for middle grade instead. Or branch out even farther and try sci-fi, or historical fiction, or horror or contemporary or thriller or romance.

Or, if you’re especially brave, you could venture outside the fiction bubble. Try nonfiction. Write a memoir, a biography, a cookbook, a Bible study. Or… don’t write a book at all. Write movies. Write plays. Write Studio-C-style sketches.

And if you really want to get outside your bubble, don’t use words at all. Write music to tell a story. Paint a masterpiece. Perform a dance.

See, storytelling is so much more than writing. Every author, every poet, every screenwriter, is telling a story. Every artist, every composer, every dancer, has a story to tell the audience. Creativity is a gift, a means to express yourself, to share pieces of your heart. Use that gift. Even though not everyone tries to tell stories, that’s usually what ends up happening.

Think about it. Traditionally speaking, every book has a theme. Every song has a chorus. Every painting has a focal point.

I’m not saying you should try something outside your bubble. But why not? Don’t let fear hold you back. Don’t tell me you’re not good enough. With experience, you’ll grow. Every storyteller starts out as an amateur.

I’ll close with a quote by J.R.R. Tolkien. I always go back to this quote, and it sums up storytelling pretty much perfectly:

“We have come from God, and inevitably the myths woven by us, though they contain error, will also reflect a splintered fragment of the true light, the eternal truth that is with God. Indeed only by myth-making, only by becoming ‘sub-creator’ and inventing stories, can Man aspire to the state of perfection that he knew before the Fall. Our myths may be misguided, but they steer however shakily towards the true harbour, while materialistic ‘progress’ leads only to a yawning abyss and the Iron Crown of the power of evil.”

-J.R.R. Tolkien

What’s your writing bubble?

Have you ever tried anything different?

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10 Things I Wish I’d Known When I Started Writing

Hello, everyone! Today, I will share ten super-secret, insiders-edition-only, banned-by-federal-government tips about starting out as a writer. Because, let’s face it: You can go to any author’s website and get awesome advice, because published authors clearly know what they’re doing. Or, you can approach any writer who’s had more experience than you, and they can give you advice. Right?

Right. But not all the time. See, there’s this misconception going around that aspiring authors start out clueless, but as they gain more experience, they become more confident and learn how to make the right writing choices.

*cricket noises*

10things1Maybe I’m just different than everyone else, but I was the opposite. When I decided I wanted to be an author, I knew EXACTLY what I was doing. And now, three and a half books later, I have absolutely no idea what the heck I’m doing. Sure, I’ve definitely LEARNED  lot… but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m saying that there are things that aspiring authors need to hear. And sometimes, people are so eager to dole out their prestigious advice, they forget to say some of the most important things.

Looking back, there are several things I wish I’d known when I started writing. Here they are, in no particular order:

1. The experts know what they’re talking about. Most of the time. They’ve traveled this road ahead of you; they themselves learned the same things. When they give you advice, their goal is to save you the pain of learning the hard way. I remember getting annoyed at experts, because I already knew how to write, so how dare they try to tell me any differently? It turns out that they were right all along. Go figure.

2. You will cry. You will have bad days when nothing works, and you will cry because of how miserable you are. You will have good days when everything is glorious, and you will cry because of how beautiful it all is. You will cry for your poor characters whom you torment so relentlessly. You will become emotionally attached to your story. And this is a good and necessary thing, because you want your readers to become emotionally involved too, don’t you?

3. Every writer is different. Best method for writing a book? There isn’t one. And this is one example of when you should take professional advice with a grain of salt. Lots of people will tell you that you need to outline your book before you even start writing it. If that sounds lovely, go for it. But if, in middle school, being forced to write an outline for an essay was worse than being dragged off to Mordor and tortured, then for heaven’s sake, DON’T OUTLINE!!! Many people will tell you that you need to do some planning before you start writing, that you need to figure out your characters, the plot structure, and the theme. Try it if you like, but if it makes your creativity dry up (as it does for me), then don’t do it.

4. Just be yourself. You know that author you look up to? The one whose books you devour? That author you want to be just like? I wrote a post about this a while back, which you can read here. My advice to you is this: be yourself. The best authors weren’t concerned with trying to be someone else.

the end5. “The End” is not the finish line. Oh my, this is a big one. I used to think that if I could just finish writing the book, I will have accomplished something big. This is true, but in reality, hitting “The End” is just like climbing the first 100 feet of Mount Everest. After that, you’ve got editing and publishing and marketing (oh my!). I actually don’t know if there’s a finish line at all.

6. It’s not all fun and games. Sure, it might start out that way, but I can guarantee it will get harder. Your characters won’t listen to you. The muses won’t show up. Your carefully-planned-out plot will spontaneously decide to wear a hole in itself.

7. It shouldn’t become your identity. It shouldn’t overtake your mind to the point that you think about nothing else. You shouldn’t lose sight of the real world because your are living in the one you made up. It’s not healthy, and it doesn’t glorify God.

8. Persistence is key. You will be tempted to give up time and time again. But if you keep going, you will grow. If you don’t give up, amazing things will happen. Writers are known for doing the impossible.

9. Writing is a highly unique learning process. You don’t learn from a textbook; you learn by doing. Every author embarks on a journey – a journey to learn, to create things no one has ever created before. How can anyone teach you how to do that?

10. God will use you for things you never imagined. I wanted to shake the world. I wanted my stories to ignite a spark in the hearts of many. But that’s not what God wants for me right now. Instead, he showed me a much smaller idea: to show the love of God to one person. One. God will use you – and your writing, if that’s what he has called you to do – to accomplish things your wild imagination could never dream up.

That’s all I have for now, but I hope these tips helped you! Feel free to share any of your own tips in the comments!

What’s something you wish you knew before you started writing?

A Year of Blogging and a Critique Giveaway!

Happy Saturday, everyone! Today marks a milestone for me: I started blogging exactly one year ago! (And yet, WordPress still likes to put a squiggly red line under the word “blog”. I don’t understand it.)

In honor of this milestone, I am hosting my very first giveaway! I will be giving away one (1) free critique of the first five hundred words of whatever you’re writing. I’ve seen so many critique giveaways lately, it’s like everyone’s in on it or something. So I thought I’d join in. You can find more details on how to enter at the bottom of this post. But first…

one year of blogging

After one year of blogging, my three most popular posts are…

My Crazy Writing Life (which, coincidentally, was my very first post)

#NaNoPrep: Overcoming Impostor Syndrome + Giveaway!! (the giveaway has long been over, unfortunately, but you can still read the post!)

Introducing: Inferno’s Melody (which is probably one of my favorite things I’ve ever posted)

And just for fun, I’ll also share my fourth most popular post, because it happens to be one of my personal favorites:

An Analysis of a Story. (I love writing about stuff like this.)

Man, I have learned so much by blogging. You’d think it’s just a fun way to be able to write and share my thoughts with the world, but no. It’s hard. I’m the type of person who doesn’t eagerly share my thoughts with anyone (unless these thoughts involve conspiracy theories about Sherlock or facts about quantum physics).

By blogging, I have gotten way more comfortable with letting other people read my writing and hear my thoughts. I have learned that perfection is an illusion (unless it’s God we’re talking about), and that realization is primarily what made me decide to (finally) let people read that book I wrote over a year ago. Although it may not seem like it, that was a big step for me. In fact, getting to that point was harder than getting to the end of NaNoWriMo, which is saying something if you’ve ever attempted NaNo.

Blogging is also very freeing for me. Writing is the primary way I express myself, but since stories take so long to craft, all of my thoughts build up inside, and blogging is a way to get them out. Here, I can tell you what I’m learning about God. Here, I can tell you about the reason why I write the stories that I do.

The last thing I want to mention is how amazing it feels to be able to inspire others. I’ve had multiple people tell me that certain things I’ve blogged about have inspired them. I can remember so many times when I’ve read other people’s blogs and felt greatly inspired, and I think it’s awesome that I’m able to be that person to somebody else.

And without further ado…

critique giveaway

The entry form for the critique giveaway can be found below! The form you’re filling out is technically a contact form, which was the easiest way for me to do it, so after you hit the “Submit” button, you will see a little notice that the “message has been sent.” This just means that I’ve received an email notification of your entry. Nothing you submit will be published or visible to anyone but me, with the exception of the winner’s name. 

If you win, you get to send me the first 500 words of whatever you’re writing… it can be fiction, nonfiction, poetry, whatever you want. It can even be an essay or something like that. The only limitation is that it must be completely clean and PG- (or better-) rated. If you win and your work doesn’t meet those requirements, I may have to choose another winner.

If your work is less than five hundred words, I’ll critique the whole thing. If it’s ridiculously close to 500 (like 502), that’s fine too. It wouldn’t make sense to leave a couple of words out.

You have until midnight on December 23 to enter. I would appreciate it if some of you spread the word through social media (it’s no fun if only a few people enter), but it’s not required.

The winner will be announced Saturday, December 23.

Good luck!

 

What’s something new you’ve tried this year? What has it taught you?

The Universal Truth

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.

No, not that kind of universal truth. I’m pretty sure the above statement isn’t even true. Mrs. Bennett thought it was, but most of what she says is nonsense anyway, so we shouldn’t use her words as life advice. Today I’m here to talk about a different kind of universal truth. I apologize in advance if I ramble a bit, or if I use the same word four times in the same sentence. NaNoWriMo just started, and my thoughts are everywhere right now.

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I first learned about the Universal Truth from a wonderful lady named Kay Strom. (Her books are excellent, by the way.) According to her, a Universal Truth is like a theme, but it is way more specific. Stories, as you probably know, usually have a theme, that is, a recurring topic the book keeps touching on. It answers the question “What is this book about?”

Universal Truths are usually specific statements or messages about the theme. For example, let’s choose a common theme and look at how it’s presented in different books. I’m going to choose the theme of redemption, because that’s my favorite one. Right off the top of my head, two series (what is the plural of “series?”) with this theme are: Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling, and The Mission League by Jill Williamson. (I have not finished The Mission League series yet, so NO SPOILERS PLEASE!) Literary critics could analyze these two series and find a plethora of different themes present, but redemption is definitely present in both, so that’s the one I am going to use.

In Harry Potter, a recurring message we see over and over again is this: “Redemption usually requires a selfless act of love.” You know, when Lily did that thing to save Harry, and then later Harry did that thing to save other people. We also get a beautiful contrast between Harry and Voldemort – so similar, yet so different.

In The Mission League (or at least in the first book), we see a totally different statement: “God will keep pursuing you, no matter how long you try to run from him.” Like, throughout the entire first book, Spencer wanted nothing to do with God, but God kept showing up everywhere around him, and eventually Spencer couldn’t ignore it anymore. We also get an interesting contrast here with the villain, but I’m not gonna spoil it for anybody. Plus, who knows how it turns out in the rest of the series.

Both of these series have the same theme, but what they’re saying about them is different. And that is what makes a Universal Truth, my friend.

I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out what Universal Truth I’m presenting in my story. It was hard at first, because I’m a pantser who doesn’t know squat about the story before I start writing it. As it turned out, I couldn’t pin down my Universal Truth until I had experienced its trueness firsthand. Oh, it was definitely present in the story – I just couldn’t see it yet.

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.

-1 John 4:18a

That’s it. A simple statement, not even a full verse. It’s a Bible verse that I’ve known since childhood. Of course I’ve always believed it’s true. But up until recently, I hadn’t actually seen it applied to a real-life situation.

The thing about Universal Truths, to me at least, is that a story wouldn’t be worth anything without one. In the tens of thousands of words that make up my book-in-progress, 146 of them make up a paragraph towards the end. And this one paragraph is where the Universal Truth is revealed. Without this one paragraph, none of the other words matter. Without the Universal Truth, the story is nothing, the characters struggled in vain, and I wasted an entire year of my life writing an empty story.

Even though all stories have a climax, where the tension has never been so high, and everything finally comes together, the Universal Truth is like a climax of its own. Even if it’s woven all throughout the story, there is always a place where the reader stops and says, “Oh. This is what I’ve been reading about. This is what the author wanted to say to me.”

Kay Strom says that Universal Truths should always point to God. They should go beyond the story itself as they transfer the author’s passion to the reader. And really, isn’t that the reason authors write at all? Because they are passionate about something, and they want the world to see it too?

Is there a Universal Truth in your story? How is NaNoWriMo going (if you’re doing it)?

#NaNoPrep: Fantastic Words and Where to Find Them

Disclaimer: This post has nothing to do with Newt Scamander or his magical beasts.

One of the biggest issues all writers have during NaNoWriMo is… yep, you guessed it, writing. Duh. If you do the math, 50,000 words divided by 30 days is approximately 1,667 words per day. That may seem feasible, but you’re going to be writing nearly 2,000 words every. single. day. for thirty whole days. It’s definitely possible, but is it easy?

Um… no. It is not easy.  What will you do when writer’s block strikes (and, unless I’m wrong, writer’s block is a part of every writing project)? What will you do when you get bogged down and the story is barely moving at all? Where are you going to find these elusive, magical words?

fantastic

Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month.

Unfortunately, you probably will experience writer’s block at some point during NaNoWriMo. Writing prompts are a great place to start. Pinterest has literally thousands of them, and the NaNoWriMo site also has some. But everybody suggests writing prompts, and sometimes, they’re not that helpful.

Here’s a list of ideas to get you started. If you have anything to add to it, definitely let me know!

Write backstories. Last year, my novel featured twelve characters who were either main characters or main supporting characters. I still don’t have all of their backstories. NaNoWriMo is a great time to explore your characters’ histories. Write detailed, extensive scenes from the past. And even if it doesn’t end up in your final manuscript, it counts, because it’s a part of your first draft.

Go off on tangents. Do you have a random scene stuck in your head that won’t fit anywhere in the manuscript? Go ahead and write it. Do you know about the history some ancient dark lord that used to rule your fantasy land? Go ahead and explain it, even if it has nothing to do with the present moment. Do you know the names of all the plants growing by the side of the road? Go ahead and name them all.

Write up a ridiculously detailed acknowledgements page. I did this last year, because I was desperate, and ended up not counting it because it felt like cheating. It’s not cheating, because it’s a part of your first draft, but I’m such a perfectionist that it felt like it. In your acknowledgements, name all the people you can think of, even fictional characters who have inspired you. While you’re at it, write up other front matter… a table of contents, a copyright page… anything and everything you can think of.

Have a couple of scenes lingering in the back of your mind and save them for a rainy day. I found this technique immensely helpful. I am a pantser, so I don’t do much planning before I start writing. But I do plan the basics. I tend to mull over my story in my head and watch scenes as if I were watching a movie. Because of this, I ended up writing a couple of detailed scenes, without actually writing them down. It’s very reassuring to have that. If you sit down to write one day and realize the words won’t come, you’ll still have those mental scenes to whip out at a moment’s notice.

Utilize NaNoWriMo’s word sprint tool. Maybe you already do. Word sprints are the best! You set a timer and see how many words you can write before the time runs out. You can either race against yourself, or get other people involved and race against them. Last year, I actually set a personal record for how many words I could write in half an hour. It was because of a word sprint. Use them! They help!

If you know any other helpful tips, definitely let me know because I may actually add it to this post.

What are you writing for NaNoWriMo this year? Do you have a personal experience you’d like to share?

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The Difference between Salvation and Redemption

I’ve been doing a lot of character development lately. It’s my new favorite aspect of writing. I’ve been reading a lot about the different Myers-Briggs types (and yes, each of my twelve main characters is a different type), delving into backstories, and figuring out their inner motivations.

My latest endeavor is to answer this question: What is it that drives them? What are they seeking, and hoping to find? These questions are closely connected to their inner motivations. Of course, all of them are driven by something different. No one is quite desiring the exact same thing, although they share the same external goal for the story. They all have different histories, and different character arcs. Every single one of them has a unique internal longing.

That being said, of course some of them will be similar. For example, and this is the main point of this post, two of my characters are seeking almost the same thing. I’ll call them Character A and Character B, for the sake of character-author confidentiality. For some odd reason, most of my characters have a habit of having intricate, secretive backgrounds which somehow always end up playing vital roles in future stories that haven’t been written yet. So, for the sake of a spoiler-free post, I will tell you their stories but not who they are. Get to the point, you say. What do these two characters want?

One of them is seeking salvation, while the other is seeking redemption. I had to stop and think about this after I wrote it. Don’t the two words mean the same thing? More often than not, they are used synonymously, especially when referring to the Christian faith. But no… they are not really synonyms. The root of the word “salvation” is “save,” and the root of “redemption” is “redeem.” Redeeming someone is very different from saving someone. Saving someone implies protecting them. From danger, perhaps. From death, even. Saving implies rescuing. But nothing more.

Redeeming someone, on the other hand, is more than just rescuing someone. Redemption involves a price. If you redeem something, you are buying it back. If you redeem something, it is yours. But it always comes at a price.

It’s easy to see why the two words are used synonymously when referring to Christ. Jesus, through his life, death, and resurrection, gave us both salvation and redemption. He saved us from death – by taking sin upon himself – and serving the punishment for that sin: death. And because he paid that price for us, he redeemed us from sin. He bought us back to be his own. And now, if we believe in him, we not only are saved from death, but we belong to him. We are his children.

In the cases of Character A and Character B, one of them is seeking redemption, but the other is seeking salvation. This too is easy to see. Character A grew up in a dysfunctional family. As a child and teen he was abused – both physically and emotionally – by his parents. He was bullied by other children. He was wronged in a lot of ways, and this traumatic past has shaped the rest of his life. He doesn’t trust anyone but himself, not even God. In fact, he wonders if God exists at all. He wants salvation.

Character B, on the other hand, is haunted by a past she no longer wants any part of. She’s made mistakes; she’s been lured in by sin’s enticing temptations. Her sin hurt the people in the world she loved most, not to mention herself. She’s mad at God and feels she doesn’t belong anywhere, not even in the shelter of God’s love. She wants redemption.

So there you have the difference between redemption and salvation. Salvation is a rescue; redemption is a purchase. Character development is definitely one of the harder things about writing, but it’s also one of the most fun and rewarding aspects too.

My favorite resources for developing a character’s backstory or motivations are the Emotional Wound Thesaurus and the Character Motivation Thesaurus (both are from Writers Helping Writers. I’m very excited because The Emotional Wound Thesaurus is going to be released sometime this October!!) Even if you don’t need them as writing resources, check them out anyway. They’re awesome.

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Plot happens when many characters’ journeys cross paths.

A character’s journey, for me, quickly becoming more important than the plot of the story. It makes sense… the characters are the ones interacting with the plot. A lot of the time, the characters are the ones creating the plot in the first place. What would Pride and Prejudice be if Darcy wasn’t so proud in the beginning and therefore had no character arc? Or think about how the numerous plots of Downton Abbey would be different if none of the characters had distinct backgrounds, motivations, and personalities. No story would be the same without these elements. Characters are one of the primary driving sources behind any story.

I’m curious to know… have you done any interesting character development? And do you have any favorite books with well-developed characters?

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The Reason I Write

I know, I know, I’ve already written about this a billion times, but I’m writing this really late at night (early in the morning?) and I was for some reason awake pondering my life, when I realized I should dedicate an entire post to this subject. Plus, I don’t have anything else to write about at the moment, so why not this?

I’ve already told you the reason I write, and that reason is God. Let me go into greater detail:

I have a story I’m writing (trying to write) right now. You can read my post about the story here. Well, it isn’t going anywhere. I am stuck. I guess you could call it writer’s block, although that’s not all it is. I’m not motivated. I don’t know how to write what I want to write. I desperately want to finish this story, and I want to finish it well, but I just don’t know how. I don’t know what I’m doing anymore. Sometimes I don’t even know why I’m doing it in the first place.

Sometimes I wonder why I want so badly to finish this story. What is it about this story that I have to finish? Why was I so passionate about it when I first began? Why should I want to finish it now?

adult-1869621_640I’ve written for a lot of reasons over the years. I wrote a lot of stories for other people. I gave them as gifts, because I liked creating things and then giving them away to make other people smile. As I grew older, and I started writing more often, I discovered something that changed the way I viewed my writing. I wanted to write deeper stories, stories with more meaning. I no longer wanted to write for mere entertainment; I wanted to write about Truth. I no longer wanted people to enjoy my stories as gifts to them; I wanted their lives to be changed as they saw some deeper meaning in my fictional stories.

I started writing about the Gospel.

And that is still why I am writing today. Sometimes I get off track and start writing for a different reason. It is then when I lose my passion and sometimes my desire to write at all. And as I search for the why, for the reason behind my story, God ALWAYS brings me back to the Gospel. When I see it laid out before me like that, it could not be simpler. The Gospel is, and always will be, the reason I write. Its Truth is so compelling that I must write about it. I have to write stories about the Gospel. I can’t explain it, except that I know that God is real and that he loves me. He is Truth, and I must write about Him.

What is the reason you write? (and writing is not limited to fiction.) Also – are you going to participate in Camp NaNo this July?

Fear (and an exciting book announcement)

I must admit, I was a little scared to post this. Fear is almost always a part of the writing process. What-ifs are a very common form of writing-related fear: “What if I fail?” “What if no one likes it?” “What if I don’t meet my deadline?”

I’ve asked myself all of these questions before. I’m afraid of failure. I’m afraid I won’t ever finish this beautiful story I love. I’m afraid that when I finally do finish it, no one will like it. I’m afraid of letting myself down, but I am also afraid of letting everyone else down. I’m afraid they will compare me to so many better authors, like I compare myself to my favorite authors. I’m afraid I won’t meet my goal before my self-imposed deadline (especially during NaNoWriMo).

There are three main reasons why I am writing this post: 1) to (hopefully) give myself motivation to actually finish editing my book,  2) to attempt to push past some of my fears of rejection, and 3) because I am so very excited to finally and (in)formally announce this book. I wish I could say it is getting published, but I’m not quite there yet. I hope to publish it one day. That’s my goal, anyway. So now I’m going to tell you about it.

I’m secretly afraid no one will like it.

But here we go.

*deep breath*

The Title: Twelve

The Plot (I apologize, for I have not had much practice writing synopses): 

For years, Roland has been searching for the rest of the Artifacts. He already has one of them, ever since a strange old man gave it to him and told him to seek out the rest. But someone – Pravus is what he calls himself – is out to settle a personal grudge with Roland, and claim all the Artifacts for himself.

One night, while being pursued, Roland stumbles across a woman who has been attacked, only to discover that she shares his goals. They escape their pursuers together and then set out to locate the rest of the Artifacts.

As it turns out, there are in fact twelve Artifacts, each belonging to a separate person. Once they are together, the twelve set out on a quest that is as ancient as Time itself. All they have to guide them is one riddle, and the knowledge that Pravus will stop at nothing to find them. But every step they take seems to take them closer to Pravus. No one can be trusted, because Pravus is obviously getting his information from somewhere… and it very well could be one of them.

The Characters (I will not introduce all twelve; only my favorites):

I would share some pictures from my Pinterest boards (because each character has their own separate board), but I’m not sure how legal that is. I would have to download all the images from it that I wanted to use, and sometimes I just get really paranoid about copyright laws. Instead, I’ll give you the links to each character’s board. The things I’ve pinned will hopefully help you get an idea of the character’s personality. Please forgive any minor spoilers, but there won’t be any major ones.

Roland (main character):  Roland is… honestly, hard to describe. He’s a very complex character, as two sides of him are constantly dueling one another. He refuses to explain this to anyone else. Although he is the “leader” of the quest, he does not possess many leadership skills. Or social skills, really. Aside from these flaws, he is very adventurous. Here is a link to Roland’s Pinterest board.

Shea: Originally I had aimed to base Shea off of Sherlock Holmes. Somehow, in the writing process, this didn’t happen, and instead she is now somewhat based off of myself. She is quiet and observant, and always has something on her mind. She keeps many of her thoughts to herself, but likes to figure things out – solving riddles, translating unknown languages… you get the picture. Here is a link to Shea’s Pinterest board.

Kirk: Kirk is definitely one of my favorite characters I have ever written. He is an ESTP, which is about as opposite from me as you can get. (I’m not sure if it’s exactly opposite, but almost.) He is openly rebellious, sarcastic, and conceited. None of the other characters like him, but he serves as the comic relief for the reader. Here is a link to Kirk’s Pinterest board.

George: The last character I am going to share is George. I love him almost as much as I love Kirk. George is there to make sure everyone behaves themselves, and to ensure that logic is always being considered. He and Kirk are foils of each other. (If you don’t know what a foil is, it’s a character who possesses opposite traits of another character, in order to highlight the other character’s traits.) George is calm and diplomatic, and serves as a secondary leader next to Roland. Here is a link to George’s Pinterest board.

And finally, some excerpts:

(I made fancy graphics for these!)

“Fine,” he said, much more softly this time. “I suppose if your little secret is more important to yo

How about a memorable quote? I’ve always thought of this one as the “inspiring Gandalf quote” of my book. It doesn’t sound nearly as awesome out of the context of the story, though, so just keep that in mind.

Courage,

And here is the last excerpt I will share today:

another exerpt

 

Confession: I actually edited this one a bit before I posted it. And please excuse that run-on sentence at the end.

That’s it for today, folks! I hope you enjoyed everything I shared. Please note that anything I said is subject to change, because I am still in the revision process.

Are you working on a book or a story you would like to share? What do you do to combat writing-related fears?

How to Find Inspiration (also known as How to Force the Muse to Pay You a Long-Overdue Visit)

I have read many posts and articles about how to find inspiration, or, in many cases, how to let inspiration find you. No doubt you have, too. And in this post, I’m going to try not to repeat the tips that are used over and over again. This post is not about how to let inspiration find you. It’s not about waiting for the muse to show up. This post is about how to summon the muse.

music-1874621_640Music. I’m listening to music right now… the organ is booming, and the chandelier is rising, and the opening notes of the prologue are just so inspiring because they are telling a story. Every note is perfectly timed, perfectly tuned. Every sound you hear, every breath you take, is in sync with this glorious unfolding story. The notes fill your chest, and the story itself takes root and blooms inside of you. If you close your eyes, you can see something… an inkling of something beyond your imaginings.

That was a little bit random. I wasn’t planning on including it in this post, but I rather like it. (Yes, I was listening to The Phantom of the Opera soundtrack, if you’re wondering.) I hope to do an entire post or two about music one day, because I believe that music is one of the driving forces behind the entire universe. Don’t ask me why – I just do. There has always been something symbolic about music… Aslan created Narnia with a song in The Magician’s Nephew. Tolkien used music to illustrate the fall from perfection in The Silmarillion. And I use music to create my own worlds and my own characters.

Music always tells a story. There is always some sort of idea that the composer is trying to get across to his listeners, if not an entire story. There are always emotions that are carried in the music. So to find inspiration from music, simply pick a song that you like – one that has always grabbed you and taken you by the hand and swept you away to the realm of imagination that is reality in some abstract, mysterious way… Try not think about anything as you listen to the music. Don’t try to get inspiration, or it won’t work. Let the music itself guide your thoughts. In your mind you’ll start to see the story playing out. If you’re trying to get past writer’s block, you can think vaguely about your story you’re working on, but mostly let the music direct you. It’s surprising what you can come up with.

It is a little bit hard to get to that state of mind where you’re not thinking about anything at all (especially if your mind is always busy like mine), but even just listening to music helps me when I write.

book-863418_640Books. This one seems obvious: Read other people’s creative works to learn how to do it yourself, and to get your mind off your own book. But that’s not exactly what I’m going to say, because everyone else says that. I’ve discovered that rereading old books actually gives me more inspiration than finding a new book to read. Go back to your childhood and reread your favorite books. Those books that you loved so much because you weren’t quite old enough to fully analyze a story, and you were just there for the sake of the story itself, and you didn’t have that annoying voice in your head analyzing the author’s every word…

I find myself captivated by the story itself. There’s nothing wrong with reading new books, but I’m just more inspired when I reread books I’ve already read three times.

book-1209805_640The Gospel. I have gone to the Bible many times for inspiration. Most of the time I wasn’t even looking for it, but the inspiration just popped out at me. The first time something like that happened, I just happened to be reading in Romans and I realized that the character I had just created was a perfect illustration of some aspect of the Gospel. It was pretty awesome. Besides the obvious fact that the Bible is the greatest story of all time which contains absolute truth, sometimes you can get wonderful ideas for stories.

Sometimes reading the Bible feels only like a duty and you don’t really take the time to truly appreciate the words of it. The Bible is the Word of God, so it makes sense that we should hang on to each word as we read it, our breath catching in our throats as we see the story that is unfolding before our very eyes. And we know that every word of it is true, which only makes us doubly excited. And when we look at whatever we’re reading in context of all of Scripture… the feeling is indescribable.

(Normally I would take that as a challenge and attempt to describe whatever it is I had said was indescribable, but for now I am going to leave it for you all to discover.)

So that’s my take on where to find inspiration. Are there any important things I’ve left out? Is there anywhere you go to for inspiration that I didn’t mention? You can let me know in the comments; I’d love to hear from you!

Words, Magic, and Divine Power

My footsteps are muffled crunching sounds as I walk down the now silent and abandoned street. My breath puffs out in a cloud of smoke and disappears among the hundreds of thickly-falling snowflakes, illuminated perfectly by the harsh yellow glow of a streetlamp. I shove my hands deeper into my coat pockets, the fuzzy lining rubbing against my chapped hands. And although the frigid air bites at my nose and cheeks, a smile spreads across my face, because there is just something magical about the first snowfall of the year.

Words

Sometimes I like to write short little scenes like this based off of real things I’ve experienced. Even if it’s nothing particularly exciting, I still like to experiment and see if I can write it as if it were a scene in a book. I journal fairly often, and occasionally I’ll describe bits of my day like that. (The above example actually took place a couple of weeks ago. I love snow, as you can probably tell.)

Sometimes I like to take it a step further. I’ll add fictional components. Usually this means changing the mood of the scene. For example, what was the set mood of the scene? Magical? Peaceful? Calm? Exciting? What if I were to add a few things – just a few – that completely changed the mood? Maybe add some action? Like this:

My footsteps are muffled crunching sounds as I run down the now silent and abandoned street, my breath coming hard. It puffs out into clouds of smoke and disappears among the hundreds of thickly-falling snowflakes. My footsteps are far too loud, I think. I avoid the harsh yellow glow of the streetlamp, staying just outside the circle of light. I pause to catch my breath, my heart hammering inside my burning chest. The fuzzy lining of my coat pockets rubs against my chapped skin. My fingers are trembling and I clutch at the fabric to get them to stop. The frigid air bites at my nose and cheeks. My legs are tense, as if they have frozen in place. I shiver, glance behind me, and continue at a run down the street. Suddenly the streetlamp behind me goes out, casting everything into darkness, and a gunshot pierces the still night.

Okay, maybe I overdid it with that bit about the gunshot at the end, but do you see what I mean? It’s easy to change the set mood of a scene with just a few words.

I guess what I’m really doing is changing the scene within a setting, and that changes the mood of the setting. Settings can have different moods. A different example is a forest. (A bit of a cliché, but who cares.) Let’s say a character grows up in this forest. He played make-believe there, he escaped there when he was angry or sad, he even had his first kiss there. He knows every tree, every stone, every twist and turn of this forest. But then let’s say that this character now for some reason is frantically hurrying through this forest, staring at the ground, and the trees he thought he knew so well seem to be concealing dark, age-old secrets from him. What’s different? Perhaps our character discovered that the forest is the resting place of a great treasure with a mysterious and sinister past.

Anyway, that example was getting a little beyond what I wanted to do here. I didn’t want to go on in an in-depth study of how emotions and moods change when new circumstances come up and so forth and whatever else it was that I was doing. I only wanted to illustrate how a few words can completely change an entire scene. Because words are magic.

Magic

Yes, my friend, words are magic. I’ve heard that a lot of things are magic, like writing, reading, music, words, and numbers. I agree one hundred percent with all of these, but of course, words are the real magic behind writing and reading.  (Music and numbers are too, but unfortunately I don’t have time to write about that today.) Words can be manipulated, and the author has infinite power over them. The author, if they are using the words correctly, can manipulate the reader to believe, think, and feel anything they want them to.

And why is that, you ask? The answer lies in the Bible. In fact, and this is crazy, but all you have to do is read one single chapter out of the entire Bible, and you will understand. This chapter is John 1. It starts like this:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (ESV)

I just absolutely love this passage, because it talks about Jesus being the Word. I had to study it a bit to see what it was saying, because it’s rather metaphorical. It’s almost like a poem.

The Word is Jesus. Jesus is God. When God created the universe, the planet Earth, and everything on it, he did it by speaking. He did it with words. These words are recorded in Genesis: “Let there be -” And whatever he said sprang into existence.

Divine Power

I have always compared the process of writing a story to God creating the world. God saw in his mind the universe he was going to create, and he said the words that made it come into existence out of nothing. Obviously (and I hope I shouldn’t have to explain it to you) there is a drastic difference between writing stories and God creating the universe. All we, as writers, can create is fiction. No matter how many stories we write, no matter what words we use, our stories will always be fiction. Even though we are creating something out of nothing, we can never do any better than fiction. God, however, holds the power to speak things into existence – real things that we can see and hear and touch – and even invisible things that we may not be aware of. God is the ultimate Author, and he is writing the ultimate story.

The name of my first novel is The Story and the Author. I can’t remember why I originally named it that, but I know now that it has a triple meaning. It is about a man who writes a story. The first part is the story itself (his autobiography), and the second part is about what happens to him after he writes his story, so the book is literally about a story and its author. The second meaning subtly breaks the fourth wall. I wrote myself into the story (as one of the characters, not as myself), thus, the book is about me, the author, and my story. And the third meaning is my favorite. This meaning is perhaps the most subtle of all, but it illustrates the fact that God is the Author of life, and he is writing a story – a story that started at the beginning of time and is still going. We are all characters in this story, and we all play some part in it. Except this story is very much real.

So, no matter how you view them, words are always magic. Words have the power to create or to destroy. They have the power to evoke emotion or to manipulate thoughts. With words, God created the entire universe. With words, God is writing the greatest story of all time.

We’ve all experienced how magical words can be. Where (and how) have you experienced it? In what stories? And if you like writing, have you ever written a passage that you thought was truly magical? I’d love to hear from you!