Friday, January 24, 2014

An Explanation: my most recent Lunacy

           Aka: my most recent writing project. The Sandy series.

           Those Guidelines I talked about awhile ago? About finishing that fantasy book before my birthday. It's still going. Good, yes. Except these unplanned and yet necessary scenes keep prolonging the process. But you know how characters are. . .

            I realized that nobody really knows about the Sandy series. You hear about Oddball a lot. But I'm not sure I've ever mentioned Sandy before.

           The Sandy series lacks a good title (I sound like a broken record :P) and is a fantasy. Sandy is a Sierran slave in Caspar. Sierra was at one time a very powerful kingdom and has recently become complacent. For the past generation, Caspar has raided the Sierran borders regularly. Burning villages, taking slaves, just causing the usual trouble. Sierra has secretly been built up their strength again to wage war against Caspar. They've sent spies into Caspar to relay the date and details of the coming war to the slaves. Sandy is a slave in the palace. The slave village is monitored well. Any spies are soon caught and hanged. Despite the Colonel's protests that she's too young, the slaves vote her in as a spy. While searching through the king's desk, Sandy finds out that the king, Carlo, plans for Caspar to be a superpower. Caspar will "ally" with other kingdoms in order to conquer the remaining kingdoms. Sierra is the biggest kingdom in Caspar's path. Besides being one of the largest kingdoms, Sierra has a long history of intervening on behalf of other kingdoms. Many years of peace have let Sierra's guard down, and with the Sierran king still mourning the long-ago death of his wife, daughter, and newborn son, the slave raids were initiated to further cripple Sierra. With other kingdoms allied with Caspar, they would be sure to take down Sierra. And with Sierra under their control, who stands in their way to conquer the lesser kingdoms? As the last slave spy, Sandy must survive long enough to give this vital information to the Colonel, and among other reasons.

           That's the general plot of the whole series. A lot like the world wars. Which doesn't make it sound original at all. . .

           Originally, this idea was completely different. At first, it was more like the American Revolution. It took place on a secret island where the inhabitants were still living in the Middle Ages. But, now, with satellites and all, secret islands are only possible for Jules Vernes (grr to technology). So I debated a long time with maybe an underworld. Or just dropping any relation between our world and Sandy's world.

           But last year (when I wasn't supposed to be thinking about Sandy), an idea came to me out of the blue (okay, out of the Once Upon a Time TV series). Sandy's world is in a different realm from ours. In ways it's like a parallel universe kind of thing. With an unnamed in between realm that helps you make the transition from our realm to the fantasy realm.

           When you first go from our realm to the fantasy realm, you will already have the knowledge you're supposed to have. For instance, when Sandy is sent to the fantasy realm she is already a slave in Caspar. But she has full knowledge of her past life in Sierra, the raid that took her to Caspar, her new name, her family and friends in the slave village, her master, and her enemies, etc.

           In the in between realm, you have a mentor sort of person. Pretty much they answer any questions you may have. . . if/when they want to at least. Each mentor is different and has his own ways to go about things. They help with coping and things like culture shock.

           And of course, one of the main reasons they're there is to ingrain in your brain that you can never, ever speak of your realm in the fantasy realm, and when you do return to your own realm you can never speak of the fantasy realm.

          Or what? You cannot exist in either realms.

           So since you can't talk about your realm in the fantasy realm, guess who you take your problems to? The mentor. Not that you can just summon your mentor whenever you want. It depends on the mentor. They see you're having trouble and they summon you/bring you to the in between realm (yes, I know, it really needs a name). Or not. . . if you happen to have a tough love mentor.

           The longer you're in the fantasy realm, depending on how well you forget/adapt/how intelligent you are and how much you fight it, the more you will forget your life in your realm and the less you will see of your mentor. Then you will live in the parallel fantasy realm as if you've always been there (in an offhanded way, you have been, but that might be confusing).

           Now when you return to your realm, all your memories will be replaced to you, along with those you've acquired in the parallel realm.

           Since this whole parallel realm thing is new, it's not in the first draft that I'm writing. It'll be added into the rewrite.

           So there's the plot and world of the book. In a small case. I was thinking about doing a character post with Sandy. Or maybe some of the other characters. Here's a list of some of the characters. Who would you like to hear about?

Sandy (protagonist, Sierran slave/spy)
Seth (Casprian spy in training)
Jade (assassin/ head of secret ops)
King Karlo (the king of Caspar)
Krystal (girl in the tower, think Rapunzel without all the hair)
Sammie (Sierran spy, Sandy's cousin)
Deaf (Sierran spy in the palace dungeons)


Monday, January 20, 2014

Divergent: the factions

           I'm rereading Divergent by Veronica Roth. I have Allegiant, but I want to reread the first two books before starting it. So while I do, I thought I'd post a little about the books.

           I love the world of Divergent. It is separated into five factions:

Abnegation, the selfless
Candor, the honest
Dauntless, the brave
Amity, the peaceful
Erudite, the intelligent

           The book I own has the manifestos of each faction in the back of the book. It's really neat. Okay, I didn't read all of the manifestos entirely. Candor's was written like an argumentative essay, and Erudite's was a series of lists incorporated into an informative essay. I kind of skimmed those ones, but I did read the others. . .

           Each faction was formed because they each believed there was one solution to preventing conflict in the world (aka: war).

           What is interesting to me is that as you read the opening chapters of Divergent, you realize how all the factions work together throughout the city. How no faction would survive alone. They all need each other.

           Marcus almost acknowledges this in his speech during the Choosing Ceremony.

"Working together, these five factions have lived in peace for many years, each contributing to a different sector of society. . . . Apart from them, we would not survive."

Initially, Tris sees that last sentence to mean that without are faction, you are factionless and therefore belong nowhere and are useless in society. But I wonder if maybe he meant that without the factions (plural), there is no way to survive. Even if he does not mean this, as the story progresses you can see plainly that their society would have difficulty functioning properly if only one of the factions existed.

           So why does each faction still believe their way is the only way? If they are so dependent on each other? Maybe the factions were first established with the idea that they would each be independent, but that must have failed from the start?

            Maybe it's not so much about what one thing does the world need, as it is about where you belong. That's how Tris rationalizes through the Choosing Ceremony. The question struggling in her mind isn't "what do I believe?" It's "Where do I belong?"

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Writing bloopers, sort of

           I know I've read similar sentences in books before. And it never struck me as weird. But the other day, I wrote:

"Yes." She dropped her eyes to the ground.

           No, it just has to go. Maybe if it was a horror book or something (it could work as some morbid pun), I'd keep it. But here. I can't help take it literally. It just sounds so absurd. Besides, Sandy needs her eyes later on. :P

           And this:

The door echoed shut.

           What?! Really? That doesn't even make sense. The door can't be shut by its own echo, since the act of it shutting results in an echo. Agh! I'm going crazy.

           I've been realizing that I tend to write myself into situations without knowing how to write myself out.

           Think this. The middle of the night, in a forest. Sandy's two friends, a dying man, and two horses have been captured. Seven highly trained soldiers have surrounded them in ambush for Sandy. Stefon (He's on Sandy's side) has caught up to them. He has a few arrows, a dagger, and a wounded side. Sandy is weaponless. How do they rescue the two teenagers, the dying man, and two horses?

           I thought about this forever. Finally, hey, why not set fire to the forest as a distraction? That could actually work. You know, if I hadn't let the skies pour misery on my characters for the past couple of book days. Stupid rain.

           So how does Sandy and Stefon rescue them without being captured?


           They don't.

           Yeah, I was rather put out. I can still make it all work out at the end. But I was kind of hoping for another epic win before the last showdown. I guess it's better they hit rock bottom, before the end though.

"What are our chances?" she argued.
"None." Resolution filled his voice.
Her heart sank deeper. "Then what do you say we do?"
"We go down fighting."

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

If you feel like it, come with me. I will tell you a story. I'll show you something.

In six words. May I take a line from the book?

There's a Jew in my basement.

           I finally finished The Book Thief on the 30th of December. It was interesting that I happened to be reading this at the end of the year. Because all year long I've been seeing how everyone and everything are all such a beautiful mess. And this book really portrayed life that way. A big, beautiful mess. It showed me a thing or two.

           The style, the idea, the characters, even the formatting was so different. Refreshing.

           You know, as refreshing as a book narrated by Death can be. . .

           The fact that it's narrated by Death is absolute genius! Death's voice is original. Not morbid or dark, like you would first think. But dry, blunt, sometimes empty, and somehow colorless. Death is truly personified. Like he's a real person. In fact, I'm convinced he is. He's very apathetic, because what he does demands it. A few times, surprisingly, his feelings show, human feelings. And how often do you get to read Death's thoughts on life?

            As a character, Death made it to the top character list. But not quite my favorite.

            Rudy is hilarious. His and Liese's exploits were so much fun to read. He is audacious and ridiculous. And he gets angry so easily sometimes, but usually for good, just reasons. I loved seeing him grow up and how he turned out. And, Liesel, maybe you should've kissed him. Maybe.

           But he wasn't my favorite either.

           Max! I love Max, everything about him. I love his stories, his sketches, his imaginings. How he goes from being an egotistical young man to being so humble to think himself worthless. I ended up loving Max almost as much as Liesel. Almost. I'm not sure I could outdo her.

           He could've been my favorite. But I'm telling you, this book has some amazing characters. Choosing a favorite is tough.

           Liesel Meminger. She is so much fun to watch grow up. Falling in love with books and words when she doesn't even know what they mean. Learning to read in the middle of the night. Racing with Rudy. Stealing apples with Rudy. Trying not to feel guilt and feeling guilt anyways. Standing up to the mayor's wife's grief. Okay, I won't be like Death and tell you everything before it happens. But I loved how she describes things, how she cherishes things. How she loves. Her childlike innocence and view of the world. I loved it.

           I'm sorry, Liesel, you are not my favorite either. But I think you will understand when I tell who is my favorite.

Somehow,  though, and I'm sure you've met people like this, he was able to appear as merely part of the background, even if he was standing at the front of a line. He was always just there. Not noticeable. Not important or particularly valuable.

             Hans Huberman is my favorite in this whole book. Because even though he is very little seen or noticed, he does things that are important. They seem like little things. But the little things are the kind things which are the brave things, the stupid things, the stand-up things, the things that matter most. He has the biggest heart in all the world. He knows what humanity is. And he leaves room for grace. He is the most loyal person, I've ever read. He doesn't try to stand out. He tries to "behave," but you can't subdue what you truly believe forever. And he is not without fault. He has those. And so he is a beautiful mess, like the rest of the characters, and all of the book. But there is something about his character. In the little things he does that matter. I want to be like that.

           Plot-wise. I loved the plot. I love how the book progressed. How Death told the readers what happens next when we weren't really supposed to know yet. It created a different kind of suspense. The plot is, wow, I loved it. The writing is genius. I loved reading a book that was all about words. One of my favorite topics.

           I admit, I probably could've read it faster. But for starters, the writing is good and considering the plot, it takes a while to digest the book. And to me (yes, I am weird) digesting, or contemplating, a well-written book is almost as good as reading it. And secondly, it's Nazi German, there's a Jew in their basement. So at the end, what happens? THEY'RE ALL GOING TO DIE! My subconscious made this prediction before my conscious did. I didn't exactly want to reach the end. And, no, that wasn't a spoiler. Not a complete one at least.

           Basically the point of this post is:

            Go read The Book Thief. The 500-something pages is worth it. It will change you some way. Promise.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Forks don't belong in the road. Just saying.

          I don't normally make goals. And when I do- They're more like a kind of guidelines. I hate goals.


           Because I can never make the goals I set. It's kind of depressing. When every self-motivated goal that has no consequences that will effect anyone else besides me, just, well, think the cliched New Year's Resolution. (I despise those too, by of way).

          Easy solution to depressing-not-succeeding-at-goals problem: Don't make goals.


          My mom on the other hand is very into goals. She's says if you don't have goals then you'll never get anywhere.

         After pursuing the easy solution lightbulb, I have found she is half right.

         Half right because, for me, making goals and not making goals have the same results. Wandering from idea to idea and fizzling out at each one.

        So awhile ago, I decided on an Ultimate Writing Goal Until Changed By Later Circumstances (like I said, guidelines).

The Ultimate Writing Goal Until Changed By Later Circumstances: Do not work on any other project until Oddball is finished.

The the guidelines increased in limitation with the addition of a due date. (I hate due dates. Pressure. Grr. Why do I do this to myself?)

Due Date: The first draft of the first book of Oddball must be finished by my next birthday.

           That's in February.

           Yes, I'm leaning on the freaking-out side.

           You know, I thought I could do it. Really. I had opened a blank file on Microsoft and just, excuse me, threw up on the page (this phrase has to be coined into writer terminology). Then November hit with traveling, holidays, school, and prep for finals. And the guidelines became less attainable. . .

            The other day, I found something in my room. A fork in the road. I don't know about you, but I prefer my forks beside my plate. Or in my hand, with something yummy on the other end.

            This fork resembled a notebook. A thick 400 paged black notebook with a ton of folded stray papers sticking out from between its pages.

           Warning: the following paragraphs contain great amounts of backstory. . . on a story.

           This is what I was working on before Oddball. When Oddball bumped into me while running from prackles, I didn't commit to writing his story on the spot. I had been working on this other fantasy.

           And I was so, so close to actually finishing the first draft of this fantasy. Like, maybe twenty scenes, give or take. And I was so in tune with the characters. The last ten scenes are mayhem to read because it was all pure pantsing (excuse me, non-writers, this probably sounds very awkward to you). I don't normally do that. It was amazing. It reads terrible. But I was so close to finishing.

         Then I woke up.

         Word of advise: Don't wake up on the home stretch of writing. Ignore reality shaking you, screaming at you. And just keep your eyes shut and dream on. Write "The End." Wake up. Loaf around. And edit.

           This fantasy of mine (literally literally) was huge. It was one of my first stories. It has a broad scope and looks at the bigger picture. It's like the World War but in a fantasy world. (I think a lot of fantasies are like this actually. It's like a trait of the genre or something). I had at least ten POV characters. And it was a series. Some of those characters would die later, but there were plenty more POV characters lined up to take their place (I was a very green writer, still am). And I wanted this to be like the main series off other series. To see the war from a different perspectives and how it effected different people in different kingdoms. But I wanted all the major battles, people, and dates to be accurate through the whole thing. Of course.

           It was all so beautiful. I loved it. It was, is, how Jane Austen put it, my "darling child".

           Then I woke up and realized-

           This project is like ginomormously huge.


           Way too monsterous for a beginner writer.


           I was (am) a beginner writer.


           I wanted this story to be amazing. It couldn't be my first story. Or my first draft. Because first drafts don't normally get published. Or so I hear. And as I write more I should progress and get better. I don't want this to be my starter project! I wanted it to be one of my best works.

           I'm not sure what I would do if this work wasn't published. Ugh. I don't want to think of it. But I will be honest, I can live with Oddball not being published. I know that sounds terrible. But of all the ideas I've ever had, I couldn't live with Oddball being unwritten, but I could live with Oddball being unpublished.

           So I made a simple sacrifice (ha! that phrase is an oxymoron, simple sacrifice, phfft.) I stopped writing the Sandy series (lovely fantasy name, I know :P), and began writing Oddball's story seriously. Because Oddball was supposed to be a standalone with a few POV characters. Perfect for a beginning writer to start off.

           Yeah, whatever.

           Later I realized how cliched some of the Sandy series is. I decided to say good-bye to it. It was a sad day.

           Until last year, I  had a new twist to it, that would only make it all the more complicated to write. :P The Sandy series was revived. Sort of. In my head, for a later date.

          End of backstory. I think.

          The other day when I found the notebook buried in a bag, I realized (these realizations just need to leave me alone) that I was so close to finishing this draft. This first draft. Something I've never done. I have two notebooks filled with only notes for this series. I outwrote the main notebook and had to dig up the latter 53 pages of the stuff. That's how ugly this series is.
           And is it still cliched? Yeah, it has it's moments. Okay, a lot of moments.

           But it's almost February. And this first draft, as opposed to Oddball's, is so near to being finished. If I could finish a first draft, then I could know that I could do it. That I could actually finish something. Well, a first draft at least. I mean, it wouldn't technically be finished, because that would mean readable. For it to be readable, it might also need to be legible. *cough* And rewritten. And edited through and through. 

           The fork in the road presented two choices.

First Choice: Forget Sandy for now and finish Oddball. Maybe finish Oddball before my birthday. Maybe finish Oddball in ten years. Leave Sandy buried and dump any mad scientist ideas of resurrecting her out the window.

Second Choice: Resume where I left off with Sandy. Try to find the last 53 pages in the rubble in my room. Run the risk of it being really hard to edit later because I'm not as in tune with the characters any more.  And finish a first draft before my birthday.

           I'm terrible with decisions. But I did decide.

           Ten or so POV characters? Yes, I was very much a beginner writer. Very much dreaming. And definitely insane.

New Guidelines: Finish the first draft of the first book in the Sandy series before my birthday.

           So it seems I am still an insane beginner writer. Dreaming, of course. Is it shallow of me to change my guidelines because I just want to finish a first draft?

           No, don't answer that. Don't wake me until February.