Snow Days are Boring

Today was the second snow day of the week and tomorrow will be the third. The week before last was Atlanta’s Snowpocalypse where we ended up with a 5 1/2 day weekend. I am generally quite productive during these snow days, I’ve finished several of my miniature projects because of them, but despite the fact that I still have things I can work on, I am beginning to get bored. I love snow days as much as any college student (especially since I got out of two tests this week because of them) but honestly I’d like to get back on a regular schedule.

I am most relaxed and at my most creative when I have a structured day. When I have all day just to sit around I get dollhouse stuff done but I haven’t written a word of any of my stories. I don’t even know what to write on here. What do I write about when I haven’t left my house in two days?

Hopefully next week I’ll get more scheduled so I’ll have more interesting posts popping out all the time again.

My Valentine’s Day Castle

What is my Valentine’s story? I’m young and have many Valentine’s Days ahead of me, but so far they have really been quite uneventful. So since I don’t have a romantic Valentine’s Day where I met my future husband or was surprised with a cruise to Costa Rica, I’ll write about the years that I loved this holiday the most.

My favorite Valentine’s Days were actually the ones in elementary school before we were old enough to like boys and everyone gave the whole class a Valentine. We would go to the store with our parents and pick out the perfect pack of cards that perfectly said who we were and that the whole class would be talking about. They came in sheets and had a spot for the to and from, simple. Mine were usually silver and metallic with pictures of Harry Potter characters on them. The people I liked most would get Hermione, Ginny, or Luna and everyone else would get Harry, Ron, or Dumbledore. By the end of our annual Valentine’s Day party all my Harry Potter Valentines would be replaced by an assortment of cards and candy from the other 20 people in my class.

But the best part about Valentine’s Day was the boxes. Everyone in the class cut a hole in the top of a shoebox and decorated the outside in their own way. We lined either the hallway or the classroom with all our boxes and dropped a Valentine in every one. I had a lot of fun in first grade making that box. Covering it in doilies – my go-to for Valentine’s Day even today – and painting it red. When I was 6, however, tragedy struck. To my horror, when the day finally came, I had a fever. I was crushed, everyone was at school making their boxes and enjoying the Valentine’s Day party and I was at home. I was missing out on my favorite tradition.

While I moped on the couch, my dad came up with the idea of the year. Even though I couldn’t go to school, I could still make a Valentine’s Day box like everyone else. Then, when I went back the next day, I would have a box for all the cards that were saved for me from the party. But cutting a hole in a shoebox and watching me decorate it doesn’t make for much father/daughter bonding, so my dad decided we would make the best Valentine’s Day box in the class.

I’ve always been a princess girl, so our natural first idea for the box was a Valentine’s Day castle. We took paper towel rolls and cut them to fit the four corners of the box then attached them. We cut the tops of the rolls to look like castle turrets and even added floors just beneath the cutouts so the people could stand on them. Once that was all glued and cut, my dad spray painted it the shiniest red I’d ever seen. The spray painting is one of my clearest memories of that day. I was just a little kid and had no previous experience with spray pant, so when my dad started to paint this cardboard castle all I saw was magic.

While the castle was drying, we painted a wooden dowel white and cut a triangle out of pink construction paper. Then, we took the castle inside and I added my signature doilies as well as construction paper hearts while my dad glued the pink triangle to the dowel to make a flag. I wrote my name on the flag and we added it to the castle for the finishing touch.

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This Valentine’s Day box was beautiful. To a six year old it was magnificent, and even today I love it. The next day I proudly carried my bright red masterpiece into school, ready to accept all the candy I had missed out on the day before. But it wasn’t the shiny Harry Potter Valentines that made this year special, it was my whole class oooing and ahhing over my box and getting to say “my daddy and I made this.”

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I used that box for three years straight and although the flag needed re-gluing a few times, it was never any less wonderful. When my little sister got to that age, the three of us made Valentine’s Day mail trucks out of wood with working wheels. They were both dark blue and we personalized them by painting little wooden hearts in different patterns to clue on the sides. Our names were on the license plates. He also made my sister a giant purple rocketship once I was past the box phase.

Although the boxes got more complex and impressive once my sister got old enough to make them, my favorite is still the red castle that sits on a shelf in my bedroom, with my name on it’s flag. It was the most simple one, just made out of cardboard, but it was the one that I felt the greatest connection to my dad while building. It was a joint effort and he made my dream of a red Valentine’s Day castle a reality.

Love is complex. It’s messy and confusing and oftentimes Valentine’s Day can make things worse in a rocky relationship. It’s amazing the reactions I see around me from people both in relationships and single. Within my sorority I’ve heard nonstop talk about what everyone is doing Friday. They talk about the surprises their boyfriends are planning, the grand gestures they’re expecting, where they have reservations and what expensive dress they’re wearing. The single girls make jokes about how they will be spending the day with Netflix and ice cream. I’ll be going to Moes and probably spend the evening watching Star Trek: The Next Generation, but I’ll guarantee that although I won’t have as much to talk about the next day, my night will be just as romantic and loving as any crazy plan. And, despite all the excitement about romantic relationships on this day, the greatest relationship I’ve built through Valentine’s Day is the one with my dad.

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Divergent: My Opinions

I finally got around to watching the long version of the Divergent trailer (see above) today and I am very conflicted about it. Sometime last year I read the book but stopped after reading the first one because, as I found out when I read The Hunger Games, dystopias really aren’t my thing. I read the book because of a recommendation and I was quite disappointed by it. The idea was fascinating and interesting to think about but I didn’t find the characters to be at all relatable and the plot seemed somewhat contrived. It seemed like Roth really wanted to build suspense and tried her hardest but it just didn’t do it for me. For most of the story I felt like she was just throwing random things at me to try to keep me interested. It wasn’t a bad book, but definitely wasn’t my style so I didn’t have any inclination to read the rest of the series. As soon as I finished I promptly put it away and forgot all about it, despite its popularity.

I had heard idle chatter about the movie coming out, but I didn’t pay attention until after the start of this year when I saw one of the teaser trailers. Today, after several days of forgetting to, I looked up the full length trailer for Divergent. I was hoping that it would turn out the same as The Hunger Games did, where I absolutely hated the book but instantly became obsessed with the story once the movie came out, but so far the trailers have been disappointing. It looks mildly interesting and I still like the idea of the factions and how it seems like a good idea but obviously doesn’t work. However the weird romance between Tris and Four feels awkward and, unlike The Hunger Games which (I still can’t believe I’m saying this) took a book and made it better, it looks like it took the book and added emotionless actors.

But, I’ll try to keep an open mind when I see it next month. Who knows, Divergent could be the next Hunger Games.

12 Ways to Stay Interested in a Story

How many failed ideas do you have lying around your desktop? Why didn’t they make the cut? I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember but I’ve only really finished a handful of stories. It’s taken a good bit of trial and error, but by looking at what NOT to do, I’ve managed to come up with a list of how to stay interested in a story once you’ve started writing.

Photo by Jeffrey James Pacres

Photo by Jeffrey James Pacres

Top 10 ways to stay interested in a story

1. Write it down

This seems like a no brainer but it’s a big one for me personally. I have idea after idea; I fill my head with a story and write it from start to finish without ever putting pen to paper, then I get bored with it and it never gets written. It’s not that I love these unfinished stories any less, it’s just that I was finished with it long before I typed the first word. If you have an awesome idea, great, but do your best to only work on it when you’re physically writing your thoughts down. Come up with another little story to distract you when you aren’t able to work on the real one. If you can draw, draw one of the scenes you’ve already written out. Write character profiles, whatever it takes, just DO NOT write the story in your head.

2. Choose characters with interesting personalities and motivations

No Mary Sues! It’s easy to make a character a Mary Sue, but your story will definitely not thank you for it. The tragic backstory, too perfect to be real personality, and everyone falling in love with her the second they lay eyes on her is fun to imagine for us hopeless romantics, but putting one of these in your story is the nail in its coffin. Just be sure you don’t swing too far the other way and make your main character completely unrelatable. Make your character interesting to write about and read about. Make them react in interesting ways and give them imperfect relationships with their co-stars. In my opinion, the characters are the most important part of a story, so spend as much time as necessary fleshing them out and giving them their own life. It worked for Stephanie Meyer, but I would avoid characters like Bella from Twilight where she was really just a faceless shell for the reader to insert herself into.

3. Have just the right amount of minor characters

The “right” number of minor characters is different for every writer and every story, but no matter what, do not let your minor characters crowd out the plot with sheer numbers. If you have a cast of a hundred, your story is going to be 100 times as long as a cast of one, because you now have to give ample screen time to every single character because you love them so much. If you’re aiming to be the next George R. R. Martin go for it, but when thinking on a smaller scale the fewer characters, the easier it is to actually have a finished product.

4. Let it develop naturally

Sometimes, if you’re very lucky, a story will develop a life of its own and start writing itself for you. It may or may not be going in the direction you had originally planned but, honestly, it’s better to go along with it. The plot you had lined up may have been absolute gold, but if it’s not going in that direction, the best way to keep it alive is to go where it really wants to. It will probably be better in the end anyway. Similarly, sometimes (despite our best efforts in step 2) a character just doesn’t do it for you – probably because you’ve made another character much more interesting than your main shell protagonist. If a character takes over, let them – odds are trying to stay on your main character will bore you to death anyway.

5. Have a detailed setting

While it’s not a deal breaker, a good setting can help a stalled story get traction again. Nothing to write about? If you know where you are, you have a ready-made side plot just sitting there. You have a world/country/city/kingdom to bend to your will, so help yourself and your story out and use it.

6. Have a clear idea of where the plot is headed

There’s nothing worse than coming up with the idea of the century, having amazing character, a fantastic new universe you made especially for it, and finding 50 pages in that you aren’t really sure what you brought your cast together for. It doesn’t matter how perfect everything else is, if you don’t have a plot – and a GOOD one at that – your story isn’t getting past first base. Be absolutely certain that you have a detailed story line, it doesn’t even have to be written down, before you start writing or you’ll find yourself writing in circles.

7. Have it mean something

You’ll be more motivated if you have something real and personal driving your story. Is it a story about escape from a metaphorical cage? Is it a coming of age story about finding yourself? Is it a journey where the destination is nothing more than knowledge? Why does you story matter? Make it more than skin deep and you and anyone who reads it will love it that much more.

8. Don’t stew over minor details and wording, they’re not worth it

Don’t let your story come to a standstill because you couldn’t decide what color dress your main character was going to wear to the party. If dress color mattered that much, you would have already known what she should wear so just pick a color and keep writing. I once had a Harry Potter story brought to its knees because I couldn’t come up with the perfect name for one of my major characters. That story probably had one of my favorite characters I’ve ever written, and it died because I couldn’t decide between Evan and Darren. How dumb is that? Don’t let that happen to you. Just pick a name and if you hate it that much you can change it at the end.

9. Save the editing for the end

If you’re on a roll keep rolling. Don’t stop to correct spelling errors or change around sentence structure. Sure that matters in the end, but when you’re trying to get your thoughts written out which verb you used three pages ago needs to take a backseat to the real story. This is the beauty of NaNoWriMo, if you want that book finished in a month, you don’t have time for minor details and you’ll be more likely to get it done. Once you’ve typed the end, go back and edit for as long as you like. Many a story has died because I kept going back and rewording the first few pages when I still had ideas for the part I was really on.

10. Go somewhere new

Sometimes a change in scenery is all you need to get the creativity flowing again. Somewhere not too busy but with new sights, noises, and smells can change your whole attitude toward your project and give you all new inspiration.

11. Don’t force it

Know when it’s time to call it. Sometimes that defibrillator is just too late. If it’s dead, it’s dead.

12. Write it in the order people will read it in

This one is up for debate. I’ve heard of people writing chapters from all over their books in all different random orders and that may work for you, but it’s going on my list because I’ve tried that and had it ruin books. I think linearly, so if my mind is already that far ahead AND I give in and decide to go write that, the part I was on is dead. This may work for you and more power to you if it does, but I would not recommend it.

Why I’m a Bad Hunger Games Fan

I’m not ashamed of this, but I know a lot of you hardcore HG people will be very disappointed in me. I want to talk about it though because I find the whole thing very intriguing as it has never happened to me before.

I only read the first book in the Hunger Games trilogy. And you know what? I hated it.

I’m dead serious I HATED The Hunger Games and I knew with absolute certainty that I WOULD NOT finish the trilogy. I am not into dystopias at all. The Hunger Games, Divergent, Brave New World, The Handmaid’s Tale (though it was by far the best of the four) you name it I don’t do dystopias. I just don’t like them. I don’t need everything to be happy and rainbows I even like some tragedy and angst, but when the system is as fundamentally messed up as it is in those stories I just can’t do it. I finished them all, but I never had the slightest inclination to continue on in the series.

But The Hunger Games was worse than the others. Divergent was just trying too hard, Brave New World I don’t even know, and The Handmaid’s Tale had kind of a noncommittal happy ending. See The Hunger Games was just too close for me. I have a younger sister who is about the same age difference from me as Prim and Rue were to Katniss and that just made it that much more disturbing to me. I was revolted and it angered me even more that my little sister loved them so much.

After that, why did I go see the movie? I honestly don’t remember. Maybe it was a date, or I heard good things, or I was hopeful that it would be better than the book, but whatever it was I ended up in that theater a few weeks after it came out. And then I found myself in another theater a few weeks later. And then I found myself reading page after page on the Hunger Games Wiki. I was on fanfiction.net skimming SYOT (Submit Your Own Tribute) stories that were all the rage. I loved it. I loved the movie, I loved the story, and I was writing my own.

I can’t explain why it happened, but I am really glad it did because my Hunger Games story is one of my all time favorites (and I finished it!). I took the idea from the SYOT stories on fanfiction.net but instead of asking for character submissions, I made 24 children of my own and used a random number generator to determine which order they would die in. I experimented with different storytelling techniques and that one story expanded my writing in a big way.

“What happened to how disgusted you were by the book Verity?” Good question, and if you figure out the answer tell me because I would like to know as well.

Oh, and no I never read Catching Fire and Mockingjay and no, I never wanted to.

Cedar and Cherry

A Natural Love

 

I first saw her, elegant and beautiful as a goddess

Eternally lovely as if planted by an artist

Across the street comforting her weeping friend,

Leaving me wishing I could simply extend a hand.

 

She was just blossoming, could be outshone by none

Pink and alive and brilliant in the shining sun.

I did not think she would have noticed me,

For she was irreplaceable while I was one of many.

 

It seemed that she was stretching toward me

Calling that if I could get across the concrete sea,

My undying love for her would be returned,

So I began to reach out to what I hoped to earn.

 

She watched as I reached across time and space

And she leaned in my direction, though rooted in place.

Months and years went by as we moved slowly with intent.

The world changed around us, but we were somehow distant.

 

I was tireless until that instant when I was suddenly secure.

Our fingertips brushed and it was at that moment I was sure

That she, as fragile and divine as a dove,

She was my one and only love.

Newsflash: I’m writing again!

I’m writing my stories again! And I have this blog and my new Twitter account to thank for it!

Why did I stop in the first place? Well, in early 2011, all my projects came to a screeching halt when I got a new boyfriend. It’s dumb I know but for some reason I just stopped everything. I have all my word documents dated so I can see that all my big things were completely ignored by May 2011 and that’s just sad. I didn’t completely stop, I kept writing little things and actually finished most of them. I also devoted a lot of my time to my other hobbies (mostly miniatures). I have a couple of nice things to show from the last 3 years, some mermaid short stories and all my Hunger Games stuff came from this time as well so it was definitely not a dead period, but my favorite, big ones were shoved aside. I also wrote a BOSS story about a Targaryen queen recently if anyone is interested in that.

But this blog and the inspiring people I’m following here and on Twitter have inspired me to look back at some of the original stories I was working on before I stopped. Yesterday I was looking at what was going to be a collection of short stories about two feuding clans in a race of elves. Each story would be a different character telling their story and leading toward the overall plot. I got through three before May 2011 and I still really like them and the idea, so yesterday I went back in time and added an entire story to the list! My new tentative goal is to write two or three stories a week so that I can FINALLY finish one of my biggest undertakings in my writing. Wish me luck!