Writing

Unintentional Symbolism and Messages I’ve Made in My Writing

Image from Pixabay

Have any of you wrote something and didn’t realize anything significant about your work until long after? I have. They are symbols and messages I didn’t discover until a lengthy time after writing the projects.

For instance, in my first book, “The Frights of Fiji” (formerly, “From Frights to Flaws”), there are mermaid-like women, but with dolphin tails, who sing certain songs as a way of informing others of their presences. Those songs ended up relating to the situations they were encountering or leaving.

In my second book, “The Uncontrollable Curse” (formerly “Wizardry Goes Wild”), my MC wants her dog to attack the antagonist, who is a skeleton. At the time I wrote the story, I tied that dog vs. skeleton situation with historical context—not because of the “dog-eating-bones” stereotype.

Another unintentional message I ended up making in that installment was about history repeating itself. I’m not going to spoil anything, of course (“The Uncontrollable Curse” hasn’t even come out yet), but the book does tie a lot of Puritan and Salem Witch Trials content. My MC is cursed with involuntary magic. When she does it, others misunderstand and become afraid of her. This ties to how people during Pilgrim and witch hunt times were miscomprehended and feared when they were just different. While people who were found guilty of witchcraft were hanged and/or burned, the “witch” (my MC) is penalized for her sorcery by getting detention at school, suspended, excluded from activities, and more (I won’t give away anything else).

I have yet to discover any accidental messages or symbols in my third book. But hey—it might happen.

Writing

Characters: When All of Their Flaws Are Too Hard to Apply

Image from Pixabay

Ah, characters: you’ve got to love or hate them—or have some opinion on them. They also shouldn’t be perfect. The hero should do wrong things and get disliked at times and the villain should get liked at times.

However, this is super-difficult—at least for me it is. I have a tendency to protect my main character in my novels. I like her a lot. I feel sorry for her. And because of those, I tend to make her hardly flawed. At most, she may do a few wrong things and at milder levels. The worst she has done in my book series was unauthorized filming and lying about not doing it. That’s actually a serious offense.

Anyway, I’m probably not the only writer who has trouble making certain characters flawed. Of course, there are characters who are unfriendly, but not evil. And obviously, there is conflict in my stories. But I think I know why I have difficulty getting my protagonist to misbehave.

One: it wasn’t until the plot of my first book’s first edition was nearly complete when I found out that protagonists should behave badly or do wrong things. When rewriting my first book after removing it from the market, I couldn’t make my main character more flawed as the major elements had already been established. Two: I have recently become very uncomfortable around conflict. Not just in real life, but also in fiction. Yes, I have stopped certain books and movies because I loathed how the characters were being treated. Now while writing my third book, I have no plans to make my MC do really bad things. Yes, she won’t be perfect. In fact, she will have trouble controlling her emotions. But I will stop there on that.

Writers fall in love with their heroes. They become attached to them. So they may have trouble making them behave badly. However, someone told me that the best books have characters who misbehave a lot.

Now if you’re creating children’s stories, there are limits to how badly the characters can act. Of course, it would be acceptable (and would probably engage readers) if the protagonists started food fights at school, got sent to the principals’ offices, and were punished by their parents. However, you could not have them do something that would be inappropriate. Not just drugs or drinking, but also activities that could lead to death or serious injuries. Otherwise, parents won’t want their kids reading your books.

Do you notice that lack of perfectly behaved characters in fiction? Most likely. And that’s because people want flawed characters. In fact, sometimes that’s essential to the storylines.

I’ll give a few examples from Disney movies. In The Lion King, when Simba talks to Scar about that shadowed area that his father forbade him to go, Scar says that only the bravest lions would enter. “Brave” is the big, main keyword. That was what encouraged Simba to check it out, and, of course, that led to conflict crucial for the plot. If Scar had said that only the dumbest lions would go there, Simba might not have gone because he wouldn’t have said, “Well, I’m dumb.” He was in too good of a mood to say such a thing. And then, there would have been a lot less conflict. And without enough conflict, the story would’ve been dull, and the film would’ve drastically failed—or maybe not have even been green-lit.

In Beauty and the Beast, after the beast releases Belle from the dungeon tower, he leads her up to her new room and says that she can go anywhere, except the forbidden west wing. Later Belle is curious about the west wing and enters it, discovering the enchanted rose and the portrait of the beast when he was a person. The beast catches her and forces her out.

Spoiler:

At the end, when the beast transforms back into a human, Belle recognizes him from the painting. Then they live happily ever after.

If Belle had listened to the beast, or the beast had not prohibited her from going to the west wing, then the ending might’ve resulted in the prince re-explaining how he’d become a beast. Or—he might not have changed into a better character. Therefore, Belle wouldn’t loved him, and he would’ve failed to break the spell he and the servants had gone under.

So there you have it. Notice the pattern in both examples? Let that help you.

Writing

The Dialogue… It’s so Incredibly Difficult!

Image from Pixabay

Why is it so hard? Because it needs to be relevant to the storyline, not offensive, and sound natural to the person speaking it, taking their age, time, where they live, and other demographics in mind. You need to listen to how people speak.

Yet, many people, especially those the ages of middle grade characters, have said little to nothing in my presence. Yup—people watching is tougher than you think, excluding the risk of those folks thinking that you’re stalking them. You could watch movies too, but that doesn’t really help, either. Another option is to read books and see how other authors write their characters’ dialogue.

But the hardest challenge with dialogue, overall, is having characters react believably to extreme situations, especially in fantasy. I write fantasy and I cannot stress enough how difficult it is to make characters react naturally to high levels of danger. No matter how hard I try, readers have said that the characters’ reactions were muted, unnatural, and too accepting. It’s so frustrating!

However, I found a solution, besides receiving help from editors. I print out the story and read the dialogue out loud. I was surprised to discover how unnatural some lines were—just by reading them out loud. So I changed the words.

Observing others is fine up to a certain extent. Also, a lot of people are quiet in public. Many even put on faces in public and might behave differently in their homes. Reading other books could work, as well. But I find reading the dialogue out loud helps the most.

Writing

On Writing my Third “Magical Missions” Novel

This process has been SUPER difficult for me. I meant that. For two years, I couldn’t finish a single darn draft. Then, last year, I discovered that I needed to start shorter and sloppier. I realized that my progress differed from other writers. I needed to simplify things drastically. While others write 100,000 words and have to cut, I will have to write 10,000 words and then expand. But that’s another post.

Anyway, the first installment “The Frights of Fiji” is available on Amazon here. The second installment, “The Uncontrollable Curse” can be pre-ordered right here. The third novel is currently titled “Enchanted for Eternity” (which might change) and still has a ways to go. I am writing a synopsis for the current draft. I’m hoping that plot can work for the final draft. Really—I just want this project to be done. About 3.25 years of this WIP have passed and I cannot tell you how many times I wanted to quit.

Yeah—finding an exciting plot was sooo hard. Even recently, long after I completed a full first draft from January to February last year (2018), I have gotten bored with some of my plots. However, the one I’m working on actually sounds pretty exciting, even though I’m not done with the synopsis.

But the idea has stayed the same. My main character, Alyssa, is cursed with magic that she needs to learn to control and keep permanently. I’ll release more information once the story’s pretty much done and nearing publication, which might be early fall, as of now.

art

Colored Pencils Plus Photoshop Smudging Equals a Beautiful Image

I am not kidding or exaggerating one bit. I tried this technique and discovered how it would’ve resulted. And guess what? It succeeded.

I didn’t even realize that mixing different colors of the colored pencils would add more dimension and tones to my image below. The most amateurish part is the marks.

This is the photo I took with my phone. Now see the Photo-shopped image below.

Look at the difference. It’s as if a professional illustrated this.

You can see the different colors of the hair, skin, and shirt. Why did I choose blue for the background, you may ask? I felt it would contrast more and would represent positivity and happiness.

Smudging in Photoshop does wonders. I probably will keep up with coloring in colored pencils and smudging the hues in Photoshop.

It’s not that I will give up coloring digitally or painting traditionally. This will just be an additional technique.

You color with different colors in the same hue. You remain mindful of tints and tones based on where the area of light and shadows are. Then you take a picture and upload it digitally. Or you can scan it. Whatever works for you. Then you open it in Photoshop, click the smudge tool, and smudge away. That’s how you get dimension and not just flat colors.

You can make any subject you’d like. You could even do abstract drawings. Anything will work as long as you have fun.

short fiction

The Deal: A Flash Fiction Piece

I had received a D on my science test. My teacher, Mrs. Wellington, had given me extra help prior. But for some reason, biology ended up a weakness of mine.

            I considered it strange since I had enjoyed studying animals growing up. I would read about them, talk about them, and beg my parents to take me to zoos and aquariums.

            I entered my house. My mom got off the phone.

            “Jade, we need to have a talk.”

            I sat with my mom.

            “You promised me straight A’s for all of ninth grade.”

            “I’m sorry,” I said.

            “I think I’m going to have to make you miss your class trip to Ocean Life Park.”

            “No!”

            “You want to have fun, you need to maintain good grades.”

            I covered my head.

            “All right, if you really want to go, here’s the deal. You get A’s in all your classes for a week. Plus, you do every chore exactly as I ask. No mistakes. If you do everything right, I will let you go on that trip. If not, you are going to miss the trip.”

            I gazed at my mom. “Deal.”

            “Good. Now can you wash the dishes, please?”

            “Yes.” I stood up and rinsed each one. My shirt got soaked along with my hair. Nevertheless, I continued.

            After drying the dishes, I went to my room and did my homework. My mom knocked on the door.

            “Yes?”

            She opened it. “Jade, you forgot a knife in the sink.”

            I gasped. “No, I… I couldn’t have.”

            “Come see for yourself.”

            Gulping, I followed my mom downstairs. We entered the kitchen and approached the sink. Yup—one butter knife remained.

            “I guess you’re going to kiss that trip goodbye.”

            “Mom, I’m sorry. I-I didn’t see it.”

            “We made a deal. We’re not going to break it.”

            The phone rang. My mom answered it. I stared and breathed. It couldn’t be my dad on the other line.

            “The trip is cancelled?” my mother asked.

            “No,” I said.

            My mother remained on the line.

            “Oh, okay.” She hung up. “Jade, your school trip to that ocean place has been canceled.”

“I knew it.”

“The deal is broken.”

“I sighed.”

“But we can consider going there as a family… for dad’s birthday.”

I grinned.

short fiction

Friends for a Party: A Flash Fiction Piece

I looked forward to my eighteenth birthday party. It would happen in two weeks. We would host a movie night at my house.

            I’d sent out the invitations yesterday via snail mail. Why? Because I didn’t want anyone to see who else had been invited.

            Now that might sound harsh. However, my best friends, Sophie and Danielle, had fought last week. Danielle had done something to Sophie that had led to Sophie blocking Danielle in every form of communication. Sophie had messaged me on Facebook saying that she never wanted to talk to Danielle again.

            I had said nothing. I mean—I was about to come of age. Why should an adult have to put up with that drama?

            I received a phone call from Sophie. Sighing, I answered.

            “Hey, Candace, I got your invitation to your party.”

            “Okay.”

            “You didn’t invite Danielle Josephson, did you?”

            I said nothing. I could not think of any answer that would keep Sophie from getting upset.

            “Candace, are you there?”

            “Yeah, I’m still here.”

            “So aren’t you going to answer my question?”

            “I… I…”

            “You invited her?”

            “Well, I’m friends with her too.”

            “Are you kidding me? She was driving me crazy.”

            “I’m sorry. But that’s not my problem.”

 “Candace, how could you?”

            “Well, I can’t un-invite her.”

            “Whatever. I’m busy that day, anyway.” Sophie hung up.

            I looked down. I should never have to choose between friends. I shared an equal level of friendships with both Sophie and Danielle.

            I received more messages. My other guests responded. Most said that they could come. A few said they were unsure.

            At least I had friends who cared about me as well as each other. Because this was the last time I could celebrate my birthday with them. Then we’d all go off to college.

            I focused on the others and suppressed Sophie and Danielle’s situation in my mind. If neither could come, that didn’t matter. Those who were willing to celebrate with me mattered more.

Writing

How I Wish I Could Write Several Novels at Once

Image from Pixabay

I’m an author and authors constantly write. However, I am weak at multi-tasking, even with writing. For years, I could only work on one novel at a time. But that meant only one publication every few years. And that is not very fair to fans or readers.

I’ve been doing research on writing more than one story at a time. Many writers can do it. Some do it because they have too many ideas floating in their heads. Others do it because they want to meet deadlines sooner, especially if they have agents.

I’ve tried many times but have failed… until now. I am working on two works at this time. Well, technically three as I am having one project edited. But this is a huge milestone for me. It’s not easy. I am glad that I started with a small step of only adding one extra project. There is a technique I read about somewhere called drafting. That is when you work on one story draft at a time with different projects. For example, you write a draft of story a. After you finish that draft, you do a draft for story b. Basically, you work on one story at a time, but go to another one after finishing a certain draft rather than spending a long time on just one story.

I am not really doing that, though. I have been working on my third novel for over three years, although the first two years were spent trying to figure out the story. I am now working on the third book and the first draft of my fourth book at the same time. Sometimes I am designating certain days for one story. Other times I am working on whichever I feel like.

If you want to work on more than one story at a time, I would definitely recommend you go for it. In fact, many big authors work on more than one book at a time. If you’re serious about publishing, then I would emphasize on this even more. If it’s traditional publishing, depending on the contract you have with an agent or publisher, it may work. However, traditional publishing takes longer, and you have no control over the process or time. If you’re self-publishing, you have total control over your projects, when you publish them, and the time it takes to publish. If you do Amazon KDP, you can choose a release date up to three months (I think) ahead if you choose the pre-order option.

The reason I want to work on more than one novel at a time and write faster is because I don’t want to keep people waiting. Plus, I don’t want my final installment to be ready when I’m, like, 40. Not that I have anything against publishing at that age (many authors are, at least, that age). Plus, my writing will likely be more mature by then. I just don’t know where I will be in life then. I’m only 25 after all.

My goal is to have my entire series published by my 30th birthday. No, I am not looking to become the youngest author with a full series. I just want to keep readers up to date more often. Plus, I have a better idea of where I’ll be in five years versus fifteen. I know I can make this work.

short fiction

Fiona: A Flash Fiction Piece

I didn’t mean to hurt her. I should have known that this other girl had a disability. I realized that some people with disabilities did not respond well to yelling.

            The girl’s name was Fiona. Fiona had interrupted me with some thought going on inside her head while I’d talked to my friend, Juliette. She’d spoken about something that happened at a game she’d seen. She’d done it over and over again until I snapped at her, saying, “Fiona, stop it! You’re being so freaking annoying! Go away!”

            And right that second, Fiona had burst into tears. Another kid had said that Fiona had some disability. I had flushed after.

            I now sat at my desk and did my homework. For health class, we had to research a disability. I was assigned Asperger’s Syndrome.

            As I pulled up the Internet on my computer, I received a text message. It came from Juliette.

            Hey Mandy

            Fiona just told me she was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome over the weekend. She was too afraid to tell you.

            I opened my mouth. I had not yet researched the symptoms of Asperger’s Syndrome. But maybe that explained why she had had trouble with understanding my feelings. Why she had been desperate to get her thoughts out. Why she had cried when I’d yelled at her.

            When I did the research, I saw that people with Asperger’s can be eager to let their thoughts out as well as emotionally sensitive.

            After finishing my homework, I texted Juliette back.

            Tell Fiona I am sorry for yelling at her. Thanks.

            I sent the message. Hopefully, Fiona would forgive me.

art

Why I Draw with Pencils First, and Then Trace in Pen if Desired

Image from Pixabay

I don’t know about you, but when I was a child, I was taught to draw in pencil first. Then trace it in pen if desired. And you know what? I think it was great advice. In fact, I still do that now these days… sometimes. To be honest, I haven’t been drawing that much recently.

Anyway, you know that pencils come with erasers. If you make a mistake, you erase that. There are also erasable pens. But I haven’t used those since, like, fifth grade.

Yes, if you make an error with a permanent pen, you can’t remove it. But you can put white-out over it. I’ve been doing that a lot these days.

What I like to do is draw the basic shapes with light pencil marks. Next, I draw the main images with normal pencil marks. Then trace over them with pens. I finish by erasing the pencil marks. After all, no one is perfect. So pencil marks will still show unless you erase them.

I have drawn purely without pencils before as a child. That was fine. But those were drawings for personal pleasure. Not for school. Plus, I hadn’t received the full formal training for art, then. I took art classes at school. But they were required for everyone, including those with little to no artistic talent.

Once I got the formal training in high school and college, I don’t think I ever started drawing with pens voluntarily again. Sadly, these days, my hands sometimes shake too much. And because I don’t have an authority forcing me to start with a pen, I probably won’t return to drawing with pens only for a long, long time. I will still trace pencil lines with pens, though.