Writing

Your Story Might Work with Fewer Words

Image from Pixabay

Sometimes, less is more with writing. If you write regularly and have studied the craft for years, you may have heard the term, “kill your darlings”. That means you should eliminate anything in your project that isn’t necessary, whether it’s content, like a subplot, scene, or character, or unnecessary words.

This was a big struggle with my own writing. In my early writing days, I would write too little. However, as my skills improved, so did my ability to produce more words in my work. Little did I know that a good number of those words were not needed.

This was especially an issue with my series’ second installment, “Wizardry Goes Wild”, which is now retitled “The Unruly Curse” and has been given several changes, including…a shorter word count. I’ve discovered, when editing that story, that nearly 20,000 words weren’t necessary. Reviewers had even complained about the writing, and I’d thought they had been crazy, as it’d felt perfect and flawless to me. In fact, I’d thought it’d read like a traditionally published bestseller.

Anyway, due to the unsatisfying reviews (but not enough that the overall rating was poor or even just neutral), I pulled “Wizardry Goes Wild” off the market and edited it. I had eliminated 13,000 words and republished it as “The Uncontrollable Curse”. In spite of the reworking, the reviews were, at most, just as unpleasing, if not, more.

That was when I got a content edit from an editing service. Although this wasn’t their idea, I removed two chapters from the story. They didn’t serve much of a purpose.

When I republished book 2 the third time as “The Unruly Curse”, the readers gave better reviews than the previous times.

So, remember, always read through and edit your work, as well as have someone else do the same. And I suggest it’s NOT somebody you know personally, as he or she may be biased and afraid to hurt your feelings. After all, your story may need fewer words than you might realize.

cooking

A Trick to Crispy French Fries

Image from Pixabay

Most of us love French fries, even though too much of them aren’t healthy. Technically, that applies to everything, including food that is good for us. But that’s a different topic.

Anyway, many recipes will tell you to soak your fries for some time before you put them in the hot oil. I supposed that’s a good trick. However, here is the technique I use. It is far quicker and maybe even better. That is…to microwave your potato strips until they are soft enough to poke something all the way through them.

You could boil them, too. But then you have to wait for the water to heat up. Anyway, what I do is cut the potatoes into strips, microwave them till they’re soft (I can’t remember the number of minutes at the top of my head now), heat the oil in a pot or deep pan, put the potatoes in them, and cook them till I like them.

Did you notice that I omitted the peeling stage? You can still peel the skin off, as that’s conventional for making fries. However, I’m too lazy to do that. So, I keep the skin on. Believe it or not, the skin is actually kind of good for you. Or it’s, at least, tolerable.

Another thing to know is that if you use steel pans or pots, you need to heat the object first before you put in the fat, like oil. Then the base has to get hotter, too. Otherwise, your food will stick and cleaning up will be a pain in the butt.

So, there you have it. Does this sound like a good way to make French fries?

art

Mini Art Show: Witch in Detention

How did I come up with this, you may ask? Well, it was inspired by one of my own novels, believe it or not. In one of them, my protagonist is cursed with uncontrollable magic powers and is constantly misunderstood by others. This, unfortunately, used to happen hundreds of years ago, as well. Those who were miscomprehended and accused of being witches were… removed from society. Actually, they were killed.

But that I wrote book is set in 2010. While many things have changed in the past 9 years, the consequences my MC received for unintentionally doing wizardry would probably happen today. One of the punishments she gets is detention at school. Despite the seriousness of past witch hunts and even what my protagonist goes through, I turned this tragic idea into a comedic one.

So, as you can see, the witch looks pretty typical for a paranormal figure. You might think she looks more like a Halloween witch. That was deliberate. And no—she’s not the one from “The Wizard of Oz”, nor was that witch behind any inspiration for this piece. After all, don’t you notice the orange hair?

The cartoony look was not really done on purpose. Nor was the fact that I did it in Photoshop. However, I think a more realistic appearance wouldn’t have worked out as realism often doesn’t promote satire or humor.

The idea stood out to me for a while. It wasn’t until recently, though, that I decided to turn it into a visible image.

fiction

Unlucky Twelve: A Flash Fiction Piece

Image from Pixabay

Days like this make me want to cry. It was my twelfth birthday and I’d hoped for a fantastic time.

            However, instead things had gone wrong. I’d received my math test back with a grade of fifty—an F. Another thing that’d ruined my birthday had been when I’d fallen down on the basketball court and my pants had come down a bit. Everybody had laughed at me.

            My parents had lectured me about the failing grade I’d earned on my exam. I’d even cried after. They’d yelled, too.

            Who’d want to spend their birthday in misery? Yes, there were people who’d had worse birthdays, such as Shakespeare. He’d actually died on his birthday.

            Still—this is a day I wanted to forget. My older brother had been treated nicely on every birthday he’d had that I could remember, including his twelfth.

            Yes, turning twelve wasn’t as significant as turning thirteen, when you actually became a teenager and could do teen activities. You also could no longer be considered a little kid.

            If my twelfth birthday hadn’t gone right, I could only hope that my thirteenth one would turn out better—a lot better.

            In fact, my parents hadn’t gotten me a cake tonight. Why? Not because of my poor math test grade. But because they’d been busy supporting my brother at his basketball tournament. So, they’d forgotten.

            A few people at school had wished me a happy birthday here and there. But overall, I wish I could have my memories of this day wiped and not remember a single thing.

            Maybe I could have a party at some point later. I hadn’t thought about doing something. But perhaps that could make my mood better. I would have to come up with an idea. Then I, Ally Preston, would feel happier.

art

Using Humor in Art

Who doesn’t love to laugh? Certainly me. I’ve always loved humor and applying it in unusual places (as long as it’s appropriate). I even applied humor to a PowerPoint presentation I had to do in high school.

But I also enjoy making my artwork funny. Some of the pieces include a rooster riding a unicycle, a man playing an instrument with a lion in his boat, and a dingo eating a baby (which was not my original idea, but a tragedy turned into a comedy). You can find them on this blog through older posts. I’ve also done silly “Harry Potter” fan art when I was younger. I still have the drawings in my room. However, I won’t share them online. Not just for possible copyright reasons, but also because I don’t find them funny anymore. My family would consider them weird at the time. Now I agree with them.

While still on the fan art topic, I photo-shopped Rafiki holding up Kenny from “South Park” and made it my computer screensaver. Just like with the wacky “Harry Potter” drawings, I think it’s best not to post the laptop background. But a few people have admired it.

Comedy is often not easy to execute successfully. However, I’ve made people laugh with a video I animated about a snake swallowing an entire wedding cake, which you can find on YouTube if you search, “Sunayna Prasad here comes the snake”. I think I could make a great comedian, but I don’t think it’s worth it for me.

Nevertheless, I still enjoy cracking people up. Not only with my artwork, but many other ideas, as well.

Writing

Want to Revive Your Childhood Imagination? If so, Be Careful

Image from Pixabay

Many young children love to play make believe and use their imaginations. Some like to be more creative. A handful might like to make up concepts in their minds. I was definitely like that.

As a little kid, I would imagine fan fiction of my favorite movies and TV shows and dream of seeing them—unaware of copyright law then. I also imagined my own ideas of TV shows.

When I was around 7 years old, I read a book called “Morris Goes to School”, which was about an upright moose who went to school with children. It was cute for a small child.

That had inspired me to write my own version, but about an upright polar bear named Spike.

Later I evolved Spike into a child polar bear who also went to school with children. Not long after, I did a spinoff of one character and imagined a series about her living in a house in a jungle with talking animals as her friends.

At about 10, I abandoned the idea of that imaginary series. However, fast forward 6 years and the idea came back into my mind. I was so excited that I wrote it into a novel. Sadly, no one, except those I knew personally, found it appealing. So, once I was 18, I removed it from the market.

No matter how much you love and value something, it isn’t always going to please people, especially if you do little to no research on that idea. Few adults and older kids are interested in reviving their childhood imaginations. Fewer want to hear or know about it.

As you get older, you realize certain ideas make little to no sense or aren’t as good as you thought when you were younger. Hey, that’s growing up.

So, while other writers tell you to write down any idea you have for a story (which I totally agree with), unless you’re writing it just for yourself or maybe friends and family, be careful with trying to market that idea. You may have to do a lot of research. You’ll also have to study the writing craft if you haven’t started already. And the progress can take several years. I’m not exaggerating—it took me 7 years to develop my writing voice and be able to write great books. Not just good. Believe me, it’s not nearly as satisfying as it sounds. After a while, I took the less-than-great books off the market.

fiction

A Twist in a Pitch: A Flash Fiction Piece

I came up with a pitch to an animation studio. It was about a small town where you couldn’t shout, “Shut that rooster up!” or even just tell the farmers to quiet their roosters. Otherwise, you’d get fined.

            I walked into the room with executives and breathed. Then I explained my idea.

            “Thank you, everyone,” I said.

            But there was silence. A few people shook their heads.

            “Sorry, Miss Taylor, but we’re going to have to pass,” said, Mr. Craig, the boss.

            I inhaled and exhaled again. “All right.” I walked out of the room.

            I knew that rejection happened a lot. In fact, I was even aware that it was normal.

            I got into my car and drove home.

            Several minutes had passed. I arrived at my house—only to hear clucking next door. I leaned toward the sound. There were chickens in my neighbor’s backyard.

            Mr. Jones stepped out. “Hey, Lola, I heard about your cartoon idea. It sounds pretty good.”

            “Thanks,” I muttered. Then I paused. “Wait—how do you know about my idea?”

            “Mr. Craig told me,” he said.

            My eyebrows raised. Mr. Craig had been the boss at the studio and he’d rejected the idea—unless Mr. Jones referred to a different Mr. Craig.

            “He’s actually a good friend of mine,” said Mr. Jones.

            “Wait, what does he do?” I asked.

            “He’s the head of the local animation studio,” Mr. Jones answered.

            “He rejected the idea, though.”

            “For a TV show,” Mr. Jones said. “However, he will gladly make it into a web series.”

            I smiled. “Really?”

            “Yes,” replied Mr. Jones.

            “Tell him I said thanks.”

            “Sure thing.”

Writing

Why I Don’t Base My Characters Off of People I Know

You’ve probably heard this from many authors: base your characters off people you know. A lot of writers do that, including big ones like J.K. Rowling. However, unlike them, I never base characters off people I know.

That being said, I do often develop them like people I know. Many characters in my books were developed like family members and people I went to school with, including teachers.

However, the ideas of those characters were often for plot convenience or inspired by other fictional sources, such as movies, books, or even legends. In fact, the antagonist in my second book of the “Magical Missions” series was inspired by the Grim Reaper. Believe it or not, in early drafts, he was more like the death figure: pure evil and carrying a scythe. But now he is not like that. I developed him to make the readers sympathize with him more. I won’t spoil anything else from the story, though.

Why don’t I base characters off people I know, you might ask? Because I just feel uninterested and find basing my characters off of other fictional sources better. My life has been pretty straightforward and ordinary. While I’m more social than I used to be, real people inspiring me for characters just doesn’t happen.

art

Mini Art Show: Rooster on a Unicycle

What a better way to wake up every morning, right? A rooster riding a unicycle. It’s a twist on the cliché of a rooster cockadoodle doing on top of a barn as the sun rises.

Actually, it was inspired by my neighbor, who has a noisy rooster. I’ve always wondered if it was hungry, or just expressing itself. I used to have guinea pigs and they used to squeak when they were hungry.

Anyway, back to the image. I’ve always loved humor in pretty much anything positive, including art. I’ve done a collage of a man playing music with a lion in his boat and a dingo eating a baby (which actually happened, sadly, but was changed to a humorous saying). You can find them on another post.

So, as you can see, the rooster is in the countryside and there’s a barn in the background as well as hayfields. The rooster is probably bigger than real ones are.

Another thing about this piece is that I used Chartpak markers—something I haven’t used in years. I forgot how much they bleed and how strong they are. In fact, when I used them in college, everyone and I were instructed to color on the back for our drawings.

After I colored in the pencil outlines, I traced over color edges with a pen. That’s actually a common practice for artists.

There you have it.

art

Mini Art Show: Cupcake Tower

Who has seen a cupcake tower before? I have, but only in pictures. Cupcake towers have become very popular over the years, especially at weddings.

But how many can fit on the stand all together? That’s tough when you never had one you could easily handle. Looking at pictures can only provide you so much. You can count the cupcakes you can see in the image and estimate how many are not shown. However, that’s still difficult.

It’s also hard to find exact measurements and the accurate number of cupcakes needed per base on the stand. Luckily, I found one.

Why did I do this, you may ask? Because I wanted to challenge my illustration skills. No, I am not planning a party. This was just for fun.

Enough about the stand—onto the cupcakes. I gave the cupcakes different flavors: vanilla, chocolate, red velvet, carrot, and strawberry. The frostings are vanilla, pink vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, and cream cheese. I actually made myself a cupcake library for me to copy and paste. That way, I can save time and keep the cupcakes more accurate and even.

I dragged a high number all together. I don’t recall the exact count. But who cares? Like I said before, it’s only for pleasure.