September 2014 - further up and further in

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

September 2014: Recap

Tuesday, September 30, 2014 4
September 2014: Recap

I could hardly wait to do this recap all month, and now that it's actually here, I hardly know what to say.

September was honestly rather a blur. It's my favorite month, so I do wish I had enjoyed it more, but grief can put things in a bit of a fog. Nevertheless, it was a good month. We went swimming, watched the finale of America's Got Talent, and I did lots of writing, while coming up with developments and new ideas for new novels and old alike. One of the highlights was finally experiencing a bit of summer by going swimming in my cousin's saltwater pool. I also got a clip-on nose ring, and wore the color red on my lips for the very first time (with a leather jacket no less!). ;) I also finally, finally taped all the mementos I've collected into my journal after about a year, and put new pictures on my wall (which included making my own little corner of Narnia). It's been an okay month, actually. Not fabulous, but not terrible, and I am oddly thankful for my experiences this September.

on the blog

I didn't quite get as many posts up as I wanted to this month. I did write them, but they're sitting in drafts. Nevertheless, my blog was filled with posts about writing this month, thanks in part to Beautiful People and A Novel Idea which keep me posting regularly. I posted a total of seven times. I started off the month with 5 Things the Breaking Bad Writers Did Right, which is one of my favorite posts I've done to date. For Beautiful People, we asked questions about your villains. I debuted my character Luna for A Novel Idea, then also talked about Cobie, Astrid, Fiona, and Damian (another favorite of mine). On the non-writing side, I wrote about being good to yourself. Additionally, we talked more about writing goals, dreams, and habits in All About the Writing Process #2. And finally, I introduced you to my very evil villain, Asher (or something).

In other places, I wrote Blessed Are the Cracked at Grafted Magazine. And although I didn't write for the magazine this time, I helped put together submissions for the third issue of Grafted Magazine--you can view that here.


I continued Petrichor as usual, except this time I joined the 100 for 100 challenge at Go Teen Writers, where you write 100 words on your work in progress every day for 100 days. I also recruited my eleven-year-old sister to join me, and I'm so proud of her. She's written more than she ever has on one project, and now has 2,000 words. Seriously, my big sister heart is bursting.

As for Petrichor, things have slowed down a little bit, but for the first half of the month I did my best to write 750 words everyday. I forgot to write one of those days, though, which broke my streak on Since breaking it, I've been taking things a little easier and I plan to start back up again with 750words in mid-to-late-October. It just makes sense with my upcoming wisdom teeth surgery, which would've broken my streak anyway, and also, it's a good idea so that I can try to recharge as much as I can. Things are a little bit harder with regards to writing, mostly because it's getting closer to the end and yet not close enough. My characters are now fighting a war that's much bigger than all of them, which is both exciting and scary. My mostly-main-character Cobie is slowly getting to her fall-apart point, which I'm both excited and conflicted about. I feel so bad for her, but I also know this is necessary. (I've turned into a bit of a sadistic writer. It's so sad.)

For the month of September, I wrote a total of 21,782 words on Petrichor. I also am not sure if this will remain at 100k when it's finished or go over. There's so much to wrap up still! And for the 100 for 100 challenge, I'm at a total of 12,542 so far.

On the 28th I had a really crazy dream that I decided to combine with another crazy dream. So, on the 29th I revamped my idea that originally had Luna in it, and have turned it into a dystopic novel about a family of girls who fight against a corrupt system. I'm seriously excited, and it may turn into my NaNo novel yet. Stay tuned for updates.

I also had major breakthroughs with Fiona and Damian in Because I'm Irish, and wrote one scene where Fiona completely let down her walls around him. It's a huge development, something that words can't even express. When I finished the scene, I burst out crying because I was so happy for her. It was incredible. It's something I won't forget for a long time.


My official playlist for this month was rather sparse, but here it is.

amnesia - 5 seconds of summer
social casualty - 5 seconds of summer 
wild heart - bleachers 
dog days are over - florence + the machine 
the miracle of joey ramone - u2 
every breaking wave - u2 
song for someone - u2

(My corner of Narnia, and really artistic eggs and bacon.)

on instagram

I didn't post much on Instagram, but I do like the photos I did take. (Side note: if you have the app Mextures, is it worth a buy? The filters look amazing.) Here's my Instagram haul for September!

on tv

My brother and I continued to watch Breaking Bad, and finished season 3 on the 28th. Now we are working our way through season 4. Boy, are things getting... um, bad. But also very, very good.

I watched all the seasons of Parks and Rec that they had available on Netflix, and then rejoiced when they added season 6. (I plan to watch that ASAP.) I also started season 3 of New Girl and season 1 of the Blacklist (with my dad, and I love it so far).

I love Nick Miller from New Girl, by the way.

My mom, sister, and I have been watching Heartland, which I both love and dislike at different points in time. We also finished season 9 of America's Got Talent, and rejoiced when Mat Franco won. (I screamed. Which is rare for me.) Now that America's Got Talent is done, my various family members and I mostly just watch Chopped or Love It Or List It together.

My brother and I also started watching Utopia, a reality show that's... fascinating, to say the least. It's oddly addicting, and we can't wait for the next episode. (Hex is so cool. Seriously.)

I'm super excited about the upcoming fall television season, including but not limited to ... well, The Flash mostly, with my dear lovely favorite, Grant Gustin. (I also watched the season premiere of Selfie, because hello? Karen Gillan and John Cho? It was amusing.) It's gonna be a great year for television, guys! Let's be real--it already has been.

other media

books: I got a bunch of books from the library--Just Listen by Sarah Dessen, Delirium by Lauren Oliver, and Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas. Unfortunately, my desire to read has declined greatly. I don't know why? Thus, I started Delirium and put it down (because I can't believe the main character's real name is Lena, when for some reason she's in my head as Lauren), started Just Listen and put it down, and haven't begun Throne of Glass. Rest assured, I will give these books second chances.

I have Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell on my nightstand, and I'm so excited to read it that I haven't even picked it up officially. I just want to savor it as long as possible, I guess.

movies: Okay, X-Men! I've wanted to see the first X-Men for like... 5 years. And I finally did. And I... was... a little disappointed. You can read my thoughts on it here. (Oh, yes. I'm back on Tumblr, too, after several long absences! For now, anyway.)

note: I did not see X-Men: Days of Future Past. Nevertheless, this shall always remain an incredible poster.
I saw a huge cardboard version of it while seeing Cap 2 this past April. It was awesome.

in conclusion

It's been a heck of a month, and I can't wait for fall, NaNo, and... yes, even getting my wisdom teeth out, seeing as they're half-grown-in already. (Though I dread that as well.) I can't wait to write more, blog more, and watch even more TV! (And take even more pictures.) Check back in October to see my progress, and I'll see you in my next blog post!


Monday, September 29, 2014

Beautiful People: Asher (Or Something)

Monday, September 29, 2014 0
Beautiful People: Asher (Or Something)
Hi. I'm here to introduce you to my villain from Petrichor. He's a really mean dude. In fact, I've been putting this Beautiful People post off for a while now because I hate him so much. There have been villains I like, and some I ambivalently deal with, like Tyris. But then there's this guy, and I can't stand him. The closest I get to liking him is when I look at his (beautiful) face.

Here he is posing with a chainlink fence.

All jokes aside, here's my villain, Asher. It's been a long road getting to his name. His most recent name was Casper. Don't underestimate me when I say I don't like that name. This dude has been the hardest to name. I originally loved the name Asher, but when I realized I have a girl character named Astrid, ... well. That dream quickly died.

So then this dude's name changed to Daniel. I wrote a whole scene with him as Daniel. But it didn't click at all, so I tossed that name out.

And then we reached Casper. That name was the only thing I had got, but it reminded me too much of Casper the Friendly Ghost, and just wasn't him. Eeek. 

So then I gave up and named him Asher. Despite the fact that his ex-girlfriend and one of the main characters in Petrichor is named Astrid. But I've got nothing else. That being said, take all this with a grain of salt because his name could very well change.

Anyway, this guy is the villain in Petrichor. He's been around longer than he had a name (obviously). The long story is too full of spoilers, but the short version is, he's Astrid's ex. And he is not a nice dude. (Oh, I said that already.) He has a revenge vendetta and he's already hurt several people... badly. Two of the main players in my story, in fact. His actions have pretty much sent Petrichor's town, Oakridge, into a full-on war. Ah, don't you love the essence of true evilness?

1. What is their motive? 

2. What do they want, and what are they prepared to do to get it? 
Asher wants to get revenge on the man who killed his father. (I realize now how Inigo Montoya-esque that sounds. But believe me, Asher's methods of doing this are far more dubious and less-likable than Inigo's.)

3. How do they deal with conflict? 
With a giant rage-fest. Sad, but true. He has been known to get violent when angry.

4. Describe their current place of residence. 
What can only be described as the "slums" of Oakridge. Though Oakridge is a mostly upkept town, there are some areas of town that are less so than others. His home is an abandoned building, one of the few. It's where he can stay low-profile and out of reach.

5. If they were writing this story, how would it end? 
With him getting what he wants, obviously! The man who killed his father would be dead, and Asher himself would feel at peace. 

6. What habits, speech patterns, etc. are unique to them? 
He leans against stuff and either doesn't keep eye contact when talking or keeps way too much. He also has a bit of a drawl.

7. How do they show love? What do they like to do with/for people they love? 
When he and Astrid were dating, he liked to go on adventures with her. Sharing amazing experiences with the people he loves is what he loves to do most. Unfortunately, after Astrid, he doesn't love anybody else. Mildly appreciate them, yes, but love, no. Instead, he has replaced people he loves with minions, and he does not really share experiences with them so much as tell them what to do.

8. Do they have any pets? 
Nope. Maybe a dog. If he did, it would be a stray that was a mangy mutt. I'd have to think on that though.

9. Where would they go to relax/think? 
The mountains. There's a waterfall he's particularly fond of.

10. What is their weapon of choice? (FYI: words, eyes/looks, and fists count as weapons, too.) This. Or any gun he can get his hands on.

(Unfortunately, the villains edition of Beautiful People is almost over, but here's the link. A new Beautiful People post will be up on the 5th!)

Thursday, September 25, 2014

A Novel Idea: All About the Writing Process #2

Thursday, September 25, 2014 2
A Novel Idea: All About the Writing Process #2
My inspiration for blogging suddenly went poof, so that's where I've been the past few days. But here I am, back again and ready to conquer the world!

I have 4 hours left in the linky for A Novel Idea this week, so I'm barely sliding under the wire. This week is about us, the writers. At first I thought they'd be difficult to answer, but they were surprisingly easier than I thought.

If you haven't heard of A Novel Idea before, it's a blog meme by Ashley @ Ashley Aspires. There are weekly questions for you to answer about your novel, your characters, and yourself. It's really awesome and never fails to get my writing and blogging juices flowing. Do check it out when you get the chance!

And now, my answers for this week!

1. What is something you find really difficult about being a writer? 
Consistency. It's only in the past few months that I've decided to actually pick a project and stick to it. It's hard work, guys! I never knew how hard it is to actually finish a novel. Over and over and over again. And once you're done with the first draft, you must edit; over and over and over again. It's such a hard job. But fortunately and unfortunately, I can't stop.

2. Where do you see yourself in 10 years, writing-wise?
Hopefully, published? But if not that, then at the very least querying.

3. If you could pick one literary character to meet, who would it be and why? 
Lucy Pevensie! Followed with a close second by Mr. Tumnus, for some reason. (I wanted to put Tony Stark here. Do comics count?) All three of these characters are very dear to me--Lucy and Mr. Tumnus for childhood reasons, and Tony Stark as a reflection of who I am and what I like now. It's hard to explain just how much I love them. They're not really characters anymore; they're more like friends.

4. What is your favorite thing about the writing process?
New stuff! (And being inspired for writing in general.) But I like getting new ideas and fleshing them out. Which is probably why I have a hard time staying consistent and working on the same project. Getting a new flow of inspiration, whether for a new project or an old one, and making a Pinterest board and plotting it out is the best. It is only rivaled by the feeling of actually finishing a novel. Finishing novels is awesome. Writing is awesome!

And thus, that concludes my answers for this week. Check out A Novel Idea, hosted weekly by a blog near you!

A Novel Idea

Sunday, September 14, 2014

A Novel Idea: Three’s Company, Four’s a Crowd (Cobie, Fiona, Damian, and Astrid)

Sunday, September 14, 2014 2
A Novel Idea: Three’s Company, Four’s a Crowd (Cobie, Fiona, Damian, and Astrid)
It's time for A Novel Idea again! I could hardly wait for the questions to premiere this week. And it was well worth the wait, because this has to be my favorite round of A Novel Idea questions yet. They're so good that I ended up just continuing to answer them about more and more characters because I loved how many simple facts they revealed. I mean, it's fascinating to consider what's on your character's nightstand, right?

At first I meant to feature only Cobie, then I meant to feature Cobie and Fiona. I had it written that way and everything. Then Damian and Astrid insisted on barging their way in. So here we go. *whispers to characters* I hope you're happy. Cobie and Astrid are from Petrichor, and Fiona and her best friend/love interest Damian are from the Because I'm Irish series.

If you haven't already checked out A Novel Idea, please do! It's hosted by Ashley @ Ashley Aspires and it's incredible, seriously. Check it out by going HERE, or by clicking the button at the bottom of this post.

Let us begin.


1. What is their favorite thing in the refrigerator? 
Milk. She loves a cold glass of milk. Also, ice cream. She's also, oddly, a fan of water.

2. What is on their nightstand right now?
A book that she hasn't ever read and has been collecting dust for two years (Catcher in the Rye). To give you an idea how long it's been there, she was assigned this book in high school, and she dropped out of high school a year or two ago. She also has an alarm clock and a vase full of dried purple flowers. (Her mother kept placing them there, but when she felt her efforts were not appreciated, eventually just gave up replacing them. Cobie secretly didn't mind the fresh flowers.)

3. It’s time for spring cleaning – what is easy to throw out and what is hard to let go of?
What's hard to throw out: her ripped clothes. Even though they're ripped and worn, she refuses to give them up. Some examples: her light blue ripped jeans (several pairs). She also will never get rid of her worn, banged up denim jacket.

4. They are getting ready for a night out. What are they wearing? Where are they going?
If Cobie is going to be forced to dress up, she'll be sultry about it. She'd be wearing a short, form-fitting red dress, with her hair up, carrying a clutch. She'd probably bring her rebel flair to it as well, maybe with some red nail polish or wearing casual footwear instead of appropriate footwear. (If she actually wanted to impress people and feel tall, she'd wear heels. If she didn't care, was forced to go, or wanted to stand out, she'd wear her combat boots. It all boils down to what mood she's in.)

As for where she's going, it would probably be a party or formal dance with her boyfriend, Ryker. Occasionally, she'll also have to attend church functions and dinner parties, as per her mom. (Those would be the occasions where she'd vengefully wear something rebellious. ;))


1. What is their favorite thing in the refrigerator? 
Cereal (though I know that's not really stored in the refrigerator, but you need one to get it...) Also, tangerines.

2. What is on their nightstand right now?
A lamp and a digital analog alarm clock, as well as a flyer from her band's latest tour, some Kleenexes, and her iPod.

3. It’s time for spring cleaning – what is easy to throw out and what is hard to let go of?
Fiona has a vivid memory and can remember things she wore on different days. So any item of personal significance is challenging for her to let go of. Even if there is a negative memory attached to something rather than a positive one, she still can't let it go. She keeps a lot of things. So the answer to the question of what is easy to throw out is... anything she can't remember wearing, anywhere. And what is hard to let go of: everything. Literally everything.

4. They are getting ready for a night out. What are they wearing? Where are they going?
It depends. Most of Fiona's "nights out" are spent as a violinist at her band's concerts. Because of that, she's often decked out head-to-toe in several different ball gowns throughout the night, with her hair up and really colorful, pretty makeup. (As you can probably guess, this is no rock concert.) She has several outfit changes throughout the show, but one notable dress is what she calls her peacock dress, which is blue and green with accents of peacock feathers, and soft-toned turquoise, green, and white eye makeup. She also once referred to one of her least favorite dresses as her trash-bag dress.


1. What is their favorite thing in the refrigerator? 
Again... um, cereal. Also, soda.

2. What is on their nightstand right now?
Considering he hasn't been home in months, it's probably pretty bare (back at home in Ireland). As for his living situations, he alternates between the tour bus and Fiona's apartment in Because We Can, so he's pretty much living out of a duffel bag in both situations. He does have a shelf in his bunk, and on that is his Kindle, iPod, a spare book that he reads when he has time (The Great Gatsby), ear plugs to drown out the noises of the others in the bus, and a granola bar. For all those midnight snack times, of course.

3. It’s time for spring cleaning – what is easy to throw out and what is hard to let go of?
Damian is pretty laid-back about stuff and gets rid of things really easily. If it has extreme personal significance, like a sweater his grandma knit for him or something (which is probably very possible), he'll keep it, but otherwise he doesn't mind getting rid of stuff.

4. They are getting ready for a night out. What are they wearing? Where are they going?
While on stage, much like Fiona, Damian is decked out. Often he's in full-on suits, though he does have more casual looks (a button up for example). If he's out on a date, he doesn't dress up nearly as much, and can often be found in a hoodie, Vans, and jeans. (He and Fiona tried dressing up for a fancy date once. It wasn't their thing.)

He'd probably be going on a date to McDonald's, or on a late night run for ice cream. It happens.


1. What is their favorite thing in the refrigerator? 
Anything she can get her hands on, really. For her, food is more a necessity than something extremely adorable. I do think she probably likes carrots, though.

2. What is on their nightstand right now?
Her pistol, Mere Christianity, a flickery old lamp, and an old worn Bible her mom gave her that she hasn't bothered to move.

3. It’s time for spring cleaning – what is easy to throw out and what is hard to let go of?
Astrid would burn her old clothes and old things if she could--at least certain things. With the memories attached to them, she doesn't see the point in keeping them around.

4. They are getting ready for a night out. What are they wearing? Where are they going?
Astrid is probably wearing her dressy outfit of skinny jeans, brown lace-up boots, and a cranberry-wine colored leather jacket. She's not a huge person to go for dresses, but if she does have to wear one, she usually goes for black and simple, with long sleeves and leggings.

* * *

NOW. WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? Go check out A Novel Idea. Seriously, go do it.

A Novel Idea

Also, Go Teen Writers is hosting the 100 for 100 challenge, where you write 100 words for 100 days. I've signed up and I'm most likely doing it! It's going to be a lot of fun. If you're interested, check it out here--but do it fast, because the challenge starts Monday, and I believe today is the last day you can sign up. Let me know if you do!


current petrichor word count: 72,453
days left to reach 100k: 47

this blog post was brought to you by the sounds of
 maroon 5 (maps), magic! (rude), & strange talk (young hearts)

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

be good to yourself

Wednesday, September 10, 2014 2
be good to yourself

When I first saw the idea of "self-care" floating around Tumblr, I was pretty skeptical. The concept was simple: just take some time to take care of you. Do things you enjoy. Make sure you're fed, hydrated, and well-rested. Or maybe just do something non-essential but inspiring, like painting your nails or putting on lotion. At the time, the whole notion of "self-care" sounded... well, selfish. But then again, I'm pretty self-deprecating.

I brushed it off initially, but then I started to warm to the idea. But I still didn't do anything. I thought things like this: Someday I'll have time to take care of myself, right?

And then, a month or two ago, after an extremely rough day, my mom made me get in the bath, turned off all the lights, brought me a candle, and let me marinate in some hot water.

That's when I realized what self care was. Self care is taking some time to not be with anyone but you and your thoughts. It's about taking some time to breathe and rest, clear your head, and feel peace deep down in your soul.

And then, yet again, I brushed it off. It's so easy to think, "I'll take care of myself tomorrow. I don't have time." But a couple of weeks ago, I was having a bad pain day. 'Cuz, ya know, a stupid thing called fibromyalgia. Everything hurt, I was exhausted. Getting out of bed had been a challenge, and emotionally I was a wreck. I kept telling myself, "I just want to not be sick. Just for one day (or maybe a very long time to be honest), I want my chronic illness to not exist."

Then I spilled chocolate protein shake on myself, and that was the last straw. I abandoned all my conversations online, I abandoned all my plans, and I went up to the shower.

And then while in the shower, I thought about self care and what it really means.

At the beginning of 2014, my wish for the year was, "2014, be good to me!" (Unfortunately, 2014 has been pretty dang rude, but that's another story.) I had already been thinking about the irony of that statement, since this year has been a rough one. Then that thought collided with another; the one about self care. And I thought: If I don't be good to myself, who will?

Now yes, there are those fabulous people that take care of you and care about you and want to make sure you're all right. But here's the thing: they're not always around. The only flesh-and-blood person you are around 100% of the time is... you. And shouldn't that make us love ourselves? After all, we have to live with us.

But instead, a lot of us, me included, deal with self-loathing. And maybe that's why the idea of self care is so odd to us. We've learned, somehow and from somewhere, to hate our bodies, to hate ourselves.

But we need to love us.

Think about this: if I had heard my friend was going through what I had--having a bad pain day, crying, spilling protein shake, and overall feeling crappy--I would've wanted them to take care of themselves since I couldn't do it for them. I would want them to treat themselves with just as much love and care as I would want to treat them. I would want them to take care of themselves for me. (I think this is a universal concept, judging by how we tell people to "take care.")

But yet when I'm faced with the option of taking care of myself and not taking care of myself, I choose not to do it. Why? Why shouldn't I be good to me? Life is too short to spend hating myself. Life is too short to not take care of you, to not make sure you know you are loved, even if you're the one taking sometime out of your day to make yourself feel that way. Next time life is hard, take a bath with candles. My mom made me do it. Trust me, it works.

I hope the next time you find yourself down and needing some love that you take care of yourself. Take some time to just be you. Find your peace and remember how to be okay and how to be happy again. Take time to get to the point where you can know that things will work out. Take some time to rest in the knowledge that you are loved: by God, by other people, and most of all, you. At risk of sounding trite, I hope your times of self care help you remember how important and special and beautiful and smart and funny and wonderful you truly are.

2014 was not good to me, but that's okay. I can take more time to be good to myself, to put lotion on my arms, to rest, to take baths, to not stress. I know it's not easy and I'll definitely backslide more than once, but I also know this: it's important and borderline necessary for me to start doing these things.

And slowly, but surely, I'm learning how. I hope you can learn to take care of yourself, too.

And now I do want you to know I think you'd be good to me 
And I'd be so good to you
- marianas trench

Monday, September 8, 2014

A Novel Idea: Luna

Monday, September 08, 2014 2
A Novel Idea: Luna

"W h a t ' s  y o u r  n a m e ? " 
"L u n a  B e r r y ." 
"W o w ,  y o u r  p a r e n t s  m u s t  h a t e  y o u ,  h u h ?" 
"D i d  y o u r s ?" 

I'm finally going to take a break from the stream of Petrichor posts to focus on a different character. Luna is not even 24 hours old yet, but what better way to figure her out than by featuring her for A Novel Idea?

Luna is the MC of my possible NaNo novel (still untitled) that I came up with a few days ago after a creepy dream. It's a futuristic adventure with evil spinal surgeons and a bunch of peril and stuff. Totally right up my alley, right? I'm not sure exactly what will happen in her story yet, but that's half the fun.

Personality-wise, Luna is the direct opposite of almost all my girl characters in that she accepts emotions, isn't emotionally constipated, and actually thrives on them. She's an ENFP, and she has structured her life around pleasing other people at times. She can also be naive and too trusting, but she loves people and figuring out what makes them tick. 

The questions for A Novel Idea this week seem to be tailor made for her, so I decided to feature her here. We'll see how this goes. Here we go.

1. Who are their parents? What are their names, occupations, etc? Are they close to their parents?
Luna is an anomaly in the YA genre: she actually has parents! And they love her! And she loves them!

Only problem is, I stink at coming up with parental names. (I always default to naming fathers, and all guy characters for that matter, Joe.) Let's see. Her father's name is Kevin and her mom's name is Isabelle. Her dad is a writer and her mom is a lawyer. They are both in their early 40s. (Subject to change.)

2. Do they have any siblings? If so, what are their names and ages?
Luna has an older brother and a younger sister. Her brother's name is tentatively Keller, and her sister's name is Annie. (Maybe? I don't know.) Keller is 21 and Annie is 11. I need to develop her family more, so this is all subject to change.

3. If they’re old enough, do they have a job?
Luna works part time at a malt shop, when her medical issues allow.

4. Are they right or left-handed? Or ambidextrous?

5. Do they have any allergies or diseases of any kind?
Yes, Luna has an as-of-yet undefined spinal condition that very much motivates the story and drives the conflict forward. I'm not sure what it's called yet, but I'm working on it! It limits what she can do, though, and eventually drives her to have a surgery meant to help repair it and help her to recovery.

(But, like all good stories, this all does not go according to plan. *evil laughter*)

And, of course, Luna is a fairly new character, so all facts lying therein are subject to change.

* * *

Seriously, go check out A Novel Idea, hosted by my friend Ashley @ Ashley Aspires!

A Novel Idea

Friday, September 5, 2014

Beautiful People: September Edition (Villains!)

Friday, September 05, 2014 1
Beautiful People: September Edition (Villains!)
Welcome to the September Edition of Beautiful People! And actually, this time is a pretty special edition, too! But more on that later.

First, what exactly is Beautiful People? Beautiful People is a blog meme for writers that's designed to help you get to know your characters. It's hosted by myself and Cait @ Notebook Sisters (she's awesome). Every month we post ten questions for you to answer about your lovely characters (your *ahem* beautiful people). You then go forth and post these on your blog, and link them up on either Cait's blog or mine so we can all see your posts! (You can do it privately too, but the primary design of this is a link up.)

Please do link back using the buttons below:

And now for the great thing about this month that I hinted upon--this month we're focusing on your villains! Whether it's the truly evil mastermind or simply someone who gets in the way of your protagonist, tell us all! (And perhaps sit your villain down and have a little chat about good vs. evil in the process. But actually, don't do that, because then you'll be out of a plot.)

The following questions were submitted entirely by the blogger Bound and Freed, so major thanks to them for their amazing questions!

1. What is their motive?
2. What do they want, and what are they prepared to do to get it?
3. How do they deal with conflict?
4. Describe their current place of residence.
5. If they were writing this story, how would it end?
6. What habits, speech patterns, etc. are unique to them?
7. How do they show love? What do they like to do with/for people they love?
8. Do they have any pets?
9. Where would they go to relax/think?
10. What is their weapon of choice? (FYI: words, eyes/looks, and fists count as weapons, too.)

Now, go forth, and introduce us to your favorite villain of choice! May you get to know them even better. But be careful as you scour for more information about these dastardly characters--lest they stab you with a spork. (How was my semi-pirate voice? I'm not sure what that was, actually.)

Don't forget to sign the linky! (Edit: Of course, it helps if I actually get the linky code to work. It's here now. Sorry about that, guys.)

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

5 Things the Breaking Bad Writers Did Right

Tuesday, September 02, 2014 3
5 Things the Breaking Bad Writers Did Right

When my brother first told me we needed to watch Breaking Bad together, I was skeptical. I had heard it was good, but... I mean, could it really be that good? My brother had watched it once through before, and he'd even told me some of the most shocking, jaw-dropping moments. It sounded... violent.

Even so, I watched the first few episodes. It took me a while to really love it, and some of the episodes were violent and disturbing. But I seriously can't deny the brilliance of the writing. I'm really enjoying how deep and enriching the TV show actually is. Sometimes I feel like telling the world "they don't make TV like this much anymore, kids!" And I'm only 18, so where does THAT come from?

As a writer, I'm always looking for ways to improve my craft. I watch a lot of TV, so while I'm watching my brain is constantly analyzing and looking for examples of good writing. Breaking Bad has certainly delivered, and after some thought, I present a list of 5 things I think the writers of Breaking Bad did right.

(I know, I know... the title is in past tense, but this post is written in present tense because I'm going through the series right now, so it's very current for me. Also, it bears mentioning that I'm only in season 2.)

1. They make us care.

Right from the very beginning, they make us care about the characters. From the very start Walt is a very likable guy; we see him teaching a class, we see him dissatisfied with his car washing job, and we overall feel bad for him. On top of all of this, he also has a cancer diagnosis that's terminal. Bring on the sympathy! Obviously it would be hard not to pity him at least just a little iota.

And that's what makes this show work. The whole conflict of good vs. evil, and how Walt slowly goes down a twisted path, is what pulls us in, fascinates us, and compels us to keep watching. We wouldn't care as much about watching a story about someone who had already "broke bad," like Tuco. It would be a lot harder for us to stomach that. But Walt is presented as a likable man worthy of our pity and sympathies.  He may be making meth and running a growing drug operation, but the reason he started making meth is the first place is to raise money for his family. And because of this, it's easier for us to excuse him for the bad things he does, as well as (sometimes unfortunately) root for him to succeed. This is a mixed bag and can
be dangerous ground when Walt, the protagonist, is also the villain, but I do want to give the writers major chops for making a show that makes us simultaneously hate and love the evil guy, all at the same time.

Tip: Give your characters a good mix of flaws and virtuous aspects. If your character feels too unlikable, give them a soft spot, something that makes them vulnerable. If you feel your character may be a little too perfect, give them a flaw or two. Most people are a mix of good and evil, and humans come in shades of gray, not always black and white. Breaking Bad is a great example of this.

2. Everything is believable.

While watching, I feel like everything in this story actually is playing out, or at the very least could actually happen in real life. There's a lot of factors that come into play here, like acting, cinematography (spoiler warning for the link), and writing, that all have magically combined to make this work for the show. But one of the factors I want to highlight is the setting. I read on Wikipedia that they originally had the show set in California, but were going to shoot in New Mexico. When they realized that it would be hard to keep the New Mexico mountains out of the shots, they ended up just moving the story to Albuquerque. Now, this is from Wikipedia, so take it with a grain of salt, but it does bring up an interesting point. If the story had been set in L.A. or NYC, it would have had a different feel entirely. Because so many shows and movies are shot in those places, it wouldn't have felt as different as Breaking Bad does. I can't remember the last time I saw a movie set in Albuquerque, but I can count numerous times where I've seen a story set in L.A. and New York. Because of this, it gives the story a different flavor and a very small-town feel. It's not that hard to imagine the drug trade happening in Albuquerque, and in numerous other towns across the nation.

The characters themselves are all very real as well, flaws and all. The prime examples are Walt and Jesse obviously, brought to life by the incredible acting of Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul. While I've talked about Walt already, I absolutely love the characterization of Jesse. The scenes where we see his family and covering for his brother early on in the series are absolutely fantastic. Jesse comes across as a kid who just got caught in the wrong things. I don't know if that's actually the case, but I love that Aaron Paul and the writers manage to make Jesse that sympathetic.

The side characters, such as Marie, Hank, and Walter Jr. are also all beautifully brought to life and I really love seeing the dynamics between them and the rest of the characters. Hank serves as a sort of moral compass for the show, a voice of reason, and someone who brings the light humor to balance out the heavier aspects. Marie, while not my favorite character, plays extremely well as the wife of a DEA agent who has problems with shoplifting, and I love that contrast of good and bad. As someone with a chronic illness that restricts what I can do in daily life, Walter Jr. is one of my favorite characters and I'm really grateful he's on the show. Though I don't have cerebral palsey, it makes me feel empowered and not-so-alone to see someone I can relate to on TV.

I also know that Anna Gunn and her character Skyler both get a lot of hate, but I actually just want to praise Anna Gunn here for making such a difficult character so deep and complex. While I have had my moments of disliking Skyler, it's not hard to tell that Skyler is a complicated person with feelings and emotions and for reasons for what she does, even if you don't know what they are. Which brings me to another point: even if you don't know what, every character seems to want something and have something under the surface that's motivating them, making them driven and compelling.

Tip: Setting is your friend and a great tool to create a "feel" for your novel. Also, even if it's something small, try to figure out what your character wants most in life and is running towards. Give them a motive--that will make it that much easier for us to root for them and rejoice for them when they get what they want, or sympathize when they don't.

3. They create tension out of everyday moments.

Before I started watching, my brother told me that Breaking Bad shows basically mundane moments of daily life. I thought that sounded seriously boring. But now that I'm watching, I realize it's not.

A prime example of this is an episode of season 2 where Hank is riding in an elevator. It shows him walking down the hall... getting in the elevator... pushing the button. In most other shows, this would be majorly boring. But for some reason, I wasn't bored. I wanted to see what was happening, where Hank was going. And within minutes the scene delivered by showing us Hank have some sort of panic attack (or something... I still don't know!) in the elevator.

It defies logic: somehow, the mundane moments of everyday life that are shown on the show are some of the most interesting pieces on television. Whether it's a shot of a plate in the microwave being warmed up or simply Skyler getting ready for work, it fascinates me. I think the reason is because Breaking Bad has consistently delivered: there is always a moment where the scene leads somewhere. You're willing to sit through the "boring" parts, and you're even fascinated with them, because you know the writers are going to take you somewhere really exciting.

In addition, as my brother said, they show you life as it is--not just the highlights. I think that's a really honest way to write.

Tip: It's okay if you show the mundane bits of life. Just make sure they're leading us to something, not taking us down a rabbit trail of everyday life. Readers read to get excited, not to read about someone else doing mundane life functions. That said, I used to think you couldn't ever write about the more boring parts of life. I think you can, just use them in a way that helps accentuate and build towards your biggest plot points.

Tip #2 (because I had even more to add): I think including these parts of life can make your writing feel even more real and forthright because we feel as if these things are actually happening, and it's a more accurate portrayal of what we experience in life every day. Sometimes, at least for me, my writing can become a form of escapism or wish fulfillment instead of portraying actual life. While there are advantages and disadvantages to both styles, sometimes fiction can feel like exactly what it is--fiction. But personally, I enjoy reading things that feel real and immerse me into another world. If including mundane moments does that for me, then so be it. Sometimes the world needs honest books and sometimes we want to read books that reflect things similar to what we're doing and going through every day instead of a book that feels like fiction and a world where only the highlights are shown, as my brother said. Don't be afraid to get messy when you're writing. Be honest and show life as it is.

4. They raise the stakes.

This is classic storytelling: make the stakes high. Whether it's by making their car break down or seriously injuring them (the latter is especially exciting), don't be afraid to make things bad for your characters.

An example of this one is in the Breaking Bad episode "4 Days Out." In this one, Walt wants to take their RV meth lab out to the desert to make a major amount of meth. The reason? He's dying and he doesn't think he'll have enough time left to make enough money for his family. This is after things come up that keep draining his bank account--having to hire a lawyer, for example. Between this and the cost of bailing one of his dealers out of jail, Walt isn't making nearly enough money as he thought he would, and time is running out.

So he and Jesse drive their RV to the middle of the desert and spend the day making a huge batch of crystal meth. When done, they discover something: their battery is dead. They use gas from the RV to start up their generator in order to jump the RV's battery. There's just one problem: their generator explodes. This creates a large fire, and, in a panic, Jesse uses the rest of their drinking water to put it out. Now they are in the middle of the desert with no water, and nightfall is coming soon. They call one of their drug dealers, Skinny Pete, to try to come find them and drive them home, which in and of itself is a risk  because Walt is afraid his wife will check his phone records. Nevertheless, it's all they have. After calling the drug dealer and giving him complicated instructions (because they're in the middle of nowhere because they're MAKING METH), they wait.

...And wait. And finally, they call Skinny Pete and find out that he's on the wrong road entirely. They try to explain this to him, but finally, Walt's phone dies and things go from bad to worse.

The next day, Jesse finds Walt using the generator and cranking it by hand to try to spark some sort of life into the RV's battery. After cranking it by hand under a hot sun for hours, they run into the RV to try it. As the viewer, I was waiting with baited breath to see if it would work. And it does work! Briefly. After which the engine peters out.

They may be stranded in the middle of the desert, but Walt's hat is fabulous.
This is the darkest moment for our ... heroes? Do we even call them heroes? We'll call them main characters instead. Walt lays in the RV, coughing. Oh, yes, Walt is also coughing up blood, by the way--as if he needed more to deal with. He's ready to give up. Jesse yells at him in a semi-humorous pep talk slash rant, and asks him if he can think of any way to fix the RV, whether that be through making a robot or a dune buggy. While Walt doesn't go for either of these options, it does spark something in his chemist mind: a way to make a car battery by hand. So they make a car battery out of galvanized metal--coins, washers, whatever--sponges, and copper (or wire, as Jesse hilariously calls it). And voila! It works.

They're out of the woods for the moment, at least until they go home and Skyler inevitably finds the call to Skinny Pete on Walt's phone, but for now, they are safe. But it wasn't easy, and it was scary, for the viewer to watch. Even though Walt is going to die by all appearances anyway due to his lung cancer, there's still a compelling sense of urgency as the stakes mount and mount. Just when you think it couldn't get any worse, it does. And that's good advice as a writer, I think. As someone who tends to take it easy on my characters, I know how easy it is to think you've made it bad enough for them. But maybe push a little harder, take it to the brink. See how much farther you can take it, make it even worse. Because readers and viewers eat that stuff up.

Tip: When it comes to your characters and bad circumstances, don't be afraid to pile it on heavy. See just how far you can go before they break. And then do make them break, and when they do, help them pick themselves up and try again and succeed. Those are the victories that make our hearts soar.

5. They think out of the box, leave loose ends, and keep advancing the plot. 

This point is a bit of a scatter-brained one, but it's just general observations that I've picked up while watching the show. These are all bits of the Breaking Bad writers' technique I'd like to pick up. So these three things may not make sense together, and they probably don't belong together, but bear with me here.

At the end of almost every episode, they resolve the main plotline of the episode but keep a few loose threads dangling. This is apparent in the episode I mentioned in point #4, "4 Days Out." While we have the main issue of Walt and Jesse in the desert resolved by the end, there is still the issue that now Skinny Pete's number is in Walt's main cell phone, which could be seen by his wife. In addition, he gets a diagnosis regarding his cancer that he wasn't expecting. Both of these things help advance the plot and make us want to keep watching, even while resolving the issues at hand in the episode.

This is TV, so obviously it would translate a little different to novel writing. But in general, keep the plot moving as much as you can, as well as resolving some things and yet leaving others. I think you could call it the "give-and-take" method. Give the reader a little resolution to tide them over, but leave some things hanging. (Until the end, though, because sometimes you're going to want to tie up some of those loose threads!) It could also be called the "good and bad" method. Make good things happen, but then leave or create some of the bad things so that the book isn't tied up all in one scene. (Another example of this is Lost, which did answer some questions while leaving others. Until seasons 5 and 6, however... but we don't talk about those. But this technique is most successful in season 1 and season 2.)

The process of giving and taking could possibly also lead to good plot twists--and that goes hand in hand with my next point: thinking outside the box. I don't go a long time while watching a Breaking Bad episode without the writers surprising me (same with season 1 of Lost. Many audible gasps were heard). I really like imagining the Breaking Bad writers sitting around coming up with plot twists and laughing evilly (maybe not so much on that last part). I honestly don't know how they do it, but they manage to surprise me nearly every time.

Tip: It's hard for me to figure out what exactly the Breaking Bad writers did to think outside the box, so I'm not even sure what advice to offer here, honestly. But if you ever find yourself falling back on an old cliche, try flipping that cliche around. Or put yourself in your readers shoes: what is the last thing my reader would ever expect to happen here? And then go ahead and do that thing.

Don't be afraid to leave things unresolved until the next chapter, and don't be afraid to think outside the box and put something wacky or unexpected right in the middle of your manuscript. In general make sure your novel surprises you most of all! That's one of the most fun things about writing.

Surprising your readers is kind of a combination of having a character they care about, upping the stakes, and thinking out of the box. When all these three things happen, it's magical.

In summary, I think Breaking Bad can be summed up with this formula: good + bad + more good + more bad + believable plot, setting, and characters + leaving loose ends + upping the stakes + showing life as it is = A REALLY GREAT TV SHOW. ;) But in all seriousness, it's brilliant and I'm really grateful to the creators and writers of Breaking Bad for making a show this complex. It helps us as writers learn how to make our stories complex too.

Discussing stories and learning the techniques behind them is one of my favorite things. As time goes on, I'd love to do more of these posts and have discussions with you about our favorite stories and what makes them work. This was a bit of a departure from my normal blog fare, but I know this is exactly the kind of post I would want to read, so I set out to write it and it was a really fun look into the cogs and gears behind one of the coolest shows to be on television. I really hope this helped you as a practical tool to help incorporate some of these genius writing techniques into your own writing. I know I learned a lot!

What about you? What do you think the Breaking Bad writers did right? What TV show do you think has fabulous writing? There's nothing more I like than discussing well-written stories and characters, especially from TV! Tell me below in the comments!