Wednesday, September 6, 2017

A Systematic Outline of my Life

Let me tell you ALL ABOUT my life right now, folks.

Well, not all of it.  I don't have the time or the finger strength for that.  But I'll lay out some highlights.

First of all, through Anatomy class, which we're going through very systematically, as is right, I have learned how to take notes in outline format.  At first I was like, "Hmph, in my day we just wrote paragraphs, and I think I turned out fine, thank you very much, grumblegrumblegrumble..." but I now see the beauty and the mystique that is: outlining.  Shout out to Musser, who will probably never ever read this blog.  You da best, ma'am.

In fact...I've got a special surprise, just for y'all, because I love you muy mucho.  I'm going to write this post in outline form for a bit!  I may mess up some, but if you ask me about it, I will be happy to tell you just how little I care.

  1. Important happenings in my life right now
    1. School
      1. History
        1. Pros
          1. Nice teacher
          2. Some nice classmates
          3. Interesting material
          4. Easy to get good grades
        2. Cons
          1. Textbook doesn't mention the naval stores industry in NC
          2. Classroom lighting is weird and depressing
          3. Nobody laughs at my jokes
          4. Nobody does ANYTHING
      2. Anatomy
        1. Pros
          1. Fab teacher
          2. Really interesting material
          3. Dog in classroom
          4. Joshua
            1. Quote: "I was born as a burrito.  Nathaniel wasn't born as a burrito.  Nathaniel was born as a chicken sandwich."
          5. Nathaniel
            1. Nice and helpful
            2. Says "bless you" when I cough
          6. Nate
            1. Takes tae kwon do with my best friend
              1. Can be our messenger boy
        2. Cons
          1. My mother thought I wanted to take it because of the section on reproduction.  Nuff said.
      3. Great Books
        1. Pros
          1. Fantastic teacher
            1. Really knows what he's talking about
            2. Super enthusiastic about his subject
            3. Nice
            4. Tells dad jokes
            5. Always wears the same black outfit
            6. Goes off on really cool rabbit trails a lot
          2. Fascinating material
          3. Some cool classmates
          4. Class discussion is always good and super interesting
        2. Cons
          1. It doesn't start until tomorrow
          2. I haven't done the week's worth of reading, watching lectures, and anwering questions that's due tomorrow
      4. Spanish
        2. Pros
          1. I'm good at it
          2. Small class
          3. Some awesome classmates
          4. A lot of interaction in class
          5. Practical subject to learn
          6. Interesting teacher
        3. Cons
          1. Can have some drama (I do NOT need to go into this)
          2. Interesting teacher
    2. Social life
      1. Hahahahahahahahahaha

And there you have it, folks!  Now, onto other things.


Nah, I got nothing.

Good day.

The Homework Adventures of Anna Groover

This was written a week and a day before the date it was posted.  Procrastination, yo.

And dinner has been eaten.
I'm frantically doing the homework for tomorrow that I was supposed to have spent the past week doing.
Haha!  Everything is fine.
I think it would help if I wrote a blog post WHILE doing homework.
That makes sense, right?

These are the messages I just sent my friend.  So you understand my frame of mind.  I’m not exactly rational, but I’ve got this nervous energy running through my veins.  I can’t stop shaking, and that makes some sort of sense considering the circumstances.

It is 8:19 on a Monday night, and I am doing homework.  “Ha!” you scoff.  “What’s so special about that?”

Nothing, actually.  Nothing a’tall.  It’s only that I have to leave for class tomorrow at 10:00, which isn’t that late, and I’ve been feeling odd and feverish much of today, and I have to read thirty pages of Anatomy, memorize approximately five thousand two hundred and forty-seven terms*, and I also have a cough.  Still.

*EDITOR’S NOTE:  This is not an exact number.  I’m not sure where she pulled this out of.

Can we talk about this cough?  I don’t even remember when I got it, but it’s been sticking with me for several weeks.  It’s probably getting time to name it.  It obviously really loves me, but to be totally honest, if cruel and heartless, I have no desire to keep it in my life.

“But still,” you say, “that doesn’t sound so bad.”

Well, no.  Not really.  For it to make sense to you, I’d have to lay out the whole emotional background to this panic running through all of me right now, but I’m doing homework right--

Who am I kidding?  That’s never stopped me before.

And that’s the problem right there.  I procrastinate, because I always view other things as more important than my school.  Last year I took Chemistry from the same teacher I’m taking Anatomy from this year.  I always ended up doing my homework last minute, which works for most subjects, but not for Chemistry.  I did not fail, but it was a near thing.  Near the end, I really got behind, and I never quite caught up.  I still have a panicky feeling when I think about it.

I’m afraid that I’m still tempted to make that mistake.  So making this mistake a week after the first class really, really scares me.  I don’t want this to be a habit pattern of mine.  

I will recover!  I will rise up and rebel against my own laziness!  I will do better next week!

But isn’t that what I always say?  It’s always next week.  It’s always, I’ll try harder.  But do I ever?

Heyyy!  There’s a song by the Dutch rock band Kensington called Do I Ever.  I love that song, but I didn’t realize until that last paragraph that some parts of it really apply to me, at least right now.  You should all listen to it (hello, my one reader!), but for all those who won’t, here is the chorus written out all neatly:

I let it throw me off my feet,
I let it put me on my knees,
What do I know?
I ought to grow,
But do I ever?

Seriously, though, listen to it.  Your life will be forever changed.

Now is the part of this blog post where I stop trying to impart my stress to you, and I start trying to impart the remedy.  Because the truth is, even though I’m tired and guilty and scared, God is sovereign.  And He sent His only Son to save me.

That’s pretty crazy.  I’m a sixteen-year-old girl, sitting here frazzled and fuzzy-brained, doing something I put off until the last minute, and the King of kings, Creator of the universe, died.  For me.

So really, all this is pretty small.  It’s true: it’s late.  I have a lot to do tonight.  I have a lot to do tomorrow, and the next day after that, and for the rest of my life, there will always be stuff I should be doing.

But God has always sustained me, and He has promised to always sustain me.  So I think I’ve actually got it pretty good.  Who I really feel sorry for are the people who don’t know God, and don’t think they need to.  Who think that everything in life is fine and okay, when really they have no legitimate hope.  I feel sorry for the unbelievers whom God has not blessed with discomfort, with the feeling that something is wrong and needs to be fixed.

So as much as I’ll pray for peace and time for myself, tonight and throughout the school year, my prayers will go out so much more for those lost souls feeling at home in a sinful world that will one day be destroyed.

And now I really must do my school.  But hey, thank the Lord that I even have opportunity to learn these things.

So long,


Thursday, March 9, 2017

Clara 1

Hello, all you fabulous readers of Anna's blog!

I'm afraid you're gonna be stuck with me instead today.  Anna has very kindly decided to leave you all at my mercy this month, and me at yours; the prospect of which is infinitely more daunting to me.

But that's not much of an introduction, is it?

Let's start again.

Hello, all you fabulous readers of Anna's blog!

It's Clara, from The Danger of Dreams (, a relatively new blog which I've mostly devoted to unpacking the writing process.  My biggest accomplishment so far has got to be how I've duped Anna into thinking I know enough about writing and organizing to be of some help to those of you who write.

Good grief.  How terrible can an introduction get?

It's this dratted "honesty" thing, I swear.  Interferes with all my good intentions.

Because honestly, I'm quite new at this whole writing thing myself, and my own process could definitely use some improvement.  I have yet to publish a major work, I procrastinate on drafting stories to read assorted and sundry fan fiction, and I was caught in the misery that is writer's block with my main story up until a few weeks ago.

So I invite you to join me as I basically improvise my way through this first post, and we'll see what happens!  If my words aren't enlightening or inspiring, I can guarantee that at least they'll be entertaining.  And really, what could be better than being entertained at somebody else's expense?  

Anna suggested that I take y'all "behind-the-scenes", so to speak, with a piece of my writing, revealing the backstory on how I got it how it is, and how I plan to get it where I want it to go.  Anna has brilliant suggestions.

The following excerpt I'm providing is from the first-person point of view of my character James, in a story I'm currently working on.  It's a little of a mundane beginning, but I think it introduces the characters of James and Miles well.

Below the excerpt, I'll criticize my work and sketch out how I organized it.  I'm going to leave off writing more specifically about organization until a later post, since I think it's more helpful at this point to give examples of organization rather than try to present it as an abstract concept.

I remember that the day everything fell apart started like any other.

The ear-splitting wail of the alarm clock in Miles' office woke me up at 5:30 a.m. and I groaned as I sat up in my sleeping bag.  I could see Miles' faint outline in the sleeping bag on the other side of the room, and I smiled at the way he could sleep through any noise.  I stood and tiptoed my way past the short stacks of papers that Miles had arranged around his side of the room, and lifted our empty mugs from his cluttered desk.  It was time to make coffee.

Our morning ritual was always coffee together before I left for school.  Ever since Miles and I moved out from Georgia to New York City for his work, we’d had to scrimp and pinch wherever we could to make ends meet. We lived out of Miles’ tiny law office in Manhattan, hiding the sleeping bags inside the closet during business hours. Coffee in the mornings seemed to be Miles’ way of reminding me that we could still feel at home in New York, even if only for a few minutes each day.

I filled our mugs from the sink in the adjoining bathroom, and then placed them inside the microwave on Miles’ desk, setting the timer for two minutes. During the day, the microwave was kept under the desk and out of sight; but at the moment, it was mine to command. I took the sack of ground coffee from inside the desk’s top drawer and inhaled deeply, savoring the aroma of the rich, dark powder. Coffee was, and still is, the best-smelling substance I know. 

As soon as the microwave’s timer dinged, I removed the mugs and measured a level spoonful of ground coffee into each one. We never used coffee filters; since neither of us much minded a few coffee grounds, a little extra caffeine at the bottom of our mugs. Looking back on it, I don’t know how I would have survived a day of high school without my morning jolt of caffeine-induced energy.

Miles woke up then, as always, to the smell of coffee. He blinked the sleep from his tired eyes and smiled at me before fumbling around his sleeping bag for his glasses. I smiled back in amusement.

“They’re on your other side,” I told him, “Right next to the amicus brief you were highlighting last night.”

He nodded his thanks as he found his thick, black-framed glasses, and then placed them carefully on his face. Then he peered intently into my face. 

“Ah, now I can see you. Good grief, James, you must’ve had an interesting dream.”

“Why’s that?” I asked as I handed him his mug and sat down cross-legged next to his sleeping bag.

“Your hair”, he answered with a half-smile, “Your hair seems to have been battling dragons all night long.”

He reached out with his free hand and absently ruffled my unruly brown mop.

“There”, he nodded, satisfied.

“That neatened it up?” I asked with a grin, which he returned.

“Not at all. I merely distributed the mess a little more evenly.”

“Sounds about normal, then”, I sighed, resigned to my fate.

I had given up on my hair a long time ago. As long as I could cover it with a hat, I looked decent enough for school. It wasn’t like girls were going to look at me twice anyway. 

Miles raised an eyebrow at me in amusement, and then cupped both hands around his mug to warm them. He sighed as he sipped his coffee, closing his eyes to savor it and letting his shoulders drop as he relaxed. If I loved coffee, he worshipped it. I sipped some of my own and let him lose himself in silence for a few minutes, enjoying his company without really realizing it at the time. I never felt like I needed to say anything around Miles.

He looked up from his half-drained mug with a more focused gleam in his grey eyes.

“Good coffee, this”, he nodded approvingly.

I shrugged. He said it every morning, and would probably say it if I handed him a mug of coal tar one morning instead of coffee. When you drink the stuff black the way Miles does, I doubt there’s any real difference in flavor between the two. Approving the coffee was just his way of signaling that he was now awake enough for conversation.

“So how late are you opening, Miles?” I asked. 

Most days Miles kept office hours until 6:00 p.m. so that we could have dinner together, but he was in the middle of a big case, which usually meant interviewing a lot of witnesses, which usually meant closing shop at 7:00 or later.

“Not too late”, he reassured me. “It’s a big case, but a pretty straightforward one. The press will have a field day with this one either way it’s decided; but thankfully, we have our ways to avoid them.”

He grinned mischievously at me, his dark brows dancing on his pale face. I grinned back, knowing that Miles was nowhere near famous enough as a lawyer to gain the attention of reporters. He knew it too, but he found a certain wry humor in it.

He gazed at the empty coffee mug in his hands wistfully, and then stood up reluctantly from his warm sleeping bag.

“So what are your plans for today, James?” he asked in a more business-like tone.

I stood up with him and grimaced as I envisioned the day ahead at school. It was only February, but I’d been ready for the school year to end since Christmas.

“The usual”, I answered. “Sit through class and take the dumb quizzes to prove I actually know stuff, then get pounded by the jocks because I make them look bad by actually knowing stuff, then go change into my janitor’s uniform and muck around in a job where I don’t need to use the stuff I actually know.”

Miles had patiently listened to my complaining tirade, his left eyebrow raising a little. I was pretty good at complaining, and he was pretty good at listening. 

He took my empty mug as he shook his head at me.

“James, James, James. You do have quite a cynical view of the world for your age.”

“I’m seventeen, Miles”, I countered, “Old enough to know that it’s ugly out there, and young enough to be allowed to complain without doing anything to fix it.”

He fastened those grey eyes onto mine, amused but with a wariness behind them. Seeing the dark circles under them, harsh in the pale light of a winter morning, I remembered how hard he had it and how little he complained. I looked away and firmed my lip. If he could get through it, I could get through it. At least for today.

And now for a look behind the scenes.

This excerpt is actually from a work of fanfiction for the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series; which for those of you who haven’t heard of it, features the Greek gods and heroes translated into modern America and the ensuing hardships and hilarity for their half-mortal descendants, the demigods. I grew up with the series, and I loved it so much that I never wanted the books to end. So I decided to continue the story with this one.

James and Miles are not from the books, but are my original characters. James is purely mortal without any godly parentage, which makes him different from most major characters in the books. I thought that his unique perspective as a mortal would add an interesting dynamic when he encounters gods and demigods further on in the story, those parts which I have yet to write. This beginning excerpt was meant to introduce him and his relationship with his legal guardian, Miles. They carry the main action of the story, so I spent more time than I would normally use for a introduction scene, in an effort to make them both believable and relatable to the reader.

And now that the back story’s out of the way, it’s time to criticize my heart out—what fun.

The first five paragraphs are bothering me right now. Aside from the first sentence in the story, which I like since it sets up some dramatic tension for later on, they’re…boring. They use far too many words for far too little action. In the fourth and fifth paragraphs especially, James doesn’t have to record every little step in the coffee-making process for it to be convincing to the reader. When I revise this later, I’ll probably cut some description and combine the paragraphs mentioned so that I can move the action along a little faster. For now, though, it’s alright as is.

Moving on.

The initial dialogue between James and Miles in the next few paragraphs is my favorite part of this excerpt. The familiarity and warmth between the two characters comes across nicely, and the detail about James’ unmanageable hair endears him to me. But maybe that’s just me. If I wanted to be really picky about it, I could rework parts of this exchange to make the pauses in conversation sound a little more natural, but they sound convincing enough for this draft.

The rest of my critique concerns nit-picky issues of word choice, character development, and style. Would James, a typical seventeen-year-old, use “tirade” to describe his complaining? Maybe not. Is there a surplus of adjectives in this draft that need to be replaced with stronger verbs? Maybe so. And is the dialogue towards the end adding to the reader’s knowledge of the characters enough for all of it to be kept? As much as I hate to admit it, probably not.

Also, a guy friend to whom I had sent this excerpt for feedback replied with an intriguing character-development-type-question as follows: “Is James more of a shy, in his own world guy or a kind of irreverant[sic], disenchanted with life kind of guy? I think that bears distinction as they're similar but they have a subtle warmness in the former vs coldness in the latter.” I really want to rework this section later to convey a more definite answer to his question. I think James likes to think he's all disenchanted with the world, but honestly, he's too young to really be all that cynical all the time. It'll be interesting trying to flesh out his character and get that across to readers.

In general, the organization of this excerpt is not as cut-and-dry as some of my other works. It is mostly organized in the order of events as they happened, but with some asides and explanations from James. But I’m not going to worry about it too much. Since it’s based off of James’ recollection, it’s okay if things are a little fuzzy around the edges and not as tightly structured as they could be. It could even feel more genuine this way. The main issue will be to keep the action moving while providing enough description to carry the reader through it without getting them bogged down in the details. It’s a delicate balancing act, so I’ll have to constantly reread and revise.

And that’s about it! I’m sure that I could find a thousand other little things to complain about, but this is a good starting (and stopping) point. I hope the comments I made were helpful in giving you a general idea of things to look for in your own writing as you revise and rework. And if they weren’t as helpful as you might have liked, don’t feel too discouraged. I plan to cover smaller, more specific issues related to the writing process in future posts; so I’ll be able to unpack each one more.
Feel free to leave your comments and questions below regarding the story, my remarks, or your own works. I’m always looking to improve my writing, and I love reading what other writers are working on!

Till next time,

Sunday, February 26, 2017

March Blog Swap with Clara from The Danger of Dreams!

Hey, would you look at that, I used an exclamation point in the blog post title.  It's taken three years and twenty-nine posts to reach this point, y'all.

Aaaaaand, I went back and looked to make sure.  Turns out I've actually used exclamation points in blog post titles at least four times before this.  So no, don't trust my memory, or my perception of myself.

But I'm not writing this post so I can talk about myself and punctuation.  I'm writing it so I can talk about my good friend Clara.  She has an awesome blog called The Danger of Dreams, which you should totally go to now.  She talks about a lot of cool topics, such as writing, organization, and trashing my sister's car!  Okay, so she hasn't actually talked about that on her blog, but I'm sure we all think she should.

In March she'll take over my blog, and I'll take over hers, and here's what will happen: 

On Girl with the Binder, you'll get some lovely--nay, fabulous--posts on writing and organization.  Let's face it, most of us could use help with that.  If you read my blog (which you probably do...) you know that I certainly could.  And no, I'm not going to put an exclamation point on that.  Clara is an awesome organizationist, and I'm so happy she'll be sharing some things with us.  I may post once or twice during the month on my home blog, but you know me.

Meanwhile, over on The Danger of Dreams, I'll be writing a few posts on writing and inspiration.  On her blog, Clara said: She'll be addressing the topic of Inspiration and taking her own unique spin on what it means and how we as writers harness it.  If truth be told, that itself inspires me, and I'm burning up with the desire to write out ALL THE THOUGHTS.  So yeah, I'm looking forward to that.

I'm sure y'all will enjoy this March, with all of its madness.  Clara will take very good care of you, and I'm sure I'll come back to find you all so much smarter and more organized than you used to be.  If you please though, do also come over to The Danger of Dreams and see what I'm doing over there.

Looking forward to it?  I know I am!  Be sure and give Clara a big welcome when she comes!

Friday, January 13, 2017

Anna's Thought Dump: Writing, Stealing, and Maggie Stiefvater

Hullo, my people.

I'm writing this blog post because I have some thoughts consuming me, and I must write them out, and I'd like to write them out for others to read.  I'll talk a little about that later.  Right now, you need to know that this post is about Maggie Stiefvater, and it's about me, and it's about writing.  Here are the topics I want to cover, written out neatly because that will make me feel good, and so I don't forget them.

1.) Writers vs. Storytellers
2.) Stealing
3.) Probably some rant-type thing that brings everything above together

Before we move onto those topics, I need to lay the foundation for this post.  Every so often, I stalk people.  Not in an illegal way, of course.  It's just there are interesting people who post interesting things on the internet, and I like to read these things, especially if they're about writing, because I can't stop writing, but sometimes it seems like I should add poorly to that statement.  Anyhow, yesterday I went to the library, and since then I have finished five of the nine books I checked out.  As a result, my soul burned to research some of these authors and see when/if subsequent books would come out.  Even though none of these authors was Maggie Stiefvater, somehow I wandered my way over to her website, and then to her blog.  Maggie is the author of the quadrilogy, THE RAVEN CYCLE, which I enjoyed, but probably not enough to read again, and THE SCORPIO RACES, which I not only enjoyed, but adored.  She's also written other books that I haven't read.

Maggie is someone who not only writes, but thinks about writing in a way I've seen few authors do, and then she tells the world her thoughts; and for that I'm very grateful.  See, as you've probably seen in my blog posts, I also think a lot about writing, but so often I simply have to take these thoughts from me and my own writing.  However, as I discovered today, Maggie Stiefvater has a lot for me to think about, a lot to feed my brain.

So here are her thoughts, added to mine, mixed and digested thoroughly, and then spewed back out for all of y'all.

It's not as gross as it sounds.

1.) Writers vs. Storytellers

In this blog post, Maggie says that she is a storyteller, not a writer, and there is a difference.  She says that writers write for themselves; that even if they never got published, they would still keep writing, just the same as if they had crowds of people clamoring for their next work.  I believe that is true of me.  I know why I write, or at least why I started to write, and I'll explain that in my rant to come.

Storytellers, however, write for an audience, and to change others.  Maggie says if she couldn't write with words, she'd find another way to tell stories.  And often I believe this is also true of myself.  Not that writing is simply the most convenient way to tell stories for me, or something I stumbled into; no, I will always write.  I know this.  However, there are things that I want to tell the world, or at least a great many people, and even if I couldn't use my writing for that, I'd use something else.

So can someone be both a writer and a storyteller?  Or is it simply that at my age, I'm bombarded with options and possibilities, and by the time I'm an adult, I'll have settled into one or the other?

While it's fun to think about, and to wonder about, it's pointless to put stress or worrying into it.  No matter what I am, I figure I'll either find out later, or it'll stop mattering to me.  Here, have a poem I wrote once while feeling sad and overwhelmed.  (Thankfully, this poem was the first sign of that passing.)

It was once that I dreamed
Of what I might be.
Until my dreams were everything
That consumed me.
I woke to find I was nothing
But smoke and tears,
The result of a million
Wasted years.
In the end, I threw away
All my dreams.
And became what I was always
Meant to be.

(To paraphrase all that, quit stressing out about stuff, and often you'll find it works itself out in the end.  Of course, God is the Mastermind behind that.)

2.) Stealing

In this blog post, Maggie talks about writers (general term, not vs. storytellers) being artists and thieves.  Now Maggie, my sister, who is an artist herself and has a lovely cardmaking-and-other-stuff blog right here, has a book called STEAL LIKE AN ARTIST, by Austin Kleon.  I'll confess, I haven't read the whole thing, but the general point is, artists don't create out of thin air.  We steal from what's around us.  Knowing how true that is of me and the stuff I write, I wasn't at all surprised to hear Maggie Stiefvater saying the same thing.  I highly recommend you read this blog post, because not only does she make some fabulous points, she also tells a funny story, and genuinely funny stories are awesome and hard to come by.

Now, something interesting she pointed out that I'd never consciously thought about, is the relationship between artist and thief.  I'd probably know this if I'd read STEAL LIKE AN ARTIST all the way through, but I didn't.  We (artists generally, writers specifically) don't just steal stuff and then use it as art.  If I see an interesting person, I don't just stick him into my interesting story and say, "Yep, there's beauty.  There's art."  But it's also not as simple as just finding some way to fit him into my story, or fit my story around him. 

I'll confess, I have a hard time putting this into words, because for me this has strayed from being a thought thing, and instead entered the realm of instinct.  I'll do my best, but pardon me for how disjointed and clunky this may sound.

As a writer, I steal all the time, from everything around me.  There are a lot of things that I notice, and so my brain always has far too much material to write about it all.  When God made me, though, he gave me an instinct that has served me extremely well as a writer.  Over time, it filters through all the stuff I take in, and spits out a story idea.  Sometimes it's several within a few hours, other times it may take me weeks just to get one.  I get the feeling author Sarah Prineas goes through much the same process, because she once told me she had to wait for her ideas to glom before she could write a story.

The point is, when stolen things go into my story, they've been processed, sometimes reshaped, molded, and kneaded, and fit together to form the story.

Now what is most intriguing about this is that all of those stolen pieces, that be reminded, didn't come from the author's mind, still reflect the author.  Because she* may not have created those things, but who stole them?  Chose them?  Who remade them, fit them together in a way she still thinks is beautiful?  I'm sure you've heard enough of the quotes by now to know that choices simultaneously make a person and reveal who she truly is.

Now here's the beautiful enigma: her choices don't just reveal who she has made herself to be, but who God has made her to be, and who and what He has used to shape her into who she is.  The truth is, it's not by her own cleverness or observational skills that she has these things.  God gives them to her.  And here's the sad part: if she doesn't give Him the glory, then she really is stealing, and she's stealing from God.

*I'm using she because I'm a she, and when I say she, I'm half talking about myself, so deal with it.

Well, I had no idea I was going to go there.  That's an example of "glommage," as Sarah would say.

3.) The Rant, or Conclusion, Where All of Our Ropes Meet in One Knot

Here is the story of my writing, including the part I don't often talk about.

Anyway, when I was six, I started reading chapter books.  I was either six or seven when I wrote down my first, albeit incomplete, story.  For me it was just fun, but it was also a natural response to how much I was reading.  I started a few stories between the ages of seven and ten.  Maybe four or five stories, and most of them didn't get far.  It wasn't something I really felt the need to do, but I liked feeling like I was making something.

When I was ten, I started a story called FIREBREATH, which was pretty much a blatant ripoff of ERAGON.  I also started a story called STORMY HURL, which I actually think there's still some merit to.  They didn't get far.  What's more important is that when I was ten, my Book Binder came into being.  As you can probably guess, it was a binder, and my original intention was that in it I would only put the stories that I eventually wanted to publish.  See, sometime around FIREBREATH's inception, I'd decided I wanted to be a famous author.  This was when I really started writing regularly, and I didn't go anywhere without taking my Book Binder.  I didn't write every day, by any means; that came later.  But I did have it in my head a lot.

When I was twelve, disaster struck, as it often does for twelve-year-olds.  I became an angsty brat, to put it nicely.  Not intentionally, but I was completely overwhelmed with all the new emotion that comes with puberty.  I was depressed and angry all the time.  And unfortunately, I turned violent.  I didn't know why at the time, and even know it's not really clear to me.  All I know is that for no reason at all, I'd be talking to a sibling of mine, and suddenly I'd want to attack them.  And sometimes I would.  Then I'd be ashamed and even more depressed, and I'd go off and cry where nobody could see me, and then a few days later I'd do it again.  And yes, that's as miserable as it sounds.  Anger issues hurt the person suffering from them just as much as the people around her.  I had a lot of stuff going on in my head, and a ton of fears that multiplied every day, and things just seemed to be getting worse and worse.

Some part of me knew, however, that I needed some way to get rid of all the excess energy that was pouring into my emotions, and influencing me to hurt other people.  That way ended up being Katie Bolsta.  Katie Bolsta was the first character I ever wrote who wasn't just a plot device.  Katie Bolsta was myself, as I wanted to be at the time.  She was fierce, and she was self-controlled, and she was in charge.  People respected her.

KATIE BOLSTA was also the first book that I wrote not for other people to read, for my future fans, but for myself.  It was also the first book partially inspired by a dream.  This is the first time I've been able to realize, looking back, that KATIE BOLSTA was the first book I ever wrote as an artist.  It was the first book that ever "glommed" for me, and I poured my life into it.

I've known, ever since then, why I write.  It's so I don't hurt others.  It's so I don't hurt myself, emotionally speaking.  It's so I stay steady and stable, and get rid of the baggage before it drags me down, and I thank God for it.

So I don't know what Maggie Stiefvater would call me.  But I do know that I write for myself and for God, and that the things I write for myself, I want to help other people; I think they can, too.

To this day, my main characters are the people I want to be.  And to this day, I'm careful to watch what I steal, because my choices reveal and make me who I am.

Man, that was a lot.  Please tell me your own thoughts on writers vs. storytellers, stealing, and any of the other topics that catch your attention.  You can stop reading now if you want, the other stuff is kind of extra-ish.

I know this was a long post, and went a lot of different places, but I hope it was beneficial to you!  I know it was to me. 

I'll spit out another post sometime.  I think the reason my posts often go on so long is because I do them so rarely, so if you have any writing-related things you want me to blog on, I'd be happy to, and in a succinter (don't judge) way.  I'm hoping to start posting more frequent and short posts.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

The Return

Behind the sinking, golden sun, she trods a path, dusty and worn.  She's not fared as well as she could; her feet are sore and bruised, and her head aches as she keeps it lowered, fast losing energy to continue.  But she is almost home, and so, dragging her long shadow behind her, she steps forward time and time again.  Her feet padding on the dirt is the only sound for a mile around.

It has been too long since she was home.  She's almost forgotten what it looks like.  She only knows that no matter how many times she leaves, she will always return to those she loves.  So she plods on, through forests of pine and fields of wheat, knowing that this is the way she will always be.  She will never know whether she will be able to return or not; but if she is, nothing short of death will stand in her way.

In a little town, people go about their business.  They sell their wares, they tend their gardens, and they converse with their neighbors.  They do not lack, but they miss.  They know one of their number still has not returned, and they wonder if she ever will.

The townspeople go silent when she rounds the bend.  Her feet are scratched and bloody.  Her head hangs low.  Her arms are limp at her sides.  She is alive, but she is not triumphant.  Wearily, she lifts her head and surveys the crowd--old friends, and family, people she thought she might never see again.  But how will they receive her?

To be continued...
(sort of...)
(not really...)

To sum it all up, folks...

Image result for i'm back meme

Saturday, February 13, 2016

How to Meet a Character: Part III, Meet Some Prime Examples

Yes, I was wrong.

It's true, no matter how much I dislike it.  I was wrong about Part II being the end, and here you have the actual coda.

I want you to see some examples of what the past two posts have been about.

So, yeah, this post is pretty much a list.  But it's a fun list!  And I might rant, so that'll be fun.  But, I mean, who knows?  I certainly don't.  I've already talked about Stanley from Holes, so that's over and done with, but that section sort of gave me the idea for this post.

A little note before we start--there will be all sorts of characters here.  They won't all be similar, but some might, and I'll probably have more boys than girls, because I'm like that, and...let's get started (sorry, I'm in a rambly mood).

Anthony Lockwood from Lockwood and Co.
I love this guy!  Seriously, one of the most charismatic, lovable characters I've ever read, and someone who you feel real pain for him.  He's probably tied for my favorite character with maybe two other guys.  The thing about Lockwood is that he's smart, confident, and approachable, but doesn't flaunt it.  He doesn't have to.  And the character development...oh, it makes me swoon.  Lucy, who is technically the main character I believe, is intrigued by him from the beginning because he seems so much older than he actually is.  As the series goes on, we see more facets to his personality, we see that he hides painful secrets, we see that he cares about everyone in his agency, and we see that we don't even know him yet.  And that's really the coolest part.  Realizing that I didn't know him yet added so much depth to his character.

Eugenides from The Queen's Thief
Okay, I'll be honest with you, I've only read the middle two books in this quartet, but I've loved them so much.  Eugenides, or Gen, is...well, he's kind of hilarious to me.  He's grumpy, can be childish, and is a thief to boot.  He's also absolutely brilliant.  People underestimate him because he seems kind of sloppy and careless, but he knows what he's doing, and he can steal anything (as he's boasted before).  He's really...well, at the risk of sounding obvious, he's quite a character.  If you've ever read Megan Whalen Turner, you'll know that she's pretty much a genius.  The best metaphor for her books I can find is chess.  She's like those players you always hear about and maybe know, the ones who know exactly what they and you will do from the beginning until they win the game.  She doesn't include a single sentence, phrase, or detail that doesn't advance the plot.  At the beginning you just read, trying to figure out what's going on and why, a little confused and frustrated, and then about halfway through things start to fall into place, and it's the most satisfying feeling in the world.  And that describes Euginedes as well, especially in the third book.  By the end, you simply adore him.

Greg Heffley from Diary of a Wimpy Kid
I'll be honest, I feel a little odd about putting Greg on this list.  It's not because I'm a snob, it's because...okay, yes, I'm totally a snob.  And Greg isn't the type of character I'd usually love.  In fact, I don't love him.  But I want to talk about him and his character development.  I've never liked DWK all that much; it's too cringe-worthy.  But Jeff Kinney did a good job of character development.  Greg is endearingly honest and self-deprecating.  He doesn't hide his tendency to get into embarrassing and painful situations.  Instead, he writes it all down in his diary--I'm sorry, journal.  He also doesn't describe himself in detail, which would have been easy for Jeff to have him do, the journal a good excuse.  No, he's...almost humble.  Not quite there, but almost.  And yet, even though he's the one narrating this whole thing, you can see some of the vanity and unabashed selfishness that he doesn't notice in himself.  He's complex.  He's likable (to a certain degree).  He's well-written.

Hope Yancey from Hope Was Here
I know I've talked about this book on here before, but let's talk about the MC specifically.  Hope is strong, her name fits her perfectly (she picked it herself), and she's also a terrific and experienced waitress.  That last part I love so much, because Hope is one of those characters who knows what she's doing and that she wants to keep doing it, and that's really cool for me.  People often underestimate her because of her youth, but she surprises them, and it's obvious that she has real people skills.  Her aunt is a chef who travels around, helping pick up old restaurants and diners and get their business booming--until they close down and she and Hope have to move on again.  Hope's parents are out of the picture, and all Hope has from her mother are her waitressing tips (which are actually really useful).  Hope is very mature and wants to find her father.

Y'all, you can tell I'm tired when I start rattling facts without bringing my sentences together well.  I need a tea break.

*twenty nine minutes pass*

And I'm back, with a nice mug of hot Jasmine tea straight from Indonesia.  Seriously.  My friends brought it back from Indonesia.

Let's dive straight back in:

Lemony Snicket from All the Wrong Questions
How could I not mention this guy?  Lemony Snicket is the best fiction writer I have ever read, and his character development is a beautiful thing to see.  He's a mystery, and yet he's right in front of you, as real as anyone around you.  Except that he's a character from a book.  I read back over the last few sentences, and they're kind of confusing.  All I can say is, Lemony Character is as believable as anyone I've ever read, including the real ones.  I don't know how to add to that.  It's too perfect and complex to describe (plus, the tea, wonderful as it is, can only do so much).

Jackson Greene from The Great Greene Heist
Like the last two, you've heard this before.  But it bears mentioning again.  Because Jackson is in middle school.  AND HE WEARS A TIE.  I don't know why that's oh-so-wonderful for me, but I love it!  He's such an intriguing mix of rebel and traditionalist, formal and casual, laid-back and uptight.  And his older brother, his inspiration, is just as cool, if not cooler.

Man, I feel like such a writer right now.  Type a few sentences, take a sip from my mug, return to typing.  I'm so industrious.  This is the life.

Rose Howard from Rain Reign
This is a character I almost didn't put in, not because she wasn't written well, but because this book was painful for me emotionally.  But I know I should put it in, so I am.  We get to know Rose through first person.  She is autistic.  This book and the way she's written kind of opened my eyes, but I have to confess that the person I related to more was her father, Wesley.  I understand that feeling of loving someone but not knowing what to do with them.  I wish the book had ended differently, but even the way it ended I'll be thinking about it for years.

James from Midnight Thief
James was definitely my favorite character from this book, even though he wasn't the MC.  *SPOILER ALERT*  He was painful to read, because you care so much about him, and the whole time you know things are going to end with him being the bad guy.  One of the hardest parts was when he stabs Kyra, and you can tell some part of him doesn't want to, but it's not enough to stop him.  But as much as I love him, his whole character reinforced my knowledge that a person's actions will show the true state of their heart.  As far as character development goes, he was perfect.  We see little bits of him slowly emerge.  We're not told, we're shown.  And he's very real.  He makes human decisions, has human reasons and human reactions.  He would be purely lovable if it weren't for the fact that he's an evil murderer.  Yeah, there is that.

Ender Wiggins from Ender's Game
Last, but definitely not least.  I read Ender's Game for the first time when I was ten, I believe.  I started reading it in the evening and read until two or three in the morning, when I finished it.  And for days, all I could do was think about it.  Ender is by far the character I relate to the most, of all the characters I've ever read.  We meet him when he's six and follow his development from a smart young boy who likes to keep to himself to a young man who is a brilliant leader and strategist.  The whole time, there's a similar theme--he doesn't want to hurt anyone, but he'll do what he has to do to get peace for himself.  He's not described at all, except in words from others, but the whole time, you can just feel how worn out with the whole thing he's becoming.  He never wants to hurt anybody, and yet, by the end of the book he's almost completely destroyed an intelligent species.  The thing that really struck me about Ender is that, true to human nature, he doesn't always do what you'd expect him to do.  His actions aren't always logical.  He'll do something without knowing why he's doing it, knowing that he's causing a person pain and that it's his choice, but he'll still do it, even as he asks why.  It's really sad, but also beautiful to read.

Read some more lists.

Here are some lists of similar characters.  The first list contains my favorite "type" of character, so pay special attention to that.  I don't know how authors can keep writing very similar characters and I love them all so much, but somehow they do.  This isn't a very good sign, but I'm going to add my Theodore to the list.  Some of these characters I've already mentioned above.

List 1: Young, Enigmatic, Charismatic Males
Anthony Lockwood
Richard Campbell Gansey III (Raven Cycle)
Artemis Fowl II
W.W. Hale V (This is open to debate, since Hale isn't the main character or one in charge.) (Heist Society)
Theodore Richard Norwood IV
Jackson Greene

List 2:  Young Main Characters With Specific and Useful Skill Sets
Max Starling [actor] (Mister Max)
Hope Yancey [waitress] (Hope Was Here)
Tess Kendrick [fixes people's problems] (The Fixer)
Connwaer [thief] (The Magic Thief)
Theodore Boone [lawyer] (Theodore Boone, Kid Lawyer)
Katarina Bishop [thief] (Heist Society) 
Fletcher Moon [detective] (Half Moon Investigations)
Jackson Greene [con artist] (The Great Greene Heist)

List 3:  Characters Who Find Home in Unique and Unexpected Places
Charlotte Doyle [Seahawk] (The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle)
Piper [401] (The Mark of the Dragonfly)
Abilene Tucker [Manifest] (Moon over Manifest)
Capricorn Anderson [C Average] (Schooled)

Okay, we're done here.  I hope you've found some new books to read and have discovered things about character and writing that you didn't know before.

And with that, I conclude the three-part series, How to Meet a Character.