Saturday, 30 April 2016

Songs of the Deep: "Scars to Your Beautiful"

I have this problem where once I listen to a song, I listen to it again. And again. 

And again, until I am mouthing the lyrics non-stop, and most likely pretending I know how to dance. This strange problem was inflicted once more on me when I listened to "Scars to Your Beautiful". It took me a few listens to really get into, but when I did...the dance moves were broken out.

Song Title: 'Scars to Your Beautiful'
Singer(s): Alessia Cara

How I Discovered this Song: I was browsing the recommended videos on Youtube for some new songs, and bam. There it was. The title intrigued me, so I clicked on it.

What I Love About It: The message, and the way Alessia Cara’s voice just slides through the lyrics like butter.

Emotional Connection: This is another positive message song, and I feel the meaning of it is so important. So often we find ourselves hating the way we look and then get lost in all the negativity, without realizing we don’t have to be perfect. The message that we don’t need to hurt ourselves to become what the media has deemed ‘beautiful’ is an important one.

Favourite Lyrics: 

There's a hope that's waiting for you in the dark. You should know you're beautiful just the way you are, and you don't have to change a thing, the world could change its heart.

These lines tie in with what I said above. Every time they’re sung, they just draw me in.

Best Listened to When: You don’t feel confident in yourself or the way you look.

Have you heard this song before? Do you think 'the world could change its heart'? Let me know in the comments; I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Why A Character's Appearance Matters

     First impressions are everything. In a fictional war, it could be the difference between your character being attacked or allowed to run past. In real life, if you show up to a job interview not having washed and looking like you just rolled in mud, you probably won't get the job. Very first impressions usually depend on what you look like. Unfortunately, everyone judges books and people by their looks.

     With characters, their appearances not only allow the reader to picture them, but also tell several things about them.

     What are those things, exactly? Why does a tiny detail of what clothes they wear matter?

     Let's get to it.

1) Personality: Everything you wear leads back to your personality. A character who meticulously grooms themselves each morning for hours would not likely be described as 'humble'. A more casual man will wear a loose t-shirt instead of a button-up shirt. If your world is fiercely proper, a rebellious or independent girl might wear super short clothing. 

     I'll pull from my novel Draped in Deception as an example how personality can be shown through appearance: Eric Relen is not an extremely neat and tidy person. His room is a mess, and so this shows in his outfits. Eric's hair is always a little wild, and often he just pulls clothes off the floor without considering if they're clean. His boots have holes at the toes. All these things, from the hair, to the dusty clothes, to the holy shoes shows how unorganized Eric is, and how little he fusses over detail. He's a messy person, and it shows.

2) Their social standing: If someone showed you a commoner and then a royal, it would be easy to pick out who was who. Why? A wealthy royal is not going to look like an everyday person. She will be wearing expensive clothes and pricey jewelry. An everyday person will be wearing what they can afford. While writing, a quick description of the quality of a character's outfit can quickly help your reader establish their place in the world.

Definitely not a commoner.
3) Shows their hobbies: If your character is a baker, they might have flour speckling their shirt. If they're a painter, maybe there is a dried flake of paint in their hair (I have a painter also in Draped in Deception who always has flakes in her hair). Maybe the character loves a band, so they wear t-shirts plastered with their logo. By using small details in outfits, even stains, you can show what your characters enjoy doing.

I might have chosen this picture because that bread looks so delicious...
not because she's messy

4) Gives your world credibility: Clothing can show so much about a culture. Every country has different ways of dressing, styling hair, what colours can/can't be worn, etc. Depending on the geographical location of your characters, they will wear what suits the climate. I can guarantee you no intelligent person would wear a bikini in snow tundra. By giving each culture a different style of clothing, you can make your world seem real. Even in the real world every place has different fashion styles. 

The fashion norm in one world might be strange in another.

    Do you consider your characters' personalities when writing what they're wearing? Do you enjoy writing detailed descriptions, or do you leave it more up to the reader's imagination? Let me know in the comments; I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Four Worlds

I live in four worlds.

The first is the place we call real life. It's where our flesh and blood moves, from where we breathe, and where we work so we can survive. 

It’s the place that I so often try to escape so I can hide in the security of the other three.

The second is a world only I know. This is where my stories come to life, where I engage with people who seem as real as the people in the first world. The second world is where I leap from rooftops. Adventure. Pain I can conquer. Mythical worlds that I can control. It all lies in the second world.

Get ready to write your own adventure in the second world

The third is a world that other people have created. It is an escape, and a travel between etches of black ink on white paper. I cry over book covers. Here I can disappear for hours, and get lost in beauty of someone else’s world.

The fourth is my mind. This world is connected to the other three. It’s a complicated beast, with parts I can’t explain. Most of it is a jumble. Some parts are like a maze I struggle to get through, but I still love it.

The portal to third world is made of paper

Most days I do my bit in the first world, and take part in reality until it drowns me. Then I recharge in the other three. Sometimes it’s the only way I can cope.

But what happens if we forget about about the first world?

The first world is raw, and harsh, and brutal. It hurts us, and we hurt it. But what we so often forget is that this first world, that is where we live. Without the first world, the other three wouldn’t exist. 

The first world has real people, and family, and God. 

We have control in the other three worlds, but sometimes it’s better not to have any at all. We should try and be in the first world. There is nothing wrong in being in the other three, so long as we remember that our existence is in real world.

So long as we remember that the ideas and emotions that allow us to create beautiful second worlds comes from the earth.

In the end, we are writing for more than ourselves. 

We are writing for the people who love us, and they live in the first world.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Writing Wednesdays: How to Fall Back in Love with Your WIP

     Writing is hard. Brutally hard. Somehow you have to get those stubborn characters who won't stop being sarcastic from your brain on paper without sounding like you slammed your head on the keyboard. You have to hack your way through 'The Plot of No Return'. Blinking cursors hypnotize you. You might decide to kill a couple of characters; they never listened to you anyway.

     It's often when I'm in the About-To-Slam-Keyboard Zone that I realize the reason I'm not enjoying any of it is because I've fallen out of love with my WIP (Work in Progress). 

Which direction do you go in?

     This is either because I've been stressing too much over it, or I'm in a writing slump.

     But I've recently found a way that has me falling in love again.

     The solution is simple: reading it.

     I'm a ridiculously sloooowwww writer compared to a lot of writers I know. One manuscript took me about seven to eight months to pump out just the first draft. If I'm writing over such a long period of time, I often forget what I've written.

     In my massive rewrite of Draped in Deception (blurb on My Writing page) I found myself hating it a little bit near the end. Working several hours a day non-stop for many weeks had me questioning everything about it.

     I left the manuscript for a few days, muttering to myself 'oh this is no good.' 'I don't want to write that right now.'

     Eventually, I told myself I needed to at least complete the rewrite, but I didn't have the energy to write. 

     So I went back, and read. And read.

Not that my manuscript looked anything like this...
but I aspire to one day read as fancily as this bear

     It was so fun. Not because I write comedy or anything, but because I was immersed in my world in a way different from writing. I was reading it. 

     Reading the scenes I already had reminded me of the little things characters did that I loved, that favourite action scene, and helped me see things from a reader's point of view.

     It also helped spark a key element to my novel's climax, and suddenly this excitement of this new idea had me pounding the keys again.

     So if you're struggling with your writing, try going back and see all your work. See how much effort you've put in, laugh at all those sarcastic characters, and ignore your editing side. Enjoy it as a reader. 

     And fall back in love with that WIP again. 

Do you ever get frustrated with your writing? How do you fall back in love with yours? Does reading help? Let me know in the comments; I'd love to hear your thoughts! 

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Songs of the Deep: "Through Heaven's Eyes"

I thought I’d kick off my first Songs of the Deep post with a classic song. Songs of the Deep posts will be about songs I have been found or were recommended to me that strike ‘deep’ chords. A deep chord in me is essentially anything that is has great lyrics and a good beat.

So if you’re interested in finding new music or remembering old songs, keep reading.

Anyone who knows me knows that the song "Through Heaven’s Eyes" gets stuck in my head in my head for days. I find myself tapping the rhythm on the table, or singing it in my head during a particularly, um, thrilling math class. Sometimes I obnoxiously blare it out loud at home or make my friends listen to it.

Needless to say, I love the song.

Song: "Through Heaven’s Eyes"
Composer: Hans Zimmer
Singer(s): Brian Stokes Mitchell

How I Discovered this Song: Through the amazing Prince of Egypt movie (I literally almost cry every time I watch that movie...and I don’ t cry.) If you haven’t watched it, you should. The soundtrack will kill you. And you will love it.

What I Love About It: The song is so bright and celebrative, and when we get to the ‘lai la lai lai lai la lai’ part it’s almost impossible not to smile and dance along.

Emotional Connection: This song is all about seeing your life from another perspective, and the song is saying that your life is always special and worth it. It’s such a great positive message.

Favourite Lyrics: My favourite part of the song (apart from the ‘lai’s) is the first few lines of the song:

A single thread in a tapestry, though its colour brightly shines, can never see its purpose in the pattern of the grand design.

This really shows that we are all part of a bigger picture, and even if we think we aren’t important, we are in a ‘tapestry’ of greatness.

Best Listened to When: If you are feeling down, want to dance, writing a party or self-discovering scene, or just anytime, really.

Have you heard this song before? What do you like/not like about it? Did you dance along to chorus? Let me know in the comments; I’d love to hear from you!

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Writing Wednesdays: Using Travelling to Create Story Conflict

Travelling is intense, both in stories and real life. People realize they’ve forgotten their wallet an hour along the road. Plane luggage is over the weight limit, so you have to decide what you really need on your holiday. There might not be a toilet for several kilometers; a true tragedy.

Conflict is necessary to move a story forward, and hook the reader. Often in books authors skip over the travelling completely, or drag it out into a boring chapter where nothing happens except birds chirp and the love interests make doe-eyes at each other. Sound familiar?

So how can we use travelling to our advantage?

There are four elements that can bring your travelling scenes to another level.


1) People: Some people love travelling; some people hate it. When several people are stuck together for days, weeks, or months, there are sure to be things they’ll disagree about. They’ll get sick of each other. Small disagreements can range from who takes watch, to which song to play in the car. To create more conflict, use a small disagreement and blow it up into a giant argument that could completely stall their travels. What if one of the characters suddenly doubts the journey? What if they are careless with how they pack another’s prize possession?

For example, think of the last car trip you were in. You were probably crammed in the back seat with several siblings. Maybe it was hot. One of you was probably in a bad mood. At first you tolerated each other, but then someone made a snarky comment, and boom, off you went squabbling. Your parents yelled at you to be quiet, which made you even more angry at each other because now you’re in trouble.

Characters are like this. Make them moody, or have them disagree, and the intensity of your travel will explode.

One fight could shatter everything
(Image not mine)

2) Mode of Transport: The two most popular modes of transport are cars in contemporary, and horses in fantasy. Our stories should reflect real life, and we all know that nothing ever goes perfect on trips. Cars break down, the tires deflate, or you run out of petrol (gas). Horses get tired, thirsty, and hungry, and so your characters will need to stop to care for them. Or if they are travelling by plane, what if one of the engines burn, or the flight is delayed? On steam-powered trains, what if they run out of coal? What if Titanic III runs into a hidden glacier?

If your characters are on a tight schedule, harming their mode of transport will make every minute count.

And they were just about to cross the river...oops
3) Setting and Weather: Where your characters are travelling through plays a big part. Are they in a desert? A dark forest? A busy city? Let’s go with the dark forest example. If the trees are pressed close together, your character will not have an easy time seeing. What if they trip on roots and break a leg? Darkness tends to make people jumpy, so any noise will make them paranoid. Dark forests can also be very cold at night, so how do they deal with it? Will the characters who hate each other have to lie next to each other for body warmth?

Never underestimate the power of a setting. Your characters can make the grandest plans to save the world, but how will they do it when a thunderstorm is unleashed and they can’t see through the rain?

Danger could be lurking beyond that mist

4) Resources: Unless the characters are very well off, travelling drains a budget significantly. Food, new clothes, transport, a room for a night - all need to be paid for. If your characters are on the road for months, how are they going to pay for all this? It’s unrealistic for a poor farming boy to go off with no cash, and pass through several cities and always have a nice inn room and a bowl of stew. Unless he’s some mastermind thief or con-man. 
But if your character is in, say, a desert, resources turn from a matter of money to a matter of life and death. Do they have enough water? Light enough clothing for the day, but warm blankets for the night? How far is it before they can replenish their resources?

Stripping the basic needs from your character on a journey can raise the stakes even higher.

Your character might have to dip into their savings for that new game

Use all four elements to create enough conflict to make every hour of the journey a section the reader can’t pull themselves away from. And who knows, maybe you can even make not having a bathroom for eight miles the turning point in your character’s arc.

Do you skip over travelling, or do you use it to your advantage? What is your favourite way to mess up cause conflict in a journey? Let me know in the comments; I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Stardust and Dreams

       Sometimes a sentence will pop into your mind, and you can’t shake it off. It sticks like caramel, sickly sweet and quick to fasten to your teeth. The sentence is everywhere for a few days, and then it fades into the background. It’s a favourite doll set aside when its owner has grown up.

       All we are is stardust and dreams, latched onto my mind during a road trip through the Thai mountains a few months ago. 

I immediately scribbled it down. I could imagine a character hugging their knees, staring at the sky, world torn apart, saying the quote. It struck deep with what I thought was truth.

Not quite knee hugging, but you get the idea.

       I eventually forgot about it.

       But a few weeks ago, it rose from the watery depths of my creative brain, and I reconsidered it. I considered it for not only the characters we write, but ourselves, and I realized something.

We are more than stardust and dreams.

       We have strengths, weaknesses, flaws, quirks, goals, joys, dislikes, passions, families, and yes, dreams. But we are not dust stuffed with make-shift dreams and given hope one day we might accomplish them. We are creations of the Living God; we are his children.

       If we tell ourselves that we are not made of anything important, we are failing to see the story God is writing for us. He is the author of our story, and we are the fully dimensional characters.

       So if you think you are pieces of the heavens it didn’t want anymore, dropped and forgotten, take a deep breath. Look at every part of your heart and mind. There are emotions. There are thoughts. There are promises. There is God’s lingering touch, the message that says, I made you. I made you for a reason.

       God has never regretted making you, because you are more than stardust and dreams.

You are special.