Saturday, 29 October 2016

Take a Breath

   Take a breath.

   What do you smell? Is it the gritty burning of petrol, the tickle of too much perfume, or the zing of raindrops bejeweling leaves? 

   Take another breath. A deep one. 

   Does this breath come easy as your lungs swell, or does it falter in your throat, caught between a whirlwind of emotions thundering through your thoughts? 

    I know mine is the latter. For the past three days I've been at a Youth Retreat; talking, singing, learning, connecting, growing. It's hard to explain what it feels like to feel so connected with both people, and God. For this time I had only about two minutes total to access the internet, and even then I just glimpsed at my e-mails. 


   I've grown. I'm still figuring out how, exactly, but I know the change, even if slight, is budding inside me. I shared personal information I never thought I would with people I've known for years, and those I'm just beginning to. 

   I feel like I've taken a deep breath, and caught the whiff of renewal on the wind. Life was and is crazy, hectic, wild. It tossed me around like roaring waves, but for three days, I paused. Took a breath. 


   I let the social media, the Youtube, the instantaneous need to turn on my device at any blip of silence fade away. There is nothing wrong with technology, nor is there with finding enjoyment in it. But sometimes you just need a few hours, a few days, to pause.

   In this pause, think. Be with those you love. Be with yourself. Be with God. 

   Yes, the world will come rushing back in, pulling you in different directions with constant 'nows' and deadlines. But cling to that memory of that breath, that pause, and the peace and understanding that came with it.

   Remember, you can always take another one.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

5 Ways I Develop Characters

   I have strange methods for developing characters. Or maybe, 'unusual' compared to other writers I know. I don't go down the route of filling out lengthy personality/character questionaires with questions like age, favourite colour, appearance, etc. Those, for some reason, don't help me connect to my characters at all. 

  Every writer has a different way of developing their characters and stories. There is absolutely no wrong way to do it, only the right way for you. So today I thought I would share 5 ways I develop characters in case you'd like to experiment with some new methods. 


  1) Character Interviews

   I know, I know, this seems really similar to those character questionnaires, but the way I do my interviews is in first person, not third. I like to write them from my character's perspective as if I was writing a story about them going to an interview. I include everything from how they act before the cameras roll on, during, afterwards, their thoughts, everything. This really helps me find the voices of my characters. (And what they would lie about...)

  If you'd like to see a simplified version of how I do my interviews, I recently did one with Mercy.

   2) Tension Maps

   I also call these Relationship Maps. I'll get a piece of paper, write all my characters down from one novel (a little spaced out), and draw lines between them. Usually I have four categories: romantic, friends, acquaintances, and enemies/strongly dislike each other. Each one I'll do in a different colour, and maybe write a reason why their relationship is like that.

   I find this super helpful when writing a scene, because I can pull it out and get a feeling of who tension would be between in a conversation. It can also make interesting relationship dynamics between a group of people.

Quick snap of Safe-House's tension map
   3) Make Their Strength Their Weakness

   Any strength can also be a weakness. For example, loyalty. It can be an awesome trait in a character when they stick by their friends, but what if they're so blinded by loyalty they fail to see what their friends are doing wrong? I don't necessarily make all my characters have their strengths be their weaknesses, but I like one or two to be in order to create a depth of personality.

  4) Define Their Fear

   Not just the fear of snakes, or eating apples, or similar fears. I mean finding their deepest, darkest fear that they try to hide--even from themselves. We all have one. What if I'm not good enough? What if I'll be forever alone? What if I fail? Both characters trying to avoid this fear, and trying to tackle it, create huge story conflict.

Fear is a powerful thing
  5) Write Them

   Seems a little obvious, doesn't it? But apart from these four ways, my best way of getting to know and developing my characters is just to write them. Get fully immersed in their personalities, responses and conflicts. First drafts always bring more to light about a character than all the planning in the world can. 

How do you develop your characters? Do you love character questionnaires or do you have similar methods to me? (Or are you both!) What has been your favourite character ever to write?

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Am Currently... #4

    Wow. Everyone, my life is about to get crazy. Correction: my life is crazy. The last week has been an onslaught of emotions both good and bad. I've had really low points one day, and one of the highest I've ever experienced the next.

   That's not even including the approaching NaNoWriMo, but more about that later.



   I'd like to apologize in advance if posts are late over the next week. I'll be attending a slew of conferences and retreats back to back, and it's uncertain how good the internet is going to be. Because of this the blog and my twitter might be a bit quiet.

  Anyway, to the am currentlys!


   I'm so glad my English teacher decided that we would be reading 'Pride and Prejudice'! For years I've tried to avoid the temptation to pick up a copy and read it myself, simply so I could experience it with my class for the first time. (I did watch one of the movie adaptations though. I'm not that good at avoiding temptation)

   Hopefully I'll be able to read 'Empire of Storms' soon, but we will see if it's arrived in my local bookstore yet. I'm hoping for a gorgeous hardback to match the rest of my set.



   So...I'm not sure how to announce this part?

   I'm a semi-finalist in the GoTeenWriters #WeWriteBooks contest! How did that even happen??? I was far from expecting it, as I know what an amazing community of writers it is. I kind of cried. From happy tears, you know. It was such a confidence boost for me, and the story I entered, Golden Revenge. The feedback was wonderful and so helpful as well. I just...feel so overwhelmed. And grateful. (Congrats to everyone who entered too!)

   Editing for Draped in Deception has slowed due to NaNoWriMo prep and a ridiculous amount of schoolwork which took away any spare editing time. I really need to focus on fleshing out my characters for my NaNo novel Safe-House because...guess what? I don't plan my books.

   Sorry/not sorry. I mean, I like a general idea of where I'm going and have a few scenes in mind, but honestly, I leave it up to the characters. They have almost total control over my first drafts.



   Sabrina Carpenter's new album 'Evolution'. It's so good! I have been listening to all her songs and just loving them. My favourites so far are 'Feels Like Loneliness' with its catchy beat, and 'Shadows' for its heart-felt lyrics. 



   Tired. This week was the last one before my October school break, and like I said in the beginning, everything has been accumulating into craziness. Tests, projects, personal drama, relationship problems, amazing writing feedback, late nights studying... I feel exhausted just writing that. And then there are more long-term problems like my family's move soon to an entirely different continent and culture.

   Sometimes I want to be like Sleeping Beauty and sleep for a hundred years without having to worry about these problems, but sadly, I don't live in a fairytale.


Let's talk about you! How are you? How is your writing going, and have you read any showstopping books recently I must pick up? Any new favourite songs or albums?
Let me know in the comments; I always love hearing from you! <3

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Character Guest Post: Mercy deVie

    Why, hello there. I'm Mercy deVie. *offers a hand with more rings than fingers to shake* A pleasure to meet you. Might I make a suggestion on your wardrobe choice? I mean, it's pleasant but--

   *COUGH COUGH* Right, I'm going to cut in before she starts insulting everyone on their wardrobe (everyone, I tell you. She criticized me in depth on my choice of t-shirt colour this morning. It didn't work with the weather or something). 

     This is Melissa talking here. Today I decided to do something a little different, and have a quick interview with my character Mercy from Safe-House. I'm calling this a guest post because she'll be controlling it for the most part. I'll ask her a few questions so you can get to know her, and so I can understand her better in time for NaNoWriMo.



   This post was inspired by my lovely friend Jeneca when she had her novel guest posting on her blog, so please go check her amazing post out! And if you're curious about Safe-House, click here for the story's details.

    Right, first question for you, Mercy: what's your role at the Safe-House?

    Officially, my title is "Receptionist and Weapons Carer." Unofficially I'm the person who yells at guests when they ruin a knife, keeps notes on who wants to kill who, and tries to make sure the guests don't murder each other 'accidentally.'

   How did you end up there?

   Must I tell this story?

   Um, yeah. It's important backstory.

   *muttering* Writers *louder voice* Well, so I don't take up several hours blathering on about unnecessary details, to sum it up nice for you, I got kicked out of my guild. The Guild Master's daughter and I were never on great terms since I first became a part of the Murderer's Guild, but when she asked to borrow my best dress for a disguise--a personal dress too! I mean, had she ever heard of the Guild's wardrobe department?--I may or may not have gotten into a fight with her involving scissors. And permanent scars.

(Image is not mine. Found via Pinterest
If you are the owner and would like the picture removed, please let me know)

   What was your first impression of Clyde?

   Ugh, really? Clyde? My first impression was he insulted my name, which would've been offending if he wasn't so amusing when he called me ironic. I tried not to laugh. I think I managed to turn it into an angry splutter.

   Just so everyone knows who Clyde is, could you give a brief description of him, and of Ash and Hood?

   Clyde is basically a permanent guest at the Safe-House. He has a talent for aggravating every single person alive--probably because he's always looking for volunteers for his "bathroom emergency" poison experiments, and can never find any willing ones. I think the longest he's been out of the Safe-House was...two weeks? Something like that. 

   Hood and Ash are other guests. It's hard to describe Hood when everything about them is uncertain. No one knows their gender, what their face really looks like, what their true voice is, where they came from. Everyday Hood greets me with a different face. And Ash, he's...nice. A thief with a appreciation for expensive jewelry; he moves like liquid and when he bends over his muscles show and his jawline is...

   Can we not talk about Ash?
   
Ash
   ...Sure. Can you tell us a little bit about your family?

   I'm no longer in contact with them. My father and older brother are both involved in law enforcement though. My father handles and cares for the City Watch's weapons, while my brother is a recruit in the City Watch--at least, he was when I was still with them. My mother is under a tombstone, and as for my sister, she was planning her wedding. No doubt she's married now. 

    Did they cut you off when you joined the Murderer's Guild?

   I would say it's the other way around; I cut them off. I didn't go straight from working with my father for the City Watch to suddenly being a criminal in a couple of seconds. There was a long period in between where I was with this guy--who'd I'd rather not talk about right now--and they didn't approve of him, so I slowly broke contact with them. Later this guy convinced me to join the Murderer's Guild with him.

   Are you still with him?

   No. He broke it off shortly after I joined--or should I say got bored of me. Despite my attempts to make him jealous, he moved on to another girl within a day.

   Finally, to wrap up our questions, what are five quick facts about you?

   1) Despite my Murderer's Guild tattoo, two out of three people I killed weren't murdered on purpose.

   2) My favourite colour is red, without a doubt.

   3) CATS ARE SO ADORABLE JUST AGHHHH I'M DYING




   4) I judge a person first and foremost on their wardrobe.


   5) My prized weapons are rings that double as iron knuckles. They will leave bruises on your face, guaranteed.


What do you think about Mercy? Would you like me to do more character guest posts? Are you doing NaNoWriMo? 
Let Mercy and I know in the comments; we love hearing from you! <3

Saturday, 15 October 2016

My World Has Shifted

   It feels like in just one day, my world has shifted. No sudden twist of fate has made me feel this way, but instead a slow, gradual turn that has all of a sudden changed everything. And I've hit the realization that there is no going back from this change, no shifting it back.

   To fully understand what on the earth I'm talking about, there are two things you need to know. 


   The first is the devastating loss Thailand suffered on Thursday; we've lost a great and noble leader. If you haven't read about it on the news, go do so now, so you understand the country's situation. The King was ruling before I was born, far before, and though I never met him in person, the things he did for the Thai people and Thailand are awesome. 

    I may not be Thai by blood or birth, but Thailand is my home. Without him, we are on uncertain ground. I'm living in history, an event that others will look back on, and I'm terrified about what exactly they'll be looking at. Terrified my home will change and I can't do anything to stop it.


   The second is I'm moving. Yesterday my family made this decision public, so I can finally tell all of you. We will be moving from Thailand to Sydney, Australia, in mid January for a variety of reasons. I've made my peace with this, though I know what a great loss it will be to lose such amazing friends, wonderful people, and a beautiful country. Again, I am more than terrified. What will it be like? Will I fit in? How do I try to rebuild everything I'm going to lose?

  I feel like I'm waiting. Waiting for the move, waiting to see what happens in my country, waiting, waiting, waiting. I feel like I'm at one of those cross-roads, realizing that I can't go back to a few months, few years before, and hold onto that secure serenity.

  As my world keeps shifting, I'm thinking and crying and praying. I know God has a reason for all of this, and I know feelings like these come into everyone's lives. I just pray that I come through it unscathed. 

  I'm sorry to burden you with all of this, but words are how I can express myself when talking can't. Thank you for being here with me, on this blog, reading my posts and being so supportive. You're amazing.

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Let's Talk Editing: The First Chapter

   Some people excel at writing beginnings. It comes naturally to them; the words almost write themselves. But others, like me, struggle to nail the perfect first chapter. What should the first line be? Where do you start? I always seem to end on a stronger note in my novels than I start.

   Hopefully by the end of this post, if you're struggling with your first chapter, you'll have a few new ideas or concepts to play around with.

   (Quick side note: this is second post in my new blog series 'Let's Talk Editing' where I'll discuss editing elements as I go through the process of editing my own novel, Draped in Deception. If you'd like to check out my first post, click here.)


   A few weeks ago I was frustrated with how my story started. It seemed far too cliche, dumped a load of back-story, and was disjointed from the rest of the novel. Today, I have a first chapter that I'm satisfied with.

   It didn't come in a burst of epiphany. It came from this:


Trying everything and anything

   What on earth do I mean by this? I mean that I sat down, and wrote all the possible first chapters possible. I switched settings, the time from the inciting incident, how characters were introduced, first lines. Everything.

   This sounds a little overwhelming at first, but I promise you, it will be worth it. If it seems like you have too many options of what could happen, work out your possibilities around these key factors:
  • Introducing the main character/POV
  • Introducing other key characters, and conflict
  • Introducing the antagonist (other writers usually suggest this happens in first three chapters or so)
  • Introducing the setting/storyworld
  • Showing your character's home world 
   Gosh, that's a lot to include, right?

One of my biggest changes was moving the scene to a train and its station rather than a forest, which then influenced everything else
   I want to talk about the last point for a bit. Showing your character's home world is primarily included so a reader can see how the character has developed over the course of the story. But this doesn't necessarily mean that they have to be in their home world.

   For example, in Draped in Deception, one of the POVs Lissaer has just been on a month long journey with her combat trainer into foreign territory. If I was to show her in her home first, there would be an awkward time jump between her home and arriving in the country, as nothing important happens on the trip. 

   So how can you convey the home world without your characters physically being there? Through dialogue, and mentality. If your characters start in their home, great, but if not don't worry. In Draped in Deception Lissaer's conversation with her trainer shows both Lissaer's perception of herself, and other's perception of her.

Lissaer in her disguise

   But enough about my story. My best advice if you're stuck on how to edit your first chapter is to not be afraid. Try it all. It took me drastic setting changes (from a forest to a train), adding and subtracting characters, and writing several versions to get one I was ok with.

   You can do it; I believe in you and your story.

Do you struggle writing first chapters or are they fairly easy for you? Are you editing right now, and if you are, how is it going? 
Let me know in the comments; I love hearing from all of you! <3

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Beautiful Books: Safe-House

   This month I'm joining in on the link-up Beautiful Books! It's hosted by the wonderful Cait @ Paper Fury and Skye @ Further Up and Further In, and the ten questions are all about sharing your WIP.

   I'll be answering the questions about Safe-House, so let's get to them!




1) What inspired the idea for your novel, and how long have you had the idea?

    Safe-House evolved from a more futuristic version of itself revolving around a video game, where criminal characters were trapped inside. But I didn't feel very passionate about this idea, and so it changed into a fantasy setting and grew from that. I've had the idea for around...a year I suppose, if you count the first version.

2) Describe what your novel is about!

   Basically, it's about a group of criminals who take refuge in a place called the Safe-House. It functions as neutral territory amidst the Criminal Guild Wars, so any criminal can hide behind its walls if their lives are in danger. It is a law among all Criminal Guilds that no murder take place there, or the murderer and their family will be killed.

   Mercy, who has fallen out with her guild, the Murderer's Guild, gets a job at the Safe-House. She is charged with protecting the Safe-House's guests, but after her arrival, one of them is found with their throat slit in their room. Slowly the guests start dying. They're surrounded by certain death: step outside the Safe-House's gates and be killed by their enemies, or wait for their death inside.



3) What's your book's aesthetic? 

  Dark          Moody     Splashed with dripping red     Burning tattoos

      Molten trust      Shadowy        Black, white, and grey hearts 

4) Introduce us to each of your characters!

    These are the main characters (the POVs):

Mercy -- fashionable "receptionist" who's a weapons expert

Clyde -- smirking poisoner with a fondness for baking

Ash -- optimistic thief who needs to understand the meaning of 'impossible'

Hood -- shapeless, nameless, faceless



5) How do you prepare to write?

   I do a few character interviews, a lot of world-building, draw a couple maps, sketch a basic plot, and then dive in!

6) What are you most looking forward to about this novel?

   Since it's a mix of the fantasy and mystery genres, I'm really excited to see how the plot turns out. I only know a few scenes that will happen when I start writing, and it's so cool to see the story growing before my very eyes.

7) List 3 things about your novel's setting.

   Most of the book takes place in the Safe-House, as it's really too dangerous to leave. #1 The Safe-House can hold up to twenty guests at a time, and so they have expansive rooms, including a small arena for practice, and a games room. #2 Practically everything has a nickname. The secret hallway to the kitchen = "snack liberation passageway." #3 The vegetable patch outside is rumoured to grow more poison than vegetables.



8) What's your character's goal and who (or what) stands in their way?

   Mercy's goal (the story goal, not internal goal) is to figure out who the murderer in the Safe-House is and then, well, get rid of them. Secrets, darkness, and the murderer's cautious intelligence keeps her from achieving this.

9) How does the protagonist change by the end of the novel?

  It's probably a bad thing I don't know exactly (it usually comes to me half-way through the first draft). I suppose Mercy's going to learn to put her past behind her.



10) What are your book's themes? How do you want your readers to feel when the story is over?

   Themes (at present) are: is there such a thing as right or wrong, or is everything grey; love, friendship, and acceptance. I want my readers to feel a little breathless and surprised at the end when the killer is revealed.


What WIP are you working on right now? What's it about? How do you prepare to write? 
Let me know in the comments; I love hearing from you! <3

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Purposeful Pages: October Edition

   I almost wrote September in this post's title, until I realized it was October. And October means a new month and time for a new Purposeful Pages link-up! This amazing link-up is hosted by Amanda and Hannah.

   What is Purposeful Pages about, you ask? The official answer is:

   Purposeful Pages is a monthly link-up designed to unite bloggers on answering questions about life, blogging, the Bible, writing, and books.

   To this month's questions!



1) What is something (or who is someone) that has encouraged you to grow in your faith?

    Honestly, music. I love worship songs, like 'Oceans', but also artists like NF. (I know I talk about NF a lot on here, but his lyrics and beats are so amazing. He's my favourite artist by far). 'Oh Lord' from his latest album has some confronting lyrics that pushed me to delve deeper in my faith.

  Here's one line that challenged me:


     It's hard to answer prayers when nobody's praying to you


2) Has blogging showed a side of you that you normally don't see?

   I like to say I know myself pretty well, so not a surprising side to me personally, but I guess I'm more...open?...on here. I'm not very outwardly emotional about my thoughts to other people.

3) What inspires your "creative genius?"

   Showers and before I slip off the sleep is when the "genius" hits, but in general these things inspire me.



4) Why do you write?

   This question could have a whole post by itself. I write...because I need to. Because I love it. It's my passion, my escape, how I express myself. I write because I have things to say to the world that I don't have to courage to say through my mouth, so I say them through my pen.

5) Your house is on fire, and you only have time to save one thing. Do you grab your hand-written manuscripts or cat?

   Neither (my sister would grab the kitten for sure, so we're fine). I would grab my laptop because it has allllll my stories. 

6) If you could ban any book, what would it be, and why?

   Wow. This hurts my soul a little bit because...you know, books and stories have so much time put into them. Honestly, I wouldn't ban any book. (There's probably a good answer to this but I can't find it at the moment) All books are special to someone.



7) What is your Myers-Briggs personality type (if you know it), and what unique aspect of your personality makes you who you are?

   I'm completely an INFJ! One key thing that makes me who I am is my diplomatic bluntness. Let me explain this a bit. In some situations where I feel like I could hurt someone with my words, I'll hold back a witty remark and carefully approach the subject. But then in some cases, usually when I'm feeling a strong emotion, I will tell you exactly what I'm thinking. No filters, jut biting wit and sarcasm. 

   This is just one example of the billion contradictions that make me up.

8) Did you have any kind of "breakthrough" point in your life, whether it had to do with writing, blogging, art, or anything else? If so, would you like to share it?

   Probably one that I'm most open about sharing right now is a pretty simple moment. It was when I was walking, thinking about my writing, and I just knew. Knew that writing, it was what I wanted to do, more than anything.



9) Are there any hobbies that you have that don't fit the stereotypical you?

  I mean, I love gaming. I don't play so much as I do watching other people's Let's Plays on Youtube, simply because of time restraints.

10) Even if you haven't written an official life statement, can you tell us in a few sentences what you feel called to do with your life right now?

   This is difficult and requires more thought on my behalf but here goes: 


   I feel drawn to create. To explore the deepest holes in humanity and the brightest spots, and everything in between. I feel drawn to not only seek truth through my creativity, but help others to search for it too.

   That's it for this month's Purposeful Pages! Be sure to check back for next month's.


Why do you write? Would you save your laptop too from a burning fire, or something else? Any other gaming lovers out there?
Let me know in the comments, and have a wonderful day! <3

Saturday, 1 October 2016

10 Facts About Me / 50th Post!

     Hey everyone, I'm super excited to write this today because it's my 50th post! Yay! This is probably a small number for some, but I'm proud of myself for mostly following a schedule and being committed to my blog. Thanks to all of you for sticking around; I really love you guys!

   When I realized this would be my 50th post, I decided I should do something a little different. Usually I talk about writing, but today I'll be telling you ten facts about me!



1) I Drew Maps Before I Wrote Stories

   I didn't start writing stories seriously until around fifth grade, but even in kindergarten, and before, I was drawing maps. Maps of imaginary cities, houses, kingdoms, anything. I would do all this world-building too, from the nitty-gritty details of the place's culture to the direction rivers ran. To this day drawing a map of my story world is a key part of my brainstorming process.

2) I Don't Have A Favourite Colour

  I used to (purple) but then I realized that I don't see a colour and think: "YES! That is the one!" That being said, I do find the colours mint green, silver, and gold pretty.

3) I Really Really Really Want to Travel to Petra

  The Left Behind Series (teen editions) started me on this obsession. Basically, Petra is an amazing old city carved out of a massive rock. I need to travel there someday. Need.



4) I'm an Alien?

  Not the kind of outerspace alien from Mars or Venus or whatever, but an Earthern alien. As I'm an Australian citizen living in Thailand, technically speaking I'm an alien. (Look it up on google. It's a thing)

5) Sticky Notes are Life

  I have a slight obsession with sticky notes. Just a slight one, I assure you. There totally isn't several piles beside me, and I'm definitely not super specific about what colour and size they have to be. What a preposterous notion.

6) I'm Starting to Learn Arabic

  The language is so beautiful, and as I want to travel around the Middle East someday, it would be pretty handy to have a basic understanding of Arabic. Plus it gives me an excuse to use my calligraphy pens.


(Image not mine)
7) Most of My Stories Involve Wars

   Civil wars, wars between rival countries, war between families...you name a type of war and I've probably written it in one of my stories. I blame all the fantasy books I read.

8) I'm an TCK

   This means I'm a Third-Culture Kid. I've kind of forged a culture of my own, using parts from different countries' cultures. (In other words I'm a Westerner who can't stand to wear shoes inside)

9) My Favourite Animal is a Snow Leopard

   Snow leopards are just so majestic looking, and powerful. 



10) I Don't Have a Favourite Genre of Music

   You might have seen me mention this in a few posts before, but there's not one specific genre of music I always listen to, and I don't think any are more 'real' than the others. Violin instrumental, pop, rap, rock...I love it all.

   I hope you enjoyed learning a few new things about me!

Do you have a favourite colour/animal? Where in the world do want to travel to more than anywhere else? When did you start writing?
Let me know in the comments; I always love hearing from you guys! <3