Let’s talk about OTPs // in appreciation of slow burn + healthy relationships

Today we’re going to talk about slow-burn love stories which happens to be one of my favorite types of relationship development under the sun. It’s right up there with enemies-to-lovers and friends-to-lovers. I will freely admit that I am basically giving myself a chance to rave (hopefully with some semblance of intelligence) over two couples that caught my attention and inspired my writer self last year.

The OTPs (One True Pairings) I am talking about today are from two Kdramas (Korean TV shows) that I watched in 2017. I’ve been percolating over this article for a good few weeks now–hopefully I can express my thoughts coherently and do it justice.

tiny, wee spoilers to follow

I Remember You/Hello Monster Couple: Lee Hyun and Cha Ji-an

This police procedural drama is all about psychopathy and estranged brothers and “are monsters born or created?” and it’s fascinating; but the core of the story and what makes the drama’s resolution even possible is the main couple.

Cha Ji-an carries the weight of being a criminal’s daughter, but she is also a detective with a strong sense of justice who consistently puts others before herself. She is a protector–sometimes to the detriment of her own safety and emotional health.

Lee Hyun watched his father die and lost his little brother in one night. As a result of that childhood trauma he is closed-off and fighting to prove to himself that he isn’t the monster that his father believed he was.

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The romance starts out gradually. It is literally slow-burn with a dash of enemies-to-lovers as Lee Hyun and Cha Ji-an butt heads at every turn. Something I really appreciated about the start of their relationship is that, even though they are continually at odds, they’re not dismissive of each other as people and the clashing of their characters comes more from the fact that Ji-an is a detective and Hyun is a criminal profiler, hence they see things from completely different perspectives.

Of course, once they are forced to depend on each other their relationship gradually morphs into reluctant friendship. Then they start to be concerned when the other person is hurting or in danger and that’s when my favorite aspect of this particular relationship kicks in. The mutual respect and strong concern for the other person’s well-being slowly deepens into love and it’s precious. The feels are real with this one, y’all.

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Their romance is reminiscent of the famous Austen quote: “If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more. But you know what I am. You hear nothing but truth from me.”

I honestly don’t remember them even saying the words “I love you” other than Hyun’s adorable and swoony way of telling Ji-an that she ranks highest in his heart. Not that it isn’t important for a couple to express their love in words, but the thought with Lee Hyun and Cha Ji-an is that at a certain point there is no doubt in their mind how the other person feels about them. Hyun knew without even having to ask that Ji-an loved him because she showed him as clear as daylight in the way she looked out for him and believed in him. As for Ji-an, once Hyun confessed to her in the adorable way previously mentioned, she understood how much he cared about her.

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Lee Hyun and Cha Ji-an are important as an OTP to me because even though they have their own personal struggles, even when they are drowning in their own hurt: they stand by each other no matter what. Ji-an’s steadfast belief that Hyun is not a monster like he fears (but just a very damaged person who needs help) has a huge influence on him and essentially jump-starts his road to healing. At the same time Hyun’s constant, quiet care of Ji-an and how he is there for her when she is overwhelmed by grief or fighting a moral dilemma (such as taking the law into her own hands) is one of the best aspects of his character.

They are each other’s anchors, not in an unhealthy I-will-go-to-pieces-if-you-are-not-here sort of way, but as a safe place for the other person. It’s heartwarming and precious and I just really, really love these two.

Disclaimer: I Remember You/Hello Monster is a crime show that deals with psychopathy, somewhat graphic crime scenes, serial killers, etc. Minimal swearing. No indecent scenes. Possible danger of sobbing into your ice cream. Swooniness guaranteed.

While You Were Sleeping Couple: Jung Jae-chan and Nam Hong-joo

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Saving the best for the last. [happy sigh]

Modern love-stories that are sweet + healthy + stable without all the misunderstandings and emotional upheavals/drama actually do exist. I knew they did, but they are few and far between and my list is Very Small. So when I watched While You Were Sleeping last September-November the love story took me completely by surprise.

(disclaimer: While You Are Sleeping is a drama that deals with crime. Minimal swearing. No immoral scenes. Much sweetness. May kill you from the hilarity. Or from the crying. Features Best Secondary Character in the history of Kdrama)

I’m used to OTPs killing my feels with all the pain and tears (coughFitzSimmonscough) or giving me heart-attacks with the dramatic, sweeping gestures. When I started watching WYWS I kept on expecting a drawn-out denial of feelings + emotional turmoil culminating in a declaration of love that (probably) takes place in a burning building or during a stunning sunset. Therefore, I was surprised as the story progressed and Jae-chan and Hong-joo fall in love with all the softness and sweetness of a light summer rain. At first I am ashamed to admit I was actually a bit disappointed. “Give me the Doctor and River Song! Give me Margaret and Mr. Thornton! Give me Han Solo and Leia!” (I demanded).

oh, silly annie.

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I remember the scene when it hit me how perfectly the love-story was crafted. Hong-joo has a special gift, or curse depending on how you look at it. She can see the future (usually a catastrophic future) in her dreams and she and Jae-chan–who is a rookie prosecutor–work together to prevent her dreams from happening or to change them if they can. Naturally, I thought this was much too contrived and convenient. They were clearly meant to be together as a couple, hence where was the suspense? where were the sparks? “I need the chemistry” (I grumbled, completely forgetting that not all chemistry between couples has to be electrifying).

Then THAT scene happened. I won’t say what scene it is because spoilers are the scourge of happy people everywhere, but I was floored. It’s such a quick moment that if you’re not paying attention you might not even realize the significance, but I sat there stunned as my epiphany hit me and everything about Jae-chan and Hong-joo’s relationship clicked into place. From that moment on I was toast.

I think one of the marks of a good OTP is the ability that it has to move you to tears, and after that scene I cried multiple times. But here’s the thing, I wasn’t crying because the love story was sad or gut-wrenching–I was crying because it was beautiful. There is a special quality of trust and belief and actual, real understanding between this couple that I have seen in very few romances. River Song had no idea just how much the Doctor loved her until years after they had been married. Even Amy and Rory–as much as I adore them–struggled with knowing just what the nature and strength of the other’s feelings were.

Jae-chan and Hong-joo know each other so well and understand each other with such clarity that there is no place for dramatic angst in their relationship. Instead the conflict comes from elsewhere, e.g. opposition to their relationship, Hong-joo’s dream about her future death, etc. And through it all they are there for each other as beacons of hope and faithfulness.

The romance in While You Were Sleeping doesn’t have the dramatic flair of many love stories, but it’s that much sweeter for its steadiness and strength. Jae-chan and Hong-joo taught me an important lesson about OTPs, i.e. love doesn’t always have to be portrayed as fire-works and grand gestures and feels-inducing angst and passionate kiss scenes as the world goes up in flames. Sometimes it is simply a couple knowing each other inside-and-out, steadfastly standing by their sweetheart + believing in them and trusting them no matter what.

And I think that is beautiful.

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What about you? What are some of your favorite slow-burn romances? Also, by all means, give me a list of your fave healthy relationships. I WANT ALL THE RECS MY PRECIOUS GINGERSNAPS

Of gingerbread and sibling-angst and space sirens and poison gardens // Beautiful Books #1

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Do you know what tomorrow is?

The first day of (Na)tional (No)vel (Wri)ting (Mo)nth.

*collective shrieking of writers all over the world*

This is my first year properly participating–unlike last year when I sort of forgot all about the fact that I meant to write the whole month long + life happened.

Am I nervous? Hah. I’m on the nervous level of a gingersnap on a cookie platter in front of a little boy right now.

Am I excited? YOU HAVE NO IDEA. I’ve counting down the days and I have this grand plan of getting up at 5:00 a.am on work days so I can write, and I’ve warned my family in advance that I may become a hermit, and–*flailing* so excited i become incoherent when i talk about it. Half of my excitement could be attributed to the fact that I am in love with my story, which reminds me of the whole point of this post: who wants to know what Annie is writing for NaNo?

FYI: I’m planning on writing most of my book in longhand–which is how I usually first-draft–so that means I’m aiming for a lower word goal that 50,000. Basically I am going rogue and turning NaNo into Camp NaNo.

(also FYI: some of you may recognize this as the book I worked on briefly for last NaNo. I’m hoping to finish it this time around. Absolutely. Definitely and for sure.)

Cue the Beautiful Books questionnaire hosted by Cait and Sky wherein I divulge never-before-revealed secrets of….

Witchling

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

Witchling is the book that was never supposed to exist. It’s actually the sequel to I am Juliette, the first book in my series of science fiction fairytale re-tellings. When I first started toying with the idea of a sci-fi Beauty and the Beast re-telling I sternly ordered myself to keep it a standalone novel because I have a very bad habit of spinning every story into a series. That would not be the case with I am Juliette, I declared.

*laughs at poor, ignorant, innocent Past Self*

(If we’re getting technically it was actually a character’s fault. He mentioned someone briefly in IAJ and, of course, my curiosity got the better of me and I had to find out all about said charrie. So, it is my fault? Never mind. Carry on.)

I think Witchling has been in the works for roughly a year and a half? And when I say “in the works” that means I have 10,000 words of the first draft written. Everything else is still in that lovely, ethereal realm of Not-Quite-Sure-What-Is-Happening-But-It’ll-Be-Glorious.

Describe what your novel is about!

a) it’s a Hansel and Gretel re-telling which makes me all the happy because I adore that particular fairytale almost as much as Beauty and the Beast. Largely because of the gingerbread house, I expect, but also because the children are such darling, intrepid humans and the story is quintessentially fairytale.

So think Hansel and Gretel.

But in space.

Futuristic space.

Creepy, futuristic space.

Hansel and Gretel in space + poisoned gingerbread and hypnosis and possible immortals and espionage and chilling assassins and double, possibly triple, secret agents and brainwashing and classical music and deadly gardens and foot chases and masks both visible and invisible.

What is your book’s aesthetic? Use words or photos or whatever you like.

spicy scent of gingerbread. cold air and goosebumps. sharp needles. a soft, irresistible voice. vicious wolf. monochrome. lost siblings. shattered glass. morbid motley of dead people’s belongings. labyrinth. tiny white pebbles. stars glittering. innocent child-laughter. masks and mind games. light at the end of the tunnel. victorian greenhouse. break the cage. 

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Introduce us to each of your characters!

The Witchling. lost girl taken under a monster’s wing. she’s like a siren but one who lives in space + keeps a greenhouse and burns souffles on the side. broken sense of morals. collects mementos of victims. brilliant exploiter of people’s weaknesses. trickster sense of humor. feeds off adrenaline-filled situations. her true self is hidden behind a finely-crafted blend of masks–so deeply hidden she would not recognize it if she saw it. her insecurity is real. (also, despite her name she isn’t actually a witch. Just too mesmerizing and enchanting for her own good.)

The Wolf Master. monster with the face of an angel. Moriarty-complex. he doesn’t lurk in the shadows: he owns them. obsessed with people’s minds and souls. literally has no boundaries when it comes to “playing God.” taught the Witchling everything she knows. passionate swordsman. he only fears one thing, but he fears it so much he’s been running away his entire life.

Erik Halsey. skilled soldier with more secrets than anyone guesses. has an alarming knack of speaking bluntly. probably breaks down every locked door he encounters. will defend the people he cares about to his last drop of blood. kind of really hates politics and double-speak: is unfortunately involved in both. loves all cookies and just wants his own island in the middle of nowhere. eventually. there are children to do something about first.

Hans(el). fiercely protective older brother. heartrendingly precocious. ponders everything from all angles. has an aversion for dark rooms. will go sleepless and hungry rather than trust anyone. has picked up a decent amount of English alongside his native German. if you ask him for a hug he might bite instead.

Greta(el).  little ray of sunshine. anchor for her brother. hoards all things shiny. does the begging puppy eyes ridiculously well. barely talks and only in German. love language is touch.

How do you prepare to write? (Outline, research, stocking up on chocolate, howling, etc.?)

  • Excited hyperventilating has happened.
  • Also moments of “WHAT IN CREATION AM I THINKING. HAVE I GONE MAD. HALPPPP.” Everyone assures me that I was mad to begin with so all’s well.
  • This list here has various elements + vital scenes that I want to incorporate into the novel.

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  • I rarely ever research for first drafts. I just let my imagination run about unfettered, and then fix the logic holes when I edited.
  • I bought myself pretty, new gel pens since I’ll be doing most of NaNo longhand + am collecting aesthetic imagery on Pinterest because I am a visual person + hashed out details with Other Humans + am doing a whole ton of praying because I don’t do this often enough about my writing and it’s kind of really important.
  • Why, yes, I have a chocolate stash specif. for NaNo. This is Annie we’re talking about. When do I not have chocolate and/or rave about it from the rooftops?

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What are you most looking forward to about this novel?

Honestly, the fact that it’s a Hansel and Gretel re-telling is enough to make me spazz happily—which I do a lot when I think about this book (I adore that fairytale if that isn’t perfectly clear to you by now).

I am head-over-heels in love with the cast of characters, and I can’t wait to spend more (and more, and more) time with them. Be still my beating heart.

Also, the sibling-angst is strong in this one. And I’m incorporating a non-romantic friendship between a man and a woman—which is something that matters a lot to me. Bring it on, gingersnaps.

*really just loves everything about this book* *could go on for hours* *must be considerate, my precious*

List 3 things about your novel’s setting.

  1. Long corridors and monochrome colors and sharp corners. There is no happy medium of light in the Wolf Master’s city—it’s either blindingly bright or faint enough that dark, looming shadows are everywhere.
  1. Trees. Black trees with silver leaves and tangled branches and long scars across their trunks. Faint whispers. Snapping twigs followed by long silences.
  1. A kitchen with lots of high stools and brightly colored stoneware dishes. The smell of good things baking. A candy jar half-filled, and floury work surfaces, and warmth from the stove. Mugs of steaming hot chocolate. There may be gingerbread. Possibly.

What’s your character’s goal and who (or what) stands in the way?

Fulfilling each and every one of her orders to the utmost degree of perfection. What stands in her way? Hansel and Gretel and, ultimately, herself.

(Keep in mind that these are the Witchling’s goals at the beginning of the book. Lots of shenanigans and morally grey situations go down after that.)

How does your protagonist change by the end of the novel?

By the end of the novel the Witchling’s world has been turned upside-down. She’s started to think for herself, to make her own decisions, she’s realizing what she thought was truthful, was right, might not be at all—and it discomforts her a lot more than she likes.

How has she changed beyond that?

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(you knew it was coming at some point)

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

I put a lot more of my heart into this book than I initially realized and, whilst I am Juliette feels like a healing book to me, Witchling has more of an element of digging deep, of bringing dark things to the surface, of brokenness and what that means in a person’s life, of staring untruths in the face and saying “I refuse to believe you. I refuse to let you shape who I am.”

I have an idea of how I want readers to feel but I don’t think I can put it into words yet. BUT. I do want them to be really, really eager to find out exactly what happens to the Witchling and the rest of the charries in the next book.

If you’re participating in NaNo what are you writing about? And if you aren’t a writer, whose stories are you stalking next month? TELL ME ALL.

 

epic villains (and the traits we love about them)

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(because we all have to agree that Kylo Ren has a pretty sweet helmet)

It’s no secret among the people who know me that probably about 50% of my favorite characters in books + film would be the villains. And I decided that a post looking into this was long overdue since, after all, I have class (*said in British accent*) and don’t just like any bad guy. I mulled over the villains I do enjoy reading/watching (incidentally I am listening to The Imperial March as I type this) and narrowed it down to the specific traits about a villainous character that makes them leave their mark on my memory.

(so if you want to know how to write bad guys that Annie will enjoy, read on)

Moriarty (BBC Sherlock)

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psychotic genius.

Not going to lie: mental people who are also brilliant terrify me, whether in books or movies or real life. You could argue that Jim Moriarty’s insanity stems directly from his abnormally high IQ level, but no matter what the reason is, this guy should have been put in a straitjacket long ago. But, he is clever and when a bad guy makes me slack-jawed in horrified awe because the twisted brilliance of their plan is nothing like I anticipated…. I love it, humans.

unpredictable.

Granted, Moriarty is predictably nuts, but you never really know how it’s going to break out and if he’s just going to start shouting mid-sentence or instead decide that he’s bored. And when Moriarty is bored, be very afraid.

humor.

He’s horrible, he has no sense of decency, he would force you to commit suicide and smile while you do it, but he still manages to make me laugh out-loud every episode I’ve seen him in. So, either he has some really funny lines or I have a messed-up sense of humor. (tell me I’m not the only one who cracks up laughing whenever Moriarty breaks into the Tower of London. #dramaKing)

creep factor.

If you have a psychotic villain it’s bound to get creepy real fast. Yay for bad guys who are actually frightening.

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Gollum (The Lord of the Rings)

wily, wily worm.

Gollum is a crafty character and all the more so because it’s easy to underestimate him. There’s nothing like being controlled by a magical ring for years to make an already sly creature even more cunning. And it doesn’t help that he does the puppy eyes so well.

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humor.

“Yes, perhaps, yes,” said Gollum. “Sméagol always helps, if they asks – if they asks nicely.”
“Right!’ said Sam. “I does ask. And if that isn’t nice enough, I begs.”

Just the way he puts his sentences together is funny. Then put him and Samwise in the same scene and comedy gold happens.

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 sympathy points.

“And so Gollum found them hours later, when he returned, crawling and creeping down the path out of the gloom ahead. Sam sat propped against the stone, his head dropping sideways and his breathing heavy. In his lap lay Frodo’s head, drowned in sleep; upon his white forehead lay one of Sam’s brown hands, and the other lay softly upon his master’s breast. Peace was in both their faces.
Gollum looked at them. A strange expression passed over his lean hungry face. The gleam faded from his eyes, and they went dim and grey, old and tired. A spasm of pain seemed to twist him, and he turned away, peering back up towards the pass, shaking his head, as if engaged in some interior debate. Then he came back, and slowly putting out a trembling hand, very cautiously he touched Frodo’s knee–but almost the touch was a caress. For a fleeting moment, could one of the sleepers have seen him, they would have thought that they beheld an old weary hobbit, shrunken by the years that had carried him far beyond his time, beyond friends and kin, and the fields and streams of youth, an old starved pitiable thing.” 
J. R. R. Tolkien, The Two Towers

I cry every time I read this scene. I’ve discussed Gollum’s character many times and at great detail with my various fellow Tolkienites and we all agree that the saddest thing about him is that he had potential to tear himself away from his dark path, but the hold of the ring over him was so strong that every time he considered it something happened to keep him back. He is such a pathetic, pitiable creature and his story breaks my heart.

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Kylo Ren (Star Wars: The Force Awakens)

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unpredictable.

A (not-quite-Sith) who throws temper tantrums and wracks havoc on inanimate objects when he’s angry? Yes, please. Uncontrolled bad guys are great because you never can quite predict how they will react (except that it will be explosive) and if you haven’t seen Kylo Ren demolish expensive equipment you’re missing some LOL moments in your life.

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actually does bad things.

When there’s a villain you expect them to actually be, yunno, villainous. So Kylo Ren torturing Poe, killing people instead of just threatening to, and generally being the darker version of his grandfather at that age is satisfying. Even if it does break your heart when he commits some of the deeds he does. *calmly drops Ren off the edge of a cliff*

struggles with the light side.

Talk about intriguing. I love, love this factor of Kylo’s character. The psychology of a Sith is interesting anyways, but when you have one that’s drawn more to the light than they are to the dark, and hence is constantly trying to prove to themselves that they really are as bad as all that…. Excuse me while I do a happy dance over all the fascinating moral quandaries. Which brings me to:

potential for redemption.

You may or may not want him to be redeemed (I’m still torn on that score), but Kylo Ren has serious potential for either an amazing redemption arc or else the possibility of becoming an even darker and terrifying villain. To quote Mirriam Neal:

“Kylo Ren has so much light still left in him that he has to physically cause himself pain in order to keep fighting, because the Dark Side feeds off pain. He is the antagonist, the protagonist, and the battleground of his own story. One thing about true Sith is the fact they are ruthless when harming others to further their own ends. They don’t care if they’re hurting someone else, and this is obviously not Kylo’s case. Kylo isn’t fighting Rey with mere anger or a heartless, stoic demeanor – Kylo is on the verge of breaking down, he’s holding back tears, he is fighting with himself as much as he is with Rey, if not more.

I find it hard to believe that the franchise would present us with such an emotional, sympathetic character if they weren’t planning to give him a redemption arc or, at the very least, giving us an even larger conflict to follow in the coming movies. There’s much about Kylo that we as viewers don’t know and can only theorize about, but they have given us the most emotionally conflicted Sith in cinema history. There is more potential for light and goodness, for redemption, than ever before […]”

Loki (Thor, The Avengers, Thor: The Dark World)

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alllll the grey areas.

Conflicted villains are the best villains. That is all.

devilish wit.

Loki’s snark is the best. He is the “god” of mischief after all. And did I mention he’s just a bit clever?

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strong sympathy points.

I don’t even know where to start with this one.

His Dad has serious parenting issues, Loki has serious inferiority issues + family issues + deeply afraid + and this guy needs a therapist like a mosquito needs blood. He’s one of those frustrating characters where you can see exactly where they went wrong and you watch as they make bad decisions (despite your [mildly agitated] shouting at the screen). You root for them to make the right decisions and pull themselves off their dark path—and sometimes they do choose right, which makes it all the more difficult when they choose wrong the next time. His relationship with his adopted brother Thor breaks my heart, and his obvious affection for his mother is sweet and makes me cry without fail. I have strong emotions about this character, in case you couldn’t tell; I think I really must write a Loki analysis article sometime.

it’s not all his fault.

This is where Loki becomes a “sympathetic” villain for me because, despite all his bad choices and wrongdoings, so much of the blame for who he became lies at his father’s doorstep—that does not absolve him of his sins, but it does give us as viewers a connection and level of empathy with him. The need to be loved and valued is an inherent part of humanity, and who hasn’t been disappointed by people they look up to? Loki’s desperate hope + his fear of trusting because he’s been hurt so often gets me in the gut every time.

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potential for redemption.

So. Much. Potential. Don’t let me down here, Loki Laufeyson.

The Master (Doctor Who: series 3 finale, series 4 Christmas special)

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humor.

He is twisted and messed up and ohmystars he’s hilarious. I love it so much when villains have a sense of humor or when they’re given witty lines—half of the reason The Master is funny is because he’s such a nutcase. Parliament execution scene, anyone? *copies his double-thumbs up*

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smart factor.

Manic brilliance is how he rolls and it’s a blast to watch. Not to mention, terrifying. The Master has legitimately scared me on more than one occasion and not a lot of villains do that. When a Timelord goes dark + insane it is not a pretty sight. Take note my Timelordy readers.

it’s not all his fault.

The Master is psychotic-killer genius but (SPOILER ALERT) he was made that way through no fault of his own. His dark path was created for him by some seriously twisted people when he was just a child and a recurring four-beat rhythm was placed in his mind to play on a loop non-stop–is it any wonder he went completely mental? The moments when you see him fight against it, when you see his agony and desperation–they’re gut-wrenching. The Master and the Doctor were best friends as children and it’s heartbreaking whenever they go down memory lane or whenever the Doctor tries to get through to him and help him–basically all the time.

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There’s nothing like a broken friendship that gets repaired slightly (only to be shattered all over again) for taking my emotions through the ringer. The potential for redemption and light is strong in this one. Which is why the last scene with the Master in the Christmas special makes me sad/happy all at once. (You Whovians out there know what I’m talkin’ about.)

Anakin Skywalker (Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith)

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struggles with the light side.

Anakin is equally torn between the light and dark side of the force. He cares deeply for people and he’s always trying to save or protect–it’s his gut reaction when anyone is in trouble: “How can I help them?” At the same time the abilities to protect and the freedom of choice that he believes the Dark Side could give him pull at his attention like a moth to a flame. His struggle against the dark, against doing what he knows is wrong, and what he’s tempted to do, is painful to watch and still hurts me every time I see it.

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actually does bad things.

Once he turns to the Dark Side there’s no denying that Anakin does some horrific stuff. That scene with the Younglings in particular is heart-wrenching. It’s deeply saddening and almost frightening to see the change in him, but as writers don’t you just love it when a villain fulfills his potential and actually is dark? I get chills every time he makes his march–not because it’s epic but because it’s how a villain is supposed to be. They’re supposed to be a threat, they’re supposed to be menacing, they’re supposed to frighten–otherwise what impact does it even make when the hero overthrows them? i will now get off my soapbox. 

potential for redemption.

As a twelve-year old writer Anakin is the first character I was attached to who spiraled onto a downward path. Even though I was 95% sure it was going to happen, I still spent the entirety of Revenge of the Sith rooting for him to pull through, to see where he was going and why it was such a very bad thing. It’s hard to articulate since he meant so much to me (and still does) but Anakin was the character who taught me that feeling empathy for someone does not mean you condone them or excuse them, villains are not two-dimensional, that as a writer I should never make them two-dimensional, and that everyone has a story.

Check out this article for a more in-depth look at Anakin Skywalker. There are much spoilers. Ye be warned.

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Peter Pan (Once Upon A Time)

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“Oh, the cleverness of me!”

Can I just mention that I absolutely love that the writers of OUAT took the potential for darkness in Peter of Peter Pan and ran with it? Peter Pan is devilishly clever and overflowing with sharp wit + manipulation + fake innocent-boy charm. He’s easily one of my favorite villains in the history of ever. And he is dark, people.

humor.

Did I mention the sharp wit and just general sassy one-liners?

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feels-inducing.

I had not expected this element at all, but when you think of a boy-villain and what exactly that means, it’s sad to begin with. Then you find out about his past and, while you detest him even more, it also hurts your heart and makes you wish, wish, wish that he could go back and make everything alright again. If only for the sake of the people he hurt.

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Darth Vader (Star Wars)

Does this even require any commentary at all???

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To sum up: villains with humor + unpredictability + dark deeds + grey areas + cleverness + potential for redemption + sympathy points, or a blend of the above traits, those are the bad guys who stand out. That make a hero work harder, and a reader happy. 

Which is the sort of villain that everyone wants.

Okay, Wrenlings, ‘fess up. Who are your favorite villains? Why do you like them? Or are bad guys just not your cup of dark (very dark) coffee?

How To Write Lovable Protagonists — Guest Post by Schuyler McConkey

I have a special treat for you today, Wrenlings! My dear friend Schuyler has ever so sweetly agreed to guest post here on Curious Wren, and I am doing cartwheels of joy about it (but not actually because I would probably crack my skull and then I could no LONGER READ OH HORRIBLE THOUGHT).

Schuyler has some of the best main characters I’ve encountered amongst my various splendiferous Human Writer Friends/Acquaintances, which I am slightly (fiercely?) envious of in a Oh-Genius-Why-Do-I-Have-It-Not sort of way. Honestly, Roo is such a sweetheart I want her for a real-life buddy, and JAERYN. *momentary mad fangirling*

BUT. As you shall see she has a method to her madness. So, find a comfy toadstool to sit on and make sure to take notes! Cheerio, darlings.

Schuyler? You’re up.


(via)

Protagonists are pretty important. Where would we be in the world of literature without colorful main characters like Frodo Baggins, Lizzy Bennet, and Ebenezer Scrooge?

Writing a loveable protagonist is fairly easy with your first book. You know them inside out, and generally for a longer time, then any other character you’ll write. You put all your hopes, dreams, and favorite things about literature into them. But writing subsequent characters can get tricky. If you’re published, you have to write them a little faster (ten years isn’t an ideal timeline after book one), and you have less time on the front end to get to know them. Some people have the knack of creating vivid, lovable characters (personally the characters are my favorite part of the process) while others struggle to connect with their characters, and feel like they come across stiff and unreal on the page. Whichever camp you fall in, I hope this exercise will help you learn how to create loveable protagonists, by drawing from protagonists in literature you already love.

Step #1: Make a List of Protagonists From Other Authors.

Take out a piece of paper or open up a Word document and think for a moment about your favorite protagonists in literature. Who are they? Write them down. Now think of the favorite protagonists you’ve written. Write a couple down. You won’t need a long list, but a fair handful from a variety of genres will really help in the following exercise.

From literature, I chose a handful of my favorite protagonists. I passionately love these people, and have read the books they’re in multiple times. I would write fanfiction about them. I would have them over for a party in two seconds flat. It would be incredibly, deeply special to actually get to meet them. (I know, they’re fictional. But STILL.) I chose Cadfael (The Pilgrim of Hate), Linda Strong (Her Father’s Daughter), Jane Stuart (Jane of Lantern Hill), Erroll Stone (A Cast of Stones), and Wilberforce (Amazing Grace). This group comes from a variety of ages, life conditions, countries, and genres.

Step #2 Evaluate What You Love About Them.

Now take your list and jot down what you especially love about these characters. It could be what they do, a profession they hold, a physical quirk they have, a relationship they have, or a personality streak. Here’s my list:

Cadfael: What I Love

Justice, independence, humanity, the way he mentors young people, sarcasm, friendship with Hugh, matter-of-fact perspective that’s open to the miraculous.

Linda Strong: What I Love

Sensible, loves to write, pursuing her dreams in spite of difficult relationships, loves her dad, great with guy friends.

Jane Stuart: What I Love

Loves her dad, loves keeping house, strong sense of imagination, stays true to who she is in harsh atmosphere, strong protective/caring instinct, loves life’s little pleasures.

Erroll Stone: What I Love

Acknowledges personal weaknesses without self-pity, sense of irony, fights hard to overcome flaws, struggles with people using him as a pawn.

Wilberforce: What I Love

Cares for poor and oppressed, does meaningful society work within his Christian worldview, works for years being defeated without giving up, great spiritual strength in spite of physical weakness, relies on friendships for ideas and strength.

Step #3 Pick Out Recurring Things You Love

See how some similar ideas travel through all those characters I like? Look at your list and see if you’re finding some recurring themes. Here are some of mine:

-big hardships to overcome (mostly relational)

-have to work hard to rise above, often sacrificing the deepest part of who they are

-colorful and close friendships with others in the book

-sense of sarcasm/humor

-sense of care and compassion for the oppressed

-dreamers who love the beautiful, everyday gifts and cling to the hope of better things

Your list might look a little different. That’s as it should be—we need a wide variety of protagonists and personalities in literature! But what you love best will become your brand of protagonist. The themes that resonate with you as you read should be the themes that carry through into your own protagonists.

If I talk about a Dickens protagonist, or a G.A. Henty hero, or a Gene Stratton Porter heroine, there are many to choose from, but all of them have the stamp of the original author. They often love the causes and act in the way their author could resonate with most deeply. Your protagonists will be the same. They’ll have different careers, time periods, ages, and relational status in each book—but at their core, they will be who you love most. Making a likeable protagonist doesn’t merely mean throwing together different personality traits and life circumstances from your last story. It means carefully weaving in what you love and along with those things.

Step #4 Evaluate The Protagonists You’ve Written

Now that we’ve looked at protagonists in literature, take a look at your stories, and choose a couple of protagonists you’ve written or want to write that you especially love. For the sake of this article, I’m going to choose Jaeryn Graham, a colorful Irish agent in my WW1 spy novel, and Roo, a sweet ballet teacher who lives in modern day New York. Very different people, right? Let’s see how they compare to my favorite protagonists in literature:

Jaeryn Graham has a fierce desire to be treated justly, and will risk anything to achieve the object he wants without worrying about the consequences. The justice theme in Jaeryn’s arc also appears in all the characters in the above list in different ways, and is one near and dear to my heart. He’s also kind to the oppressed, though sometimes he chooses to oppress them himself to achieve a necessary object. Realizing the importance of close friendships is a huge part of his story as well.

Roo couldn’t be more opposite. She cares deeply, is sweet, loves nothing more than taking deep joy in daily life with friends, and doesn’t need grand things to feel fulfilled. But like Jaeryn, she cares for the hurting, even though she’s unlike him every other way. Roo’s spiritual strength comes from stories I love like Wilberforce, she’s great with guy friends like Linda Strong, and she loves life’s little pleasures like Jane Stuart. Friendships are a very key theme for Roo. I didn’t consciously copy any of those things from the above characters. But because they resonate in what I read, they also resonate in what I write.

I’m about to write my favorite protagonist ever, and already some clear and classic Schuyler themes are emerging. A sense of passion for relieving oppression. An irreverent sense of humor. Some really cool friendships. Those are my core values. They make the writing process fun for me, and what I love can in turn be what someone else loves too.

Do you like your protagonists? Do they carry some of the themes you already like in books you’ve read? If you don’t like your protagonists, or feel they’re lacking something, is it because you haven’t given them the relationships and personality traits you love most?

One Extra Step to Bring Them to the Next Level

Once you have core themes for your protagonists worked out, there’s one more thing you can do that takes your character from good to great. That is simply to know them like a real person. I refer to characters as my fictional friends very intentionally. I have shared sorrow with them, shared work and laughter, shared the deepest parts of their soul. To maintain that same level in each story, as soon as I start a new story, that new protagonist is automatically moved into personal friend. I take them shopping with me and notice the foods and flavors they would like. I pick out their favorite restaurants as we’re driving, make them playlists on Spotify, take them to the concert or watch a movie and register their likes and dislikes. I imagine them in a very vivid way—allowing them to be deeply passionate about big and small life things that might get in the story and might not. The point is not to go story scouting all the time; the point is simply to get to know them on such a deep level that no matter what time period or profession they are actually in, I know exactly what they like. My sister often whispers to me at social functions, “What would so-and-so be doing right now?” And she and I can both tell what they’d be doing, because they have been our friends for so long.

In summary, the important parts of a lovable protagonist are real personality, real life, and real relationships. Those are most easy to write and most colorful on the page when you determine the relationships and personalities of already published protagonists that bring you alive. Put those resonating aspects into your own work, wherever each story takes you—and you’ll be giving the protagonists a piece of your own real, living heart to turn them from flat to 3D.

Schuyler McConkey is a novelist and Bright Lights ministry leader living with her parents and two siblings. She authors a blog, My Lady Bibliophile, where she writes book reviews and articles evaluating classic literature. In her spare time, she enjoys listening to Irish love songs, learning Gaelic, and reading too many Dickens novels.

Beautiful People — Dead Shot and Laser // sneak peek at Mingled + UPDATES WHAT HO

I am a worm of low degree. OF LOW DEGREE.

In other words, I can’t believe how shamefully I have neglected you all lately! I feel like I need to reacquaint myself with Curious Wren, dust off the cobwebs, fling open the windows and let the fresh air in…

In my defense, the Older Sister and I are road-tripping right now which, by the by, has been a magical and rewarding experience. Made new friends (I fully intend to visit Germany someday now), bought lots of books, wandered idyllic side-streets, cried over the beauty of sprawling, green landscapes… the list goes on. Yay for road-trips. I can feel my soul stretching and deepening every time I go on one.

Anywho.

I feel like I need to reacquaint myself with all you dear, wonderful people too so please, pretty please, tell me how life has been! What are you reading/writing/learning? How has your May been thus far and what are the happenings? I wish to know all, lovelies. And have a chocolate chip cupcake whilst you’re at it. ^_^

And now, Beautiful People. Also hosted by Sky.

I was toying around with the idea of several different stories this time–the questions are just. that. good–and I finally decided to use two characters from my science fiction, steampunk series Mingled. This is the first time I’ve mentioned it on the blog, but it’s basically like the Avengers meets Star Wars and it’s quite deliciously steampunkish and futuristic. The idea is that a special team called Mingled is formed by the leading governments of three planets (including Earth) and they end up like this adorable gang of feels and angst and much mission accomplishing.

The charries are as follows:

— Captain Lukas Keyes. Ship captain and leader of Mingled. 28. Male.

— Lechra Keyes. Historian/Translator. Lukas’ younger sister. 24. Female.

— Archangel “Angel.” Gunslinger-esque agent. 32. The Keyes siblings best buddy for his whole life. Male.

— “Dead Shot.” Infamous assassin. Crack shot, hence his “title” given to him by a past client. Uncertain age. Male.

— Sii Sari. Top bounty hunter. 26. Female.

— Laser. Tech geek. Near genius. 20. Male.

(I’ll be highlighting Dead Shot and Laser since they are polar opposites.)

Dead Shot

1. How often do they smile? Would they smile at a stranger?

Once upon a time Dead Shot hardly ever smiled, and when he did it was more of an ironical smirk, but now that he’s part of the “gang”–what with ridiculous antics, constant humor, and slowly-growing friendships– he has ample cause for unexpected smiles. Which, of course, remain unseen because he never takes his face mask off. 

He does not smile at strangers.

2. What is the cruelest thing they’ve ever been told? And what was their reaction?

One word: “No.”

He became an assassin.

3. What is the kindest thing they’ve ever been told? And what was their reaction?

For Dead Shot actions speak louder than words every time. Lechra once brought him a mug of tea when he was in a rough spot emotionally and mentally (which she didn’t know at the time). He was so touched he couldn’t even bring himself to drink it. Lechra found the mug later, still full to the brim with ice-cold tea. She thought he disliked it. 

4. What is one strong memory that has stuck with your character from childhood? Why is it so powerful and lasting?

This ties in with #2, but essentially that memory is the whole reason he chose to become an assassin–and not only an assassin, but the best one to be had. 

5. What book (a real actual published book!) do you think your character would benefit from reading?

How to Win Friends and Influence People? Or any book teaching people skills that doesn’t involve broken necks, a switchblade or poison.

Actually, probably the Bible would he best. *coughcough*

6. Have they ever been seriously injured? How severely? How did they react?

Hah. Hah.

Dead Shot’s been pulled from death’s door enough times to make him a walking miracle. Eventually he became skilled enough and subtle enough that not many people have the training to actually be a threat to him.

If he’s hurt he tends to himself stoically or seeks aid if the injury is too severe for even him to handle.

7. Do they like and get along with their neighbours?

He and Lukas have built a cautious balance of trust and respect in their respective roles as assassin-who-answers-to-someone-besides-himself-now/ship captain turned leader of a motley crew. 

Dead Shot holds a high opinion of Lechra. Sii Sari annoys him to no end. 

His and Angel’s friendship is of the love/hate variety and Laser is like the kid on the block that you tolerate and end up getting out of scrapes left and right. 

I love these guys so much.

8. On a scale from 1 to 10 (1 being easy and 10 being difficult) how easy are they to get along with?

Depends on who he’s around. As a general rule, he’s about a 5. Only because he has a tendency to blend in with the background and people forget he’s around. Until he abruptly joins in the conversation, that is. 

He regularly gives poor Lechra and Laser near heart attacks. 

9. If they could travel anywhere in the world, where would they go?

Well, seeing as he can already travel most anywhere in the world, and has actually traveled further throughout the galaxy than most people….

10. Who was the last person they held hands with?

Probably his mother? Long, long ago in a galaxy far, far–oh, wait.


Laser

1.How often do they smile? Would they smile at a stranger?

Laser has an exhaustive repertoire ranging from a deceptively innocent smile to genuine mirth to full-out glee. He uses said repertoire frequently. 

If a stranger smiled at him he’d probably either grin back or pretend to be blind depending on his mood. 

2. What is the cruelest thing they’ve ever been told? And what was their reaction?

Most of his peers had nothing but negativity to say about his level of brilliance, but the worst was when his girlfriend broke up with him and told him that the only thing keeping him from being utterly worthless was his brains. 

Needless to say, since then Laser’s avoided relationships, and most girls around his age. 

3. What is the kindest thing they’ve ever been told? And what was their reaction?

The kindest thing hasn’t been said to him yet.

4. What is one strong memory that has stuck with your character from childhood? Why is it so powerful and lasting?

His grandpa taking him on an illegal space jump. Laser was grounded for six months when they got back, but the dazzlingly splendor of the universe was burned into his mind and the resulting hunger to travel throughout the galaxy directly influenced his decision to join Mingled.

5. What book (a real actual published book!) do you think your character would benefit from reading?

I…. actually have no idea. 

PSALMS. He needs all the verses about how loved and precious we are. 

6. Have they ever been seriously injured? How severely? How did they react?

He broke his left wrist once. Worst three months of his life (he’s left-handed). And he has a germ phobia of sorts so when he gets so much as a paper cut he’s scrambling for iodine, skin adhesives, ANYTHING AT ONCE PROMPTLY AND ASAP.

7. Do they like and get along with their neighbours?

Wellll. Laser has authority issues so his first few months interacting with Captain Lukas were….. interesting. Angel is his object of hero worship (which said Hero feels slightly unworthy of/soaks it up like a sponge. Oh, honey). Sii Sari is basically like the intimidating big sister and Lechra the lovable big sister… who still has stern moments anyway. 

Dead Shot scares him, and also fascinates him because ASSASSIN. Laser’s still very much a boy at heart, bless him. 

8. On a scale from 1 to 10 (1 being easy and 10 being difficult) how easy are they to get along with?

A six, methinks. Being just out of his teenage years he’s still going through some rough patches when it comes to maturity and all that. But Laser tends to be a weird combination of easy-going and high-strung so it makes for some interesting group dynamics. Basically nobody in Mingled has any qualms putting him in his place if need be, but they all are affectionately rough or supportive depending how they express their care for him. 

(For instance, given a certain situation, Sii Sari would hit him upside the head and tell him to stop being such an idiot. Lechra would ask him questions designed to get him to think it through.)

9. If they could travel anywhere in the world, where would they go?

He particularly wants to visit the Scarlet Cities that orbit Jupiter. His Grandpa told him incredible tales about its people and the spice markets and how if you stand under the golden hourglass in a particular market square, you can actually see all seventeen kaleidoscope-like cities at once. 

10. Who was the last person they held hands with?

Lechra. It was in the middle of a mission, Laser happened to be along instead of on the ship running backup as per usual; he got distracted, Lukas had no intentions of leaving him behind so when they were discovered he told Lechra to grab the “kid” and make a run for it. 

This not-actual-family makes my heart happy. 

The (belated) post of Writerly goals and resolutions

 

Technically this post was supposed to go up last month, but January = insanity. Which means today you get to hear all about my 2016 writing goals and plot bunnies and all that good stuff! I’m using the Beautiful People questions (hosted by Sky and Cait) because as always they suit perfectly, and I like lists and such things. They give a sense of order in the universe. *dramatic music*

Shall we?
What were your writing achievements last year?

*in which Annie does a happy dance because SHE ACCOMPLISHED STUFF*

In March I found out that I was a finalist in Rooglewood’s Beauty and the Beast re-telling contest. Of course, I was disappointed not to be one of the winners, but finding out I was one of the Top Twenty? I still get happy chills over that.

For the first time I participated in Camp NaNo July which was a blast (shout-out to Schuyler and Emily for being such amazing writer buddies). I’ve never written so much in one month, and I’ve never had that much fun, or that much pain (I write longhand). Also, it had the added bonus of creating a habit of writing daily for me. WOOT. I’m a procrastinator, folkies, hence why July was so important. Not to mention I added over 25,000 words to the third draft of I am Juliette so there’s that. I worked on typing it up over the next few months – my sister-in-law helped me tremendously – and in the meantime I started Blood Thread, my fantasy steampunk novella about a cat-fae and his unruly human charge. In November I joined in NaNoWriMo for the first time and wrote about 11,000 words of Witching, the sequel to I am Juliette. I would have written more, but life happened. I finished and edited Blood Thread in December.

All in all, I feel happy about what I did last year. I finished two books, one full-length and one novella. I learned good habits and more about my own style and voice. And my social media platforms grew steadily – I made connections with some brilliant, lovely people. Also, I discovered that Fantasy is my life’s blood; I suspected it already, but now I know for sure.

Tell us about your top priority writing project for this year?

I feel like I should maybe have a microphone and a holograph right now.

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I am Juliette takes Top Priority for sure. It needs an extensive edit of the Draft 4 (that’s actually what I’m in the middle of right now). But after that? Once IAJ is sent out to beta-readers I have no idea what I’ll be working on, and I am incredibly excited about it. There’s this glorious horizon awash with bright ideas and I can hardly wait to have a blank slate and a fresh story to work on. A few I am dying to get my paws on are:

the Zorro re-telling: in my head it’s all a palette of dusty roads and orange sunsets and rad motorcycles and political tangles and swashbuckling rescues and Spanish food/jargon and deliciously suspenseful bad-guy-is-two-steps-behind-Zorro-on-the-staircase scenes. I need this book in my life, people.

Witchling: It’s a bit untrue that I’m wild to write this one since most of it takes place in outer space and that can be a hampering setting for me. I crave the color and life and air of Earth. Not even kidding, humans; this is an actual, legitimate problem I face as a writer. Space drains my creativity. BUT. There’s also Hansel and Gretel who are just so sweet and adorable and wring my heart, and I want to spend more time with the Witchling. The Wolf Master is one of my favorite villains of all time, and as for Halsey? He is a precious charrie who deserves to be set loose on paper again.

The Runner Chronicles: Again, Fantasy is my Kryptonite. MUST HAVE THE FANTASY. I’ve been half-brainstorming this series in the back of my mind, and then I wrote a Beautiful People for two of the characters which just made matters worse, and now I want to write all about this gifted, confused, prejudiced world with its gorgeous scenery and bone-chilling creatures. The problem? It’s a series. I have no wish to start another series right now. I get cranky just thinking about it. Someone give me chocolate chips.

List 5 areas you’d like to work the hardest to improve this year.

Writing description: I never used to be so unsure of myself in this area, but now when I write it’s like I’m looking through poorly-made glasses at the world around me. It’s incredibly frustrating.

Keeping to a consistent schedule: Honestly, I’m doing much better at this, but it’s too easy for me to slip up. I want to get up earlier, start writing earlier and accomplish my set word-count/goal each day. Lists are my best friend.

Plot: I know I’m pretty strong on the character front, but plot is my Waterloo. I don’t like simple, I like convoluted and surprising—it’s just a matter of learning how to replicate that.

Writing humor: My brand of humor tends to always take place in dialogue and a lot of time it sounds similar—snarky one-liners and the like. I plan on learning how to write different kinds of humor, focusing on working it into the prose.

Bravery: In keeping with my word for the year I want to be braver when it comes to my writing. I want to incorporate the themes I feel called to, even if they scare me. I want to try new styles and modes of writing, and delve into my imagination and creativity without thinking about how other people might respond negatively. I’m going to query this year and work more on the publishing side of things which terrifies me. Hence, this resolution.

Are you participating in any writing challenges?

Since I loved Camp NaNo so much last year, I really want to join in again. April will probably be too busy (pleasedontbepleasedontbe) but, Lordwilling, I will be writing up a storm in July. I may or may not do NaNoWriMo this year… WE SHALL SEE.

What’s your critique partner/beta reader situation like and do you have plans to expand this year?

There are several lovely humans who beta-read for me, and I’m hoping to increase their number this year; specifically, a few male readers/writers since I don’t have any at the moment and a masculine viewpoint is invaluable. I don’t really have any steady critique partners, but I’d like to have a few (I need to, would be more accurate). My sisters are stellar in the critique department, but I would also like some writers who are more advanced in their craft.

Do you have plans to read any writer-related books this year? Or are there specific books you want to read for research?

Yes, indeedy! I have a list with a plethora of writerly books I plan on digging into sometime. Top of said list being Bird by Bird, The Emotion Thesaurus, Revising and Self editing for publication, Structuring your Novel and Outlining your Novel among others.

As for research I need to read the original Zorro book, re-hash various fairytales for my I am Juliette series, study some more well-written science fiction (recommendations, anyone?), and I’m planning on reading Quiet since I need to have a better handle on how introverted people think. Also books about ninjas and aromatherapy and gunmanship and Spanish culture and outer-space and blindness. Beyond that? Who knows? That’s half the reason a writer’s life is so exciting.

Pick one character you want to get to know better, and how are you going to achieve this?

Only one? That’s adorable.

The Wolf Master from Witchling fascinates me and, since he’s the antagonist for the whole of the series, I really need to learn more about him; what makes him tick, what his driving motivation is, why exactly he became the way he is. I have strong inklings and I am eager to find out more. I’m hoping to explore the Witchling and Halsey’s friendship more too because a) they give me many Best Friend feels, and b) they help each other grow in ways I can’t quite grasp yet. I need to understand exactly what their dynamic is and how they view each other.

Another character I’m anxious to get to know is my “Rapunzel” from the third book in the I am Juliette series. She’s going to be grand fun to write because she is just so blunt. That girl has absolutely no filter, I tell you. Or any concept about the normal way to behave, and her mistakes are hysterical and embarrassing and adorable. She’s like a wide-eyed, innocent child in a 17-year old’s body, but she has startling flashes of insight and womanly intuition. Plus, she and her AI have the cutest, grumpy fits at each other which make me happy.

And then there’s this assassin charrie from another book….

Lots of character sketches, questionnaires, interviews, and excerpts are in store, methinks. *rubs hands together gleefully*

Do you plan to edit or query, and what’s your plan of attack?

I shall be editing I am Juliette like a small, maniac tornado and then querying it out like said tornado’s scared twin. Of course, I’m terrified to my very bones. This is all as new as the first sunrise for me, peoples. But secretly (well, less secretly now) I’m also wildly optimistic so hopefully there won’t have to be too many comfort-blanket forts built (I promise, I am a serious adult, but right now I’m listening to Spanish music and it’s bringing out the unquenchable child in me. And I struggle with hyperbole anyways).

Toni Morrison once said, “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”  What are the books that you want to see more of, and what “holes” do you think need filling in the literary world?

I have strong opinions on this subject.

Firstly, I would love to see more books that are clean, but still have depth. There’s no earthly reason why a book can’t be free of foul language and innuendoes/scenes and still be deeper than the Mariana Trench. No reason at all. Half the reason I don’t want to market my books as “Christian” is because of the bad name so many Christian authors have given that market by writing shallow, preachy, bland books—see here. I want to see more of my fellow authors-in-the-faith tackling tough issues head-on. Be brave, darlings. The moon shines all the more clearly in the dark (I keep telling myself this because I know I need to write a book that deals with human-trafficking and the idea scares me stiff).

More thick historical novels that aren’t solely romance fiction would make me happy. More anthropomorphic fantasy is always good. I would be thrilled to see less of the strong-woman-who-don’t-need-no-man and more of the strong woman who can still have a man without thinking it degrades her (maybe I’ll write an article on this at some point).

Please, more books with a male protagonist. I BEGS.

And I second Aimee: lots of steampunk, pretty please and thank you. And more platonic/close sibling relationships would be nice too.

(aaand this question has reminded me of so many plot-bunnies/spawned more.)

What do you hope to have achieved by the end of 2016?

I want to see:

I am Juliette edited, sent out to beta-readers, queried, and even accepted (I believe in reaching for the sky, lovelies).

– the first draft of Witchling completed.

– Zorro re-telling at least plotted and out-lined.

– win a creative writing contest.

– secure a critique partner and male beta-reader (or two).

– accomplish a Thing with Blood Thread which is currently under wraps.

– lots, and lots of research done.

– attending a writers’ conference would be spectacular.

– my writing vastly improved on all fronts.

How about you? Tell me a few of your goals for 2016. I want to know ALLLLL the things, my friends! And which of my plot bunnies intrigues you the most? H

5 Tips for Writing on the Go — Guest Post by Emily Putzke

PutzkeGuestPost

(Today I am thrilled to be hosting Emily Putzke in a special guest post in honor of her newest book release. I’ll be reviewing Resist, a novel about two courageous siblings who were a part of the German underground resistance in WWII, later this week. In the meantime check out the post and enter the giveaway!)

Hi everyone! I’m Emily Ann Putzke, author of It Took a War, Ain’t We Got Fun, and my newest novel, Resist which released this week! I do a lot of traveling to help out with family so I’ve become accustomed to writing stories in different atmospheres—be it at my older sister’s house flanked by cats and children, at my desk at home, or on the couch in my grandpa’s apartment. I think a change of scene can be very beneficial to our creative minds. But, as writers, it can also be hard. So here are five tips for writing on the go:

  1. Make sure you can access your work from any computer with online programs like GoogleDocs or Microsoft Word Online. I also backup my files on AmazonCloud. Take advantage of these great online storage/writing programs for on the go use.
  2. Create a private blog for links/pictures/anything you’ll need to access. I sometimes bookmark pages which doesn’t work well when I’m using various computers and needing a website for research. Save those links in a program you can access anywhere!

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3. Even though I’m helping out with family, I always try to grab some writing time when I can, even if I have twenty-five children on my lap. 😉

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4. Don’t forget your earbuds! Sometimes it can be hard to immerse yourself in your novel when you’re not in your usual writing environment. Put on some movie soundtracks and get lost in your story.

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5. If you’re a historical fiction author like me, you need your research books with you at all times. I’d recommend buying them used on Amazon or B&N so you can highlight and dog ear to your heart’s content. Also, then the library won’t be bugging you about returning a book when you’re traveling.

The life of a writer is an adventure! I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject!

Oh, and don’t forget to check out the giveaway!

Emily Ann Putzke is a young novelist, historical reenactor, and history lover. You can learn more about Emily and her books at authoremilyannputzke.com, facebook.com/authoremilyannputzke, and instagram.com/historicalhappenings

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