Montage: For Books!

Montages in movies are a lot of fun.  They spend a tiny amount of time showing us the most interesting parts of training, scientific discovery, and any other thing that needs to happen but would take a lot of time to live through.  Rocky goes from inept to competent in a matter of minutes.  Hiccup discovers the quirks of the man-killing beasts he’s feared all his life over the course of weeks, possibly months— condensed into a handful of quick scenes.  Iron Man builds a suit in his basement through trial and error, without destroying the pacing of an otherwise quick and fun movie.

Can books do this?

It’s a question I’ve had for a while.  Movies are easy to consume because they take little time compared to books, but books and prose are what I want to write.  The techniques that work in movies— the character arcs, the plot twists, the magic systems— usually work in books as well.  But those are story elements, for the most part.  The presentation of those elements, such as slow pans, jump cuts, close-ups, and the like?  Those are restricted to movies.  They have parallels in the book world, of course, but the book world has its own tricks movies can’t match.

So how can we take the idea of a montage and apply it to prose? Continue reading “Montage: For Books!”


My Favorite Author

Today, I didn’t get to meet my favorite author.

Maggie Stiefvater writes some fun books.  She lives a fun life.  She’s inspired and inspiring.  For a long time, ever since I realized she had written a book that wasn’t primarily kissing, I’ve read and enjoyed and sought out her writing wherever I could.  I’ve read a lot of her books.  I’ve learned a lot from her books.  And right now, I’m only talking about her books.  Y’all can research for yourselves what else she gets up to.  She’s multi-talented— nay, she’s dedicated.  To a lot of different things.  All at once.

She’s inspiring, and has been for a long time.  That’s why, when I realized she was coming to NYC on a weekend I was free, I made a plan to go get some books signed.

At first, it sounded like a large commute and small window of fun.  You see, I have obligations.  As a freshman at a service academy, I’m a bit confined as to when I can do things.  This confines what I can do.  But, trekking out into the city for a couple hours to see the Stiefvater seemed like it could work.

Then doors began to open.  I could cut down on the commute.  I could get a little extra time to get over there and get back.  In fact— and here’s the exciting part— I might even get some books signed.  That’s better than just being in the same bookstore.  All this because I got to go home this weekend instead of just traveling from my school.

It was a great weekend.  I got a lot of fun stuff done, listened to a sister’s orchestra concert, made progress in a couple of other projects I’ll break to you later, and in general pushed my life forward a couple more baby steps.  I achieved what I had to do.  When the time came to hit up the bookstore, I was riding a wave of productivity, inspiration, and feel-goodiness.

We show up just before the event is about to start.  The bookstore is crowded.  I’m in my white dress uniform.  We can’t find the checkout line, but eventually we get there and buy a copy of The Raven King.  We get our number for the signing line.

#281. Continue reading “My Favorite Author”

Your Setting

Surround yourself with things that make you want to write.

This is a lesson I’m learning more and more.  As you learn more about the world, you begin to find a million things that lead you in all directions.  Watching a foreign film makes you want to learn French.  Reading about adventure makes you want to travel the world.  Meeting a champion juggler makes you never want to juggle ever, and that’s that.  All these are great.  If you’re like me, you know that most things are within reach, and with a little work you can achieve them.  Learning French, traveling the world, never juggling— all worthwhile goals.

But do you remember the moment you decided you wanted to write?

If you’re a different kind of artist, or your career lies elsewhere, substitute your dream whenever I say the word “write”.  This applies to anything.

As a kid, I read a lot of Brian Jacques books, and I’ve posted before about how much they mean to me.  Through reading and imagining, I began to dream about writing my own stories.  For the past four years, that’s what I’ve been doing, and I love it.  I love daydreaming about it and pushing toward that goal.

The path has its ups and downs, though, like anything.  You start off shot from a cannon, propelled by your amazing inspiration and genuine love for what you’re doing.  Then, of course, comes the letdown when you actually realize you’ve got a long way ahead of you.  But you pick yourself up and keep moving, and you enjoy the work for a while.  Then you poke your head up and look around, and start comparing yourself to other people, and you wonder what you’re actually doing. Continue reading “Your Setting”

The Confidence Arc

One of my favorite character stereotypes is the confident character.  Richard Campbell Gansey III, Dorian Havilliard, even Valerie Solomon from Tessa Gratton’s story on Merry Sisters of Fate.  There’s something about the character who has it all, who has an all-purpose mask they crafted for themselves over the years.  Of course, since we write crafted fiction, this mask never stays on.  Something will happen to tear it off, and there— that’s when you really enjoy the character.

Half of me wants to be such a character with such a mask.  Half of me just wants to write millions of those characters.  For the convenience of everyone, and especially me, here’s a step-by-step how-to on creating the confident character. Continue reading “The Confidence Arc”

What’s Important? Artist Edition

Writing is hard.  At the beginning, everything is NaNoWriMo and instincts and blissful ignorance.  You begin to learn about the craft and get better, and while your first novel was truly terrible, you can laugh about it and move on.  You take pride in calling yourself a writer, among all those people who want to write but never do.  Then it begins to fade.  You keep making the same mistakes.  Words start coming slowly, and a bestselling author publishes two books in the time it takes you to get out of your slump.  The real world tries to pull you out of your fictional one.  Writing is hard.

Drawing is hard.  You start out doodling, and it turns out well, so you look into what else you can do.  It’s fun to experiment with colors, papers, and tools.  You start learning the glories of shadows, shapes, and (what a thrill!) crosshatching.  You’ve got your own sketchbook, and your doodles are getting more and more sophisticated.  Gone are the days of simple stick figures— you’ve got dragons and your friends’ faces and every good thing.  Then it begins to fade.  You begin to realize your circles are lopsided.  People look a little too noodly for your liking.  You’re still working on depth.  People want to see your sketchbook and start comparing you to other people.  You start drawings but don’t finish them because they don’t look right.  Drawing is hard.

Music.  Crafts.  Cooking.  All of it is hard.  Creating stuff is hard.  Words, sounds, sights, tastes, smells…  Well, anyone can make smells.  But good smells!  Creating is hard.  You have to think it up, gather materials, put stuff together to make different stuff, and throw it out for the world to judge.  When they get it, they might or might not like it.  If you don’t have to redo it, you get to start all over again, using none of the same things you just used!  Hurrah! Continue reading “What’s Important? Artist Edition”

One-Line Characterization

The world is full of people.  Depending on our situation or lifestyle, we might come into contact with as many as hundreds of people every week, or as few as a dozen.  Few people manage to live without human contact of any kind.  For me, I have about five different places I might find myself on a given day where the number of people around me meets or exceeds a hundred.  When I’m not with my family, I’m probably out in one of these areas, interacting with people.

Assuming I have five different social circles, each with a hundred people, that means I see five hundred people per week.  A couple overlap, and my family intermingles with these circles, but that’s the general figure.  Five hundred faces I see every week.  Five hundred people with completely different lives, who think thoughts wholly unknown to me.  I know many of their names, and can name the recognizable traits that allow me to tell them apart, but these are five hundred acquaintances, with some friends scattered among them.

How many people does your main character see in a week? Continue reading “One-Line Characterization”

A Short Story Challenge

Last year, on New Year’s Eve, a couple of my friends and I got together late at night.  We challenged each other to write a short story to commemorate the holiday.  I’m not sure what happened to their stories— mine, I know, is still sitting in a folder waiting to be finished.  Considering I couldn’t think of anything except ‘gravel elephants’ as an idea, I’m not disappointed.

This year, we wanted to do something different.  We wanted to do something better.  We wanted to do something with you.

I introduce my short story challenge.  Any who wish may take the hours leading up to midnight, December 31st, and write a short story.  Only two requirements here: when the new year appears, you are writing; and sometime the next day, that story is published.

The goal here is to write and publish in a short period of time.  This means you aren’t going to be able to edit much.  You’ll have about twenty hours to edit (if you don’t sleep), so you’ll want quality over quantity.  Eighteen thousand words won’t help you if it’s a repetition of your grocery list.  Instead, keep the story short and easy to edit, and don’t stress about the outcome.  It’s a challenge, not a competition, and the important thing is writing and publishing.

Here’s an FAQ, except ‘frequently’ here is replaced with ‘foreseeably’. Continue reading “A Short Story Challenge”

The Unsaid

I recently read Ballad, by Maggie Stiefvater.  I enjoyed the book thoroughly, but it struck me hard.  One of the themes of the book applies to almost everything: the Unsaid.  Words people don’t say.

One of the ‘viewpoints’ of the book consisted of text messages from the protagonist of the first book, Lament.  While she had no true viewpoint in Ballad, her texts showed her character arc.  Each text, addressed to the viewpoint character, showed a bit of her soul— and each text, personal and short, remained unsent.  She never actually said anything she wanted to say.

The viewpoint character of Ballad, on the other hand, made his thoughts the analogue of the unsent texts.  Nothing he wanted to say, he said.  He thought everything, and made jokes to cover up the silence.

It was a powerful way to write the character dynamics, just between the two of them.  When combined with all the Unsaid between the viewpoint character and the other characters, it created an amazing weave of half-truths and assumptions that were too delicate ever to speak plainly.

Is Maggie Stiefvater alone in her understanding of the Unsaid?  I don’t think so.  This is a concept that finds itself almost everywhere— and I mean that.  But for the sake of my sanity, I’ll focus on fiction.  You can ponder the repercussions. Continue reading “The Unsaid”