Authormelwong

The Heart of Your Story

When I was in high school, I took a semester of Theater as an elective. I forget why I did it originally–I suspect I may have been strong-armed into it by an acquaintance–but I’ve never regretted it.

To my surprise, I did well enough that I ended up in two plays. I still have no idea how that happened.

All my English classes taught the bare minimum: spelling, basic mechanics, and the rules of the language. Only one teacher ever went into anything beyond that, and they went the way of personal interpretation. All of them ignored structure–which would have been helpful, since I remember more than a handful of occasions where we were required to write an original short story as an assignment. Instead, I learned about it in Theater, of all places.

We learned the Three-Act Structure, which consists of the following set up:

Act I

  • Introduction — The Main Character is introduced to the audience.
  • Exposition — We learn more about the MC and their relationships.
  • Catalyst — This is the event that motivates the MC and moves the story forward. The resolution of this event becomes the Goal.

Act II

  • Rising Action — The MC is taking actions that intend to move him/her closer to the Goal.
  • Turning Point — The MC finds a way to reach the Goal. This may be preceded by a backslide.

Act III

  • Climax — The outcome of this event determines if the MC reaches their Goal.
  • Falling Action — The Goal has [or has not] been met, and the MC is dealing with the aftermath.
  • Close — A last look at the MC and how the events of the story affected and/or changed them.

This is the classic structure of storytelling, and is the backbone of many tales. This was later replaced by the Five-Act Structure, which is illustrated here as Freytag’s Pyramid:

Though I didn't know it was called that until a few years ago.
Though I didn’t know it had a name until a few years ago. [Source: Wikimedia Commons]

It’s much easier to understand when it is shown to you like this.

  • Exposition — Introduction to Main Character, setting, and backstory.
  • Rising Action — Events that propel the MC toward the climax.
  • Climax — The major event of the story that reverses the MC’s fortune. [Bad -> Good or Good -> Bad]
  • Falling Action — The conflict arising from the events of the climax is confronted and dealt with.
  • Denouement — The end. All previous conflicts have been resolved, and the MC has undergone a metamorphosis.

The elements of those five parts will also have their own shape. They will vary from writer to writer, but there are common ones that tend to crop up. Let’s go over a few of them!

Flat

For the most part, you don’t want this. They are boring, tedious areas where nothing happens to develop characters or advance the plot. Think about a book you’ve read where you find yourself skimming the page, hoping to get to the next scene break. That’s Flat. New writers tend to go flat in the beginning of the story, thinking they have to detail everything about the setting and main character all at once, which overwhelms the reader. If a story is flat for too long, readers will give up on it before you have a chance to get to the plot.

But… Flat doesn’t have to be negative. You can use it to your advantage–especially to heighten suspense, or the impact of an unexpected turn in the story. The key is to keep it brief, but just long enough to make the reader start to wonder where you are going. That’s when you can lead into a Sudden Spike, and turn tedium into a form of tension.

Sudden Spike

When you have tension followed by a major event, followed by downtime, that is the Sudden Spike. Think of a scene where two people who clearly don’t like each other are exchanging dialog. This is the build up of tension. One character will say the wrong [or right] thing, and a fight erupts! This is the spike. After the encounter is over, there is a period of downtime which can be anything from one character having been thoroughly defeated and fleeing the situation, to the two characters realizing that fighting is pointless and deciding to resolve their differences in another way. The event doesn’t have to be physical; it can be anything that causes stress to the Main Character.

Mesa

These occur where the story takes a turn for the worse for the Main Character. You have a rise where things seem to be going well, or maybe the scene begins on a high note. This becomes something the reader expects to continue, which is the flat part at the top of the rise. Then suddenly, something catastrophic happens and the MC plummets from where they had been–losing a dream job, failing to prevent something precious from being taken from them, or being defeated by the villain–all events that become the straight drop of the mesa. At the bottom, you have a flat part where the MC has to come to terms with what has happened before they move forward.

Rise-Fall-Rise

This is one of my personal favorites, because when it is done right it packs a hefty emotional punch. It could also be called “Exchange” because during these one thing is lost in order to gain another. You start during an action scene, and as it comes to its climax the bottom drops out and something bad happens. In order to qualify as a true Rise-Fall-Rise, something good has to come from the bad thing. This could be anything from a precious memento being destroyed in order to save the world, to defeating the villain but having a character die in the process. These moments typically occur at the peak of rising action, or at the end of the climax. It does not count if the reader only thinks the Main Character will lose something, but in the end they don’t lose anything and still gain the benefit. That is a Threatened Rise-Fall-Rise, and while some writers feel it is easier on the reader it comes off as cheap–unless written extremely well.

A great example of a well-executed Threatened Rise-Fall-Rise is the “I Open at the Close” scene in the Harry Potter books; while a classic example of a true Rise-Fall-Rise is during the climax of the first season of the TV series Stranger Things, in the scene with Eleven and the Demogorgon.

Decline

While you traditionally see this during denouement–with the Main Character resolving conflict and tying up loose ends–it can also turn up during Rising Action. This may seem counter-intuitive, but there are stories where this is necessary. If you have a tale of redemption, you need a decline of events to show the Main Character hitting their low point before the catalyst makes them change their ways. If a character needs to lose everything before they heed the call-to-action–then you use a Decline–chaining bad events together until the character has nowhere to go but up.

Keep in mind that
Keep in mind that “low point” is entirely relative to the character themselves…

A good way to see how your story moves is to map out the flow of each scene, then string them together to see the pulse of your story. Overall, you should see something similar to the Five-Act Structure, but you will also see all the little things in between. If your story has multiple storylines running at once, then map out each one individually. You will gain fascinating insights, such as discovering that even if two characters share a scene it may be charted differently between them. [Which you will see below.]

I refer to it as a pulse because it should look like the readout on an EKG–with peaks and valleys–proof that your story is alive. As an example, I mapped out two intersecting story pulses from volume #2 of my Atlantis: TVC series:

The whole book takes place over the span of a day, so the peaks and valleys are more exaggerated than what you’ll see in a story that plays out over a longer period of time. The two characters shown here–Achine [Main Character] and Gialasa–are together for the entire book, except when they are separated at the end. As you can see, each girl’s arc is different, despite them going through the same events at the same time.

Achine’s pulse has several Mesas, and the one right at the climax also doubles as a Rise-Fall-Rise. In sharp contrast, Gialasa’s begins from a higher point [part of carry over from volume #1] and continues as a Decline, marked by two small Sudden Spikes that only continue the downward trend. As you can see, this character is having a difficult time. The bottom of Achine’s Rise-Fall-Rise is Gia’s lowest point, and the two arcs begin to rise together just after the climax. During denouement, she ends up in a better position than Achine, and it shows in the ending height of their respective pulses.

What’s interesting to note is that as I stated earlier, the girls are both in the same bad situation throughout the book, but their pulses are vastly different. Achine’s determined personality makes her proactive, which creates sharper rises and steeper falls in her pulse as she tries to improve their situation. Gialasa has a anxious, meek nature, and this causes the steady decline of her arc’s pulse as fear renders her unable to function for the majority of the story. It only rises towards the end, when she is finally forced to act.

If you find your story is receiving negative feedback about pacing, or if you feel it is missing something that you can’t put your finger on, try taking its pulse. Seeing your story in a different way may highlight parts where you can improve.

For me, seeing my own characters’ pulses side-by-side shows the difference an active character and a passive character can have on the same story. If Gia were the main character she wouldn’t be able to advance the narrative in a meaningful way on her own, and it would make for a frustrating read! But because she is a supporting character–and she has precedence for behaving the way she does–she becomes an important foil for Achine during the course of the story. Gialasa’s weakness is part of what motivates her to act.

However, you can’t tell subtle things like that from pulse comparisons. So while they are great for seeing the rhythm of a story or arc, you can’t gauge whether it is good based on its pulse alone. But when used together with feedback from a trusted source [editors, beta readers, etc.], it becomes a valuable tool for fine-tuning your story.

Thanks-Give-Away Promotion

To say thank you to my readers, all my available works are free over the Thanksgiving holiday. That’s right–free! If you’ve been waiting to pick up volume #2 of the Atlantis: TVC series, or to try one of my other stories, now is the time! Want something to curl up with while you snack on leftovers? This deal is for you!

Have a friend you think may be interested in one of the stories listed above? Feel free to share this promotion! It’s for ALL my readers–current and future.

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Thank you all for your support. I am truly thankful for each and every one of you.

[Links to the listed e-books can be found on the Shop page in the header, or by clicking on the image above.]

Kill Your Darlings

Nope. I’m not going to trot out the same tired advice to trim word count by slashing plot and/or removing characters. I’m going to talk about literarily killing your characters. [Ha! Puns.]

Since my long-running series is fantasy-based, this will all be from the perspective of a fantasy setting. However, that shouldn’t stop you from applying what you learn here to a realistic world. [Provided it’s not a simple case of the magic-user used magic and the victim totally died, because that’s difficult to pull off when magic doesn’t exist in your world. You’re smart–you’ll know how to glean what you need from this.]

We could go on for hours about swords, instant-death spells, and arson; but those are pretty straightforward ways to kill or incapacitate someone. We’re going to go into the realm of cloak, dagger, and intrigue. That’s right–poison.

Poison is the perfect medium! Need a long, drawn out death? Poison. Need something that kills near-instantly? Also poison. Need something difficult to detect, or that mimics natural causes? Poison can do that. Need a reason to send your characters on a quest where they set aside their differences and come together in order to find an antidote? Poison’s got your number.

And as an added bonus, not only can it do all those things, but it’s discreetly administered. Aside from becoming liquid insurance for an assassin’s blade, it can take the form of an ingredient in a sumptuous meal or delicious tea. It could even be released into the air via deadly but wonderfully-perfumed incense. Poison can be everywhere. Not only that, but most poison is derived from natural sources.

That’s right! There is so much out there that can kill someone without you needing to make anything up. If you want to lean hard into the fantasy setting, you could devise any number of fantastic plants or venom that could be made into a plot point. But if you’re like me and want a touch of realism in your stories, you just need to look at things that are common in our world.

My favorite example is rhododendron ponticum. It’s a beautiful, ornamental shrub common to many parts of the globe. In fact, it’s called Common Rhododendron. Look at this thing. So innocuous.

It’s beautiful for something that will cause nausea, vomiting, breathing difficulty, and heart failure if you consume any part of it. But the best thing about it is that honey made from its pollen is so toxic, even the bees that make and consume it are poisoned. In fact, jars of this honey strategically placed in a village took down almost an entire army of Roman soldiers in 401 BC. Though, to be fair, they were left in 67 BC to take down a different invading army. As a plot device, readers and writers alike would call that deus ex machina BS. [But it’s history!]

The lovely thing is that honey is so innocent. In fantasy it’s often used as a sweetener in place of sugar, and even in our world it is common to drizzle it on pancakes, over oatmeal, in yogurt, or spread it on toast. No one would suspect a thing.

Delicious agony…

And that’s only one of the things that you can use. There are agents out there that come straight from the ground itself that can kill. Want to venture into the land of slightly-absurd-but-still effective poisons? Look no further than diamond dust.

Luxurious agony!

Yes, seriously. Though it’s not a poison on its own, when ingested the shards will embed themselves in the organs of the victim, causing infection–which leads to sepsis–and death. It’s a slow process, taking several months to work. It is an older method of assassination used most frequently during the Renaissance. It wouldn’t work in a modern setting due to the advanced medical technology we have nowadays.

The poison a character chooses can say a lot about them. What is more fantastic and decadent than a monarch using diamonds to take out the ruler of a kingdom they are at war with?

Another benefit of poisons: they don’t have to kill. In fact, sometimes there is more to be gained in incapacitating someone. Have a scheming advisor that wants power? Killing the king would make the throne go to the next in line. But what if the king becomes too ill to rule? The advisor might become regent until the king recovers… [Spoiler alert: Unless a protagonist steps in, the king will remain “ill” indefinitely.]

You can use poison to enhance tension as well. Finding an antidote can take time your heroes don’t have, and making or procuring it can be difficult on top of that. This is a good way to divide a large group, bring characters together, or send them off to another part of your world. Want a cure to be even harder to obtain? Combine your poisons. Not good enough? Mix real world toxins with ones you invent. The only limit is your imagination and how dead or incapacitated you want your characters to be.

Armed with this knowledge you can now go out there and not just poison your darlings, but do it catastrophically!

P.S: Here is a handy list of poisonous plants to get you started. Have fun!

 

 

Insert Witty Joke About Writers and Alcohol Here

Sometimes my writing brings me to strange places. This time it has lead to me making my own liqueur.

If you’ve read volume 2, then you remember a scene with someone sipping Sweet Summer out of a glass on a balcony while attempting to wax nostalgic as they drank. The Tirtessian alcohol makes a few appearances in the first half of volume 3 as well, and I got to thinking… would it be possible to actually make this?

With that thought fresh in my mind, I purchased ingredients and began to experiment. I don’t want to spoil anything too much, but I will say that trying to construct a foolproof recipe has been a test of my patience. I read up on how to make liqueur, made tweaks based off recipes similar to what I was looking for, and waited. The minimum waiting period of each batch is two weeks, and the first one failed spectacularly. I mean it was completely, utterly undrinkable–like turpentine and furniture polish had a nasty baby in my cupboard.

I started on a second batch and made some adjustments after more research. The results were much better than the first go, but it was watery somehow, and not what I wanted. I ended up trying to boil it to get it to condense, and I think that messed it up. That one was discarded as well.

So I started the third batch and held my breath, going for broke. After the two week wait I was apprehensive, and spent a long time carefully straining the cloudy, pale yellow liquid. At this stage it did not look appetizing in the least! It began to take on a brighter hue and cleaner appearance as I removed the byproducts, and my hopes began to rise.

Finally, I had strained it as far as I could and it had magically turned into something close to the bright, yellow liqueur I wrote about. Success!

Well, visual success, anyway. I mean, it looked and smelt like what I wanted, but how did it taste?

I drank a sip of it hesitantly from a small glass. It. Was. Amazing.

The final recipe feels so wasteful because after all is said and done you discard about one-half to two-thirds of the batch in order to clarify it–but what is left is a brilliant, semi-opaque, syrup-like liqueur that coats your mouth in the most wonderful way. I made it in a mason jar, and when you pop the lid off the smell of citrus perfumes the air around you. It’s not sour, like I expected. In fact it’s incredibly sweet, and that makes it feel like you aren’t drinking alcohol at all. My only regret is that I could not strain it well enough, so it’s a bit cloudier than I feel it should be. I may try to pick up a paper filter and see if that helps. [Multiple runs through a fine mesh sieve and a tea sock is how I got the result I have, so we’ll see if I waste money on that or not.]

It’s a surreal kind of indulgence to drink an alcohol that I made up, while writing the story I concocted it for–in some parts, as my characters are drinking it.

To keep it accessible to everyone, I still need to develop a non-alcoholic version. I’m not exactly sure how I am going to manage that, as the alcohol is a key component that drives the chemical change; but I have a feeling that despite my misgivings the non-alcoholic version will be the easiest to make. There will be little to no wait period–failure can happen faster than ever!


The recipe will be released close to the publication date of volume 3. It will be included in the bonus content of the book itself, and here on my blog.

Note: I wrote this over the summer, as I write some posts months in advance but don’t publish them until later. I’m clarifying since it follows my last post. The only thing I am drinking right now that would raise eyebrows is iced coffee, ha ha. [Though according to ACOG, you can drink up to 200 mg of caffeine safely. Let’s put that old wives’ tale to bed for good!]

Though… this would be a great time to work on my non-alcoholic version of Sweet Summer.

You May Have Noticed…

…a strange silence that isn’t quite like me. I usually try to put a post up every three weeks or so, but as I said on Twitter back in September, life has delivered me some pretty impressive hiatus-forcing moments these past three months.

But like any good story, some of them were positive things! At the beginning of August I started medication for my HS, and it works. The difference was like night and day–even with the first set of shots! I cannot begin to tell you what it feels like to go from being in constant, excruciating pain to feeling something like a normal human. In fact, the medicine even helped to improve other things I had long term issues with, like my chronic back pain from a car accident almost 10 years ago. [Herniated L5/S1. Boo.]

But then it helped with an issue I never in a million years thought it would help with: my unexplained infertility. I became pregnant after the first set of shots.

Now as you know, we already have a daughter. We have no idea how we had her. Seriously–we were undergoing all kinds of exams, tests, and procedures when I became pregnant with her. It took three years to get her, and that was after we started with interventions and had several miscarriages. We still have no idea what combinations of treatment worked. [We were about to move onto IUI/IVF.] After she was born we tried for a second kid almost right away, afraid that we would miss our chance due to how long it took to end up with our first.

If you’re good at math, daughter is four now, so we were even more unsuccessful this time than the last. In fact, by the time we received a diagnosis for my HS we had put our plan of a second kid on the back burner until after we figured out how to stop my immune system from trying to kill me.

This new baby is unexpected, but desperately wanted. I’ve never even imagined having a “surprise” pregnancy because of how difficult it was to conceive our first! We are over-the-moon excited about this, though I have not had an easy time so far. [Unexplained bleeding, lots of emergency ultrasounds, etc.] I’ve been a basket-case because I’m always scared that the Universe will swoop in and destroy our happiness. [I have some anxiety issues, yes…]

I’m almost in the second trimester now, and once that hits, I hope to get back to writing. I’ve been poking at it, but between feeling sick, tired, and nervous, I’ve been preoccupied and unable to focus on it. My goal is to get Atlantis: TVC volume #3 finished before next March so that I can take time off to spend with the new baby. [And maybe write some short stories. Who knows?] There is a lot of stuff we have to think about now too, like whether or not we should move to a larger place. [Do I even want to move while pregnant? Ugh. No.]

At any rate, I thank you all for your patience during this time! I have had a few people message me privately wondering if something happened to me. I’m not dead, I promise! Just getting to a point where I feel better, and focused enough to start writing again. rainbow

The Glottal Stop [AKA: The Weird Apostrophe in That Word]

What do you call the apostrophe that appears in the middle of a word? Not one indicating possession, but one that is stuck in something for a reason that only seems discernible to the person who did it.

They’re called glottal stops, and not only do they appear in the names of real people, but they are common enough in fantasy writing to be considered a trope.

Now, full disclosure here–I use them in my writing. Specifically in my Atlantis: The Visionary Continent series. Why? To separate Native Atlantian [what the original Atlantians spoke] from Modern Atlantian, which is infused with all kinds of junk from other languages. [Notably Latin; to which I say… big surprise.] If you come across a glottal stop in my series then you know it’s an old word.

In American English they’re pronounced like a brief, stuttered pause–which is your vocal cords momentarily closing. This elongates the sound of the letter before the pause, often enough to overtake the letter after it. [As in “Mountain” {mount’in} or “Button” {butt’n}.] Most works of fantasy or sci-fi use them this way, though sometimes the rules of a specific series [or author] treat them as if they have their own sound–which is valid and happens in other real world languages as well. I treat them accordingly for Atlantian, which makes the name “I’nass” sound like ee-nass rather than eh-nass. Contrasting that is the other “I” name in my books, Idane, which has no glottal stop and is pronounced eh-dah-nay. [Allophones are fun, right?]

Not many people know what they’re called, and that they serve a purpose in language. More often than not they are filed under “Made-Up Fantasy and Sci-Fi BS“, or “Trying Too Hard to Be Creative” and left there to fester. Unfortunately this leads to the glottal stop getting a bad rap. I’ve heard everything from “lazy writers use them as a crutch to make names sound ‘exotic’,” to “If I see them in anything I’m reading, I will literally throw the book across the room and stop reading it.” Ouch, right? Why the visceral reaction? [Also, do those people throw their e-readers, or do they just delete the book in a rage? I imagine that is as anti-climatic as pressing the “End Call” button really hard on your phone’s screen.]

Though better than a broken e-reader every few books.

One guess would be overuse, despite the fact that recent negativity has made them uncommon again. I can’t figure out why a very vocal segment of readers respond to them the way they do. My first suspicion is that it’s become trendy to hate it. It happens to a lot of books and writing styles–if anything has ever been popular at one point, it will give rise to a counterculture that hates it simply for the sake of not wanting to follow the trend of enjoying it. [That was a mouthful, wasn’t it?]

Of course, overuse and misuse are both terrible things… but when a large group of people can’t even tolerate the thought of one, it raises questions. And no group is more polarized about it than other writers–you run the gamut of them thinking the glottal stop is whimsical, to acting like wanting to include one in your work constitutes some kind of war crime.

The battles are fierce, and not as verbose as you’d think.

It’s an innocent bit of punctuation! It has its time, and place. It’s like the Oxford Comma’s lesser known cousin; becoming more and more reviled as the years pass. Why all the hate for a tiny little mark between letters?

P.S: I am Pro-Oxford Comma.

P.S.S: I will officially declare my love of the super-versatile em dash. It is my favorite bit of punctuation, and has been ever since I can remember. [Even before I knew what it was officially called.] heart

End of Summer Sale!

That’s right! Volumes #1 and #2 are on sale this weekend! You can pick up Volume #1The Visionary Continent for FREE, and Volume #2Awakening is only 99¢. Grab them before summer is over! [They’re great for reading by the pool, or so I’m told…]

If you’re looking for a shorter read, my novelette Simple Words is free this weekend as well!

Writing, Tropes, and Losing Yourself in the Details

I was tempted to call this post “Tropey Tropey Trope Tropes”, because this is the state of mind I am in right now.

In one of the writing forums I frequent, tropes in fantasy novels came up for discussion. The main post asked what we writers [as readers] thought the genre was lacking, and what we would like to see in the future. Most writers used the opportunity to list what tropes they felt were tired and worn out, but some of them listed things they would like to see. The interesting part for me was that before this post, I didn’t realize how many tropes my Atlantis: TVC series subverts or deconstructs. Of course, there are many that it plays true to; after all, tropes are tropes because they’re common, and they’re common because they work. [See, this is why I aimed for that title, because the word “trope” is going to come up. A lot. It’s going to look strange on the screen after a while, and by the end of this article it will become a mass of letters that not only will seem spelled wrong, but lack meaning. Also, that’s known as semantic satiation. Or you can be fancy and call it jamais vu.]

Fun and educational!
This post is fun and educational!

Obligatory TV Tropes Warning: I’m totally going to link to TV Tropes beyond this point. You will lose hours, possibly days by following these links. Stay strong!

Okay, now that the disclaimer is out of the way, let me start by saying this–and reinforcing an earlier point–tropes are not inherently bad. Tropes are tools. [See what I did there?] Like I said, I was surprised by how many tropes I unconsciously subverted. I didn’t intend to do this; the story just happened to take me in this direction. I wrote a post a while back and in it I stated how after I began taking my writing seriously, I became disenchanted with all media because I spent so much time dissecting it, trying to predict where the story would go. It became so bad that I stopped enjoying it. I had to take a giant step back and learn to turn my inner writer off.

[Note: At this point in the article, I went to look something up and wasted three hours on TV Tropes without realizing it. Let that be an additional warning for you, in case you were not taking my previous one seriously.]

I ended up having to take a long break from everything to do with writing–writing forums, writing guides, TV Tropes, actual television… and yes, writing. I was taking a trip to visit my parents for a few weeks, so I deliberately left my laptop at home. The only thing I’d have access to would be the tactics, and rhythm games I had on my 3DS, and the games I had on my phone. [Mostly puzzle games, like Sailor Moon Drops.] And of course, Reality TV, because that’s what my parents enjoy. I can easily tune that out though, so that last one wasn’t a big deal.

It worked. I came back fully reset and not only able to enjoy the things I used to love, but having a better idea of how not to fall into that cynical mindset again. Surprisingly, it helped me to see my own book in a new light, and I ended up tearing down a lot of the future events I had planned and reconstructing them from the ground up. I am really pleased with the direction I’m moving in now, and I feel my writing is stronger for it.

Oddly enough, this is what is allowing me to self-analyze my own work and see what I have done. Here are some of the tropes I have identified in Atlantis: TVC:

Note: I tried to not spoil anything crucial to the plot.

    • A Birthday, Not a Break – Achine. [I feel bad for her. It just makes everything happening at the time worse.]
    • Calling Your Attacks – This was one of my favorites. Subverted by Eruni in volume #2, then deconstructed by Varanis in the same scene.
    • Mana Drain – Played mostly straight.
    • Mythopoeia – True to trope. Atlantian gods, goddesses, and mythos are all figments of my own imagination and not based on anything in reality. [Excepting Atlantis itself, which was a myth in its own right, but nothing about my version and the common version match.]
    • Urban Fantasy – Slightly subverted, and partially deconstructed. Though in the story Atlantis exists in its own bubble in our times, Davidian’s explorations into “modern” society have inspired advancements in Atlantian science and technology–the most notable of those being the mana potion, which was already mentioned as being something he drove development of in volume #2. [Later in the series his exact inspiration will be revealed, but you can probably guess what it was if you think about it.]

There were more I wanted to mention, but I would be spoiling major plot points from the current and future volumes.

When I originally created the Atlantis: TVC series eighteen years ago, I had no idea what a trope was. When I was re-tooling it two years ago [By the way, today marks the two-year anniversary of when I started writing volume #1! Time sure flies, huh?] I knew of tropes, but didn’t really know what they were in detail. I can’t imagine what it would have been like trying to write with a negative view of tropes stuck in my head! If I listened to everything I read, I may have never gotten past my notes…

At some point you’re going to have someone criticize your work. You’re going to read somewhere that writers who don’t go out of their way to subvert tropes shouldn’t be writing at all because everything has been done already. When you do come across this, put it out of your mind. Just because a formula is the same doesn’t mean it’s going to be written the exact same way. Every story is different, despite sharing tropes. That’s why people have favorite types of stories–because usually they share tropes! So when you encounter that, remember: only you can write your story.

P.S: Some of my personal favorite tropes are: Freaky Friday, Relationship Upgrade, Babies Ever After, Rescue Reversal, Firting Under Fire, Heroic B.S.O.D., Let’s Get Dangerous, Battle Couple, and Hope Springs Eternal. What are some of yours?

The Fragile, Fallible Writing Ego

Have you ever hit a block–one that isn’t exactly a writer’s block, but more of a confidence block? That’s where I’m sitting right now. I’ve been binging on media lately, which means I’m watching a lot of TV.

One of my favorite shows [with the worst airing schedule in the universe–pun status is: “unintended, but not unwelcome”] is premiering a new episode daily until mid-August, and it is consuming my brain currently. I just came out of season 3 of Sailor Moon Crystal, binged all of Gravity Falls, and ReLIFE; but this show destroying what is left of me. There are so few well-written shows nowadays, and the ones that are done right are just… explosively right. And despite the fact that a novel is a completely different medium from a TV show, I still sit here and think, “I will never be that good. I will never write anything remotely that good. Dammit.

After that, moving my cursor across the blank page becomes the most arduous task in the world. Even if I want to write–even if I’ve been excited to work on a scene–it’s beyond me. I don’t know if all authors have this issue, or if they just push through it until it’s gone. If I try to work through it, all that comes out is drivel. Letting Future Me “clean it up in editing” results in Future Me having to rewrite all of Past Me’s crap.

Meanwhile, my chronic illness is getting worse and some days I can’t even think well enough to handle staring at a wall much less write. So when I have a good day, and I want to write but can’t, I just make it worse by berating myself for not being able to take the opportunity. Thus, I watch TV, and… it’s a horrible cycle that just keeps going.

What stops it? A perfect storm–a good day health-wise where something within a show, book, or game stands out and sets off a spark of creativity inside of me; something that whispers that maybe everything I write isn’t trash, and that I can do this because I am the only one who can tell my story the way it needs to be told.

 

Life Imitating Art

Have you heard about YInMn pigment in the news recently? It was discovered back in 2009, but a company is going to start producing a paint based on it so it’s recently become a hot story. Look at it–it’s beautiful, isn’t it?

Well, the Atlantians think so too, because it’s the royal color there. It’s on tapestries, banners, tabards–even the shingles on the roof of Castle Atlantis are painted in this color! [Which is funny because the pigment can be used to help with energy efficiency, especially when used on roofing.]

Based on the science behind it, it’s feasible that Atlantian alchemists could have come up with the same pigment. I wasn’t thinking of that when I was worldbuilding though. It just happens to be a nice coincidence. It also happens to be topical to volume 3, as that is where we get a closer look at alchemy in Atlantis. Prior to this volume, any references to alchemy have been rooted in medicine–potions, elixirs, topical remedies–that kind of thing. Soon, we get to see alchemy used in a functional sense, and as a weapon. This is especially fun [for me] because I get to write about an item I’ve thought about for years, and now it’s finally being used in the story!

Despite being at a point in my story I’m excited for, I’m finding it a bit difficult to write due to my illness, so I’m not writing as much as I would like. I keep hoping this particular flare will pass, and I won’t feel like a dirty sock lying in a gutter because it’s difficult to write when all you want to do is drag yourself toward the nearest soft object and lay there quietly. This unfortunately never happens because: three year-old. If I take my eye off her for a second, I am fishing a whole roll of toilet paper slurry out of the sink, or removing toys from the garbage disposal because she sits there and throws them at that side of the sink like she’s shooting hoops. I didn’t get a child that sits quietly and colors, or plays with toys–that’s for sure! [She gets that from her dad; I was the sit quietly child and he was… not, ha ha!] So most of my free energy is spent watching/interacting with her. By the time my husband gets home and I’ve cooked dinner, then washed the dishes, I feel like this clock:

Don’t get me wrong–I adore her. I just wish this disease didn’t rob me of so much energy. Sometimes my husband brings home take out, which is expensive but worth the sanity it provides me. Because I didn’t have to cook/do dishes tonight, I was able to catch up on laundry and write this post. How awful is that? I never imagined I’d be at a point in my life where I’d have to choose between cooking and doing laundry because I’d be too exhausted physically and mentally to do both in the same day.

I compromise by trying to be active on social media when I don’t feel up to writing. This way I at least feel like I’m doing something productive while waiting to feel better. So if this blog is quiet for too long, you can catch up with me on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. I don’t bite–I swear!