The 777 Writing Challenge

I’ve been stuck with an awful cold for the past couple of days, so I’m not going to try and write an eloquent, beautiful post today for fear of accidentally making absolutely no sense (which has happened on occasion). Instead, I’m going to do a tag I saw the other day on The Librarian Files (for your information, I was not tagged, I’m just lazy and sick and unable to write anything decent today, which is why I’m doing this tag. Plus, it looked like fun.) Here are the rules:

The 777 challenge requires you go to Page 7 of your work-in-progress (whether writing or editing), scroll down to Line 7 and share the next 7 lines in a blog post. Once you have done this, you can tag 7 other bloggers to do the same with their work-in-progress.

Here’s my excerpt, from the unnamed work-in-progress I’m about three-quarters of the way through drafting right now:

“Lucky for me, I won’t end up having to fight anyone anytime soon. I’ve got plenty of time.”

“The time may come sooner than you expect.”

“Well, I’m glad to see you so positive about things.”

“There’s no need to be so sarcastic, Siri. I’m being realistic. It’d be better for you to know it and not need it than to have your life depend on it and not know a single thing.”

Siri opened her mouth to retort, but the sound of clicking heels echoed down the passage, and she closed it abruptly.

The footsteps stopped, then started again, this time closer than before.

“Out of the hallway,” Katia hissed. She flung open the barred door of Siri’s cell and shoved her inside. Siri heard the turn of a key, and then the sound of light feet on the floor, growing distant as her sister darted away.

And now for my seven tag-ees:

Rohan at Writing Stories Rocks

Victoria at Stori Tori’s Blog

Rachel at Stained Glass Windows

Rae at What Happened to the Wallflower?

Red at Awkwardly Artistic

Katherine at Spiral-Bound

And (drum roll please) . . .

YOU!

Hopefully I’ll be not-as-sick and able to speak in comprehensible sentences pretty soon, since I’m planning a longer and more time-consuming post for Friday as a little sign-off before I take a week or so long spring break from blogging. If I’m still watching Netflix in a haze of sickness on my bed, though, it’s probably going to be a little simpler, but regardless, I’ll see you on Friday.

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My Top 5 Writing Tools

I only have time for a quick post, so today, I’ll be sharing a list of my favorite writing tools.

Google Drive

I used to write with Microsoft, and although Microsoft’s more visually appealing, I find that Google Drive is way easier to use. It saves automatically and it’s easily accessible from anywhere as long as you have access to internet. I especially like the comments feature, which I use all the time to make notes to myself as I write.

Writing Blogs

A couple weeks ago, I talked about my top 5 writing blogs. Usually, when I get stuck with my writing, I turn to that assortment of blogs to re-energize. I’ve learned a lot just from reading them on a regular basis, from how to get past writer’s block to how to clarify your theme to how exactly you get started in the publishing process.

Youtube

I can’t stand writing in silence, so most of the time, I use music to get me into the mood for whatever I’m writing. I found that Youtube is great for this— it’s completely free and there’s a huge variety of music for any taste.

Pinterest

I’m 99.9% sure that Pinterest is one of the main reasons I procrastinate so much, so I was absolutely thrilled when I realized that I could use it as a writing tool and consider it working to create mood boards and character boards and pretty much anything else I need inspiration for.

Paper and Pencil

Yup, you read that right. I may like to write on the computer, but paper and pencil will be vital to writing forever. Whether I’m working out a plot, a timeline, a character, whatever, being able to visually map out something helps me see it clearer, and in turn, write it more clearly. There’s something very satisfying about starting with a fresh sheet of notebook paper and drawing all over it with little bubbles and scrawled words and arrows pointing in every direction.

My Top 5 Writing Tools-- Olivia Simone

I hope you enjoyed today’s post, and I’ll see you on Friday.

Character Development Pt. 4: Looks

If you’re new to this series (welcome!), make sure to check out the first three posts: naming characters, character backstories, and character personalities. For those of you who are regular readers, welcome back! Let’s get started.

These last few weeks, I’ve been talking about more the concept-based ideas of character creation– personalities and stories that add up to create the person hidden within their shell. Today, I want to talk about the actual shell.

At this point in your life, you’ve probably realized that people are treated differently based on what they look like: sexism, racism, and all kinds of other -isms abound in today’s society alongside the discrimination that surrounds them. All of those things have a huge impact on the way characters present themselves to the world, the way they think of themselves, and the way other characters view them.

A teenage African-American girl would have a totally different experience from a white man in his early 60s. Depending on your plot or setting, she might face serious racism or sexism, struggle with her looks or body image (like many girls her age), or face thousands of other problems relating to her appearance. The man, however, might be used to getting his way and not having to deal with racism or sexism, considering the generation he would have grown up in.

Although the idea of looks being a huge part of who your character is may seem shallow, it’s actually completely necessary (as shown above). Sometimes the whole picture of the character won’t show up until you’re done with your first (or second, or third . . .) draft, just like their complete personality might not, so don’t worry if all you’ve got is a little blank holding space for a character yet to come.

Character Development Pt. 4: Looks-- Olivia Simone

Since this is the last post in this series, I’d like to thank all of you who stuck with it the whole way through, as well as those of you who may be newer to my blog and are reading this for the first time (in which case, take a moment to check out the earlier posts in the series– links are posted in the beginning of this post). As always, I’ll be posting on Friday, but until then, enjoy the warm weather while you can (hopefully, it’ll stick around for longer than a couple of days).

Character Development Pt. 3: Personality

If you’re new to this series (welcome!), make sure to check out my first two posts: naming characters and character backstories. For those of you who are regular readers, welcome back! Let’s get started.

Imagine living in a world where everybody’s the same. Maybe people look different– different colors of hair, skin, eyes, you name it– but they all speak the same way, feel the same way, even think the same way. Kind of creepy, right?

Clarifying point: I will not be talking about Erudite mind control or Walking Dead-style zombification today. However, I’m going to be talking about a slightly different kind of zombie: the kind that happens when characters get a bit too off-settingly similar to one another.

Sure, your characters may look different from one another, but (and this is going to sound really melodramatic) it’s what’s inside that counts. Your reader won’t be seeing Character X’s long, flowing blonde locks and Character Y’s purple eyes. You can try and cement those ideas of their appearance in as much as you want to, but what the reader’s going to remember is not what they look like, but who they are beyond the picture you’ve presented.

Although picking a bunch of adjectives and cramming them inside the shell of a character may work for some of you (and my sincerest congratulations if you can do it that easily), I use a different, way more difficult, and time-consuming method to figure out who my characters are.

And it works, or at least it has so far.

The way I discover my characters’ personalities is through writing about them and thinking about them non-stop until I chip away at all the rocks and whatnot hiding the diamond that is my character. (Okay, that was really melodramatic). Maybe there are a few rough spots left, but the only ones I’ve found are the type that are easy enough to smooth out while editing.

The writing is hardly publishable, and I don’t even dream of trying to work it in to my WIP unless it’s a true work of art (a very rare occurrence). Most of mine are little scenes filled with painful prose and awkward transitions, and depending on the character, way too much drama.

But little by little, I figure out what fits and what doesn’t, what should stay and what should go. It takes a while, but I’m finally able to uncover the little gem of personality hidden inside my characters.

After that, there’s a whole process I go through as I write the actual piece, when little snippets of wisdom (relating to all kinds of character development, but especially personality-wise) randomly fly into my head and I write them down on the nearest acceptable surface. Most of that may happen in the shower, but that’s one fact I’m not confirming. I would like to hint, though, that talking to yourself while trying to do this is highly encouraged and has been proven to work very well (all outside research, of course, since I never do stuff like this).

Cramming adjectives into a shell, writing paragraphs of absolute trash, talking to yourself– whatever works best for you, do it. Personality is a huge part of who we are, just like it’s a huge part of who your character is. Don’t forget it.

Character Development Pt. 3: Personality -- Olivia Simone

I’ll be posting Part 4 of this series on Tuesday, but don’t miss my regular Friday and Sunday posts. See you later!

Character Development Part 2: Backstory

If you’re new to this series (welcome!), make sure to check out my first post, about naming characters. For those of you who are regular readers, welcome back! Let’s get started.

Everyone has a story to tell, including your characters. And everyone’s story, no matter how small or unimportant it might seem, is going to have a gigantic influence on who they are and the choices they make. You don’t need to be able to write an entire biography on a character, but you should have a good understanding of their past and what made them who they are today. The two umbrella subjects I’ll be talking about today are people and places/events, although there’s plenty more that makes your character who they are. Here we go:

People

Maybe your character grew up with little to no outside support from either friends or family and had to support themselves completely. Maybe your character had a friend stab them in the back when they needed it most, and now they can’t trust anyone. Okay, so maybe these examples are a bit dramatic, but it’s definitely something you want to keep in mind. Whether they like it or not, just like in real life, your character is going to be heavily influenced by the people surrounding their life.

The main character of my current WIP, Siri (who I talked about a bit in last week’s post), has what looks like a pretty boring backstory, but actually turns out to be pretty important. Growing up in a large family in a tiny village on the coastline, she’s always kind of been the baby, what with her parents and three older siblings looking after her all the time. I can’t tell you anything specific about the plot, but there is a part when she’s separated from just about everyone she loves and ends up having to fend for herself for quite a bit of time. For her older sister, it might not be so much of a challenge, but for Siri, she’s so used to leaning on others that it comes as complete shock when she has to learn to depend on herself.

Don’t forget to take people around the character into account; they may end up having more influence on the character than anything else.

Places/Events

The second part of backstory that I’m going to talk about today are the places and events that shape your character’s life. This is probably the most obvious bit of backstory creation. A few examples off the top of my head: a soldier spends five years fighting in a war only to struggle with fitting back in to civilian life at their return; a character’s parents die in a car crash the character is partly responsible for, leading the character to think they were the sole cause of their parents’ death; a character accidentally gets a second-degree burn from an iron and is from then on terrified of ironing (this one actually happened to me when I was seven or eight, although I’ve overcome my fear since then).

However, the opposite may be the case. Maybe your character had a pretty unexciting childhood and now they seek out excitement in dangerous ways. Or maybe, as in the case of Siri, they’ve had an uneventful life so far, so when their world shifts, they have no idea how to keep up with it and find their footing.

This is probably the easier part of creating a backstory, for obvious reasons, but essential nonetheless.

Character Development Pt. 2: Backstory-- Olivia Simone

Thanks for reading! I’ll be continuing this series next Tuesday, as always, but I’ll be posting on Friday and Sunday too.

Character Development Pt. 1: Names

Recently, as I was working on my WIP this past weekend and dealing with the additions of a whole bunch of new characters who walked into the story completely uninvited, I realized that one of the most important parts of character creation for me is the name. (I’m fully aware that this is a highly specific niche post. I was kind of stuck for other ideas. Sorry about that.)

So today, I’ll be talking about how I choose said names for my characters.

Character Development Pt. 1: Names-- Olivia Simone

Meaning

If you’ve poked around on baby name websites (I listed a couple good ones at the bottom) long enough, you’ve probably noticed that the meanings of names vary hugely from one to another. This is both great and terrible for those of us who like to name our characters based on the meaning of the name: on the plus side, there are so many options to choose from that there’s sure to be at least one to fit your character; on the negative side, there’s enough options to let you spend the rest of the life on your computer searching for the ‘perfect’ name.

Sound/Suitability

Obviously, it has to sound right and fit your story too. Although the names Bertha and Alyssa mean the same thing (bright), they bring to mind distinctly different characters. If your character was an early 2000’s teenager, Alyssa might fit better, while if your character was an early 20th century teenager, Bertha might do the trick. On the other hand, you could name that early 2000’s teenager Bertha and either make her hate her name or love it for being so strange and out of place in her world.

Availability

At this point, it would be a bit tricky to pull off naming your character something like, I don’t know, Harry (or God forbid, Harry Potter). That character could be a truck driver in western Idaho, but if you’re writing in a genre anywhere close to YA Fantasy, people’s minds are automatically going to think, ‘Oh, he’s an orphaned boy wizard.’ You’re trying to set your book apart from the rest, so make sure you do the same with your character.

Before I finish up for today, I want to talk really quickly about how I (successfully) named one of my characters. My WIP takes place in an alternate-timeline Earth (it’s actually more complicated than that, but for purposes of not droning on for hours, I’ll spare you the backstory), populated by semi-magical people. The town where my character lives is mostly made up of descendants of European refugees, just like her: her ancestors are English and Scandinavian. While I was debating what to name her, I suddenly remembered a Scandinavian name I had come across when I was little and busy reading baby name books (seriously, don’t ask. I was the weirdest little kid ever): Siri (this was before the iPhone 4s), a nickname for Sigrid.

It fit perfectly. The name means ‘beautiful; victorious’, which, although cheesy, definitely worked for the character, seeing as she’s the protagonist. Even though it’s a pretty uncommon name, it wasn’t impossible to work into the story, and best of all, it was completely open for grabs. After several different drafts, including a few dramatic reworks of the entire plot, Siri’s name still remained. Some of her fellow characters haven’t been so lucky, unfortunately.

Here are some great resources for your quest to find the perfect name:

Behind the Name

Nameberry

She Knows

I’ll be continuing my spiel about character development next Tuesday, but I’ll be posting twice between now and then (Friday and Sunday). Keep an eye out!

My Top 5 Writing Blogs

As is usual, I spent nearly all of this past weekend (including yesterday– slow clap for surprise snow days) in my bedroom with some quality internet time. Most of it was spent clicking refresh on Tumblr and Pinterest and catching up on shows on Netflix (all of which were highly rewarding), but I also spent some time surfing my favorite writing blogs, the list of which I’m going to share with you today.

write-to-done

5. Write to Done

From increasing productivity to creating a sustainable writing income, this site is filled with ‘unmissable articles on writing’, just like the site proclaims.

helping-writers-become-authors

4. Helping Writers Become Authors

Filled to the brim with articles specifically tailored to any question a writer might have, this is one of my favorite resources.

the write practice

3. The Write Practice

Lots of great broad-spectrum posts on topics from the tools needed to write a novel to why it’s dangerous to compare your work to others.

mythcreants

2. Mythcreants

Although aimed toward fantasy/sci-fi writers and roleplayers, this site holds gems of wisdom for all genres.

go teen writers

1. Go Teen Writers

This is my absolute favorite blog, and the first one I ever read on a regular basis. With three wonderful posters, every single post is well-crafted and really helpful.

Before I go, I just want to leave you with one other blog that I find absolutely indispensable at times when I’m in tears because my characters are being difficult and annoying and I just hate my novel so much I want to rip it to tiny pieces and light it on fire (not that that ever happens 😉 ). Drum roll please . . .

slushpile hell

SlushPile Hell

Sarcastic, witty, and never one to miss a chance to laugh at a painfully written query letter, this blog is a beautiful ray of sunlight in which to laugh at the horrible query letters people have actually submitted to this literary agency in complete seriousness. To compare its sarcastic-ness (is that even a word?) to peppers, if you can barely handle a jalapeno, you’re going to spontaneously combust if you even touch the habanero-y sarcastic-ness of this website.

My Top 5 Writing Blogs-- Olivia Simone

Anyway, I hope you find this list helpful, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on the different blogs featured here. See you on Friday!