Monday, February 24, 2014

Sunday Soundtracks: Icon for Hire



Okay so... its not Sunday. But the alliteration is kind of ruined if I say 'Monday Soundtracks' don't you think? So lets just pretend I put this out yesterday and no one will no the difference.
Be quiet Buddy
I tried to get the post out yesterday, but in all honesty, my computer restarted to do updates and I lost the changes. The save button is your friend.

But anyway, SUNDAY SOUNDTRACKS! (Sort of)

Last week we talked about the varied and moving soundtrack of one of the most depressing little animes out there: Attack on Titan.
The titans just want to be friends O.O
The show is often times terrifying and makes you question why you ever thought zombies were scary, but the music really does its job and makes for a heart wrenching, action packed experience. So of course, its great writing music.

But this time, lets deviate from instrumental tunes and take a look at music with lyrics. Music with lyrics is trickier for some people to write to, because the words coming from the songs interrupt their train of thought. I personally don't have a problem with it, but some writers do. Regardless of whether or not you can write to music with lyrics, lots of tunes can still be great sources of inspiration. Especially when it comes to characters. And if there's any band who LOVES writing music that fits my characters, its Icon for Hire.


I love this album cover too
I love a good female rocker, and Ariel, the lead singer, is one of my favorites. She has an exceptional passion in her voice, during both the intense songs and the softer ones. Passionate is just the way to describe their music. It makes for some great inspiration for the tough characters in your books (women especially, since the singer is female). But its not just about being a badass with no flaws. These songs are about people who are broken. Characters who struggle with themselves everyday but keep on fighting as hard as they can. Characters who sometimes can't fight anymore. 

It hits a lot of different issues in a very honest way. Here's a shortlist of issues touched upon in their songs: Rebellion, anxiety, depression, addiction, insecurity, weakness, vulnerability, drugs, music. And all of these issues seem to come from a very honest place. As someone who deals with anxiety, some of these songs hit home and hit hard on how it feels like in the middle of a panic attack, at least for me personally.

I think what makes the music work is that the singer seems to be singing from personal experience. She sympathizes with others who are going through what they are but also acknowledges the need to reach out for help. Its powerful music when you really start listening to the lyrics and many of the songs have acted as anthems for my characters in my book.

I own their most recent two albums. My personal favorite is Scripted, which is one of the few albums I enjoy every single song on. The CD has been in my car for over a year now, playing on repeat whenever I go anywhere, either because I'm too lazy to switch it out or I genuinely love the music. I think both are probable. Cynics and Critics is their most recent album and it took a few listens to really grow on me. I enjoy most of the songs on it, but its a different style from their music on Scripted. I personally prefer the Scripted style more but I like both of them.


Here's a list of some personal Favorite Songs of mine and why they hit home-

From Scripted:

- Theater- This was the first song I heard from Icon for Hire. My friend, the same one I'm writing the mega series of books with, sent me a link to this song because she said it made her think of one of my characters. And she was completely right. Its a powerful, intense song about overcoming social anxieties and trying to return to living life, despite continuing fears. She's not singing about being a badass, she's singing about how much she needs courage to face the world. It also has one of my favorite lyrics of any song: 'I'm gonna live like I've lost the script, and scream every line like this is it.' I appreciate the actor imagery, being a theater geek myself. One of my all time favorite songs from them.

- Make a Move- This is a good old, going against the grain, rebellion song. It sings about stepping out of the prescribed social customs and actually living. Its not exactly a new concept in a song but I love how much it sounds like a plea for motion. The singer is begging people to step out. I love the passion in this song. I think this is one of their more popular songs and its not surprising. And hey, if you got a dystopian novel, this should go great with that.

AAALLLL the Dystopian!

- Get Well- This song dips into the music discussing addiction. A desire to get well but an addiction to the life already being lead. Its not just about being addicted to harmful substances or adrenaline (she doesn't specify the object of the addiction), its about being addicted to the attention she receives from others. Another great lyric is in here: "Being lonely's only fun in a group. It sort of loses its charm when its true." Its a song about returning to the same things over and over again but also a plea to get out. There's a desperate tone to this song that I really like. Definitely check it out, especially if you have any characters dealing with addiction.

- The Grey- This is a great relationship song. And by that I of course mean its a struggling relationship. The singer is afraid to open herself up to the friend or romantic interest. She feels she has become too cold and she's afraid of becoming vulnerable again. Its a slower song on the list and I think it fits a lot of good character relationships. A personal favorite of mine.

- Off with her Head- Another good old song about struggling with identity and hating what you've become, this is one of the most passionate songs on the album. So many of Icon for Hire's song sound like desperate cries for help and this is one of them. In this case, however, she doesn't want to be herself anymore. Similar to some of their other songs, but one of the more desperate. Again, I love this song. Seeing a trend here? Its no surprise that I listen to this album over and over again.

- Iodine- Similar to 'Get Well' this is the struggle between living life as it was and trying to get better. Except in this one, the singer seems to much prefer staying where she is. This song seems more specific than others too so it hits pretty hard. Its a shorter song but I've listened to it over and over again. Its just so intense.

From Cynics and Critics:

- Cynics and Critics- I have a few less favorites on this album. But it still has some real winners. This song especially is a rebellion anthem and a really hard hitting one at that. I think this might be Icon for Hire's most intense song. It makes me want to dance around the room, head banging. Good old rebellion can be some good inspiration for books though, am I right?

Hello again, Dystopian. Anyone seeing a trend?

- Hope of Morning- This is one of those songs that really accurately captures the speed of a mind racing. While the last album dealt a lot with depression and addiction, this one plunges more into anxiety and there's a few songs like this in the mix. The singer feels like she has a million things on her mind. Everything is moving to fast and she can't hide anywhere. Even her mind and emotions seem to be betraying her. That's an accurate feeling of anxiety. The song slows down for the chorus and becomes very pretty and moving. I connect a lot with this song, and if you characters dealing with anxiety, it might connect for them too.

- Rock and Roll Thugs- I love this song because its about music. Its about the singer's passion for music and how she's had to fight for it. This is one of the most honest songs just because you can tell how much she loves what she does. I love music so I love this song. Have any musical characters? Listen to this song. Its my favorite on the album, actually, and one of my favorites from Icon for Hire altogether.

- Think I'm Sick- So musically, this is actually my least favorite song I've heard from Icon for Hire. Its kind of off-beat and doesn't have much of a flow to it. Lyrically, I have to put it on here because it is so dead on for anxiety attacks. Its exactly the kind of things that go through my head during a panic attack and its almost scary. And the disjointed music actually fits the lyrics when I think about it. The brutal honesty of it all, requires me to put it on this list. Definitely listen to it.

- Fix Me- This is a song that, in contrast to 'The Grey' is completely about vulnerability and needing someone else to help you with your problems. Which of course makes it a good relationship song. Its a slower song too, and very pretty. Though its a plea for help, there's a hopeful tone to it as well. Another great song.

So obviously there are a lot of songs from Icon for Hire I love. But there's several other winners I didn't put on this list. So you'll just have to take a listen to all of them and buy their CDs. So what are you waiting for?

Go forth
Thanks for joining me for this (late) Sunday Soundtracks post. See you next week!



Saturday, February 22, 2014

Slushpile Musings: The Teenage Voice

Today in the first edition of Slush Pile Musings (A segment in which I talk about common problems or trends I see in the slush pile) we are going to talk about a subject that is near and dear to my heart. Teenagers.

More specifically, the voice of teenagers.

Now, it has been less than a year since I entered the great unknown of adulthood, and not so long ago I was a member of this demographic called ‘teenagers’. I may be an adult now, spiraling down the ever fascinating whirlpool of college life, but since my age, eighteen, still carries the word ‘teen’, I feel I’m rather qualified to broach the subject of young adult voice. And given my attachment not only to the demographic itself, but also the books written for them, I am very passionate about the subject.

Given that most fiction is written by non-teens, its not surprising that a lot of beginning writers, new to the YA category struggle with teenage voice. I mean, how do teenagers talk and think anyway?
Kind of like normal people, actually.

I think one of the trappings of writing the teenage voice is going into it with the belief that teenagers are somehow greatly removed from adults. They aren’t. They have different thoughts and priorities than adults, sure, but they are still human. As a teenager recently turned adult, I can safely say I feel no great difference in how I think and see the world. The way I speak has not suddenly, drastically changed. It is the same with all teenagers.

So, today, let’s go over some helpful tips for writing good teenage voices.

1. Avoid the stereotypes

I’m not talking about stereotypes of race or gender in this case, but rather stereotypes of speech. There are a lot associated with teenagers. You can probably name a few. Overuse of the word ‘like’, using OMG when oh my god would have been perfectly acceptable, and, of course, snark so heavy you can cut it with a saw. And its not to say some teenagers DON’T fall into these stereotypes, but there is a time and place for it.

My sophomore year of high school, I was asked to read the MS of a local author to make sure she was representing teenagers properly. I remember marking through every use of ‘IDK’ in her manuscript. Mostly because I had never heard teenagers use IDK in a conversation unless they were doing so ironically. I went to a high school with 3,000 kids and not once did I hear that phrase used seriously. It really sucks the emotion and tension out of a scene where lives are at stake when your teenage MC says ‘IDK’.

Heavy snark also has its limit. It takes a master to pull off a sarcastic teen voice. They constantly walk the edge between charming and really annoying. Teenagers are sarcastic, but there’s generally more to their sense of humor. We don’t come up with a witty, snarky retort to EVERYTHING we hear. Most of us anyway. And no one likes the people who do. I've read several pages that go overkill on the snark, making an interesting concept basically unreadable. Bad voice can kill a cool story.

On the flip side, don’t apply teenage voice stereotypes to bullies/antagonists. Don’t do it. I know the temptation is real to put a million colloquialisms in the mouth of the lead bully to make them seem vapid but try to give them a bit more of a personality outside of that. Bottom line: stereotypes don’t make good voices. They more often make for an annoyance. Teenagers can think and speak naturally too.

2. Diversity

Teenagers are a diverse group of young people. I think we already knew this pretty well. I mean, half of high school is dedicated to labeling fellow students with a list of hundreds of preselected terms. There’s nothing like the melting pot of education to point out differences, right? But if we know teenagers come from a variety of different backgrounds and have a numerous interests and hobbies, we should also know that teenagers think differently as well. They talk differently. They see the world differently. Just like adults.

Some teenagers see the world through highly logical eyes. Some are very emotional. Some have a dry sense of humor, others a more conventional sense of humor. Some even have no sense of humor. Some teenagers are more likely to narrate their life in flowy phrases and others are more likely to be conversational. Every teenager has a voice and if you’re going to populate your book with them, make sure each voice is distinct.

This is especially important with the recent rise of multiple POV narratives. In order to pull off more than one point of view, it is necessary to differentiate between the POV characters. If you gave the reader a paragraph from each of your characters, they should be able to tell which paragraph is from which perspective.

In short, think about the people in your life you know well and think about how they talk compared to others. Chances are, the same differences can be applied to teenagers.

3. It’s all about Circumstance
But, Aimee, you might say, if teenagers often think and see the world the same way as many adults, what differs the teenage voice from the adult voice? Well, I am of the belief that it isn’t necessary the voice at all. It’s the circumstances.

YA isn’t a category because the ‘voice’ of the main character but rather the issues they deal with. Adulthood is about finding your place in society, and dealing with all the good and bad in the world. Young adult on the other hand, is often more about finding your place in yourself. Finding your identity and becoming comfortable in your own skin before you truly have to face the world. Teenagers are not so different than adults in mental composition. What separates them is their lack of experience. They’ve only had thirteen to eighteen years to gain life experience, so they’re still trying to figure out who they are in addition to figuring out the world. They are still growing up, so YA is designed to show the struggle of doing just that.

There are exceptions of course. Some teenagers grow up too soon and some adults never grow up at all. Some teenagers know exactly who they are while some adults are still struggling to figure it out. And that’s the key: exceptions. There are always exceptions and exceptions create diversity. This is what makes YA such an abundant category.

The teenage voice can’t exactly be pinpointed. Maybe that’s why it’s so hard to do. Maybe, the best way to write for teenagers, is not to approach YA with the mindset of ‘I’m going to write about teenagers.

Maybe instead writers should approach YA to write about human beings instead.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Sunday Soundtrack: Attack on Titan

Well, Valentines weekend is over, effectively reminding all the single people in the world how lonely they are.

Or I guess that's how some single's felt. But its hard to feel alone when you hole yourself up in a room with your fellow single friends, a cookie cake and Sherlock.

This is our special Valentines Day Cake :)


Yes, we spent the whole evening marathoning Sherlock, as well as various different animes. Why have real men when the ones on screen are just so delicious?

Of course, I have other reasons for liking shows besides the incredibly attractive men and interesting plot lines (Though don't get me wrong, those are GREAT reasons to like a show). I'm also a sucker for good music. I'm a musical person, for those who don't know. I like making music videos for movies and TV shows in my spare time and I've played the piano since I was five. I just have a really good sense of rhythm and melody. So its not surprising that music has a huge impact on how I view media and the world. Its a source of inspiration for me.

In any movie or show, the music is an often under appreciated ingredient. It compliments the images but its not always the first thing people look at. Never the less its a vital part of setting the tone for the images on screen.

Sherlock, for instance, has a very eclectic soundtrack that fits well with the tone on the show. Sometimes its tense and suspenseful, sometimes its fast paced and action packed, and sometimes it utilizes silence to its advantage. It also has some great stand alone pieces. Particularly in the final episode of season 2.

Music is also probably the most terrifying element of horror movies, heightening the sense of anxiety in the audience on a psychological level that makes the images much more terrifying. Ever try watching a horror movie without the sound? It suddenly loses many of its scares.

Why do I bring this up? Because music can also be a source of inspiration and motivation for writing and whenever my fingers start flying, they are never without musical accompaniment. So, since music is so important to me, I've decided to start this new segment: Sunday Soundtracks. Every Sunday I'll talk about a new piece of music or band or singer or film score which inspires me to write. Some will be suited to specific genres or characters and some won't. Either way, you might find something to listen to and enjoy.

So what's the subject of today's Sunday Soundtracks? A little anime called Attack on Titan.

This little piece of awesome
I'll probably do another post on the anime as a whole, because it really is a triumph in a lot of areas, especially in its animation, action, fast paced plot, and likable characters. But today, let's focus on the music.

The opening theme alone took the anime community by storm with the show first aired. Its a fast paced combination of heart stopping instrumentation and exuberant, dramatic choirs, backing a passionate singer with wonderful vocals. Everyone was talking about the opening theme. And one would think it would be hard to top such a masterpiece. You can watch it here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8OkpRK2_gVs

But the entire show has a consistently amazing soundtrack. It has a lot of wonderful music for action scenes, as one would expect from the opening, but it also has some heart wrenchingly beautiful piano music and softer vocals that really hit you right in the feels. The soundtrack has music for everything. The high points, the low points, the moments when all is lost and the spirited comebacks that make you want to cheer. Nearly every track hits it out of the park and the variety makes it perfect music to to type too. 

For those who are easily distracted by music with lyrics, most of the singing is done in Japanese, so unless you know Japanese, the vocals become just another instrument with the ensemble. I recommend it for anyone who's writing an epic fantasy or sci-fi action novel. Dystopians and post-apocolyptic books can find inspiration here too. There's just a grandness to the music that suits an epic setting, both bleak and hopeful.

There's a mix of the music on youtube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4PCgJGxz-FU

You can get a since of whether or not you like the music pretty quickly. And if you do, I definitely recommend buying it. My personal favorite music is in the first five minutes. Its just so beautiful.

For those who want to watch the show, you can find it on Crunchyroll.com. I highly recommend it, but be warned it does get a little (okay, a lot) bloody and its not for the faint of heart. Basically if you get scared by zombie movies... this might not be your thing.

The titans make scary faces like this... So tread lightly

Think this music is good for your writing? Have your own writing tunes you want to share? Leave a comment and let me know!

Enjoy the rest of your weekend, and get some good writing done before the daily grind starts up again!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Giving Plot to the Plotless Part 6: The Journey Goes On

Its only been a little over a year since the initial affair which sparked so many words and characters. It feels like forever ago. Not just fifteen measly months. A writer's world and skill set can change a lot in fifteen months.

This series began as an experiment for me in a lot of ways. An experiment in pantsing rather than plotting. A test to see if I could collaborate with another writer. A challenge to see if I could work backwards from my usual process, shoving material into a structure rather than creating the structure before the material.

In many ways, I got a lot out of this experiment and I continue to do so. I enjoyed the freedom it gives me. I enjoyed the sensation of being bossed around by my characters and watching things I thought were absolute and immovable change before my eyes, heedless of my thoughts. Going with the flow of my creativity and whims to this degree felt really good.

It still does. Because my friend and I still have the freedom to make this series what we want it to be. We can take it new directions. We can write whatever scenes we want even if we don’t plan on including them in the final product.

I guess, more than anything, I took away a sense of the diversity of writing. There is no one way to go about something. Writing can be solitary but it can also be done with company. Writing can be organized or it can be free formed. Writing can remain forever in a secret folder on the computer or it can be finish and sent out into the wide, vast world of publishing. It all depends on what the writer wants. Whether or not they want control or they want to let their characters take them for a ride.
And sometimes, a balance of all these elements isn’t so bad either.

I’d encourage other writers to jump out of their comfort zone in future projects. Experimentation in writing is your friend. If you're predominately a first person POV writer, delve into the 3rd person. If you prefer the comforts of fantasy, experiment with a little straight realism. If you like dark, gritty drama, try your hand out at whimsical comedy. It doesn't have to be GOOD. It can suck and when its done you can lock it in a 'never again' folder.

I could have easily discovered a deep rooted hatred for pantsing with this experiment with my friend. If I had, that would have been fine. But at least I tried. The best writing has always come from trying out an idea that seems ridiculous and will probably never work. Whether it be a genre or a category. Genre fiction wasn't always so respected by the world. And who'd have thought 20 years ago that there would be a huge explosion in Young Adult fiction? Heck, who'd have thought five years ago that New Adult would become such a thing?

Great things come from experimentation and throwing your muse out into the great unknown. At least in my case, I got a lot out of the experiment and I will continue to do so in the weeks, months, maybe years, to come.

Thanks for following me on this little journey and there will be more posts on the way soon!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Giving Plot to the Plotless Part 5: Plot vs. Extra

Last time we discussed love triangles and how they factored into the biggest switch in my friend and I's pet project. Well, now let's talk about fanfiction and its merits. This does have a connection to putting plot to the plotless so bare with me.

There’s a reason fanfiction is such a big deal. Because any good book has a world beneath the words on the page. A realm of characters not yet fully explored. A treasure trove of extra moments to make the reader laugh and cry. Books are like icebergs, only the very tip breaks the surface of a veritable ocean of other stories and characters. For this reason, I will debate the worth of fanfiction all day. Because it can change our perspective on the world we thought we knew and offer more depth to what was already there. Heck, even some of the most beloved stories, movies and musicals of all time are the fanfiction of classics (Wicked, anyone?).

So what does this have to do with giving plot to a pile of plotless scenes. Well, this project of ours had a lot of characters, scenes and alternate plot threads. And one of the challenges we faced when putting this jumble of words into a plot structure was figuring out which scenes to cut and which to keep. Which would be part of the main canon and which would remain little extras that only we knew about. Fanfiction, if you will.

You see, fanfiction often allows complete freedom. Alternate universes, non-canon pairings and pointless fluff are all free game. But with a novel, each scene and character needs to be intentional and important to a book with a distinctive arc. A set beginning, middle and end. Cramming what we had into this kind of mold meant some stuff needed to be cut.

Extra points of view, for instance. In a novel, too many points of view get confusing. It’s hard for the reader to form an emotional connection with one character when they keep on being thrust into the heads of several others. Some people can pull off multiple POVs well (Michael Grant and George R. R Martin come to mind) but most books with more than one POV stick with two or three. Maybe four or five if the author feels bold. So, a lot of scenes where only non-POV characters were present in our books had to be cut.

Back when we weren’t sure of the direction of our story, we also took a lot of experimental routes. These were paths we weren’t exactly sure of, and we wrote them mostly for fun. But when it came to the main plot, other, stronger plot lines had to take precedent. Its another sacrifice, but an easier one to make, especially when our experiments turned out a little goofy. (One of our villains turned good and went on a crusade to save stray cats, if that gives you a clue)

And there are a host of fluffy, fun scenes we wrote for the sole purpose of boredom that have to be cut because they don’t have a huge bearing on the plot. They're only there as a funny moment. Which is fine for fanfiction and fun, but in an actual novel, it slows the pacing to a dead halt.

So many things have to be taken into account in a novel. Pacing, arc, tone, character, structure. A lot of details and they become more apparent when you’re trying to stuff what is already written into the right structure. Its kind of like a puzzle. A fun and challenging puzzle with extra pieces thrown in to make things harder. Once the extra pieces are weeded out, the main puzzle goes together easier. It’s a challenge but its rewarding and fun.

So where does one go after weeding out the weaker scenes and establishing the framework and world for their story? Well, we're still on that journey. We're not at the finishing line yet.

Join me next time for the conclusion of this epic- Part 6: The Journey Goes On

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Giving Plot to the Plotless Part 4: The Big Switch

So, let's talk for a minute about love triangles.

I think there’s a reason many people are growing tired with love triangles in literature. I mean, sure, they’re over used and repetitive and often unnecessary, but why are people really tired of them? I think its because they’re boring. In most books with a love triangle, it’s easy to tell who the girl will end up choosing from the very beginning. Usually they stay with the boy they show interest in in the first, say, 30 pages.

The problem is most love triangles don’t present a very compelling dilemma. Either the third wheel is an asshole, or we don’t feel a genuine struggle in the love triangle that gives us any reason to think the main character at the center will change their minds. This is either the Titantic or the Twilight dilemma.

In the Titanic dilemma, the third wheel of the love triangle is a cartoonishly scummy and stuck up upper class citizen who never has any chance of competing with the perfect, charming, struggling artist, Jack. He basically exists as an obstacle rather than a compelling person. Of course Rose isn't going to end up with him. He's a bump in her road to true love (Eventually ending in tragedy, but that's beside the point)

More common as of late though is the Twilight dilemma, where even though we know Jacob is probably a much better choice for Bella, we know she won’t pick him. She has already demonstrated her complete addiction to Edward and his attention by her complete emotional break down during book 2. Maybe this could have been more compelling is she did consider the possibility of being with Jacob but she never really does, except when Edward is out of the picture. Therefore we’re just left wanting the damn triangle to end and for someone to put poor Jacob out of his misery.

It is a rare occurrence when a character starts out with one character, truly caring about them, but ends up with another character by the end because of various circumstances. It is very rare that the reader feels genuine tension over which guy/ girl the main character will choose. I think the most compelling love triangle I ever read was in the Matched Trilogy, by Allie Condie, where I genuinely thought both boys in the love triangle had their worth. I still had a good idea about how it was going to end but it kept my attention.

Love triangles are hard. And we had a love kite on our hands. So, in the original rendition of my friend and I’s book, we originally started with a bit of a Twilight dilemma.

We kept the original pairings together because we had it in our mind that it was necessary and ‘best’ in some way. But in the process their relationships reached a point where they went flat and stopped changing and evolving. The only things evolving were the ‘affair relationships.’ They continued where the other relationships left off and really developed the main characters. All of them. No matter which way I looked at it, the affairs that had happened by chance needed to become the official pairings. And when I realized this I couldn't help but panic.

Oh god… how was I going to tell my friend that we needed to make this HUGE change to the story? This would change so many different scenes and moments. For the better, but it was still a change. And the problem with writing with another person is you BOTH have to be behind whatever direction you choose to take.

Truth be told, I didn't know how she’d take the switch. I thought she might take it badly. I thought she might argue the point. So of course, I do what I do and I wrote a fourteen page analytic argument about why the official pairings had to switch. Fourteen pages. More than 4,000 words if you were wondering. Longer than any research paper I ever had to write.

This is how I deal with arguments.

Funny enough, she took the change well. And she ended up giving a lot of good input on the theories and ideas I had already concocted. After a nearly all night brain storming session, it was official. We were switching the pairings. And the characters were better for it. They had more cohesive arcs ending in a much more satisfying conclusion. And the relationships didn't have quite as many nasty implications as the original ones did. I felt a lot better about the direction we were taking the story.

But while this solved character problems, it didn’t account for how many scenes we had to fit into a book series. Join me in Part 5 for Plot vs. Extras.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Giving Plot to the Plotless Part 3: A Whole New World

If you can forgive my Disney reference in the title, welcome back to Giving Plot to the Plotless, after what seems like forever. I’ve been… busy *Looks around suspiciously* More on why soon. But for now let’s continue with this little venture.

Anyone close to me knows how my creative process works, most probably because I zone out as soon as the process starts. The moment I get a tiny inkling of an idea I find interesting, my brain explodes and goes to work on it. 

And as I sat in my school library one day, thinking about maybe doing homework (as students sometimes do), I came upon one such spark of an idea: What if my friend and I were able to change the world and plot enough to make an entirely new book series based on what we had already written. After all, we’d spent so much time. Thousands upon thousands of words had gone into, essentially, experimental scenes that wouldn’t come to anything. Unless we found a way to make an original story out of it.

My brain took this as a challenge and accepted it readily, immediately going to work, riddling through all the elements that would need to be expanded and changed. Within an hour of sitting in the library, I had concocted a basic world and plot in which to fit our scenes into. It had a lot of holes and was far from complete but it was something.

I excitedly relayed everything I had come up with to my friend. We started getting together on weekends for massive brainstorm sessions to piece our cobbled together scenes into a cohesive world. And it was fun. Challenging but fun. It felt like dumping a 1000 piece puzzle of characters, plot points and relationships onto a pile on the floor and scrambling to put them all together to see the whole picture.
We got really into the world building aspect of our project. And let's be honest, it was fun. 

There are so many aspects to consider when shaping a world: history, culture, religion, dress, gender roles, geography, politics, leisure, and societal systems just to name a few. Where are the most important landmarks and locations? Do certain members of society have an advantage over others? Is this a corrupt society and why has it become that way? What are the visual aesthetics of the world? What historical events still hold the most significance over the present day? Why do people believe what they believe? 

This is just brushing the surface of world building, which I will probably do a post about on a later date. But you can see how involved we got in the world building process and how many details there were to consider, especially considering the number of scenes and characters we'd already established. After all, before one can fit something plotless into a plot, they have to fit it into a world. Without a living, breathing world, the characters and plot have no credibility. 

But it wasn't a one way street. We didn’t simply fit scenes into the world. The world created new scenes as it developed. With the change in venue, we ended up introducing whole new characters and concepts we hadn’t thought about before. Though we had about 300,000 words already written. We churned out another 200,000 words in new plot lines and extras written with our new characters. We rewrote old scenes in a new light. Took new pathways to expand ideas. And we started fleshing out the characters.

Of course, you always run into problems trying to make a world and new plot around already established characters. And the problems we experienced were of the relationship variety. Despite the affair our main characters had, the original pairings were still intact. A and T still ended up together in the end. So, did M and L. But as we continued to flesh out our new plot and world a little seed of doubt grew in the back of my mind. An analytic seed, fertilized by my years of reading and writing. And when allowed to grow long enough this seed resulted in one of the biggest changes to our magnum opus.


More on that in Part 4: The Big Switch