Presenting… Girl in the Middle!

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Guys, it’s here! “Girl in the Middle” is now available at Barnes and Noble!! Seriously guys, go check it out.

I can’t say enough how happy and blessed I am to have been involved with this project. The learning opportunities have been abundant, and I’ve discovered something I love doing, an object of passion. It’s been cool to see how my love of writing has led to the discovery of the field of publishing. Bailey has been elemental in this discovery because of her willingness to involve in me in the production of her first novel, and I can’t imagine how excited she must be over this if I’m as excited as I am. 

It was the debut of the Professional Editing/Proofreading/Publishing class, fall 2012. When I first saw this class offering, I was ecstatic. I’d always loved editing, so my hopes for this class were high. In the end, looking back on it now, the class far exceeded my expectations; the entire class got to be involved in two publications (the Journal of Union Faculty Forum and Girl in the Middle, the young adult novel). I poured myself into the paragraphs, especially when it came to the novel; it was during the review of the first couple chapters that I realized my affinity for working on books over academic-style publications. Throughout the process of editing, I fell more in love with the process, and I realized that this is what I was made for. It was a cool realization, and a little scary. So, I’ve run with it, and it’s been a really cool experience to start figuring out what’ll happen after graduation. I’ve been thinking about grad school, and the program offerings at a few of my “top schools” (Pace University and University of Baltimore are two that stand out) have boggled my mind. Who knew that grad school got so specific!?! Frankly, I’m excited to see where my life goes.

I’ve also been considering internships, and in fact, I had applied to a telecommuting internship for this fall at Familius. I was pleasantly surprised to find myself in the top twenty selected to continue the application process. Ultimately, it didn’t work out, but the fact that I’d survived the first culling was enough to keep me going. Right now, I’m helping Bailey out with doctoral research, which will be used to inform the characters in her dissertation, which will be a sequel to Girl in the Middle. Guys, I’m so excited to be involved. No words at all. =) 

Suffice to say, finding your niche changes everything. Before I stumbled on this hidden passion of mine, writing seemed like it could become a drag. Don’t get me wrong… I love writing, but I love the revision process even more; it’s almost like it’s a different kind of writing. Now that I have more of an idea of where my time will go, I don’t feel as pressured to churn out short stories and poetry like a manic genius. I’ve decided that I can take it slower and spend more time cultivating ideas and characters, because that’s how I do things. If there’s something I’ve realized about myself in the last couple months, it’s that I’m a slow, sequential/logical processor; I have a hard time starting something and not finishing it. If I don’t end up finishing something before I start something else, it’s likely that I’ll never finish anything, which is why I have a lot of half-finished short stories and unrefined poetry stowed in my computer folders. Everything is organized, but it’s an organized chaos of words. Even the novel I’ve been “working on” for over a year isn’t anything more than a whole lot of historical stuff. It’s cool, but it’s not the actual story, and this is connected to that “sequential” thing I mentioned earlier; I can’t write a story unless I know a good deal of the background information, and for a world that only exists in my head, I have to get it out and down. To rival the clamor of my characters in Erad-du (yeah… I’ve named something… can you believe it?), I have my thesis stuff to think about. After a solid couple months of thinking about it, I’ve pinned down the idea I want to be writing about, but have yet to really produce anything I want to continue to work on… but I’m getting inspiration from EVERYWHERE. So it’s a good and bad problem. 

So, yes. BUY THE BOOK AND REVIEW IT!! =D You won’t regret it, really. 

Anyway, this is my update. A little scatter-brained, but such is my life recently. 

I did it!

Well guys, even though it’s been three days, I’d like to announce:

I COMPLETED CAMP NaNoWriMo! 50,000 words in one month.

Did I think I could do it?
At the beginning, yeah, I did pretty well. 1,600 words a day isn’t too difficult. However, life started to get busy, what with my internship and a trip to Florida for my grandfather’s funeral service, and random busy things happening in life. I started to skip daily writing and I got about 30,000 words behind.

That’s when I thought, “Crap… I can’t do this. What was I thinking?! But I SAID I’d do it. I have to.”

So I started writing like a maniac. Conveniently, it was about that time that I recalled I’d come across something called a “writing scrimmage” on Twitter. Basically what that is is a 30 minute slot of time in which you do nothing but write, trying to get as many words on the page as possible. That became my strategy to getting the thousands of words I needed to get written in about ten days time.

And let me tell you, word scrimmaging is extremely effective. I started off clocking between 600-800 words per thirty minutes, but by the end, I was going at 1,200-1,300 per 30 minutes. You learn to get past the horrible writing that’s coming out of your fingers. I had to keep reminding myself that it’s only a first draft. Over and over again.

Technically, I finished a day early, and this was because the website said July 31st at midnight. I hate midnight deadlines because you never know if they mean, literally, when the day turns, or if they mean the end of said day/beginning of next day. It’s confusing. So, just in case, I finished on July 30th around 11:15 pm. I started writing at 2:30pm and marathoned through it. Am I glad I did? Yes. I’ve got a substantial novel to… keep working on. Once I hit 45,000 words, I realized that it wasn’t even close to being finished, and I’ll blame it on the way I write. I’m a long-winded writer, so it takes me awhile to get to the real juicy stuff. I have to write everything that’s in my head, whatever needs explaining, in order for me to proceed onto the real story. First drafts have a lot of explanation/telling in them, and more often than not, there’s a LOT to go through, especially if I’m writing about 3 characters. Geez. That and the story kept doing twists and turns that I didn’t plan for. By the end of the novel, the characters I had originally started with were on vacation… figuratively AND literally. Such is the life of writing a novel though… it writes itself if you let it.

Over all, Camp NaNoWriMo was an excellent experience. I learned a lot about my writing style and the issues I have. Research is one of those things I resist doing until I absolutely need to. I tend to write about menial action, and I have issues summarizing whatever is happening. I have to write it out exactly how I see it in my head (where the hands are going, his expression and the way it changes. It’s super mediocre). There are more weaknesses I came across, but they don’t come to mind just yet. Regardless, I’m glad that I was able to just WRITE and not worry about making it perfect. Now, whenever anyone asks me what it’s about, I panic and scramble to piece together what exactly it is that I wrote in July. Because, in my opinion, as it stands, it’s only just a three-week old fetus that hasn’t any particular shape or form. Honestly, do I know where it’s going? Maybe. I can almost guarantee you that it isn’t about the characters I originally started with, though.

Will I do it again in November? Keeping my fingers crossed… I plan to. Most certainly, because, if I have people to keep me accountable, and what with my ability to get at least 1,300 words down in thirty minutes, I could devote 45 minutes to the novel in a day, and that’s not much, even for a college student!

Anyway, ’til next time!

 

Fantasy Novels?

Hello, readers and writers alike!

Earlier this week, I had a friend ask me for my thoughts on this blog post , and I thought I’d share my thoughts here, one, because it’s got to do with writing and publishing markets, and two, because it’s relevant to me because I’m in the process of writing a fantasy novel.

Summary of the blog post (in case you’re too lazy to read it… I suggest you do read it, though. Informative and over all, a great post): Fantasy author Greg Hamerton discussed a variety of challenges that a fantasy author will face when he or she goes to publish their book. Namely, the challenge of deciding whether they’ll publish online, in print, or both, and the implications of their decision on distribution of their books. He talks about the prices associated with printing, and how the number of books published affects the overall selling price. His post ended up illustrating the difficulty of making a return on the hard work a fantasy author puts into his or her book, and the elements in publishing that need to be considered when making important decision, and he highlighted how the fantasy genre, to an up-and-coming author, is a gamble. A very insightful post, but it certainly made me think of my in-progress fantasy novel and what I’ll do when it comes down to publishing. Honestly, I got worried and a lost a tiny bit of hope in ever getting it out to the public.

This blog post brought a couple things to mind that I’d like consider here: Why is fantasy so much of a gamble to publishers? Is there any hope of changing that perspective? How?

The biggest thing that I struggled with was why fantasy has a stigma of being unpredictable. Everyone likes a good, imaginative story, right? I’d say the answer is yes; the problem lies in the issue of finding “good” and “imaginative” stories that aren’t mere copycats of the famous JRR Tolkien and other such like elf/dwarf/wizard/human stories set in a world that still uses bows and arrows, and swords, with people who live in thatch-roof cottages, who farm half the day and drink beer in community in the other half.
This isn’t to say that all fantasy is like the above paragraph. Without reading a wide selection of fantasy, I know for a fact that it isn’t, but in my experience with authors who are thinking about, or in the process of, writing fantasy, this is predominantly true. Why? Probably because their earliest, most impressive experiences with fantasy have been with that type of story, which is something you can’t criticize. As humans, we all pull from the things that have impacted our lives; it comes out in our lives, our writing, our art… that’s natural. I’ve struggled against writing stereotypical fantasy stuff; it’s a battle we all face in our writing, being influenced, not indoctrinated, by other creative works.

This all goes back to my original question, why do publishers view fantasy as an unpredictable genre? Fantasy can be anything, literally. You can do anything with it, within very broad outliers, which is both a wonderful thing, and a potentially bad thing. Your crazy ideas could be received with cries of “genius!” or they could be rejected with a simple, exasperated shake of the head. Because people and their interests, likes, and dislikes come together in a pot of weird, varying with each person, how can anyone ever predict how a certain audience will respond to YOUR book of weird, strange, exciting, mystifying stuff? You may have chosen to write to an audience of “young adults,” but in that audience, there are lots of different kinds of young adults. It gets complicated.
As Hamerton suggested in his post, publishers are more  likely to prefer relying on the popularity of an already-established author instead of taking a gamble on something that is equally able to lose them a good deal of money, or give them a good deal of money. Who wouldn’t rather invest in something sure?
The stereotype of fantasy, and what the general populace believes of fantasy, is what I believe to be the reason publishers aren’t more willing to take a gamble with fantasy. I know for a fact that my book is not going to fit under the typical “fantasy” impression, and I know without having to do very much research, that there are MANY fantasy books that also refuse to be categorized under “typical fantasy,” yet the stereotype remains. Sad, really. This leaves us authors having to deal with what Hamerton summarized in his post.

Well… that’s a nice plight in which to place unknown or little-known fantasy authors in, isn’t it? Which brings me to my next question: is there any way this can be changed? How?

I think it can be changed, though with a lot of work on both sides, authors and publishers. I might just be talking ideals here, because I tend to care more about getting creative and interesting things out into the world than money, but bear with me.
The growing trend toward online publishing and self-publishing (which I wrote about in a post here ) is probably a good thing for fantasy authors, because of the problems listed by Hamerton. Because of the ridiculousness of the costs of production. Producing books in ebook format? Saves a lot on printing and distribution costs, no doubt. I hate to admit it, but I’m beginning to believe that there is hope in ebook publishing; people are more likely to read something if it’s easily accessible to devices they already own, and unless they’re book enthusiasts, they’re not as likely to peruse the shelves of used (or new) bookstores. Also, the generally-cheaper prices of ebooks are more conducive to buying than retail pricing. Everything points to ebooks.

Ebooks allow the author to be the publisher; it allows a good fantasy author the chance to publicize their book and redeem the fantasy name. It allows readers at large to experience fantasy at its best (which will hopefully help publishers change their minds in the future about fantasy, at least to some degree). Of course, there is the fact that e-publishing allows the bad work in, but there’s a pretty dependable way to distinguish good from bad: the quality of a book. Because e-publishing is easier and less demanding than a traditional publishing house, most authors who’ve written mediocre stuff haven’t often gone through the harrowing process of editing, revising, editing, revising, editing some more etc. Authors, even if their quality is so-so, can have a good polished work after it’s been worked over and over again. In fact, that’s what often makes a book good.

So, e-publishing is the hope of fantasy, I think, at least for a good while. Thanks to Hamerton, the website CompletelyNovel has been brought to my attention. In my brief look-over of the site, I’m excited to see what treasures it holds (and you should go look too)!

The thing about e-publishing is the work that it takes. If you want to be successful with it, you can’t just submit your manuscript, get the book out there and sit back. You have to WORK. Network with other writers; promote, promote, promote; follow and participate in other writer’s blogs; create a following through your OWN blog and social media; promote some more, and review other writer’s works, sometimes in return for them reviewing your work. After the editing and revising and the final publication of a book, more hard work and investment might not be high of your priority list. But it HAS to be. And be aware, I’m preaching this to myself as much as I am to anyone who is reading this, because I don’t like the promotion part of publishing… I’m the one who’ll sit and revise, edit, and proofread until dawn. But it’s necessary in order to make your book a success… at least, that’s what I think. Because, you know, I haven’t actually published a book yet =)

So, those are my two cents on the issue of why fantasy books aren’t regarded very seriously by publishing houses, and what hope that fantasy authors have in getting their books recognized. Eventually, I hope to write on WHY fantasy books ought to be regarded more seriously, but in order to do that I have to go find some to read first… to widen my horizons. However, I did buy a fantasy book by Diana Wynne Jones (author of Howl’s Moving Castle, for those of you who don’t know) titled “The Chronicles of Chrestomanci, Volume 1” that I plan to read before the summer is out. It’s a gigantic, thick book, though, so we’ll see how far I get!

The Chronicles of Chrestomanci, Volume 1

Also, just as an Allison-update: I am participating in July’s Camp NaNoWriMo challenge (sitting on 32,000/50,000 words as of the publishing of this post), which is why I have written hardly anything on this blog. I have virtually 3 days left to write the final 18,000 words, and with a lot of patience, I think I can do it. I’ll let you guys know if I survive (because, you know, if I don’t, I won’t be here to post that I did).

See you on the other side!

Self Publishing? e-Books?

We’re all familiar with the wonderful world of e-Books, right? With the rise of iPads and Nooks and Kindles and every other kind of tablet and e-reader, e-books have risen in popularity. Naturally. One tablet or reader is easier to carry around than a sack of books, especially when there’s limited bag space (airplanes, buses, etc), there’s little need to actually HOLD it  (so if you’re one of those weirdos who can work out and read at the same time, kudos to you!), and it’s significantly cheaper. All of these are pros, technically, and I’m sure they’re good; I’m convinced they’re good and beneficial for the constantly moving world we live in.

However, I grieve for the plight of real books. I’m one of those people who absolutely LOVES the feeling of a hefty book in my hands; I like the fact that my bag is heavy because of all the different books I have in there, I treasure the smell of an old book, and the way it’s easier to engage with a story if I’m actually turning the page. Naturally, I’m very determined to try to go the way of traditional publishing… I want the satisfaction of being accepted by an established publisher.

There is a problem, however. The more I think and talk about it, and the more familiar I become with the publishing world, how it operates, and the future of books, the less hopeful I am that my dream will come true. Self-publishing has this stigma attached to it because literally anybody can do it, and as a result (so I’ve heard, anyways) crap can be spread all over the place, and because of that, the good stuff that is self-published often gets overlooked. There’s also something ridiculously unofficial about self-publishing.

And now, I realize that I started this blog post on one leg and have switched to the other (e-books to self-publishing). However, these two are so closely woven together that it’s hard to talk about one and not the other. As much as I don’t like to say it, publishing in e-book format is a necessity these days because of the popularity of the e-reader. And I’m sure that it’s a helpful tool that allows people to read more than they normally would. However, that still doesn’t really help the sadness I feel when I think of a coffee shop filled with people reading electronically. There’s something very, very wrong with that picture…

But back to self-publishing. As I’ve probably mentioned in another blog post, I’m enthralled with the idea of working for a publishing company, be it as someone who sorts through unsolicited manuscripts, or as a basic editor, or someone who works with the author through edits; every aspect of that kind of job makes me SO excited and pumped. However, the realization that good publishing companies whose main priority it is to publish GOOD material (and not just the stuff in high demand *coughvampireromancecheesyscrapboardstuffcough*) may not be around long enough for me to really get my hands in, or they might run on volunteer-basis more than position-basis (which would be sad… particularly from a survival standpoint). So, I’m concerned.

So I decided to start networking on Twitter, and that’s proved a little fruitful. I found AEC Stellar Publishing, and I’m on a list of editors, so that’s a beginning. I’m starting to wonder if my future isn’t in outsourced editing services… and I’m scared about that because that means a LOT of initiative that I was not born with (or nurtured into), so it will be an uphill battle. But being an editor is something that I’m convinced I’m called to do, and by editor I mean that in whatever way you want to take it. I usually imagine myself sitting in a coffee shop or a sunlit living room surrounded by manuscripts and colorful pens… sometimes with an author sitting opposite or beside me, discussing their manuscript. There’s a passion for storytelling and words in my soul that I can hardly express, and discussing story ideas and plot points are just the beginning of what really makes me excited and inspired. It’s a cool passion and I’m really curious how it pans out, especially post-grad. Should I go to grad school? Try my hand at teaching? Part of me expects that I’ll be put in an instructor position at some point, and that freaks me out. Talking and workshopping writing is one thing, being the leader of something like a workshop is quite another. I’m sensing there’s a lot of fear that I’m going to have to get over at some point… but I’m okay with that. Might be a struggle, but it’ll be worth it.

So to sum up this post, I’m realizing that it’s vital to recognize the trends of the day, prepare myself well for the skills that I may need to know with a changing publishing environment, and embrace the change rather than try to pretend that it isn’t happening.

I’ll still be a firm believer in the hard-copy though. I will have a big, special place for my books in the house of my future.

A Gift

I was sitting in the kitchen eating a banana, listening to my mom and little sister go back and forth over a story my sister had written. Naturally, I was intrigued. I listened for awhile and tried to encourage a discouraged sister with pieces of advice about writing. She probably didn’t care, but it was worth a shot.

I watched my mom and sister, and a thought crossed my mind: what kind of role do gifts and specific skills play, specifically in writing? I can consider at my writing and process right now, read a story from my childhood and wonder how-on-eath I ever got to where I am. What is it that shaped me? How much of a gift did I really have to begin with? I like to think of myself as a person who has a strong understanding and passion for the English language; sometimes I feel confidence in that assumption, and other times I feel like I have no gift at all. I guess everyone goes through those phases because it’s part of life. But, regardless of my feelings, my question remains the same. How does gifting affect someone’s ability to write?

I can say that for me, a lot of my development came from online roleplaying (I know… don’t judge me. You’ve done weird things too). I faithfully wrote almost everyday, multiple times from April 2007 till probably about October or November 2010. I’m not totally sure on the ending date, because there were random weeks or months that I would try to get back into it for the sake of the discipline. However, college took over my life, and writing unfortunately became a back-burner priority. I can look back on the posts I made all those years and years ago only because I like to see how far I’ve come. It was because of my constant exposure to better writers that I was driven to get better, and as a result of associating with everyone’s writing, my vocabulary expanded, my sense of event progression sharpened, my ability to keep track of a lot of different events was honed (I did write with several characters at a time, and there was a lot of chat box plotting before and while a thread was in progress), and, in general, I had a better idea of how words worked. Then, as I said, college took over my life. However, as a Creative Writing major, I only continued to gain a better understanding of how writing worked and what it took to write a solid piece, both prose and essay; in fact, essays don’t daunt me anymore because I know how they work (or are supposed to work.. they still don’t always come out well).. and I ENJOY writing them. Who woulda thought? During my roleplaying days, constructive criticism never happened because this activity was a stress-reliever in many ways. We all did it for the fun of it, and benefited from that, however, it wasn’t designed as a writing purified, if you know what I mean. When I got to Union, however, it was all geared toward criticism and finding strengths and weaknesses in the plots and characters, and in general bettering each writer. All good stuff, and I’ll forever be thankful for each of the professors and students who have contributed so much to my learning.

So again, I ask, how much does gifting play into the make-up of a good writer?

From everything I’ve been thinking about, and learning, I’d venture to say that a good writer comes more often through of the discipline of honing the little (or lot) of gifting that he or she has than they do out of pure gift. Think of diamonds… they’re only worth so much when they’ve been cut and polished and placed. There IS an initial gift that a person has, a solid foundation to begin the building on, but without the dedicated shaping and hard work toward betterment, there won’t be anything to show for it. And this is why it’s important to be persistent. I’ve  just realized that there is value in both collaborating and enjoying being a writer with other writers, and in engaging in constructive criticism and the appraisal of the written word. Work and play, you could say.

Another thing that seems to play a big role in developing the basic gift a person has is a desire to do so. Going back to the kitchen, I watched my sister get very discouraged and frustrated when mistakes in grammar or weaknesses in her story progression were pointed out. For a half-minute, I was surprised at her response; I have learned to love criticism and the red pen as much as I love my parents (and maybe more, if that’s possible…), however, she hasn’t gotten there. She hasn’t realized how valuable revision is. To her, a story is done as soon as the first draft has “the end” written on the last line. Hopefully one day, she’ll get to the point where that “the end” is only just the beginning, and that instead of frustration she’ll experience joy when someone comes along and rips her work to shreds. =) It sounds violent, but sometimes in violence there’s beauty… and by violence I’m thinking turbulent seas and the desolation of winter (when the world is stripped of life.. or so it seems), and such like things. Not actual violence.

Anyway, I digress.

As I said, a desire to improve is what enables a person to muddle through all the growing pains of learning, and the discipline of trying to improve is what makes the cake.

So, what do you guys think about gift versus discipline? Can a totally ungifted writer discipline themselves into a good writer? What are your experiences with developing your gift of writing?

 

(Sidenote Update: I’ve read “The Perks of Being a Wall Flower”, “Atonement”, and I’ve almost finished  “The Silmarillion” since my last post. I have Fahrenheit 451 and… another book whose title I can’t remember on the list. I might watch the “Perks” movie and write a review of both, comparing them and whatnot… we’ll see. I’ve been busier than I anticipated this summer)

Update on Summertime Ventures

Oh readers… do forgive my sudden absence. Spring break brought new inspiration and fresh motivation, but soon after break ended, I found myself bombarded with various school projects, papers, and assignments that required more time than I had to give. It’s been a constant barrage of busyness, and I’ve still got about a week left before it ceases.

The good news, though, is the fact that there’s only about a week left before I’m set free on summer break. Of course, “free” is only a relative term. In fact, if I plan well enough, I’ll be accomplishing a good proportion of my “read 50 books this year” challenge. I’ve hit ten! … which is leaving me with a pretty steep stack of books to conquer. But it will be a mountain climbed with joy… reading is the greatest thing!

But other than reading an exorbitant amount of books this summer, you may wonder what else I have planned for the summer in order to keep myself productive and on track. Basically, I plan to do a lot of writing on the book I started last summer. It’s come a long way since then; it was a tiny germ of an idea in mid-June 2012 inspired by a short story scholarship contest, and now it’s blossomed into an entire world that is still developing. I don’t expect to have everything organized and written out (in terms of backstory) by the end of the summer, but I certainly expect a story with my main character to have begun developing and also a working knowledge of each of the four cultures… and a timeline of the history of Erad-du (that’s the name of the world!) designed and cemented in “time” so to speak.

I’d also really like to enter a few creative writing contests and submit to literary publications. This goal is a little bit more of a stretch for me, but i’ve got three months, right?

However, one of the things i’m most excited about this summer is the opportunity to work with  (almost) Dr. Bailey on her YA novel “GIrl in the Middle”, which I will be promoting when press time gets closer. She mentioned yesterday that she’d like to employ my services to do a run through/final copy edit of the manuscript… and guys, I am SO EXCITED!! =D Even though no internships came through for this summer, I do have something to keep me occupied that will pay and give me the experience I was looking to gather.

That’s about all the updates I’ve got. I’m so sorry that I haven’t been able to keep this blog up a little bit better than normal; school has been it’s craziest ever this past month or so… so bear with me as I transition from school to summer. Expect to hear a lot more from me =)

 

Beauty in words

Not too long ago, I was asked how I go about creating beauty in writing, and what beauty in story writing actually is.

Everyone is acquainted with the concept of beauty and the debate it has stirred. How can you establish a “standard” of beauty when the subject of beauty is so subjective (bear with me)? After extensive discussion and class projects and more discussion, I can only say that each person has a unique sense of what beauty means, even if that sense is fed by what’s popular. You know those moments when you read an article on Yahoo! about the latest fashions? Well… I’ll tell you what; some of those outfits (most, I should say) are… very unattractive to say the least. Why ANYONE would be willing to strut out in some of those get-ups is something I will never understand. Initially, my appreciation for something like that is very, very low. However, it’s good to keep in mind that someone created it; someone appreciates fashion as an art and as a way to express themselves. To them, it is beauty, and when I think about those odd outfits in that light, I find I can appreciate it on a very basic level, as artist to artist.

Writing can be considered in the same way. What I think of as beautiful will probably be very different from what another author feels is beautiful, and those ideas on beauty will change as we all get older and our horizons expand. That being said, though, I think there are a couple aspects of writing that are particularly striking, especially when done well.

Reality/believability
This is something that I’ve picked up on as something very essential to a beautiful piece of writing. I am convinced that there is nothing more beautiful than raw human (and I don’t mean that in a cannibalistic way… honest). In Les Mis, for example, Fantine sells herself for the sake of her child; she reaches the gravest point of desperation in her need, and yet she still loves her child enough to give her up so she can work for her sake, and to die in her efforts to support Cozette. I haven’t read the book yet, but I plan on it (hopefully this summer when I have a little bit more time). But really, think about it. If you’ve seen the movie, you’ve seen enough to know what I’m talking about. Revisiting that movie in my head is overwhelming me a little bit, actually… it is so rich in beauty because of ugliness and gross corruption. As much as people hate to see the bad bits of life, and as cozied away as we try to make ourselves from it, that is where the stark reality of life is, and that is where you’re going to find the most evident expressions of beauty, especially through avenues such as love, rescue/redemption, and restoration.

Now, as to creating it in story writing? It’s tough. You don’t want to force your readers to feel sorry or exuberant and happy for your characters, so the goal is to earn the reader’s emotions (in other words, as my professor would say, don’t go the easy, cliched route). Traveling the hard road requires you to dig deep and get to know your characters and then write them as they are, rather than what you want them to be. A character will develop him/herself; if you’ve written anything more than a couple pages, you’ll notice how it works.
I haven’t spent enough time really getting to know my characters, and I can tell you, it shows. In workshopping classes, character development and the believability of said characters is one of the weaknesses that other students pick out of my writing, so I’m not exactly an authority on this subject. But, I do know enough to say that when your story/characters are grounded in the reality of who they are, what they’re doing, and where they are (emotionally, physically, etc),   they will shine. When they are tested and the reality of their character is exposed, a reader will take a step back and shake their head, chills might run across their skin, and they might read that beautiful, real moment again.

So, I’d say that the first step in creating beauty in story writing is to foster reality and believability in your characters and the situations they’re in. Don’t sacrifice reality for artificiality. =)

 

Stay tuned for another post about creating beauty in writing! =)