Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Writing Wednesdays: Culture

Wow, it's been a couple weeks since I posted a Wednesday post.

Anyways... culture. What the social customs are - holidays, traditions, superstitions, even symbols. Culture is a big part of every life. Like American culture revolves around TVs and consumer goods. Like the Chinese thought (think?) that dragons are good luck vs. Western Europe thinking they're evil. Like some people throw a pinch of salt over their shoulder when they've knocked the little salt shaker over.

8 Ways to Make Your Character's World More Realistic:

1. Be consistent. If you have a holiday/festival dedicated to dragons, and then turn around and say that your world thinks that dragons are top-notch evil, then you have a problem.

2. Don't stop to explain the entire history behind the superstition. Would you be bored if I went on about how people say "bless you" after they sneeze because it was thought that part of your soul flew out when you sneezed? Well, perhaps you wouldn't be. But do you know anyone who would?

3. Make it sound natural. If you write general/realistic fiction, then make it at least close to accurate.

4. Ask yourself if your character is a noncomformist. Does your character live by these society standards? Does your character think that perhaps dragons are really blessings, and the whole "evil" reputation is a misunderstanding? Does s/he think that throwing salt over their shoulder to ward off evil spirits is stupid?

5. Think past cliches. Maybe rain is a symbol of happiness, or instead of saying "bless you" they chant "Stay soul" or something (I admit that was a little weak). But don't stick with the overused cliches of past literature.

6. Remember that you don't have to cram in every little detail. It doesn't matter if your world's got a moon-spirit festival in December if your story takes place within the month of June.

7. Don't make it all flowery. This might be a matter of opinion, but not completely. What I mean is, not everything your world has to offer will be good and wonderful. Some parts have to be bad - evil omens, bad luck symbols, the celebration of war, etc.

8. If your story focuses around a cultural detail, describe it thoroughly. For example, my novel focuses around this cultural slight: my MC refuses to let her sister marry this rich man. The rich man's aunt (because my world is matriarchal) feels slighted because my MC's species in general is endangered, and refusing a marriage offer is insulting. Without knowing that this is insulting, would you assume that the aunt is overreacting when she sends my MC to jail?

So, my list of tips. The most important thing to squeezing culture into your world-building is to find a balance. Not too much detail, not little. I can't tell you how to do that.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Monday Musing (Book Covers, P2)

(Before I start my post, I want to express my love for the heroes of this world. Thank you to all of the people who've died or risked death for another person's life. The world could not keep turning without their selflessness and courage. I even took the time to draw my own picture, and then find a nice-looking one on photobucket.)

And now, back to my (somewhat) regularly scheduled post.

Everyone knows the phrase "Don't judge a book by its cover". Sadly, this isn't always true. We all have picked up a book and thought, "who would pick this as a cover?!" At least, I know a majority of people do at some point.

So what makes a good cover look good? This varies from person's preference to person's preference. Some people love thos covers with a girl in a dress. Some love the close up of a girl's face. Some like a supernatural feel to it. The point is, there's no one way to make a cover look good.

Here are four pointers to remember when you are looking at your cover:

1. Make sure the cover has to do with the book. If you are writing a general fiction novel about an abused girl, don't pick a vampire chewing on someone's neck. If you're writing some dystopia about evil unicorns taking over the world, don't pick a happy meadow cover with girly handwriting font. This seems like common sense, but some covers convey a different meaning than the story. Be careful.

2. The colors generally correspond with the mood of the story. Like I said, a bright, happy-looking scene with lots of blues and yellows and pinks are NOT good for a creepy dystopia novel. A disturbing, grays and blacks would not look good on a children's book. Etc, etc, etc.

3. The font is a big one, too. Like color, it should match the mood. From what I've seen, handwriting-style fonts are mostly general fiction romance, the antique-style font is for fantasy-type cover, and the arial fonts (the kind you use in English class) is for... well, it suits a simply designed cover. I assume it'd be fine for any cover, as long as it actually looks like it belongs.

4. The composition needs to be right. Composition is where and how everything is placed. A lot of times, the picture is what catches your eye first. It can be placed off center, or in the middle, but it is still one of the first things you see. The title is second-noticeable. It's usually placed at the top or in the middle. Overall, it doesn't really matter where it is, it's just the how. It should look cool to a lot of people, not just the designer of the cover.

This all seems pretty simple to me, but my main advice is to get a second opinion. You are biased towards it; we get that you love it. But it's not appealing to everyone, and if the fifth or seventeenth or eighteenth opinion still hates it, you should consider a new cover. 

Have a blessed day, remember the heroes, and enjoy life! <3


Monday, May 21, 2012

Monday Musings (on book covers P1)

Today's post was inspired by Down the Rabbit Hole's new feature called shelfmates. I thought it would be fun to point out things that work and things that don't. This will be a two or three part series on Mondays that focus on what makes a book cover memorable.

The Girl in the Pretty Dress

This kind of cover, I have to admit, has been way overdone, especially in the romance genre. It can be a turn off to some people, such as to boys and to those girls who want some hormone-free adventure. My theory is that the prom dress/ball gown connotes a romantic feeling, a sort of "look at me, I'm helpless but romantically lovable in this completely impractical dress". I might give a book with this cover a try, but only to be fair. I mean, I can't judge a book by its cover.

(I'm not picking this out because I hate the book - in fact, I've never read it - but it is an example of the type of cover. I'm not implying anything negative about it.)

The extreme close up of a girl's face

Again, sort of overdone. I honestly don't know why people love choosing this as a book cover - if they're implying something about the kiss-ability of a girl's lips, I am offended - but it isn't uncommon to walk into a bookstore and see a girl's face on even the books that aren't romantical in nature. Like Poison by Chris Wooding - no romance, just a close up of the MC's face. But that turned out to be one of those mind-blowing, crazy-and-surreal-but-addicting books. But in general, the only problem with it is the fact that it's way overdone.

Silhoutte of a person

I don't see this as much. It kind of makes sense, and it's less gender-biased. It gives off a much less romantic feel to it. I'm always reminded of Eon by Alison Goodman, because the action and intricacy of the novel is so different than the simple elegance given off by the silhoutte.

Those Abstract covers

You know what I mean. The Inkheart trilogy covers. The Twilight covers. The Hunger Games. Basically, this defines itself as "anything but an obviously human figure standing as the main focal point." As in, what immediately draws your eye is not a girl in a dress, or her face, or a silhoutte. It's the flowers, the skulls, etc. I happen to like these best, but that's a matter of opinion. To me, it shows through its simplicity that it's not all focused around human beings. It involves natural or mythical elements as well, sometimes as the central point. Or sometimes, that it's not all about the people, and more about political ideas/strategies, or those things in life that make humans seem weak (government oppression, disease, some natural disaster).

The Mythical Creature

Well, yes, you see that on the Eon cover up there. But I always focus on the dark silhoutte beneath the dragon. What I mean by this one is the mermaid of the Lost Voices book, or Saphira's close-up on Eragon. I really love these books, simply because of my obsession with magical creatures and myths. To me, it reminds me of a larger, deeper story than just "boy-meets-girl" or "boy/girl-strikes-back-against-the-government". It involves a higher voice, so to speak.

So, that is my basic overview of types of books. There are the overused ones and the unusual, and all of the connotations I think of.

Do you have a different opinion? Thought of an alternate connotation? Comment!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Friday Favorites

It's Friday! I am so glad the week (and all the testing) is done. A good thing about the week is that I've been hit with that proverbial lightning strike, Inspiration. I feel like my book might actually get past point A now.


I've been listening to several different artists. I hate that I only know one or two of their songs, but they've been stuck in my head all week: Death Cab for Cutie, Krystal Meyers, Barlow Girls, and Tim Mcgraw.
Tim Mcgraw - Let It Go

Barlow Girls - Mirror


"I am irritated by my own writing. I am like a violinist whose ear is true, but whose fingers refuse to reproduce precisely the sound he hears within." -Gustave Flaubert

"I personally believe we developed language because of our deep inner need to complain." -Jane Wagner

"A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle." -Gloria Steinem

"Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid." -Albert Einstein

"To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong." -Joseph Chilton Pearce

"If you expect nothing from anybody, you'll never be disappointed." -Sylvia Path

"Don't go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first." -Mark Twain

"When you consider things like the stars, our affairs don't seem to matter much, do they?" -Virginia Woolf


I read surprisingly little this week. I've been so busy with tests, I didn't notice. Also, I had to drag out reading this one book because my mom promised to buy me the sequel today (which she did - yay!). That book is The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan. He writes such awesome books that are both filled with ancient myths and magic and written like a modern teenager's thoughts. You know what I mean? (Which you should if you've ever read The Percy Jackson series. That's quite popular; have y'all read it?)

Overall, it's been an exhausting week. My AP World History exam, the state-approved tests that happen in May (they're called SOLs here, but I think that changes from state to state, right?) as well as some personal problems (I mean, my cat's problems technically, but I loved her newborn kittens; I was so devastated when they died).

Anyways, here is a quote in picture form, from Tumblr:

Monday, May 14, 2012

Monday Minute

This is going to be really fast, because I am about to go to sleep. It's been a long day and I have a headache.

Here are eight random facts:

1. A group of crows is called a "murder" of crows.

2. The human face can produce about 7,000 different facial expressions.

3. Tigers are the largest members of the cat family.

4. Diet sodas and artificial sweeteners can worsen depression.

5. Emily Dickenson had only published seven of her poems during her lifetime - after her death, her family found her poems and decided to publish them. Now she's renowned for her creative license.

6. There are over 40 books in the Bible, all written by different people. (Well, a few of them might have the same author, but the Bible was written over a span of centuries; there's no one single author.)

7. A female tiger is called a tigress.

8. The fruit of a plant is actually the ripened ovary. It's meant to protect the seeds inside.

The world is such a funny place. Those are a few random facts of this ancient, strange, beautiful world we call Earth. So, have a blessed day and I end with a quote:

"If you try to fail, and succeed, which have you done?" -George Carlin

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Wednesday Writings: Setting

Setting: the time and place your story takes place.

Maybe your setting looks like this:

Perhaps your setting looks like this:

Either way, your setting is special. (Well, you can have WAY more settings than just those two, but I'm sticking with the basics.) Without a well-detailed, clearly-visualized setting, your story will fail. Worse than that, it'll crash and burn like those movie-style car crashes.

Tips on strengthening your setting:

1. Don't forget to sneak in a few details in the beginning. For example:
Suzy woke up with a start. Around her, everything was normal: her alarm clock stood innocently on the nightstand beside her bed; the desk was still littered with scraps of paper and broken ink pens. The clothes on the floor remained untouched. But then she realized what was missing: the walls of her bedroom...

2. Every now and then, introduce a new place, or something out of ordinary, that causes the character to notice and comment. Perhaps your character wandered away from home and found a new dimension. What is different about this dimension? What does your character find so strange about it?

3. Add in details about culture and the layout of your town/city/rural village/etc. Don't make it obvious; rather, subtly hint at it. If you slip in some cultural reference, don't immediately explain to your reader exactly what you mean. Perhaps your cityperson needs direction to a new shop or club; have them ask for directions, and the person s/he asks elaborates a little.

4. Well... most of my advice is to SUBTLY DESCRIBE THE IMPORTANT BITS. If your setting takes place in some obscure Scottish village during the late 1600s, don't make your dialogue sound sound like a modern American teenager. Perhaps add some real Scottish slang in there from that time period. And for sanity's sake, don't over-describe your person's village. You don't need to know the names of the flowers your MC walks by, or the exact temperature otside in degrees Celsius (I'm doubting they used Celsis at that point. Note: When were thermometers and degrees Celsius first used?)

I hate to cut my 8-point list down to 4, but I don't really have anything else to tell you. Only you can uniqely describe your setting. You either over-do it or under-do it, and balancing it out is up to you. It makes the difference between "meh" and "OH-MY-CHOCOLATE-THAT-WAS-AMAZING". No pressre or anything.

Have a wonderful Wednesday and continue writing! ;D

"Anyone who thinks sitting in church can make you a Christian mst also think that sitting in a garage can make you a car." -Garrison Keillor

Friday, May 4, 2012

Friday Favorites

I had a pretty dull week. Just... normal. Nothing special.


I didn't listen to anything new, but I rediscovered some old ones. Here's Aly and AJ-

I also listened to a lot of old Disney music: you know, Mulan, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, The Aristocats... The Aristocats is a Disney movie? The cats and the rich lady who leaves all her possessions to her cats and the butler gets jealous and takes the cats far away? I used to love that movie. I haven't watched in forever.


"One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple." -Jack Kerouac

"Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them." -Lemony Snicket

"Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people." -Eleanor Roosevelt

"A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle." -Gloria Steinem


I read Cinder by Marissa Meyer - a strange retelling of Cinderella where she's part robot and the evil queen from the moon is trying to marry the prince. Very interesting, I would recommend it. I also read Lost Voices by Sarah Porter, about a girl who turns into a mermaid with an incredible voice, and her group of mermaid friends keeps pressuring her to lure the sailors on passing ships into the water. Very emotional, almost... surreal. A pretty captivating read. Also, I am still reading The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck for my English project. I plan on trying harder to finish that book over the weekend. I mean, now it's getting interesting - famine, revolt, moving away from home and longing to return.

That's pretty much all I've got. Like I said, it's been a rather monotonous week. It dragged along, but I made it to Friday. So, have an awesome weekend, make good choices, and read to your heart's content! <3

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Whoa My Goodness, It's Thursday

I should have posted this yesterday, but I had an orthodontist appointment and my teeth were so sore that I ended up taking a nap. So, sorry, the alliteration of my titles is postponed until tomorrow. :'(

I have eight questions on your Character's Character. Stunningly original, I know. (*cough* that was sarcasm, people).

1. We know your character is the protagonist. But is s/he the hero or the villain? Does your character do good or bad? Is your character Harry Potter or Artemis Fowl? (Not in a plagorism way, of course. Just in terms of personality.)

2. Does your character have a set of morals? This applies to villainy MCs as well. For example, does your kidnapping, murdering thief have an aversion to rape? Does your coldly evil gang leader have an aversion to swearing and beating his own gang members up? Does your aggravatingly good (*ahem* "nice") character hate not helping others in pain?

3. What is your character's main trait? In other words, if a stranger could sum up your character in one word, what would it be? Curious? Whiny? Evil?

4. What is your character's biggest fear? Think bigger than snakes or spiders. Perhaps he is afraid to fail the ones he loves. Perhaps she is scared of spending the rest of her life unloved. Perhaps your could-be-either-gender is scared of falling and taking everyone down with it.

5. Who is the person nearest to your MC's heart? Is it a family member? Perhaps a spouse? Maybe it's even a pet? Perhaps your MC would take a bullet for his daughter. Or she would kill anyone who comes between her and mother. Or the little boy would poison anyone if his aunt asked him to.

6. What would your MC change about him/herself? Would they make themselves more beautiful? Would they make themselves taller? Would they make themselves be incapable of fear or pain?

7. Will your character win in the end? It's such a simple question, but it so important to think about it. Does not winning make your character a loser? Is your character a sore winner? Your character's reaction to this could exacerbate their flaws or display your MC as the brilliant, shining person who is ten times the man the antagonist is? (or ten times the woman.)

8. Is your person a conformist or a nonconformist? Is your 18th century Chinese man against the patriarchal system? Is your modern-day, kick-butt, bad girl really soft and looking for love on the inside? (You'd be surprised how often that shows up in literature. It's getting somewhat cliche.) Would your character do anything to fit into society?

Your character has character; they have their strengths, their flaws, their insecurities, the things they're proud of and the things that seem insignificant. But do you know your character well enough to answer those questions? If not, I suggest you find the answers - whether you take a nap and dream it, you make it up as you go along, or you have imginary chats with them in your head.

However your character thinks and acts, make sure you can anticipate his/her next move. It wouldn't do to panic in the middle of their big scene because you cannot think of a logical way your character would react. Also, your readers might find it a little strange if your quiet, timid little MC suddenly becomes the loudest, most irritating person you know.

That concludes my makeshift topic for the day. Y'all have a good day and don't forget to think before you write!