16 April 2016

Nobody Will Like It

**My theme for this year's A to Z Challenge is THE REVISION PROJECT. Topics I come across while I write the third draft of my novel, Uneven Lines.**

It’s not exactly something that comes up in everyday conversation, especially with my friends, who were just your typical dudes. And honestly, I had no idea how anyone would take it. My friends, my mom, or any of the countless people who thought they knew me but really didn’t know anything. 

It's pretty much impossible for everyone to like every book. Even if most people agree that a book is good, there are still going to be people who give it 1 star reviews. You just can't please everyone. But I'm sure most writers worry that they won't be able to please anyone. What if there is just not a single person out there who will like your book? What if everyone will hate it? 

This is one of the things that has seriously slowed down my writing (you know, besides the not being able to figure things out part). I constantly worry that people won't just not like it, but they'll hate it. They'll wonder why I wasted my time writing something so awful. They'll think I should quit writing altogether. 

I know that thinking is pretty extreme, but my book isn't exactly tame. People are going to find reasons to dislike it, but I can't change the story to try to please those people. But there are just so many elements that worry me. I worry that no one will like the voice, or the swears, or the sexual references. No one will like Jordan or the fact that he's a manipulative little bastard. No one will like that I'm a straight girl writing about gay characters. No one will like the age difference between my characters. No one will like that one of my characters is an ephebophile. No one will like any single thing that any character says, does, or thinks. 

*Phew* Ok, now that I've gotten that out...actually, I have no idea. I can't really erase those doubts until I actually publish it and have a few readers who do like it. And that doesn't mean that they won't be gone completely because I'm sure that there will still be people who hate it. I just wish (and maybe naively so) that the people who would hate it wouldn't read it in the first place. Or maybe someone with a completely open mind who gave it every possible chance and for whatever reason just didn't like it, well, that would be understandable. And better than someone who just hates it before they even start reading. 

Do you ever worry that no one will like your writing? 

15 April 2016

Madison, or, The Magically Appearing Minor Character!

**My theme for this year's A to Z Challenge is THE REVISION PROJECT. Topics I come across while I write the third draft of my novel, Uneven Lines.**

There were plenty of things I could have said. No thanks, I like boys. Sorry, I’m just afraid that you’re diseased. No, really, I’m flattered, you’re just really annoying. What came out of my mouth was, “Fine. Come on.” She grinned as I took her hand. 

Sometimes you have characters who cause trouble. Wait, haven't I written about this before? I guess all of my characters cause trouble. But sometimes you come up with a character who didn't even seem necessary to the story, just shows up in the middle, throws everyone off, then walks away. And the mess they leave shouldn't work, but it does, and you're the one picking up all the pieces.

I can't even think of an accurate name for this type of character, so for now we'll call her Madison. Well, because that's her name in UL. But I'm sure a lot of you have had a Madison every now and then. The issue is whether or not she's even necessary, and if she is, is there a way to make her more prominent in the story?

Let me break this down without being too spoilerific (I hope). Madison doesn't show up in UL until Chapter 17. There has never been any mention of her whatsoever. Jordan goes to his friend Brian's birthday party and she just happens to be there. Seems ok, right? But the thing about Madison is that she's tied to things that happened long before the story even began. Madison is best friends with Kristen, who just so happens to be the last girl Jordan went out with before deciding to end all that nonsense. Now, Madison and Kristen are the biggest frenemies you've ever known. So a just about perfect way of hurting Kristen would be to hook up with the guy that dumped her and left her a little obsessed.

I know what you're going to say. "Uh, Sarah...don't know if you knew this, but...Jordan is gay." Shhhhhhh. Teenagers can get it up for pretty much anything and it works in the scene, trust me! That's not the point! Because he doesn't go through with it, obviously, and not just because she's a girl. Because he has feelings for someone else. Which leads to an entire other fiasco but that will come up in a later post. But without his interaction with Madison, certain things that happen in the main plot never would have happened at all.

Also, the whole Madison thing fuels the subplot on a huge level. Brian gets really pissed at Jordan for the whole mess, Jordan decides he needs to pretty much destroy Brian's life, blah blah blah. So she has a purpose. The thing I worry about is the fact that she just shows up out of nowhere, messes everything up, and then disappears. Is that a weird thing to do? Will the reader be thinking, "who the hell is this chick?"

I'm trying to work her in more and more in the third draft. She's lurking in the first chapter when we catch Kristen staring at Jordan, and then she whispers to the girl sitting next to her. Madison also happens to be the girl Eric has had a crush on the whole time even though he doesn't tell anyone until after all the nonsense happens. And I think she can show up again later on as Jordan is scheming against Brian. He sees her as someone who could help because she's just as sneaky and crafty as him.

So is it ok if characters just show up out of nowhere? Or is it better to subtly weave them throughout the story so that they don't shock the reader and throw things off?

Do you have your own version of a Madison? Do you think characters can just show up and never be seen again?

14 April 2016

Looks & Appearances

**My theme for this year's A to Z Challenge is THE REVISION PROJECT. Topics I come across while I write the third draft of my novel, Uneven Lines.**

I was tall, pretty skinny, which apparently a lot of girls went for (don’t even get me started on how hilarious that was). Just plain old brown eyes and short, light brown hair. I guess it really had to be my face. I’ve got high cheekbones and a smile that can kill.

Have you ever thought about what your characters look like? Of course you have! We probably know every exact detail of every character's appearance. But that doesn't necessarily mean it shows up in the story. How much do the readers need to know about what your characters look like? And how often should it show up?

I know some people will argue that you don't have to describe appearances at all. While I think it's definitely easy to overdo it, having a brief description of what a character looks like will help the reader to visualize the story better. Especially if the character is important. Minor characters don't necessarily need to be so clearly defined if they aren't showing up as much. For instance, in my book, I never really describe what Jordan's friends, Eric and Brian, look like. They're only in a few chapters and since I already had to give descriptions for two characters in the first chapter, I didn't want to bog down the beginning of the book with character descriptions.

So what do you tell? And when do you tell it? I think it's better to get it out as quickly as possible. If you're introducing a character, then you probably want to describe what he looks like. If you put it off for too long, it may come off as strange to just suddenly say what he looks like halfway through the story when you've made no reference to it before. So my general philosophy is right away, or not at all. It's a lot easier when you're introducing a character we've never seen before. Jordan meets Tom for the first time at the end of Chapter One in UL, so that was a perfect time to describe what Tom looks like. For other characters, it isn't always so easy.

The hardest thing, I think, is to have a character describe himself. You'll only have this problem if you write in first person. There is rarely a time when a person will actually describe what they look like and it will sound normal. You'll have to find a way for it to come up naturally within the story. The whole "describe myself while looking in the mirror" thing has been ridiculously overdone. When I have Jordan describe himself to the reader, his thoughts are a reaction to a conversation he's having with his friends at the time. He doesn't go into a ridiculous amount of detail, either. Just a few sentences and then the story continues. I think it works for the scene and gets that description out of the way so the reader can better visualize him through the rest of the story.

You can sneak in details throughout the story as well. I felt in Jordan's initial description, I didn't fully explain what his hair looked like, because it just seemed silly and unimportant. But I figured I could sneak in some detail later on in the story when he's getting ready for a date. I'm sure most people will fuss over their hair in that type of situation, so it won't seem strange like it would have in his initial description.

It's really all about finding the right place and the right way to describe a character. You may not be able to get every single detail in at once, and that's ok. You just have to find the spots that work for your story and characters.

Do you include physical descriptions of your characters?

13 April 2016

Kissing, Sex, & Other Naughty Things

**My theme for this year's A to Z Challenge is THE REVISION PROJECT. Topics I come across while I write the third draft of my novel, Uneven Lines.**

I flew up the stairs, banged desperately on his door. He could barely get it open when I collided into him, smothering his mouth with mine. I was breaking every rule, and I didn’t care. I didn’t want any space between our bodies.

WARNING: I may use a few naughty words in this post. Also, SPOILER ALERT. I'm totally going to talk about how far my characters' physical relationship progresses.

Time for some action! Well, at least talking about it. If you've got two characters who are romantically involved, chances are there is going to be some kind of physical interaction. Depending on your book and even the particular scene you're writing, it could be tame (a simple kiss) or extra juicy (full blown sex scene). Figuring out what your book needs or even what these scenes need can be tricky. How much do you need to show? And how many times should you show it?

Well, it all depends on your story. If you're writing erotica, then by all means, show everything. And keep doing it. If not, then you really need to choose what needs to be shown and for how long. For most of my book, it's all about kissing. Well, because it would be illegal for my characters to do anything else. It's kind of the point. Their whole relationship is centered around this sort of arrangement that only allows the physical moments to go so far.

One of my favorite kissing scenes is the first one. It doesn't happen until Chapter 8 (well, it may be 7 in the third draft since I may be cutting a chapter, but that's not the point!). I think it's always fun when a book doesn't give you that first kiss right away. You have to wait for it, just be screaming at the pages until it finally happens. Tension should build up until that point and when it finally happens, it should be a significant moment in the story. What I like about the first kiss in my story is that it's incredibly simple and short, but also a huge deal, both because of the characters' relationship and because of how long it took to actually happen.

So after the first kiss, how much physical interaction should you show? For me, there is quite a bit of it. The characters' physical relationship progresses very slowly, so my idea was to show more detail when something new happens, basically when it advances the plot (or the relationship) in some way. I can spend a whole page on a make out scene or just a sentence or two to imply that it happened. It depends how important it is.

There is one sex scene in the book, and it's in the last chapter. Well, my characters are human, and they screw up. They let things get too far. The interesting thing about it though is by the time my characters do have sex, it isn't really something either of them wants. It's more of a way out. Which is why I think I have a hard time writing it.

No matter how many times I write and rewrite the sex scene, I just can't get it right. And I don't think it's because of the physical elements. I've done my homework, everything besides actually watching porn (because EW! EWWWWW! I'd much, much rather read some erotica. Or just binge watch Looking...). No, trust me, I know what needs to happen between my two male characters. My issue is balancing the physical with the emotional. It should be a sad scene, really, but it should be sexy, too. It is a sex scene after all. But it's difficult to get that right.

I have an earlier scene that only has a handjob, but I actually like it more than the sex scene. It just works. There's passion, excitement, there's really just an energy to it. I read that scene and wonder why I can't take that energy and put it in the sex scene. Well, I know the emotions are completely different, so it can't be exactly the same. But as it is now, the sex scene just doesn't have any energy. It's completely weighed down by the emotions. And I just can't seem to get it right.

All right, I'll wrap this up before I tell you about every single tiny physical interaction my characters have throughout the book. Do I have some of it figured out? Hell yes. Do I have all of it figured out? Not even close. I guess it's just going to take some more rewriting. Lots and lots of rewriting.

How do you approach a kissing or sex scene in your writing? How do you balance the physical with the emotional?

12 April 2016

Jerks & A-Holes

**My theme for this year's A to Z Challenge is THE REVISION PROJECT. Topics I come across while I write the third draft of my novel, Uneven Lines.**

“First, he beats you up. Then he tells the whole school you’re gay and it turns out to be true? Everyone hates him.”

Not all characters have to be good guys, or even all that likable. How else would we have villains, after all? But if you have a character who's just a complete jerk, then you probably want a reason for it.

I've recently been rewriting the first chapter of UL and as I started the second scene, I realized something: Jordan sounded way more negative than I intended. He hates everything and everyone and isn't afraid to tell you. I don't necessarily think it's the end of the world, but I think he was coming on a little too strong. He does start the book by telling you how he's been manipulating one of his teachers just for the fun of it. I can't really start it any other way, but I worry that he comes off as a jerk and no one will like him.

I think I could sum up Jordan's world view as this: "everything is terrible but I really don't give a crap." (Except replace 'crap' with a stronger word). He's usually just trying to find something that isn't going to bore him to death. The thing that I think works is that underneath his tough outer shell is actually a very vulnerable person, even though he'll never ever admit it. I guess that's what makes first person tricky in this type of situation. You're only going to get what he puts out there. To see that softer side, you'll have to read between the lines.

I think if you put a character who isn't quite as strong in Jordan's shoes, they could fall apart. I know I probably would. He has a terribly depressing home life. I've realized things about him like the fact that he's never had a birthday party or believed in Santa or anything normal children should experience. He's not necessarily struggling with his sexuality, but he's definitely hiding it. That's not an easy thing to deal with. You would probably feel bad for him, but he just won't let you. So does that work? Or does that tough exterior make him seem like a complete a-hole?

There's another character who's definitely a jerk. If my story had a bad guy (and considering the fact that Jordan is the protagonist so it's not him), it would probably be his friend, Brian. Brian is just your typical obnoxious teenager. He wants to be popular but doesn't really want to admit it. Jordan gets the impression that Brian is jealous of him, but since he never says so, how do we know it's true? Why is he such a jerk and a bully?

Maybe he has a crappy home life but doesn't tell anyone. Well, Jordan isn't exactly the kind of person to care even if Brian was the kind of person to open up about it. So do I just let the reader know what Jordan believes? That Brian is a jerk for no good reason? Do I have him ponder it for half a second, or maybe have another character (Eric, most likely) clue him in? I actually do want the reader to dislike Brian, but I also want them to believe that he could exist. If he's too over the top with his jerkiness, he may not seem all that believable.

Do you have characters who are jerks? Do you think there should be a reason behind it?

11 April 2016


**My theme for this year's A to Z Challenge is THE REVISION PROJECT. Topics I come across while I write the third draft of my novel, Uneven Lines.**

He expected the whole world to come crashing down on us, and still there was nothing. Everyone lived in their own little bubble, and we weren’t even worth noticing.

Every so often, amidst all the plot holes and inconsistencies and things to fix, you realize you may have gotten something right. Some element of your story that just works, even though you may not have even tried to put it there in the first place. But once you figure it out, you want to keep working on it so that one element is as perfect as it could possibly be.

I don't usually plan on putting themes or symbols into my writing, but every so often they pop up without me even trying. One of those things I think I got right in UL is this idea of isolation. And it works on a few different levels. Well, my characters have to be isolated, since they're carrying out a secret relationship. That part was always obvious. But I think my characters are even more isolated than they realize.

Even though Jordan technically lives with his mother, she is hardly ever home. He basically lives his life on his own. He has school and friends, but most of the time, he's alone. He doesn't necessarily have a problem with this, either. Tom, on the other hand, forces isolation upon himself. Besides working his job, he chooses to be completely alone, mostly because he's terrified of himself and doesn't want other people to really know him. Part of the appeal of their relationship is that only when they are with each other can they be completely 100% themselves, and also not be alone.

Setting plays a big role in this as well. The book takes place in New York City (more on setting in a later post!). I always liked this juxtaposition of having this busy, lively city all around the characters, and yet they are completely isolated from the world, both together and alone. The world getting in could ruin everything, so they have to keep it out.

But it's on the individual level where I think the isolation really works. It's sad whenever someone feels they have to hide who they are or keep the world away. But sometimes it's just out of that person's control. By the end of the novel, one character is branching out, putting himself out there more and finding his place in the world. For the other, that place may never exist. But there are always sequels...

Have you ever had an isolated character? Do you ever put themes in your stories?

09 April 2016

Habits, Hobbies, & Other Human Traits

**My theme for this year's A to Z Challenge is THE REVISION PROJECT. Topics I come across while I write the third draft of my novel, Uneven Lines.**

Since I couldn’t go anywhere, I rolled my eyes, looking off to the side as if there was something more interesting that grabbed my attention. Really, paint drying would have been more interesting. 

Every character has different quirks that make them unique, just like real people. Someone may roll their eyes a lot, for instance, when they're annoyed (especially a teenager!). A character may have something they like to do that may pop up every now and then throughout the story. No matter who your characters are, they should have unique traits that make them feel like real people.

The way each character speaks and acts should be unique to who they are. You wouldn't want every character to be exactly the same, would you? That would probably be boring, and maybe even a little confusing. When you have two characters speaking to each other, you'll want each voice to stand out on its own.

So how do you make each character unique? Think about all the things about you that make you different from other people. Are you shy and awkward or confident and outgoing? A shy person may not speak much at all, will probably blush more easily than others, and maybe will use more "uhs" and "ums" when they speak. A more bold person may say things more directly and be willing to take more risks and try new things. Even the language a character uses makes them unique. I have one character who swears all the time (guess who!) and one who almost never does, so that when he actually does swear, it stands out and is kind of amusing.

Think about what your characters like to do. A hobby may be a fun little quirk that can fit into your story. I have one character who likes to cook, another one plays the guitar. One character just likes to go for walks, although I'm still trying to figure out what exactly that says about him. If you want to feature hobbies for characters, it really should fit into the story. If it's just there for the sake of it, it may seem strange. For instance, the cooking hobby actually plays a huge role throughout the story. But if my character did something that didn't forward the story at all, I may not want to mention it.

The ultimate goal is to make each character feel like a real, unique human being. But also to be believable and interesting, while still making sense for the story you're writing.

How do you give each character unique traits? Do your characters have any fun hobbies?