Posted in On Writing, Useful Sites, Writing Rants

Abuse in Fiction: Backstories

Many lazy writers attempt to create reader sympathy by saying that their main character was abused. At times these writers will include a chapter or two which involves the abuse. Unfortunately, the abuse is rarely dealt with in a healthy manner and tends to be quickly forgotten by the writer.

Words cannot describe how much this angers me.

Abuse affects people’s emotions and thought processes. Different people react differently to abuse. Different types of abuse affect people in different ways. Whether the abused realizes that the abuse affects their life or not, there are lasting effects that need to be dealt with.

If you must have your character abused in their past, make sure you include some of the side effects in their characterization.

Don’t include abuse simply because you want readers to feel sorry for your characters. Victims of abuse deserve so much better than you making light of what they have gone through. They are so strong to have come out the other end despite the scars they may carry. Please, if you include abuse, do them justice by writing it well and doing your research.

I’m not an expert on the effects of abuse and I don’t claim to be. Everything I know comes from what I’ve witnessed and through research. The following links are to some of my favourite, trusted sites that I go to when I need more information about this particular topic.

Posted in On Writing, Writing Rants

Why Writers Should Read

One of my friends* told me that he was an avid writer. I was ecstatic because none of my other friends at the time understood how much I loved to write. I asked him what genre he preferred to write in and he responded with a confused look. So then I asked him what authors he took inspiration from. At that point he uttered something which I found difficult to believe. He told me that he doesn’t read.

I found it extremely difficult to understand how someone could be an avid writer but not read anything. However, when I read his story, I finally believed that he does not read very much, if at all.

His stories were riddled with errors which made them almost impossible to get through. Truth be told, if he wasn’t a close friend I wouldn’t have bothered reading past the first few lines. He stopped writing a few years ago as he found other hobbies to fill his time but I will never forget the lesson he taught me about writing; those who wish to improve their writing should read.**

I’ve learned many things about writing through reading the stories of others. Every time I read a well written book, my writing knowledge grows. Through reading I have improved my characters, description, plots, grammar, and spelling.

 Characters

While my character ideas come from people I have met in my life, the way I describe my characters is inspired by the stories I have read. If I read a story with well written characters, I ask myself what it is I like about the character and how can I emulate that in my writing.

For some stories, I like that the character is believable. I like how the character reacts to situations and that their personality grows in a normal manner. Characters take their time to fall in love and are cautious about doing something which hurt them before.

In other stories I like how the author shares information about the character without interfering with the plot. It takes a lot of work to be able to filter in back-story and physical description without slowing down the action.

Description

In general I have trouble writing out description without bogging down my stories. I can never tell while I’m writing if I’ve included enough description or if I’ve written too much. What may seem like good description to me, pales in comparison to the description of other writers.

Anton Chekov famously said “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” When I compare my description to others, I feel as if I’m telling readers that the moon is shining whereas they are showing the glint of light.

I take notes when I find sections of description I like. Sometimes the description is very short, slipped into action without slowing the pace of the story. At other times the author gets into the character’s head and reader learns how the character views the world from the description given.

Through these notes, I’ve realized that many of my favourite authors only use relevant description. Everything they describe helps readers understand the plot more fully. Because of this, when I’m revising my works for description, I rate the passages against relevance to the plot.

Plot

Of course, description is of no use if the plot line is confused. While plots may seem like one of the easiest parts of a story, they can prove the trickiest if the writer doesn’t have sense of what makes a plot good.

Any writer who has pantsed their way through a long story can tell you how easily the plot can derail from your beginning idea. Plot holes form that you skip over because you don’t want to lose your current train of thought. A simple scene can make you change who your main characters are or where you start your story. Sub-plots can appear that you may not have thought of or can disappear before they are resolved.

The only way to remedy these is to know what takes away from your plot and what helps your plot. In order for you to know this, you need to figure out what your plot is.

When I was first starting out in my writing path, I use to compare my plot lines to those of faery tales. I would make a list of all the events which happen in the faery tale and I would make a similar list of the events in my story. Once the lists were made I would see if my list flowed as nicely as the faery tale list. Most of the time my list did not match up nicely against the faery tale. Sometimes the events would jump, as if there were a scene or two missing. Other times there would be scenes that would work better in another story.

While I can now pick out plot holes and unnecessary scenes without comparing against another plot, it has taken years to develop this skill.

Grammar

As with developing my plotting skills, it has taken me years to develop what I consider a passing knowledge of grammar. Reading has taught me how well written grammar should look. By knowing what good grammar is, I can more easily catch the grammar mistakes in my works.

That being said, reading does not teach everything about grammar unless you are reading grammar and style books. Reading is not the only way to learn grammar but it is one of the best starting points for new writers.

Spelling

Similar to grammar, reading can help give writers a start on proper spelling. This trick only works when stories have been edited for spelling. Reading allows the writer to know what the words should look like. The more familiar writers become with correctly spelled words, the more likely they will spell the words correctly themselves.

Summary

For those who skipped the majority of this post, the TL;DR version is as follows. Through reading properly edited works which are similar to what you are writing, you will be able to better catch the mistakes which you make. This is simply because of familiarity. The more familiar with something you are, the more you can see the differences.

These are the ways reading has improved my writing. How has reading improved yours? Do you disagree with any of the points I made?

 

* I am withholding the name of my friend as he is a very gentle creature who is extremely creative. While his writing was an extreme case, I have also read many online stories which contain one or more of these traits.

** There is a vast difference between reading to improve your writing style and comparing your writing against another’s work. There is also a difference between gaining knowledge from reading and plagiarizing someone’s work.

Posted in Writing

Marny’s Dream

Trigger Warning: Character Death, Suicide

 

Marny tossed in her bed; her eyes fluttering in the REM cycle. Her arm landed on her stomach as a gasp made its way out of her mouth.

She could hear their laughter. They were laughing at her. They thought she was oblivious.

And she had been.

She had thought that they were her friends. She had believed the girls to be the sisters her parents couldn’t give her.

Until she heard them talking to David about courting.

And David. Her David. She had thought him to be her soul mate. She had thought they would spend their lives together.

Until she heard him asking her friend to marry him.

Continue reading “Marny’s Dream”

Posted in Challenges, NaNo, On Writing

That NaNo Time of Year

For the past 8 years I have participated in NaNoWriMo and this year is no exception.

On November 1st, NaNo seemed like an insurmountable challenge akin to my first few years when I was recovering from surgeries and under heavy pain medication. Those years I didn’t win NaNo; in fact, I didn’t even come close. With all the stress involved in my life at this time, I was ready to give up on NaNo before I began. I thought I would end up writing nothing because all of my time would be spent working overtime and helping with my father-in-law’s estate. I was in a panic because I had nothing figured out and I was stressed more than I can ever recall.

Then, today, I did something amazing. I started with a blank page and the words started flowing. They weren’t quite the words I was expecting and certainly not the genre I tend to fall back on, but they were words and they were written.

While I have yet to post my word count on the site I am progressing. Despite the stress involved in figuring out my father-in-law’s estate, I have managed to write a fair number of words. Despite losing hours to working overtime, I have words.

I don’t claim that the words I’ve written are masterpieces of literature. I don’t claim that any of my writing today has been grammatically correct. I have run my post through the WordPress proofreader and through several spellcheck programs. I am hopeful that my worst errors have been caught and corrected. However, right now I feel such freedom from having written through the stress that I don’t mind if I missed something.

I will allow my perfectionist self to deal with my stress levels in a separate area of my brain. For now, my writerly self is going to write.

What about you? If you’re taking part in NaNo this year are you keeping on track? Are you pantsing like me or do you have detailed plans?

Posted in World Building, Writing

Book of Faces

The book was made of a very thin leather that almost seemed fragile. Every few pages the leather would change; whether in quality or colour; and with it, the story would also change.

If one were to take the time to translate all the languages in the book they would find a history of the cult. The first few stories, written in the most ancient language, told the stories of the first generation.

There weren’t many in the first generation, only about ten or so, but they were close. They hid from the rest of the world as they worshipped in the dark. They married and had children to whom they taught their religion.

The religion grew and ten followers soon became twenty which became fifty then over one hundred. But the book didn’t hold all of their stories. After the first ten stories, the only stories which were written into the book were the stories of priests and priestesses who had made a difference to the cult.

Researchers who dared to ask the right questions and complete the right tests may find out more than they wished to. If the researcher tested the material of the book, they would have a most gruesome discovery. For the leather that makes up the paper is comprised of human skin.

To be more specific, the leather is made up of skin from the faces of the people the stories are about.

To the members of the cult, becoming a part of the book is a rite of honour. Many members have pledged their lives to the protecting of this sacred book while others have pledged their lives to becoming a part of the book.

For all the history and sacredness of the book, its name is quite simple and will give clues to the book’s composition. The title, if translated properly, is “The Book of Faces”.

Posted in A.P. Roberts, Challenges, Writer's Hub

Dear A.P.

A.P. Roberts,

You are a wonder to behold. You may not get told that as often as you would like, or need, but you are amazing. This is why your name is Awesome Person Roberts.

Of course, we also know that A.P. doesn’t actually stand for Awesome Person. The A does stand for amazingly awesome but the P is what you tend to forget about.

You know the P stands for perseverance in the face of writers’ block and procrastination in the face of deadlines. But you don’t realize that it also stands for “potential magic”.

You have the power to release magic into the world with a stroke of your purple pen. You have the power to create people and the worlds they live in. You have the power to entangle readers into any story that you weave.

But you’ve only begun to accept this power for what it is. Until you began Writing 101 you allowed your inner perfectionist to run rampant through you creativity. You would edit and rewrite pieces meant to be free-writes because you felt unworthy.

This is why I’m writing this letter. I see you allowing yourself to fall back into those habits you worked so hard to get past.

I don’t want that potential magic to be permanently forgotten.

There are many people who will tell you that you need to “get over yourself” and others that will say you “don’t want it hard enough”. But all those doubters and naysayers are wrong.

Don’t get over yourself, work with yourself. Free the insecurities and anxiety by letting them out on paper. Regardless of who reads your work, you will feel better by letting out the negative emotions.

Your problem is that you want it too much. You want perfection in yourself and your work but you don’t expect perfection from others. You are aware that perfection doesn’t exist outside the realms of personal preference yet you constantly chase it. You spend so much time staring at the goal of perfection that you are missing the steps that lead to accomplishment.

Do you remember how accomplished you felt as you finished each assignment of Writing 101? Do you remember how proud you were that you were posting on a consistent schedule?

Keep it up! I dare you to post at least once a week. Then you can play WoW and Minecraft with your SO. Then you can allow yourself to watch Dr Phil and Doctor Who.

Then you can feel accomplished because you deserve that feeling. You deserve to feel proud of your work and proud of what you have done. And you, Ms Amazing Pixie, have all the tools necessary to accomplish this goal.

Sincerely,

A.P. Roberts, writer extraordinaire

 

The Writer’s Hub challenged you to write a letter to yourself. Your topic, should you choose to accept it, is “who you are as a writer”.

 

Thank you Kaygy for pointing out some of the typos I missed. 🙂

Posted in Writer's Hub, Writing, Writing Exercises

In Remembrance

Jade M. asked “Do two lines make a poem?” and Whisper2Scream replied with a poem. I encourage everyone to check out both Jade M’s and Whisper2Scream’s sites and read their poems. Both of these fabulous writers have inspired me to write my own two-line poem.

Trigger Warning: The poem is a reflection of my grief from my father-in-law’s passing. If you cannot deal with death please don’t read.

Continue reading “In Remembrance”

Posted in A.P. Roberts, Challenges, Writing 101

Writing 101: Written Treasures

This post was written in response to Writing 101: The Things We Treasure.

 

Shiny baubles may catch my eye and I may be easily mesmerized by twinkling lights but neither constitute a treasure. I love my family and adore my friends but they are not my deepest treasure.

If you were to cut me open and peer at my heart, you would find in it a treasure more desirable to me than gold or diamonds. Piled high in my heart, flowing through my veins, live stories.

I hoard books filled with stories so that they line my walls without a space between them. I wait, impatiently, for stories not yet written. I long for ideas that will capture the minds of readers far into the future. I crave new stories that I can read and explore their worlds. I anticipate the next story as I’m closing the book I’ve just finished.

As far back as I can remember I have loved stories. I can still remember the words of the “Lost Little Kitten” being read in my mother’s voice. There are story books that have been passed on to the newest generation which were read to me as a child. Some of the stories I remember from my youth were created by parents and babysitters who wanted us to settle for the night. Other stories from my youth were written in scribbles on the notebooks my parents left lying on the kitchen table.

My mother encouraged my love of stories by buying me treasures to hoard like a dragon in its cave. When one book was finished another was waiting to be read. From a modest stack, the treasures grew into a massive pile.

I’ve cut down on my treasure since becoming a woman. I’ve shared them with those less fortunate by donating to libraries and local foundations. Unfortunately for my floorboards, the pile still keeps growing.

 

Whisper2Scream pointed out the disconnect between the previous beginning and the rest of this piece. I’ve edited out the old beginning and replaced it with something I like a bit better.

Posted in A.P. Roberts, Writing 101

Writing 101: Some People Cry, Some People Clean

Written for Writing 101: Don’t Stop the Rockin’.

I had planned to use this prompt to talk about the writing process however, in light of recent events, I have decided write about my father-in-law and our grieving instead. I’m hoping that this post will be cathartic and allow me to let out some more of my grief.

I realize that some people cannot deal with death and for this reason I am putting the main post behind a cut. Consider this a trigger warning if you are triggered by death or talk of the grieving process.

Continue reading “Writing 101: Some People Cry, Some People Clean”

Posted in A.P. Roberts

A Few Days Break

I just wanted to let everyone know that I will be gone for at least a few days and unable to post or reply to comments. My father-in-law has passed away and we are in the middle of making all of the arrangements. I will post as soon as I can but know that I haven’t forgotten or disappeared.