Why Are You Talking so Loud? : Dialogue

I love writing dialogue. I don’t think I keep it much of a secret that I love writing dialogue. It is, I find personally, one of the most fun parts of writing; getting your characters to interact and seeing how all their voices harmonize, or clash, together.

Dialogue isn’t necessary to writing, but it’s still present to some extent in most pieces of work. It can give some variety instead of having nothing but description. It also, literally, shows the readers your characters’ voices in a way the narrative may not, depending on the point of view used.

There are a few (more like several, I’m sure) factors that go into writing dialogue. The main ones that I can think of off the top of my head are:

Know Your Characters

This is both necessary in the sense of personality and dialect. You need to know what and what not a character would say, as well as any slang or such they might use. Dialogue can be a great way to demonstrate their characteristics or their relationship with other characters – the words they use and the way they speak can say something significant about them as well. This is why knowing your characters is so important: dialogue is one of many possible lenses through which a character can be shown.

Dialogue Tags and the Writing in Between

It can be difficult sometimes to balance dialogue with its tags (said, asked, replied, shouted, etc.) and descriptions versus the actual dialogue. That being said, it’s also important to the flow. On one hand, in a long span of dialogue, I don’t usually want to have just the dialogue itself for paragraphs on end – on the other, having unnecessary descriptions of what the characters are doing at the time is a no-no too. I think this is a common concern for most people while writing dialogue. Thankfully, if need be, there are plenty of things that can be interspersed with dialogue that’s also important to the story: the characters thoughts, reactions, whatever’s happening around the characters that are speaking.

Staying on Track

This is the same technically for any part of writing in that you do kind of need to stay on track. What that looks like will be different for every story/writer, and certain genres will allow for more rambling than others. For example, comedy can allow for lots of wandering dialogue so long as it succeeds the goal of being funny, but you wouldn’t necessarily see the same in an action-oriented book. Overall, though, dialogue will probably have a point of some kind and lots of conversations that characters would be having in the story don’t necessarily need to be written out.

Realistic Conversation

Realistic in this case doesn’t mean realistic in quite the literal sense: a conversation you might see in a comedy skit or a romantic drama or a soap opera on TV all won’t likely be anything real people would say in real life. I think this falls under the suspension of disbelief somewhat. Fiction isn’t usually going to emulate reality perfectly because that isn’t the point, but as with all things in writing, the suspension of disbelief for dialogue can be stretched too thin. It’s like the first point of knowing your characters: is this something they would realistically say? Does the dialogue feel too forced? (Both of these can be hard to gauge, of course, especially if overthinking your writing comes into play). Besides that, in terms of the dialogue being about a dragon or something, the dialogue can be as unrealistic as possible.

These are some fairly overgeneralized points, but ones I think do cover most of the basics that I understand when I think of dialogue. The same as any part of writing, dialogue is a tool for the story, and it can be a hefty one in the metaphorical toolbox depending on an author’s writing preferences.




Personality Test

Personalities. Unless you happen to be a soulless husk of a human being, everyone has one. As you can probably expect, however, I will be focusing on the personalities of fictional characters instead of the personalities of real life people (even if these two will probably end up coinciding). How an author develops a character’s personality, and how it is kept consistent throughout a fictional work, can be a difficult process overall.

I think there are varying methods for coming up with a character’s personality. Some people go into great detail with it, in fact. They make up questionnaires and then fill out the answers they think their character would give, or write out a full description so they have it on hand, or any number of organized tactics. I have tried this a couple of times myself. There is a set of questions/prompts in a writing advice book I have (Spilling Ink: A Young Writer’s Handbook by Ellen Potter and Anne Mazer) that I remember answering in a separate notebook for a couple of stories, but I don’t think they were ever finished. It is a good method to go by, but I don’t use it often when creating personalities.

Then there may be authors who do it on the fly and see how their characters’ personalities grow while the story continues. Many people will fall somewhere in between this and detailed character questionnaires. It is speculated that the personalities can be influenced to some degree by the author in question, people that they know, and even other creators’ characters. The environment of the story seems to have the possibility to shape them as well.

Usually, I have a fairly clear image of a character in my head, and if they aren’t fully fleshed out then I can have the basics down. What I mean by that, to go more in depth, is that a character is probably going to need more polishing beyond the initial idea, as it is with all things when coming up with a story: the plot, the world, everything. Likewise, a personality is something you could possibly not get the hang of until half way through your first draft, and then in latter edits you can apply your new knowledge of your character.

Still, the baseline is there for me, and I assume there are a lot of writers who function the same. This will depend, of course, on someone’s personal strengths and weaknesses when it comes to writing, but from what I’ve seen you can usually access the ‘feel’ of a character quickly. If you spend enough time with them in your head, even if you aren’t writing anything down for a while, you have a good chance of getting to know their personality, behaviour, motivation, etc. Putting the characters into their environments, situations, and working out how they react solidifies all that.

Character development would appear to be a well discussed topic, of course it is very important in literature. Even in a plot driven story needs to flesh out its characters. This comes with making them well rounded, accenting their traits, and giving them flaws. Their backstory is also normally involved in development.

This stuff on its own can already be a daunting task, but after the characters are created you also need to work at keeping their personality consistent throughout your story – or, longer, your series. I’ve probably made many of my own slip ups in this area. Consistency, especially when you aren’t working on a story for long periods of time, can easily be broken in character, plot, setting, or other elements of writing. Sometimes the way a character acts in the beginning of a work doesn’t fit with the way they act later in a work, and the changes have no reasonable logic behind them in terms of character arc. It can be an awful feeling when you lose your grip on a character’s personality.

However, as it was with general character development, the first draft is there to smooth those difficulties out a bit. Anything that doesn’t make sense for a certain character can be changed; although, admittedly, this could lead to a lot of revising, to the point of major plot changes. Such is life.

A writer generally needs to know a character’s personality inside and out to help the story be successful. Both development and consistency are crucial to that. It can be a fun aspect of storytelling, though, to play around with the creation of characters and figure out how they think, how they act, and what makes them tick. I do make it sound slightly as if characters are some pre-existing entities that an author meets, and that it isn’t all coming from their heads, but it can genuinely feel like that sometimes. And when you spend so much time with the characters inside your own head, it is easy to get attached, which goes for the writers as well as the readers.

It’s All About Your Point of View

I’m happy to say that my computer is back from repairs and working just fine! I think that now, I have a deeper appreciation of a large screen, faster processing speed, and the words showing up at the same time as I type them on the keyboard. The poor little laptop that I was using as a replacement (which is quite old at this point) didn’t seem prepared for me to copy an entire extract manually from my writing book onto the computer.

All of my docs are fine, so the next time I plan on putting something from there into one of my posts it should go a lot faster. That’s not what I am going to be doing for today, however. Instead, I’ll be writing about points of view in writing.

This won’t be new information, but as a preface, there are four different POVs: first person, second person, third person limited, and third person omniscient.

First person: The main character is the narrator. The pronoun “I” is used.

Second person: The story addresses you, the reader. Likewise, the pronoun “you” is used.

Third person (limited): The narrator has access to the thoughts and feelings of a character, or maybe that character and a couple more. It acts as an outsider view that retells their experiences. The pronouns “he” or “she” are usually used.

Third person (omniscient): The narrator has access to the thoughts and feelings of every character in the story. Same pronouns are used, though.

First and third person POVs are the most common in fiction. Second person tends to be difficult to weave into a whole story. Still, each of them have their own advantages.

First person point of view has possibly the most potential to be connected to the character. It is great for inner monologues, because that will come naturally while writing, and it is also great for humour. That, or something with more emotional depth, allowing you to get close to the narrator. While all POVs (except omniscient, which would be difficult unless you restrict it correctly) can work as unreliable narrators, I feel like first person is the best for it, since it gives a lot of room for in-universe reasons that the character might be misleading. A few examples are: the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan (along with the other series set in that universe), The Thief, Thick as Thieves, and a bit of A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner, the Shadow and Bone trilogy by Leigh Bardugo, They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera, etc. I’ve used it a couple of times myself, such as in Thief, and of course I’m writing in first person right at this moment.

Once again, the second person point of view can be tricky. I haven’t personally seen it in a lot of places, save for maybe some music or poetry. I think, though, that this POV has a great opportunity to be haunting, or reach the reader in an interesting way. It would probably work best in a short story or, as mentioned before, in music or poetry, instead of in a novel. One example I can think of that is easy to find on the Internet are the reader-insert fanfictions that float around, but as for published stuff: Stolen by Lucy Christopher, Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney, The Night Circus by Ryan North, etc. These are all novels I found from Google, however, this short post includes a snippet of something I wrote in second person as a bit of a joke.

When it comes to limited third person points of view, it is much less difficult to think of examples than for second person. It can also be said to be closer to a first person style than the omniscient POV. The narrator isn’t a part of the story (at least most of the time, although in some cases the narrator is made into their own character), but can still recount what is going on inside the selected character’s head and “see” what they are doing. I’m not sure how many characters the narrator can have insight for before it is considered to be omniscient, however, it’s safe to say that this POV is very anchored to its protagonist. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, as far as I remember, is limited third person, since it focuses on how Meg Murry is experiencing their adventures. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling includes some chapters featuring a variety of characters’ POVs, but for the most part it, too, sticks with Harry’s own inner monologue. This is the POV I tend to use lately, and the most recent example of that is the “Archers” story, here and here. The character Aylwin is the only one you ever hear from narration wise.

Third person omniscient is like the VIP of points of view, with full access to everything. It will tell you what the protagonist is thinking, what the antagonist is thinking, what the supporting character is thinking, even what that random person on the street is thinking. No one is safe. Depending on the author’s preference, which character is being fully narrated will be divided into chapters, or switch whenever it’s convenient during the story. It definitely allows for more flexibility when it comes to how the writer wants the reader to view events. The Discworld novels by Terry Pratchett and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy novels by Douglas Adams are great examples of this, although I’m sure they used omniscient in their other works as well. These two authors often switch who is in control, and the shift can be extremely quick. In some books it’s more present than in others. Leigh Bardugo, on the other hand, uses omniscient writing in the divided by chapters style, as seen in the Six of Crows duology. I don’t use it enough to have my own examples, though.

Four POVs, but dozens of ways they play out in stories. Each give their own subtle changes to the narrative, so often changing who the point of view is from – or even the style of it – can make it entirely different. In fact, that is said to be a great writing exercise when you’re stuck. I lean more towards third person limited, but anyone else might prefer omniscient, first person, even second person. Maybe a variety of all four.

In the end, the moral of the story is: points of view in literature are a diverse sort of thing, and writing this post with my own laptop back was like a breath of fresh air.

Shifting Into Literary Drive

There are a lot of elements that work in tandem to produce a good story. Central conflict, setting, characters, plot; I could go on. Writing style, the crafting of sentences and the like will give it its flavour. One of the well known distinctions of a novel, however, is whether it is character driven or plot driven, which is what I will be exploring in this post.

Trying to explore, anyway. It’s not like this is my very own literary course, but we’ll see how it goes.

The long and short of it is that a character driven story focuses on the development of the character(s) themself (or themselves), and how they come to make the choices they do. A plot driven story, on the other hand, focuses much more on action, so the choices themselves are generally more important in making the story happen than the characters are.

At the extreme, a plot driven story is the fast paced action novel, and a character driven story is the complicated character study. (However, there is bound to be an overlap of the two in literature.)

As writers, people will probably have some degree of preference for one over the other. From my and my mother’s observation, it would seem that I, for example, lean more towards the character driven style. I do enjoy exploring a character’s psyche, and my writing tends to not be a third person omniscient view, instead showing the story through the thoughts and feelings of one or a few characters. It may also explain why character dynamics are one of my favourite things to write.

Objectively, it doesn’t seem as though one is better than the other. While I enjoy the character driven style, the plot driven style is great at giving engaging situations in a story and keeping a reader on their toes. It doesn’t necessarily sacrifice good character development, but the plot itself is at the forefront of the story. When it is character driven, it is the inverse.

Regardless of whether your story is driven by plot or character, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t put effort into whichever isn’t the most important in your story. A novel falls if the plot isn’t well developed. A novel falls if the characters aren’t well developed, too. While favouring either in itself isn’t bad, it is still important to craft each, along with the other elements of storytelling. No one probably needs to hear that from me, however: reading anything that obviously didn’t put attention into its plot or its characters stands out like a sore thumb.

Thumb sayings aside, it’s a cool axis to look at overall. It’s also interesting to exam different authors and see on which side they fall more. The overlap truly begins when it is acknowledged that both plot and characters are important for a good story, leading to an attempt to balance it out a bit more. Now that I have done a bit of research on each, it will be interesting to examine my own writing in that light, as well as the writing of others.

It’s a Love-Hate Relationship

They’re the stars of the show. The cogs in the machine. The beloved hero, the hated villain (the hated hero, the beloved villain). Everybody give it up for the many, the several, the protagonists!

A little too over the top? Perfect.

Whether a story is plot driven or character driven, the characters tend to be pretty important. They usually act as the eyes through which the readers see the world, and they continue to push the story forward until the very end. There’s a lot to get into about characters (arcs, personality development, etc.), but for the moment I’m going to be focusing on one thing: character dynamics.

The interaction between characters is actually one of my favourite parts of writing, if I were to try and categorize it into a list like that. Even if it’s a couple of side characters having a discussion off to the side of the chaos, it tends to be quite an interesting part of storytelling. The whole ordeal is a lot like mixing a group of chemicals together to achieve a certain result. Maybe you know what that result will be, and maybe you don’t.

There are a lot of different “archetypes” for character dynamics that can be seen across many forms of media. The hero and the mentor, found family, protagonist and rival, and so on. The whole nothing-is-actually-original definitely applies here as well, and when looking close enough it’s easy to pick up on the patterns. Those patterns might even apply to one author. People are naturally going to have character dynamics they prefer, and ones that they reuse throughout their works – just look at all the character relationship drawings on the Internet.

I’m not criticizing any of this, either. I have my own favourite character dynamics, ones that probably reappear in my writing more than I notice. I like to write and read about characters that clash in some way. This isn’t a rare thing, of course. It creates drama and that draws people in. Conflict, and not necessarily the aggressive kind, is interesting.

I can use an example of my own writing to show the type of character dynamic I enjoy. A few posts back (here if you haven’t seen it), I introduced Aylwin and Silas. Those couple of excerpts offer only a small taste of their relationship, but you probably get the idea. Silas is fairly charming, cheeky, and, of course, a thief. Aylwin, on the other hand, has a solid moral core and doesn’t deal with much nonsense on the surface. Even within that small section they engage in a few arguments, and as the story goes on the bickering doesn’t end, although it does change once their friendship begins to develop. It comes out as a lot of teasing on Silas’ end, a lot of exasperation on Aylwin’s end, and overall a bunch of fun for me.

So, it’s mostly humorous, unlikely friendships, that are a little on the rocky side. Outside examples of this might be Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Eugenides and Costis (or Eugenides and just about anyone, really) from The Queen’s Thief series, a few duos from TV shows and movies I’ve seen over the years, and quite a few more that I can’t put my finger on all at once. It may be reflected in one of my older stories, Thief, as well, but then again I don’t think I ever posted more than one chapter on here.

Beyond that there are of course other dynamics I enjoy, but these types seem to be up there in terms of favourites. The personalities of characters give way to all sorts of outcomes, and sometimes they’re totally unexpected. I can’t say for sure, I suppose, how it works for the professional authors, but I don’t think I’m always a hundred percent sure what the relationship of a group of characters is going to be until I start writing it out.

It’s fun because of the way personalities can bounce off of each other, and navigating how humans form bonds and their complicated relationships with one another. Again, bickering is also great to write. It seems to be a very compelling part of storytelling in that way.

Fiction vs Nonfiction

Very simply put, the difference between fiction and nonfiction is that the former is created through imagination and the latter draws from real-life facts and events. However, it goes deeper than that when it comes to how each of them is written, and how they can sometimes overlap. Although I don’t lean towards nonfiction writing myself (as about five minutes on this blog will inform you), I can give a fairly good overview of my experiences with my own creative writing versus nonfiction assignments, and I’ll discuss some of the common elements found among other authors.

To get personal biases out of the way: I love fiction. Whether reading it or writing it, it is much more interesting for me, and I don’t get the same excitement out of nonfiction writing. Perhaps this is because it has always been with school assignments that I ever do anything remotely nonfiction, and I assume it would be more enjoyable if it were about a subject that I am genuinely invested in. Still, I can’t get away with ridiculous fantasy and sci-fi themes in nonfiction, so I have never really considered writing it.*

On the flip side, nonfiction writing has always been a very academic pursual. History, Geography, French, even Math occasionally; each required you to lay out facts in your writing at some point, and English, while often focused on literary works, asks for formal and impersonal language. This has made it feel like nonfiction comes off as very stiff, and certain textbooks or articles don’t help, but this isn’t necessarily always the case. David Foster Wallace, while an author of literary fiction, was also known for his humorous essays: “Consider the Lobster” and “A Supposedly Funny Thing I’ll Never Do Again” being a couple. Celebrities such as Tina Fey and Amy Poehler have written their own books (Bossypants and Yes Please respectively) based on their own life experiences, which are complimented on their comedic value. ‘Stiff’ doesn’t exactly come to mind.

Which brings me to the fact that both fiction and nonfiction actually cast a very wide net. Fiction presents itself in short stories, novels of all genres, poetry, film, and TV. Nonfiction presents itself in articles, essays, biographies and autobiographies, books, and poetry, film, and TV as well. Here there is already a bit of intersection.

Writing nonfiction is more like sculpture, a matter of shaping the research into the finished thing.

Joan Didion

Writing fiction is the act of weaving a series of lies to arrive at a greater truth.

Khaled Hosseini

Basically, it is facts versus made up information. Yet most fiction applies facts from real life, and nonfiction isn’t always as truthful as it seems-particularly among autobiographies where the author twists events to fit their narrative, as seen occasionally by those trying to ensure they are seen a certain way in history. As for writing each type, the above quotations show the idea that nonfiction funnels its research, or experienced facts, into a narrative, and that fiction funnels mainly imagination into a narrative.

The writing process is going to be different depending on the author and the subject, and again, I mostly only have experience with fiction writing. The writing process in fiction usually requires development of plot, setting, characters, and the like. It also tends to be important to craft a likeable and relatable protagonist, although some authors make the choice not to for one reason or another (I’m sure there are protagonists that are unlikeable by accident, though).

Then there is a matter of the outline. It acts as the structure to the story. Admittedly, this is something that is extremely lacking in my own writing process, but it is assumedly just as crucial to the nonfiction process. You can gather all your plot points, or information, and place them in the order you roughly want them to go in. However, there is a good chance the initial outline will change by the finished product in either case.

Fiction tends to be more fantastical, or revolves around events that didn’t happen, and its writing is going to reflect that. Nonfiction revolves around facts, and real world events, and likewise its writing reflects that.

Where there is overlap are in genres like historical fiction (taking real life events put usually making up characters or some other element), reality TV shows (which may add some sort of scripted drama), fictional media that presents situations closer to our own reality and ones that interpret real information (anything plausible in science fiction), and possibly when nonfiction uses any metaphors or stories to explain a concept, although that could easily be argued against. The line between fiction and nonfiction, however clear it may be, begins to blur here.

I don’t know that in either case one can be called superior over the other. Nonfiction has its importance in helping us learn factually and creating historiography, and fiction acts as a part of culture and can be crucial on an individual scale. In the end that preference comes down to you, but this was still an interesting post to write.

*Maybe I should try to write nonfiction some time while I’m making all these blog posts. It could be a good learning experience. Be warned, then, that I might post a mini-essay on the behaviour of owls.

[Enter Title Here (The Naming of Things)]

Well, look at that. I’m still alive. School has finally rolled around, and I’m tired and sick, but I’m alive. Nice to see you again, blog on my laptop screen. Let’s see if I can write out an entire post for the fun of it, shall we?

It’s another one of those annoying things that comes with writing just about anything. Whether you do fiction or non-fiction, verse or prose, a short story or a novel, everyone comes across the universal problem that is names. That is, names, and titles.

I’ve spent a fair amount of “writing time” staring at a page and trying to think up with the perfect name for a new character or an imaginary place (the latter of which includes looking up a word for that place that I may think is original only to find rather unflattering definitions). When it comes to finding something that sounds right, you have hours to spare.

And remember, that’s only names. Titles are an entire different monster altogether. You’re trying to find something that sums up the piece that you’ve created, but nothing seems like it works, and in the end it just ends up being Untitled because hey, why not.

My experiences with names aren’t the best, but from what I’ve seen, I’m not the only one that these are occurrences for. Starting out, here comes the stars of the show themselves:

The Names of Characters

The weird thing is, I go to write a quick response to a prompt, and the names of characters come to me easily. That guy is Carl. She is Susan. Perfect. (As I can recall, none of my main characters have ever been called Carl and Susan, but that’s beside the point.)

When I have more time and when I know these names are going to be in it for the long run, it’s a case of clamming up, so to speak. I’ll be writing these names over, and over, and over again every time I sit down to write. The names need to be good, and they need to be something I’m not going to get sick of half way through.

Sometimes character names do come naturally. Not as quick as a prompt Carl and Susan, but the Carl and Susan do come around. And then it’s a matter of last names, and bam, I’m done. However, this is very rare. It only ever happens with a couple of characters.

Other times, I’ll interrogate family or friends for names. Out of the blue I’ll just ask one or several of them to “give me a (insert gender) name.” They will tell me a name, or a selection of many, and I’ll roll with it. This is an only slightly less rare option for me, because most of the time I rely on…drum roll please…

Baby name websites.

Yes. Baby name websites. Wohoo.

Like I told you earlier, though, I’m not the only one! Baby name websites are a go to place for naming people, real or not. If I’m really low on ideas, I’ll scroll through one of those websites until I find a name I like and that I think fits the character. This is a foolproof plan, honestly. I’ve never had an instance where I couldn’t find something I liked on a baby name website.

Then there’s characters like Nod Axiom from Thief. She’s in a category all of her own for my characters. I…Yeah, I don’t know where that name came from. It might have been inspired by Wynken, Blynken, and Nod? Probably? I really have no idea anymore.

The Names of Places

This comes with building worlds far unlike our own. Maybe very like our own, or even basically our everyday world with one place that is a figment of the creator’s imagination. Whatever the case, this is also difficult.

Usually when I’m trying to name areas, that means the story takes place in a fantasy or sci-fi world. And because of these outrageous settings, the names can be equally outrageous, right?

As I’ve already mentioned, my tactic for this one is to sit around until an unsuspecting name floats by and I can kidnap it. Then I’ll search it up to see if it is a real thing and what it means. A lot of the time, I will keep adding things to the name or I’ll shift it around until I get the message:

Your search-__________-did not match any documents.

Suggestions:

-Make sure that all words are spelled correctly.

-Try different keywords.

-Try more general keywords.

Don’t worry, Google. I meant what I said and I said what I meant. If Dr. Seuss could make up words, so can I.

The Monster

I, uh, mean titles. Yeah, titles.

No, seriously though. These things are the worst.

There’s no tactic. Not that I have, at least. Baby name websites don’t give you titles. I would prefer not to have a made up word as my title, personally. There’s always the option of asking others, but a title is the sort of thing that I never seem to be satisfied with until I find The One.

Sometimes The One never actually pops up. Once again, Thief is an example of that, as is Forevermore. A holding title will roll around, and it will stick to the story until it becomes the real thing. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, in the end-at least there’s a title.

The moral of the story?

Naming things in pieces of writing is hard. Even if it’s a particular piece that doesn’t require you make up names for people or places on your own, each usually has a monster-uh, title-of its own. The reason for that, I suppose, is that they’re important.

Think Harry Potter, Star Wars, Mario Bros. All of these things have fairly simple titles, but they’re memorable. If you say one of them, a lot of the time people will know what you mean. Those names will always be connected to those stories.

The names are unfortunately part of the creative process. The names are, at the end of the day, part of the story in a huge way.

 

The Grammar of My Younger Self is Making Me Cringe so Much

So, does anyone remember that post where I talked about the fact that I don’t get writer’s block, I’m just a huge writer procrastinator? Yes? No? Well, either way, I’m just going to tell you right now:

Forget that. All of it.

do currently have writer’s block. Recently I managed to start another chapter of the book I’ve posted two excerpts on here, and I’ve written a few things here and there, but it still feels like I’m in a writer’s block. I’m not really enjoying it much.

Long story short, the block led to me reading through some older story drafts to get some inspiration, and to give myself some form of entertainment.  The folder I took out held a lot of writing I’d been doing about two years ago or so. I got a few pages into one draft and had to put it down, because it was so horribly written (round of applause to my family for reading through entire finished books of that stuff).

It’s amazing to look back and see how much my writing has changed in two years alone. Most notably my grammar. I know that even now I will mess up with grammar, but the draft I read was worse. So, so much worse. To prove my point, I’m going to put an excerpt of that older work and then an excerpt of a newer work to compare.

First, we have 2015/2016 (I’m honestly not sure when exactly it was written but it was sometime around then) Rhapsody, with all misspellings present. This story is based around the idea that there’s a city up in the clouds that-well, it will become pretty self-explanatory as you read on.

 

Some people walk by things without giving them a second glance. Have you ever LOOKED at something, like REALLY looked? Because maybe-just maybe-if you look hard enough at the sky, you would catch a glimps of a land hidden from the Surface: Cloudtown.

Cloudtown is well hidden. It floats high in the sky, sorrounded by many puffy clouds. It floats around the world over and over. And the people of Cloudtown are responsible for the making of clouds, and why you see what you see in the sky.

Jaiyniss Carter ran towards Cloud Central in the center of Cloudtown. Jaiyniss (Ji-y-nis) had big blue/green eye’s and curly blond hair. She was not really aloud at Cloud Central, but it didn’t stop her from going there whenever she could. Her older sister, Opal, worked there. (Jaiyniss was 12, Opal was 19) Opal was in charge of Surface (Down on the ground) patrol, which meant she took care of things when someone from the Surface saw Cloudtown.

“Opal!” exclaimed Jaiyniss, bursting into Cloud Central. Many people groaned.

“Jaiyniss” said Opal with a sigh “We talked about this. You can’t bother me when I’m working” Jaiyniss smiled.

“But I LOVE watching you work. Oh, what does this do?” Jaiyniss pressed a big red button. Opal looked outside, and saw a newly formed cloud in the shape of a bottom. She sighed.

“Jaiyniss, can you PLEASE go?” Jaiyniss was about to respond, when many lights flashed red. Cloud Central was a very organized place with many departments: Surface patrol, cloud design, storm check etc. Cloud Central was a giant white room, with all the departments having their seprate parts.

“We have a Spotter!” shouted Opal to the Surface patrolers.

“Oh, oh, I call it!” shouted Jaiyniss, running to a long tube.

“Jaiyniss, don’t-” too late. Jaiyniss had jumped into the tube. She slid down as it led her to the Surface. Jaiyniss didn’t get to go to the Surface often, but she liked it there. It was so different!

“Okay” Jaiyniss mumbled to herself, excited “Where’s the Spotter?” Jaiyniss hadn’t paid much close attention to who the Spotter actually WAS. But she was pretty sure it was the kid standing a few feet away from her with his mouth open and staring up at the sky.

He looked about Jaiyniss’s age. He had tanned skin, amber eye’s and brown hair. He had a ball in his hand. Jaiyniss guessed he had been playing catch with someone, had went to retrieve the ball and seen Cloudtown.

Jaiyniss was about to go over and convince the Spotter that he was just seeing a normal cloud, when a hand clamped her shoulder. She looked around. Opal stood there, holding her back. She made a motion to two other agents of Surface patrol, who went foward towards the boy. Opal steered Jaiyniss over to a camoflauged tube.

“I’m sorry Opal” said Jaiyniss when they got back to Cloud Central.

“You’ve said” Opal told her “Countless times” Jaiyniss hung her head.

“I know” she said quietly “I just wanted to be like you guys” Opal sighed.

“Jaiyniss, your time will come when you can work at Cloud Central” said Opal. Some people muttered something about “That will be the day we’re all doomed”. “But you’re just too young”

“Yeah” Jaiyniss muttered sadly “Too young”

 

…The less said about what was going through my head at that point, the better. I still like the concept I had for that, however that excerpt alone could be seriously edited.

Now, for my comparison, here’s a surprise excerpt of Forevermore. I know this is out of order, but here is chapter two. This one sort of explains how General Gonosz and Ms. Stone meet.

 

The next morning, Gonosz figured he had a bit of time before he had to go interrogate the newest prisoner of the palace. So he slipped by Lake and Marty and went out into the village, cars and horse drawn carriages alike moving through the streets. He walked quickly and with purpose. Gonosz was going to take this assignment very seriously, despite his reservations.

People avoided the general left and right. Although, they would avoid anyone wearing the wooden mask, the brand of the empire. That also meant citizens wouldn’t attack him, so he appreciated it. He had no time for a fight.

Gonosz stopped directly in front of an old building, looking up and reading the sign: Stone Family Orphanage. From what he’d gathered, this was where Cowen had lived, ergo this was where he needed to be. Grumbling under his breath, the general knocked on the door harshly.

“Coming,” said a muffled voice from inside. He heard a lock slide, and the smiling face of the woman at the trial the previous day quickly switched into a frown. “General Gonosz. Err…What are you doing here, sir?”

“I’ve come to ask you a few questions about Cowen,” Gonosz replied.

Ms. Stone swallowed and had no choice but to let the general inside. The general walked in and looked around. There was the sound of children playing in the distance, and flames crackled cheerfully in the fireplace. Even though it was a poor building, it radiated warmth and kindness, which Gonosz instinctively recoiled from.

The woman began fiddling with her skirt nervously. “Erm. What would you like to know?”

“Any information you have on the child. Files, records.”

“Yes. Right. Follow me, sir.”       

Ms. Stone took him to a back room full of shelves. Shelves, shelves, and more shelves, all stacked with dusty piles of paper. The orphanage caretaker ran a trembling finger along one, muttering the names of each file under her breath, until she found what she was looking for. Ms. Stone picked it up and handed it to Gonosz.

It was a miserable excuse for a file. Only one page, with Cowen’s birth date, a poor quality black and white photograph, and things like his height and skin colour. In short, either info that was unimportant or info that anyone would be able to tell just by looking at him. The general looked up at Ms. Stone quizzically.

“We really don’t know anything about him, General. We don’t know about most children that show up here. His parents probably perished or couldn’t afford to take care of him! Cowen’s a good boy, sir, he wouldn’t do anything to hurt anyone, I have no idea what he was thinking…” All of this was said very fast and Ms. Stone had to stop and catch her breath.

“Are you finished?” Gonosz asked dryly. Ms. Stone nodded her head and the general put Cowen’s file back. “Is there anything else you can tell me about him?” Conveniently, Gonosz had both a pistol and a knife on him, so Ms. Stone didn’t hesitate to reply.

“He…He sometimes talked to himself at night in the past few months, sir. We never found out why. Cowen’s usually very kind to his fellow orphans and he’s friends with all of them. Everyone’s very fond of him, sir, but there’s not much else to say.”

“Hmm. Alright,” Gonosz muttered. “If you think of something else, come straight to the palace and tell someone, okay?”

Ms. Stone visibly relaxed. “Okay. Yes, General.”

You probably won’t, Gonosz decided as he left the orphanage. But it’s always easier to get information from the source, anyway.

 

Cowen was curled up against one wall of his cell. He’d cried all night, of course no one could hear him. Sure, the guards brought him meals, but the experience wasn’t pleasant. Wasn’t pleasant at all. Cowen couldn’t leave, though, not until he got what he came to the palace for.

The door to his cell opened, making Cowen jump. There was the general again. And of course he brought his weapons. Cowen watched him as he closed the door behind him and walked across the room, with Gonosz watching him back. He opened his mouth to say something when Cowen beat him to it.

“What’s your real name?”

Gonosz stared. “What?”

“What’s your real name?” Cowen asked again, curiously. “It’s not Gonosz. Your parents wouldn’t have named you Evil.”

“Now you just-” Gonosz froze, staring at him. “You understand Harvanian.”

Cowen nodded.

“It’s practically a dead language.”

Cowen shrugged. “What’s your name, then?”

“I don’t need to tell the likes of you,” Gonosz snapped. Cowen continued to watch him intently until a name suddenly sprung to his tongue unwillingly. “Taylor.”

That was a lie, alright. Even so, it still startled Gonosz when he said it. He hadn’t thought of the real Taylor for years. Why did the name come to his mind now? Gonosz was awoken to the fact that, like yesterday, Cowen was making him feel off. Something began to nag at him from the very back of his mind. As the general tried to place his finger on it, Cowen’s eyes flickered, then he smiled.

“Taylor.” Gonosz gave him a sharp look, and he added, “sir.” The general sighed and decided to get on with it.

“I’m going to guess that your family comes from Harvan, correct?”

Cowen made a vague movement that could have been a nod. Then again, it could have been him drifting off to sleep for a second because the stone bed didn’t give him much of a chance to catch the stuff. Gonosz still figured it was a nod, though. The trademark green Harvanian eyes should have given it away.

“But you don’t know anything about your ancestry?” he pushed, eyeing the child.

“Not much, Taylor, sir. Mr. Lil always said that I looked like someone from his home kingdom. He taught me some Harvanian, and his wife always gave me and the other orphans baked cookies.”

“Mr. Lil?” Gonosz immediately planned on tracking down the man, whoever he was, because perhaps he could be of more help than the Stone lady. Cowen looked down sadly.

“He was eighty six, Taylor, sir. He died of a heart attack a few months ago,” he mumbled.

“Oh,” said Gonosz. Cowen looked back up at him, and Gonosz wondered whether he was expecting some sort of comfort or he was shocked by his lack of emotion. Either option seemed ridiculous. Obviously he wasn’t going to comfort him on this, and heart attacks happened all the time. Mr. Lil was old, and no one in the kingdoms were medically advanced, so his death was bound to come up. What was he supposed to say?

Probably not this: “The emperors and empresses have you here because they still think you’re in league with the rebellion. I don’t think that’s true. The rebels wouldn’t send in a child, but that doesn’t help me narrow down why you would sneak into the palace on your own at night. The only explanation I can think of is that you’re an idiot.”

Gonosz knew he wasn’t an idiot. He had displayed several times that he knew when to keep quiet, and he never attempted to lie when answering anything, he only chose to reveal small pieces of the truth. Small enough pieces that they didn’t aid Gonosz at all, which was extremely annoying.

The little boy stared up at him, even now giving nothing away. Gonosz clenched and unclenched his fists threateningly.

“So why,” he breathed. “Why on earth. Would you. Come here.”

“I was looking for something, Taylor, sir,” Cowen said.

“What?”

“Something important, Taylor, sir.”

“Like what?”

“I can’t tell you, Tay-”

“All right, look, if you’re going to call me anything you will call me General,” said Gonosz.

Cowen sighed. “General.”

“Good. Now tell me what you were searching for, and the rulers will set you free.”

“No they won’t.”

“Oh, yes they will.” Gonosz barked a laugh. “Feeding so many prisoners wastes precious resources. Believe me, they’ll be only too happy to get rid of you and send you along back to the orphanage.”

“Won’t they want to kill me?” Cowen asked, cocking his head to one side.

Gonosz frowned. He answered tactfully. “Probably not. They won’t think it’s worth it, of course that depends on what you came here to steal.”

“I wasn’t going to steal anything!” Cowen denied, taking his turn to frown. Gonosz blinked.

“Then what was the point of coming here to just look for something and risk your life in the process if you weren’t going to steal it?”

“I told you,” Cowen mumbled, slumping against the wall. “It was something important.”

Gonosz weighed his options. He’d found a few things out, and it was only the first day, plus he still had other things to do. The general didn’t think he was going to get much further with Cowen, so he turned around to leave.

“Búcsú, General,” Cowen called after him. Gonosz paused in the doorway.

“Farewell to you too,” he muttered sarcastically, before closing the cell with a clang.

 

And there you have it. Turns out, writing can change a lot over the course of even a couple of years. I’m sure mine will continue to change. All it takes is practice. That, and perhaps a dictionary to help with spelling.

 

The Never Ending List

Everyone has different favourites when it comes to genres, be it in a book or a movie or a game. Obviously this will focus on the book aspect of things, but it’s true. There’s so many genres out there. A lot of times it truly feels like a never ending list.

The type of genre a piece of writing is really depends on the author, and it should be known that several genres overlap with each other. I’ll make it pretty basic, though. I’ll try and keep it simple by listing some of the largest genres I know and my opinions/experiences on them.

…Okay, so this might not end up being as simple as I would hope.

Action/Adventure

Oh, boy, these ones can be real page turners. Anything that’s in the action/adventure genre is quick paced and drags you into the story whether you’re willing or taken kicking and screaming. Which, when I think about it is quite coincidental, because these stories do have a lot of kicking and screaming.

It’s also a really broad genre in itself. A lot of books I’ve read or written include some sort of action or adventure in it. Especially adventure. A lot of my works include traveling all over the place, encountering several foreign dangers, and just adventurous themes in general.

That being said, it’s hard to pin point anything that’s action/adventure and action/adventure alone. It’s just one of those things that mixes in well with just about everything. Like the next item on the list, for instance.

Sci-Fi

Star Wars, anyone? Science fiction is precisely that. Just science. Fiction.

Like the last genre, sci-fi can span over a wide amount of stories. It doesn’t just include aliens and laser guns and giant space adventures. Sci-fi deals with science and technology, often larger than life technology. Sometimes this even means time travel; which are fun types of stories yet often can be very annoying.

Actually, a lot of (unfinished and finished alike) sci-fi books that I have are about time travel. I like toying with the idea of a character going backwards and forwards in time because there’s so many possibilities with it. The way that a character can end up in another time period is always different.

Of course, when people say sci-fi I must admit that the first thing that comes to mind is aliens and laser guns and giant space adventures. I can’t help it.

Horror

So, this is a genre I usually stay away from. I scared myself just looking at the covers of R. L. Stine’s Goosebumps when I was little. Always the fun of having an overactive imagination; it doesn’t need a lot of inspiration to keep me awake at night.

Actually reading a horror book probably wouldn’t sit well with me, but many people enjoy it. It’s most likely the adrenaline rush or something. I don’t actually know. If being scared makes you happy, that’s great. I’ll just sit in the corner, reading about unicorns or something like that.

In all seriousness experience wise, if I tried to write a horror book, it would either not be very good or I would give myself nightmares. Most likely not the best idea.

Romance

Ha. Yeah, no. This is another genre I steer clear of. Sorry, I’m just not a romance fan. I’ll literally look away from the screen when people start kissing in a movie.

I’m well aware, though, that there’s many people who like romance novels. And a positive thing about these types of books is-it can be anywhere. The setting, the characters, the themes are limitless. Like time travel, there’s thousands of possibilities.

I’ve co-written a book with a friend that has a lot of romance, but besides that, I don’t write that kind of thing. If there is romance, there’s not a lot of it. Maybe a page or less touching down on the subject. I don’t really believe that a story requires romance to be good, so as long as I don’t enjoy writing it on a regular basis, it’s not going to happen.

Also, this is one of the reasons I don’t actually read a lot of books in the YA/Teen section. So. Many. Romance. Novels.

Historical Fiction

Usually all books need some level of research beforehand, but historical fiction? They have so much research shoved into them it’s insane. When I read a historical fiction, I’m amazed at all the information that would have been gathered. Some writers have people that do research for them, but still.

In short, historical fiction is a story that takes place in the past, generally at a significant point in time. Often the characters are the author’s own, and they choose the setting and what (or should I say when) it’s going on.

Personally, I don’t write historical fiction. I mentioned the level of research that needs to go into it, and that’s such a daunting task in my mind that it’s not usually a thought to attempt it. I’ve definitely read historical fiction, though. The Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands? Masterpiece.

Mystery

The Thea Stilton series were my first chapter books. I adored them and all of their mysteries so much. What was going to happen? Who was the criminal? Would they catch them in time?

Mysteries can really keep the readers engaged. They’re the kind of books that make you think, and make you get involved with the story. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to fit the pieces of a mystery novel’s puzzle together.

Just as much as the reader has to think, I expect the writer has to think too. They need to know every inch of the mystery, and they have to know the clues that will lead to the outcome. Think of a mystery book you’ve read, or a mystery film you’ve watched recently, and just think of the planning that would have to go into it. Amazing, isn’t it?

Fantasy

I’m sure I have mentioned several times already how fantasy is my all time favourite genre. I love to read it, and I love to write it. Fantasy is wonderful for escaping the ordinary, and is quite a fun genre overall.

Fantasy is known for its world building (interesting settings and communities within their respective universes), magic, and generally something along the lines of wizards and dragons and fairies and whatnot, but not limited to that.

If you’re ever bored, fantasy spices things up. There’s so many things that can happen in a fantasy novel; the sky’s the limit. Well, you know, the limit is actusally much further as far as I’m aware.

 

There are definitely more genres than the ones I have listed above and, like I said, many of them overlap. It is extremely rare that a story has one genre alone. It could be fantasy/sci-fi, historical fiction/mystery, romance/horror (there’s a murderer chasing you, why are you kissing?!)… etc.

The never ending list, ladies and gentlemen. There are many many genres, and many many combinations. All a story takes is a little imagination.

Along with plot, conflict, character development, grammar, and lots of other things, but let’s just leave it at imagination.

The Lovely Shorties

English teacher: We’re going to be writing stories in class…

Me: *Leans forward with excitement.*

English teacher: …Short stories.

Me: *Slumps slightly and cries internally.*

Not going to lie, short stories are my kryptonite. Telling me to write a short story is like telling hikers that regularly take on the tallest mountains to climb a little hill. I don’t despise them, or think that they’re not worth the time of day. In all honesty, I just legitimately find them to be one of the hardest forms of writing.

Now, let’s look at the reasons why.

Number one! There’s always a very specific limit about how long they can be. They are called “short” stories after all. I once wrote a story for a writing contest where the maximum amount of words you could have was four hundred and fifty. Four hundred and fifty. If that sounds like a large number of words, believe me, it’s not. For example, by this sentence you’ve already read about a hundred and sixty three words.

Sticking to a limit sometimes feels like being put in a cage and restrained. You can only have so many words, you can only have so many pages, now make a story with it. Often I like to simply write and see where it takes me, then cut down the excess stuff afterwards. Even this is difficult; actually, it’s especially difficult. Editing can also be a writer’s kryptonite.

If that isn’t enough, short stories really force you to choose which ideas are the best and most important. They force you to cut out anything that’s not, even when you yourself feel like it is.

Basically what this means is, you can’t introduce crazy ideas or have much world building. Well, I suppose you could, but it may confuse the reader depending on how much there is to explain the world. If the setting of a short story is in a place that’s familiar, or if the setting isn’t important, it leaves more room to focus on plot. With short stories, you need all the room you can get.

Since for the most part I enjoy giant fantasy and/or sci-fi environments when writing…err…Yeah, that’s a bit of a problem.

Speaking of needing room for plot, oh man, short stories need an entire plot in one. Solitary. Small. Package. You need a full introduction, climax, and conclusion. You need all the little juicy details of a large story in a small story. This, this is what makes it so hard to me, and why I’m amazed at all the authors who do short stories (seriously, good job guys).

The ability to have all of that in a short story is definitely something to be worked at. Despite its size, it needs to be manageable to write a full story and convey a message.

By the end of this, you should be able to understand why when I try to write a short story I get at least a tiny bit frustrated. Everything from the size to the restraints to the plot is insane.

So here I tell now: The length does not make the story. Short ones can be just as good, and most likely just as emotionally manipulating. And as always, for me personally, they are the most annoying form of writing to attempt