Saturday, October 29, 2011

World Building

When I was setting up my NaNoWriMo account yesterday, I had to write a synopsis of my book. I guess I'm kind of cheating at this since I already started, but I'm still trying for 50,000 words. Which is a lot considering I haven't even gotten to 10,000 in the last 2 months.

But anyways, I tweaked the summary I posted before I started writing and plotting and it hit me - whenever I talk about this book, I always have long-ago background info in mind. The book starts right before Delaney's 16th birthday, but I always mention the major things that happen when she's six months old: her Registration and her mother's discovery of her shapeshifting. That got me thinking about my 2nd favorite part of writing (second only to names): world building.

You, as a reader, aren't supposed to notice all the individual little details the author puts in to make the story seem more real. And let me tell you, there are a lot, especially when you're always creating your own worlds because you don't like the actual geography/history of Earth and you're a control freak. Ahem. I've read a lot of advice on this, but I think you have to pick and choose what's most important to you or you'll end up with a report instead of a book.

What's important in More Blessed, you ask? (Didn't ask? Too bad. I like talking.) Supernatural stuff, history/politics/government, language, technology, religion, a bit of food, geography, physical characteristics...each in very small ways. You wouldn't believe how much time I've spent thinking about all these things. Some of it I make up as I go. Some of it I'm ignoring until later. Some of it just fits together with what I've known from the beginning.

For example, a rule that every baby has to be checked by the government for supernatural abilities and is taken away if they are blessed with powers? That doesn't fit with a freedom emphasizing, hands off government, so my world has powerful Councils at the city, state, and country levels. I had to make all sorts of aspects of life very structured, from the school system to the calendar. (I think I became officially insane when I sat down and created a precise new calendar system for a book I'm never going to publish.)

Right now, I'm having some issues with technology. It's my own fault, really. I don't like the overabundance of long horseback journeys in fantasy books, but I also know I can't write anything really modernized. This leaves me stuck in the middle having to decide which elements I want to include. High speed trains? Check. Cars? Absolutely not. Air conditioning? Sometimes. Computers? Hmmm...

Sometimes I wonder if all this work is really helping. Do normal people (the ones who don't have a bajillion characters running around talking to them in their heads) even pay attention to this stuff when they read? I've already decided to cut out all my flashback scenes because I think I'm the only one who cares about them. I'm leaving them in for now because I don't want to destroy my word count. Decisions, decisions.

Also, I went a little link crazy today. I don't know what that's about.

Official More Blessed Word Count: 9,216

Friday, October 28, 2011

More Motivation

Oh dear goodness, it's almost NaNoWriMo.

(I feel like a lot of the things I start with don't make sense if you haven't read 532809324 writer's blogs.)

So National Novel Writing Month (according to their website, thirty days and nights of literary abandon!) is where a bunch of crazy people try to write a whole novel. Just a 50,000 word novel, which is on the short side for the books I read but still a whole lot more than I have right now.

It's a good thing it's almost November because I've written approximately zero words in the past week or two. I've felt like I got transported back to high school with all the writing and studying I've been doing. But that's mostly over now, so back to writing I go! I might actually be talking more about writing and doing less rambling this month. If I have any brilliant insights to share. And if my brain doesn't explode from trying to write more than a thousand words a day.

In other news, I've decided to give my blog a makeover. The text background color is driving me insane.

Official More Blessed Word Count: 8,640

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

This I Believe...Adoption

I'm currently looking for an internship.

(As in, oh my goodness I need an internship in 2 months so I can graduate in less than a year and get a real job and get closer to leaving the country AHHHH!!)

Ahem. When I was in elementary school, I wanted to be a teacher. I dabbled in dress-designing and architecture in middle school, but by high school I was back to teaching. I even did two internships at schools in our district. There, I discovered that I did NOT want to be a teacher. Not with this education system, at least.

Luckily, that led me to Child Life which led me to my major which is now pointing in five million possible internship directions. What I really want (and what I've been avoiding this whole time because I thought it wasn't possible) is to work with adoptees, orphans, poor kids, and somewhere else on the planet.

I imagine I'll do a lot of rambling on those last three in the near future, especially as I get further into the application process. But today, you get a shortened and heavily edited version of an essay I wrote in high school.
       I believe that every child deserves a loving family and a safe home. This normally wouldn't be a radical statement, but when I say every child, I don't mean every child born in America or a nuclear family. I mean that the upbringing of every child around the world is our collective responsibility. For me, building a family through adoption will not be a last resort but something that I will be privileged to do. I would consider myself irresponsible if I weren't adopting any children. There are too many people already crowded onto this planet for me to have as big of a family as I want without adopting internationally.

       Let me start by saying that I realize there are problems in the U.S. foster care system. (I've taken who knows how many classes where this gets brought up). However, as a result of my aforementioned overlapping areas of interest, I am most interested in and concerned about international adoptions. Kids in the foster care system have a tough life, but they have the opportunity to do so much if they choose to and get the right encouragement. The children left in third-world orphanages don't even get a first chance, growing up without parents or resources until they are dumped on the street to make room for more orphans. These kids are the ones who hold my heart but they are also the hardest to adopt.

       From a child development and human rights perspective, the two biggest issues facing orphans and adoptees are attachment disorders and child trafficking issues.

       Reactive attachment disorder is to blame for many of internationally adopted children's behavior issues. I don't want to bore you with the details, but attachment issues are a result of children never getting the chance to properly bond with their parents or their overwhelmed caregivers. This bond, as anyone who's studied child development can tell you, is vital to the child's developing a sense of trust (instead of mistrust). The longer it takes the child to get adopted, the longer they go without meeting their emotional milestones, impacting the growth of autonomy over shame and doubt, initiative over guilt, industry over inferiority. This is why many orphans have learning disabilities and/or behavior problems.

       Then, there is so much corruption within the system itself. Many of the children in orphanages are not orphaned or unwanted. They have loving families but have been kidnapped and virtually sold to an adoptive couple. Child trafficking problems have led to many countries delaying or even permanently halting adoptions. Unfortunately, these tragedies are hurting the adoption cause – children who need homes aren’t getting them because they can’t be adopted internationally. People that thought they would be taking home their son or daughter learned that the child they considered their own is part of someone else's family. Ending the corruption and maintaining the integrity of foreign adoptions is crucial to the estimate 143 million orphans around the world waiting for a home.

       Even with all the things that can go wrong in an adoption, the basic underlying fact is that adoptions work. A majority of Americans have been affected by adoption, either personally or through a close friend or relative. Adoption gives the mothers and fathers that cannot care for their children the reassurance that their child will be cherished. It provides a future for a little one who has lost all of his or her relatives as a result of disease, poverty, or violence. Above all, it is the only hope for the hundreds of millions of orphans who just need someone to take them into their family. If I don't adopt that child, who will?

Official More Blessed Word Count: 8,640

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Don't Kill That Character!

So today I'm talking about a love triangle that ended up in character assassination that really drove me crazy when I read this book. And I'm not going to tell you what book it is because I can't figure out how to talk about it without spoilers :)

Here's the story. Girl has a Best Friend Boy and a Shoved-Together-in-Plot Boy and she ends up loving both of them but not knowing which one she's really in love with. For a long time. Including lots of kissing and banter with both guys.

BUT THEN, to help Girl make her final decision, Author X commits a heinous literary crime. Character assassination. (That is, his personality got assassinated, not the actual character. That would have made the choice really easy.) Best Friend Boy suddenly becomes I-Hate-The-Bad-People-They-Should-All-Die Boy. So obviously Girl chooses dependable, calm Shoved-Together-in-Plot Boy over him.


Okay, I admit I had a bias for Best Friend Boy from the beginning. I thought he was cooler and smarter than his rival, plus he had a long history with Girl. Despite all that, I am completely fine with Girl's being in love with Shoved-Together Boy. I am NOT fine with the unnecessary destruction of Best Friend Boy. Yeah, a little character development should happen at the end of a book or series because people change. However, people don't become destructive maniacs overnight. (Actually, Shoved-Together boy did, but that wasn't his fault. He got better!)

Rant over.

Official More Blessed Word Count: 8,200

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Oh The Irony

Why have I never gone to a book festival before?  More importantly, why could I not have realized this a year or even a week ago? Free Austin Teen Book Festival last weekend? I was home the whole time, so I'm not that crushed to have forgotten about it, but still.

Then I got excited about the Texas Book Festival that's also in Austin and that happens to be the weekend of October 22. When I will be going home again! I don't understand why these dates have to be so ironic!

I love the sight of a nice tall stack of books.

Then again, maybe I do. This is the stack of books I just checked out from the library. It's a beautiful, gigantic stack, but these represent only 4% of the nearly 300 books on my to-be-read list. This is why I shouldn't go to book festivals - I already have too many books recommendations and I have a lovely library to supply me with all the books I want. For free!

I'm still a bit bitter. Just think, all those gorgeous books in one room together...curse you, cosmic irony! (Is that the right one? Or is it dramatic? I haven't needed to remember in a long time.) Someday, I will go to a festival and meet really awesome authors and maybe even be one myself :)

Official More Blessed Word Count: 7,731

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Lazy Saturday Songs

I love Eurovision!

For those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about (you should probably check out their website [or Wikipedia] instead of listening to me). Ahem. Let me introduce you to some of my favorites from the last couple of years of competition.

(You thought this was going to be another thought-provoking post? Ha! I'm sleepy and my brain is fried and I haven't even started studying for the three tests I have this week. I really don't know where that insightful post came from yesterday.)

Lithuania: This song will randomly get stuck in my head and then I have to play it. Several times. And dance. Also, matching plaid pants? Awesome.

Norway: Despite my sister's horror, the lovely Alexander Rybak is one of my favorite singers. And he was born in Belarus. Cute AND tri-lingual!

Russia: Dima Bilan. This is the guy who started it all (for me, not the actual contest). I found out about him because he's buds with Yevgeni Plushenko and his wife, who actually are both in the video. I'm just a bit jealous.

Official More Blessed Word Count: 7,365

Friday, October 7, 2011

This I Believe...Politically

I try not to discuss politics, especially on the Internet. I don't mind the heated arguments people get in over which side is right and which side is delusional/uninformed/evil but I just don't want to get a headache thinking about how much of a mess we're in.

So I won't be discussing my politics (although it's kind of obvious from my blog name, isn't it?) but something that's been bugging me. Last week, I had a conversation with a 12 year old (for anonymity's sake, let's call her Emma) who had some very strong opinions on a lot of current issues. However, I happen to know that these beliefs come straight from her parents, with the help of a particular news source and probably also online. She has every right to those opinions, but I wonder if she even knows why she thinks that way.

This made me very grateful for my parents' policy of not talking about politics when I was younger. At the time, I didn't like it - I remember in elementary school being upset that my parents wouldn't tell me who they voted for. It was during the 2000 Presidential election and we had done a school project where we had to research the candidates and decide which one we liked, so I wanted to know if they felt the same way. I still don't know who got their votes. On the other hand, even without talking to Emma's parents, I know exactly who they voted for, and I'm sure she does too (just not in 2000, when she was one).

I don't know how different my views would be if my parents had told me. They're both pretty moderate so I wouldn't have gotten a clear vision of the "correct" political side like Emma has, but it might have made me dilute some of my strongly held beliefs. I've built my political ideas from a lot of different sources and values and they continue to evolve, but no matter what, I know they're my own. No one told me what was right to think and I didn't try to think like anyone else.

I think that's especially important in our sound-bite friendly political climate. People choose one side or the other without knowing why and then declare it the best. Sometimes, you can't even talk to people from the opposite party without being called names or yelled at. I admit that I have said and thought some not so nice things about the opposing party. I guess it's human nature, this splitting into two camps over some issue. And because this is sort of a writing blog, let me also say that politics is starting to play a bigger role in Delaney's story than I originally intended. Bring on the headaches, book.

Official More Blessed Word Count: 6,812

Saturday, October 1, 2011

On Humor

I have been laughing a ton today. I'm hanging out at home and so I've spent a good portion of my time making fun of my littlest sister. Most of our conversations today probably wouldn't make sense to anyone else. Even our parents have given us strange looks (and we've got a pretty crazy family).

Sample Conversation
Nats: You're just a hobbit.
Me: Right, like you've ever met a hobbit.
Nats: Umm, I have. You're a hobbit.
Me: You haven't even read The Hobbit, Munchkin butt.
Nats: So my butt's small?
Me: No, it means you're small minded.
Nats: Well you're small brained.

Like I said, we don't make sense. But it sure amuses us. Earlier, I laughed so hard I cried. That was when my mom told my sis to get duct tape (implying but not saying that she would duct tape my mouth shut) and proceeded to steal the computer my sis was using.

Apparently Nats and I never stand next to each other in photos. At least, not ones we want to show people.
The reason I'm telling you all this is to talk about humor in books. (Aha! You knew there was a point to all that, didn't you?!) In Children's or Middle Grade or Young Adult books, humor can be a big deal. Sometimes, it's so the author can talk about touchy subjects without making the whole book dark and depressing. Sometimes, the humor is dark. Then there's all sorts of cute kid's books with fart jokes galore.

You might think that writing these books would be easy - because they're for kids or they're "light" reads. For me especially, writing comedy would be really hard. I like humor alright in books - witty, ironic humor - but I'm not really a big fan of comedy anywhere else. I watch mostly cop/crime TV shows, dramatic musicals and (smart) action movies. And that's how I write.

I may try to be amusing on the blog (although I'm not so sure that works...) but if I tried to make my books light and funny, they would just sound fake. Especially considering my MC's a socially awkward only child who has one (deaf) friend and has to keep her supernatural identity suppressed. That doesn't leave room for witty banter or practical jokes.

Speaking of which: Official More Blessed Word Count: 6,000!!