Archive by Author

Profound doesn’t even begin to describe it.

26 Jan

by Biljana Likic

~~~

Think back to an old crush; maybe the first boy or girl you really felt something for. The way they made you feel when they smiled at you, or accidentally brushed your hand. The way that sometimes, when they needed a pencil, they’d ask you for one. No matter that it was because they sat beside you in class, and you were the closest and most convenient person to ask. They asked you for a pencil, and you felt your heart soar.

Until you saw them kissing someone else during recess.

Your heart plummeted and when you went home, maybe you cried, maybe you accepted it without tears, maybe you got over them that instant. Or maybe, you went on liking them even though you knew they’d never like you back, and whenever you thought of them it made your stomach hurt how much you missed them. Oh, you’d still lend them that pencil, but maybe with more sadness than usual. The pencil has lost meaning to you. You’ve realized you’re just a convenience.

And then months later, when you’re over them, you see the situation for what it was: an infatuation.

Trivial.

But it wasn’t trivial while it was happening.

Puppy love and crushes make you do stupid things for people that sometimes don’t even notice you exist. And they have a crappy reputation. First because you often make a fool of yourself when the vulnerable situations you’ve been thrown in crumble against you, and second because, let’s face it, nobody takes them seriously. Even if you swear you’ll jump off a bridge for somebody, hardly anyone over the age of twenty will be concerned. They’ve already deduced that you are not in love, but that you are infatuated. And because you are infatuated, and not in love, that means your condition is a bit of a joke; something you’ll be embarrassed about in a year or two when it’s all in the past.

But the truth is, when you’re infatuated, to you it feels like love. To you, it’s not a joke. You really would try to give them everything. And while you’re in this phase there’s nothing more you would like than being with the person of your affections.

The reason I’m bringing this up is for the sake of all those teen protagonists that like the cute classmate but can’t approach them. More specifically, it’s for the sake of the readers that sympathize. I’ve talked to people who snub YA because the problems of the characters aren’t big enough. They don’t want to read about puppy love. They want to read about the love that makes your gut twist with longing and your heart feel full to bursting; that takes residence in your chest and presses down with the constant worry of what would happen to you emotionally if your loved one died.

They don’t want to read about something trivial.

But aside from constancy, which can’t be proven without the test of time (which books may not have), the only thing this adult love has over puppy love is the retrospective view of the situation. When it’s all over, you can look back on love and think, “It was beautiful while it lasted.” You can’t always do that with an infatuation. In fact, more often than not, you’ll end up thinking, “I can’t believe I used to lend them my pencil.”

The point I’m trying to make is that what’s trivial later in life may not be trivial in the moment. People don’t think it’s funny when they tell somebody about how they cry themselves to sleep every night. Later they might feel stupid, but while they’re crying, all they feel is a yawning black hole where their heart used to be.

So when you write about love, whether it’s infatuation or the real thing, never, ever undermine it. Never make it about how when she’s twenty-five and married to somebody else she’ll look back and flush with mortification. Don’t ever let the character know that when he’s over her, the oceans that remind him of her eyes will be easy to look at again. That’s not what the story is about. And it’s certainly not something your character is likely to believe.

Give infatuation the respect it deserves. It can be as dangerous as love, if not more so, because it’s selfish; you won’t be happy if they’re happy with someone else. You’ll keep doing whatever it takes to get them to love you. That pencil will be given away. She will never find a bridge too high. And the oceans will always look like her eyes.

And he will always be willing to drown.

~~~

Biljana Likic is an aspiring author, currently revising her first novel, TIME IS A FUNNY THING. She is in her first year of university, where she can’t wait till she’s out so she’ll finally have all the time in the world to write. You can visit her blog here and follow her on Twitter here.

QOTW: Why do we fail so?

21 Jan

As the title suggests, us ladies couldn’t get our acts together this week.

We hope you accept our deepest apologies with this hastily drawn image.

If You Think Your Protagonist Will Survive This, You Are Not Schooled In The Basic Principles Of Human Life

3 Jan

By Biljana Likic

~~~

“Get ready for certain death!”

Jack squeezed his eyes shut against Noir’s proclamation, stumbling through the brush and clutching onto his bleeding forearm. He wouldn’t die if it was the last thing he did. He pushed on past the trees, gritting his teeth as blood seeped through his clenched fingers. His breath left his chest in a whoosh as he felt the ground drop out beneath him. His cheekbone smashed and shattered against the twigs and rocks of the forest floor, leaving his eyes watering and his nostrils full of suffocating grit.

“You’re mine now!”

No, Jack thought passionately. Carol was counting on him to save her. He had to save her.

He stood, and immediately felt a lancing pain through his thigh and collapsed as a harpoon went clean through the muscle. He heard a hiss of satisfaction from Noir as he grimaced against the agony. He gave himself a precious second of rest before standing once more and continuing his run.

And then he felt the pain in his neck. Lifting up a bloodied hand, he threw away the poison dart and kept running, faster than before.

And then there was a whistle of metal as a sabre cut through the air and severed his left hand.

Jack stared dumbfounded as his hand flopped onto the forest floor and was left behind as he kept on running. The blood loss was going to his head. His sight was turning black around the edges. He was going to pass out.

But then he heard it. Her voice.

Jack!

Carol’s voice was calling for him. He had to go on. He had to go on.

He began running again with renewed vigour, even as the ninja stars sliced through the space around him, evil giant spiders crawled towards him, and green alien monstrosities hovered, ready for Noir’s command to strike.

He had to go on.

Well tough shit, Jack, you can’t go on. You have a severe cut on your forearm, a shattered cheekbone, you practically can’t breathe from the dirt up your nose, your thigh is gravely injured, there’s a poison dart in your neck and running through your veins is its venom, and let’s not forget that your hand has been cut off.

This, my friends, is what I call a case of If You Think Your Protagonist Will Survive This, You Are Not Schooled In The Basic Principles Of Human Life. Or as I like to say, IYTYPWSTYANSITBPOHL.

(Not really.)

How many of you readers out there were getting sick of the unrealistic portrayal of human survival and the supposed power of love? How many of you clearly realized that at this point, there is no way that Noir could realistically lose? I mean the guy has aliens and giant spiders on his side, not to mention that Jack  was beyond a doubt heavily incapacitated. There isn’t even a convincing Deus Ex Machina that can be used to save him now, no way for his hand to grow back, or the poison that was only sped up by his running to be flushed out.

In point, Jack is dead. There is no possible way for him to live. In fact, he shouldn’t even be running. In fact, he should be passed out in that ditch he fell into at the beginning of the scene. Right around the time where he stopped being able to breathe.

As always, my example is very, very exaggerated, but what I’m trying to convey is that if you’re going to hurt your protagonist, do some research to make sure he can survive what you throw at him. There have been quite a few times when, both in movies and books, I’d do a double take when I’d see the hero still running after an arrow through his thigh. Injuries have to be realistic and they have to be done in such a way that the reader doesn’t get desensitized to the hero’s pain. If you write a book where all throughout, your hero gets hurt a lot, and then at the time of the epic battle, the hero is broken almost to the point of surrender, it won’t have as much impact as if earlier in the novel the hero wasn’t so beaten up all the time. When it comes time for the threat of the hero to be forced into submission, a way to create the sense of total despair and longing for a victory for the good side is to hurt the hero in a way that leaves him almost unable to win. But if you’ve been hurting him severely all throughout the book, beating him up as badly at the end, or even more so, won’t have a strong impression on the reader, and can give the writing a sense of absurdism and gratuitous gore.

As with everything, this is a case by case. If your novel is all about battles and injuries, and there’s a valid reason for the hero to be thrown around so much, that’s fine. But you need to keep your character’s tolerance of physical suffering consistent. You can’t have them bravely soldier on after a bullet to the stomach in one scene and then crying from a rug burn in the next. But then you also have to realize that when it comes to the end of the novel, you need to find a weak point that isn’t physical. The hero has to be broken in a way that he hasn’t been broken before for the ending to have its full effect. This is the only way that the end will be satisfying.

Consider it like this. What if I told you that that scene with Jack and Noir wasn’t, in fact, an ending scene as it sounds, but something closer to the beginning of the novel? And now imagine if there were another dozen scenes like that. You’d get sick of the violence. It’s unnecessary. And imagine that the final confrontation isn’t a battle of the wits, but a battle of brute force as they all have been throughout the rest of the book.

This is a perfect example of IYTYPWSTYANSITBPOHL.

So the next time you want to lop off the leg of a character, consider the consequences thoroughly. Is it too much? Is it unrealistic? Will he have other injuries? Will he be able to continue being the hero without a leg?

Think about it. The last thing you want your character to be known for is that one who just constantly gets the shit kicked out of him.

~~~

Biljana Likic is an aspiring author, currently revising her first novel, TIME IS A FUNNY THING. She is in her first year of university, where she can’t wait till she’s out so she’ll finally have all the time in the world to write. You can visit her blog here and follow her on Twitter here.

[Insert name here]

10 Nov

by Biljana Likic

~~~

Ahhh, names.

Names have the power to embody an ideal. They have the incredible ability of making you judge somebody before you’ve even met them, subconsciously or not. And certain names have inescapable connotations: a Jezebel is a whore; a Narcissus is vain; a Samson is strong. Names have become so much a part of human identity that when we just meet somebody, more often than not, our first words to each other include them. In fact, it’s unnerving not to know somebody’s name. It makes the memory of them so mysterious and enigmatic.

Which is exactly why, when it comes down to having to name things, I freak out. A lot. Especially when it’s the naming of a character.

There are so many questions to ask.

Do I want to give them a name with connotations? If I have a man who’s really strong, am I going to name him Jack, or am I going to name him Francis? If I do name them something that doesn’t really suit their personality, is it for the sole purpose of breaking the stereotype or did I do it for irony?

And then there’s the issue of multiple characters.

What if I have six characters, and four of their names start with the letter S? Is that too many S’s? Should I change them? If in one book my villain’s name is Matthew and in the next one it’s Mark, will people notice that they’re both M names and both biblical?

And then I try to reassure myself by telling myself that I’m thinking too much. People see the name, they see the character, they put them together, and run with it. That’s all.

But that’s not quite true is it? I’ve had many, many discussions about character names, and if they do or do not fit, or if they hint too obviously at the nature of the character. It used to be okay to name people Adolf. Now there’s a taboo. Do I use that taboo to my advantage, or do I try to give the character a clean slate?

That’s when I realized that there never really is a clean slate. People go into books with expectations, and names only help to feed those expectations. It’s up to the writer if they want to meet or break them.

And trust me, more often than not, you want to break them.

When I first told my friend about my manuscript, I told her that my protagonist’s name was Ingrid. She told me after she read it that at first she didn’t like the name. She didn’t think it suited her personality because she associated it with old ladies and not, as it were, with stubborn, loud sixteen-year-olds. Then, in one of the greatest compliments somebody could give me without realizing it, she said, “But the more I read, the more it felt right. I can’t think of any other name for her.”

Which may not have meant much to her, but to me it meant the world.

Her statement basically proved to me that Ingrid was a strong character. She was able to break away from the stereotypes her name leant her and make it her own. She changed my friend’s perception of the name Ingrid from Old Lady to Cool Heroine.

And through all this, I realized that all of my questions and trivial worries were completely and utterly moot.

As long as your character’s voice is strong, it doesn’t matter what you name them. If they are able to hold onto their personality, their personality will begin to have a hold on the name. If you can make them come to life in a person’s mind, they will become real. And them being real will give the name a new dimension.

So stop worrying about what others think of your protagonist’s name when they read it and focus instead on finding something that feels right to you personally. That character already exists in your mind, and only you know which name will suit it best.

And who knows. Maybe next time somebody thinks of Jezebel, they won’t just think of a whore.

~~~

Biljana Likic is an aspiring author, currently revising her first novel, TIME IS A FUNNY THING. She is in her first year of university, where she can’t wait till she’s out so she’ll finally have all the time in the world to write. You can visit her blog here and follow her on Twitter here.

Can’t talk. Brooding.

1 Nov

NaNoWriMo Starts Today!!!

~~~

by Biljana Likic

~~~

Allow me to introduce myself. I am….a Writer. You look at me and you see literary brilliance ready to burst out of my fingers like the morning sun. Yes, this is a coffee in my right hand, and yes, that’s a lit cigarette in my left. The amber liquid you saw me sneaking into my cup was, in fact, whiskey, and now that you know, you must pity me and think I’m truly tortured. Just that you see me out of my natural habitat of a cave filled with paper and pens means you’re fortunate indeed, and my speaking to you must mean that I’ve had enough to drink to release my natural inhibitions and shyness.

A part of you wants to leave, that’s how intimidated you are by the phantom conversations going on in my head that I will later write down after I feed my two cats. Another part stays out of kindness; I don’t get out much, you see, and so people speaking to me is a rare occurrence.

Even so, you know that I don’t mind because I am used to it. I have lived my entire life in misunderstood solitude, and no mere mortal will ever be able to compare their knowledge of human truths to mine.

Now excuse me while I walk off holding on to my black beret lest it blow away in the chill wind that only I feel.

Shit.

Deep, right?

Wrong!

Total stereotypes! For the most part, at least. I don’t doubt that there are writers who are very reserved, or have drinking problems, or live secluded lives. Just like there are normal people who are very reserved, have drinking problems, or live secluded lives. What annoys me is when people think that all writers are like this.

This is directly the reason why I hold off mentioning to people that I’m a writer until they have a solid first impression of me. It only happened once that it was one of the first things I said, and the difference in attitude I got from this person was huge. Immediately, she went “Oh…” and I could just see the thoughts going through her mind:

“Damn pretentious writers. Think they’re special. Think they know shit.”

Well yes. I do think I know shit.

But it’s not because I’m an alcoholic, or I smoke, or I own cats, or wear black berets, or because I’m quiet. In fact none of those things can be applied to me.

I know shit because I talk to people. I observe real characters before creating my own.

Which is what I wanted to bring up in this article.

One of a writer’s biggest stereotypes is how secluded they are. I think this is true to a point. I think most writers are secluded because they’re too busy writing. But once in a while, you have to go out. You have to meet a variety of people so you can draw from them consciously or unconsciously. And here’s why.

Say these are some of the only people you have in your life that you see consistently: your mother, your father, your brother, your best friend, and your husband.

Now say you write a book. Say it’s about a woman who’s married, has a brother, living parents, and a best friend.

Guess who those people are going to be based off of.

This is totally fine. Until you get to your next book. Which is perhaps about a woman who has a boyfriend, a best friend, and one parent.

Well the boyfriend is going to be of similar character to the husband in the first one, the best friend is going to become the token girlfriend in all your books, and whenever the one parent mentions their missing counterpart, they’ll probably have a similar personality to the parent in the previous book.

They’re going to become your stock characters. If that’s all you know, that’s all you know. If your husband is reserved, your heroes will be reserved, because in your life those are the only heroes you can understand. You’re at risk of having these stock characters become story constants.

Which is why I implore you. Go out and talk to people. You don’t have to make friends, you just have to make judgments. Approach somebody you think you know because of their appearance and find out if they’ll break the stereotype. And if they do, how do they break it? Store the information somewhere. Start studying people. Because if all you really know is five characters, that’s going to come through. And though you may try breaking the pattern, putting in new things, it’s very possible that the new characters you create will be caricatures; too big or too one-dimensional.

I already know that there will be some of you who don’t agree with anything I’m saying. You will say that I’m wrong because there are so many writers who were secluded and reserved and had fabulous career lives.

Yeah, but a lot of them also went crazy or killed themselves or wrote themselves into depression.

Basically, what I’m saying is, even if you are socially impaired and find it really hard to make friends and meet new people, the outcome has the potential to vastly improve your writing. Not to mention, your life. And you might think it’s easy for me to say this, because I’m not like that, but the thing is I am. I don’t like meeting new people. It makes me feel vulnerable, and I don’t like the feeling of judgment I get when I go up to someone and say hello, even if it’s imagined. Especially when it’s imagined. At least if it’s real I can call them a bitch and move on. But if it’s imagined, I’m left with a feeling of invalidated insecurity that can linger for ages.

Relationships take time to build but it’s something I get over for the sake of a new friendship, connection, or, frankly, a template for a new character.

It wouldn’t kill anybody to try the same.

~~~

Biljana Likic is an aspiring author, currently revising her first novel, TIME IS A FUNNY THING. She is in her first year of university, where she can’t wait till she’s out so she’ll finally have all the time in the world to write. You can visit her blog here and follow her on Twitter here.

Are you scared yet?

12 Oct

by Biljana Likic

~~~

Before I begin, you have to promise yourself that while reading this article, you will not turn around. No checking behind your back for monsters. This is a bit of an experiment.

A few weeks ago I was hanging out with a friend. One that is fully aware of how paranoid I am. So like the great person he is, he made his face go all slack and surprised, widened his eyes, looked over my shoulder, and said, “What the hell is that?”

Obviously, I looked. Who wouldn’t? It’s a preservation act. It’s instinct. If you feel like there’s something threatening behind you, you look. And then you see that there isn’t (for the most part) and you go along living your merry life, laughing (or having a friend laugh) at your foolishness.

But of course, he had to make it a competition.

It quickly turned into, “I bet if I told you that there was a man in a mutant bunny suit behind you à la Donnie Darko, you’d look.”

Oh he’s a clever one, isn’t he? He didn’t even have to say it. He just had to allude to it and I wanted to turn around. It’s that creepy feeling where you imagine something watching you behind your back. You have to look to make sure there isn’t, even if the idea is absolutely ridiculous.

So I didn’t turn around. I glared at him, and all the while, I could feel the back of my neck prickling with just the possibility that there was something behind me.

Which got me thinking.

Being fortunate enough to not have experienced too much fear in my lifetime, scary scenes aren’t exactly on the top of my writing list. It could be just because it’s never come up in my writing, (because I’d most likely scare myself more than anybody reading it,) but it could conceivably also be because I’ve never been very, very scared in my life before.

So how do you go about getting across a character’s fear without being sure what it feels like?

Well here’s a way. Make yourself creeped out.

Allow me to help you with that.

First of all, don’t look.

Imagine that there’s a man in a mutant bunny suit behind you. His eyes are lifeless and the fur around his mouth is stained red. He is completely motionless; unnaturally still. Just standing behind you and watching you. Then he slowly starts walking up to you with noiseless footsteps. He’s getting closer. He’s close enough now to read this over your shoulder. You think you might be able to hear something dripping. He’s reaching out to touch you. He’s inches away. You realize the dripping is blood falling from a carving knife.

You suddenly know with incredible certainty that what I’m describing is what’s actually happening to you right now. He knows that you’ve figured it out. And just for that, he going to kill you.

He’s raising his arm.

He’s lifting the knife into the air.

He can smell your fear.

This isn’t a fun exercise anymore. This is reality. If you turn around and look, you will, without a doubt, see a man in a chilling, distorted bunny suit, a knife poised and ready to be driven into your spine.

And the only way you can save yourself if to look. Just turn around. The moment your lay eyes on him, he’ll disappear and you’ll be safe. But until then…

You can hear him shifting his weight. He’s about to strike.

Did you look yet?

Are you creeped out?

Can you feel your stomach coiling with tension, back hunching defensively?

Use it. Go back to that scary scene that’s been stumping you or sounds contrived.

Just be thankful it isn’t real.

…Right?

~~~

Biljana Likic is an aspiring author, currently revising her first novel, TIME IS A FUNNY THING. She is in her first year of university, where she can’t wait till she’s out so she’ll finally have all the time in the world to write. You can visit her blog here and follow her on Twitter here.

Question of the Week: Pacing

17 Sep

This week’s question comes from Renee, who asks:

How do you guys handle pacing in your books? How do you know when you have too much happening in one chapter?

~~~

Generally, I outline to be certain that every chapter ends with an event that leaves a question in the reader’s mind.  I consider that to be the most essential element of pacing.  Some of my chapters are made up of a few scenes that revolve around a single conflict, while others might have multiple smaller conflicts all in the same chapter, but I like to have some sense of unity in each chapter, so that when the reader reaches the end, the question left in his or her mind suggests an answer that might be found in the next chapter.  I also try to raise the stakes as the scenes progress so that rising action prevents the pace from lagging.  As far as too much happening in one chapter, I trust my policy of “unity of events” to help prevent that from happening.  I worry far more about too little happening!

-The Writer Out on Submissions

~~~

The main thing I worry about while working on a story is that it drags. I’ve always been big on description, but I know it takes up a lot of space and really drags a story down in terms of action. So now, having learned from my mistakes, I try to tone down the flowery words and add more action. This seems to be working, because I’ve found less places that drag when I go back over a manuscript. And with my latest project, I managed to outline the entire thing, so it was easy to see where things could use a pick-me-up, and where others needed to be toned down. Outlining, I think, is a life saver when it comes to stuff like pacing.

The Writer Who’s Loving Her Internship

~~~

I never really worry that too much is happening in a chapter, I worry that things are taking too long. Pacing is something I have to work on speeding up because I like to linger with my characters. I let them chit-chat and have conversations that take too long to get to the point. I’m working on it and trying to make every word count and build on the plot.

-The Writer Querying

~~~

One way I can tell when something’s dragging if I get bored while writing it. Other times I have to watch out though, because I’ll be overenthusiastic and put in too much, turning it into overkill. The moment the excitement drops when it’s not supposed to, that’s your clue. Whenever I feel like I’m skipping over things in the reread because I’m not interested, I’ll usually check it over for drag.

In terms of chapters, my advice is to end them where you feel there’s a natural break. Ending them in cliffhangers or really thought-provoking events is generally a good idea because the transition between the end of the chapter and the beginning of the next will give the reader a chance to understand the stakes. It’s like how in rhetoric, when a person wants to get a point across, they say it and then pause for effect. It forces listeners to actually think about what’s being said. The same goes for chapter endings. You can really build excitement and emotion this way.

-The Writer Editing Her Massive Rewrite of a First Novel

~~~

How do you handle pacing?

Oh the Agony of Imaginary Pain!

15 Sep

by Biljana Likic

~~~

Jack opens his glassy eyes and tries to focus on Carol’s features. It’s hard to concentrate. His wound is excruciatingly painful, throwing streamers of agony down his arm. He is breaking out into a sweat and his face is contorting into an ugly grimace, teeth gritted behind pulled-back lips, and throat struggling not to let out a scream.

“It’s okay,” Carol whispers, running cool hands down his arm in attempt to help, horrified at his injury.

Her touch only makes the pain worse.

She jerks back when he cries out, writhing on the carpet of the office floor, eyes squeezing shut and breath coming out in gasps. Carol spears her fingers through her hair, clutching briefly at the strands. She is at a complete loss over how to help him. Close to tears for his pain, she turns to Noir.

“How could you do this to him?” she says, voice shaking.

Noir blinks, utterly confused.

“…It’s just a paper cut.”

…Right.

Basically, the purpose of that was to show in extreme exaggeration how terribly confusing and sometimes downright hilarious it can be if the actions and reactions of the characters don’t suit the scene. Specifically, I’m focussing on pain.

Have you ever sat down to write about a character that’s about to have his arm cut off, but being that you’ve never had that happen, you in truth have no idea what you’re talking about?

If you’ve asked for help with this, I’m sure you’ve heard this before:

Imagination.

…Kidding. (Sort of.) Here’s the better advice.

Use your past experiences. Just because you’ve never had your arm cut off, doesn’t mean you can’t write a scene about a guy getting his arm cut off. Think about the closest thing to that scenario that’s ever happened to you, and try to equate that pain with the pain of what you imagine getting your arm cut off would be.

And if that wasn’t wordy enough for you, here’s an example.

This actually happened.

…The first part.

I was wearing flip-flops yesterday, sitting around outside, minding my own business, and I felt something poking me. I looked down and there was a wasp on the top of my foot, embedded quite nicely into my skin, so much so that I had to take out the insect with my fingers. I’ve forgotten how much stings actually hurt. It felt like a needle but thicker and rougher, and even after I pulled out the wasp, the sting throbbed with pain, and the skin around it rose with the venom.

And that got me thinking.

Imagine if it were a wooden pike instead of a wasp.

First I’d have the blunt ache of something with no sharp edge driving through the skin, tendons and bones. I’d have the feeling of something foreign inside me accompanied by the awareness that it hurts like crazy. I’d have the panic of seeing and acknowledging the fact that yes, there is a pike in my foot. I’d probably try to scream but wouldn’t have the voice for it, and I’d probably be too scared to pull it out right away. But when it is pulled out, I’d have the relief of it being gone. Unfortunately, it’d be followed by the adrenaline wearing off, making the pain worse, turning it into a pulsing agony of gushing blood and the general terror of there being a hole in my body.

And now imagine if the pike had venom on it.

I’d have it spreading up my leg, the skin around the wound rising white against the unaffected parts, becoming puffy and hot to the touch. My quickened heartbeat would work not only to spread the poison, but also speed up the blood loss. Maybe I would go into shock.

While in shock I would be looking at my wound, not really understanding that it’s mine, my eyes would go wide, my pupils would dilate, everything would be too bright, too loud, my breathing would get too shallow and too quick.

Maybe I’d faint.

While unconscious, the venom would spread throughout my body, the wound would fester and become infected. I’d be too weak to wake up. If I did wake up, it’d be to the pain and stench of a rotting foot and the swollen and feverish feel of a body turned septic. I wouldn’t be able to move, let alone crawl to a hospital, and by this point they wouldn’t just have to cut off my foot at the ankle, but at the knee.

Or maybe I’d never make it to the hospital.

Maybe I’d die.

So many exciting possibilities!

All from getting stung by a wasp.

This is the kind of stuff that goes on in my mind when I’m alone and think too much. You are free to make fun. I’m aware that I’m paranoid.

But you have to admit. Next time I need to write about somebody having a pike driven through their foot, I’ll already know what it feels like.

~~~

Biljana Likic is an aspiring author, currently revising her first novel, TIME IS A FUNNY THING. She is in her first year of university, where she can’t wait till she’s out so she’ll finally have all the time in the world to write. You can visit her blog here and follow her on Twitter here.

The Name Of My Muse Is Mary Sue

26 Aug

by Biljana Likic

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Hi! My name is Felicitie Del’Ortollio. I have a great personality, and I’m generous, kind, helpful, and encouraging. I’m a great leader, too. I’m a straight A student, speak 23 languages fluently, and I work out a lot, so I have a great body. I also have very nice hair. It’s brown, which is a plain colour, but on me, it looks totally awesome. Mostly because I have such a gorgeous face. My eyes are blue, but sometimes they’re violet, depending on my mood. I have lots of friends that tell me I’m cool and want to be me, and most of the guys in school are secretly in love with me. But that doesn’t make me arrogant. I’m actually quite sweet.

I also have magical powers that you won’t know about until an impossible situation comes along and my creator has no idea how to fix it. Then, I’ll reveal that I’m the most powerful member of a super secret order of faeries that against all judgment chose me as their leader. Probably because I would never let the power corrupt me.

I’m just an overall amazing person.

I’m also completely unreal.

You knew that?

But how did you guess?!

Is it because my second name is Mary Sue?

Yes. Yes it is.

But the above is an exaggeration. Mary Sues can be a lot subtler than that. What they are in the extreme is the creation of a character that is exactly like the writer, or what the writer wants to be,  with the good traits amped up and bad traits abolished. Certain things like insecurities and confidence issues become non-existent to the character, whose life is pretty much great, and whose problems melt away with really easy solutions.

The reason they exist, I believe, is simple. Once in a while, everybody wants to be perceived as funny and nice, or delightfully quirky, or devilishly sarcastic. Whatever the desire, Mary Sue waits around until you choose it, and she presents you with an irresistible opportunity: rewriting your life to be exactly how you want it to be.

It’s a way of immersing yourself into that universal dream of things going perfectly as planned, with everybody on your side.

Unfortunately, just because it offers you a fantastical escape that seems like sheer brilliance, critics may not agree.

From her humble beginnings in Star Trek fan fiction to her present day appearances in contemporary novels, (read a description of Bella Swan and compare it with a picture of Stephanie Meyer,) Mary Sue has become the whispered-about small-town disgrace that nobody wants to be associated with publicly but everybody wishes they could have. She has earned herself a reputation of being the fictional equivalent of a hooker, who tells you she loves you, tells you you’re beautiful, amazing, absolutely perfect, and who will pet and pamper your ego till your head’s too big to fit through the door.

And then she’ll jump into the proverbial bed of another, leaving you quite metaphorically screwed, and burdened with the heavy price of a whole manuscript of mental indulgence to rework.

But it’s not fair, because nobody really warns you. Nobody tells you when you’re young and writing your first story to be careful not to answer the siren song of a fake confidence boost. Or if they do, they don’t give you real reasons. They just say “It’s frowned upon” and expect you to listen without any facts. And to add to the frustration, they accidentally encourage it. When you’re just starting out as a writer, the common piece of advice that everybody hears is “Write what you know.”

Well of course an obvious answer would be a Mary Sue. What do you know better than yourself?

The problem isn’t having her in your writing. The problem is the small town. Mary Sue has become so shunned and ostracized that the town refuses to believe anything good can come out of her. The moment they see her around they boo and hiss and fail to realize that to get out of the Mary Sue relationship in a healthy way, all you really need to do as a writer is grow up.

Practice, mature into your writing, and slowly ease her away. Turn the torrid, injuring love affair into a comfortable friendship. She can be quite kind when you acknowledge her with respect. By having a friendship, you’ll accept the possibilities she offers without letting yourself fall in too deep.

Most importantly, you’ll lose the town’s mentality of Mary Sue as a destructive, leeching succubus. To cut her off completely would be impossible and stupid. You created her; she’ll be a permanent part of you for the rest of your life. You’ll remember her for all the wonderful ideals she inspired, and all the glorious emotions she made you feel when you wrote about flying to the moon with angel wings. She is the embodiment of all your fears, hopes, insecurities, and dreams of adventure, everything that still exists in your blood, all the stuff you think about daily, and to kill her off would be like killing a piece of your soul.

She’ll stalk the edges of all you future writing endeavours, looking in with clear eyes and grudging respect, no longer a jealous lover, and just for that, she is entitled to a word, a sentence, a mannerism, or personality trait of any character you create in the future, if she so chooses.

She is your muse. Treat her with dignity.

~~~

Biljana Likic is an aspiring author, currently revising her first novel, TIME IS A FUNNY THING. She just graduated high school and is on her way to university where she can’t wait till she’s out so she’ll finally have all the time in the world to write. You can visit her blog here and follow her on Twitter here.

QOTW: Are Some Not Meant to Write?

13 Aug

This week’s QOTW comes from McQuinn:

Are some people simply not meant to write?

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I don’t think so. Or, at least, I’ve never met someone who I thought just wasn’t meant to write. As you guys learned from this past week, we all started out writing some REALLY crappy stuff. I honestly cringe when I read my old work. But I can also mark my improvement. I can honestly tell you that I didn’t really understand the concept of writing a “plot” until pretty late in the game. I mean, I knew what it was, of course, but I never gave much real thought to planning it out or thinking, “Hmm…this should happen here, and that there, etc.”

I was also melodrama and long sentence queen of the century. Really. But somehow, at the age of twelve, I managed to stumble upon a writing forum full of really nice, encouraging people. People who indulged little-me and said I was pretty darn good, but I needed to make improvements. If I worked hard, they told me, if I worked hard and wrote plenty and dreamed big, I’d be published someday.
So no, I don’t think there are those who aren’t “meant” to write. There are those with more natural talent than others, sure. But natural talent only carries you so far. If you write enough, and work hard enough, and dream big enough…well, you won’t need to worry about what was and wasn’t “meant” to be.

The Writer Querying

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I think that there are people who are not meant to write, but that doesn’t mean it’s a punishment. There are a lot of people in publishing who started off as writers because they love stories, only to realize their true calling is in the production side, not the writing side. Additionally, in the non-writing and publishing world, there are people who flat out don’t like to read or write.

However, I think the nature of your question is probably leaning more towards advice for young writers wondering if writing is for them or not. The truth is that only you can decide if you’re truly a writer. Even if you try for 50 years and never get published, dedicating yourself to loving and creating stories makes you a writer, not your success or failures. And you know what? If you find something more fulfilling, it’s okay to lay down the pen. Don’t let your pride or stubornness get in the way of finding your true calling if it turns out that there’s something out there that’s a better fit for you than writing.

The Writer Condensing Three Novels Into One

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Yes, but those people either won’t really try, or, like Sav said, will find that their real love is with something related, like editing or agenting.

If you want to write, but every time you start you feel like it’s total crap or the plot isn’t going anywhere, then this is my advice from experience: Drop the pretension. Stop trying to force fantasy and drama and epic magic into your writing just because that’s what you love to read. Write what comes naturally and explore different genres before giving up. Get others to read it and tell you what you’re doing wrong and consider their advice. There’s nothing worse than snubbing advice; you’ll never be able to grow. And don’t take criticism personally. If you give a piece of work to somebody who cares about you, chances are they’re being ‘mean’ because they want to help you improve.

Seriously, just practice. But practice well, with help from others and variations in what you’re doing. We were all crap when we started, and now there’s a whole week to prove it, but look at how far we’ve come just from never giving up. Until you get there, or until your passion is swayed towards something else, don’t stop trying. That’s the most important thing.

The Writer Revising Her First Novel