Ways to Die

Sometimes, as a writer, you need to kill off a character.  (Occasionally it makes your readers very angry, but it is still necessary.)  Tonight, just for fun and because I am watching an old episode of Castle, I decided to list the ways that I’ve used to kill characters.

1. Self-inflicted stab to the temple

2. Executed for murdering the king

3. Limb torn off and flung to the ground from a height

4. Poisoned slowly over time

5. Stabbed in the gut by a sword

6. Tortured and then roasted by a dragon

7. Broken neck when thrown by a horse

8. Stabbed during the course of an attempted murder

There have been others, primarily lost in battle, that I didn’t include on this list.  This touches on the major fatalities of most of my writing to date.

How have you killed your characters?  Any creative ways?

Finding Writing

I make cryptic notes.  Most of my writing ideas stick in my head until they get written in full, so I don’t often make detailed outlines or character sketches.  The best I usually do is jot a quick note to myself, just enough to reignite that spark of thought when I need it.  Here is an example from my outline for this year’s NaNo:

Fun scenes: Kiwi falls through the chimney

This is enough for me, while the ideas are fairly fresh and not on a page.  Once the scenes are fully fleshed, though, they vacate my head.  It makes it fun to re-read my own writing months later, but it also makes it really interesting when I find the notes years later.  I hoard notebooks; many of them made it through the purge and the move.  Today I sorted through the last few boxes and stumbled across some writing notes.  Here’s what I found:

I don’t think I did anything anyone else wouldn’t have done.
The world happened all at once.

It took sitting on the floor for a few minutes before I realized these were notes from the early development of With Honor.  This prompted a quick flip through the notebook, which also contained bits of my master’s thesis, Dragon, Burden of Knowledge, and even some revisions of Butterflies.  All in all, a fun discovery!

Have you ever stumbled across notes that took you back to the development of your earlier works?

Long Sentences, or my fondness for semicolons

I started re-reading Burden of Knowledge today.  In the process, I was reminded of one of my writing habits: long sentences.  I like clauses, I like complex sentences, but I especially like semicolons.

In the first paragraph of Burden there are no semicolons.  There are, however, lots and lots of commas.  In seven sentences there are only two simple sentences; the rest have at least a comma and separate clause, sometimes more.  I find simple sentences boring, especially in stretches of description.

My biggest challenge (and one that all authors face at some level) is varying the type of sentence I use.  It can be very boring to read something with several sentences of the same structure in a row.  When I catch myself, I try to modify the forms, but it can be tricky.  I like to say things a certain way, and keeping my brain engaged enough to change it up from time to time can be difficult.

Thank goodness for revisions and proofreading!

Turning a Moment into a Spectacle

I’ve written several relationships in my stories, including three proposals of marriage, one each in Burden, Bonded, and With Honor.  (There is a fourth in Butterflies, but it is “off stage” if you will – we know it happens but don’t witness it directly.)  These have all been heartfelt, personal moments, usually with only the involved parties present.  One included a third person, but that’s the extent of it.   I liked writing these moments; I feel what my characters feel, and a powerful, emotional scene is one of the driving forces of my writing.

Recently it seems to have become a trend to make proposals into big spectacles.  It’s not enough for it to be an emotional moment between the couple, oh, no.  Now not only do friends and family need to bear witness, the rest of the world needs to see it, too.  I had to help arrange a big spectacle proposal at work, my sister’s roommate’s fiance flew all the way to Mexico to propose at a family reunion, and there are scores of elaborate proposals on the internet.  The Downtown Disney flash mob is one of my favorites, and this guy seemed to take the performance concept a bit too far.

Where did this trend come from?  It’s definitely been building for years – guys have hired sky writers, proposed at sporting events, and done any number of huge, embarrassing gestures for a while now.  Perhaps the advent of YouTube and other web video outlets has simply upped the ante.  Who knows.  Either way, it seems a bit much to me.  Isn’t love and joy the emotion you should go for with a proposal, rather than surprise and embarrassment?  And of course there is the ever-present question: what if she says no?

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy watching the big performance proposal spectacles just as much as the next girl.  In fact, my friends sharing them on Facebook inspired this post!  But as for my writing, the heartfelt personal moment still seems the best choice.

A Plan (For Now)

I mentioned a couple of days ago that I’m not feeling too creative lately.  This means I haven’t been writing much beyond my blog entries.

I have a new plan.

Writing Chasing requires creativity.  Compiling short stories for a collection for Smashwords does not.

Bringing together Burden, Bonded, and With Honor will give me a writing-related task that I can do, and it will keep me in the world of Butterflies.  I’m not going to hold out hope that it sparks some new inspiration.  For now just having something to work on will make me happy.

Deciding What’s Next

The first draft of Dragon is done.  I have to let it sit without touching it or really thinking about it for a while, so I can do a major revision with fresh eyes in a couple of months.

The Queen’s Butterflies is now officially available for download from Smashwords.com.  Getting it ready is the other project that has been keeping me busy.

The new girl, while intriguing enough to keep my brain working while hiking, has proven to be part of the sequel to Butterflies.  This means that I can write parts of her story, but it won’t stand on its own.

The characters from Dragon have settled down, the characters from Butterfly are still a bit quiet.  This leaves me in a good place to officially choose what to work on next.  As is typical for me, I can’t do just one thing.

I’ve decided that I want to take the three short stories that are Butterfly related (Burden of Knowledge, Bonded, and With Honor) from Serial Central and turn them into a collection to sell on Smashwords.  Just like with Butterflies, this is a formatting and revising task that won’t tax the creative side of my brain.

On top of that, I think I’ve committed to working on a first draft of Chasing Butterflies.  Several of the interwoven stories of the sequel are intriguing to me, and I’m guessing that the number of people requesting the sequel is only going to grow as more people read Butterflies.  A friend at work told me to be careful and take my time; lots of authors rush the sequel and it ends up feeling forced.  I know that the overarching plot for Chasing is strong, and it has more than one tale to weave in.  I’m looking forward to playing in the world of Butterflies again, with old friends and new characters alike.

My sister’s in town, and in my writing

My sister is here for a visit this weekend, which makes it a fun time to reflect on her influence in my writing.

I searched my blog posts to see what I had said about her before, and made the observation that I write about her a lot on the blog.

Her reply, in a teasing tone: “Well, I am the coolest.”

Really, though, my sister influences me in my writing.  Many of my characters have traits in common with her.  I love her feedback on my stories, and I know she’s already a fan.

There are even some sister relationships based loosely on ours in my writing.  (They do say to write what you know.)  The fun thing about writing is that you can take certain pieces of a person or a relationship from real life and change everything else.

The main character of Dragon has a perfectly put-together older sister who is a lawyer.  There are many things that are different, but she’s still partly based on Whitney.  The younger princess in Butterflies is silly, vain, and loves it when boys fight over her.  Again, not the same, but still partly based on Whitney.  The confident sister who adds a contrast to the shy Belinda in Bonded?  Whitney.  The wise and level-headed sister elf who really is a sister to everyone in Dragon? Whitney.  Liza’s little sister, who’s happy to be a little lady and behaves so differently than her tomboy big sister?  Whitney.  The sister in Burden who comes to court to be the confidant of the Queen?  Whitney.

Maybe it’s not the characters that are based on Whitney.  Rather, their relationships with their sisters are built based on my knowledge of what a sister is and does.  That knowledge comes from only two places: observations of others and what I know of my relationship with my own sister.

“Write what you know” doesn’t always have to mean plot and details.  It can mean people and relationships, too.

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