writing

General, The Selection

M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E!

I’ve always liked cartoons. I still love Sailor Moon, Space Ghost Coast to Coast, and if I manage to catch an episode of Hey Arnold, I feel like my whole day is brighter. Cartoons are funny and entertaining, but with Guyden in my life I’ve been exposed to an entirely different brand of cartoons: educational-type. Not gonna lie, I’m not a big fan. Sometimes I’d rather set myself on fire than watch another episode of Special Agent Oso. He’s oh so special. No, that’s for real. Kill me.

One of the shows that we regularly catch is the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. Each day they have a new problem to solve and they have these little mouseketools they call for when they get in a pinch. Usually, there are four, and they’re all kind of random. A marshmallow, a vase, a blanket, and the *mystery mouseketool*! An elephant, a compass, an apple, and the *mystery mouseketool*!

You get the idea.

Well, there was an episode recently where one of these mouseketools was a giant piece of celery. My thought was that Minnie and Daisy, concerned with their girlish figures, would eat that as a healthy but tasteless snack at some point in the day, as long as the boys weren’t watching. But I was wrong. Goofy got stuck up on a cliff and they used the giant celery as a slide to get him down. Well played, Mickey, well played.

My point is, sometimes things that seem obvious aren’t. For me, I’ve been discovering this with some of my characters recently. Just last week, I handed over the draft of the second book in the Selection trilogy to my editor. I had a whole new adventure with America and, while I was pretty aware of the things she was going to do, I was a bit surprised by what some of her friends pulled out.

There’s one girl in particular who was SO sure I knew who she was, but after how things went down as the story continued, I had to ask myself why she acted the way she did. As I’m figuring that out, I feel a little bit closer to her than I did the first time I saw her in my head, walking in high heels across an airport terminal. And I like her more. I’m curious about how you will all feel about her.

There’s another girl who I kind of kept in play almost as a place keeper. I needed a certain number of girls at that point in the book, and I picked her. I had no idea how assertive she was or how she would push herself to the forefront, demanding attention, not just from me, but from the other characters.

Sometimes, it’s easy to let secondary characters just be devices, a means to an end for our main character to go through whatever it is they need to meet their goal. I know of people who actually use specific, classic character types with their main characters, because they’re trying to make literary points. Not that that’s not okay, but I don’t get it. Are you hoping schools will kick out Shakespeare and use your books one day? Just tell me the effing story!

Anyway.

All I’m saying is I think you have to let everyone in the book matter. If they have a name, they have a purpose. And it may not be the purpose you intended them for. Your stick of celery might just be a slide. My advice is to go with it. Honesty in storytelling is always the best. Not necessarily convenient, but still the best. And if it takes your story in a direction you weren’t planning, that’s okay, too. That’s why we have a backspace key. You can always fix something you don’t love, but you never know how much you might love what’s happening if you don’t let your characters actually speak.

General, The Selection

Why You Shouldn't Tell Me Things

All I want to know is how am I supposed to keep all these secrets for nearly four years? That’s ALL I want to know, people. Because I’ve been itching to just hand over The Selection to the world for months, and now that the second book is starting to take shape, all I can think about is the things I’ve hidden in these books. I wonder what you’ll guess by certain points. Have I made things too vague? Have I made them too obvious? And, either way, how am I supposed to resist talking about them until it’s all out there!? Gaaahhh! I don’t know how people do it.

I am terrible at keeping secrets. Do you know how much I hated my life when I found out I was pregnant while Callaway was in Taiwan, and I couldn’t tell a soul for two days because he HAD to be the first to know? TWO DAYS, people! I thought I would die. And now I’m staring at years in front of me with all these delicious secrets that no one gets to see but me. Well, and a handful of people behind the scenes, but that’s not nearly enough to satisfy me.

Sigh. I think this is a test from God.

advice, contests

Inspiration

For my next trick, I will post a blog with a toddler on my lap.

So people have asked for my advice on how to start a book. I’m here to tell you, I have no freaking clue.

I only recently put the pieces together on how this all started coming together for me, and I’m not going to talk about that today. But I do know that once the ball started rolling, it was hard to stop. I wrote because I couldn’t help myself. If you’re determined though, there are a few things that most everyone agrees are good ways to start.

Reading is step one. If you don’t know what to write, you should read. It’s good to get a feel for the way words flow, for how a story should start and end. Think about the stories you love and what’s so awesome about them, and then try to make it your own. Also, reading other people’s work is a great way to start dreaming up your own ideas. This is ridiculous, but once while reading Harry Potter, I invented a girlfriend for him. The idea spun off of itself several times, to the point I had this really cool girl with this really cool gift in my head. Thanks, JK. Or try picking a line from a book and writing what you think should come next. Start with something indistinct. Like avoid character names.

I just opened up A Certain Slant of Light to pick one out for you, but there are too many pretty lines to choose. Just go read a book, okay?

Next, try journaling. Get into the habit of writing. This was one of the big pieces for me. And pretty self-explanatory, yes?

And, as silly as it sounds, you need to daydream. You must. I once read that Stephenie Meyer came up with her ideas because she sat around telling herself stories when she was bored and was shocked to find out that not everyone did that. And I was like… they don’t? I spend time in my head. I have friends that only exist up there. I listen to music and look at pictures. I look at jewelry and houses. I smell things. There’s a beautiful and terrible world around you to draw from. Take it in, bend it, and share it.

And, I guess on the other end, is writer’s block. You get into your story and have no idea what to do next. First, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with stepping away from something and coming back to it. Unless you’re on a deadline, give your story room to breathe. Work on something else and give yourself a chance to miss it.

The block usually comes from not understanding something. I’ve mentioned before that for The Siren, I mapped out Akinli’s house, drew the girls’ dresses, made playlists. Those things helped me jump back into the story. If you don’t know what’s going on with a character, you need to ask them. If you don’t know what’s happening next, maybe there’s something you don’t get about your world. Step back and look. Usually, the next chapter is right in front of you.

Is that too vague? I don’t know. But I guess that leaves room for you to ask questions, so yay!

Oh, also! Congrats to Belinda, Kaylyn, BarelyBueno, Maya L, and Lily! Please send your addresses to kierasfriends at gmail dot com, and I will get you your goodies as soon as possible. Wahoo!