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Jan. 23rd, 2011


DG pictures + general writing update preview

Hey guys. I've had these pictures sitting on my virtual desktop since last summer, when I drew and scanned them. As I am cleaning off my desktop today, I think it's time to post them. (One must make time for recreation and creativity in the midst of job applications and homework!)

First, a couple more from the Profile Book, a yellow sketchbook I have that has profile pictures of, so far, Defying Gravity characters and Barack Obama. ;) The first one is Azilie's good friend Solar. I like how this one turned out a lot:

The second is Azilie's acquaintance-friend Romie. She's not a central character but she might become a more important supporting character in the next draft. Or, you know, she might be cut down a lot, but at least it's good to have supporting characters with rich backstories ready to go should you need them. And just to help you understand your world and its social dynamic. Drawing this picture helped me understand where Romie comes from a bit more, which in turn affects how she treats Azilie. So that worked well.

Finally, this is just a drawing on marker paper in the style of an animation cel with black outlining, which isn't something I've done with Copic marker before. I drew Azilie first and then worked my way to the right, and I am increasingly satisfied with them as I go along. The dark older kid is a new supporting character whom I may or may not use. (But, again, understanding your world's social dynamics is good!)

In other news, I have been thinking about Altitude a lot lately. I won't be able to start writing it any time soon, I'm afraid (must review Japanese and teach myself lots of vocab before March! And also do grad school) but I do believe I'll still be wanting to work on this when spring comes. I have more to say on this subject which I keep meaning to bring up in my regular journal, but I keep not having time. I won't today because (as I mentioned over there already) my brain is kind of fuzzy today. But I got these pictures up finally, so yay.

Aug. 18th, 2010


Writing Meme: Days 26 & 27

26. Do you draw your characters? Do others draw them? Pick one of your characters and post your favorite picture of him/her.

I do indeed draw them! And others draw them too. Most of you will have seen them posted to this blog before, but here are links to art galleries:

The Septs and Altitude (formerly Twilight Star) have quite a lot of fan/gift art, and even Defying Gravity has a bit of gift art now too, from swankivy and shadowfreder.

Drawing my characters is an important part of the creative process for me. It helps me get to know the character in a different way; while just their appearance usually isn't that important, it's still a different medium through which I can interact with them, gauging their expressions and the colors they would like and other things that do tell you something about a person. Plus, while I'm drawing them, I'm thinking about their world and their story without actually having to crank out words. It also gets me away from a computer (unless I'm CGing, obviously, but lately I'm almost exclusively doing marker art) so that's a plus.

Right now I've got my markers all over the coffee table again, and have had them there all week, with piles of sketchbooks. I think it's pretty funny that one yellow sketchbook in particular has become my Copic marker character close-up book, with one character per page. It's now become almost strictly about Defying Gravity, but before I decided that's what the book would be for, I did my Obama portrait in there. So, it's all my characters plus the President of the United States. Cue the Sesame Street "One of these things is not like the other..." song now!

Hahaha, I crack me up.

(I know that's supposed to be a bad sign socially, but I'm mainly talking to myself right now, so hey, if no one else is here to entertain me, I guess I have to do it myself. ;)

27. Along similar lines, do appearances play a big role in your stories? Tell us about them, or if not, how you go about designing your characters.

Good question. I'm someone who is, relative to the rest of society, pretty out of tune to appearances. Sometimes I'm oblivious to them; I know people who will immediately notice something looking different, or someone's style changing, while I will totally have missed it. So before I stopped to think about this, I would have assumed I would see that key word "appearances" and go "not particularly important to me!" as a knee-jerk reaction.

(And on a non-story related tangent, when I say I'm oblivious to people's appearances, I do notice when people are unkempt or do shocking things designed to demand my attention. I don't really like having my attention drawn to explicitly to such things, and I don't mean to say appearance doesn't matter at all, since obviously, it's a way of communicating things about yourself and your values. Um, yeah, just thought I should be clear about that. But I really don't care, say, what the First Lady is wearing. I twitch whenever commentators act like it's at all important. GET OFF THESE WOMEN'S BACKS, THEY DIDN'T ASK TO BE THE NATION'S PAPER DOLLS. End digression-almost-turned-really-off-topic-rant.)

But actually, I realized, appearances do play something of a role. Colors, for one, are important to me: I always have colors strongly associated with my characters. Maybe it's because I am a synesthete or something. (Heck, Azilie even has a flavor, tangy citrus, which is strongly linked to her color of orange. She gets orange and lemon sherberts when she goes to the ice cream store. (And I didn't just misspell "sherbert." That's how we say it where I'm from and it's an accepted alternate spelling. Kind of like how I don't misspell "extravert." Whoa, stream of consciousness is cranked even higher than usual today.) And Celeste's colors are magenta and teal with a dark violet (like the color that we can perceive around an ultraviolet light bulb) as a secondarily important color. These are really important to me when I'm writing, though I can not articulate a good reason why. I just will use these colors around them and often point them out.

Hair colors are also important to me. I may not describe much else about a character -- height/weight and build in general, other features -- unless they are important, but I pretty much always go with hair color. As a Caucasian I guess hair color was always the most convenient way for me to make a primary visual distinction between people. (I don't think all Asians look the same, but it sure would have helped me as an ALT if all my students hadn't had black hair in addition to the same school uniform.) Solar has really bright yellow-blonde hair, while Liely is more of a white-blonde tow-head.

Also, it makes me sad when "brown" is used as a default "boring" hair color. I like my hair color. There are so many shades of brown. Azilie and the Septs both have brown hair -- even "medium brown" hair -- but Azilie's is lighter and the Septs' are slightly darker. In Copic markers, the former is Sepia with Chamois highlighting and the other is Burnt Umber with Sepia highlighting. Hah. (Azilie's is basically the same color as mine.)

Celeste's hair color is closer to blonde; "dirty blonde" I guess would be one of the terms, or dark blonde. It's a couple shades lighter than mine. I don't think it's a boring hair color, but I think society does see some hair colors as boring (hence some characters seeing their brown hair as boring; I understand that, but I still don't like it and will still dislike a story that affirms this notion) so I made it so that where Celeste lives, this is a boring color. She's supposed to be very plain physically.

She's also very passive at the beginning of the story. People have commented on this and say it's bad and they don't want to read about passive characters. But that does make it hard to have a character grow out of passivity as part of a story, which Celeste most certainly does! Um, I'm totally digressing now, aren't I? Yes I am.

Back to the topic at hand.

In Defying Gravity, the colors of people's puffs are also relevant, maybe not in any important way but obviously it would be important to me based on what I've just said here. I was thinking the other day about how I haven't given any boys pink puffs, but that this doesn't make sense unless there is some kind of natural predisposition toward pink in girl babies (because they have the puffs when they're born, so it's not like their thought had anything to do with it). So I'm considering giving a boy pink puffs, and trying to figure out whether that kid would get picked on, or be gay (but that goes back to the idea of some kind of natural aversion to pink in straight boy babies) -- or perhaps saying babies are born with white puffs, but that they absorb a particular color in their first year depending on what they're drawn to. In which case, boy babies STILL could like pink, but it would still say something about them.

I wonder how many boy babies really WOULD like pink? Would they like it if their parents dressed them in it and painted their room pink? Which most parents wouldn't do, which would explain why boy babies wouldn't be drawn to pink. Huh!

What do you guys think? You don't have to have read the story to have an opinion about this!

Aug. 2nd, 2010


Writing Meme: Day 23, 24, 25

23. How long does it usually take you to complete an entire story—from planning to writing to posting (if you post your work)?

The fastest I've ever done this was March 1, 1997, when I wrote the entirety of Molly's Folly in a single day and posted it.

The fact that I remember the date may say something about the significance of that event, though I think it probably says more about how I have an amazing memory for dates. That said, I often wish I could write as quickly as I could at age 14. My quality is rather better now, but I did okay for a 14-year-old, I think. (I still kind of hate Amelia Atwater-Rhodes.)

My typical pace is somewhat slower, comparable to the pace of glaciers. (Which is not what it used to be! Thanks, global warming! Now I don't feel so slow!) I did once finish a complete novel-length manuscript in 90 days (I think it was about 75K) but the ending was totally unsatisfactory, so I had to revise a lot, and then rethink even more. It was finished at the end of 2007. I am now working on it again.

Of course, I've already distributed it once...or half of it, anyway, so if that constitutes "posting," then I guess it took me about a year and a half? Haha.

The time I'd really like to gauge is the time from starting a manuscript to querying agents for it, but I haven't gotten to that stage yet. I'm currently making a concerted effort!

I used to post more on the Internet, and managed maybe a story every three months, but I don't do that anymore. First publication rights on novels and all.

24. How willing are you to kill your characters if the plot so demands it? What's the most interesting way you've killed someone?

If the plot "demands" it, sure. That is, if the death is necessary to make the point the story is supposed to make.

So yes, I'm totally willing to write about deaths of significant characters.

I'd like to turn this question around and say what bothers me more are stories that kill characters off just to add drama to the story. The question I would ask myself is whether that character adds more to the story alive or dead. If they still have something to add by living and interacting, you better not kill them off just for drama points. I've seen a few stories do that and that was a real let-down.

On a slightly related tangent, I'd just like to say that J.K. Rowling created one of the most obvious "created to die" characters ever in the history of literature. I'm not saying that one was a cheap trick; on the contrary, it worked. I'm talking about the person who dies in Order of the Phoenix. Yup, saw that coming like a ZILLION miles away, like I bring up every time character death comes up ever. To bring that around to the point of this story, as much as I liked the character who died, it was clear that he served the story more by dying at that point. (That's why his death was so easy to predict!)

25. Do any of your characters have pets? Tell us about them.

Huh...not really. I like pets (cats especially) so I guess I might give my characters pets, but it has never really come up. Celeste doesn't have any. Azilie doesn't really have any. I guess she probably has some kind of creature she found in the back yard and put in a bucket with some rocks every now and then.

Megan Carlson had like 10 pets, including an African pygmy hedgehog named Quilly Billy. There was also a cat that belonged to the whole family.

Otherwise...nope. No pets. I guess it's never been important to any story. Maybe it will be in the future.

Jul. 26th, 2010


Writing Meme Day 20, 21, 22

It's my lunch break and therefore it's writing meme time. :)

20. What are your favorite character interactions to write?

This is kind of a broad question, as any scene that isn't just a character doing something on her own is essentially "character interactions," but okay, let's say that I most enjoy writing character interactions that bring out traits I like in characters. Azilie and Solar are a lot of fun because of the way their intense, competitive, and teasing personalities play off each other; Azilie and Questri less so, although they're best friends, because even though they've always been best friends, they're not all that much alike, and at this stage it makes you kind of wonder about their friendship, which is a little sad. So yeah, any character interaction that shows the character acting in a way that I think would make them a fun person to be around is my favorite to write. However, those aren't generally the most important scenes. (Azilie and Questri's scenes are rather more important to the point of the story, for the reason I just described.)

So if I can take this vague question on a tangent, this kind of shows why I tend to write happier stories in general. If a character is upset, then I get upset. I have to really try to feel what they are feeling. (Probably why darker stories are hard for me, because I have to get into people's heads when they feel hurt or anger that I may never have felt in that way or that degree. I think this is a really useful and rewarding exercise for an author, but it's just that: exercise. And exercise can hurt, and if you're not ready for that level of exercise, you can injure yourself!) So it may be a masochistic streak that makes me want to put myself through that (though I think authors who do that contribute something very important to our culture). Then again, most of the stories I write are pretty positive, so I'm obviously not that mean to myself.

21. Do any of your characters have children? How well do you write them?

Haha, no, as many of them are children themselves! I'd say I'd have to turn this question around to read, "Do any of your characters have parents [who are important to the story]? How well do you write them?" Because being a young adult myself (and therefore a kid for more of my life than an adult) it is easier for me to get into the perspective of a child than a parent, having already lived through that stage. It would be very easy for me to write from the perspective of the children of any characters I had; it would be the parents who would be a challenge.

But the few times I've tried it, I think I've managed. The main ones who would come up are Robin and Peter Carlson, the Septuplets' parents. They were as one-dimensional as you might expect from the work of a teenage writer who just wants to focus the attention on the kids and not the parents (who are the usual foci of multiple birth stories, since they're the ones who made the decision to carry all of them to term and all that). But I think as I grew as a writer, I did a passable job presenting them, when they came up at all. Which wasn't really all that much.

Azilie's parents (just "Mr. and Mrs. Precalio" or "Azilie's mom and dad") have minor roles which may become more important, and some adults whom she meets are important as well. As I do my rewrite, I'm finding that people from a wide range of ages are becoming important to her story.

One of the weirdest ones to write, actually, involves Azilie (age 11) interacting with a "grown-up," who's really a 21-year-old college student. So to me, "a kid." Haha. But then, I was once in Azilie's position, being the cute cool kid (age 12) talking to 20-year-old college students on Usenet (alt.tv.animaniacs, to be precise) so I can still draw on personal experience. But it's funny how relative this all is.

Age is a weird thing. A 26-year-old can be called a kid by some (I was happy when President Bartlet did that on the West Wing in an episode I recently watched) but is a definitely grown-up to others. 30 seems like OMG SO OLD from some perspectives but for most of one's life (if one doesn't die prematurely) it's actually very young.

And now I've digressed away from the question, so let's move on to the next.

22. Tell us about one scene between your characters that you've never written or told anyone about before! Serious or not.

I...actually don't know what to say to this one. There's one I'd like to tell people about but it's kind of a spoiler. Actually now that I think about it, it's a pretty major one. In more ways than one. (One way directly related to the story, and one that just gives more information than I'd like people to have when they read the first book.) Hmmmm.

Yeah...I got nothing. I'll consider this a kick in the pants to hurry up and get something ready for people to actually read!

I'm making decent progress on Defying Gravity's rewrite, though. It's still got a long way to go, but if slow and steady wins the race, I am on pace for victory. :)

Jul. 19th, 2010


Writing Meme Days 17, 18, and 19

After a long hiatus, I return to finish the writing meme!

But first some news: I've gotten back to work on Defying Gravity (944 words plus lots of notes on Saturday, 1363 words plus a few more notes on Sunday) and if I don't keep up with it, someone please send a pack of rabid gophers after me. Except that makes it seem like I'm counting on others to motivate me, which I am not -- so maybe I should go find some rabid rodents myself. Hah. I'm excited to be working on the story again and always get very into writing; the problem is that I just can not focus, like so many in my generation. I close the e-mail program and even the web browser and just try to write, but I'm very good at going off on tangents in my head without anyone giving me outside stimulus; they're usually about my story (hence writing lots of notes) but I do get through individual scenes more slowly that way. I want to boost my speed and my focus. (How long has THAT been a goal? But maybe I'm taking more effective measures this time?)

One of the things I've decided is that time that would otherwise be spent writing should not be spent talking about writing, which is bad for this journal. That said, right now is lunch time and I wouldn't be working on the novel anyway, and I also do want to finish the writing meme! So here it is!

17. Who is your favorite protagonist and why?

I'm assuming this means of my own protagonists, but Day 11 asked me which character I liked to write about the most. These are pretty similar questions, but I'll try to emphasize the difference there by saying that Celeste (whom I had said was difficult to write about) is actually one of my favorite protagonists, because I sympathize with her dilemmas so readily. But I have to say that Azilie is also a current favorite. (I started on her novel when I had just arrived in Japan and therefore bought a lot of things I would use for the whole trip, like a bag and a bike, in orange, a color I previously didn't like that much. I'm also wearing a bright orange shirt today. Hahaha.)

But hmm, favorite protagonist is kind of "the central question," so much so that it's already been asked once and I feel I have nothing new to say about this. So let's do another question.

18. Who is your favorite antagonist and why?

This is a much more interesting question, if primarily because I'm realizing that most of my stories seem to be person vs. society or person vs. self. I'm thinking through my characters and having trouble finding anyone who's really an antagonist. The ones I do have are not all bad, and tend to be representatives of society more than actual negative individuals. Wow...yeah...the more I think about this this more I see that's the case. I mean, I wouldn't say Melissa Carlson was an antagonist as she was one of the title characters of my Carlson Septs stories, but she was the easiest way for society to get its nefarious claws into the story, haha. (And she also suffered the most with person vs. self for that reason!)

I'm trying now to think of ANY antagonists in my story at all. Huh. Liely in Azilie's story might be, but she's really just another Personification of Society, and she's one of Azilie's "friends" (in the way that word is used in middle school). Ummm...well, there's the guy who was most commonly referred to as Vergeros who threw Celeste out of a skyscraper. Yeah, I'm pretty sure he counts as an antagonist.

And now that I think about it, I should write more antagonists, because it is interesting and worthwhile to see how someone could go bad, or what motivates them to do what they may see as good even though it's against society's interest. (I suppose there are also antagonists who are just plain against your main character, but not against society or some Greater Good. Just a Person 1 vs. Person 2. As I think about it now, I have close to 0 interest in that kind of story. Who cares which of them wins if I as a read have no reason to sympathize with either side? It's like cheering for Spain or the Netherlands. I looked for a reason to pick one side or the other, but I just had no particular connection to either side. Now, cheering for my home team is different because that stands for something.)

But yeah, on writing antagonists -- I mean, I'm ready to make people who ARE evil into sympathetic characters in order to figure out what makes them evil. (I put the school shooting story down for a while; I could only sustain that story for so long before I needed something cheerful, but I still think there's an important story there.) So in a story like that, the evil person isn't even an antagonist. I guess that counts as an antihero of sorts -- a protagonist who does something terrible and who you're not supposed to like and want to succeed, but whose head you get into nevertheless.

I'm on a roll so I'm gonna do another question!

19. Who's your favorite minor character who decided to shove himself into the spotlight and why?

Hmmmmmm. This hasn't happened to me that much; or at least, they do so at such early stages that I realize they're important characters before delegating them to "minor" status. But let's see. Cozoqui, in Altitude*, is a minor character with a significant past, who I like to write about, and who I want to give more time in the story if possible. In Defying Gravity, Solar is one of my favorite characters; he's not very complex, I'm afraid (he doesn't need to be) but I haven't written that many boys as characters so he's fun to write. I want to give him more time, but at this point that would seem forced. Wedge Bowden and Mena the Aviatrix are two other characters I really want to be important in my story, but I'm finding they might not be. So I guess you could call that "shoving themselves into the spotlight," even though they don't belong there. But they do have really interesting characters. Mena, frankly, is not very nice. But because of her, I get to use the word "aviatrix." That's enough of a reason to shove anyone into the spotlight.

And now I'm just rambling about characters most people here don't even know, so I shall stop.

Time to finish my lunch.

* My mom commented when we were at Borders the other day that a certain popular and terrible series ruined the previous name of that series. She is right. Oh well, I had decided to call it Altitude even before that really awful book was published.

May. 27th, 2010


Yay writing

My plan to write every morning got steamrolled, as now I suddenly find myself with not only an internship that I have to do 25 hours a week, but a job that will be 10-15. Whoops.

BUT, the plan is salvageable. It might be that evening writing is better than morning writing anyway. It always used to be for me...provided I'm not too terribly exhausted.

AND, because I'll be on basically the same schedule every day (at least with respect to getting up and going to sleep -- up at 8, sleep at midnight or 1 if I keep reading, 7-8 hours' sleep per night, woo) I can try to fit writing into the evening instead. I WILL make this a priority for the summer, even if I also have to earn money and academic internship credit. I WILL!

Anyway, nothing much to say here except that I just got way into writing a segment for my latest story. Having finished almost all the nonfiction about Columbine that I could find (almost done with Brooks Brown's No Easy Answers), I now have two pieces of fiction based on it, and I see that there's really not much new stuff to add to this fictional debate (though I'm glad I'm not the only morbid writer who apparently is fascinated by it, haha)...but I still feel compelled to get this short piece to a place where it's "finished" in some respect. I also have one friend who thinks Columbine in all its darkness and morbidity is a great topic for a piece and wants to read my story, so I hope to have it done before I leave for Asia (since I'll be seeing him in Japan). So that's extra motivation, but I didn't need it. But this IS otherwise the first time I'm writing a piece "just for myself," without really worrying to much about showing it to other people, because I think other people will not so much enjoy it. (Except a few.) It's also kind of weird how much Samantha's life has become like mine, so I really am doing a weird self-insertion thing here, more than I usually allow myself to do in stories. But I think by putting myself into the story in a weird way, it lets me do what I need to do with the story. (Also if there's another character who clearly IS a lot like me, who is happy and well-adjusted, maybe people won't think I'm identifying with the suicidal/homicidal other central character. o_o)

Hmm, I dunno why I'm rambling about this, but I was just feeling particularly pleased with the 800+ words I wrote in an hour tonight, which is a good pace for me. It came very easily and I had to cut it short for bed (which I should be going to now). But I hope I can keep this up 5 of 7 nights per week! Such a good feeling.

When I finish Samantha's story, I will do Azilie's.

(Oh, her name is Samantha now, not Claire. For some reason it was really getting to me that all my characters had C names, and the way her character was evolving, I felt the name Samantha also really suited her, so it was a fairly easy switch. Fortunately it was early enough in my exploring this story that I could do that. Also I keep trying to figure out whether this is Samantha's story or Caleb's, and it's a little scary that it might the latter. As if I could write that anyway! But I realized what it is is a story about Samantha's vision of Caleb. And about what makes reality anyway.)

Man, I hope I can keep going on this flow tomorrow.

What the heck. I know I have to get up and go to an internship, but darn it, I'm still inspired.

*goes to write more*

(Geez, even the letters "TEC-9" sitting in a tab on my taskbar freak me out. Ugh. The more I read about Columbine, the more I feel strongly about gun control. I don't mean to co-opt the tragedy for my own political purposes; I rather resent people saying that. Frankly the tragedy is the alpha and omega of why I have that political purpose to begin with. But don't let me digress into a rant about the need for gun control. I have a story to write. *closes tab*)

Okay, 1,395 words for the night. I rock. Time for bed now, alas. Otherwise I'll be too sleepy to write more tomorrow! And I have to do it every day!

Will get back into the Writing Meme soon too, probably tomorrow. Yay life getting back under control.

May. 14th, 2010


Writing Meme Day 15

15. Midway question! Tell us about a writer you admire, whether professional or not!

Hmm, okay. Let's see. I'll do a professional one, and name the author whose works remind me most of what I want to do as a writer. That's Jeanne DuPrau. She wrote The City of Ember which is one of my favorite books, and I don't qualify that by saying one of my favorite kids' books. (I just heard from my friend Megan that there's a fourth book in the series! So I got it from the library today! Wooo!) It's post-apocalyptic dystopian fiction that's primarily aimed at kids but worthwhile for adults. I like her a lot because she writes about smart, imaginative, creative protagonists, usually with girls as the main characters but also sometimes with boys. Though I was already 24 when I read her book for the first time, I'm sure it's the kind of book that a kid will read and remember as she grows up, and that will make her think.

That's exactly the kind of book I want to read. One day, when I finish Azilie's story and submit it to an agent, I'm going to tell them that it's aimed at the same readers as those who like Jeanne DuPrau's work; I hope I can make the book good enough to merit that claim.

I really like this quote I found on her web site, too:

"A writer is someone for whom writing is harder than it is for other people."— Thomas Mann

HAHAHAH yes. Writing is hard. I'm extra picky about it too. She says she's a slow writer and it takes her a long time to methodically crank out the sentences. I'm reassured to hear that that's not a guarantee of failure.

She doesn't seem to ever have married or have kids, but seems to have a happy life of reading and writing and doing her own projects, in addition to a winding career path, which is also where I can see myself being one day.

So I picked a professional writer, but let me toss out a few names of people who haven't crossed the professional threshold yet -- but I fully expect them to one day! swankivy and carmanah are my two writing friends who inspire me the most. I wish I were as prolific as they were. (I know Jen is struggling with some projects these days, but she's already finished and self-published several books, and those books could have been purchased by a publisher if she hadn't given up the first publication rights). I've really enjoyed reading all of their novels, and I always look forward to what they write next.

May. 13th, 2010


Writing Meme Day 14

14. How do you map out locations, if needed? Do you have any to show us?

I love maps. I love them a lot. Therefore, I've drawn a lot for my stories.

Unfortunately, none of them are on-line. (I'm not sure how I missed doing this, really.) The maps that are most significant and in-depth are those for Altitude, which, as it's not set on the Planet Earth with which we are so familiar. (Though you wouldn't have to know that to read it; the characters are human and Celeste's country of origin is essentially the United States of America. But I digress.) But yeah, they talk about the North and the South kind of the way we talk about the culture clashes between the West and the East (more in a Cold War way than the Far East/Asian type way it's used more commonly now) and the Equatorial Ocean that separates them. I loooooove making maps. I remember in 6th grade social studies we had to invent our own countries and draw maps and come up with all this information about them. I totally got into it and overdid it because it was only the 95 gazillionth time I'd done that before, though the previous gazillion or so were just for fun. Imagine getting to do that for school! :)

So yeah, Altitude is the kind of book that would have a map inside its front or back cover, but it would most likely be a modern political map, not the medieval calligraphic-font types that are in so many of the books that are famous for their fantasy-style worldbuilding. I liked looking at those maps, but I do not want to make my stories the type that require you to look at maps. Not that you were ever required to do so for Middle Earth or anything; okay, so require's not the right word -- maybe what I'm getting at is that I don't want the world to be the point of the story; I want the map to supplement the story for people who are interested, but if you just want to see the story as an allegory for our own world, that is totally fine. Preferable, in fact.

But I still enjoy making maps. :) I considered going into cartography once before it occurred to me that it probably didn't involve a lot of creativity, or really make you that employable at all. (So instead I got a creative writing degree and the employability was totally wrapped up.)

Geography is also highly important for Defying Gravity. You'd think that for a fantastic story about a world where kids can fly, that wouldn't matter as much -- and, indeed, in the scope of the first book I've done, it doesn't matter much at all (though observant people might pick up on some of it) -- but in my head the geography is highly significant. I hope to write a second or third book where this ends up mattering a lot.

Even for stories like those about the Carlson Septs, I had maps. I did several maps of the Carlson family's house on graph paper, drawing the furniture into the floor plan and everything. I also liked making maps of school buildings for some reason, and also pool places, for some even weirder reason. I remember doing one that had like 15 or 20 different kind of pools (one for using float toys, one with weird spray nozzles, a patch of long skinny ones that were just for doing laps, one that was super-crazy-deep (30-31 feet...no dive sticks allowed here, haha), one with lots of water slides, and so on and so forth).

So yeah, I like diagramming locations in all forms. I also like "reading" atlases, and even road maps. I really like being the navigator on car trips. So I DON'T want a GPS, thanks. One day when the computers rise up and take over the world largely because everyone else is lost without their GPS to think for them, I'LL STILL BE ABLE TO FLEE THE COUNTRY. You can call dibs on rides out right now. ;)

What was this about again? Oh yeah, maps for stories. Yeah. Maps are cool.

May. 12th, 2010


Writing Meme Day 13

13. What's your favorite culture to write, fictional or not?

Oooh, this is tough one. Well, no, not so tough, so long as I don't have to pick only one.

I'm gonna say Japan has to be up there on the list. If you want a specific subculture, then the overlap of expat culture with Japanese culture. Obviously this is something I know pretty well, and I think it's full of funny or poignant stuff that the general public seems to find interesting, so I'm excited to share it with people.

But I also like making up cultures. This goes along pretty well with the worldbuilding question from the other day. I'd say that to the extent I do worldbuilding, it's more about sharing a culture with someone, with a few extra details that I have to throw in because they don't know that culture already from their own experience.

I really, really enjoy working in the Old Somneran culture, in Altitude, and how that evolved into New Somnera / Novera. That's all about a culture clash, so of course writing the culture is fun. I have a lot of background on the Somneran culture -- and the underground-dwellers, Those Who Live in Holes in the Ground, as a not-nice way of putting them. Cultures in general are fun to write about; it's amazing how much they're like characters themselves in a way.

Then there's another variety of culture -- say, high school culture and all its subcultures and cliques. That's something that tends to get into my writing a lot. I've realized lately just how much of our personalities seem to form in high school, and even when we're long out of it and no longer in the roles we got fit into back then, we still think of ourselves as members of that culture, even if other people don't see us that way. So the idea of what you are vs. how others see you is a fascinating one -- and that can go between national cultures too, for sure.

Got a story on this subject open in another window. Gonna go work on that now. :)

May. 11th, 2010


Writing Meme Day 12

12. In what story did you feel you did the best job of worldbuilding? Any side-notes on it you'd like to share?

Another fun question!

Hmm, worldbuilding...that's a word that seems to call to mind fantasy writers specifically, and obviously that's the main place you have to do it. I tend to like settings that are mostly like the real world but with fantastic elements or twists (gee, I guess that's the answer to the genre question that I was wishy-washy on a few days ago) so my job tends to be to build the parts of the "worlds" that make it distinct.

My two examples of this are, of course, Defying Gravity and Altitude. Or, since I like to go by the main character's first name, Azilie's story and Celeste's story.

I'm pretty pleased with the comments I've gotten on DG so far, where people note the things they've noticed are different, and they like them and it makes them want to know more. For example, the puffs that the kids have above their heads. Everyone seems intrigued by the puffs. The various abilities that kids have also seems to be working for the readers, and of course, the fact that kids lose these abilities at a certain age.

I guess there aren't that many details to build in that world, when I write it out...what I'm proud of is that I seem to be succeeding in letting these unfold naturally/unobtrusively. The whole "showing not telling" thing. And people seem to follow it. So I'm pleased.

In Altitude, Celeste actually has to be told a lot of stuff herself, so that makes it somewhat easy for me to show things to the reader. I try to be careful not to go overboard on the politics of the various nations involved in this story, since I know that bores just about everyone but me, but some of it is of course necessary. But in that case I tend to work it in just like something you'd hear on the news in a story set in the real world, and I seem to be doing okay with it.

And now I'm off to do some writing on a story set in our real world!

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