Sunday, February 5, 2017

Subplots and Storylines - January 2017

The first 2017 edition of Subplots and Storylines is here! It's a day later than planned, but January has left me a little breathless. To keep my head (and yours) from spinning, here's the month in list form.

  • Christmas holidays wrapped up, and college resumed on the 9th.

  • I started officially bullet journaling, and I'm loving it so far! I'm keeping up with it better than with my old planners, plus it's great for tracking habits. (Future post topic, maybe?)

  • I renewed my passport. Bleeeegh, paperwork.

  • Remember how I was in youth ministry during my first semester? Now I'm in creative ministry! I have discovered what a broad term "creative" is. So far I've tidied the warehouse, re-strung lights on garland being packed away with all the Christmas décor, painted signs, brainstormed spring/Easter/Mother's Day décor, and more.

  • Because of the abovementioned brainstorming, I was asked to join Pinterest. (See, I'm a social media hermit, basically. I intended to wait a good long while to make a Pinterest account, knowing how much of a temptation all those pretty pictures would be when I have productive things to be doing. But alas, my hand has been forced. I'm currently clawing my way out of a black hole of gorgeousness . . .)

  • Skating!

  • A random assortment of new experiences this month, like Skyping in a class because snow kept me home, stepping into a professional recording studio for the first time to help classmates record stuff for a promotional video, and being totally engrossed in a class about how to pitch ideas. (So many things I want to do with that info!)

  • My great-grandma passed away. She left a legacy of love behind, and was more than ready to travel home, so I'm honestly glad for her.

  • My class started working on our final project: a day camp for kids ages 6-12, happening during spring break! Though we're guided by our teachers, it's basically our responsibility to organize, plan, and build this camp. Lessons, crafts, outings, décor, everything. I've been placed on the admin team, which is stretching me like crazy. But it's going to be an incredible experience!


Once Upon a Time // 14 episodes
Season 1: four episodes with my parents, six with my siblings. Season 5: Look what was under the Christmas tree! My sisters and I have watched the first four episodes and, um, wow. My mind's already being blown.

The Flash Season 2 // 5 episodes
Another Christmas gift. SO GOOD. If you like superheroes, fantastic character chemistry, and character development, and you haven't watched The Flash yet, DO IT.

Pete's Dragon
This one's going on the list of favorite movies ever! I've never seen the original, so I don't know how it compares, but this one is the sweet tale of an orphaned boy raised by a dragon in the woods. It's a beautiful, gently told story that hit me right in the heart. I need an Elliot now.

Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice
After hearing mixed reviews, I wasn't sure what to expect. Though it was better than I assumed it would be, I'm not sure what my full opinion is. I'm more of a Marvel girl, let's just get that out of the way right now.

What else do I know for sure? This movie was dark. I skipped the unnecessary bathtub scene. Batman was more cruel than I liked. (I thought he had a no-killing rule, but he goes around brutally killing people and using guns no problem.) I liked Ben Affleck in the Batman role, however. Superman's human side came out, which was great, though it wasn't explored as deeply as I was hoping. I think that's my main bone to pick: the characters, the heart behind the story, got lost behind gunfire and villainous plots.

Speaking of villains, Lex Luthor was one of my favorite parts of the movie. I know, I know, he's dark and twisted and just plain weird. But Jesse Eisenberg did a great job bringing across a fascinating enemy with a warped view of right and wrong and God.

Oh, I'm also really hoping Wonder Woman gets fleshed out more in her own film. Yes, she's a kick-butt hero in a genre with few female supers. But I didn't get to know her. Prior to her action scene, she was the typical, personality-deficient gorgeous woman in a dress.

(Apparently I have more to say about movies that complicate my thoughts than I do about solid, I-love-this movies like Pete's Dragon. Oops.)


Knife // R.J. Anderson
I read this one years ago, enjoyed it, but never continued the series. Last year I won a copy of my own in a giveaway, so I figured it deserved a reread. It was better than I remembered, though the plot was a wee bit thin in places. I thought the story had some interesting things to say about the nature of art and creativity, and how relationships inspire that. Four stars.

The Purpose Driven Church // Rick Warren
Although the cover is outdated, the main thrust of the message (how you can grow a healthy church without compromising the Word) is something a lot of churches need to grab hold of. I'm doing a presentation on this book pretty soon. Four stars.

The Lightning Thief // Rick Riordan
One of my sisters picked this out for me, and I'm glad she did! I've been meaning to read the Percy Jackson books for a long time, but she gave me the push I needed. What a fun story. Percy's sass is A+, and I enjoyed how Greek mythology was woven into an urban setting. I did predict one of the twists, but overall, this was a five star book. I'll be continuing the series!

Blue Lily, Lily Blue // Maggie Stiefvater
Okay. I'm torn again. I loved all the same things I loved in the first two Raven Cycle books: fantabulous characterization and writing that slays me every other sentence with its gorgeousness. But I also disliked all the same things: tarot cards and profanity. (I confess, I did a very reviewer-ish thing, and kept track of the swear words. I wanted to get a handle on whether there really was as much as it felt like, or if I was being hyper-sensitive. There were over 140 swear words or rude references, plus one instance of implied sex. Argh.)

BUT. Tone-wise, I liked this book more than The Dream Thieves. It wasn't as dark. And Blue + Gansey = YES.


Thanks to free time over the tail end of Christmas holidays, this was my most productive month ever! Well, ever since I started tracking monthly word counts. Compared to last year's best month of 12k, I wrote 17,000 words this January. Woohoo! I managed to meet my goal of reaching 100k in The Prophet's Key just in time. Griffins have flown into the story recently, which is fun.

I also did one session of The Creative Way. It was nice to return to it after a long absence. Another highlight was receiving feedback on The Prophet's Quest from a friend. (So many comments. It's lovely.)

okay . . . breathe.

If one month can hold so much, I'm excited to see what the rest of 2017 will look like! How was your January, patient questers?

A note about the blogging schedule: I foresee increased busyness with the day camp project and ambitious writing goals. So I'm giving myself permission to miss a few posts in February if necessary. Then the plan is to schedule a boatload of fun tags for March! I don't like bumping the blog lower down the list of priorities, but I need to keep a healthy amount of brainspace free for other things during the next couple of months. Not to worry, I hope to return to my normal schedule at the end of March, which coincides with Adventure Awaits' 2nd birthday!

Saturday, January 28, 2017

First Lines (Part 1)

Last summer, Rachel Heffington compiled a lovely little post of first lines from her stories and flash fiction pieces. Thinking that was a fun idea, I scrounged through documents both well-used and nearly-forgotten. What I found was a mix of the mysterious and the ridiculous, the excellent and the mediocre. Placing these first lines side by side, it's interesting to note the patterns of how I begin stories, and how I've grown over the years. I found so many pieces from which to pull, I've split this into two posts.

Note: There's no particular order to these snippets.
★ How to Make Drawing a Part Of Your Life | Daily Creativity by Keeping a Sketchbook ★:

The chosen ones have not yet arrived. Lord Mauray paced from one end of the balcony to the other, his boots slapping the tiles in a restless rhythm. He paused at the railing and scanned the labyrinth of rooftops and bustling streets below. A wide thoroughfare cut through the city. Across the outlying fields in the distance, a dark speck appeared.

A messenger--but does he bring news of life or death?

[The Prophet's Quest, novel, complete]


He stood in the pouring rain, left hand loose at his side and right hand clenched around something. His clothes had long ago soaked up as much rainwater as they could. Now they clung to his shoulders like a cloak of grief and wrapped his legs like chains. Evening darkness shrouded the forest clearing. He stood alone--a solitary pillar holding up the thundering sky.

[Ann Marie, unfinished]


"I'm beginning to think your debts are going to cost you more than your life."

[untitled, unfinished]


Landon awoke with his face wet and the damp leaching into his clothes.

[untitled, unfinished]


A rainstorm usually affects a single region, for thunderheads can only be so and so big, and cloud banks can only stretch so far. But this deluge rolled across the entire cosmos in one day.

[tentatively titled Our Destiny, unfinished]

True book Love. Girl carrying an armful of books. ~Artist: Unknown:


"Keeping my share of the loot, Char?" the tall man sneered down, twisting his bronzed features.

Charlotte flicked him a glance. "Never, Wolf." She tossed him an amulet. "That good enough?"

[Redemptive Scars, short story, complete]


Rodin jammed the shovel into packed earth. The blade rang against a stone, and he dug it up. As big as two fists, it was--and not his own moderately-sized fists, either--more like the farmer's meaty paws. Rodin picked up the rock with one hand and hurled it over his shoulder, where it clattered onto a pile of its brethren.

[untitled, unfinished]


It's not the first time Blair has asked me to dive, and I know it won't be the last. Serebell has too many secrets left in it to abandon our mission.

[untitled, unfinished]


Once upon a time, there lived a peasant man in a village. This man, Ewald, had little more than the threadbare tunic on his back and the sieve-like thatched roof  above his head.

Every day, he worked a patch of stony ground. "It's me garden," he'd say of it, when inquired by foot-travelers passing through. They'd raise their eyebrows at the pebbly soil and stunted green shoots, and walk on by without comment. But poor as the 'garden' was, for Ewald, it was his only source of income.

[untitled allegorical short story, unfinished]


"No, not you. Anyone but you." Prince Tyrus--by all appearances thoroughly overwhelmed by the sight before him--covered his eyes, then scrubbed his hand down his face as if resigning himself to meet it head-on after all.

[To Fool the Court, unfinished]

Lost between the pages of a book.


The young man gaped at me with something between wonder and terror in his eyes. "How'd you do that?" he stammered.

I rolled the strawberry-sized ball, sickly green and smooth as marble, between my fingers. "I don't know."

[untitled, unfinished]


This is a story that took place a very long ways away from where you live. So you've probably never laid eyes on the magnificent Macaroni Kingdom. Too bad. You would have liked it. (The King ordered everyone to like it, but most do anyway.) The Macaroni Kingdom is my home, and that of many other macaroni penguins. Oh, I suppose I should introduce myself before we continue. I'm Mac, short for Mac 'n' Cheese, because my brilliant parents thought that was a good name for a macaroni penguin. (That's a lot of pasta, I know, and it's about to get worse.)

[The Quest of a Macaroni Penguin, short story, complete]


There it is! Beginnings are key when it comes to stories. The best ones hook us with their intrigue, unexpectedness, or humor. The worst ones make us put a book down and never pick it up again. I'm not too sure where mine fall in that spectrum, but nevertheless, this was a fun exercise.

Which ones are your favorites? What's a first line that you've read or written that you absolutely love?

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Why Fiction Matters


"By words the mind is winged."


Why do we love books so much? Why do we spend hundreds of dollars buying them and thousands of hours reading them? Why do we fill our bookshelves? Why do we browse libraries and bookstores, why do we create book blogs and write reviews and form communities centered around our favorite genres?

It's because of story.

And it's because story reaches in and speaks right to the heart.

Stories are an escape. They are journeys and adventures. They are safe places to think and feel and question, places where we dare to risk it all in a hypothetical situation, to see how it plays out. They prepare us for the real places that ask us to risk, to fight, to love. Once we've practiced in fiction, we're a bit more ready to choose the heroic path in life.

Dry information is not remembered. Yet information attached to strong emotion stays with us for years. You may not even remember the plot of a book you read five years ago--not the names of the characters or the twist at the end--but somewhere in your mind, the feelings and concepts are there.

The hero who laid his life on the line for the helpless.

The antihero who struggled uphill and found redemption.

The villain who spiraled ever deeper into darkness.

The girl who found true love.

The orphan who found a family.

The emotions behind those virtues and vices, victories and defeats, stick with us. In those universal emotions of loss, joy, love, conflict, frustration, and triumph, pieces of ourselves are brought to light. Me too is perhaps the strongest element in any story--that realization that we're not the only ones who've been there. Because if a character feels like I do, that means there are countless others in this world who have trudged the same valleys and climbed the same mountains. I am not alone.

It's in stories that we often learn what life is, and what it should be. Even when a novel makes no attempt to teach an overt message, we are learning. We are vicariously experiencing another world and another life through the characters.

That's why stories mean so much to me. In them I've lived hundreds of lives. I've been a victorious hero. I've succumbed to a fatal flaw. I've offered mercy and received mercy. I have lived, I have died. I have seen the world through many eyes, felt pain and joy so like my own in many hearts.

I've found more than just companionship in stories. I've also seen glimpses of God, in the spaces between the lines where imagination intersects with the holy. It astounds me that He would use stories humbly imprinted on paper to speak to us. Of course, the Bible is where I find Him the most--as it should be. But I cannot discount the ways fiction has shed a different light on things I'd grown too familiar to see in Scripture.

Ted Dekker's Black drowned me in God's love.

Bryan Davis's Eye of the Oracle let me dance with Elohim.

Anne Elisabeth Stengl's Starflower pierced through my judgmental nature and showed me grace.

C.S. Lewis's The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe put me in awe of my Savior's sacrifice.

Andrew Klavan's If We Survive reminded me of the beauty and fragility of life.

J.R.R. Tolkien's The Return of the King showed me courage in the face of impossible odds.

Jeffrey Overstreet's The Ale Boy's Feast helped me lean on God's provision.

Even a children's book like Max Lucado's With You All the Way helped me listen for my Father's song when I cannot see Him.

I could go on and on. Secular books, too, have helped to instill bravery and friendship in me. The point is, I don't know where I would be without stories.

Some may criticize fiction as being unnecessary. An escape for those too cowardly to deal with their problems head-on. On the contrary, fiction has helped me face my problems. Between the covers of books, I have discovered courage to combat fear, love to fuel my steps, and the reassurance that the happiest ending of all is yet to come.

What books have impacted you?

Saturday, January 14, 2017

as only you can

[via Pinterest]

We compare too much.
As people we compare our lives.
As girls we may compare our beauty.
As guys we may compare our strength.
As students we compare knowledge and grades.
As employees we compare wages and positions and achievements.
As friends we compare circles and contacts and how many people we know and how many of those people are important.
As writers we compare our words.

And every time we fall short.

There is always--a l w a y s--someone better than us.
Someone more beautiful, successful, productive. Someone smarter, faster, better. Someone who has it all together when we are falling apart.

We have the unfortunate tendency to compare our failures to another person's successes.

This comparison game makes us feel better sometimes. "Oh look, I'm further ahead than they are." It's probably true. You're more skilled, more disciplined, more accomplished. But it's also true when you turn the other way and realize, "But other people are further ahead than I am." Wherever you are, there will always be those behind you and those ahead of you.

Who cares?

It's terribly cliched, but you're on your own journey! You have a unique life made up of
your background
your upbringing
where you live
who your family is
what you've learned
what you've taught yourself
who you know
where you've been
what you've decided
what others have decided for you
what you care about
what you dream about
what you absolutely cannot live without.

No one else has that combination, that magic elixir that cannot be replicated. You are a limited edition, a one time only sort of thing.

We hear it all the time. "You're special. You're unique. Be you--everyone else is taken." We've grown deaf to it.

Deaf to the truth that you are you and that's pretty amazing.

Where you're going is amazing.

Your life is amazing. I love your story. I love who you are.

Whether you're rocketing forward in a blur of breathless light
or you're plodding forward step by painful step
or your path is wandering, looping, falling back on itself and finding its way--
it's your path.

This life is yours.

What do you want out of it?

Not what everyone else wants out of it. What does success look like to you? (I'll give you a hint: ask the One who created you what your success looks like to Him. You'll find an even better answer.)

Forget everyone else's perfectly filtered photos and snappy blog posts and put-together facades. (Yes, forget mine too.) There are things crumbling behind those fronts. We all have those broken bits.

Go out and really live. Live the way you and only you are supposed to live. Doing anything less is a disservice to yourself and to the God who invented you in the first place.

And writers--you beautiful creatures with wings of ink--stop wishing for your voice to sound like anyone else's. You are not some other author, no matter how poetic, tightly written, skillfully crafted, surprisingly plotted, allegorical, straightforward, intense, or fantastic their books are. Admire them; that's all right. Don't try to be them.

Try to be you.

That's hard. I know. Sometimes you'll borrow bits of other people in an effort to discover your own voice underneath. It's part of the process. But stop trying to stuff yourself into another person's box--be it in writing or any other part of life. You're too wild and original and incredible for that.

[via Pinterest]

I don't think I could sum it up any better than that.