Saturday, May 27, 2017

When Your Story is Too Short: Tips for Expansion

Do you remember when I first started writing The Brightest Thread back in 2015? The first draft was a somewhat flabby novella that I ended up shortening from almost 30,000 words to 20,000 words in order to follow the Five Magic Spindles contest guidelines.


Fast forward to 2017, and I'm taking that story I worked so hard to condense and expanding it into a full novel! Back when I was cutting words and soaking my keyboard in tears (slight exaggeration), I ached with the knowing that there was so much more story to explore, but no room to do it. I felt I could easily make it three times as long.


Well, now that I am actually trying to triple its size, it's a lot harder than it looks! See, my stories have always had the bad habit of exploding on me. Subplots crop up, character arcs get deeper or more complicated, and connections start springing up like dandelions in May. (Seriously, I look out my window and there's a sea of yellow.)


So things get . . . long. Short stories become novellas, novellas try to become novels, and standalones turn into series.  That's just how I roll, I guess.


But I know lots of young writers have the exact opposite problem. Their stories are too short. By the time they type "The End" their supposed "epic YA fantasy novel" is only 50k, more like middle grade than YA. If that's you, I can sympathize with you for the first time!


photo via Pinterest // graphic mine


So today we're going to be looking at ways you can lengthen your stories--and not just padding them with fluff, but adding meaningful length.



And we'll do it by re-examining the condensing tips I shared in Unraveling a Mess of Threads to see if any of them can be reverse-engineered. Perhaps the opposite principles will be helpful.


(And there will be random gifs, because why not?)


1. Streamline.



Nope, you don't want to reverse this one! Every scene still needs to carry its weight. Don't wander for the sake of extra words. That's when the reader starts yawning--or worse, decides to put the book down.


2. Cut dialogue.



Brevity is still the soul of wit, even if you're looking to expand a story, but you don't have to be quite so ruthless with your dialogue now. A lot can be revealed in a conversation: personality, motives, conflicts, plot, etc. Characters are crucial to any story, and quite often, so are their interactions. So when they start talking to each other, don't be afraid to dig a little deeper, and look for ways to add tension or conflict.






It doesn't always have to be conflict between the characters, either. A tense conversation can be about the imminent war or the urgent need for supplies . . . or it can just as easily be about smaller conflicts, like the fact their local diner stopped selling chocolate milkshakes and they're both upset about it.


The point is, add dialogue that does something. Treat conversations like mini stories: figure out what each person wants and what stands in their way.


3. Cut descriptions.



Now you'll want to add description! But no purple prose, please--your reader proooobably doesn't want to spend three pages watching a sunset unfold. Nor do they need to spend an agonizing amount of time listening to your protagonist navel-gazing.


However, if your story is running too short, there are probably lots of places you can beef up your descriptions. Use them to ground each scene. Intersperse them with action and movement. Engage all five senses. Strive to immerse your reader wholly within the world you've created! That world may never come out on the page 100% the way you imagine it in your mind, but get as close as possible.


If you're struggling to find a place to add description in a scene, stop and consider what's out of the ordinary about where that scene takes place. Yes, it might be in your protagonist's average little kitchen and not in some wildly exotic fantasy locale, but try to find something relevant and interesting about your setting. Maybe the dishes have piled higher than normal because the character's mom has been sick, and the plates are crusted in yesterday's lasagna. Maybe the little brother left a note on the fridge saying he left to search for his missing puppy, but the brother is only six years old and your protagonist starts freaking out about him wandering the streets alone.


But do take note: we don't need to know about the plates or the note if they don't a) further the plot, or b) develop the characters. Yes, you want to add words, but you want to add words that matter!


4. Make a list of scenes.


In the original post, I suggested doing this for the purpose of getting a birds-eye view of your story. That way, it's easier to spot which scenes aren't pulling their weight and need to be cut out. But this is also a great strategy for finding places to expand! Did the story jump from the hero departing home to his arrival at a tavern on the way to his goal? Well, perhaps the journey in between can offer some conflict. Take that boring walk you skipped over and throw some obstacles at him. Ogres attack! The bridge is broken! Bandits steal his food! He stops to help a wounded peasant who will later betray him to the villain! He injures himself climbing a precipitous road! The sky's the limit, folks. It may take extra work later on when editing to make sure your new scenes fit into the story's flow, but it can be done.


5. Cut minor characters.



When every single word is measured, you keep your cast to the bare minimum. But when you're expanding, adding a few more minor characters can provide more conflict, more dialogue, more revealing of main characters, and more subplots--in essence, more words. Who could you add to your story to further complicate events? This leads into the next tip . . .


6. Cut subplots.



This goes further than just adding scenes and characters. This means tying those extra things into your existing storyline, which can be easier said than done. Right now, with every new element I introduce to The Brightest Thread, I'm worried that it will draw the focus away from the main storyline, or that I'm making the story worse, not better. (But at this point I should be in creative mode, and save those sorts of judgments for editing.)


But a new subplot can enrich your story like nothing else. At some point, you'll want to consider whether the subplot revolves around your story's central plot and theme (it should), but for now, take some time to jot a list of all the crazy, difficult, dangerous, beautiful, or interesting things could happen within your story.


This is where it becomes all about connections! This is when you get to decide that your villain is actually related to your hero, or that trade between two kingdoms is suffering, or that the regular old sword the sidekick wields is no longer an ordinary blade, but a magical object that somebody out there would do anything to obtain.


Rather than bog the story down, a well-written subplot will add depth and complexity.


7. Enter each scene late and leave it early.


KEEP DOING THIS. Basically, start each scene when the important stuff happens, and end it before the tension drops. Don't waste time in getting things going or wrapping them up. This will keep those pages turning fast!



8. Cut unnecessary words.



Admit it, you have a collection of pet words that somehow manage to pepper every other page, no matter how much pet-word-repellant you spray your keyboard with. When you edit, please don't leave those pesky things there just to keep your wordcount higher. Keep deleting whatever's unnecessary. Pacing can be an issue on the scene level and on the sentence level.


Keeping that in mind, you can continue adding dialogue, descriptions, scenes, characters, and subplots. Just make them necessary. Tie them to the stakes of the story. Therein lies the key to meaningful additions.


To sum up:



When expanding a story, look for opportunities to:


  • Add dialogue
  • Add description
  • Add scenes
  • Expand the cast of characters
  • Create subplots


But don't forget to:


  • Keep it streamlined
  • And make sure every addition either furthers the plot, develops a character, or both


And that's all I've got! I'm excited about a certain (ahem, creepy) subplot I'm in the process of writing into TBT . . . it's definitely going to change the flavor of the book somewhat, but I hope it will be in a good way.

Discussion time! Have you ever tried to lengthen a story? What worked for you? What didn't work? Or if you're planning to expand a story in the future, which of these tips do you think will help you the most?

Saturday, May 20, 2017

I Graduated!


"Isn't it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back, everything is different?"



These wise words by C.S. Lewis have always struck a chord in me, but perhaps never as strongly as here at the end of college. Because looking back, it's been one crazy amazing adventure from start to finish. But in the day to day, I experienced hard moments, challenges, frustrations--long days when it felt like no matter how much time or energy I poured into it, nothing was changing. Yet now that it's over, I look back and I am astounded at the ways I and my classmates have transformed this year.


Of course, none of that would have been possible without some very key people!


My teachers. (I nicknamed them Bob and Larry for their opposite personalities.) Both are very wise, godly men who have become dear mentors to me. They taught me and my classmates, coached us, equipped us, and poured their hearts into us.


The ministry leads. They were all amazing, but this year I got the chance to work under the leadership of the fantastic people in the youth department and the creative department. In youth, my love for teens grew even deeper, and my courage strengthened as I took opportunities to form relationships with them, teach them, and serve them. In creative, I learned new skills with my hands, started thinking outside the box more and more, and realized how much work and forethought go into event planning.


My family and friends. Without a home base of people who loved me, understood my crazy schedule, and supplied me with food, hugs, and listening ears, this year would've been a lot harder! Their support, encouragement, and of course prayers made a big difference.


My classmates. They rocked! I learned something from each and every one of them, whether they were aware of it or not. The team we formed got some pretty darn remarkable things done during these past nine months of college, and some of the friendships I formed will last a long time.


I have learned so much at college. Leadership principles, people skills, communication and public speaking, how to serve wholeheartedly, relationship building, and the list goes on. I've learned more about God, His Word, and His real purpose for my life.


But it's one thing to acquire more head knowledge--you can pick up a new book or take a class just about anywhere. It's a whole other thing to actually apply what you've learned, and that was one of the best things about this program.

Through designing chapels for elementary and high school, doing group projects, ministry afternoons, and volunteering at youth, inner city, and big events, we got many chances to really live out exactly what we were being taught.


Perhaps the biggest example of this was the day camp we planned from the ground up. Working on that project, we actually had to lead both each other and the kids. We had to work with each other's personalities. We saw each other's strengths shine out, and we came face to face with each other's flaws. Yet we still chose to build a team, a family.


As a recovering perfectionist, I learned to beat the shame storm. Excellence is just doing the best you can with what you have, and that is enough.


I grew in my public speaking. In September, presenting a speech brought on nervous butterflies and even dizziness. But just two days ago, I delivered a valedictorian speech at grad and--apart from shedding a few tears--felt pretty comfortable behind the mic. (This post, in fact, is a modified version of that grad speech.)


I stepped out of my comfort zone, especially in the area of leadership as I was put in charge of the aforementioned day camp.


Some of my D personality* classmates rubbed off on me, and I became more direct and honest with others, lessening my people pleasing side a bit.


*from the DISC system; D's are the direct people who cut to the chase and get stuff done.


I learned better strategies for managing my time.


I learned that life is all about relationships, and that tasks are secondary (and really are meant to serve relationships in the first place).


I learned to ask why, to stay curious, and to apply new knowledge to my life at this very moment.


I learned in a greater way that we are all reflections of God's nature, and so is everything that's right and true in the world.

It's been said, "In any given moment, we have two options: to step forward into growth or to step back into safety."


My classmates and I took many forward steps between September and now, and it would be easy to stop there, to think of this as the end. Truthfully, I've just begun this journey. Many new chapters lie ahead. But I'm well-armed with the tools God has helped me forge this year. I'm sad to see my year at college come to a close, because I've made so many good memories. But as my classmates and I move into new adventures, we'll be cheering each other on.

And faith tells me that no matter what lies ahead, God is already there.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

First Lines (Part 2)

Back in January, I posted a collection of opening lines from various stories (in various stages of completion), but didn't have room to include them all. So we're back for round two!*


*Sorry, no graphics today. I barely had time to get the post itself ready, and it was already mostly prepared. XD


Legend tells of a great treasure deep in the heart of the Fortress of Eternal Winter, a treasure so valuable that the one worthy enough to find it should experience ecstasy beyond belief. And not only that, but they should find themselves with a life longer than any other. It was this prize the noble knight sought, and already it had cost him dearly . . .


[The Fortress of Eternal Winter, short story (a parody), complete]


***


The little girl shuffled through the dew-spangled grass, blinking sleep from her eyes. Just ahead, a man sat on a rock at the edge of the overhang.


He swivelled and gave her a soft smile. "Good morning, little one."


She smiled back, though muzzily from morning drowsiness. "Morning." She reached his side.


The man picked her up and set her on his lap. The two sat quietly for a time. Nothing was said, for the dawn spoke eloquently enough for them both. A burning red sliver of sun had already appeared along the horizon, and birds were testing their singing voices, and far, far away, the ocean surf sighed.


[This is the Day, flash fiction, complete]


***


"Merry Christmas, Hannah." Lisa Kehler leaned down so the elderly, bedridden woman could hear her and gently squeezed the fragile hand.


[Tired of Doing Good, short story, complete]


***


Vannon paused, ice-encrusted shovel poised above a snowy drift. The air tingled with a barely perceptible whine, just at the edge of the ear's range. He cocked his head and concentrated on the sound. His breath-clouds came slower; the dull roar of rushing blood slowed. At a glance, one would think him a statue: furry mantle frozen in thick tufts, short beard spangled with chilled drops of moisture, and rabbit-hide gloves wrapped tightly around his shovel's wooden shaft.


There--there it was again. A faint drone, like the blur of insect wings. Vannon's eyes slid to the southward mountains, a shattered spine of rock wracking the azure sky.


[untitled, unfinished]


***


I have one green eye and one brown eye. The green eye sees truth, but the brown eye sees much, much more. With it, I can perceive things no one else can. You make think this is a wonderful gift, but I assure you, it is a curse.


[untitled, writing exercise]


***


"Arctic, I already told you there was to be no snowfall practice in your room!" The voice, although muffled, demanded immediate attention.


Arctic winced and cracked her door open. A rivulet of water trickled past her foot and toward the stairs. "Sorry, mother."


[untitled, writing exercise]


***


Pheori's bare feet padded softly down the marble floor of the Emperor's treasure hall. He rolled his eyes toward the vaulted ceiling and tried to pay attention to Emperor Cho's happy prattling. But his legs ached to run somewhere and his lungs desired the hot desert oxygen.


[untitled, unfinished]


***


The glare of the August sun threw glints across the lake. Madison Paratore shielded her eyes with a hand. A sigh warmed her lips. "It's the last hoorah, you guys."


[untitled, unfinished]


***


"So Kendrick, are you going to fix it or what?"


"It doesn't need fixing, Trapper."


"Doesn't need . . .? Kendrick! Look at it! It's torn in the corners, covered in debris, and so bright a Flat-Raider could see it miles away."


[untitled, writing exercise]


***


I slouch on the barstool and loop my fingers through the lacy yarn. It's red and orange and burgundy, like the trees I see through the kitchen window.


"Are your parents coming back this evening?" Aunt Bailey asks. Her knitting needles click against each other and the half-made scarf drapes over her lap like a fluffy python.


[untitled, writing exercise]


***


Lyric reached the top of the stone steps built into the side of the hill. His tired legs were not nearly as heavy as his heart. Sharp wind slapped his face, tugged his long hair, pressed his cloak against his ribcage. "Talon," he said, but a gust of air snatched away the name. He tried again, louder this time. "Talon?"


[untitled, writing exercise]


***


All was silent at the train station. A crumpled piece of trash blew past three pairs of feet at a bench--a pair of thick-soled black boots, two mismatched loafers, and red sneakers. One of these sneakers jiggled up and down very fast.


The owner of the red sneakers, Owen, sighed and looked at his watch. 5:13. The train was late.


[untitled, writing exercise]


***


I sit up with a start, blinking in the light shining over my desk. Had I fallen asleep? I rub my eyes and look around my bedroom. Everything looks the same as it always has. The clock shows 1:47 p.m. in glaring red letters.


[Rewritten, flash fiction, complete]


***


"Let's go over this again." Dr. Teagan propped his elbows on the desk and leaned forward. "I know we've discussed your experiences several times, but it would help with my diagnosis if we took another look at things. Is that all right with you?"
Josiah took a deep breath to quell the familiar heat churning in his belly. You've practically diagnosed me already. Why rehash it? But aloud he muttered, "Fine."


[The Prophet's Key, novel, unfinished]


***


The little flame throbbed, illuminating Father’s hands as they worked. The glass rod he held with a metal tool drooped over like a strand of freshly made taffy. He began fashioning one end. His tweezers flashed in the firelight, slowly persuading the glass to take the form he desired.


I watched over his shoulder and held my breath. Magic required silence.


[The Glass Girl, novella, complete]


***


Tree branches scraped the sides of Emi's car and leaves tinged in early-autumn gold fluttered at her windows. One hand on the wheel and the other fumbling with a roadmap, she squinted at the dirt lane, then back at the squiggly map lines.


"Way to go, Emi." She blew air through her lips. "Lost." Abandoning the incomprehensible map, she focused on the tire tracks ahead. On either side, the trees pressed in close and cast a network of evening shadows over her '95 Dodge Spirit.


[Blood Rose, novella, complete]



***


Not in centuries had the mountains rung with such gladness.


Aleida tilted her face toward the sun and smiled. The road winding uphill was choked with people, nobles and countryfolk alike all traveling to the castle for the celebration. Their lively chatter echoed against the crags.
[The Brightest Thread, novella-turning-into-a-novel, my current WIP, unfinished]

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Retellings - Love 'Em or Hate 'Em?



With my mind on The Brightest Thread, I've been pondering retellings lately, retellings of all sorts and all formats. Books. Movies. Fairytale retellings. Superhero reboots. Book-to-screen adaptions. We've been seeing an influx of all of them--and perhaps a decline in original ideas, but that's another topic for another time.


What I want to talk about today is the vast spectrum of responses these retellings get from people. One retold fairytale or rebooted movie from the 90's might be adored, loathed, criticized, apathetically ignored, or anything and everything in between. Now, of course any work of art, original or retold, will elicit a variety of responses, but it seems that people become rather vocal when it comes to retellings.


Why is that?


I propose it's because of people's deep emotional attachment to the original story.


Take Beauty and the Beast, for instance. (And we'll remove the LeFou issue from the equation for the moment, so we can focus on the bare bones of a retelling without whatever social agendas a director might shoehorn into a story.) Some people loved it. Some people strongly disliked it. Others feel conflicted, because they liked some parts and not others.


[source]
Maybe the big deal is because a lot of the people who went to see the movie love the original tale of Beauty and the Beast--either the animated Disney movie or the Grimm fairytale or perhaps both.


Let's take a look at an imaginary person for a moment. We'll call her Jane. Jane grew up with a big fat book of fairytales, a book whose pages she wore ragged with use. She grew up watching B&B and sang "Tale as Old as Time" often enough to drive her brother mad. She's eighteen now, and when she saw the preview for the new movie, she was ecstatic. Getting to see her favorite story brought to new life with modern special effects and great actors? Of course she's thrilled!


On opening night, she settles into the theater folding chair, bucket of popcorn in hand, and her breath catches as the first scene starts.


Two hours and nineteen minutes later, Jane staggers out of the theater with her mind whirling.


Now, this could go many ways. She could be euphoric over the magical adaptation, the perfect songs, the many little nods to the original Disney film, the new twists.


Or she could feel angry and betrayed because of how, in her mind, the heart of the original was lost.


Or she could feel anything in between! But chances are good that she's going to feel something, and it's probably going to be a strong something. Because Beauty and the Beast is her favorite, and she wants the retelling to do it justice.


This goes for any adaption on the screen or on the page, and it's an interesting topic to explore whether you're the consumer or the creator.


[source]
I think of the plethora of superhero films. They reimagine the comic books. And some of them reimagine the first reimaginings of the comic books. I mean, we've had three different Spider-Mans in the last fifteen years. If you like superhero movies, you probably have a favorite rendition, right? Even if you never read the comics (I never have), you have a certain expectation of who Spider-Man should be, and you'll judge the movies accordingly. Nothing wrong with that; it's just how it is.


[source]
Or what about the Narnia movies? I adore them, even when they strayed from the books. And I adore the books too, just in a different way. That's another complexity in this world of retellings! Some people are weird enough to separate the art forms, and they love different takes on a story. I don't think of the Narnia movies the same way as I think about the books. I love them both for different reasons, and I'm on pins and needles waiting for more news on The Silver Chair. (Not to mention very sad that there's no chance Will Poulter will get to reprise his role as Eustace.)


Like I said at the beginning of this post, I'm writing a retelling of Sleeping Beauty, so I'm growing increasingly interested in what people generally expect of a fairytale retelling. How faithful do they want it to be? How many twists do they want? How fundamental can the twists be? Gender swaps? Role reversals? Genre bending? How many different ways can you interpret the heart of the original story? What is the heart? What do you highlight? What do you downplay? Is the original story a concrete framework, or is it a set of loose guidelines to play with as you please?


Stray too far, and you'll upset someone. Stick too close, and you'll still upset someone. Because Sleeping Beauty matters to this audience, otherwise they wouldn't pick up a book based on it.


I've already come to terms with the fact that I can't please everyone, so I'm not even going to try. But still, it's worth figuring out what expectations your audience might have when they crack open your book.


I don't know where I'm going with this post, really . . . I was just puzzling over why people react strongly to retellings, and I think I stumbled over one key reason. What do you guys think?


And when it comes to fairytales, what's your perfect mix of ingredients? Do you like them to stick close to the original one, or do you like a wild ride of twists and turns? Tell me your thoughts on retellings/reboots in general, too! Let's discuss them allll!

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Subplots and Storylines - April 2017



Hello hello, adventurous questers! My apologies for being late again. Hopefully once college is over in a few weeks I'll get back to being a prompt blogger again.


Life Adventures



How was your April? Mine went quite well. It started with spring break, which ended up being not very break-ish and rather full of work and social things. But I did manage to get my flight to Realm Makers booked! I've never booked a flight before, and since things just weren't working out properly on my end, I got the help of a travel agent. Maybe it was overkill, but I wanted to get it right. But my goodness, why is it so expensive to hop on a plane and travel a few inches across a map? (Yes, I am a new adult clinging to her delusions as to how money and the world should work, why do you ask?) But regardless of the price, I'm very happy to have that in place!


What else happened, let me think . . .


Some college classmates and I were filmed for a year-end video. #bittersweet


I took an exam, which I think I passed.


Easter happened, and it was lovely.


But the highlight of the month was my class's trip to Calgary, Alberta! On our first full day in Alberta, we visited Banff and hiked Johnston Canyon. Those mountains are food for my soul, I tell you. The trail was gorgeous, although mostly covered in ice and snow that made navigating inclines rather . . . challenging, especially for those of us wearing fashionable shoes with zero tread. Thankfully my runners (or sneakers, as you Americans call them) had some grip, but I still went slip-sliding all over the place. By the time I reached the bottom of the trail again, I could feel every muscle in my legs. But it was so much fun!


a glimpse of the Rockies on the cloudy drive to Banff

Johnston Canyon


me at Johnston Canyon


more of the canyon


a frozen waterfall in the canyon

 
me and my bro

Banff in all its quaintness

walking through Banff with college friends


One of the main reasons we were in Calgary was to visit a church, so on the second day we got to help out a church picnic. I enjoyed meeting lots of people and making this outreach event possible. Calgary is a city of constant change, and the average person doesn't live there longer than a couple years. Folks commonly have trouble making friends, so it's awesome to see relationships forming in a church setting.


After the picnic, some friends and I went to a movie. Because half my group didn't have money for the c-train, we ended up walking forty minutes in the rain to our hotel afterwards.


On the Sunday we were there, we served in church, which was an amazing experience. I was placed in an area where I had little experience. Even though I made frequent mistakes, I was able to laugh at myself, learn on the fly, and move on--something I wouldn't have done at the beginning of the school year!


Overall, I had a blast, and I'm sad to see the college year coming to a rapid close.


Screen Adventures



Once Upon a Time, portions of seasons 1, 2, and 5
Again, not much new to report here, except that season 5 is . . . *sniffle* . . . very feelsy. You have been warned.


The Flash, part of season 2
I think the episodes I watched this month are some of the best in the entire show so far! The reasons why are very spoilery, so if you haven't watched The Flash--DO IT.



[source]


The Lego Batman Movie
Although I didn't like it as much as The Lego Movie (which had more heart and creativity to it, in my opinion), this was still an entertaining ride. The jokes fly at you a hundred miles an hour, Batman and Robin's opposite personalities often providing the bulk of them. Plus, the movie was very self-aware and poked plenty of jokes at itself.



[source]


Mulan
Confession: I had never seen this one until now. Never quoted Mushu. Never sang along to "I'll Make a Man Out of You." But I fixed that problem this month! . . . By watching it in probably illegal five-minute video segments on YouTube. Hush, don't tell anyone. While I wouldn't say it's my favorite Disney movie, Mulan herself was an awesome character, Mushu was hilarious, and I can finally see why "I'll Make a Man Out of You" is so sing-along-able!


[source]


First three episodes of The Musketeers
I watched these on the bus ride with one of my college friends. Love the period costumes, the swords, the horses, and D'Artagnan, but I could do without the bits of sexual content, please.


[source]


Beauty and the Beast (2017)
There's been a great big hullaballoo over it, yes, and while I was admittedly disappointed in LeFou's supposed "gay" moments, I loved the movie overall. It was magical! Beautifully filmed and skillfully acted. I wasn't sure I'd like Emma Watson as Belle, but she grew on me. I love, love, loved the Beast. The wolf scenes were terrifically intense. Maurice was even more lovable than he was in the animated movie. And I was pleased at how closely this film followed the original, while still throwing in some lovely changes.


But since one of those changes was the aforementioned great big hullaballoo, I feel I need to articulate myself on that topic. Am I 100% sure what I think? No. But I can tell you that:


a) I'm disappointed that Disney felt the need to go that direction,
b) even so, it doesn't seem to be a step in homosexuality's favor by making the stupidest character in the movie gay,
and c) most of LeFou's comments weren't particularly overt, so I'm not sure if I would've missed some of them if I hadn't been on high alert.


That being said, CAN WE STOP FOR A MOMENT AND APPRECIATE THE LIBRARY SCENE? Oh my heart. Honestly, I think this movie made me cry three or four times.


Book Adventures



Storm Siren // Mary Weber


This one's been on my TBR for a while, thanks to the enthusiasm of its readers! It took me a little while to get into it, but once I did it was enjoyable. Nym was a snarky bundle of pain, and I loved her character arc. Her elemental powers were awesome, too. I also grew to like Eogan quite a bit. I wish their relationship had had a deeper substance to it, something beyond oh bolcranes, he's handsome and the calming effect he has on her out-of-control powers. But maybe that will come later in the trilogy.


Sadly, I didn't connect to most of the cast, even the people I was supposed to like. Not until a certain character death did I really begin to care for that person. Oops?


But I do have to congratulate Mary Weber on a unique combination of premise, storyworld, and theme. I LOVED the themes of this book! I won't even name any of them, because you'll just have to take Nym's journey for yourself.

























Outriders and Trackers // Kathryn Mackel


I needed books for the bus ride, so I grabbed these two off my shelf. The first one I read and enjoyed several years ago, but the second I'd never gotten around to. So what did I think this time around? Well, Outriders was both better and worse than I remembered, if that's possible. I appreciated the characters more now, but the writing and backstory felt weaker at some points. I also would've liked to connect with characters a little sooner and a little deeper.


But. The premise was very unique, involving a futuristic world ravaged by toxins and radiation from the Endless Wars. The last of Christianity (though it's never referred to as such) has taken refuge on an Ark beneath the arctic ice. We never see the Ark, since the story follows the birthrighters, teens and young adults sent out from the Ark to build camps and begin the work of restoring the earth to its God-given birthright. Meanwhile, the baddies mistake DNA manipulation for sorcery, and use it to "transmogrify" creatures into armies of giants and grotesque creatures.


Brady and Niki are my favorite characters, although Ajoba, who annoyed me in the first book, grew on me a lot in the second. I just wish there was a third book, because there were several loose ends that the author never tied up.


(One caution, however. I'd recommend these books for roughly 17 or 18 and up, due to references to rape and the villainous Baron Alrod's penchant for "lollies," or concubines.)






The DNA of Relationships // Dr. Gary Smalley


Another college read, and perhaps one of my favorites so far! It was easy to read and offered super practical and insightful advice on how to better all my relationships. One thing I learned was the concept of the Fear Dance, describing the vicious cycle of hurt and reactions between people in a relationship conflict. It opened my eyes to the underlying problems I sometimes have with people I know, what my core fears are, and what I can do to change me. While the book focused more on marriage, I'd recommend it to singles and marrieds alike because the principles are so amazing!


Writing Adventures



I did some more Snowflake Method outlining for The Brightest Thread before deciding that the process had helped me as much as it was going to help (for this story, anyways), and called it quits early. Which means I got to start actually writing again on April 9th!


Alas, I had very little time to write this month, so I was able to work through only the first two chapters, adding about 1200 words to the story. For those of you who don't know, TBT started out as a novella retelling of Sleeping Beauty, which I'm now expanding into a full novel!


Whew, that was a long post. What sort of April adventures did you undertake? Any thoughts on the books and movies I consumed? Ever been to the Rockies?

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Magical Places

There are places I feel connected to, places that my restless heart grabs onto like a wandering magnet finding its match. I can't explain how or even why, whether it has to do with being an INFJ or if it's just me or if it's something everyone experiences. But there are places in this world that feel like home.



[Pinterest]
Firstly and most obviously: my actual, physical home. When I've been traveling or even just busy, and I finally drag myself through the front door, my whole self just sighs in contentment. (Or relief, let's be honest. #hobbit) It's lived in, our stuff is everywhere, it's comfy, all the sunshine streams through the picture windows in the front, and there are usually the voices of the people I love most filling the rooms.


[sorry, this one and the remaining pics are from Google Images; I saved them
on my phone and neglected to keep the URLS, so I can't give proper credit]

Trees. I'm not a super outdoorsy person, I'm not into camping (though I love the idea of being capable of roughing it), but there's something about a forest that draws me in. Green everywhere. A quiet thrumming of insect wings and birdcalls and paws rustling in the undergrowth and life growing. In a forest, it feels like an adventure could be hiding around any given corner, but it's also a place to pause and drink in the peacefulness.


Water. Not being in it so much as being near it. Put me on the shore of a lake or the bank of a river; send me on a wild goose chase to track down a trickle of water, and I'm happy. The sheer bigness of a body of water whose opposite shore is somewhere unseen past the horizon fills me with awe. Even the sound of snowmelt running down the drainpipes in springtime awakens hope in me.






Mountains. These crop up in my stories all. the. time. and I don't even live near any. I've been amongst mountains so few times I can count them on one hand, but they fill my imagination and utterly fascinate me. Just like forests, they practically sing adventure; and just like water, they are awe-inspiring.




Someplace in the middle of nowhere, on a clear night when the stars are bright and close and the Milky Way breathes brilliant dust across the sky. Living in the city, I don't get to experience this much, and sometimes I stare longingly upward and wish to be away from streetlights. But there was one night in particular, at a tiny cabin with my family, when we lay on the grass and just gazed at the stars for a while. I felt so small. So at peace. So full of wonder.


Cutesy coffee shops awaken a little bit of hipster in me. The smell of coffee grinds . . . the hum of conversation . . . the clink of dishes . . . oftentimes, the rustic timber and adorable knick knacks and the atmosphere of people pausing long enough to enjoy each other's company. Plus, it's kind of the picture-perfect place for a writer to pen those words. (At least, the romanticized writer that proooobably doesn't exist in real life.)


Great architecture & history. Preferably a castle (I've never visited one YET), but I'll settle for legislative buildings, museum buildings, cathedrals, anything made out of stone, anything with arches or domes or spires or tall, skinny windows. Yep. Take me there, and let me stay a good long while to soak in the stories seeping through the walls.





Whichever place on my list I visit, once I'm there, I want to be there long enough to enjoy it. These are the places that make my heart sing, that seem to speak a language without words. Somehow, they fill me with inspiration--magic tingling in my fingertips and fire glowing in my chest.


What are some of the places you love with all your heart? Do we share any?

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Worth the Cross



Today we celebrate a cross and an empty tomb. A death and a resurrection. The darkest night of all, when the hope of the world seemed to be extinguished, gone forever . . . and the brightest morning ever beheld, when that Hope returned victorious.


We wear crosses around our necks and hang them from our cars' rear-view mirrors. We sing about the empty tomb and the risen Savior, and these things are beautiful--truly. But I, for one, often forget the power behind these symbols and lyrics. I forget that Jesus went to the cross for me.


"For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." Hebrews 12:2


He surely had seen Roman crucifixions before--the excruciating pain of the lashing, the slow suffocation--and I'm sure He could well imagine the spiritual pain of bearing the sin of the entire world on His shoulders. But knowing all that, He still gave Himself up willingly. And as the whip fell, as the crown of thorns dug into His scalp, as the nails were driven through His wrists, as a hail of insults flew, as He lost sight of His own Father . . . He could have put a stop to it at any time. He could have called legions of angels to His aid (Matthew 26:53), and who knows what He could have done Himself. Going to the cross was not one single choice. It was a choice He made moment by painful moment--again and again and again:


YES.

For you, yes.



"For the joy set before him he endured the cross." What kind of joy would keep the Son of God nailed to a wooden cross? What kind of joy would fuel His walk up the hill of death? What kind of joy would He hold inside though every nerve screamed for relief and every crevice of His heart reached for a Father He couldn't see through the darkness?


I'll tell you what kind of joy. It was the joy of redeeming you.


The possibility of bringing you home, of building a bridge across a chasm you could never cross, of wiping the dirt off His precious child's face and crowning you royalty: that is what brought Jesus joy.


You are worth the cross.



God said so. His Son showed you in a way more powerful than anyone ever could: you're worth it. And I sincerely hope that you and I let Him convince us that's true. We all struggle with feelings of unworthiness, of thinking we're not good enough. And honestly, our behavior isn't good enough. Our thoughts and attitudes and actions aren't good enough, and that's why Jesus had to die.


But don't for a minute feel guilty because of that. Those burdens aren't yours to carry anymore. Because through all of the sin, all of the mess-ups and brokenness of humanity, He saw who we are.


His.


And by the very nature of being His, we are worth it. You are worth it.


Happy Easter, dear friends! He is risen!



(I'll leave you with this beautiful Easter medley by Anthem Lights.)

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Two Year Blogoversary + Blogger Recognition Tag + Musings

On March 31st, Adventure Awaits turned two! Being as all my energy was directed elsewhere last month, I had no time to prepare a blogoversary celebration quite like the first time. It was fun taking a survey and hosting a giveaway in 2016, and for a while I expected to do something similar this year, but alas and alack, dear questers--circumstances are different.


I do fully intend to come up with another giveaway sometime. I'm also getting the inklings of a plan for breathing fresh life into this blog come summer. But for now, we'll have a quiet little party with as much chocolate cake and gingersnap cookies as you can imagine!*


*Because sadly, I have yet to figure out how to deliver sweets through the computer screen. So you'll just have to pretend, okay?


[image via Pinterest, text my own]




The Itinerary of This Miniature Blogoversary:

  1. Blogger Recognition Tag
  2. Stats (because measuring growth is fun and motivating, yes?)
  3. Some musings about my blogging experience


1. Blogger Recognition Tag


See, I didn't quite finish catching up on tags last month. Kate @ Story and Dark Chocolate gave me this Blogger Recognition Tag, which says:


  • Tell us a little about how you started blogging.
  • Give two pieces of advice for new bloggers.


How did I start this thing? Well, let's see if my homework-muddled mind can think back to two years ago . . . Ah, yes, I remember. For some time already, I had wanted an online platform for my writing/a public place to put my thoughts out there. But I was taking my own sweet time fiddling with Blogger until Bryan Davis wanted to share my book review of To Kill a Mockingbird on his blog and asked if I had a website to link to. That provided the motivation to pull myself together and finally launch Adventure Awaits.


And that's how it started.


It took me a while to find my groove, and to be honest, I'm still finding it. But now I can see more clearly how almost everything here centers around story somehow, whether it's reading them, writing them, or living them. As time goes on, I hope to hone my focus even more.


If you want to read more trivia on the beginnings of the blog, check out my first blogoversary post.


Advice for new bloggers:

There's the usual "be careful how much personal info you share," and "be consistent," but you can find those tips everywhere, so let's talk about the fun stuff instead.


1. Be yourself! Yes, it's cliché, but that's because it's true. Don't bother copying another blogger's voice or style, but don't get too caught up in originality either. Just write the way YOU write (or the way you speak, if you want to be more casual). Figure out what feels natural to you, and don't be afraid to experiment. Maybe you're sarcastic or nonsensical or practical or poetic. Maybe you do lists. Maybe you tell stories. Maybe your posts are mainly photos with a handful of succinct thoughts thrown in. Maybe reading your blog feels like sitting down for a cup of coffee with a friend, or maybe it feels like a drive-through classroom where readers can learn something new during a five-minute break in their busy day. I don't know! You get to figure it out!


2. Write about what's on your heart. What do you ponder? What makes your pulse race and your chest tighten with anticipation? What makes you question? What makes you dream? What matters to you? You have something to offer. For me, I see life through the lens of story. It's more than the books I read or the tales I type: it's the adventure I'm living that's headed toward a beautiful ending. So that's what I blog about, because ultimately all those different kinds of stories, whether read or written or lived, all intersect. You get to blog about what matters to you. When you do that, you'll write with passion, and you'll attract people who care about that subject too.


This tag didn't have any rules for how many new people to tag, which is fine because I've almost exhausted my list of available bloggers! If you feel like ruminating on the blogging life, feel free to steal it for yourself. :)


Stats & Things



78 followers across GFC and Bloglovin'--an increase of 40 since last year, hooray!
133 posts
2,938 comments (half of them are mine, LOL)
81,738 pageviews, over six times as many as last year (although I know I've been getting a lot of views from spammy URLS, so I'm not sure how much that actually counts)


Top ten countries from whence the pageviews came:
1. United States
2. Canada
3. Russia
4. France
5. United Kingdom
6. Germany
7. Ukraine
8. Australia
9. Brazil
10. Singapore


A collection of odd search results:
- wallpaper photos (I wonder which photos?)


- Tracey Dyck author (Yes! One day!)


- can I read eyes wide open without r . . . (Blogger cut off the sentence, but I'm assuming it would be "without reading [insert some other book in Ted Dekker's Outlaw series])


- quest adventure awaits (I love the word quest. Also the word adventure.)


- tracy dyck hayd [insert swear word] (What?!)


- adventure awaits (That's the expected search result, yes.)


- a girl walking alone in the road picture (I think I remember which post that was from . . .)


- pictures of people walking alone (See above.)


- tracy dyck accurate scale (Maybe learn how to spell my name accurately, hmm?)


- dekker "the creative way" writing course (Highly recommend!)


- Riley and Tracey Dyck [insert name of nearby town] (The fact that a local community name led to my blog is somewhat concerning. And who's Riley?)


- bleck crying spm (Say what now?)


- the silmarillion 2016 (Ahh, that was a good ol' time.)


- content (What do you mean? Being content? Offering good content? IS IT A NOUN OR AN ADJECTIVE? CONTEXT, PEOPLE.)


- tracy dyck Edmonton (I've never been there.)


- bryan davis dragons in our midst (You have great reading taste, my friend.)


Ten most popular posts:
Again, I'm really not sure how accurate this is with the amount of spammy views I've been getting, because these posts are pretty random.


1. Book Review: Five Enchanted Roses
2. Subplots and Storylines - October 2016
3. Subplots and Storylines - November 2016
4. Beautiful Books - Writing Goals
5. The Cage // a spooky story
6. A Glimmer of Hope (Happy Birthday, LOTR!)
7. Why Fiction Matters
8. The Silmarillion Awards 2016: Riddling and Poetry Nominations
9. Problematic Opportunities and Opportunistic Problems
10. First Lines (Part 1)


I'd say the blog has definitely grown since March 2016, but like I mentioned earlier, I want to freshen things up around here in the coming months. Make this place even more inviting for you dear questers! (And if any of you have tips for minimizing the annoying spammy stuff, please let me know.)


Musings on Blogging



I've been thinking about the nature of social media lately. It's so incomplete. We read each other's updates and blogs, see each other's photos, and think everyone else has it all together. Even the ones who openly confess they're falling apart seem to be doing so gracefully and oh-so-photogenically.


Subplots and Storylines goes up near the end of every month, and while I thoroughly enjoy reflecting on the happenings of my life and the ways I'm growing, even those journal-like entries feel incomplete. Not only that, but I seem to give the impression that I'm super productive, accomplishing all sorts of things in the midst of a busy life. Is that true? Yes. And also no.


For being an INFJ, I'm terrible at analyzing myself. I never know if I'm too harsh or too lax, and thus in this case, I'm not sure if I actually am as "superhuman" as I seem to portray, or if what I do is actually pretty average and summing it up in one breath just sounds cool.


This is in NO WAY a critique on any of you wonderful commenters who encourage me! I love you guys! I'm just saying the whole concept makes me think. It makes me wonder about the inaccuracy of our online facades.


That being said, the internet is not the place to dump every single detail of one's life, whether it's in the name of being genuine or not! Even if I did do that, the picture would still not be complete. I think even with the people we see face-to-face every day, our pictures of each other are incomplete, because in a sense only you know your life. (You and God, of course.)


So maybe the point is not to try to offer the complete picture on your blog or Instagram or Twitter or whatever.


Maybe the point is to offer a sliver of the picture as honestly as you can, in a way that helps and uplifts as many people as you can. And if we all approached our online lives this way--as millions of slivers intersecting and touching and twining around each other--we would do a better job of it.


Well.


That got all introspective and challenging, and not very party-like, but that's how I think sometimes, y'all.


Now, just so you don't think that I've fallen out of love with blogging, you must know that I am so grateful for this little adventuresome community! I love interacting with y'all and sharing stories both on the page and in real life. THANK YOU ALL for your kind and encouraging comments, your feedback, your readership, your presence here. I'm not throwing words into a void; I get the chance to sit around the bonfire with real people and exchange real stories. Real embers of hope. It's your names, your faces, that make blogging worth it. I'm truly honored to have you here.


Here's to another year of well-spun tales and adventures waiting around every corner! Huzzah! Now pass around those leftover gingersnaps, why don't you?

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Subplots and Storylines - March 2017



According to the saying, March is either a lamb or a lion, but I think this time around it was much more lion than anything else. I mean, yes, the weather exhibited the kind of schizophrenia I expect of March: whiteout conditions one day and a balmy ten degrees Celsius on another. But life was consistently lion-ish.


Life

I gave my third speech in my public speaking class (yay!), met with a friend out from Mexico, went to a fun wedding show with my peeps from the creative ministry (in order to get décor ideas and stay on top of the trends), and went to another Business & Leadership seminar thingie where I learned about the habits of a great leader.


College had an info night, at which I got a chance to share my experience in the program and hopefully convince potential students to attend this fall. That was a great evening--from a spontaneous Olive Garden dinner with classmates, to standing out in the cold drizzle to welcome guests to the event, to the hilarity of cleaning up afterwards amongst laughter and friends.


Other than that, day camp pretty much swallowed up life! Planning and running that camp was my college class's final project--a chance to put everything we've learned about leadership, organization, people skills, public speaking, and relationships to work in an intense environment. We've been working on it since the new year, and this week it all came to a head. Sixty-some kids (grades 1-6) showed up for five days of fun.


It was a ton of work, and it meant giving up a lot of my free mornings/evenings/breaks this month. Being in an admin role was a very stretching experience, and I may have melted down once or twice, but I had an incredible safety net of people around me to pick me back up and remind of important truths. I honestly need to post about some of the things I've learned through this experience . . .


The camp itself was fantastic! So many precious kids showered me in hugs, giggles, artwork, and homemade bracelets. I loved doing lessons and skits, playing with the kids, and directing my team of fellow students. Waking up at 5:30 am and coming home at 7 pm was exhausting, but so incredibly worth it.


Movies

Still watching and rewatching various Once Upon a Time episodes, as well as going through season 2 of The Flash. There's not much more to add than what I've been saying for the past few months. (What can I say? I watch shows pretty slowly.)


I didn't watch any movies this month, actually. At least not full movies. I did see the first ten minutes of Transformers: Age of Extinction with a classmate, then had to leave abruptly in an attempt to beat the blizzard home. That was quite the drive.


I also saw the middle third of Trolls during day camp, but missed the beginning and ending. From what I saw, the trolls themselves were cute, but those Bergen creatures were just plain weird. I don't really have a desire to see the rest of the movie.


Books

Somehow I finished three books this month despite the busyness, so hooray for that!




Winter//Marissa Meyer


Okay, folks, I LOVED this one. I've really enjoyed the whole Lunar Chronicles (despite the slight let-down that was Scarlet), but the conclusion? So good! Overall, I'd still say Cress was my favorite book of the series, yet Winter wrapped it all up wonderfully.


A small list of awesomeness:
  • a barrage of problems and obstacles had me thinking "uh oh . . ." on multiple occasions
  • the character interactions positively crackled with depth and sass
  • Winter was such a fascinating POV character, what with her craziness (I adore loopy charries) (some people say she's an INFJ, which . . . gives me pause, heheh)
  • Cinder + Kai
  • Thorne + Cress
  • seeing Levana lose control and get angry was so satisfying
  • a revolution plot gave the story a dystopian flavor amidst the fairytale elements
  • ALL THE CHARACTER INTERACTIONS (I had to mention it twice because Marissa Meyer is brilliant at this)


The Spirit Contemporary Life: Unleashing the Miraculous in Your Everyday World // Leon Fontaine//(college assignment book)


I've heard this pastor speak before, and it was so neat to read about a topic close to his heart. The Spirit Contemporary Life was a really easy read, but don't mistake the material to be fluff and stuff. It's challenging, in a good way. It challenged me to get out of my safe little bubble, and to live in a way that attracts people to Jesus.


Rather than some books that make evangelism seem scary and hard, this one reminded me of how natural and amazing it can be when I'm just open to people and open to God! The world is waiting for Christian's to rise up and live lives full of the Holy Spirit's power, in a way that's relevant and understandable to those around them.


Some quotes I loved:


Change always feels strange, even when it places you smack-dab in the middle of God's will.
Your personal story of how Jesus made a difference in your life is your most powerful tool for sharing the gospel.
Being Spirit Contemporary isn't about pleasing people so they will like you. It's about being so confident, strong, and secure in your identity as a child of God that people notice the different in your life and are attracted to you as you direct them to Jesus.




The Shack//William Paul Young


I'm not really sure how I feel about this book. It's almost like one has to split the book in half when evaluating it: there's the story, and then there's the sermon. I'm not interested in adding to the already-muddy waters surrounding this book recently translated to the silver screen, nor am I prepared to do that. Like I said, I didn't read it studiously at all. It was a quick book I used to unwind between all the rehearsals and day camp prep.


That being said, I do have a few thoughts.


First, the story. The writing is mediocre. The dialogue felt mostly stilted, which is a problem when probably 70% of the book is dialogue. I felt very distant from Mack, the main character, never getting a real chance to hear his thoughts or feel what he felt. The only reason I felt anything was because the concept of one's daughter being brutally murdered would tug at anyone's heartstrings. To me, the author missed a chance to dig into the messiness of that kind of pain.


Not only that, but the dialogue of the black woman representing God was inconsistent. Sometimes it was written like it sounds (you know, words like ain't, or jes' instead of just), but most of the time there was none of that.


Now for the sermon aspect. Rather than being mostly story with some sermon, it felt like mostly sermon with some story. Some aspects were powerful. Others were heavy-handed and contrived. I'm not going to spend a lot of time discussing the rightness or wrongness of the theology, but suffice it to say I fall somewhere between the this-book-is-wonderful-it-changed-my-life camp and the burn-this-sacrilegious-piece-of-heresy-to-ash camp. I don't agree with either extreme.


Some of the statements this book made could be interpreted multiple ways. Take this, for example. It's Jesus talking to Mack.


"Those who love me come from every system that exists. They were Buddhists or Mormons, Baptists or Muslims, Democrats, Republicans and many who don't vote or are not part of any Sunday morning or religious institutions. I have followers who were murderers and many who were self-righteous. Some are bankers and bookies, Americans and Iraqis, Jews and Palestinians. I have no desire to make them Christian, but I do want to join them in their transformation into sons and daughters of my Papa, into my brothers and sisters, into my Beloved."
"Does that mean," asked Mack, "that all roads will lead to you?"
"Not at all," smiled Jesus as he reached for the door handle to the shop. "Most roads don't lead anywhere. What it does mean is that I will travel any road to find you."


That could be taken to mean that the author believes all religions are correct, or it could mean that Christians have come from all those different backgrounds and chosen to follow Christ (which is true). I'm not sure which meaning the author intended, and he didn't clear that up.


One of the biggest issues I see people debating is whether it's right for God to be portrayed as a woman. I believe the Bible refers to God as He on purpose. But male and female are both made in God's image, so He must embody the best masculine and feminine qualities. Again, it's a little difficult to tell where the author stands on this issue.


However, there were a small handful of things that I found thought-provoking, in a good way.


[Jesus] "If you try to live this without me, without the ongoing dialogue of us sharing this journey together, it will be like trying to walk on the water by yourself. You can't! And when you try, however well-intentioned, you're going to sink . . . It's extremely hard to rescue someone unless they are willing to trust you . . . That's all I ask of you. When you start to sink, let me rescue you."


Although this book has made a big impact on some readers, and although I liked a few aspects, I wouldn't hand it to a new Christian or anybody struggling to figure out their beliefs, and neither do I feel like rereading it. I may see the movie at some point.


Well. I was not intending to write a review, but it looks like I kind of did. Oops!


Writing


It was abysmally quiet on this front, thanks to everything else going on! I worked a little bit more on using the Snowflake Method to plot out The Brightest Thread, and that's it.

And now for a break . . .


Spring break, that is! I'm so happy to have a week to relax a bit, recover from an annoying cold, read some books, hopefully finish the abovementioned outline, and get back into proper blogging. Thanks for you patience, dear adventurers!

How was your March? Like a lion or a lamb? Do you enjoy working with kids? Have you read any of those books? Tell me about your sundry quests of the month!

Saturday, March 25, 2017

TAG #4 - The Snippet Tag (Fairytale Themed)

What ho, my friends! We've come to round four of this month of tag catch-up. In December, Deborah O'Carroll @ The Road of a Writer included me in the Snippet Tag (created by Madeline J. Rose).


the-snippet-tag


The rules are as follows:


-Include the graphic somewhere in your post (or make your own, just so long as you include a link back to Madeline's blog).
-Answer all the questions, however you want to. Creative interpretation is key here! You can use the book you’re currently working on to answer the questions, or other books you’ve started or have written.
-Tag 2-5 other bloggers.


I wanted to feature The Brightest Thread, seeing as it's my primary writing focus right now, but I didn't want to limit myself to just one story (nor did I want to bore you all with nonstop gushing about Luci and Hadrian and spindle trees and dreams). So to diversify things a bit, I thought I'd bring in my other two fairytale retellings (both novella-sized): Blood Rose, and The Glass Girl. I haven't discussed either of them a whole lot on the blog, so it'll be fun to share a couple of glimpses.


Although I must admit, after skimming through them in search of snippets, I cringed to myself at the stories' weak spots. Yet it was encouraging at the same time to see that I have grown and made progress since then.


Without further ado, let's get on to the questions. My {comments} are inserted in fancy shmancy brackets.


1. Share your most gripping, fascinating, and hooking first line of a story.



Not in centuries had the mountains rung with such gladness.


-The Brightest Thread


{This remains one of my favorite first lines.}


2. Share a snippet that literally just crushes your heart into a million feelsy little pieces.



She was Iroran—not one of the thousands he’d always yearned to help—and yet she, too, was chained. And he could break those chains.


“I must break them,” he whispered to the shadows.


Hadrian threw on a cloak, stuffed crushed gildroot in his pocket, and snatched a pack for provisions. As he rushed down darkened passages, his heart beat painfully in his chest. Strange—he was sure his heart had been stolen by the weeping maiden in his dreams.


-The Brightest Thread


{It's off to the rescue!}


3. Share a snippet that makes you want to shout to the world that you’re SO. HAPPY.



But time went on, and I learned to find happiness in what I had left. I spent hours in the studio with Father, helping him stoke the furnace and learning how to use the glassmaking tools. While his team of six workers mixed ingredients, poured molten glass into molds, or formed vessels by hand, I stayed at my father’s side. Watching. Experimenting. Learning his magic. He was so skilled, sometimes I thought he was a Vibrant, a legendary individual blessed with supernatural powers. But of course he wasn’t – Vibrants were only fairy-tales, after all.


Whenever I tired of the furnace’s heat, I would make my way to the shop at the front of the building, where daylight played over Father’s brilliant wares. Crystal clear goblets, painted dishes, and multihued vases were artfully arranged in the front windows. Prisms and ornaments dangled from the ceiling, throwing rainbows and spots of color across the walls. Glass trinkets and baubles and figurines graced the shelves like little treasures dropped by fairies. If I wasn’t spending my day in the studio, I was whiling away the hours in that wonderland of color and transparency.


-The Glass Girl


{From the opening act of my Cinderella retelling. Although the story bears many flaws, the visuals in this scene capture a childhood happiness that I still love.}


4. Share a snippet that gives a bit of insight into one of your most favorite characters ever.



She entombed the star in her fingers. No, such hopes could not be afforded. Not when death lay weeks away, immovable as a mountain. Hoping would only make it more painful when it came.


Her wrist tingled where Hadrian’s fingers had touched her. Strong and slender fingers, calloused, with dirt under the nails. He liked digging in the dirt. He liked making things grow.


“I’m just a dream to him.”


Luci curled into a ball, imprisoned star pressed to her sternum, and tried not to think of the prince who plucked light from the heavens and asked for her name.


-The Brightest Thread


{Luci just breaks my heart. She spends far too long pushing away exactly what it is she yearns for.}


5. Share a snippet that literally melts you into a puddle of adorable, squishy, OTP mush.



The first thing she noticed in the transition from sleep to wakefulness was pain—in her head and in her right foot. Emi moaned.


“Good, you’re awake.”


Prying her eyelids open, she struggled to work out where she was and what had happened. A soft pillow cushioned her head. Whose bed am I in? She tried to rise, but lightning seared inside her skull. “Ow.” She covered her face with her hands.


“Just stay still,” Will said. “You knocked your head.”


“It feels like a rock bounced off me,” she muttered, peeking at him through her fingers.


“I think it was the other way around.”


-Blood Rose


{In case you didn't know, OTP stands for one true pairing, and refers to a fictional couple you love. In this case, I still adore Will and Emi together. The beginning stage of their relationship is so light and fun compared to what comes later. Heheh.}


6. Share a snippet that gets you beaming with pride and you’re just like yep, I wrote that beauty.



Long-forbidden memories tugged at him, and for a moment he relented. They drew him back to hazy summers, when laughing eyes teased him and a girlish giggle chased him down the corridors. When all it took was a plump red apple or a daring climb up the wall to enchant her. How distant those days seemed. Years and use had polished the memories to a sheen, softening their edges and lending them the golden air of dreams.


And yet for all their beauty, both idealized and real, these echoes of yesterday brought with them a sharp pain. For always the summer was swallowed up by winter. Forest romps, once spirited adventures, became attempts at distraction. Her laughs grew less frequent. Unfamiliar faces passed through the manor, arriving confident and departing solemn. Hushed whispers, closed doors, forced smiles, lingering glances…


Thus, summer died at winter’s hand. And then even winter surrendered to darkness, and the night reigned supreme.


-Blood Rose


{Still a favorite excerpt of mine!}


7. Share a snippet of genius, deliciously witty dialogue between your characters.



Luci eyed her company. “Master Boris.”


Her tutor raised his head. “Yes, Princess?”


“Have I ever mentioned you have the nose of a pig?”


Boris blinked and touched his round, upturned nose. “I—no, Princess, you haven’t.”


“I think it goes lovely with your squinty little eyes.”


Aleida hiccupped, but Luci suspected it was a cloaked giggle.


Boris’s face reddened. “Er, thank you, Princess.”


“Alucinora,” Mother said. “I’ve never heard such an insult leave your lips.”


Luci fought back a grin. “I was merely pointing out his natural talent.” In truth, every time she sat under his schooling, she couldn’t put the image of a pig out of mind.


Aleida’s shoulders quaked.


Mother set her fork down with a clang. “Alucinora, perhaps you should keep your compliments on others’ talents to yourself.” She forced a smile. “After all, today is about you.”


-The Brightest Thread


{When a princess "blessed"--or in her mind, cursed--with the gift of diplomacy finds a way to repress her gift for a day, and is finally free to speak her mind . . . well, that's when the fun begins.}


8. Share a snippet that makes you feel like an evil genius for thinking up such a malevolent villain (Mwa-ha-ha!)



Lady Lurline stepped closer, seeming to tower over me on my little workbench. With her ebony hair swept up on her head and her sharp nose pointed down at me, she made me feel like I was under the shadow of a large raven. “Do not question me, Cinderella,” she hissed. “If I ask for something, you give it to me.” She put one hand over my burnt one and squeezed hard, her fingernails digging into me skin. “Do – you – understand?”


Something inside me finally cracked. Father’s death had shoved my heart into a fiery furnace. Then the Lady’s demands had yanked my heart out again into instant cold. I should’ve known that such an abrupt change would cause me to shatter like glass that hadn’t been cooled properly.


I stared up into Lady Lurline’s dark eyes. Isadora, Mysteres do exist. Your mother is one, the devil. Her grip tightened. I glanced down and saw little beads of blood where her fingernails had pierced my hand.


“I will ask you once more, Ellesandra,” she whispered. “What is your recipe?”


“I’m not going to tell you.”


She flung my hand away and stepped back. “Then you have brought this upon yourself.” Fingers splayed and palm down, she extended her right hand. Her skin seemed to darken, first to ash grey, then to coal black.


I jumped off the bench and backpedalled, heart racing. My thought had come true!


She began chanting. “Fires hot and rocks so deep, thunderclouds and skies that weep – to my side you now amass…”


My legs hit a bench, stopping my backward path. Whimpering, I raised my hands in a weak attempt to protect myself.


The Lady’s eyes glowed yellow. “…Turn flesh and bone to limbs of glass!”


Blinding white flashed across my range of vision, bringing with it both searing heat and glacial cold. A scream – my own? – pierced my eardrums. Pain lancing through every nerve, I collapsed on the floor.


-The Glass Girl


{Probably the best scene involving Lady Lurline.}


9. Share a snippet that leaves you breathless, in a cold sweat with action-induced intensity.



The twinge grew to a throb beating in time with his heart. The air thinned; [Will] sucked in a shallow breath. “Emi, there are…things…I need to…explain.” He blinked hard, tried to clear the fog enfolding his brain.


She shook her head. “I think you’ve explained enough.”


“No, there’s…more,” he grunted, swaying on his feet and gripping the bars for balance.


Roar.


Take.


Kill.


The girl said something, but her words sounded garbled and strange. Will stared down at the floor and fought off the mounting wave of bestial desire.


Run.


Own.


Fight.


It descended all at once. Tearing, rending agony; a maelstrom of crimson. He dropped to the ground, felt the vibration of a growl low in his throat.


Clawing at the stones. A howl streaming from his lips. Blood rushing through his veins. Red.


Stone rose up on either side, hemming him in, trapping him. Muscles bunched beneath his skin. He threw himself at the bars.


Live.


Kill.


Flee.


He crashed against the walls. Pain flared. He lunged again, snarling, scraping, panting.


A sound, high and offensive to his ears, knifed through the air. He turned. A she-creature cried out in a language he didn’t know. He crouched there, staring at her. Heat radiated from her flesh. She was alive. She was prey.


Lips peeled back in a roar to end all roars, he slammed into the bars. They quaked but held firm. The she-creature stumbled backward. He smelled fear.


Prey!


-Blood Rose


{I think I was almost breathless when writing this scene.}


10. Share a snippet of a most interesting first meeting between your characters.



“Are you alright?” the dove asked. It wasn’t a bird, but a girl standing pale in the moonlight, golden-red hair loose and windblown. As if suddenly aware of his gaze, she turned her back, but not before he caught a glimpse of rainwater eyes.


“It’s you!”


She stood with arms crossed and spine rigid.


“You’ve been haunting my dreams,” [Hadrian] continued. “Who are you?”


“My name matters little.”


“It does if it belongs to the one who rescued me.”


“Falling would’ve woken you up, not killed you. I hardly call what I did a rescue.”


Hadrian sidestepped in an effort to see her face, but she turned too. “Since this is a dream, it makes no difference if I know your name.” But never before had his dreams been so lifelike. What could have inspired his mind to conjure her?


After a moment, her posture relaxed. “Fine. I’ll trade my name for three items from you.”


He chuckled. “One for three? You sound like a valley bargainer.”


“Sensibility isn’t required in dreams.”


-The Brightest Thread


{I'm so looking forward to expanding, perhaps even changing, their first meeting. A dream realm allows for some pretty fun experimentation, a strange and otherworldly backdrop to the beginning of the story's central relationship. Yay!}

Thanks for reading! Now the time comes to tag some fellow writers . . .


P.S. I have had zero time to reply to comments this past week, and it looks like I'll have less than zero time next week (yes, we are pretending that is possible). Do keep leaving those comments, and rest assured I'll return to converse with you once March is over!