Writing Part II: Give Us Your Vibe

In the last writing blog I did, I discussed a lot about plot and keeping the flow of your storyline smooth and eventful. This time around, I’m doing more with the bells and whistles of your story. If we get into the more complex parts of your story, things start to get a little interesting.

There’s more to a story than traveling from point A to point B. You’ve got to make the person reading relate to your character, tell them what kind of world your character is living in, and actually get the project done as clean and as vividly as possible.

Everyone has to start somewhere.

Here’s a list of a few things that every story has and that every writer needs to consider. Take a few to scan through it and check out how these elements relate to the story you’ve got going on.

1.Voice. Your character has got to have personality. Like people in real life, every character is different. The voice of a sixteen-year-old, happy-go-lucky girl is going to be different than a disgruntled, sixty-something Vietnam War veteran. If you just sat down to talk to your lovely imaginary friend, what would he or she say? You’ve got to keep this in mind while writing their dialogue and actions. A lot of times I ask myself, “What would this psychopathic killer do in this particular situation?”

And then I’m glad I don’t know.

2.Atmosphere. Where is this story going on? Is it a dystopian world with a corrupt government and plenty of room for adventure? Or is it just a normal, suburban town with a couple of local grocery stores and diners that people easily pass up? Where your story is being told is essential to the plot, and you always have to take into consideration when writing it. Think about your hometown. Whether you think it’s home sweet home or not, where you grew up has influenced you. Just like it’s going to have influenced your character. Work in enough details to not distract from the plot, and you should have a good lot of room to talk on this.

3.Wordplay. This is one that has really gotten me in the past. It makes me want to cringe, reading some of my older stuff because I didn’t put in enough capturing scenes in there. Take a lesson from me- you’ve got to avoid narrative storytelling at all costs. What I mean by this is to not tell the reader what’s going on, but show them what’s going on. Use descriptive words. Descriptive words are your friend.

Phrasing is important, too. You’ve got to make your readers feel like they’re there. Look at this as an example of what not to do:

He told them he was running away.

Hold up, wait a minute. Let’s put a little detail in it. Now let’s back up and see what this phrase could have been if we had used descriptive words and avoided narrative storytelling.

He looked over his shoulder and panted out, “I’m running away.”

There. It doesn’t have to be so complex. Still, with just a few more words, you get a better mental image of what your character is doing. Dialogue is great with this. You can reveal a heck of a lot about your characters with the things that they say and how they say them.

4.Organization. This is the most frustrating part, and often where most writers crash and burn. Organizing things sucks. When it comes to this part of writing a story, everybody’s different. There’s no real right or wrong way to do this, as long as you’re aware of what goes where and it doesn’t end up being a total disaster.

Just to give you an easy example, though, this is how I do it. It usually begins by brainstorming with me. I get in front of the computer and type down the lines and quotes from characters that stick out the most. I keep them equal and separated and just keep adding on to them until there’s enough to organize them into separate chapters. These “chapters” are copy and pasted into different word documents and all kept in a folder. Once I know what’s happening in every chapter, I hit the ground running to fill in all the blanks. This is my personal way of getting things done, and it varies from person to person.

5.Word count. Word count matters if you’re trying to get published. If you’re writing for yourself, it’s no big deal. Most middle grade books are from 30,000-50,000 word. Young adult books vary from 55,000-100,000 and adult books are typically in the 70,000-100,000 range. Picture books are usually never over 1000.

Now that we have a good lot of the details out of the way, it looks pretty simple. Like this blog or comment on it with what you think and follow me if you’re interested in more. Happy writing, everybody!

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Writing Part I: The Plot Thickens

Writing can be frustrating. Many people in the past have asked me about what it takes to write a good fiction tale. In all honesty, it’s not exactly a walk in the part, but it can be broken down to a pretty easy science. Half of the problem is will power. So if you’ve already put your mind to it to write a novel, then you’ve already won a good chunk of the battle. Good for you!

However, setting up a good plot line is essential to a story and one of the first things that you will have to figure out when you sit down at the computer. Let’s just face it- when a story lacks direction and a tight plot, things can get messy. Even the most organized of writers can sometimes feel the urge to hit their head into a wall.

Fear not, good readers. Before you break out the Ben & Jerry’s for a pity party, I have some things that could come to your aid. I have put together three images that will help you get a good hang of plotting out a fiction story. I’m not an English professor or Stephen King by any means, but I have put out a couple of well-received books. Continue reading

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The Ye Olde Job Search

Along with the rest of my summer activities (which mostly consists of sleeping in, watching Netflix, and eating cheesesticks), I’ve done what a good percentage of all college students have done and applied for a summer job. Although I have done a good lot of volunteer work, community service, and other non-paying workshops around the local area, I had never had an actual paying job before. It was a new experience, and in different ways was easier and more difficult than I had expected.

For real

First and foremost came finding where I wanted to work. I had a couple of places in mind, but I wasn’t exactly sure where would be the ideal place for me to work. I had picked a couple coffeehouses, restaurants, retail stores and janitorial work, seeing as I’m a total master of the custodial arts from my volunteer experiences. Once I picked out the places I wanted to go, then the rest came with simply waltzing in, asking if they were hiring and, if they were, asking for an application.

Filling out the applications and returning them was the hardest part of the process for me. I don’t have that much experience under my belt, making it difficult to get hired. Instead, I flaunted a lot of the volunteer work in a resume I had created alongside my applications. Resumes are a huge, glorified list of your skills, previous experience, leadership, and volunteer work. Even though I had never worked professionally, I was still able to get the job I wanted due to what I was able to bring to the table. Showcasing your best assets in your applications will highlight everything you are capable of doing for the job.

Organization is also a major kicker here. You have to keep track of who you have applied to and whether or not they are searching for new employees. Organization, however, is not exactly my middle name… so I kind of had a spot of trouble with this. However, smart phones are handy things to have. I used mine to list all the jobs I had applied for on my notepad app, and the rest was history.

One very aggravating part of the whole job search field is waiting. Yours truly does not like waiting. Yet like a lot of things in life, it is a necessary evil. You are going to have to give the employers and managers some time to look over your application and see whether or not they think you would be helpful in the their line of work. It will take some time, but sometimes giving them a bit of space is probably the best way to increase your chances of actually getting hired. It’s a bit strange, but it’s true.

Of course, later on, you have to fill in that space with your awesome presence. After a little while of patiently giving them time to sort things out, revisit the places to which you’ve applied. Ask them if they’re still hiring new people for work. If you do it well, the employers working there will probably write your name down and remember that you visited. These little visits will show that you’re dedicated and highly interested in working at this job. This, obviously, is going to give you a major boost over the rest of your competition in the work place and help you get a little extra brownie points for getting hired.

Yet you don’t want to overdo it with the visiting. You should revisit once or twice- three times tops. The reason being is, plainly, you don’t want to seem desperate. At this point, if they are interested in hiring you, they will do so. If not, then that’s tough luck, but there will be plenty more opportunities to come. Again, that patience factor is going to contribute a lot here. You will have to rely on it while doing the “ye olde job search”, but trust me- it will be worth it.

As for my own personal job search, things panned out pretty well. After tirelessly handing out a ton of applications (Well, maybe just ten, but who’s counting?), I finally got a call back from a local coffee shop in Middlesboro, KY, that was looking for a new waitress and–wait for it–custodians. After looking over my resume that I’d given them, they called me in for a job interview. The interview went pretty well and the very next day, they called my phone and asked me to come in and begin work! It was a pretty nice experience over all.

If you’d like to share some of your experiences getting hired, leave a comment, like this post, or follow me. I’d love to hear from you guys!

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Parting Ways

Saying goodbye is an emotional turning point that everybody, regardless of age, has to face. No matter what aspect of life we’re currently in, goodbyes are a normal standard. Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are easy. By no means are they a simple thing to do.

Wisely put, Pooh.

Even though college can be an institution where a lot of excitement and friendships are made, it’s also a brewing ground of departure. Eventually, people are going to have to return to their homes and start over after a semester ends, a transfer to a different school, or any possible thing that would cause them to have to say the G-word. We bond with others here, but when our time with them is over, it can be a sad thing to face– which is why I wanted to write a specific blog entry about it. There’s no class on pushing through these things, so I wanted to share my own experiences and give some advice on it.

Recently, I got word that one of my favorite psychology professors was leaving LMU and moving on to another job. This hurt. Not necessarily because I was angry at him for leaving, but because we had so much history together and I had to give up making more history with him in the future.

A huge inhibitor of the “getting over someone leaving” process is cutting out the what-if’s. These little annoyances will churn their way into your thoughts and make you wonder about what might have happened if they had chosen to stay. They are ultimately useless, so try to avoid thinking about them as much as possible.

Another thing you want to avoid is (exactly as it was mentioned before) anger. If you’re typically an impulsive person, you might get mad at how or why someone could possibly leave. This is another side effect that’s more or less useless in the long run. It doesn’t quite get anything accomplished and even if it’s a reasonable anger, it probably won’t do anything.

Which leads into our third thing that you want to avoid: assuming it’s all your fault. This one is kind of the pitfall that I get suckered into sometimes. When someone leaves, I wonder why I wasn’t good enough to make them stay. Insecurity over someone leaving is definitely a hard thing to go through. When you take it the wrong way and believe you’re the sole purpose in them leaving without any evidence… well, that’s not only harmful to you, but possibly the person going away. They’re intentions probably don’t revolve around you, and chances are, they don’t want the process of leaving to be any more painful than what it already is.

I know what you’re thinking about this post so far. It’s easier said than done, right? Honestly, I’ve memorized what I should and shouldn’t do in these situations, but does that mean I’ll keep from doing them? Not necessarily. We’re bottle rockets, emotionally. If we hold in too much, we will eventually blow up and cause hurt to the ones around us. So instead, take a healthier approach to the situation. Talk to the person. A quick heart-to-heart is a good thing in this circumstance. You’ll understand why they’re leaving, express how you feel, and be able to make peace with their absence. As close as you are, it will be beneficial to both parties. It’s also a good way to take a step back and realize the other person’s intentions. They’re leaving for a purpose, and realizing that will help you accept them going away.

The rest is up to you. You have to take this in the most positive way possible. Think about your friend and all the good things they’re going to achieve later on down the road. Think about how they’re going to befriend people just like you who will make them happy just as they made you happy. Selfishness is going to make you want to keep them, but generosity is what’s going to make you feel better about letting them go.

It’s the biggest cliché in the book, but if you love someone, you’ll let them be free. This is what gets me through every time I say goodbye to someone. When I let someone spread their wings, it’s just another way of showing I care.

So, despite the shovels of mushy, emotional material in this post, I’m happy now that my favorite professor is leaving. I wish him the best. If anyone reads this and has a similar story to tell, leave a comment or like it.

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Isn’t History Boring?

“Isn’t history boring?”

I hear this all the time. Being a history major, this is a question that I’ve come to associate very easily with my field. It tends to be one that arises a lot, but people are usually pretty surprised when my answer is: “Yes, it can be.”

Of course, it all depends on who’s teaching the course. History is a compilation of true stories, all written in different cultural contexts and viewpoints. If the story is told in a monotone, Ben Stein voice, it’s not going to sound interesting. As a matter of fact, most of us are accustomed to that tone, leaving history with kind of a bad reputation.

Admit it. We’ve all had the same mental image. When we think of a history teacher, we imagine a white-haired, old man wearing a corduroy suit with patches on the arms who’s probably been present for half of the events he’s teaching about. His voice drawls on for hours and even if you’ve had multiple cups of coffee, you still can’t help but doze off. Honestly, though, that isn’t always the case.

History can be exciting and sometimes even enthralling. All it truly hinges on is how the story is being told. When telling a story, the person needs to make it seem interesting at all costs. This is where most history teachers go wrong. Granted, economics and population counts aren’t going to appeal to everyone, but it’s a teacher’s job to sell it.

What attracted me to the subject was–again–the storytelling aspect. The subject was interesting to me, but never really caught my interest until college, where I had some fascinating teachers who opened the history door for me. Most of the classes were early in the morning, yet when they dug deep into the heart of the lesson, I couldn’t consider myself ready to fall asleep. I was wide awake, taking in everything they had to say and trying my best to wrap my mind around events that had happened centuries ago.

Yes, there was a lot of reading and research involved. Most people will roll their eyes at this part, but it’s a package deal that a lot of history majors have to deal with. What surprised me, though, is that even though I didn’t enjoy writinga lot of my papers, there were a lot of research points that I did like.

Pictures being one of them. A picture’s worth a thousand words, and a lot will speak more volumes than what you’d give them credit for. This is definitely true with some historical events as well. I loved seeing black and white photos and sepia pictures of different areas of the world. Some of the ones from the Holocaust actually made me tear up. Some from the 1920s made me smile. Some from WWI battlefields and September 11th terrified me. There’s something that a picture does that can make you feel a certain way. When you see them in person, it really reminds you that these were real things that happened to real people. It takes you back and makes you relate to them more than you ever could have before.

Children kept in Auschwitz during the Holocaust.

A kiss before deployment during World War II.

Another part I liked was primary sources. A primary source is something directly taken from that specific era, like a journal entry or a personal book of some kind. Reading what someone else had written definitely has a way of transporting me into the author’s mind and lets me know what it was like to live in their time period. A good example of a primary source would be The Diary of Anne Frank. It is a piece of work all written by her hand, a story told in her voice. You get to hear a firsthand account of what it was like being a Jew in hiding during the height of Adolf Hitler’s power. Other accounts from other times in history really know how to bring a reader to his or her knees, too. Soldiers from the communist Soviet Union have written heart-wrenching journals and families from the 1950s have also given some great accounts about their history and culture, too. All of these intimate words can have an effect on someone, no matter what time they’re living in.

Overall, history can be pretty wild. It all depends on who’s doing the storytelling and who’s doing the listening. If you can find the right place and time that engages you, you–or anyone, for that matter–can enjoy it.

If you found this blog to be entertaining or interesting, like or comment. And if you’re down for more discussions written by yours truly, follow me.

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