Saturday, September 28, 2013

Closing Time!

Guess what?

I have a shiny new website for your hungry eyes to behold.

From now on, all the blog posts will be right over here at She Who Writes Monsters. Please go ahead and follow the blog. There's plenty of juicy stuff for you.

The website's basic functions are up and running, but there will be lots of content added within the next few weeks. Not to mention I've got a line on a blog tour in late October, so please share this webpage with your friends.


Sunday, September 22, 2013

New fanart

I probably won't make a habit out of posting the scribbles I make because none of them are professional grade, but this one came out pretty good, all things considered. It's Michael the archangel and Jordan Amador, the two main protagonists of my novel, The Black Parade.

The pose is taken from that famous Cowboy Bebop picture that honestly makes me want to cry (Spike's facial expression is heartbreaking, sue me) and it seemed to work pretty well. I do this for fun, mind you, never for profit. It's stress relief. That, and I like coloring via Photoshop. There's a tiny bit of freedom in it, if you ask me, but I digress. 

Kyo out.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Things The Legend of Korra Taught Me About Writing

Do you hear that? It's the sound of The Legend of Korra being back on the air with new episodes. And, subsequently, my high-pitched fangirl screaming. 

So to celebrate my favorite hard-headed Avatar returning to the air waves, here's some things that LoK has taught me about writing.

1. You can't please everyone. Well, if you follow me on Tumblr, you know what I'm about to dive into. After the hour long premiere of Korra last Friday, I excitedly hopped onto Tumblr and entered the Legend of Korra tag in order to reblog my guts out in excitement. However, when I arrived, I found that nearly the entire tag was filled to the brim with negative comments. I was stupefied. In my opinion, it was a fair premiere--nothing more, nothing less. I couldn't understand how it seemed like half the fandom absolutely hated it, and for some pretty petty and perhaps trigger-happy reasons. It kept getting worse the more and more I scrolled down until I finally got pissed off and did something I soon regretted. I made a post saying that the premiere was better than no premiere at all. Albeit, I was being sarcastic. Boy, howdy. The post reached over 1,000 notes within an hour. Half of them agreed with me. The other half vehemently did not. I received at least five angry Anon messages in my Inbox. I lost eight followers overnight. So. What did I learn? 

Writing is subjective. If you wanted to get down to bare bones, there probably is not definitive way to decide what is "good" and "bad" writing. All we can do is weigh in and see what the general consensus is. As a result, it's impossible to write something that makes literally everyone happy. You could ask every single person on this planet what they like and try to incorporate that into the end all, be all novel...and someone would still hate it. Because we're human. Because we're flawed.

Did the Korra premiere have issues? Hell yeah. All over the place. But it's clear--at least to me, if no one else--that the writers/animators/directors actually care about the characters and the storyline and they made the best story they felt they could based on the direction the series is going. In order for Korra not to be a retread of ATLA, they are taking more risks and diverting from the source material. In some ways, it works. In others, it doesn't. This is something that every writer--myself included--will face whenever they put ink on the paper. Someone's going to disagree with you. Someone's going to hate you and your work. But it's part of the job. We aren't here to be liked. We're here to art, and art hard. 

2. Pacing can make or break you. Now it's time to travel back through time to the first season of Korra. I liked the first season. It had some truly gorgeous fight scenes, one hell of a creepy villain, and some excellent characters to explore. However, the one complaint that nearly everyone has brought up is the pacing. Sadly, LoK started out as just a mini-series. They had absolutely no indication or promise that it would make it past twelve episodes. As a result, the writers had to cram an entire season's worth of story into half a season's worth of episodes. This meant taking huge shortcuts with plot elements, character interactions, and overall story arcs. 

This unfortunate drawback imparted an important detail to me: know the length and duration of your story beforehand, if at all possible. Some writers do this very well. Jim Butcher, for instance, does an excellent job with stringing together elements from the first Harry Dresden novel all the way to the latest one. Some writers struggle with it. The writers of Supernatural, for instance, are great at bringing back certain minor characters, but they massively abuse it by simply bringing them back to bump them off, or completely forgetting a major recurring character entirely because of whatever reason. (*cough* ADAM *cough, hacks up a bloody lung and cries because at least it's not burning in hell like Adam*) 

Pacing is just as important as any other threads that hold a story together. It's important that things happen naturally, even if their nature is something irregular or bold. The story needs to have plot points that are organic, and the characters' actions should reflect such accordingly, or you'll give your audience a massive case of whiplash. You don't want to do that. Medical bills are expensive.

3. Memorable characters can make your story soar. Okay, so it's no secret that I like Korra. She's ballsy and awkward and headstrong. I also like Mako, despite the fact that over half the fandom hates his guts. Whatever. But you know who will always stick out in my mind as a great character? Lin frickin ' Bei Fong. This is yet another aspect that the writers of ATLA and LoK are really good at--developing side characters and making you love them. As a reader, you usually expect to like or want to follow your main protagonist, but I've noticed that good writers can also write great supportive characters. I'll give two examples for science reasons: Waldo Butters from the Dresden Files and Jason Schulyer from the Anita Blake novels.

Alright, shut up, it's time to talk about the Dresden Files. If you're not reading them, hold out your hand so I can smack the back of it. If you are, please email me with all your feelings about Cold Days. I need to share. Anyway, Waldo Butters is by far one of my favorite characters in the novel series, and that's saying a lot considering I am 1000% head-over-heels in love with Harry. Butters was introduced in Death Masks and later received supportive character status in Dead Beat. This was easily one of the best decisions Butcher made. He is a wonderful offbeat character who started out as an awkward dorky guy who didn't have much courage, and then turned into this hilarious, quirky friend of Harry's. There is nothing I love more than to trip over a character and fall in love with them like a cheesy rom-com. 

Jason Schulyer, however, won me over basically the first time he was introduced in The Lunatic Cafe. I mean, let me describe his character: he's a male stripper whose stage name is Ripley (yes, as in Ripley from the Alien movies), he's a werewolf who spends his nights feeding his blood to his vampire master, he's bisexual, and he's a total lecherous pervert with a noble streak. I mean, come on. Doesn't he sound like he should be the actual protagonist of the novel series? The point I want to make about Jason is that he is so entertaining that I actually kept reading the Anita Blake novels specifically for him after the series went in the crapper after the infamous Narcissus in Chains. It is completely absurd that I liked him so much that I would put up with the purple prose, horrible sex scenes, misogyny, and general unpleasantness that is Cerulean Sins and Blood Noir, but it still happened anyway. 

To circle back around to my point, The Legend of Korra did exactly that--it gave me an extra reason to tune back into the story for season two. Anytime a reader finds more help to love your series, that's an achievement. For example, my editor told me that a minor character from The Black Parade made her laugh so hard that she hopes he reappears someday. I had no intention of ever bringing him back, as he was just a one-off villain, but thanks to her, he might show his face again. Details like a well-rounded cast of characters can be that boost to an author's reputation that they never knew they needed. 

Well, I think I've gushed enough. If you're curious, The Legend of Korra premieres Fridays at 7:00pm EST on Nickelodeon. Join us. WE ARE LEGION. 

*waves hands, whispers* Water tribe.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Things 50 Shades of Grey Taught Me About Writing

I know what you’re thinking. I mean, seriously, what the hell could one of the all time worst novels ever written have to teach a young author?

Actually quite a lot.

So in light of the stupid controversy surrounding this godawful atrocity getting a film adaptation, let’s take a look at all the wonderful things E.L. James has left with me.

1.      Unfortunately, nice guys really do finish last (in fiction). I hate to admit it (mostly because I am technically a nice guy even though I’m a girl with inner rage issues), but it’s the truth. Most of the time, when there’s a love triangle present, the girl chooses the bad boy. We’ve seen it dozens of times in fiction. There is just something about the classic jerk boyfriend character that us poor women cannot resist. There is no real explanation for it other than perhaps a hard study of human biology. Maybe it’s because we inherently obsess with people who seem to not like us. I know I do. It’s annoying, like a splinter in your finger, a tiny pebble in your shoe. It irks you. And, eventually, overwhelms you. My second crush in high school was a guy who got on my nerves constantly and we ended up verbally sparring through my third year and then I was walking down the hallway one day, fuming at something he’d teased me about earlier, and then it hit me like a Mack truck spinning out of control on an oil slick—I LIKED him. Ew. Boys, right? 

But despite the billions of things E.L. James got wrong, she knew that the foaming masses of women out there prefer the handsome, arrogant prick over someone much more understanding and level-headed to fantasize about. I think it has a lot to do with fantasies in general. We often indulge in them because we know that in real life, they’d be horrific experiences. If Christian and Ana were a real couple and people knew about what he did to her, he’d be on 'To Catch a Predator' in a heartbeat. No amount of money would avoid that. However, that brings me to my next point.

2.      Jerk boyfriends aren’t enough. We love jerks. We adore them. Indiana Jones, Tony Stark, John McClane, Richard B. Riddick,  Hellboy, the list goes on and on, and that’s just for movies. In fiction, there are thousands of arrogant pricks that we can’t help rooting for as we turn the pages. However, these fellas have something in common that Christian Grey does NOT: they have hidden depths. This is a trope known as Jerk with a Heart of Gold. It’s by far one of the most popular writing devices of all time. There is really nothing better than thinking a character is the scum of the earth and then finding out he has a kitten farm out in his garage. And this is the exact opposite of Mr. Grey, who is a Jerk with a Heart of Jerk. He’s intolerable, abusive, childish, selfish, and just a genuinely unpleasant man despite his dashing good looks. While this worked for all the lonely housewives still pining for Edward Cullen, it is the main reason that 50 Shades is one of the most hated novel series to date. His behavior is wholly disgusting. It’s reprehensible. It is not accurate in any sense to the real life equivalents of couples in the BDSM culture. It’s made up and creepy and wrong and honestly, it makes the human race as a whole look bad. Okay, I may be exaggerating, but still. 

50 Shades is indisputable proof that bastard boyfriends cannot cut it in the fictional world. Sure, the book sold millions, but again, the demographic generally isn’t writers or readers with their heads on straight, it’s people who don’t read on a regular basis and so they don’t know the difference between a well-balanced story with troubled but great characters and the mindless wet dreams of a lonely woman who thinks she knows what S & M is all about.

3.      Fanfiction really shouldn’t be renamed and published for profit. Sadly, not a lot of people know that Shades is actually an AU (alternate universe, for you non-nerds out there) fanfiction written about Twilight. Oh, yes, you read that right. It’s Twilight fanfiction. All she did was change the names, a few plot details, and then she published it and made a fortune. Did she have the legal right to do this? Yes. Was it morally right to do this? I disagree. I write fanfiction on a regular basis. It’s a great way to find other creative people and to share an interest in a particular movie, cartoon, TV show, anime/manga, or novel. However, there is one huge difference between that and original fiction—it’s free. That’s why fanfiction is such a booming part of nerd culture. If you hate something, who cares? At least you didn’t cough up any cash for it. You read it for free. That’s also why they are ten times more willing to review a fanfic than to review a novel on Amazon—it’s way less pressure and cost to do so. 

I believe it’s wrong to charge people to read something many of them could have read for free, especially when the quality is as eye-ball gougingly terrible as Shades. However, James is not the only one to abuse this literary loophole. Cassandra Clare, author of the City of Bones novel series, also did the same thing, and she is an even worse offender. According to the research I’ve gathered, she used to plagiarize a lot of the Harry Potter fanfiction she used to write and then eventually took it down, changed the plot and the names, and published it. She also reportedly bullied anyone who tried to point out what she was doing, and if you Google the controversy right now, you’ll notice it’s kind of hard to find. I believe that her publisher might have found out about it and made a point to keep things on the down low, and that’s a frightening idea in itself.

 However, for argument’s sake, let’s now focus on the writing aspect of this problem. You’re borrowing someone else’s characters. You’re piggybacking off of them. You’re adding and subtracting some things, but it’s still not original fiction. This is going to hurt your writing no matter how you try to dress it up. It’s still not your property and you will have to make all kinds of sacrifices in order to make it work without alerting someone to the fact that you’ve stolen their characters. You can see so many awful Bella Swan-isms in Ana Steele that it’s embarrassing—tripping over things, rejecting compliments and gifts, being sullen for no real reason, not noticing that the guy she loves is a total creep—and that’s just for starters. I hope that in the future publishing companies take a harder look at the authors who keep doing stuff like this and refuse to let it fly. It’s not fair to the millions of fanfic writers who don’t plagiarize and it’s not fair to the readers.

4.      Conflict matters. Honestly, can you look me in the eye and tell me what Shades is about other than poorly written sex? I bet you a nickel that you can’t. Story cannot exist without conflict. Yet Shades does, somehow. The initial attempt at conflict is Ana’s reluctance to engage in Christian’s disturbing sex fantasies, but it’s null and void before we even hit the halfway point in the first book. The rest of it just drags along with a bare semblance of a plot. Putting aside the fourth grade reading level grammar mistakes, it’s just dull scenes loosely strung together. Plot matters. Conflict matters. Character actions matter. There shouldn’t be any point that I flip through a book and I can’t tell what the hell is happening and for what reason.

5.      Editing is your friend. How many times does Christian “breathe” in Shades? How many times does Ana say “holy cow?” I think some lovely person went and counted them all, but you and I both know the exact number comes out to 84545695685067986879 because E.L. James didn’t have an editor. Or, if she did, the editor was too busy typing with one hand to actually do their job. The novel has so much unintentional repetition that it makes me want to spoon my eyes out of their sockets. No one “says” anything—it’s all attributions, which are a big debate in the writing world. I personally think that it should be 50/50 when it comes to dialogue tags, but most writers are strict and enforce the law that it should be “said” 90% of the time. 

Editing is not just a masochistic way for you to kill your darlings on the page. It’s good for your work. It helps you separate the crap from the gold. It helps you catch accidental mistakes and things you repeat without knowing it, especially if you’re a novelist. Editing should also be something that happens dozens of times before one even considers publishing. Not only do I look over my work, I pass it off to relatives and friends and then to a professional. Your eyes see what you wanted to write, and don’t always see what’s there. You have to edit until the very sight of your manuscript makes you want to puke. It’s despicable, but necessary.

Honestly, I could go on and on about how much I loathe these novels, but at the very least, they have given us some of the funniest dramatic readings of all time. Here’s to you, 50 Shades of Grey. You make us all look bad, but at least you suck in style. pun intended. 

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Black Parade goes global

Blimey! Is that my novel on Amazon's UK listings? Bloody hell!

...I'm just kidding, British people, please don't hurt me.

In all seriousness, I would appreciate any international support. Buy, share, tweet, anything of the sort to help get the word out. I need to put bread (and Nutella) on the table.

I'll also post when I see the book pop up on other international websites so keep your eyes peeled.


Thursday, August 29, 2013

Sunday, August 25, 2013

On Bat-Affleck


It's been, what? Two or three days since the announcement that Ben Affleck is going to play Batman in the upcoming Batman vs. Superman (World's Finest, to the comic book readers) movie allegedly coming in 2015. I'm going to break my usual form and give my personal take on the manner, considering the fact that I've been a fan of Batman since I was about six years old and I have personally modeled myself after him.

I'm livid.

Beyond livid, if we're being honest.

However, I've had enough time to calm down and rationally explain why I believe Ben Affleck is a horrible choice for the Caped Crusader.

First off, I mean no disrespect to him or any of his fans. If you're excited about it, hooray for you. In fact, I don't even think Affleck is that bad an actor. I think he's alright.

But here's the thing: I don't think they chose Affleck because he'd be a good Batman. DC/Warner Bros announced at San Diego Comic Con that the World's Finest movie would be out in 2015. That was last month. So, think about it: they announced the release of a movie almost exactly two years before it would come out...and it's not even in pre-production. Hell, I don't even recall hearing the rumor of there being a script yet. All they had at the time was Zack Snyder and Henry Cavill. Then, at the press release for Bat-Affleck's reveal, they claimed production would start in 2014. That means they are attempting to make a high budget superhero film in less than the standard two years it takes to make a summer blockbuster.

It is my personal opinion that DC/WB panicked. Just...flat out panicked because they're so focused on making money and "competing" with The Avengers/Marvel that they made a hasty, stupid decision. I'm in the geek circuit. I did not hear anything about auditions for the new Batman. NOTHING. I don't even think they bothered looking. They just put the word out and the first big star to say yes (notably, AFTER Christian Bale said no) is who they chose.

This infuriates me to my absolute core.

What DC/WB doesn't seem to understand is two things: (1) why the Avengers is so profitable and (2) that the DC fanboys and fangirls don't want a World's Finest movie if it's rushed and slapped together.

The Avengers became the third highest grossing domestic film in the United States for dozens of reasons--great casting, great directing, a fantastic script, gorgeous effects, and a general sense of fun and camaraderie between the actors, production team, and the fans. But here's the main reason: Marvel actually seems to give a crap about the fans. They listen. They took their time and they picked the actors who fit the characters, and who would do the characters we love justice. Do you know why they could afford to do this? Well, that's part two. Marvel knows that we will wait for it. Marvel understands that fans WANT to see the Avengers represented as awesomely as they appear in the comics, and that they don't need to slap together a title and some actors and shove it out on the silver screen just to make money. Marvel knows that if they make a quality film, we WILL go see it. So they made one. They got one of the best writers/directors around and they did the damn thing, and they didn't care what DC decided to do in retaliation.

Whereas DC sat with its thumb up its ass, snootily believing that the Batman franchise would carry them through the next decade. The Nolan Batman trilogy was nothing short of brilliant, but guess what? That's the only good thing on DC's recent hero track record, until Man of Steel came along. They seemed to not realize this fact until Iron Man 3 came out and kicked the 2013 box office in the face with a big smile. So they panicked and they said to themselves, "Oh my gosh, guys, if we don't do something quick, Avengers II is going to win 2015 and since we literally have not even tried to make films for any other members of the Justice League, we'd better do something about it! Uh, yes, we're totally going to make a Batman/Superman movie a mere three years after the Nolan film! No need to actually take our time like we did with Henry Cavill and narrow down our choices so that we pick someone who looks, sounds like, and can embody one of the greatest comic book heroes of all time. Just slap a mask on anyone with a square chin and we'll be golden!"

I mean it. It is 2013. We have no Flash, no Wonder Woman, no Hawkman, no Martian Manhunter, no Aquaman, no Green Arrow, no Black Canary, and Green Lantern's been in the freaking Phantom Zone because everyone hated the movie so much that they can't decide if that universe even exists anymore. There was no attempt in the Man of Steel movie to create any sense of continuity. Why? Because DC doesn't have faith in its own damn work, and it has even less faith in us fans. That is unacceptable. They believe in the "wait and see" approach, and that is what is killing their brand and their profits. They waited to see how all of the Avengers' solo films would do, and then they waited to see how the Avengers would do, and then they waited to see the response to the Avengers II plot and character reveals, and now all of the sudden they want to act because they want their piece of the pie. No. That is not how you should be treating a franchise and characters that have been beloved since the 1930's.

You hire people who are right for the job. You read the damn comics. You talk to the fans. You listen to the criticism that you have received from your previous films. You sit down and you do your damn homework and you make a great film. It's that damned simple. If you do all of that, THEN you get to make a billion dollars globally. I'm not saying DC needs to copy Marvel's exact methods. They need to understand what Marvel is doing correctly and emulate that if they want any of the other heroes aside from Batman to make money and do well.

Having said all of that, I'll now address my problem with Ben Affleck.

He's not Batman.

Just...he's really not.

Now, this isn't to say all the men who have played Batman in the past via the silver screen have been Batman. However, each of them brought some aspect of Bruce Wayne to the table that you can at least argue is true to the character. For instance, Michael Keaton brought the intensity to Batman, but he was a pretty lousy Bruce. Val Kilmer brought the quiet intelligence and tortured soul of Bruce, but he was a lousy Batman. George Clooney brought the playboy aspect, but he sucked as both Bruce and Batman. Christian Bale perfected Bruce Wayne and played an excellent Batman, but he did miss a few beats here and there with his voice problems.

What in the hell is Ben Affleck going to bring to the table?

That's what made me so angry when I heard the news. I've watched some Affleck films. The guy is a good comedic actor and a decent dramatic actor. But he looks and sounds nothing like any incarnation of Bruce Wayne that I can even try to picture in my head. I'm not talking about physicality alone. I'm talking about presence. Ben Affleck could walk up to me in my room right now and wrap his hands around my neck and threaten me, and honestly? I really don't think I'd be all that intimidated. It's not just the buttchin and the big blue eyes. The way he walks, the way he carries himself, the way I've seen him act in other roles, is why I'm against him as Batman. I simply cannot see him putting on the mask and actually scaring superstitious cowardly lots of criminals.

It is here that I have to bring up a tiring discussion that will no doubt make some fanboys hate me: Daredevil.

I hated that movie.

Granted, not with a passion. More like disdain. I just thought it was badly written, poorly shot, dreadfully cast (with the exception of Michael Clarke Duncan as Kingpin, rest in peace, sir), and all around awful. And I know all the little fanboys and girls insist, "Watch the director's cut! It's much better!" but guess what? They didn't release that version in the theater. You can't undo that. You can't fix all your mistakes after the movie screwed a dead horse. If they wanted to make a better movie, they'd have released a better movie. And honestly, I've never seen the director's cut, but I sincerely doubt it fixed the nine billion problems with that movie anyway. It was just not well done.

My point is that Daredevil is also supposed to be an intimidating comic book hero. He's not as dark as Batman, but he's intense and driven. And I saw Ben Affleck trying to pull that off and he failed miserably. I understand that he was still young in his career, but I truly don't believe that he has the presence to be Batman.

I don't believe that I can see him with his hair slicked back wearing a million dollar suit running a billion dollar corporation. I don't believe that I can see him training with Ra's al Ghul, or Lady Shiva, or Zatara. I don't believe that I can see him out-thinking the Riddler, or flirting with Catwoman, or battling the Joker to save someone's life. I. DON'T. BELIEVE. IT. It's not because he's a bad actor. He's not. It's the character that doesn't fit.

Bruce Wayne is a dichotomy of concepts. He's brooding and hurting, but he's also got this wondrous sly sense of humor. He's constantly insisting that his mission is solo, but he naturally attracts people to him because he has a noble heart and despite all the darkness in him, he loves people. He is a wide spectrum of emotions and beliefs and ideas. He's got a depth to him that has kept him as one of the most popular heroes since his creation in 1939.

And all of that I am supposed to see in the star of Gigli?


I cannot accept that.

So, there you have it. If that makes me a close-minded, awful person, then so be it. I'm keeping my $10.50 in my pocket where it belongs. I hope the movie doesn't suck. I hope that people who want to see Bat-Affleck enjoy it.

I will just not be one of them.


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Little Lost Babou

So I rescued a little orange kitten today.

My friend and I wanted to hit the park because we didn't want to go to the movies or dinner because that's what we always do, so we headed to this place called Rainbow Springs. We were supposed to go tubing, but as bad luck would have it, the moment we got there, a thunderstorm brewed. We decided to try swimming instead so we stayed in the car and waited out the storm for about half an hour. The rain slowed down and we got out and started walking towards where we thought the springs were.

Along the path, we both heard this peculiar mewling from the bushes. I stooped and looked under a bush and found a tiny kitten no more than a month or two old hiding under a leaf. I knelt and beckoned him and he came right over to me without any hesitation, which led me to believe that he might have been abandoned, or got separated from his mother. Most feral/stray cats and kittens aren't that friendly, so I figured we could take him to a shelter and he'd get adopted quickly. After all, he didn't have any visible injuries or diseases (trust me, I took enough classes as pre-vet to know) and so we took him back up the path to the car. We then get in the car and Google the nearest shelter.

We get to the shelter. We read the sign out front. It says they are at capacity and cannot shelter any more cats or kittens. But thankfully, a girl inside hands us a flyer to another shelter. We call this shelter. They close at 5:30pm. It is 5:15pm at the time of the phone call and the shelter is over ten miles away. We beg the lady to please stay open and haul ass across town. I call the shelter a SECOND time and tell them we are up the street and not to lock us out because there is no other shelter in the entire city that is open and neither of us have the experience to take care of a month old kitten. We get there at 5:35pm.

The gate is closed.

The phone goes straight to voicemail.

And we are left sitting in a car in the rain with a little kitten with no home.

Why am I writing about this at two am? Well, this seemingly wretched experience reminded me of why I'm an author in the first place.

I know a lot of people who would have heard the kitten and simply kept walking. Maybe they'd coo, "Aw, poor thing. I hope his Mama finds him." There's nothing wrong with that. It would have saved an entire two hours of hair-tearing frustration as my friend and I then had to drive to a Publix, buy a bottle and baby formula for the kitten who was mewling his head off to be fed, and then call around our friends to find someone to take him. I would have done it myself if I lived alone, but I don't.

However, I believe that it is my job to help those who can't help themselves, even in a matter as small as a stray kitten. Actually, saving a stray animal was on my bucket list and while this afternoon was by far one of the most frustrating days of my life, I'm still glad I did it. Call me pretentious, but it reminds me of a quote from Castle when Rick told Beckett, "You're the one who honors the victims." I think that because I am just a skinny, awkward, nerdy girl without that many accomplishments, I should still do good wherever I can. I don't expect to be rewarded. I don't expect to be praised, hell, I don't deserve it. But I think being a writer means doing the right thing both on the pages and outside of them. I would never have gotten to sleep tonight if I had left that kitten--we dubbed him "Babou" after the ocelot from Archer because he was a fox-eared asshole, cute though he was--in the rain by himself, crying for his mother. There isn't much I can do in this life that will make a difference. I'll probably live an ordinary life. I'll probably die an ordinary death. But it's moments like the ones with Babou that remind me of why I write stories. Conflict isn't always on a grand scale. Sometimes life is made of tiny battles with few rewards, and some that don't seem substantial.

But it's two in the morning and I'm smiling because one little kitten is safe inside and warm and well-fed, and it happened because my friend and I were at the wrong place at the wrong time.

If that's not good writing, what is?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Things Avatar: The Last Airbender Taught Me About Writing

Have you seen this show? If you have, high-five. If you haven’t, hold up your left hand, extend your first finger, and jab yourself in the eye. Hard. After you see the eye doctor and he okays your vision, then go out and buy the DVDs. It’s that good.

And in honor of the announcement that its sequel, The Legend of Korra, is returning to the air September 13, 2013 at 7:00pm EST (so what if I wrote it on the calendar, DON’T JUDGE ME), I will spend a minute talking about all the wondrous things this delightful animated show has taught me.

1.      Underage characters are just as interesting as adult characters. Anyone with experience in reading Young Adult fiction, or who frequently watches cartoons/anime "intended" for children, has heard this tired, common complaint. Unfortunately, a lot of folks think that just because a novel/short story/cartoon/anime stars a child, it won’t be as good as something with a teenager or adult protagonist. This is such pure bologna that it should be represented by Oscar Meyer. Children are interesting. They are engrossing. They are capable of incredible things, whether they are good or bad. Avatar: TLA knew this right out of the gate. It introduced us to one of the most amazing spread of characters in all of animated history. Every kid had their own personality, their own agenda, their own beliefs, and their own dreams/goals. It is simply staggering to know that there are seven main young characters (and that’s just the ones central to the plot: Aang, Katara, Sokka, Toph, Zuko, Suki, and Azula) and every single one of them develops and changes over the course of three seasons. Age only determines the way certain things unfold within a story. It often does not limit the spectrum or scope of things that happen. These kids still deal with all the horrible parts of life that adults face at one time or another: violence, rage, hatred, racism, sex, fear, faith, and that’s just for starters. The writers (affectionately called “Bryke” for Brian Konietzko and Martin Dante DiMartino, because both their names are a mouthful) did not treat their audience like drooling infants. They wrote the Gaang the way all shows should hope to—with balance, maturity, and respect.

2.      ‘The Chosen One’ trope is not always a cliché. Everyone knows this trope: the “one” who is prophesized to end a war or battle of some sort. It’s been around since the Bible days—Jesus, Luke Skywalker (or Anakin, if you decide to believe that the Star Wars prequels exist), Neo, Harry Potter, and John Connor are just the ones I can rattle off the top of my head. Sometimes it can really wear on the nerves when one character’s actions will affect an entire society, or even a world. For instance, while I generally disagree with the massive hate over the Matrix sequels, one of the main reasons they were disliked is because after Neo got all his powers, he stopped being an underdog, and a normal guy in an abnormal world. If not written properly, the Chosen One can destroy a story and make the reader want to throw your book across the room. I hate to point fingers (usually), but the Fallen series by Thomas E. Sniegoski also had this problem: a bland, douchebag character who was “the Chosen One” and yet all he did was selfishly bitch and moan, neglect his duties, and get people in his life murdered. 

However, ATLA was a refreshing change from the tired stereotypes of the Chosen One. First of all, Aang is freakin’ adorable and peppy and cheerful and wide-eyed and goofy. It’s so easy to like the kid. You’d have to actively try to hate him. His idealism is what makes him both strong and weak throughout his journey, especially his struggle to find a way to stop Firelord Ozai without killing him. The show laid bare all of Aang’s inner turmoil and expanded on everything he learned from his friends and his enemies. I think all writers should watch the show and takes notes, especially those who might consider writing a Chosen One character at some point in their careers. 

Another important factor that ATLA got right was to PROVE why Aang was the Chosen One: for his skill, his love of the world and the people in it, and his ability to unite them. That can go haywire quickly. Anakin Skywalker via the Star Wars prequel had this problem in spades. Through all three movies, everyone kept talking about Anakin being the one to “balance” the Force, and yet we’re never shown why. He NEVER shows any great potential, other than the potential to whine incessantly, glower creepily at Padme, and throw temper tantrums that result in murdering lots of people. He had some Jedi skills, but not enough to warrant all that attention. ATLA avoided this and proved that there is a way to do it right.

3.      Don’t be afraid to explore other cultures. Alright, lower your pitchforks. I’m not one of those black writers who believes that white people are the devil. I am, however, realistic about what’s out there in the main media. When it comes to fantasy and science fiction genres, white characters are predominant. Often, it happens because there are just a ton of incredibly talented writers who happen to be white. Still, there is a stigma whispered about that minority characters/writers can’t bring home the bacon, and that’s just not true. ATLA integrated several different cultures—Chinese, Japanese, Hindu, Indian, Eskimo, and that’s the tip of the iceberg, hahaha I made a funny—and still knocked it out of the park without (a) being offensive or (b) compromising great storytelling. This is another aspect I think other writers should make a note of for the future. Culture is what makes the world go ‘round. At the end of the day, all writers end up talking about can boil down to how similar or different their characters are from one another. There are beautiful and hideous things about every culture. We should explore them, and explore them without restraint. A character’s race should never be a deterrent. If it is well written, it can be enjoyed by a person of any background.

4.      Women are awesome. I really don’t need to go on long about this one. ATLA has some of the best female characters of all time, bar none. I mean, Toph. Just…TOPH. If you somehow don’t worship the ground she earth-bends, then there’s always Katara, Suki, Azula, Mai, Ty Lee, Princess Yue, June, Avatar Kyoshi…I could go on for ages. ATLA knew how to write girls, and write them better than a hell of a lot of other shows. Mostly because Bryke knew that girls are the same as boys—they have emotions, thoughts, fears, and desires. There were very few stereotypes to be had and every character had a purpose in the show. That, to me, is one of the greatest things that ATLA accomplished in its run.

Honestly, I could probably go on longer, but I have to stop worshipping at some point because my knees are tired. Seriously, though, if you haven’t checked it out, please do. It’s worth your time, believe me. I’m glad to have grown up with a show that believed that I could handle a great story and didn’t talk down to me. It’s something we should all have, no matter how old we are.


New review for The Black Parade

Got another review, this time from @textandteas. It can be read here.

She's also got a Tumblr and a blog, if you're interested in following her book reviews. She sticks with a short and sweet style, which I quite like.

Happy reading!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Things Bad Movies Taught Me About Writing

So I just watched Jack Reacher last night because my parents claimed it was alright.

It was not.

And that is an understatement.

However, it’s not like this is the first time I’ve seen a hair-tearingly stupid movie. I have also subjected myself to A Good Day to Die Hard and RIPD this year. Yes, yes, I should have known better, but when you’re wrong, you’re dead wrong. Still, every horrible experience I’ve had sitting in a theater has taught me something.

1.      Respect your audience’s time. Specifically, I am referring to pacing a story. Jack Reacher had abysmal pacing. For instance, the first five or six minutes of the film has absolutely no dialogue. I have seen movies where this is effective and sets the mood. In this particular film, it felt pretentious and exhausting. It didn’t enhance the evil nature of the bad guy and it didn’t make the character we were introduced to seem intelligent or quirky. It was just boring and unnecessary. Pacing means that the events of your story glide into each other, whether it’s a romantic scene followed by a violent scene, a violent scene followed by a humorous exchange, an action scene followed by a quiet denouement, or any combination of different sequences. If at any point during your movie, a non-idiotic audience member checks his/her watch, something is deeply wrong. This is not to say that everything should be fast and hectic—that was one of the main pitfalls Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole—but you have to spend time on things that matter and omit things that aren’t relevant to them.
2.      Write good characters and we can pretty much sit through anything. Think about ten of your favorite films off the top of your head. How many of them have premises that are absurd if explained out loud? I know plenty of mine do. However, if you write enjoyable or relatable characters, your audience won’t care that the plot is silly. Perfect example: Clive Owen’s hysterical action flick Shoot ‘Em Up. About 99% of what happened in that movie was physically impossible and ridiculous. Why did I love it? Commitment, man. Clive Owen nailed every single one-liner with his perfect deadpan expression and I adored his character—carrot chewing, cynicism, and all. What’s the reverse of this effect? A great plot with horrible characters. We’ve all seen it before. Hell, I can rattle off examples with ease: My Super Ex-Girlfriend, Push, Jumper, The Last Stand, and the aforementioned RIPD. In my personal opinion, those movies had plots that sounded interesting that were executed horribly. Some of them failed for several reasons, but the common element is unlikable characters. Jack Reacher had this problem as well. There were exactly two types of characters: morons and douchebags. Some were a combination of both. Terrible writing will strangle a great concept in its crib and you’ll be left there weeping. Many writers advise to build a novel, script, or short story from the character outward. I agree completely. We have to like the guy or gal we’re riding piggyback with or nothing will pan out.
3.      Commit. I have an entire laundry list of awful movies that I love with full awareness that they are awful. I am able to freely admit this because 90% of the bad films I enjoy committed to their premise or their characters. For instance, my number one guiltiest pleasure of all time is Hudson Hawk. No, no, don’t close your browser yet! Let me explain. I love Hudson Hawk, if only because everyone—and I mean, everyone—in that silly mess of a film committed to that incomprehensible, ludicrous script of theirs. They just nailed it. No one half-assed any of their scenes and so the movie turned into the beautiful butterfly of horribleness as a result. To me, nothing is worse than being mediocre or half-hearted. I’ve read plenty of books in time and the ones that frustrate me the most are the ones that don’t commit to an idea. I try not to name examples, but the main offender on my list is 'City of Bones'. Great concept, great conflict, great world building, but one truly half-assed main character. I just couldn’t get into it even though I liked Jace and Simon and the other Shadow Hunters just fine. Clary was a loaf of Wal-mart brand bread to me—bland, dry, and forgettable. This is not to say the books are bad. Not in the least. I actually think the writing is quite good and I recommend them with no remorse, but that series is something I can never get into because I feel like the author didn’t commit to making Clary a distinct protagonist. I believe this is possibly the most important part of the writing process—setting the main character apart from her supporting cast and from characters outside of the novel itself. I am the first person to slam the 'Twilight' novels, but at least Bella Swan was her own person. True, she was a perfectly repugnant person, but she was still an individual and no one can really replicate her. (Though E.L. James tried her damnedest.)
4.      Weak villains will kill your story. Not physically weak villains, mind you. Villains who aren’t threatening are also something that makes me want to kick puppies. Jack Reacher was definitely guilty of this. Mr. Potato Head—sorry, Jai Courtney—was kind of intimidating if only for being a cold-blooded sniper, but his “boss” was the least scary villain I’ve seen in ages. Oh, gee, he has one blind eye and no fingers! Bring me my brown pants! Building up a good villain is one of the most important parts to a story because otherwise, your protagonist—no matter how charming and funny and cool—will have no dragon to slay. Winning an unwinnable war is what makes someone a hero, whether that war is literal or not. Creating a slimy, obsequious villain is essential to draw a line in the sand and make the stakes as real as they can ever get. Want an example of what happens when you don't do that? The Happening. ‘Nuff said.

Luckily, 2013 is not over yet and so I have plenty more good movies to wash the bad taste out of my mouth. Stay tuned, as I might revisit this concept since awful films have much, much more to offer as examples of what not to do as a writer.


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Recent book review for The Black Parade

My lovely friend Margaret read and reviewed my book.

You should totally check it out. Some nuanced, thoughtful criticism from a great up-and-coming writer.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Things Christopher Nolan Taught Me About Writing

What can I say? I’ve been a fan of Batman since I was barely out of diapers, and so of course I have mad respect for the brilliant Christopher Nolan. And yesterday was his birthday, so the post is totally valid.

Now, calm down, I’m not going to spend this entire post worshipping the ground he floats over. I think he’s a great writer/director, but I don’t mean to put him on a pedestal. Today, I’m going to focus on his methods and their effects. Pull on your capes and cowls and join me, won’t you?

1.      Respect your characters. This, above all, is what I think what made the Nolan Batman films (and hell, The Prestige and Inception, while we’re talking about the subject) so successful. It sounds rudimentary and obvious, but unfortunately in today’s world, this concept is not mandatory. Want proof? Three little words: X-Men Origins Wolverine. Did that send chills up your spine? It should have. If you do not respect your characters, you get things like the Merc with the Mouth getting his mouth sewn shut, one of the most bad ass characters of all time turned into a whiny love-struck kitten, adamantium bullets that cause frickin’ amnesia, and an entire sea of pissed off comic book fans who swear off of your movies for life. Nolan taught me to take my time, spread open a character, and examine them from top to bottom with a creepy Dr. Zoidberg kind of patience. With each of the three Batman films, Nolan paid attention to the various traits that made up Bruce Wayne, Alfred J. Pennyworth, and an assortment of other characters from the Batman comics. He incorporated different versions of the characters and streamlined them into the incarnations we watched on screen. If a writer does their homework and creates a three-dimensional character, people—in their key demographic and sometimes beyond it—will show up. Guaranteed.
2.      The devil’s in the details. An old phrase, but a good ‘un. Nolan’s scripts have always been filled to the brim with details. Hell, that’s why he waited ten years before deciding to film Inception. The story is that he kept it in a drawer for years and chipped away at it until he finally came out with something he liked and thought would work. Details help fill in the spaces that a writer might not notice are there. It can be dialogue, it can be setting, it can be backstory, anything. It can also be easy to pack in too many and lose focus, but that is something I learned as I edited my first novel. Details and editing seem to be natural enemies, but this isn’t always the case. For instance, think of all the little things in The Prestige that added up over time. The story left us tiny clues that eventually congealed with the tremendous reveal at the end of the film. It was still a lengthy running time, but the film never felt long because the details kept us hanging on the edge of our seats. Details should help the reader invest, keep them interested, and move the story along.
3.      Realism is a double-edged sword. Some fiction excels because it has the ability to take a ludicrous concept and make us believe it. This idea is one of the reasons why the Nolan Batman films broke barriers. While Tim Burton’s version was certainly entertaining, it existed in its own bizarre plane of existence. And don’t get me started on Joel Schumacher’s versions. (Mind you, I enjoyed Batman Forever for all its cheesiness, but I’m not disillusioned that it’s not really Batman. And Batman & Robin is In Name Only.) Nolan was the first to take the hero and apply him to modern times—our cinematography, our technology, and our current social and ethic standards. It worked. It flourished. It made us believe that it could happen. However, this concept cannot always be applied to every hero. It’s here that I put on my critic hat. I thought Man of Steel was pretty good, but one of its biggest flaws was that they took the realism concept too far. Actually, one of my friends put it into perspective perfectly. Heard of ItsJustSomeRandomGuy? (Insert shameless Name Drop Here) His biggest criticism of the film was that it wasn’t fun. I agree. Man of Steel was a lot of things, but I never got the sense of fun that I feel is absolutely essential to the character of Clark Kent. Superman is meant to inspire. He’s someone to look up to. The realism in MoS was an admirable attempt, but it took away the wonder that Superman should instill in the audience. He was much more cynical and harder edged than I felt he should have been. There is a reason they call him the Big Blue Boy Scout. I didn’t want to give him a merit badge by the end of the movie, and that’s a crying shame. So, when writing, realism should be a guiding light, but not the main focus. Many novelists can write realistic characters, plots, and stories, but Nolan’s work has taught me that it doesn’t always have to be that way. Lighten up. Fiction operates under the Willing Suspension of Disbelief. We can accept a lot under that creed—even that a man can fly.
4.      If you truly love your work, someone else will love it too. Now, this is subjective. Loving your work and vanity projects are NOT the same thing. For instance, most people agree that Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch is a vanity project. Loving your work means investing fully into everything in it—cinematography, script, casting the actors, dialogue, soundtrack, all of it. It is for this reason that Inception was such a big hit. It took a concept that might be a bit hard for the Average Joe to accept and turned into a terrific story that also made quite a good bit of cash. Nolan spoke in interviews and commentary how he sat on the project for so long, and that is a labor of love. We have all seen movies and read books that were rushed. It steals a lot from a story if you don’t take the time to sweat, cry, and gnash your teeth over it like a misbehaving toddler. I believe that if someone truly pours passion and devotion into their writing, someone else will respond with the same amount of passion and devotion. It may not happen immediately, it may not be across the board, but love of writing cultivates love of reading.

So thanks, Mr. Nolan, for your tireless work. We look forward to seeing more of it.


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

New Review for The Black Parade

The lovely and talented @Tali_Adina, who runs this lovely blog here, just posted a review of my novel, The Black Parade. I'd be oh-so gracious if you would take a look.

The Black Parade Review

In case you didn't know, Tali's the bee's knees. Follow her on Twitter and Tumblr. *Bill Compton voice* AS YOUR MAKER, I COMMAND YOU.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Things Supernatural Taught Me About Writing

If you’ve never seen Supernatural, shame on you. Go sit in the corner and think about what you’ve done. Now.

If you have seen Supernatural, then you are one tough son of a gun. Supernatural is known for a lot of things—creative monsters, the world’s hottest main cast, hilarious dialogue, unapologetic Fourth Wall breaking—but the reason it was recommended to me by my writing sensei was because it had a lot to teach me about writing. Let’s get started, shall we?

1.      People love to be emotionally gut-punched. And boy, Supernatural does NOT pull its punches. It introduces you to an entire rainbow of interesting, three-dimensional characters, makes you care about them, makes you bond with them, and then snatches them right out of your hands like a bully grabbing a kid’s lunch money. The relationship between Sam and Dean is Emmy-worthy because there are so many layers to the boys’ personalities. They are constantly bickering, constantly arguing, constantly not trusting each other, and yet they will die for one another at the drop of a hat. Several times, mind you. Supernatural is addictive because it barges its way into the watchers’ hearts and then proceeds to detonate like an atom bomb. This is something that all writers should strive to do. Even if your main character is an unrepentant a-hole of epic proportions, the readers should still find themselves attached to them and want to know what happens to them down the road.
2.      You cannot please everyone. Supernatural is also infamous for its loyal but rabid fanbase. Half of said fanbase is hilarious, thoughtful, and creative. The other half is full of angry, petty, self-righteous jerks. The Supernatural writers have done a lot of things over the course of the show’s eight seasons to appease the fanbase, but it is still impossible to make all of them happy. There are several examples of the writers trying to keep their fans happy. It’s no secret that the fanbase and the writers favor Dean over Sam after season five. He gets the better storylines, the better girlfriends, the funnier lines of dialogue, and is usually characterized as being “right” when the two of them are having an argument. He is also inexplicably popular because majority of the fanbase insists that he’s madly in love with Castiel. The writers have been playing to this angle ever since season six, and while the fans clearly enjoy the Dean-heavy emphasis, they still complain unrepentantly about Dean/Castiel (dubbed “Destiel”) not being “canon.” If anything, this has taught me that no matter what I write, someone will have a problem with it. Even if I acknowledge things that the readers want to see, I will still piss someone off. The key is to find balance. Find a way to write that makes both me and the readers happy. It is hard to accomplish, but many novels and shows have proven it is possible.
3.      Variety is the spice of life. Supernatural gained its popularity largely through the first four seasons. Its premise captured the interest of the audience because it adopted the idea that almost all myths, legends, and monsters exist within the same universe. The writers did their homework and dug up literally dozens of types of mythical predators and brought them into the real world with fantastic results. This is something I have tried to take to heart with my own writing in terms of the setting, the imminent threat, and the villain of my stories. No one wants to read the same novel with a different name. Even if it’s in the same series, the plot and storyline should move, evolve, and develop over time.
4.      Know when to quit while you’re ahead. Okay, this is going to be controversial so let me just get it out of the way. I personally think Supernatural should have ended a couple seasons ago. God knows I love Jensen Ackles, Jared Padalecki, Jim Beaver, Misha Collins, Mark Sheppard and company, but in my opinion, the last two seasons have been rather poorly done, particularly season eight. I feel this way because Supernatural has covered so many stories, so many monsters, and so many conflicts between the brothers that they have honestly run out of ideas. For instance, season eight had a lot of recycled plotlines and moments between the brothers, and it also ended up casting them in an unflattering light. Sam not looking for Dean because he wanted a boring girlfriend and a dog was absolutely idiotic writing and completely out of character. They didn’t even attempt to justify his actions. He just…didn’t look for him. The seasons prior showed Sam’s desire to eventually quit the life of a hunter, but this season made him look like a total jackass. It worked in the other seasons because Sam knew Dean could take care of himself. With Dean in Purgatory, Sam knew he’d be in constant danger and yet he still didn’t do anything about it with no true explanation as to why. Then when Dean found out, he lorded it over Sam and acted as if Sam hasn’t saved his life a hundred times and died for him at least twice. To make matters worse, he starts treating the generic vampire Benny like his actual brother because he’s “never disappointed him” and basically acts like a stuck up, self-righteous douchebag for most of the season. Granted, all of this is subjective and many people will disagree with me, but the concept is what has taught me a lesson. It has made me examine my writing and decide if certain stories are going to be one off, have a sequel, or have the potential to become an entire series. One should know ahead of time if they have the fuel to go the distance of Alex Cross, Harry Dresden, or Sherlock Holmes before they accidentally stall out and end up stranded.  
5.      Don’t fear the fairer sex. There are a bunch of ladies in Supernatural whom I completely adore—Pamela, Cassie, Meg, Ellen, the list goes on and on. Yet, have you noticed something? The show has been on for eight freaking seasons and there is no female main cast member. That chaps my Bat-briefs. I do not understand why Supernatural is so unwilling to have a female main character who is a regular. Granted, it took them four seasons just to add Misha Collins as a main cast member (seriously, what the hell) but I don’t understand. They also have a bad habit of mistreating all recurring female characters by killing them off just to make the Winchesters feel bad, but it still makes the writers seem like they don’t quite care for the fairer sex even though they clearly can write them competently. Now, my current theory is that the fanbase has a hand in the lack of ladies sticking around. As I mentioned before, the Destiel fangirls will cry bloody murder on any of Dean’s love interests but this female lead wouldn’t need to be a love interest. She could just be another hunter, or if they were smart, they’d make her a monster with a heart of gold who wants to help them. I actually would have liked Meg to join the main cast because she is so entertaining and she was starting to turn a corner before season eight ruined everything. I keep this in mind when I write. The main character of The BlackParade tends to have a lot of male counterparts because the story is loosely based off of Paradise Lost, but I still make sure to find time for other ladies in her life. The first novel is still male centric, but the second and third ones depart from that. It can be hard sometimes, but I think it’s important for every writer to portray both genders equally and with all three dimensions intact.

Overall, I’m actually happy my writing sensei talked me into partaking in Supernatural. Even though I have problems with the current seasons, it has definitely taught me a lot of do’s and don’ts, and I believe I am more rounded writer thanks to them. Here’s to you, Winchesters.


Friday, July 26, 2013

Things Batman Taught Me About Writing

I know what you’re thinking.

“What does a 6’2’’ billionaire playboy who dresses up as a winged rat to fight hoodlums have in common with the prestigious institution known as writing?”

Well, if you’ll calm your mammary glands for an instant, I’ll explain. You see, I’ve been writing my entire life. If I have learned one thing, it is this—writing comes from inspiration. No one ever said that inspiration is conventional. So ignore what your mother told you about talking to strangers and listen to me for a moment while I attempt to explain how Bruce Wayne may be one of the best teachers in the writing field to date.

1.      Darkness is multifaceted and interesting. Let me clarify—I do not believe that all heroes and heroines must be dark. Every protagonist does not need to be a tortured soul with loads of self-hatred and PTSD. Hell, some of the best heroes out there thrive because of their optimism. Peter Parker, a whole sluice of Disney characters, Wally West, a good chunk of the Teen Titans, etc. However, there is a reason why Christopher Nolan’s ‘The Dark Knight’ is the fourth highest grossing film of all time in the states. People want to see the ugly part of the soul. They crave it. All of the horrific things that have happened to Bruce from birth to his current state in the movies, comic books, and animated world are what make him so fascinating. He walks the line between good and evil every single night he patrols. For years, writers and readers have questioned whether Batman will ever become that which he fights against and we are compelled to follow his story because he continues not to give in.
2.      It is possible to relate to unrelatable characters. I know, that sounds like a drunken 3AM tweet, but let me elaborate. Most likely, you were drawn to this article because of its absurd title. I mean, how the hell can we relate to a highly successful crime-fighter with gadgets and cool cars and hot women coming out the wazoo? Well, Captain Cynical, I’ll tell you how. Batman is not so different from you and me. As Batman is compelled to protect the innocent, so are we writers compelled to slam our fingertips against stupid plastic keys and somehow make stories come out. We are unable to stop it. For example, Batman has tried to quit several times in the comic books and even in the animated world (See: ‘Batman: Mask of the Phantasm’ and ‘Batman Beyond.’) Writers know what that’s like. To stare into the empty abyss of a Word document, throw up your hands, and watch six hours worth of Supernatural after swearing to never write again. Then eight hours later, we’re sitting in front of the same document, cursing profusely and writing anyway. Makes sense now, doesn’t it?
3.      The villains are just as important as the main character. Batman is a mainstay in our culture not only because he’s a bad ass but because he (arguably) has the most memorable villains of any comic book character. Without going to Wikipedia, name as many Batman bad guys as you can. I’ll wait. I bet you a quarter you were able to name at least five of them. (And cough up that money, man, I’ve got bills.) Why does that matter? Because the villains define the hero. No one wants a boring villain with nothing to offer our frothing imaginations. Each villain represents some part of Batman, whether he realizes it or not. For example, Batman represents justice so the Joker represents chaos, as ‘The Dark Knight’ so eloquently put it. Each of these bad boy and girls tempt Batman to break his no kill rule when he faces them and he becomes a better man each time he does not give in. It is the same with heroes in any given story. Compelling writing comes from an author digging deep and finding the one insecurity that could destroy the protagonist and then handing it to the villain in a gift basket. Preferably with wine and cheese.

In conclusion, Batman may have more to offer you than a great action flick or epic page-turner, as long as you’re willing to keep your mind open.

(And seriously, gimme that quarter.) 


Thursday, July 25, 2013

To the Starving Artists

To you, the one sitting in front of the keyboard. The one squinting at your bright-ass screen at three o'clock in the morning, wondering if you used the word 'perfunctory' in the right context. The one meticulously combing through your prose with your fingertip pressed against the somewhat smudged screen. The one determined to force another chapter out of your aching skull before you can finally drop to the pillow and go to sleep because your day job wants you there early the next morning. The one dragging yourself to something you're good at, something you've probably always been good at, but isn't your one true love like writing is, but you do it anyway because it pays the bills. The one who listens to conversations not because you want to be nosy, but because it might be something useful or interesting for your writing.

To you, the one searching desperately for a writing community, but your town is too small to have one. The one scrolling through Google trying to find a forum with other writers because you're hungry for people talking and laughing and moaning about the same writer habits that you have. The one fretting over the fact that no one's replied to your comment and you worry that you're annoying everyone and you'll never connect with them.

To you, the one who is doing well enough but not quite where you wanted to be with your writing. The one desperately hoping that you're actually good at telling a story and it's not just your friends and family humoring you. The one who quietly does the research, compiles lists and facts, calls people to ask them weird questions, and tries to compact it all into the story in a way that makes sense. The one scouring every inch of Tvtropes and Tumblr to make sure you're not accidentally employing a cliche that will make future readers hate you. The one who diligently makes mental notes of things you love in films you watch, books you read, comics and graphic novels you flip through, and television shows you obsess over, and also marks the things you hate that they do.

To you, the one who secretly daydreams about being interviewed on the Colbert Report even though your book is fiction and would probably have nothing to do with political satire. The one sitting in the middle row at a comic book or anime convention wishing it were you up there with hundreds, or hell even dozens, of adoring fans all dying to hear any tiny anecdote of your life. The one sighing wistfully as you read adorable behind the scenes stories about your favorite actors, or watch their blooper reels, and praying that someday your book will help you climb out of your shell and become someone other people can root for.

To you, the one who finally makes it to the mountaintop, looks down at the world below you, and openly admits that you're scared shitless. The one who bites your lip as you stare miserably at your rank on Amazon. The one who lays in bed listening to Aqualung and Dashboard Confessional and Death Cab for Cutie and worrying you'll never amount to anything. The one who picks through your various social media personas and ponders why you seem unable to get through to anyone, or at least it seems that way, the way that others do. The one who is terrified of being mediocre, or worse, so terrible that you are instantly wiped from the memories of anyone who knew you because your work isn't that good, it's just okay, and okay only cuts it when it's mass-produced by a corporation or the government. The one who sweats and bleeds writing and loves it to your core like a family member and couldn't stop even if you were banned from the entire Internet itself.


You are not alone.

Your dreams are not empty. Your words are not poison. You are something special. Maybe you're not Shakespeare or Stephen King or Dean Koontz but you are doing something worthwhile if only because you give a damn about your writing. Even if it doesn't soar off the bookshelves, even if you never crack the Amazon 100 Bestsellers, even if you get no reviews, no ratings, no nothing, you are still worth something. You are an author. You tell stories. You breathe legends. You have power beyond measure, even if it's only in your mind and your Word document.

To you, starving artists.

You deserve better than what you settle for. Don't give up. The world will always need stories.

Tell them.

And tell them without permission, reluctance, or restraint.