5 Things to Consider Before You NaNo

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You all probably know what NaNoWriMo is if you’ve been following my blog for a while. It’s National Novel Writing Month—30 days, 50,000 words. It’s tough, it’s fun, it’s my favorite month of the year (November), and I recommend the experience to every writer out there. But NaNo is not for the lighthearted! So here are some thoughts from a veteran, for anyone thinking of trying it out this year.
1. Before you start writing, figure out what it is that you want to get out of NaNo
. Content generation? A writing community? The introspective aspect of writing, where you just put words on a page day after day, more like journaling? I highly suggest that you figure out what you want from the experience before you actually start working. NaNo is difficult; there’s no denying that. It’s really easy to get discouraged if you don’t meet a word count one day, or if you hit a plot wall. So, it’s important to consider options like Camp NaNo, or Youth NaNo, both of which allow you to adjust your own word count through the month, instead of holding you to the 50K.

I find that the most important aspect of NaNo is the constant immersion in the story—I have to be in my characters’ heads every day, so I never get lost writing my way in and out of their points of view. Of course, other aspects are still important—write-ins are basically my favorite events ever, and I love having the ability to discuss writer-y things with other people who are in a similar place to where I am. My friends and I will sometimes just sit in a circle, typing furiously, and only talking when someone hits a plot hole, or runs into an inspiration wall, at which point we all brainstorm until we have collectively brainstormed some decent ideas.

2. Know your writing comforts. Food, music… you name it. For me, the food is mostly hot beverages, particularly coffee (hot coffeeand black, or iced with almond milk), or hot tea (I typically alternate between Earl Grey, peppermint, and green with jasmine, depending on how much I need the caffeine). I even have a travel mug that has the official NaNoWriMo seal on it, plus a Faulkner quote and “Slay 50K” written on it. Music, in the past, has been many instrumental playlists, but this year… well, I’ve been listening to the Hamilton soundtrack continuously for two months at this point, and I have no reason to believe that that’s going to stop, because I’m still completely obsessed (Besides, “Hamilton wrote the OTHER 51!” has become my inspiration to keep going whenever I consider quitting anything). I jot down notes in physical notebooks (my current one is adorable and slightly smaller than my hand, and I love it), using fountain pens, so I try to have those on hand as well.

3. Connected to writing comforts, how about the writing necessities? The comforts are the things that it’s nice to have around. The necessities are the bare essentials. For me, it’s the hot beverage and the laptop. And as for my environment… I’m a high school student on the go. I carry a laptop with me pretty much everywhere, and as long as I’m sitting still, I can write. It’s one of my magical talents—I can focus on one thing to the absolute exclusion of everything else. Once I’m reading or writing, nothing can break that focus, unless there is a physical intrusion between my face/hands and the page/screen. So, I don’t need a particular space for writing. But I do try really hard to avoid writing while I’m in my bed: it’s very easy to forget to sleep during NaNo, and I try to keep my bed a designated place for rest, and not work. And sleep. Sleep is a necessity. It’s not tangible, like the rest of this list, but I cannot reiterate its importance enough.

4. Figure out your inspiration. Everyone needs it. Figure out what yours is—for me, it’s mostly a million different quotes about creativity, and my 365/365 goal (read a book per day in2015) has been a huge contributor to my writing. For you, it might be a sport. What’s most important is that you love it, and it’s enough to keep you writing. My two ‘quotes to live by’ for NaNo tend to be “If a story is in you, it has to come out,” from Faulkner, and also “Sometimes, you wake up. Sometimes, the fall kills you. And sometimes, when you fall, you fly,” from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. The second quote might seem really random, but it reminds me that I need to let my imagination loose—as Natalie Goldberg would say, I am free to write the worst junk in America! The important thing is that I am writing, and I just have to rememberthat there is a chance that buried somewhere underneath the mire and silt is something really good, which I can work with later to make it even better. I also have added in a new quote, to which I alluded earlier—“Hamilton wrote the other 51!” I’m obsessed with Hamilton. Not denying it. Just accepting it and living with it happily. And if A.Ham could write 51, I can write 50K.

YPL

5. Most importantly, don’t be too hard on yourself. Just enjoy it. There’s a lot to love about NaNo. I don’t know where my writing would be without it—Touchstones, my published novel, started out as a NaNoWriMo project my freshman year of high school. Light of the Oceans, the novel I am currently editing, was written entirely over the course of and between two sessions of Camp NaNo, in April and July of this year. But as much as I love NaNo, I have to keep it in perspective. It’s not the only thing in my life. I also take classes, extremely challenging ones. I have a social life. I have a job. I do s
ports. I manage to squeeze NaNo into every minute of the day when I’m not doing something, but… everyone has the days when you don’t hit the word count. Everyone stares at their computer at some point in the month, and thinks, why did I ever decide to write a novel this month????

Everyone deals with it. That’s not what matters. The important part is how you deal with it. You can’t beat yourself up over what you haven’t done, or what you dislike about your novel. What you can do is work with what you’ve got. Go back to those goals, those hopes and expectations of what you want to get out of NaNo. Think about your priorities. It’s okay not to finish. It’s okay to change up the plot by introducing alien goldfish that eat brains, if that’s what it takes to get the plot moving again.

When I don’t meet my goals for a day, it sucks, and I do spend a few moments feeling sorry for myself. But then I go for a run, or I spend ten minutes actually living in the real world, the one that isn’t made of paper and words. Sometimes I even go to bed early and marvel at how much more functional I am the next day.

The next day is always a fresh chance to catch up, to change directions, to try something new. That’s how NaNo works—you take it day by day, and there is no judgment. The whole point is to create a supportive, encouraging, writing community.

I have been NaNo-ing for 4 years, and I have won the past 3. I love this writing process and the people I’ve met as a result of it more than anything, and if you’re considering giving it a shot this year, I highly, highly encourage you to try it out!

I will probably not be updating this blog much with my own writing over the next couple of months, because of NaNo and editing. But I will try to post some helpful links over the course of NaNo!

Write on-
Maxxe

pic creds to YPLibrary for all photos in this post, and to Kittywow for the gif

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I Keep Forgetting About Laura Ingalls Wilder, and I’m Not Sure Why

I’ve written a lot about the influential books and characters in my life. But I think that I’ve forgotten about some. It’s weird—I devoted huge portions of my life to these books, and to these characters, but when I think hard about it, they drift out of my head completely.

I think part of me definitely wants to impress my audience, and so tries to talk more about the more “adult” books; the classics and the adult fantasy. But then later, I remember:

There are others that have influenced me enormously over the years that I stop and think about from time to time. Books that I don’t have to reread in order to be able to quote, or to correctly name all of the main characters.

They’re not necessarily high literature, though some of them might be. But they did all play their parts in defining who I was at the time, and as a result, defining who I am now.

The first would have to be the Warriors series, by Erin Hunter. Not only did I read way too many of these books (there are about a thousand of them, all in various series that all sort of interconnect and really do tell the same story over and over again), but I also spent endless hours with my friends acting out the storyline. To make this even more ridiculous, the books are about cats. A cat society in the woods. With politics. And quests. It’s absurd, and yet… I still feel nostalgic for these stories, and these characters. I reminisce about those days when I’m hanging out with people. Somehow, these books became important to me, even after I stopped reading them. I don’t even own a copy of any of them anymore, but I still think about them on a fairly frequent basis.

The next is also fairly obvious if you know me. I’m talking the glory that was the Rainbow Magic series. I had a thing about fairies when I was younger. I still have a thing about fairies now—even if my tendencies have shifted to the whole dark-fae-scary-adult-magic side of things than the light-happy-glitter-and-sparkles-magic side. But these books were all about the latter. They, too, had very similar storylines from book to book. And I really, really liked them. I went back and reread them recently, actually, because the girl I used to babysit had a fixation with them.

But they’re nothing compared to the Pixie Tricks series. This being, the series that sparked the fascination with not-all-fairies-are-good. Also the series that led to my fascination with miniature people and bubbles, though those two both went away fairly quickly. Oh well. These books did have repetitive storylines, in a sense, but not really, because they each had their quirks that made them quite separate. It was a fantastically empowering series for six-year-old me, and also strongly supported the idea that girls and guys could be friends, and still save the world, while being clever, and relying on wits instead of on magic. It was spectacular. I still uphold the idea that this book series is beyond phenomenal, and every kid should give it a try.

And then you get the series that really got me into high fantasy. Redwall. Oh, Redwall. It’s SO SO SO SO good. Rodents with swords and smarts and ridiculously awesome food. And magic mouse prophecies. They defend the world, and they don’t give a crap about traditional gender roles when it comes to the crazy combat-y stuff. And the writing is wonderful. And the riddles are witty. I love this series. I still reread this series. Not very many people have read it, which is why I don’t talk about it much. But it’s absolutely still one of my favorite series to this day. And it is the series that, along with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and The Hobbit got me into the world of high fantasy.

Of course, I also have to say something about the Guardians of Ga’Hoole series. It was good. It was. AND THEN THEY WENT AND MADE A MOVIE OUT OF IT AND I CANNOT ACTUALLY ADMIT TO THE WORLD THAT I ENJOYED THE BOOKS ANYMORE. This is why I don’t trust movie adaptations, okay???

There are other books that probably belong on this list, too. Bone. Blue Jasmine. Deltora Quest. Septimus Heap. The Moorchild. Tintin. Gooney Bird Greene. American Girl Dolls (aka the beginning of my interest in historical fiction).

It’s the strangest combination of books and characters… pretty much ever. And that’s nowhere near the end of it. I could continue listing books for a LONG while. But no one wants to read a 4,000 word long post. So I’m cutting it short.

But there is one crown jewel to this.

The entire Little House series. I will not call it Little House on the Prairie. That is the stupid TV show. And also the first book is Little House in the Big Woods. GOSH PEOPLE. GET IT RIGHT.

But this series.

For one thing, it was the series that got me ridiculously interested in sewing and crocheting, and that lasted for a good long while. I still occasionally pick up some yarn and make something. It was the series that made me really, really invested in wearing long skirts and also a bonnet for a good long while. And I love this series. It was my first indicator that someone could just grow up and be an author, that not all authors were… I don’t know what my preconception of authors was. But this changed it. And it contained so many good messages about people, and the fact that it was a true story, just…. Gah. I love it.

But I never talk about it. I talk a lot about Anne of Green Gables. I talk a lot about Little Women. But I never seem to talk about this.

And I have no idea why.

National Best Friends Day: My Literary Take

Today is national Best Friends Day.
So I started thinking… there are some really great friendships in books. There are also some books that are seemingly devoid of friendship. Or ones in which it’s just a weird, jealousy-based dynamic that the author TELLS us is friendship.
But then there are the friendships that are utterly transcendent. And those are the ones I want to talk about.

Be prepared: There will be a lot of these. As a result, I can’t talk about them as much as I would like to. Also: This is a list of NON-ROMANTIC relationships in which family is NOT a factor (I haven’t included any pairs of people who are related to each other).
Let’s get this party started.

Phedre no Delaunay and Alcuin no Delaunay (Kushiel’s Legacy, by Jacqueline Carey). THEY’RE NOT ACTUALLY RELATED. ADOPTED. So I can include them here.

Rowan and Celaena Sardothien (Throne of Glass series, by Sarah J. Maas)

Hermione Granger, Ron Weasley, and Harry Potter (Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling). Okay, two of them DO end up together, but… I’m thinking of the three of them as a group, y’all. As a group. Golden Trio.

Kenji Kishimoto and Juliette Ferrars (Shatter Me, by Tahareh Mafi).

Joe Kavalier and Sam Clay (The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, by Michael Chabon). I know, I know, they’re technically cousins… but they were estranged! So they didn’t really know each other!

Aria and Roar (Under the Never Sky, by Veronica Rossi)

Fermín Romero de Torres and Daniel Sempere (La Sombra del Viento, by Carlos Ruiz Zafón)

Deeba I’m-Blanking-On-Her-Last-Name and Zanna Moon (Un Lun Dun, by China Miéville)

Septimus Heap and O. Beetle Beetle (the Septimus Heap series, by Angie Sage)

Anne Shirley and Diana Barry (Anne of Green Gables, by Lucy Maud Montgomery)

Sevro and Darrow (Red Rising, by Pierce Brown)

Kelsier and literally everyone else in the entire series (the Mistborn series, by Brandon Sanderson)

Murra-yari and Stephen (the Valley of Secrets, by Charmian Hussey)

Hugo Cabret and Isabelle (the Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick)

Kolya and Lev (City of Thieves, by David Benioff)

SO MANY BFF PAIRS (the Redwall series, by Brian Jacques)

Jonah Griggs and Chaz Santangelo and Raffy and Taylor and EVERYONE (On the Jellicoe Road,  by Melina Marchetta)

Almondine and Edgar Sawtelle (The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, by David Wroblewski)

Reuven Malter and Danny Saunders (The Chosen, by Chaim Potok)

Maddie Brodatt and Julie Beaufort-Stuart (Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein)

Simmon and Kvothe and Wilem (the Kingkiller Chronicles, by Patrick Rothfuss). Was tempted to put down Kvothe and Auri here as well.

Karou and Zuzana (Daughter of Smoke and Bone, by Laini Taylor)

Sam and Frodo (the Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkein)

Rudy Steiner and Liesel Meminger (The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak). I didn’t want to put this one on here, because it is my opinion that Liesel DOES love him back, she only realizes it too late, but… My mom insisted that they remain on this list. So here they are.

Callanish and North (The Gracekeepers, by Kirsty Logan)

Harper Price and Bee (Rebel Belle, by Rachel Hawkins)

Blackjack and Luther (Fool on the Hill, by Matt Ruff)

Bishop and Ragnarok (Fool on the Hill, by Matt Ruff)

Joe Leephorn and Jim Chee (all of those mystery books by Tony Hillerman)

The Gumm Street Girls, all of them (The Gumm Street Girls, by Elise Primavera)

Kira and Matt (Gathering Blue, by Lois Lowry)

Milo and Tock (The Phantom Tolbooth, by Norman Juster)

Hollis Woods and Josie Cahill (Pictures of Hollis Woods, by Patricia Riley Giff)

Candy Quackenbush and John (all of the multiple heads) (Abarat, by Clive Barker)

Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams)

Bentley and Slally (Prince Ombra,by Roderick MacLeish)

Finnick Odair and Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins)

Frog and Toad (Frog and Toad, by Arnold Lobel)

The Penderwicks and Jeffrey (The Penderwicks, by Jane Bird)

Sam Gribley and ‘Bando’ (My Side of the Mountain, by Jean Craighead George)

“I Think I’m Too Old to Date Gabriel Witter” and Other Insanities of Growing Up

There are four fictional characters who, when combined, essentially sum up my ideal significant other.

These characters are: Gabriel Witter (from Where Things Come Back, by John Corey Whaley), Simmon (from The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss), Chaz Santangelo (from On the Jellicoe Road, by Melina Marchetta), and Jaime Beaufort-Stuart from (Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein).

I was discussing this with my mom yesterday, since Where Things Come Back is one of her favorite books as well.

And that’s when I realized: I am older than Gabriel Witter.

I am not even six months younger than Chaz Santangelo.

I’ve always read about characters who are older than me. It was part of being a pretty advanced reader for a third- or fourth- grader, and having a brother six years older. I read books meant for middle schoolers. Then, I read books meant for high schoolers. The main characters in these books were mostly somewhere between the ages of thirteen and seventeen. So, naturally, I looked up to people between the ages of thirteen and seventeen.

These are characters who I have always viewed as “older,” or more mature—partially because of the circumstances their novels put them in, but… not really.

For a long time, it seemed like sixteen was simply the age when everything big happens.

Now that I’m here, and have been for a while? I’m not so sure I agree.

I’m the same age as Katniss and Tris, and six months younger than Hazel. I’m older than June and Day. It’s ridiculous.

I started reflecting on it, and…

It turns out there are very few fantasy characters that I grew up with who I can still look up to, and still relate to, from the point where my life is today.

I’m older than every single Penderwick sister.

I’m older than the majority of the characters in the Septimus Heap books.

I’m the same age as Aria, from Under the Never Sky.

And if I’m going by societal standards, I’m too old to date most of my old literary crushes.

Of course, there are also the characters that age with the series. Alanna the Lioness is still fully present in the books when she’s much older than the young teen she is at the beginning of her series, and she makes cameos in two other series as well, with a lot of renown a future mapped out for her. Phedre nó Delaunay… well, book three of her series is set ten years after book two, and she matures/ages emotionally throughout the series, and then book four is set several more years after the first three, soooo safe to say she’s not going anywhere (although if I’m being honest, Phedre’s not exactly a role model. Oh well).

These are not the only characters who age. Of course there are others. Look no further than Harry Potter to tell you that.

But my point is, these are characters I grew up with. And it feels really, really weird to be older than they were in those books, and to realize that when I reread them, I can’t relate to them anymore.

It makes me wonder. Will I, in four years, go back and reread words about Gabriel Witter, only to think about him and the rest of his cast of characters as little kids? Will I reread Jellicoe Road, only to discover that each character seems woefully juvenile?

And what will I think of the characters who are four or five years older than I currently am? Will they remain accurate portrayals of people I could look up to? Or will they seem… empty? Unrealistic?

It’s a terrifying moment of clarity when you realize that you’re older than your role models, and they are not going to continue aging.

I hate saying that I don’t know something.

But when it comes to this, it’s sort of the only real response.

How To Fall In Love 365 Times In A Year (sort of)

Okay, I’m exaggerating a little. I haven’t managed 365 yet. But that’s the goal.

It may be somewhat obvious by now, I’m not talking about people. I’m talking about books. My reading goal for 2015 is 365 books. And no, I’m probably not going to fall in love with all of them. I’m pretty far along with this goal so far, and I haven’t fallen in love with all of them.

You may already be thinking, Maxxe, why are you reading for quantity? Shouldn’t you be reading for quality?

If you’re wondering that, you might have a point.

But I’m not just mindlessly swallowing every book I come across. I promise. What I am doing is pushing myself to go outside my comfort zone, and to occasionally pick up something that I know absolutely nothing about. I’ve made a deal with myself to not read the reviews on Goodreads, and to not look any further than the cover synopsis and the blurbs before I check it out of the library. On that note, I should mention that libraries pretty much give me life. My school has a rather excellent one, and the librarians have excellent taste.

So yeah, I’ve come across a lot of books that I probably wouldn’t have normally read, if I had known more of what they were about when I picked them up.

This includes (get ready for the wall of book that will be below) M.R. Carey’s The Girl With All the Gifts, Melina Marchetta’s On the Jellicoe Road, Jandy Nelson’s I’ll Give You the Sun, the entire Lux series by Jennifer L. Armentrout, the Under the Never Sky trilogy by Veronica Rossi, and Pierce Brown’s Red Rising trilogy (I can’t wait for book three, Morning Star, which I desperately want).

       thegirlwithallthegiftsonthejellicoeroadillgiveyouthesun

lux-seriesundertheneverskyRed Rising Trilogy by Pierce Brown

(Wall of book. There you go. creds to Goodreads)

In other words, I’ve encountered some titles which have rapidly become some of my favorite books of all time. I’m talking books that have made my cry, little tears and wrenching sobs. Books that I love so much that when I finished them, I refused to put them down, and just clutched them to my chest. And to think that I might never have picked them up at all.

I’ve pushed myself way, way outside my comfort zone, and it’s definitely paid off.

I’ve also fallen in love with some books that don’t fit that category, of course. Some of my favorite authors ever have come out with new books this year (I read them and adored them, as expected). I read some older books that I didn’t know existed, but were beyond fantastic.

I followed some recommendations—that’s how I found Rohinton Mistry’s A Fine Balance (Thank you Mom!!!) and Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, as well as Wolf in White Van, by John Darnielle.

  wolfinwhitevanafinebalanceJonathan-Strange-Mr-Norrell-Susanna-Clarke

(More image creds to Goodreads. In case you can’t tell, I really, really like Goodreads)

It’s a lot of books. I’m not going to list them all (If you really want to know, you can go check out my Goodreads shelf called 2k15).

I’ve fallen in love a lot of times. Not just with the characters, although I do have to admit that there are some pretty kickass protagonists, and some deeply flawed people–villains and protagonists– who I can’t help but treasure. I’m in love with stories. Not just the heart-racing, blood-pumping action scenes, or the heart-stopping romance ones.

I’m also in it for the tragic moments, the ones that make me feel like there’s a hole in my chest where something alive ought to be. I’m in it for the moments when something inside of me wants to swell, up and out through my throat along with the tears working their way through my eyes. Sometimes it’s a sob, sometimes it’s laughter. I’ve encountered both.

I’ve also been disappointed. Kind of inevitable, really, with the large number of books that I’ve read.

Some of the disappointments have even come from some of my favorite authors (Looking at you, Jacqueline Carey. I’m not a Moirin fan). Others have come from authors that I’ve never even heard of, but the covers looked interesting, and I thought, why the hell not.

There have also been books that I didn’t love, didn’t hate, but definitely did enjoy.

And that’s the think about reading so much. I get to live 365 lives in a year. I get to see those ups and downs, those love stories and vengeance stories. I can go as far outside of my comfort zone as I’ve ever been, and then return to it a day later. Yes, there have been disappointments. But the shining stars among the rubble render the chunks of rock nearly invisible. Every story matters, but the truly transcendent ones stand out. And I’ve gotten to see, love, experience so many of them.

That’s why I have a quantity-based reading goal this year. I refuse to discriminate between genres. I refuse to say that I’ll only read something if I know a lot about it.

If I do those things, I’ll never get to do what I’ve done, or what I hope to continue doing.

I’m in love, maybe not 365 times over, but pretty close.

And it feels good.

grrc

(Image creds to guess who? Goodreads again)

TAG: “BOOK CREATURES OF THE NIGHT”

I saw a thing floating around on Youtube. It’s a tag, for favorite instances of things in books.
I don’t post videos on Youtube.
But I do post on blogs.
And I do like books. In fact, I like books A LOT.
So here goes.

BOOK CREATURES OF THE NIGHT:

night

Vampires: No one reading this is allowed to judge this book by its name. I’m just saying. Right now. Vampire Academy, by Richelle Mead. [insert quick rant here about how the word ‘Vampire’ completely ruins the title of this book,like it does for many books, even though some *cough* *Twilight* deserve it, and about how utterly fantastic this series actually is, especially book three forwards] And, since there are three types of vampire in these books, I’m going to cheat a little bit and name TWO vampires! No wait, three. And the Spanish Inquisition while I’m at it (joking, they’re not really vampires, high-necked red capes aside). Mason Ashford, who is a half-vampire, is my first choice. He’s smarter than a lot of the other characters give him credit for, he’s funny, and he’s witty. And yeah, technically a vampire. In this series, half-vamps count. However, since I do NOT approve of what happens to him in the end, I demand a second choice, and since I’m already breaking rules by doing this with written words instead of on video, I am granting myself the object of my demand, who is also a half-vampire from this series, and that would be Rose Hathaway. She’s clever, stubborn to the point of idiocy, and will risk just about anything to save her best friend… which is probably a good thing, since it’s her job to protect Lissa at all costs.

VA

Dhampirs aren’t true vampires, you say?
Fine, then. Arianna, from Kiersten White’s Paranormalcy trilogy. In a world of characters who each have their own (occasionally very) annoying traits, prickly Arianna might be the most endearing. Which is weird, considering she hates the main character at first. You know what? I hated Evelyn at first too, so maybe that’s why.

paranormalcy

Werewolves: REMUS LUPIN, from Harry Potter, which is by the lovely Joann Katherine Rowling, though I don’t think anyone needed me to tell them that! I want Lupin to be my teacher. Although I don’t know why we would need a Defense Agains the Dark Arts teacher at Westminster… Maybe that’ll be a Jan-term option for next year? I wouldn’t complain.Prisoner_of_Azkaban_cover

Zombies: I don’t read much in the way of zombie books. So my options for this one are pretty much limited to the books of that category that I have read. Which is, in turn, pretty much limited to The Forest of Hands and Teeth, by Carrie Ryan. I didn’t ADORE this book, the way that I did many of those that I’m naming in this post. But I did legitimately like it. So I’ll go with that. And the character for this would have to be… probably (spoiler alert) Gabrielle. She’s a mystery, and honestly, more of a plot device than a character, but I’m definitely not saying Travis. He’s… meh. Okay.

Forest_Hands_Teeth_hb_cover

Ghosts: Silas, from Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book. (yeah, I’m pretty sure he’s not a vampire, regardless of what the internet seems to want to tell me). If he is indeed a vampire, then I guess this defaults to Elizabeth Hempstock, also from The Graveyard Book, mostly because I would like to point out that she shares both a name with one of the main characters in The Ocean at the End of the Lane (Lettie would be a nickname for Elizabeth, right?), and Lettie’s kind of magical-ish, and Elizabeth was falsely accused of being a witch… and anyway, Lettie and Elizabeth, whether they’re secretly the same character or not, also share a last name with Daisy Hempstock, who gets married to Dunstan Thorn in Stardust, also by Neil Gaiman, and Stardust takes place a very long time before Ocean, which I think takes place before Graveyard. So by referencing Graveyard, I can plausibly-ish reference three Gaiman books at once, which is ALWAYS a plus in my book. Heh. Geddit? Book? And I’m talking about books?

details_Graveyard         oceanstardust-book

 

I also wanted to give this to Hector Bowen, from Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, but I’m not sure he’s actually a ghost…

Anyway. Onwards.

Witch/Warlock/Spellcaster: This one undoubtedly goes to the characters of the Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss. I wanted to give it to Simmon. I really wanted to. Simmon is one of my two favorite characters in the book– my favorite being Auri– and he has been a book-crush of mine ever since I read the book. However. Devi is simply straight-up baddassery in its purest form, which happens to be female and magical and a little bit unstable and also pure academic genius.

notwA strong second choice here, from a different book, would be Tsukiko, from The Night Circus (Morgenstern). She might be my favorite character, in a book that is FILLED with my favorite characters. That said, pretty much any character from that book is my favorite character. So.tnc

A third choice here would be Belgarion, from the Belgariad series. Or possibly Pol. Pol is great. But I think I have to restrict myself to only two in this one… sorry.

belgariad

Fairies/Fae: I could conceivably have given this designation to a lot of characters, between Kiersten White’s Paranormalcy books, and the Throne of Glass series, by Sarah J. Maas. It could also go to Blue, from Faerie Wars, by Herbie Brennan. I could also make a serious case for Auri, from The Name of the Wind, but I think that that one MIGHT be cheating. Just a little. So it’s a tie between Aelin Ashryver Galathynius, from Throne of Glass, and Blue.    throne of glassfaerie

Demons: I don’t read many books with demons in them. Demonkind, sure. There’s one book. Brave Story. By Miyuki Miyabe. In which case, this goes to the Lady Onba, because she’s terrifying but also adorable, and you can’t help but love her as a character while simultaneously be really, really repulsed. And that’s what makes her memorable. That’s why she’s even on this list.
bravestory

Angels: Neil Gaiman strikes again (and Terry Pratchet strikes, too, because they co-wrote this book) with Aziraphale, from Good Omens (recently made into a radio production, which was pretty great, and if you read and liked the book, you’ll like the radio show. Terry and Neil make cameo appearances. It’s wonderful). Aziraphale is an angel who sometimes makes the wrong choices, and then feels bad about it. The whole point is that he’s definitely not infallible. He’s very, very fallible. But he’s also wise, and on the much older side of things, and a little bit outdated, much the way that an angel should be. He’s kind of a lot like Giles, from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, in pretty much all of these respects. Not that Giles is an angel. Anyways. Next category.

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Aliens: Daemon Black, from the Lux series, by Jennifer L. Armentrout. No question about that, not at all (unless we’re counting Pernese dragons as aliens, which I guess technically they are, in which case it would be Canth, for reasons, but…)Daemon has his issues, and starts out as a moody, smart-aleck-y not-very-nice person. But as the series progresses… He stays that way, but we the readers discover his sweet side as Katy, the main character, does. It’s like meeting a real person. You get to know them better, but that doesn’t change the way that they are. And it doesn’t necessarily forgive it. Daemon makes mistakes, colossally idiotic mistakes, stupid hormonal-teenage-boy-with-a-combo-of-testosterone-AND-alien-superpowers mistakes. And sometimes that really screws life up for every character in there. But he’s also a person, and he knows he’s making these mistakes. And yeah. Between the genuine character development, and the witty dialogue… He makes the cut. Undoubtedly.lux

Superpowered humans: I’m not sure how much I like this particular one. What defines “superhero?” What defines “human,” in bookworld? *sigh* whatever. It goes to Emma, from Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Really, it goes to just about every character in Miss Peregrine’s, including the TERRIFYING wights (not so sure about hollowgasts. Also not so sure about the second wight we actually meet. I don’t like him much as a character. But Golan? Pardon the language, but… Hell, yes).

miss peregrine

Also… Do Elantrians count? From Elantris? By Brandon Sanderson? They’re magical-ish… But only ish. Eh, I don’t know. But this book is one of my all-time favorites, and the cover looks cool… so I’m putting it on here.

elantris

I really want to mention Graceling, by Kristen Cashore, too. I think Katsa is a decent contender for this one. Maybe Po as well. And Fox. And you know what? Even Leck is a good CHARACTER. Not saying much for his personality, but still.graceling

Descendants of the gods: I’ve actually got three for this one, two being PG 13 versions, and one being a very not PG 13 version. The first is Annabeth Chase, from Percy Jackson (but not really Heroes of Olympus). She’s smart and generally sassy/badass, from age 7 onwards. Love her.

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The second for this is…basically any of the characters in the Kushiel’s Legacy series, by Jacqueline Carey                      (either the Phedre trilogy or the Imriel trilogy. I’m not such a fan of Moirin’s books). I don’t think Joscelin is actually descended from a god, but he’s probably my favorite character… SPOILER ALERT Hyacinthe practically IS a god, so I don’t know if he counts… Phedre, Imriel, and Melisande are amazing. Kushiel’s Dart and Kushiel’s Scions. They’re amazing. I LOVE THESE BOOKS I LOVE THESE BOOKS I LOVE THESE BOOKS. That said, there’s definitely a “squick” factor in that the sex/violence can be a bit gratuitous. They’re definitely not for everyone. But I fell in love with the storyline and the characters, and I just kept going, and I’m very glad I did.
kushiel

And then you get Option Three. Fat Charlie Nancy, from Anansi Boys, by Neil Gaiman (Most people who know me know that I pretty much love everything of his that I have read. Heck, you can probably tell that from this post). Fat Charlie is not a perfect character, the way that a lot of protagonists, or characters in general, often seem to be. He’s got his social issues (he occasionally tries to eat wax fruit. Whoops). But that’s what makes us feel for him. The whole book is about his figuring out where he belongs, and how best to tread the line of absurdity, which is really what Neil Gaiman is all about, which is why I love him and his work so much.

anansi

Devils: Oh, this one is easy. So, so easy. Lain Coubert, from La Sombra del Viento, which is my favorite book in Spanish, and I LOVE IT SO MUCH. i love it enough that I have read it in both English and Spanish, and I have quotes from it written on my walls, and it just says SO MUCH about books, and the way that it’s possible for people to feel about them, and the way that I feel about them, and… I should stop gushing now, and actually talk about the devil, shouldn’t I?
Lain Coubert is actually a character from the book that the book is about. It’s not his real name. I can’t say a whole lot more than that… but his story is harsh and painful and also incredibly compelling, and is probably the main reason I love the book as much as I do.

sombra del viento

I wish I had more space on here for the protagonists, or for the regular humans, or for the mythical creatures. Maybe I’ll do one of those at some point. But for now, I have over 1900 words of text in here and I should probably stop, and go read something, because I would happily spend pretty much all of my time doing exactly that.

The Pen Is Just As Mighty as the Sword, Especially When It Comes to Death

Killing off characters is not fun. It’s especially not fun when you’ve had time to figure out the backstories that come with those characters. And that’s the thing, really—when you spend that much time thinking about your characters, and why they are where they are, and all of that, well, it’s like they become your friends simply due to the large amount of time that they spend occupying your brain. This happens whether it’s a “good guy” or a “bad guy”, although it’s always a good deal more nuanced than that. And as the writer, killing them off feels like a punch to the gut. A really, really hard one that makes your eyes water. Not crying, exactly, because it isn’t heartache that goes on for a long time. It’s more like the sudden numbness that comes along with a terrible tragedy, and it’s worse for you, because you feel responsible.

I figured that out recently.

The character was a minor one to begin with, until I decided he was interesting. So, I did the equivalent of character research, and I dug deeper into his backstory, and that was interesting too, so he became a major character. And the thing about major characters is that they either live happily ever after, they live miserably, or they don’t live at all. And this character had gotten himself into so much trouble that there was no way he was going to be able to live.

I was expecting that I would have to kill him off. I knew that it was coming. But it was still really, really painful to write the scene. But I wrote it anyway, because it was playing like a movie in my head, like the kind of scene that you can walk in on, and you want to walk away but you really can’t turn your eyes away from the screen.  And it still felt like I was in the scene with the characters, and I’ll be honest, I was an emotional wreck for the next twelve hours.

I know that the character is fictional, and I know that it may be irrational to react as much as I did, and now anyone who reads this post will have probably decided that I am a crazy girl who gets way too attached to fictional characters whom she created. But I think that my reaction to this is a part of a much larger part of writing not often thought of, and less often discussed.

We desensitize ourselves to violence by watching violent and unrealistic television, or by the way we talk about it. But violence and death are very real, and we sometimes forget that. It’s very easy, as a writer, to use very forceful words and unintentionally add gore and pain to a scene, and to not even realize it until someone else reads it. Sometimes it is intentional, but what is intended as macabre just comes out as gross. I find it very important that I be affected by my own work, and by other people’s, because I am not a sadist. I find no pleasure in the pain that comes along with treading a line. If the pain were not in the story, then the story would not be as good, but if I were not affected by the pain, then there would be more of it, and then there might not even be a story. Or there would be a story, but it would be utterly lacking in verisimilitude, and then no one would read the aforementioned story.

So yes, sometimes I overreact. But if I’m overreacting, then it means I am reacting. And I think that that is very important, no matter how irrational it might seem.

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