Mash-Up Monday #22: Character

“Mash-Up Monday” is a weekly post here at The Ambage where we post a mash-up of writing- or reading-related links that hopefully are helpful and inspiring.

Mash-Up Monday #22: Character

  1. The Three Types of Lead Characters.
  2. Develop Your Protagonist.
  3. Avoiding Unlikable Characters.
  4. 25 Things a Great Character Needs.
  5. It’s All About Character.

Top Ten Tuesday: Reasons I Love Being a Blogger/Reader

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish where book lovers post their top ten books for various themes that are given.

February 18: Top Ten Reasons I Love Being a Blogger/Reader

Andrew’s Picks:

  1. Blogger: I can talk about books. I love books. Possibly to the point of obsession (possibly? who am I kidding). And I love interacting with other people who love books just as much as I do.
  2. Blogger: Being able to rant and ramble on about things I love. Sure, conversations with friends who enjoy the same things as you is fun, but being able to put all those thoughts “on paper” (as it were) and go in depth with a blog is highly enjoyable.
  3. Reader: Provides healthy entertainment. Not only are books highly entertaining, but reading is also a very healthy habit. Books stimulate the mind, provide inspiration for writing or other creative pursuits, inform the reader, and much more. And on top of that, they provide limitless entertainment–there can never be enough books, and there can never be enough time to read enough books.
  4. Reader: As George R.R. Martin says: “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.”
  5. Reader: Books are a great escape. Being able to simply immerse yourself into the word/characters/setting/etc. of a book is incredibly enjoyable, and can provide great respite from every day life–a chance to relax and enjoy a story.

Caleb’s Picks:

  1. If you read, you’re never alone. “We read to know that we are not alone.” — William Nicholson
    “Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.” — Groucho Marx
  2. Reading can create real relationships too. “There is no surer foundation for a beautiful friendship than a mutual taste in literature.” — P.G. Wodehouse
  3. You can never read enough. “I guess there are never enough books.” — John Steinbeck
    (. . . whether we like it or not.)
    “I am simply a ‘book drunkard.’  Books have the same irresistible temptation for me that liquor has for its devotee. I cannot withstand them.”  — L.M. Montgomery
    (. . . even if we don’t have the time.)
    “The worst thing about new books is that they keep us from reading the old ones.” — Joseph Joubert
  4. Books open our eyes. “The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame.” — Oscar Wilde
  5. Books are magical. “In a good bookroom you feel in some mysterious way that you are absorbing the wisdom contained in all the books through your skin, without even opening them.” — Mark Twain
  6. Bonus: the smell of a book. “There is no scent so pleasant to my nostrils as that faint, subtle reek which comes from an ancient book.” — Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

“What’s a book? Everything or nothing. The eye that sees it all.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson

Mash-Up Monday #21: Scrivener

“Mash-Up Monday” is a weekly post here at The Ambage where we post a mash-up of writing- or reading-related links that hopefully are helpful and inspiring. Every writer has their own methods and tools for writing. For some, that’s a program called Scrivener. Here are some tips about using Scrivener, and why it’s a good choice for writers:

Mash-Up Monday #21: Scrivener

  1. What I Love About Scrivener.
  2. My Top 5 Scrivener Tips.
  3. Lia Cooper’s 10 Reasons to Love Scrivener.
  4. Skrib Guide: How to Use Scrivener.
  5. More Favourite Scrivener Tips from the Past.

You Think Writing is Easy?

So you think writing is easy?

Do you?

You think writing is rewarding?

Do you?

You think writing is fun?

Do you?

Writing Is an Addiction

Nobody writes because they enjoy it. They write because they can’t stop. They write because, for some reason, they need it. They write until they can’t stand it. They write till they hate themselves for writing. They write until they hate everything they write. They write until their mind scream at them to stop and calls them an idiot and tries to find a way out of writing.

But they don’t stop. They never stop. No writer stops writing—because they’re already addicted. They can’t turn back now that they’ve tasted words. They hate words and they hate writing—but they can’t stop.

Writing Is a Disappointment

The fact is, they write, and maybe they overcome every obstacle life tries to throw at them and manage to write something worth publishing; then maybe, just maybe, they beat all the odds and get their book published; and then they find themselves adrift in a sea of books that will never sell, idiots who have nothing to say but write and publish it anyway, ideal readers who are reading someone else’s books, and blind bigoted readers gorged on Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey.

There’s a reader out there who will love their book—but the odds are slim that reader will ever find it. There are a lot more readers who won’t love it, and a lot more still who won’t ever know it exists.

Writers Have it Tough

No writer ever wrote because they had a write worth writing about. Who would be crazy enough to create their own worlds to live in, if they already had one worth living in?

Writers write because they have nowhere else to go. Writers write because they need to distance themselves from reality and find meaning in another existence, even if it’s a pseudo-reality based on their own lives with a few idealistic enhancements.

Writers . . . Have the Best Job in the World

Did I scare you away yet? Did I?

No? Why not? Probably because you’re a passionate writer who already knows the big secret about writing.

That secret is: writing is the best thing in the world.

Writing is a journey. Writing is a discovery. Writing is living. Writing may be pain, sorrow, defeat, fear; but more than that, writing is pleasure, writing is joy, writing is hope, writing is courage, and writing is wisdom. It can be tough, it can hurt, but that’s life; the bad has to be taken with the good for the good to be appreciated. And writing has a darn lot of good.

Writing is beauty. Writing is love. Writing is parenthood. Writing is brotherhood. Writing is perfection. Writing is understanding.

I write because I couldn’t do anything else. I write because it’s the only choice I have; I’m a writer, so I have to write. I’m a writer—and I’m glad. I love to write.

Do you?

You Know What? Don’t Write What You Know

You’ve probably heard it a thousand times; we’ve had it fed to us for years. It’s what any creative writer who’s never written a story in his life says. Anyone who has never had an original or otherwise worthwhile thought on the art of writing has probably said it.

“Write what you know”—what idiot came up with that?

A Brief History of the Phrase

Like most aphorisms, it’s difficult to trace it to its source. Some credit it to Twain, some to Hemingway; certainly it has an established history at least that far back. One of the oldest, and best, quotes I came across was written by Howard Nemerov (1920-1991):

“Write what you know. That should leave you with a lot of free time.”

On Answerbag I came across a helpful person who posted a handy reference here citing several articles and authors on the adage.

You’ll notice that all the authors quoted there, and most if not all of the authors you’ll be able to find who have said anything about the adage, were active past the second half of the 19th century. Probably because up until that point in history, writers were generally smart enough to avoid trying to tell anyone how to write. Twain was a notable exception, which lends another shade of plausibility to the theory that he coined the phrase.

The Misunderstanding

Wherever it started, this platitude has been so long seized upon misconstrued by the laity, so long twisted and abused, that’s it’s true meaning is unrecognizable, buried deep in a confusion of idle misrepresentation and ignorant reinterpretation. It’s nothing now but a sad mockery of the truth.

I speak harshly; it’s not that I deny anyone their right to their opinion if they believe in this phrase in its modern meaning, but call it a pet peeve, I don’t like seeing a misunderstood “truism” forced down artists’ throats.


The Truth

Want the truth? The point the phrase is really trying to get across is, “Write what you feel.” It’s not a reprimand for writing what you’ve never seen, not a command to write about the places you’ve been or the things you’ve done, not a criticism or a rule, but a simple truth. That’s what writing is all about. Writing is a channeling of what you feel. It’s about the emotions. Anything you don’t know you can learn–but emotion can’t be taught. You have to feel it to write it. That’s the point.

In the common sense, that you must literally have knowledge of whatever you write about, I prefer to phrase it “Know what you write.” If you want to write about something you don’t know, because it’s a fitting representation of what you feel–then you research and you learn.

But the best advice I can offer you is this: ignore adages on the art of writing. As you can see, they hardly ever give you the whole story. It goes against the very art. Find your own understanding of the art, form your own opinions, and write your own rules.

Writing isn’t something you should let anyone teach you but yourself. Accept suggestions—advice—anything but rules. That’s the beauty of writing. There are no rules.

Top Ten Tuesday #29: Books That Will Make You Cry

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish where book lovers post their top ten books for various themes that are given.

February 5: Top Ten Books That Will Make You Cry

Andrew’s Picks:

  1. A Monster Calls, by Patrick Ness. There’s one scene in this that always gets to me. But this book is absolutely beautiful, and I love caring that much about the characters in it.
  2. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini. So like my #4 (and 5, technically), this book is really depressing, too. But it was powerful and haunting, and I really loved some of the characters (hence their affect on me). 
  3. The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak. Some sad moments to it, but like the two above, a quite beautiful book as well.
  4. The Casual Vacancy, by J.K. Rowling; and Sharp Objects, by Gillian Flynn. Putting these together because they didn’t actually make me cry, but they thoroughly depressed me and made me feel like crying–and not in any good way, but just in an incredibly depressing way. Depressed sadness isn’t fun; moving sadness isn’t either, really, but not as bad. =P I don’t mind feeling moved because I like caring, but I don’t want to feel depressed either. In short, I can say that the first three books on this list were incredibly beautiful and moving books; these two were just depressing.

Caleb’s Picks:

I’m defining this as “books that made me cry,” because for all I know you might cry over golden retriever puppies being born, or weddings, or rainbows, or something more sensible but still, it’s difficult to judge what might make one person cry but not someone else, especially as, personally, a person who doesn’t cry easily over books – only when they touch me personally.

  1. Endless Night by Agatha Christie. I mentioned this in the 2013 review post last month – and I think in one of the top tens since. Emotional breakdown.
  2. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. While Collins’s main focus is always the puzzle, he weaves a moving romance in between.
  3. Calvin and Hobbes series by Bill Watterson. The most recent example I can think of is the time Calvin lost Hobbes; May 26-27 1986. That hit close to home. And every time I read it, Calvin breaks my heart when he finds the dying raccoon.
  4. Luna Benamor by Vicente Blasco Ibáñez. A very beautiful and very sad love story.
  5. Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Tarzan is so loving and devoted . . . he fights recklessly ferocious jungle beasts, crosses the continent, sails the ocean, braves wildfires . . . all because he’s fooled by the beauty of the witch who is Jane.

Mash-Up Monday #20: Setting

“Mash-Up Monday” is a weekly post here at The Ambage where we post a mash-up of writing- or reading-related links that hopefully are helpful and inspiring. This week are some links about setting and worldbuilding.

Mash-Up Monday #20: Setting

  1. How to Make Your Setting a Character.
  2. How Do Writers Create Fictional Worlds.
  3. 25 Things You Should Know about Worldbuilding.
  4. 5 Misconceptions About Your Story’s Normal World.
  5. 15 Things About Victorian Society.