Monday, April 16, 2012

Enter the Characters

This is my last of undergraduate education, and it's just a couple finals. I have work and graduation, but I'm trying to use my free time to write a little. I have incentive to finish "The Shifting", so that takes priority. Since I'm writing this story from the perspectives of two different people, I'm revising character-by-character. That is, everything that is from Sarah's point of view I read and revise first, keeping her voice in my head. Then I will switch to Thomas. I might have to go back later and make sure the story actually flows, since I'm taking every other chapter at a time, but it's worth it. Reading just Sarah right now is making me realize what an awesome character she is, and I see her more clearly now. I bet the same will happen when I work on Thomas's half.

As for the other story that I started coming up with on the plane, characters are starting to come in. Particularly one pretty awesome one that will meet up with my hero and befriend him. So, a better summary than what I gave last week: Alder is a fifteen-year-old who is easily overlooked and pretty average. He is actually half-elf on his mother's side, and his family relocated to this world to protect him, because it turns out he may have a powerful (and possibly dangerous) destiny. People who want to hurt him find his family and Alder is sent back to his mother's world. He's told to never reveal who he is, never say his last name, as it is kind of well-known. The story is Alder trying to stay safe, find his family, and become the person he destined to be.

Anyway, this character has just walked into my head and introduced himself, though I'm pretty sure he gave me a fake name. He calls himself Berzen, and meets up with Alder almost immediately after Alder arrives in Cartha and tells him he is a stone-elf from Ferrin. This is a lie. He is a fire-person, and actually has been kicked out of his clan for being unusually dangerous. I like Berzen, though that's a Ferrin name and thus not his real one. He's street-smart, sarcastic, but he's a really good person. There's a lot to him, and I can't wait to find out more. There may be more fun characters I have yet to meet.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Finals Leading into a Personal Madness

I know writers are supposed to be a little off-center (we talk to imaginary people and are very concerned with their lives), but this week I'm starting to feel a little more off-center than usual. Blame my finals, Tolkien class, and a basic acceleration of my life for that. It's not much of an excuse for me posting a day late, but it's a start.

First off, I finished my short story for my class on mental illness in film and you will NEVER see it. Honestly, it's not that good. You're not missing anything. Stop it. I will have much better stuff in a week or two, so if you're really that hungry for my writing (and I can't imagine you are) it's coming. Finals and final projects are taking up all my free time, even though I really want to get writing/revising my thesis novel before the summer comes in full swing. I have a few finals and graduation is right around the corner. So, naturally, my mind is elsewhere.

I had the wonderful opportunity to have spring break - a nonexistent thing at BYU - which meant tons of fun with my family, sweet Florida weather, and a lot of time to think on the plane there and back. That, combined with finishing The Silmarillion for my Tolkien class, and before I knew it I had started to create a world. I have a story to go with it, but I actually put it on hold while I drew a map and started writing up a dictionary for the language. This is what I mean by being more off-center than normal. I never create the setting before I find my story and characters. I'm basically writing backward right now, and for crying out loud, I'm inventing a fantasy world with a language and history and everything.

(For those of you who care, the world's name is Cartha and it is split into three Kingdoms: Ferrin, Marinesse, and Agintree. My hero is a fifteen-year-old boy named Alder who has grown up believing he's someone he's not. There are elves and dwarves and humans and another race I made up, the fire-people.)

As for the general acceleration of my life, I've been in touch with a couple publishers who just may...I hesitate to say it and jinx this...publish something I wrote. It might not happen, but I'm starting to get the feeling that everything is going to be okay and my dreams are not far from being achieved.

But then again, I am a little off-center this week.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Complications and a Defense

This past week has been completely insane. There were good points - like General Conference - and some bad ones - like not getting into my top-choice grad school. That last bit is causing some of the complications alluded to in the title of this post, since now I have to readjust my plans for the future. I may have to get a real job that I don't like. I don't know what I'm going to do just yet. Another complication is in my writing/publishing efforts. I just heard back from a publisher who wants the rest of my book but also wants exclusivity while they make their decision. That is exciting, but makes my life kind of difficult. Everywhere I look people advise against exclusivity agreements, but if I don't agree I might lose my chance to get published. I guess this is what being a grown-up is about.

One thing that kind of irks me about being a writer is the constant need to defend myself and what I do. Some people criticize studying English as the fast track to working at Burger King forever, and I once had someone tell me, "I heard you're smart. Shouldn't you be doing something better for the world than writing?" Others, more well-meaning, say, "Writing is a great hobby. But wouldn't you be happier if you just wrote for yourself? You wouldn't have to worry about publishing."

Naturally, I respond to these by putting together my defense of writing. I will first address the last comment, which bugs me the most because in some ways, they have a point. Writing, unlike teaching or public speaking, is something you can do in a closet and never let anyone see. I could potentially write for myself. But that's like baking a cake and then throwing it away before anyone can taste it. A writer may enjoy creating the book, but she cannot appreciate her own work like a fresh reader can. She already knows how it ends and can only see flaws and word patterns. I don't agree with Jean-Paul Sartre on most things, but in his ideas on reading and writing I agree. The story is created in the reader's mind. While I could write "for myself", my books would never reach their full potential.

Also, it bugs me that only artists are encouraged to work "for themselves". No one tells an accountant to work "for himself", or a teacher or politician or surgeon or computer programmer. These workers all have skills that society demands be used to serve itself. Otherwise they're being selfish. So I wonder: why is a talent in art so much less valuable than a talent with numbers or people?

When a conquering nation wants to completely take over the minds of the people, they destroy that weaker nation's art. Particularly, they burn books. This is why I'm opposed to book burning, although I agree that parents should monitor what children read. Books are some of the most dangerous things because they hold hundreds and hundreds of ideas. So in response to the argument that a smart person would use her talents doing something other than writing, I say that spreading ideas and, I hope, encouragement is the best way I can use my talents. As long as society doesn't relegate my work to the land of the useless hobbies.

Yes, I have an axe to grind. I'm sick of feeling like I lack something because I am an artist and not studying business. I think some people have a talent for business and that is good and builds society. But I have a talent in writing that is worth just as much as another's talent, and I can use it to build society. Just give me a pen and let me go.