Saturday, 30 April 2016

Z is for Zero

It seems I made it. This is the last post in the April A-Z bogging challenge. I should probably revisit my goals - but I chose not to. This month has been a struggle in more ways than I expected, and many of the goals I set a month ago have been abandoned.
I will take them up again, certainly. Camp NaNo isn't finished (yet), I still have some 600 words to reach my goal - but I've got half a day to do it so I'll probably make it.

So here's to Zero days left of April. In Sweden, this is the day to celebrate that spring has arrived. We light fires, sing traditional songs and make speaches about how nice it is to be rid of winter, how nice it is that spring has arrived, and how nice it is that summer ison the way. (Yeah, we're just a tad obsessed by warmth here…) We do this even when it's freezing cold and we'd rather be inside snuggling under a blanket, watching TV. Because it's tradition.

Here's the first verse of the old traditional song for today (translated by me…) It should be sung by a choir of men :)

Winter's stormed out among our mountains,
snowdrift's flowers melt down and die.
Heaven smiles in the spring's light evenings,
the sun kisses life into forest and lake.
Soon is summer here in purpur waves;
Golden coated and azur-shimmering
lies meadows in the day's flames,
and in the groves wells are dancing.

Friday, 29 April 2016

Y is for Young

Lately I've seen the same picture shared on Pinterest and Facebook (but of course I didn't save it and now I can'd find it…) It's done like texting messages between two people - might be a real one, might not - questioning why protagonists in Fantasy literature tend to be pretty young. Other genres share this to a point, but Fantasy is one of the few genres that doesn't have to feature the protagonist as a young person. (Frodo might seem young, but he's 50.)

The point of the converstation in the picture I metioned is that it would be awesome to have an old lady, complete with a magical handbag and a kitten sidekick, who went about righting things in the world since she finally had no one to care about but herself (no, that wasn't the exact text, just the idea).

Every time I've seen that appear in a writing group on FB, the post gets a lot of likes. One threads went wild, people starting to post all kinds of version on the theme "old fantasy heroes" and what adventures they would have.

It was hilarious. It was fun.

And then most of us go back to write about fantasy heroes in the upper teenages. I'm no exception. I'd love to some day make a story about a 40-something mother who has to leave husband, kids and work to go on a mission to save the world. Or a 60-something man with a grandkid in tow because he needs help to read the instructions on the magic scrolls. Or a 90-something on the run from the rest-home because she's the only one immune to the new virus (but the 'on the run' thing has already been done - The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out Of A Window And Disappeared). Still, my protagonist tend to be around 20.

I think the many young protagonists of Fantasy can be traced to the time when Fantasy was seen as merely 'fairytales', but for a slightly older audience. Firmly rooted as Young Adult, they needed heroes in the same age as the potential readers. Same reason that the vast majority of heroes were male, but that has changed. Perhaps, as the genre is walking into the New Adult - and Adult - shelves, we'll see more protagonists who are slightly older.

Of course, there are other reasons for fantasy heroes to be young - the same reasons as YA. These people are often at a crossroads in their life, need to start stand on their own, making their own way in the world and decide what's good and what's evil. Older people tend to have done that journey already (and is in our mind less likely to be tempted by the wrong side), and to make the experience more powerful we choose the teen who is on the verge of taking adult shape.

Even if it still will be easier to juggle a sleugh-job and family, or only work as a superhero on weekends, it would be awesome to see an ordinary family man or woman pulled into a fantasy adventure (and if we go Narnia style, the time spent adventuring won't matter).

And if you make up your own fantasy world, all you need to do is use a social system that allow adults to have as much fun and growing to do as teens.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

X is for Ex-

Anyone else feel like the hardest letters come last? Maybe there's a reason why thery're last in the alphabet (even though there are other letters, but you Enlish people ignore them).

So, what to do about X? Maybe do a "top 10 list", write about some "unknown, unspecified, or variable factor, number, person, or thing" as a dictionary suggests?

As I tried to come up with something, I went about thinking about the letter, sounding it in my head - and there it was. The sound. Ex.

There's a long list of "ex" in my life. Things, places, people, relationships, dreams, projects, feelings, knowledge… the list of what have once been more or less important to me but now is past is longer than I care to think about.

So for today I'll limit myself to consider some of the writing projects I have abandoned. Or shall I be nice and label them "not finished" instead? A few of them might still be dug out and finished, or fixed, or revised, or completely rewritten, but let's be honest here… They were abandoned for a reason. Most often it was not because I lost interest in it, or that a new idea lured me away from it.

The ex-projects simply wasn't good enough. The idea never took shape, didn't evolve into a premise that had a fighting chance to became a whole story arch. Sometimes they weren't even given an outline (Camp Nano 2013, for example, when I tried total pantsing). The thing collapsed somewhere in the swampy middle when I couldn't keep characters or plot straight. Sometimes I outlined too much and it wasn't much to add after that (but it might work as a short story if I get back to it?).

There are a few gold nuggets in that ex-projects lists. Of course. One day I'll go through it, pick the hearts out and see if I can merge two or three of them together to make something new. Something totally genre-bending and unheard of.

It will be amazing.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

W is for What if...

There are few things that can get a writer light up more than the simple question: "What if…?" If you're the least inclined to make up stories, those simple words opens a wormhole of possibilities.

It can be fashinating. If I'm in plotting phase, I can't get enough of those words. I imagine all twists and turns my idea can take, explore any crazy opportunity my mind creates.

It can be overwhelming. When I start outlining I need some way to grab all of these stray thoughts and compile them to a semblance of order. That's the point when I start to ignore new things worming their way in.

It can get annoying. While writing the first draft, I still allow new and previously not imagined things to occur. But I keep them sparse, and evaluate them before incorporate them. Otherwise I would never finish anything.

It can get dangerous. When the first draft is complete I don't want any new things to seep in, but sometimes they still do. That's the point when I have to make a concious choice: go with the new one (which likely means I have to write a major part of the draft all over again) or firmly put the new one away in another file (to use in another story).

The first one can be OH, so tempting. Sometimes I've done it and the new story is better. Sometimes I've done it and it was just a waste of time and effort (and maybe a sign that I was more interested in not finishing than rewriting).

The second one is easier, but will carry with it an eternal worry that the story would have been better if I had changed it.

When this happen, I pause. I make an outline for the new version. Then I leave it for a few weeks (trying to not even think about it). When I come back and analyze the two versions… Compare plot points, stakes, character development.

After that I can usually decide which one I want, and go on writing it without regrets.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

V is for Virtual

Some of my very best friends I have never met face to face. Most of them I only know through text. A few pictures, but mostly letters.

I'm referring to books, of course. Fitional characters coming alive. Having adventures I couldn't even dream of, seeing places not of this world, facing situtations and choices I fervently hope I will never have to. They allow me to hijack their life for a while. See through their eyes, walk in their shoes, listening in to their thoughts.

Reading made me want to create stories. I thought that would be easy, after reading so much. I had people visulized in my head, places and plans for them to visit and make their own.

It was not that easy. I started to write, and what I could see so vividly in my head became dull and flat on the paper. I started reading books on the craft of writing. Plotting, character making, suspense, magical artifacts… The information was endless, not the least after I turned to the internet.

Slowly I was able to sift through it all. Started to find a way that suits me. I found NaNoWriMo and their forums. I joined writing groups on Facebook, and other sites. 

Some of my very best friends I have never met face to face. Most of them I only know through text. A few pictures, but mostly letters. Not only fictional characters anymore. Through 'social media' I have found real people behind letters and pictures. People who live a whole (or half) world away. People who don't speak the same native languge that I do. People who have a very different view on everything religious and political. People who share my dream of writing stories that touch others, about characters who feel real.

Virtual friends. Real friends.

Monday, 25 April 2016

U is for Unintended

How many of us can truthfully say that we planned each step along our often pretty up-and-down and slippery-sloping and hither-thither way through this life?

I sure didn't. I've had hopes, I've had dreams, and yes - I've had plans. Some came true, most did not. My fault? My accomplishment? Sometimes.

Mostly, though, life tend to take the unintended path. Things happen, I react, plans meet with consequences. Things do not end up the way I thought they would. For good or bad, for better or worse, we live the life of unintended chain-reactions. We can only plan so much. We have to leave room for the unforseen, the random, the not-quite. For what we can't see.

If we do, we risk bad things will happen.

But if we don't, there's no chance for blessings to enter.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

T is for Thankful

What are you thankful for? Close your eyes for just a moment, and consider the question.

Did you come up with anything? Maybe something special has happened recently, maybe you got lucky, maybe something made you happy. That's great!

Most things we take for granted is truly things we should be grateful for. I've got a home. Clean water. A job. A husband. Two healthy kids. Money to buy what I need (even a laptop). Am I grateful for all of this, or am I just too used to it to not even consider it a blessing? What I mentioned is only the top of the iceberg, really.

Things got in perspective last week, when we lost my mother-in-law. Eight years ago my father had just gotten the diagnosis of his brain tumor, which took his life in August the same year. Me and my husband now has one parent each left in this life.

Am I thankful that I still have the opportunity to talk to my mother each day? Did I appreciate the time when I still had my father within reach? I wish I could tell you a certain 'yes' - but it's never that easy, is it?

Our kids were 3 and 5 when my father died, now they're almost 11 and 13. They hardly remember my father, I hope they will remember my mother-in-law better. I should be thankful that they got more time with her, but still there's that small thorn saying it's unfair that my father didn't get the chance to get to know them…

Thankfulness is not an easy thing. And it's not something you can force into being. It's simply something we have to train ourselves to be. Every moment.

Friday, 22 April 2016

S is for Songs

I listened to far more music when I was younger. Nowadays I prefer quiet when possible (probably because I'm surrounded by kids during work and have husband and sons who are … loud… in the music area).

Sometimes, though, I can't help but get stuck in a song. Sometimes it helps in my writing. Some song comes along and the lyrics are perfect for a character, for a situation, for a relationship.

Of course I save it when that happnes. It's just like the quotes I wrote about (for Q).

One such song is Sometimes When We Touch by Dan Hill. It's kind of perfect for the romance pair I wrote about yesterday. (Except that none of them is a writer.)

You ask me if I love you, and I choke on my reply
I'd rather hurt you honestly than mislead you with a lie
And who am I to judge you, on what you say or do?
I'm only just beginning to see the real you

Romance and all its strategy leaves me battling with my pride
But through the insecurity some tenderness survives
I'm just another writer still trapped within my truth
A hesitant prize fighter still trapped within my youth

At times I'd like to break you and drive you to your knees
At times I'd like to break through and hold you endlessly

At times I understand you, and I know how hard you've tried
I've watched while love commands you, and I've watched love pass you by
At times I think we're drifters still searching for a friend
A brother or a sister ... But then the passion flares again

And sometimes when we touch, the honesty's too much
And I have to close my eyes and hide
I wanna hold you til I die, til we both break down and cry
I wanna hold you till the fear in me subsides

Thursday, 21 April 2016

R is for Romance

I'll admit it right from the start: I'm not a fan of the genre 'Romance'. I've nothing against it per se, it's just that I want more in a story. To me the ideal romance plot is when it's a subplot - not one hundred procent necessary for the story but adds some tension to it.

That's the kind I need in my current (read: forever ongoing) work-in-progress. I've got a woman. She's becoming interested in a man. She's not sure why, hardly even realizes it because she's not the kind of girl falling in love at first sight and he's not the kind of man she should be falling for. He's very much not interested, doesn't really see her, don't understand it at all first - and when he does he's totally surprised, again because they're not the pair anyone would expect. Both are broken, ragged in different ways. Together they may have a chance at healing.

This will be a subplot for the whole trilogy. Yes, they will 'get each other' in the end, but there won't be a 'happy ever after' thing. With their background, it can't be. I'll just tone out with the feeling that things will work out for them, and they'll be together.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Q is for Quotes

I - like may other writers - keep a Pinterest board for my writing projects. I come across a picture that fit a chracter, a setting, some clothing, or a fact that I might need to research deeper as the story goes.

I also collect quotes. Yes, I have a separate board for general quotes, but I'm thrilled each time I find an actual quote that fit a character. I might not use it, but some times it feels like it could have come right out of his or her mouth.

This quote is so spot on. Akir has a tendency to never make excuses, never admit that he's take on to much or that he's been beaten down. He'll always get himself together and push on, refusing to believe that anything can stop him.


Mateo, on the other hand, is a bit more on the realistic side. The one to the right could be an answer to the way Akir behaves, again and again, in the story.