Archive for December, 2012

Meet Mary-Sue

Posted: December 18, 2012 in Writing
Tags: ,

Hello there.

Yes, I am two days late in blogging. *gasp* Mad Christmas preparations possibly involving cookie dough and random dancing was the cause of this very slight delay in posting. However, now I’m here. YAY.

Anyways, onto the topic of this post. The topic I am about to address is a thing all writers fear…it is a syndrome exceedingly difficult to elude…it has immense destructive powers that can slaughter your novel in a single chapter…

The dreaded Mary-Sue Disease.

Perhaps you are thinking, “What the heck is a Mary-Sue?” Well, a Mary-Sue is a character [a female character in this case; if the character is male the term is switched to Gary-Stu in order to be gender appropriate] who is simply too virtuous, too talented, and too good to be true. A Mary-Sue character is pretty much a perfect person, in a way. You can read more about it here.

But I am not writing this post in order to just explain what a Mary-Sue is. I am writing it to assist in the fierce, constant battle against the Mary-Sues that invade novels today. There are many novels which I have read in which the protagonist (or a love interest; this is also very common) is, well, a Mary-Sue. And let me tell you, reading about that character is like intentionally torturing myself. I often feel like destroying the character–who cares that they aren’t real?!–before the end of the novel.

As I write, I try to avoid creating Mary-Sueish characters. I truly do. Before I begin writing a new novel, I typically fill out a simple character questionnaire for each major character and make sure that they don’t have any Mary-Sue qualities. Some of these qualities are difficult to avoid, and I don’t believe that it’s a bad thing to use them in a character, as long as it isn’t superbly overdone and makes the character annoying/unbearable. For example, let’s say you have a character who has been raised in extreme poverty. While this can be a Mary-Sue quality, I really don’t think that such a thing cannot occur in good fiction. If your character, along with being raised in extreme poverty, has ALSO been abandoned by his/her caregivers, has ALSO been chosen as ‘The One’ in a major prophecy, ALSO manages to completely reform the villain by the end of the story, ALSO is incredibly beautiful/handsome, ALSO has every essential magical power, and ALSO angsts constantly about everything, then yes, I would consider that character to be a Mary-Sue. But if your character is raised in extreme poverty and is The Chosen One (though this smells faintly of Harry Potter–though he wasn’t exactly raised in extreme poverty), then I wouldn’t really think of that character as a Mary-Sue. Especially if the story is executed well.

What I’m trying to say is that Mary-Sues are terrible. But qualities attributed to Mary-Sues shouldn’t always be treated like the plague, as in the example above.

Okay. That was my optimistic side. Time for my pessimistic/cynical side on the matter.

To begin with, nobody–I repeat, nobody–likes a Mary-Sue. And if some person in the world indeed does like Mary-Sues, then, well…that’s your problem, not mine. But I think I can speak for the majority of readers when I say that Mary-Sues are a big turn-off.

For us authors, though, sometimes writing a non-Mary-Sue can be challenging. Sometimes I’ll be writing away, la dee dah, and then my character is in a tight situation and all that comes to my mind is, “No! She has to survive so that she can save so-and-so! Uh…Let’s just say that she’s talented with throwing knives.” And then my character gets out of the situation and all is fine.

But it isn’t.

Because in that instant, what I think is a harmless decision could begin the transformation of my character from a well-rounded individual to a…Mary-Sue. That one decision in an of itself doesn’t ruin the character, not by any means, but if I continue to give my character these handy little traits for when she needs them, soon my character will start to resemble Superman, in that she can do pretty much anything to  help herself and others out of bad situations.

What I try to do in these moments of temptation–the moments where I feel an urge to make that one little upgrade to my character, and thereby embarking on the road to Mary-Suehood–is ask myself if my character really needs this quality, or if I’m just trying to find an easy way out of an undesirable moment that the character might be in. More often than not, it is the latter case. If it turns out to be the former, then I have the motivation to go throughout the rest of the novel and add that quality to my character. If I don’t, then readers will certainly feel like the author just pulled a nice trait out of a hat and plopped it in the story. Which isn’t a good thing.

Another Mary-Sue case that I’ve read much too frequently, and am guilty of it myself, is the Mary-Sue romance. In which one person in the couple is instantly attracted to the other, who may not be quite as interested but quickly falls in love. I am always, ALWAYS tempted to do this in my stories. I never feel like waiting, I want my characters to stop fooling around and acknowledge the fact that they’re perfect for each other.

The thing is, I have read many novels which employ this scenario, and I hate it every time I read of a new couple entrapped by the Mary-Sue romance snare. And every time I make a private vow never to do that in any of my own novels. Yet I always have that urge to speed it up, make the two characters so attracted to the other that when their eyes meet it’s like LIGHTNING STRUCK THE AIR BETWEEN THEM.

This is not good.

So what do I do about it? Well, to be frank, I haven’t quite mastered this problem of mine. I’m still in the process of doing so. But really, all I can do is just force myself to take a deep breath, and think about how real the romance is. I imagine what it would be like if these characters were real people and they were in love in real life. And I often come to the conclusion that anybody, upon hearing their story of romance, would be highly skeptical. The truth is, no matter what genre you are writing in, every romance has to be real. Unless you are writing about otherworldly aliens who fall in love at five times the rate humans do. In that case, you are free to pace the romance however you please. But when we’re talking about humans, people don’t just fall in love in two seconds. That’s just not how it happens. So, I always try to think of my character’s romance as a real thing. And when I use that strategy, I can usually begin to remedy my love-at-first-glance urges.

In conclusion, I will share with you all a link to a Mary-Sue test that you can take for your characters, if you so please. I usually take it for my main character and the love interest, if there is one in my novel. Perhaps you will find it useful, too!

On a side note, I’ve made the so very important decision that in addition to blogging weekly (every Sunday; I’ll keep that up unless a better day of the week works better), I’ll blog whenever I feel like it, too. Because I often feel the urge to write long spiels on random nonsense and publish it for the world to see. Right.

Anyways, see you on Sunday! Between now and then, however, remember to watch out for strains of the Mary-Sue disease that could pop up in your writing. If you spot any of the symptoms–including but not limited to characters you know people would be irritated by, unhealthy romance, or a rash on your fingers after typing in your novel–call 1-800-627-9783 to receive your official medical diagnosis, or visit www.marysueprevention.org for more details on this disease and how to combat it.

Writing Through the Snow

Posted: December 10, 2012 in NaNoWriMo, Writing
Tags: , ,

Look! Drifting down through the little pixels! It’s snow! Which means that the time is near to celebrate that wonderful holiday of Christmas! I don’t know about you, but in my house the Christmas tree hasn’t even been brought up from the shadows of the basement yet. As such, I’m not feeling very Christmas-y. Ah, well. There’s always next week for those mundane trivialities.

Because of the Christmas festivities, I haven’t been doing much writing. However, in November the case was severely different. I participated in National Novel Writing Month, details of which you can access right here. I really don’t feel like explaining the whole ordeal, so if you want specifics, LOOK ELSEWHERE. Basically, you try to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November. This year was my second year, and I just barely reached 50K by November 30th. I still haven’t finished writing the novel itself–I’m nowhere near that point, in fact; I would estimate myself to be about halfway through–and I am beginning to wonder if I ever shall do so. However, I would still like to share a bit about the novel with you lovely people in the blogverse. Oh, dear. That sounded truly foolish…”I’m going to SHARE my novel!” Er. Note to self, Andrea: You are not blogging to a group of first graders.

Anyways. This novel is titled Cross Dimension and is in the science fiction genre (which you would very probably gather from the summary, but I figured I’d let you know this anyway.). My typical genre is fantasy; it’s my favorite to read and my favorite to write. But this year, the idea literally sprang into my head and there was nothing I could do about it. However, now that I’m well into my genre-switching venture, I still greatly prefer writing fantasy over science fiction.

ANYWAYS. The summary. Right. *hastily activates clapping machine* *clapping machine is broken* *weakly claps alone*

………………..

Cross Dimension, a summary

What would you do if you were singled out to incite a war? Futuristic America seems to be a smooth-running operation. The numerous alternate dimensions existing alongside Earth have caused no trouble to anyone thus far—but a war is brewing between the dictatorial ruler of the dimensions and Earth. When Arialle is brought to a government laboratory, she has no idea what to expect. She soon learns that she alone is the one who can unlock seven data keys that will, in turn, grant Earth access to supernatural weaponry that will no doubt tip the scales of the impending war in their favor. To unlock the keys, Arialle must journey to various dimensions, under guise of differing bodies, and find the people who, unbeknownst to them, hold the data keys locked in their minds. Accompanying Arialle is Rin, a harsh, austere man, one of few anomalies who can travel between dimensions unharmed. During their journeying, Arialle and Rin will face ghastly otherworldly creations, a ruler with a slipping grasp on her domain, and their own pasts. But the most difficult task of all will be answering to their consciences…and deciding where their loyalties truly lie.

………………..

Along with this shiny little summary, I would like to show you the cover I created using my own photography and online photo editing sites. I mainly used PicMonkey and Pixlr Express (both of which are excellent sites and should be universally used!) for this cover.

And…here it is!

Cross Dimension Nano

During November while I was actively writing Cross Dimension, I was so excited about it. Unlike the previous year’s novel, I really enjoyed writing Cross Dimension and didn’t get sick of it.

Now that November has come and gone, however, I’m starting to feel the first draft blues. And I haven’t even finished the first draft. How pathetic is that? Nonetheless, once a few weeks have elapsed (and once the Christmas season has died down), I intend to return to Arialle and Rin and force them to pump out a first draft.

The problem is, I am a semi-perfectionist. NaNoWriMo forces me to write without worrying about clunky sentences and meaningless dialogue, but once November ends, that irritating little Inner Editor comes out of his month-long coma. This isn’t a bad thing, really. I personally don’t think that we should all write like it’s NaNoWriMo time; never worrying about proper spelling or grammar, not once taking the time to create well-formed characters or develop strong plot arcs. I think that the editor inside all of us can help to hone our writing into what we truly want it to be. But there comes a time when it’s just too much. Perhaps you have experienced this yourself; that feeling that no matter what you write, you’re always compelled to go back and change a tiny detail. I know that I certainly feel a need to make every sentence perfect, every snippet of dialogue realistic but at the same time adding meaning to the story.

This trait of mine–or curse, rather–is the practically OCD, perfectionist part of my mind that refuses to let any piece of writing be less than perfect.

The truth is, though, that no first draft will ever be the final draft. Simply put, such a thing is impossible. You shouldn’t feel bad if your first draft is a piece of crap (I can assure you, so are mine). That isn’t a sign of mediocrity; it’s normal.

Revisions are always necessary. Even the greatest of novels were not written merely in one draft.

In conclusion. The happy medium is your bestest friend here. It isn’t healthy to feel terrible about your first draft…nor is it healthy to believe that your first draft is your final draft. Find the medium between the two; knowing that your novel is not the best it could be, yet realizing that you have the ninja power within you to fix up the crappy parts and make your novel shine.

Oh, dear. Now I’m starting to become all sentimental. “Be yourself!” “You’re perfect just the way you are!” Nope. Happy medium, remember? I’ll leave the sappy, honeyed words to One Direction, as they’re great at coming up with slews of feel-good phrases with lots of cheesy sauce on top.

So. After that heart-wrenching, tear-cranking, thought-provoking post, all I really have to say is…Merry Christmas. Enjoy the pretty (and sometimes blinding/dizzying) snow. And if you live in an area in which it does not snow, then enjoy the pretty (and not blinding/dizzying) snowfall on my blog!

See you in a week! [Or sooner. Or later. Or never. You never know, I could be captured by the RTA (The RTA is in and of itself an absolutely confidential matter, so don’t be surprised if you have no idea what I mean.), tortured day after day, and finally slain in a noble and possibly heroic manner. Perhaps saving a loved one. Or the entire world. You never know when these things might happen…]

Fresh Ink

Posted: December 2, 2012 in Uncategorized
Tags: ,

Well, hello there, world!

Welcome to The Pen and the Sword, in which I talk about the joys and struggles of writing. And life, love, the pursuit of happiness, et cetera, et cetera.

I’ve always wanted a blog. Ever since I was a wee little child, I was obsessed with the idea of an online journal, a place to rant and rave to slightly interested followers. It was my eternal dream, the one desire of my life, a never-ending hope.

Actually, no, it wasn’t. When I was a little child, I was obsessed with playing kitchen and throwing my dolls around the room. But still, starting a blog seemed like a fun pursuit. So here I am.

I can’t tell you exactly what each post of mine will be about. I intend to make this blog primarily about writing, though I will likely stray into categories such as photography, movies, books I’ve read, and life. As for how often I will post…I would like to post weekly, but I’m not sure if that will happen. Stay tuned!

In conclusion, thanks for stopping by! Stick around if you’d like daily (ahem, weekly) doses of writing, humor, and my own bold opinions.

Have a nice day! (There, that was a good way to end a post, right? Wishing the readers a delightful day? That will seem likable? Oh, whatever…Have a day!)