Saturday, September 10, 2016

I Feel You, Lin. I Feel You.

What an inspiration. Lin-Manuel Miranda started working on Hamilton in 2008. Eight years later, his musical is nominated for 16 Tony Awards and wins 11 of them.

I've been working on my own big idea since 2011. It's been bumpy. It's a long road, but:

There's a million things I haven't done,
But just you wait, just you wait.

Just you wait, dear reader. :)

Much love,

Monday, September 5, 2016

Love: Dark Characters with Passion (I)

I've been listening to a lot of Chase Holfelder's music lately. If you haven't heard any of his covers yet, you really should. The way he sings is so rich with emotion. I've honestly yet to hear a cover by him that I don't like. He changes songs from major key to minor key, but it's the way he transforms them into his own style that sets him apart from other cover artists. Here. I'll share a few in this entry for you to listen.

Rock and ethereal, almost sinister-sounding music are some of my absolute favorite kinds of music because of their ability to draw listeners to a place in their minds that others aren't particularly allowed to see. It's immersive, reader. It's fantastic, but also dangerous for susceptible people like me. Take 2:05 in this first video for example. It's not dangerous like the second video in this entry, but it's immersive. See? The way it picks up and becomes more aggressive... It's great. Every good artist should be able to immerse their listeners in their work. Otherwise, what are they doing being the only ones who can understand what they're making?

Anyway. How about that title? Haha I chose it because the kind of love I'm going to write about applies to darker characters more than good characters. It's a love that is less pure.

Let me elaborate. To me, darker characters are more fun to write because of how intense they are. They're more passionate in the way they love. They chase, tease, sneak, and control, and because they don't understand emotions like lust and love, they become completely consumed by them. Really. It's fascinating! Also, darker characters--unlike good-intentioned ones--aren't afraid to be selfish. In fact, they thrive for selfishness because no one in the world has the right to tell them what they deserve and don't deserve.

At least that's what they believe with all their hearts. Yes, even dark characters have hearts. They may not know how to use them, but they own them. Hearts are inconvenient to them, you see, because loving is one step away from connecting with their conscience, and a conscience is the last thing a selfish person wants to deal with. Through the story they exist in, they'll try to get rid of that conscience until they can act without feeling again. Here's the thing though, reader. You can't get rid of your emotions and attachments towards other people. For the characters who struggle with their conscience, creating bonds is inevitable.

I mean, if they want to function and interact as a human being in society, yes. Granted, not all fictional characters are human, but they still have to be relatable to readers, and for that to happen, they must possess human qualities. Destructive or extremely passionate love is where those human qualities begin. It's addicting from the observer's point-of-view! Not so much if that person is manipulating us in real life.

Now, this second video is a great example of how said type of love manifests. Go ahead. Have a listen! You might feel an emotion or think a thought that doesn't exactly belong to you.

It's eerie, isn't it? Like all of Chase's covers, it takes a beautiful song, (like this entry's topic of love) into something twisted and possessive (like destructively passionate love).

TADA! That ends this entry! Just kidding. Or am I? I want to write more...but I don't know where to branch off to next. Hmm. There's so much more to dark characters. Where do I continue without writing too much?! Alright, you know what? I think I'll make this part one of maybe three? I'm nowhere near done exploring the mindset of dark characters, but this entry is getting long.

Yeah. I'll cut it here and leave you on your way. There'll be plenty of space to write in future entries. Does that sound good to you? Great. It's not like you have a choice anyway haha! I'll see you next time, reader!

- Louisa

Monday, July 25, 2016

Love: Dinner With Our Protagonists

QUICK NOTE: Writing about love in my last entry helped put me in such a great brainstorming mindset that I've decided to write a series of entries to keep momentum. Love is still a mystery to me, so I'll study and write about it until I finish my manuscript. With everything that's going on in the world...spreading a little love couldn't hurt, don't you think? :)

Nothing is better than spending quality time with the people we love. The more time we spend, the better the bond. The better the bond, the better the memories of that relationship. That said, I believe bonding with characters is no different.

When we plan, we get to know our characters with every chapter of the book. We learn about the things they say and how they move, what their backgrounds are and the moments that defined them as people. Once we do that, writing the actual book should be a breeze! The better the bond, the better the memories of that relationship, right?

Right. But sometimes we don't take enough time to bond.

As of right now...eighty percent of my novel is a diffuse, jumbled mess because I don't know my protagonist well enough. I didn't take her out for dinner, figuratively and literally speaking. I didn't set a table for the both of us to sit down and talk like I did for my first protagonist before I started writing about him. Thankfully, the percentage of what doesn't make sense in book number three is quickly decreasing. It's just taken a lot of time and patience to get going.

It's been an interesting hurdle, this conscious effort to bond with my new protagonist. Getting her to open up and show me her burdens over chicken soup and bread rolls has been extremely difficult. But I certainly don't blame her! I know very well I wouldn't share my deepest, darkest secrets just because someone asked for them! But in order for me to be able to tell this protagonist's story well, I need her to open up. I need to know why she's so guarded. I need to know how she looks so calm on the outside but have so much emotional turmoil on the inside, and I need to know why she refuses to acknowledge another character, let alone fall in love with, whose impact on her as a person is particularly important in this romance novel.

Here, let me show you just how my two protagonists are proving to be near polar opposites of each other. They're their own beasts to deal with, I'm telling you. KEY: I'll refer to my main series' protagonist as Peter, and my current WIP's protagonist as Wendy. (Yes, I've been reading Peter Pan haha.)

Now. Peter loves everybody. He likes to play and see everyone get along. He's boyish, imaginative, but also very responsible. It was so healthy for me to write about him (almost two years ago!) because I tend to act like the character I'm thinking about most. I loved everybody when I was writing about Peter. It was great! But Wendy here? No. Wendy doesn't love anybody. Or at the very least, she doesn't show that she does. She's stubborn, blunt, and unforgiving of her own shortcomings. Writing about her is less healthy at times because I'm more impatient, angry, and afraid as opposed to when I'm not writing. It's very strange...

...but engaging. I like having dinner with my protagonists and learning about the kinds of people they are. I don't always know where they come from in my mind, but I adore bonding with them. I really do. You should give it a shot if you've been stuck with your novel. You just might find it helpful!

For the remainder of this entry, I'd like to share general things I've been learning about love. It's helping me develop the relationships between my characters (families, friends and lovers), so if you're circling around the topic with no clue what you're looking at, maybe this can make a few things click! :)

  1. Love can be unexpected and appear when we least expect it.
  2. It is not something we can run away from forever.
  3. Love is scary. But scary things are often things worth doing the most.
  4. It makes us realize things we never thought we knew we were missing in our lives.
  5. Love makes us dizzy.
  6. It makes love songs finally make sense.
  7. Love is accepting the other person for how they act on their best and worst days.
  8. It can't be forced.
  9. realizing no matter how much we treasure someone, if it is for the best, we should be willing to let them go.
I hate that last one, but it really does feel true. I just hope I never have to face that choice.

- Louisa

I imagine love will feel something like this if it ever happens.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Love: Something Worth Writing

A very helpful idea planted itself in my head a few months ago, and it was sparked by this quote:

"Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing."
- Benjamin Franklin

Image from the Google.
Before my current work-in-progress (WIP), I had no problem writing every day. I worked on my first book in-between classes when I could have been socializing, and at home when I should've been preparing for graduation. It was just so easy to get absorbed. I wrote because the story was something I needed to tell. I constantly saw it vividly in my mind whether I wanted to or not. It was a movie that paused whenever I had to interact with people, and played the very minute I was alone.

This year, however, is very different. December to March, I fought with myself to WRITE SOMETHING GOOD. April to July, I tossed the 40,000 words I'd written (half a book) and came to terms with the fact that not all my stories will be as easy to write as the first two.

Now. Back to the quote by Benjamin Franklin. I've been following it for the past few months because it threw my own dang advice in my face, particularly from this March entry: Room to Grow and Overcome Fears. In that entry, I said, "Don't rush yourself. The best things in life take time, so give yourself that time to learn and grow." Sound familiar? Considering I was still tempted to rush life after writing it, it was fortunate I found the very same advice in the words of another person. A respectable person no less, and what that person advised people like me to do was to "do something worth writing." Crazy, right? Because of that, I accepted what I needed to do to WRITE SOMETHING GOOD. I took a deep breath and looked for present things I missed while I was too busy pining for the future.

And what did I miss? Hoho silly me...only exactly what I needed to write this book!

The funny thing about my current manuscript is that it's a YA dark-fantasy romance novel. Darkness and fantasy? No problem. Romance? Uhh...what is that? LOL

Honestly, all I can do about it is laugh, because why the hell did this story have to turn out to be a love story when love isn't something I know? At all? I mean, my other stories have love in them, but they're not my debut novel, are they? The development of the relationships won't be highlighted in the plot. Compared to magic, death, and fast-paced fight scenes, love is...meh. I dunno.

It just hasn't debuted in my life yet. I've never dated, but I also don't plan on messing with anyone either. Love is not a game, dear reader. The heart is not a toy or a chess piece to be played with. What love and the heart are, however, are two very important aspects in life that everyone needs to comprehend. Whether it's to research for a book or to pay attention to the people who are dear to us: Love. Is. Important.

METAPHOR TIME: So there I was wandering inside a love-themed shop surrounded by pink and red products. It smelled of wood, candles, and various unfamiliar things. I hated it. I'd never been this far into the store. Usually I browse in the art, book, and music sections, and this new section made me feel so bare and out of place! I kept thinking: How am I going to do this? I want to learn about love, but I'm not comfortable around it at all!

Now. Being the mind-over-heart type of person that I tend to be, I told myself I needed to keep an open mind if I wanted to learn something. So I changed out of my black hoodie and slipped into a dark red shirt in an attempt to at least look like I belonged there. I forced my back straight and frown into a smile, and slowly but surely, I learned it wasn't so bad to be in such a bright shop. In just a short amount of time, I grew from being completely put somewhat comfortable.

What I wasn't expecting though, was to find someone else in the shop. It was a man, alone like me, but unlike me he was mingling. It surprised me to see how confident and kind he was with other people, so much so that I felt intimidated. See, if he was this friendly with strangers, then it was only a matter of time before he found me, and I'd have to explain my dumb reason for being there. Simply put, I ran. I'd come back the next day when he wasn't there to finish my research in peace. Easy, right? Right?

WRONG. The next time I visited, I learned he was the owner of the shop. There were no days when he wouldn't be there! (Insert curse word). Of course the one place I was looking for inspiration in was the one this person frequented most! (Insert another curse word). So what to do? I couldn't just give up. I'm no quitter! I needed to move forward and it was only a matter of time before he found me anyway.

And found me he did. As expected, he was very friendly and attentive. He asked if I needed help looking for anything and I stubbornly said no. That was that. That was the first encounter. In every following encounter, I continued to say no, and whenever he passed whatever aisle I was browsing in (as if I knew what I was looking for), I pretended not to notice him. This went on for a while, my stubbornness. Why was I ignoring him? I always knew where he was the moment I stepped in the shop. Why pretend?

I don't know. I guess I was curious...and scared. I didn't like this new circumstance because I'm used to learning about myself by myself. Does that make sense? Anyway, my avoidance didn't last forever. A familiar trinket on the other side of the store caught my eye, and by the time I looked down I found myself making direct eye contact with the owner! (Repeat curse word). I swear, this metaphor is quite accurate to the event I'm basing it off of. It's making me laugh!

I should wrap this entry up soon because it's getting pretty lengthy. But hey. It's been a very long time since I've written anything, so I think it's appropriate to kick off this creative revival with a long entry!

Let me continue. Where was I? ...Oh yeah, eye contact! (That was great haha. I definitely deserved it for avoiding him for so long.) The owner had no idea I'd looked by accident, so he casually walked over and said hello again. Let's call him Chris. Chris greeted me, we talked for a bit, and then I continued on my way. It was thankfully less awkward than last time, and since he talked so much it wasn't a problem that I was so quiet. After our chat, he just smiled, said goodbye, and searched the shop for more people to help.

Now that. That intrigued me. His behavior and words intrigued me, and because of that I began to observe him more closely from afar. Sometimes he knew I was there, other times he had no idea because I visited inconsistently and made full use of my shortness to hide behind the shelves. Sometimes we spoke to each other for well over an hour, other times we just said hello. It was nice!

Man, this entry...
I hope we still have ice cream in the freezer.
Before I knew it, I was visiting the shop not because I needed to figure out the purpose of the items on the shelves, but because I wanted to see Chris. It couldn't hurt, I thought. I wasn't straying from my goal. Chris owned the store! He knew where the items were and what they did, and when I finally resigned from my own stubbornness, I let him show me.

"Okay, music for the soul is over here. The snow department is down the hall. That's where we keep the ice cream and other desserts. I highly recommend you check it out. There are sooo many great flavors! Hey. Would you like some chocolate? Here, have the rest. I ate so much already." He went on and on about all these things in the shop and...well. I think he's wonderful. Truly. He's an endearing person!


So yeah. Isn't it crazy how these things happen? I left a lot out, but that's too long of a story to tell this first time back. I just wanted to let you know that it really is something else to step out of our minds and desks and into the world. For the first time in my life, I can honestly say that I'm fighting towards not running away from love. Isn't that nice? It's only been about five months since I really started looking at it so I most certainly won't say that I've found it, but--

Hmm. You know what? Okay. I'll say that I definitely found love. I just haven't fallen in it. You see the difference? Like a fair few number of people in my life, this new person has earned their way to a very special place in my heart. Although I don't know how long I'll know him or to what extent, at the very least I'm glad to say that magic, death, and fast-paced fight scenes aren't the only moments I'll be looking forward to writing about in the future. It's also rather amazing that out of the four things I just mentioned, love just so happens to be the only one we get to experience in real life.

It really isn't every day you get to find someone worth caring about. I don't mind if that sounds selfish. Not everyone deserves our compassion and undivided attention. There are people out there who take advantage of sincerity and it's downright wrong. But this one? No. This one I have easily learned to love.

On that note, take care, reader! I'll be back with updates about some things I've found worth writing.

Much love,

P.S. Oh! One more thing. The black hoodie is back, but I wore a black dress one time to see how it'd be received. Apparently Chris likes them both because he treats me the same regardless of what I wear :)

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Empathy: My Best Friend and Enemy

There's so much to write concerning this topic that I've no clue where to start! I suppose starting from the beginning can't hurt. Yes. Let me do that. I'll be careful not to write too much too, because I do tend to go on tangents when it comes to exploring self-improvement. I've learned so much these past five years. There's a lot of ground to cover! Anyway, here we go!

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, empathy is "the feeling that you understand and share another person's experiences and emotions: the ability to share someone else's feelings." It should not be mistaken for sympathy, which is caring about someone and using that caring to offer support. Does that make sense? Empathy is feeling what another person is feeling. Sympathy is being sorry for what another person is feeling.

Right. So the first time I became aware I was empathetic was in 2012. I'd just watched The Avengers and was incredibly curious about a character named Loki. I didn't know why back then, but there was just something about him that I connected with and needed to understand more of. So I went home, popped Thor into the DVD player, and observed. Backstory is set, the story progresses, but what should evoke waves of emotion in me than the scene where the villain finds out he's not an Asgardian from Odin Allfather his Notfather (HA!). Seriously though. It's a heavy scene when Loki finds out he was adopted as a tool of diplomacy, and because of that slightly important and uncontrollable piece of his origin, he will never be as good as his stronger and more loved brother.

With the help of Tom Hiddleston's undeniably amazing acting, empathy hit me hard for the very first time. Distress. Misery. Fury. Vindictiveness. You bet I felt it all. I remember saving a gif set of that scene because every single expression Tom wore had an incredibly powerful impact on me. You could see what was going on in Loki's head through his eyes, and it was amazing. After watching Thor (and rewatching The Avengers when the DVD came out) I must say that acting hasn't looked the same to me since. It's a craft for the externally expressive, and it takes so much out of the crafter (actor) that I don't even know where to begin to write about how admirable (good) actors are! As opposed to us writers and storytellers, who are internal crafters, you know? Writing takes just as much emotional strain, but you don't always see it because they're thoughts and ideas that see the light of day as words...not expressions. Less noticeable.

Still, external or not, empathy carried itself into my everyday life. I became aware of everyone around me. I stopped hanging my shy head and started inviting my curiosity to watch people and look them in the eye whenever I spoke to them. Again and again, I felt waves of emotion that belonged to those other people, and because of that, I slowly began to understand them. It was like a switch. All of a sudden, I just felt everything. It was a lot to take in, sure, but because I'd been numb for so long, I eagerly ate up everyone's emotions and wanted to understand why so many of them were so unhappy.

In a nutshell, discovering empathy did very good things to my...rather dark heart. Honestly, there's a trackable reason why I gravitated towards villains more than heroes, but we'll get to that strange self-analysis in another entry. Wait. You know what? Maybe we never will, because I actually want people to trust me, thank you very much! On the bright side, empathy taught me to read people and want to help them the way heroes and good characters do. I learned to care, which is why empathy is my best friend.

To cover the "Enemy" part of this entry's title, I'd just like to say that empathetic people sometimes end up feeling too much. In my case, it became too much when I started writing. I needed to put all my harvested emotions somewhere, right? But putting those emotions into characters who grew into their own person and developed their own range of emotions ended up trapping me in a web of mental and emotional burden. I wasn't just a student figuring out her unexpected calling in creating stories. I was also a fearful sister, a wayward brother, a grieving mother, etc. There were too many lives feeling in one person, and that's when empathy became something I hated. After all, how could I be distraught over the death of my child if I never had one in the first place? Louisa is just a kid. Louisa needs to calm down.

I probably sound crazy trying to explain this, but that's okay. I suppose this is the same reason why my current manuscript is progressing so slowly? I'm scared to feel too much again, especially since this third novel features a soldier with severe guilt and post-traumatic stress. But writing well requires me to welcome a scary-leveled connection with my characters! I don't want to write a bad book just because I'm too scared to understand the people in them! No, Louisa. NO. If you're a writer, you shouldn't chicken out just because writing is difficult, okay? Bleeding is part of the process.

Oh, and reader? Do take care of yourself. Take a breather after this long day. Shoot. Take a breather after this long week, but whatever you do, don't drown like the unhappy peers I had all those years ago...because I don't know for how long they've been unhappy and if they even knew they were.

Geez. I hope they're all right. I'll see you next time, okay?

- Louisa

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

In The Heart Of The Road

I listened to this song while writing. If you don't get distracted by music while reading, go click haha!

Once in a blue moon, I'll stumble on a story that really hits home. Much like strangers who give off the presence of long lost friends, stories that hit home are unexpected and magical. They stay in our thoughts and hearts long after we've heard or seen them, and whatever we do with that lingering impression is up to us. That lingering impression is what I'd like to write about in this entry.

First of all, watching In The Heart Of The Sea refueled my passion for achieving great things. It doesn't matter how many times I've told you I "refueled my fire". I've been lying to you, reader. My passion for achieving great things hasn't been the same since July. Its fluctuation has been frustrating and really quite horrible. I didn't write about it in previous posts because I didn't want to be negative and bring you down by writing over and over about it. Naturally, all I unintentionally ended up doing by pretending to feel better was postpone the emotions I did feel. I bottled them up (they didn't explode) and they became acid that melted my glass-bottle-mind, leaving me exhausted and lost.

Don't do what I did, reader. If a wise friend didn't call me out on it recently, I would never have known. So I'm telling you now. Don't postpone emotions in an attempt to numb them. Or vice-versa.

My wise friend expressed it to me like this:
"Feelings demand to be felt whether we like it or not. Instead of suppressing it and trying to move on, how about you acknowledge that this affects you? can embrace that in a healthy instead of fighting your feelings, let them take over and let yourself feel the hurt."

Now, in this particular situation, the hurt is gone. What I was missing was the drive and passion to keep going and believing in the stories I'm trying to write. Perfectly enough, that's what In The Heart Of The Sea gave back to me. On top of other positive things that have helped me with my personal growth, the ending and message of this film made me nod, take a deep breath, and get back on my feet.

"Kick ass," said the voice in my head. "Don't listen to anyone else but me, and I say kick ass."
To which I replied, "Thank you, creepy voice in my head. Can you please leave while I process this?"

Someday, I want to write about acknowledging the tough times on this long road to dream-chasing, but right now, I'm ready to move forward and not look back. Doubt is just a step away from fear, and if there's any goal I have besides publishing the insanely long list of stories in my head, it's to be fearless (or as close to fearless as I can get without doing reckless things or getting killed). After all, as one of my inspirations once said, "I never get afraid of things. I only get excited."

I'll see you next time, okay? We're in the heart of the road, reader. There's no point in turning back.

- Louisa

Friday, April 1, 2016

Films, Camp NaNoWriMo, and Inspiration

I've gotten the chance to watch quite a number of films with my family lately (of which I will mention by rank of enjoyment). There's Deadpool, The Martian, Self/less, Gods of Egypt, and The Witch. The only one I wouldn't recommend to you is The Witch, which surprises me because I love horror films, but I just couldn't get onboard with this one. Slow pacing, lack of clarity, and the fact that it felt like the long beginning of a movie instead of a complete one are what I believe are its main downfalls.

But hey, if you read the synopsis online and it looks like something you'd like, then go for it! We're all different people with varying tastes. It's the very reason that although Gods of Egypt isn't getting phenomenal reviews, it was a fun ride for me and I greatly appreciated the character development and comedic elements that were present. As soon as I understood the fact that it's a film about Egyptian gods essentially using the earth as their playground, I very much enjoyed it. The dynamic between Brenton Thwaites' and Nicolaj Coster-Waldau's characters was entertaining, and if this film had been a trilogy with more weight in its story, it would've been amazing. But there's only so much you can pack in a single movie with such a large cast of characters. I could see the creators were trying to get all these characters' backgrounds across to make them relatable, but it was too much to fit in two hours!

As an example of varying tastes, The Witch received a rating of 90% on Rotten Tomatoes and Gods of Egypt 13%. That should be 10% and 65% respectively in my opinion, but (shrug). What can you do? I personally watch movies to know what's out there and find inspiration towards what to do and not to do in my novels, so I take what I can get. As a former student of animation, it's refreshing to revisit my roots in film and exercise my long unpracticed eye for visual storytelling. It's an old friend, it is!

Today, my family and I are watching Zootopia and London Has Fallen. I'll let you know how that goes.

On the writing side of things, April 1st marks the beginning of Camp NaNoWriMo, which stands for Camp National Novel Writing Month. It's a site where writers all around the world make a goal to spend an entire month writing a novel. You can track your progress through the site, and it's a motivational thing to do more than anything else knowing other writers are working towards the same thing at the time. NaNoWriMo usually takes place in November, but the spring version of it is in April. Yes, starting today! I have a goal to write 60,000 words this month (since I'm restarting my choppy novel), though I hope to write more and be finished mid-May.

Simply put, I love my characters, but I'm tired of working on this book. I really am.

To kick off this month (and get back to writing) I wanted to share a few songs that are inspiring my current novel. This may be the first story I've come up with where I've had to look for inspiration as opposed to just having my iPod on shuffle and seeing a story take shape in my head. It's been interesting and challenging for sure. Anyway, here's a peek at my latest work-in-progress :P

"Sentinels of Stone" by Nox Arcana

"Main Titles" by Danny Elfman (Oz the Great and Powerful)

"The Supper" by Bruno Coulais (Coraline)

"Lord of Death" by Two Steps From Hell

"Labyrinth of Dreams" by Nox Arcana

"Our Farewell" by BrunuhVille

I'll see you in the next entry, whenever that may be. I'll write about the sizable dent I've made in my manuscript and let you know about any more movies I think you might like!

- Louisa