Tuesday, February 28, 2012

In the News- HarperCollins Sells Inkpop to Rival Figment!

Okay guys. So I'm really pissed off about this. Anyways, I'll be posting the full story either Tomorrow or Thursday (the horrific day of the shut down). Sorry guys if I won't be posting much this week, its kinda been crazy ever since Sunday.

Until then, I give you the original article that Inkies found before HarperCollins even bothered to tell us, and this one which gives you a even more in depth of what happened.

Sincerely,
Sareh

EDIT: I found a copy of what HC announced to us on a news report and I'm putting it here so you can see it.
We’re excited to announce that the inkpop site and community will be merging with Figment, which means you can now be part of an even bigger community of writers.
Figment is a creative writing website and just like inkpop it’s dedicated to fostering talented writers and giving them a platform to gain a wider audience. As a Figment member, you’ll have even more ways to get feedback, improve your writing, and connect with authors and publishing professionals.
While inkpop will no longer exist as its own site after 3/1/12, the inkpop & Figment teams are working hard to make sure all inkpop accounts and projects will have a new home and that you will be able to easily find & connect with each other on Figment.
Over the next few days, you’ll receive step-by-step instructions that will guide you through the process of moving your account information to Figment.
Thank you for being a part of the inkpop community—we are excited about this new partnership and look forward to seeing you and reading your writing on Figment. 

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Book Review- Chaos

Deep in the Romanian mountains lies a fortress, and deep within it is a chamber where a Shataiki bat has ruled the dead for more than 2,000 years. If he has his way, no child will be safe. But there are four who stand in the way, in this gripping finale to the search for the seven Books of History.


I didn't like this book as much as I've liked the other books. I'm not sure why but there was something that I just didn't like. Maybe it was because of the time rift?

Although it's interesting when character time travel and then you find out that one character was there for ten years while it's only been a few minutes for another character and you both traveled at the same time; I just found it unsettling how Karas was suddenly so old. 



Anyways, it was interesting to see how Johnis and Silvie (I'm sure I spelled her name wrong, but I've never been able to spell it correctly. Note to authors: your readers should be able to spell your character's name right out some difficultly.) handled being in a kinda futuristic version of our world (if my memory serves correctly, the time period is a bit ahead of ours). I didn't like this one has much because Johnis was kinda weird, especially about the car. He had this really strange obsession with this car they stole. Although I liked the romance part in it, I thought it was cute. 


But the part where we find out that time got all messed up really bugged me. I just found it unsettling how Karas and the other girl were suddenly so old. Although it's interesting when character time travel and then you find out that one character was there for ten years while it's only been a few minutes for another character and you both traveled at the same time. Anyways, that's what happened. 


As for the plot...it was interesting. They had to find a way to get all the seven books and then find out how to  get back to their reality. It was kinda cool to see how how our world was like in the books and I enjoyed seeing the connection between the Shataiki and vampires. 


But I felt like this wasn't one of my favorite books of the series. It was good, yes, but I also just didn't enjoy it as much. I actually don't have all that much to say about it. It was an improve though from the last book Renegade

Goodreads: Chaos
Website: Ted Dekker

Sincerely,
Sareh

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Creative Writing Classes: My Experience

Okay so this is not a post about if taking creative writing courses in college approves your chances to get published or whatever. No the point of this post is to show you a little bit of what a high school writing class is like (in case you're considering taking one or you don't have one at your school but you're still interested in them. Or maybe you just want to compare notes.) But don't take my word for it. This is just my experience and every class is different. Basically, this is my opinion, so far. 

How it begins (dun dun dun).
My writing class in the morning and we begin by getting our computers out. After I get my computers out and plugged in, I go over to where my teacher sits, sit down as far away as possible and take out my laptop. I sit at the front because my own computer doesn't connect to the server-thing that allows to the teachers to spy on you and my teacher believes that (even though she knows I'm a writer) that I *gasp* won't be writing. Which... I always am.

After reading through the daily announcements (and while she's doing that, I pull out any computer documents I might need while I'm writing), she rambles on about something that I already know. Like the other day, another high school got out because they had a bunch of kids sick at once, and so that's the prompt she gave to my classmates to write about. My response was: I hope they get better, cause that's not fun.

We get 20 minutes of free writing time (to write whatever we want. Although if we write about something she finds disturbing (or if you swear too much in the piece), she'll suggest you go talk to the counselor.) Anyways, I always work on my novels. Although because on Fridays we have to submit our "best" pieces to Turnitin.com for peer editing and stuff, I've gone to working on Night Lies during class. (I'm okay with people I don't know reading The Cursing, but I'm not all too sure I want people I know reading my horror-ish, dark fantasy quite yet. For my close friends and family, its okay, cause they know me. But most of the student body doesn't.


Anyways, so while my classmates are working on whatever prompt she gives them, I'm typing away and trying to look professional, pounding out as much as my novel in 20 minutes as I can get while trying to glance at my notes when I need them (you're not suppose to stop writing, so it puts a crunch when I need to look at something important.).

After that is done, she usually comments on someone's piece (she has yet to say anything about mine. I know she's seen it because she gets really close to me while I'm tying and breathes down my neck for a few minutes. I'm considering telling her sometimes to get out of my bubble because I can't type!), or rambles on about something related to something that someone else was working on.

And then, class is over.

My thoughts and rants.
Now is where you run away. No not really, I hope not. But hear me out. If you don't really want to read my rant, skip to the next bold point. 


When I signed up for this class, I was hoping to learn something new. I was also hoping to get some feedback on what I've written.

Instead, I find a class where the teacher is more obsessed with your word count goal then actually improving our writing skills and creative thinking. Yes, I know, word counts are important. And while I think its good to aim for a certain amount of words (especially during Nanowrimo), I also find it annoying.

Especially when you're writing a novel where your word count is all over the place because sometimes you don't write as much because you may be writing a lot of dialogue that doesn't involve a lot of words. Or if you're writing something really descriptive.

My daily word count goal is 823 words. My weekly word count is around 4k. When I averaged it out last week (as in, how many words I had written per day) I was only 23 words behind the daily goal. She gave me a B. I wasn't pleased.

The other part that makes me mad is the editing. Yes, while I understand that I'm the only person who cares and I'm not just in the class because its an easy A, I expect a little more than "it was interesting" from one of my classmates. I even had spelling errors and they didn't say anything! While on the other hand, I actually critiqued the 2-page paper I was given. I wrote comments and gave ideas on how to improve the piece. Thankfully, this week we have to give at least 10 comments and actually edit the papers. Of course, I'm not expecting much even so. I'm starting to think that our teacher should teach the class out to properly critique someone else's work.

And the other day, one of my classmates came up with a name. My teacher apparently liked the name and said she was going to use it...but she didn't even ask my classmate's permission! Granted, my classmate didn't really care one way or another, but I thought it was really...it was a bad example, I thought. Because you just don't take other people's things without their permission! I don't even think my teacher was totally serious, but...it just really bugged me.

And I'm sure my teacher doesn't like me...or the fact that I'm working on novels. She told me the other day in front of the whole class that I should "work on something else". I get it. I really do. Working on other things can help your creative juices. But I'll do that if I get writer's block, not when I know what to write and I'm on a roll. Plus when you told us we can work on whatever. My other example is when she asked the class what we thought would make a story more interesting. So I said, "dialogue" because it was the first thing I could think of. And then, she totally shoots down my answer!

"There's more to writing then dialogue, Sareh."

NO, REALLY? I DID NOT KNOW THAT. ITS NOT LIKE I'M WRITING A NOVEL OR ANYTHING LIKE THAT. WHICH CLEARLY HAS MORE TO IT THAN DIALOGUE.

And if she wanted more examples or something like that, she should have said so. But she didn't.

Okay so it isn't all bad. 
I do get 20 minutes to write whatever I want. And I enjoy the silence while I'm typing. And my teacher's prompts does actually help my classmates. And we're going to "explore" or "focus" more on other types of writing.

And by the way guys, while I don't agree with my teacher or how she's teaching the class, I respect her. I think she's smart and has good ideas.

I just strongly disagree.

What I think we could do it improve the class. 
In seven easy steps.

  1. Teach the class things that they can use more often. Besides giving examples of where to find inspiration, she could teach them how to critique stuff. 
  2. Have group discussions: While peer editing on itself is nice, I think it would be even better to talk with our classmates during class about our work. Plus we could have group discussions on certain topics, like...what they think makes or breaks a story. (for example, if you hate the characters, will you still finish the story.) 
  3. Have us read articles related to writing: I can recommend some! And although we have creative writing books, they're really outdated. Plus, reading articles and stuff on writing can teach the class things about writing that the teacher may not know. 
  4. Have us read a piece out loud: Say there's something we'd like to get feedback on in particular, well we could print out copies or read it out loud. And then all chip in on ways to improve it. 
  5. Look at examples of writing: And not like our classmates' stuff, but published authors. We could look at classics, novels, plays, poetry, etc. And discuss what made that story good or what didn't. Look at how each writer's style is different. (And on that note, talk about style). It'd be amazing if we could even get a published author to come talk to us! I know several and there's kids at my school who know several. 
  6. Tell them its okay to write: Obviously there are some things that we should be concerned about if they're writing some disturbing things, but I think that my classmates shouldn't be put down if their writing has a lot of swearing in it (okay, I disapprove of swearing and it is a Christian school, but they don't have to read that stuff out loud. Besides, my point is that there is alot of people out there who have no problem with it.)
  7. Stop acting like its a Word War or a Typing Lesson: Creative writing's classes should not focus on how much writing we actually write in a week or whatever. Sure, the students should be writing, but I think we should focus more on how to improve our writing and stuff like that. If I wanted to impove my wpm, I'd have taken a computer course. Not an English one. 
One last thing:
So there's what my class is like. From my point of view. I think its a nice class, I really do. And don't let this discourage you if you're thinking of taking one. This is just my experience (which will hopefully get better) and I'm minoring in Creative Writing in college. Planning to, at least.  Have you guys ever taken a writing course before? What was it like? Was it more helpful or not? Do you guys think that I'm being oversensitive about this? 

Sincerely,
Sareh

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

In the News- Ninjas Might Just Be Cooler than...


Dolphins and Whales Playing Together.
This video features the first recorded examples of whales off the coast of Hawaii playing with other creatures. The two seperate recorded events occur near Kauai and Maui. This kind of interaction is rare between species. And in the article from which I first saw this, it uses two fun words --gregarious cetaceans.


Or are they?
Iran's Female Ninjas!
So this article showed a slide show of cool pictures of these female ninjas. And I thought they looked cool (I'd like a moment to say that I'd love to be a ninja) and so I'm sharing the link with you.

Cause who doesn't like ninjas?

Onto the rest of the news!
Teen gets Life in Prision for Murder.
Boys, girls, I'd like to take a moment to remind you that murder is wrong. And even if you're writing a murder mystery, killing someone so you know what it is like (even in the name of research) or because "you were curious" is wrong.

Apparenlty 18-year-old Alyssa Bustamante, thinks otherwise.

The Missouri teen confessed to killing 9-year-old Elizabeth Olten in October 2009. She has been given the mamium sentance for second degree murder (Life in prison with the chance of parole). She also was odered a 30-year term for armed criminal action (which is because she used a knife to slit and stab Elizabeth after strangling her unconsciousness). The article says:
Bustamante was 15 years old at the time of Elizabeth's murder in the small town of St. Martins, just west of Jefferson City. Evidence presented during her hearing revealed that Bustamante had dug a shallow grave in the woods several days in advance, then used her younger sister to lure Elizabeth out of her home with an invitation to play. Bustamante, who had hidden a knife in a backpack, said she had a surprise for Elizabeth in the forest. The surprise turned out to be her demise.
"I strangled them and slit their throat and stabbed them now they're dead," Bustamante wrote in her diary, which was read in court by a handwriting expert. "I don't know how to feel atm. It was ahmazing. As soon as you get over the 'ohmygawd I can't do this' feeling, it's pretty enjoyable. I'm kinda nervous and shaky though right now. Kay, I gotta go to church now...lol."
Bustamante then left for a youth dance at a Mormon church her family attended while hundreds of volunteers began a two-day hunt for the dead girl. Although she initially lied to authorities about Elizabeth's whereabouts, Bustamante eventually confessed to police and led them to Elizabeth's leaf-covered shallow grave.
What I find disturbing is that she killed a girl and then went to a church dance right afterwards. I don't ever see how anyone could go to a dance, much less, go to church right after this.  Even more is that she found it "ahmazing". Which is really creepy. Personally, I'm glad she's getting a life sentence. To read the whole thing and watch a video on it click here.


Texas Squatter lives in house for $16. 
Kenneth Robinson, 51, lived in a house worth $340,000 since June for only $16. He lived on Waterford Drive in Flower Mound, Texas but did not own or rent the house. Apparently, the owner of the house abandoned it after it had been forclosed and the mortgage company went out of business. So Kenneth, submitted $16 dollars at the local courthouse claiming that "adverse possesion" abled him to love in the house.

Adverse pssession was a law concept developed during the 1800s which could be enacted to ensure that a property was maintained and monitored. To use this law, all oyu have to do is post a public notice and stay there for usually 10 years. After that period of time, the person occupying the house could own it. Meanwhile, the original owner could try to fight a hefty legal battle to get the house bacl.

Robinson also wrote an ebook and created a website about his experience. And he's not the only one who knows a little about this. Searching on Google can lead to plenty of sites that will show you how to do this.
At AdversePossession.com, for example, for a mere $39.95, "average people" can learn how to "acquire valuable real estate for free." The site takes steps to assure potential Robinsons that adverse possession is not squatting. "Squatter," says the site, "is an unfortunate and negative term used to describe someone who unlawfully occupies a vacant property or other real estate." Nor is occupying abandoned homes for financial gain immoral, according to the site. It's "doing the neighborhood a favor."
But others disagree, like his neighbors who think that not only is it wrong, and "un-American" but that he should buy the house like everyone else. Other people state that while Robinson has a right to do this, its not the right thing to do. Read the whole article here.


In Other Squatter Related News...
A naturious mountain man is on the loose, who's identiy has yet to be discovered, has been avoiding capture for more than five years. He roams southern Utah, breaking into cabins, living off their stuff, stealing, and then vanishing. And while investigators have yet to catch or find him, they've found abandoned camps, dozens of guns, high-end outdoor gear stolen, and trash thrown around.
But the man authorities say is armed and dangerous and responsible for more than two dozen burglaries has continued to outrun the law across a swath of mountains not far from Zion National Park. He's roamed across 1,000 square miles of rugged wilderness where snow can pile 10 feet deep in winter.
And while there have been no violent confrontations, detectives say he's a time bomb. Lately he has been leaving the cabins in disarray and riddled with bullets after defacing religious icons, and a recent note left behind in one cabin warned, "Get off my mountain."
And while many theories run wild (like one claiming that he's from a Mormon fundamentalist, ploygamous sect), cabin owners are scared to return to their once relaxing second-homes. And  it appears they have good reason to be so. To read the whole, interesting article, click  here.

Sincerely,
Sareh

Monday, February 20, 2012

Writing Prompt- What you can do with only a few things.

So tonight's objective is to see how much of a story we can come up with using only a few pieces of information.

Writers often start out their stories knowing only a few pieces of information. Sometimes you know the plot, sometimes its just a character, maybe you have a piece of dialogue that sparked an idea. So let's take a look at what we can do using these examples:

Characters:
A girl who has light brown hair, a long scar going down her back and wraps around her left leg. Where did she get it? She holds a shard of a broken mirror in her hand. Using this bit of information, decide where she got the scar from and why/how she has the mirror in her hand. Write a short story or scene using what you came up with. 


Plot:
A boy is racing to make it to a national singing contest before two o' clock in the morning. He holds a key piece of information that could save the contest and some lives or destroy them all. Why is he going to this contest and what information does he have?


Setting:
A red sky is above you and in the distance you see shapes coming towards you. A harsh, bitter breeze blows past you and the smell of something sweet and burning fills the air. An empty road goes into the distance with only a few trees in sight. Where are you, what is happening, and how did you get here?


Dialogue:
You overhear this bit of information, "Well if it wasn't for her, I wouldn't be in here. But she says she's too busy with a book to come in. I only agreed to come in for the kid!"
Who's speaking and what is the speaker talking about? Who's the kid and what book does "she" have?


So there are some examples. If you'd like to share in the comments what you came up with, I'd love to know.


Sincerely,
Sareh

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Writing Tips- Backup! Backup now!

THIS IS A PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT BROUGHT TO YOU BY BIRDS OF A WRITER AND MANY OTHER PEOPLE WHO WOULD AGREE WITH ME....

BACKING UP YOUR FILES IS IMPORTANT. HERE'S THE STORY.

Why backing up is important:
My teachers are often telling us to forever back up our papers. That way, we can find a copy in case we need to work on it at school or at home. This is also important for writers. Say you've been working on that 80k word novel for three years and you just finished it. It's amazing and you know that it'll be a best seller for sure. You surf the net looking at potential agents and publisher whom you know will love you story just as much as you do. Afterwards, you go out to a party to celebrate.

But when you come home, its all gone.

Your computer contracted a deadly virus from a site you just visited and it not only destroyed your computer, but it deleted your novel. Not having saved your novel anywhere because you believed this would never happen to you, you locked yourself in your house and weep while desperately trying to rewrite the whole thing.

Don't let that happen to you!
Now I know we've all heard stories of where our fellow writers lost their work and are devastated. Knowing this, we've all hopefully backed up our files somewhere. Because we don't want this happening to us.

If you believe that you'll never lose your work, you're wrong. Fact of life, you can and will lose something story/work related at least once in your life. 


For me, I have my files backed up on at least five different places. I've emailed copies to my friends, kept files on multiple email accounts, have versions of my stories on Google Docs, keep all of my work updated onto Dropbox, I have various versions on my flashdrive, and I keep versions on my mom's computer. I also have printed versions.

This way if something ever goes wrong, a version of my work will be saved somewhere.

What you can do:
Here's a list of suggestions of different places to save your work.

  1. Your email: If you have an email account, or several, periodically attach files of your work onto emails and either send them to yourself or save them as a draft. 
  2. Your friends and family: If you have friends who are interested in reading your work, send them a copy of it. Ask them to save the document. This way if something ever goes wrong, they can send the version to you. 
  3. Flash-drives: I'd like to point out that although this is a obvious choice, it may not be the smartest choice (in my opinion). Flash-drives are easy to loose and there's always the chance that things on it might get accidentally deleted somehow. Or contract a virus which will not only wipe out your files, but spread it to other computers. Flash-drives also have a battery life, your work is stores magnetically on there and eventually that magnet will fail after about ten years. And lose your work. Yes ten years is a long time, but they will still eventually fail. 
  4. Online storage places: Besides emails, there are various sites out there, like Dropbox, where you can store stuff. Dropbox is my favorite because when I install it on my computer for free, all I have to do is store my files in the Dropbox file. If I have an internet connection, it will automatically save my files any time I make changes. Even small ones. 
    1. Internet Writing Sites: Although I keep small versions of my work on sites like Inkpop, I don't know if I would say this is a smart idea to rely on these places in case you lose your work. On Inkpop, I know that we can't copy and paste stuff. Plus, you can't download anything you upload. I don't know about other writing sites, but I wouldn't recommend this as a source to store documents. Just saying. 
  5. Google Docs: You have to have an internet connection but I like Google docs because you can edit your work online from anywhere. But I recently found out that it has a storage limit (like most things) and wouldn't let me upload my 55k word novel onto it. Anyways, even ignoring that, its still great. 
  6. Physical copies: One of the reasons I don't like printing stuff out is that I end up using a ton of paper. And then I make changes to them on my computer and the printed copies are then outdated. Which bugs me. But if you print your work out, keep them in safe places so that you won't lose them. Fire-proof safes are preferable. 
Those are my top five places to store documents and other important stuff.

Resources:
Dropbox  (If you want to join dropbox and you use this link, you [and me!] can get extra free storage space. Hint, hint. ;)
Google Docs

NOW ONTO YOUR USUAL WEB-SURFING. 

Sincerely,
Sareh

Movie Review- The Island

(From Rotten Tomatos) Blockbuster action director Michael Bay delivers a striking look at a strange world of the future in this sci-fi action drama. Midway through the 21st century, Lincoln Six Echo (Ewan McGregor) lives in a confined indoor community after ongoing abuse of the Earth has rendered most of the planet uninhabitable. One of the only places in the outside world still capable of sustaining life is an idyllic island where citizens are chosen to live through a lottery. Or at least that's what Lincoln and his fellow citizens are taught to believe; the truth is that Lincoln, like everyone he knows, is actually a clone who is kept under wraps to provide needed organs when the person who supplied his or her DNA falls ill. When he becomes aware that his existence is a fraud, Lincoln escapes to the outside world with a fellow clone, Jordan Two Delta (Scarlett Johansson), though the powers that be are determined to see that no one gets away alive. 


I really liked this movie. Not only because its a distopian-like movie, and its sci-fi, but it was just really cool. I thought that the acting was really good and it has some funny spots in it. 


When we first meet Lincoln, we see that everything they do is based around keeping them healthy. They all have simple jobs and no one suspects anything is wrong when "survivors" appear sometimes. These "survivors" are actually fully grown clones who are being introduced into Lincoln's home. Some of the clones even have false memories about what life was like before they were all forced into the safety buildings. 


When Lincoln finds out that the lottery is actually where they pick the clones who'd donors need their body parts, he and his friend Jordon escape. Finding the outside world still habitable, he and Jordon must find their donors. Along the way they encouter some new people, and lots of new things. The clones, even though they are adult looking, have the knowledge of a child and are quite innocent. 


But that doesn't stop them from eluding their captors and freeing their fellow clones. 


What I liked: I enjoyed the whole futuristic aspects of it. It was really cool and I thought that the graphics were good. The story line was exciting throughout the movie and it kinda kept me guessing. I basically really liked the whole movie, so there's not much to say. 


What I disliked: There were some parts and scenes that confused me. Sometimes I wasn't really sure what was happening or why. But beyond those few scenes, it was a pretty easy to understand movie. I didn't like the gross parts that made me uncomfortable and I was kinda sad to see that they had to include those scenes in the movie. Although it kinda makes sense why, I think the characters could have explored other new things. I would also like to know how many people still live on earth and how many have clones. What is life like for the people on earth (not the clones)?


Overall: I really enjoyed it. And I'd recommend it to anyone who enjoys sci-fi movies. 


Trailer


Sincerely,
Sareh

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Naming those Pesky Characters!

Since I consider characters to be one of the most important things about stories, I think deciding what to name your characters is very, very important. After all, its what they'll be known as forever.

Some short tips on naming...
  1. Make sure its pronounceable. A known fact is that sometimes things sound right in our heads but when we actually try to say them outloud...we can't. So say your characters' names outloud. 
  2. Don't pick something something super long. Like Quetzalxochitl (Seriously, I have NO idea how to pronounce that.) or Anunciacion (I could try...aa-nun-cee-un....yeah, I don't know.) Besides not being able to pronounce that, your readers will get very annoyed if that they to read that ever other sentence. 
  3. Be sensible: Please, whatever you do, don't be like a celebrity and name your character something really weird. Like Pilot Inspecktor (Jason Lee's kid) Or Audio Science (Shannyn Sossamon's kid) (unless you have a REALLY good, valid reason for naming your character this. Another thing: Hero/Hiro. Why must your protagonist be named this (yes, I've seen it)? (And please, don't do something like this- La-La. I heard that one woman named her child that. It looks like it should be pronounced "la la" but she says the dash is pronounced...La-dash-la. I pronounce it "la-dash-ee-a for some reason).
  4. Be careful in how you name characters will similar names: I've seen readers who have gotten to of my K names confused because they both start with K, have a similar word length, and apparently are spelled similarly. If your characters have similar names, make sure your readers can tell them apart!
Naming tips I disagree with but you shouldn't dismiss. 
  1. What's with the Ss? This isn't really me saying "don't do this" because I think its kinda silly. I've seen several naming tip sites where they advise you to not name your characters with names ending in Ss. Apparently their reasoning that it will get very confusing when your character is in the possessive form. (For example, one of my names in The Cursing is Chloris. While I agree typing Chloris' looks weird, I love her name to too much to change it just because of the S. )
  2. Be careful with  Androgynous names: If your heroine has a guy's name (like Sam) or your hero has a girly name, your readers may have trouble remembering what gender that character is. In The Sayari, my heroine has a guy's name, Jaylen, and my hero has a girl's name, Iris. Some of my readers on Inkpop, have gotten confused at their genders. But I'm too stubborn to change them. The names fit  them. 
  3. Names with "cute" spellings: While I agree that sometimes its annoying when people spell common names differently, I also don't mind it all that much. In The Prophecy, Aaron's sister is named Krystal (think Crystal). I think the different spelling fits her too well. 
How to Pick a Name...
  1. By place: Its time to take out your maps! Find a town or several town names. Then, splice one name into half or a part and do the same with the other. Then mash them together! (For example, Siran and Kose from Turkey. Sir- (Sir-an) + -ose (k-ose) = Sirose)
  2. By Meaning: Sometimes its cool to have character names that have something to do with the story. Character names with meanings can be based off their personalities, their roles in the stories, or have something to do with their profession (if they have a job or whatever). (For example: In The Prophecy, Anastasisa's name means ressurection. It relates to the story in the fact that she "resurrects" her powers . Or something like that. When I chose that name I actually didn't know its meaning until I looked it up several years later. I had chosen it because I really liked it...which brings us to our next point...).
  3. By your favorite names: Say you really like a name, like...Marie...then you could go ahead and name your character that! That's what I do for some of mine. 
  4. By Origin: If your character lives in a certain country or in a place that's based off a place, you may want to go with names that go with that area. (For example. In The Cursing, Tatiana's culture is based off of Aztec, Inca, and India cultures [although there's some celtic and norse mixed in too]. So I used names from the Aztec, Inca, and Indian languages to help name by characters.) Although a word of caution, some naming sites (if you're using websites) may not have the correction translation of what the name actually means. 
  5. Top Name Lists: Looking at the charts for the top 100 or 50 names can be a good place to look for names. (For example. In 2011/20112, in the USA, the top girl's name was Isabella and the top boy's name was Jacob. Hm...I wonder why...could it be because of a certain book series?)
  6. Make your own list: I keep an excel list of all my favorite names. Even if I'm not using the name or if I may use it, I stick it in there. That why I have a list of all the names I like. I also list the names with if they're for girls or boy (or both in some cases), their origin, their meanings, where I found them (books, websites, or if I made them up), what story they belong in, if its a place or a title or last name, and some other things. 
  7. Books, Internet, Yearbooks, etc: I'm always on the lookout for names. Last year I browsed through my school's collection of all the yearbooks since the school was founded for names. I've found some in books, games, movies, etc. They're all over the place!
  8. Random: Pick a random name and name your character that.
  9. Your Friends & Family: Get their opinion. What names do they like? Or even yet, name your character after them if you'd like (although I'd avoid giving your character the same personality as them.).
  10. Names with history: When we see the name Adolf Hitler, we all know that a crazy guy with an overgrown mustache comes to mind. And with that name may come fear or anger. What names in your story may impact them (like if people with the name Ran usually end up murdered, people may not name a child that. Or if someone with a certain name did something bad and now no one ever names their kid that [I was told that I should never name a girl Jezebel because she was an evil queen in the Old Testament]. And so on, so forth.  
  11. Family Names: Think about it. You probably know someone, or even yourself, who's been named after someone. I was named after both my grandmas (they both had the same name. Although one had it as her first name and the other had it as her middle name) and all the guys in my family are named usually after their grandpa. Maybe there's a name that's been passed on for generations, like every girl is named Pam or something?
  12. Famous People: Maybe you want your character to be named after a famous person or someone you admire? Maybe its cause they did something important or something that you want to honor them for (maybe they donated 1 million dollars to your favorite animal shelter)?
  13. Values or Traits: Names like, Honor, Chasity, Faith, Grace...I could go on. People tend to name their kids this not only cause their pretty (in my opinion) but because they may want their kids to grow up with that particular trait or value. (and when they do the opposite, their name smacks them in the face with guilt. Ultimate payback.)
  14. Nicknames: Nicknames are often a good way to name a character. Especially if they have a longer name or a name they don't like. (Example: Tatiana's nickname from The Cursing is Tati. Anastasia's from The Prophecy is Ana.) You can shorten their names or nickname them after something they did or look like. Elizabeth is a popular nickname name (Eliza, Liz, Beth, Lisa, etc.).
  15. Name Generators: There is thousands of these out there on the magical world of the Internet. But I love them, most of them come up with weird names so I use them for my fantasy and science fiction books. 
Resources

Generators/Naming Sites
Behind the Name (Highly Recommended)

Sincerely,

Sareh

Monday, February 13, 2012

Writing Prompt- Turning Yourself into Words.

This writing prompt was one in Creative Writing that we did today. I thought it was kinda fun. Kinda. Here's the one I did for this example using my name.


Seeing all with all to give
Airing out windy clothes
Running fast, oh so fast
Ever flying, ever higher
Hopping to and fro

The other thing we did were, anagrams which is when you rearrange the letters of a name or something so that they form a new word or have a different meaning. For example

New York Times: Monkeys write

Try one! They're kinda cool. And you never know what might inspire you!
Resources:
Anagrams

Sincerely,
Sareh

P.S: Wowzers! Tomorrow is Valentine's Day! My brain really must be tired. For an extra prompt, write a scene in which you are treated to the best date/romantic day you can think of. Make it as cheesy as you'd like and then do the same for your characters!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Should you really "write what you know"?

I've often heard this. And many people have debated this issue over and over again.

And my answer is, you don't have to.

If I wrote "just what I know", then I'd never be able to write about a thing! I don't know how to ride a hoverbike, I don't know the fine points of racing, I don't know how plasma actually works, etc. (And yes, those were all sci-fi examples.) The point is, I can research them!

And you can too! Even if you don't know something off the top of your head, you can research it. A gift of the internet is the ability to view media, websites, blogs, videos, pictures and tons of other things to help us gain knowledge of what we need to know.

So if its out there, why shouldn't we access it?

Researching 101
Here's some quick tips to remember when researching.

  1. Don't get too caught up in it. Remember that your main goal is writing. Even if you enjoy researching like I do, don't get so caught up in it that you never write anything. 
  2. Research what you need. Research first what you need to have in your story for it to make sense or whatever the reason is. Then:
  3. Research what you don't need: What I mean is this. Once you got what you need, then you can research other things you may or may not need in your story. 
  4. You won't use everything. Yes, you may find some really great things about the topic, but remember that you may not need everything you find. For example, the other day I was researching how to blacken teeth. I found some really cool stuff about it, but I didn't need all of it. So I saved it for later. And that's what you should do, save the extras for later. 
  5. Make a list: Make a list of everything you need to research, what you want to research, and then keep your findings in a safe place. Make sure that you keep track of were you got your information in case you need to know that later on. 
  6. Double check your findings: A really awesome rule, guys! Sure, that site looks like it has tons of information on the subject, but is what its really saying true? To find out, look at other sites of the same topic and see if they say the same thing. If they don't, well...that source may not have true information and you don't want to use something that later on people will get mad at you because they know its wrong. Of course, you could still use it depending on your story, but its better to be safe than sorry. Not only this, but make sure the information is updated. Remember that we're in the age of information and in this time period, information is quickly outdated. 
Writing what you know.
Now that we've covered the other side of the argument, let's take a look at this side. As Janice Hardy points out in her blog, The Other Side of the Story, is that writers know a lot. Sure you may have never been afraid of heights, but think of the things you are afraid of. Can you work that fear into a charcter's fear of heights? Sure. 

Also, you can use your past to help you with your writing. I bet that you've experienced several of the same feelings or things your character's go through. Maybe not the exact same things, but we can draw on our past to help us shape our story into something different. 

So, do you write what you know? Or do you think that its okay to write what you "don't" know?

Sincerely,
Sareh

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Those Crazy Holidays! (Interesting Facts)

So today, I'm doing another holiday themed post. But this one is weird holidays (not including well known holidays). I got these out of my mom's new planner. Whether or not anyone actually celebrates these is a mystery to me.

January
  • 8th- Bubble Bath day
  • 10th- National Clean off your Desk day
  • 20th- Women in Blue Jeans day
  • 25th- National Speak Up & Succeed day
February
  • 4th- Bubble Gum day
  • 22nd- National Margarita day 
March
  • 8th- Girls Write Now day
  • 23rd- National Puppy day
April
  • 2nd- International Pillow Fight day
  • 12th- Equal Pay day
  • 16th- Income Tax day
  • 18th- National Wear Your Pajamas to Work day
  • 27th- Administrative Professionals day
  • 30th- Hairstylist Appreciation day
May
  • 18th- Visit your Relatives day
June
  • 1st- Leave the Office Early day
  • 22nd- Take your Dog to Work day
July
  • 7th- Chocolate day
  • 10th- Pina Colada day
  • 24th- National Drive-Thru day
August
  • 1st- Girlfriend's day
  • 2nd- National Night Out
  • 15th- National Relaxation day
  • 18th- Bad Poetry day
  • 26th- Women's Equality day
September
  • 8th- National Grandparents' day
  • 19th- Talk like a Pirate day
  • 25th- National One-Hit Wonder day
October
  • 12th- National Bring your Teddy Bear to Work & School day
  • 15th- Sweetest day
  • 16th- National Boss day
November
  • 3rd- Cliche day
  • 19th- National day of Play
December
  • 4th- National Cookie day
So do you know of any fun, cool holidays?

Sincerely,
Sareh

Monday, February 6, 2012

Writing Prompt- The Superbowl

Let's pretend its the Superbowl again for the sake of this prompt. (If you watched it last night, who did you root for and did you really watch it? Or did you watch it for the commercials? What did you think of the halftime show?)

Think about this.

  • What team (pick any two teams, it doesn't have to be the Giants vs. Patriots) would your character root for? 
  • Or does your character not watch football and is only watching it for the commercials? If so, what commercials does he/she like/hate the most (it can be a real one or you can make up your own.) 
  • If you character is going to watch the game, will they buy tickets to go to the game or watch it on tv? 
  • And where is the game being held? 
  • Who is doing the halftime show?

Write a scene answering these questions and feel free to expand on the ideas or questions.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Why Religion in Books Might be Important.

I've noticed that whenever I read books, on Inkpop or published books, I very rarely ever see what the character's religion is  (or beliefs as it always doesn't have to be religion. It could be something as simple as superstitions). Unless the book is about angels and demons or something like that, I'll rarely see it mentioned. The reason I started to notice this is because in The Cursing, religion is a very important subject.

I know religion is a touchy subject for some people and sometimes its uncomfortable, so I usually try to not talk about it. But tonight I'm pointing this out for the sake of developing deeper characters and more realistic worlds. I don't mean to start any fights or anything, but if you want to disagree with me, feel free to do so. I'm open to your opinions.

Why am I even talking about this?
In most cases, I understand its not needed and that most writers just don't want to deal with it, but I've been thinking how deciding if your character is religious or *not can impact how they react or view things. 

For example (I'm not picking on anyone, just pointing this out), Jews and Christians view things differently. While we have similar backgrounds (i.e the Christian religion grew out of Judaism), we are quite different. For example, to some Jews eating Kosher (which are certain dietary laws taken from the Torah.) is important. But for Christians, we don't really have any dietary laws to follow. Because of this, it can make it harder for us to understand each other but makes us view certain things differently (like food). Or Mormons and Christians (like how Mormons aren't suppose to drink coffee.)

Think about this. 
Knowing if your character is religious or not will help you make your characters more realistic. After all, most people in the world are either part of a religion. And for those who aren't, they probably know someone who is. Why should your characters be any different?

Religion is something important that comes up a lot. It can help shape cultures, and most culture has some kind of religion (even though the US is a secular government where the church and state are separate, it was based on Christian beliefs. All you have to do is read a copy of the Declaration of Independence.). 

Even if you decide this, you don't have to ever mention this in your book. Its something to consider though. 

One of my favorite authors, Tamora Pierce, makes up her own religion for her books. In her books about Tortall, the characters believe in lots of different gods, including Mithros or the Gentle Mother (I think that was the name..). Anyways, it shaped the culture of her world. In the Beka Cooper trilogy, Beka often prays to the Black god when someone she knows died. Or the characters make a sign against evil on their chest. In the Protector of the Small, we see Keldary and the other characters praying before eating. There's  a bunch of other examples I could give, but I'll stop there. 

More simply put:
  1. Since writers strive for realistic worlds and characters, and since more than half the world believes in something, why shouldn't our characters or their culture have some kind of beliefs (even if they decide they don't believe in something)?
  2. Believing in something or not affects how you view the world and other people. Even if your character somewhat believes in something it will affect them.
  3. Even if you never mention the beliefs of your characters, knowing their beliefs will help you develop them into more realistic characters. 
* Techinally, if you're "non-religious" or you don't believe that God exists or whatever doesn't exist, you believe that. Just like people of religion believe that God or whatever they believe exists. Just sayin'. That's why I'm hesitant to call people non-religious because they still believe something. 

That is all. So do you think religion is important in books?

Sincerely,
Sareh

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Who should tell the story?

For all of my first draft of my YA fantasy, The Prophecy (then called The High Prince), it had three point of views. One of Anastasia, the protagonist, one for Aaron --Anastasia's love interest and side kick, and one for Jaylen --who happened to be a Faerie princess banished from the Realms for her own good.

But while rewriting the book, I decided to cut Jaylen's pov. Oh yes, she's still in the story, but she no longer has her own chapters from her view. Why? Well its YA and Jaylen...is married and is 21. I decided that most of my readers may not exactly be able to relate all that well with her.

Well that got me thinking, who should tell the story?
The simple answer is: whoever's point of view best gets the story across. But when deciding this important choice think about this:
  1. The POV doesn't always have to be the protagonist. 
  2. In fact, it doesn't always have to be the protagonist who tells the story. The villain could just as well tell the story. Or in fact, both could. That'd be interesting. 
  3. You can always have more than one person telling the story, although its best to not have too many. At most, I'd recommend three. But then, do whatever works best for you. The most I've seen is five. 
But I like her!
Jaylen's one of my favorite characters. She's interesting and adds to the story. But she doesn't need her own point of view. Her story is not the main story, its a subplot. She isn't allowed to go back to the Realms until Keenan (the antagonist) is dead. And he won't die until Anastasia and Aaron defeat him. But they can't unless Anastasia can get her powers and memory back. 

In short, even if you like a character, they don't need their own point of view. If you can't tell the story without their own voice, then keep them, but if you can tell the same story just fine without them, then you don't need them. If you really do want to give them their own voice then, consider writing a spin-off or sequel for them. Jaylen gets her own in The Sayari, based on from her teenage years. 

If you have multiple view points...
One of my favorite books with writing advice is Elizabeth Lyon's A Writer's Guide to Fiction. In her book, she suggests that:
A simple answer [to multiple view points] is to assign as many third-person, subjective viewpoints as possible.
(To learn about more third-person and subjective viewpoints, read Point of View) I disagree with her here. While writing third person for multiple viewpoints may be easier, I think that one could just as well use first-person as well as third.

But although I disagree, she points out that the more different viewpoints you have, the less room there may be for full character development of the protagonist. Also keep in mind that if you choose to tell the story from a point-view that's not the protagonist, that it is the protagonist who ultimately wins or loses at the end. Not some other character.

If you have co-protagonists, Elizabeth Lyon also points out that the two will have to have the same motivation to the goal, and will both have to fully grow by the end of the story. Even if they both lose.

Who's the protagonist?
An excellent question, young grasshopper. Not only should the protagonist be the character who you care about the most, but who's story has the most stakes at risk. In other words, who has the most to loose? What character does everything seem to happen around or to? Most people usually know who the protagonist is, but in some cases, they're not sure.

In The Prophecy and The Sayari, both stories have two multiple viewpoints. In The Prophecy, the protagonist is Anastasia as the story revolves around her. Anastasia has the most to loose. Either she can gain her powers and memories back in order to defeat Keenan or she cannot try and slowly lose the ability to remember anything and die a slow, painful, and mental unstable death. But there's a twist to that I'm not going to say. You'll have to read the story.

Anyways, in The Sayari, the story is about Jaylen and how she has to try and get her mother and the Archduke of the Dark Realm to stop fighting so she can go home. But the story is also written in the viewpoint of her love interest, Iris (yes, he's a guy. I know, Jaylen has a "guy's" name and Iris has a "girl's") who desperately just wants his father's love and respect for him and his twin sister.

But in Night Lies, I have three. The story is really about Xander (although I actually like Lieu's story better...I'm kinda thinking maybe the story should be about her because her story seems to over power Xander's) but Lieu - his love interest, and Faith - his little sister, each get their own viewpoints. I had to add their story to Xander's as well because I felt that the story wouldn't be as complete without their viewpoints as well.

In short...
  1. The POV doesn't always have to be the protagonist. 
  2. In fact, it doesn't always have to be the protagonist who tells the story. 
  3. You can always have more than one person telling the story.
  4. Even if you really like a character, you don't have to give them their own viewpoint if you're already having the protagonist have their own viewpoint. 
  5. The protagonist should be the character who:
    1. You care about the most.
    2. Who has the most to gain or loose. 
    3. To whom everything seems to happen or revolve around.
Resources
Elizabeth Lyon's A Writer's Guide to Fiction
Me!
This blog.

Sincerely,
Sareh

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Would you get involved even if it wasn't your fight?


Yes, I know, I usually reserve these topics till Friday, but I can't wait till then to rant about this.

Anyways, one of my friends is a foreign exchange student from China. She stayed with my aunt's family last year, but since they don't have anymore kids in high school, they decided not to host my friend again. So my friend stayed with another family.

Which was fine, but then they kicked her out on Sunday.

For a very stupid reason*: because she didn't talk enough and she made them "uncomfortable".

*Now I don't know the whole story, but here's what I was told.

My friend wouldn't reply a lot to her host family, often staring into space or mumbling. Plus she would complain alot about not having her own room. My friend is a teenager and if you know ANYTHING about teenagers, you'll know that we COMPLAIN ABOUT EVERYTHING ALL THE TIME. Because face it, that's what we do. In fact, its not just us, everyone does it.

So my question is, if this was your own child (or future child) would you kick her out just because she mumbled  alot, doesn't have the best English and has a really strong accent, and complains about stuff? If this was your child, wouldn't you deal with it and live with it?

And besides, my friend is only was only going to be staying at their house for half the year, till June.

The worst part is that they kicked her out without making sure she has another family to live with. I don't know about you, but that's cruel. Now the organization that she works with won't help her and if she can't find someone else to stay with within the week, she'll get sent back to China.

And this isn't a very good Christian thing to do. We shouldn't just kick people out just because we decide we don't like their personalities, how is that good witnessing? Lots of people I know are very quiet, private people. They don't talk alot and that's them. If you really wanted to witness to someone, you'd have to deal with them even if you don't like them. Because Jesus wouldn't kick someone out of His house just because He didn't like that they were quiet. Jesus would understand. Jesus knows that coming to a new country, even if its your second time, can be scary and confusing. He'd hug them and tell them that if there's anything He can do to help, to just let Him know.

And the other thing is that, my friend is one of the sweetest kids I know. I've never heard of her doing anything wrong, she doesn't swear, she doesn't cause fights, and she's a really great person. I consider her my Chinese-cousin-but-not-actually-my-cousin-but-I-still-like-her, and I'd HATE for her to go back to China. I don't always understand everything she tries to tell me, but I still try to listen to her. She's cool. She has new and interesting ideas.

Well she called my aunt and uncle to see if they'd take her in again, but they said they'd think about it for the night. And its kinda an all-around bad station, because not only does my friend feel horrible, but now my aunt and uncle suddenly have to decide if they can take her in again or not.

I just feel horrible about this myself. I wish there was something more I could do to help her. My family can't take her in cause we don't have any extra space and because our schedules are hectic. So...yeah. If this was a piece of paper, you'd see my tears on it, because gosh, this shouldn't be happening.

Now maybe there's something I don't know. Something more to the story, but even so...its not cool. Maybe the host family had a good reason, but if its really the reasons that I hear, it makes me want to scream. Normal families don't do that to their kids and if my friend was their kids, I doubt they'd do the same thing.

I don't know what else to say, but if this was you, how would you react? If this was your friend, what would you do? Would you step in and say "hey, something's not right here." or stand there and watch it happen? Play an active role or a passive? Thoughts here?

Sincerely,
Sareh

Edit: My friend didn't get sent back. My aunt and uncle were able to take her in, so she's living with them.

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