A Good Narrator is Hard to Find

I maintain that the only thing more important to improving your writing ability than actually writing is reading. There’s something to learn from every novel or non-fiction work you pick up, even if it’s that infodumping is not a great way to handle exposition, or that starting too big makes it impossible to increase drama as you go. More importantly, good fiction, the kind that makes you envious that you didn’t write it, can teach you valuable lessons even when you’re not looking for them.

I recently read through Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief for the first time. It came out ages ago, but Z is last in the alphabet and I’ve been working my way through my bookshelf from start to finish for a couple of years. It’s the kind of book you want to savor, in part because it’s beautifully written and emotional, in part because it’s intense. I had nightmares reading it, and finished the book off with ill-contained, physically painful sobs.

There’s a lot to learn from it, too, not just from a human perspective, but from a writing one. I don’t want to diminish the importance of the emotional narrative, especially given our current climate, but I don’t think that to focus on The Book Thief‘s technical success is to detract from its emotional impact. In fact, I’d go so far as to say they’re inextricable. Continue reading

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Well, 2016 Happened.

At the risk of being navel-gazey, the end of the year has made me think a lot about my growth and, conversely, the lack thereof.

I didn’t accomplish every goal I set out for this year. I’m not surprised by that; in the past couple months, I’ve left one of my stable sources of income behind for the wild unknown. I worked a lot for too little money, spending precious time that I could have used to pursue my real goals.

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Phasmophany. And breakfast.

Drabble 48 – Phasmophany

I listened to a horror story over the weekend so bleak and graphic that I felt a little sick afterward.

It wasn’t a bad story by any stretch of the imagination. It was well written and poignant, with great thematic depth alongside its disturbing and grotesque elements. The things that scare us are often unpleasant, but the story didn’t sit well with me, regardless.

What I like about horror is not the reminder that the world sucks and I have to live in it. I am all too aware of the fact that life is difficult and often full of shadows and fear. I like horror that turns those shadows inside out, like sock puppets, and makes them dance for us.

There’s a lot to be afraid of, but I prefer my horror to be a triumph in the end, the heroine stumbling, bloody and wild-eyed, from whatever carnage she’s survived. It doesn’t always work out that way, and that’s fine–there’s enough other elements of horror to satisfy me, like exploring the world’s darkness through fictions and myth. Horror is powerful because fear is powerful, but I’m a sucker for happy endings.

Anyway, here’s a drabble.

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Oblivion

Drabble 39 – Oblivion

Oblivion

Journey on the Styx by Gustave Doré. The River Styx is not the River Lethe but I made do with what I had, okay?

Memories are weird. The fact that I can forget things that have happened to me and not remember them when they’re pointed out is disconcerting, to say the least. Where do my thoughts go when I’m no longer having them? How is it that swaths of my past can just disappear?

Dreams drift off shortly after you’ve had them; I get that, I’m used to it. But memories ought to stay put, pinned like butterflies to cards, ready for viewing and indexing and scrutiny.

Not to be a downer, but how is it that someday, everything inside my head will just vanish altogether? I better start writing it down now, before I forget.

Anyway, here’s a drabble.

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Important Work and Imposter Syndrome

Important Work

I don’t know if it’s just me, but being asked what I do is a source of unrepentant dread.

I write. I write here and I write on a couple of different websites, including Women Write About Comics, which you should be reading. I also do a podcast on geek culture. When I tell people these things, they always want to know what they’re about.

And I appreciate that enthusiasm and interest, but I can never seem to find a good answer. As much as nerdy stuff is popular right now, saying I take it seriously enough to critique it still feels like I’m asking to be shoved in a locker. It’s one thing to enjoy, say, Game of Thrones, and it’s another to discuss the implications of lily-white Daenerys’ subjects all being poor brown folks, right? Like, who cares? It’s a television show. Can’t we just turn off our brains and stop being offended by things for two minutes?

(No. Well, yes, but I believe the question is not can we, but should we. I’ll get there.)

And the writing–more than once, I’ve had the reception to my answer of “fantasy” for what I write about be…less than enthusiastic. It has put me in more than one uncomfortable position where I wriggle around in my seat and try to dodge the question to avoid the stares of well-meaning but skeptical family members.

Which inevitably leads me down a sad and well-populated road full of questions–most important, does what I do matter?

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I Am Scared of Literally Everything

HorrorI find that I can blame a lot of things about myself on books. My love of horror is, I think, one of them.

My first memory of reading something scary was my cousin locking me in the bathroom and forcing me to read a glow-in-the-dark book of ghost stories with her by flashlight. I did not enjoy the experience.

But then, at a formative age (I can’t remember precisely when, only that I was of just the right age), I read Zilpha Keatley Snyder’s The Headless Cupid. The book concerns, among other things, a young girl trying to impose some order on the world through witchcraft and studying the occult. She also happens to be of poltergeisting age–which, if you’re not familiar, is puberty.

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#BGSD: 5 Ways I Organize My Disorganized Life

Organize

My pens and trusty planner. The cat is not necessary to organization, and may in fact be an impediment.

Organization is hard. I say this as a person who now keeps a detailed planner, cleans house daily, and has no greater satisfaction in life than checking something off a to-do list. I haven’t always been this way; in fact, I still struggle sometimes with thinking about all the work staring me in the face. I freeze up, particularly when that work is an invitation to rejection.

But I have to eat. To eat, I have to work. To work, I have to organize my time and not let myself be paralyzed with fear. Organization is a work in progress for me. I’m getting better at it, and the system I have now seems to be working for me. Even so, I’m always looking for more ways to streamline my work process.

I can’t promise that my organizational methods will work for everybody, but because freezing up is not actually a sustainable method of dealing with your problems, work, or social life, I thought I might as well share them with the world. Think of it as a series of potential tools, not a cure-all tonic; what works for me and my quirks might just be annoyances to you.

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