Sunday, July 19, 2015

I Can't Believe I Wrote THAT!

Well, perhaps I can believe I wrote that story, but I may not entirely remember what I was thinking whenever I wrote that thing. Some writers may know what I’m talking about. We all have those stories that we’ve written and we abhor. At the time, it seemed like a great idea, and it might not have looked bad as we wrote it. But after some serious reflection and some time, we look back and wonder, “What was I thinking?!”  

I have written many things like this. They’re often called rough drafts. Each writer must ultimately get past the rough draft stage and polish up that story to make it book-worthy. But some stories never make it past the rough draft. And for good reason. I believe there are some stories that don’t deserve to be written. Rewritten: possibly.

One such example is the first novel-length story I ever wrote. I figured I already knew how to type, I had a great idea for characters, and I loved stories! It was full of dragons, and talking animals, and magic doorways (sound familiar?). Oh, and did I mention I was only 12? What could possibly go wrong?

Turns out, quite a lot.

At the time, I knew I wanted to be an author, and if Christopher Paolini could publish a bestselling book at age 15, I could publish a book by 14. But life doesn’t always work out that way. I don’t know when I realized my story was a humongous flop, but I put it aside and completely rewrote it several years later. 
Even after all these years, lurking within the depths of my files is a document painful to look at. I won’t even let my most trusted writer friends read it. It’s too embarrassing. So why do I keep it?

As I mentioned before, I rewrote the entire story, so I used the original to base another story off. I dropped the plot and the magical doorways, and even some of the characters switched personalities. But the original work provided me with a reference. Even though nothing yet has become of either of these stories, they have taught me that there is always the possibility for improvement.
Still, even after all this, why would I keep the terrible, first story if I didn’t need it anymore? Wouldn’t the embarrassment be too much? Say, hypothetically, I became a famous author and on my deathbed, told somebody to delete my story after I died, but they didn’t! Should I be worried? Well, for one I’d be dead, so why should I care? And two, that person would soon realize the ridiculous nature of the story, so why show it to the world?  

Call it what you will: hoarding;  sentimentality. I will always keep my stories. The well-written ones to share with others. The poor ones to remind myself never to go back.  

Tell me what YOU think! Are there any stories you hold onto despite their quality?

Sunday, July 12, 2015

The Power of Fiction

Most days, I struggle with nonfiction, whether it is academic papers, nonfiction, or even blogging. Sometimes, I’ll just stare at that silly little curser for ten minutes wondering what in the blazes do I write?  
But I have just the opposite problem with stories. Sure, I’ve had my times of writers block, but it rarely comes from a lack of ideas. In fact, I find that when I’m trying the hardest to focus on strict facts or basic opinions that a little story idea pops up in the back of my mind and won’t leave me alone until I at least write the basic idea down. Then, the idea will either leave me alone to focus on the “important stuff” or it will develop into a full-fleshed outline by the next week (*cough* exaggeration! *cough*).

Either way, I am plagued by stories. I cannot escape them. Even when I take a vacation, I get the nagging feeling that I should be writing something, even if I just finished a major project and have earned a break. This happened recently when I went on a C.S. Lewis trip to Oxford with several other students. I set aside writing for a full 10 days (okay, I took notes and did a bit of editing and journaling, but I didn’t write a story).
Walking along the Thames River just outside Oxford.
How could a view like this not be inspirational!
During this time, I had the great opportunity to see Magdalen College where Lewis taught for a time, visit his house The Kiln’s, eat at The Eagle and Child where he and the other Inklings met, and visit his gravesite and church.

Not only did I learn a lot about Lewis and his books, but I also heard a theme reoccur throughout the trip: while Lewis may have written many apologetically works discussing the Christian faith, he also wrote works of fiction, which have the capacity to leave an impact on a person’s heart. And 50+ years later, people are still reading his books. Thus is the power of fiction.

Not only does fiction present itself when I’m doing something boring (like laundry), but it also affects readers drastically. Have you ever laughed with/at a character? Shouted at him/her? Cried while reading a book or wanted to throw it against the wall?
No reader comes away from a book without a new thought, feeling, or experience. Have you ever heard of somebody who read a book that elicited no emotion? I haven’t. Even dull books fill readers with boredom or dream-filled naps. Those who claim something is “just fiction” and cannot influence them in any way are simply declaring nonsense.
But what does this mean for us? Fiction is powerful. So what?
So, dear writers, let’s use that power granted to us for a time. Let’s tell stories to make people laugh when they need uplifting or to share experiences and create empathy. Let’s use themes to declare a message only you can tell that way. Even Jesus told parables.
As for you, dear readers, do not just pass up fiction as something false. Even fiction can contain seeds of truth. And may fiction inspire you to dream and achieve your goals.
I couldn’t put it in better words than Lewis himself:
“Why did one find it so hard to feel as one was told one ought to feel about God or about the sufferings of Christ? I  thought the chief reason was that one was told one ought to. An obligation to feel can freeze feelings … But supposing that by casting all these things into an imaginary world, stripping them of their stained-glass and Sunday school associations, one could make them for the first time appear in their real potency? Could one not thus steal past those watchful dragons?” –C.S. Lewis, “Sometimes Fairy Stories May Say Best What’s To Be Said”
For further reading, I'd suggest the entire essay cited above.
Tell me your thoughts. In what ways has fiction influenced your life? What stories have done so?
In the mood for reading some fiction? Check out my latest short story “Blue Ribbon” if you haven’t already!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Book Review: "Season of Wonder" by Lisa T. Bergren

Book: Season of Wonder (The Remnants, book 1) by Lisa T. Bergren
Genre: Christian fiction, dystopian, fantasy, young adult
Awards: none
My rating: 4/5 stars
One word description: Empowering

I was curious about this book because I had read the River of Time series (definitely recommend), also by Lisa T. Bergren. I enjoyed Bergren's writing style in those books, and I liked in this book too in that sense.

Yes, my of Season of Wonder is an e-book!
Set in the distant future, Remnants: Season of Wonder is a dystopian/fantasy book geared towards young adults. The protagonist Adrianna is easy to relate to with her struggles and successes with her gift of empathy. I appreciated how the gifts of the Ailith were developed throughout the book, making it the strong point of the story.

The descriptions of the setting and characters were minimal, however. While I appreciate settings that do not bog down a story, there were not many descriptions of the characters until half-way through the book when I already had a clear, quite different picture of the characters in my head.

Although this book is more slow moving than other books, it does not fail to keep me guessing what will happen next. This book is set up to be a part of a trilogy, so it ends with a cliffhanger. This was frustrating because I wanted to know what happens, but this is also a good thing because I looked forward to the other books (I preordered book 2 before it came out). I also did not sense a clear climax of this book, for the tension at the end reflects the tension throughout the book and is not clearly escalated.

I gave the book 4/5 stars for its strong message and characters but confusing plot elements and minimal descriptions. I would definitely recommend it to somebody who enjoy dystopian/fantasy literature and/or a good theme.
Season of Fire (The Remnants, book 2) picks up the story where Season of Wonder left off. You can read my review for it on Goodreads (I gave it 5/5 stars because I think the second book was better than the first). The final book, Season of Glory will release in the winter of 2016 (I can't wait!). If you enjoy these books, you should check out Bergren's River of Time series.

Have any thoughts on this trilogy? Have you read any other YA fiction recently?