Pantsing: Pros and Cons

The first thing that pops into my head when I hear the word pantsing makes me think of standing in a middle school cafeteria lunch line, waiting for my turn, and someone coming and yanking my pants down. In an instant, without preparation.
This is what pantsing is in the literary world too: not stopping to plan out an idea, but just going for it and writing it out. Some people like this method, others don’t. There have been books published on both pantsing and plotting, praising one and denouncing another. for example, one of my favourite authors, Steven James, much prefers the pantsing method, but other authors prefer the plotting method. Today’s post is going to focus on the pantsing method, and its pros and cons, and later this week I’ll do one on the plotting method.

Pros

Instant writing gratification: start writing right away, you don’t have to slog through all the planning steps that make your story seem so much less attractive than it did at the beginning.

Freer writing: no constraints to a script, so when a better idea comes along, just go with it and fix it later.

Cons

Many drafts: If you want to change something (e.g. a character or points in a plot, you often have to rewrite the entire draft to fit these changes. If 300 pages into your book you look back and realize your character has no motivation, you’re much more likely to shrug it off and keep writing than rewrite the entire 300 pages.

Plot tangles: Often, as mentioned before, a better idea comes along than the current one, and then you start off on that tangent, and you find that your first half of the novel is totally wrong for the second, better half.

I know there are only two points for each, and there are plenty more, but I didn’t want to make this one too long.

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A to Z of book Characters

Yesterday, I saw something really interesting on another blog: someone thought of book characters for every letter of their blog title. This intrigued me. I decided to try this here, but step it up a little and try for one for every letter of the alphabet. Alright, here goes.

A- Alice from Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Caroll

B- Ben Blue from the Virals series by Kathy Reichs

C- Celia from The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

D- Digory from The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

E- Edgar from the Atherton series by Patrick Carman

F- Four from the Divergent series by Veronica Roth

G- Grover from the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan

H- Hi from the Virals series by Kathy Reichs

I-Isaac from the Fault in Our Stars by John Green

J-Jacob from Thirteen Days to Midnight by Patrick Carman

K- Kadin from Celestia by Steven James

L- Lien-Hua from the Patrick Bowers series by Steven James

M- Matt Cruse from the Airborn Trilogy by Kenneth Oppel

N-Nikki from Halflings by Heather Burch

O- Octavian from the Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan

P-Piak from a Letter for the King by Tonke Dragt

Q-Quentin from Paper Towns by John Green

R-Ristridin from Mysteries of the Wild Wood by Tonk Dragt

S- Seaweed from the Submarine Outlaw Series by Phillip Roy

T-Thomas from Maze Runner Trilogy

U- Ursula from the Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen

V-Viola from The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

W- Wade from Pulse by Patrick Carman

X- Xiana from the BOoks of the Infinite series by R.J. Larson

Y- I can’t think of one for Y..

Z- Zia from the Kane Chronicles by Rick Riordan

If anyone has one for Y I’d love to know. Have a wonderful day everyone.

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Montreal: Similes, Metaphors, and Analogies

So this past week I got the privilege of spending some time in Montreal. After being in Paris for a couple days this past summer, I can see why they call Montreal the Paris of the North. The narrow cobbled streets, the apartment buildings with many windows, and even the Notre-Dame Cathedral are much the same as in Paris. Of course, they are different, with Montreal being at least 1000 years younger than Paris, but walking through the cramped streets of Old Montreal, you felt like you were transported to Europe. It was interesting to make a comparison between the two cities.

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Above: Buildings in Paris (left) and Montreal (right)

Below: Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris (left) and Montreal (right)

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In writing, we have special expressions to describe these comparisons. Most people will know them, of course, but I figured I’d explain about them and about a couple others.

Simile: a comparison between two things using the word like or as. These are possibly the most used yet most unrecognized expression in the English language.

Examples:
He roared like a lion.
My heart beat as fast as a gazelle

Metaphor: A comparison between two objects, similar to a simile, except there is no use of like or as. A metaphor can be stated outright “He is a rock” or it can be subtly implied. A famous metaphor is created by John Green in his bestselling YA book, the Fault in our Stars. Augustus Waters, the secondary character and love interest of the protagonist, has a very interesting metaphor: put a cigarette in your mouth, but don’t light it. You put the thing that kills you between your teeth but you don’t give it the power to kill you. Read more about this book here.

Analogy: a comparison between the features of two or more things. (e.g. school is a prison, the students are the prisoners and the teachers the wardens.) Related to a metaphor, but not quite the same. This is comparing parts, where a metaphor looks more at a whole.

These are all called literary devices, and are used greatly in the English world, a lot of the time without people realizing it. They are often used in essay and commentary writing, and high school teachers love it when you can identify them.

They are used in all kinds of works, and there are even several in this post. I wrote them in by accident, and they’re rather deceptive. They sneak in when you least expect it.

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Favourite books (Part One)

Since my last two posts have been about writing, I figured I’d do one on my absolute favourite books of all time. There are many I enjoy very much, but here are five of them, not necessarily in order:

(Note: All of these are the first books in a series of at least 3 books, where Narnia is just a whole series)

1. Narnia by C.S. Lewis

My friends make fun of me for it, but I’ve loved reading these ever since I was little, and love them still. C.S. Lewis crafted an imaginary world through which he introduced me and many of his other young readers to the world of fantasy books. Through this masterfully created series, I fell in love with Reepicheep, and cheered as Prince Caspian was crowned king. And of course, my heart resonated with those of Lucy and Susan on that dreadful night at the Stone Table. Narnia opened up a whole world, a whole world filled with other worlds I could reach by just reaching up and opening a book.

2. Prophet by R. J. Larson

This amazing book is about a girl of seventeen who is asked by the Infinite to become his next prophet, and she is sent to a neighbouring kingdom to topple a king. R.J. Larson creates such a beautiful character many of us can relate to; Ela feels inadequate, and seeing as she’s the first female prophet, she receives less respect than would be normally given to a prophet. Ela’s story takes her through many dangerous situations, with her love interest who she gave a black eye the first time she met him, Kien. This book falls under one of the genres I like best, one I like to call Alternate History. Pretty much what happened in our world, but in a different world and with different characters.

3. The Light of Eidon by Karen Hancock

This novel, the first of four in a series, is a tapestry of plot and subplot woven together, to form a coat of colours so vivid. The main plot itself is already an amazing story, but the setting in a fantastical world where good and evil manifest both physically and spiritually brings it to a whole new level. With the romantic subplot, Abramm’s inner fight, the story goes so much further than the topical arena fights. Karen Hancock paints a whole new Alternate History perspective on the story of Joseph.

4. Waterfall by Lisa Bergren 

In an instant, two girls are transported from a 21st century archaelogical site to a 14th century countryside. Gabi, who appears during a skirmish between troops of two different castles, representing two different city-states; Siena and Firenze. She is saved from an ugly knight with bad teeth by a gorgeous knight who she pretty much falls for immediately, who, unfortunately, is already taken. Lia comes through later. In this epic, medieval world, two forces clash, with at its head the two she-wolves of Siena. Thanks to this book and its series, my heart lies always with Siena, despite the fact that Firenze (Florence) became dominant later on.

5. The Pawn by Steven James

This is a crime thriller, a book that truly captures its readers and doesn’t let them go until the end of the series, 8 books later. It’s a chess game between the main character, Patrick Bowers, an FBI agent specializing in Environmental Criminology and Geospatial investigating, and his opponent, a criminal known as the Illustionist who is always one step ahead of law enforcement. Steven James has now 8 Patrick Bowers books, each more exciting than the next.

I’ll do another post like this with another 5 books sometime later. Meanwhile, what do you think? Have you read any of these, and if so what did you think of them? I’d love to hear it.

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Novels… (Part Two)

So with yesterday’s post about how my novels never really end up all that great, I figured I’d do a post on what I find makes novels better.  It’ll cover things like structure and dialogue, and  and I hope it helps.

Structure

While it’s true that there are different kinds of writers in this world, those that outline and those that do many many drafts, every novelist, if they want to get published, has to follow a story structure. At first glance, it looks very rigid, but really it’s quite flexible, and it reinforces your story; it’s the skeleton frame upon which you add the muscle and flesh of your story, but it can move to do the things you want it to.

A quick summary of the structure

Story Structure

It might be kinda blurry… sorry. This is just a quick diagram of story structure. If you want to learn about it more in detail, I recommend going to the website of a great author who has an amazing collection of advice and tips. It’s where I learned most of the stuff I know about story structure and storytelling in general.

Description

Description is an amazing tool, and without it there wouldn’t be much difference between reading fiction and academic reports. However, it is a tool that is to be used in moderation; dumping too much description on a reader causes your story to drag along, perhaps causing them to put it down and pick up something else. Not something we want as writers. We want to capture the reader with enough description to allow them to picture what you’re describing, but not without a little imagination.

Creativity/Originality 

Simply put, original and creative ideas are a must. Just copying someone else’s work and adding a couple new words or paragraphs doesn’t make it yours. I mean, sure, if you want to write a modernization of an old novel, like Steven James’ Celestia, a modernization of A Pilgrim’s Progress, that works, but change it up. Set it in a different setting and time, change the characters. Make it your own. But don’t just copy an idea off of someone else.

Dialogue

Without dialogue, a novel would be very uninteresting. The characters would fall flat, and the story would feel like it drags along the street behind a one year old learning to walk, AKA very slow. Dialogue is what breathes life into characters, showing their unique personalities and missions. If done right, it pushes the story ahead, providing many opportunities for foreshadowing and plot twists.

Hope this helps a little bit. For anyone wishing to learn more about these things, click here.

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Novels… (Part One)

As I mentioned in my last post my creative writing life pretty much boils down to “trying to write novels that don’t work” but most of the time my ideas are really cool. For example; a scientist who invents a transportation machine and it transports them to another world.

My problem is always in the working out of the story. Writing it out, getting the nitty gritty details right. I just can’t do it. I participated in NaNoWriMo this November, and while my book is utter crap (what do you expect when you have to write like 2,000 words a day) It taught me a valuable lesson.

Writing isn’t just pure talent, the story pops in your head and it’ll be perfect right away. No. It’s a long process, where you will spend some days hammering away at the keyboard as if you were the hero defeating a villain in the computer. Other days you’ll sit there thinking “What’s wrong with me?” writer’s block just took its hammer and whacked you upside the head with it, then choked you with it’s sharp-edged blankness. Writing takes time, and it won’t always be too pleasant.

I’m currently working on about thirty different things, wherein I’m truly vesting time and effort into about three. These are the current titles and will most likely change numerous times before I would ever dream of sending them off to be critiqued. here they are:

Sea of the Lost Ones: a fantasy story about a man who gets transported from our world to another for the purpose of  saving that world from a great evil (this was my NaNo novel)

Invisible: Fantasy again, a group of teens get radiationified and start turning invisible. They team up with a group of rebels to kill the tyrant king.

Sky CIties: dystopian/ apocalyptic after a nuclear war, the rich retreated to the Sky cities to escape the radiation, leaving the poor behind. 700 years later their cities start failing…

Yeah. That’s them.

They keep me quite busy, each demanding space in my brain, which is already overcrowded enough. If I were to just let loose every thought as it came to me…. well it’d be a very interesting story. It’d jump all over the place, making sense to only me. Might be an idea for a later blog post.

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First Post!

This is my first post on my new blog, The Ramblings of Aravis! SO EXCITED! This is going to be one of my creative outlets, one of the few places I can dump my brain vomit, fresh from the unending maze known as my head.

I’m a bit of an enigma. I’m an artsy person, mainly visual and creative writing (AKA trying to write novels that don’t work and then abandoning them to go play with watercolours or other art forms, which give me a whole new idea for a novel; the cycle doesn’t stop). However, geography has stolen my heart. (Physical geography, not social. That stuff sucks.) And well, you can’t really have geography without science, so we might as well throw that one in too.

A typical day (when I’m not at school) will find me most likely behind my laptop or with my nose in a book. Whether I’m working on one of my many novels-in-progress I most likely won’t finish or doing my homework (which I might not finish either TBH), I’m doing something. I can’t sit around behind a TV all day and do nothing. I have to keep myself occupied. So I fidget. Lately my fidgeting has come in the form of rolling a coin over my knuckles, and well, the practice pays off. It only falls about 1/3 of the time now.

Merry Christmas everyone 🙂

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