Tuesday, June 26, 2012

"And that's all there is. There isn't any more."

From my limited, biased and slightly snarky point of view, it seems to me that almost every young writer out there refers to the process of writing a book as "a journey."  Now, just because almost everybody does it does not make a thing undesirable--but it does annoy me just a tad when I see the word "journey" used to describe novel-writing.  Because that word is used to describe everything else under all nine planets (yes, there are nine--in my book, anyways.  Quit with the size discrimination, astronomers.).  As an alternative, I suggest "crazy-wild road trip" instead of "journey."  It packs a bigger punch.

Because really, writing a novel IS a crazy-wild road trip.  At least, mine was.  Now, Only a Novel isn't exactly the most adventurous, suspenseful, spinning-off-the-shoulder, edge-of-your-seat story out there (that's my sister's genre, not mine) but that doesn't mean I didn't have an exciting time writing it.  For the first time, characters that I had invented seemed incredibly real to me. I found myself dreaming about them, thinking about them almost constantly, imagining how they'd react in various situations.  They were the driving force behind my story, and believe me, they drove recklessly.  (Is anyone else enjoying all these road trip puns? No?  Just me?  You people have no sense of humor.)

At any rate, lovely fellow road-trippers, I finished my novel.

Clocking in at three hundred and fourteen pages, thirty-four chapters and 88,245 words (what a nice round number!), Only a Novel is finally complete.

And now I'm feeling that funny sort of happy-sad mixture of emotions.  On the one hand, I'm thrilled to have written an entire story, a tale of my own spinning featuring characters of my own creation.  But on the other hand, it's actually hard to say goodbye to those characters, to know that their story has been told and is now over.

Believe me, I got pretty close to them over the last eight months.  Are writers allowed to play favorites?  I don't care-- I favorited with reckless abandon, and this author's pet was unquestionably the hero of my story. Rodney Edgerton Burke, the carriage driver and stable hand who reads Dickens after work popped into my head one day in November when I realized that my novel had featured only female characters thus far.  I needed a MMC, and I needed him fast-- so I plucked the name Rodney off my Favorite Boy Names List, pasted Roger Hamley's face onto the name and plopped him down in the Crimp family's garden with a trowel in his left hand and a garden toad in his right.  And thus my favorite character of all time was born.

The Many Faces of Rodney.  (Extra-special hugs and chocolate-covered strawberries must go to my dearest Tween, who generously screencapped all the above pictures of Roger Rodney and sent them to me as a surprise.)
Probably my protagonist should have been my second favorite character at least, since she didn't make the top spot on the list, but the fact is that she has to take third place.  Lavinia Solange Vivian Bancroft, an extremely wealthy, beautiful young socialite and the FMC's best friend, is second in my estimation and I'm not sorry for it.  Lavinia was one of the very first characters I created, and I went through various stages of loving her and hating her.  She's a snob at times, but a lovable snob, and any scene was immediately made more fun to write if she was in it.  And when my book becomes famous and the BBC comes clamoring for the miniseries rights (heeheehee), I shall sell them the rights on one condition: Romola Garai must play Lavinia, for she simply IS Lavinia and no two ways about it.

Much gratitude to Miss Laurie for taking all these screencaps, and for
sending them to my Twinnie, who in turn sent them to me. :)
Last and, unfortunately, least in the top three is Elizabeth Sophia Markette, my protagonist.  I really do love her.  Just not quite as much as Those Two Up Above.   (You can read more about her here.)  She's a lot like me in some ways, and quite different from me in others, but I've grown quite close to her over the last eight months and I like her tremendously.

What would I do without my Tween?  Melody did most of these screencaps for me, again. :)
And now I've come to the end, and... well... it's time to say goodbye to this story.  Con te partiro... (and that's about all I know of the lyrics to that song despite having heard it several hundred times.  Heehee.)  Unless, of course, I decide to write a sequel someday.  But right now, I'm just luxuriating in the whole I've-actually-completed-this-project feeling.

It's quite delicious, really.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Short and Sob-worthy

I frequently refer to myself as a verbomaniac.  (Anyone who knows me in so-called 'real life' will understand.)  I'm wordy.  I tend to say in eighty words what could be said in eight.  Because hey, words are fun.  Putting them together is fun.  Stringing out sentences is fun.  Saying what you want to say is fun.  Repeating yourself over and over is fun until it annoys your readers.

Ahem.

But being verbose isn't always a good thing (unless it's November, in which case bring it on).  Sometimes the very best stories can be told in a very few words.

I recently came across this anecdote that pretty much stopped me dead in my voluble tracks and made me shut my mouth (er, fingers) faster than you can say "get to the point of the story, Amy."  Ernest Hemingway, on being dared by some friends that he could not write a story in six words, wrote this:

For Sale: baby shoes, never worn.

The friends paid up.

I read that and teared up.

In just six short words, only two of which possessing more than one syllable, Hemingway told an incredibly sad tale.  He's a writer famed for being short and to the point, not wasting words to say what the reader can infer for himself.   That little story I reproduced above, the six-word tragedy?  He considered that his best work.

Food for thought, y'all.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Dramatis Personae: Elizabeth Sophia Markette

I didn't get started on Beautiful People until March 2012, so unfortunately I missed a year's worth of lovely questionnaires.  But when I was looking through the archives the other day, I thought "well, why should I miss out?"  So I've decided to slowly but surely work my way through the Beautiful People archives, featuring a different character each time.  Today, I'll be exploring the protagonist of Only a Novel, with the BP questions from March 2011.

First of all, I should give all y'all some background on my protagonist.  Her name is Elizabeth, and on the surface she's boring as all get-out.  I honestly don't blame you if you find her dull.  Because sometimes she is.  But that's part of the manifold and complicated reasons why I like her, and I'm hoping that after reading a little more about her, you'll start to like her too.

Born in June of 1860, Elizabeth grew up in a wealthy home in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, cared for by her grandparents after her parents died when she was very small.  Her grandfather passed away when she was thirteen, and she led a quiet life with her grandmother--going to school at Miss Raleigh's Academy for Young Ladies and reading everything she could lay her hands on--until her grandmother's illness and death when Elizabeth was twenty-one.  With her grandmother's death came the unsettling news that the family fortune was all gone, and Elizabeth was left to make her own way in the world.  Not being the kind of person to sit down and acquire a case of the doldrums when things take a turn for the worse, Elizabeth packed her bags and set off for England  to seek a position as a governess.  Because, you know, everything's better in England.  All of Jane Austen's stories take place there, after all! (Thank you, my dear, I think we had all apprehended that much.)  On the voyage, she met an extremely fashionable and slightly eccentric young socialite, Lavinia Solange Vivian Bancroft, who was determined that they should be Best Friends... that is, until Lavinia learned more about Elizabeth's plans to be a governess.  Nevertheless, Elizabeth stuck to her guns, obtained a position with the Crimp family, and began her new job as caregiver for Jonathan and Isabelle (who aren't exactly angels and aren't exactly holy terrors, but are somewhere in between).  But of course, she was quite sure that this was all only temporary--sooner or later Mr. Darcy would come galloping up on a white horse and sweep her off to Pemberley to live happily ever after.  Heh.  That's what she thought.

And if I continue to ramble about the entire plot of the story, I'll give it all away and nobody will ever want to read it, so I'll stop now and get to Beautiful People.

~What is her full name?
Elizabeth Sophia Markette.

~Does her name have a special meaning?
*hastily rushes to a baby names website to look this up* Elizabeth is the Greek form of a Hebrew name meaning "my God is an oath".  Sophia means "wisdom".  Heh.  Ironic, that.
I suspect this question might have been asking if I had a special meaning in mind when I named my character... the answer is no.  I named Elizabeth after Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice (a fact that comes into play in the story), made up Markette out of mine own little head (stop red-underlining it, Chrome) and then stuck Sophia in the middle after asking bloggy friends for suggestions.

~Does she have a methodical or disorganized personality?
Definitely methodical--or at least, that's what she'd like to think.  Elizabeth prides herself on being logical and not heedless, but the truth is that she gets flustered quite easily.  NO SHE IS NOT AN AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL CHARACTER.

~Does she think inside herself more than she talks out loud to her friends? (more importantly, does she actually have friends?)
Elizabeth is a thinker.  Much of the book's narrative is told from her perspective, as if the reader is inside her mind.  (I'm not a huge fan of the italicized words followed by "she thought", as if the character were speaking aloud.  Thought processes are much less structured than that--at least, in my mind. :P)  Anyway, Elizabeth is most certainly more of the type to think things out privately rather than "spill" to her friends.  Though, if she's talking to the right person, she can be inveigled into sharing her thoughts.  And yes, she has friends.  She is quite offended that you would suggest otherwise. She does INDEED have friends.  Three of them, in fact.  No, four. Er, five.  Wait, is it permissible for a young lady (even if she be a governess) to count an upstairs maid as one of her friends?




~Is there something she is afraid of?
Heehee.  Pardon me while I attempt to make the answer to this question less than eight paragraphs long.  Yes, there are quite a few things Elizabeth is afraid of, and since I am a mean author, several of those things pop up to scare her silly in the course of the novel.  The things Elizabeth is afraid of include heights, large birds, embarrassment, nippy-yippy-dogs (you know the type--the Fifi kind who yap and squeal and run at you and try to bite) and the Bubonic Plague.  Thankfully the Bubonic Plague does not figure in the novel.  Or does it....?  *scribbles down ideas*

~Does she write, dream, dance, sing, or photograph?
I suppose I should answer each one of these separately.  Writing-- Elizabeth writes letters and that's about it.  Dreaming-- science has declared that everybody dreams every time they sleep at night, whether they remember the dreams the next morning or not.  So yes, Elizabeth dreams.  Dancing-- she took lessons in school, and can hold her own in a waltz, but it's not her favorite thing to do in the whole wide world.  Singing-- hmmm.  I really don't know.  She hasn't yet had any occasion to do so.  I'm inclined to think she isn't much of a singer.  Photograph-- personal cameras weren't around yet in 1882, so far as I know.


~What is her favorite book? (or genre of books)
Funny you should ask this.  Let me think very, very hard.  I'm sure I'll come up with something... oh! Yes, of course! Elizabeth's favorite book is Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, an author of whom she is rather inordinately fond.

~Who is her favorite author and/or someone that inspires her?
Heh.  See above.

~Favorite flavor of ice cream?
Vanilla.  I'm afraid Elizabeth's a bit boring in that respect, but hey, vanilla ice cream is good! Besides, ice cream's ice cream.  Who passes up ice cream?  Crazy people.  Or lactose intolerant people.  (No offense, lactose intolerant people...)

~Favorite season of the year?
Mmm... spring, I think. It's romantical and pretty, and the weather is nice, and she likes to daydream about strawberrying at Donwell Abbey. :D

Monday, June 18, 2012

Welcome Again!

Welcome to The Quest for Stories' new location! If you wouldn't mind following this blog instead of the old one, I'd be very much obliged.  Thank you!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Linking Up at Scribblings

I'm linking up with Anne-girl at Scribblings of my Pen for a June Crusade tag... check it out here.


1. What is your word count now?
76, 214--and no, I didn't do that all during the month of June! I started writing this story (Only a Novel) in November 2011 and now I'm just wrapping it up.

2. What is your favorite paragraph so far?
Hard call.  I like pretty much all of them--if I didn't, I wouldn't be writing this thing. :P Maybe this one.

Elizabeth put down her pen and stared moodily at the wall. Heroines in novels always gazed wistfully out of the window, but the tiny table in her tiny bedroom faced the wall, not the window.

3. When you are writing what is your favorite song to listen too? Not theme song for your book but favorite song for while you're writing?
I've been really enjoying Rose's Theme from the Titanic soundtrack lately-- definitely don't endorse the movie, but the music's great!

4. Do you love your villains or do you relish hating them?
I relish hating my villain.  Indubitably. :D

5. What was your very first piece of free writing?
Heh.  I wrote a twenty-page Bobbsey Twins fan-fiction at the age of five. I still have it.  It utilized all my vocabulary words and told an amazingly epic story about a blueberry-picking contest.  The story took place at Thanksgiving.  I was not exceptionally well acquainted with produce seasons when I was in kindergarten. :P

6. What was your first completed piece of fiction?
Um, does the above story count?  If not, then probably a journal-form novel that I wrote in sixth grade entitled Laundry for Abraham Lincoln.  I cringe when I see that thing now.  Trust me.

7. What are some of the plot bunnies that you are being teased with right now?
Accck.  There are way too many.  An idea for a contemporary mystery is niggling at the back of my brain (I even have the entire PLOT mapped out, for crying out loud!) and I'm also being bothered by The Rochesters, a rambling-ish story about a large family living by a lake in Michigan.  And there are more, but I'm not quite ready to discuss them yet. ;)

8. What is your strategy for writers' block?
"When the going gets tough, the tough get going."
Heehee.  That is my lofty sentiment.  In reality, I tend to procrastinate or mope until an idea comes along.   If I'm in a really industrious frame of mind, I'll work and work until I snap out of the block, but that doesn't happen so often as I should wish.  Perhaps it's because I do not take the trouble of practicing.

9. If you could meet one famous author which one would you pick?
Jane Austen.  "Thank you, my dear.  I think we have all apprehended that much." ~Mr. Palmer, Sense and Sensibility, 1995


10. Who is your favorite secondary character so far?
In Only a Novel, you mean? Probably Mercy Burke, the hero's little sister.  She's tremendously fun... and she wandered into the story completely by accident.  I had just realized that all the principal characters in my story were only children, so I gave Rodney a sister just for kicks (Beverly Cleary did the same thing in a Henry Huggins book and thus Ramona Quimby was created).  And Mercy managed to worm her way into a very significant position in the plot, and now I'm not sure what I would have done without her. :D

Mercy (Tamzin Merchant)

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Quest Becomes a Crusade

Manic Mother

My lovely sister the Anne-girl is hosting a Crusade this month-- and I'm UBER-excited! Most of you have probably heard of National Novel Writing Month (www.nanowrimo.org), a program in which writers are challenged to write 50,000 words during the month of November.  Anne-girl and I both participated in NaNoWriMo last year, but it took up a great deal of time and ultimately distracted us from schoolwork quite a bit. :P So this year, Anne is hosting her own writerly challenge-- she's asking you all to join in her crusade and write 50,000 words in the month of June.  Now that school's out, it's the perfect time!

So hop on over to her blog (just click on the button at the top) to read more details.  There will be tags, there will be challenges, there will be prompts, there will be fun... and all under Enjolras' Red Flag of Power and Awesomeness, because this entire month is Les Miserables-themed.  What could be better??

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Snippets of Story - June 2012

All of my snippets this month come from Only a Novel, which shouldn't be a surprise as it's the all-consuming project on my brain right now.  My goal is to finish it by June 20th, so I'll make this post quick and get back to work.  :D Don't forget to check out Katie's blog, Whisperings of the Pen, to link up your own snippets!


*


Lavinia startled Elizabeth out of her reverie by a gentle poke with the tip of her parasol.  “Elizabeth, dear, you are not attending to me at all, and I’m afraid that is a grave offense.  You must always attend closely when I speak.  You might learn something of great importance, you know.  Mamma, pray do not laugh at me—you might cause Lizzie to think I am not serious, and I am perfectly serious.  In fact, I am always serious, except when I am not, which is often.”


*


The garden was small, as Jenny had said, but she walked a few times around its perimeter, breathing as deeply as she could. Grandmother had always done so when she was exasperated, and Elizabeth was most definitely exasperated. She tried humming to calm herself down, but since she had a habit of humming off-key, this procedure did not prove helpful and in fact only increased her frustration.


*




Elizabeth’s head hurt.  This fact was partly a result of her having slammed her head against the wall.  It was also partly a result of the turmoil her mind was in. 
Elizabeth had, of course, taken off her hat before beating her head.   She now picked it up very carefully and placed it on the bed.  Then she sat on it.

*



“As we have no mutual friend to introduce us,” the young man continued, his brown eyes twinkling, “I’m afraid we’ll have to perform the task ourselves.  My friend here—” he held up the toad and Elizabeth hastily stepped back “—is of an unsocial and taciturn disposition, I’m afraid; unwilling to say anything unless it will amaze the whole garden and be handed down to posterity with all the ├ęclat of a proverb.  So I believe I’ll have to do the honors myself.  I’m Rodney Burke, and you must be the new governess.” 

*



“I keep the potato water to starch collars and cuffs,” [Mrs. Ingle] explained to Elizabeth.  “Something in the water keeps them stiff.  A little trick that comes in handy nearly every day.  When you have a house of your own, Elizabeth, you’ll find it helpful.”
Elizabeth wanted very much to have a house of her own one day.  However, she also very much wanted to have a maid who would starch collars and cuffs for her.  




*


Mrs. Crimp turned her attention back to the place cards.  “Miss Markette, I’m placing you between Isabelle and Mrs. Poplar.  Do not, I beg you, try to begin an intelligent conversation with Mrs. Poplar—at least, more than that which decorum requires—because we will never leave this table if you do.”

*

Mrs. Poplar was a reedy, seedy woman dressed in black—a color that did not complement her bleached complexion.  She poked fastidiously at everything set before her and religiously chewed each mouthful of food at least one hundred times.

*
{the following snippet is probably my favorite conversation in the entire book}

“Did you bring us a little lunch?” asked Rodney, peering into the bowl.
“No, you goose, this is for the horses.”  Mercy fed a lump of sugar to Virgil, then one to Opus, then another to Virgil again.
Rodney announced pompously, “Someone very wise and learned has frequently told me that it is a waste of money to feed sugar to horses.”
“I know,” said Mercy blithely, “but you got a raise in your salary last week, you know, and I have just today acquired a new client.”
“And this is the way you spend my hard-earned money, gained by the sweat of my brow and ceaseless toil on long, dark, cold nights?”
“Don’t be silly,” said Mercy.  “Besides, horses love sugar.  Someone very wise and learned has frequently told me that.”
“And you have little or no regard for your poor brother who is now deprived of sugar in his coffee,” Rodney complained.
“Coffee,” said Mercy, “is not at all indispensable; in fact it would probably do you good to go without it for a little while.”  She turned to Elizabeth.  “When he drinks too much coffee, he cannot sleep, and so he sits up reading half the night, and the light from his candle shines in under my door and then I cannot sleep.”
“You poor abused little creature,” said Rodney, sorrowfully shaking his head.

*

Elizabeth hardly knew which remark she should answer; Miss Bancroft had thrown at least six different topics into the conversation.

*

Lavinia was angry with her; furiously angry might be a better way of phrasing it. And for what? What, really, had she done to offend her friend?
What had she done besides running like a street urchin through fashionable Kensington Gardens in pursuit of an unruly child, accompanied by a stable hand, hat nearly flying off, with her skirts lifted well above her ankles?
She winced at the memory.

*

She spoke far more patiently than she felt—indeed, she felt quite ready to pull out her own hair. The day had not begun well. For one thing, she had woken up half-frozen after tossing off her blankets in her sleep during the night. For another, her dark green striped dress had a rent in the bodice and would have to be mended, and she did not know whether it was proper for a governess to mend her own clothes or ask the maid to do it. (A handbook on The Proper Etiquette Of A Nursery Governess: What To Do, What To Say And With Whom To Associate would be a useful item to own, she had often thought.) And now she was saddled with the responsibility of taking care of Maria, who did not take kindly to her and had been squealing like an injured rabbit since Elizabeth had first set foot in the nursery.

*

And besides, in order to become a lawyer, in all probability I’d have to start out as a clerk during law school, and the only interesting thing about that would be pretending I was a Dickens character. Tim Linkinwater, I think—or maybe Herbert Pocket. Uriah Heep is too ’umble even for the likes of me.”
“But once you got past being a clerk and had finished studying for the bar, you could fancy yourself someone like Mr. Kenge or Mr. Carboy.”
“Or Mr. Guppy.” Rodney made such a convincing fish face that Elizabeth let out a highly unladylike snort. Hastily she clapped her gloves over her mouth and with her eyes beseeched Rodney to pretend it hadn’t happened.
“We’ll pretend that didn’t happen,” Rodney teased.