Hello friends, I hope this post finds you well. Are you gearing up for the approaching holidays? Somehow, once again, it feels like they’ve sneaked up on me. November especially, seems to have grown legs and gotten away. One moment it’s the height of summer and it feels as if it will always be that way, and the next moment it’s November, and Thanksgiving, and Christmas, and the New Year. It’s like a snowball effect, gaining momentum as it fast approaches. It’s been a while since we chatted about life, and writing, so I thought it would be fun to catch up today.
A few of months ago, I mentioned that I had begun writing a new novel. It was a big step for me to put aside my previous novel I’d been working on for the past four years, and move on to something new. When I started this new novel, I thought I could finish it by the end of summer, (silly me). I knew it was a long shot, but figured it was worth a try anyway. I didn’t finish it, (no surprise there), but I made a lot of progress. With each new project I take on, I learn something new about the writing process, and about myself. I’ve learned that the more you write, the more you want to write, and that it’s okay for the process to taker longer than anticipated. Accepting and understanding these facts have helped keep any self-inflicted discouragement at bay.
My outlining, and drafting process for this novel have been very different from any of my other projects, and I’m learning more and more what works best for me. I’m about halfway through my first draft, with plenty of ups and downs to say the least, but I have to say its been one of the smoothest drafts I’ve ever worked on. Though not without its difficulties, rough patches and occasional writer’s block, I now realize those challenges tend to crop up where my outline was weak. Needless to say, I’m learning the importance of a good outline, and how it can really save you from headaches later on.
On another note, I’m really enjoying getting to know my characters, and fleshing out the world they live in, and I’m looking forward to the day I can share it all with you. A few years ago, if you would have told me the kind of story I would be working on today, I’m not sure I would have believed you. Sometimes, I suppose, these unexpected surprises can turn out to be better than what we had planned for ourselves. I definitely have my work cut out for this book, but I’m prepared to roll up my sleeves and get to it.
Something else I’ve learned is that a messy first draft is okay. It doesn’t matter how bad the pacing might be or how many plot holes I will have to fix later, getting the heart of the story onto the page is what DOES matter. When uncertainties and self-doubts about the quality of my story start creeping in, I’m slowly learning to be okay with that, too. I’m realizing in time, with a little editing and hard work, I can still make something good out of it, and it can still be something I’m proud of, with typos and all.
Outside of writing, it’s been life as usual– which is just fine with me. I’m trying to enjoy the last of these quiet, dull days, and brace myself for the Christmas mania that is fast approaching. And since it’s the time for gratitude, and thanksgiving, I want to take a minute to thank you, for reading this post, and all of my other posts, too. I truly appreciate you. I hope you have a happy Thanksgiving, or a happy Thursday, wherever you are, and I’ll be back with another post soon.
A truth universally acknowledged, is that people love drama. And my personal favorite kind of drama happens to come in the form of Kdrama–the genre of South Korean TV shows. By now, I think everyone who knows me, knows how much I love Kdrama. I love the way these stories use subtle undertones to express strong emotion, instead of over-done on-the-nose acting. Before I discovered Kdrama, I had never really seen such deeply developed characters, and plots, outside of books. Since then, I have watched dozens upon dozens of shows, and have become so invested in the lives of each character, that I can feel their joy, their pain, and even their sorrow. As a writer, I began to study some of the intricacies, and take note of the shape and structure behind each series, and I started to recognize a pattern; that same unbeatable formula found in every story throughout history. So today, I’m starting a brand new, four-part series where I am going to dig deep down and dissect two of my very favorite Kdrama’s, and study the science that holds them together and examine just what it is that makes them so great.
The first series we are going to discuss is, Doom at Your Service. A supernatural/fantasy/romance drama, and possibly the most original, funny, intense, and gripping, emotional-roller coaster that I’ve ever seen. This post is going to contain some spoilers, but I’ll try to include only what is necessary to the discussion. Throughout this study, I will be referring to elements of the Three Act Story Structure, as described by K.M. Weiland, in her various teachings. If you’re not familiar with the Three Act Story Structure, you can find out more here.
Doom at Your Service.
The story picks up with our main character, Tak Dong Kyung, during an unfortunate, yet ordinary day in her life. Currently working as an editor for an online web-comic publishing house, Dong Kyung, is accustom to working long hours, and leaving little time for herself. Misfortune has followed her all her life, but on this day, Dong Kyung’s luck is the worst it’s ever been. Over-due student loans, and a humiliating public break-up are the least of her worries, after she pays a visit to her doctor, and receives the devastating news that she has a life-threatening brain tumor, with very limited options for treatment. Even with these grim prospects Dong Kyung seems unfazed, and indifferent to the information. Since losing her parents at a young age, Dong Kyung feels like this is simply the cherry on top of her already miserable life. She keeps the news to herself, and returns to her apartment. Later that night, after a few drinks, she recklessly makes a wish on a shooting star–wishing for doom upon the whole earth.
From the very first scene, we sympathize with Dong Kyung. We have all had bad days, and while they might not be as bad as Dong Kyung’s, we can still understand what she is feeling. So too, do we understand why she wishes for doom upon the whole earth. Often, when we are going through a difficult time, it’s hard to understand how the rest of the world can simply carry on, while our own world is crashing down all around us. At this point in the episode, things start to get interesting, because little did Dong Kyung know, Doom is a person, and she has just summoned him.
Enter, Doom, (Myeol Mang), an immortal being, who’s only purpose is to exact doom upon the human race. When you get a flat tire on the way to work, spill a cup of coffee on your laptop, or even face the consequences of a crime you have committed, you can thank Doom for visiting–the personification of misfortune. After living for centuries, watching continuously as humans live, die, and repeatedly make mistakes and cause terrible atrocities, any empathy that could have existed in him has been long buried. So when he hears the call for world-wide doom, it’s an opportunity he can’t pass up. Every year on his birthday, he grants one wish to a human, and Dong Kyung is just the human he’s been waiting for.
The arrival of Doom signifies the Inciting Event, bringing a tipping point for Dong Kyung, and the entire plot. We were given a brief look at Dong Kyung’s “normal” world prior to this moment, and now we are about to witness its complete reversal. Doom’s presence foreshadows this upcoming change, as his mere existence challenges Dong Kyung’s understanding of the world. The doorway to a new reality has just been unlocked, and already, she can see a glimpse of the other side.
Upon entering her apartment, Doom gives Dong Kyung an offer she can’t refuse: live pain free for the remainder of her life, (exactly 100 days), and after that, bring ultimate doom on the earth. She scoffs at the offer, and tries to get him to leave. She thinks she imagined the entire scenario, until the next day when the debilitating pain from her tumor is miraculously lifted by a simple touch from Doom. Frustrated, and at the end of her rope, Dong Kyung questions what she has done to deserve this. She doesn’t actually want to destroy the earth, simply because she is going to die. But when she tries to break the contract, Doom makes it clear the penalty she will face for not following through on their deal– Dong Kyung will live, but the person she loves most will die in her place.
Dong Kyung is horrified at this turn of events, as the person she loves most is her younger brother, the one whom she has worked most of her life to protect and care for after the loss of their parents. This moment conveys the First Plot Point, the final nail in the metaphorical coffin, ensuring that the old view of reality is gone forever. Dong Kyung, has now stepped through the doorway into this new world, but it is only the beginning of her journey.
Moving on, we see Dong Kyung’s Reaction as she grapples with this extreme change in her life. Dong Kyung despises Doom for making her agree to his offer, but she is determined not to let him win. She comes up with a way to save her own life, while not losing anyone else close to her. Her plan? Fall in love with Doom, so that he will die in place of her brother.
This is where the magic of Kdrama comes into play, promising an extremely painful road ahead for the characters, as well as the viewers. In the beginning it is clear that Doom is the villain in this story, but after a few episodes you will begin to second guess that notion. It appears that Doom is the one person that can help bring a change in her life, and likewise, she is the only one who can bring a change in him, too. It is the unlikelihood of two opposite souls, both broken, and hurting, that makes them a perfect pairing.
Doom first appears as a ruthless, uncaring soul, devoid of any heart or feeling towards anyone or anything. But as the story progresses, that hard exterior begins to show cracks, and Dong Kyung, recalls a faint memory that is in direct contradiction to what Doom has repeatedly claimed:
“I don’t eat, I don’t sleep, I don’t cry.”
For Dong Kyung, this situation proves that for too long, she has sat back and allowed the world to run right over her. For most of her life, she has not understood or acknowledged who she truly is, but Doom begins to show her that maybe there is more to this life than she first thought. Consequently, as Doom and Dong Kyung become closer, she also realizes there may still be some humanity in him yet.
Now let’s review what we have covered so far. Doom at Your Service, flawlessly delivers an incredible Hook within the first few minutes, in the form of Dong Kyung’s shocking diagnosis. And it immediately follows through with theInciting Event, as the appearance of Doom, himself. From the moment he is introduced, every aspect of the story, and Dong Kyung’s life begins to teeter in the balance. And while all of these outward events are occurring, it’s as if they were specifically designed to poke and prod at both Doom, and Dong Kyung’s deepest, personal, inner-conflict, and the Lies they each believe about themselves.
In the next part of this series, we will find out that that is exactly the case. Dong Kyung, and Doom, will both have to examine and confront the Lies they have clung to, as the Truth becomes so blindingly clear that they can no longer ignore it.
In my next post, we are going to get into the magic of sub-plots, character realizations, and epic climaxes, so be sure not to miss it. I hope you enjoyed taking a deeper look into the world of Kdrama’s with me, because there is more to come!
Tides will turn, winds can shift, and at times even the rain changes direction. Sometimes, our inner well of creativity changes, too. One day you might draw up the pail from the well expecting to find water, only to be met with nothing. It can be shocking and even scary to realize that it’s no longer full. And for the first time in a long time, you’ll have to consider the idea of digging a new one. Even though the old place felt safe and comfortable, the water didn’t taste so fresh anymore. But when you find that new well, that untapped resource, you might just find that it was exactly what you’d been looking for.
Recently, my “well” of creativity has changed direction. The heart I had for a certain project began to taper off little by little, almost imperceptibly, until I was eventually faced with nothing. Then one day a new story, with it’s very own spring of water, much different than its predecessor started to gurgle up from the parched ground. This new story quickly turned into a rushing river carrying me away on its current. It was a current I willingly launched out on, and now that I’ve left, I’ve hardly looked back.
A while ago, I made the difficult choice to leave an unfinished story behind, and begin a new one. I’m on that journey now, and am already waist-deep in it. This story was fairly new on my idea roster, but there was something about it that made me want to pour all of my time and energy into it. It felt new, and exciting, but it also felt familiar, like it was waiting for me all this time.
This project has been much like treading new waters, but I’m enjoying the process. I didn’t rush the plotting, or outlining phase, and miraculously, it all came together fairly quickly. It’s also the most in-depth, and well developed outline I’ve ever written. Needless to say, I’m feeling good about it. I’ve also given myself a loose deadline to (hopefully) finish the first draft by the end of summer. After completing NaNoWriMo last November, I figured it’s not too much to ask of myself to try and finish this draft in three months. I can be an incredibly slow writer, so I figured adding a bit of pressure is a good thing. But at the end of the day, the first draft is only the first step. Arguably it’s the most important step, but there are many more steps to follow, and with that in mind, the drafting process has been less intimidating.
I’m also excited because I’ll be writing this draft entirely by hand. Why would I be regressing to such an archaic form of recording, you may ask? Because the greats, like Dickens, Austen, andShakespeare, all wrote by hand, and I want to follow in their footsteps… I’m kidding, that was a joke. Really though, I chose to write by hand because it helps my overly critical, analytical brain, to take a hike. Writing by hand is a way for me not to overthink the words I’m putting down, and allows my creative thoughts to flow more freely. No delete key, and no backspacing key. I have no option, but to forge ahead. The first draft is always the most difficult part of the writing process for me, so if I find a way to make it easier on myself, then I’m all in. Even if it means I’ll have to transcribe several thousands of words from my scribbled notebook pages later, it’s worth it.
This new story is about an urban legend, a small town, and some strange happenings there. It has elements of many different movies, TV shows, and books that I have loved over the years. One of my inspirations was The X-Files, a popular show from the 90’s about two FBI agents taking on some strange, unexplained cases. I’ve had to do a lot of research for this project, but it’s been fun. I went to the library and grabbed several books on the topic I needed, and they have been really helpful. I’m learning a lot from this book already and I still have a long way to go. Later on I’ll probably do a proper, more detailed introduction for this story, but for now that’s all you get.
All in all, this move felt like a giant leap of faith, and with no regrets to speak of yet, I’m taking it as a sign that this was the right choice. A lot of us tend to stay in the same rut, afraid and unwilling to dig ourselves out and try something new. That’s where I stayed for a very long time. I was intimidated to make any drastic changes, but I realized that I am in control of my own writing. Who’s to say I should or shouldn’t write what I feel tugging on my heart, except for me?
* * *
I hope this post has inspired you to take the plunge, and start something new if a change has been knocking on your heart lately. Sometimes you don’t know what the right choice is until you give it a try. So fear not, my friend, and open up that door.
One of the hardest things in life, is knowing when to let go. When to accept that it’s time take a step back. When to admit that something in your life is leading you in circles. Coming to that realization can often feel like failure, like giving up. But in reality, taking that step shows you are of a strong mind, and adept enough to meet those difficult realities head on. This is something that has been on my mind a lot lately, and has caused me to face some of my innermost struggles about myself and my writing.
The novel I am currently working on, a.k.a., the “Big One” as I’ve come to think of it, is a story that has been very near and dear to my heart for years. I’ve mentioned from time to time on my blog, how this story has grown and evolved along with me, for several years now. The current word count is just over 80k, making it the longest project I’ve written to date, but also the slowest. I’ve watched as the word count crept higher and higher, (at a snail’s pace), and it is nowhere near done.
For the better part of four years I’ve worked exclusively on this story, and it’s been even longer since the idea first sparked in my mind. But out of the hundreds of hours I’ve expended on this story, most of them were spent agonizing over it in my head, instead of actually writing. I’d held off writing it for years, because I didn’t feel ready yet. And as the weeks turned to months, and the months into years, I’ve learned that I am still not quite ready for this story. And that’s okay.
It’s been hard. It feels like I’m failing, or like I’m letting somebody down. After spending the last four years of my life pouring so much time and energy into this project, the thought of abandoning it is quite painful. But I’m not really abandoning it. I’m simply putting it on hold– because I want this story to be “right”. I want to tell the story that my characters deserve, and I want to tell it well. But the time to tell that story is not yet.
If my story were a block of clay, to be intricately carved and sculpted, then at this moment my story is very much shapeless. There may be hints of a sculpture, in the way it curves here, or casts a shadow there, but it is still just a lump of clay. So, for now, I’ve made the choice to put a sheet over my unfinished sculpture and stow it away for safekeeping. And one day when my vision has cleared, and I can look at it, and no longer see an obscure form– but flesh and bones and a beating heart– then I will return to it. But in the meantime I will be patient, and I will wait until I feel a true sense of purpose for my story.
I wanted to write this post, to recognize and commemorate all of the time I have spent on this project and acknowledge that it has not been in vain. I have learned more from this novel, than any other writing project I’ve worked on so far and this novel will always mark a pivotal point in my writing journey. By allowing myself to take a step back from this project, I am free to work on other, new stories that have been waiting patiently in the wings. And though the future of my writing endeavors may seem a little murky right now, I am excited to face the challenge and see where it takes me from here.
So here’s to love lost, lessons learned, and the great unknown. Let’s never give up on our dreams, you and I. For only when we step off the familiar path, will we learn of all the possibilities that lie ahead.
There are moments in all of our lives when we feel like outsiders. Times when we feel like an outcast, or the odd man out– watching from a distance, as everyone else seems to get along so easily. I’ve realized that in the world of writing, those instances happen quite a lot.
The other day I was thinking about the novel I’m currently working on, as well as a few other stories that have been occupying my mind-space, lately. I wondered if anyone would want to read them. I wondered if anyone would find them interesting, or boring or too weird. I wondered, what if my stories just don’t fit in anywhere?
It’s sort of like that feeling you get in school, or when you’re hanging out with friends and you hear that little voice in the back of your head that whispers doubts and fears to you. What if no one likes me? For a while I entertained that thought– worrying that not everyone would like my stories. But then I had a sort of epiphany, and I said to myself– so what? So what if my stories are different? So what if my stories aren’t like the ones on the shelves at the bookstore today? I realized that my entire life has been going against the metaphorical current– so why would the stories I create be any different?
I know that there are trends in publishing, just like there are trends in fashion. It makes sense that publishers would publish books that fit into that popular trend, and that writers would write stories that fit into that same trend. But here’s the thing, not everyone has to fit into the trend. I realized that I would be doing a great disservice to myself, and to anyone who might read my future work, if I tailored my stories simply to fit into the current mainstream trends.
The world has enough, nay, too many books that fit into the mainstream mold(s). I would dare to say that it is time for the modern book market to have a bit of a shake-up. As I was wrestling with all of these ideas, I remembered the quote that says, “Write the book that you want to read.” I think that is one of the most valuable quotes for any writer to remember. Especially if, like me, you spend much of your time wading through books that you hope to love, but don’t. Maybe it’s time for us, for you and for me, to write the books we want to read.
Creativity comes in all shapes and sizes. It doesn’t always have to come in nicely packaged boxes, ready, and waiting for the taking. Your story might not have the typical main character, or the typical list of obstacles standing in their way. It might not be strictly YA, or middle-grade, it might be something in between. If you feel like your story doesn’t fit in, then here is your sign, your signal, to embrace it. Embrace what makes you and your story different. If you don’t love your story first, why should anyone else like it? And if you feel like your story doesn’t fit into the popular shape, then break out of it. Write the story that is carved onto your heart; the one inside of you that is begging to be written. People gravitate towards genuineness, and honesty, and your writing will show that. Though it might not appeal to the masses, that little spark of truth you sew into your story, may well resonate in the hearts of many a wandering soul.
Remember, stay true to yourself always, and don’t ever forget why you first chose to write. Thank you for visiting, and sharing in my thoughts today. I hope that you found this post encouraging, and I hope you never give up on writing the story of your heart.
Once upon a time, there was a young writer who discovered a mystical element called “theme”. The little writer learned of the great power this element held and its ability to transform story craft. The notion of “theme” did in fact seem logical but the wide-eyed little writer paid no heed. The little writer surmised that by the process of osmosis, or more accurately, diffusion, this very important element would somehow take root and settle naturally into her little writer mind. But alas, the little writer was soon met with the great big dragon called, Hogwash. This great and terrible dragon was too fierce a match for the writer and it sent her packing, all the way back to the drawing board, where she pulled out her dusty old books and began her study anew.
I hope you enjoyed that little allegory about a certain writer and her misconceptions regarding theme. And in case you had any doubts about the true identity of the little writer, well, it’s me. Theme is something I have struggled with throughout my writing journey and for a time I thought the idea of theme was even a little exaggerated. I knew theme was important and I knew every story had one, but I failed to understand how to implement theme into my own works. I had assumed that my subconscious would weave together a coherent theme into my story and things would all work out in the end. But as I was trudging deep into yet another writing project, many of the same issues began to crop up on the page as they had in most of my previous projects. I had a niggling suspicion in the back of my mind that the root of my problems was theme, or the lack thereof.
I examined all of my notes on the subject and reviewed what other writers had to say on the topic and it all began to make sense. All this time, above all else, theme had been what was hindering my writing process the most. To be honest, I think the entire notion confused me a bit. With so many technical terms and methods discussed by writers like, experiment in living, and poetic justice, not to mention, story theme, in contrast to story idea/message, my understanding became murkier and murkier. It was also a little embarrassing, since theme is reinforced so rigidly on writing advice websites, like Story Embers. I’d even read entire books discussing it.
I think I’ve finally reached a point where I can comprehend the idea in a more straightforward, if somewhat simplistic way, (which is how people like me tend to think, perK.M. Weiland’s teachings).
Theme, is the unifying subject or idea explored via recurring patterns–what ties everything together.(i.e. Power Corrupts)
Another way to think of it is by the definition of synchronicity:
The simultaneous occurrence of events that appear significantly related but have no discernible causal connection.
Theme has always been hard for me to grasp because when I first begin to work on a new story, my ideas are generally very broad. In the plotting and planning phases, my thinking tends to be too big when I should be thinking much smaller. With world building, and character arcs being developed, I find it extremely difficult to narrow my focus to the very essence of my story. I began to ask myself, if all of the scenes, and dialogue were stripped away, what would my story really be about? What message would remain? For a long time I agonized over this problem. So I tasked myself with a challenge, what if I had a clear theme in mind from the very beginning, would it change or affect my writing process? You may recall the experiment I talked about a few months ago, when I endeavored to write a first draft entirely by hand. What I didn’t mention back then was that I also used that same story to test out my new understanding of theme.
I had a few of the basics down. I had an intro, a few characters in mind, and a few names and places to begin with. But I did not yet have a theme. I was at a loss on how to condense this broad story idea into a single, cognizant message. So I did what any writer in doubt does, I went to google. I couldn’t really believe that I was scrolling through lists of generic themes to carve my story around. But to my surprise I found just what I was looking for. I found a theme that worked with my story and in fact, was exactly what I needed to fill in the gaps and join everything together seamlessly. Never had an outline come together so quickly or easily before.
At first it felt like cheating to use a theme I had found on the internet, but I realized that tons of other people probably do that as well. I don’t mean to say that google is the ultimate cheat-sheet to solve all of your problems, but I am saying that theme doesn’t have to be something so abstract or unique only to one story. There are actually a finite number of themes and truths to express in your story, but there are infinite ways to deliver them. What matters most is the way you deliver your truth.
I’ll close with a bit of advice I wish I had known a long time ago and that is, theme matters, a lot. But your theme doesn’t have to be so complicated you can’t articulate it with a few words. You can have a simple theme and still have a broad and expansive story to express it. It’s better to develop your theme before you begin your first draft, as I have learned the hard way. Also, don’t get caught up in all of the technical jargon thrown your way while you’re still figuring things out, you can worry about that stuff later. Google can be a friend, (sometimes) so don’t be afraid to use the resources at your fingertips.
I’m still trying to figure things out for myself, and just wanted to share some of my thoughts on this subject. If you’re also trying to make sense of all of these writing terms and elements, try not to worry, lots of us out here are right beside you treading those very same waters. And if you’ve already braved the rapids, perhaps you could share some of your thoughts and experiences with the rest of the class? We would all appreciate it.
If you know me, you know that I love K-drama, a.k.a Korean drama series. It was a few years ago when I first became curious about these foreign films and TV shows. I decided to give them a go and it didn’t take long before I was hooked. I never knew I could become so attached to characters on the screen or root so hard for them. And in many ways they surprised me by their depth, complexity, humor, and ability to draw you so deeply into a story. The more I watched and became familiar with the genre, the more I found certain elements that I wanted to include in my own stories. And after watching hours upon hours of content, I realized there were a few things many of them had in common. I compiled my notes and came up with five key elements that make K-dramas so darn good.
1: Vicious Villains
If there is one thing K-drama does best it’s villains, or at least the opposing force. There are times when the villain will move against the protagonist and I find myself filled with a burning rage, and other times when the villain feels so real and so honest, that I’m often empathetic towards them. When any work of fiction, (books or film), can get you to feel so intensely toward a villain, you know that character is done well. And when villains have realistic goals and/or purposes their impact is much greater than a character who is simply bad in order to cause friction in a story. I’ve also learned that a villain doesn’t have to be an evil Overlord, reigning terror upon innocent citizens. Sometimes it’s a classmate, a neighbor, a brother, someone who wronged you years ago. What matters most is the emotion and the selfish motivations driving them forward. (My recommendation: Tale of the Nine-Tailed)
2: Tropes Done Right
Whether we admit it or not I think we can all enjoy a good trope, when it’s done right. I’m sure you know the silly,sometimes cheesy stereotypes often found in film and books. A common one you’ll find in K-dramas is Rich Boy/Poor Girl. As often as I think I’m going to get tired of this trend, I don’t, because the character development isn’t so shallow as to end there. The personalities, motivations, and emotions are more real and affecting than the character’s job description. I have found myself able to relate to the billionaire, C.E.O. of a conglomerate company, from the humble walls of my suburban house. K-drama has the ability to remind us that we’re all human, no matter our social standing. (My recommendation: My Shy Boss)
Another common trope you will find, is love triangles. (Cue the cringe.) Not everyone can pull this off, but it is through K-dramas that I was introduced to the term, ‘Second-lead Syndrome’. Which means exactly what you think it means. It’s a strange and often painful phenomena where you find yourself rooting for the second lead instead of the main lead. Going down this road will most definitely end in heart-break, but it’s oh-so worth it. </3 (My recommendation: True Beauty)
3: Internal Struggle External Conflict
Another aspect that K-drama does exceptionally well is internal conflict. Typically within the first episode you will catch a glimpse of the inner struggle the protagonist is faced with on a daily basis. Each character has a very real and often relatable challenge that most people can understand. K-dramas are mainly character-driven stories but that isn’t to say the outer conflict isn’t just as deep and pertinent. Trying to predict the twists and turns of a K-drama is almost as complicated as brain surgery. Okay, maybe not that complicated. These two different forms of conflict will surprise you when they culminate in an often epic clash at the end. (My recommendation: He is Psychometric)
4:Moral of the Story
The moral of the story or what the writing world refers to as theme, is never left out of any K-drama. Most K-dramas are fraught with drama, as their name implies, but by the end of a series you’ll come away with a valuable life lesson or even a tough moral question to ponder. Many of them have a strong family element woven into the storyline with complicated relationships and consequences for all peoples. Sometimes they will focus on positive character transformations, and other times they will highlight the consequences of allowing darkness to take root in one’s life. So next time someone asks why you’ve been watching a K-drama for four hours straight, you can tell them it’s not just entertainment, you’re also learning some very important life lessons. For example, maybe the friendly neighborhood assassin down the street is just misunderstood, and his actions are actually justified? Hypothetically speaking, that is. (My recommendation: Kill It)
5: Laughter is Medicine, Too
If you’re ever feeling down the surest way I know to lift your spirits is a little K-drama pick-me-up. When you’re feeling gloomy or just want a little distraction from the world, humor is the best remedy. Just press play and you’ll soon be laughing, (or crying), along with the characters on the screen. Sometimes comedy can be over-done or even cringe-worthy, but when you find the right drama your belly will soon be aching from all the laughter. But even the seemingly lighthearted and cute dramas can be quite complex, and serious at times. It’s easy for jokes to fall flat in film or TV, but K-dramas sure know how to make you laugh, or at least smile. (My recommendation: Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo)
I could go on and on about why I love K-drama so much, but I’ll end it here for today. I find it hard sometimes to classify K-drama’s as a thriller, or comedy, etc., because they also have the unique ability to bend genres. They will take you on a roller-coaster of emotions and plot twists as you follow the characters along their journey’s. I have learned so many story-telling techniques from K-dramas, that I think it’s safe to say that all those hours invested might just pay off in the end. And if you’re not too intimidated to cross the threshold into the territory of subtitles, I don’t think you’ll regret it. You might even find a new way to spend your free time.
When was the last time you sat down with a pen or a pencil, and just wrote? Allowing the words to guide you across the page, instead of a rigid outline? It could be in the form of a letter, a journal entry, or anything in between. If you’re a writer, then it might not be so long ago. But in the age of modern convenience, we likely don’t “write”, by hand as our forefathers once did. I know that I have given in to the kings of convenience, despite my fondness for simple, pen and paper. Technology has managed to sneak its way into nearly all forms of writing, and even reading for that matter. For today’s post, I want to consider the different ways that writing by hand, or through a computer might affect the writing process.
In the early stages of the story process I always opt for a pen and a notebook, to capture those first few details and snippets, as they unfold inside my head. I’ll use sticky notes to jot down random names or topics needing more research. I might even write pages and pages of backstory that will likely never make it into the final work. But when I feel ready, I leave the paper behind and open up a “Pages” document on my computer, and let the real story begin. It’s exciting to start filling the empty space with words, and quotation marks, and chapter titles. To me, that’s when the real story begins and it starts to look and feel like a proper book.
Occasionally though, as time goes by and the story begins edging towards its climax, I can feel discouragement set in and the flow of writing can come to a halt. I become frustrated and feel that my efforts no longer look or feel like a “proper” book. It might start to feel like a jumbled mess, and I can experience great disappointment. It feels like all the hours and days poured into the project have resulted in nothing more than a wilted bloom, barely clinging to life, instead of the vibrant flower I had first envisioned.
Lately, I’ve been asking myself this question: “Does writing the first draft on a computer add more pressure to my writing process?”
On one hand, I can say that writing the first draft in a word document is genius. It’s easy to pound scores of words out by the minute, it’s easier to make changes, easier to recognize mistakes, and most of all, it’s easier to read computerized fonts than the scribbled chicken-scratch on paper. You can send a snippet to a friend for feedback, or even delete an entire section if you so choose. But could that be where the trouble lies? On a computer, nothing is permanent, and anything can be altered or changed at any given moment. Instead of plowing ahead with the story, it might be tempting to work backwards, and edit as you go. Perhaps a bit of permanence is helpful, or dare I say, even needed.
I’m reading through a book right now about the “writer’s life“. In it, the author shares many writing exercises to practice. One of them is to sit down and write three pages of longhand everyday on any topic you choose. She calls it “morning pages”, but it can be done at any time of the day. The idea is to cultivate a habit, and commitment to writing each day. And to show yourself that you can indeed write anywhere, anytime, anyhow. It doesn’t matter how messy or mixed up your words come out. The exercise is meant to allow your words to flow freely, and uninterrupted.
In the past, I have tried many times to write the first draft by hand, but I inevitably give up after only a few pages. Quick and convenient, always seems to trump slow and steady. I know that many authors write their first draft entirely by hand, and that has always astounded me. Writing by hand takes a lot of time, and to me, the story feels closer to being done when I can see it all typed out on a screen, (even if it’s very far from actually being done).
Recently, I’ve decided to try something different, an experiment if you will. For starters, I’ve decided to write a short story–something I haven’t done for quite a while. I’ve felt that my writing habits needed some livening up, so why not turn my usual routine on its head? I pulled out a new notebook, filled up my fountain pen with ink, and simply began writing. I’m not worrying too much about when I should write, or even if I feel like I’m in the right mindset to write–I’m simply writing. So far it’s been fun, really fun. Granted, I’ve had to stop myself at times, from the “not good enough”, thoughts that try to interrupt my progress, but for now, I’m trying to tell that part of my brain to stay quiet.
I’ve found that writing by hand takes away much of the pressure I usually feel when writing. And I’m learning to write without the imaginary critic hanging over my shoulder, and to simply write to tell the story that wants to be told. And that notion, for me, had gotten misplaced somewhere along the way. Until I complete my little experiment, I may not know if my writing habits will forever be changed, but for now, I’m enjoying the process and I think I may be converted. (Which means I’m going to need some more notebooks.)
What about you? Do you like to write on a computer, or are you more old-fashioned, preferring the pen and paper method? Tell me your thoughts.
As humans, we are blessed with the capability to have conversations with one another. Some of those conversations may be dreaded, others may be eagerly anticipated — and some conversations may be unexpectedly fascinating. Given the right circumstances, even the most introverted of introverts can find themselves invested in deep conversations at times. And whether we think so or not, the words we say, and the way we say them, say a lot about us. Tones, inflections, and word choice all play a huge role in how others perceive us. And that is especially true when it comes to novels.
Here’s a transcription of an interesting conversation I had, with my three-almost-four-year old nephew.
(Cat enters the scene.)
Nephew: “Can I pet him?!”
Me: “Sure you can!”
Nephew: *pets cat* “He’s so soft and crunchy!”
Me: “Um, yeah.”
Nephew:*pets cat again* *sniffs hand* “He smells like some kind of problem.”
Ouch. Sorry Rusty, you’ve been called out.
This conversation tells us a bit about what’s going on inside of my nephew’s head. He doesn’t dance around his words, but gets straight to the point, and tells us exactly what’s on his mind. (I’m kidding. I just thought the conversation was funny, and wanted to share it, lol.)
Back to the topic of today’s post which is — conversation, a.k.a., dialogue.
Dialogue is one of my favorite parts about stories. But what makes good dialogue? Inner monologue, thoughts, and prose, can tell us a lot about the characters or the story, but dialogue is how our characters interact with one another. And it can be tricky to write dialogue that feels authentic. I know we’ve all read the books with cringy, or overly-witty dialogue that no real person would say aloud. And then there are the long-winded lectures, usually found in older works. But among them all, thoughts and feelings are expressed. Just as in real life, our words carry weight, so it stands to reason that, in fiction, our words should be just as carefully chosen.
There are many ways to have engaging, and interesting dialogue; such as tones of voice, or a sense of sincerity behind the words. In one of my favorite books, The Scorpio Races, by Maggie Stiefvater, there is actually very little dialogue, but when a character speaks, it usually matters. Each character has a unique, and distinct voice, and you almost always know who is speaking without having to be told. Much of this has to do with word choice, or certain phrases. But this approach of less is more, is greatly due to subtext, a.k.a. the unspoken implications in books. (This element is something I’m still trying to grasp fully, to put to use in my own novel). When a character is depicted vibrantly enough, readers don’t need things to be over-explained and there is an understanding between the reader, and the character on the page. When your characters are well developed, and words aren’t necessarily spoken explicitly, we can still have empathy and understanding of the character, adding another layer of depth to the character’s interactions.
Something I’ve learned from my own projects, is that I must listen very closely to my characters. Until I’ve actually begun writing the story, I may not know if my character is one of few, or many words. One I may have thought more subdued, might surprise me, and end up being the comical one. And a character I may have thought more talkative, may end up being reluctant to give too much away. Another thing we all should be doing, is taking note from real life. When we’re talking to our parents, our friends, or listening to the way others are talking to one another, we should pay close attention. Try and listen for the subtle cues that keep the conversation flowing, or the ones that stifle it or turn things awkward. In other words, the best way to craft authentic dialogue is to take from our experiences in every day life.
Dialogue is probably one of the funnest parts of your novel to write, but it’s difficult too. Being a person of few words myself, I sometimes struggle to keep the conversations on the page flowing easily, (kind of like in real life, too). So I have to really dig down, and get deep into my character’s heads. While I may be the one writing out their words, I have to remind myself, that I’m not the character on the page. I think the best way to write great dialogue, is to become familiar with your characters so as to be true to their voice. I love to read honest conversations between characters, and see the way they interact with one another. One of the hardest jobs of being a writer, is to find that connection with your characters and to be honest and sincere on the page.
In closing, dialogue is something that can be overlooked when you begin working on a story, but it has the ability, and potential, to be a master tool in crafting deep, and impactful stories. So I just wanted to share some of my thoughts, and have a little chat on the subject. What is your approach when it comes to writing dialogue? Do you have any tips or tricks to share?
“Once upon a time there were four little Rabbits, and their names were– Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-tail, and Peter. They lived with their Mother in a sand-bank, underneath the root of a very big fir-tree.
‘Now my dears,’ said old Mrs. Rabbit one morning, ‘you may go into the fields or down the lane, but don’t go into Mr. McGregor’s garden: your Father had an accident there; he was put in a pie by Mrs. McGregor. Now run along, and don’t get into mischief. I am going out.’
Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cotton-tail, who were good little bunnies, went down the lane to gather blackberries: But Peter who was very naughty, ran straight away to Mr. McGregor’s garden, and squeezed under the gate!”
Bunnies are cute, I think most people can agree. But if you’re a writer, the word might trigger something a little different in your brain. Plot bunnies are story ideas that appear from out of nowhere, and refuse to go away until they are written. I’m sure all writers have dozens of stories and ideas swirling around in their heads, which is that magical brain fodder used to craft new and exciting stories. But what if you’re knee deep in a project, with a couple of K’s written down and all of a sudden…out pops a cute little plot bunny—bright eyed and bushy tailed? You’re then caught between two differing ideas, each demanding your attention.
I don’t know how other writers deal with the notorious plot bunny, but that saying about rabbits multiplying has never been more true. I’ve reached a bit of a rough spot in my current project, and I’ve been feeling stuck. But since I’ve run into a wall with one project, ideas for new stories seem to be cropping up everywhere. A few weeks ago, I was flipping through an old notebook, and stumbled across a story idea I’d completely forgotten. After I read the short scene, whoosh, my imagination started running on double time. I had to wrangle in my impulses, not to dive blindly into a new story so spur of the moment. Especially since I’ve already committed to another.
My question is this—how do you manage those shiny new ideas when you’re already working on a big project? As of now, I don’t feel equipped enough to juggle two stories at one time, so I’m trying to keep my focus on my main project. But that doesn’t change the fact these new ideas are growing, and evolving each day. I can try to ignore the characters inside my head all day long, meanwhile I’ll still hear them bickering amongst each other.
Right now, I think I’m suffering from a bit of the, grass is always greener on the other side syndrome; I’m struggling with one story, yet these new ideas sound so much better, and more intriguing. While working on my last novel, I experienced the same thing, during one of my many rounds of edits. I’d grown tired of that story, so I started plotting for my next project. I remember thinking that my next novel was going to be amazing. The ideas were flowing so easily, I couldn’t wait to begin writing. Now that I’m actuallywriting that novel, the rose-colored skies have begun to gray a little. I’m not going to give up though, or cave into the new ideas—especially since I’ve already written 40k words. I think it’s just a matter of forging ahead and pushing through the tough times.
My current project has so much yet to develop, and I’m actually I’m looking forward to it. But I need to find a way to match the excitement I feel for these new ideas, with the project I’m already working on. I’m going to have to dig deep, and rediscover those little nuggets of inspiration that encouraged me to first begin this novel. When I have a moment or two to spare, I’ll be jotting down those new little treasures that pop up (when I’m least expecting them). So if you’re looking for me, I’ll be out in the garden setting traps for some very naughty bunnies. But don’t worry, I shan’t be making any pies…at least not yet.
What do you do when you’re feeling bored with your story? How do you manage when a brand new story comes knocking on your door and says, “hello, may I come in?”.