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The Fantastic and Mundane Chronicles of an Aspiring Writer

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The Power of Ambience

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Hello, everyone! Today I would like to share with you my latest discovery and obsession with soundscapes. While writing I often listen to movie soundtracks or instrumental pieces to get me focused on my story. However, this last week when I was browsing YouTube I came across some amazing and wonderful soundscapes! Now for those who aren’t sure what soundscapes are, they are basically the multiple sounds of a particular environment or location. For example, some of the most popular ones are the crackling fireplace and the sound of falling rain.

Here are the YouTube channels and their specific videos I have had fun listening to while writing, reading, and relaxing!

The Guild of Ambience-This channel really is great at creating a realistic and immersive ambience for various exotic outdoor and indoor environments. Some of its soundscapes include:

Fantasy Medieval Townsuch a relaxing video featuring sounds of nature along with    the faint strum of musical notes and the occasional clip-clop of a passing horse-drawn wagon 

Fireplace Sounds-Medieval Tavernincorporates the crackling of a fireplace accompanied by the low hum of people’s laughter and voices while the trickle of a drink being poured into a mug immediately makes any listener’s mouth start watering 

 Pirate Shipthe creak of a ship, the sound of crashing waves. What more do I have to say? 

Waterfall Sounds-Garden Pond, Bird LifeListen to the soft and steady flow of water accompanied by birds’ songs and other sounds of nature 

Potion Shop Soundsimagine yourself in Professor Snape’s classroom and this is exactly what your ears will hear! 

Check out more here!

Yet another great channel for specifically fantasy-based soundscapes is Sword Coast Soundscapes. Some of its videos include:

Small Marketplacefeatures more distinct voices bartering and chatting as well as the sound of footsteps walking down a cobblestone street

Underwaterhow it would sound if you were 20,000 leagues under the sea

Some of the less-relaxing but still fun videos on this channel are:

Jungles of Chultthe sounds of the jungle mixed with frequent roars of human-eating monsters! 

Docks at Nightthe sound of waves, the cawing of crows, the howl of the wind, and of course, in the background the rumble of thunder

Explore more from Sword Coast Soundscapes here! 

Lastly, there is The ASMR Geek channel that has a lot of cool and eerie urban soundscapes, some of which include:

A theme park, an abandoned arcade, food court ambience

This channel also has plenty of awesome dystopian soundscapes of:

underground cities, spaceship cockpit, futuristic asian tea room in the city

As well as ones from movies and TV shows such as:

Supernatural, Star Wars, and Harry Potter 

Listen to more from this channel here!

 

Thanks for checking in, and I hope these soundscapes transport you to adventures of your choosing!

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The Fantastic and Mundane Chronicles of an Aspiring Writer
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Ingredients for Storytelling: Details

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Welcome back to my Ingredients for Storytelling series where I will be talking about some of my favorite elements of great stories both on the page and onscreen. As you can see from the title, today’s post will be dedicated to discussing how details can often enrich an already strong storyline.

Why do details matter in the first place?

1. Setting: In my experience as an avid reader and viewer, details about the world characters inhabit as well as details about the characters themselves can make the story itself more relatable and believable to the audience. Take for example, the wide film genre of anime. Anime does an enchanting job of taking ordinary scenes from our everyday lives and re-illustrating them in such a way as to make them seem like beautiful landscapes (e.g. a rainy street corner, the inside of a crowded train station). Yet what makes them so fascinating is the fact that just enough small details from reality are included to make them recognizable to us.

2. Characters: Details about characters are important too. Sometimes including a small fun fact or detail about the protagonist’s habits or personality can make such a big difference in that character’s likability and the ability of the audience to relate to her or him. For example, in the TV show Supernatural, Dean, one of the main characters, loves pie. More than that, not only is the audience informed early on of Dean’s love for pie, but this small but likable and quirky detail is reiterated over and over again through scenes spanning multiple seasons of Dean eating pie. While at first glance, this may seem trivial, by including such a fun aspect of this character’s personality, the screenwriters have made him seem more real. Yes, Dean is (sadly) a fictional character. Yet by giving him mannerisms and details that most people can see mirrored in their friends, people they actually know, or more importantly themselves, the writers have essentially made him more sympathetic and relatable with just one small detail.

3. Plot: In the same way adding details to a setting or characters makes them seem more inhabitable and real, details within a plot can enrich the narrative even further. Take Christopher Nolan’s film Inception for example. Early on in the movie, the audience is told that when entering a dream each individual possesses a totem, or essentially, an object that’s design allows the owner to figure out when he or she is dreaming. While at first, this detail seems relatively minor in relation to the overall plot, by the end of the film it is presented as one of the most important and defining features that influences any viewer’s interpretation of the film as a whole. In this way seemingly minor details–if utilized cleverly–can not only often serve to foreshadow or hint at later plot twists, but also function as a point of continuity within the larger story.

Can a story have too many details?

Now, I know a lot of people are thinking “YES”, and I would definitely agree. I, as well, as most people I’m sure have had the misfortune to encounter a book, movie, or TV show that over-provided so many details that the greater plot ended up becoming lost in the flood of seemingly mundane and meaningless other factors. The main reason why I added in the parenthesis the phrase “sprinkled throughout” is because, while details can become powerful storytelling devices, a large number of them can easily be quickly overwhelming. I found that in my favorite books, movies, and TV shows, the details the writers choose to provide nearly always serve a larger purpose–whether it be to reveal more about a character’s personality or the nature of the world they inhabit or ultimately anything that enriches rather than hinders the heart of the story itself.

How do you all feel about details within a story? What kind of details do you enjoy seeing and which ones do you find annoying? Please feel free to leave your thoughts below!

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The Fantastic and Mundane Chronicles of an Aspiring Writer

 

 

Ingredients for Storytelling: Tension

Hello, everyone! I hope your holidays were well and relaxing! To start off this new year of 2018, I decided to create a writing-centered series called Ingredients for Storytelling! In each of these posts, I will discuss an element I find makes a story all the more intriguing and why.

As you can see from the title, today’s spotlight will be on tension and how creating this between characters can further enrich an already great plot.

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First of all, what exactly does tension mean in literary and storytelling terms? According to the Oxford Living Dictionaries, tension may be defined as “A strained state or condition resulting from forces acting in opposition to each another”. In the context of storytelling, this comes about as a result of two or more characters being forced to interact, and many times, even cooperate while maintaining opposing goals. Because of this, nearly every conversation or action shared between these characters is laced with mental or emotional strain that we label “tension”. Another way we can think of tension is a “potential for conflict”. This isn’t to say the presence of tension always necessarily leads to conflict, but rather, that the potential for conflict constantly remains just beneath the surface of the characters’ interactions, influencing their dynamic and chemistry until their opposing goals are either met or adjusted to lessen the already existing tension.

A prime example of tension can be seen in the classical hate-to-love trope—one of the most notable cases being acted out by Han and Leia from George Lucas’ original Star Wars trilogy. As a princess and politician, Leia is the exact opposite of Han, who is a smuggler and relative loner, in nearly every way. While initially their personality differences cause a certain level of discomfort and strain, what ultimately creates tension and eventually conflict between them is the fact they retain not only different but opposing goals. Leia wants to save people’s lives and freedom by fighting against the oppressive empire. In other words, she believes in a greater cause. Han only wants to preserve his own life and freedom, and thus, has no interest in joining any cause at all…initially. However, circumstances force them to work together in order to survive, and thus, their encounters, while not violent, are rife with simultaneous conflict as well as attraction, and therein tension.

Why I love itLike in life, in literature, TV, and movies, you can’t ever physically see tension, but you can feel it. If tension is written into a novel or script and written well, we, the audience and readers, can practically feel the strained dynamic between characters oozing off the screen and page as vividly as if we were standing next to them. And isn’t one of the main purposes of stories to draw you into the characters’ lives—to see what they see and feel what they feel—in the first place? While incorporating tension isn’t a requirement for every story, as a viewer and reader as well as a writer, I find this element often makes the characters and the world they inhabit infinitely more life-like and relatable.

What do you think? Do you like tension in the stories you read and watch? If so, what are some of your favorite examples? Please feel free to leave your comments below!

 

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The Fantastic and Mundane Chronicles of an Aspiring Writer

Writing Update: What to Do If Your Manuscript’s Been Rejected

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The Fantastic and Mundane Chronicles of an Aspiring Writer

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Hello, everyone! I’m sorry I haven’t been updating lately. These past few months I’ve been trying to regroup after sending my manuscript out to several agents. Unfortunately, so far it hasn’t been successful, and while initially, I couldn’t help but be discouraged, I’ve since found a way of coping: writing another story, of course!

This isn’t to say I’m giving up on my previous manuscript, but I have, however, found great joy in starting another story. So far, the only things I can share about this newest project are that it’s a young adult fantasy and involves a love story.

In my experience, dealing with rejection regarding a manuscript is always hard. After spending so much time and effort giving everything you have to a story only to several literary agents give a simple and curt “no thanks” (in a usual pre-formed rejection email), it’s difficult to not take it too personally.

For all those fellow writers out there who may be in the same situation, here’s a short list of things you can do to regroup after facing rejection.

  1. Take a Break! 

It’s ok, even empowering, to take time to regroup. I love writing, but it was nice taking some time off to relax and focus on other things besides writing which leads me to the next tip.

2. Find inspiration

Aside from simply enjoying watching scifi/fantasy movies and reading books of the same genre, I also find I can glean a lot of inspiration from them as well. Yet this tip isn’t necessarily limited to focusing on things you think could lead to inspiration. In other words, I’ve found that inspiration often comes unconsciously and when you least expect it as well. I also think that while looking for inspiration is almost always beneficial, it isn’t a process that can be forced. Keeping a relaxed and open mind in regards to any creative activity is one of the most sure ways to find inspiration.

3. Start writing again

I would say this is can be both one of the hardest and easiest tip on this list. If you keep thinking back to how your last manuscript was rejected and all the overwhelming odds stacked against the possibility of you becoming a published author, then yes, picking up the pen to write again can be next to impossible. However, on the other hand, if instead of focusing on past disappointments and the unpredictable future, you focus on the story you want to write, on developing the characters and setting and everything about your current manuscript to the best of your ability, then this process will be rewarding no matter the outcome.

I hope these short tips help, and if anyone else has any please feel free to share! Most importantly, however, I believe if you have a story to tell, you should write it. Don’t mull too much over the details of if it will ever be published or anything else that isn’t directly related to your process of writing. In the beginning, just focus on getting your thoughts on page even if a story isn’t fully formed, and you may be pleasantly surprised by what adventure it leads to.

Good luck to all of you in your writing endeavors!

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“I once followed a path through a winding wood..”.

The Query Letter and Purpose of a Literary Agent

Hello, everyone! I just sent out my first batch of query letters to several literary agents (*crosses fingers excitedly*), so for this post I thought I would focus on the subject of literary agents in general. I hope all you aspiring authors looking to get published out there find this helpful!

Anyone trying to get his or her manuscript published should strongly consider looking into obtaining agent. Their job is to submit the author’s work to publishing houses, or more specifically, the editors he or she believes would be the best match for the manuscript. In essence, literary agents act as mediators between the author and any entity wishing to sell, advertise, or promote his or her work, such as publishers or film studios. Simply stated, a literary agent’s function is to act as the author’s representative in the literary market. An agent will drastically increase your chances of getting your manuscript accepted by editors, negotiate the terms of your publishing contacts to give you the best deal possible, and also manage the subrights of your work.

Author Nathan Bransford has written a wonderful article that depicts the author-literary agent partnership in great detail here.

Here’s a basic list of the things you should include in your query letter:

  • 1-2 paragraph summary of your manuscript (like the blurbs on the back of book covers you see at the store) 
  • Brief biography (only things writing-related) 
  • Word count of your manuscript 
  • Why you are contacting this particular agent (note: This is IMPORTANT in making your query letter more personalized. If you’re choosing to query a specific agent because you read an interview that he or she was looking for YA fantasy works, and your manuscript fits this description then MENTION this!) 

Before starting your letter, you should research various resources online for more detailed guidelines on how to do this (the link for AgentQuery below will lead you to a page with this kind of information).

Okay, so now you maybe wondering exactly how to find the right literary agent for you?

One of the easiest ways to do this is to search online. There are many writing websites that regularly post agent spotlights that explain the types of manuscripts each one is looking for. These are some of my favorites:

AgentQuery

Literary Rambles

Manuscript Wishlist

You can also buy this year’s Guide to Literary Agents book, which contains a comprehensive list of every literary agency in the U.S. and what genres they are currently accepting.

Tip: While it is tempting to immediately send a query letter to the top literary agents of famous bestsellers, you should keep in mind that newer agents who are still building their client lists are more open to submissions and more likely to take on inexperienced authors. Writer’s Digest has a specific segment focusing on new and upcoming agents that you can check out here.

Good luck and write on!

Writing Update:What to Do While Waiting for Feedback

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So while I’m waiting to hear feedback on my manuscript from a beta reader, I decided to keep myself by starting another book!

I’m currently spending my day jotting down notes and ideas for where I want the story to go as well as beginning the first chapter. I always love writing the initial lines because they hold so much potential for the rest of the story. What do you do while waiting to hear feedback on a manuscript?

Word Counts

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Since I last updated, I have begun revising and editing my manuscript! This includes general proofreading as well as rewriting and adding or removing scenes. Right now I’m trying to decrease my word count as much as possible by cutting out anything that isn’t vital to the story. This is because literary agents and publishers are less willing to accept manuscripts with higher word counts, especially with new authors. Additionally, each genre has its own idea word count range. So for a YA fantasy/Science fiction novel, which is what I’m currently writing, my manuscript can be anywhere from around 75,000 to 110,ooo words, thought I should aim more towards 100,ooo words or less.

For more information on word counts check out these other sources!

Writer’s Digest 

LitRejections

The Swivet (slightly outdated, yes, but still a good information to keep in mind)

 

Writing Tips: Take Advantage of Your Local Bookstore!

Barnes & Noble (and bookstores in general) has always been one of my top spots for finding inspiration. Nothing delights me more than perusing the shelves for the next life-changing novel! Aside from being a place of inspiration and just overall fun, your local bookstore can also prove to be a place of research. It may seem like an obvious tip, but you should focus your attention on reading books within the same genre as the one you are writing. Choose the kinds of books you think may be similar to yours or the type you wish to write. Identify the common themes and characteristics of the books in a specific genre. This will give you a sense of the general format of the stories currently popular in that area of the market. While this isn’t to say that you should tailor your novel to fit the exact layout of those on the shelves, it will give you a better idea of what genre your novel fits into the best. Literary agents, and furthermore, publishers, will usually buy a manuscript if it can be easily placed under a single genre because it will make them more marketable. So, make a trip to your local bookstore and peruse away!

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