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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

 

 

Writing Playlist Spotlight: Thomas Newman

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Hello, friends! Sorry for the delay. Things have been both exciting and hectic lately! Anyway, today I will be sharing another Writing Playlist. However, this time I will be spotlighting a specific composer: Thomas Newman. With credits such composing the scores for Finding Nemo and The Shawshank Redemption, Newman’s music is not only well known, but also contains a unique and signature style recognizable solely to him.

While in the past, the playlists I’ve shared have been directed to writing action sequences or developing love stories, today’s is focused more on individual character development. One of the reasons I love Newman’s work so much is because his melodies contain a sense of oldness and nostalgia that I’ve never heard anywhere else. Whereas, Hans Zimmer’s and John William’s scores usually depict epic struggles and successes, I have always felt that Newman’s music encompasses life’s everyday occurrences along with the emotions that accompany them. Emotions such as a yearning for times past, loneliness in the present, and hope for the future. In regards to writing, listening to his music helps me humanize my characters more fully by reminding me to incorporate these ordinary kinds of everyday emotions into them, thus making them more real and relatable to the reader.

Below, is a list of my favorite songs by Thomas Newman, and I hope listening to them will inspire you in your writing. Enjoy!

  1. The Smell of Coffee
  2. Whistle Stop
  3. …Shells
  4. Quite a View
  5. Spacewalk
  6. So Was Red
  7. End Title-The Shawshank Redemption
  8. Someone Else
  9. Whisper of a Thrill
  10. That Next Place
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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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“The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words all being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible.” -Vladimir Nabokov

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“The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words all being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible.”

-Vladimir Nabokov

Writing Playlist Part III: Battle/Action Scenes

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In this part, I will be posting some of my favorite instrumental tracks to listen to while I’m writing action or battle scenes. The majority of these following songs consists of film scores and trailer music. I hope you enjoy!

  1. Phoenix Rising-Audiomachine
  2. Red Warrior-Audiomachine
  3. Archangel-Two Steps From Hell
  4. Praetorian Guards-Jo Blankenburg
  5. Guardians at the Gate-Audiomachine
  6. Legions of Doom-Audiomachine
  7. The Battle-Harry Gregson-Williams
  8. Firebending Training-Jeremy Zuckerman
  9. Black Blade-Two Steps From Hell
  10. Blood and Stone-Audiomachine
  11. Legacy-Fringe Element
  12. Drink Up Me Hearties Yo Ho-Hans Zimmer
  13. Dracarys-Ramin Djawadi
  14. Taking a Stand-Henry Jackman
  15. Finale and Curtain Call-Joe Kraemer
  16. The Majestic Tale (Of a Madman in a Box)-Murray Gold 

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!

Fiction is the truth inside the lie. -Stephen King

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Fiction is the truth inside the lie.

-Stephen King

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?

“Books are my friends, my companions. They make me laugh and cry and find meaning in life.” ―Christopher Paolini

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“Books are my friends, my companions. They make me laugh and cry and find meaning in life.”

―Christopher Paolini, Eragon

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