Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Temporary Leave and Toothbrushing

So, I realize I have not posted in forever. I'm sorry. There's this thing called life. I think it hates me.

Anyway, I'm now going into desperate writer mode, hoping to get through a tricky part of Horizons before Christmas. So, much as I hate to, I'm going to have to put this blog on hiatus. I'll be back on January 7th at the latest. In the meantime, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, etc. etc.

And to round off this admittedly lame post, here is a picture of me brushing my teeth, which totally freaked me out when I found it on my sister's iPod. (I mean, really? WHY?)

Also, Happy Birthday to my mother, who turned Very Young one week ago.

And I get my braces off on Valentine's Day. Please give me bubble gum. Thank you. I will now stop stalling and go write. Thank you for putting up with me. I love you. Seriously.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Cleanliness: Next to Usefulness

Today's post is about showering. No, I am not going to tell you about how I read this book when I was eleven and became convinced that the bottom of my bathtub (nearest thing to a boat that I could find) was going to open up and reveal rows of zombie pirates clamoring for me to take their place. Nor am I going to tell you about how this image became so real in my mind that I developed a deathly fear of showering in said bathtub and still feel a tremor of horror when I even see the cover of Isles of the Dead.

It's a good book, really. Just don't read it in a boat/bathtub.

Instead of telling you that story, I'm going to tell you why I think showering is important. One of the wide-spread myths about both homeschoolers and writers is that we spend the whole day in our pajamas. 

This myth is completely true. And completely false.

Let me elaborate. I do, in fact, wear pajama pants ALL THE TIME. I have yet to venture out of the house in them, but as soon as I come home the jeans/skirt/whatever is immediately exchanged for pajamas. ALWAYS.

But this luxury is not without its limitations. I cannot go a day without showering. Not without becoming the most pathetic being on the face of the earth. There seems to be a switch in my brain that turns on as soon as I turn on the hot water. It tells me, 'Enough stalling. Go do something cool.'

Seriously. I don't care what I'm trying to do -- clean my room, write a battle scene, it all gets better if I just take a shower.

And yet I consistently put off that part of my day. I tell myself that I'll do it after I eat breakfast. Then it's after I write a few scenes. And five hours later, I've wasted my day tweaking a million things that didn't need to be tweaked and I still haven't showered. By then I'm so disappointed in myself that my entire day is ruined, and I settle into the Slump of Doom.

All that can be fixed by the Magic of the Shower.

This might be a Sarah thing, but I don't think so. I think there's a connection between cleanliness and productiveness, one we can all use to our benefit. So why don't you try it? Next time you're feeling useless, ask yourself, 'Have I showered today?' If the answer is no, do it.

Then report back, so that I don't feel like the only hygiene-challenged slug in the world.

*This post brought to you by the Magic of the Shower, which reminded Sarah to blog.
**Now Sarah is off to save the world. Or write that scene she's been dreading. Either one works.

Monday, December 5, 2011


Today I thank God
For giving me the trials I need to grow
And the peace to endure them
And for giving both together.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Hudson's 1st Law (Or Writing Romance: Sarah Style)

For this post, I'm going to depart from my usual rule and actually try to tell people what to do. Shocking, I know. But recently I've read a number of books which did not do this well, and ended up souring my love for an otherwise excellent book (sometimes an entire series!) Since I can't actually talk to the offending authors themselves, I'm talking to you.

Before I want to go any further, I want to clarify that I'm talking about writing books with romance in them, not romances. There's a distinct difference, and I don't actually have any experience writing romances.

That said, I'm sure the following rules apply to any love story.

1. CHARACTERS BEFORE RELATIONSHIP: Writing Excuses had a few excellent things to say on this subject a while back. (I believe it was in this podcast.) It ties into the concept of character-driven plots versus plot-driven characters. If you want your readers to fall in love with a relationship, first make them love the characters. When we love both characters, we will want them to be happy.

This will make your job much, much easier. If your heroine is whiny and suicidal and your hero is a jerk ... well, you might be able to pull it off. But only if you follow the next rule perfectly.

2. BUILD THEM UP: Loving each other should make your characters better people. I mean, if you want their relationship to last, there has to be something deeper than attraction involved. Identify your characters' emotional needs and weaknesses. Now figure out how their loved one meets those needs and builds up those weak places.

This is the reason I was Team Peeta every page of The Hunger Games. It's the reason Elizabeth and Darcy are meant for each other. They complete each other. They build each other up. No matter how good your individual characters are, their relationship won't go anywhere if you can't find some concrete reason they should be together. And once you have ...

3. KEEP YOUR PROMISES: I cannot stress this rule enough. This is where so many good books go wrong. Once you've made two wonderful characters and drawn a connection between them -- even if it's just the barest hint of foreshadowing -- you MUST follow through. You must.

I'm not saying that every couple you've ever hinted at has to end up together. If that were so, love triangles would be much more creepy. I'm saying that if they don't end up together, you need a really solid reason. Right now, I can only think of three.

a) One of them dies. That's a pretty good reason not to get married. It's also one that will make a lot of people angry with you, so be prepared. Also, it's a good idea to have some satisfying resolution before death steps in, to make your readers feel less cheated.

b) There's someone else who's TRULY a better match. This is a very tricky line to walk. Love triangles are becoming more and more popular these days. I've never written one myself, but I have enjoyed several books that utilize them. (See Hunger Games above.)

This solution itself has a few rules, the first and biggest one being FORESHADOWING. It boggles my mind when I read a five-book series where a possible relationship is very clearly underlined, then disrupted with an alternate love interest who turns out to be evil, leaving the way open for the relationship again ... and then in the VERY LAST BOOK a spanking new character shows up and skips away with the main character's heart. I mean, really? I put that book down feeling cheated and generally dissatisfied.

Do not do this. I beg you. If you're going to end with an alternate relationship, introduce the other character at least half-way through the book (or if it's a series, even the penultimate book will do.) Make it clear to the readers what advantage this second character has over the first.

c) Your book is a tragedy, or otherwise an exception. I hate tragedies, myself. I don't just think they're depressing -- I think they're unrealistic. I personally believe that everyone's ending is happy, even if it involves their own gory death. If a book ends sadly, it ends too soon. But that's just me, and there must be plenty of other people out there who like sad endings.

As far as other exceptions go, the only thing I can think of is Star Wars. There were several hints of a possible Luke/Leia relationship throughout the movies. Obviously, this turned out to be impossible, since they were actually twins. Still, I've always been a little disappointed with Luke's ending. He obviously wants someone, yet he seems doomed to live his life alone. Depressing. But I still watch the movies, even though they broke their promise to me and to Luke.

I have several more rules for my own romance writing, but those are the only ones I really think should be universal. To be honest, I don't understand why so many people break them. Perhaps they're afraid of being 'too predictable', or doing the same thing everyone else does. I have news for those people -- good plotting is not cliché. It's what makes me read a book more than once. And as a reader, I would a million times rather be able to predict the ending than feel that it was contrived and unnatural.

Please, please, please write romance that builds my faith in love, rather than convincing me that I'm better off alone. The world needs your help. So do I.

Rant over. You may turn the Christmas music on now. (December! Eee!) (Does this mean I'm allowed to wear my snowman pajama pants now? Cause I sort of broke them out in October ...)