Monthly Archives: May 2014

For the Love of Reading

Reading is a gateway to a world unlike any other. It can be set in reality or Mars. It can be a great way to de-stress from a long, hard day, or a way to just have some fun. It’s entirely up to you on how you view it.

But why is reading so great?

Let me first start by saying why I love it: it helps me to get away. I am a very imaginative person, and so to be able to have a way to channel that imaginative and creative side of me into something other than drawing is relaxing and fun for me.

I especially enjoy young adult literature. There’s a sense of innocence in many of the books, but there’s also a deep sense of self and adventure in many of the novels I have read. It’s nice to be able to read books about teens and young adults that can be so relatable, and yet some reach the very stretches of the imagination.

Not only that, but I have read manga, romance, fiction, historical, fantasy/sci-fi, religious, and many subcategories within those categories. There’s a whole range of genres of books that are accessible to those that are willing to read – so go out and pick up a book!

When reading I often put myself into the hero or heroine’s shoes, and so when some actions happen I react appropriately to those situations, such as when a romantic scene is happening: I tend to get butterflies. Or when someone is pissing off the main character I start getting pissed off. It’s a way for me to drop whatever is bothering me that day and just let go of it all.

So what can you do to start loving to read more?

  • Pick up a book! It’s not going to kill you to go to the bookstore, the library, or even online at Amazon or Barnes and Noble and buy an e-book.
  • Listen to an audiobook. I had a classmate that fell in love with reading again because of audiobooks. Some of the people who read it don’t sound great, but try to enjoy the story regardless.
  • Start or join a book club. What better way to read than being forced to meet up with people to discuss a book at length? Search around for local book clubs or start your own!
  • Pick up books with stories that interest you. It sounds like a “well, duh” answer, but we are often forced to read books through school that we otherwise didn’t enjoy, or even hate, so try to go for a genre or type of story that you’re interested in, such as dystopian societies or dragons or romance.
  • Find someone to read with you. This is similar to the book club idea, but it’s not exactly the same thing. Find a friend or someone close to you who will be willing to read a book along with you so you have someone to discuss every intimate detail with. It can be a life saver when you’ve just read something you love and need to talk about until your throat runs dry. Also try online communities where you’ll get even more people who will enjoy it with you!

The possibilities are endless. Reading isn’t just for school or something that has to be a chore, as many younger people, and sometimes even older people, find it to be. It’s fun, exhilarating, and completely worth it.

Take the time to make a list of your likes and dislikes in a book, then go searching for some! Always start off at your local library if you’re uncertain that you might like a book enough to buy it. The books are free and the librarians are often very happy to help with any questions you may have.

So how about it? Do you love reading or think you’ll be able to?

 

What are some of your favorite types of books? Why do you love to read? Let me know in the comments!

The Magic of Fantasy

Magic and otherworldly beings have been a part of our folklore and tales for as long as anyone can remember – from the unicorn to wizards to witches to whole new worlds, fantasy is part of our culture.

Creating a whole new world can take a lot of time and research as it has to be believable enough to fit into who your characters are, and it also has to be fantastical enough to draw people in to read about it.

The same goes with fantasy characters. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling is a great example of fantasy characters: though her characters are places in a parallel world to our own, the events in which they live through, plus who they are – witches and wizards – put them into the fantasy realm. They are real life characters in that they go through their own trials and triumphs, they have feelings like any other person, and they deal with any typical thing that teenagers do, too (angst, jealousy, anger, love), but they have the ability to use magic, to talk to snakes, and they see fantastical creatures such as griffons and elves.

When you’re creating a fantasy realm, what should you add? How can you form it to fit your needs, your story, your characters? How can you tell the best story possible without going into extreme details as to every little nook and cranny in this world?

  • Start simple. This goes for any story building, really. You don’t need to make it super intricate and elaborate – tell what you know! If you lived in a suburban area, then make the world like that: close-knit families, but different races/species and cultures.
  • If a mythical being already exists somewhere in the world, then do the research beforehand. Yes, it’s okay to change it up a little bit, like with how Stephenie Meyer made her vampires able to withstand sunlight, or how Sophie Jordan used dragons as her mythical creature of choice, but changed it so that they could transform into humans. Think outside the box, but do the research as well.
  • Draw out your world yourself! Yes, I said draw. Why not doodle what you have in mind on some scrap pieces of paper and try to envision what you world looks like from the ground to the trees to the sky. It may help you to envision where you want characters to go.
  • Know the ins and outs of your world before you start writing. This can help with names, culture, determining climate, plot points, and more. Have a general overview to begin with before fleshing it out as you go.

Of course there are many more tips and tricks to making a fantasy world realistic (or at least believable), but I wanted to give my own two cents on some of the aspects I believe are important to creating a fantasy world.

Many fantasy novels hold places in our hearts, and without them there wouldn’t be as much wonder or magic and excitement in thinking outside the box. So take the time to sit down and really think, “How can I make this world come to life?”

 

Have you written any fantasy stories? What tips and advice can you give to making those worlds come to life? Let me know in the comments!

Finding Inspiration

Whether you’re writing your first novel or your 100th, inspiration can come and go in the blink of an eye, so you have to be aware of where and when you can find it.

There are many types of places, people, and even objects that can strike up that muse of inspiration when you least expect it. If you’re out on a walk, take a look at the scenery: are there other people around? What about the wildlife? How’s the weather?

Or if you’re at school or work, take a look at who’s around you and create a life for them. It doesn’t have to be true, and it doesn’t even have to take place in this world, but just try it out to get the juices flowing.

Often the easiest place to find inspiration for writing is nature. There are so many things that it can offer, such as the different kinds of flora and fauna, or how certain plants may grow in nature, or how the weather can change, or anything that can be seen. It’s always changing and it’s always an easy way to write a scene for your story. You can place your main character in that setting and see if he/she fits. If so, then great! Keep writing. If not, that’s okay, just try somewhere else.

There’s also a way to find inspiration in destruction. Go to a dump or a recent demolition site, or the site of a recent fire or anything, and look around to see if anything strikes up an idea in your mind. Not all stories have to be focused on the good in the world; sometimes the bad makes an even better story.

You can also find inspiration in mad-made nature. Dams, bridges, skyscrapers, schools, anything made by man can be used as inspiration. Are you writing a tale of cowboys and dastardly fiends? Incorporate trains into your story, or even a steamboat. Have a character that loves doing daring things? Have him jump off of a bridge into a canal.

There are so many options and so many places, people, and things that you can draw inspiration from, all you have to do is try it!

 

Where have you found your greatest inspiration for writing? Let me know in the comments!

Writing Classes: Pros and Cons

Last time I discussed literature classes and some of the pros and cons associated with them, so today I want to talk about writing classes and some of the various pros and cons regarding them.

Writing has been a passion of mine for as long as I can remember. I’ve always had a knack for it and I always wanted to do something with writing (hence the blog), but when I took writing classes at my university I started to learn much more about writing and just why I chose it for my concentration.

Writing is a great way to open doors to new worlds, people, places, smells, and it is a great way to relieve stress if you’re having a rough time. Writing classes can be the same way, and to start off, let me state some of the writing classes I took at my university: Fiction Writing, Creative Non-fiction, Journalism, On-line Magazine, Writing for Business and Technology, and Creative Writing. Each of these classes had their own style of how we would write and different “tools” we could implement into our own writing.

Not every college will offer the same classes, and some will have completely different ones, but these are just a few I took during my time at my college.

So, with that being said, let’s start with some cons, shall we?

  1. If you don’t like writing, don’t take the classes. Kind of self explanatory, but it needs to be said. There’s a difference between being good at writing and not liking it, so make sure you know that difference because you can only improve if you’re not good at it.
  2. They’re writing intensive. Shocker, I know, but it’s true. Depending on the professor and the level of the course you will be writing a lot of material, and frankly, it can get confusing if you have multiple writing classes in one semester.
  3. Sometimes you’ll get reviews that “rip” your paper to shreds. Some professors, and even peers, can take that red pen to a page and find every little thing that’s wrong with it – don’t take it too heart, though, as it’s typically a way to help improve your work.
  4. There’s reading involved. Oh no. Reading really boring books on how to write can be torture, yes, but if you don’t read you won’t be able to improve your writing – keep that in mind!

Okay, now that I’m done with my sarcastic cons, let me move onto the pros (disclaimer: I’m biased):

  1. You learn techniques you might otherwise have never known. I never knew about the “show, don’t tell” technique to apply to writing, or that flash fiction existed. You can learn a great variety of tools and tricks of the trade, which is fantastic to grow in your craft.
  2. You gain a new appreciation for reading. Surprisingly writing is a great gateway into reading new and different works that you might otherwise not have read until further developing your style.
  3. You get to hear others’ styles of writing. It’s always fascinating and fun to hear other people’s stories because not everyone thinks the same, so not everyone is going to write the same.
  4. They help to build your portfolio if you’re planning on doing writing as a career. I know that the many classes I have taken have helped me to grow my own portfolio, which can be a great way to appeal to employers.

Now I’m sure I’m missing other pros and cons for the list, but these are some of the tops reasons why I prefer writing classes. They’re more engaging and enjoyable and they help to develop skills that I might otherwise not have learned. Of course literature classes can do the same thing, but I prefer writing, myself.

If you’re thinking about taking some writing classes, think about what your university might be offering. Though I’m graduating this Saturday, May 17th, I know that the Fall 2014 semester my university is hosting a whole ton of new types of writing classes, such as Environmental Writing, The Short Story, Experimental Writing Workshop, and Digital Journalism, just to name a few. Take the time to look at your university’s catalog and decide if what they’re offering will help you grow as a writer or if it piques your general interest.

 

Have you taken any writing courses? If so, how have they helped, or hindered, you in your own writing? Let me know in the comments!

Literature Classes: Pros and Cons

As I’m nearing the end of my undergraduate career, I figured that I would give my own view and take on how some types of classes are and how they can impact you if you’re thinking of becoming an English major, or are one. Let me first talk about literature classes and the pros and cons behind them.

Literature classes are a major art of being an English major, even if you’re concentration is in Professional Writing. The culture, the texts, and even the classroom discussion are integral parts of what it can mean to truly be an English major.

In my university there are two main types of literature classes available to students: British and American. The classes are broken up into time frame, because there are typically a lot of pieces of literature in a given class, and so to be able to break up the amount of time that has to be covered is actually very useful.

There are other types of literature classes, such as African-American, Women’s, World, Children’s, Jewish American, Caribbean, and, of course, Shakespeare. These are just courses offered at my university, but there’s many different types of literature that can be studied if it fits your fancy.

When taking a literature course know that it’s going to be reading intensive. You often won’t find a literature course, no matter the level, that only has one or two books/stories to read. Typically you may only have to get one textbook, but there are many, many stories that have to be read and interpreted and talked about in the classroom. It’s not an easy task, mind you, it’s actually quite difficult.

So, with that in mind, let me list some of the cons of literature classes first.

  1. They’re reading intensive. If you don’t like reading, then don’t take a literature class. If it’s required by your college/university, then suck it up. You may just find that you actually like what you read.
  2. The texts are often very complicated to understand. Many of the novels and stories picked for literature courses were written before 1900, so the language, syntax, grammar, even spelling can be different from what you’ve already grown to know.
  3. A lot of the texts will be boring. Depending on if you have a desire to learn more of the time period you’re studying and the stories made by authors of that time, you may find what you’re reading to be boring. It’s okay; a lot of students feel that way.

Those are just the top three cons of a literature class. If you’re not a big reader or aren’t into a certain time period, then make sure your university offers a diverse amount of literature classes.

But that’s not all literature classes are made of. There are some benefits to taking a literature class, such as:

  1. You learn about different cultures, subgroups, and how certain styles of writing were created. If you haven’t read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein then you most certainly will in some form of British literature. I learned that her novel was a turning point in how the “Gothic” themed literature came to be.
  2. You learn how to critically analyze and break down a text. This can be tricky, but as you further advance in different types of literature classes you will be able to better understand how to break down a sentence in a long paragraph or how to interpret what a certain scene represents within the history and context with which it was written.
  3. You gain a new appreciation for writers before our time. There are many, many rich and engaging stories that were written hundreds of years ago that we can still read and discuss and argue about today. There are still topics to discuss – and that’s major.

Those are the top three pros that I personally gained from taking many literature classes. Though most of my classes consist of writing, given my major, I have still taken several literature courses not only to fill requirements for my major, but also because I am purely fascinated by the text, language, and culture that can be learned about from literature.

It takes a lot of time and patience to be able to get through some works of literature, but if you’re able to make it through you will learn many things you might otherwise have not known, and that’s the point of learning, right?

Monthly Writing Challenge: May 2014

Welcome to May Day! It’s the beginning of May and we hope that all these April showers will bring some May flowers, but that may not happen anytime soon. Any who, time for the monthly writing challenge!

  1. The theme this month: end of school excitement.
  2. You can reply to the prompt anytime during the month!
  3. Keep your content rated up to PG-13, please!
  4. 100-750 words for the prompt should be good, I think.

Okay, so here’s the prompt:

You’re in a class in high school, and you’re a senior, and the stupid bell won’t ring. You’ve only been staring at it for the past, oh, hour, and you only have another five minutes left before the bell rings. You can feel the anticipation in the classroom as the teacher tries his/her hardest to get the attention of the class, but to no avail. As you continue to stare at the clock you think about all that you plan on doing this summer: from preparing for college or trying to get a job, to hanging with friends at the beach and going on trips, you’ve got it all figured out. Tell me your thoughts and plans for the summer, plus tell me what happens when that bell finally rings.

Leave a comment with your prompt response! Have fun and enjoy!