Poetry Time: To Hot but Good

(The title is something that was written in a children’s book that I saw in a thrift store and fascinated me for some reason.)

June 25, 2009

Her favorite colors
are eye colors:
blue green black brown
and sometimes hazel.

Black and blue can sometimes
extend to the skin of the eye
when it is damaged.

Bruises can be beautiful, too.
His favorite colors were bruise colors:
yellow green brown
and sometimes black and blue.

He thought his hand
was God’s hand.
He made the bruises,
made them beautiful
around her eyes.

When a bruise is too
beautiful, it breaks
into red.

Red is not an eye color,
is not of nature.
This knowledge frightened her,
and she retracted from him
like a pupil from sunlight.

First Finished

I started the first story I ever finished in one of my old notebooks whose first purpose was for my ninth grade health class. When I started writing my story in it, the notebook had only 10 sheets left, and the sole reason I started the story in an old notebook rather than a new one was because I did not think I would finish, so I figured why should I waste a whole new notebook?

The first page

The first page

The main character didn’t have a name at first. She started out as “you” (I wrote the “prologue” in second person), then she became “the girl,” then she finally got a name in the second draft. The same thing happened for the male character. I suppose that I was afraid of committing to the story, and naming the characters was a kind of commitment.

But I made myself keep the story going. I secretly didn’t want to just let it sink into the stack of unfinished things, so I wrote a few pages a day until the story was over. In the end, it went through four drafts, and each was just as terrible as the last. By that time, it didn’t matter. I was having too much fun.

Now, it’s much easier for me to finish a first draft. There’s not much pressure and a lot less pain in my hand since I’m writing on the computer and not in a notebook. Even so, it’s still fun to look back at those old drafts and remember how it used to be… and know that I have gotten a lot better over the years.

Dropping Names

A few days ago, I was watching a music video (or maybe it was a TV show, I really don’t remember), and all of a sudden, the camera zoomed in on the HP logo on a shiny new laptop. Product placement! Advertising! (Which is especially odd, since HP ain’t all that great anyway.) A music video is a supposed to advertise the artist and the song, not the brand-name items that appear in the video!

It’s the same thing with brand names in movies and TV shows and books. I really don’t care what brand of clothing the main character wears or what kind of car he drives or whether he uses PCs or Macs (unless those things are crucial to the plot).

Shortly after watching that video, I began going through a really old draft (circa 2005) of the first story I ever finished. And strangely enough, I was constantly mentioning the brand names of items. Now I realize that all those brand names don’t tell the reader anything except that the author is pretentious and too lazy to actually describe the shirt instead of saying that it was a Tommy Hilfiger shirt or an Abercrombie shirt or whatever.

So name dropping is just as inappropriate in books as it is in music videos. (But there are always exceptions, and if you think you can be the exception… go for it!)

The Friday Four: Three Books and a Shameless Plug

1. Shameless plug for community colleges! I was reading something online about their value, and it made me remember that I got a very good education at the community college I attended, and the professors and students were much more friendly and helpful than those at my university. Also, community college is by far less expensive, and I believe that was one of the reasons I obtained my BA debt-free. Seriously, people. Community colleges are the way to go. Let’s erase the stigma.

2. In the Red – Elena Mauli Shapiro. I like these kinds of good-girl-gone-bad stories but only when the good girl has a really good reason to go bad. I don’t buy the “she was naïve and didn’t know any better” rationale, especially not when the story takes place in America in modern times. However, the writing style was lovely and the story itself was a more quiet, introspective, character-driven read, which I enjoy.

3. Life by Committee – Corey Ann Haydu. Because I write YA, I have a good excuse to read YA now and then. This was one of those YA novels (and there are a lot of them now) that had a compelling premise but weak character development and unsympathetic characters. The only thing wrong with the premise is that it completely relied on the Internet to be realistic, and with the speed of change in online trends, the entire story could be rendered obsolete and irrelevant in a few years. So, little chance of this being a classic.

4. Me & Emma – Elizabeth Flock. There were two reasons I picked up this book: it takes place in North Carolina, and it’s a story about domestic/home life situations. The narrator is an 8-year-old girl, and the character’s voice was spot on, especially when describing the dynamic between her mother and stepfather. The book has a twist ending that I totally didn’t see coming and when it came, I wanted to read the whole thing again. This was my favorite out of the books that I’ve read recently.

Have you read anything good lately?

Last Year’s NaNo

After getting very far behind yesterday and the day before that (and getting so far behind I didn’t even write in this blog yesterday), I managed to catch up. So I’m right where I should be in terms of the word count for NaNo. Validation started today, so if you have validated and won already, congratulations!

I am finally getting somewhere with worldbuilding and answering more of the questions I had asked myself about my series later in the year. As I was doing that, I ended up reviewing the story that I wrote for last year’s NaNo, JO(H)N, which was about a minor character in another story and how she became corrupted and somewhat villainous. To me, villains have much more interesting backstories than protagonists.

But because I initially wrote about a minor character, what was the main story in JO(H)N will have to become the side story when I get around to rewriting it. I sort of shoved the main story off to the side, so I could write about this minor character who really fascinated me then (and still does).

It was still well worth it to write about her, not only because I had fun, but also because I understand her better, and the better I understand the characters, the more realistic and detailed they become.