December 14, 2018

Writing Q & A #1

I have just recently moved back to Flagstaff, started working again at the Flagstaff City - Coconino County Public Library, applied for (and will apply) for several jobs, and turned in my last ever essay in my entire life! Needless to say, that's why this post is late!

Anyway, this post is actually one of three "ask" posts I created on Tumblr, but I thought it would be fun to share the answers here. At some point in the future, likely during another busy week, I will get around to the next two Q & A "asks", but for now, enjoy!

Q: What is your favorite punctuation mark?
A: Anyone who has read the Styx Trilogy knows that it is the ellipsis, followed closely by the m-dash.

Q: What writing taboos do you break consistently?
A: "Don't use adverbs", "don't use passive voice", and "don't use prologues". I have no regrets.

Q: What POV do you prefer and why?
A: I prefer third or first from multiple viewpoints. I'm just not a fan of sticking with one character throughout the whole story.

Q: What tense do you prefer and why?
A: Past, hands down. I am grudgingly using present tense in my novella-in-verse because the immediacy adds to the who-dun-it-ness, in that you are seeing exactly what the characters are thinking as it happens. I think present tense sounds extremely unnatural in prose, but since poetry is already artificial, it actually works.

Q: Adverbs: for or against?
A: For. Why? Because adverbs, unlike present tense, sound natural. I would much rather an author use "adverb + everyday verb/adjective" to describe something than "flowery verb/adjective that sounds completely jarring in the narration" or, worse "inexact fancy verb/adjective that might be a synonym for an everyday verb/adjective but has a totally different connotation". There's some old author adage about saying "exhausted" instead of "very tired", but "exhausted" is not the same thing as "very tired", and would not work in all the same circumstances as "very tired", so it should not be seen as an automatic substitute. Part of writing is choosing the right words, and sometimes the right words are the ordinary, everyday words that you and I use all the time.

Q: Do you outline or not?

Q: Do you prefer writing dialogue or narration?
A: I prefer dialogue when writing prose, but narration when writing poetry. I secretly (or maybe not secretly?) like being overdramatic when describing things, and poetry allows this more than prose. On the flip side, I like realistic-sounding dialogue, which is trickier to write with poetry.

Q: What punctuation/grammar/spelling errors do you make consistently?
A: I don't use question marks, tend to stick apostrophes in plurals for no reason, and generally make a lot of spelling mistakes. Spelling is not my strong suit.

Q: Do you write characters based off of real people or make them up?
A: I make them up, but sometimes they are loosely based on other fictional characters, or perhaps even just the arcs of other characters. I have sometimes created characters off of the missed opportunities in other people's stories.

Q: Do you write more guy or girl characters?
A: Girls! I have no idea why this is. I wouldn't say it's because I'm a woman, because I have female friends who do the opposite and write mostly men. It's just what my brain comes up with!

Q: Which is easier to write: guys or girls?
A: 99% of the time, they are equally easy to write. The exception is when writing the social niceties of romantic relationships in the 20th century! I've researched aspects of this from the man's perspective, like "how soon is too soon to give a girl flowers" or "how do you make it clear you're asking a woman out on a date", because a certain character in my alternate-history/fantasy/mystery WIP is head-over-heels for an absolutely oblivious woman. I need to walk the razors edge of him being obvious about his intentions without seeming desperate. I've never had to research anything about women, so I think that means men are just a little harder to write.

Q: Which is easier to write: original fiction or fan fiction?
A: Original fiction. I might do the odd fan fiction as a poem or in my head, but most of what I create is original.

Q: What do you include in character descriptions?
A: I'm very much a minimalist. I might mention a few features--sex, height, dress--but little else. The secret behind this is that... that's sort of how I imagine people... I honestly think I have a mild case of prosopagnosia, and have a horrible time both remembering and recognizing faces. When I think of a scene, as I've said in previous posts, I might picture blocking and close ups and actions, and maybe facial expressions, but rarely actually imagine what the characters' faces look like. I'm not one of those people with face claims or detailed lists of identifying marks should my characters disappear or show as Jane Does. It's just the way I am.

Q: Do you let people read your rough drafts?
A: Yes! Usually only very close friends and family. Perhaps I will use betas in the future, but we'll see. 

Q: What do you do with your rough drafts once you write a new draft?
A: I save them! Once I tried to keep these in organized folders on my computer, but then I started more than one folder for some reason, and one thing led to another and... let's just say that the old drafts are all safe, but are scattered all over the place.

Q: How do you handle writer’s block?
A: I talk about the story to someone I trust, usually a family member. Just bouncing ideas off of someone, or hearing their reaction to a plot point, can be a big help.

Q: How many stories do you work on at one time?
A: Usually two "on paper", be that outlining or actually writing, and several in my head. 

Q: Do you write from beginning to end, or jump around in your story.
A: In my head, I jump around. I try to generally start at the beginning while writing "on paper", but sometimes I'll skip scenes that are giving me trouble or will jump to scenes that are the most fleshed out.

Q: What is one thing you would never do in a story or to a character?
A: I would never use a character's death for shock value. I absolutely detest when authors do this, because it is clear they don't care about their characters and have no better means of surprising their audience. To be clear, I'm fine with shocking deaths as long as they are fitting, naturally follow from the story, and have some point, effecting the story or the characters after the death. Shock-value deaths serve no actual purpose other than to shock the audience; they are the jump-scares of death, which is a pretty poor reason to nix a character.

Q: What do you do if you come to a fork in the road (where your story could go one of two different ways)?
A: I usually write out in too columns what this will mean, not just immediately, but for the rest of the story. I choose the one that ends up with a more satisfying result.

Q: Do you “write what you know” or not?
A: Technically yes, because my writing is based off of the massive amount of fiction I consume in my life. My alternate-history/fantasy/mystery is also going to be chock full of things that I happen to be interested in: true crime elements, the history of the atomic bombings, Japanese everything, folklore, etc etc. 

Q: How do you figure out your characters' looks, personalities, and speech patterns?
A: It mostly just sort of happens, honestly.

Q: How do you figure out character motivation and backstory?
A: By doing a lot of daydreaming and letting my imagination do what it will. Some characters are very easy to figure out, while others have trickier situations to deal with, relevant to the plot or otherwise. But, truly, daydreaming and letting my mind wander is my modus operandi for character backstories (and regular stories, truth be told).


  1. I’m sure it was unintentional, but I know who Bostwick is...

    1. Maybe the person you're thinking of is the reason I like grumpy characters, and Bostwick is based off those characters. It's art imitating art imitating life.