Top Ten Songs I Listen To When Writing

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

This week’s TTT topic is an All About Audio freebie. Since I don’t listen to audio books or podcasts, I thought it would be cool to share with you guys some of the songs I listen to when writing.

I absolutely have to listen to music while writing, but it has to be songs I know really well, played really quietly. I listen to mostly quiet, melancholy music when writing, often just one song on repeat for hours. (Yeah, I’m not a lot of fun to be around when I’m writing.)

1. Here (2 a.m. version) by Alessia Cara

2. Battle Scars by Lupe Fiasco & Guy Sebastian

3. The Love Club by Lorde

4. This is What Makes Us Girls by Lana Del Rey

5. Crazy by Gnarls Barkley

6. Dog Days Are Over by Florence + The Machine

7. Sad Beautiful Tragic by Taylor Swift

8. Send My Love by Adele

9. In the Night by The Weeknd

10. Beautiful Goodbye by Maroon 5


What songs do you listen to when writing? Are these any of your favorites?

How Complex Should Side Characters Be?

I used to think that every book needed a few side characters that were flat, i.e. mostly one-dimensional, without a lot of backstory, existing just to bolster certain scenes.

But recently I have read a lot of books with complex, nuanced side characters. Characters that have their own identities and their own stories, even though they aren’t the protagonist. These books have made me rethink my belief that stories benefit from flat characters.

To be clear, this post is talking about side characters. Not the protagonist, not the love interest. The best friend, the side kick, the quest buddy, the girl you sass in the hallway at school. Some authors leave them simply described, embodying just a few key characteristics, while others spend time ensuring that every character in their story has deeper motivations and backstory that explains them. So…which is better?

side characters flat 2

Comic relief.

Flat characters make wonderful jokes. They are free to exist simply as the Idiot, the Class Clown, the Drama Queen, or whatever other role they fill in the story. They will not win any awards for creativity, but they can help inject some humor into a story without weighing it down with extra details.

A little bit of realism.

We do not know the deep desires and secrets of everyone we interact with, even if they are important in our lives. Sometimes—at least for me—I see a person largely as one characteristic, mainly because they play one distinct role in my life. They are important in that role, but to try to shove an extra subplot into my story surrounding them wouldn’t really make sense.

Sometimes, I don’t care about your backstory.

I think the reason that I initially preferred flat side characters over round ones is that I read a lot of books that weren’t done well. Backstory and subplots can really strengthen a book (more on that later), but when they are done badly, they can make a story feel choppy and overdone. If there isn’t a reason for me to care about the protagonist’s sister’s darkest secret, don’t waste time telling me about it.

side characters round 2

They kill stereotypes.

Flat characters often exist only to embody stereotypes. That can add humor to a story (see #1 above), but it can also hold a story back. When authors take the opportunity to flesh out side characters—pushing past their original defining characteristic—their stories stop relying on stereotypes and really come to life.

They are opportunities for more diversity.

I want books with racially and sexually diverse protagonists, but I also want stories with white/cis protagonists to have diverse side characters. But to add in side characters that are diverse on paper but that are never explored in the story does absolutely nothing. In this case, rounder side characters are a must.

More bang for your buck—you get multiple stories in one book.

This one is pretty obvious. Why would you want to read one person’s story when you can read three or four people’s stories? It’s the reason readers enjoy stories with more than one POV, and it is the reason stories with round characters are often more interesting than ones with flat characters.

Complex stories are more captivating them simple stories (often).

Assuming that the story is written well, I like stories that have more than one layer, that talk about more than one thing, that explore lots of different sides of human nature. When side characters are left flat, this is less likely to happen, and I find myself less entranced by stories.


Right now, I am siding with round side characters. Who knows what I’ll think in another year.

What do you think? What are your favorite books with flat/round side characters?

August Wrap-Up 2016

In My Life

My senior year of high school started this month. It is going well, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t wish it was still summer. So far, I am enjoying all of my classes, especially AP Art History and ceramics.

On This Blog

I had eleven posts this month. I wish that I had more—honestly I had other post ideas, I just didn’t write them—but adjusting to school took most of my time.

Book Tags:

Top Ten Tuesdays:

In Reading and Reviewing

I have no time to read in class anymore! Last year, a lot of my classes focused on classwork, so I would finish early and have time to read, but that is not the case this year. While I am happy to have less boring classwork, this means that I only read three books this month.

I DNF-ed The Demon King halfway through because I just did not care about the story. Then I read Symptoms of Being Human and started rereading the Gemma Doyle trilogy. I also caught up on some book reviews this month.

  • Ruin and Rising (Grisha #3) by Leigh Bardugo — 4/5 stars (review)
  • The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson — 5/5 stars (review)
  • Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin — 3/5 stars (review)
  • A Great and Terrible Beauty (Gemma Doyle #1) by Libba Bray — 4/5 stars (review to come)
  • Rebel Angels (Gemma Doyle #2) by Libba Bray — 4/5 stars (review to come)

In Writing

This was a conflicted month for writing. In the week I had before school started, I wrote 10,000 words, bringing my total for my current draft (and my total for how many words I wrote this summer) to 62,000 words. Unfortunately, school started and I literally have not touched my WIP since them. I did publish a poem—Page One—at least.

Right now, all of my writing energy is going toward trying to get my Common Application essay done for college apps. I have written a ton of drafts, none that I like very much, but hopefully everything will come together in September. (And then I get to work on supplemental essays…yay.)


How was your August? If you’re a student, have you gone back to school yet? What are you planning on reading in September?

Poetry: Page One

You stand on Page One

Broken

But fighting

Bleeding

But standing

Always

Surviving

 

You are not the Warrior

The Queen

The Wizard or the Mage

Of the last pages of my favorite novels

 

But they flicker inside of you

Embers of future flames

 

You are healing

Cracks closing

Blood clotting

Wounds scarring

Into memories

 

There is a word for taking something broken

And putting it back together with gold between the cracks

 

Don’t sell yourself short with

The dollar store super glue that

That attendant tried to sell you

Don’t buy it

 

Your story is just beginning

But I believe I know how it ends

July Wrap-Up 2016

In My Life

Summer is amazing! I took a darkroom photography class, which was really fun, even though I had no idea what to expect. My sister came back from her pre-college program at SCAD, so I’m not alone anymore (lol). All in all, there isn’t really anything to report, other than I’m having a blast and don’t want school to start.

On This Blog

I had 12 posts this month on my blog. I took part in the Make Me Read It Readathon, during which I read one and a half books, which was kind of disappointing.

Book Tags

Top Ten Tuesdays

In Reading and Reviewing

I read six books this month and caught up on one review (The Rose and the Dagger). I am now halfway through The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima, which is so far pretty slow but that I hope will get better.

Elantris by Brandon Sanderson — 5/5 stars (review)

These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly — 2/5 stars (review)

Shadow and Bone (Grisha #1) by Leigh Bardugo — 3.5/5 stars (review)

Siege and Storm (Grisha #2) by Leigh Bardugo — 4/5 stars (review)

Ruin and Rising (Grisha #3) by Leigh Bardugo — 4/5 stars (review to come)

The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson — 5/5 stars (review to come)

In Writing

This was such a good month for writing!!! Finally, some honestly good news to report. I added over 32,000 to my novel this month, bringing my total word count to 50,000. This draft is going really well, and I’m very glad that I decided to start over one more time to make sure that I’m writing a draft that I’m excited about.


How was your July? What books did you read? What should I read next month?

June Wrap-Up 2016

In My Life

June 1st was my last day of school! YAYAYAYAY!! Being on summer break has been amazingly relaxing, though I can’t believe a month of it is gone already! I haven’t really been productive yet. Whoops…

I took another online poetry workshop with the University of Iowa (more on that later) and I started a photography class. I’ve been hanging out with friends and generally relaxing, reveling in the glory of not having any responsibilities

The one sad part is that my sister left for a five week summer program at the Savannah College of Art and Design. FIVE WEEKS! We’re twins, and we’ve never been apart for more than a night, so being twin-less for over a month is very weird, but we’re surviving. She’s doing amazing stuff and we’re actually managing to keep in touch, despite being on other sides of the country (oh, the wonder of technology).

On This Blog

I had 14 posts this month! After two months of barely posting anything, I think I’m finally getting back into the habit of blogging.

I took part in three Top Ten Tuesdays:

I also did the 3 Days, 3 Quotes Challenge (day 1, day 2, and day 3) and joined the Make Me Read It Readathon, which will happen in July. You can still vote for which books I should read!

If you guys don’t know, I started a bookstagram account (@52lettersinthealphabet) last month. This month I took part in my first bookstagram challenge and it was really fun! I’m really glad that I expanded this blog into that social media space and that I’ve gotten to connect with so many amazing bookstagramers and bloggers!

In Reading and Reviewing

I set myself the goal of reading 20 books this summer and I’m doing pretty well. I read 8 books this month and they were all amazing. If I reviewed them, they will have a rating and you can follow the link to my review.

  • Blue Lily, Lily Blue (The Raven Cycle #3) by Maggie Stiefvater — 5/5 stars
  • The Raven King (The Raven Cycle #4) by Maggie Stiefvater — 5/5 stars
  • Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
  • Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson — 3.5/5 stars
  • A Court of Thorns and Roses (ACO #1) by Sarah J. Maas
  • A Court of Mist and Fury (ACO #2) by Sarah J. Maas
  • The King of Attolia (Queen’s Thief #3) by Megan Whalen Turner
  • The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

ACOMAF was definitely my favorite book of the month (of 2016 really)! I will have a very fangirlly review coming soon, once I can get my emotions in order.

The only books that I read for the first time this month were TRK, SCS, and ACOMAF. The rest I reread either to continue series or because I needed to heal emotionally after a heart-wrenching book. Not all of the rereads will get formal reviews, but I have some discussion posts planned that tie into them.

I also caught up on some reviews for books that I read in May…and then fell behind again (as you can see).

  • The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle #1) by Maggie Stiefvater — 5/5 stars
  • The Dream Thieves (The Raven Cycle #2) by Maggie Stiefvater — 5/5 stars
  • Their Fractured Light (Starbound #3) by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner — 5/5 stars

In Writing

Though I didn’t post any poetry on this blog, I was actually working on it. I took another Flashwrite poetry workshop from the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program and loved it again. This one was more focused on peer workshops and it was really helpful.

I started a third draft of my WIP! I had an idea that fixed a lot of plot problems and made the story more exciting, but that forced me to rewrite most of what I’d already written. Luckily, I’ve actually gotten into a habit of writing (nearly) daily, and I’ve already written 18,000 words!


How was your June? Did you read any great books?

Poetry: You Came Back

You came back

Just long enough

To freshen the memories and

Unclog the tear ducts

 

You tracked in dirt

From memory lane

Leaving me

To clean up the mess

 

Thanks, a lot.

At least

I have something to write about

Again