Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Family Ties

Recently, I've noticed two things about my writing that, although I was technically aware of them, hadn't really hit me before:
  1. I have a lot of families in my novels. By that I mean: any given POV or otherwise major character probably has at least one sibling or other close relative who's also a POV or otherwise major character. In all my novels, there's only five characters, tops, who don't fit this.
  2. The more important the family is to the plot, the larger the family is. This one is most noticeable with the Alyron family from my Berstru Tales novels. For those of you who aren't on the Underground: the Alyron family is extremely large, and probably contains between a third and half of all the characters in the novels.
 As an example of what I'm saying, here's a rundown of the major characters in Berstru Tales according to families:

Gwen, Dea, Jake, Jared, Emma, Abbie, and Nightshade.

Dustin, Hunter, and Rachelle

Ariana and Alastair

Bianca, Aleta, and Makara.

As you can see, only three of the fifteen major characters have no family ties to any of the others. (And that number may go down to two, depending what I decide about a certain minor plot twist.) Also, in line with what I noted before, the Alyron family makes up about half the major characters.

Having realized all this, I started wondering: why do I have so many families in my novels, particularly large ones? Having so many related main characters is hardly the norm in most fantasy and sci-fi (at least that I've read). Also, though I do know a very large family, my own family is quite small (and I like it that way!). After some thought, I came up with several reasons.
  1. Family conflict makes things very interesting. This comes into play a lot with the Alyron family. Quick overview: Dea resents being forever in the shadow of Gwen and Nightshade and deals with it by creating a family-within-a-family of the Alyron outcasts. Emma considers herself generally inadequate, partially because she was bullied by some of her siblings (particularly Jared) and partially because she constantly compares herself to Gwen and Dea. This leads to a rocky relationship between Emma and Gwen, who is well aware of Emma's awe and isn't sure how to deal with it. And, of course, Nightshade wants Gwen dead, which is part of what sets off the entire series.
  2. Having random family members pop up is ridiculously fun. Like when that nick-of-time rescuer turns out to be the brother your main characters have been searching for. Or when a seemingly random tavern in the middle of nowhere is owned by a characters' aunt. I'm not talking about big "Luke I am your father"-type revelations, just times when a family member shows up unexpectedly. It makes for some very amusing scenes.
  3. Families make the characters feel more real. Almost everyone has some kind of family, and everyone is shaped by their family in some way. When I read, finding out about a character's family and his relationship with them makes the character feel more alive, and the same is true when I write. Actually meeting the family and having them play a role in the story increases the effect.
  4. One word: leverage. If you want my characters to do something and they don't agree, put their family members in danger. It works every time. In all seriousness, though, family does provide a pretty big motivation for my characters, both in my Berstru Tales and my fairy-tale remakes. In the latter, in fact, the plots are largely driven by my characters' desire to protect or help family. 
  5. It's something different. Like I said earlier, large numbers of related characters aren't exactly the norm in fantasy and sci-fi. I feel like my tendency towards having almost all my characters be related helps make my stories unique.
What about you? Do you like including characters' families in your stories? Or do your characters tend to be off on their own? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)

Friday, September 26, 2014

Random Fridays: Books I Wanted to Throw Against a Wall

Hullo, everyone! I'm sure everyone's read at least one of those books, the sort that make even the gentlest soul want to hurl them against the nearest wall. Maybe the main character annoys you, a plot twist nearly drove you mad, or your favorite character died, or maybe your motivation is something else completely different. It might not be a bad book- it might even be one of your favorites- but the desire is still there. This week's Random Friday is about the books that do it for me.

1. Eragon and Eldest by Christopher Paolini.
 I mostly blame Eragon (the character) for this. He annoyed me for a very long time. I don't remember specific reasons (I haven't read the books in a while), but I do recall thinking that he made a lot of idiotic decisions . . . particularly concerning Arya in book two. I mean, yes, I shipped them, but I still thought that Eragon could've gone about things a little better. Thankfully, he shaped up a bit in time for Brisingr.

2. The Star Wars novelizations
Episodes II and Episode III were the worst . . . Anakin is in my top five favorite Star Wars characters because he has some pretty good lines (particularly in Episode III) and because you can't help feeling sorry for him in some ways, but I also want to smack him across the face and talk some sense into him. The original trilogy was somewhat better, but Luke still bugged me. And then there's Episode V, in which everyone bugs me. And there's Yoda, who I kind of don't like. Call me weird, but I don't.
3. The Elite by Kiera Cass
 If your romantic relationship is forbidden on pain of death, end said romantic relationship. Do not continue it in secret, especially not when you're staying in the royal castle, and especially especially not when you're a much better match for the other guy in the love triangle. It will end in trouble and heartbreak and all sorts of messiness.

Now for some books which contained entirely too much angst (but are otherwise pretty awesome):
4. Insurgent by Veronica Roth
5. The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson
Vin. Elend. Seriously. You fell in love with each other because of who you are. Stop freaking out about it.
6. To Darkness Fled (and the first half of From Darkness Won) by Jill Williamson.
Achen, stop complaining about being king and having to get married to someone who's not Gren or Tara. Done? Thank you. Vrell, stop being in denial. You and Achen are made for each other and you know it. Your stubbornness is not amusing.

7. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
 Everyone knows how I feel about Mockingjay by now, probably. I won't repeat it. (If you actually don't know and you want to, ask me and I'll tell you in the comments.) 

Not all these books are bad- in fact, I really like most of them. But that doesn't stop me from getting aggravated- usually because of characters and their bad decisions. Or their angst. (Maybe this post should've been about characters I'd like to talk some sense into instead.) 
What about you? What books give you an urge to introduce them to the nearest wall? Please tell me in the comments!


-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)

Want to join in the Random Fridays fun? Feel free to make a post of your own on the week's topic! Please just be sure to use the Random Fridays banner, link back to Awkwordly Emma, and post the link to your post on the Awkwordly Emma blog so other participants can check out your post. For a list of future Random Friday topics, click here

Friday, September 19, 2014

Talk Like a Pirate Day

Ahoy, me hearties! If ye didn't know, today be National Talk Like a Pirate Day! Bein' a landlubber, me pirate-ese be  frankly terrible. Ye might be surprised t' learn, though, how many o' our common sayin's came from pirates an' other sailors. Here b' five o' me favorites:

  1. Above Board. Many a crafty capt'n used this trick t' gain the upper hand o' their opponent: they'd hide most o' their men belowdecks t' fool approachin' enemies into thinkin' they be but a peaceful, unthreatenin' merchantship. Now, if somethin' be open and honest, we say 'tis "above board".
  2. Turn a Blind Eye. Many o' ye have probably heard tell o' the Battle of Copenhagen. If ye haven't, 'twas a fierce battle 'tween the English and Danish-Norwegian fleets, fought off the shore o' Copenhagen. Stories tell that Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson, leader o' the main English attack, ignored his commander's signal t' retreat by lookin' through the telescope with his blind eye. The story be exaggerated; Nelson's commander gave him permission t' retreat, but didn't order it. But it be from that tale that we get the sayin' "to turn a blind eye", or t' intentionally ignore somethin'.
  3. Cut and Run. Even the bravest o' captains and crews sometimes had t' make a quick getaway when a larger enemy came upon them. If there was no time t' weigh anchor- or haul the anchor in- they'd cut the anchor line so they could make a run for it. Another possible origin b' the practice o' securin' sails with rope yarns that could easily b' cut t' run b'fore the wind from the 'forementioned foe. Either way, if ye "cut and run" t'day, ye b' gettin' out in a hurry, even if it means ye take a loss or two.
  4. Long Shot. Firin' a muzzle-loaded cannon be a mighty tricky business, and the guns b' accurate for only so far. So, if a pirate fired a "long shot", he might jsut b' wastin' his powder an' cannonballs, as the shot would b' unlikely t' hit true. T'day, we use "long shot" t' mean somethin' equally unlikely.
  5. At loose ends/At a loose end. Few capt'ns would tolerate idle hands aboard their ships. If they caught one o' their crew wi' nothin' t' do, they'd set him a task right quick. Often enough, that task would be t' check that the riggin' be secure, with no loose ends. This led to the sayin' "at loose ends" t' mean someone had nothin' to do.
  6. Shake a Leg. On some ships, the sailors would be allowed t' bring their wives (or other ladies) along on voyages. The woman, not bein' part o' the crew, had no duties, an' so they had no reason t' get up when the boatswain called the men t' rise an' shine. T' identify herself an' avoid punishment, a woman would throw a leg over the side o' her hammock. T'day, of course, lyin' about when someone calls ye t' shake a leg b' a bad idea, since they b' tellin' ye t' get t' work!
  7. Stern Lecture. Surprisin'ly, the "stern" part o' this phrase, which means a stiff reprimand, has nothin' t' do with the attitude o' the lecturer. Instead, it refers t' the stern (or rear) o' the ship, particularly the quarterdeck. The common crewmen were t' stay off this particular deck unless they had work t' do there- or unless an officer called them there to be disciplined!
I hope ye enjoyed me list, and that ye have a first-rate "Talk Like a Pirate Day"! Thank ye all for readin', an' fair winds t' ye!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)

Friday, September 12, 2014

Random Fridays: Favorite Places to Read/Write

For a writer and bookworm like me, there's nothing quite like losing myself in a good book or penning a thrilling, dramatic scene. I'm lucky in that I can do either of these things pretty much anywhere- but both happen more readily (and more enjoyably) in certain places. That's what this week's Random Friday is about: Favorite Places to Curl up and Read/Write.

Since last November, this has been one of my favorite spots for early morning reading and writing- or writing any time I don't want to risk the myriad distractions in my room:

It's pretty much my favorite chair in the whole house: big enough to kind of curl up in if I want and just the right balance between comfy and firm, the latter being essential for writing. (It's weird, but the comfier the chair, the harder it is to actually write anything.)

Outside is another of my favorite places to read or write, especially the latter.
This is not me.

Getting out of the house and away from most of my distractions can really help me focus on my writing, even if I don't go any further than my back deck. Breezy, cool days are the absolute best, especially when there's a storm moving in. There's this feeling in the air of Something About To Happen and it's so inspiring- more inspiring than sunshine, believe it or not. If I can, I'll stay out until there's no doubt that the rain's actually here.

Once the rain arrives, though, it's time to move inside- assuming I don't decide to ditch the book and notebook and go for a walk. (I love walking in the rain, possibly more than I like walking on sunny days.) If it's a proper storm with lightning and thunder, though, the best place to be is, of course, curled up in bed with a good book. (Or on the bed, if I've already made my bed and don't feel like undoing it. Which is pretty much anytime between breakfast and bedtime.) Alternately, I'll move to the aforementioned chair or my desk to write some more. The chair is more convenient, though I do like my desk. It's awesome, though a mess. Picture for proof:
Despite the comforts of my favorite chair, my desk is probably my favorite writing spot in the house. It's quiet- with the exception of my writing music- and safe within the privacy of my room, with books and notebooks close at hand for reference if I need them or if I need a break. 

What are your favorite reading/writing spots? Please tell me in the comments, or make your own Random Friday blog post! Thanks for reading! 
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)

Want to join in the Random Fridays fun? Feel free to make a post of your own on the week's topic! Please just be sure to use the Random Fridays banner, link back to Awkwordly Emma, and post the link to your post on the Awkwordly Emma blog so other participants can check out your post. For a list of future Random Friday topics, click here.