Monthly Archives: November 2015

Crimson Peak / Writing Epiphany

I was going to review Crimson Peak… until fellow DFWCon-er Rachel put up this post. She hits every point I could’ve possibly hoped to make, then adds a frigate full of sad-eyed kittens. Take for example –

I’d like to draw your attention to one other point that I didn’t notice until my second viewing, but when I did, it broke my damn heart. At the beginning, when Thomas takes Edith to the party and convinces her to dance with him, he says: “I’ve always closed my eyes to things that make me uncomfortable. It makes them easier.” Consider that for a moment in light of the abuse the man’s faced at the hands of his sister. And then consider the two times we see him in a sexual situation, with Edith he had his eyes open, and for all the animalistic sounds we hear leading to when he’s caught in the act with Lucille, he doesn’t.

I. Can’t. Even.  *Looks at Thomas Sharpe and mourns.* Damn you, Hiddleston, look what you’ve done to us!

Long story short – I loved the movie. Loved. The moth-eaten manse of Crimson Peak is creepy, yet stunning. Creaks and groans, red clay oozing from the walls, corridors framed with dagger-like protrusions. At first the spirits act like the trailers want you to believe – on the periphery, meant to scare or harm Edith. Which is a shame, because I spent way too much time (like a lot of people, I suspect) waiting for when the ghosts would do more, instead of absorbing the character turmoil on the screen.

Thomas, Lucille, and Edith, it turns out, are exactly what I needed to understand why my current WIP felt off.

(Okay, you got me. It was mostly Thomas.)

Up until this October, I had the worst time with my story’s MC (main character). From day one she’s felt more like a canvas I splattered with attributes and shallow feelings than a genuine human. I tried character questionnaires, and uncovered the parts of her back story pertinent to the story to no avail. It always seemed like my answers were forced on her. She makes it through each plot point, but there are times when I can’t tell if it’s because of her agency or my authorial hand pushing her through them.

Added to this was the sense that I needed to make the story darker somehow, and not knowing how to go about it.

Cue Thomas and Lucille, characters extraordinaire. The slow reveal of wicked things they’ve done to survive, glimpsing where those dark roots took hold and how they flourished to an eventual, likely unavoidable, fall. Their back story amounts to little more than breadcrumbs, but we don’t need to be shown more – their habits, motivations, and actions can easily be traced down that rabbit hole. Therein lay my answer, and also, the realization how desensitized I (and maybe we, as a nation) have become in our little bubble known as America.

I mean, how fucked up is that my mind went to some kind of magic event/apocalypse or making the world dystopic just to send the story on a darker path? There’s so much violence and hate in the world as it is… without any magic or other supernatural bullshit involved. People end up in the wrong place at the wrong time. Each day is a tragedy for somebody, whether it’s a car accident caused by a drunk driver or a kid accidentally suffocating him/her self trying to do some new fad stunt to fit in.

Needless to say, the events around the world since I started this post 1.5 months ago reinforce part 1 of the epiphany – the source material or “inspiration” needed to darken my fictional world already exists. I don’t need to make something else up when people are far too cruel to one another already.

For part 2 – as will happen with epiphanies, I can’t really put into words -why- it clicked on a character level. All I know is that after seeing Crimson Peak, I understand my MC. She isn’t just a skeleton. She’s not whole either, but she feels much more real and separate from my own self now than she ever did. Once I started seeing her as a person, shaped by her past, present, and her goals for the future, she started answering the questions I had for her. She is more cohesive in my mind, more apparent (I think) in the narrative. The choices made in regards to obstacles (plot) feel more like what she would do and less like me pushing her in the right direction.

Granted, all of this came about after I finished up the 1st draft of book one. So I’ve been putting this newfound insight to practice for book two (my 2015 NaNoWriMo project), but this also means extensive edits for book 1.

*Sighs. Buys all the coffee.*

 

If there is one moment in Crimson Peak where, I think, the epiphany on creating whole and real characters took hold, it would be when Thomas has to break Edith’s heart. It’s a cliché moment – he crushes her romantic ideals for the two of them so her father won’t reveal Thomas’s secret – but then veers from the stereotype. Thomas asks her what she knows of love and goes on to berate her overly optimistic, childish view of it, yet it’s almost like he’s speaking to himself. Like he’s afraid of the spark Edith ignited in him – warm, bright, the promise of acting in his own interests. This is a completely alien concept compared to the love Lucille has shown. And as much as he fears Edith finding out their secret, he’s more afraid of the change she offers. She rattles his core foundations. Doesn’t Lucille know what’s best? Hasn’t she protected him all this time?

His emotions aren’t just stemming from having to break Edith’s heart, but because he knows the bleak course he will return to without having her in his life.

 

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Meatballs

I have a confession to make – I love my crock pots.

There’s nothing more relieving than throwing a bunch of stuff in a slow cooker, doing nothing to it for the next six or eight hours, and then getting a complete meal or side dish out of it. Perfect for the lazy or those who have more productive ways to spend their time.

Part of my NaNo prep this year was finding ways to spend that free time more wisely. Over the last year I discovered I didn’t set enough boundaries for my writing time. So I fixed that – made a schedule, ran it by the husband, and bam. Writing time protected whilst still making time for chores and snuggling furkids.

I would’ve cut workout days too but alas, I’m doing pretty well on all the weights and it gets me out of the house. Massive amounts of free time + me = more ways to procrastinate and make excuses. I apparently need some kind of pressure other than just a word count goal, and leaving the other parts of my routine in place helps that feeling of having to fight for writing time.

Thinking about exercise led me to food. Workout days felt especially tight and stressful having to cook something after getting back from the gym. Hour at the gym, hour for dinner, then cleaning up, showering… it cut into my writing time pretty regularly.

Crock pot meals became the perfect solution.

Honestly, crock pot dishes are great for any week that’s going to be hectic.  I usually make a double batch of whatever recipe, ending up with ten to fifteen Tupperware containers worth of dinners for the rest of the week. Chili and pot roast are our go-to dishes. We’ve done pulled pork before too, but it takes a bit more manual labor than just portioning everything out to containers.

Of the three recipes I picked for NaNo this year, my favorite dish is one that will be on our menu probably every month. Behold- Honey Garlic Meatballs!

I kid you not, this is the best slow cooker recipe I’ve found to date, so I have to share. It knocks chili out of the water. Massacres pot roast and pulled pork. Makes potato soup look like thin and milky gruel. And no, that’s not because my recipes for those other dishes are bad – the meatballs are just so good.

They’re savory, a little sweet, and the garlic scent is mouthwatering. (If you don’t like garlic, I feel sorry for you.)

It’s pretty cheap to make, too, for as many meatballs as you get. You can get 32oz bags of frozen meatballs for $7.99/bg at Kroger. Many of the flavor additives are probably already in your cupboard. So let’s round up – for $20 you get a giant crock full of meatballs. Make a big batch of mashed potatoes (also an easy crock pot dish!) or rice to go with it, and you’ve got dinner (plus some lunches) that will likely last you a full week.

They’re great for work potlucks too, just sayin’.

So, for anyone in the final throes of NaNoWriMo fighting for ways to optimize your time – look into doing batch meals like this. Many of the recipes take 30 min or less to get going in the crock, and then you don’t have to worry about cooking for close to a week. Spending an hour for dinner per day may not sound like much, but when you consider that half of that time(maybe more) is often just cooking the meal, there’s a good chance stress will manifest just from other everyday things. Seeing how dirty the counters are, dishes piled in the sink, floors needing to be swept, TPS reports due… and feeling like it all falls on your shoulders alone. A crock pot meal won’t necessarily solve those other stressors, but it may keep them from being triggered in the first place.

 

What time saving practices did you put into action for NaNo? What are your favorite slow cooker recipes?

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NaNoWriMo – Week One

So it’s that time of year again. No, not the time of pumpkin spice everything and Uggs, but for NaNoWriMo. (For more info on NaNo, you can go here.) This is my second year participating, and I am loving it. Of course, I decided to do this year a bit differently by actually prepping in October. Said prepping led to accepting that I’ve done a piss-poor job on the world-building side of this project from the get go. The remedy will be an ongoing process that will require numerous edits and drafts to fix. Book one is a serious problem child, but it’s on the back burner for now.

What is this year’s NaNo project? Why, it’s book two of my urban fantasy series project. I started book one in last year’s NaNo, and finished up the draft just a couple months ago. I think I’ll be able to get book two drafted in a shorter span, though we’ll see how that goes when I dive back into revisions of book one.

Anyway, so far take #2 of NaNo has been a fun experience. The world and characters are starting to make more sense. I’ve been very adamant about my writing time, and it’s paid off (except for yesterday, thanks to a trip to an Irish pub and general exhaustion). I reached my highest daily words written today – 4588! Having NaNo start on a Sunday -Daylight Savings to boot – also paid dividends; I stayed up til midnight, got some words in, then continued on in the later afternoon, to the tune of 2500+ words for opening day.

Not going to lie, ending up with 4 – 6.5 hours a sleep several nights on end isn’t easy. But late at night is the best time for consistent writing that I’ve found. Until I can make a new pattern that results in similar productivity earlier in the day, it’ll stay that way.

 

Some things that have helped make this first week a success:

  1. better understanding of the MC and world I’m trying to make. (This ties into my Crimson Peak review/epiphany post that is still in-progress)
  2. a short list of scenes I know I want in the book, or at least want to write
  3. new music thanks to Spotify (spurred on by Delilah Dawson’s post on finding new music; I too had the same issue with using Pandora, but no longer!)
  4. asking a friend to give me an idea what to write and ditching it, but coming up with a plausible alternative that spider webbed outward
  5. coffee
  6. jotting down ideas, or at least thinking about the story every day (especially at work)

 

Short of the pre-NaNo meet and greet that was held by our local chapter a couple weeks ago, I haven’t gone to any write-ins. It makes me feel pressured – to be funny or charismatic, to write something off the top of my head. It’s an odd feeling and I don’t know how to tell my brain to stop, so I’ve just stayed home. Even though the cats bite my toes and plop in my lap to mess with my earbuds, the writing space finally feels like my zone. I’m in my groove. Characters are working. Things are breaking. The story is stitching itself together like a hodge-podge quilt.  That’s not to say I don’t get out and socialize with other writers, but that it takes me a long time to feel comfortable. And the more people you throw in that pot, the longer it’s going to take me to reach that point. Maybe towards week three or four I’ll try a write-in, but at the moment it just feels like a bad idea to divert from the pattern and expect the results will be less than stellar.

 

Anyway, week one tally: 15123 words. I’m ahead of NaNo’s goal by one day, and have been toying with the idea of trying to get to 60k instead of 50k by the end. It’s a stretch, I think, but would only take a bit over 2k / day to reach it. Hard, yes; do-able, I think so. Just have to keep writing with reckless abandon.

Its all going to be crap when it’s over, but there will be nuggets in there somewhere, too.

 

Are any of you out there doing NaNoWriMo? How’s it going? What are your steps to success, or, what do you feel like is pulling you down? Need any musical inspiration? I’m all ears, let me hear what’s going on with ya!

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