Friday, July 13, 2012

Author Interview--Amarilys Acosta

Good Friday:

This week is a bit different. It’s still fiction, but it’s someone else’s fiction. To follow is an interview of a fellow Seton Hill WPFer—Amarilys Acosta. Like me, she is in her second semester of her MFA in Writing Popular Fiction at Seton Hill University. I’d say more, but I’ll let her do the talking.

-What book and/or experience made you want to be a writer?

Tamora Pierce's Song of the Lioness is the culprit of me falling in love with writing. Her novels have these badass, self-sufficient, witty, and amazing heroines that basically became my role models when I was a teenager. And at one point I thought, I want to do this. I want to write characters like these that can become role models to teens, and help them through those horrible school years. Lol.

-What genre(s) do you write? If more than one, what’s your favorite?

I write YA Paranormals and Fantasy, and I recently dabbled in Scifi. No favorites though! That would be like saying you love one of your kids more than the other. lol I love both genres.

-What project(s) are you working on now?

I'm working on a YA Paranormal Romance that's turning out to be more adventure than romance, but that’s okay. I do hate Paranormal Romances that have the heroines with a severe case of 'insta-love.' It's just not natural. So, yes, there are some cute and sexy scenes with two gorgeous guys, but as of yet my heroine hasn't fallen head over heels for any of them.

Another project of mine is a YA scifi story I wrote recently just for kicks—because really, I know nothing about scifi—but then I sort of loved it and got awesome feedback on it this past residency. So now, I'm thinking I'll be working on this on the side. I do get frustrated with my thesis every once in a while, and I think working on this other project will help.


This is from my thesis, a YA Paranormal Romance. This scene takes place during lunch after Jayson (love interest) has left the table, and Annabel (heroine) finds out that he's not only a vampire.
Vinnie ate an apple slice, before she said, “I’m guessing this is not the first time he’s used his powers on you?”

“That…that bastard!” Now I knew why I turned so unfocused and swoony when around him. Incubus not only fed on emotions but they could also manipulate them. I bet he’d also made me calm down when my magic grew out of control. And here I thought I’d finally gained some control over it. I thumped the table with my fist. “I’m going to stake him.”

“Please don’t,” Vinnie said. “Juliette will eviscerate any non-vamp girls who get close to her brother, and I’d hate to be without a roommate again.”

I was about to laugh, when I noticed she wasn’t. It wasn’t a joke.

“He’s the one who keeps appearing everywhere.”

She frowned and poked her fruit salad. “He’s nice but a whole lot of trouble, and not of the good kind. If a girl doesn’t fall for him, he trips her.”

-For other aspiring writers, any tips?

WRITE every day with Wit, Resolve, Inspiration, Thought, and Emotion. (Just made that up, yup)

-What’s your favorite book/genre to read?

Too many favorite books to list here, so I'll stick to genres. I basically write the genres I love to read –YA Paranormals, Fantasy, and Sci-fi are my addiction. I also read adult novels occasionally – Romances, Urban Fantasy, and High Fantasy.

-What’s your favorite thing you’ve ever written?

First story I wrote. In its current written form it's horrible, of course, since I was like 13 when I wrote it and had no concept whatsoever of rules, or conventions, plus my first language is not English! lol The story is about people with elemental powers (very Avatar: The Last Airbender, I know, but I thought of it first!). So picked a boy and a girl for each element, plus a dragon—because really what awesome fantasy novel didn't have a dragon—and basically their world is invaded by aliens.

It's my favorite because even with all the errors (horrors?) it's so raw, all full of emotions and humor, and this huge cast of characters that I love…Though, I really have no idea what I was thinking of when I chose 9 main characters. I just feel like I have to work for that kind of 'intensity' now because I'm more concerned about keeping in mind all the 'rules' and stuff, whereas before I just wrote…if that makes sense.

Want more from Amarilys?

Check out her Author Website and her Book Blog.

Also, follow Amarilys on Twitter.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Writer's Spam: Avoiding and Eliminating Infodumps

A couple of weeks ago for Fiction Friday, I posted a Lucky Seven. I submitted the first ten pages of the manuscript from which said Lucky Seven came from as my crit piece for this past SHU residency. Being the nut that I am, I reread my work the night before its critique to try and get a feel of the critiques I would get. I guessed that one of the big comments would be that I had a few huge infodumps. I was right.

Before I go any farther, I will define infodumps (or writer’s spam as I sometimes call them) just in case anyone is unfamiliar with the term. Contrary to what their name implies, infodumps are not trash centers for info or when your manuscript goes to the bathroom. They are actually pretty much what their name implies—dumps of information. You know that person behind you in line at the grocery store? The one who, when you comment on how the line’s not moving, launches into the story of their life? That person is infodumping. Eliminate him…ignore him. He’s probably unaware that he’s infodumping.

Ok, back to my manuscript problem. I took the infodump feedback to heart, went back, and set myself the task of eradicating infodumps from existence (or at least from my manuscript). This proved easier for some than others. What do you do with information that you need to get across? After doing as much as I could, I opened my thesis and started to finalize the first three chapters for my July homework. Immediately, I noticed that infodumps were not a characteristic found only in my urban fantasy/paranormal mystery. They made appearances in my epic fantasy as well.

I wanted to crawl under a rock and die. Okay, no I didn’t, but I was not a happy camper. I reread the chapters and stared at the infodumps. I made faces at them and glared at them, but they didn’t leave. And then, something clicked in my head. I reread chapter two, and suddenly I knew what I was going to do.

So, that brings me to the meat of this post. Three ways to eliminate Infodumps/writer’s spam.

-Find another way to state the information
Reread your infodumps. Make friends with them. Understand them, and then snuff them from existence. Take them apart and scatter their parts across your manuscript. If you can, explain the content of the former infodump in dialogue. Readers love dialogue. It moves the story forward, and, if you implant previously infodumped information into dialogue, you supply the reader with forward motion and important information. A practical upshot of this is that you don’t want your dialogue to be too lengthy. So, you look for ways to condense information.

-Do you really need all this?
I’m going to say it. Don’t hit my blog. It’s on your computer screen, and if you hit it, you’ll break your computer. Go outside, throw sticks (don’t throw rocks, that’s dangerous). Beat up a pillow. Don’t interact with other humans until the frustration is out.

K, ready—YOU MAY NOT NEED EVERYTHING ON THE PAGE. I know. I’m sorry. Reread the infodumps and ask yourself “Is this necessary?” If the answer is always a resounding “YES, AND IT MUST STAY IN THIS FORMAT,” you’re doing it wrong. If the answer is “yes, but I can divide it up” or “maybe not,” good job—that’s the spirit. If the dividing up of infodumps method prescribed above doesn’t work, try and eliminate unnecessary information. I just recently did this, and I’m still here. You can do it too.

-Write the entire thing as dialogue
Try this as an exercise. If there’s an infodump that refuses to go away no matter what you do to it, fear not. Take the information, take two characters to which the information pertains, mix until combined (err, never mind, that’s cookies)…anyway, take the first two and open a blank document/notebook. Write out the information in the infodump as a conversation between the two characters as the characters would discuss it. See what you get. If the result is too difficult to chew—stick to writing, baking’s not for you. Otherwise, take the new product and compare it to the old one. Find what changed and apply that to the infodump. Maybe you can shorten it and spread some of it out at least.

They say “a well-disguised infodump is still an infodump.” I do beg to differ. There are cases where infodumps are the best way to get info across. No, I’m not contradicting myself. If you have a fantastic old house that a character is seeing for the first time, you want to describe it in one shot. Some particularly important bits of your world’s or characters’ history may be better given in one dose. The trick is to avoid unnecessary infodumps. If you have one or two with lots of non-infodump between them and those two are stellar infodumps, the infodump police won’t come after you.

Monday, July 9, 2012

A bear, a bear? Pixar's new Princess

Trivia time—one actor has been in every Pixar and Disney Pixar film. Who is he, and who did he play in Brave?
-Answer, next week.

Bonus points!
5 points if you can identify the epic fantasy series from which I take inspiration for the title of this Media Monday.
-Answer, at the end of the post


Saw “Brave”—loved “Brave.” The Scottish accent only made it better. I was fondly reminded of “Shrek.” I was then fondly and giddily reminded of Disney’s “Gargoyles.” I had a small obsession problem with that TV show as a kid. But, less on that, more on Brave.

Wonderful job Pixar introducing your own princess into the mish-mosh of those already in existence. Despite this pre-existing bunch, though, Merida is unique. Strong-willed, independent, aware of what she wants, and, well, brave (duh).

The best thing, in my opinion, about “Brave” is that it’s unexpected. Every time you think “ahuh, I know where this is going,” the movie goes precisely in the opposite direction. I saw this with a friend who had already seen it. When Merida got the potion, I turned to my friend and said “the Momma’s gonna die.” I then stood corrected a few minutes later when the momma turned into a bear (ngoiehgegoiwejioeho?). I was, obviously, not expecting the bear thing, but I loved it. And, I loved that the bear thing was tied into the four brothers legend.

I recommend going to see “Brave.” I don’t recommend taking your kids to see “Brave,” however, if they scare easily. Yes, it’s an animated/kids movie, but parts of it are dark. I would have been scared when I was around 5.

That said, if you do bring your kids to see “Brave,” good. The movie teaches some very important life lessons. Don’t be afraid to go after what you want. Believe in yourself, and don’t take potions from creepy wood-working witches in the woods are just a few. Parents—there’s a lesson to be learned here fror you too. While you shouldn’t take potions from creepy wood-working witches in the woods either, you should also allow your child to make their own decisions once they’re old enough to do so. I’m not a parent, but I appreciate my parents more than I can say because they guided me through growing up rather than ordering me through it. I think it makes a difference. This is just my two cents. Do what you want with it. It won’t turn you into a bear (I think).

I do have to say, though, despite my assertion that I would have been afraid of this movie as a small child, I wish it had come out when I was a kid. I spent hours in my backyard pretending to be the one princess that was kick-ass and knowledgeable about nature. If I’d had “Brave” to go off of, I could have pretended to be Merida. Although, the fact that I branched out and made up my own ideal princess without Merida’s influence says a lot for my creative mind. So, maybe I should thank Pixar for not making “Brave” sooner because it allowed me to be creative and probably (at least partially) led to me becoming a writer. (It made sense in my head).

Last but certainly not least, a few themes to take away from “Brave.” The first is “legends are lessons,” and how true is that? We always say “history repeats itself.” I’d like to amend that to “history repeats itself if we don’t learn our lesson the first time and prevent the bad things from happening again.” “Legends are lessons” is the same basic concept, except it alliterates better. It took Merida turning her mother into a bear to realize that. I hope we can figure it out with a little less trauma.

Second—and this is very important. “Never conjur where you carve.”

Answer to trivia question #2 at the beginning of this post. I take inspiration from George R. R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” series.

See you out of the box,

P.S. I wrote a guest post for a friend and fellow WPFer this week. Check it out and have a look at her blog here!