3 Things I Learned About Writing from Korean Dramas

nanowrimo1In time for NaNoWriMo I thought I would explore one of my favourite sources of procrastination, ahem, proving to you and myself how it informs my writing and makes it better as I trudge down yet another month of ass-in-chair mayhem.

Kdrama may be full of cheese and sugar-things and will ultimately give me brain-diabetes but once in a while a true gem appears, and you should be on hand to see it.

Without further ado:

1. Starting with backstory is a bloody annoying waste of time!

In almost all dramas that are longer than the standard 20 or 16 episodes, the story starts when the protagonist is a wee bairn who messes around doing mundane universal kid things like playing or going to school or watching his or her parents scream insults at each other.

Other times, the story starts even before the protagonist was born and introduces us to a myriad of one-dimensional characters that will be gone by Episode 9 or 10. So when you arrive in the next five episodes and the story FINALLY starts to be about the protagonist, you’re left thinking, “So who was that Ajhumma with amnesia in Episode 4? Where did she go? WHY DO I FRIGGIN CARE?”

tumblr_inline_mr838vMDSP1qz4rgpThe same goes for writing a novel. If they are meandering through bogs and meadows and vast plains of nothing-much-happens and the story is not called Lord of the Rings, I’ll start throwing nail polish tubes at the screen.

So how do you tell backstory?

Employ the magic that is flashbacks.

I especially loved how they were used in non-Asian TV show ‘Arrow,’ how while every episode advanced the current timeline, it also told us, morsel by morsel how Oliver Queen went about acquiring those killer biceps among other things.

Don’t lay it all on the table and invite your readers to pig themselves out. Rather feed them once a chapter and leave them hungry for more.

2. It’s a successful love triangle if both guys (and girls) have equal chance with the object of amoré

(Fake French accent) Ah, l’amore! And triangles of l’amore! Who started these angst inducing, sleep depriving team sports anyway? I blame Stephanie Meyer – but then again, I blame Stephanie Meyer for a lot of things!

Kdramas have been bringing this brand of angst to audiences because it’s high quality fangirl feed! And while some triangles work magic, bringing together three people (who are almost always two boys and one girl) with the sheer power of their emotions running amok like a cage full of caffeinated monkeys in a banana plantation; lazy drama writers will pick the bland instant coffee mix of the rich-jerk-with-personal-space-issues and the sweet-kind-OMG-marry-me-instead-oppa second male lead who does everything gentlemanly but loses the girl to Mr. Perverted Narcissism instead. Hence the outbreak of ‘Second Lead Syndrome,’ because the viewers have brains even if the lead girl never subscribed for a dose.

tumblr_inline_ms7ggqPQUl1qz4rgpBut love triangles can attract readers to your story faster than ants to a sugar-drop if you do it right. While ‘doing it right’ depends heavily on your plot instead of love triangles for the sake of love triangles, you can get an idea through a recent Kdrama wringing the marrow out of this trope: cable channel TVN’s Answer Me/Reply 1994.

Who’s her husband in 3, 2, 1…

The story lays out the triangle layer by layer as each episode progresses, giving you time to understand the three corners of the love-line better before bringing them together in all out warfare. This method of storytelling is what plummeted the franchise’s predecessor Answer Me/Reply 1997 into a cult classic.

Only when you get to know the characters – in this case the two boys/men vying for the throne of husbandom – will you care about the outcome. The well written main men in AM1994 have ignited fan wars all over the forums, going head-to-head as shippers from either side have plenty of reasons as to why their chosen man should be the Chosen Man!

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From Dramabeans.com

If you can start fan wars with your characters, you know you’ve created a good story!

3. The protagonists are only as powerful as the supporting cast.

By this I do not mean that each character, including the grouchy grandma wearing polka dot pants who crossed your protagonist’s path near the bus terminal must be fleshed out like a pregnant sow but those characters that are not the protagonist or the protagonist’s love interest or the antagonist.

This is another point for the Answer Me franchise. There is the typical, cheesy, somewhat unrealistic Kdrama romance, but there are also the lovable band of best friends, who are not just wallflowers as in most cases, but fleshed out human beings with their own stories of who they are and why they are what they are and how they got there.

Think of it like this: in real life, no one is the protagonist.

You may be the main character in your life story, but alongside you, your best friend or your husband or sister are starring in their own drama where you are a supporting character and they are the protagonists.

Like the Harry Potter books are told in Harry’s perspective, but there’s the Ron/Hermione romance, the Dumbledore family tragedy, the inseparable bromance of Messrs. Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs all of which link back to Harry, but happen regardless of his involvement. (Unless you count Ron’s minor jealous spats, that silly boy!)

tumblr_mea8ds11yW1rvv4qro1_250So there you have it, build not only your protagonist, but build his or her friends, enemies and frenemies as well. Give them their own story; let them live it in the outer circle while the reader follows your protagonist inside. Just as others stories happen around you, let your protagonist experience that in his or her supporting cast as well.

There is an interesting dynamic in another Kdrama remake ‘Operation Proposal’ where the actions of the time-travelling protagonist not only changes his past but inadvertently affects the timelines of his best friends, resulting in his erasing something bad in his past creating a problem in one of his friends’ past.

That is the perfect recipe for an organic tale where the protagonists change and grow as do the people around them.

Also, time travel is never the answer. You’ll come back to find you’re dating your niece!!

HAPPY NANOWRIMO!

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An Interview with Gwenda Bond – The Woken Gods

The gods have woken!!

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Gwenda Bond, author of the upcoming Woken Gods – 5th September 2013 by Strange Chemistry Books – a YA novel about gods running wild in modern Washington DC.

Gwenda is a contributor to Publishers Weekly, reviews for Subterranean Online and Locus and her non-fiction has appeared in the Washington Post, Lightspeed and Strange Horizons alongside others. She lives in Kentucky with her husband, author Christopher Rowe.

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A warm welcome to this Q&A, Gwenda!

1. First Question – Why are you a writer? Where did that start?

I have always been drawn to books and stories, and I was lucky enough to grow up in a family that truly encouraged reading and supported my book habit. My parents were teachers and then later principals, so I had access to the school library even during summers. Just as I’ve been a reader as far back as I can remember, I always knew I wanted to tell stories of my own.

2. What is Woken Gods about?

The Woken Gods is about a world where the gods of ancient mythology woke up five years earlier, and a girl named Kyra Locke who lives in the transformed Washington, D.C., that has become the negotiating ground for humanity and the gods. When a powerful relic disappears, she gets pulled into high stakes intrigue with scary tricksters and the human Society of the Sun.

3. What inspired you to tell this story? How did this begin?

I knew I wanted to try something different, an urban fantasy with more elaborate worldbuilding than what I’d done before. And when I had the initial idea, I knew I wanted it to be set in Washington, D.C. (and that the Library of Congress would house the humans’ secret society) and that I wanted to use lots of gods and make them alien and intimidating. But that was it; I had to do a lot of development and several drafts to get to the finished story.

4. How much did you research, regarding the myths and the setting of the tale?

Mythology has always been an interest of mine, and so I feel like many of the ideas came from the reading I’d already done. That said, I did do quite a bit of more focused research on apocalyptic traditions and on ancient religions and revisited books like Lewis Hyde’s Trickster Makes This World, which was ultimately a huge source of inspiration.  And I visited D.C. to location scout.

5. Tell us a bit about your inspiration for the characters. Especially Kyra and Oz. Are they based on real people?

My characters are never based on real people I know, though I might borrow a personality trait or a physical attribute here or there. Kyra was one of those difficult characters who I wished at times I could make more manageable! I had a really hard time getting into her head, because she holds her cards so to her vest, and I originally drafted this in third person. Once I switched to first, she opened up for me, and I enjoyed writing her. She’s so loyal and spirited and determined to do things for herself, even when she should ask for help. Oz I knew would be a character who started out with a very clear belief in the organization he belongs to and its leaders, and would have to figure out what he believes in is the ideals of it and protecting humanity.

6. Will there be any follow-ups to Woken Gods?

It’s certainly possible, because I very much enjoy writing in this world and these characters, and I know what happens next. It could happen. Though my next book will definitely be something different—a modern circus story called Girl on a Wire, which will be out from Skyscape next year.

7. We want to know your writing process. Spill the secrets. What’s your sacred routine?

I still have to fit writing in around the edges of my day, though I think about whatever story I’m writing any time there’s downtime—driving is great thinking time. When I’m drafting, I write first thing in the morning, then take a walk and write more at lunch, and often work long hours on the weekend. I would say the only sacred part of my process is never taking too long off between books; I like to always have a new story in the works. But each book is a little different in terms of process.

8. As aspiring writers we are always on the lookout for good advice. Can you give us your top four tips for getting those words out and finishing that novel?

First, best of luck to you! I don’t think there are any rules, except what works for you…but here’s some advice anyway. 1. Read tons (which you clearly already do!), all different kinds of books, and think about what works and why, and what doesn’t and why. This is good with both published works and if you’re part of a critique group—analyzing someone else’s work with an eye to helping them improve it can really help with your own improvement, I’ve found. 2. Once you’ve truly committed to a story, finish a draft. It can be easy to be seduced by new ideas, especially in the middle. But only with experience will you know when something really isn’t working and should be edged out by another story. 3. Put it aside long enough to come back to it with a critical eye. Know it’s a draft and figure out a game plan to improve it, whether that involves radical changes or not. But be open to the idea that it might take big changes. Be willing to let go of ‘good enough’ for ‘better’ (and shoot for ‘the best’). 4. Most importantly, remember this isn’t your only story to tell. Work on something as long as it takes to make it the best you can on your own, then send it into the world and start something new. The start something new is the important part, because we all face rejection. Careers happen because writers keep writing in the face of setbacks and rejection.

9. Tell us a bit about your other book, Blackwood.

Blackwood is a modern take on the Lost Colony of Roanoke. When 114 people disappear from present day Roanoke Island, the exact number as centuries earlier, two smart teenagers must unravel the mystery…if there’s any hope of bringing them back.

AND if people like e-books, it’s on sale super-cheap right now in the US and UK as part of Strange Chemistry’s first birthday sale—so give it a try.

10. What other projects do you have lined up in the future?

My next book is Girl on a Wire, and it’ll be out next year. It’s about a daredevil high-wire walker from a legendary circus family who, when mysterious attempts at sabotage begin happening at the circus, has to team up with her archrival to find the culprit. I’m very excited about it. As to what’s next beyond that, I’m working on a couple of things, but can’t talk about them just yet.

Thanks so much for the interview!tumblr_lkx105rG0D1qasqbl

We wish you all the very best in your writing Gwenda and Happy Book Birthday! Thank you so much for taking the time to come over the blog for a chat.

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Gwenda Bond’s book Woken Gods was released 3rd September in the US and Canada and is OUT TODAY IN THE UK AND AUSTRALIA!!!! So go grab yourselves a copy.

You can read my review of Woken Gods over at Fantasy Book Review.

Woken Gods is published by Strange Chemistry – the YA imprint of Angry Robots. For more information visit: angryrobotsbooks.com, strangechemistrybooks.com and the author’s website gwendabond.com.

A Sudden Surge in Creativity

River Rapids by joshietakashima.deviantart.com

This is not a planned post, just something I’m writing in a frenzy as I take a break from my third short story.

After a long dry spell in my writing, I have come across a sudden surge in creativity! Ideas are flowing out like the baddest of them West Coast hurricanes and washing up all sorts of writerly goodness on the shores of my imagination!

If fact, the urge to write is so powerful, I’m betting I’ll finish every sentence in this short, exuberant post with friggin exclamation marks!!!

Here’s three more of em!!!

Which has me wondering. What the heck is this?

I’m not complaining, heaven forbid, but where are these ideas coming from and what am I doing write… uh… right?

It’s not like I’m sure any of these ideas are IT, THE BOMB, JACKPOT et Sherbang, but there used to be a time I would have to imagine ‘hard’ just to make a story work and that is one story at a time!

Then again, there were times when my mind was being repeatedly shelled with half-assed ideas that died faster than a Jonas brother in a room full of cougars and left me feeling extremely, miserable. And I mean miserable in manga-like proportions!

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So let’s review, in a small scale, what the heck I have been doing these days, that may have triggered this gallons of creative vomit situation.

  1. I consume more manga than before and in diverse genres.
  2. I have, what Laini Taylor would call, “The Idea Notebook.” – When an idea comes to me, I scurry towards my notebook and just jot it down, line after line, word after word. The end product would read like a fantasy grocery list, cut and chopped in a manner that would drive my neat-freak primary school teachers to remote locations of rest and therapy.
  3. I eat alot! – No, it’s true! If you saw me, weighing under 50kgs as I am you would deliver scoffs worthy of Tyrion Lannister, but I speak truth. I eat like a pig and I ain’t afraid to say so!
  4. I wake up earrrrrrly morning, (fine 5.30 am, but that’s earrrly for me) and run for an hour – and during this run with music jamming my eardrums, I pretend that I am a rockstar and there is an audience bigger than several packed Tokyo Domes singing my songs back to me other than just my dog, our man-eating hens and some constipated-looking squirrel pups.   tumblr_inline_mg48rdz4wu1qb5n0g
  5. I build playlists – to everything! This has been a (rather disturbing to others) hobby of mine since Secondary School where I’d wrap a memory up in a song and sometimes, break into song and dance to express myself. (Later on, I learned that it’s only okay to do that if you’re Zac Efron.) ImageBut seriously, I make playlists to all my stories, even if the story is a vague pencil sketch in my mind and I play these when I’m thinking about a particular story and brainstorm and world build to a soundtrack.

So that’s about it.

I’m not kidding when I say I really want to find out how I have achieved this increase in production so I could keep doing what I am doing and one day rule the universe, um… publish a living, breathing, in-the-freaking-flesh-yo book!

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (More of em!! Enjoy!)

UPDATE – Oooohh!!! Soooo many likes!!! Thank you likers!! I love you so much so I’m exclaiming!!!!!

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Baby, I luurrve me some likers ;)
Baby, I luurrve me some likers ;)

4 Reasons to Watch ‘I Miss You’

I love TVXQ!

And while it is a secret, an even bigger secret is that I pretend I love them all, when really I’m biased towards Park Yoochun and Kim Junsu.

Why is it that I pick now to start confessing?

So that you will know why a person who is a sworn enemy of sad stories, melodramas and anything remotely close to tear-jerkers would even consider taking the snot-inducingly sob-fest that was MBC’s Winter drama, “I Miss You.” (보고싶다)

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Two words: Park Yoochun! :) (Fine, three if you write that differently.)

The basic premise of the story plot can be described in the clever meme above that I found on Tumblr. I could even stop with that and call this a thorough review of the melodrama. But when did I ever stop when there was words to be spoken, or in this case, typed?

Bogoshipda tells the story of two young kids in 90’s Korea; Han Jung Woo, the elder son of a rich businessman and Lee Su Yeon, the daughter of a murderer. Despite Su Yeon being an ostracized girl in school where the kids fear her and avoid her, Jung Woo becomes her friend and brings a smile back into the face of a girl tormented by the life she is living.

The two of them declare that all they need is one friend and that steadfast friendship grows into a cutesy little love that teenagers quite readily will fall into. But before they can even sort out their feelings tragedy strikes and the two of them are ripped apart under horrific circumstances.

15 years on, Han Jung Woo is now a grown man (played by Park Yoochun) who is a detective known for his ruthless methods of interrogation, fast legs and warm personality earning him the nickname Crazy Rabbit. But he has not forgotten his first love, the girl who he abandoned as a scared, little boy.

Meanwhile, Lee Su Yeon (Yoon Eun Hye) is living abroad, working as a Fashion Designer together with the boy that saved her that fateful day. The boy, called Harry (Yoo Seung Ho) is the centre piece of the entire mystery surrounding the tragedy that befell the two young children.

The death of woman investigated by Detective Han Jung Woo happens to bring Harry back to Korea. Su Yeon follows…

SPOILERS FROM HERE ON!

Yes. Been there, done that, kinda plotline; but the reason I liked this drama, despite it’s unecessarily dangerous amount of ‘feels,’ is because of the painstaking realism crafted into the usual cliche of Kdrama.

Lee Su Yeon is a slight, girl with big, frigtened eyes and a thousand and one complications. She suffers abuse from her father who is a habitual wife-beater who takes it out on his daughter when her mother is not to be found. Even after her father is executed as a murderer, Su Yeon is not free of him. The kids in school begin to avoid her, people on the street, the entire neighbourhood labels her “Murderer’s Daughter” and her mother, distraught with the ostracization, beats the young Su Yeon and at one point offers her up to the woman whose family Su Yeon’s father was supposed to have murdered saying, “Here! Take her and kill her if it makes you feel better!” Even though her life becomes better after meeting Jung Woo, because of him and his family’s power struggles, Su Yeon is raped, beaten and run over. As if to poke the already festered wounds, one of the detectives admits to Su Yeon’s mother that Su Yeon’s father was not the culprit. They had executed an innocent man!

It makes you wonder, how similar must real life be? How many young girls and boys must suffer so because of the games that adults play? Everyone knows that in this case, reality is actually ten times worse than what is portrayed in fiction.

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The teen who plays the young Su Yeon does a fantastic job, bringing out the fear, the anguish and the hopelessness Su Yeon must have felt, if she was a real person.

That was one of the reasons I really loved this drama. There was not a dry eye in sight throughout the 21 episodes, but it rang true. Brutal, yes, and sometimes a bit much, but not for the sake of entertainment, more the soul-searching kind.

Reason Number Two for loving this drama is Park Yoochun.

LOL *Chunface*

I’m going to put aside my biased fangirl opinions on this one!

Though he has acted in a handful of dramas, Park Yoochun has won so many drama awards!

Maybe, some, like the Popularity Awards he’s won is because of his superstar status, but you have to admit that whether he plays a staid, disciplined bookworm who believes he’s gay, or a slightly nuts crown prince learning the ways of the modern world, Yoochun has left us laughing, crying or salivating and definitely wanting more.

In Bogoshipda he plays a role quite different from his role in Rooftop Prince.

While the Yoochun that played the prince was very erect, walking straight and tall and delivering the best laugh out louds, the Yoochun that played Han Jung Woo was two very different characters at the same time.

He would deliver the pain and angst behind the Jung Woo who regrets his actions as a young boy and pines and prays for the day he can get Lee Su Yeon back, and then he comes around that being the playful, joking Crazy Rabbit who flirts with his prospective mother-in-law, calls his police partner ‘wifey’ and sings karaoke in a voice that would do wonderful duets with Rebecca Black!

In a drama that was mostly anguish, Han Jung Woo’s cutesy moments were a thrill to watch.

 

What really peeved me during the drama was that in every, single episode, Yoochun was crying! It’s a bit too much to handle don’t you think? I mean, come on director! I know he’s very good at turning on the emotion when required, but too much of something is not so good, we learnt that when we watched that scene in Pirates of the Caribbean 3 with all those Jack Sparrows!

The third reason I loved Bogoshipda was the incredible acting talent of the third lead, Yoo Seung Ho.

I mean the kid was EPIC, MAN!

He played a messed up psychopath to the maximum with his smirks, and his eyes and his uncontrollable crying.

This boy should be given an award for this role! I have seen him in a couple other dramas and I wasn’t impressed. His acting was shaky and cute at best but he really came through here.

He was…

He was almost a better actor than Park Yoochun! (There I said it!)

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I think he really wrapped himself into the role and took on the personality of a human being who has lost everything and grows ever so over-protective of what he has left. In the final episode, Harry’s helplessness and distraught when he realises that no matter how much he loves Su Yeon, he can’t keep her away from Jung Woo, the expressions that Seung Ho sculpts into his features, the questions, the pure force of his obsession were fantastic!

The only part that was unrealistic was him losing his memory at the end.

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I mean , come on? Is that the ‘go to’ for dramas these days? Let’s wipe the slate clean and then doodle on it as we please?

But then again, this is the world where pretty girls living in derelict apartments are suddenly surrounded by the hottest, male neigbours of a suitable age imaginable, so what gives?

Final reason?

Han Jung Woo’s Girls

I loved how fully they portrayed Jung Woo’s relationships with the (mostly female) people that surrounded him.

His flirty, playful relationship with Su Yeon’s mother, constantly hugging her and babying her was one of the highlights of the show for me. I would love it when the two shared screen time, ready to laugh at their jokes.  Jung Woo’s real sister and her ‘oni-chan complex’ was funny and cute. She hero-worshipped him and was a strong ally he could count on later in the series.

Also, Jung Woo’s team of detectives. His wifey, the Team Leader and the other two guys who were always hanging around hoping to catch Jung Woo and Su Yeon in action! I loved the portrayal of brotherhood, especially Jung Woo’s senior (his name escapes me) and how they are loyal and look out for their own. The theme of brotherhood needs to be explored more in dramas I feel without giving priority to the romance and the story of the two main leads.

The only relationship that was not explored was him and his surrogate sister, Eun Joo. I wish there was more of that! Eun Joo is a strong, female force with a sense of right and wrong, every bit her father’s daughter. They should have made her a detective too!!

SPOILERS END HERE!

Well, that was way too long a review so time to wrap it up now with one of my favourite clips off Yoochun’s previous drama, Rooftop Prince. Oh, and the I Miss You trailer, if you’re considering watching it!

Anyeong! ^^~

The 8 Rules of Shorts

I haven’t written anything new to post since it turned 2013 so I thought maybe a list of things that I read a couple of weeks back on io9.com that struck me.

It’s with regard to short story writing, or “shorts” for, um… short!

I have been rather feverishly working on my shorts recently having given my novel the ‘stew cupboard’ therapy after NaNoWriMo. (‘Stew cupboard’ is my phrase for putting away a story for a while until your ideas thicken and develop and you can attack it again with fresh eyes.)

Previously, I lived in fear of shorts because I abhorred word limits.

In school, I would more often than not, exceed given word limit by at least a couple thousand words! The root of this ailment was my penchant for over-descriptiveness.

But I have since worked my way out, ruthlessly stamping out whole chunks of text describing the size and texture of the heroine’s best friend’s boot button.

But as you can see, from this long introduction that is happily meandering away from its point, I am yet to be cured of rambling nonstop on paper… er, blog.

So without further ado, I give you The Eight Rules of Shorts!

1. Be quick and merciless in your world-building

I think they are talking to me.

Nope, nobody wants to know squat about your hero’s second cousin Twig who walks with a slight limp and loves Oreos, if he has nothing to do with the story. Map making and family tree drawing are best left to the likes of Tolkien, Martin and Rowling. Let the teeny details fly out the window. Just make your world, drop the characters in and tell the dang story!

2. Make the reader believe there is a world outside that of your characters

CONTRADICTION!

Not really. More like, don’t build the world in the story itself, but build it in your ‘writing notebook/word processor’ and then include little descriptions and details here and there along the story. Like the reason your protagonist cannot visit the seaside is because there’s an age old civil war going on in the coast. Nothing to do with her, but happening nevertheless.

3. Give your characters a backstory, a past, an experience that has left them with baggage, flaws and damages.

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You must have heard this one a thousand and one times. Moving on.

4. Dive right in!

No longer does a story begin with ‘Once upon a time,’ followed by an introduction to the characters and a brief plot plan. People just don’t have the patience nowadays.

Get right into the action and spill it all out. Keep the audience guessing as you tell the story, delivering bits of past along the way like hidden rewards in an RPG game.

Telling a war story? Start right on the battlefield.

Writing about thieves? Go straight to the robbery while it’s happening. You can tell the readers that this is a true story about your no-good, conniving brother later on.

5. Experiment with form

Have you read Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen?

Have you read Pride and Prejudice by John Grisham?

Nope, me neither. But I’m guessing it’ll be a whole lot bloodier than the original. Tada! Fresh concept! So go ahead and explore, the lingo, the style, the voice. Try on several different voices until you can settle on one which will be uniquely yours.

6. Experiment with genre

Only used to SF and F like me? How about rooting around in the mystery novel genre and then mixing up the elements? That’s China Mieville is known for. And it must be working out for him else we won’t know him.

But be warned: playing with genre is not for children. Know your genres and understand them before you try it out.

7. Know the difference between ‘gimmick’ and ‘plot’

Let’s keep this simple:

  1. Gimmick – the ‘ba-boing!’ moment when something comes along and turns your character’s world upside down.
  2. Plot – the consequences of the gimmick, and the journey the character is plunged into because of it. The person who comes out on the other side must have changed significantly.

8. Plot based or Character based? Answer. None but both!

You can’t tell a story that is completely for the sake of the story when writing shorts. People will be all, “Oh, that’s lovely! Look at all the shits I give!”

That said, a recital of the Boring Singular Life of Pip may have worked for Mr. Dickens but not where shorts are concerned. You have the word limit, (shudder) and as such, in order for the story to be plausible quickly, you’re going to have both a story told and have this story belong to someone. Not everything in this story has to relate to your character, but it must help advance the plot.

And that concludes my first post for the year 2013. Here’s hoping there’s lots of writing involved!

Now to the bedroom for comfy pajama shorts and I’ll start working on my own shorts! Get it? Shorts? No? :)

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What I Learnt This NaNoWriMo

So…

You’re probably wondering if I did in fact, complete that daunting target of 50K this November or if I’m huddled up, away from cyber eyes, crying my heart out because I was an also ran this year as well. (I didn’t win last year.)

Well boy have I got news for you!

The short version: I won!

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The long version: I did manage to complete the 50K but that does not mean I finished my book. What 50K accomplished was about two point five thirds of my novel, leaving massive, embarrassing holes in the second spark and ending of it. Simply put, I have a great beginning and middle with notes on a climax and an ending and no idea how the hell I got there!

But fret not beloved blogosphere for I have immerged from this battle a whole lot smarter and yes, my wisdom has grown exponentially this past month.

One of the most important things that I learnt from this experience is that writing, like almost anything, can only be mastered through constant practice. In fact, I doubt there is such a thing as mastering writing. I think you just practice, Mark Twain just practiced, Neil Gaiman just practices and the results that are good enough make history.

And to practice is to write, whenever, however and wherever without saying things like, “Oh, I’m waiting until my muse strikes!” or “I can’t write right now, I’m going through writer’s block!

It is only if you will keep writing that the story will progress from just an idea to a book. It is only if you keep writing that the story, will be written.

Which brings me to the next thing I learnt from NaNoWriMo this year.

This is with regard to writer’s block.

When I first set out writing, I would leave stories undone after a time and blame that on my inability to generate creative content from that point on. Heck, up to today, of the umpteen projects I started I have only completed two short stories and them, because I had to send them to a competition on a deadline!

The internet and the writing world in general, provided me with a great name for this “condition,” – writer’s block. And I happily embraced it as a lazy creature would welcome their excuses.

But what I have learnt now is that there is no such thing as writer’s block. There is just days when you write literary masterpieces and days you write complete drivel. The solution is to turn this drivel that you have written into literary master pieces by revising and editing and revising and editing…

If you wait for the right sentences to magically present themselves to you in graceful prose and don’t write until then, how will you ever write? The best way to overcome the disastrous sickness that is writer’s block is to prescribe, geddit? preSCRIBE? No? Never mind!

That is probably the best counter argument one can present to those that condescend and scoff at events such as NaNoWriMo, pointing out that a good deal of what is written every November in a feverish frenzy is utter poop!

Pundits quoting Ratatouille.

“Just because anyone can cook, it doesn’t mean everyone should!”

tumblr_mc0l15aHvk1rz5ioyo1_400

Yes that is true!

Utter poop does get written as people have hardly any time to properly plan out what they are writing and at times these can be transformed into diamonds with a little, or maybe a lot of polishing.

At time though, no amount of polishing will turn poop into anything other than poop. Then you just flush it down the toilet and wave goodbye!

But hey, it wasn’t a complete waste, because that 50K of human excrement was practice.

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-2FW7IHiC32w/TauWh7h9JZI/AAAAAAAANqU/5f3ip2q2qaY/s1600/%255BIB%255D+Yondemasu+yo%252C+Azazel-san+-+02+%255B720p%255D+%255B18009EFA%255D.mkv+-+00000.bmp

And every sticky-fingered, self-righteous two year old with a superiority complex knows that practice makes perfect!

So thank you, to the folks at NaNoWriMo, especially to the wonderful tomodachi at NaNoWriMo Japan, for forcing me to write, despite the high probability that it was all a load of poop! :)

The Woes of NaNoWriMo

Once again, it’s that time of year.

The time to forget everyone and everything else in your life and just try to get that damned novel cooking your cerebral hemisphere out on paper so you still have some grey matter left.

When I say everyone and everything, there are exceptions. For mums this may be to make sure that their offspring are still alive, every couple of days. For me, it’s a good dose of Korean or Japanese drama or an anime episode. I find that my creativity gets a boost shot every time I watch Asian dramatic goodness.

For me, NaNoWriMo is more about finishing a novel that I planned while still a teenager and never could get to finish. Since it was already arranged in my head and on random scraps of paper, I cheated my way through the first two weeks of NaNo, writing up a storm, updating my word count and then taking a moment to sit back on my butt and gloat!

And then I hit a large, butt-breaking, literary boulder!

I had written down just up to the first spark of the story, and I knew in my head how it’ll progress on from there… But I had no idea how I was going to finish it, and at the moment, I still have no idea how I am going to finish it. I depend on the squiggly, grammatically tumor-inducing language I had known when I was fourteen as guidelines now, and it takes me hours to just get a satisfying sentence down.

Today, I hit 20K and I was so proud of myself I decided to blog about it! But as I type these words into the post, my eyes drifting up to the gif above, I realise I am wasting precious time, time I should be spending scanning the squiggly work of fourteen year old self who clearly read way too much Enid Blyton than was advised.

If you were expecting a post about how to NaNo more effectively or any other form of scholarly advice, I suggest you click on this link that will take you far away from this rant because frankly all I’m talking about is how NaNoWriMo is driving me insan-er than usual and how I have no idea if I will be able to hit that 50K by the end of this month!

Still here?

Awesome. So the link above is to Writer’s Digest who’s giving away a lot of freebies to keep us wannabe novelists entertained. And come on, who doesn’t like free stuff? :) I haven’t read any of them, but I have dutifully gone there every day there’s a new freeb and then downloaded it to my desktop where they sit and wait for me to unglue my fingers from the keyboard and take some time to take some advice. You should do that too, if you’re Nanoing this year.

Read all the advice you can possibly hoard, every last inch of it. Then throw it all in the sewers and do your own thing because no matter whose advice you follow, you as a writer is unique and only you can write your book. (If someone else wrote your book, it would be someone else’s book! Duh!)

In case you didn’t notice, that was my advice for you NaNoWriMo endeavor this year. And that’s all you gonna get from me!

It will be interesting – for you – to see if I am able to complete this story I am writing, with no planning, no idea of how it’s going to end. Will I make the 50K? Or will I end up on the slush pile of wannabe’s who couldn’t cross that distant finish line? Yeah that’s right, laugh at my dilemma, isn’t that what we human beings do best?

If you really want to place bets on my life then allow me to make it easy for you.

Dash Cooray’s NaNoWriMo

Up there is my page. Go visit it on the 30th and see if I have survived or if I have died for the sake of writing a novel.

But whether you for me or you against me, wish me luck! I’m going back to my fantasy world of fighting high school girls and graveyard of old coffee mugs.

What is Dash Cooray’s NaNoWriMo Novel?

Title: The Amazon Academy

Genre: YA, duh! What else!

Synopsis: Ok, short synopsis.

The story of Duniya the delinquent, the mysterious powers that seem to haunt her and her incredible journey from the guttered slums of Colombo to the hill capital of Kandy, Sri Lanka and the beautiful, mountain school for girls who are just like her.
She will finally fit in, right?

She believes she’s left her old life behind, but will this new life prove to be deadlier and more dangerous than the streetfights in Maradana?

Based in Colombo, Sri Lanka and then in the writer’s hometown Kandy. Filled with tropical beauty and magic. What more d’you need?

Excerpt: Fight scene? Oh you bet!

Duniya struggled, frightened of the images that were forming in her mind than Raga and his threats.

Then she felt it.

Sparks of electricity were winding their way around her face, gently caressing her injured cheeks. She tried to open her eyes and see, try to see and understand.

Stop. What’s going on? Stop!

“Then I’m going to find your bastard brother,” Raga was laughing now. “And I’m going to kill him too!”

“NO!”

Duniya’s head ripped from the fuse-box as she roared in unnatural rage.
The current obeyed her, surging out of the broken fuses into her body, rais
ing her hair on end and crackling through her clothes like they were alive. Duniya clawed the air, her mouth open and her eyes flashing out in two, angry, ocean coloured beams.

Raga was thrown off her and pitched into the air. He hit the ceiling and then the floor, lying very still as a blossom of blood pooled underneath him.

His mates watched the spectacle in typical Sri Lankan curiosity until it occurred to them too late that they should run. They got as far as the end of the corridor when the electric surge overtook them, frying them both in an instant.
Duniya woke up among the charred debris of the third floor corridor without a single sign of burns. A ring of firefighters stood around her, fear colouring their accusing eyes.
She wondered what had happened.
… … …

To The Beautiful You – Review

I have an opinion. Kpop is a richer musical experience than Jpop. Jdramas are more realistic than Kdrama which is mostly yummy cheese!

That’s the reason why the Kdrama I have watched and really enjoyed can be counted on my fingers, without having to bother my deformed toes!

Kdramas are visually appetizing and sometimes feature the artistic brilliance of the director involved, but you can never get enveloped in the story, there’s a whole chunk of important character buildup missing, for example.

So when To The Beautiful You was announced, my initial reaction was, “I’ve read/seen plenty of Hana Kimis to last me a lifetime so no thanks!” and found myself subconsciously downloading it anyway, because that’s just how drama addicts are.

First impressions were almost all negative:

“That is a girl! Any fool with partial vision can say, that she’s a girl for crying out loud!”

“Is that Nakatsu? What’s with his hair?”

“I don’t like that Shinee kid, he’s too moody!”

Ok, fine maybe moody but kinda hubba hubba, *stares at his firm jaws*

“Who the heck is he supposed to be?”

But despite all the negativity, I genuinely appreciated the brilliant filming which was consistent throughout the pilot episode. The scene where Jae Hee (the Korean Mizuki for those who haven’t watched it) sits on her luggage and slides down the stairs was funny and fresh when compared to the recent dramas I have seen, which tend to be more on the cheesy joke side, or no jokes at all.

Because the pace was slower and I was having high expectations it took me about seven episodes to really get into To The Beautiful You. I was forever comparing it to the very first Japanese take on the manga starring our beloved Shun Oguri, Toma Ikuta and Maki Horikita and constantly telling myself these kids got nothing on them. I mean, let’s face it, even if the premise was completely obsolete, putting Shun, Toma, Maki, Hiro Mizushima and Yusuke Yamamoto in any drama today will attract viewers by the hoards, they were that good, and as far as I was concerned, they were canon. Period.

 

[WARNING: Beyond this be spoilery]

The first four episodes of TTBY were a drag. There was nothing much happening other than Jae Hee whining around behind Kang Tae Joon (Korean Sano) who didn’t give two hoots about her at one time, and seemed bizarrely protective of her in others. It didn’t help that I knew the storyline by heart and could probably recite it backwards so whenever some action picked the pace up, I’d dismiss it saying, “Oh, here’s that part! I think Shun was better in this!”

Another prejudice I had against TTBY was:

I firmly believe no one can top this epic pinnacle of drama comedy humour, probably for another decade or five.

Tae Joon and Eun Gyeol (Nakatsu) were getting on my nerves, Eun Gyeol less so because I have to admit that his gradual realization of his feelings for Jae Hee was so slow and tender it was cute. It must have helped, as Korean drama have more than fifteen episodes so a story need not be rushed, and character development can be eased in a way it goes unnoticed, but smells exceedingly realistic.

Tae Joon meanwhile, was all “Get out of my room, vermin, here’s your luggage!” at one point and suddenly is cycling, falling and cycling to save the annoying, little dude who shares a room with him from being raped by the quintessential pervert. It would have been fine for me if he’d known Jae Hee was a girl, but Tae Joon didn’t. He grabs her after that and hugs her bones to powder and I’m like, “What’s with that?”

I can’t say where exactly in the drama my feelings towards it began to change. But it was definitely after Jae Hee’s Oppa arrives. Yay for them actually casting a foreigner as a foreigner! It annoyed me that in both Japanese versions, Mizuki’s BFF Julia turned out to be whatever blonde chick AKB48 could spare for a shooting.

And Oppa speaks kickass Korean!

The relationship between Jae Hee and Daniel was much more thoroughly explored than it was in the previous versions where the brother was treated as an element in the plot arrived to a.) Take his sister home or b.) Scream that she’s a girl so the hero must accidently hear it.

Daniel being a doctor is also an important part of the story as Jae Hee’s brother and the other story arc where he interacts with the school Doc. (Who’s not gay?)

Speaking of Julia, the To The Beautiful You’s take gender-benders Mizuki’s foreign friend who comes to visit by making Julia, Johnny. As Johnny turns out to be a photographer who looks the model himself that helped Jae Hee forge all her school documents, his arrival at the school creates quite a rift in the Tae Joon/Jae Hee affair. A brilliant and strong love triangle issue. Applauding the authors of that!

This prominence given to the rest of the characters allows the story an organic field and makes it appear real. Although Sekime, Noe and Kayashima are not there, and you genuinely wish they were, the story has been wonderfully divided among Seung Ri sunbae, Hyeon Jae and Jong Min – who is incidentally Nakao the beauty queen! In my defense, I didn’t recognize him because he’s way too macho to be playing a girly guy.

The Korean version must be applauded. They have taken a wonderful premise and done wonderful things with it, that even if you were born and raised in the Hana Kimi universe, you can’t help but become captivated. Like the realism behind the reason why Jae Hee decides to pull a Shojo Manga move and come to an all boys school across the ocean. Why Tae Joon really is her miracle, because he gives her a reason to believe in herself and come to accept herself for who she is. That truly was beautiful.

First, there is a girl’s school obsessed with our heroes’ school, but there is no Hibari Fooouuuurrr!!! Instead, there is the whiny, yet solidly built female lead (minus Jae Hee of course) the national gymnastics fairy, Seol Ha Na, who does a great job providing the feminism required, though who’s a fangirl to complain of too many boys on screen?

As she is Tae Joon’s childhood friend and signed with the same manager, you can understand the connection between them. Ha Na genuinely adores him and looks up to him and has this childish vision of her being his destined one. It gives her more motive to appear as a strong, love rival to Jae Hee.

Seung Ri sunbae is fantastic. Here I think Hiro Mizushima is everyone’s Nanba-senpai, as he is mine, but I found myself wishing Seung Ri sunbae was my sunbae. He’s a rock, a great leader and I love the way he’s so childishly competitive and at the same time, Dorm #2’s beloved big brother. He also has a serious side that is very cool, like when he captains the athletic team, or sticks his neck out for Jae Hee. Both scenes are smack out of the very first Japanese Hana Kimi where Hiro Mizushima’s Nanba senpai dazzles us all, but I’d say Seung Ri sunbae, is my second favorite.

I love what they did with the character of Min Hyeon Jae. To be honest, Yu Shirota as Kagurazaka – I’m not sure how I felt about that. There was no real chemistry between him and Sano as it should be between bitter rivals, and he just walks on and off screen and is probably my least favorite character in Hana Kimi, so much so, I can’t even remember what the 2011 character looked like.

Making Tae Joon’s rival someone from the same school, who has a genuine reason to despise Tae Joon other than professional envy, who is the roommate of Eun Gyeol, really impressed me. It was a brilliant bit of characterization. Hyeon Jae starts out obnoxious, attention-seeking and jealous and blossoms out into a human being in the final episodes with such beauty it makes you wanna cry. His rivalry with Tae Joon seems genuine and both boys have great chemistry.

I started out planning to write a small blog entry and it looks like I’m in short story lengths now, so even though there is more to talk about I’ll wrap it up.

Finally, what else is there to praise?

Oh yeah, Genie High School (I keep imagining dancing Girl’s Generation here) is actually an athletics school and not an ikemen school. Well done directors and writers! That was a great decision. Incorporating a soccer-playing Eun Gyeol who dreams of playing national and Kang Tae Joon, Mr. Miracle Man high-jumper for whose sake a girl ran across the Pacific Ocean into a school for good-looking guys was a bit much. It’s easier to believe when it’s a prestigious athletics school whose canteen haunts my hunger-infused nightmares!

Jong Min, the Nakao character, liking Eun Gyeol in a kind of man-crush was a fresh take on the overdone Nanba-Nakao storyline. The original Japanese one was great but the 2011 version made me sick of it.

Sulli from f(x) who plays Jae Hee may look like a total girl, but she’s bizarrely tall and fits in pretty well with the guys. Then again, Maki’s Mizuki and Atsuko Maeda’s Mizuki were great with the guys as well. The real boyish Mizuki was of course the Taiwanese Rui Xi! Girl living unnoticed by boys, yep, I’d believe that!

See what I mean?

Ah, I’m rambling I need to stop!

I said I had an opinion, well that has changed. TTBY is possibly the best drama I’ve watched this season, yes, even better than Rich Man, Poor Woman! (Sorry Shun!) I’m not very fond of Shinee, but Minho really grew on me. He has such a cute smile and I love his flustered expressions when he has ‘encounters’ with Jae Hee.

Eun Gyeol is no Toma Ikuta.

But his take on Nakatsu was great and refreshing. I despise that they had Shohei Miura also do the ‘Nakatsu’s Monologue.’ It was an Emmy winning performance when Toma did it, but it does get stale a second time. Eun Gyeol is an even more heart-breaking character because he doesn’t have the humour to make us feel better. But his actor’s performance was shining in both his confusion at his feelings, him overcoming them and the hurt he feels when he realizes he has been betrayed. It angered me why Nakatsu was so loyal, even when Mizuki lied to him. But Eun Gyeol reacts as a boy should, asking Jae Hee why she played with him. It was such a sad scene.

I’m pretty much fraternized with the entire clan now and can’t help missing them now it’s over. Even Sangchu-yah the world’s awesomest dog!

The ending was epic. Watch it, I don’t have words to describe, it just felt much better than the other versions and I would swear Tae Joon and Jae Hee would now live happily ever after. It’s the first time I felt like crying at the ending of a drama.

I will now listen sorrowfully to the soundtrack and swig a beer, if I can smuggle one upstairs without my parents’ knowledge.

All gifs borrowed from the dear angels over at Tumblr. I’m sorry, I can’t thank each one, but thank you for a brilliant creation.

Rich Man, Poor Woman – Review

Japanese doramas are just not of the fantastic caliber of the yesterdays.

Which is why I picked up the currently ongoing series starring Shun Oguri and Arata. It’s got Shun in it. My mum adores Shun Oguri. It’s got to be good!

So far, it is.

 

The plotline is pretty simple and I’m up to episode 3 as of today, episode 4 is downloading as we type! J

I could probably just say Shun Oguri plays Japanese Mark Zuckerberg and be done with it. But heaven forbid: I must write review! SPOILERS AHEAD, TURN LEFT AT THE NEAREST EXIT!

“29-year-old Toru Hyuga (Shun Oguri) is a wealthy man. He first started to run an internet website from his small room and his hobby began to make Toru Hyuga a lot of money. He dropped out of high school and formed software company Next Innovation with his friend Kosuke Asahina (Arata). The company became very successful. Today, Next Innovation is the top tech company where young people want to work the most.” – asianmediawiki.com

Add to this a typical, by the book, university student on her final year (Satomi Ishihara). She sucks at the art of job hunting but has a formidable memory capable of filing away enough unnecessary information to flood the sewers. Toru Hyuga, searching for his long lost mother, Chihiro Sawaki, asks this girl, who stands against his every principle, her name.

The girl answers, “Chihiro Sawaki!”

And the drama begins!

What I loved the moment I started watching this drama is the presence of technology. The opening sequence shows Toru sprawled on the floor searching for his mother on a search engine and in the first few minutes, he conferences with his partner and CEO and then ends up buying shares, all on his smartphone. I don’t know about you, but I just squee at handsome guys paired with tech gadgets! (>-<)

The characters in the story, especially the questionable relationship between Kousuke Asahina and Toru are played out beautifully. There is a tendency in Japanese dramas of today to have the actors or actresses, most of them fresh out of Johnny’s or STFU48, to overact! Their emotions are overemotional, their anger will burn your retinas and their lovey-dovey faces will have you running for the hills. (Shiritsu Bakaleya Koukou!) But I guess for the masters like Arata and Oguri, overacting was never the problem. I didn’t like Saki Aibu in any of the two dramas I watched with her and although I have the feeling she’s gonna take rivalry to the tooth and nail arena battle these girl-fights in dramas usually are, I can’t help but like her more here. I’m sure I’m going to hate her once she gets in the way of the romance, but her playing Arata’s kid sister Yoko is just so cute! And she’s a chef so there’s bound to be lots more food scenes!!

Another reason why this might turn out to be an epic Jdrama? Shun and Satomi’s chemistry. All they have to do is look at each other and suddenly the whole room lights up and I start getting hot under the collar. I haven’t watched another drama with Satomi in it but I adore her! Maybe it’s something to do with how much I have in common with her?

Her vast memory contrasting with Toru Hyuga’s medical condition which makes him completely forget people and faces makes for an interesting premise. For a good character to evolve, the supporting characters must fill an aspect that the character lacks. Make a character whole. What better way for them to depend on each other? Satomi’s character doesn’t have a job and he can give her one. He needs someone to help him remember all the people he usually cannot.

It’s fantastic how Shun brings this weird, reclusive millionaire into the light. As Jesse Eisenberg’s portrayal of Zuckerberg made him out to be someone rather bizarre, Shun Oguri gives Toru Hyuga many dimensions. There is the little boy craving to find the mother that he lost, there is the brilliant programmer who wallows in code and creation. There is the disturbed young man, out of touch with his humanity, unable to relate to the people around him and there is the million dollar playboy who doesn’t give a damn what you think!

The drama has really twisted around in three episodes and each is better than the rest, starting from the end of the first episode when Asahina says, “Omae Sawaki Chihiro ja nai!”

I can’t wait for episode four! Hopefully they’ll give it more than 10 episodes because it’s so good and surely even the producers can see that?

EDIT: – So I watched episode four! The reestablishing of the relationship between the two protagonists was faster than I expected the advantage of having one who can’t recognize names and faces! Also, Toru has started to remember people around him. It takes him some effort. Meanwhile, Yoko Asahina is taking the full advantage of Toru’s condition and her brother is going through a weird phrase considering betrayal.

Now I wish Japanese drama’s would go on for seasons like Smallville. I suffered through that and I don’t mind watching Shun and Satomi as the unlikely couple for the next decade! J

Here is a link to the teaser for Episode Five!!! I CAN’T WAIT TO WATCH IT!!!!!!!!!

An Interview with Jay Kristoff – Stormdancer

Jay Kristoff is the author of Stormdancer, a Japanese steampunk adventure which is the first in his The Lotus Wars trilogy. Stormdancer will come out in September 2012 from St. Martin’s Press and Tor UK. You can read more about him and STORMDANCER over at his blog, Literary Giant.

Coming September 2012

‘Jay lives in Melbourne with his secret agent kung-fu assassin wife, and the world’s laziest Jack Russell!’

Q1.      Why did you locate your novel and upcoming series in Japan?

I wish I had a good answer for that. I could make up one about being the scion of a line of gaijin who travelled to japan in the 19th century and learned the Ancient Art of Awesome… but that’d be pure lies.

I guess I wanted to write a steampunk book because I loved the aesthetic, but European-based steampunk seemed like it had already been done a lot, and done very well. The world had some incredible cultures in the 19th century, and I think fantasy is already shamefully guilty of a European focus.

Plus, you know, chainsaw katanas…

Q2.      How much research did you have to do with regards to authenticity? 

Less than people seem to think. It’s kinda odd – I’ve had people ask if I did a degree in Japanese studies, but the closest I’ve come is reading all six volumes of AKIRA in a week. Maybe I’d picked up a lot of detail through film and manga that I’ve consumed down through the years, but Wikipedia was really my go-to-guy. I have a friend who lives in Japan who I bounce ideas off too. I pay him with the promise of booze.

Q3.      Yukiko is an unforgiving and hardened protagonist. I bet she doesn’t believe in happy endings either?

Hah, she’s had a hard life, to be sure. I’m quite mean to her. I do something to her in book 2 that had my wife yelling at me – literally yelling about what a bastard I am.

The great thing about Yukiko is that she just refuses to break, no matter how dark it gets.

She’s stubborn as a mule – one of the things I really love about her.

Q4.      You said the idea to writing Stormdancer came to you in a dream. Do you think you can remember how long after the dream you actually started writing it? How did the idea grow into a story?

Not very long at all – I was querying my first novel at the time and looking for an idea for my next book, so jumped into it almost right away. Funny thing is, I almost STOPPED writing it. My first book was a very angsty vampire book (no-one sparkled, everyone died) and I felt a little silly going from that to a story about a girl who could speak telepathically to animals. So I dropped it and wrote something else, but the characters pulled me back.

I’m not sure how it developed into a story – the same way most do, I suppose. Lots of hours spent in front of the computer. Lots of finding yourself in a dark room at 1am, realising you’ve been writing for four hours straight. I had a solid idea how I wanted it to end, which really helps – knowing your destination is a good idea before you set out. It’s ok if you don’t quite know how you’ll get there, though. That’s where the fun is.

Q5.      Share with us your wisdom on the following phrase. Writer’s Block.

I’m not 100% sure it exists. I know there are folks who will disagree violently with that. But unless your brain has literally packed its bags and run off with the cat, you can always write. Even if what you’re writing is complete and utter dross.

I think you have to accept some days the words just aren’t going to flow, that everything you write will come out reading like it was scrawled in crayon on a toilet door by a pantsless hobo. I think you just need to give yourself permission to suck sometimes. Don’t get down on yourself. It’s ok to suck. It’s also ok to get up and walk away for a while. Getting bent out of shape about it is only going to make things worse.

…Jesus, I sound like an ad for erectile dysfunction…

Q6.      What books did you enjoy as a kid growing up? Have they helped you established your writing style?

I was actually a big sci-fi fan when I was a kid. Asimov, Herbert, Clarke, Heinlein, Bradbury, Dick, Anthony. I read fantasy of course, but I just wasn’t as into it as much as SF. Which is odd, considering I write fantasy now :P

I think the single biggest influence on my writing, stylistically, has been William Gibson. I re-read Neuromancer every couple of years.  The dude can just straight up write, and he’s excellent at breaking rules, which I really appreciate (I hate rules – hate hate hate rules. Tell me I can’t use a semi colon because the preceding phrase is a fragment, frack youuuuuuuu). I was also a big Stephen King fan – his simplicity of language can be amazing.

Q7.      Did you pitch The Lotus Wars as a whole or just Stormdancer? What advise can you give writers about seducing an agent?

STORMDANCER started as a single book – Yukiko actually died at the end of it. I figured it would be arrogant of a person who’d never even had a short story published to plan a trilogy, but my agent convinced me it had the legs to be a series, so I altered the ending (and it actually works far better now)

Agent seduction – hooking them comes down to your concept – that one sentence hook. There are loads of great resources online about how to write a query (Miss Snark, Author!Author!, Query Shark), how to track an agent (Query Tracker, Agent Query). I put my query up here. But honestly, if your query has a premise that sounds marketable or agents have never seen before (ie, Japanese steampunk) and you can convey that succinctly, you’ll have the agent wanting to read pages.

The hard bit is making those pages not suck.

And seriously, read the submission guidelines!

Q8.      You are not based in the US or the UK. How should writers in a similar situation go about pitching their book? US or UK or both? And what about SASE?

I aimed for the US. It’s the biggest market with the largest reach. If you crack it in the States, everything else will fall into place. SASE’s aren’t feasible, so I queried electronically wherever possible. For those agents who only accept snail mail, I included the following lines in my queries.

My first XX pages are enclosed. Unfortunately I was unable to include a SASE – I live in Australia and our postal system is run by muppets. I apologize for the inconvenience this will surely cause. Hopefully one day my great sun burnt country will enjoy a postal system not reliant on horse and carriage or koala bears. I hear rumor that we’re getting running water installed next year, which I’m quite looking forward to.”

The thinking here was twofold: I was breaking submission requirements, which is normally the kiss of death, so I had to do something to soften the blow (ie, try to be funny). Second, most query letters are dry as dust in tone, so injecting a bit of character into it might make it more memorable.

As an aside, I still joke about muppets in the postal service with my agent’s assistant to this day.

Q9.      Did you watch The Dark Knight Rises?

Not yet. I’ve heard it’s amazing. I luurrrve Chris Nolan. But I’m going to see Spider man first. I’m a Marvel boy at heart.

Q10.  Finally, the recent trends in Fantasy; Young Adult Fantasy more so, have been written aimed exclusively at teenage girls, filled with more romance than action. As a result, it has become very difficult to find good fantasy for boys. (and the random, odd girl like me who gets turned off by romance-heavy prose)Care to weigh in your opinions and suggestions for levelling the playing field?

I’m… not a fan of the huge influx of romance-focused work in YA. These books sell – publishers wouldn’t print them if they didn’t. However, in most of these books I’ve read, plot, world-building, characterisation, allll of it takes a second seat to the romance. Who will she choose? Will they get together in the end? EXCUSE ME PEOPLE, BUT AREN’T WE IN THE MIDDLE OF ARMAGEDDON?

I can’t help feeling this mentality is selling readers short. I like to think readers want more out of a story than a cute boy. I could be horribly wrong here – like I say, these books MUST sell, or publishers wouldn’t keep printing them.

But, there’s a basic rule I learned while working in advertising – they teach it to you on the first day. “Zig when everyone else zags”. In other words, it’s really easy to stand out in a crowd by doing something different. And since soooooo verrrrry maaannnnyyy of these books are essentially romances with fantasy/dystopian/sci-fi window dressing, it’s easy for an unpublished writer to do something different, and therefore get noticed.

I mean, romance is fine. Romance is all good. There’s romance in STORMDANCER. It’s just not the focus of the entire frackin’ book. I wanted to write a heroine who defined by her actions and her choices, not by which boy she picked (or whether she picked one at all). Hopefully there ARE readers out there who appreciate that.

And that wraps up our interview. Is there anything you’d like to say to writers and readers alike out there?

To anyone who’s planning on checking out STORMDANCER, thank you. Sincerely. Love it. Hate it. For agreeing to spend some of your time in this tiny world I’ve made, thank you.

And thank you Jay! Don’t forget to follow us both on Twitter. Jay – @misterkristoff and Dash – @dashdidntdoit.