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anonymous asked:

Hello! So I was scouring the Internet for advice today but I couldn't find any on this topic. My problem isn't that I don't have any ideas (I probably have too many) but the problem is that I don't LOVE any of my ideas. I like them. I think they're all fine ideas. But liking them isn't going to motivate me long enough to finish a novel. How can I give my ideas that extra uumph to make me love them? How can I figure out what's missing or why I don't feel this way about any of my ideas?

Hello, nonny!  What a challenging question…  This one’s been in my inbox a couple days, just because it’s such a big question.  But I’ve thought it over and I think I have some ideas for you :)


The Thrill Is Gone – How to Find It Again

So generally, there’s no one answer or cure-all to this problem.  I’ve had this issue multiple times, with different causes.  My first novel didn’t have enough meat to the plot; my second novel had been over-planned in my head to the point that it no longer excited me.  My third novel had way too much plot, so that by the time I got ¾ the way through, I’d written over 200K words and felt sick of the idea.  I started my fourth novel way too soon, and am now going back and planning it more!  So there are obviously many different reasons that a story doesn’t take off (or dries up eventually).

The first step is to figure out what’s missing, like you said.  There are a few aspects of your story to assess…


1. Plot

I’m discussing plot first because, to me, it’s the most important part of fiction.  Plot, conflict, and stakes are foremost to my stories.  You could have the most complex and sympathetic characters, but without plot, they’re static and become boring.  But for some reason, this is the part of story ideas that new authors neglect most!

So if your story has great characters and an immersive setting, but you can’t get into it, try asking a few questions about your plot:

  • What is the point of the plot?  What’s the message you’re conveying in the story?  Even if your story isn’t an allegory or a metaphor or the next Chronicles of Narnia, there should always be a conclusion to which all plots arrive – otherwise, the story can feel aimless.  The best way to find your message is to look at the conflicts involved (e.g. Man vs. Man, Man vs. Nature, etc.) and find the “winner”.  What worldview, belief, or concept “defeats” the other concepts?  It can be as simple as Good vs. Evil, or more complex, like Loving the Sincere Drug Addict vs. Settling for the Selfish Dentist (provokes the question “Is love worth danger in relationships?”).
  • Does the plot have ups and downs?  And really consider both ends of the spectrum here.  Stories become dull if they are made up of victory after victory – or if they’re made up of nothing but loss and tragedy.  No matter the genre, you have to strike some sort of balance, lest the story become predictable and emotionally non-engaging.  Find victories and failures, even in unassuming places, to keep readers invested and hopeful.
  • Do you have a satisfactory ending?  Or do you have the ending     planned yet?  I’ve found that I can’t really commit to an idea unless I see a resolution – otherwise I feel too nervous to start.  If you do have an ending planned, make sure it’s the right ending.  It can feel like there’s one possible conclusion, and once you’ve found it, you stick to it – but question it, brainstorm it.  It may not be a happy ending every time, but when you find the right one, you’ll know it.
  • Do you have the right plot at all?  Look at your story as a whole.  Does it start too early or too late, relative to the real meat,     the real action?  Is it told from the most impactful POV?  Does the plot cover too much ground for one book, or is it not enough to fill the pages?  Consider all the characters, backstories, and subplots you have, and ask yourself if any of them are more interesting than the main plot.  If so, shift your focus.  Use them instead.

2. Characters

Maybe it’s not your plot that’s going sideways.  Maybe you have it all worked out – the head, the tail, the whole damn thing – but it still doesn’t feel right.  It doesn’t feel like it’s coming to life, somehow.  It feels flat.

That can be a character problem.  It would be like sitting by the campfire and hearing the most fascinating, horrifying story, except it’s told by a man with The Most Boring Voice Who Talks So Incredibly Slowly and Takes All the Fun Out of Everything.  An example: The Hunger Games.  Those books bored the crap out of me.  Unless someone was being killed or Haymitch and Effie were interacting, I just didn’t care.  And those books had a great plot behind them!

So here’s what you need for a good cast of characters:

  • A solid protagonist.  Solid = three-dimensional, empathetic, and relatable; having a goal, an internal conflict, a self-image, and fears or shame.  They should have different facets of themselves – their head and their heart, their desires and doubts, and that little voice in their head that says, “Give up on that.  Be realistic.”  Give them strengths, weaknesses, and a couple of bad habits, for kicks.
  • A variety of supporting characters.  You don’t have to have thirty characters + six secret characters stuffed under your trench coat; but with however many characters you have, make them as different from each other as possible.  Give them some similarities, of course, so that they can relate to each other – but never make them so close together that you have to decide, “Who should say this line?  Character A or Character B?”  Make them unique enough that the words come out of their mouths, instead of you having to decide where to put the words, yourself.
  • Relationships, relationships, relationships.  And I’m not talking about romantic relationships.  I mean, sure, those too – but there are many different kinds of relationships to explore.  Friendships, enemy-ships (?), parent relationships, sibling-ships, silent alliances, “annoying friend-of-a-friend”-ships, “my-ex’s-little-sister”-ships, “you’re-the-ruler-of-the-galaxy-and-a-Sith-lord-but-also-my-dad-please-stop-being-evil”-ships…  You get the idea.  Make them unique, make them strong, and allow them to evolve over the course of the story.
  • Diverse morals, interests, and personalities.  My first short stories focused on white middle-class people who were culturally and politically identical.  They lived in one house, usually, and watched the same TV shows and made the same references.  They had the same sense of humor.  They rarely disagreed on anything that wasn’t clear-cut (e.g. “You drank the last Pepsi!”  “I was thirsty!”).  So do yourself a favor and don’t make my mistakes.  Give your characters unique ethics, cultures, backgrounds, personalities, goals, appearances, and conflicts.  You’ll be more invested by then, I’m sure.

3. Setting

Lastly, I’d like to add that while your characters and plot could be well-developed, there’s always a chance that they’re placed in the wrong setting.  This is why many story ideas can seem great, but won’t get off the ground – maybe they’re set in a pre-made universe like Middle Earth or Panem when they could be their own story.  Maybe your tragic romance is set in the middle of apocalyptic war, when instead, it should be drained down to a period piece.  Maybe your story is perfect, except you’re writing it too close to home – in the real world, in the present year.  There are a million factors to picking the right setting, including:

  • Applicable history and culture.  If you’re writing a story about someone who’s oppressed, or someone who’s a politician, or someone who’s a witch, you’re going to need to back that up with history.  Develop a history for the oppression or politics or witchcraft – where these things began, how they developed over time – and a culture for them now – how oppressed people survive and how witches in your world interact, etc.
  • Imaginative scenery, influenced by the characters.  Even if your story takes place in New York City in 2017, allow your characters’ living spaces and workplaces to have a unique touch – colors and quirks that your readers can see in their mind.  If even you can’t see what you’re writing, inspiration is going to be difficult to find.
  • A lifelike background.  Just because the plot focuses on your characters does not mean everything going on behind it should be quiet and dead.  Anyone who looks out a window in a city building can see other people living – people on the highway will see other cars taking other people other places.  Everyone who has a friend will hear a little something about their friend’s siblings, their friend’s friends, their friend’s neighbors.  Life and stories exist outside of your plot; make sure you’re not writing about a ship in a bottle.
  • An aesthetic.  That sounds gross and teen-tumblr-y, but let me tell you personally: I don’t feel truly ready to write (and love) my story until I can hear the music for the future movie adaptation – until I can see the kind of clothes the people wear, the games they play, the places they eat and shop.  I think of the colors and themes in my scenes (e.g. my first novel was set primarily at night in a grunge/city setting; my current novel is very green and outdoorsy and gives me that feeling of bonfires just after sunset).  Once you get that “feeling” from your story, you’ll know it.

Anyway, this reply took me like three days to write because I really wanted to get into it.  I hope some of this helps you to fall in love with one of your ideas, so you can get started :)  If you have any more questions, be sure to send them in!

(I have 26 questions in the inbox, though, so be patient with me…)


If you need advice on writing, fanfiction, or NaNoWriMo, you should maybe ask me!

do you ever get that book nostalgia feeling?? when you begin to remember how much you loved a certain book that you might have read when you were still in middle school and now that you’re older, you read a quote coming from it again and suddenly all you want to do is cry because wow that book was life-changing. even until now, it gives you goosebumps just thinking how wonderfully crafted the world and its characters were, how its lines can still tug at your heartstrings like you’re reading it for the very first time. and you have so much wonderful memories that came from reading that book you never even knew would touch your heart in that way

One last thank you to those who’ve made this amazing.

Thank you so much!

Boueibu Hunger Games 2 - The Bloodbath

Good choice, Zundar. (Ibushi is about to either dig a hiding spot or bash someone’s head in)

Takamatsu is on a hunt for blood, Ryuu and Rock prepare for what’s to come

Why am I not surprised that the twins are being resourceful…

The moms keep calm… And Yumoto, once again, thinks differently from the rest, hopefully to his benefit

The most popular strategy: run for your lives.

Nobody died yet hmmm interesting. Off to the start of Day 1!

Today someone came into the cafeteria and yelled “there are free bagels in the student center but they’re running out!” I stood up immediately and just ran. Apparently half the cafeteria had the same idea because soon I was sprinting alongside 100 college students desperately making their way across campus in the name of free bagels. God bless

Today I went to see Mockingjay Pt2 for the second time, and I could really focus on the details this time around. The main thing I really paid close attention to was Finnick’s treatment of Peeta throughout the movie. 

Finnick stays close to Peeta, always speaking softly, incouragingly “yeah you got it!”, almost always walking along beside him with a hand going to his shoulder or bag. During the scene where they’re running up the stairs to get away from the hot oil(?), Finnick doesn’t really let any of the other Unit members touch Peeta, restraining him and tranquilizing Peeta himself, locking his arms around Peeta and lowering him to the ground.

Earlier in the movie, when Peeta and Katniss are talking and the Unit is trying to sleep, Peeta gets a little upset, his voice rising, and Finnick immediately wakes up, like he’s done this a hundred times before. “Just ask, that’s what Annie does.”

I came to the realization that Finnick acts this way with Peeta because he’s had to deal with something like this before, with Annie.

This is the Finnick that Annie fell in love with, the Finnick that was soft spoken and encouraging of even the littlest of victories. The Finnick that would have gently touched her hand when he saw her losing focus or wrap his arms around her and not dare let go when she would thrash and scream and cry. The Finnick that might have slept beside her bed because he knew she had nightmares, he’d wake up as soon as he heard her crying, and he’d tell her to ask him whatever she needed to know, he’d tell her everything.

Everyone else in their group, even Katniss for a while, treated Peeta like a bomb, a weapon, and Finnick must have taken one look at Peeta and remembered what Annie was like after she came back from her games, and knew exactly how to take care of Peeta.

IMAGINE HOW HORRIFYING FANDOMS IRL WOULD BE

Like you join a group of people all about the same thing as you. Right off the bat you notice something is weird… off. Everything looks normal but as you walk in everyone looks at you their smiles wide but you can see in their eyes something else. You shrug it off and socialize. You make friends create, share, and see fanart heck you even get in a few fights but mostly you enjoy it and have fun.

Eventually you grow tired and walk up to who seems to be the leader. You say your ready to go but they stare at you and the world around you fades to darkness and you look in their eyes. “Their is no escape” they whisper and you feel yourself change and you understand. You realize why everyone looked at you that way why everything seemed so weird. But now your one of them. A fangirl chained to the fandom until it dies.