FANGIRL FRIDAY: WYSIWYG?

a.k.a. Reading and Watching as a Writer

Do you try to lose yourself in a story only to find yourself noticing things like plot holes, inconsistencies, or inspiration for a story idea? Is it really what you see is what you get (WYSIWYG)? Once I’m in writer mode, I find it challenging to detach and just enjoy a story for what it is. The complete opposite was true when I had stopped writing for a while. I didn’t have the drive to write so my consumption of stories were more to pass the time than to actually study them. Is there a middle ground?

As a visual learner, when I read a book, I’m also catching myself observing everything from word choice to syntax. I even look at the formatting and layout. The placement of words on a page, the punctuation, the font choices, they each have a specific intention and impact. So do typos or misprints. In movies, we have artistic choices of camera angles, lighting, marrying words and action together for the most impactful or meaningful scene. Each book, show, and movie you dive into is a masterclass in storytelling, the dos and the don’ts, or even the whys and the why the heck nots.

Are there really any rules in story creation? Sure, there are tried and true formulas that people swear by while others opt to break from convention. Just this week, the topic for specific story templates (rom-com, hero’s journey, etc.) were up for debate in one of my writing groups. I’m going to delve further into these and my WIPs on an upcoming Writerly Wednesday post.

While I don’t make definitive reading/viewing decisions based on ratings, it’s interesting to see what other people think prior to and after I experience the medium. I look at descriptions and (hopefully) spoiler-free reviews on sites such as Goodreads, IMDB, and Rotten Tomatoes. Since we’re not currently interfacing with friends and family like we used to, social media is where I go for in-depth discussion–or all-out word wars–on opinions and observations of the piece. I like watching YouTube videos that break down plot points or explore hidden meanings behind the various Easter eggs that are sprinkled throughout a movie or episode. When I’m left with more questions than answers, I like to find out what other people are thinking, too.

Much like previously mentioned in regards to music, each of us also see and appreciate books, tv, and film differently. So whether I’m seeing things as a writer or consumer, it makes for interesting discussions when I bring up something that intrigued me that someone else missed or vice versa. It’s also worthwhile to have those discussions how it might appear that we’re looking at the same thing and come away with very different interpretations.

Whether it’s on paper, device, or screen, it’s not necessarily a bad thing if your writer brain is permanently switched on. We should soak in every learning opportunity where we can. It makes us better writers. You can discover in real time what other people think of the book, show, or film. From that you can determine what not to do or how you’d tackle the same challenge differently. One thing is for certain, when I finish reading or seeing a great story unfold, I’m excited and inspired to make sure my stories are the best they can be so I can share them with the world, too.

Stay creative, stay weird, be kind to yourself and others.

Until next time,

T out.

WRITERLY WEDNESDAY: The Music in Me Vol. 1

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Hello and a Happy Hump Day to you!

This month, I decided to bring back Writerly Wednesday, the series where I share things I’m up to regarding my WIPs and any new projects on the horizon. Fan fiction I’ll still keep for Fangirl Fridays. Haven’t decided yet if I’ll do these along with or alternate them with my Friday posts. Ideally, I’d like to get more words out to help me stay on course in my writing journey. Thank you, as always, for joining me here.

Do you listen to music as you write? What type of music interests you? I’d love to hear what other writers enjoy and utilize in their creative process. Some people have said that music inspires a productive writing session. I’ve tried that in the past. My tastes are eclectic. I enjoy the classics, be it from 30 to 300 years ago. I have more movie and television scores and soundtracks in my collection than I have or heard of the current Top 40. Regardless of the genre, while I do love music that has lyrics, I often get distracted by the words while I write because I start singing along and losing focus on the task at hand.

[Image Credits: Woman listening to music while writing, Woman singing. I provide clickable links on the images I use, These are listed because I haven’t been able to figure out how to link individual images in gallery displays yet. 😊]

Because of this, I’ve taken it a step further and have created soundtracks specific to my projects. I’ve actually mapped out scenes where I can imagine the score or song playing in the background in time to the intensity or emotional flow of the moment. In these cases, if the song has lyrics, they do matter in how the scene unfolds. Other times, I’d find a piece of music that speaks to me, relate it to the WIP I have before me and create a scene from there.

Does it always work? No. But it makes for an interesting writing exercise where I discover a perspective I hadn’t noticed before, nuances in character dynamics that had not yet been explored if not for letting the music move me through the plot. It can take me out of my comfort zone, at times, but it’s intriguing, as well. I’ve often kept the newer take on the same scene as I’ve found it works better in the story.

It’s important to keep in mind that as with anything, perception and interpretation can differ with each person. I can interpret the words to a song and find a sad connection to a memory that resonates each time I hear it. Another person might hear those same words and music and feel nostalgia. As readers and writers, we each bring something different to the table. Therefore, music is a transformative experience tailored to the individual listening to it. Same goes for the reader’s experience. Harnessing those emotions in each scene we write can have greater impact on the reader as they immerse themselves in our stories.

Stay creative, stay weird, be kind to yourself and others.

Until next time,

T out.

FANGIRL FRIDAY: A Picture’s Worth

Hello, fam!

It’s been a few days into the Get Your Words Out 2021 Challenge and things are going well. I don’t feel the intense pressure of word counts, so I’m glad I chose the Habit Pledge instead. Though sign ups are done for this year, It’s worth a look to see what’s entailed in such a challenge. You can then decide if you want to partake next year. Meanwhile, feel free to do a variation of the challenge right along with us!

I’ve been continuing my dabblydoo with the planning software called Plottr, the software created by writers for writers. I think I need to do more than take it for a test drive before I can do an in-depth review, so stay turned for that in a later post. So far, I’ve found that it’s a robust program that can help you visually plan your stories more efficiently. Now, of course, most of it is visual in the strictest sense, but with the use of timelines and the ability to track subplots and every character’s journey throughout the story, you literally cannot miss a beat, because you’ll see everything laid out in front of you. More on that later.

What I did want to talk about today was the use of photos in story creation. As a visual learner and writer, I find that the ideas flow more readily when I have a face to go with a name or a visual representation of a place in which my characters live and explore.

I’ve gone through my WIPs and have created character sheets with corresponding pictures to help bring the characters to life. To do this, I’ve done a deep dive into the the interwebs to look up actor photoshoots, magazine spreads, or even more helpful, actual stills from television and film that show them in similar attire to what inspired the character I’ve created. In addition to the people in my “neighborhood,” there are a plethora of photographs, artistic renderings, and stills that capture the places I’ve visualized for my stories.

I’ve created folders on my desktop to organize these visuals. I have a folder called Story Settings that contain anything from landscapes, cityscapes, post-apocalyptic suburbia, ethereal forest dwellings, to mysterious and ominous castles. My Character folder has a slew of subfolders with some of my favorite faces from the big and small screen already attributed to characters for the different books and genres I’ve got brewing. Included therein are unique animal pics that go well with the Middle Grade Adventure that involves talking animals, because why not?

In recent years, I have made a conscious effort to do some recasting. I’ve mentioned in previous posts the lack of diversity in books, TV, and film I had growing up, so it’s my chance to be proactive in my writing. I do believe that a character’s ethnicity is secondary to the story. If cultural references are necessary to the plot, then I want to make sure those are woven in organically so that nothing seems forced upon the reader. And if such references are merely part of their routine, I have that earmarked as well to smoothly incorporate details where needed. To that end, having a visual of what these characters look like somehow switches on something as I write and things they would do in their daily life seem to reveal themselves more naturally.

Another way pictures have proved useful are as writing prompts. Whether it was an actor in a known moment from their show or film, to a visual that might set the scene in a chapter, these pictures are the spark that can ignite a very fruitful writing session.

How are things going on your side of the screen? Do you use actor photos as character inspiration? Do you have favorite websites where you curate the most beautiful landscapes to represent the world where your characters live and breathe? We’re lucky to be in such an evolving technological era that allows us to be everywhere and with everyone in an instant. That fact alone is truly inspiring.

Stay creative, stay weird, be kind to yourself and others.

Until next time,

T out.

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things


In search of a shiny new year filled with creativity and awesomeness? I know just the year for you. Look no further. The hottest and most current year is 2021. This year has everything!

Oh, hello!

Welcome to the first in a series I’m calling Fangirl Friday. Posts on these days will cover anything from sharing things I love, discovering and learning about new things, and overall fandom of any topic. This may include upcoming offerings of some fanfic I’ve been working on.

After the ‘kiss off’ to 2020 in my previous post, I’d like to ring in 2021 with some of my favorite things that have helped me keep on keepin’ on during life’s ups, downs, and sideways moments.

Reading Apps

I love a good book. I miss the tactile sensation of turning pages. Last year, reading got kicked to the curb next to my writing slump for the better part of the year. But I know that to be a writer, it helps to read a lot on various topics, both fiction and non-fiction. As much as I’ve enjoyed having a book in hand, limited physical storage space has led me to increase my obscene ‘To Read’ pile a hundredfold with the use of handy dandy reading apps. Some notables are Kindle, YAC Reader, Apple Books, and Kobo.

There’s so much to choose from: novels, cookbooks, biographies, graphic novels, comics, self-help, humor. Something for everyone. I haven’t really gotten into audiobooks, as yet, because I find myself getting distracted more easily and/or falling asleep mid-chapter! I’ll keep trying because I know this medium is amazing.

Podcasts

Having said that, I do enjoy a podcast. I’ve taken to listening to podcasts when I’ve been out for a socially distant walk this past year. Podcasts help me focus on something other than the increasing condensation against my face as I breathe into the mask du jour (still on the hunt for a good and safe one that doesn’t annoy the bejeezus outta me!).

I’ve been into Apple Podcasts because it’s already on my devices. Any other suggestions?

It’s probably due to the format of podcasts that they seem to work better for me. It’s like listening to the radio, essentially. But hey, call me Flexigal. I’m open to diving further into the world of audiobooks.

Streaming Services

Binge this, because This. Is. The. Way.

If ever there was a year to catch up on a film or series, dive into a new series, or lose yourself in action, adventure, comedy, drama, home renovation, and great bake-offs, 2020 allowed us to do it. There are so many titles out there, so many reasons to suspend disbelief from the world around us. My mainstays have been Disney+, Netflix, and Prime Video. Thousands of hours of content upon which to feed your senses.

It gives me hope as a writer to see how much can still be done with storytelling due to all the advancements in technology. Streaming services certainly helped us escape in recent times and immerse ourselves in worlds other than our own.

Tech

Alright. We’ve touched on some software and now, let’s get to the hardware. I love my gadgets and have curated my collection based on usability as well as curiosity. I’ve been an Apple devotee since 2007. Currently, I’ve got their laptop, iPhone, iPad, Watch, and a partridge in a pricy tree. It pained me to have 2020 end with a busted phone. However, the angels at Apple Support are helping me get back on track. My laptop is an 11″ Macbook Air circa-2015, so by Apple standards, it’s a relic. I’m holding on for dear life to make sure they last for as long as possible because, while they do last a long time, I’d need a lot of magic beans to replace them. There are actually more things I have that fall under gadgety goodness but I’ll save them for another post. Suffice it to say, priciness aside, until someone can convince me otherwise, it’ll be Apple all day, everyday.

What were things you enjoyed to get you through the last year? Were there some that you just couldn’t get used to? Have you found alternatives to old faves and have you discovered new loves? Let me know in the comments below!

This is a new year. Let’s make it a happy and productive one. I hope that you’re doing safe and well and I’ll see you back here soon.

Stay creative, stay weird, be kind to yourself and others.

Until next time,

T out.

Represent!

As a child of the 80s and 90s, I was privy to the dynamic evolution of media and social media, as a whole. When it came to seeking out my people on such platforms, however, it was sorely lacking. In researching for today’s post, I found myself immersed in nostalgia and the absence of relatable content.

Years later, I see big moments for Black, Indigenous, and People Of Color (BIPOC) and we’ve come a long way. I feel that as a POC writer, I have a responsibility to provide relatable content that was missing for me when I was looking for ways to understand who I was in this world. That journey continues to this day.

There are the token minorities in books, tv, or film or the headlines that make novelty of who we are. For instance, in a recent article, the headline included the phrase Black Batman. Did they mean that the comic would be about a black man taking on the persona of the Caped Crusader or were they actually now qualifying the superhero himself? “Look! It’s the Black Batman!” doesn’t have that catchy vibe. Why is this even news? Why can’t we be telling stories about complex and flawed characters and not have to point out the person’s ethnicity in order to drive the story forward?

Shouldn’t we be able to tell a captivating story that can reach millions of people without bringing race into the equation?

I, myself, am part of the problem, to a degree. I grew up reading and watching certain characters that I began writing what I knew. Margaret asking God if he’s there, the twins at Sweet Valley High, the spy named Harriet. All girls at different times in their lives and all people that looked nothing like me.

At least in a couple movies, I had Short Round and Richard ‘Data’ Wang (incidentally played by the same actor, Ke Huy Quan). But for the most part, if I were to follow a certain show on a regular basis, the person I connected with the most was the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air? Appsh!

But where were my people at?

For most of my life, I thought I was of Chinese, Filipino, and Spanish heritage. However, thanks to Ancestry.ca, I’ve learned that my lineage breakdown is as follows: 58% Southern China, 37% Northern Philippines, 5% Southern Philippines with a fluctuation in percentages in Myanmar, whatever that statistic means. Outside of programming I watched while I lived in the Philippines for a decade or so, I didn’t see or read much about people like me to feel a connection.

It warmed my heart to discover that Blue’s Clues & You (a reboot of the popular Blue’s Clues I watched with my nephew and niece when they were younger), returned with a Filipino character. In a recent episode, he introduced his grandmother and they ate a Filipino dessert together. They also showed a traditional sign of respect to one’s elders. This was a perfect example of how people should be able to see the lives of others unfold in the story with the cultural references or ethnic-related issues woven into the narrative in an organic way.

Yes, I was thrilled with Mulan and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. But what about stories in the more recent here and now, of it all? With great works such as The Joy Luck Club, Crazy Rich Asians, Black Panther, Andi Mack. and the heartwarming Over the Moon, I was starting to feel a better immersion of relatable storytelling.

Prior to that, I was more into stories with talking animals, robots, or other entities, because I could just dive into a story and focus on the characters rather than the literal color of their skin. In upcoming posts, I’m going to talk more about the novels I’ve been working on and how I felt the need to make some serious changes because of this current hot button issue.

When I searched for Over the Moon on Netflix, it was under a category called the Representation Matters Collection. Representation does matter, but we need to work towards an era where the discussion of it won’t matter anymore because it’s a common occurrence.

As I posted to my POC writers’ group, I’m proud of how far we’ve come when it comes to representation in books, tv, and film, but I hope that one day, representation in these and other forms of media is no longer breaking news, but just another facet of intriguing and relatable storytelling.

As always, stay creative, stay weird, be kind to yourself and others.

Until next time,

T out.