Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Word Cloud!

Authors Scott Westerfeld (Uglies series) and his wife, Justine (How to Ditch Your Fairy) teamed up last year to post NaNoWriMo tips daily during November. Aside from Justine's wonderful advice, I also learned she never uses white protagonists in any of her novels and she loves Avatar: The Last Airbender! Although I applaud her for both of these amazing things, I am here today to talk about one of Scott's posts.

Yes, Justine's husband posted something so cool, it got me to crawl back into the world of blogging. And way from homework, but that's another problem altogether. He talked about how readers snicker quietly when the same handful of words are overused. What can be done about this? you ask. Now that you mention it, I wonder what words I overuse.
He introduced us to this amazing thing called The Word Cloud:

It is a cool device that, once you feed it text, gives you a visual of frequently used words, the overused ones in bigger text. It automaticaly excludes words like 'a', 'and' and 'the' so no worries. Here's an example of the Word Cloud for my story Children of the Sun:

Wordle: Children of the Sun

The words will vary depending on your novel, but a handful of words will always be bigger than the others. There are words you can forget about or that you want to be big. For me, the biggest words appear to be character names: Zuko (Prince), Areida, and Uncle. As you can see, 'Prince' is slightly bigger than 'Zuko', but this is because Zuko often uses or is refered to by his title ('the Prince', 'Prince Zuko', 'I am Prince of this Nation').

Even if they aren't character names, don't freak out just because you see a lot of big font on the page. That is a good thing at times. Though it varies depending on the content of your story, there are words you want to show up often. In my case, the words 'Avatar' and 'Fire' are used often. 'Firebender' shows up as well, but in smaller font, as it is often replaced with things like 'able to bend fire', 'Firebend', or 'bend/bender'. Nation is also fine, as it is a common word in this world, though one I may want to cut down on for the rare instances it isn't needed.

However, amid those words are those I use far too often. So far, the story is only 12,553 words. 'Eyes', 'know', 'away', 'though', 'hand', 'thought', 'back', 'just', and 'one' should not take up so much space! Each bigger word should be examined, however, with care. Don't begin hacking your novel to pieces yet. (Since I don't have much time, however, I'll simply talk about the ones I feel others may overuse as well.)

Eyes- In this story, eye-color matters. Fans of the show are aware of how each Nation's natural benders have different eyes colors unique to them. Green for Earthbenders, blue for Waterbenders, gold for Firebenders, and grey for Airbenders. Non-benders can also have this eye-color. Sometimes, the word 'eyes' cannot be avoided. You need to close or open your eyes, examine the color of someone else's . . . Areida's eye-color is an important plot device and you certainly don't want to go around using words like 'orbs'! However, the word should still be used less. I could do some rewording to avoid it or replace it 'gaze' when I can get away with it. Something also tells me I may be using eyes to convey emotion: a big no-no for me.

Know/knew- These are tricky words. They show up often in everyday life, so you may be able to get away with using them . . . but just in case, you may want to watch out. Sadly, I'm unsure of many ways you could avoid it, at least without making everything too complex. Simple is better. Perhaps 'I didn't know his name' could be replaced with 'his name evaded me' or 'I couldn't remember his name. Carl? Joe? Carl/Joe paced the room' . . . blah, blah, blah. I avoided the words this time, but they'll come back to haunt me! In cases of interrogations, like with my story, it may be okay to use 'know' a few times . . . sparingly.

Hand- What on earth could you use to replace 'hand'? In cases of action or violence, this word might be okay, along with 'feet' or 'head'. If you still want to avoid it, you can possibly be more specific (Simple is better?) by using 'fist' or 'palm'. Hands usualy convey action, so this word isn't bad. 'Hands' is also much bigger than 'hand', oddly enough.

Just- I tend to use 'just' as an adjective. 'Not just yet.' 'She was just standing there.' I, among others, could cut back on this, find another way to convey and stress simple actions.

Some words such as 'like', 'face', and 'back' I don't see how I could use so much . . . At least now I know to cut back on them if I can, play with structure as inconspicuously as possible until I find one that works.

Other words I overuse to a ridiculous degree are 'something' and 'one'. I used 'one' in the above paragraph! 'Even' is yet another word I use to indicate stress ("I even used it in an example!"); I'll look for all this when I reread and edit my first draft. I'll keep it in mind while writing the next chapter.

The point is how helpful/awesome the Word Cloud is! Click the link I provided above the picture, post your novel (or a portion) into the field, and click Save to Gallery. Make a false title and name. They don't save any bit of the text you post, so no need to worry. Let me know in your next blog post how it went. Maybe even post the actual Word Cloud as I did. It's a great tool if you're looking to reduce word count or worried about overuse of noticeable vocabulary. Or just plain interesting. Let me know how it went, what you think your words mean, etc. Don't forget-- every novel is different! If you're writing a novel about monkeys in space, you better hope at least the term 'space' is in big letters! Remember what I said about names and words like 'Nation' and 'Fire'. If they're important to the novel, it is good to see them in big letters!

Hope this post was worth the read!

Let me know if you have any trouble with the picture/link.


Friday, October 8, 2010

Friday Fiction: Rated R!

Friday again? I haven't posted anything in, like, weeks. If it helps, I have had a lot to do. At this moment, I'm Beta-ing (editing) two FanFiction chapters. I have three more to Beta for someone else. I hate to say it, but all these 'assignments' are taking their toll tonight since I've doing that since I got home from school. Not that I am really complaining, for I enjoy this so much!
Anyway, I want to update more soon, maybe even do a few NaNoWriMo posts next month! For now, I'm working on polishing up the next chapter of my FanFiction, Children of the Sun, which has been delayed for two months because of merciless revisions. But, hey, won't I be doing this for a novel soon? This is just as important to me!
So, can you guess what you get this week? Yet another part of my one-shot FanFiction Between Daggers and Ice. This one is in Mai's point of view while imprisoned in the Boiling Rock. Let me know what you think in the comments below!

Rated R for . . . violence? That's just me being cautious; I'd give it a PG13 rating (or 'teen' rating).

My cell was cramped, chilly at night and sweltering when the sun came up. I rarely moved from the battered cot on the floor no matter where the other prisoners went. Not so much because I didn’t wish to go outside, to eat, to run, but because I simply couldn’t. Everything hurt too much.
As if on cue, another damn boy entered my cell. I was well past tensing up and fighting. I did not scream; I was prepared, ready with my own unique defense. Closing my eyes, I willed my body to relax. I figured I was not the only one to go through this, but I knew I was better off than most. The stranger overtook me, reeking of sweat and dried blood. A whimper threatened to escape, but I stifled it, my teeth clamping on my lower lip until I tasted blood.
Zuko . . .
Just like that, he was there above me, whispering my name. Pain melted away, replaced by a burning sense of pleasure. He was being more rough than usual, but I didn’t mind so much. It was the kind of thing to do when you were angry and horny at once, the kind of fuck to make a lover feel bad. I felt his teeth graze my shoulder and a thrill traveled down my spine. Once, before I assured him he did not need to remain a Prince, nor I Lady beneath him, Zuko would unwittingly irritate me, nuzzling when I wanted him to bite. Now we could be ourselves. More importantly, now I permitted myself to feel.
I believe I shouted his name, only to receive a sloppy kiss to shut me up.
Then, I remembered the last time I saw him, the images overwhelming me despite my protests. “You miscalculated. I love Zuko more than I fear you.” His bitch of a sister was going to kill me— and I was prepared to die if it meant saving him.
Hair, coarse and dirty, brushed my cheek, and my eyes flew open to see the stranger’s strikingly pale strands. Confusion took hold and this did not belong here, where all should be perfect. As reality surfaced, I struggled to hold onto my lovely delusions . . . before they shattered.
My eyes closed and I clamped down on my lower lip, praying to Agni for it to be over. This I could bear no longer. This man was no lover, no Zuko. My body ached, fighting him without my knowledge or consent. Pain crested unbearably and a scream ripped from my throat. This time, he slapped me so hard my face whipped to one side and color exploded behind my eyes.
When it was over, I’d lost at least an hour. I lay there, sobbing, murmuring Zuko’s name, not in ecstasy, but as a plea.
He would come to save me. He had to. I could only feel so much.
See ya!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Happy Birthday to . . . ME! :)

I bet I am the first blogger to post about her own birthday, but I'm elated and felt like sharing. lol! I'm going to start on the next chapter of my FanFiction (Children of the Sun) and maybe begin the outline for my NaNo novel since the contest starts on the 31st! :0 Then again . . . it is my birthday. I'll save the outline for tomorrow, I think.

Writers: Do you write on your birthday/holidays, too? :)

Off to have 17 year-old birthday fun, whatever that is. lol!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Friday Fiction Revived!

See? Revived! :D

lol! La Pieta, anyone?
The . . . the painting, guys, come on. No? Oh well. Anyway . . . revived!

I have an Avatar: The Last Airbender FanFiction for you all tonight, taken from one I wrote for a contest and then posted because it has too much adult content to be entered. Who knew? I now have the freedom to post the FanFiction anywhere I like! I figured I should let you focus more on writing style rather than original characters and plot-- see how it goes. I'd love some feedback.
This is a section taken from my one-shot titled Between Daggers and Ice, where a certain Firebender Prince ponders the two girls who love him (i.e Mai and Katara). It was mostly for the fans of both pairings and isn't really canon, so you don't need to watch the show to understand.

Below is a section told by Katara as she speaks with our favorite Airbender. Enjoy!

Waterbending took me away from my own thoughts, away from the Fire Nation Palace, away from my pestering companions who could not or would not understand my plight. The turtle-ducks chatted merrily, darting between the thin streams of water I pulled up with my fingers, curious at the five tiny fountains disturbing their usual calm. I smiled.
Startled, I spun toward the voice, water splashing back into the pond. “You jerk! You scared me,” I nearly shouted, but my smile returned and widened when I caught sight of the abashed expression on his sweet face. “Hi, Aang.”
“Listen,” he mumbled, using Airbending to lower himself gently onto the grass, sitting Lotus position. “I was thinking— you seemed sort of upset today.” Aang rubbed the back of his neck, eyes squinted the way they always did when he was upset. “I figured it might have something to do with Zuko dying— uh, sick back there.” He jerked his thumb toward the Palace— as if I needed calcification. “Sokka said that was a stupid idea, but . . . well, I don’t think so. I guess it’s ‘cause what makes you so special is how you care about everybody. That includes Zuko now, I think, otherwise you wouldn’t be so worried when the rest of us are fine.” Aang’s big eyes met mine, probing and fiercely protective. “The war is over— you shouldn’t have to worry any longer. No one should. Being the Avatar, I hoped most for that after peace was restored.”
I couldn’t stand to see him suffer, to sit and wait while he struggled to convey his own thoughts. A kid should be able to go about his own way without a care in the world, not having to worry about anyone else’s happiness or safety. Even the Avatar. “Aang, I—“
He raised one hand to shush me. “Let me finish. I don’t mean to force you into anything, I promise. But I care about you, Katara. You’re my friend and the best person I know. When you pulled me from that iceberg, your face was the first I saw— in that moment, I had hope that everything would be okay. “ He paused in thought, but continued decisively. “You told me I just might figure out this Avatar stuff after all. You helped me save the world, you saved Zuko . . . and now the Fire Nation has a ruler to help rebuild the other Nations instead of destroying them. Do you know what you are, Katara?”
I just stared, my eyes burning with unshed tears.
“You’re a— a healer. You make everyone feel better just by being there. Right now . . . there are two people who really need you.”
“Who are we talking about here?” I asked tersely, breathing in deep to steady myself. “I told you I was confused.”
“I know.” He looked away and then back again, jaw hardening. Then he stood and held out his hand. “Come with me. Maybe if you see him . . . it’ll help make up your mind.” Those eyes were too determined. Aang didn’t understand. It wasn’t just worry keeping me from contemplating a relationship with Aang.
I stared at my young friend for a moment and answered silently, That’s what I’m afraid of.
I took his hand.