Archive Tag:blog

A Good Narrator is Hard to Find

I maintain that the only thing more important to improving your writing ability than actually writing is reading. There’s something to learn from every novel or non-fiction work you pick up, even if it’s that infodumping is not a great way to handle exposition, or that starting too big makes it impossible to increase drama as you go. More importantly, good fiction, the kind that makes you envious that you didn’t write it, can teach you valuable lessons even when you’re not looking for them.

I recently read through Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief for the first time. It came out ages ago, but Z is last in the alphabet and I’ve been working my way through my bookshelf from start to finish for a couple of years. It’s the kind of book you want to savor, in part because it’s beautifully written and emotional, in part because it’s intense. I had nightmares reading it, and finished the book off with ill-contained, physically painful sobs.

There’s a lot to learn from it, too, not just from a human perspective, but from a writing one. I don’t want to diminish the importance of the emotional narrative, especially given our current climate, but I don’t think that to focus on The Book Thief‘s technical success is to detract from its emotional impact. In fact, I’d go so far as to say they’re inextricable.

Well, 2016 Happened.

At the risk of being navel-gazey, the end of the year has made me think a lot about my growth and, conversely, the lack thereof.

I didn’t accomplish every goal I set out for this year. I’m not surprised by that; in the past couple months, I’ve left one of my stable sources of income behind for the wild unknown. I worked a lot for too little money, spending precious time that I could have used to pursue my real goals.

I Am Scared of Literally Everything

HorrorI find that I can blame a lot of things about myself on books. My love of horror is, I think, one of them.

My first memory of reading something scary was my cousin locking me in the bathroom and forcing me to read a glow-in-the-dark book of ghost stories with her by flashlight. I did not enjoy the experience.

But then, at a formative age (I can’t remember precisely when, only that I was of just the right age), I read Zilpha Keatley Snyder’s The Headless Cupid. The book concerns, among other things, a young girl trying to impose some order on the world through witchcraft and studying the occult. She also happens to be of poltergeisting age–which, if you’re not familiar, is puberty.

#BGSD: 5 Ways I Organize My Disorganized Life

My pens and trusty planner. The cat is not necessary to organization, and may in fact be an impediment.

Organization is hard. I say this as a person who now keeps a detailed planner, cleans house daily, and has no greater satisfaction in life than checking something off a to-do list. I haven’t always been this way; in fact, I still struggle sometimes with thinking about all the work staring me in the face. I freeze up, particularly when that work is an invitation to rejection.

But I have to eat. To eat, I have to work. To work, I have to organize my time and not let myself be paralyzed with fear. Organization is a work in progress for me. I’m getting better at it, and the system I have now seems to be working for me. Even so, I’m always looking for more ways to streamline my work process.

I can’t promise that my organizational methods will work for everybody, but because freezing up is not actually a sustainable method of dealing with your problems, work, or social life, I thought I might as well share them with the world. Think of it as a series of potential tools, not a cure-all tonic; what works for me and my quirks might just be annoyances to you.

Independence, Or: That Time I Got My Head Stuck in a Dresser

I was introduced to The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe at a very young age. And while I’m not blaming C. S. Lewis for the time I got my head stuck in a dresser, the lack of wardrobes in my life may have played a role.

I’m not sure why I did it, but one day I pulled all of the drawers out of my dresser and stuck my head inside. It hurt–I had to slide my ears through and crane my neck to make it. Again, I have no idea why this seemed at all like an appealing idea. I seem to remember thinking that it would give me some kind of interesting perspective, like there were secrets to be found with my head inside a dresser.

Hurts So Good: The Wicked + The Divine Tore My Heart Apart and I Loved Every Minute of It

The Wicked + The Divine is totally something I judged by its cover, by which I mean I saw a preview image of the cover for issue number one floating around and decided that I needed to read it.

The premise helped considerably; as I’ve said multiple times, I’m a sucker for mythology of any kind. I’m also a music fan (who isn’t, really?) and I know too well the feeling of being so invested in a band that it becomes an enormous part of your identity. Plus, gorgeous artwork and beautiful colors. There’s nothing not to like.

A brief summary: The Wicked + The Divine follows Laura, a normal human who finds herself entangled in the affairs of the Pantheon and twelve (ish–we meet them over the course of the narrative) people who find themselves to be reincarnated deities. For two years, they live as glorious pop stars, inspiring orgiastic rapture in their fans. Also, drama, power struggles, and puns.

The Wicked + The Divine happened to come out around the time I graduated college and suddenly had time to read things for fun. It’s been a slow swan-dive into comics hell ever since then, and this beautiful, terrible, painful comic is part of the reason I have big heart-eyes constantly for the medium. And no issue sums up the beautiful, terrible, painful nature of the medium than issue eleven of The Wicked + The Divine.


In Lieu of a Post

Pure evil, but she's my pure evil.
Pure evil, but she’s my pure evil.

I say this a lot–I don’t have kids, I have cats.

Some people laugh at that, as if they couldn’t possibly be the same thing. And I’ll admit that my cats lead shorter life spans, will never grow up to learn to speak, and certainly won’t be around to take care of me when I get old. But in the meantime, they keep me calm when I’m stressed, they have more personality than people give them credit for, and they’re cute, dang it.

Unfortunately, my cats also have health problems. 

Bitch Planet and Non-Compliance


There are a lot of great comics out there, but the one I want to talk about is Bitch Planet.

Bitch Planet is a sort of middle-finger love-letter to the women’s prison exploitation films of the ’60s and ’70s. If you’re not familiar with the genre, think of the kinds of things Quentin Tarantino is paying homage to. Cheesy, kitschy, exploitative messes that revel in debauchery and violence and sexuality and women, generally for the purpose of the male gaze. In the world of Bitch Planet, women who don’t fit the standard of the ideal woman are sent to the eponymous planet for imprisonment, re-education, or safekeeping–take your pick. These women are called “non-compliant.”

Blackberry Picking and Poetry Appreciating

Image Source: Jared Smith via Flickr.

Poetry and I have a contentious relationship.

It’s not that I don’t like poetry. I do. I think I do. No, I do, for sure. I’m not sure I like writing it, but I’m blaming that entirely on my public school education and not poetry itself.

The problem is this: poetry, to me, is some kind of ethereal, ever-changing thing that’s alive and incomprehensible, like some kind of wriggling or slippery animal. I think I know a poem when I see one, but then there’s prose poetry. I think I understand a poem but then it’s not about appreciating life at all, it’s about capitalism and overconsumption. Poetry is rhyme and meter except that it isn’t, not at all.

An Introduction, By Way of Rejection

Starting any new venture requires an introduction. The hard part is that introductions are terrible. If it’s possible to introduce yourself in a way that doesn’t feel forced (aside from, you know, actually reaching out and shaking someone’s hand), I haven’t found it yet.

It’s almost easier to do it in third person, except that when you do that you’re usually writing a bio for something and writing bios is also terrible. You have to achieve the right balance of ‘here are my accomplishments’ with ‘here, look, I’m actually a human being and not just an ego,’ which is a) impossible and b) stressful.

I probably shouldn’t spend an introductory post writing about how much I hate introducing myself, but if there’s one crucial fact to know about me it’s that, while I love talking to people, I’m also shy and awful at doing the introducing. I’m also terrible with both faces and names, so if you know me in person it probably took me at least three meetings to figure out why you looked so familiar.

So instead, I’ll talk a little bit about rejection.

Rejection is hard. I’m a writer; I know rejection. I’ve submitted four times to paying markets and have been rejected three times—the fourth is still up in the air. It stings every time.

Of course rejection stings. When I’m rejected, my mind immediately begins to fill in the reasons. There are many, but they are most easily summed up by me not being good enough. And there are so, so many ways to not be good enough. I lack the experience. I lack the creativity. I lack the talent. I lack, I lack, I lack.

And maybe all of those things are true. Though I have more experience than some people, others have more than me. I might be creative, but sometimes I read the work of others and my brain feels like a shack in the middle of tangled woods in comparison to others’ vast universes. And sometimes people tell me I’m talented but I don’t see it because I read my work knowing all the secrets, where it’s going, how I constructed it. When you’re rejected for something, any positive feedback you’ve ever received sort of melts away into the ether—everyone who has ever said anything nice is lying, deluded, or has bad taste.

Writing this (and presumably reading it, too), it sounds like garbage. Because it is garbage. Yes, some people might be overly nice to spare your feelings. Some people may, in fact, have bad taste. But they aren’t all wrong, which is what I keep trying to tell myself.

It’s incredibly easy to get discouraged when everything you think might possibly be worthy of being read by other people gets rejected. So instead of letting rejection be the proof that I’m a writer (something I only feel comfortable saying because I do write for a living, even if it’s not fiction—another weird notion I need to break), I’ll let my writing speak for itself.

So here’s the plan—a plan that’s been hatching for, oh, over a year or so. I like weird, archaic vocabulary. I like writing. I like etymology. I need to work on describing things. So you get Words, Et Al: a drabble per week based on a weird word. Normal blogs, too, once I figure out what a normal blog is, but the drabbles are required.

Also, if you want an actual introduction, here’s one I wrote recently for a thing:

Melissa Brinks is a freelance writer and podcaster with an affinity for cats, cooking, gardening, and investing copious hours of her life in fictional worlds. She’s been reading since the ripe old age of three, and an intense dislike for the treatment of Susan Pevensie ignited a lifelong desire for better, more interesting female characters. As a social justice cleric and aspiring nice person, Melissa does her best to encourage others to think, read, and consume critically, and in doing so help the world be a kinder place. Melissa lives north of Seattle with two mewling, furry children and her long-suffering husband.

You can also find out more about me on my about page, or by following me on Twitter, or by listening to the podcast I do with my best friend, Fake Geek Girls, in which I giggle about loving fictional characters too much and also talk about like, feminism and stuff. If you want to chat, great! Send me an email or tweet at me; despite being terrible at introductions, I will happily chat away about pretty much anything.

So that’s it. That’s what I’m doing. I’ve left this document open for an hour or so because I don’t know how to properly end a post. If you have tips for ending a post, share them in the comments!

That’s—that’s how you do this, right?