Neither Jew nor Greek: The Church and the Civil Rights Movement — mwsasse

Check out my guest post on author Mark W. Sasse’s blog about the Church and the Civil Rights Movement!

I appreciate Kimberly Horton allowing me to publish her very interesting paper on various Christian denominations’ responses to the Civil Rights Movement. It’s an area I had not previously given much thought to, but as you will see, it’s an area where the view of the church and Christian charity towards equal rights for African […]

via Neither Jew nor Greek: The Church and the Civil Rights Movement — mwsasse

Everyone’s Guide to Fanfiction [Fanfic Friday]

This is a repost from my DeviantART account, but I’m proud enough of it to put it up here on the blog (along with a few minor edits for readability.) Enjoy!


 

As someone who’s in too many fandoms to count, I’ve had a lot of dealings with fanfiction over the years; and as someone who loves to read and write it (and have been doing so since grade 1/year 2, when I wrote myself into the Kim Possible world… because, ya know, my name’s Kimberly) I feel qualified to help others in their quest to write fluff, adventure, and all sorts of other things using pre-built worlds and well-loved characters.

Contrary to the belief of some, writing fanfiction is a perfectly acceptable form of writing—no, you might never be able to publish it, but it is good practice all the same. Think of it like a warmup jog. You’ll never make it to the Olympics as an expert jogger, but by jogging you’re building muscles and endurance so that you end up getting better and faster at running and sprinting. And really, you’ll never find an Olympic runner who doesn’t warm up with little jogs and sprints. So don’t feel ashamed that you write fanfiction! After copious amounts of writing the stuff, I’m proud to say I’ve won NaNoWriMo thrice, entered contests with short stories, and been bumped to higher-level English classes because of my love for writing. (That’s not to say fanfiction alone got me there… it’s just helped fuel my passion for the written word.)

So without further ado, I present to you my tips for writing good fanfiction of any genre!

1. Keep them in character, but not too in character… ya feel me? What I mean is, keeping the canon characters in character is important. Obviously Bombur isn’t going to suddenly give up food, nor would Sherlock fall in love in a week, nor would Edward (Elric, not vampire) let one little “short” comment slide. You get the picture. But at the same time, Bombur’s not constantly eating, and Sherlock doesn’t overuse the word ‘obviously’ to the point where it loses its meaning. The point is, I’ve seen a lot of OOC-ness, but there’s also a fair amount of character exaggeration. Steer clear of both.

(Side note: yeah, sometimes Anime characters can do this even in canon. My personal recommendation, though, is to avoid this if you want to make the characters seem realistic—I’m looking at you, Hetalia fandom. Yeah, America loves video games and cheeseburgers… but he wouldn’t be quite that obnoxious about it if he were a real high school-aged guy. Same applies to most every exaggerated character in anime or manga.)

2. Author’s notes are a no-go. How many times has this happened to you? You’re reading through a fanfiction and everything is going smashingly—suddenly, a wild author’s note appears! Author’s note uses Break the Fourth Wall! It’s super effective! Fanfic reader fainted!

… Basically, any author’s note that isn’t explaining the meaning of a term or clarifying something that would have been really hard to guess otherwise is really, really unnecessary. For instance, telling everyone you “laughed out loud while writing that bit” after something funny or “by the way, this character is really short” after they have to use a stool to reach the counter isn’t helpful or needed. Most people just find it annoying and distracting from the story. Think really hard before including an author’s note. (a/n: LOL now I’m using an author’s note to be IR0N1C LULZ !!1!!!1 jk jk, now back to the article lol)

3. So are timeskip notifications. Just skip an extra line and start writing. The reader should be able to infer that time has passed or read something like, “A few hours later, Sam and Dean went to…” No published book I’ve ever read announces when time has passed between scenes. It’s unprofessional and distracting—writing the transitions takes a little practice, yes, but once you get it down it comes easily and flows naturally.

~~~ TIME SKIP BROUGHT TO YOU BY ELEVEN’S BOW TIE LALALALA ~~~ does not look natural.

4. Give original characters strengths and weaknesses. Despite what a lot of fanfiction guides will tell you, original characters are not at all a bad thing. In fact, they can make the world seem a little bigger than just 221B, Mycroft’s warehouse, and perhaps a visit to the police department. New characters can open different doors, send the story in a new direction, and make your story more believable.

It’s when these characters become unrealistic that the problems start.

Mary Sues, Gary Stus, self-inserts… whatever you’d like to call them, these are characters that tend to fulfill the wishes of an author, tend to always know what to do, and they tend to meddle with canon.

A disclaimer: self-inserts are not always bad. Writing yourself into a fictional world is not a bad thing. It’s only when “your” character is very obviously fulfilling a wish or behaving in an unnatural way that isn’t realistic for the story. Reader inserts are also self-inserts–follow the same sorts of rules, although canon relationships are much less frowned upon in these situations.

An easy way to fix this is to give your characters strengths and weaknesses and make the weaknesses actually hinder the character at some point in the story. Sally might be really bad at math, but unless not being able to do math actually has hindered her (she didn’t graduate high school, therefore she’s working in fast food, she now doesn’t have a lot of money) it doesn’t really count as a valid ‘balancing’ weakness. Additionally, it’s not about checks and balances, either. Don’t add a weakness for every strength. There’s no magic formula. Just make sure your character is like a real person. They’ve got their problems and need to deal with them over the course of the story.

For more tips on making people actually like your character (and not flame you with comments accusing you of writing a Mary Sue), please read MissLunaRose’s guide on making your character likeable: Nobody Loves My Character! It’s a great guide, and I don’t think my little point here can do it justice.

5. For the love of Loki’s hair grease… pay attention in English class. Spelling, grammar, and punctuation are just as important as plot and characters. If I click on your fic and find a huge block of text, no entries between new people speaking, or (God forbid) improper capitalization (shudders), I’m going to skim and then click away; or perhaps, if it’s salvageable and I’m feeling patient, comment something about how it was good but your grammar needs work.

6. Under no circumstances should you re-write an existing canon scene to include a new character or romantic interest. “How it should have ended” sorts of things are fine because they don’t introduce any new characters, but sticking an OC or even a reader in a reader insert into a situation that already happened in the movie, show, or book is unoriginal and screams “Sue self-insert” like the Nazgul screeching from the rooftops. What happens nearly every time without fail is that this new character ends up saving the day, becoming an integral part of the plot and changing the canon story completely, or just generally adding a whole level of OOcness to the canon characters that cannot be matched by anything. It’s a mistake that beginners make often—the problem with writing a new character in is that it becomes breeding grounds for OOC canon characters and Mary Sues.

What I’m talking about, if you want more specifics, is literally taking the same dialogue and action sequences and then tweaking them to include your character. This does not make me think, “Oh, what a great idea! If only Kassy Mae had been there with a rocket launcher in canon!” I mostly think that whoever wrote the fic probably had a little too much time on their hands if they had time to go re-read or re-watch something just to type the actual words and actions used.

(A side note: this tip mostly applies to things that have a universe where this is plausible. Let me explain—most reader insert fanfictions I’ve read of The Hobbit take place with the company on their journey, and the reader helps out in canon situations like riding barrels and such. That’s become acceptable in the fandom-verse because it’s really hard to write in the reader on the journey without having actual canon events taking place. In Sherlock, on the other hand, it’s pretty easy to write the reader into the universe without borrowing other plot lines. A lot of it is dependent on the fandom culture in this case, but it was the best example I could think of. If you’re writing in one of these situations, it’s still best to avoid actual dialogue from the canon work. Paraphrasing is your friend.)

7. Buildup, buildup, buildup. How many times has this happened to you? You’re doing some boring, mundane task, and a cute guy shoots a look at you for no reason. You blush, and the guy comes over. Suddenly, you’re making out and nobody in the public space minds at all!

… Sorry for using that whole infomercial opening again, but I think it’s funny it demonstrates my point. That’s never happened in the history of the universe. So why should it happen in a fanfic? Sure, things like reader inserts sort of represent what you wish would happen… but there’s a concept called “suspension of disbelief” that all authors need to be aware of. Basically, the reader trusts you to give them a story that could actually happen—they’re going into the story with an open mind. By doing something totally not plausible, you’re breaking that trust and their suspension of disbelief.

This happens especially in romantic fanfics, where all sorts of seductive glances are thrown around willy-nilly until the sexual tension builds beyond belief and suddenly—random make outs! There’s another idea for a guide from me: proper romantic buildup. Alas, I must concentrate it into one point. If you’re going to try and build romantic tension, try your very best to do so naturally. Would he really get nervous around this random woman at the car wash? Would she actually give him a kiss after the first date? If they made eye contact, would both of them really get this flustered? Try reading some well-written romance novels or “good” fanfiction (I’ll mention some notable examples here at the end) to get accustomed to what natural romance is like.


 

That just about wraps it up for this general guide to fanfiction. 🙂

One of the most important things you can do is read good-quality fanfiction or literature with the content you want to produce. For romance, Christian fiction is actually the way to go—it sounds weird, but even if you’re not religious there’s some pretty great romance (and take heart—the novels aren’t meant to convert, so they hardly ever get too preachy). Many authors go to Christian fiction when they want to find examples of well-written buildup and such. A great author to read is Dee Henderson—she does an excellent job of tying an interesting plot (usually murder and other crime mysteries) with romance. As for good examples of fanfiction, I’d recommend reading one of the 50k word ++ Dramione fics on Fanfiction.net. All of those are fantastic and amazing; some of my favorites are Broken, Knowing You, Isolation, and The Cure for Crupulus. (Warning: all of these are NC-17 except for Crupulus.)

The other most important thing for writing good fics is to keep writing. No matter how much you feel like your stuff sucks, it can only get better. By continuing to practice, getting feedback from others, and reading others’ fics, you’ll grow and get so much better at writing. I believe in you (and so does the tiny potato)!

Keep making awesome fan content, and don’t give up!

Another “New Year” Post! aka What Am I Doing? [Blogging U Day 1]

I created this blog in November of 2014 in a vain attempt to procrastinate writing for NaNoWriMo. So… I started a writing blog to avoid writing.

Since then, I’ve written a total of 19 blog posts, 14 of them in the last year, and it probably shouldn’t come as a surprise that hardly any of them are actually about writing. I started this blog intending for it to be a personal author’s blog that posted writing-related things occasionally; and I suppose that’s what it’s turned into. The problem with that is that it doesn’t have a very clear focus. And focus is precisely what a successful and helpful blog needs.

So now this begs the question… what is this blog’s focus? This year, that’s something I’m going to hash out. For now, though, I’m going to lay out the basics and give all my 2016 readers (all 12 of you! Fantastic!) a glimpse of what this blog is and where it’s headed.

Of Wit and Writing, titled in honor of the Sorting Hat’s description of Ravenclaw house, is a blog run by me, Kimberly Horton, originally intended to be a personal blog of sorts. Since no one was actually interested in my personal life, however, I spent most of 2015 putzing around, posting about whatever I felt like. This didn’t really attract much of a readership. The post that I feel really took off and managed to get people to look at my blog, though, was called How to Win NaNoWriMo: An Unofficial Guide. I’d originally written it as a paper for my English class, and we were all asked to create blogs for the assignment. I posted it to my already existing blog here, and my teacher suggested that I start blogging solely about writing—it seemed to get me a larger audience, and so far my blog didn’t really have a specific category.

I’m going to see how that goes for 2016.

I’ll be relegating all personal things to my blog over at kimberlyhorton.wordpress.com, and I’ll be trying to dedicate this blog here to only writing. I’ve signed up for WordPress’s Blogging U 101 course and plan on finishing that before settling to blog at least twice a month (biweekly is the idea.) Those two goals, blog biweekly and blog about writing, are my 2016 blogging resolutions! A pretty short and pretty manageable list, if I do say so myself.

Along the way, I’ll be trying to find my niche in the blogosphere. There are already bajillions of writing advice blogs out there—what can I do to make this one different? That’s the question I’m going to try and answer this year.

Thanks for sticking with me so far—here’s to another year of wit and writing!

Future NaNoWriMo Advice: 2015 Edition

Last year, I wrote myself a few pieces of advice to follow to win this year’s NaNo. Funnily enough, I didn’t actually follow much of it, but I decided to write out the best lessons from this year for my 2016-NaNoing self (and anyone else who’s looking for some advice from a three-time-winning veteran!) Here we go!

1. Plan ahead of time, please.

This is a repeat from last year’s advice, but it’s true. Most of the time when I was struggling to come up with things to write, it was because I didn’t have any direction for where the scene was going. I like to let my characters drive the story, but when it becomes too character-driven, things start to lose direction in terms of the plot.

Next year, I should definitely try mapping out a few of the beginning scenes and scribbling a few notes each time I sit down to write. Aimless writing isn’t fun writing, and it’s a pain to edit later.

2. Build your NaNo spirit on the NaNoForums!

Another repeat from last year because it works! I love hanging out on the forums before NaNo and during while we’re all slowly losing our minds. I’m quite easily distracted, so I need to be careful not to browse too long. It’s a great source of motivation, though (as is the @NaNoWordSprints twitter!) Whether you’re in the mood to complain, despair, celebrate, or laugh about your weird Googles (my weirdest from this year was ‘lunar cycles in 1977’) the forums have you covered!

3. Get ahead and stay ahead.

The first few days of November, I actually managed to write a few thousand more words than I needed to. Those words carried me through some of the busyness of the month, and they really helped me. If I can do the same thing next year, I’ll be set to win even earlier! Starting out ahead and then writing nearly every day, even if I only got in a couple hundred words, kept my enthusiasm and excitement higher and my stress levels lower. Getting ahead early on will be key to ensuring victory!

4. Pick a project you’re excited about.

This was my downfall in NaNos 2012 and 2013–I wasn’t passionate enough about my characters or projects. Honestly, it was the same in 2014, too, but I managed to slog through painfully. This year was so different because, even though I felt like I was copping out to write fanfiction, I was actually excited about writing it! I learned what I valued most in writing by discovering that I’d not had it in NaNos past. Deep characters and well-though-out plots and settings are what I love the most, and fanfiction gave me the opportunity to explore these elements that had already been laid out for me.

5. Find a way to keep it new.

This year I had my first ever 6k day (nearly 6.5!) I have in part to thank the folks over at 750words.com. I found their site five days or so before NaNo was over, but I couldn’t get enough. The cool stats at the end of the day? The simple layout? The badges? I was hooked! That new interface really changed things for me at the end. I excitedly pounded out another 1,000 words using the site, and then another.

Some people really like things to stay the same: write 500 words every morning before breakfast, drink some morning coffee, go to work, write a few more words, then do it again. For me, though, I like a little bit of spontaneity and excitement to keep me interested. At the end of the month it was a new word processor. Other times, it’s been Scrivener, a new music playlist, or an entertaining word crawl. Finding new things to keep me going was vital this year, and it’s something I know will be incredibly valuable this coming year as I try to stay motivated–for NaNo and for just trying to write every day!

NaNo2015 Final Graph

Compared to last year, I did so much better. I stayed mostly on track, wrote almost every day, and even managed a 6k day to finish early! Looking at all those crazy people in the Beyond 50k forums, though, I know I can push myself next year to barrel past this year’s record.

What tips would you give yourself or someone else for doing NaNo better next year? Leave your thoughts in the comments below! You might just help someone out. 🙂

NaNoWriMo 2015: The Writer’s Journey

Anyone who’s done multiple NaNoWriMos knows that every year is different from the last.

Last year, I stayed behind on my word count, writing 20k in the last week to frantically catch up and finish on a nice Sunday afternoon.

This year, I stayed caught up until the middle of the month, slipped behind a bit, and caught up over the Thanksgiving long weekend with turkey and tea in Christmas mugs! (Our house is now decorated nicely for Christmas, and I couldn’t be happier!)

That’s the great thing about NaNo: every year it’s a journey, and every year it’s new and exciting. A new project, a new writing pattern, a new enthusiasm – for people who need a little change every once in a while (like me!) NaNo is the kick in the pants we need to jump start our writing into the new year!

My journey this year was an interesting one. You can see a lot of the highlights in the progress graph:

NaNo2015 Final Graph

I maintained my enthusiasm until around day 17 before I fell behind–and it never got as disastrous as my previous attempts (writing 20k in 5 days, anyone?) I also finished early this year, which is another huge first for me! I’m hoping to add another few thousand to my word count (if my tingling fingers don’t kill me, of course) before the month is over.

One thing I did differently this year was switch stories about 10,000 words in. I began with a fanfiction story I’ve been meaning to finish for about two years now. Unfortunately, it got very old very fast. Me from two years ago had failed to come up with a good motive or plan for the villain, and I began to realize just how terrible the plot was–so I switched over to my second project earlier than I’d planned and fell in love with it. Enthusiasm is one third of the equation of a hefty word count, and though there were still some rough patches, I fell in love with the characters and the story during the month, and I actually plan on touching it after November is over and finishing it, for a change!

And now, for a good and proper reflection, I’d better see if I followed my own advice from last year’s post-NaNo blog post:

1. Write every night, and forfeit your health a little if you need to.

Ah, well, I did stay up a little later occasionally; but I actually found it wasn’t 100% necessary. The only reason past!me recommended this is because I fell behind crazy early and was floundering to catch up. I stayed on target for the most part this year, so late nights weren’t needed! Hooray!

2. Write or Die. Enough said.

Actually… I didn’t use Write or Die at all this month! Huh.

What I did use, though, were a number of other handy resources: namely, Scrivener’s full-screen function and, for the last 3 days, 750words.com. One of my favorite bloggers, Thomas Frank came out with a video about his favorite writing applications. 750words was on there, and as soon as I started using it, I was hooked! I wrote so much with it that today I even surpassed its 5k word limit for non-members. I know what I’ll be asking for this Christmas…

3. Plan ahead of time, please.

This was the bit I struggled with again this year! I planned much more than last year, but I still found myself writing pointless filler scenes trying to figure out what to do next. The balance between letting my characters drive the story and making sure the plot happens is a tricky one to manage.

4. Write regularly outside of NaNo.

Did I write much after November? Well, I wrote more. But not much. *sigh* I’ll be adding this one to my NaNo 2016 advice post…

5. Build your NaNo spirit on the NaNoForums!

Finally, a piece of advice I actually followed! The forums were awesome as usual. I made some great friends and got some awesome advice there this year. SpaceFlowers, I’m lookin’ at you! 😉 The “Get Your Butt Kicked Here” thread and the fanfiction forums were the most motivating this year. Gotta love fellow fic authors and a good kick in the pants when you need one!

This year has come to a close, and it’s bitter sweet. I’m incredibly busy in the following weeks, and I’ll be glad to have the extra stress off my plate… but I’ll really miss the community and the excitement of word sprints and updating my word count. I think nearly everyone feels this way at the end of the month; it’s a relief, but it’s also sad.

Congratulations, winners; and be proud, those of you who haven’t quite made it–you’ve got more words than you did before, and that’s the whole reason NaNo exists!

See you all next year!

2k15 Goals

My last post detailed my resolutions for 2015—the things I wanted to do differently this year. I like to classify resolutions, though, as something different than just goals. Goals can encircle resolutions, but they also include one-time things and specific achievements that one doesn’t necessarily need to “do better” but simply “do.” This post is just a quick overview of the things I’d like to get done in 2k15. Continue reading

Obligatory Blogger’s 2015 New Year’s Resolutions

You really don’t want to read another blogger’s resolutions, do you? Please, feel free to skip this one over. It’s probably not going to be any different.

Alright, here’s a generic opening paragraph about how new years are such perfect times to sort out your life, how much we’ve all failed in the past, how much I’m going to try to make it different this year… Okay. That’s out of the way. On to the stuff you actually came for: the list. Continue reading