I write

I woke up from a nightmare today–the kind of nightmare that doesn’t stop feeling real, even after you’re awake. I found a comfort in writing that I couldn’t find anywhere else. I thought I would share what I wrote down.

I write the characters that are stronger than I am

Who fight the demons that I can’t

I write characters that face darkness, swallowed whole

But are never overcome by it

Characters that are wildfire, a blaze that can’t be put out

When my own flames have died down

Who are a light and warmth when I feel dark and cold

Who feel like home when I have none

I write characters that open my eyes, make me see the world beyond the page

In new shades – black and white and every brilliant color in between

I write to breathe, to live

When I’m not strong enough, and when I feel stronger than I’ve ever been

To dull the aches, and relish the highs

This ink is my blood

And every word makes me feel more and more alive

VED

Change of Heart

YA has always been my favorite. I’ve always read it, I’ve always written it, I’ve always loved it. But lately, the spark just hasn’t been there.

I’ve had a hard time connecting with YA books. For some reason, I just can’t get into them in the way I’ve always been able to. I keep finding the stories flat, even formulaic. It’s not just dystopian anymore, I’ve found books across all genres that seem to follow the same pattern, and it feels like a story I’ve read a dozen times–because honestly, I have.

This isn’t all YA by any means. There’s definitely the exceptions that manage to capture me and draw me into a rich, complex world with a story that jumps off the page. But that’s becoming harder and harder for me to find.

Maybe it’s because I’ve seen too much of the other side of the story. Instead of being absorbed in the story, I see EXPOSITION, CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT, CONFLICT, blaring at me. Characters seem like obvious ploys for sympathy or world-building, foreshadowing hits me across the head with a sledgehammer, the setting feels like a budget backdrop in a school play rather than a world I can walk around and get lost in. Maybe I just haven’t found the right books. Maybe part of it is because I’m having a hard time in my own writing, and I’ve projected that feeling onto YA as a whole.

But for whatever reason, I seem to have fallen out of love with YA. Which is hard, because it’s always been dear to me. Thankfully, I’ve been able to fall in love with some really awesome adult books (Outlander, anyone?) so I haven’t lost reading entirely.

What do you think about YA? Are you a fan, or not? Are there some really awesome YA books I’m missing out on? Maybe even ones that could spark my love for YA again. I’d love to find a YA fantasy that doesn’t sound like something I’ve read before, and doesn’t have the stereotypical YA romance. Let me know 🙂

If a Character Shouts

If a character shouts in a forest, but there’s no one there to hear them, do they make a sound?

I’ve been absent lately, I know. For a long time. I haven’t touched any form of writing, or even had it cross my mind for more than a minute. But life has been full.

I’m working two jobs while going to school full-time, doing honors and being involved with two organizations on campus. Not to mention being an aunt to my baby niece, and trying to fit in both a social life and something resembling a love life. There just hasn’t been room for writing in my crazy, hectic, but wonderful life. And I’m okay with that right now.

It took a while, but eventually my characters fell silent. I stopped having the urge to write. I stopped feeling bad about not writing. I put my publishing dreams on hold.

Some people think that if we’re writers, we should be writing all the time. That somehow, if we’re not writing, we’re not “real” writers anymore. But honestly, if you’re a “real” writer, writing will always be a part of you. There’s ink in your blood, and it will be there whether you write everyday or don’t touch a pen for months.

I’ve been content without writing, and even without being a part of the writing community, as much as I love it. Lately, my characters have started whispering to me again. A line in a song will trigger a scene, or a snippet of dialogue will pop into my mind. I’m not sure where I stand on my manuscripts. I don’t know if I’m ready to dive back into edits, but I don’t feel strongly enough about anything new to start from scratch.

So I’m here in limbo, standing at the edge of the forest. I can hear my characters in the distance, but not enough to make me go in. I’m not ready to write yet, but I’m getting closer.

In the mean time, I’ll try to be as active as I can, and I appreciate your continued support. Y’all really are the best. Hope everything is well, writing and otherwise ❤

Scarring Your Characters

Everyone has scars. Something that has hurt them that they carry through life, that changes how they act and react. I’ve said it so many times: characters are people, and they are. And characters have scars too—both literal and figurative.

Scars are more than just a tragic backstory. They can be as deep as an abusive past or loss of a parent, or superficial as social rejection or a petty betrayal. They give characters and stories depth. Characters are people, with pasts and lives and feelings, that are constantly changing and growing. It makes your story full and dynamic—living and breathing.

It also opens up a whole new world of story possibilities and makes your story unpredictable. Instead of a linear path following your protagonist and their struggles, now there’s a dozen different paths, weaving and colliding and tangling together.

So how can you add scars?

Sometimes scars are obvious and unavoidable—like a scar slashed across their face. These are a major part of your character, and unavoidably part of the story, but they don’t necessarily have to be focused on. These don’t always have the most impact on your character. They might be more of a trait, another factor of your character, without really affecting how they interact with the world. I think most tragic backstories fall into this category. Usually, it’s added like another tick on a character sheet: brown hair, sometimes shy, parents died tragically when he was young.

Don’t just add something that seems awful and traumatic for the sake of it being awful and traumatic. It might not really have the impact on your character that it should, like I said above. What matters most to your character? What do they want more than anything? And what would hurt them the most?

For instance, the protagonist of Ember, Falcon, lived with a gang for years before she found her family. The abuse she suffered from them wasn’t what was traumatic. In her world, violence was normal, accepted. What was more painful for her was when the gang lord, the only person to ever show her  “love” and the only family she had ever had, cast her out on the street like she was nothing.

Sometimes scars aren’t obvious. Sometimes they peek out of a shirt sleeve, or don’t even show at all. We don’t always see scars, but that doesn’t mean that they’re not there. In the same way, your characters’ scars might not even be part of the story, but that doesn’t mean they won’t affect it. Falcon’s father figure, Asa, knows a lot about her past and carries a lot of pain from that time. None of that is ever addressed in Ember, but it changes how he treats Falcon and how he reacts to everything that happens in the story.

Not all scars are major. Most are much smaller, but no less important. Sometimes these are the scars that really affect how a character acts, and taken altogether really shape who they are. And sometimes scars that seem small, have a lot more impact than we think. In Ember, Falcon has a scar on her wrist from when the gang punished her for trying to steal food. It seems small, but we learn later that this is the incident that made them cast her out, so it has a lot more meaning to her.

When thinking of scars, usually we think of our protagonists first. Which is great, because they arguably need to be the deepest and most developed character in your story. But I think what really gives a story depth is when supporting characters have pasts and scars, which then affect how they treat the protagonist and the events around them.

If you are going to scar your characters in the story, then it needs to be dealt with straight on. You need to directly address what happened to them, and how they’re going to change because of it. But if it happened to them before the story starts, I think the most effective way to show their scars is to first show the behavior or how it has changed your character, then slowly reveal the reason behind it.

I could say a lot more about this, but I’ll write another post on it later. What are your characters’ scars, and how do you work them into your story? Are they obvious scars on the face, or hidden behind a sleeve?

Either way, scars are what make your characters.

Weekend Writing Warriors

Hey there! Sad day, since this is my last snippet before summer since spring semester has started. It’s been great to be back over break, thanks so much for everything! To meet some new authors, read some great writing, or join in the 8-sentence fun, stop by at Weekend Writing Warriors!

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This is a continuation from last week’s snippet (here), though I have skipped some paragraphs and rearranged for the sake of snippet flow. In this scene, Falcon has been captured by the Helyx gang and is being harvested for her Amaranthine magic. Creative punctuation has been used to fit into the eight sentences.

_________

With one last awful gurgle, Scar stopped struggling and slumped against the wall.

I stood over him, blood trailing from the corners of his eyes, his mouth, lines raked into his neck where he had try to claw the blood out–I had done this, this horrid, violent thing.

I had boiled a man from the inside out, without touching him.

I balled my hands into fists to stop them from shaking–Blood snaked down my arms, mirroring the lines that glowed silver-blue with Amaranthine.

I stared down at my hands–They had done this, I had done this. I grinned–My magic wasn’t useless after all.

It was deadly.

I turned and ran, leaving my victim slumped against the wall.

_________

There you have it! Thanks so much for all the support over break, and I look forward to being back this summer 🙂 Until next time, happy 8sunday!

Blog Post and Novel Excerpt © Victoria Davenport and the Coffee.Write.Repeat. blog

Weekend Writing Warriors

Hey y’all! Classes have started again, so I’ll only post one more snippet to finish this scene before the spring semester gets into full swing. To meet some new authors, read some great writing, or join in the 8-sentence fun, stop by at Weekend Writing Warriors!

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This is a direct continuation from last week’s snippet (here). In this scene, Falcon has been captured by the Helyx gang and is being harvested for her Amaranthine magic. Creative punctuation has been used to fit into the eight sentences.

_________

Scar’s face turned red–He coughed, and it caught at the back of his throat, trapped–choked. A gurgle slipped out, mangled–The bowl fell from his hands, and shattered as it hit the ground, dashing my blood against the wall.

The boy froze, and cast an anxious look at him, “Are you alright, Scar?”

Scar couldn’t speak.

His hands went to his throat, clawing at his skin and drawing blood. His skin paled to ash, his eyes bulged–His scream came out a strangled gurgle.

The boy ran to him as Scar’s legs buckled beneath him–He cried for help, and two more boys rushed in, shooting a glance at me before rushing to Scar’s side in panic. They circled him like headless chickens, lost.

_________

That’s it! I will finish this scene next week, so make sure you check it out 🙂 Thank you for reading, and look forward to your snippets this week! Happy 8sunday!

Blog Post and Novel Excerpt © Victoria Davenport and the Coffee.Write.Repeat. blog

Keeping It Real

In my last post, I touched on how YA faces the hardest parts of life, head on. Life, love, and loss–nothing is too intense for YA. Sometimes, it’s even more intense, super-charged with young emotions. It’s also so important to be true to these emotions, and be raw and honest when it matters, especially when dealing with sensitive and difficult subjects.

A lot of my most recent writing is very emotional and powerful. I’ve been exploring love and relationships, loss and grief, despair and depression. I’ve already pushed my characters to their breaking points and beyond, and now I’m handling the effects of that. After such extreme conflict, my characters are going to be forever changed. Some of them will learn and grow from it, some will never be able to recover. All of them will have scars, both seen and unseen, just like in real life.

As I’ve been writing these intense scenes, I’ve struggled sometimes with just how raw they are. I knew they were going to be, but seeing everything in words, stripped bare on the page, is something entirely different. Honestly, it’s even a little scary because in going to those raw places, there’s also a lot of deep and personal pieces of myself on the page. In exploring my characters’ scars, I’ve revealed some scars of my own.

So how much is too much? Is there a such a thing as being too raw, too deep, and too honest in your writing?

For me, I don’t think so. It might be scary to be so open and vulnerable, but that’s what writing is. It’s our blood, poured out in ink. And I think as writers we have a responsibility to be as open and authentic as we can. If we aren’t, what is the point of writing?

This week, I let a friend of mine read my MS. It’s the first time a non-writer friend has read my work. At first, it was a little terrifying. It felt like I was revealing this deep, inner part of myself. But I gave in, and she read the entire book in two days, cried at the end, and is already begging for the second.

That is exactly why we can’t be scared of being raw and authentic. That is the writing that affects people, even changes them. And if my writing has the ability to do that, I consider that the highest success of all, best-seller’s lists be damned.

Don’t be scared of going there. Our instincts always tell us to build walls, and lock those parts of ourselves away. It’s terrifying to knock those walls down and lay things out in the open. It will feel vulnerable and personal, sometimes too much so, but those are the words that will make a real difference.

Tear down your walls. Be open and authentic. Grab your demons by the horns, and wrestle them on the page. That’s what will resonate with readers.