Friday, November 22, 2013

New Job!

I have a new job!


And not just any job. I've been trying to become a library shelver for years. YEARS, I tell you. My husband was a shelver up until last September, and so I knew exactly what I would be getting into if I was hired. And it's awesome. Spending all day with books, sorting stuff, pulling holds, and getting to work with some of the nicest people on the planet.

Of course there will occasionally be screaming children, messes to clean up, and the dreaded carnivorous DVD people to deal with, but it can't possibly be worse than a bad day at my previous job. Honestly, screaming kids are cake.

It's been a long road. I've taken the shelving test at least three times, and it's designed to be confusing and difficult. Technically 34/45 is passing, though the higher the score, the higher your chance of an interview. It asks things like (pretend you're putting these on a shelf):

"Which would come third in this set?
A. Schneider, Amy
B. Snyder, Andrew
C. Schneider, Carrie
D. Schnieder, Amanda
E. Sneider, Marc." 

Seriously. Every question is like this. And it's timed. (Awesomeness points for those who get it right!)

Past that, I've been to many, many interviews. I had started to think there was something wrong with me since I was passed up so many times. Schedule wasn't right for me. Couldn't work right away. Simply didn't get a call back. Told my appearance wasn't professional enough (I had a legitimate excuse for that one--besides, shelvers get to wear jeans).

So when I interviewed on Wednesday and got a call back two hours later, I assumed it was bad news. I was thrilled to be wrong. So thrilled, in fact, that I claimed my place as queen of the crybabies as soon as I hung up. Words cannot adequately describe how ecstatic I was.

 Cheers to not giving up on dreams. :)

-Rachel

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Twists and Turns

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away... Audiences were stunned by Darth Vader's words to Luke: "No. I am your father." It's a classic plot twist. Done right, it has a lot of impact. Done wrong, it's predictable and boring.

Lately I've wondered about such twists and turns in the stories we digest. There's not much that surprises me anymore. My husband and I watched Thor: The Dark World last night, and... I was disappointed. Don't get upset when I say that Loki is predictable, because there are some fantastic moments in that film and almost all of them come from Tom Hiddleston. (In fact, he's the only character to show some real emotional depth.) But it's true. Loki is really predictable.

One could argue that Star Wars was predictable, but since I first watched it as a little kid, I was thrilled by the worlds and characters, and what I see all the time in other things now didn't feel so cliche then. The mysterious and powerful mentor must die for the hero to grow into his own. The rogue runs to a friend for help and is betrayed. The bad guy turns out to be the hero's relative. Put them together and you either have an amazing story or a really lousy one. 


How can this be?

It's all about storytelling. It is our jobs as writers to tell the story properly. The plot thickens. It twists. Everyone knows and expects this. What matters is how this is shown. You can do this three ways:  

1. The obvious way. It's the lazy way; this is how, say... Catching Fire comes across. Hints are dropped every five seconds just in case the reader misses the first hundred clues. The protagonist is miraculously stupid even when literally everything points at the truth. (Really, Katniss? How can you be so blind?!) 

2. Subtle foreshadowing. This is tricky, because if you don't heed the word 'subtle' here, it will turn into the obvious. A good example comes from what now seems like an old film, The Sixth Sense. It was talked about to death after everyone had seen it, because while the clues were there, they were easy to overlook. (Since it came out over ten years ago, I feel no shame in sharing spoilers.) Dr. Crowe never moves anything, and doesn't ever have a direct conversation with anyone but the kid. (The Anniversary scene was brilliantly acted, by the way.) Then when you find out he's dead, you suddenly want to go back and watch the movie again. And you realize, all the signs were there.

3. Present it right away, then let them watch it unfold. My favorite book--or rather trilogy--right now is Mistborn. There is a huge 'secret' throughout that's easy to deduce once the third book starts, but as soon as you notice, instead of being put off or disappointed by it, you want to see just where the author is going with it. And as all the little pieces tie together, you marvel at how amazing the whole story was, and how even the expected had an unexpected twist. (Then you cry so hard that you can't even see what you're reading anymore... ahem.)


Now you may say, "But what about random twists? Out of the blue, for no reason?" Random stuff happens in real life, but not in fiction. It needs to serve a purpose. Even a book that claims something random just occurred proves a point while doing so. Pay attention to what you're doing, and don't ever force the story to change just because you think you need a plot twist. That's the most important thing. Don't force it. Your audience can tell.

I wish you luck. Now go write.

-Rachel

Monday, November 4, 2013

You Can Do This

Blogging is hard, guys. Harder than writing a novel, apparently. My last post was in September. I skipped a whole month! I'd never skip writing for that long. I'd probably die if I did. My brain would drip out my ears from idea overload. But... Blogging? I have no ideas about what to say, what would be proper. What would make me sound awesome and smart.

And maybe that's okay. Because I'm not awesome and smart. No, I'm not an expert by any means. But it doesn't take an expert to share with others what knowledge you have. If it did, we writers would never be allowed to publish any books. Artists would never sell any paintings. Musicians would never record an album.

What a boring world we would live in, if everything was required to be perfect before leaving our fingertips! There's such beauty in learning and growing as we go along, and watching others do the same. I've recently read a lot of research on a few inspiring figures in the creative world. Oscar Wilde. Georgia O'Keeffe. Erik Satie. I can tell you now that they made a lot of mistakes before they got things right. And debates still rage over the quality of their works.

But they persisted. They wrote and painted and played even when no one was around, even when it got hard, even when they worried that they weren't awesome or smart or good at their respective art.

So I'll be back, soon this time. And I hope the rest of you will continue to share your words with the world. Whatever your worries are, whatever your struggles, you can do this. I know you can. Even if you don't believe in you, I do. 

Good luck!

-Rachel

PS. Melissa, this post exists because of you. Thank you. :)