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30 Days Writing Meme

So, this meme is something that’s been going around my flist again recently... And it went around once before. I never got around to doing it ‘cos I’m terrible at posting once daily for thirty days. But this one is all about writing and all of the questions are super related, so I thought it would make more cohesive sense to post it all at once, plus then I don’t have to remember to post one a day. So, without further adieu, here is the 30 day writing meme.

1. Tell us about your favorite writing project/universe that you've worked with and why. My favorite universe that I’ve ever worked with is definitely my Lazy Tequila Afternoons universe -- which is the one I use on RaTs. It originally started out as a roleplay between my best friend and I over the phone in high school. We would get on the phone around 9p and talk until one of us fell asleep, just going on and on about these characters. It started out with just Jimi, Nick and Alex. But quickly spiraled out of control to adding more and more characters. In our game, though, they had magic / special powers and there was invisibility, ESP, and time travel involved. I didn’t like the supernatural turn, so I took the characters I knew and threw them into a RL setting with a bunch of romance twists, instead of saving the world scenarios. I think it worked out better this way, personally.

I love the series because it’s so well developed and so incredibly varied that no matter what I feel like writing about, or what sort of mood I’m in, there’s always something for me to dive into and work on. That and it feels like I’m just going home and chatting with some friends, rather than actually working, so that’s always nice.

2. How many characters do you have? Do you prefer males or females? Oh, lordy. There are hundreds of characters in the series, if you count all of the minor characters, all the way down to the walk-ons, but there’s about 15-20 major / main characters that span all of the books. I try to keep each book with three or fewer main characters a piece, though two is ideal, and then all of the other minor ones and walk-ons... And cameos from other books.

I prefer writing females, but my favorite characters of mine [and in other things] always seem to be male.

3. How do you come up with names, for characters (and for places if you're writing about fictional places)? Honestly? I just pick names out of the air. I have a list of names I think would be cool that I draw from sometimes, but usually it’s just the first random name that fits where they were born that I can think of first.

4. Tell us about one of your first stories/characters! The first book, and the one that started this whole thing, was Sky of Dust. Which is now actually two books because it was so massive. It’s Audrey’s book / story and the first one will take place in France, telling her original story of heartbreak and abuse and all of that, and then the second one will pick up as she’s finally pulling herself out of that awful situation. As for Audrey, she’s a pretty headstrong girl. She’s independent and has a hard time trusting men, but Nick somehow manages to gain her trust and break her shell.

5. By age, who is your youngest character? Oldest? How about “youngest” and “oldest” in terms of when you created them? Umm... Well, it depends on what canon you’re looking at. Now that I’ve started poking around with things for RaTs, I’ve given a few characters children [Alex is the only one who I’ve posted about having offspring, though], and his mother appears in that piece in her 60s. Then there’s the entire Teaberry Smoothie canon with Kuu in which Rhys is about 70, so... Yeah. Even in normal canon, though, excluding the parents that are always there, but never onscreen, Rhys is the token older role model in the canon. Youngest, excluding all potential future offspring, is Colin from Further than a Neon Sky. When Rhys is 26 [which he is in a fair amount of the novels], Colin is 10.

In terms of creation, Jimi, Nick, and Alex are the oldest, since they came into existence sometime around 1999 / 2000. Newest in that sense is Joe, the middle aged man who works the morning shifts at El Café when Erika first starts working there.

6. Where are you most comfortable writing? At what time of day? Computer or good ol' pen and paper? I definitely do my best work at night, after the sun has gone down and dinner has been consumed and almost exclusively on the computer nowadays. I still do a bit of handwriting when I’m going to be sitting around without the computer for an extended amount of time, but generally, the computer is nearby enough that I can tap out a few thou’ before anyone gets too upset. As for where? Anywhere, really, just so long as I don’t have to keep the laptop on my actual lap. That’s never been comfortable for me.

7. Do you listen to music while you write? What kind? Are there any songs you like to relate/apply to your characters? Music has been a huge part of my life for possibly even longer than writing has, so I pretty much am always listening to music [when I don’t have a migraine]. I’m blessed to be one of those people who can listen to stuff with lyrics while writing and not have to worry about the song becoming part of the text or getting distracted by the words [though, I did just ironically stop writing this to dance to Shake-a-Booty, lol]. I have a ton of songs that apply to my characters themselves and their respective storylines. Each novel has a playlist in my iTunes that is the novel’s “soundtrack,” which I like to package up like a real CD and post to my writing journal once the entire story is finished.

8. What's your favorite genre to write? To read? To write: definitely romance. To read: YA / Teen Fiction

9. How do you get ideas for your characters? Describe the process of creating them. I work in a job in which I meet thousands of people every day for brief moments. I don’t ever get the chance to really get to know 99% of those people, but I get a glimpse into their lives and a lot of the time that’s enough to get a basic character idea and start imagining what else their lives could consist of. That and I love people watching. Or eavesdropping on conversations on the bus. Or just anywhere, really. As for developing them after that? I write up a basic dossier profile that I’ve tweaked and perfected to be just what I want in LSB and then throw them into plot to see how they’d react.

10. What are some really weird situations your characters have been in? Everything from serious canon scenes to meme questions counts! My characters get themselves into some pretty ridiculous situations plot-wise, but RaTs has definitely added to them tenfold. For example: the very obviously ripped off of Final Fantasy video game AU. Yeaaah.

11. Who is your favorite character to write? Least favorite? Definitely Erika for the favorite. She’s snarky and tough on the outside, but super troubled and almost emo on the inside and just all kinds of multifaceted and wonderful. Least favorite is probably Rhys or Kyle. Neither one is someone I’d get along with IRL and it’s sometimes hard for me to get into their characters because of that.

12. In what story did you feel you did the best job of world building? Any side-notes on it you'd like to share? Eh, not really applicable here because it’s all RL based, but I did take a day while I was in London to go out and scope out places that would be good settings for Sunshowers on Bluebell Fields and took pictures. I sat down on a wall and sketched out street maps, making note of things like trees or weirdly parked cars, cracks in the sidewalks, etc. I would have to say that was probably my most extensive world building “task.”

13. What's your favorite culture to write, fictional or not? I don’t often venture outside of what I know with this because I feel like cultures are something really easy to screw up [and I don’t do fantasy / sci-fi to create my own].

14. How do you map out locations, if needed? Do you have any to show us? I draw out maps by hand a lot. I’ve also used google maps / streetview a lot lately. And, my absolute favorite is creating the worlds in The Sims 2. I have a LTA neighborhood on my laptop that has each city that plays a big part in the series segregated into its own section [Orlando; Raymond, Mississippi; Paris, France; London; Boston, Massachusetts] with the residential areas that I mention in the plot and then the community lots are the downtown areas. Sure, they’re not geographically accurate in that there are multiple cities and countries all represented all within one town, but it gives the Sim versions of my characters to interact in the way that they would be able to within the novels, so that’s awesome.

15. Midway question! Tell us about a writer you admire, whether professional or not! John. Green. He’s brilliant as a person, but even beyond that, every word he writes [er, well, at least the ones he shares] comes out perfect and gorgeous and meaningful and ffff. He is amazing.

16. Do you write romantic relationships? How do you do with those, and how “far” are you willing to go in your writing? ;) I do! They’re pretty much the basis of my plots in the LTA series, honestly. Well, at least in some of the books. There are certain books in the series that have like morals or some shit. I’ll go all the way in writing. There’s no reason not to.

17. Favorite protagonist and why! Nick. I’m not entirely sure why. Something about him just warms my heart and makes me smile whenever I’m writing him.

18. Favorite antagonist and why! Probably April. She’s an antagonist in Sky of Dust [and, I guess technically in SBF2] and I get to explore her more evil side. In Sunshowers in Bluebell Fields, April is fairly sweet and innocent. I mean, she’s still always looking out for herself and bitchy, but she keeps it in check in the first book. In the second, she’s been scorned and is super vindictive. When she goes after Nick? It’s knowing full well that she’s going to use him and destroy him... And I love that about her.

19. Favorite minor that decided to shove himself into the spotlight and why! Colin! Oh my word, this boy. He was literally some super minor character that I created for a RaTs prompt. Only. He was supposed to have that single walk on and then disappear, never to be heard of again. But no. Now, Colin ends up with Erika in the end, effectively changing the ENTIRE PLOT of Further than a Neon Sky. All because of RaTs.

20. What are your favorite character interactions to write? I love writing my siblings fighting. Nick / Aaron especially, though Lindsay / Tiffany are also fun. I’m not sure why, but the arguing is always interesting between the pairs of siblings. Another one of my favorites is the relationship-y aspects between Alex and Kyle, especially while they’re still young and unsure. It’s awkward and sweet and fuzzy. <3

21. Do any of your characters have children? How well do you write them? None of them have kids until well after the canon in the novels has actually ended. However, I frequently write my main characters as children and those are always everyone’s favorite pieces on RaTs, so I think I do them justice, in the very least.

22. Tell us about one scene between your characters that you've never written or told anyone about before! Serious or not. Um... Let’s see. I don’t think I’ve ever told anyone that Alex nearly killed Kyle when they were 11? The two end up playing around on a construction site and Alex, the daredevil that he is, ties a rope to an upper level and then swings off of it, jumping off and landing into a large pile of clean, white, construction sand. Kyle is apprehensive about following him and doing the same, but not wanting to seem like a baby, he does it anyway. The rope comes undone and Kyle falls prematurely, hitting / catching his chest on an exposed [and sharp] piece of metal that landed him in the hospital. Thankfully, the cut wasn’t too deep, so he didn’t die, but he comes close from blood loss alone.

23. How long does it usually take you to complete an entire story—from planning to writing to posting (if you post your work)? Define “story” in terms of length? If we’re going full length novel, usually 45-60 uninterrupted days to nail down the [often terrible] first draft. Editing takes upwards of a year, at least... Sometimes longer. If you mean something short [ie - 2k or less], maybe an hour or two to write it and let it sit before reading over it / editing it. So, maybe 4-5 hours from conception to posting? Something longer [ie - 5k - 20k] will obviously take longer. Maybe a couple of weeks. I type super fast and usually write just as fast, so I’m lucky in that regard.

24. How willing are you to kill your characters if the plot so demands it? What's the most interesting way you've killed someone? Hard to say. In Faded Sunsets [my fail of a fantasy NaNo], I killed people off left and right. But in the Lazy Tequila Afternoons series, I haven’t actually killed off anyone. There were two people who were temporarily thought of as being dead, but they weren’t really. I should probably get around to killing someone off, yeah? I have a few ideas...

25. Do any of your characters have pets? Tell us about them. For a while in the very far back history of this series, Kyle had nine dogs that he kept outside so he wouldn’t actually have to deal with the germs and grossness that he can’t handle, but upon further thought, that just seemed like a huge waste and completely out of character for him, so I got rid of those. April has a dog. A small purse puppy. Nick and Audrey eventually get a yellow lab named buttons... I don’t think any of these are actually seen in the books, though.

26. Let's talk art! Do you draw your characters? Do others draw them? Pick one of your OCs and post your favorite picture of him! I have zero skillz of an artist, so there are only photographs of random stock models / friends that look close enough to my characters that they work for me.

27. Along similar lines, do appearances play a big role in your stories? Tell us about them, or if not, how you go about designing your characters. Yes and no. It’s not really important in the way that every reader needs to see the characters exactly the way I do, or even remotely close, really, but for a couple of the characters, it is important that they at least fit a certain stereotype. Rhys is the typical businessman; Audrey is gorgeous enough that everyone wants to get to “know” her; Nick has a pretty all-American look, but blends into the crowd; Alex isn’t attractive by typical definitions, but there’s something about him that makes him attractive to most people anyway, even if they can’t put their finger on it. Other than those characters, though? No... Not really important at all.

28. Have you ever written a character with physical or mental disabilities? Describe them, and if there's nothing major to speak of, tell us a few smaller ones. Kyle is my only one. He’s OCD, bipolar, and [much later in canon] schizophrenic. He’s also insanely germ-phobic and has separation anxiety issues. Sooo, yeah. He’s pretty messed up, but so super lovable.

29. How often do you think about writing? Ever come across something IRL that reminds you of your story/characters? Constantly. Even when I’m in a “dry spell” and not really writing that much, I’m always thinking about it and trying to get back into what I was doing before. Things IRL remind me of my universe a lot. If I drive down a certain part of 192 [a highway in the area], I can’t help but picture Audrey and Nick hanging out together in the places that the novel is set in. Or when I hear certain songs on my iPod, or see pictures from my trip to London. This series, specifically, has been a part of my life since 2000 in its purest form and since 2007 in the novel reincarnations that I’ve been living and breathing in my writing life... There’s not a lot around anymore that doesn’t make me think of it.

30. Final question! Tag someone! And tell us what you like about that person as a writer and/or about one of his characters! I tag everyone! And what I like about them is that they write and aren’t afraid / ashamed to admit it! :D