TWNP Blog Chain: Favorite Characters

Quick apology for not posting over the weekend! BEA/BookCon ended up being way more hectic than expected, and it was either blog or sleep. (We all know how that situation turns out.) I promise I WILL gush all about the weekend soon, though!

In the meantime, today I’m participating in the new Today’s Word Nerd Ponderings blog chain. (Learn more about it here.) The prompt for this month’s chain is:

There are all sorts of characters that we create and read about, but like people in real life, we are only drawn to some. What makes you love or hate a character? What do you love about your favorite character(s)? And that’s it. You can talk about one of your own characters you really relate to, or I don’t care, a TV show you watched as a kid. Tell us about why you are going to name your kid after Blues Clues when you grow up.

So, the characters I like are pretty across the board in terms of what they look like, and what they’re into, and all the rest of that stuff. But I’ve found that I’m definitely drawn to a certain type of personality. Specifically: snarky, vaguely selfish characters.

A character doesn’t necessarily have to be all witty-one-liners and talking-back-to-authority to fulfill my definition of snarky. I’m more into the sort of pokes-fun-at-everything or slightly-annoyed-by-everything internal monologue. Think Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games), or Anna Oliphant (Anna and the French Kiss), or Simon Spier (Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda).

I’m into this obviously because it’s super entertaining, but also because I too am a snarkmonger in my internal monologue (but generally not so much out loud). So I connect a lot with that type of voice in first person narratives, because it’s similar to what runs through my own head. (Although, let’s be honest, I’m not nearly as witty as YA protags.)

Likewise, I really like selfish characters because I’m selfish myself. As much as I love Katniss, I’m not the person who would volunteer as tribute. (I’d be like, “Tough break, kid,” then feel guilt and shame for how terrible a person I am for the rest of my life.) (But I still wouldn’t change.) (Because hello, the Hunger Games are scary.) But even Katniss isn’t always selfless, and it is these parts of me that make me connect with her (although it’s her selfless parts that make me admire her).

One of my favorite protagonists of all time is Sam from Lauren Oliver’s Before I Fall. I’ve heard a lot of dislike for her, because she spends the majority of the novel as kind of this self-centered brat. But I love her because of her brattiness. She doesn’t conform to the usual “likeable” character status quo. She doesn’t always try to do the right thing and she spends a good deal of her story mired in her flaws. But she still does grow as a person and finds redemption in the end.

It’s lovely to see someone like that–someone who feels just as messed up and terrible as I am, who still manages to turn things around and find the strength to be a good person by the time her book closes.

So yeah. That’s a basic overview of the traits that define some of my favorite characters. (To recap: I like not-good people who are funny.) (Which explains why I was totally Team Ultron during Avengers 2.)


TCWT Blog Chain: A Letter of Titanic Proportions

Well. This is it. My last Teens Can Write, Too! blog chain post.

That’s right. Next week I’m turning (brace yourself) twenty-one.

While I gain the ability to have a right-side-up driver’s license next week, I also become ineligible to participate in things like the TCWT blog chain–because, you know, not exactly a teenager anymore. (Woe is me. I always knew that dastardly John would put me out to pasture eventually.) I’m still going to be an admin and writer for TCWT blog though, so I’m cool with getting booted from this one activity.

This month’s topic is a fun one: “Write a letter to a fictional couple.”

There are a lot of fictional couples I’d love to write a letter to. I have very strong opinions on a lot of fictional couples. But because Titanic was on ABC Family the other night, and Jack and Rose are by far the worst part of an otherwise amazing movie, guess who I’m writing to.


Dear Rose and Jack,

This is going to sting (much like the icy waters of the Atlantic), so let me preface this letter with this: I love you. I’ve loved you guys since I was too young to understand that (literally) steamy scene in the back of the car and used to make everyone shut up every time “My Heart Will Go On” came on the radio.

But you’re two of the biggest idiots to ever grace the big screen.

Especially you, Rose. I mean, Jack is an idiot for going along with your idiocy. But you’re the one running this whole circus of crazy.

I get it. You’re oppressed. Your fiance is a d-bag and your mother makes the Thenardiers look like caring parents. But is that really reason to throw yourself at the first cute, decent human being to cross your path?

And I know, I know. “Cute” is an understatement when it comes to 90s Leonardo DiCaprio. I probably would have thrown myself at him too. But you don’t know him. You guys had, what, one real conversation? During which you insulted each other and got on one another’s nerves repeatedly? I’m not saying “don’t have a fling,” because all the power to ya if you wanna go for it. But let’s not be all “you jump, I jump” and “I’ll never let go” about it. You’ve known each other for what, two days? I can understand some affection for one another, but this undying love and devotion is unhealthy and honestly a little bit creepy. You’re actually kind of lucky that ship sank, as far as your relationship goes, because no way it would have lasted.

Speaking of the ship sinking: The two of you LITERALLY SINK THE ENTIRE SHIP. If you weren’t so busy running around distracting people from their jobs, the iceberg spotter people would have been able to see the iceberg in time and the engine room people would have been able to do their engine room stuff more effectively, and the ship LITERALLY WOULD NOT HAVE SUNK. (You know, in the movie. Don’t worry: I get that in real life the ship did not sink because two passengers named Rose and Jack were distracting the iceberg spotter guys by making out on deck.) (As far as we know.)

If anyone on the RMS Titanic deserves to drown, it’s the two of you. Yet we root for your survival until the end as characters much more deserving of life bite it all around you. Why? Obviously not for your flat personalities or selfish natures. I think it comes down to two reasons: (1) You’re the main characters, so duh we’re going to root for you. (2) You’re both ridiculously attractive and Hollywood has conditioned us to believe that pretty people deserve to live more.

But honestly–despite your protagonist status and on point hair, it gets hard to keep cheering for you by the time we reach the climax of the film. This is when you really reveal how idiotic you are, Rose.

The ship is sinking. You know the ship is sinking. You have decided you don’t want to die. Jack has already showed on multiple occasions that he is willing to give his life to save yours–yet you still get off the lifeboat to be with him. He doesn’t WANT you to get off the lifeboat, Rose! In fact, you’re making it harder for him to survive, because having you around means gun-happy Cal is pissed and also now Jack is obligated to drag you around with him and put you first instead of saving his own butt, and wasn’t the point of getting off the lifeboat to help him? What kind of messed up logic led you to conclude that getting off the lifeboat would help anyone?

And DON’T GET ME STARTED on when the Titanic actually sinks! Jack was so kind as to find you that lovely door to lie on, dear Rose. WHY DIDN’T YOU SEND HIM TO FIND HIS OWN FURNITURE-FLOTATION DEVICE? Or hey, when the ship was in the process of going down, WHY DID NO ONE THINK TO TAKE AN AX TO SOME OF THE FURNITURE AND DOORS IN THE SHIP TO MAKE MORE FLOTATION DEVICES SO MORE PEOPLE COULD SURVIVE? Come on, now! The Titanic took a billion hours to go down. Surely you could have spared five minutes in all your drama to lay some insurance for your survival.

This letter’s getting pretty long, so I guess I’ll end here. But if you ever want some more berating, you know where to find me. (I’ll be the one sobbing on my living room couch while watching Titanic for the billionth time.)

Love you guys. See you when you wash up on shore in Inception, Leo.

I’ll never let go,



Like this blog chain topic? Check out the rest of the posts throughout the month.


























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and (We’ll announce the topic for next month’s chain.)

TCWT Blog Chain: Music and Writing

The prompt for this month’s Teens Can Write, Too! blog chain is:

“How does music relate to your writing?” 

Music is such a big thing for me. These days I pretty much always write to movie scores, because they help get (and keep) me in the mindset to work, and they can be great for getting me in the mood for writing certain things. (So like if I need to write something sad, you know what’s wonderful for that? HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS – PART 2.) My favorite composer is Hans Zimmer, but I also listen to a lot of scores from James Horner and James Newton Howard.

I’ve posted before about how when I work on a novel, I generally end up with a single score that I listen to nonstop while writing (check that post out here), but there are also a lot of scores I listen to that aren’t connected to a specific novel.

They’re all great for their own reasons, so I figured I’d share some of them today.

The Theory of Everything by Johann Johannsson

This is one of the two movie scores I’m currently obsessed with. The entire score is beautiful, but I’m especially in love with the opening song here. I love how playful and almost desperately hopeful it is, and the way the music feels like it, I don’t know, blossoms. I especially love how listening to it reminds me of how being at Oxford felt (which makes sense, since it’s about Cambridge).

Interstellar by Hans Zimmer

This is the other score I’m currently obsessed with. I wasn’t a huge fan of it the first time I saw Interstellar, but after the second time it got stuck in my head and now I can’t stop listening to it. This track (“Stay”) is especially good. It makes me want to write desperate, scared, hopeful things.

The Amazing Spider-Man by James Horner

I mainly love this score because it sounds so similar to my favorite of James Horner’s scores, Titanic. I wrote the novel I’ve been working on the past few years to Titanic, and have kept listening to it during the billions of rounds of revisions since, so it’s nice to have another score to fall back on that’s still similar but also different.

The Dark Knight (Rises) by Hans Zimmer (and James Newton Howard)

So really just all the music from the Dark Knight trilogy is fantastic. Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard collaborated in composing for the first two films, then Zimmer did the last one alone. These scores are great for really intense stuff, especially action sequences.

“Aurora” by Hans Zimmer

Not an actual film score, but so heartbreaking and haunting. Zimmer wrote this after the movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado opening night of The Dark Knight Rises, with proceeds going to the victims’ families, and it incorporates motifs from the Dark Knight trilogy.

The Hunger Games Series by James Newton Howard

I’m honestly not a huge fan of a lot of these scores. I thought the first was excellent, then it’s been downhill from there. But each movie does have some really great parts, especially when the arena collapses at the end of Catching Fire. These scores are wonderful for emotional, action-y stuff.

The Chronicles of Narnia Series by Harry Gregson-Williams

These were the scores that first got me into listening to scores. Gregson-Williams’s work on Narnia is absolutely gorgeous. Light when need be, heavy and pounding in the battle sequences. I used to listen to these on long car rides heading up north to ski, notebook open across my lap and farm fields frozen and sparkling beyond the windows.

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by Howard Shore

I don’t actually write to The Lord of the Rings scores that much, but these are AMAZING for homework. It makes writing papers feel like going on adventures.

Do you like to write to music? What kinds? Do you have any favorite movie scores to recommend?

Like this blog chain topic? Check out the rest of the posts throughout the month.

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28th – (We’ll announce the topic for next month’s chain.)


TCWT Blog Chain: Learning by Example

Hello! Disclaimer from the future (July 5, 2020): I’m leaving this post up, because I think it has some useful information throughout, but I also want to note that I do not in any way support or endorse JK Rowling anymore, due to her quite frankly dangerous racism and transphobia.


The December Teens Can Write, Too! blog chain topic is:

“What works of fiction have taught you by example, and what did they teach you?”

I’ve talked about this a little before. The best way to learn about writing is to pay attention. Pay attention to what you like or don’t like about the books you’re reading. Why you react in a certain way and how to either achieve the same effect or avoid it.

As writers, the books we read are our text books. And you don’t necessarily only learn from books in your genre. All reading you do teaches you in some way.

So, here are some books I’ve learned from and what they taught me.


The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins: Break Boundaries

Like a lot of people, I hadn’t read anything, really, in first person, present tense before The Hunger Games. It’s funny because it feels so natural to read it now, but at the time it took some getting used to. But I was also really happy to see it, because that’s the POV+tense combo I’ve always naturally written, and pre-Hunger Games I felt like it was something I wasn’t supposed to do.

Basically: The Hunger Games taught me that if it’s what feels right to you for your story, go for it. Even if it seems unusual. (And now look at us. EVERYONE writes in first person, present tense. Don’t be afraid to be the person who knocks that barrier down.)

Harry Potter by JK Rowling: Plotting & Planning


I’ve never seen anyone else do so much work laying the groundwork for later plot developments and twists. Not to mention how much development she put into the world-building. The Harry Potter series taught me planning ahead is worth it. (And even the smallest hint in book one, brought back to be something huge later in the series, can make the reader all warm and glowy and happy inside.)

Also that growing up the book series alongside the reader is a really awesome thing to do.

Also a million other things because Harry Potter.

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver: Hard Doesn’t Mean Impossible

Major spoilers on this one if you haven’t read it: Before I Fall taught me it’s okay to kill your protagonist at the end. I’ve seen so many of those unsatisfying “saved at the last second” endings–and endings when the protag DOES die at the end, but in an unsatisfying way–that it’s nice to see one that just feels Right. Before I Fall proves that killing your protag in a way that doesn’t piss the reader off is possible. END SPOILERS

Before I Fall also taught me your main characters don’t necessarily have to be “likable” for the reader to like them. Sometimes it’s the worst people we find the most fascinating.

Percy Jackson by Rick Riordan: You Don’t Always Have to Be Serious

The Percy Jackson series taught me that books don’t always need to be “serious” to be good. Sometimes your narrator can be super sarcastic and a little egotistical and it can be hilarious and that in itself can qualify as good.

Divergent by Veronica Roth: Line-by-Line Pacing

This book is such a fun action-y romp. I was rereading Divergent while working on revisions a while back, trying to figure out what made the line-by-line writing so rapid fire, and I realized it had a lot to do with the sentence length. VRoth is a master of the short, punchy sentence.

After making that connection, I reread some of my other favorite action-y books, examining their sentence structures as well.

As mentioned in last week’s Wordy Wednesday: Shorter sentences make writing run faster, so they’re better in your more intense, action-packed stories. Longer sentences make the reader slow down and pay more attention to the language, so they’re better in more literary, look-how-beautiful-this-imagery-is pieces.

Divergent was the first book to make me really think about how sentence length is an actual, active element in writing.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein: There’s More than Romance

This book is all about friendship and it taught me you don’t have to tell the traditional romance-centric story to still have strong, beautiful relationships the reader will fall in love with and root for.

Waltzing the Cat by Pam Houston: Fiction CAN Feel Real

You’ll notice this one isn’t a YA novel, which just proves my point about learning from a variety of sources. Waltzing the Cat is a book of short stories, all starring the same narrator, I read for my first college creative writing class. And although it’s not something I would have picked up on my own, I couldn’t put it down. I’ve never read something that feels as real as this. Like I thought it had to be a series of short memoirs while I was reading it, but nope, fiction.

If you want to learn about character and setting development, Waltzing the Cat is the way to go.


So, there you have it. Some of the writing-related lessons I’ve learned from books.

If you want to check out the other posts from this month’s Teens Can Write, Too! blog chain and see how other people approached the topic, here’s the schedule:





















25th – [off-day]





30th and

31st – (We’ll announce the topic for next month’s chain.)

What have you learned from the books you’ve read?


NaNo Day 20: Being a Teenager [TCWT Blog Chain]

So, today I’m participating in the Teens Can Write, Too! November blog chain.

Prompt: Use pictures and individual words to show what, to you, is the essence of being a teenager.” 

Because I’m defining what being a teen is like specifically to me, I’m using all my own pictures. So bear with me if/when I edit out some things for the sake of privacy.




We Are Awesome



Katniss Costume

Narnia and EnglandJK Rowling Autograph



Finding My Rhythm

OneRepublic Concert





Blogging at BookCon

Write It



New Buffalo

Crown Fountain at Night


Moving Forward


If you want to check out some of the other posts from the blog chain this month, here’s the schedule. They’re all brilliant.

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24th – (We’ll announce the topic for next month’s chain.)

I’m seeing Mockingjay Part 1 at 11:00 PM, so SIX AND A HALF HOURS!!! (I’ve heard such mixed reviews, but you can’t make me not excited for a Hunger Games movie.)

No writing planned for today because of classes and movie!

Goal for today: 0 + Wednesday’s leftover 2,000 + Monday’s 2,000 + Sunday’s 1,000

Overall goal: 38,000.

Current word count: 36,123