Hello, hello, hello! It’s lovely to speak with you from beautiful Hilton Head Island, South Carolina!
It’s been a lovely trip here. Incidentally, this is the location that inspired the book, “The Water is Wide”. It’s a little spooky to read the account of Pat’s time teaching the descendants of plantation workers abandoned on the island and growing their own community through the decades here because Pat is from my area. I can far too easily put myself into his shoes in the book. You can read a book blogger’s review here.
But though it’s a great book, it doesn’t really reflect the area very much anymore. Few people on the island are locals, as Hilton Head has become quite the Summer beach getaway destination filled with more transplants than Southern accents.
I honestly haven’t written a single thing in my manuscript while on vacation. Instead, I wrote like a madwoman on the long drive South, and once I got here I restrained myself to writing only in my personal notebook with bits of poetry and dialogue and other shiny words I like to collect but never publish.
In the end I probably got more work done that way instead of slogging through work when I want to be on the beach or having fun, but I mainly did it that way to just give myself a break. It’s not a bad thing to take time off, and I haven’t really done that since I started working for myself (surprisingly, I’m actually an awful boss to myself) so it was important to me to actually let myself not do anything remotely related to work.
I even got a chance to push some of my boundaries and conquer my issue with heights in a treetop obstacle course at the local zipline place. It was much more intense than I’d expected from the advertising, but it was very fun (even despite the sore muscles and bruises!)
Thankfully, my retreat here hasn’t led to any direct progress in writing P.S. The Dragon Sleights, but I needed the break to energize and not throw the whole thing out the window after months of working on it.
Now I’m refreshed I’ll be able to get back to work and zip right through it.
I hope you are enjoying your Summer reading and, if you have one, your vacation!
Today is known in the USA as Independence Day. It’s the day we celebrate signing the Declaration of Independence and formally becoming a distinct country and severing ties with England.
Today there’ll be a lot of fireworks, and I’ll go to one of the viewing events with my family. We’ll have a cookout with various meats stacked on potato rolls- sweet and sour vinegary pulled chicken straight out of the smoker, sweet barbeque pulled pork, and burger patties with all the fixings and probably ten different types of mustard knowing my family’s obsession with the condiment. We’ll buy most of these meats from the smoke cooking machine selling his goods at the farmer’s market, except for the burgers which will be put on the grill in the back yard and probably slightly burned in the process.
There will be coleslaw and potato salad, or maybe egg salad instead, and heaps of romaine lettuce with a few cherry tomatoes that will pass for a salad I won’t be eating, and either poundcake heaped with fruits and whipped topping or a trifle of layers of whipped topping and strawberries and blueberries.
We’ll end the day by joining friends at one of the fireworks viewings and buying cotton candy which normally sells for a buck but will cost six or eight times as much today for the convenience of it. We might even drink a soda or too, which my family normally avoids because they are so sweet none of us really want to finish an entire can. Then it’ll be totally dark and we’ll play with glowsticks. Or maybe we’ll skip going out and just hang out with our neighbors, putting up the smaller fireworks that only shoot up a few feet in the air unless someone bought illegal full size fireworks, and enjoy a nice time relaxing and chatting with people we like but don’t end up seeing too often because we are all too busy.
It won’t be the stuff of stories, but it will be a nice chill day either way and I am sure I will enjoy it.
Sometimes when writing about dragons and magic and awesomeness like that, you have to research real life facts and stuff. It’s a strange world novelists live in.
For those of you reading the Shadeworld series (P.S. The Dragon Bites, The Dragon Fights, The Dragon Sleights) you’ll know that royalty plays a major part in the plot line. There’s revolution and amnesia and an Earth High School and a bunch of teenagers, but at the center of it all there’s Prince Aeron, Prince Richard, and King Vovin, the royals who rule over the entire Shadeworld, and every creature from harpy to fey to vampire that lives there. But, on account of how I’m an American, I’m not super up to date on royalty and all of that sort of thing.
So while in earlier books I researched fighting and battle tactics, for P.S. The Dragon Sleights I set myself to research up on royalty. And because of a certain famous royal wedding, I decided to do a bit of research on how royalty works in Britain.
So I want to take you along on a bit of the research rabbit hole now and share some of the things I used to learn about the royals.
Research is a Great Excuse to Watch T.V.
It’s true, research is a great excuse to watch t.v. What I like to do since I work at home now is to turn my lunch break into a nice time to enjoy my food while watching an episode of something fun on Netflix. Here’s what I’ve been enjoying:
Grace of Monaco
This film is no longer available on streaming Netflix in the USA and you’d have to either do the dvd rental service or check it out on Prime now if you want to watch it. The story was an interesting telling of a true series of events where a Hollywood starlet became a princess and was really quite miserable in it. Interesting events, and of course as an American I love any sort of underdog story. The ending of it cut things off a little abruptly, but I guess it makes sense you can’t boil someone’s entire life into a single movie, so I wasn’t too upset by that.
I’ve quite enjoyed this series. I knew very little about the queen’s reign (we learned other things in History classes in my American schools, like The Trail of Tears, the Civilization of Mali, Ancient China, World War II, those sorts of things that had a bit more impact on my hemisphere, though I’m sure the queen is perfectly lovely) so every episode has been a surprise to me.
I’m sure it’s not completely accurate, it would be almost impossible to capture the nuances of family life and personal relationships just from years of media coverage those outside of the royal family would have access to, but even keeping in mind to take events with a grain of salt I’ve enjoyed the series purely for its entertainment value.
I can’t help but think though that the casting director made some very odd choices for the characters outside of the main cast. The actress for Jackie Kennedy, in particular, was a very unique choice in both voice and appearance in my mind. But the main characters are very well done, so I probably should be more appreciative to just have that!
Prince Philip: The Plot to Make a King
I enjoyed this a great deal. It felt rather documentary-ish, so I’m hoping it’s somewhat historically accurate. Even if it isn’t though I enjoyed it, and that’s what matters.
Final Thoughts on Televised Research
I’m sure none of what I’ve been watching is high quality educational content. But it was fun to watch, and it got me the gist of the ideas, so I figure it works well enough. Learning doesn’t have to be stuffy, I thoroughly believe that is true, so I had fun with my inspiration.
And besides, I’m writing Fantasy, not a research paper. If some of the facts are skewed, it really doesn’t matter at all.
Or, it may be that my “research” is just a poor excuse I’ve made to myself to goof off on occasion. And why not? If you work longer hours, I think it’s perfectly acceptable to have a slightly longer lunch.
What do you do for work that’s really just for fun?
We set out at 4 AM to get to the dock by 7 AM (which is still very early). I live in Virginia, and the dock was in Maryland, so it was a bit of a trip, but not too awful. The dock itself was lovely, because it was pretty far out of the way of D.C. where I’m based.
The fishing boat we went on with a family friend was one of the smallest at this dock, but I know most of the docks at home wouldn’t have been able to fit it just because there’s a lot of people wanting very convenient dock spaces so they are much smaller near the capitol.
Just riding the boat out to the end of Potomac River was quite fun! I always love a good boat ride. I especially loved hanging a little off the side so I could feel the wind whipping at my face and the waves slapping my hands like a high five.
I caught several fish, we all did. We were getting fish almost continuously after we got to our destination on the water. The fun thing was that I personally caught the two biggest fish on the trip, a 26 inch catfish and a 24 inch catfish. Unfortunately we threw them both back out, because I love catfish but the rest of the group dislikes it and I couldn’t finish off that much fish all by myself. After the catfish was on board it started to moo at me, which was oddly scary in a way the other fish weren’t, so in the end I was happy to toss it back out.
No need to worry though, we caught plenty of rockfish and a perch (all of the legally required lengths) as well as many fish that were too small and had to be tossed back. Don’t worry about the rockfish though, we were several hours out from D.C. and all of the fish we caught were healthy normal fish and lacked the sores that are becoming a problem in D.C. caught rockfish.
Then after a long day of really struggling to reel in the strong fish that fought valiantly against reeling, I was happy to spend the return trip by boat just enjoying the view. And the view included a cooler full of many dinners worth of fish as well as the almost endless view of blue, so it was truly wonderful.
The sky was lovely as well at the end of a long day.
The only thing that wasn’t lovely was myself covered in bits of fish scales and fish slime and other unmentionable ickiness.
So we hosed ourselves off at the marina and changed clothes before heading home to enjoy a nice grilled rockfish.
Thankfully just taking a day off like this- I normally skip taking weekends off even because I’m a workaholic- was able to supercharge my mental juices and helped me complete an additional two chapters in P.S. The Dragon Sleights and get some good revising and editing done as well!
Book store staff are always trying to look up books based on the color of their cover. I’m just doing my best to try to help.
Yellow Cover YA Novels
I feel like there would be a major mix of highs and lows about working for a bookstore. The plus would obviously be spending your entire day surrounded by books, which would be a dream to me.
The downside would be that they have to always answer the question, “I’m looking for one book that has a certain colored cover.”
Well, I aim to please, so I’m doing my best to answer the question in this article.
The Curious Incident of The Dog in The Nighttime
interesting book of a guy who sees things differently from the rest of the world- he’s on a different wavelength, as it were.
It Only Happens in The Movies
Audrey starts working at the movie theater, and falls in love with a dude working there. Sounds like a dull book, I know. But actually it’s a rough romance with ups and downs, so it’s kind of fun.
Futuristic dystopia where emotions are forbidden, and love may not be able to conquer all. Fairly serious book that addresses Depression.
The Extraordinary and Unusual Adventures of Horatio Lyle
This time, a mystery! This mystery is set in Victorian times. It kind of reminds me of a revamped take on Sherlock Holmes, although the lead character is a much more human connected person than poor Sherlock is really capable of.
A classic teen read about drama, cliques, travel, and the Sunny L.A. life. This isn’t the first book in the series, but it is fairly interesting, and just what I’d want to read when I was exhausted and wanting something light and interesting.
Looking for a book with a yellow cover? No problem!
I tried my best to list the best YA books with yellow covers. Hopefully you either found the book you were looking for, or found a great book to add to your TBR!
Be sure to sign up for the emails if you want to keep track of future book reviews and get a free copy of my book “Magic Moves”.
Cathy Rocks if you love all the fiction and want to get reviews on the best of the best across genres!
I’m always on the lookout for the next book to read, but I have to admit sometimes very genre specific blogs don’t fit me well. I’m not a specific kind of reader, I like many different genres, so it’s an issue for me. Cathy, thankfully, is here to help!
Cathy at Between The Lines
Cathy has a lot in common with me. She loves books, dogs, and the beach, and I just don’t think I need to say more with that kind of recommendation!
Cathy covers different genres of fiction.
What Makes Her Rock
For those like me who want the best of the best from across fiction!
Short Reviews are Great for the Time Crunched
Her reviews are usually just one computer screen long, which is great if you want to figure out if a book is right for your TBR pile fast.
Not a professional- Which Can Be a Good Thing
I like that Cathy isn’t a professional book reviewer. You know she says good things about the books because she means it, not because it makes her money. (I haven’t reviewed anyone on this site who is willing to leave good reviews for books they don’t like, just so you know.)
Great All Around Book Blogger
Cathy is awesome, and if you like a lot of different books and have very little time I think she’s a great blogger. And her reviews are entertaining, without dragging on so long they become reviews themselves! I’m a fan.
Be sure to let me know in the comments who your favorite book reviewer is!
I thought it would be fun to show all of you how exactly a writer gets their work done. I know many writers like to work at their couches, their desk at work, at a flipped entrée table while they’re commuting in to work each day – but I spend all day, every day working and writing at my desk.
Learning something about my set up might help you, as well. Between my two jobs I work 86 hours a week, and clock 8,000+ words a day. Some of them are in my novel, some are marketing and business strategy, but all of it takes a powered up mind and a maximized workflow. My workspace is one of my big partners in creating my work routine to let me be so prolific.
I’m also sharing a few links to the things I own and use everyday in my workspace. These links are affiliate links, and make me a few cents without costing you extra.
I just want to share some noteworthy things about my desk set up. Because I am self-employed, and because I use my home office as my real office every day, my workspace is set up to help me think and work creatively and efficiently. I don’t want something as silly as a poor workstation set up to slow down my release dates!
One thing to note is that the desk itself is set up at a yellow wall. According to some reports the idea that yellow is good for a cheerful mood may actually be quite credible, and besides that bright sunshine yellow is a great color to stick on the walls in a basements with limited natural light and only a few mini windows at the top of the walls.
The desk itself, though, is even more important to my productivity and mood. I have to do whatever I can to keep myself focused and having a good time during the 86+ hours a week I work, and my workstation is one of my biggest partners in that. (Along with a 15 minute power nap and a short morning walk. And a little stretching for 5 minutes every hour to get my blood pumping and powering up my brain!)
There are a lot of essentials I have set up on my desk. I have to be careful about what I keep on hand, because my “desk” is actually a sofa table, and it’s only about 6 inches deep of workspace. As you can see, there’s barely enough room for my keyboard to fit in front of my monitor. But that’s a bit of a good thing, partially because my “desk” was free, partially because my desk is kind of cute, and partially because it helps me keep down the clutter which is a constant struggle and other areas of my life. (This is why I will probably never show you any other space in my home, because my desk is the only organized area.)
Goals In Sight
As you can see on the wall in the background, I have printed out and hung up my yearly goals list. It’s not really a professional goals list, it’s more of the “my life in general goals” kind of list. It’s an excerpt from my “30 things to do before I turn 30” list, just to help me break down my decade-long goals into smaller action steps I can actually get done. My actual publishing goals, where I write down the books I want to get finished and when I want to finish them, is the first link on my toolbar in my web browser so that I can update that much more often than I update yearly goals. (That, and because I don’t like bothering with printing things too often. So I only save printing for stuff I really need the visual for, even when I’m off screens.)
Above that are my two sticky notes where I keep my rough outline of my daily schedule. my daily schedule is:
And then I like to break down the personal part of my schedule. this is one of the main things I do to make sure I’m building myself not just as a person trying to make an income, but also as a human trying to improve myself as a person.
One of my current month’s goals is to get rid of some things I don’t need any more – I found out I still had some toys left in storage from when I was a kid – and get them into the hands of people who need or want them. Or both. Who am I to judge? But it still the last thing on the list to declutter because the other goals are supporting bigger decade-long goals, so they are the priority.
I also have two other sticky notes, each of them a reminder for a virtual meeting I have coming up next week. Since I don’t have too many meetings like this anymore, it makes sense to put reminders in a very visible place the few times I do have a meeting so I can’t forget them.
Desk Must Haves
I keep my water bottle at my desk so I can drink throughout the day and stay healthfully hydrated. It’s just plain water, but it’s in a reusable bottle so it saves tons of plastic each year, saves money, and gives me much cuter options than buying disposable water bottles.
I also have my notebook and may pen case crammed on my workspace. I like caring a paper notebook around so when I have ideas or little pull ones or pieces of writing in mind for a book I can write it down quickly and easy without the distraction of writing on my phone. I also write much faster on paper than I do on a tiny phone screen, and unlike screens I never have problems with writers block when I write on paper. I still do most of my writing for my novels using that very keyboard and monitor though, because it is much quicker to add it and revise and organize a book that is in a program like scrivener instead of in a bunch of different notebooks. It also doesn’t hurt my wrist tape in a computer, unlike the hand pains you can get after six hours of writing on paper. At least I get hand cramps writing for that long.
Then I have a little bucket that holds my backup drive, which is a total must for anyone who writes books (I can guarantee every author who types their books has lost an entire finished book at least once to a crash computer losing the data, and I am no exception. Actually, I had this happened three times, which is very frustrating so I go overboard in backups now.) I also have my headsets slung on that little bucket, which is a very handy for when I’m dictating like I am doing for this post right now. I find when I switch between typing and dictating I get a new burst of inspiration and ideas, and it helps switch up which thing is sore or hurts from doing hours of work at a time.
The last thing on my desk is my small things organizer. In the top shallow dish I have a USB jump drive (source two of backing up novels in progress), lip balm, and my backup jump drive that is shaped like a bunny. And I have an assortment of pens and pencils behind that that don’t work very well. I should probably change them out for new ones. But instead I’m writing this, and I’m okay with that. in the little swing out drawers I have staples, mini stapler, eraser refills for mechanical pencils, binder clips, pushpins and thumbtacks, and an empty drawer that is supposed to have paperclips but I seem to have run out of those. Again, not going to bother refilling that for now.
Under all of that is where I have some presumably important papers. I know one of them is the service plan guarantee for my backup drive, but I have no clue what the others are, and they’re upside down so I can’t really check them without moving all my stuff. And that’s not going to happen.
And in the middle of all that is my monitor, keyboard, and wireless mouse. They aren’t particularly noteworthy, except for the keyboard hot. I got that with my computer from sky Tech gaming. I think the computer, partially because it’s very pretty, partially because it was within my price range, but mostly because it works for my work. I have lots of storage space, it has enough memory to have 1 million Internet browser tabs open at once which is great for my working style, and it has basically the same specs as a business computer with some extras that make it work even better for graphics and video work. It also looks way prettier than a dumb gray business computer. I know having pretty things doesn’t seem essential, but if you are working a creative job I think if there is a choice between something boring and something that is aesthetically inspiring in some way then the choice is pretty clear. Especially when this was a little cheaper than a similar business model that didn’t have quite as many upgrade for speed and the million browser tabs. Plus I’ve grown tired of some of the bigger brand of computer manufacturers and their complete lack of customer service and longevity in their products, so is time for me personally to move on to a brands like this. After all, it makes since for an India author to support a smaller brand. And so far in my experience with this computer it’s been great!
The only big downside to my workspace is that the workspace itself is so very shallow – sofa tables were not engineered to be ergonomic desks – and it’s a little uncomfy. I have enjoyed my Ikia Snille desk chair for many years, many many many years, but a $20 chair is never going to be ergonomic. A great deal, yes, but not comfy. The back is very short, which is unfortunate because I am particularly tall for a woman, and the height adjustment only goes so high. I think part of the lack of comfort is that the seat is cracked on the right side, but it wasn’t too comfy before that happened either. I have two pillows piled on the seat so it doesn’t dig into my legs as much anymore, but it still is not particularly comfy. Hopefully someday I can save up a bit of money from working as a full-time author and full-time blogger (I’m not including what I do posting on this website in that) and buy myself a good ergonomic chair. I also keep a cardigan on my chair so that when it is cold, which it always is, I can work without freezing off my fingers. I have found not freezing makes a big difference in productivity.
So there you go. That’s my total desktop and workspace tour. I hope it gives you some good insight into my work process for working at home as well as my goal setting and productivity efforts. Hopefully hearing from me can inspire you as well.
If you’d like to get a virtual tour of my digital desktop, be sure to let me know in the comments below
I’ve shared my favorite songs to write books by before. It all started with my first Revising Playlist post, where I shared a few requirements from my revision music.
It’s hard to stay focused when your soundtrack has words
This includes even words in other languages you don’t understand, as that can still distract your writing
Last month I’d thrown out my previous rules completely and switched back to my listening to my current favorite songs. This month, however, I’ve moved into a sort of happy medium, to listen to lyricless songs that are still more song than ambient soundtrack.
A great way to accomplish that, I’ve found, is to turn to movie soundtracks. They are full of emotion and great for doing your English homework or writing for fun, and they help drown out the distracting noises of people that may be around you.
To add even more fun I’m sharing my favorite soundtracks for movies based off of books!
The Lord of the Rings
Of course I love the books. And the movies. I love great stories and this series fits the bill both in literature and cinematic editions. But I also love these soundtracks to play in the background for writing any genre of book because they just spark my imagination.
Pride and Prejudice
The 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice is my favorite on screen adaptation and I can and have argued with those who disagreed on this. Sure, there are screen editions that portrayed every single tiny detail that happened in the book, and that’s pretty cool. But the acting was completely flat to me in those versions so I won’t make myself sit through a painful performance just because it’s more detailed. Well, actually I can and will if the alternative is a flashy adaptation that really kills the source story (I’m looking at you Disney retelling of The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. I still prefer the BBC version of the series because Disney completely missed the plot on this one.) But anyways, the music of this movie and the emotion of it is excellent, and I may or may not have watched this movie weekly in Middle school during 2007-08 and monthly at the beginning of High School.
A person doesn’t always need calm and soothing music to work by. The suspense of this soundtrack is really key for me when I’m doing work that I don’t want to do. It’s like the violence of the music soothes me when I want to put things off forever but know I can’t because I have a job to do and bills looming if I don’t. (Because that’s one of the joys of adulthood.) You may relate more to doing math homework you hate. Or some other homework that involves calculations if you are anything like me. It can be freeing to sort of vent your frustrations through the music.
Happy writing and studying adventures!
I hope my favorite songs can help you focus on whatever work you have on your plate, like they’ve helped me.
Graduations aren’t really anyone’s favorite event in the world. There’s a lot of pomp and circumstance, which many Americans tend to dislike. Worst of all you end up spending a few hours watching person upon person walk across the stage before the person you came to see is up there for five seconds.
But still, a graduation is special. It’s a nice time to celebrate that someone put a lot of late night studying and crying over essays and working their butt off to learn something and advance in their career and life.
Grad School Graduate
The graduate (my sibling) is particularly not into graduation ceremonies, and really wanted to avoid the event, but she went on with it anyway because her parents said they’d honestly feel disappointed if she skipped out on it. So she went, even though she’d rather have done anything else.
In the case of my graduate, it was a time to celebrate pouring a few ten thousands and several hours of hair pulling and midnight studying squeezed in after being a teacher all day long into getting a graduate degree so she could continue on the path towards her goal of being a professor some day. It was a particularly noteable occasion because she finish her grad degree in one year while she was working full time with special needs students who kick and bite her, so a lot of impressive hard work and stubbornness went into this occasion.
The average grad degree takes much longer, often 3-6 years for people who are working full time. And, well, the average person doesn’t go to get a Special Ed grad degree with a focus on autism education in the first place either. But she’s been aiming to be a professor for a long time, and to be a professor of teachers for a year or two, so it’s not a surprise to any of us that she went for this. I suppose the Special Ed focus was pretty normal though, considering that her visual processing disorders and the effect it had on her education was much more severe than my own rather significant case. And, considering the grad, it’s not much of a surprise that she’d power through full time work and full time student status at once. I think the only thing that really ended up surprising anyone was that her focus was in a different branch of Special Ed than she had a personal background with, but it seems to be working well for her.
After the ceremony, to do something the grad would actually like in celebration of the occasion, we went out to a cafe.
It’s been raining almost constantly for the last week, I suppose because the weather forgot to do that in the Spring as is proper, so the tables outside were unusually empty.
The inside, however, was crammed full of humans. We managed to squeeze out a table, though, and sit down with out treats.
I had a nice mushroom quiche. Mushroom is just a favorite flavor that I never get tired of! And then I had a lovely triple lemon cupcake. I’m not so convinced the whipped cream piped on top was actually lemon flavored, it tasted more like a plain vanilla, but it was a lovely contrast to the slightly sour lemon filling and the fairly sweet lemon cake.
So that was how we celebrate a graduation! What do you do in graduate season?
In books, it seems like there is always one guarantee. The underdog of the tale will always win.
These underdogs are normal people who are buried under outside forces working to bring them down- a bigger opposing sports team, a teacher out to get them, an amputee running a race, a family racing against a tornado trying to destroy their home and livelihood.
Somehow, I always find stories like this addictive. It feels so relatable to read about a character going through tough times, because everyone has experience some kind of hardship or struggle in their life at some point. Some of us more than others, admittedly, but still everyone has experienced it. And so it’s so magnetic to read about a character who is feeling some of our same emotions and dealing with some of our same problems.
In real life, we know, it isn’t always so easy to win. In real life sometimes insurmountable things conspire against us, and sometimes the bed guy or the big guy or the harsh forces of nature or whatever it might be wins. But we love that in books and stories, we see characters win against their problems. It helps us to think about how we might win against our own demons, gives us courage to fight the skeletons in our own closets.
First, let’s Break Down Where we Meet Underdogs
An underdog is a word used to describe stories, real or fictional, where the people who have everything to lose still make it in the end. These are the rags-to-riches stories, Remembering the Titans, The Karate Kid, and the Rocky of the world. Yes, a lot of the most famous underdog movies are sports themed. No, I don’t know why that is, but people who watch sports more than I do (I still call the thingie on the field in American Football the yellow fork, and I forget what people correct me to every time. I feel no shame in that.)
Besides the strange connection these stories seem to have with the sports fiction genre, they are also all united by following the same basic plot. The characters, the locations, the jokes, everything is unique about each of them, but even so every story with a beginning and end made since the dawn of humanity can be boiled down to just three basic plot types.
In books we call this the archplot. Every book, movie, and any other kind of story that has a beginning, middle, and end out there in the world is one of three basic plots: arch plot, mini plot, and anti plot. The majority of novels follow the arch plot, the classic plot where the characters begin one way and something about them changes by the end.
Mini plot is completely different from archplot, because the characters are struggling with internal forces and their own heart. The best example I can think of is It’s a Wonderful Life. There is the archplot element, still, in that George Bailey is fighting against the evil bank that stole George’s bank’s money and is trying to own all the town. That is definitely archplot. But the majority of the movie is spent by George questioning himself and going through his dark night of the soul. He questions why he was even born, and thinks that no one’s life would be changed if he hadn’t been. It’s a good movie to watch when you are struggling with your own dark night of the soul, but it’s also a good illustration of that international struggle that characterizes mini plot.
Anti Plot is complicated, and the stories written for it tend to be either confusing, depressing, or both. The point of Anti Plot is that the characters don’t change. The characters start the story with some inner problem and outer problem conspiring against them, and by the end those forces are either still conspiring. The characters don’t win or change. I’m not personally a fan, though I will reexamine that in the future and try books in this style again someday.
The Magic of Underdogs
The point of all of this is to still go back to the underdogs. We can learn a lot about them. What traits, exactly, make it so people who have everything stacked against them still win?
The first answer is that it isn’t all as one sided as it may seem. Underdogs who come out on top always have more of a drive to win than the opponents. They want to succeed more, and in stories that means they do.
Optimism. Underdogs always have enough optimism to believe there is a chance for them to come out. They have to, or else why would they try at all?
Perseverance and the drive to keep going even when the going gets hard instead of giving up and running away from the challenge.
Make a battle plan. Underdogs always make a battle plan, whether it’s the kid Kevin McAllistir from Home Alone figuring out how to oust bad guys who invaded his home or Harry Potter fighting the most evil and powerful wizard in the world, if you are fighting someone who clearly has the upper hand you need to have a battle plan to figure out what strengths and strategies you can use to win.
Make friends, because you are stronger together. Countries can be toppled by rebels, bullies can be defeated by the unpopular kids, illness or disability can be overcome or worked around.
You Can Win Even if You are an Underdog
You can still win and make things work, even if you are the underdog in your own story. You need to put in the hard work, have the positive mindset, work with friends, and make a plan and you will have a good chance of overcoming difficult odds.
It won’t be easy, of course. The thing about being the underdog is that you are in the disadvantaged position. You will have to work harder than the forces conspiring against you to come on top. But that’s okay. That’s life. The majority of humans in the world never get anything without working hard for it. The same will probably be true for you too.
It’s so magnetic to read about a character who is feeling some of our same emotions and dealing with some of our same problems. We read about their problems, and see how they have success in the end, and it helps us feel more prepared the next time we have the same problem, because we’ve heard about how to win despite that particular difficulty before. Even in fiction, like Fantasy books about dragons, are relatable. My Shadeworld books are mostly dragons and fey and wizards and magic, but when you dig into it the characters are dealing with jealousy and betrayal and heartbreak and confusion, just like all of us have experienced before.
So be brave! Maybe, just maybe, if you work hard at it, you can still come out on top in your situation.