I’m a huge fan of strong language.  especially in my own writing.

I may be biased as a writer, because I’m absolutely in love with words, but I think we can all agree that they’re powerful.  harsh words can wound, kind words can heal.  they mean something.  they’re important.

no doubt this is at least part of the reason that the Bible is pretty clear about the types of words we should be using.  google supplied me with plenty of opinion on Christians and profanity, mostly in the form of blog posts.  I read a ton of them before I wrote this post.  the majority expressed entirely negative responses to swearing, even going so far as to say that “swear words” themselves are sinful.  the few that disagreed, however, almost championed the use of strong language by Christians for its edginess, if nothing else.

I take issue with either of these opinions.

(I hate to break up the conversation, but I want to get one thing out of the way: I don’t swear using the Lord’s name.  ten commandments, duh.  I don’t even say “jeez” or “oh my god”.  I don’t want my words to ever bring dishonor to God, so I’m extra careful about that.  but I actually don’t think that what we call strong language automatically does so.)

okay! “what-does-the-Bible-say-about-swearing” speed round (paraphrasing):

– Ephesians 5:4 – “no filthiness/foolish talk/crude joking.”

– James 3:9-12 – “we bless God with our mouth and then turn around and curse people who are made in his likeness.  blessing and cursing shouldn’t come out of the same place.

– Ephesians 4:29 – “no corrupting talk should come out of your mouths, only what’s good for building up, that it may give grace to those who hear.

(similar mandates can be found in 1 Peter 3:10, Colossians 3:8, and Luke 6:45, among others.)

a post I read on ChristianityToday . com called “The Trouble with Cussing Christians” said this, which I really liked: “our words should participate in hallowing, rather than profaning, the world.”

but I’d like to suggest that “strong language” can play a part in beauty.

I believe that art points to the creator and glorifies him.  the best stories are his, after all.  the most beautiful sunsets.  music, color, taste.  the sweet, broken people we meet and have the privilege of knowing and loving throughout our lives.  art is beauty, and good art glorifies God.

it’s easy to rag on low-budget, poorly scripted Christian films or obnoxious contemporary Christian music- I do it myself often enough.  I don’t want to go there too much now because I really do admire the men and women behind those mediums for their hearts, their intentions, and their boldness.

but art should be excellent, and sometimes I think that as Christians we shy away from hard topics and strong words in favor of niceness and “propriety”, and I don’t think that’s always a good idea.  if anyone should be telling the hard stories, it should be the same people who know what redemption looks like– the recipients of God’s great grace.

I believe words are as much instruments of art as paints and pencils and cameras and musical notes.  they’re meaningful.  they express things, feelings, thoughts.  and that’s what stories are for.  that’s why I write, to pull words that everyone knows into strings of sentences that didn’t exist before.  is there anything closer to magic out there?

words are things of beauty.  I was talking with a friend recently at lunch who said that her favorite word was “epiphany”- that she’d even written a college paper on it.  and it’s beautiful, right?  the way it looks and sounds, what it means.  I have lists and lists of words I love, almost as much as names- estuary, plunder, incandescent, cunning, pique.  (I actually really love to say the word bastard, but…yeah, that’s one I usually keep to myself.)

sometimes the only thing separating one word from another is the depth of what they’re expressing.  sometimes when you’re hurting, your usual verbal repertoire is not enough.  sometimes your pain just can’t be expressed in simple, G-rated words.

so.  fiction.  why should characters in a story be any different than you or I, in our moments of pain and trial?  to use my own writing as an example, why would a teenage girl who’s just been kidnapped, branded, bought, imprisoned, and raped call the man responsible a “jerk”?  would you buy her pain if she did?  would you feel what she’s feeling?

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(okay, but this was hilarious. best scene.)

the main point that people often bring up in this discussion is making the characters realistic.  many writers (myself included) agree that when they’re writing, the characters often speak for themselves.  I don’t plan a lot of what I write.  (I never planned for Isla to get kidnapped and then all of a sudden it was happening and then I had a book about human trafficking and bravery and loving yourself that was initially going to be little more than a piece of romantic fluff.)  when they get going, characters do and say things on their own.

if you don’t believe the people that I’m writing, if you don’t buy the characters, how is the story going to affect you?  how will it move you, or mean something to you?  stories need to mean something.  they need to touch you, show you darkness and light and humanity and good and evil.  and stories are made of words.  how can we tell a powerful story without the jarring contrast of strong words?

I certainly haven’t gotten it down.  in many ways my writing is still terribly immature.  and I’m not lobbying for gratuitous, unnecessary language in fiction.  but I do believe in feeling things.  and I think the fact that we even have the label “strong language” means something.  in my own novels, it sometimes means that Blue Reavely’s (my heroine’s) father calls her a little shit when he’s drunk.  and sometimes it means he tells her she’s worthless and a mistake.

strong words are the ones that pack a punch, not just the ones we call “swears”.  the ones that hit you hard, or stir your soul.

I think compassion is a strong word.  it happens to be my favorite.  it still means really means something, and makes you think, because people don’t throw it around.  this can’t be said for many other words that are losing their impact because of our readiness to speak them: “literally”, “amazing”, “tragedy”, “love” (to name a few).

words are important.  I’m trying to use mine wisely, and sometimes that means using the ones that hit people hard.

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so!  tell me what you think about “language” in fiction!  do you think it’s avoidable?  do you think it’s necessary all the time?  are there ways to abstain from it and still emerge your reader into a gritty world?  and do you think writing language down is different than using it in your own conversation?  talk to me!  I don’t by any means think I’m an authority.  this is just my opinion, and I’d love to hear yours!

 

p. s.  remember to be intentional with your words though.  to go back to the idea of taking the Lord’s name in vain, I have one thing to say: if God’s name were itself a curse, we wouldn’t be warned against using it wrongly.  instead, his name is a thing of power, impact, and importance.  when we use it as a curse, we’re taking it out of its intended context and doing him dishonor, because he (and his name, therefore) represents the pinnacle/measuring stick of goodness, beauty, and holiness.  I have a hard time believing that words are in and of themselves evil.  (crass, yes.  don’t get me started on crude and crass words/talk.  I hate hate hate all that.)

p. p. s. “you can’t blame a writer for what the characters say.” ~Truman Capote (because…Capote.  duh.)

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happy new year to you all!

if you’re reading this, you’re probably a better person than I am, because I am the worst at keeping up with blogs.

I don’t mean to bore y’all, but I want to talk about 2013.

folks, it was a great year. it was the most exciting, maturing, stressful, crazy, spontaneous, expensive year of my life and I’m so grateful for it.

what happened? so, so much. here are my highlights:

my church. oh man, my church. I have a family of 300+ people that I couldn’t love more. they’ve welcomed me, taught me, comforted me, encouraged me, loved me. I’m so in love.

NaNoWriMo Finding You stats-Finding You = complete. until I start editing, of course. it took me a year and a half, but it’s my favorite thing I’ve written; I’m proud of it, despite its flaws. this is unusual for me. it took me a year and a half, and I’m relieved and sad and excited to be done. it has definitely been my most emotional book to write so far.

-crazy friendships I didn’t expect: you may be reading this, and you may know who you are- people I knew a little, who have come to mean a lot to me over the past year, people I didn’t know at all yet, people I have never met face-to-face but who have made this year worth it.  I love you all.

-travel: to be honest, travel always makes my year. when people ask me what my hopes and dreams for the future are, I have my answer ready these days: all I is want to travel the world, write books, glorify God and love strangers, with a true love and a family in there as well. literally, that’s what I want from life, and the time I spent roaming the country (and visiting Canada on my own) this year has been some of the best- visiting friends, visiting places, visiting events. it’s been phenomenal.

-CULTURE! seeing Les Mis twice (American tour, Canadian cast), a Ramin Karimloo concert in Boston, Red Sox game, Newsies and Cinderella on Broadway, surprise Afie Boe concert in D.C., a 1960s party, Shakespeare in the Boston Commons, a Matt Nathanson/Joshua Radin concert at the House of Blues…I feel so enriched and in love with life. just give me a seat in front of a stage and I’m happy.

-Matt Smith is gone. this is not a positive aspect of 2013, but it is monumental. I won’t burden you with my frustrations with his last episode, or my other issues/heartbreak. I do very much miss Amy & Rory. (we *did* have the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who, and while I wasn’t 100% impressed, it was terribly exciting.) to sum up, this is what I felt/am feeling:tumblr_inline_mw359v1Mm61rhvd1v

-2013 was my first year not a part of TeenPact. to be honest, that’s hard. I wish there was a way I could have always been involved. but God has been so gracious to me in helping me handle “growing up”. I’m excited to be taking new steps in my life.

-I’ve had some really rough, stressful, depressing, and upsetting patches in the year, and I’ve been incredibly touched by the people who reached out to me. I am so grateful to all of you for caring about me, and not accepting “I’m fine” when I told you that.  thank you with all my heart for Jon McLaughlin - Holding My Breath signedseeing through me, sitting me down, and making me cry to you. I’m not good at the whole “being-vulnerable” thing. I like to think I can save the day or do a darn good job at faking it by myself.

-a few last things that made the year great: CATCHING FIRE CAME OUT. I started watching Supernatural. I went to Ikea for the first time. I registered for my first class with Harvard Extension, which is as close to all my dreams coming true (#nerdwholovesschool) as I’ve ever come. thanks to Jesus, I was able to restore a friendship that was was physically paining my heart and is now beautiful again. Jon McLaughin’s new album came out. I finally bought combat boots. I met a few of my real-life heroes.  I went Enjolrasing for the first time. and I found the love of my life aka Michael Vaughn on Alias.

 

and I finished out the year with my sister and a dear friend watching the fireworks at the Boston Harbor. it was magical. and freezing.

 

I promise I’m just about finished, but I want to list, online, publicly, what I have resolved for the new year.

-I will seek God’s voice and *actually listen*.

-I will practice self-control, in all areas.

-I will stop apologizing so much. it’s my worst habit.

-I will at least attempt to be published- something, somehow, somewhere.

-I will read good books; I have a tendency to stop reading when I write, and vice versa. I want to conquer that.

-possibly get a tattoo – nobody kill me, please. I’ve wanted one for a while. I’m just not certain yet, though I know what I want.

-finish another novel (either ‘Check’ or ‘Across the Lake’, I think).

-do a cartwheel. I’ve never done one; this year I’m going to learn.

 

what are your resolutions, victories, regrets? tell me while you listen to this song, about the last night of the year. it’s my favorite.

~Lydia

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It’s kinda awkward when you have a crush on one of your own characters.

It is not, however, infrequent among writers, I’ve surmised.  And this is certainly not the first time it has happened to me.

Des (Despard) Morrisay is my most recent “crush”, though that sounds mind-blowingly vain and conceited and arrogant, since I did think him up, after all.  But….he’s kind of adorable.  Trust me, whether or not it works out on the page, he’s basically perfect in my mind.  In an entirely different way than Tam is perfect.  Because…*River Song voice*…”Spoilers!” sadly, most of this book is about Isla learning to be strong without Tam, so there isn’t as much character development as I’d like for him.

Oh! Before I forget, Finding You is on Pinterest! Check out the board I’ve created here (I’ll be adding to it fairly often)!

But anyway.  I mentioned when I first announced Finding You in this post that I had a cast of supporting characters that I was excited about, and now you’ve met some of them- so here they are.

Des, my personal favorite, is imagined quite a bit after Dominic Cooper in appearance, with a bit of Peter Pan’s personality thrown in (my impression of Peter Pan from reading it as an 11-year-old, when I fell in love with him).  I haven’t honestly seen Dominic Cooper in many movies (for Sense and Sensibility I prefer Greg Wise as Wickham) but there’s something about him in Mamma Mia! that I really love.  My impression of his personality showing through in the role definitely impacted the character in my mind who later became Des.  Here are a couple of images to give you an idea.

    

Quite the charmer, huh?  I think so.

I’ve also been introducing y’all to the other girls in the cell, one-by-one.  Here are two of them, who play larger parts than the others:

    

The first is how I imagine Valentina looking- I don’t know who the picture is off, but the second I saw it I knew who Valentina was. She’s a bit more upfront of a character than some of the cast- at least, I think she’s a little more open.  You can tell who she is right off by what she does in a crisis situation, how she tries to be strong/put others first, etc.  At least I hope that’s obvious.  Even still she surprises me at times.  I hadn’t planned the bit about her brother getting shot until I was writing it and thought, “Of course she had a little brother.”

The second image is Abbie Cornish, in Sucker Punch.  That movie….oh man, it rocked my world.  I watch it whenever I can get my hands on it, and blast the soundtrack like nobody’s business.  It’s…oh man. I don’t even know. It’s epic.  One of my favorite movies ever, and the opening scene is by far the greatest opening scene in the history of film.  Anyway.  The character of Sweetpea, played by Abbie Cornish, is strong-willed and kinda kick-*ahem*-butt, but aside from appearance, that’s where the similarities end.  Sweetpea is protective and, when it comes to her sister, selfless.  She’s also not one to take risks that have little-to-no chance of paying out.  My Phoebe is very different, as I hope I’ll be able to portray.  Escape, and not the people around her, is what she cares about.  She also dresses a little differently. 😉

I’m nearly ready to introduce y’all to Oliver, who I am super excited about, and Josiah Boyne, who is also….um, exciting.  He’s a character at least.  Though I’ve already let you briefly meet Zachariah Curram, I’m holding off from giving you my thoughts on him, and any pictures for the time being because I want his character to speak for itself.  There’s a scene with him coming up that I am really excited about writing.  I’ll post a second wave of character introductions a little later. 🙂

Thanks for reading!  Comment and let me know what you think of the way I’ve imagined the characters, and let me know how your imagination differs!

READ FINDING YOU HERE

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*ahem*

I’ve been interviewed! A fellow author-in-progress, Reagan, who I had the pleasure of meeting on Figment and discovering many similarities with, featured an “interview” with me about “Finding You” on her blog! Check it out- and her blog / figment page! It’s great!

Read the interview HERE.

And check her out on Figment here– her progressing steampunk novel “Flyboys” is my favorite thing of hers so far *hint, hint*.

And as always, I’d love comments / criticism (/ praise?) on either Esmeralda or Finding You!

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Brace yourselves, y’all: I have news.  Whether it’s good or bad you can decide, but here it is: “Project: Proxy” has been terminated, temporarily.  *tear*

I’ve ranted to some of you about the issues it has been giving me and honestly guys, I can’t handle it right now.  I’ve always read / heard writers joke about their characters “taking control” or “not listening to them” or a scene having its own ideas of where it’s going.  And I really truly thought I knew what they were talking about.

I DID NOT.

I was an innocent babe.

A fool, an amateur, an idiot.

I KNEW NOTHING.

Proxy actually hates me, and it’s rather heartbreaking- like a little child you’ve nurtured from infancy who suddenly says “no” and eyes you with disdain.  And yet I’m far too attached to discipline as of yet.  So we’ll see what happens with my own dear Proxy– I’m a firm believer in not leaving your characters hanging, in giving them if not a happily ever after then at least some sort of closure.  And I did break out the old versions of Proxy I never got more than 14 pages in, including (but not limited to) versions where “Jude” was this kick-butt and yet middle-aged tutor guy called Malachi who was far too heavily influenced by the character of Red in The Edge on the Sword (aaaaamazing book) and a piece where the “Roe” character doesn’t even know about the courtship until it starts happening and decides to be a freelancing spy. I’d like to think the story has improved.  Oh, and the messenger, “Liam”, calls her “lass”…ummm…I had probably just read The Lioness and her Knight. I’m gonna excuse myself this time.

But anyway, that’s the deal with Proxy right now.  I’m a little sad to see it go, but I have to chop it for now. It will return!

I have, however, been continuing “Finding You” and “Esmeralda Draft #2” whenever I get a moment, and I like some of where they’re both going.  I’m dying to introduce my character “Des” in “Finding You”, and “Esmeralda” is finally getting to what I think is the interesting stuff.  That being said, I am in love with the below picture of Henry Cavill (who, if you don’t know, “plays” Leopold in the movie version in my head).

Also, last quick thing about Leopold.

I read this one book about a year ago. Perhaps you’ve heard of it, or perhaps you live under an enormous rock.  Either that or you’re homeschooled. (I’m allowed to make those jokes.)  The book is called Divergent.  I’m a critical reader, okay?  I’ve found flaws (albeit minor) with Shannon Hale, Suzanne Collins, Orson Scott Card…my idols. (Jane Austen remains blameless, folks.)  But I swear, Divergent (Veronica Roth) was pretty close to perfection. Pretty close.  I’m still freaking out waiting for my hold at the library for the sequel, but I’ll see how that goes.

The only thing about the book that super duper irritated me (*spoiler alert*) is that the guy, known initially as “Four”, has a secret identity that is later discovered by the heroine, Tris, and she ever after calls him by his real name: Tobias.  Now…I have nothing against the name Tobias (I have this super cool friend with that name, though we call him Toby).  But it did. not. suit. him.  It drove me nuts.  And just as Veronica Roth changed the name of the “hero” half-way through the book to a completely different one, I’ve done the same with Leopold.

Is that allowed?  Because when I was writing the first draft I planned on Evangeline calling him “Bastian” throughout the entire book- true identity revealed and all.  But then…it happened.  He became Leopold., because he’s different than Bastian, just as “Esmeralda” is different than the Evangeline he knew in prison- they’ve both changed and they’re both following a different set of protocols and fulfilling different roles in such their current setting.  So.  Have I done wrong?  Because I don’t think I’d want to change it now.

I’m rather in love with Leopold, in a different way that I was with Bastian.  Does that make sense?  Oh well.  I hope it does. :/

[P.S. world- did y’all hear that Henry Cavill is playing Superman with Amy Adams as Lois Lane?  I’m not freaking out or ANYTHING.]

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I’m horribly lacking in self control when it comes to writing.  In the past month I’ve started so many new novels, it’s not even funny.

These include:

My SteamPunk-ish story Finding You, which some of you have read.

A post-Civil War retelling of Beauty & the Beast where the “beast” is a well-to-do black-guy in a super racist southern town and “belle” is a girl who is forced to get work taking care of his manor to save her family from destitution.

A fantastical tale of adventure about a slightly deformed young man who, fearful of people, decides to see the world and makes it his goal to go everywhere man has not (he ends up in a desert land modeled after the middle east (especially what I saw in Hidalgo and Lawrence of Arabia) where a fabled crazy land no one is allowed to cross is walled off…he decides to enter anyway, with the help of a young guide who is a girl who has to dress as a boy to get past the guards and all sorts of randomity).

 

 

A SteamPunk retelling of “Snow White” that involves gypsies and the circus and a knife-thrower who’s called the “prince” of his art.  (See what I did there?  He’s the “prince” in the story but not really a- oh, you got it? Okay.)

A tragedy about a girl with a bucket list that includes falling in love, and a young man whose “business” is selling dreams and making them come true.  The fellow, Cal, is based on Bobby Hicks down to the tattoos, gages and beanie.  So you know he’s fantastic. 😉  And there’s an extremely important scene at a carousel- hence the image.

A second draft of my original “baby”, “Betrayal”/”Treachery”.

And a romantic fantasy about a girl who can draw “memories” out of objects, like music out of the walls of a ballroom, etc.

My imagination (even though half of those aren’t even great) has been going madder than usual.  If that’s possible.  So I beg your forgiveness if my posting has been decreased or distracted or overwhelming in some ways and less than satisfactory in others.  I’ll shape up, I promise.

Also, as you can see, I even went about making “fake” covers for some of them. I just love making covers. It’s sad, a little.

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I know I’ve done this “announcement” thing in the wrong order, but I’m here to tell y’all about my latest might-be-masterpiece-after-a-dozen-drafts, “Finding You”.  I had this idea for the first scene (though instead of a rooftop it originally took place in a field) and started writing, with no thought to the fact that I had no storyline whatsoever.  I didn’t even have names for the characters.  But I saw something in my head and had to write it down.  “The Flash” (as Emily Starr would have me call it) of inspiration comes to me like this A LOT, but 9 1/2 times out of 10 it results in crumpled papers that sit for years in my file box and never see the light of day after the first moment I’ve written them.

This time, however…it worked.

I decided I wanted my world to be a SteamPunk one (I’ve never read or written any SteamPunk before; my experience comes completely  from video games and internet image searches, so bear with me) and I wanted it to be about separation, and then searching.  I didn’t know that a mixed up plot about war and trafficking and white-hot brands and outlaws and a brothel and other crazy random happenstance would evolve, though.

But…it has!

I’ve written about twenty pages (the chapters are less than a page each) and I’m anxious to post more, after I make sure that what I’ve got lines up with my vision for the story.

For once I’m super excited about my supporting cast: that’s not to get your hopes up, because they could be absolute rubbish, despite my best efforts, but I’m looking forward to their stories as much as I am to my protagonists’.

If you’ve read any of “Finding You” on Figment, you’ve met Tam and Isla, my hero and heroine.  They’re opposites: he’s bold and thrill-seeking, she’s quiet and meek, friends all their lives, and basically, they love each other.  This love is newly realized when circumstances cause Tam to join the army, and misfortune finds Isla kidnapped and on her way to be trafficked with a score of other girls to be sold to underground brothels and clients.  It’s not fun.

But amidst her horrific circumstances, Isla (unable to get word to / from Tam, obviously) learns who she is, and becomes one of a cast of other “unfortunates” that I cannot wait to write about.  Including, but by no means limited to two of my guys:

Des – modeled in looks after Dominic Cooper, in personality kinda (wait for it…) after Peter Pan.  Let me just say that I’ve had a “back-of-my-mind” crush on Peter Pan since I read the book as an 11-year old and thought he was the greatest thing to hit planet earth…sort of.

Oliver – a slave since he was a kid, when he got his tongue cut out (he can’t talk now…in case you didn’t derive that) but happens to be quick with anything that involves his hands: machinery, sleight of hand, lock picking, etc and is rather adorable and is kinda like a kid even though he’s like 17.

And then I’ve got some fairly sinister villains planned, with names like Zachariah Curram and Ambrose Hoctor.  So I’m feeling happy about this story.

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Oh, and these are Tam and Isla:

(Alex Pettyfer)

 

(same as cover…random image)