Friday, 1 July 2016

Snazzy Snippets: I HATH RETURNED

BLOOKUNITY I HAVE RETURNED FROM MY HIATUS. With more Mulan + Swan Lake snippets.

(I know I still haven't read all of your snippets last time, but I'll get to them ASAP. My bad, school is killing me.)

Snazzy Snippets is a bimonthly link-up I co-host with Emily @ Loony Literate. For those who weren't around last time:
It’s an opportunity for writers! Every two months, we post a prompt or question for you to share a snippet of fewer than 500 words. It’s designed to let you have fun, analyse your work on a smaller level, or just write something to join in.

If you’re not a writer, or aren’t working on anything, don’t go back up the rabbit hole just yet. Read everyone’s wonderful snippets on the linky!
Still have questions? Snazzy Snippets has its own page on the blog, with FAQs and more. Take a look!

Reminder that this isn't just for novels! The prompts were designed with novels in mind, but most are also applicable to short stories, poetry, anything.

Without further ado, the prompts (themed around the past):

A snippet where characters consider their backstory
A snippet featuring a child (i.e. a freebie for you YA and MG writers)
A  snippet from something you wrote more than 2 years ago

Remember to include your post URL in the linky! I'll be sure to visit ALL your snazzy snippets.

For those who are new, I'll be sharing snippets from my WIP, a Mulan + Swan Lake retelling. It includes monsters and magic, grave robbers, deaf assassin-witches, witchy rival-lover dynamics, and lots of desserts. I like to imagine it as VICIOUS meets THE NIGHT CIRCUS.

1. A snippet where characters consider their backstory

“Don’t lecture me, huangfu, I might actually remember your wisdom.”

Her father sighed and began brushing the sugar strands on the seat into the palm of his soft hands. “I tried to motivate a little girl who skinned her knee running from a street-performer’s fire-spell. Back then you were afraid of magic. Now I am.”

For half a year, her royal mother spent the two hours before midnight to read Mak the most ancient magical texts, and two hours after to let Mak touch the magic. One morning, instead of her usual nap, Mak snuck out and tried to burn down the vegetable garden. Instead she’d burned out and spent a week in a hospital bed. That was the first and only time her father raised his voice to her royal mother.

Out loud, all Mak said was, “A wonder you had the courage to marry huangmu.”

“Even you fear your royal mother. But you still have the heart to defy her. So why do you hide from Yi?”

Because Yi promised a windstorm in those eyes. Mak could only hold a candle to this sister, and she didn’t know if Yi would snuff it out or set her life ablaze. “My mother and I aren’t competing for the kingdom.”

“Yi doesn’t want to steal your kingdom. She wants to save it.”
This snippet features our second main character, Mak, who is the princess and heir to the empire. However, her position can

When an incredibly talented (and incredibly gorgeous) witch shows up, one can predict the conflict.

More about that in the next snippet. Of more interest here are:
  • Mak's incredibly fabulous parents. Let me tell you, those two have backstory. Not written down, I mean, but I just know.
  • Mak learns magic and instantly decides to burn stuff. A girl after my own heart.
Oh, and since I'm getting back into revising this (aiming for mid-July, once I have all school stuff out of the way), I'm now sharing my writing progress every week to anyone who wants to be email friends!

Read weekly snippets of MULAN + SWAN LAKE

I'll start sending them next week, so grab your takeout and hop on the train!

2. A snippet featuring a child

Mak returned his smile and stretched her legs outside the car. “I’ll look up your almanac and charm a pack of tea leaves.”

“Try not to mix it up with your poisons this time.” Her father frowned again and didn’t even protest when Mak took the box of dragonbeard candy. “And Mak—you’re right to be afraid of her. Take care, my daughter.”

“I think I still have the poison left from last time to deal with enemy sisters.” The cold garage air pricked goosebumps on her bare arms, and Mak hugged the candy box closer to her chest.

“And if she becomes your friend? Witchcraft is a fellowship, and you even call her sister.” Her father pressed the button for the shuttle lift to take them back to the palace. “Coastguard or not, you’re competing with her. When your friendship turns sour, it will ruin you. She will ruin you.”

Mak smiled a careful skull’s grin. If ruination came for her, she’d destroy it first. “Then she’d be making demons. What a traitor to the coastguard.”

“Mak,” her father called after her as she stalked out of the lift. “The Huntress is the kind of woman who is made from the fire. You’re a moth dancing in the flames.”
Since this IS a YA retelling, I could have chosen literally any snippet. But here, I think Mak is behaving like a child who thinks she can take care of herself. So basically every child ever.

I included copious amounts of food in this novel (thanks Cait) but I actually managed to make it a device to show character development (?!?!?). I won't reveal all, but suffice it to say Mak talks less about candy/cake and more about ... you'll see. *winks*

(There's also a high-flying all-rounded A+ girl who loves coffee. Three guesses why.)
Well ... two guesses left.
This snippet, though, shows just how melodramatic and unrealistic Mak can be. As I said: after my own heart.

3. A snippet from something I wrote more than 2 years ago

“They only remember Mulan fought a war. They forget she weaved at her window, that she asked the emperor for a horse to take her back, that when she returned she donned face paint and gowns. They remember Mulan tried to be a man, and forget when she was a woman.” — from planning notes of this WIP
For those of you who are unaware, I love retelling Mulan. This retelling is so very much about femininity. I looked through my musings back from when I translated the original ballad of Mulan and found this gem.

I don't think it needs further comment, really, except that this WIP is all about femininity and China and mis-identity.

Also witches. Don't forget the witches and demons. Sound cool? Join me as I ignore schoolwork and dash through revisions:

Yes, weekly snippets about witches and demons sound FABULOUS

Alternatively, join my takeout army and read the spinoff short story about a deaf assassin-witch conquering cities and critiquing tea!

You may have noticed, by the way, that I no longer use the title Witches Black & Silver to refer to this WIP. That's because I've thought of a new, better name — and it's nearly quoted in one of the snippets. Guessing time, blookunity!

Which is your favourite snippet? What do you think the WIP's new title is? And how is your own writing coming along?

Twitter-sized takeout:

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Snazzy Snippets: Writers, let's get vulnerable + spin-off from Mulan + Swan Lake retelling!

SOOOOO. How did everyone do with Camp NaNoWriMo? Or other April-y writerly pursuits? Snazzy Snippets is baaaack for writers to share their snippets!

Snazzy Snippets is a bimonthly link-up I co-host with Emily @ Loony Literate. For those who weren't around last time:
It’s an opportunity for writers! Every two months, we post a prompt or question for you to share a snippet of fewer than 500 words. It’s designed to let you have fun, analyse your work on a smaller level, or just write something to join in.

If you’re not a writer, or aren’t working on anything, don’t go back up the rabbit hole just yet. Read everyone’s wonderful snippets on the linky!
Still have questions? Snazzy Snippets has its own page on the blog, with FAQs and more. Take a look!

Reminder that this isn't just for novels! The prompts were designed with novels in mind, but most are also applicable to short stories, poetry, anything. I'm sharing a short story snippet myself this time!

Without further ado, the prompts:

A snippet that was difficult to write (define 'difficult' as you like!)
A snippet you had a lot of fun writing
A snippet you plan to delete/significantly revise

Remember to include your post URL in the linky! I'll be sure to visit ALL your snazzy snippets.

2. A snippet you had a lot of fun writing

Right now, the Huntress had idiots to kill.

She pointed a finger at the chair she’d been tied to. Orange-red flames exploded around it, then she sent it flying into two of the soldiers. One, two.

Then someone fired his rifle and knocked the breath out of the Huntress. The bullet turned the silver embroidery at her shoulder red.

The Huntress smiled. The magic burned, yes, but so did she.

Tossing aside the remains of her stick, she gathered the magic to her. A heat wave, buffeting her face, curling in her palms, roaring in her ears—

(secret: magic echoed in her ears, and the Huntress didn’t know what to make of it.)

Three four five were summarily tossed out the window.

The last one, with a colonel’s rank bars, gripped his knives too tightly.  He crouched between the Huntress and the Idiot, his lips pulled into a grim line.

The Huntress half-turned away to sip at the tea again. The colonel rushed in, his knives flashing, and the Huntress smashed the teacup on his head.

Waste of good porcelain, she thought mournfully as the tea swirled together with the blood. “I hate pu’er tea,” she growled.
This snippet is from murder with teacups or just teacups, a short story starring the Huntress, a non-POV major character in the Mulan + Swan Lake retelling. The Huntress is a deaf assassin-witch who conquers cities and critiques tea.

The entire short story came from the idea of a teacup as a murder weapon, and a snarky one-liner commenting on the tea afterwards. Yes, I wrote it after watching Spectre. teacups is pretty James-Bond-inspired as a whole, but more like fem!James Bond in China.

Hey, they took him to space once, it's not that preposterous.

Be the first* to read the short story with teacup murder

*I lie. Shout-out to Cait @ Paper Fury for looking over the first draft for me! You're the most benevolent blogging queen. (Also the only one.)

1. A snippet that was difficult to write [first draft warning, y'all]

Mo knelt by the body. Mo tugged off her white jade earrings, stained with a bit of blood that looked black in the light. Silver glinting at the throat. A locket, in the shape of a wing, rusted silver. Mo lifted the head to tug off the locket.

1. long fingers with silver nails, very pale lips, [more monochrome]

2. dying witch.

3. dying was not dead.

4. witch = danger and death [and so on].

5. it wasn’t murder if they were dying

Conclusion: Mo slipped her knife between the witch’s ribs.

Her hands were shaking when she took the knife back out. Shaking too much, in fact, to continue tonight. She rearranged the witch-corpse and dragged her clasped hands to cover the wound.

“Sorry,” she murmured, putting a hand over the clasped hands. She’d pray but what prayers could she say when no gods were listening anymore?
A little context: recently an episode of the 100 aired. I don't watch the show, but as I understand it, a lesbian character died and the media began to reconsider the death of LGBT+ characters. Which is fabulous and necessary.

But guess what this person did in the first chapter of her WIP.
After talking with some fabulous people and reading soooooo many Tumblr posts about the issue, I rethought this scene. And rethought it again. I seriously considered setting this WIP aside for later.

As it's one of my extracurricular activities, I do need to finish it to graduate. So I reframed the scene and tried again. There's more spoiler-y context to it,

Another interesting point is that in the initial concept, Mo was five vicious feet of murder and mayhem. Somehow she became a girl who thinks all the vicious things and does none of them. So far, I'm liking this change.

3. A snippet you plan to delete/significantly revise

the tiger’s paws were on her throat now, and she choked—

no stop air moonlight, moonlight, and every breath broke another bone monster run there was blood under her nails, blood pounding through her brain run where? home’s gone drowning from one of the eight oceans she carried in her ribcage you have found a new home, Yi, but the monsters

No, she didn’t faint. She just executed a strategic retreat with no backup plan.
I actually like this snippet very much. We don't get inside the Huntress' head a lot in the WIP, but as we can see in the short story, it's a rather conflicted place. More details, sadly, would be spoilers.

The actual thing that needs changing are the monsters. While they haven't changed that much from the original concept, I realise that they conform more closely in Chinese to the term 妖怪, which I feel demon is a more accurate translation of.

It's sad to lose the monsters-and-magic alliteration, though.

But I really do adore this snippet, especially the last line. It's so snarky and unlike the Huntress that we see in the WIP, who's been through a lot more. Enjoy it while you can, world:

Read the short story with witches, snark, and teacups instead of vodka martinis

Which is your favourite snippet? What's your favourite atypical murder weapon aside from teacups (and books)? And do I use too many italics?!? (hint: no such thing.)

Twitter-sized takeout:

Saturday, 23 April 2016

11 Super Common Villain Tropes as Pokemon Moves! | Should book villains use these?

Welcome, everyone, to the fabulous NEFARIOUS TALES, a villain event organised by Mishma! You're in the right place if you love villains and morally ambiguous characters in general. Today I'm covering 11 common villain tropes ... as Pokemon moves.
Wait, what? Alyssa, how are villain tropes and Pokemon moves related?

First, what are villain tropes?

Tropes are easily recognisable story elements, such as heroes, damsels in distress, and so on. Villain tropes are the tropes that, well, relate to villains, such as the chessmaster, the villain with good intentions, and so on.

(If you love villains, you might also like my previous post on the 7 types of villain deaths.)

For those with no childhood, Pokemon are a very, very, very large group of fictional wildlife that fight each other. Pokemon moves are the specific kinds of attacks that these wildlife use.

Psst, grab the statistical breakdown of how villains are most often killed off in the takeout army library:

Find out how villains die in bestselling books

This post operates on the assumption that villain = antagonist = generally unsavoury. Some of these, of course, apply equally well to anti-villains or even anti-heroes.

11 super common villain tropes + examples:

1. Evil Cackle

This is one of the most "I'm the Villain" signs. In almost every story, there's a point when the villain has (nearly) succeeded. It's time to celebrate with tea and takeout and terrifying laughter!

Often, this cackle precedes a beatdown by the protagonists:
20. Despite its proven stress-relieving effect, I will not indulge in maniacal laughter. When so occupied, it's too easy to miss unexpected developments that a more attentive individual could adjust to accordingly. (Evil Overlord List)
Type: Psychic.
Effect: May be humiliating to more self-conscious protagonists. More often exasperates protagonists (and readers!) because of how clichéd it is. I kinda dislike it in everything except the most classic video games. Like, I don't know, Pokemon? *shrugs*

2. Acid Monologue

It often goes with the evil cackle. The villain has succeeded! They've taken over the world! All the takeout is theirs! Mwahahaha!

Now is clearly the perfect time to lord it over the helpless protagonists and/or explain the entire evil plan. After the monologue, failure of said evil plan is almost inevitable.

Type: Poison
Effect: May make you feel good for 0.4 seconds and paralyse the protagonists for 0.25 seconds. May also give them the information needed to utterly destroy you.

However, I do enjoy it when these monologues start off gloat-y and end up revealing the villain's less evil motivations. Morally complex villains FTW!

3. Random Wrath

This villain is a loose cannon. He's just evil for the sake of it! They will for no apparent reason steal children's cake, kick random kittens down wells, and shoot their trusted lieutenant for something that is not his fault and/or plot convenience. They have a terrible reputation and their allies tremble in fear.

Type: Dark
Effect: Strikes fear into the hearts of your enemies. May also give them the resolve to fight and defeat you. I like my villains clever, not just ruthless.

4. Minion Attack

Said some wise literature person, "Everyone likes to root for the underdog." (I'm actually legit, but I cannot find my notes for that lit class, so take my word for it, okay? OKAY.)

Therefore, while the protagonists may only be the hero and his plucky sidekicks, the villain often has armies at his disposal. Many villains will deploy these minions to vastly outnumber the protagonists ... because "we have resources".

The consequences are either (a) their troops turning on them or (b) the protagonists succeeding despite all odds.

Type: Fighting
Effect: Unfortunately, minions never seem to leave a real scratch on the protagonists. (Although they may provide some comic relief to the novel.) Minions are seriously ineffective. The only way to make it worse would be to send out your minions and then say "Leave him to ME!"

5. Shadow Sneer

Unlike the evil cackle, this is when villains appear all simpering in front of the protagonists, hiding their world domination plans with good manners and hot chocolate. Bonus points if the villain-in-hiding steeples their fingers.

I actually adore it when villains in disguise act the hero's allies. But I'm less on board with it when the book then shows me their SECRET smile and tell me, "this guy is SECRETLY evil."

Type: Ghost
Effect: May confuse your opponent and cause them to hurt themselves. Recoil damage is also caused to the Fourth Wall.

6. Royal Disdain

Off with their head! Let them eat cake!

As explained above, we tend to root for the underdogs. So powerful royal figures are the domain of many villains instead. Some monarchs may slip into Random Wrath as explained above. Others might simply not care about the peasants they trample on.

Type: Dragon
Effect: Makes for dramatic entrances. That said, that's all it really does. Most attempts to destroy the protagonist via a casual royal command don't work. (When it succeeds, though, you can bet I'll be on board for that.)

Chances are, said villain will lose their royal authority fairly soon ... unless you happen to be reading somewhat accurate historical fiction, where there's a decent chance the "villains" make it out.

7. Kiss n' Kill

There are two sides to this. First, evil overlords tend to keep around a harem (or at least a very attractive consort). Unfortunately, villains are also paranoid, so they also tend to kill off their consorts, if they're secondary/tertiary characters, quite liberally. Look, they're evil!

That said, I genuinely don't like treating love interests as disposable plot objects.

But you know what is cool? When villains try this on less savvy protagonists and distract them to carry out their schemes. And maybe even fall for the protagonist for real.

You know what is even cooler? Savvy heroes trying it on villains.

Type: Psychic
Effect: Causes confusion to the opponent, as well as to the reader. Also muddles up feelings and murder and basically flailing all around.

8. Backstab

Yeah, that image really says it all. But y'know, villains might not be able to do everything alone. And their allies often don't have moral compunctions. So a great deal of stabbing happens within the enemy camp.

I adore this trope and it's one of my favourite ways for a villain to go out as well.

Type: Steel
Effect: Creates a NEW villain for the protagonists to fight. *happydance* Unfortunately, it does very little actual harm to the protagonists.

9. Crimson Wash

While I hold the best entrance is having a signature villain song (Imperial March for the win!), books don't play music. While we wait for this momentary oversight to be corrected, giving villains a signature colour is the next best bet.

So when the villain enters and/or takes over, a shift in colour can instantly signify that victory. Red may not always be the villain colour of choice, although ... *looks around blog* Hmmm

Type: Psychic
Effect: Creates fabulous tension + atmosphere—colours are one of my favourite literary elements. However, not very effective for anti-villains or disguised villains, for obvious reasons.

10. Evil Scar

While protagonists may have the occasional scar to show their bravery on the battlefield or somesuch, many villains like the Joker or Scar (like, obviously) have evil-looking scars. Sometimes it's even serious enough that the villain is down an arm or half a face or an eye.

Type: Normal
Effect: Handy label for a villainous appearance. But personally, I feel this trope could be very problematic in propagating ideals of beauty and/or ableist ideas, so I'm a little dubious unless it's well justified.

11. Thousand Stories

I've talked about villains and the potential problem about their troubled backstories, but villains with complex motivations are still fantastic. Here's why it might just be my favourite trope here:

  • heartbreak all around
  • characters being vulnerable
  • moral ambiguity
  • just emotions, okay? I might not be able to handle them in real life, but emotions in fiction = the most important

Type: Ground
Effect: Earth-shattering destruction on everything you thought you knew.

Oh, and don't forget to check out everyone else on the Nefarious Tales trail (ahaha, I rhymed):
Sophia @ Bookwyrming Thoughts - Awesome Villain Powers
Nova @ Out of Time - The Darkling Formula

There's also a giveaway for the event I'm super excited to share! Thank you so much, Mishma!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Oh, and another cool thing in case you're new here from other Nefarious Tales posts *waves* I'd like to share a bunch of cool bookish resources with you, including interesting stats about fictional villains and

Get access to the takeout army library

Which of these tropes do you like/dislike? Who's a villain you really love? And comment with a Pokemon move-version of a trope yourself! I will feature the best ones :D

Tweet out the takeout!
PS: In case you love villains (of course you do) and have read Harry Potter / The Hunger Games / A Song of Ice and Fire / A Darker Shade of Magic (c'mon, one of these at least), you may be interested in how villains tend to die in these books. Get the stats here.