Author Archives: Kristin Luna

About Kristin Luna

Kristin Luna has been making up stories and getting in trouble for them since elementary school. She especially loves young adult literature, fantasy, Nic Cage, literary fiction, magical realism, and wouldn’t even be opposed to reading yeti erotica. She has written book reviews for Urban Fantasy Magazine, writes for this very blog your eyes are glued to at this very moment, and her short stories have appeared on Pseudopod and in anthologies about unicorns and dragons published by WordFire Press. She lives in San Diego with her husband Nic and eats way too much Taco Bell. Learn more about Kristin at her website www.kristinleighluna.com.

The Second Book in a Series, or: The Ugly Middle Child

Ahh. There’s nothing like kicking back in a comfy chair with a good series. While I am not a fast reader by any means, you might finish a book in one day and go right on to the second book. When you look at that cover, what are you thinking about? Are you expecting another exciting installment in the adventure? Are you anticipating it will be just as good as the first?

I’ll admit it. Every single time I pick up book two in a series, I have high hopes and expect it to be just as good as, if not better than, the first book. And I should seriously know better by now. Because almost every series I read has a major book two problem, especially trilogies. I’ve taken to calling book two (in any series) The Ugly Middle Child. No offense to all of you middle children out there, I’m sure you’re lovely and probably gorgeous.

Whenever this topic comes up in conversation (which is often, you’d be surprised), I always come back to The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien, book two in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Why? Because it’s a perfect example of a book two done well, at least in my humble opinion.

Why?

*Caution: spoilers ahead! I repeat: spoilers ahead!*

Important Things Happen

Gandalf is reincarnated as Gandalf the White. Ents! Shelob! F*ing Wormtongue! If you weren’t entertained by The Two Towers, then you might want to go back and re-read it. While it does what many book twos do — sets up everything for the end — it also deepens the characters by splitting them up to have individual quests. And boy are those quests cool. Some book twos simply exist to set up book three, and the author forgets to make the journey fun. They also forget to make sure crucial things happen in book two, which will make the climax of book three all the more wonderful.

The Introduction of an Integral Character

Gollum. He was whispered about in the first book and we knew him from The Hobbit, but in book two, we really get to see him. We learn his story and see his suffering. And for many of us, we had no idea what an important part he would play in the end. Now that’s how you set up an integral character.

Facing the Consequences of What Happened in Book One

In The Fellowship of the Ring, Boromir is overcome with the allure of the ring, and Frodo and Sam split off to go to Mordor alone. The consequences of this decision play out in the beginning of book two – Boromir is killed by Lurtz, the Uruk-hai leader. While the movie has Boromir die at the end of the first movie, the consequences of his actions are played out in the second book and in the second movie. When Frodo and Sam come across Faramir, Boromir’s brother, they expect the same ring-lust. However, Faramir must grapple with the truth of his brother’s death and resolve not to be like him. Real consequences and real decisions, which only pave the way to an explosive book three.

Too often, book twos feel slow and sloggy, and only serve the purpose of setting up book three. Let us take Tolkien’s example of what a good book two looks like: one full of action, intrigue, important character building, fun, the introduction of integral characters, and making sure the characters face the consequences of their actions from book one, making them stronger and all the more ready to face their ultimate battles in book three.

What do you think? If you liked The Two Towers, what did you like about it? Why was it successful as a book two? Any more examples of a book two done well? I’d love to read about it!

Storytelling and Comic Books: What to Learn and What to Leave Behind

Can we just geek out over comics right now? Let’s.

I was introduced to comic books a little late in the game. My college roommate Danica was a proud, certifiable nerd. I was still in the closet and unsure if it was something I was willing to let myself become. One day, she invited me and our other roommate Ashley to Comic Book Club on campus. With only around ten members, the club had a comfy, family-vibe. What surprised me most was how welcoming everyone was, accepting of whoever came, conversing with them about whatever form of comics they were into. This included the guy who showed up who just really liked Dilbert.

Slowly, the members of Comic Book Club fed classics and newer works into my nerd IV, filling me with a new love for the medium. They took me to free comic book day, showed me the local comic book stores, and took me to see the new rash of comic book movies coming out at the time (X-Men: The Last Stand was our biggest Comic Book Club outing). I ended up writing my senior year Sociology paper on my university’s Comic Book Club, and my professor not only gave me an “A” but wanted to talk more about it after class.

What I wasn’t was a closeted book nerd. As an English major, you kind of give yourself away in that respect. I might even dare call myself (or would’ve called myself at the time) a book elitist. I didn’t read genre fiction, and found anything genre to be more on the entertainment side than on the enrichment side. So imagine my surprise when I loved comic books right away.

Over ten years later, skinnies and trades are a regular part of my balanced reading diet. In 2017, I read 104 books, 30 of those being comic book trades. I count them equal to any book in terms of enrichment and importance, something my 20-year-old self would call taboo.

However, there are some real and important differences between comic book and novel storytelling beyond the obvious, and they are important for writers to pay attention to.

Pacing.

Comics, by nature, are fast-paced. The reason for this is half of the story is told visually, and our brains process visual information much more quickly than reading words and conceptualizing those words into scenes in our minds. Also, in most comics, the majority of the words are conversation between characters, cutting out long descriptions, body language, and physical cues.

As writers, what can we learn from this? I’d argue learning pacing from comic books with caution. In many comics coming out today, the speed is breakneck. This is not always the best way for novels. Personally, I like a slower, blossoming effect, as I think it is more artful and immersive. Some indie comics are better for this effect (Shortcomings by Adrian Tomine and Blue Pills: A Positive Love Story by Frederik Peeters come to mind). However, if your book requires fast-paced scenes, sharp scene breaks, and minimal to moderate character development (aka when story is king), then comic books are a fantastic source to learn from.

Dialogue. 

I love comic book dialogue. This is a no-brainer for me. Yes, all writers can learn sharp, concise dialogue from comic books, especially how to write humorous exchanges. In humorous dialogue, the pictures don’t matter – the snappy wit and curt replies do. You don’t even need to look at the characters faces to know if it’s effective. Brain K. Vaughn is a master at this, and his work should be on your to-read list.

Character Development.

In my mind, this is the most obvious hinderance when learning storytelling from comic books. In order to serve the story, most characters have classic and even clichéd flaws and personalities. That’s totally fine, and I’m not meaning to suggest it’s right or wrong. Because it’s fine, and most comic book writers use these tropes very well. However, most characters’ backstories aren’t fleshed out when compared to novel characters. Usually their backstories are only fleshed out as much as is needed in order to make the story believable, or to serve a story element or conflict.

Brevity. 

One of the most beautiful things in comic books, in my humble opinion, is the brevity. In half the time and space of a novel, a comic book writer can tell a complete story. It’s masterful, really, when done well. Many of my writer friends become bogged down in their long-ass word counts, wondering how they can cut 20-30k words from their manuscripts. Comic books only keep the most important stuff – and that’s a big lesson for novel writers to learn.

What are some lessons you’ve learned from comics? And what comics are you reading right now? Personally, I’m geeking out over Lumberjanes, Saga (of course, duh), Faith, and Paper Girls.

To Quit or Not to Quit?

That wraps it up for us this month, and what a month it was! We dove into making goals, how to make better goals, when to amend your goals, and when to quit your goals. We hope our insights were helpful to you, and that you carry some of our hard-earned wisdom with you into your future work.

In case you missed a post this month, here they are:

The Stories that Just Don’t Sell by Mary Pletsch

We Always Need a Goal by Ace Jordan

Quitting by Nicholas Ruva

New Goal: Stop Making Goals by Kristin Luna (that’s me!)

A Gamer’s Guide to Quitting by Heidi Wilde

How Goals Can Destroy Your Writing Career by Gregory Little

Finish What You Start, or Not by Kevin Ikenberry

A Faster Book, or A Better Book? by Frank Morin

Quitting with Feeling by David Heyman

In Favor of Failure by Colton Hehr

The Goal Post by Sean Golden

Obstacles May Be Closer Than They Appear by Kim May

To Goal or Not to Goal, That Is The Question by Jo Schneider

Made to Be Broken by Hamilton Perez

2018 – Hello, Universe Calling, Is Scott There? by Scott Eder

When Chronic Illness Sabotages Goals by Ace Jordan

Setting Realistic, S.M.A.R.T. Goals by Shannon Fox

Resources on Goal Setting and Quitting Goals by Kristin Luna

 

What were some of your favorite posts this month? Did we leave anything out? Comment and let us know!

Resources on Goal Setting and Quitting Goals

This month, you’ve read posts from us about when it’s okay to quit your goals, the merits of seeing your goal through no matter what, and everything in between. We’re not the first to write on the subject, and I found the following books, articles, and resources helpful in my own journey when it comes to goal setting, especially when it comes to writing.

  1. The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. Some writers keep this next to (or in place of) their Bibles. It’s just that important and instrumental for their process. I think I can say with confidence that this is an objectively foundational book in cementing your process as a writer. Julia Cameron guides you every step of the way in a 12-week process of deep contemplation about who you are as a person and an artist, what’s standing in your way, how to move past those things, and how to make meaningful goals to achieve what you want. I personally give the book 5/5 stars, and if you’re interested in this book, I recommend that you surrender to the process. You’ll want to fight it and cut corners. DON’T.
  2. Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke. Part of me doesn’t want to recommend this to people at large because it is so personally important to me. But, in my heart, I want everyone to succeed in being happy in doing what they want to do the most, so here it is. I’ve given away more copies of this book than I can remember, and I don’t mind buying more and more to give away until the day I die. If that alone doesn’t make you want to pick up the book, consider this quote: “Keep growing quietly and seriously throughout your whole development; you cannot disturb it more rudely than by looking outward and expecting from outside replies to questions that only your inmost feeling in your most hushed hour can perhaps answer.”
  3. Why You Quit on Your Goals (and How to Follow-Through Instead) by Jose Ramos. I like this article by Ramos because it goes into how not reaching our goals makes us feel. Those feelings can snowball and eventually stick us in what feels like quicksand, unsure of how to get ourselves out.
  4. 5 Times You Should Quit Working on Your Goal and Walk Away by Amy Morin. Amy Morin offers practical examples of when following through with your goal doesn’t make sense anymore. Relatable and concise.
  5. A good planner. I’ve lost this habit since college, swapping out the physical planner for a To-Do list app, Google calendar, and a Notes app. This year, thanks to inspiration from friends, I’ve picked up a physical planner. Here’s a great list from people who tested out some of the best planners on the market right now and their suggestions. 

 

What are some of your favorite resources when it comes to goal setting and when it makes sense to re-evaluate? What’s your favorite planner or app that helps you organize your daily tasks and goals?