Reading Rec: The Count of Monte Cristo Part 2

Welcome back to the summary! If you missed the last entry in this series, I’d recommend reading that first to catch up on the story. To recap the color coding, our protagonist, Edmond Dantes (aka the Count, Monte Cristo, Abbe Bussoni, Lord Wilmore, and Sinbad the Sailor) gets the default black color. His old love and fiancee, Mercedes, is pink. Her current husband, Fernand Mondego (aka The Count de Morcef), in red, accused Edmond of treason to get him out of the way, and is now wealthy after a military career in Greece. Edmond’s kindly employer and true friend, Monsieur Morrel, and the rest of the Morrel family including Maximilian and Julie are green. The greedy sailor who schemed to betray Edmond, now the rich banker Baron Danglars and his family members are blue. The cowardly and selfish neighbor who said nothing during the betrayal, Caderousse, gets yellow. And finally, Villefort, the prosecutor who sentenced Edmond to life in prison for his own political gain, as well as his family, get violet.

Hopefully that paragraph doesn’t hurt your eyes too much to read. Any new characters or plot elements will also fit into one of those colors to indicate a connection to the main ones. Also, I’ve figured out how to embed the original illustrations, so this should be a little more visually interesting than a wall of text this time. Let me know what you think!

Italy, Chapters 31 – 39

This section starts 10 years after the last events covered in part one, and in a completely different part of the Mediterranean with a completely different character: a young Parisian nobleman named Franz who lands on the island of Monte Cristo to go boar hunting. It’s supposed to be an abandoned scrap of rock, but instead, he finds there the crew of Sinbad the Sailor. Franz is blindfolded and taken to have dinner with Sinbad, who shows him an incredible display of wealth before drugging him and sending him on his way to Rome to meet up with his friend, Albert de Morcef – son of Fernand Mondego (aka the Count de Morcef) and Mercedes.

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Reading Rec: The Count of Monte Cristo Part 1

Welcome to February and March’s reading recommendation! In keeping with the outlining theme of the month, today I’m sharing a book with one of the most complex and interesting plots I’ve ever read. I listened to The Count of Monte Cristo audio book last summer and it is now one of my favorite classics. There are several movie and TV adaptations that I haven’t seen, but I want to focus on the book to demonstrate how Alexandre Dumas handles a story that spans several decades and dozens of inter-character relationships. Its the sort of story that works really well because of the slow pacing of a book, rather than being constrained by an arbitrary time limit, and hopefully by dissecting it, we can learn a few things about how to do this sort of plot as well.

This book is 1243 pages, 117 chapters, and over 375K words long, so I’m splitting this post up into four parts and stretching it out over the next month. I wanted to make sure I had enough page time to give enough context and that’s the winning option from my polls. That being said, I think there’s a statue of limitations when it comes to spoilers in 177 year old books, so I’m going to prioritize the “what can writers learn” aspect of the analysis in this article. If you’d like to read more, the whole work is available for free download on Project Gutenburg. True to form, I’m also color coding this! Try to spot the themes as I explain the twisty plot points!

The Creation of the Count, Chapters 1-30

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My Personal Process: Outlining/Plotting

Welcome to the second entry in this series of Personal Process posts! This series is keeping with the theme of the month, and for February I’m going to be talking about outlining and plotting, since I’m neck deep in planning The Laoche Chronicles and this gives me the chance to both share some behind-the-scenes with you, as well as give you some tips on how I make outlining work for me. This is just my process, and I’m not saying it’s the end all-be all for plotters, just another method that you might be able to learn from and adapt to suit your storytelling needs.

It works particularly well for very complicated series, but if I’m working on a more straightforward contemporary novella, I’ll skip over the whiteboard step and go straight into the document outline. For short stories, I might just make a bullet point list of Stakes, Beginning, Middle, Climax, End, Character Drive. I find that knowing how to tackle all the different angles leads to a better understanding of structure in general, so I find it interesting to study all the different scopes, then change this process to fit the needs of my current WIP.

Step 1: Brain Dumping

At this point, I probably have some semblance of a premise and characters for this idea, and possibly also an endgame idea of where I want to take the story but not middle or clue of how to get from point A to point B. This is where I collect ALL the thoughts. Usually, I do this between phone notes and a document on my laptop for brainstorming, but I also use voice memos or whatever else works. I’ve drawn ideas on my hand in pen during a life guarding shift before and just taken pictures of my inked-over arm before I have to jump into the pool again. It happens. In any case, you have ideas.

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January Goals Recap

General goals: 20/36 – WON BY TWO
Creative goals: 6.5/13 – WON WITH NO MARGIN

I barely scraped past the mark this month, but this is also more goals than I’ve ever set before – ten more than my usual average of 26. Because I was on winter break for most of this month, I wanted to be as productive as possible on my creative projects, since I expected to have more time for them. I also started a new job with a wildly unpredictable schedule, so my designated writing time was a lot more scattered. Ironically, I might be more productive during the semester when I know I have an hour each morning to write before classes. I’ve posted the rest of my goals to my studyblr, which is also where I’ll be updating on a day-to-day basis for the new semester! If you’re curious at all about how this fantasy writer is also a chemical engineering student, you can go check that out.

Now the question is, What have I learned from my over ambitious goal-setting in January? Nothing. My February list has 34 goals. Wish me luck!

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January Special: An Interview with Katelynn Koontz

Welcome to January’s Special Feature! Today I’m talking with one of my great writer friends about how she writes complex and compelling character arcs! Katie is an accomplished author who writes across several genres including Fantasy, Sci-fi, Horror, Poetry, and Contemporary summer reads. She also does art, and drew the illustration of her OC, Bolte, for this post’s header/preview image. Katie is active in the writing community on tumblr and is one of the nicest people I’ve met there, so I’m happy to be able to share her fantastic personality and advice with you today!

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Reading Reccomendation: Character Voice in the Chronicles of Prydain

Welcome to the first of this blog’s reading reccomendations! In keeping with the theme of the month, each 3rd Friday, I’ll bring you a book that really shows off a certain aspect of storytelling that writers can learn from. Is this just a thinly veiled excuse for me to ramble about my favorite books? Absolutely. But there is something to be said for learning from other authors, so today, I’ll be sharing experts from The Chronicles of Prydain to show how Lloyd Alexander uses voice to introduce his colorful cast of characters. If you’re unfamiliar with the series, it’s a pentology of children’s high fantasy books that follow the life of a young man named Taran, an assistant-pig-keeper who stumbles into adventures where he helps protect his country from the evil forces of Arawn Death Lord.

[Image ID: The cover of The Book of Three, showing Taran hunkered down next to a tree root looking up at the Horned King. He’s a figure in red riding on a black horse, wearing an antlered skull mask and holding a sword above his head. End Image ID]
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My Personal Process: Developing Characters

Welcome to the first of the Process Posts! This is a series that will be going live on the 2nd Friday of every month talking about how I personally develop a certain aspect of the writing process. Sometimes, seeing a different perspective on part of the writing process can be helpful in figuring out what method would work best for you, so I wanted to share mine! Of course, this is just my way of doing it, and I’m not claiming it’s the best that it universally works for every project, so feel free to chime in the comments with your own suggestions so we can learn from each other. 🙂

Step 1: Brain Dumping and idea gathering

As far as I can tell, there are two main approaches to character creation – ground up and plot down. Ground Up characters are the sort of OCs that pop into your head with a concept or image or premise, but you have to figure out how to fit them into a story. Plot Down OCs are the sort that arise out of a need for a specific role to be filled in the story, and then you have to create a character out of a few required traits to fit that the bill. This part of the process is where I’m just gathering ideas on how to turn a concept into a person and collecting them in one place. I use a lot of daydreaming, making playlists, finding aesthetics on unsplash and pinterest, reading through prompt blogs and saving everything that catches my attention. This is also the stage when they get a name and the beginnings of a personality.

I don’t know about you, but I hoard ideas like a dragon haha. When you’ve got several years of pinterest boards and phone notes and screenshots there’s no lack of potential for plot hooks and backstory. One of my recent favorite methods is going through my “Everything Playlist” (2114 songs and counting lol) and picking out songs that fit their story arc and point of view on the world. For the Ground Up characters, they help brainstorm what sort of character arcs work for them and how they react to certain situations, and can be the start of a backstory for Plot Down OCs. If you want an example of this, I have the playlists for all my Storge characters linked on the WIP page. I’m building playlists for the Laoche characters now, and Weswin has proved amusing because in-story, he’s a wandering bard. Coincidentally, he’s also the one with the longest playlist. 😛

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Goals, and Resolutions, and Updates, oh my!

Happy new year!! While yes, resolution setting is an endlessly talked-about and controversial topic, I – predictably enough – really enjoy this season because of the monthly goals that I keep. In retrospect, it’s gratifying to see how much I was able to accomplish on my personal projects despite the hectic day-to-day responsibilities getting in the way, and the failures are put into a greater context which puts in perspective what really needed to be prioritized. Since it’s Jan. 1 and the Endless Impossible Year is finally over, this post will not only cover my usual monthly goals recap for December, but it’s also going to -surprise surprise – include my resolutions and plans for 2021.

So without Further Ado, let’s get into the goal recap and resolutions…

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Resource Recommendations: Writing Help Masterpost!

Helllooooo there! I’m doing something a little different this week. If you’ve been following the blog for a while, you’ll know that I’ve recently finished uploading all of the relevant links and introductions for my main WIP, Storge, which you can find here. I’m also working on the sequel series which makes up the rest of the Laoche Chronicles, but for now, a lot of that is brainstorming and I don’t want to post that information until I’ve outlined and can avoid redactions down the line. So instead we’re doing this! You all seemed to like my other informational posts about the writing process, like this interview about starting an author’s platform and this one about staying creative when life gets busy, so I thought it would make sense to continue that trend with some Resource Recommendations. Thanks to everyone who commented your favorites, and if you have another one that you don’t see here, feel free to leave it in the comments! Lets get started, shall we?

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November Goals Recap

Where did this month go?

My sense of time has been really off lately, probably because this month was one of a lot of changes in my routine. I finished my internship about halfway through the month and moved home, where I had exams for a week before going on a week of vacation with my family. (we did outdoors and socially distanced stuff, like swimming at the beach in 40 degree F weather haha). In any case, making goals was a little odd because I had to account for my normal schedule changing so often. I operate religiously on to-do list and calendars, so big shifts or a lack of routine has a tendency to really mess with my head, and I tried to do a combination of hard goals I’d inevitable have to complete, and easier optional things.

For all of that, I’m glad I got this much done! I won the month by four goals, making 17/26 of them! I’ve got a post on my studyblr detailing the rest of them, but I’m going to discuss my writing/creative progress for the month here in some more detail. I completed 5/8 creative goals which makes that a win as well!

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