The 3 Dos and Don’ts of Writing Flashbacks

Flashbacks seemed to have become more and more popular in writing. Instead of telling a story, many young authors use flashbacks to show what happened. However, most of the time they’re done wrong. So, without further adue, here are some Dos and Don’ts for flashbacks.

DO: Use regular text
Many writers put all of their flashbacks in bold or italics for some reason. This shouldn’t be the case. All flashbacks can go in regular text.

DON’T: Put rediculous things in the middle of the text
All to often I’ve seen readers tell a story, then cut out and use things like FLASHBACK and END OF FLASHBACK.

DO: Incorporate the flashback into the current text
Flashbacks aren’t meant to take readers out of the action. Flow with them right into the story. Here is one example:

I sat and looked out the window, images of us together in the back of my mind. When we got together is was a warm, June day. I was reading a magazine in Plant Park when all of a sudden, this sweaty man with the curliest hair I’ve ever seen went jogging past…

DON’T: Put a flashback in the first chapter
Terrible idea. Why would you want to take your readers out of the action by telling them a story about the past?

DO: Save flashbacks for the second chapter
Second chapters are meant for backstory and getting to know your characters better. The perfect place for flashbacks.

DON’T: Suddenly time travel
All too often I’ve been reading a chapter and I suddenly see something like “Six years ago:” and then a different story. Again, incorporate this into the text.

Six years ago today, I was walking alone at night on Cass Street when a homeless man approached me…

With these tips, hopefully now everyone will be writing flashbacks a bit better.

What I Learned From 3 Years on Wattpad.com

Just yesterday I celebrated my 3-year anniversary as a user/writer on Wattpad.com.  I’m so glad that an old friend told me about the site.  It’s given me so many opportunities, such as becoming an ambassador.

I’ve also met a lot of cool people (and a lot of really terrible ones).  Anyway, here are the top ten things I’ve learned from Wattpad:

10. People crave fanfiction: It’s true, and sometimes sad.  Many writers also think that they can only write in this genre, or that they’re “not creative enough” to write actual fiction.

9. People don’t know basic grammar: I’ve seen writers on the site not use periods or capitalize I.  This is scary that writers aged 13-16 don’t know how to do something I learned in kindergarten.

8. Wattpad can make you famous in real life:  With enough reads, publishing companies will pick up stories from Wattpad.

7. It’s super easy (and cool) to connect with people: In 3 years, I’ve met people from all over the US, UK, Europe, India, Ireland, Scotland, and the Philippines.

6. There are people online who aren’t creeps:  I’ve met a lot of nice people, and still keep in contact with many of the people whose stories I’ve edited.

5. Some people are WAY too attached to their stories:  I’ve wasted so much time giving critiques, just for people to say “thanks, but I’m not changing anything.”

4.  People can get really rude:  I’ve been called “ignorant” and “a bully”  from authors who didn’t like what I had to say about their work.

3. People have high hopes and distorted realities:  I covered this already, the young teens who think they can just go right to a Big 5 company with no beta readers, no agent, and with their Harry Styles fanfiction.

2. Impatience is very popular:  Because your critic/editor has no other life other than what you want them to do.

1. Sometimes dreams don’t change:  When I was 17, I wanted to be an author.  I wanted to travel the world and do book signings, give to charity, and leave a great impact on my world with my works.

Part of me thought I’d change my mind after being on a website full of other writers with the same dreams.  But nope.  Everything is still the same.  I doubt I’ll ever want to stop writing.

Oh, and here’s the link to my new book that debuted yesterday as part of the festivities:  http://www.wattpad.com/story/31010970-saving-flight-926


Writing About Your Relationship With Mr. Badboy

I’ve seen this topic arise over and over again. Many times it hasn’t even been on Wattpad, but in real life. But this is a writing blog, so I will instead talk about the writing aspect. The question for today: Why do people find it so appealing to read/write about a relationship with a “bad boy.”

Now, I’m talking the Wattpad bad boy: black hair, blue eyes, motorcycle, terrible relationship with his parents, and cool leather jacket. Every so often there is a variation, possibly some tattoos or a “drug lord” thrown in there.

I’ll be honest. I haven’t completely read through one of these stories. *gasp* But I promise I will find a popular one and go through it in the future. I have however, critiqued/edited many beginnings of them. And for research sake I’m currently on Wattpad scrolling through the descriptions of the hot stories with the keyword “badboy.”

I think my biggest issue with this topic is that it’s unrealistic, as are many others. Just about all of these stories are about a bad boy who finds a quiet girl and makes her “better” by bringing her out of her shell and teaching her a bunch of things she doesn’t know about life. I refuse to believe something like this could actually happen. Why? Because almost two years ago, I was that sheltered quiet girl, and I dated a bad boy.

For the sake of identity, I’ll call him Chris for this article. I met him my freshman year of college in my writing class. I didn’t care much for him then, but at the end of the year when he found me crying on a bench after a dispute with my roommate and we sat down for lunch, I found myself being lured in.

Chris was bad to the bone. He was in a frat, he smoked a ton of weed, he partied, he drove his car fast and always had girls. He didn’t have blue eyes, but he had the wispy black hair. This wasn’t what drew me into Chris however, it was the things he said he would do. He was going to take me on dates and bring me to concerts, maybe even to parties so I could be more social. He was going to read to me in his hammock by the river. We were going to get up early and go for runs, do our homework together in the afternoon, and cuddle up watching some show called Portlandia at night. He told me this nearly every day during our separation over the summer.

As I said, BAD boy. When we did arrive at school, Chris took me for two dates. I had to pay because he “lost his wallet.” Every day he ignored me. At night he was “doing homework” and having me there would “be a distraction.” There was no reading, no running, no romantic evenings. After a week and a half I broke it off via text with him, since he would hardly ever see me face to face. A week after that I found out from a friend that those nights he wasn’t actually doing homework, he was cheating on me with an old ex-girlfriend. What a catch.

Closing point of this long post: it amazes me that these people can write stories about something so unrealistic and have it be so popular. Bad boys make even worse boyfriends, but yet great reading content. Maybe these stories allow girls to somehow relive their past steamy relationships with a bad boy ex, but allow them to have a different ending, kind of like with Robbie and Cecelia from Atonement. Or maybe it’s an impossible dream many girls have (a bad boy who is also Prince Charming), that they can just get a little closer to with their own writing.

Why Your Character’s Clothes Don’t Matter

BEEP BEEP BEEP
I moaned and turned off my alarm. Another day of high school. I threw off my covers, yawned, then walked to the bathroom, brushed my teeth, and took a shower.

Once I got back to my room, I threw on a baby blue crop top, a pair of dark grey skinny jeans with cut outs in the knees, and some matching black Converse, then put on some blue eyeshadow from Sephora and light pink lipstick, quickly grabbing my cerulean blue Gucci tote bag.

Ladies and gentlemen, I have just given you a (shortened) cliche beginning of many Wattpad stories out there. The topic of my helpful rant today is…you guessed it: Clothing!

I’ll admit that when I wrote my first book at 16, I was a victim to the clothing info dump similar to that above. Many Wattpad writers are girls. I must admit, we like our clothes.

Since we love clothes so much, we want to give our characters an entire wardrobe and style, down to the color of their eyeshadow. The thing that we realize too late is that, well, none of that matters.

Excess details like listing off all the items of clothing your character is putting on before catching the bus is completely taking your reader away from the action, which is something you never want to do. If a reader could be disinterested, then so will a future publisher.

Another fact about clothing is that it’s just not important. Unless, well, it is important. For example, clothing for a regular day of school isn’t important. Describing your main characters prom or wedding dress is. An outfit to a concert isn’t important. An outfit to a concert her band is performing at for the first time is. Mainly, describing a characters normal attire in great detail shouldn’t be a priority.

When Highschoolers Write About College

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about kids on Wattpad not doing their research. Today, I’m going to focus solely on a topic that makes me nuts: misperceptions of college. I’m going to do this in numbers because there are just so many:

1.THE DORM ROOM:
Every single Wattpad story I’ve read has college girls moving into their dorm room, which is fully furnished, decorated, and includes a complementary 60-inch flat-screen, amazing view, and a mini fridge. Yeah, no. When you ACTUALLY move into a dorm, it looks like this.

IMG_0605.JPG

2. THE NIGHT LIFE
Many Highschoolers think that college is all about partying. Homework isn’t a big thing until the last minute, and that every night is an adventure. This one is pretty self explanatory.

3. THE FOOD
A lot of colleges are portrayed as only having 1 dining hall with Harry-Potter-style tables. In truth, many colleges today have 3+ eating venues and many seprate tables.

4. THE ROOMMATE
Okay, this is a long one. First off, ladies, you’re not going to go to college and see one of these guys as your roommate:

IMG_0607.JPG

Here are some other common misconceptions:
1. That girls won’t know their roommate
2. All dorms are same gender but their one room is multi-gender
3. That their roommate will be a bad boy/player/hunk/Harry Styles/their high school bully
4. “Oh no! I’m stuck an ENTIRE YEAR with this person!”

1 and 3 blow my mind. Mostly gets their roommates online beforehand. I knew who my roommates were a month before I moved in. So these girls would know that a guy was placed in their room.

Number 2: Nearly impossible. Most colleges don’t offer gender-neutral housing. And when they do, you have to sign up for and agree to it. This type of housing situation is also more reserved for transgender, gay/lesbian/bisexual students who want to live with a different gender because they feel more comfortable with that group.

Plus, colleges today are so overflowed that it’s highly unlikely that there will be only one guy bad one girl who need a room. The solution to residence life won’t be putting them together. One will get the room, one will go on a waiting list/into overflow housing.

Number 4. Rediculous. Apparently no one knows that college is split up in semesters, or about open room change. My college offers 3 chances to change your room during the year: fall and spring open room change, as well as switching in between winter break.

Again, this is why these kids need to do research. End rant.

Young Teens and Their Publishing Dreams

Earlier today I was asked to critique a story for a fellow Wattpadder. She said she was getting it published with Simon and Schuster. Of course, she had not sent in her manuscript yet.

Also, she is 14.

After being on Wattpad for 3 years, I’ve come across a lot of young teens, aged 12-17 who think that because their story is a hit on Wattpad, it will be a hit with a major publishing company. They also have no literary agent and don’t know the difference between a hyphen and an em-dash.

Obviously, lots of reads mean a BIG ego. But big enough to think they’ll be accepted she given a contract by a major company? Maybe some kids just have big dreams.

Yet, even when I was 18, already having a publication with Chicken Soup for the Soul, I didn’t think I was ready for the big leagues. My story Hype was #2 in a category of 22,000 stories, picking up a thousand reads a day, and instead I went for self publishing, (which was a failiure as said in an earlier post).

Right now, I’m caught between wondering if these kids just need a reality check, or if the teen audience on Wattpad is responsible for making them think they’re the next Stephanie Meyer because their Harry Styles fanfiction has a million reads.

College and the Friend Trend

After being home for three weeks, I was sitting with one of the few friends I have left here at the Cheesecake Factory.  We were talking about an interesting, tiny phenomenon, which I like to call the “Friend Trend.”

Now, as many of you know, I am in a sorority.  This means my Facebook is flooded with friends on all levels of college undergraduates.  After about a year of paying attention to detail, I’ve noticed a vast difference in freshman vs. upper classmen like myself: their friends back home.

Many freshmen, who go home for breaks have pictures of themselves and high school friends. While at school, they post about missing home. As for juniors and seniors, their posts consist of pictures with family and missing their college friends.

I myself have experienced the downward Friend Trend at home. Over the past two years, the amount of close friends I see when back home has gone from 7 to 3. Meanwhile, my amount of close college friends has gone up from 2 to 5 since freshman year.

I guess the real point that I’m trying to make is 1. this is kind of sad, and 2. I wonder why this happens? Why can’t best friends stick together through a distance? Does college really change people that much?