The Color Box {A Story + A Surprise}

GUYS. I AM SO EXCITED! I finally, FINALLY started an Etsy shop for my art, after working on it for quite a while! 😀 AHHH YAYAYAYAY!

Ahem. Anyway, let me tell you a little bit about it and why I’m so excited for it. Click on the picture or the link below it to visit my shop.

the color box header

The Color Box Studio

Story Behind the Shop // My Mission:

I’ve loved art my whole life and I’ve always dreamed of selling my art and crafts as a business. It was (and still is) my dream job. That’s why I’m so overjoyed to actually be doing it! I believe God gave me what talent I have to use it for his glory as well as to bring myself and others joy. 😀 I hope to build a collection of fun, beautiful prints that will brighten people’s homes and add unique, handmade pieces to their décor that you can’t buy just anywhere.

Behind the Name

After much deliberation, I named my shop The Color Box Studio because I love colors and have a box of 72 Prismacolor colored pencils that is among my most treasured art supplies. 😀 Plus I just think it’s a cute name. XD

What I Sell

Currently I’m just selling art prints, but I hope to add some original and custom pieces soon. (If you have a custom request, just let me know and I’ll be happy to work with you!)

I have four prints available so far and I can’t wait to add more soon! Here’s a peek at two of the listings, and you can see the rest here.

Click on the pictures to visit the listing.

Red Fox Art 2

Zentangle Elephant Art 2

What is Gicleé?

The type of prints I sell are called gicleé (pronounced jhee-CLAY). Gicleé uses a certain process and materials to create super high-quality prints with bright colors and fine detail. I decided on it after some research and trial-and-error, because it’s basically the best-quality art print you can get and looks almost exactly like the original. Each piece of art is printed on thick, white, archival-quality paper to ensure it will last a looong time – a minimum of 80 years! I use this printing company and I absolutely adore their products and customer service.

So yeah! That’s my announcement! 😀

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Also, since I realize the news is probably not as thrilling to you as it is to me (and this post would be way too short otherwise XD), I wrote a little story for you guys at Mercury‘s suggestion. 🙂 I hope you enjoy!

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The Color Box

The air was heavy that day, laying on her shoulders and sitting on her head like a great flock of birds. It was November, bleak and colorless, and Kira was wandering the streets as usual. Her long, gray-brown hair hung limp and forlorn in the miserable weather and she walked slowly, so she could notice everything.

Kira was an Observer. She collected things with her mind. She had a whole room in her brain filled with the small wonders she had seen: mist rolling in mysterious clouds along the street; a striped snail sliding over a little white mushroom; three cats following an old woman with an enormous straw hat…  She never took the things she saw; she just looked, and remembered.

Her favorite part about Observing was the colors. Her city had precious little color to brighten its weary streets, so whenever she found a yellow flower springing from a sidewalk crack or a bright bluebird flashing by, she smiled her soft, slow smile and closed her eyes to be extra sure she would remember it.

Today, a piece of color caught her eye and her heart leapt. It was a color box. She saw it flashing in the sunlight, peeking out from under a heap of dry leaves and crumpled papers, and she hurried toward it.

When she opened it, she breathed a shuddering breath of delight. She had never seen so many colors at once. All the colors of the rainbow, and even more besides! The pencils were lined up in an uneven row, some blunt and some sharp, some tall and some short, and they were all beautiful.

Kira looked at it thoughtfully, and made a decision. For once, Kira collected with her hands as well as her mind. She would use it to draw the best memories in her collection so she could never forget them.

She began at once, smoothing out a crumpled piece of newspaper nearby to draw on. At first she tried a flower, one of her favorite finds. Kira chose a periwinkle blue for the petals and a bright green for the stem and leaves. Her pencil scratched and scraped on the paper. Her eyebrows drew together in concentration and she caught her bottom lip between her teeth to keep it from trembling with excitement. Finally Kira sat up and looked at it.

Her face fell. The colors were beautiful, but the flower did not look like the picture in her head. Kira was discouraged, but then she set her mouth firmly and promised herself that she would make a better one.

All day Kira worked. She drew flowers, she drew snails, she drew her fingertips with their broken nails. A little beetle crawled onto her paper and she drew it too. Twice a pencil got too worn down and she had to take a break to sharpen it with the dull sharpener inside the box. Finally, as the sun was setting, Kira drew the same periwinkle flower one more time. She smiled slowly in satisfaction. It still did not look like a perfect match, but it was much better than her first try.

She could hardly wait to try again tomorrow.

The next day she decided to try and draw the face of the old man who always sat on the weathered bench beside the curb. To her dismay, faces were much, much harder to draw than flowers. But as before, she took a breath, selected a new crumpled piece of paper, and started again. She stared at him for minutes at a time, taking in each wrinkle, each hair, the color of his eyes and skin and lips. And then she drew.

Day after day, she tried again. Sometimes she drew faces of passersby or people who looked out of the windows, but most of all she drew the old man who always stared ahead at nothing, rubbing a thumb over the a brown mark on the thin, wrinkled skin of his hand.

Finally, one day she was satisfied. She looked from her drawing to the old man’s face and grinned. Shyly, she stood up pushed the paper into his lap.

“I drew this for you,” she said quietly. The man blinked and looked down slowly. He stared at the drawing for a long time, and then looked up at the girl. He smiled.

The next day there was an old woman beside the man on the bench. When he saw Kira he beckoned her toward him and said, “Can you draw her too?” Kira could.

Thereafter Kira drew a new person every day. After a while she got tired of drawing with the same colors, so she chose different ones. Kira drew people not in the colors she saw with her eyes, but in the colors she saw inside of them – the colors they really were.

Her solemn gray-brown eyes looked at you unflinchingly, looked and looked until you felt she was pulling your secrets, good and bad, from your eyes, and you dropped your gaze. Kira found the secrets one by one and from those she could tell the color of the person. Some people were bright yellow and orange and pastel pink, and others were blue and gray and purple. One man was only black and white.

Every day Kira drew, on newspaper and scraps of cardboard and paper bags. When she was finished, she hung them on lampposts all over the city, so the people she had drawn could find them. Slowly the city grew more colorful. When people saw the drawings they would stop for a second look, and walk on with their inside colors shining more clearly on their faces. And Kira herself was no longer composed of grays and browns but of all the colors of her pencils, for they had bled into her fingers and crept into her heart, so that they were a part of her.

Nowadays Kira still collects things – the room in her mind is heaped to overflowing – but her favorite memory was and always will be, her color box.

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Hee hee, that was a fun little story. 🙂 I hope you liked it and my Etsy shop. What is your favorite listing I have so far? And what is your favorite “color box” – colored pencils, watercolors, markers, etc.?

Thanks for reading, my dears, and have a most wonderful day!

***Allison***

WordCrafters 3!

IT’S HERE, GUYS! YAYAYAYAY! I am so looking forward to reading your lovely chapters this go ’round. 😀

Here is the list of participants and their order. Please let me know if those weeks absolutely will NOT work for you, and I’ll do my best to change it.

  1. Allison/Josie
  2. Silver Wisp
  3. Nicole
  4. Lainey
  5. K. A.
  6. Mukta
  7. Megan
  8. Zielle
  9. Mahriya
  10. Hope
  11. Mercury Vivian Eliza
  12. Anika Joy
  13. Chloe
  14. Charis (Grace)
  15. Mirra
  16. Sarah
  17. LydiaFinn
  18. EnniMorgan
  19. Allison/Josie

For a quick review of the rules, I’ll show you the first chapter here shortly, and then the next person, will write the second chapter based on where it ends and the loose plot outline I’ll give you. After a maximum of one week, it’s the next person’s turn. If you finish your story before one week, that would be great too! It will make WordCrafters move forward a little more quickly.

I decided to put the pictures of the characters and their descriptions on the WordCrafters 3 page so this post wouldn’t get insanely long. XD

 

Now for the first chapter. Eeeee, I’m so excited! I hope you enjoy!

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Esme was having a wonderful day. Little waves nibbled at her toes, sun rays warmed her back, and the seashell she had found felt cool and smooth in her palm. Vivi was sunbathing on her beach towel a few feet away, and Pippin… Esme shook her head and smiled. Pippin was sneaking up to Vivi with a pail of freezing ocean water. He beamed Esme a mischievous grin and dumped the bucket over Vivi’s head.

Esme had to put her hand over her mouth to keep from laughing. Vivi scrambled to her feet, spluttering with rage and surprise, and ran after Pippin, yelling and threatening to dunk him in the water if he so much as touched her again.

She heaved a happy sigh. Life was good.

Esme settled back into the sand and took another fond look at her seashell. It was perfect, spiraling around and around, each spiral smaller than the last. It reminded her of a giant, periwinkle snail shell. She turned the shell over to gaze into the pearly opening. Suddenly, she gasped. Her eyes widened. She shook the shell, tapped it gently on the ground, and finally reached inside with her slender fingers and pulled out a scrap of paper.

“Pippin, Vivi, come quick! Look what I found!” she called excitedly.

They halted the chase and trotted obediently over to Esme.

“What is it, Esme?” asked Pippin. In answer, she handed him the scrap.

Pippin frowned and read aloud, “‘Item 7: fourteen mermaid scales.’ What on earth?”

Vivi snatched it from him, “Wait, and there’s something on the back: ‘Operation Portal Icxylwocig, property of P. Charming.’”

The three friends looked at each other with wide eyes. Was it time to go back?

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Alalia was having a wonderful day. She and her cousin Jacob were testing out his new boat, the “Captain Hook,” at the beach. A stiff breeze filled the sail and they skimmed gracefully through the water. She leaned over the side, trailing her hands in the cool water, and…

“JACOB! Come look!”

Jacob started in surprise. “What on earth, Alalia? You nearly knocked me overboard!” Jacob rolled his eyes, but grinned good-naturedly. He made his way over to her side of the boat. “What-“ He left the word hanging as a flash of green and red flew under their boat. He rubbed his eyes. Alalia blinked.

There it was again – a long, green, fish-like tail, with red hair was streaming out above it.

“A mermaid,” Alalia whispered.

They looked at each other. Could this mean what they thought it did?

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The next day Pippin, Vivi, and Esme all hurried back to the beach. They scoured the shore for more notes, leaving no shell unturned.

Nothing.

Finally the three of them plopped down on a rock, discouraged. Two other teenagers were walking in their direction, chatting intently about something.

“I’m just sure it was a mermaid,” the girl was saying. “What if it was Ariel?”

The boy shook his head. “I dunno. I mean, if it’s really her, why is she in the human world and not in Fairyland? I realize we didn’t see her when we visited but-“

They both stopped short when they noticed the three children listening to them with wide eyes and open mouths.

Vivi spoke first. “Are you guys talking about… mermaids?”

The two teenagers looked embarrassed. “Oh… um, we were just…”

“And something about Fairyland?”

“Well, we-“

“So we aren’t the only ones!”

The boy looked startled. “Wait, what?”

Pippin hopped off the rock and held out the mysterious note. “Have a look at this. We found it yesterday in a shell.”

A look of recognition flitted over the girl’s face. “Icxylwocig. I saw that on a sign in the forest, when I first came through the portal.” Then she caught herself. “Oh, I mean…”

“Really? You guys went through a portal?!” Vivi was excited now. “So did we! Well, kind of. See, one day we found this huge, weird-looking egg…”

And with that, everyone started talking at once, racing each other to tell their wonderful adventures.

After many words and tales and names were exchanged, the five children felt like they had been friends for years. It was easy to become friends with the only other people in the world who understand your biggest secret.

“But now we need to figure out what this note means,” Pippin said, getting back to business. “It could be some sort of portal instrument or something, to take us back.”

“Or maybe it has something to do with our mermaid sighting? You know, the part about the mermaid scales?” Jacob suggested.

“Maybe…”

Esme had been listening quietly to everyone else’s talk, until at last she spoke up shyly, in her soft voice: “I-I have an idea.” Everyone turned toward her expectantly.

“Well, you know how it says, ‘Operation Portal Icxylwocig? And the mermaid scales section sounds like part of a recipe. Maybe P. Charming, whoever that is, was trying to make a sort of recipe for a portal to get to Fairyland?”

Everyone nodded their heads thoughtfully.

“Yeah, and you need mermaid scales to make it!” Alalia jumped in. “And maybe the ‘Item 7’ part means it’s the 7th ingredient or something.”

Vivi jumped up suddenly. “Guys, wait. What if we found all the ingredients and made the portal ourselves? Then if that really was Ariel that Jacob and Alalia saw, we could take her back to Fairyland, and everything would be perfect!”

At that, everyone started talking excitedly.

“HOLD IT!” yelled Jacob. “Does anyone know a P. Charming? If we could find him, maybe he’d give us the rest of the notes.”

“But if he knows all the ingredients, maybe he’s already made the portal… maybe that’s how I got to Fairyland in the first place,” Alalia pointed out.

Everyone was silent for a moment, thinking.

Suddenly Esme’s face brightened. “Oh, I just remembered! We have Katri’s diary! Maybe there’s something in there about portals!”

“Brilliant!” Pippin shouted in delight. “Let’s go check!”

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Precious minutes ticked away as Pippin, Vivi, and Esme introduced their new friends to their parents, but finally the five children were safely in the girls’ bedroom at the beach house. Esme held out a violet leather journal studded with glittering stones.

Jacob wrinkled his nose, “Ew, you can tell that’s a fairy’s diary. Look at all that purple sparkly stuff.” Everyone laughed. “So are we going to read the whole thing or what?”

Vivi frowned. “Nah, that would take way too long. Here, I’ve read the first entry already, so I can just give you a summary while Esme looks for the entry about portals.”

Vivi cleared her throat with a mock-serious expression, and began. “So Snow White got banished from her home in Fairyland after she herself banished Ariel, Katri’s sister, out of jealousy.”

Jacob snorted. “Number one, how can a mermaid be sisters with a fairy? And number two, she banished her out of jealousy?”

Vivi sighed impatiently. “Number one, I am not an expert on family relations in Fairyland. I don’t know, maybe one of them was adopted or something. If Katri wrote in her diary that Ariel’s her sister, I’ll go with that. And number two, yes, she did. Because Ariel had married her prince while Snow White’s prince, Prince Charming, had suddenly disappeared one day and never returned. No one knows why. Snow White was so heartbroken and jealous of Ariel’s happiness that she banished her – she only meant to move her to a different province, but her plans went awry. Now Katri, her father, and Snow White all want Ariel back, but the problem is, they don’t know where to find her. They think she might be in the human world, but if so, they can’t go and get her. Residents of Fairyland are too obvious in the human world, and plus, there are other physical complications of adjusting to a different world. That’s why we all went to Fairyland – they wanted to force us to find Ariel, but we escaped before they could make us do it.”

“So do you think they sent us the note on purpose, to take us back? No one else but us could figure out what the note meant,” Alalia said.

Pippin shook his head. “Nah, because how could they know we would find that specific shell?”

Jacob nodded. “Good point. It’s still a little weird, though.” He looked over at Esme. “Did you ind anything yet, Esme?”

“Actually, yes!” Esme smiled. “Here, Vivi, you can read it.”

Vivi cleared her throat and read…

Dad says portals to other worlds must be made with resources native to that world. For instance, if I wanted to make a portal to the human world, I would need wood, nails, and other human things to make it. So for Prince Charming’s portal to work, he has to take some ingredients from Fairyland to the human world and build it there. I don’t know why he thinks it’s worth the risk – what if he gets an ingredient wrong and gets stuck in the human world forever? I personally never liked Flynn Rider that much anyway, but I guess he and Charming were pretty close friends. Rapunzel just isn’t the same since he’s gone missing, and I’ll admit it’s quite heroic of Prince Charming to try to rescue her dear husband.

“Woah, now everything is starting to make sense,” Vivi said. “So Prince Charming must have been making a portal to get his friend back to Fairyland, but he messed up his recipe and the portal didn’t work.”

“GUYS! I have it!” Alalia shouted. “Why didn’t we think of this sooner: P. Charming is Prince Charming!”

Everyone blinked. Oh, duh.

Jacob got to his feet, rubbing his hands together. “Well, now that we’ve got all this figured out, let’s go make the portal and save everyone!”

Vivi looked at him scornfully. “You can’t just do that, Jacob. What about our parents? And how are we going to find the other notes? We don’t even know if there ARE other notes. We need to get prepared, first. We’ll need food, and water, and some way to make shelter, and-”

“That’s our girl,” grinned Pippin, poking Vivi. “Always prepared.” She glared at him.

Esme, who was still leafing through the diary pages, suddenly jumped up and shouted, “EUREKA!” Then she blushed and lowered her voice. “Oops. I mean, look what I found!” She had opened the journal to a page with a list of ingredients.

Prince Charming’s portal is coming along pretty well. He even told me what he has so far. (But it’s top secret, so don’t tell anyone, diary. Ha ha.)

  • Item One: Oak wood
  • Item Two: Generous amount of fairy dust
  • Item Three: Stepping stones
  • Item Four: ???
  • Item Five: ???
  • Item Six: ???
  • Item Seven: ???

I sure hope Prince Charming’s expedition goes well, because if he can’t find the right ingredients, he might never return.

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Ooooohhhhh! 😀 And lastly but not leastly, here’s the revised plot summary, to aid you in your writing:

It all starts with a mysterious note tucked inside a seashell. What could it mean? Who could it be from? And could it be time to go back? Five friends, Pippin, Jacob, Vivi, Alalia, and Esme work together to solve the mystery, and come up with a surprising solution: What if Snow White’s prince, Prince Charming, was working on constructing a portal between the human and fairytale world, but he got stranded in the human world and couldn’t get back to Snow White? If the five friends could find the rest of the notes, perhaps they could build their own portal to bring Ariel back to Fairyland – and maybe even Prince Charming with her.

Thus begins the biggest adventure so far as the children track down pieces of Fairyland hidden in the human world. But unbeknownst to them, there is danger lurking in the shadows – banished convicts from Fairyland that will do almost anything to get their hands on those mysterious notes. If this is a fairy tale, where is the happily ever after?

Exciting? I think so! I cannot wait to see how the story turns out! If you have any questions about the story or the participant list or WordCrafters in general, please just drop me a comment.

Thank you all so much for participating, and have fun!

***Allison***

The Dust Pixies, Part 8

Wow, it has been forever since I posted an episode of The Dust Pixies! If you haven’t read the story yet, click here to see it so far. And here’s a little refresher from the last chapter:

This was too big for four dust pixies to handle by themselves. We needed help. We needed Rosalind.

Rosalind perched on the side of her bed, her chin in her hands, her blue-gray eyes opening wider and wider as I told the sad tale.

“And oh, you’ve just got to help us, Rosalind!” I finished. “How are we supposed to save two of our friends from a band of bloodthirsty fairies by ourselves?”

Lyri held up her hands. “Whoa there, Mae. I wouldn’t call them bloodthirsty, exactly. Just a little…”

“Crazy?” Fiona interjected helpfully. She had quickly made friends with Rosalind, but Petre, on the other hand, cowered behind me, his little hand gripping mine for dear life.

Rosalind finally spoke. “So let me get this straight. Finn went out to collect supplies for him and his wife, who apparently is the fairy Princess, but then the Princess’s friends and family KIDNAPPED him because Finn married her and then they kidnapped the Princess too for good measure? Sounds like such a sweet group.”

Fiona rolled her eyes. “They’re crazy, I’m telling you. And they’re fairies. What more could we expect?”

“They’re not all bad,” I said, remembering Eli. “And what about Annabelle Rose? She’s one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met, even if she is a little dramatic.”

Lyri nodded in agreement. “So we all know they need to be rescued, but how?”

We all stared at each other blankly.

Petre sneezed. Twice.

“Sorry,” I apologized to Rosalind, “Petre is allergic to dust. It’s rather unfortunate since he’s a dust pixie and all, but…”

“That’s it!” Rosalind sat up suddenly, sending us all tumbling into the valley she had made in the bedcovers. “Oops, sorry,” she winced. “But I have it! I have a plan!” She grinned mischievously. “But first, you all need a bath.”

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It’s a good thing my parents weren’t there to hear us, because judging by the bloodcurdling screams and shouts and yelps, they would have thought we were being mauled by a house cat or something. Okay, so maybe the water wasn’t that bad, but if you’ve never had a bath in your entire life, you’d be terrified too. I couldn’t believe Rosalind had betrayed us like this.

I put on my best angry face as I finally climbed out of the bubbles and put on my clothes. Rosalind had even washed those too! I gave the teacup-bathtub a kick in passing, and yelped when warm water sloshed out onto my foot. Hmph.

I peeked out from behind the makeshift curtain Rosalind had folded from a sheet of notebook paper. Apparently Fiona and Petre hadn’t particularly enjoyed their baths either. They both wore a frown, clean clothes, and soaking wet hair. Lyri, on the other hand, was smiling.

“It actually feels kind of good to be clean, don’t you think, Mae?” she asked brightly.

All I could work up was a “Hmph.”

“So, traitor, are you ready to tell us that marvelous plan of yours now that you’ve finished torturing us?” Fiona poked Rosalind’s arm.

Rosalind laughed. “Oh you babies. The water didn’t hurt you, did it? And besides, you need to be clean in order for my plan to work. You can’t look like a fairy if you’re covered in dust.”

“WHAT?!” we exclaimed. We were going to be disguised as fairies now? Oh boy, why did we have to come to Rosalind in the first place?

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I had to admit, Rosalind was a pretty great disguise maker. I twirled and whirled in my new dress made of willow leaves and decorated with tiny whit flowers, then caught Fiona’s hand and twirled with her. Her dress was shorter, and made of silky lavender flower petals. Petre was not so impressed with his maple leaf shirt and pinecone hat. His little lips were turned down in a pout. But when Fiona stepped out from behind the paper curtain, we all gasped. She looked like she was made to be a fairy. Her long brown hair tumbled down her shoulders and onto her delicate fern dress. Rosalind had woven her a sparkling headband from something in her room that looked natural but probably wasn’t. You could never tell with humans.

hmmmm.... thinking of fairy photo ops ;):

{via}

Oddly enough, I felt like crying. Lyri looked so much like a fairy with her clean, beautiful face and new clothes that I felt like I had lost my friend and was seeing someone else. But instead of crying I smiled, and twirled with Lyri too.

Rosalind cleared her throat. “Well, girls, I’m glad you like your dresses and all, but we should probably get started. We want to get there well before dark.” I shivered. Yes, I definitely did not fancy creeping around the Inner Forest at night.

So out we went.

It took us a while to reach the woods, but when we reached them, I wished we hadn’t. It was just as spooky as last time – spookier, maybe, because we knew one of the dangers that lurked inside. And we didn’t only know it, we had come to fight it.

The woods were silent, but somehow it didn’t feel like silence. The lack of sound pounded in our ears until it nearly deafened us, and the heavy air pressed about us as if trying to force us back, back, out of the forest with its secrets and mysteries, out into the light where we belonged.

But we didn’t obey the silence.

Finally we heard something – the faint sounds of arguing voices.

Fairy voices.

We all halted, and peered through a prickly holly bush at what could only be a fairy camp. The fairies’ tents were set around a tiny fire that sent up a tiny wisp of smoke in the middle of a tiny clearing. The tents were camouflaged; they were made of a light but strong fabric of woven grass and leaves, supported by a frame of slender twigs. Rosalind could crush it all in one step, I realized with a mixture of awe and horror.

Then I saw the fairies.

Three of them had appeared at the entrance of one of the tents, arguing and waving their hands in a frenzy. I instantly recognized the midnight skin of Reuven.

He was shouting at the other fairies in an angry voice. “I say kill the pixie. Kill him! Once he’s done with, Princess Annabelle will have no reason to return to that miserable human dwelling.”

Another, younger fairy whom I didn’t recognize interrupted Reuven in a somewhat calmer voice. “But Reuven, Sir, don’t you think he could be useful to us? He knows the ways of the dust pixie and we can teach him the ways of the fairy. He would be the perfect spy. And Princess Anabelle is here now. We won’t let her go so easily this time.”

“Besides,” the other, taller fairy broke in, “killing the Princess’s husband is not exactly the way to win her over, if you know what I mean.”

Reuven was silent a moment, considering the advice. “Fine,” he said in a low voice. “I agree. Being the man who killed the Princess’s husband is probably not the best tactic. So maybe he’ll just suffer an ‘accident.’ ” He lifted his chin, dark eyes glinting.

Rosalind gasped, then shut her mouth tightly. We all looked at each other with panic in our faces.

It was time to put our plan into action.

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Cliffhanger! 😀 Hee hee! I hope you enjoyed that, guys. 🙂 Thanks for reading!

***Allison***

P. S. We dusted off (literally) an old record player that we have, and my siblings have been listening to old records all day. They even found a record from 1989 that played a milk advertisement! XD

How to Be Invisible: a Writer’s Guide

invisible author.jpg

{background image via unsplash.com}

 With NaNoWriMo coming up, I thought this would be a great time to post some writing tips and tricks! 🙂 Of course I’m certainly not a professional writer, and I make these very same mistakes all the time. I’m simply sharing some tips and suggestions that I hope will help you and me to improve our writing. 🙂 (BE WARNED: This is a veeery long post! XD )

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The “how to be invisible” part of my title comes from this essay I wrote for school. I’ve added a few notes, but otherwise pretty much left it as it is. I’ll probably refer to this in the rest of the post.

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How to Be Invisible: A Writer’s Guide to More Natural Storytelling

You’re absorbed in a story when an awkward phrase or a misplaced word brings you up short. Was that a mistake, or did you just skip a sentence? Now you have to back up, get a head start, and read the passage all over again. The author has spoiled the paragraph by coming out of hiding, by becoming too “visible.” The best authors are masters of invisibility.

What do I mean by “invisibility?” Simply this: a good author allows the story to take the stage; he avoids self-conscious, unnatural words that highlight his voice instead of his characters’. The reader should be able to immerse himself in a book without being distracted by a misplaced word, a grammar error, or a clumsy sentence.

How does one become invisible? These three tips will get you started.

Technical errors like grammar mistakes, misspelled words, and faulty punctuation are widely recognized as mistakes – and for a good reason. Even a subtle misspelling will throw the reader off. Indeed, using a real but misplaced word is sometimes more arresting than an obvious typo. “Defiantly” instead of “definitely,” “aloud,” instead of “allowed,” “breath” instead of “breathe”… Do these look familiar?

Sometimes you can achieve invisibility in more subtle ways. “Said” and its alternatives are a good example of this. On the one hand, if you use “said” all the time, your dialogue drags, but on the other hand, using anything but “said” makes your dialogue sound unnatural. [I’ve especially noticed the second option in blogging world. 😀 ] Both styles bring the author to the front instead of the characters. Let’s take the former error first:

“I won’t,” she said.

“Jane,” he said,” I am going to win this argument if it kills me!”

“You won’t,” she said.

“Then do I have to break out the tickling squad?” he said.

Jane backed away. “You don’t,” she said.

Yuck. Now let’s look at the second error:

“I won’t!” she cried.

“Jane,” he exclaimed fiercely, “I am going to win this argument if it kills me!”

“You won’t,” she replied calmly.

“Then do I have to break out the tickling squad?” he queried threateningly.

Jane backed away. “You don’t,” she murmured.

Still no good. The writer has tried to avoid “said” at all costs, resulting in an affected and adverb-ridden conversation. So how do we strike a balance? The solution is to use both options. Don’t be afraid to use “said” once in a while – it provides some white-space for the reader. But be sure to add dynamic verbs and gerund phrases as well, as long as you don’t overload them with adverbs.

A third common error is using too many adjectives, particularly in opening sentences: [Again, I often see this in blogging world. 😉 I tend to do this too. It’s just so tempting to describe with all of those luscious words! But that can lead to…]

“She brushed her luxurious, raven black hair from her delicate face with a  slender hand, and pulled the thin gray sweater close around her shivering body. Her steel blue eyes anxiously searched the clouded gray sky for something that would never return…” All those adjectives clutter up the sentences and make them sound unnatural. Instead of hearing the character’s voice, you hear the author self-consciously spouting forth flowery language.

How do you fix this? The best idea is to scatter these description throughout the opening paragraphs, or even pages.  You don’t have to exhaustively describe your character or the setting in the first sentence. [GASP! I know, right?] Let the reader get to know your character gradually, feeding them bite- sized descriptive tidbits instead of forcing down a whole chunk at once.

Becoming an invisible author isn’t easy, but it can be done. Scour your writing for any grammatical mistakes or awkward style formations that push you and your writing to the front instead of your characters. With a critical eye and some practice, your readers won’t even know you’re there.

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So basically what I mean by invisibility is writing your story naturally, so your readers will hear your character’s voice instead of yours. Here are a few other tips for invisibility. 🙂

Sentence Variation:

I often struggle with this because it’s so easy to find a rhythm and use the same pattern. Maybe you write in short declarative sentences or two-clause sentences, or really loooong sentences. Whatever you always do, don’t. Sentence variation saves the reader from monotony and death-from-boredom. In general, I like to use two or three clause sentences for the most part, scatter long sentences occasionally, and use short declarative sentences for emphasis. Don’t underestimate the power of a well-placed short sentence! It stops you cold. (See there?)

Clutter:

It’s amazing how many words you can prune from a piece of writing. I’m reading William Zinsser’s On Writing Well for school, and he suggests using brackets to burn through clutter. Put brackets around all words, sentences, and even paragraphs that seem unnecessary, then read through your story again, skipping over the bracketed sections. You can always keep the bracketed words if your story needs them, but you might be surprised at how many words you can clip away! Don’t save a word merely for its sophisticated sound.

Tone:

Make sure to keep a consistent tone throughout your book. Yeah yeah, everyone knows that. But seriously, it’s a very important part of invisibility! 😛 Let me give you a few examples of what I mean.

Tone can be especially tricky in first person POV. Your main character is telling the story, so make sure it’s natural. (I definitely have trouble with this myself.) If you were the narrator, would you describe yourself as having “luxurious raven black hair”, to use our previous example? Depending on your character’s personality, you might, but personally I would feel rather awkward saying that. XD (Plus it’s not true – as you can see from my profile picture. XD ) It’s too poetic – it fits better in third person POV when you as the author are more removed from the story, and talking of a person other than yourself.

Another thing to watch for is the tone of individual words. If your story has a more serious tone or is set in a timeless or older setting, using modern words like wacky, fake, weirdo, etc. will temporarily destroy the mood you’ve created for the reader. This also goes for materials and objects. If your character lives in a Medieval-Age world where they fight with bow-and-arrows, ride horses, and live in thatched houses, please don’t use modern inventions like plastic, computers, or paved highways (that is, unless your setting is only partly Medieval). Nope, not a good idea.

Miscellaneous But Useful Tidbits:

Redundant Words: If your character is holding a knife, you don’t need to say that it’s “sharp” unless you have previously told the reader otherwise. If your character feels like dancing in the rain, don’t describe the experience as “wet.” Unless the reader is a hermit who lives in a desert and thinks “knife” is that bug that keeps crawling into their bed at night, they can figure out that information on their own. 😉

“Several minutes:” I’ve probably used this several times in my writing, but if you really think about it, this phrase doesn’t make sense. If you met someone and “we stared at each other fearfully for a few minutes,” that would be extremely awkward. Most of the time you should change this phrase to “several moments” or “a few moments.”

Two-clause “and” sentences: I learned this helpful little tip in grammar a few years ago. If you have a two-part sentence where the subject doesn’t change and where the two clauses are connected by the word “and,” you don’t need to separate them with a comma. Okay, that was kind of confusing, so let me give you an example.

Wrong: John eagerly nodded his head, and gave her a brilliant smile.

Right: John eagerly nodded his head and gave her a brilliant smile.

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Phew! That was a loooong post! But I hope that was helpful, at least a little bit! Do you have any writing tips?

***Allison***