Sex In Young Adult Fantasy (Part 1)

An Overview

Oh boy. This is a tricky topic for so many people. Should writers put sex in their books? How should it be portrayed? Are the relationships healthy? Is the sex safe? Is it consensual? Instead of just writing off the conversation as too difficult, let’s start talking about it. As writers, readers, adults, and young adults.

Realistic fiction writers haven’t been too afraid to approach these topics in the last couple decades, but what about fantasy?

Fantasy — you know, where both genders are usually hyper-sexualized and are helplessly pining over their supernatural significant other? Where werewolves and vampires toe the border of consent and stalking.

Maybe this hasn’t been your experience with reading Fantasy. I’ve read a couple great examples that break the mold of typical Fantasy Romance, but the question remains.

Why should writers put sex in their fantasy books?

This is going to be a several part exploration on Young Adult literature and how sex is portrayed and avoided in the texts AND by readers, librarians, and parents.

Ready? Let’s dive in.

How YA Fiction Has Been Changing

For several decades YA Realistic Fiction writers have taken on the topic of sex in their writing. I mean, it’s one of the top things teens deal with in their lives. It’s uncommon (but definitely needed, writers!) to have a high school story without an intense relationship explored. But for the majority, Realistic Fiction has tackled this topic.

Several well-known YA writers who have taken on sex include:

  • Meg Cabot
  • John Green
  • Judy Bloom
  • Laurie Halse Anderson

There’s been a push in this genre particularly to show consensual, protected, “relationship-based” sex over just writing garbage that glorifies rape, sexual assault, and abusive relationships.

Why?

Because writers are beginning to realize that YA literature impacts young adults more than anything else they read (Cart). If we want to push movements like #metoo and #timesup, then the literature has to reflect what we want young adults to know.

Something people don’t think about very often, but needs to be mentioned, is that ADULTS are writing most of these YA books. Adults who are maybe starting to get disconnected from today’s youth, but must put themselves in the minds and settings of today’s young adults.

If we want young adults to learn what healthy relationships are, we have to give them examples through what they engage with.

The Reason YA Fantasy Needs To Change

Science fiction or fantasy, makes tomorrow’s ogres real and preset, within the threatening framework of an imaginative world.  It is within this framework that the writer can challenge readers, through the persona of the protagonist, to find answers…as they identify with the main character, they begin to understand the possibilities, the greatness of being fully human.  They are empowered.

Eiss 81

Growing up as a huge reader — and knowing full well that I was getting most of my knowledge of the real world from books — I stayed far away from Realistic Fiction. I was already living in the real world. Why would I want to read about someone else’s realistic problems?

No, instead my reading list consisted of nothing but Fantasy: Magical Realism, Urban Fantasy, Fairy-tale retelling, and soft Sci-Fi. And I know for a fact that many people read nothing but the same.

Fantasy was able to reach me both emotionally and mentally, in a way that Realistic Fiction didn’t. But that meant that I had to suffer through the dozens of terrible relationships, verbal and emotional abuse, and down-right stalker behavior that permeates so much of YA Fantasy. I’m talking about Linger, Vampire Academy, Fallen, Dead Beautiful — the list goes on. Don’t get me wrong. I loved reading these books for many other reasons. But for examples of healthy relationships, not so much.

YA Fantasy As Positive Examples of Romance

Librarian Donna Freitas states that she has frequently witnessed graduating seniors who openly express their lack of education in sexual topics. Her advice is simple, reading can help. Especially Speculative/Fantasy, where the writing usually opens the door to more engaging romance.

But if all YA Fantasy books are bad examples of sex and relationships, how will those who enjoy only reading this genre get to see positive examples? And don’t give me any of that bull that parents should be teaching kids. Many young adults aren’t going to be learning how teens interact in relationships from their parents. It’s awkward for one. And for another, outside sources are sometimes easier to receive advice from than parental figures.

Lesson For Today

The take-away from part one is just to start thinking about what we read as young adults. What books shaped the way we view relationships? And what can we as readers and writers do to encourage this generation of young adults so that they can both engage with a fantasy world AND learn about healthy romantic relationships?

What are some bad examples of YA Romance books, whether realistic or fantasy?

What are some good examples of YA Romance books, whether realistic or fantasy?

And how can Fantasy actually help young adults? We’ll tackle that in Part 2!

Resources

Cart, Michael. “The Value of Young Adult Literature.” YALSA, 2008. Accessed 18 October 2018.

Eiss, Harry Edwin. Young Adult Literature and Culture. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009.

Freitas, Donna. “Be Still My Heart.” School Library Journal, vol. 55, no. 2, 2009. Accessed 15 September 2018.

Further Reads

Fiction Friday #4: Write the Prompt With Me!

The Prompt

There were no library resources on advanced Necromancy — only beginner.

Today’s prompt is from Deep Water Prompts. I liked this one just because it was simple and intrigued me. What kind of person would be looking for necromancy books, especially advanced? And where would they be looking? This one got a little spooky for Halloween!

Spend 30 minutes today and write! It might not be this prompt. Check out some of my older prompts if you’d like to use another idea.

The Writing

Image by Annelies Geneyn

Jess’ eyes scanned the bookshelves for the fifteenth time.

“It’s not there,” Kye said. He folded his arms over his purple hair and put his cheek down on the wooden table. “I told you, they wouldn’t just keep that kind of thing out for public use.”

“Well I didn’t think there would be that many people looking,” Jess said. She folded the creases of her pleated skirt before collapsing into the chair beside Kye. “It’s not like the whole village comes here looking for zombie spells.”

Kye blinked at her. “What would I know? I don’t know how those crazy village people think.”

“What are we going to do?” she asked. “Pedro said that if we don’t find the spell by tomorrow, he’s going to kill her.”

“Well if it takes longer than tomorrow, at least we’ll know how to bring her back,” Kye mumbled into his sleeve.

Jess tapped her fingers on the table. “It’s not funny, you know.”

“I know.” Kye sat up again. His disheveled hair was sticking up in odd angles. The collar of his wrinkled button-down was askew. “I know, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t make fun of this.”

“I didn’t even like her. And now I have to try to save her before All Hallow’s Eve?”

Kye stood up and started pacing the length of the table. Jess watched him, arm leaning against the back of the chair.

“What are you thinking?” she asked.

“The professors are bound to have private collections. And you know that Jaxby would be the one to have something like this.”

Jess touched the cover of the only book they they had found on the subject of Necromancy. They were both surprised that the cover and pages were worn with use. The binding nearly crumbled as they opened it. But it was just beginner’s prattle. Mostly warnings and starter chants. Not anything like what Pedro had asked them for.

“So how do we get to his stash then?” Jess asked.

“We take the book to him. Ask him if he’s seen anything more in-depth. If he starts to act worried, we definitely know he does.”

“Yes,” Jess said. “I think that would work. But then what, we break into his office? He’d know who took it for sure.”

“We just need the spell,” Kye said. A smile was spreading across his lips. “Just a spell. Not the whole book.”

Jess stuffed her belongings back into her shoulder bag and Kye followed to do the same with his things.

“We can still catch him tonight,” Jess said. “He stays late. Mites, he never leaves this place.”

Jess nodded. “Okay, let’s hurry then.”

The two raced down the hallway, paying no mind to the students who balked at them to calm down. They both knew they were acting strange, but it wasn’t anything new. Especially when they were together. The halls were covered in decorations for the holiday. Moving charmed bats hung on strings from the ceiling rafters. Shadows of ghosts walked beside them when they passed by glass windows.

After crossing through the courtyard, where dozens of pumpkins were lit up in perpetual illumination, they came to Jaxby’s office.

Kye looked to Jess. “Go on, you knock.”

Jess rolled her eyes as she pulled the beginner’s Necromancy book from her bag and knocked on the door.

“Professor?” Jess called.

No answer. Jess knocked again. Silence.

She sent an exasperated look to Kye, who reached for the doorknob. Jess swatted his hand away.

“Are we just going to go in?” she hissed.

But Kye was already going for the doorknob again and pushed the door open. The room was dark except for two blue candles — not real fire but the closest thing they had to electricity at the school.

“Be quiet,” Kye whispered and slipped through the door.

“What if he’s in the back or something?” Jess asked, but she followed him anyway.

The room was colder than the chilly October courtyard, which confused Jess until she spotted the open window at the far end of the room. Kye was already making his way to the bookcase pressed against the wall of the office. It took up nearly half the wall, and a thick sheet of glass separated them from the books inside.

“There’s no handle,” Kye said.

“It’s a spell, stupid,” Jess said. “Do you think that a Professor would just trust his private collection with a normal cabinet?”

Kye shrugged. “Well, do you know the spell?”

But Jess’s eyes were focused on Jaxby’s desk where a book was closed and covered in scattered essay papers. Surely it couldn’t be that easy. But maybe hiding something valuable in plain sight was Jaxby’s style.

A grandfather clock went off, striking eleven booming drones before resuming its ticking nose.

“Jeez that made me jump out of my socks,” Kye said, pressing a hand to his chest. “Jess, do you know the spell — what are you doing?”

Jess was pushing the paperwork carefully aside, taking note which order the papers were stacked. Beneath the papers was a green-tinged tome, thicker than the beginner’s guide. An energy rose from this book as if it was breathing.

She reached down to touch the cover. The runes embossing the front in a square border kept swimming in her mind’s eye when she tried to translate it.

“I think this is our book,” she said softly.

Kye came beside her and looked down. “This book?”

Jess pulled back the cover with unusual effort, as if the tome didn’t want to reveal its secrets to her. At first the runes that covered the pages shifted as the cover had, but then they settled and formed tight scrawling handwriting.

She began ripping through the contents. “It’s here. It has to be here. Jaxby’s so sensitive to events that he must have gotten some sort of feeling this book was in danger.”

Kye watched her as she searched the pages with vicious eyes until her finger stopped at the top of a page.

“This one,” she said.

Kye stared at her finger. “Are you sure?”

Jess nodded and held the page with her hand as she flipped to the end of the spell.

“Holy mites,” Kye breathed. “It’s like twenty pages long.”

With a single flourish, Jess ripped out the entire section. She was quick enough that it left minimal damage to the spin. Slamming the cover closed, she heard rustling in the courtyard.

Kye’s eyes widened as she stuffed the spell pages into her jacket and had just enough time to push the papers back over the tome as Jaxby walked through his office door. His eyebrows rose into his fluffy gray hair as he noticed them standing by his desk.

“Kye. Jess,” he said with confusion radiating from behind his spectacles. “What are you doing here so late? And without me?”

Kye stammered as Jess answered, “We were looking for you. We thought you were here when the door was open.”

“It’s only been a moment,” Kye said then added, “Sir.”

“Right,” Jaxby said neutrally. “Well, what is it that you so desperately wanted to see me for?”

“We—” Jess said, feeling like she was trapped. They couldn’t ask him about the beginner’s guide now. If he saw the spell was missing, he would know it was them. He would probably know it was them anyways.

“I was wondering if you did private tutoring?” Kye asked.

Jess bit her lip in surprise at Kye’s quick thinking.

“Ah, a bit behind are we?” Jaxby said, wiping his glasses. “I can’t say I’m surprised. You seem to spend more time on your hair than your homework, Kye.”

Kye stifled his indignation with trembling closed lips.

“Oh, for me, Professor,” Jess interjected. “Kye was asking for me.”

For More Writing Prompts, Check Out…

What I’ve Learned About Giving Up Books

Finishing Books Just To Finish Them

Dead end sign
Image by Donald Giannatti

All of my younger life I felt like I could never EVER give up a book. Even if I hated it. Even if the writing was terrible. Even if I didn’t enjoy a thing about it.

I remember reading The Boggart by Susan Cooper. It was so dry and lacked the whimsical magic I had hoped it would have. But my mom helped me make a reading plan to finish the book in about a week.

When I had finished, I remember her asking, “Was that so bad?”

While my answer at the time was no, the book hadn’t really gotten better. I basically only learned that if you power through books, thy’ll eventually end.

But this isn’t helpful. While sometimes it’s good to challenge yourself to read books that are out of your comfort zone, reading too many books you don’t enjoy will only make you resent reading entirely.

We shouldn’t force ourselves to read books just to be satisfied to finish them. Part of the joy of books is in the journey of actual reading.

Reading Books You Love Only Makes You Love Reading More

Seeing a book through glasses
Image by Dmitry Ratushny

Recently my husband (finally) started to enjoy reading. His mother is an English teacher and has always encouraged her kids to read, but Mitchell has never really enjoyed it.

Until he picked up The Wheel of Time. I saw him read that book faster than he’s read anything in his life. What made the difference? He found books that he actually loved and realized that it wasn’t the reading he disliked. It was just the books he had been trying to read.

This brought me back to my Elementary days, when I was a terrible reader. My teachers must have seen something in me, because they kept giving me harder books than the rest of the class. But I hated the books they gave me (The Indian In the Cupboard, The Mouse and the Motorcycle to name a few).

That’s when I found Harry Potter. Oh, the librarian, my parents, and my teaches all looked at me like I was crazy. I was in first grade and was going to read a book that most sixth graders couldn’t handle.

But I read it. And read all the others. I realized I loved reading. That I loved writing. That I had been missing this piece in my life — all because I had found the right book.

You Have Too Little Time To Waste It Reading Bad Books

Girl surrounded by books
Image by Annie Spratt

In my senior year of college, I remember the head of the English department saying, “It’s okay to stop reading a book you really don’t like. There’s too little time to waste it reading bad books.”

This was not something I expected to hear from an English Professor, especially the head of an English Department. But these words have stuck with me over the last couple years — and I have given up several books in this time.

I give up reading books when I find myself avoiding reading. When I feel like slogging through the rest of the book is more of a chore than something I look forward to. I’ve read books that I can’t put down. And I’ve read books I can’t put down enough.

But my professor is right. I have so many options of books to read. And so little time to read them. What we choose to spend our time on matters. Why waste it?

Have you ever given up a book? What made you decide it was time to quit? Leave a comment below!

Writing Tips: Why You Should Use Writing Prompts To Improve Your Writing

1. Keeps You Writing Consistently

Ferris Wheel
Image by Matheus Fade

You may be at the beginning stages of a novel or in the editing phase. The great thing about writing prompts is they keep you writing, no matter what stage you’re at.

All writers must practice their craft in order to get better. But sometimes we’re in a weird stage where we’re looking for agents or finished with our manuscript and don’t want to touch it anymore.

Writing prompts are great tools to keep your writing consistent.

2. Gives Your Mind a Break From Familiar Characters and Worlds

Stopwatch
Image by Veri Ivanova

I first started getting into writing prompts again during the intense editing phase of my 264,000 word book. My mind was saturated with the character arcs and the world mechanics. I was beginning to forget how to even write certain characters because it was all running together in my head.

When I started doing morning writing prompts, I discovered that the prompts allowed me to take a break from familiar characters and explore new kinds of people. It’s like taking a vacation from your family to explore a new world.

The benefits went both ways too. Not only did I enjoy “hanging out” with new people, but I also felt refreshed when I went back to my main work in progress. I could write their dialogue more clearly and could visualize originally stale scenes with much more ease.

Sparks Creative Ideas For Now and Later

Reflection of lightbulbs
Image by Dragos Gontariu

As I was finishing my very large book, I did a writing prompt that turned into its own book. It started out as a simple prompt about magical coins, but I could feel that under the surface, there was a whole world to unearth. But if I hadn’t been doing writing prompts, I wouldn’t have thought of this story at all!

I also keep all of my writing prompts in a journal so if I ever want to revisit them or use parts of them for another piece, I still have them. You might be surprised at how good some of your writing prompts will turn out. Sometimes they take you places you never thought you would go, and that might be exactly what you need for your next big project.

A Great Warm-up

Lit Matches
Image by Devin Avery

Like drawing quick, gestural sketches before diving into the 2-hour portrait session, writing prompts can get our writing minds awake and moving. Not a lot of people consider the fact that just like most muscles, your brain needs to wake up and loosen up before it can deliver the goods.

Sometimes it’s daunting to move straight into your giant manuscript and pick up right where you left off. When you take twenty minutes to warm up with a writing prompt, your mind will be more relaxed and engaged with your writing by the end. I usually shoot for about three handwritten pages (a guide I got from The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron).

Improves Imagination and Memory

Plant growing from sidewalk cracks
Image by Stanislav Kondratiev

Writing prompts have often challenged me to write in perspectives and genres that I’ve never tried before. For example, last Friday, I wrote the beginning of a vampire Horror Noir. I’ve never written about vampires, and I’ve definitely never written a Noir. But it was a ton of fun!

Along with stretching my imagination, I’ve also found that writing prompts cause memories to surface that I hadn’t thought about in years. Sometimes I’ll be writing a scene when a certain smell or feeling creeps up on me, and I think, Wow I totally forgot about that. That would be an awesome story.

Writing prompts are great if you feel blocked and stuck in a rut as a writer. There are tons of great resources online. And I also have a Pinterest board you can follow.

Teaches You To Write Without Attachments

Chains on a gate
Image by Jose Fontano

I don’t know how many times I’ve started a writing prompt and wanted to keep writing it into a full story when I’m done. As many times as I’ve done that, I’ve also had times when I never want to see that writing prompt again.

I don’t know about you, but for me, I tend to latch onto projects and have a hard time letting go unless I finish them completely. The great thing about writing prompts is that they teache me to start without needing to finish. I have the ability to go back and add more when I want to, but I’m not chained to this project. It’s just an exercise.

If you feel like me and want to just be able to enjoy a short time of writing without feeling pressured to create a masterpiece, I encourage you to try writing prompts.

Resources

Reedsy Prompts – online database for hundreds of writing prompts.

Squibler – one of my favorite sources for Fantasy writing prompts.

For Further Reads About Writing, Check Out…

YA Fantasy Title Generator

I’ve been noticing a trend with YA books. Especially Fantasy YA books. Titles commonly consist of this formula: “NOUN Of NOUN And NOUN.” Examples: Court Of Thorns And Roses, Children Of Blood And Bone, House Of Salt And Sorrows — the list goes on.

So I thought it would be fun to make a name generator for people to come up with their own wild titles. Let’s have a little fun, shall we?

Feel free to actually use these as titles if you find one you really like! Or to adjust the plural/singular so it suits your nouns properly.

Leave a comment about the title your name/birthday generates. Mine is Cats Of Light and Steam.

Similar Posts

Fiction Friday #3: Write the Prompt With Me!

The Prompt

Writing prompt

This week’s writing prompt is brought to you by Prompturarium.wordpress.com. They have a lot of great writing prompt ideas on their site that you should definitely check out if you’re interested. I tweaked this one a little (changed 23 years to 10 years).

As always, please comment below with where your ideas take you. Or where you might want my story to go next! Take 30 minutes to write out some scenes based off the prompt below. Who knows what ideas will surface when we brainstorm a new piece?

Alright, let’s write together!

The Writing

Image by Chuttersnap

When I walked into the restaurant, the hostess eyed me up and down before straining to smile.

“I’m sorry, but you’ll have to leave your weapons at the door, ma’am. We like to offer our guests a peaceful experience.”

I nodded as I pulled the strap around my head and dropped the scabbard and backpack down. There were too many tools in it to dump them all out in front of her. Besides, I think I scared her enough without exposing my entire artillery to her. As I piled my belongings on the bench next to her podium, I scanned the restaurant. I should have dressed nicer. The place was a combination of dim lighting, crystal decorations, and spicy aromas. I was more in over my head than I had thought.

“You have someone to watch over this stuff?” I asked, watching her gingerly pick up the pack and sword and place them on a shelf alongside a dozen other miscellaneous weapons and bags.

“Of course,” she said. Her eyes darted to the big guy dressed all in black at the end of the long row of shelves.

I felt a pang ripple through me. I hadn’t even seen him.

“Here,” she said, handing me a tag with a number that matched the one on my stuff’s shelf. “Now, dining for one, or are you waiting for someone?”

“I’m Corsen. Here to meet Mr. Giochi. Has he arrived yet?”

Her smile wavered a moment before she pulled the ends of her lips back up as if by puppet strings.

“Of course, right this way.”

She led me with a menu in her hand to a table in the back. It was in a room by itself, separated by red-tinted glass doors. At the table, sat a man dressed in a combination of black and green snakeskin. His face was clean-shaven and sharp with delicate features. Even in the low lighting, I could see the yellow of his eyes.

“Have a pleasant evening,” the hostess said, already half out of the door.

“Take a seat, Corsen,” Giochi said with a flourish of his hand. His nails were long and pointed. Painted black.

I sat without taking my eyes off him, tucking the sides of my cloak around my lap as I should do with the fancy napkin they provided. I wasn’t sure if I would make it through dinner.

Giochi was a few years older than me, but that wouldn’t be the case forever. Not anymore.

As if he read my thoughts, he asked, “I’ve never helped a vampire before. What brings you to seek this city’s best mage?”

I took a breath and fingered the silver forks lined up so precisely against the red napkin. How many times had I seen silver against a backdrop of red?

“I don’t consider this ‘seeking’ as you’re the one who wrote to me first,” I answered.

“It isn’t every day you hear of a vampire killing their own. And in such a meticulous manner. The stories I’ve been hearing are as alarming as they are impressive. I thought offering my services would only be the proper thing to do.” His was face blank as he spoke. He pressed a closed fist to his chin, pushing back some of his well-maintained, black curls.

“Mr. Giochi—”

“Please, call me Danny,”

“Danny.” The name sounded too informal on my tongue, but I continued anyway. “How much do you know about me?” And how did you find it out?

“People talk, Corson,” Danny said. “They talk about a young woman who rose from her family’s grave plots after a storm of first-generation vampires took out her whole town. Bit of a slip-up, don’t you think? To leave one behind to turn?”

I hid my hands in my lap to prevent them from shaking. As he spoke, I could smell the fire. Feel the warmth of my best friend’s hands as she pressed her claws into the skin of my neck and dug her fangs into me. I could taste the metallic of her blood mixed with mine.

“That’s the general idea,” I said. I cleared my throat. “People make mistakes, after all.”

He eyed me over, though what he was seeing I could only guess. 

“I see,” he said. His gaze flashed upward, and he straightened.

A man wearing a black apron slipped through the glass door with a wine bottle in his hands.

“Our house’s best, courtesy of your services, Mr. Giochi,” the waiter said. He poured Danny a glass and left the bottle on the table before disappearing from the room.

“Do you drink?” Danny asked, raising his wine glass.

“No,” I answered.

There was a clatter of dishes hitting the floor from behind the door, but we both ignored it. My ears were attentive though, and I could smell danger rising in the atmosphere like the beads of sweat on Danny’s brow and upper lip.

“Are you afraid of me?” I asked.

“I would be an idiot not to be afraid of you, Corson,” Danny answered. He still hadn’t taken a sip of the wine. Only swirled it around in a whirlpool of thoughtfulness. “It also isn’t every day I meet with a vampire. Period.”

“I’m not only a vampire,” I said. I wanted to see how far I could push him to see past the violet of my eyes. The translucency of my dark skin.

“True, and that’s why I agreed to meet.”

Another crashing noise came from behind us, and this time I stood up and turned towards the rest of the restaurant. Across the room, the weapon’s guard was holding our waiter in a headlock, his head bent in towards his neck.

I threw open the glass doors and sprinted towards the man.

“Hey!” I shouted.

Even as my feet flew across the room, I could see how everyone seemed to be frozen in time. The guests’ faces were twisted in slow-motion horror as they realized what was happening.

By the time I had made it to the big man, our waiter was looking pale and dazed. Before the vampire could even look up, I shoved my palm upward. His nose exploded with vibrant purple blood. The grip he had on the waiter released. The kid crashed to the floor in an unconscious heap. Unconscious. I could tell because I could still hear the thudding of his very alive heart.

Focus. Don’t smell. Focus.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” I snarled. “I thought this was supposed to be a peaceful dining experience?”

The man wiped his face with the back of his hand and stood up to his full height, almost two heads taller than me. I took a step back but held my head up to face him.

“Well?” I demanded.

But I was beginning to see the tell-tale signs of a newbie who had been fighting back the change’s demands. His jaw was slack, and strings of blood and spit were dripping down his chin. The look in his eyes was vacant and veined. He had no idea who he even was.

“I—I,” he stammered.

As he staggered towards me like a falling tree, I pulled out a black rod, hidden against the folds of my tunic. With the press of a switch, two silver blades extended from either end. I plunged one end into his shoulder.

The vampire cried out in pain and fell to his knees. The stunning powers of silver working twice as hard against his human-blood-filled body.

Two people burst through the front door. Both of them wore matching black uniforms with sleek black trenchcoats that went to their ankles and squat black hats with a shiny silver emblem.

I took one look at them, pulled my blade out of the man, and took a step back. My hands raised in alarm.

Both pointed silver embossed guns at me.

“Step away from the man, now,” the woman officer said.

“Easy, officers,” Danny’s voice came behind me before he stepped in front of me. “He’s the one you want.”

He gestured down at the man who was clutching his injured shoulder and panting. A puddle of his blood mixed with the waiter’s told the officers all they needed to know.

After handcuffing the man and taking him through the entrance, Danny turned to me.

“Well that was quite the show,” he said. “I see I’ve found the right girl.”

“The right girl for what?” I asked, lip curling and revealing what I knew would be my fangs.

“The right girl to help me with my own vampire problems,” he said. “Follow me.”

Without looking back to see if I would follow, he walked out of the restaurant.

For More Writing Prompts…

Writing Tips: Overusing Figurative Language In Fantasy Writing

I’ve been trudging through the book The Crystilleries of Echoland by Dew Pellucid, a Fantasy children’s chapter book. So far it’s about a kid named Will who lives in a world where a lot of people, including his twin sister, are being kidnapped without explaination. It turns out that there’s this whole other world that Will has to enter and save in order to help both worlds. The world is a combination of futuristic science and woodland fantasy. So it’s got several interesting things going for it. What’s been driving me crazy about this book is the way the author uses figurative language.

This got me thinking, what are the dangers of overusing figurative language in writing, especially in fantasy?

Confusing Similes With the Fantasy World

I don’t want to poo-poo on the book too much, because I can tell that someone spent a lot of time trying to create something really nice. My personal opinions aside, let’s explore the opening paragraph and how it uses figurative language to build its world.

Will Cleary walked into his father’s dusty library. At the center, a huge book was spread open on a pedestal like a bird with papery wings; and like a bird, the book was trapped in a cage of glass that reflected Will’s face back at him. The twelve-year-old boy looked like a scarecrow with big sad eyes.

The Crystilleries of Echoland, pg. 1, Dew Pellucid

So several things about this passage stood out to me while I was reading it for the first time.

Using Overused Or Common Comparisons

The issue with using common comparisons like “birds in a cage” can be dangerous, as some readers will skip by this description without it really making an impact. It’s become such an idiom, a daily interaction with the reader, that it loses any true comparison power.

Confusing Figurative Language For Physical (In World)

The most confusing aspect of this paragraph is what we’re supposed to picture. I’m aware this is a fantasy book, so I’m expecting elements of magic or maybe objects that have magical properties.

Let’s explore a different passage for a moment.

The forest seemed to sprint toward them, trying to run them down as if the trees were bewitched.

The Crystilleries of Echoland, pg. 25, Dew Pellucid

In this scene, Will is running through the forest. However, because of the use of Personification, the trees are the ones running as if they were magical. The trees might actually be magical. This might explain why they seemed to move while Will was running.

However I don’t think that’s what the author was going for. I think the author was trying to describe the feeling of the trees moving by as Will runs through the forest.

Using too much figurative language in Fantasy can make your readers believe aspects of the world that aren’t true.

In Fantasy, there will be events and objects that don’t exist in our world. That’s why as writers, we have to walk a fine line between using words that help the readers picture and help the readers imagine.

All of these considerations are especially important in children’s literature where young readers might not be able to easily grasp the concept of figurative language and be able to separate it from what’s actually going on.

Distracting Readers From Real Messages

In my first example paragraph there’s four different figurative statements being made.

  • Book to bird
  • Book’s glass case to bird cage
  • Bird being trapped in cage
  • Will to scarecrow

Three of these are connected, but also confusingly arranged so that they aren’t linear. Then the last (Will to scarecrow) is completely separate from the main comparison of the paragraph. Which is that there’s a book with wing-like pages trapped behind a glass container that reminds Will of a caged bird.

While this entire comparison is very interesting, the tacked on scarecrow comparison detracts from the strength of the main Simile. Instead of focusing on the book comparison, the readers end the paragraph thinking of how Will can look like a sad scarecrow.

Likewise in the second example, several things are happening to describe one feeling. The trees are running towards Will, but they’re also bewitched. They’re also trying to run him down. I’m assuming that Will is dodging between trees in the forest. But because there are three different statements about one action, I lose the impact of the figure of speech.

Stick with one solid comparison or metaphor per paragraph (or less) to ensure readers don’t get focused on the wrong things.

Comparing Using Objects That Are Too Broad

While we all want to use unique metaphorical language in our writing, sometimes we run the risk of being to abstract and therefore confusing readers. This is especially the danger for Fantasy, where people can have animal-like features or special abilities.

The problem with comparing Will’s face to a scarecrow to show that he looks sad, is that there are many aspects of a scarecrow that don’t conjure up an image of a sad boy. We think of fields, crows, straw, scary faces. Then we apply these subconscious thoughts to the way Will looks. Maybe Will is actually a boy made out of straw in this world — who really knows? Nope. Nope, he’s not. And he’s not scary or doll-like either.

The point is, we must be original AND accurate.

Be considerate of what other readers might think of with your comparison. Make sure that the emotion or image you’re trying to conjure up in their minds will match the figurative language.

Final Thoughts

Whew, thanks for getting through that with me. I’m going to keep reading this book, because I’ve heard great things. Right now it’s not a recommended read, but we’re all works in progress.

Writing is difficult, especially for children. Let’s work hard to become stronger writers together.

If You Want More Writing Tips, Check Out

Scary Stories In LA (No. 1): What’s It Really Like to Live In Los Angeles?

Noises In the Night

Image by Thong Vo

We often sleep with our windows open to save money, and the noises of the city can actually be a nice white noise machine. Loud noises have become a familiar and almost comforting way for me to fall asleep.

Except when those noises become shouts in the night.

Only last week I woke up to hear someone shouting. In my half-sleep daze, I could have sworn I heard the man’s voice coming from within the halls of the apartment. I also could have sworn he was shouting, “The Jonas Brothers are here!” Repetitively.

In my efforts to hear what was going on, I could tell the voice was moving. Soon it sounded as if the voice was coming from outside. Then banging noises filled the air, and more voices joined his in argument.

Suddenly I could hear sirens start up and heard more voices join the chorus. I laid back down as the voices quieted. The night was silent once more.

Letter a Few Days After

Image by Pawel Czerwinski

I thought that maybe this night interruption was a part of my dreams, mixed with the noises of the night. But a few days after this event, we got a letter directly delivered to our apartment. Slipped under the door.

In the letter, we learned that someone had hopped the fence to the apartment complex and broken into one of the tenant’s apartments. Somehow no one was injured, and the situation was resolved quickly.

Their response? They were hiring a new security guard and installing barb wire to the top of our current fences.

A Story Shared With a Friend

Image by Erik Witsoe

As I explained this story to a friend, he told me of his own experiences with an empty apartment that he kept hearing noises come from. He had lived in that room previously, so he still had an extra key.

When he opened the door one day after getting tired of hearing noises and not knowing what was going on, he saw a large group of people. They had started to secretly use the room as a drug den.

Though these people were removed from the room, more people came. The landlord put bars on the windows and changed the locks. Nothing really worked. Eventually, his landlord just gave him a discount on his rent.

What I Learned

It’s easy to say that I learned that the area might not be as safe as it seems. Though it’s almost as if the night attracts more dangerous situations, because people can hide in a blanket of darkness.

The good news is, the police station is only a block away, and no one got hurt. But what did I personally learn?

Firstly, I’m glad I live on the third floor. But that doesn’t mean I’m safe necessarily. It’s good to stay alert and recognize when sounds aren’t the usual noises of the night.

It’s also a good idea to get to know your neighbors on the floor. It’s not helpful to anyone to be suspicious of people who are where they’re supposed to be. But it is helpful to be able to recognize when strangers are walking around.

Lastly, I think it’s safe to say that it’s okay to not feel super safe. I live right next to Downtown, and there are a lot of people out at night. Even though I live in a nice area with schools and nice families, crazy things can happen.

Has anything crazy happened to you in your neighborhood? Do you have any tips for living in the city? Leave a comment below to share your story.

For More Like This Check Out…

First Month In LA: Finding Jobs and Staying Alive

6 Amazing Hiking Spots in Los Angeles

If you’re anything like me, hiking would not be the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of LA. But there are actually some amazing spots that double as famous landmarks as well.

If you’re into seeing some gorgeous mountains and spending a few hours outside, these spots are for you.

1. Griffith Park (The Hollywood Sign)

Hiking the Hollywood Sign
Image by Roberto Nickson

You’ve probably seen the sign a thousand times, but did you know you had to hike to get there? There are several paths to take, each varying in different lengths and difficulty. The most common is about 4 miles total on a dusty path.

The one I’ve taken is about 8 miles and leads you through a smaller path up some serious inclines and through shrubbery. Was it even a path? Maybe.

Also don’t be too disappointed when you end up behind the Hollywood sign. There’s a spot to take fun pictures just about a mile before you reach the top of the hills.

You also get amazing views of downtown, not too far away. If you’d like to learn more about this hiking spot, visit their official website.

Features of the Hike

  • Take pictures with the Hollywood sign
  • Visit the Observatory
  • Uphill climb and downhill on the way back
  • Option to do more or less miles
View from Hollywood sign
Image by Richard James

2. Angeles National Forest

View from Angeles National Forest
View from Angeles National Forest

For gorgeous mountain views, this is the place for you. The path up the mountain was very straight forward (8 miles). There are many paths you can take, and some great sights along the way,

Angeles National Forest covers over 700,000 acres of land. The elevations range from 1,000-10,000 feet! You can hike part of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), or you can just enjoy trekking over their 557 trail miles.

Be warned, the elevation can affect some people’s breathing. To learn more about the hiking spot, check out their official website.

Features of the Hike

  • High elevation views
  • Hike Part of the PCT
  • Interesting wildlife
  • Easy-hard hikes available.
View from Angeles National Forest
Hike view from Angeles National Forest

3. Elysian Park (The Secret Swing)

Hiking trail for Elysian Park

There’s a couple trails to choose from at this park, all of which are varying degrees of elevation and difficulty. You also get to see plenty of palm tree-filled parks and the city skyline.

There’s also the secret swing at the top of the hill. Swing right over the freeway and take cute pictures. Be careful if you take the hike up, because it’s super sandy and slippery. Make sure you wear good traction shoes or you’ll end up on your butt like me! If you want more information about this park, check out their official website.

View from Elysian Park

Features of the Hike

  • Plenty of different sights and landscapes
  • Several different types of hikes for all levels
  • The swing!
The secret swing featuring Mitchell

4. Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park

View at Vasquez Rocks

Vasquez rocks is a great desert hike for people who don’t mind getting lost. The trails are not very well marked, but there are tons of fun rocks to climb. Just be sure to keep track of where you are.

An extra fun feature about this location is that many movies and films have been filmed here. Check out their film showcase board at the entrance to see how many you know! If you’d like to know more about this park, check out their official website.

The boys climbing to the top of the rocks

Features of the Hike

  • Great rocks to climb
  • An open space to explore
  • Sight seeing where many movies and shows were filmed!

6. Vista Hermosa Natural Park

This park is a nice walking spot for the inner-city dwellers. For those not into rock climbing or not wanting to leave the city, this would be the hike for you.

Explore the pathways, take pictures of the fountain area, or have a picnic with Downtown as your backdrop!

Features of the Hike

  • Easy trails to walk
  • Great for people in the city to get away
  • Relaxing area to spend the afternoon

Final Thoughts

What are some of your favorite hiking spots in your area? If you have any more hiking recommendations to hit up in LA, let me know so I can check them out!

Fiction Friday #2: Flash Fiction Writing Prompt

The Prompt

The prompt this week comes from author Tomi Adeyemi, who wrote Children of Blood and Bone. Fantastic book by the way. Definitely check it out if you haven’t.

Part of the fun is writing a piece for yourself too! Challenge yourself to spend 30 minutes writing a story from the prompt below.

The Writing

The Forrest // Johannes Plenio

I sucked in my breath as he passed me. It was the third time he had completed a full pace of the length of the room. Each time my nose was assaulted with his stench. I glanced down at my hands. They were bandaged completely. The pain radiated off them like they had tiny burning heartbeats in each finger.

Can’t be happening. Too soon.

“And lastly, we’ll need you to do the night shift,” he said. He ran a hand over the top of his undercut hair. Mine probably matched his. “We’ll give you the rundown when you come tomorrow night. Is that understood, Key?”

All of the words he had spoken before these last two orders were completely lost on me. My mind shuddered with fear. 

I wasn’t supposed to be here.

“Yes,” I answered automatically. The sound of confidence in my voice surprised me. But I had said it a hundred times before. This time was no different.

“Good,” he said. “Report here tomorrow night at dusk. Captain Zah will show you to the training area tonight.”

The girl leaning against the wall with her arms crossed painfully tight against her chest perked to attention. “Sir, are you sure it’s wise to start training today? Key just start—”

The man’s expression was hidden from me as he turned to look at Zah, but I could tell it was something severe.

“Right away, sir,” Zah said.

I followed her lead as we headed out into the woods. The sky was dark, but even through the dim lanterns on the trees, I could sense the life moving in the city nearby. I could hear the horse carriages clomping over the cobblestone. Smell the fresh bread for tomorrow’s sales. Somewhere in there was my home. A sense of dread filled my lungs as I breathed in shakily. Flashes of memories crossed in front of my eyes, and I paused in our walk. Hunched over, I started to dry heave. Then full-on vomit.

“You must be nervous,” Zah said without looking back at me. She stopped walking and put her hands on her hips. “Memory deletion can do that. Don’t worry. The artificial memories will start to kick in soon.”

Artificial? I thought. Was that what I’m seeing? 

No. This was something else. Artificial memories weren’t meant to be this detailed. Not when they were trying to prepare me to be a hunter. Something had gone wrong. Something—

“Quiet, eh?” Zah said. “That won’t last long. Once they train you to be a hunter you tend not to shut up. It’s been our biggest problem with new recruits.”

My body quaked as I straightened. My clothes weren’t familiar. Leather and stiff, probably new. The first new clothes I’d ever worn.

“Do you…have any water?” I asked.

Zah cocked her head sympathetically at me. “Sorry. No water for the first twenty-four hours. Don’t want to jeopardize everything we’ve worked on.”

Dear gods, I thought and nearly threw up again. What have I become?

“Come along now, Key. We don’t want you to miss your first night of training.”

I hurried to catch up with Zah as she started walking again. Her long black ponytail swung at her waist as she moved like a reed in the wind. I stumbled along behind her. Each step in the new boots was filled with a combination of fear and dread.

We came to a clearing in the woods where twenty other people were already at work. They were all barefoot, exposing the sharp unnatural claws on their feet. Their hands had matching, dagger-like nails. Their eyes were ringed with black around the pupils. Signifying them for what they were. For what I was now. The hunters. Protectors of the city.

“This is where I leave you, Key. I will see you at dusk tomorrow night,” Zah said blankly and turned to leave.

Not Key, I thought. My name is Kericho. But I wasn’t supposed to remember my name. Or my family. Or anything other than a life of duty and war. But I remembered. I remembered everything.

Final Thoughts

If you liked this post, be sure to check out my post Fiction Friday #1.

Where did your imagination take you? Comment below!