Writing the First Chapter (Part 2)

As promised, here’s more about writing the first chapter.

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Writing the First Chapter

 

There is so much that goes into a first chapter! Here are some quick tips to get you started…Five minutes long, so you can get back to writing. 😉

 


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Self-Publishing and Other Exciting Announcements

Hello Epic Dreamers!

As you can see, today’s post is a video, and yes that means what you think it means; I’m starting my YouTube channel up again! But I’ll let the video do the talking. 🙂

 

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I’m so excited to finally be doing this, and I’m so glad that you all get to be a part of the journey. The Hashna Stone wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for all of you here, so I am truly thankful for you and the support you’ve shown me. 🙂

If you just don’t have it in the budget to become my patron, no worries! Feel free to check out my Patreon page anyway. I’d love to know what you think…what you love…what could be improved.

If you do decide to become a patron, you’ll get a peek into my books’ characters and worlds that NO ONE ELSE sees, along with some other cool things.

Patrons can get access to:

-World building

-World history

-Character sheets

-Character’s back stories

-YouTube bloopers

-Pictures from my Pinterest’s secret board

-Access to exclusive short stories (both set in the world of my books, and shorts that are completely on their own).

-Name listed in every book I publish

 

As I mentioned in the video, the first 20 to become patrons will get their name mentioned in the “thank you” section of the book. This is regardless of which tier you select. That means you can get your name mentioned (which is something only the highest level patrons get) for only $1. Yes, one dollar will get your name in my book!

It’s going to be so much fun getting to share all this behind the scenes stuff with you. I can’t wait!

Well, I’m off to edit another chapter. Until next time Epic Dreamers!



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Book Review: The Selection

So the third Thursday is supposed to be a book review, but if you saw my last post you’ll know that I’ve been preoccupied by a few things lately.

First, I moved into a new apartment. Any of you who’ve moved before will know how time consuming that is.

The other thing that’s kept me busy is my decision to self-publish the novel I’ve been working on, The Hashna Stone.

Needless to say, I haven’t had time to even open a book, much less read one.

Since I don’t have any new books to review, I thought I’d go back to one I read probably about a year ago that really stuck with me (and not necessarily because it was the best book I’ve read).

I thought I’d warn you about the length of time since I’ve read this book so you won’t be too surprised by the rambling style this review is written in.

Hope you enjoy this last-minute post! (It’s possibly one of the last book reviews I do…I’ll explain later.)

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This book could have been such a good story (not to mention it has a beautiful cover!). A modern twist on Ester or Cinderella–a common girl gets the chance of a lifetime to become a princess through a competition. If she wins, she marries the prince.

I was disappointed from the opening.

First, there was the info dumping. One of the first things you learn as a writer is to never dump a bunch of information in the first chapter (or really ever). The first few pages of this book throws a bunch of random information to the reader about the main character’s family. It would have been much better if they’d been introduced as the scene unfolded.

I could overlook that. Sometimes good books have bad beginnings.

But then it got worse.

The main character, America, seems to think that she’s the ugliest person ever and gets upset if anyone says otherwise.

There are a few flaws about this.

One, if a person is truly beautiful enough for everyone in the entire novel to compliment her, then that person would eventually think, “You know, so many people think I’m pretty…I think it just might be true.” People who have above-average looks know it. Sometimes a little too well. (We’ve all come across those people 😛 )

Two, even if someone didn’t think they were attractive, they wouldn’t mind if their boyfriend told them they were. When have you ever heard a girl be upset because their boyfriend said, “Hey beautiful?”

Never. Even if America didn’t think she was very attractive or even if she wasn’t very attractive, she would have appreciated the compliment. She may have blushed, busied herself with something so she wouldn’t have to look at him, or stumbled over her words, unsure of what to say because she wasn’t used to such compliments. But she wouldn’t tell her boyfriend that his compliments got on her nerves  or try to convince him that she wasn’t attractive.

It’s fine to have a character think that they aren’t the most attractive member of society, but it’s annoying to be beat over the head the whole story with just how much this girl thinks she is ugly.

If America truly had such a low self image, this books should have been about her journey to accepting herself for who she was.

But instead it’s about….What exactly is it about? I’m not sure. The main character does zero growing throughout the book, nothing seems to get solved, and by the end I was left wondering what I’d just read.

In spite of my harsh words, I’m glad I read it. The dialogue, characters, and word choice were so ridiculous that I had a good laugh every page or so.

The author had a great story idea, but could benefit from some classes in character development, dialogue, and plot.

I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to improve their writing. Reading The Selection will teach you what not to do.

Rating: one star

 



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Why I Haven’t Posted Lately  (and why you should be excited about that)

Hey Epic Dreamers!

It’s been two weeks since I’ve posted, so I thought I’d let you know why I’ve fallen off the face of the earth. There are three reasons actually.

First one is that I moved to a new apartment.  I’m totally excited to be where I’m at. It’s a cozy little place close to all the stores, but in an area that still feels peaceful and secluded. And there’s a lake!

IMG_20190327_162708 lake at apartment

The second reason is that I don’t have Wi-Fi yet, which can also be blamed on moving. There are several other things that I need more than Wi-Fi (like electricity and food) so easy internet access will have to wait a while. For now, I’ll just have to be a library bum and use their Wi-Fi.

The third reason is the most important, most exciting reason. If you don’t think that moving or restricted internet access are good enough reasons for missing the last two weeks, than you will think this reason was worth it.

I’ll start at the beginning…

A few weeks ago, I was in a class that was discussing a book, The Obstacle is the Way. I haven’t read this book (but it is on my ever-growing reading list), but basically the concept is this: sometimes what we see as the obstacle to getting what we want is actually the way to getting what we want.

So, as I was sitting in this class, I thought, “How does that apply to my life?” Of course I thought of my book first thing, because I’m a nerdy writer whose whole life revolves around books.

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I’ve tried getting an agent to represent it, sending off query letter after query letter. I got one agent from Writer’s House that asked for the manuscript, but no one has agreed to represent it, so I’ve kind of put The Hashna Stone aside. Maybe it isn’t meant to be published. Maybe I should work on something else.

Or….Maybe the obstacle (no interested agents) is showing me the way I should be going. I’ve been so focused on finding an agent and getting published traditionally that I forgot my original idea for The Hashna Stone: to self-publish.

Maybe my path to traditional publishing is being blocked because I’m supposed to change course.

So, I’m sure by now you’ve guessed what I’m about to say. The decision I’ve made, the reason I’ve been too busy to post is…I’m self-publishing The Hashna Stone!

harry-potter celebrate Happy fans

I’m not waiting for someone else to publish my book. I’m going out and making this thing happen. You all have waited a long time for this. Some of you have been here since The Hashna Stone was just a choose-your-own-adventure story for this blog. Some of you have been on here long enough to remember the day announced that I decided to turn The Hashna Stone into a novel. And some of you have just been around long enough to get annoyed at how many times the words “the Hashna stone” come up in blog posts. 😛

This is a story we wrote together. You all deserve to enjoy the story whether I can find an agent that clicks with it or not.

So, I may have been a bit distracted from the blog because I’ve been busy researching self-publishing, searching for editors, and looking into cover designs.

And I’m having the time of my life. This is WAY more fun than sending query letters to agents. 🙂

I have another little surprise to tell you, but that will have to wait for another post (I can’t give away all my secrets at once.) I’ll keep you updated on how things are going.

Until then, keep dreaming!

 

 

Book Review: The Rose Society

The rose society marie luAs amazing as The Young Elites is, the sequel is even better. (If you haven’t read it you may want to read my review of book one in this trilogy Book Review: The Young Elites.)

 

The Pacing

There was never a dull moment in this book. I was always on the edge of my seat, waiting for Adelina’s next move. Even with multiple view points, the story didn’t slow down. I never found myself rushing past a different character’s point of view to get back to Adelina.

 

 

youngelites_teaser-adelina-by-mree-closeupCharacter Arc (***Spoilers***)

Adelina wants revenge on the Daggers and on the inquisition, but what she needs is to realize that in spite of how she feels, there are those around her who love her. She goes through the whole book reminding herself that love isn’t for her and that power is the safest option, when all she needs to do is recognize the love her sister has for her, and open herself to Magiano’s love. (He’s an elite she recruited to follow her.) Charismatic Magiano manages to tug on her cold heart and even get her to feel a few rare moments of joy. But in one of the final scenes, someone (I don’t want to give too many spoilers :P) dear to her completely rejects and crushes her, confirming her belief that someone like her could find love.

In the end, she gets the revenge she was looking for, but it only makes her feel empty.

 

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Other Characters Worth Mentioning

I thoroughly enjoyed Magiano, one of the Elites in Adelina’s new group. I love the careless way he plucks at his lute, even in dangerous situations (even when meeting Adelina for the first time, right after witnessing her power). And the way he slouches and moves in an unconcerned manner like an impish wanderer, but wears a wild assortment of rich clothing that would make royalty jealous. He is equal parts wise vagabond and treasure-seeking prince. This colorful dichotomy makes Magiano a fun and unforgettable character.

 
Villain

The Villain

The villain of the story is a bit tricky. Is it Adelina? Is it Teren? Is it Raffaele?
To figure this out, I’ll start with what all of these characters have in common: abuse.
Adelina was horrifically abused by her father. Teren is abused by his father as well, then later by Giulietta. Raffaele is abused by the very clients that claim to love him and is treated over and over again as an object of pleasure in spite of his own wishes.
How each of these characters handle their abuse shapes the decisions they make.
Both Adelina and Teren use their abuse to fuel their own selfish desire; Adelina wants revenge on the Inquisition for what they did to her and absolute power over the kingdom and Teren wants to absolve himself of being a malfetto. These desires lead both of them on a dark path pathed with destruction and hate.
Raffaele on the other hand, doesn’t go on a killing spree or aspire to gain more power. He wants revenge like Adelina, but why he wants it is different. Adelina wants revenge for what’s been done to her. Raffaele wants revenge for what’s been done to the malfettos and Enzo.
This ability to look outside of himself and have compassion for others is apparent in his first scene where he is using his power to calm a frightened girl after she has been abused much in the same way he has been. He takes time to comfort the traumatized malfetto refugees even though the Daggers chide him for taking the time when there is so much for him to do as their new leader.
While this sole trait isn’t enough to draw the line between who is a villain and who isn’t, I think it goes a long way in shedding some light on the question.
Observation gifInteresting observation
None of these characters seemed to have truly escaped their abusers. Though Adelina makes a brave getaway from her father, and even killed him, she carries his ghost around with her. He is constantly feeding her the same words that he did when he was alive.
Teren may not be a child trapped under his father’s critical, condescending ways, but he chooses to stay with a woman who is controlling, physically abusive, and only keeping Teren around for what he can give her.
Raffaele stays a consort through all of book one and only escapes when he is forced to flee the country and become the new leader of the Daggers. But he immediately finds himself back in the same role. (I won’t say much more because of spoilers 😉 )
This makes the profound statement that, many times, those that are abused aren’t necessarily free from their abusers simply because the abuser is no longer present.
I can’t wait to start the last installment in the series. Rose Society gets five stars from me.
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Creating a Story in 5 Days

I recently challenged myself to come up with a complete story within five days. I went from a vague idea to an entire story, complete with characters who grow throughout the story, setting, magic system, etc. I knew how it would begin, how the main character would have to change to overcome the challenges at the end, the backstory and motivation for each character, and even had a magic system up and running.

None of the story is actually written–it’s all an outline and a bunch of character sheets–but I felt pretty thrilled with myself for getting a whole story concept created within five days.

 

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It made me think, “What was it that made this story outline/world building go so quickly and smoothly?” Previously, my stories have taken much longer for me to flesh out. Now, to be fair, this would be (if I decided to write it) a stand-alone book, one view point, and (I’m guessing) wouldn’t be much more than 50,000 words. While The Hashna Stone turned into more than one book, has two view points, and ended up being 100,000 words. Plus it was my first book to plot and write, so I was still learning.

But even with these differences, I think there is something to be learn with the process I used for this story. And just so I won’t annoy you by how many times I say “this story,” let’s call it Story x.  😛

So, you guessed it, I’m going to share that process with you!

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Step 0

I’m not going to call this step one because it starts before you ever begin writing. Story x came to me while walking in the park one cold February day. I didn’t try to hard to make everything come together. Didn’t consciously allow myself to “work” on it. I simply allowed my mind to wander and go where ever it wanted to while I walked.

This is important to do with every story idea. At this stage, you haven’t put any work or time into it, so you’re free to make it whatever you want. Let the wildest ideas play out in your mind. Take different turns with the story, ones you couldn’t do once certain parts are nailed down.

This is where you find out if the story is even worth pursuing. If you have a main character, a supporting character or two, and even a vague idea of a plot, then you should probably go for it. (Oh, and make sure you are excited about it…if you feel only kind of “meh” about it now, you’ll only feel frustration later after months of work).

 

Step 1 

Gather all your thoughts on paper or in Scrivener or Word or where ever you record your stories. Write whatever you came up with in step 0 no matter how crazy or how much the ideas seem unrelated to each other. There’s no particular order you have to go in. It doesn’t matter if you start with characters, plot, a cool magic system, the villain’s life story or the fact that you want a character named Philomena (that is a real name, but don’t take it…I may use it in a story 😛 ). Just write it down in an organized way–whatever that means to you.

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I use Scrivener, so I like to have all my characters in one folder, then a folder for world building where I’ll put the rules and history of the magic system, and the aspects of the county the story takes place in. Then, I’ll have a folder for plot.

The first thing I wrote was actually the villain’s story. Once I knew their backstory and why they would behave the way they did, it made it easier to see where Story x was going and how the villain would affect the protagonist’s life.

Then I wrote the protagonist’s backstory. Then I jotted down my vague idea of what the magic system would be, and my even vaguer idea of the world.

You’ll notice that I didn’t write anything for the plot yet. When I tried to write a plot at this stage, I ended up with my main character’s everyday life and the inciting incident (well not even a full inciting incident because all I had was something like “something happens and she decides to run away). I find that some of my stories do better when I let them be character driven.

For Story x, I knew that a girl that had been locked away her whole life would runaway, experience the world she never knew….and…yeah…I don’t know. Stuff would happen.

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It was completely opposite for The Hashna Stone. I had a better idea of the plot then I did of what the characters were like or what they wanted.  I knew a boy would find a ruby in the middle of the woods, he would meet a bunch of kids living out there, and he would journey to the castle, and there would be a happy ending.

Again, just write down whatever you know at this point. You can expand later.

 

Step 2 

Find the part that interests you the most and start digging deeper into that area. I was really interested in why a woman would kidnap a baby (the protagonist) and keep her locked away her whole life.

I did kind of already dig into that in step 1, but now it was time to go even deeper, or if feel you can’t know about this part without some of the other areas being fleshed out, then go to the area that interests you second. A story idea isn’t like a piece of yarn, straight from end to end, but like a web, all the parts connecting, depending on each other for support. Sometimes you won’t be able to figure out  a particular part until you’ve discover another area of your story.

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Since I felt that the woman/villain’s story had gone as far as it could with out me knowing a bit more about the other players, I moved on to the tutor.

I didn’t want the girl to be completely ignorant, so I knew that she would have a tutor, but that led to the question, “What type of person would be okay with keeping a girl locked away like that?” This led to an interesting backstory about how the tutor came to be there and why he never tried to get the girl out.

 

Step 3

Repeat step 2 for as many times as you need to so that you have a good idea of what your characters are like, how the magic system works, and any little things like that that you want to discover.

 

Step 4

Come up with a plot. At this point, I think I’d been working for three days on Story x. I knew my characters well, and my world was shaping up pretty good, but I didn’t have a “what happens.”

To come up with what would actually happen in the story, I asked myself these questions about my protagonist.

  1. What is a normal day for her?
  2. What would completely shatter her world?
  3. What does she want? Goals?
  4. How do the other character’s goals conflict with these?
  5. What problems could arise in pursuit of her goals?
  6.  What lesson does she have to learn by the end of the story?

By the time I finished answering all these questions, I had a plot. Bam! Like magic. Answer a few questions and I had an entire story.

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Now, you may already have a plot, and if you do you can still use these questions to add detail to your plot. I wish I’d asked myself these questions when coming up with The Hashna Stone. It would have made plotting much easier!

 

Step 5 

Time to outline. The last thing I did was take everything I knew about that story and put it into a nice, structured outline. I used the 3 act 9 block 27 chapter outline, but you can use whatever method you like. This is way too much to explain in this post (unless you want me rambling on for another 1,000 words 😛 ) so check out the link if you’re interested.

 

So there you have it! This is how I came up with an entire story in five days. Give it a try and let me know how it worked for you. I’d love to know the kinds of experiences you all have with this. Or tell me about how you create stories and outline. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Growing as a Writer: Blogging

Hey Epic Dreamers! Welcome to the second post in our Grow as a Writer series. The last Thursday of every month we’ll be discussing ways to grow as writers. It’s all about how we can stretch ourselves and strengthen our writing skills.

Today we’ll be discussion how blogging can make you a better author.

Most of you Epic Dreamers already have a blog of your own…that’s how you came across Invisible World in the first place. So you’re probably thinking, “I already blog. Tell me something I don’t do. This isn’t the big writing secret that will give me a writing superpower.”

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It may seem a bit anticlimactic since it’s something you’re already doing, but knowing why we are doing something keeps us motivated to continue doing it even when it gets repetitious or we run out of ideas.

It’s pretty obvious why writing a blog post would improve your writing skills.

1. You get use to putting your thoughts and ideas on paper.

2. You get better at wording things and making your sentences flow.

But that’s the boring stuff (well maybe not that boring…we writers are a bit nerdy). What we’re really looking for is how to be better authors. We want the skills that will make us better storytellers. If all we cared about was the technical side of writing, than we would spend our time creating a textbook on grammar. What about all that stuff that will help us pursue our dream, whether that’s finding an agent, self publishing, or gathering a following on Wattpad?

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Posting on a blog may not have all the bells and whistles of story writing, but it will still strengthen the skills needed to be a writer.

There are two main reason why I’m glad that I started blogging before I started writing my book. And as I’m sure you guessed, I’m going to share them with you. 🙂

 

Discipline and Commitment

If you start a blog, you have to be committed to it. It can’t just be something you start one weekend because you’re bored and you’ve already read your copy of Me Before You five times and are tired of sobbing when you get to the end.

Starting a blog means committing to a certain number of posts each month. It means disciplining yourself to write even when you don’t feel like it.

Making yourself sit down to write regularly and building your skills at committing to a long-term project are exactly what you need to be an author, no matter the platform.

If you don’t have the discipline to write a 500-word post, how will you write a 100,000-page novel? If you aren’t committed enough to post regularly, will you have the dedication to put out new chapters for your Wattpad audience?

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A blog gives you a place to practice discipline and commitment on a small scale so when you decide you want to give that 100,000-word novel a try, you already have the skills needed.

 

Gets you used to others reading your work

It’s a bit daunting for new writers to share their work. Writing isn’t like completing a math equation. You’ve put your heart and soul into it. You’ve created something that wasn’t there before. From somewhere deep inside, you’ve pulled out a whole new universe. You’re basically a magician.

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But in spite of this incredible gift you have and all the effort you’ve put into your story, there’s still fear rising in the pit of your stomach at the thought of anyone actually reading it. What if they don’t like it? What if they think it’s boring? And what if they have *gasp* critiques?

This is your precious, perfect little baby and if anyone says anything negative about it, that would stab a knife through your heart.

That might seem a bit dramatic to any non-writers reading this, but anyone who’s written a story knows exactly what I’m talking about. You’re not just sharing a story. You’re sharing a piece of yourself that no one has seen. And that’s scary.

Instead of waiting until you have a whole novel before you let someone see that piece of you, try sharing snippets at a time.

A blog is a perfect platform for you to share short stories or scenes from longer works before throwing your 100,000-word baby at someone and hoping they don’t tear it to pieces.

I never experienced the deer-in-the-head-lights panic that so many authors talk about when I first shared my book with people, and I attribute that to this blog. I was so used to people reading what I wrote that it was like, “Yeah, that’s why I wrote this…so people can read it.”

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Besides teaching you discipline and getting you used to sharing your work, it also gives you a place to experiment with what styles or genres work for you and gives you a place to meet other writers.

I highly recommend blogging to anyone even remotely interested in writing stories, even if you aren’t sure writing fiction is for you. Once you’ve blogged a few months, you’ll know. I started this blog as an experiment and now, four years later, I’m still doing it. And if that isn’t a writing superpower, I don’t know what is. 😉

So if you haven’t started a blog by now, what are you waiting for?!

 

 

 

Book Review: Men Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti

My last few reviews have all been five stars– probably because I’m excited to talk about books I love–so today I thought I’d talk about one that was less than stellar.

It’s a little different than the normal fictional books that I review here, but it is on relationships, and this month the month of hearts and candy so this is a good opportunity to bring it up.

So without further ado, here is the review (I didn’t mean for that to be a cheesy rhyme 😛 ).

 

 

men are like waffles women are like spaghetti

This book had some good information but their classification of men and women is a bit too cliché.

I like their advice on communication and overcoming problems. They suggest that couples make a list of things in life that are important to them: successful careers, having a clean house, maintaining a healthy body, spending time with children, alone time, time with one another, hobbies, having a nice car, etc…. Then each person would give it number from one to three. One meaning it’s very important and three meaning it isn’t. This is very helpful in seeing the differences and similarities in what you and your partner value in life so you can see where conflicts may arise.

The part I didn’t like about the book was the way that men were portrayed as neanderthals who could think of nothing but sex and how women were portrayed as mindless creatures who rambled on and on about nothing.

While I do agree that men and women have differences, they were exaggerated in this book to the point of being insulting. Men, just because they are men, are not incapable of conversing. Women, just because they are women, don’t constantly feel the need to jabber endlessly.

There are plenty of men who talk more than women and plenty women who don’t de-stress by immediately getting on the phone to gab to their friends while cleaning something (an actual example from the book).

Some women (me included) would rather retreat to a “man cave” and not be bothered while working on a project. Because (guess what?) some women are introverts!

They also seemed to think women get their self worth from their kids and the condition of their house. As a woman who plans to never have children and who feels a lot more satisfaction after writing a blog post or finishing a painting than cleaning the house, I just can’t relate to that, nor do I think that every woman sees home and kids as the ultimate goal in her life.

I’m not even sure I buy into the whole “waffle box” and “spaghetti” thing. They say that women are great multitask and will have no problem doing several things at once, but I can’t stand being interrupted and want to do one thing at a time and finish whatever I’m working on before moving to the next task.

Women are also supposed to jump topics in conversation more while men want to focus on one thing at a time. This sounds more like an extrovert/introvert type thing. Extroverts typically cover a broad amount of topics while introverts will talk about one topic for hours.

I feel that they are “dumbing down” men and women by lumping them into stereotypical categories rather than helping them.

This book has some good exercises, like making a list of free ways to make your partner feel loved and the one I mentioned above, but if you are looking to understand your partner better, it would be more helpful for each of you to take the Myers Brigg personality test and discuss your results.

The Pact

7 years old

She looks like me. That was the first thing Tyler thought when he saw girl who was moving into the house next door. He wondered if she moved here straight from China or if her family had been in the U.S. for generations like his.

She was sitting on the porch steps, chin in her hands. She didn’t look very happy. For some reason, he wanted her to look up at him.

Tyler grabbed the scooter leaning against his house down his driveway then stopped at the street. He wasn’t allowed cross the line where the light cement of the driveway ended and the black pavement of the road began. But she was watching him now, and he didn’t want her to think he was a baby, so he crossed the line and let the wheels roll over the road.

He stopped when he reached the next driveway.

“Can I ride in your driveway?” he asked. She nodded and he scooted his way right up to her porch. He stopped in front of her.

“Did you just get here from China?” Then he remembered how every new kid at school would always ask him that and how it annoyed him, so he added, “Or has your family been here for generations? Mine has been here for four. I’ve never even been to China.”

She blinked at him. She probably wasn’t used to having people actually realize that just because she was Chinese didn’t mean she came from China.

He was sure she was impressed until she said, “I’m not Chinese.”

Now it was Tyler’s turn to blink. But she looked…Oh. “Japanese?”

She shook her head. “I’m from the Philippines.” She said words strangely. She had an accent.

To keep from feeling silly, he changed the subject. “I’m seven. How old are you?”

She brightened. “I’m seven too. That means I’ll be in your class at school right?”

“Yeah. I can show you the ropes.” He’d heard that phrase in a movie. It sounded cool.

“You will show me around?” She seemed confused. She probably didn’t know what “show you the ropes meant.”

“I’ll show you around and tell you everything you need to know,” Tyler explained, feeling important.

“Oh, good. I’ve never been to an American school before.”

Tyler remembered his fist day of school and how nervous he’d been. “We’ll make a pact,” he said, because he’d seen a boy and a girl make a pact in a movie once and always wanted to do it. “I’ll be your partner for everything that happens at school.”

“Ok,” the girl said.

“Shake on it?” Tyler asked, holding his hand out. That’s what the boy and girl did in the movie. The girl put her hand in his. He grinned, and she grinned back.

Tyler rode home on his scooter feeling very satisfied with himself.

Then he relized he didn’t know the girl’s name.

 

12 years old

“Marie!” Tyler called as he rushed down the hall, dodging the other kids to catch up with her. She turned around and smiled. She wore her hair differently and she wore different clothes, but that smile hadn’t changed since she was seven. Changing the look of her smile would be like changing the flavor of chocolate chip cookies.

“I’m going to be in the talent show,” he said. “Want to be my partner?”

Marie’s face fell. “Amber just asked me.”

“Well, I’m sure she’ll understand. We’re always partners.” Ever since the day of their pact, they’d been partners for everything. The science projects in the third grade that got baking soda and vinegar all over Marie’s new shoes because Tyler wanted their volcano to have the biggest explosion. The fifth grade book report that was almost a disaster because Marie wanted to read Charlotte’s Web and Tyler wanted to read Bridge to Terabithia. Luckily, The  Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe saved the day. It had animals and magic.

“I already told her I’d do it with her,” Marie said. She no longer had the accent she had when she was seven.

“But we’re always partners,” Tyler said lamely.

“We can be partners with other people sometimes.” Marie looked apologetic.

Tyler paused, hoping she’d change her mind, but she didn’t say anything. He shrugged. “I guess I’ll find someone else.”

She smiled at him. That smile that didn’t change. Somehow it hurt to look at it.

 

17 years old

It hurt to watch Marie talking with the guy by her side. Laughing, smiling that killer smile of hers. He’d probably asked her out to the junior prom already. It shouldn’t bother Tyler. He was already taking someone.

Still, somehow he’d imagined taking Marie, even though they’d slowly drifted apart over the years. His family moved to a different neighborhood when he was in eighth grade, then came junior high and different class schedules. They still talked, but Tyler wasn’t sure it was enough to ask her to be his date.

He’d daydreamed about asking her. He’d even thought about reminding her of the pact they made when they were kids, but he wasn’t even sure if she remembered. He would end up looking stupid. So this morning, a day before the junior prom, he asked a girl in his math class that didn’t have anyone to go with. It was safe. His friends said she’d had a crush on him all year long. It wasn’t Marie, but at least he wouldn’t make a fool of himself by asking and getting turned down.

Tyler turned away from Marie and the annoying guy by her side and opened his locker. He pulled a notebook out and a folded piece of notebook paper fluttered to the floor.

Thinking it was some stray notes, he started to put it back in the notebook. Then he saw his name written on the front.

He’d seen that handwriting nearly everyday in elementary and middle school. He’d watched it change from block letters to the rounded ones that spelled out his name.

Marie’s handwriting.

He slowly unfolded it, feeling like he was unwrapping a Christmas present he’d waited all year to open.

 

Hey Tyler! 

I know it’s a bit late, but I was sort of hoping you’d get around to it first. Then I thought, “Why does it have to be the guy that does the asking?” I tried to think of a fancy way to do this, but then decided to keep it simple. You always did like to keep things simple (unless it’s a paper mache volcano). 

You can probably guess what I’m about to ask you, so I’ll just go ahead and say it. 

Will you go to the prom with me?

You can’t say no because you made a promise that you’d be my partner for anything school related. 😉 

Anxiously waiting your response,

Marie

 

Tyler grinned. She remembered the pact they’d made.

Then his smile dropped. He’d already asked someone else. It was too late.

Maybe he could get out of it. Maybe he could explain it to the girl he’d asked.

Explain what? That they’d made a pact when they where in second grade to always be partners in everything. That they hadn’t been partners for anything since they were twelve, but now all of a sudden it was important for him to go with Marie even though it meant rudely dumping the girl he’d asked?

He couldn’t do that, even if this was what he wanted. He would have to tell her that he was going with someone else.

Tyler’s stomach knotted at the thought. Never in all his daydreams did he have to turn Marie down.

He sighed and folded the note. Why hadn’t he just ask her? Why couldn’t she have asked him just a few hours earlier?

Maybe she’d waited so late because she was hoping someone else would ask her. Maybe she was only asking him because she didn’t want to go alone. What was that last line? You can’t say no because you made a promise that you’d be my partner for anything school related. What if she was only asking him because she knew he’d say yes? He was nothing but a back-up plan.

Well, he wouldn’t be a back-up plan. Hadn’t she been the one to say that they should have other partners?

Tyler shoved the note back in the locker and pretend he never saw it.

 

18 years old

Tyler hurried through the empty school halls. He’d left his jacket in one of the classrooms and hadn’t realized it until he’d stepped into the fridges air. He was getting a ride home with one of his friends because his car hadn’t started that morning. First his car wouldn’t start, then the girl he asked to prom already had a date, then he forgot his jacket. What else could go wrong?

Tyler opened the classroom door. He froze.

Marie was sitting in one of the desks.

They hadn’t talked since last year when she’d slipped that note in his locker. Tyler felt so guilty about the whole thing that he avoided her. It wasn’t hard to do. Tyler suspected she was avoiding him too. He wished he’d at least written a note back, explaining why he couldn’t take her. But the more time that went by, the more awkward it seemed to approach her.

As if the distance between them weren’t uncomfortable enough, Tyler could tell she’d been crying.

She quickly wiped her face and gave a weak smile. It made Tyler’s heart twist. It wasn’t her smile. It was like chocolate chip cookies without the chocolate chips.

“I forgot my jacket,” Tyler said, feeling the need to explain why he was invading her privacy.

“That one?” She pointed to the jacket hanging over the back of the desk right in front of her. Of course it would be right next to her. It couldn’t be right by the door so he could grab it and leave.

He made his way over there, keeping his eyes focused on the jacket as if it would disappear if he lost sight of it for even a second. He felt he should say something, but didn’t know what. It was her business. Whatever he said would probably make it worse anyway.

Marie stood and scooped her backpack up from the floor, getting ready to leave. By then he was already in her row and just a couple of steps away from his jacket. She picked it up and held it out to him.

His fingers brushed the tips of hers as he took it. His stomach fluttered.

He realized that he was standing there, blocking her way, but instead of moving he said, “Are you alright?”

Marie shrugged. “I’m fine. Just a rough day.”

She wasn’t fine. She looked like she did after the goldfish he’d won at a fair for her died and her mom flushed it down the toilet. “It wasn’t such a great day for me either,” Tyler said.

“Can’t be that bad,” she said. “Unless you got dumped too.”

Dumped? She’d been with that guy since Christmas. All that time together and he broke up with her a week before prom? The jerk. She deserved better than that. “My car wouldn’t start this morning.”

She laughed. The sound made Tyler grin.

“I think I’d rather take a stubborn car than a brake up right now,” she said. The smile faded and she sighed. “I guess I just don’t have luck with these things.”

“Yes you do. I mean you should. I mean he’s the unlucky one. Who wouldn’t want to go to prom with you?”

“Quite a few people actually,” she said, sharply. Then she looked down as if she hadn’t meant to say that.

Tyler knew she meant him. It’s not as if that note could have gotten lost in a little locker. She knew he saw it. She probably wondered why he never brought it up, even after the prom was over, to explain. It didn’t help that he’d avoided her. Of course she was mad at him.

“I should go,” Marie said, hinting that he should move. But he didn’t. He couldn’t let this opportunity go. What were the chances  that he would run into her right after that jerk broke up with her, and before someone else asked her? Tyler silently thanked the girl who’d turned him down earlier.

“I have to tell you something,” he blurted. “I saw the note you left in my locker–”

“I know you did,” she said. “I was walking by you as you reached your locker. I looked back as you opened it up.”

Tyler swallowed. He remembered her walking by, but he didn’t know she’d seen him.  “I’m sorry.  I’d already asked someone else and didn’t know how to tell you.”

She shrugged. “It doesn’t matter. Junior Prom is over.” She smiled. Another smile that wasn’t hers.

“It does matter. I should have told you. I shouldn’t have let all this time go by without explaining.”

She shrugged again. “People get crushes on people who don’t like them back all the time. It’s just one of those things. We don’t have to make things awkward.”

He grinned on the inside. She had a crush on him. Then the feeling faded. She had a crush on him last year before he’d ruined his chance with her. What did she think of him now?

She took a step forward, as if to make Tyler get out of her way.

He didn’t move. She was standing so close. “Yes,” he said.

“What?” She looked up at him, startled.

“I’m answering your note.” Tyler’s heart beat. She’d probably slap him. “I’ll take you to prom. If you’ll go with me.”

She raised her eyebrows. “Are you trying to be funny?”

“We made a pact. We’d always be partners for anything that happened at school. So, it may have taken me awhile, but I’m making good on that pact.”

“You don’t have to ask me to prom because of a promise we made when we were kids.”

“That’s not why I’m asking you.”

“You don’t have to ask me out because you didn’t answer my silly note.”

“That’s not why–”

“I hope you aren’t asking me because you feel sorry for me because my stupid boyfriend dumped me right before prom.”

Tyler smiled. It had been a while since he’d talked with her. It was nice to hear her voice again. Even if she was a bit mad.

“What?” Marie asked.

“I’m asking you because I like you.”

Marie blinked up at him, registering his words. She didn’t say anything and he wondered if she was going to push him out of the way. Then, she smiled. She smiled her smile.

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Hey Epic Dreamers! I know today was supposed to be a post on writing tips but since Thursday fell on Valentine’s Day it seemed a waste to pass up the opportunity to do something special. I hope you enjoyed the story!

Where Imagination Soars