Crafting a Story Playlist

Crafting a Story Playlist

Firstly, I’d like to acknowledge the reality that there is no “correct” method to crafting a collection of music for your WIP. Some people may prefer a set of songs they can write to, while others may pick titles that closely represent characters and plots. However you want to make yours, enjoy yourself! Music is beautiful and inspiring—cultivate a playlist based on your unique methods and imagination, because you are valuable.

Here are a few helpful tips from my experience to help:

  1. Listen for Lyric Lines:

Attributing an entire song to your story isn’t always easy. If you’re stuck, tune in to individual lines that apply to one character or a beloved setting. Then, ponder whether this song has any themes that line up with your own. Of course, you can add songs for a single line’s sake. I’ve found that I sometimes create new attributes to my story, such as a small personality trait for a character, based on a music line that sparks an idea.

  1. Capture the Mood:

Conversely, big scenes in your story can benefit from the inspiration in “big” songs. Have you ever listened to a power ballad or solo that made your spirits soar? See if there are musical numbers that encapsulate the feeling of certain plot points or confrontations. These songs can remind you of the wonder of your story down the road, when you may feel less passionate about it.

  1. Check the “Indie”/ “New Artist” Pockets of iTunes:

Popular lyrics tend to have already nested in our brains and become familiar; but indie music offers eclectic little gems you can add to make your own special playlist. For instance, I recently discovered the cool track “Human” by Aquilo this way. Here’s a screenshot of the cover:

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If you’d like to see an example playlist, check out the ones currently uploaded for my Portal 2 Fanfiction, Birthday Candles, here:

BC: The Playlist: Chapter 1

BC: The Playlist: Chapter 2

BC: The Playlist: Chapter 3

BC: The Playlist: Chapter 4

Do you guys have any other tips about playlists? I hope these encouraged you! Thanks for tuning in! ❤

“Tonight’s Gonna be a Good, Good Night”: Gaudy Night Review

“Tonight’s Gonna be a Good, Good Night”: Gaudy Night Review

Hello, book fans—hope y’all are doing well. This review is on Dorothy Sayers’s novel, Gaudy Night, which is part of her Peter Wimsey mystery series. This installment, set in 1935, centers not on detective Wimsey, but his love interest, Harriet Vane.

Harriet is a former student at Shrewsbury women’s college at Oxford. She returns to help solve a campus mystery that involves events from petty crimes up to personal assault. To catch the perp, Harriet not only has to grapple with an army of administrators (themselves also under suspicion), but also with her own feelings and thoughts on Oxford. The novel presents a classic psychological battle, personified uniquely, between head and heart. Sayers interweaves this dichotomy into 20th century debates about women’s proper roles to create compelling arguments on either side of the coin. Ultimately, Harriet makes a decision that involves emotion and intellect, though it’s not until the literal end of the book, which makes the suspense hold until the last page.

Sayers’ description of university campuses is beautiful. The one shortcoming I noticed is her lack of physical description of the characters. Numerous faculty because indistinguishable in my mind from one another. The story is dramatic and fun—not just intellectual; and there is also a love narrative, as well. Gaudy Night runs a little long, at 528 pages; still, it’s a relaxing read to take in several sessions. I give it 4.5/5 stars.

And now, for the favorite quotes section. Tell me in the comments what your favorite aspect of reading, or education in general, is!

(xii): “For, however realistic the background, the novelist’s only native country is Cloud-Cuckooland, where they do but jest, poison in jest: no offence in the world.”

(16): “‘It would have been such a bore to be the mother of morons, and it’s an absolute toss-up, isn’t it? If only one could invent them, like characters in books, it would be much more satisfactory to a well-regulated mind.’”

(38): “The moon was up, painting the buildings with cold washes of black and silver whose austerity rebuked the yellow gleam of lighted windows behind which old friends reunited still made merry with talk and laughter.”

(201): “I suppose one oughtn’t to marry anybody, unless one’s prepared to make him a full-time job.”

(255): “In the meanwhile she had got her mood onto paper—and this is the release that all writers, even the feeblest, seek for as men seek for love; and, having found it, they doze off happily into dreams and trouble their hearts no further.”

(340): “How fleeting are all human passions compared with the massive continuity of ducks.”

(389): “Into the horrified silence that followed, Peter dropped three words like lumps of ice.”  

Thanks for reading, guys! Have a good day. 🙂

Top 5 Authors I’d Like to Meet

Top 5 Authors I’d Like to Meet

Hello, fellow writers and readers,

This time as a thought post, I’m going to be sharing with you the top 5 authors I’d love to meet. If given the opportunity to summon anybody, living or dead, with whom to have coffee and exchange thoughts, it would be these people. In the comments, tell me who your top author pick would be, and why!

  1. Charles Dickens

I’m a huge fan of Dickens. The elements I enjoy most about his writing are his settings, loveable characters, and almost “golden” endings. Everything wraps up so nicely at the end of novels like Our Mutual Friend. If Dickens and I could talk at a pub somewhere, I’d love to get his tips on planning and structuring plots. He’s mastered weaving together story threads. Given that many of his works were published serially, this is remarkable. I’d ask him how he goes about sketching and fleshing out stories, and what his favorite part of writing is.

  1. Suzanne Collins

Collins’ Gregor the Overlander series fanned my passion for reading in middle school, long before The Hunger Games hit bookstore shelves. She’s skilled at capturing readers’ imaginations, and immersing them into her world. I’d like to pick Collins’s brain about how she creates vivid universes, as well as injects symbols into them. I’d ask her if there are any intended symbolisms or significant aspects to The Hunger Games trilogy that fans haven’t picked up on yet.

  1. Mary Wollstonecraft

Mary pushed the boundaries of women’s writing in her era. She campaigned through the written word for an equal standing between husbands and wives, for the benefit of both, and of society. Wollstonecraft struggled with mental health, and the account of her life feels human and relatable. If I could talk to her, I’d ask her how she decided to organize her treatise on women’s rights, Vindication of the Rights of Woman, and how she dealt with reader criticism.

  1. Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Bonhoeffer isn’t just a literary example; he’s a major role model in Christianity. Fighting against the doctrine of the Reich Church in WWII Germany, Bonhoeffer devoted his life to advocating God’s Word and believers’ actuated faith. What things did he take into immediate consideration while he penned theses? What was his favorite part of publication, research, or delivering sermons? How does he personally view the connection between knowledge of God’s Word and using one’s God-given words to bring glory to Him?

  1. Veronica Roth

Divergent’s world captured my imagination, as well. Roth has a good amount of experience with the publishing and movie industries, having put out one full trilogy, a movie franchise, a spinoff book or two, and a brand new series (this year). I would love to ask her about her world-building elements, writing dystopia stories, and the process of compromising with movie producers. Is it worth it to adapt a story to the screen, from a creative standpoint? Does she have any tips about cultivating a widespread readership?

All right, there you have my top 5 authors to meet! Only two of them are alive at this point; if I do ever cross paths with them, it’ll be a thrill. Along with the previous question, what are your favorite elements of story creating, or your favorite elements to read in a book?

Talk to you guys again soon: next time, on another Twitter-poll-winning subject!

5 Scary New Things I Did

I did my first ever Twitter poll and asked what people most wanted to read, and this post won! Welcome to 5 scary things that I’ve accomplished to date. Some of these are more physically challenging than others; all of them brought me some form of reward or valuable lesson about life. Let’s get into them!

Quick note: Tell me in the comments below something you conquered that frightened you, and what you learned from it! 

  1. Karaoke on a cruise ship.

Summer of 2015, my family vacationed on our second Disney cruise. I’d seen the family karaoke lounge nights the first trip, and promised myself that if I ever boarded a Disney ship again, I’d partake. Well, here I was. That night, the lounge was lit by spotlights in the shape of flowers. The host running the sparsely populated event told us to go to the DJ booth with our song choice (there was a book of options, Disney and also classic songs). Fortunately, the groups that were there were few, and several had little kids. Everyone who sang had at least two performances. As people’s vocals left much to be desired, I felt more assured that mine wouldn’t be too much worse. Little girls of course chose “Let it Go” and other iconic princess ballads. I made up my mind to go to the booth and picked a Taylor Swift song. 

So, yeah, allow me to say that God’s gifting on my life is not singing. It’s so much harder than everyone makes it look. And nerves play a bigger part than I expected. Ever record yourself and get a painful awakening when you play it back? Yeah, that was kind of like this. My dad did me the honor of recording my rendition of “I Knew You Were Trouble,” and I never showed it to anyone besides my loving parents. 

The benefit of trying karaoke was two-fold. One, I can say that I fulfilled my promise to myself. I didn’t shy away from something I wanted to do. I came out of my comfort zone and sang– on a cruise ship journeying to Alaska, for goodness’ sake. That, I will never regret. Secondly, I now know that if by chance, at a social gathering, the urge to throw caution to the wind and perform a solo ever seizes me, I have the experience to tell that urge to sit down and come back to its senses. 

Here’s a picture of my awkward, cute little song. I also did “Friend Like Me” from Aladdin afterwards, because Aladdin is my childhood favorite and, let’s be honest, I had my first kid crush on the Genie.

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2. Riding serious roller coasters.

San Antonio holds the wonderful Fiesta Texas grounds, with a mix of mild rides and more serious drops. When I was in late middle or early high school, my friends kept telling me that I had to ride the Superman. Here’s a lovely stock photo I don’t own.

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I was like “No way, Jose.” But secretly, in my secret heart, I thought in a secret fashion, “Perhaps….someday, Jose.” There was one occasion I stood in line with my pals all the way to the front only to chicken out at the very end. It was all the factors: speed, drops, the unknown. I just wasn’t a remarkably courageous youth. 

Then, one morning, after staying over at my friend Jessica’s, I distinctly remember eating our breakfast of Eggo pancake sticks or whatever those things are and thinking, “Today is the day. I will ride this thing today, no matter what.”

Well, I rode it. We got to that circle at the top and I asked her why she let me do it, but I rode it, and it was fun, and then I hacked up breakfast all over the inside of her mom’s minivan afterwards.

That first ride led to me absolutely loving roller coasters, and I went on more and more daunting ones. I’m not afraid of them anymore, and it’s all because a friend encouraged me to get out of my head and take a literal leap of faith. 

3. Leading a high school Bible study.

I ran cross country for 5 years. In high school, I was going through a spiritual exploration of who I was. Junior year, I had a deep desire to lead a cross country team girls’ Bible study. I both wanted to share encouragement and truth with my teammates, and step into the role of team captain that I’d wanted for months. 

Here’s a picture of my sweet teammates and I (I’m top left):

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My intention was to grow my leadership skills and uplift the girls. This item on the list is probably the one that surprised and grew me most. In desiring to lead so much, and in trying my hand at it, I discovered that when I want to, I can come on really strong. Probably too strong. For instance, my first lunchtime session that comes to memory, I think I literally tried to deliver a sermon to the girls. It was less a discussion and more me talking at them. 

When they would bring up other classmates during our times together, I’d remind them that gossip isn’t something honoring God or others. I was so focused on trying to control the atmosphere, and so inexperienced in leadership, that I tried to dictate more than I tried to learn about and appreciate my teammates. 

There wasn’t a fallout or anything– I just became self-aware and humbled by looking back and reflecting on my shortcomings. God enables all of his children to lead in certain capacities. However, as far as leading big groups, I’ve discovered that I’m not the strongest candidate. I do really well with one-on-one interactions; and, when called on, I offer valuable advice. However, this experience really showed me the value in collaboration and “iron sharpening iron,” as God’s Word says. I believe it made me a better person, and a better encourager. 

4. Submitting a poem for publication

As a writer with a dream to be published, I have a remarkable (probably shared with many writers) aversion to submitting my work for evaluation. Maybe it’s insecurity; maybe it’s not wanting to be qualitatively judged based on one snippet of writing; maybe it’s pride. Whatever the case, our poetry class required three submissions last semester. So, submit I did. 

It wasn’t as scary as I thought. For one, most publications take months to reply. The rejection email I received from one wasn’t that emotionally jarring, to be honest. I was like, “Cool, my first rejection email. I’m initiated into the writer’s club now!” I pinned it to my whiteboard. 

And then, I got this email from my university literary magazine: 

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Moral of the experience for me? Don’t worry about what people will think! Share your valuable words, your story, your voice. Use wisdom, and good timing, and get your dream out there! You have the power to make it happen, and leave the results up to God. 

5. Traveling to another country/culture.

For two consecutive summers, my dad and I traveled to the South American country of Guyana for mission work. The first trip was based in the capital city, which was a bit of an adjustment; but we still had basic technology and resources. The summer of 2015, though, after our cruise, we returned to venture into the Guyanese interior. The village we stayed in is named Mabura. We led VBS, helped with construction, and shared love with the people. 

For me, the concept of journeying to a place with no electricity, no running water, no AC, and numerous questionable insects was new, and intimidating. The kids I was going to be getting to know weren’t familiar at all with me. We were visitors, and there was no resources for a good hour or two nearby. So we were committed. 

The nights and days were sweaty, humid, and full of more little kid hugs than I had expected. The village kids warmed up to me, and I to them. I was the youngest member of our team, so I spent the most time with them. These children brought out my uninhibited, silly side. The mornings were damp, crisp and beautiful in Mabura: the trees and black, glossy water created a beautiful panorama around us. The vast number of different birdsongs, we couldn’t even name. I had the privilege of baptizing a boy, having the girls play with my hair, and creating genuine bonds with people in the week we stayed. Totally worth it. And confidence-building, as well. 

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In all these situations, I was blessed when I stepped out of my comfort zone and embraced the new lessons that accompanied scary experiences. I am able to smile and feel thankful on the other side. Some choices we make aren’t the best; but there’s always an opportunity for benefit in them. 

I hope this post encourages you to prayerfully push the limits of your abilities and comfort. I hope you cherish new challenges and joys this year, and realize that inhibition is just something that keeps the world from seeing your beautiful, valuable, God-created self. You can do new things. I believe in you.

With love. 

“One King at a Time”: Live Love Lead Review

“One King at a Time”: Live Love Lead Review

Two and a half years ago, my boyfriend and his family generously bought me a ticket to go with them to the Hillsong concert in San Antonio (I still lived in Texas at the time). Brian Houston provided every single attendee with a copy of his book, Live Love Lead. So, on top of close seats at a beautiful Christian concert, I received a hardcover, glossy book filled with encouragement. Talk about feeling pumped!

Of course, I proceeded to let it sit on the shelf, with one or two attempted starts, until recently. Have I mentioned my TBR shelf is overweight and somewhat neglected? Anyway, I finished Brian Houston’s book yesterday and wanted to pop a review up.

I enjoyed Live Love Lead a lot. The format is appealing—chapters and subsections are short and full of personal stories. I didn’t previously know much about Houston and the history of Hillsong. In relating how they came to be the blessing they are, Houston’s tone is conversational. He remains humble, always pointing the credit back to God, which I found reassuring. In addition, his accounts are full of fitting verses and references to stories from God’s Word. The feel of this book is akin to sitting down with a new acquaintance over dinner or coffee. I really enjoyed that aspect.

Brian Houston gives the believer encouragement and advice on how to live as an overcomer in life, not a victim. His emphasis, both towards and for Christians, is one of grace, not condemnation. Pointing back to Jesus’ redemptive work, Houston reminds believers that we live under the power and permission of His name, not our own. He spurs us to focus on what we have—what we can do—and to let go of what we don’t control.

One aspect of his voice I really appreciate is the fact that, as a positive believer who emphasizes victory, Houston doesn’t subsequently discredit the promised existence of pain. The Christian life, he empathizes, is filled with harrowing hurt and trial. It’s how we handle them that showcases our faith and glorifies God. The fact that these struggles are tangible and exhausting is something to which Houston personally attests. He connects with the hurting, those who have lost significantly, and shares private stories of feeling overspent. Live Love Lead isn’t a cheesy mantra of a book, but a genuine connection among people walking through the same mixed bag that is the Christian life (or looking into it, for that matter).

If there’s one suggestion for improvement I could offer, it would be the overall organization of the book. If you’re looking for practical application, that’s not really Houston’s shtick in this volume—he’s more focused on uplifting than offering 15 points. What I didn’t love is that some of the lines ring somewhat cliché, and some are repeated in different areas of the book. I would concentrate the concepts, and eliminate the excesses. Again, that’s just me. Overall, I enjoyed it remarkably. As proof of that, it’s time for Hannah’s Favorite Quotes (I really need a theme song for that!) Here we go:

27: “The abundant life Jesus came to bring us frees us from the confines of culture, competition, and comparison.”

37: “You see, it is easy to fill your mind with what you do not have and lose sight of what God can do with what you do have.”

84: “Although my God is all-powerful, I am not. My body, mind, and spirit have limits.”

86: “I myself have learned to recognize and acknowledge the process of pain, and I’ve learned to cooperate with the answer rather than remain a victim to the problem.”

172: “Every field has its pioneers who dedicate their lives and careers to innovation and experimentation. It might be in a laboratory or on a laptop, in outer space or an inner office. It’s the commitment to be the best you can be at what you’re called to do.”

180: “Individual success is an illusion; anyone who claims sole credit for the successes of life allows pride to deceive them.”

199: “Faith is the answer, and robust and ready faith is the key. Because the only way to defeat thirty-one kings is one at a time.” [This is perhaps the quote that personally stood out to me most in the entire book! I love it. It’s applicable to so many battles!]

204: “What is the enemy trying to steal from you to impede your relationship with God?”

All right, guys. Feedback time: For my Christian readers, what’s the best faith book you’ve read lately? For those of you who aren’t, what’s a good, “real life” motivational book, and why?

Thanks for reading! Have a blessed day. ❤

“Gold MacGuffin”: The Maltese Falcon Review

“Gold MacGuffin”: The Maltese Falcon Review

This semester, my university’s English seminar course is Detective Fiction. We’re learning background information on the genre as we delve into detective works. Our first title is Dashiell Hammett’s 1929 novel, The Maltese Falcon. I really enjoyed this book as an introduction to the group; here’s the recap: 

Private detective Sam Spade is approached by a slew of mysterious characters with various loyalties, all in pursuit of a historical treasure. There’s murder, gunfights, and break-ins; perhaps the most enjoyable facet of the mystery is attempting to unravel the motivations of Spade himself. Spade is an enigma: his appearance, mannerisms, and words conceal much of his character. In class discussion, we reflected on how memorable, intriguing characters render stories timeless. This definitely rings true in The Maltese Falcon.

World-building and detail is conveyed in a fashion befitting an inspector being the central voice of the novel. There are lots of physical descriptions, and not a ton of “telling.” I found this refreshing. Hammett utilizes sparse description without venturing into Hemingway territory; he adds a bit more flesh and color to his characters and the San Francisco setting. Here are a few of my favorite lines:

3: “He looked rather pleasantly like a blond Satan.”

19: “It’s a long while since I burst out crying because policemen didn’t like me.”

22: “Spade looked at the lieutenant with yellow-gray eyes that held an almost exaggerated amount of candor.”

28: “‘You’re an angel,’ he said tenderly through smoke. ‘a nice rattle-brained angel.’”

46: “His skin was the complexion of polished lead except where the elbow had reddened his cheek.”

94: “The boy spoke two words, the first a short guttural verb, the second, ‘you.’” [I just think this is such a creative and classy way to include swearing in a story. I’ve never seen it done this way, and I found it really amusing and clever.]

104: “As he advanced to meet Spade all his bulbs rose and shook and fell separately with each step, in the manner of clustered soap-bubbles not yet released from the pipe through which they had been blown.”

174: “His dark eyes had the surface shine of lacquer.”

It’s not a long read, landing around 200 pages. If you’re like me and you’ve never explored mysteries or detective fiction enough to develop a liking for it, this is a good entry point. Of course, there are always the short stories—Holmes, or Agatha Christie’s—as well.

Have you ever read a detective fiction piece that stood out to you? Let me know in the comments. 🙂 

“Scholarship or Insurrection?” Think Review (Audiobook)

“Scholarship or Insurrection?” Think Review (Audiobook)

Preacher, author, and theologian John Piper addresses a contemporary issue in the Body of Christ’s view on intellectualism in his 2010 book. Titled Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God, Piper’s work calls for Christians to embrace the kind of thinking Jesus encouraged: that is, a balance between deep thought and pursuing God-revealed truth. The problem, Piper notes, is that Christ followers tend to lean one of two ways on the spectrum. Either we elevate human intellectual achievement too highly, or we rely on mystic, spiritual experience for our revelation of God.

To illustrate his point, Piper’s book is both filled with appeals to logic and packed with Scripture. Using two principle verses, 2 Timothy 2:7 and Proverbs 2:1-6, he points out that finding truth results from two elements coupled together: our ardent seeking, and God’s benevolent giving of the truths we’re powerless to discover as finite beings. He concludes: education is not for our personal prowess or pride, but for the purpose of more fully knowing and worshipping God, as well as subsequently loving others.

This book is enjoyable to listen to: the audiobook is read by Wayne Shepherd, who does a superb job. I had it on 1.25X speed and still understood every word. Additionally, the chapters aren’t too long. Listening to Piper talk, I felt wonder at the concept of my mind and consciousness. He reminds readers what miracles our brains are: so finely-tuned and complex, these created machines of ours.

The only downside I would point out would be that, given the deep theological nature of his writing, the text at times began to feel dense, a bit repetitive, and long. For instance, Piper refutes several important arguments, which occupy most of his second half, and at times feel a bit distant from his main point. However, that could simply be my personal preference.

Overall, Think was beneficial and positively convicting for me. A lot of times, I can slip into the trap of feeling haughty because of my education level or experience with the Word. Piper reminded me that that’s not Christ’s intention for His followers at all. It was refreshing to hear him call out believers to be loving and embrace continued learning at the same time.

If you’re looking for an intellectual challenge, whether you’re a believer in Christ or not, I would encourage you to give Think a try. Do consider taking it in four-ish doses, which I didn’t, for your mental stamina’s sake. To whet your appetite a bit, here are some of my favorite quotes.

What’s your favorite spiritual or intellectual read?

I hope you guys have a good week.

Quotes:

“I would like to encourage you to think, but not be too impressed with yourself when you do.”

“If all the universe and everything in it exist by the design of an infinite personal God, to make his manifold glory known and loved, then to treat any subject without reverence to God’s glory is not scholarship, but insurrection.”  

“We are meant to know that the Gospel is true and that we are saved—not cross our fingers.”

“Relativism cloaks pride with the guise of humility.”

“Not thinking is no solution for thinking arrogantly.”  

[Quoted from Norval Geldenhuys]“The contrast pointed out by the Savior is not that between educated and uneducated, but between those who imagine themselves to be wise and sensible, and want to test the Gospel truths by their own intellects, and to pronounce judgment according to their self-formed ideas, and those who live under the profound impression that by their own insight and their own reasoning, they are utterly powerless to understand the truths of God, and to accept them.”

“Knowing and thinking exist for the sake of love, for the sake of building people up in faith.”