Story Character Chart: Your Book Turned into a Movie

As a writer, a guilty pleasure of mine is imagining which actor/actress should play the characters in my book. So I had great fun making this chart for the story I’m hoping to publish one day. The chart looks a little messy, but whateverrr.


theNIGHT_FLOWER England 1866: A love story about a prostitute and a gentleman in a time of social turmoil.

Léa Seydoux as Amanda Hollingworth
James Purefoy as Lucas Creswell
Gillian Anderson as Mrs. Creswell
Sally Hawkins as Madame Bedwyn
Amanda Hale as Jane Roderick
David Morrissey as James Roderick
Imogen Poots as Theodosia Drury

It was pretty easy making this chart, though very time consuming (at least for me). I don’t have a photo-editing program so used the following sites:

For pretty text fonts: Picmonkey

For combining photos: Fotoflexer

For cropping photos into circles (and other more complicated but wonderful stuff): Sumopaint*

*But if you’re a newb like me you might want to read the instructions on this site on how to crop circular photos.  

If you do make your own character chart and post it on your blog, send me the link in a comment below! Happy Chart-Making!

Motivations to Complete Writing a Novel

Confession: I have given-up more times than I’ve succeeded in completing a novel. For example, I have a file on my laptop titled “ABANDONED STORIES” and throughout my 11 years of writing, this file filled up with 20+ documents. Each 5-10 chapters long.

Then I have a file of completed manuscripts. A total of 3 novels completed… (excluding completed fanfictions). But these 3 manuscripts are unpublishable.

Unlike some other writers who perhaps complete and publish the first book they’ve ever written, it took me MANY TRIES before I finally fell in love with the story about a 19th century ‘fallen woman’ (here’s the excerpt of the older version). It’s a story I completed writing in 1 year and began revising for the next 5 years.

However, I’ve tried writing new novels during those 6 years and FAILED EACH TIME to complete it. SO. I totally know how it feels to write while doubting your ability to even complete a novel.

I therefore decided to share some of the practical tips that kept me from giving up on TRC and my other completed works (other than being in love with the plot and characters). Hopefully what inspires me might inspire others as well!

Things that Motivate Me:

  • I never allow myself to write the ending of the manuscript before I’ve written the rest of the story. BUT I always make sure that when I begin writing a novel, I know how the last chapter will end. The desire to reach that ending compels me like CRAZY….because I imagine that it’ll be the BEST of all chapters.
    The Final Chapter of Swan Lake
  • I write, imagining the day when I can type THE END and print out the entire manuscript.  So, yes, during my difficult writing days the desire to press the ‘PRINT’ button compels me.
    Sending this baby off to New York per an agent’s request. Long story short: It got rejected *sniffles*


  • I write, anticipating the day when I can begin REVISING my completed-manuscript at a coffee shop.


  • Looking at pretty book covers also inspires me to write, imagining that one day my manuscript will have a cover of its own.

8378780The House Girl by Tara Conklin51Z9RCVRPEL

  • As a history graduate, I love researching about the past, and details about the past always inspires me to write.

Dear Readers,
What inspires you to keep writing? What keeps you from giving up?

Music I’m writing to:

On poetry, on inspiration, on writing, on life, on blogging, on confidence, on hope (…aye, what a stimulating title)

A lecture by my first year prof. He is the bomb. So make yourself a pot of tea, open the balcony window, let the warm summer wind and the twittering of birds into your room, and click on the play button. Anyone who loves poetry or loves Sylvia Plath or loves a good, intelligent, witty lecture will enjoy this one!

As for the writing front, I’m still working on the next chapter of TRC. I haven’t opened microsoft word for days. Literally. But I’m not at all anxious. I’m not hypverventillating as I  would have last year – last year I would have thought:I am not writing, therefore I am not a writer, but writing is my identity, so now I am a nobody!!!! Surprisingly I’m at total peace in my most vulnerable moment – the period when inspiration is silent. Rather than trying to force myself to write I’m just filling up my writing-well with life experience and knowledge from other books. This way when inspiration does strike…I have a huge well of thoughts to tap into, so as to add more depth to my story. I’ve come to realize that no matter how great one’s inspiration is, if that writing-well isn’t full, the story remains shallow. Like the original draft of TRC. So if there is anyone else stuck in a deep, deep writer’s block, don’t go nuts, don’t stare at microsoft word for hours – like I use to do. Fill your head with knowledge. Fill your heart with understanding drawn from life experience (in other words, go out and socialize!). And journal. Reflect upon your day.

Though I cannot say that I have unwavering confidence in my writing and in myself as a writer – I  do have unwavering, rock-solid hope.

I can’t promise when I’ll next update this blog… there really isn’t much to blog about when I’m not struggling with my writing. But thank you so so so much to everyone who has stuck around – always checking up on my blog posts and leaving such encouraging comments. Love you all : ) And I hope everyone is having an awesome summer! I certainly am…. hehe

Growth Pain – Even Writers Get Them

The first pang of growth pain that I felt as a writer was with The Runaway Courtesan. For almost four years now, I worked on TRC, and while I revised the story several times, the original structure of the story remained. The very story I wrote at eighteen was the very story I was fixing by the age of twenty-one. It was only a year later that I realized that this was a problem. It’s like a twelve year old trying to squeeze her feet into the shoe that she wore at the age of three. Just as the passing of time made her feet grow, time has made me grow psychologically and intellectually—especially after entering into university.

Somehow I didn’t realize this – trying to squeeze feet into an infant’s shoe – was what I was doing. But it was. I would read over TRC, feel a deep sense of dissatisfaction, but no matter how much I tweaked the story, I would still remain dissatisfied. And yet I remained wilfully blind to the answer of what I had to do with the manuscript.

I love the story; don’t get me wrong—I’ll still cry as I read Amanda and Lucas’ story. And though the second half of the story needs to be worked on I’m happy with it, and it’s most likely because I wrote it when I was older. Others noticed this too. They say the story blooms in part two. But in the first half, there was something about the character’s personalities, their thought process, their belief system….that was somehow immature.

Our Writing Group

It didn’t dawn me until my editor Kerrie told me that a rough draft is a rough draft. A rough draft is getting to know your characters. From there you write from scratch. I’m sure it differs from other writers, especially those who have written several books before and are now able to write a decent first draft. But what Kerrie told me was something I needed to be told. For four years I was clinging onto the words written by an eighteen year old. There were so many memories attached to my original draft that I ignored the obvious: Rewrite. The past agent interested in my work asked me to rewrite. The rewriting I thought I was doing was actually tweaking.

The second pang of growth pain hurt much more than TRC. With TRC I was more excited than agonized by the thought of rewriting. The acknowledgement that I needed to rewrite the first half of the story from scratch was liberating. But this second growth pain occurred recently as I was trying to get back into working on book 2: Fall of the Sparrows.

After two years of studying English Literature, it’s difficult to look at writing the same way. For nine years I’ve loved writing romance. For nine years I’ve loved writing flowery prose. For nine years I’ve loved writing in chronological order. But after reading and falling in love with contemporary lit – I found myself writing the old way that I do while glancing longingly at the writing style that is minimal, “indifferent and impartial” (as Sapphire put it), and a story with a broken timeline, and a romance that doesn’t always work out, or is an un-romanticized romance, or where romance is minimal and the focus is on other issues in humanity.

Not that the said attributes are what constitutes modern literature per se. But, nevertheless, I’m coming to find the qualities of modern/post-modern literature more and more attractive. And this thought frightened the heck out of me for some odd reason. The thought of me departing from the romance genre. The thought of me trying to break away from a writing style that suited me as an eighteen year old. I guess the fear came in part from me questioning myself—if I could actually succeed in this different realm of writing.

But I’m all good now. I think I was doubting myself because I hadn’t been writing for so long because of school. Now that I started writing again, the question of how I’m to write  doesn’t matter so much anymore, but rather, my focus has returned to: I love writing so much that as long as I can write and share my story that’s all that really matters in the end.


There is one thing that has not changed in the nine years of writing.

My love for writing about history.

I once told my mom that I would never stop writing stories set in England’s past. Maybe one day I’ll write about Canada’s past. Or some other country’s past. But the past… There’s just something about history that makes my heart beat madly against my chest. Not the history of events per se, but the history of people. A history of people making decisions. A history of people rising and falling. A history of people fighting, loving and dying. Maybe it’s the fascination for people who thought so differently to us—and yet, at the same time, knowing that human nature has remained pretty much the same. Or maybe it’s this feeling of detachment, history being forever lost to us, and yet, at the same time, engraved within us—and therefore allowing myself to tell a story less restricted within my awareness of the present cultural context. I don’t know. I’m not even sure if I’m making sense. I guess it all comes down to: The past is always so much more romantic.

Dear Readers, What has and has not changed for you as a writer?

Listening to:

Here are some of the tweets/FB updates to summarize why I was not updating my blog for the past while:

Stephen Dedalus from ‘A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST…” always seems like he’s high on drugs.

I need to sleep so I stop missing classes. So my hand automatically picks up PORTAITS OF A YOUNG ARTIST. Hmm…

ugh, just finished my european history paper. Just brutal. Let me say that I’m doneee with feminism

Another successful all nighter. Am now at Starbucks #amwriting in my journal before working on history paper # 2

I am so burnt out. Mention the name “James Joyce” and I’ll burst into tears!

Looking over history lecture notes. Can you find where my mind (half-asleep) began to think about creative writng?: “…who controls the land, had existed even before 1663, under their part, land divided up as small plots, until he realizes the he has captured beauty…”

Faulk it, I’m not reading William Faulkner ‘Sound and the Fury’.

Discovering so many stirring assertions while doing my readings: “…men were born free yet everywhere they are in chains.” -Rousseau

Dear Rebecca Black, please make a song about TUESDAY! While Friday is a day of partying, Tuesday is the day of liberation. Why? Because that’s when I finish my last exam. Woooooo

Writing Tip: Live, Learn, Record

Two days ago, I was struggling to write about Lenore Winstead (from  Fall of the Sparrows) recalling the death of her husband. I was at school working this scene, coming up with the most stereotypical emotions. I just wrote and wrote, not really feeling emotionally attached.

On that very day I came home and asked my younger sister where my younger brother was. She told me he’d been in bed all day long. That pushed the alarm button for me. I went into his room, it was pitch black. I sat by his side and rested my hand on his shoulder. He was feverish and trembling slightly…

As I don’t live with my knowledgeable parents I was left to think the worst—especially after listening to his small voice explaining to me how his throat was all swollen and it pained him to swallow. I was afraid to leave his side, worrying that his throat would swell to the point of being unable to call for my name!

(Before I go on, maybe I should explain that his fever was due to his having caught the chickenpox and his trembling was due to to the fact that my hand was resting on the back of his shoulder, feeling the resounding thump of his steadily beating heart. I took him to the doctor yesterday morning–all is well).

Now, to the writing bit. The dread and concern I experienced offered me a glimpse of what my heroine must have felt: To watch her husband dying while realizing that she had loved, but had not loved well. And then to wonder why it is only when a dear one is in their most vulnerable state that we realize we had not loved them enough.

And so I’m coming to learn more and more that through the variety of hardship experienced—whether it be minor or major—it turns out that hardship allows a writer to deeper understand what they write about: Life, love and death.

Hardship, for me, is the period in which my sensitivity is at its peak. I feel great things because my heart is open and vulnerable. And much of what I write during these times is where my best writings come from.

Hardship, for me, is an opportunity. An opportunity to learn and grow.

Deeper insight into life is like breathing life into a once one-dimensional character.

Have you ever had a similar experience where you suddenly found yourself inside the shoe of a character you were writing about?

 Writing Udate: I’m sweating blood with Fall of the Sparrows. Revising this story was going well until I reached the point in the story where I was just overwhelmed. Though the first draft is complete, I need to rewrite a lot. So, why was I overwhelmed?

1) The story is dark–and not just dark, PITCH BLACK.

2) The story later revolves around a controversial issue that leaves me low spirited.

3) I realized that this story had overstepped and escaped from the genre I’ve always been writing in: Romance. FOTS is more of a general fiction, as the story’s focus is mainly on the broken father/son relationship.

And so I find myself glancing longingly back at The Runaway Courtesan. For this story, I know what needs to be improved, I love the characters, I know what genre it belongs to, and importantly, this story isn’t as dark and heavy. But then I’m worried that if I start working on TRC I’ll lose touch with all the surge of inspiration for FOTS.

Don’t get me wrong. I love, love FOTS. But I’m wondering if this project isn’t a bit too ambitious for me. And I’m also wondering whether I’m just being a moron by shrinking away from the challenge presented to me by FOTS.  

So, I’m totally divided here and would love some advice.