Top 10 Soundtracks for Writing Fantasy

A few years ago I compiled a list of my top ten favorite soundtracks to write to, but it was on my old site (which apparently has been taken down?), and my thoughts on the matter have changed since then.

This list is not in any specific order, and I really wanted to include clips/previews for each mention, but it turns out WordPress doesn’t let you link or upload videos unless you pay them a monthly fee and your firstborn child (WordPress, you’re great, but come on. Be real.).

Note: I’ve excluded soundtracks that I consider hard to separate from their films due to their iconic status in popular culture (soundtracks such as The Lord of the Rings, Pirates of the Caribbean, Harry Potter, etc.). 

So here we go!

How To Train Your Dragon 2

The first installment could have easily taken this spot, but HTTYD 2 has some of my favorite songs, so I’m giving it priority. Go check this soundtrack out. It’s beautiful.

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Eragon

Disclaimer: the movie sucks. It’s atrocious. If you respect the books at all, do not watch this movie. However, the soundtrack is pretty good, and there are a few tracks in particular that I think stand out.

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Pan’s Labyrinth

This movie is beautiful. The soundtrack is sublime. Both are substantially depressing. Listen at your own risk.

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The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

I never said this list was limited to movie scores. Twilight Princess and Ocarina of Time could have also taken the spot, but no Nintendo soundtrack compares to Skyward Sword in terms of emotion and storytelling. Koji Kondo, you genius. If I did this list in ranked order, Skyward Sword would probably take the #1 spot.

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Dinosaur

Didn’t we all love this movie as kids? Well, the soundtrack is as good as you remember it. There’s a wide range of ‘feels’ to cover in this one, so go check it out for yourself.

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Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron

Hans Zimmer will always be one of the greatest composers, and Spirit is, in my opinion, one of his best film scores.

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The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

A decent film with a fantastic soundtrack. No, not the BBC show (although, if you have time, you should look that up for a good laugh).

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Ori and the Blind Forest

The second video game score to make the list, it was recommended to me by a friend on Twitter, and it’s been one of my favorites ever since. This score in particular has a very magical/mysterious feel to it, and though it’s not the happiest music in the world, it’s still awesome.

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Tarzan

Tarzan is probably my favorite soundtrack of all the Disney ‘classics’, and it has a wide variety of great tracks to fit different moods and situations.

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Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Okay, I really didn’t want to include a Transformers film in this list, simply because they’re terrible and degrading on so many levels. However, a handful of score pieces stand out enough to warrant a mention. Dig around, and you’ll find some gems.

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Of course, this list is based on my opinion at the time of writing this post (with a pinch of universal and undeniable truth). What are some of your favorite OSTs to write (or daydream) to? Comment below!

 

The Fantastic Five Dialog Tag

Guys. Guys. Guess what? I’m doing something I’ve never done before. I’m starting a blog tag. At least I think I am. Odds are this has been done before, but frankly, I don’t care. I’ll call it…the Fabulous Five Dialog tag. Super catchy, am I right?

But Mr. Nate, sir, what is this superb new concept you’ve brought to life? 

*Friendly pat on the head* Excellent question, little writerling. The Fantastic Five Dialog tag simply means I’m going to share five of my favorite out-of-context dialog lines from my work-in-progress novel and then tag some friends to share some of their own! Simple stuff, but I think it’s gonna be fun.

So here are five of my favorite out-of-context lines from Where The Woods Grow Wild (coming soon to Amazon near you!)…

“Why, you clod-brained, gimpy hog-moggins, I’m not evil!”

“A girl has to be resourceful. Besides, it’s a very noble kitchen knife.”

“Willows don’t like me, so naturally they start yelling at me the moment I fly by, and they forget they’re yelling when they go back to talking about things they intended to keep secret.”

“Fine, then, be that way. Yes, I found it when I was cleaning out one of his old desk drawers, and I took it because he has enough brass rings to fill a bean jar.”

“Take him away! Chop off his feet and light them on fire! Or throw quails at him!”

As it turns out, choosing just five bits of dialog was hard, but those are some of my favorites. I’ll go ahead and tag some people now (participation is voluntary, so if you’re not tagged and want to, go for it!):

Hannah Heath 

C.E.L. Stefani

Raychel Rose from That Bright Young Thing

Hope Ann from Writing in the Light

Kel Giese from A Teen’s Life 


Now it’s your turn! Have a favorite dialog line in mind? Share it in the comments below!

 

24 Little Things To Make A Writer Smile

In terms of the writing side of my life, the past month has been disappointing. Since finishing my first draft in March, I haven’t had time to roll up my sleeves and get a big chunk of editing done. I’ve been tied up with other editing projects that don’t seem to end, work, and other assorted distractions. You know how it is.

But it’s not always the glamorous achievements that make being a writer feel worthwhile. I can’t finish a draft, or complete a manuscript edit, or reveal a new cover every day. Sometimes it’s the little things that make writers smile.

Little things like…

Coffee early in the morning

Rainy days

Exciting ideas

The smell of paper

Days of good handwriting

New pens and pencils

Finding a new tea flavor

Comfortable chairs

Working under an open window

An organized desk

Fun bits of research

Words like disgruntled or plump

Five minutes of daydreaming

The tap-tap of the keyboard

Sticky notes and bookmarks and index cards

Quiet rooms

Ink-stained fingers

Motivational snacks

Quotations you don’t understand but share anyways

Coffee shops

Successful outlines

Funny snippets of dialogue

Pajama workdays

Knowing you can do it all again tomorrow


What are the little things about being a writer that you enjoy the most?

 

9 Reasons To Index-Card Your Manuscript

Last week I finished the first draft of The Children Of Falore (title subject to change). Which means that, in the next few days, I’ll be starting the editing phase.

But there’s one thing I always do before editing a manuscript, and that is indexing. What’s that, you ask? Basically, I go through my outline*and fill an index card for each scene in my manuscript. On each index card I include the following information:

  • Scene title/brief summary (so I know what’s going on)
  • Scene number (the order in which they tentatively take place)
  • POV character (not necessary if all your scenes are the same POV)
  • Location
  • Time of events in story context
  • Word count
  • Important info disclosed (if applicable)
  • Marks for pivotal scenes (inciting event, climax, turning points, etc.)

*I use Scrivener, so it’s all there on the screen, but you may not have a physical outline. In that case, flipping/scrolling through the finished manuscript itself works just as well, if a bit tedious. 

I end up with pretty much my whole manuscript condensed into a stack of index cards. For Little One, which had about 93k words, I needed about 70 cards because most of my scenes were on the short side. Your results will vary. Spread out on the table, it looked like this:

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The reasons I do this are several. Here, I’ll list some of the major benefits of indexing your manuscript’s first draft.

#1 Get the big picture (literally)

Having all your scenes compiled in a physical, manageable stack of cards makes getting the big picture so much easier in the most tangible way. Take the photo above, for instance. I can immediately spot my story’s layout and the location of major events. Are they too close together? Does my pacing need work? Do I need more exciting chapters? Should I slow down? This is a great way to spot those potential issues.

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Here’s a photo of my index cards beside my outline diagram. Twice the big-picture-viewing, twice the efficiency. 

#2 Manage characters and POV

You wrote down each scene’s POV character. Now you can tell what the balance is between your main characters and your secondary characters, as well as if it needs adjusting. Hint: color coding each card according to its POV character makes this a visual piece of cake. You won’t even have to read the card.

#3 Spot plot holes

Having your whole plot laid out where you can see it all at once has a knack for revealing plot holes you may have missed just scrolling down a screen.

#4 Organize or re-organize

You can mix and match your index cards to your hearts content to rearrange chapters, scenes, or whole sections without messing up your document or having to copy-paste a million times. Again, the advantage of visualizing where each scene sits can be super valuable to see if maybe chapter 4 might work better as a part of chapter 7.

#5 Reference quickly

For all other purposes or editing needs, you’ll have your stack of scenes ready to consult at a moment’s notice. You’d be surprised how much time you’ll save when fact-checking, double-checking, quoting, comparing, etc. The more intricate your story, the more likely you’ll thank yourself for making this resource.

#6 Balance content

If you color-code your index cards according to content type (dialogue, action, backstory, flashback, description, etc.), you’ll be able to spot unbalanced sections right away.

#7 Jot down notes

Keep a stack of pens or markers nearby, and you can quickly make marks or notes on your cards according to each scene’s needs. A handful of my index cards ended up with big ‘ol red x’s on them. They simply didn’t add anything, so out they went. Yes, you can do this on a printed doc or a laptop as well, but if you have your cards anyway, it saves time, and can be accessed quickly later on.

#8 Reinforce story structure

If you’re not an outline and prefer to make things up as you go, indexing your manuscript is a fantastic way to make sure your first (or second, third, etc.) draft is properly structured so that readers don’t get lost or confused when reading. Not all ‘pantsed’ manuscripts necessarily need this, but there’s a greater peril of structure weakness in early drafts without prior outlining.

#9 Keep track of time

If you’re like me, you very easily lose track of how much time has passed in your story. If you marked your cards accordingly, you’ll be able to keep track of how many days, weeks, or months go by during and between scenes.


There are other advantages to indexing your manuscript via scene-list. These are some of the ones that have helped me the most. I hope some of them help you as well, should you decide to give it a try!

The Writer’s Life According To Minions

This is turning into a series, I guess. Oh well. Here we go! The writer’s life as told in gifs by the minions from Despicable Me!

If you haven’t already, go check out part one of “The Writer’s Life According To…” (Jack Sparrow) and part two (Sheldon Cooper)!

(Note: none of these gifs belong to me. All gifs found on giphy.com) 

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When a brilliant idea hits you in public…
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…but your editor has other ideas.
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Trying to prove your prose meets a higher standard.
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Following a ‘marketer’ on social media.
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When all your plot points finally click together.
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Getting that long-awaited email from an agent/publisher.
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Meeting deadlines…?
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This character needs some conflict…
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How you picture your first book signing.
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When people interrupt you to chat.

 

Keep calm and write on, friends!

Header image from Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/codex41/9725166177

 

 

 

This Is Why We Write

To release the power of our imagination.

To prove ourselves on grand adventures.

To fulfill the unspoken desires of our mind.

To explore and express the emotions within us.

To meet people and go places we never would otherwise.

To feel, and to help others feel.

To mature as individuals and know ourselves better.

To throw ourselves at a daunting task and come out stronger.

To hold a reader’s hand through tears and laughter.

To give the world a glimpse of how we think, act, and love.

To introduce readers to a new friend or two.

To brighten someone’s day.

To inspire thought, change, and action.

To find shelter from a harsh world, and to turn back and attack it.

To send a message that would otherwise fall on deaf ears.

To understand people just a little bit more.

To entertain, to motivate, to comfort.

To allow ourselves the freedom to be who we were meant to be.

 

 

 

 

5 Things You Need To Be A Writer

So, you like telling stories, and you figure you’ll take a shot at getting those stories down on paper. After all, authors rake in cash on a daily basis, and you want in! Long story short, you want to be a writer. Here’s what you’ll need to get started…

A good story idea, as illustrated below.

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Desk and posture-favoring chair, as illustrated below.

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Pet or companion of choice (most writer kits come with a sample cat, as illustrated below).

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Bookshelf space for your bestseller, as illustrated below.

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Coffee or tea to keep you alert and productive, as illustrated below.

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And that’s all there is to it! Now you can be a writer!

(Disclaimer: I spent way too much time throwing this together. I should go write, as illustrated above.)

 

 

10 Ways To Kill Your Daily Writing

In which the Snark strikes again…here are ten ways to bring your writing day to a grinding halt.

Wait to start writing until inspiration hits you.

Neglect your coffee maker.

Depend on optimal circumstances for writing.

Just one more Youtube video…

Give in to the “I’m just not feeling it” vibe.

Keep social media tabs open in the background.

Get overwhelmed by unattainable word-count goals.

Do everything your cat demands of you.

Make edits at the end of each paragraph.

Stop believing that you can, in fact, sit down and write.

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Have you been following these steps today? Then congratulations! You’ve killed your writing for the day. Hurray for you! Thank you for participating, and come again soon.

 

 

10 Character Cliches To Watch Out For

Start with the archetype and mold it into something personal and unique, and you’ve got a good character. Start with the archetype and end with the archetype, and you’ve got a weak, cliched character. Here are ten character archetypes to watch out for in your manuscript:

The expendable grunt

Their sole purpose is to kidnap the girl and punch the hero. Of course, they’re only competent when it advances the plot.

The guy with the funny accent

What easier way to provide comic relief than to have a character that talks funny? Misspell his witty one-liners, and presto!

The tough girl

She’s the tough-talking cutie who takes care of herself and doesn’t have room for affection, sympathy, or other basic human emotions.

The pretty girl

All eye-candy and no personality. She’s gorgeous and talented, but don’t give her too many dialogue lines or she might think she can contribute to the plot.

The sidekick

The sidekick is your hero’s buddy, but it turns out he’s only there because the hero needs someone to talk to during all those boring scenes.

The villainous villain

He’s got the evil laugh, the mustache, the dark lair, and the expendable henchmen. Don’t forget to let him deliver his evil-plan-revealing speech that conveniently lets the hero know just how much evil he’s up to!

The mysterious stranger

He’s the hooded fellow staring at you from across the bar or lurking in the alley, popping up when least expected and following your hero all around for no apparent reason.

The sage/mentor

This fellow likes to hang out in speculative novels, where he can puff on a pipe, stroke his beard, and spit out wise sayings like a vending machine. His only purpose is to mentor the hero just long enough for the plot to get going, and then he dies.

The damsel in distress

Whether it’s dragons, kidnappers, terrorists, orcs, or her own incompetence that gets her in trouble, we couldn’t do without her. Otherwise, who would the hero ever rescue?

The Chosen One

We need Joe Schmo to leave his ordinary life to go on a thrilling journey, and since giving him a tangible motivation is overrated, let’s just slap the title “chosen one” on him and send him on his merry way. After all, now he has to go. It’s his destiny.


Remember, none of these character tropes are inherently bad early on, as long as you take the time to develop them out of that trope into a multi-faceted human being.

Have I left any out? Let me know in the comments!