Your name: Cat
Your age: 23
Where you are from: Canada
Your penname: green and yellow
How did you come up with your penname?
It’s been my penname for years and whenever anyone asks, I always tell them that my favourite colours are green and yellow, which is true. However… when I originally made the penname on fanfiction.net, it was supposed to be “blue and yellow”, like my favourite The Used song, but that username was already taken. So, rather lamely, I changed blue to green and voila.
Do you have hopes of becoming a published author one day?
Yes and no. Yes in that I’ve begun to take writing more seriously in the past couple of
years and am always seeking to improve and find out what works for me based on practice, advice from published authors/editors, etc. I guess the end goal of all that work would be to get something published, but I’m nowhere near ready!
At the same time, while I love writing and I love sharing my writing, I won’t die unfulfilled if I never see my book on a bookshelf. At the end of the day, I write because I love to write, and if other people enjoy what I write then that’s just a bonus. If not, I’d keep writing because I don’t know how not to.
Have you ever been given any advice in relation to your writing that has stuck with you?
Tons. Tons of things that I think about every time I pen a sentence. The most important, though, is that you have to be a reader to be a writer.
What was the last book you read?
I read “In the Orchard, the Swallows” by Peter Hobbs and it was beautiful. Check this out, my favourite quote:
“… and your name was a wonderful gift to me. I have carried it for a long time, the most precious thing I owned. I spoke it rarely, so that it would not become tainted by my surroundings. I kept it buried deep inside, and when I had nothing else to cling to, with a single whisper in the dark I would name you, careful not to be heard, and in doing so, something of you would be restored to me, and something of myself would be saved.”
Can you read other fics when you are writing your own story or do you prefer not to?
I should be able to, but I can’t. A few years ago, I read Stephen King’s “On Writing” where he says he writes for about five or six hours a day and then reads for three or four. He’s a full-time writer, which I obviously am not, but at the same time… that’s really hard to do! I’m either in writing mode or in reading mode, and as of yet, I have not been able to separate the two or make easy transitions. It’s not that I’m afraid that I’ll pull things from what I’m reading and subconsciously plagiarize the ideas in my own writing – it’s just that I get so sucked in to other worlds and characters and stories that I’m afraid I won’t be able to get back into the mindset of my own story! It’s also why I’m unable to write more than one story at a time. My brain is just really bad at multitasking – I’m all in on a story or I’m quite literally all out.
If you do read other fics, do you have any that you recommend others read?
I’ve been reading the works of my friend, Ashley, for a long time, and have had the awesome pleasure of watching her writing transform. For anyone who is interested, I highly recommend “My Girl” by ashleytate over on 1Dff – it’s the best piece of hers I’ve ever read, with beautiful little gems tucked away in there for your discovery. Warning: your heart is gonna hurt, but the ache is worth it.
A lot of authors have a distinct style. Do you think you have a certain style or do you try to shy away from that and experiment?
When I was in seventh grade, my teacher told me that I had a “conversational style of writing”. I like to think that I experiment, but I also know that I have a certain style (which may very well be conversational), and whenever I loosen the reins and allow myself to just do what feels natural, it takes over. At the same time, my style has definitely evolved over the years and is still evolving, and writing pieces outside of my element contributes to its evolution as well. For example, I’m most proud of my Hunger Games fan fiction pieces, but they’re way outside of my usual approach to writing, whereas Awkward Beat was a piece of cake to write in comparison because it was much more within my comfort zone. (Then again, writing MA material was definitely outside of my comfort zone – gotta challenge yourself, right?)
General Story Questions
Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Neither – or both. Normally I know the main events/turning points in my story before I start writing, but I don’t have much sense of how I’m going to connect Event A to Event B and so on. I plan about five chapters ahead at a time, and then I write them all as chronologically as I can before planning out the next five. Even if I have bursting ideas for Chapter 6, I’ll just document them in my phone or in a Word document and refrain from adding them to the official outline until I’ve finished writing Chapter 5 – and that’s because I like to give my characters lots and lots of room to flourish and, as a result, influence and develop the plot.
As an example, if I’d outlined the entirety of Awkward Beat before I’d started writing and strictly adhered to that outline, here are some things that wouldn’t have happened (and I think you can agree they had MAJOR impacts on the story):
- Muffy would have been a girlfriend of Mr. Styles’, but not his fiancée/eventual wife
- June would not have asked Liam to accompany Macy to the Hub Cub in Chapter 6, and therefore those two never would have spoken to one another
- Niall would have held a film shoot, but would simply be a means to an end and not at all invested in/a meddler of June’s relationships with Zayn/Harry
Do you try to write every day, or only when you are in the mood to write?
Being “in the mood to write” usually lasts weeks or even months for me, and during that time I write in any spare moments I can, which usually translates to every day – but not always. Of course there are days where I’m exhausted from work or I have too many things going on to fit in an hour or so for writing, but there are also days where I set aside hours and hours to write and just… can’t. The words don’t come. Every writer knows what this is like, and it’s infinitely frustrating. I like to have scenes planned out before I write them, and that includes bits and pieces of dialogue – sometimes, literally all I have to do is flesh out the scene (whereas other times there is more work involved). Either way, when I have the skeleton of what I’m about to write, it’s so much easier. In other words, by planning out my scenes beforehand, I basically force myself to be in the mood to write when I have time to write :)
How do you differentiate between a good idea and a great idea?
To be honest, I’m never hit with lightning-bolt ideas. I will probably never have the entire story of Harry Potter arrive in my mind while I’m waiting for a train like JK, because that’s not how my mind works. I get a small idea – usually something that’s been done a gazillion times before – and I slowly add details and layers onto it until I feel that it’s my own. The difference between a good idea and a great idea (that is, a story I entertain in my head vs. a story I’m going to write) is that a great idea keeps me up at night, has me writing scattered and illegible notes on a pad of paper in the dark, and is from then on in everything I see and hear.
Have you ever suffered from the dreaded writers block? If so, how did you get yourself going again?
Has any writer ever NOT suffered from writers block, and if so, can I have their life? Ha! This is the writer’s eternal struggle, and I’m not sure I have any tips that will work for anyone else. But I can mention a few things that have worked for me:
- Don’t write if you have nothing to write. A lot of writers argue for BICHOK (Butt In Chair, Hands On Keyboard), but as far as I’m concerned, it’s much more effective to take a 30 minute walk around your neighborhood and let your thoughts wander over some possibilities so that when you sit down to write, you have maybe a few strings of dialogue or even just the skeleton of a scene.
- Use all of your ideas in one story. We’re all familiar with Shiny New Idea Syndrome which lasts in the planning and early writing stages of a new story. Eventually, whether it’s on Chapter 3 or Chapter 30, you’re going to hit a wall where you ask yourself, “Why did I write this? Why should I continue?”, and a Shiny New Idea (SNI) will come to you again. Whenever this happens to me, I refuse to let myself be so flighty as to immediately abandon my current project and focus all my attention on SNI. Instead, I ask myself what it is that attracts me so about this SNI, and if there is any way I can incorporate one or many of those attractions into what I’m currently working on. If I’m bored with what I’m writing, readers are going to be bored reading it – so if I have newer, more exciting ideas, I’m all for it.
- Sporcle.com. This website is the reason I graduated university. In the number of hours I have spent doing quizzes on this site, I could have written four manuscripts. But don’t let that sway you – the quizzes can sometimes be inspirational in themselves, and even if they’re not, I actually learn a lot from them. My favourites are the geography quizzes, and to this day I can name every country in the world in 3 minutes and 52 seconds.
- Finally, writer’s block will get you. It always does; it’s inevitable. But do NOT let it be from an external factor. In other words, do not let the number of reads or reviews you have, or a particularly unforgiving and unfair review, or a chapter that perhaps didn’t do as well as its predecessor, weigh in at ALL when it comes to your writing and how you feel about it. Bottom line: you write for yourself.
Do you do all your planning and/or writing on a computer, or do you use other tools? Such as pen and paper, a typewriter.
I do about 96% of the actual writing on a computer (the 4% is when I’m babysitting my niece and she’s gone to sleep and I get out a pen and paper and write by hand – which is excruciating, because my thoughts travel a lot faster than my stupid hand can write). As far as planning is concerned, however, I do most of that on my phone. I don’t recommend this, because you never know when you could lose your phone or it could end up in the wrong hands, but I don’t take my own advice and so I use my phone since it’s always there with me. But I write a memo in my phone every time a new idea or thought or piece of dialogue or character name or ANYTHING comes to me, and it is ridiculously unorganized and I’m probably the only person who would be able to make sense of it.
Do you have a preference for what person and/or tense you write in?
If I have a comfort zone, it’s first person past, and this is probably going back to my “conversational” style. But I don’t have a preference, no, and I like to experiment and alternate between 1st past, 1st present, close 3rd past, and close 3rd present.
Do you like tied up endings to stories, or open endings that are left to the reader’s interpretation?
I can appreciate both of them, and as long as I feel that the ending does the story justice, I can accept either a neatly tied finale or an open-ended one.
Do you have any tips on how to summarise your story? A lot of people find it hard to get everything they want into a limited amount of words.
I’m no expert on summaries, as you can probably tell, but I try to aim for short, sweet, and “Wait, what?” that makes readers go, “That might be interesting.” When I’m presented with three full paragraphs of a summary, I’m entirely overwhelmed – it’s great that you get a higher word limit and can post banners on 1Dff, but at the same time, I kind of appreciate fanfiction.net for its short summaries and lack of banners, because it really forces you to be concise and attract readers based on writing alone! I wrote a post on summaries a year ago which you can find here: http://ilikeorangetoo.tumblr.com/post/19983411479/summaries-and-how-they-make-me-hate-you, and most of those bullet points still apply (and a couple of them I am still guilty of).
A lot of people think that every original character has something of the author in them. Do you put a little piece of yourself into each of your original characters?
Not necessarily myself, no. I don’t know if I agree with that, actually. I think every original character has something of the author’s experiences in them, and in that, I can say that yes, all of my characters are who they are because of people I have known or things I have seen (or yes, sometimes things that I am, myself).
Do you ever do mary sue tests, or do you trust your instincts that you have created a compelling but flawed character?
I’ve done a couple of them, but not with every story, and never at the beginning. I wait until I know my characters really well (that is, after I’ve been writing about them and exploring them for several chapters), and then I do the test. However, my approach to creating characters is to start with the flaw (or flaws). Flaws are what make characters interesting, realistic, and endearing, and I figure that as far as shying away from Mary Sues goes, flaws are a pretty good starting place.
It can be hard enough developing one romantic relationship, do you have any tips on developing two with a love triangle?
You have to fall in love with both pairs, which is NOT easy to do. Both options should offer the protagonist something different, and both should be equally viable. You will probably know who your protagonist will end up with from the beginning, (or if he/she ends up with anyone at all), and if you do, it’s extremely difficult not to devote more time to the ultimate couple or to make that pairing shine. As long as you offer readers sufficient reasoning as to why both pairings would work, it should be a successful love triangle that will have them ripping out their hair in frustration. (And that’s what we all want, right?)
Side characters can be quite influential in a story, particularly if they are close with the main character. Any tips on creating a solid minor character?
Always search for ways to make them as integrated in the plot as possible. Nobody cares about the best friend role if she’s only there so that the protagonist can talk about her feelings aloud. Nobody cares about the coworker unless the things he says and does are influencing the character’s thoughts and moods or even situations. I usually opt for a small cast of characters, and that’s because I try to use every character as much as I can – because if they only exist so that the protagonist can say they exist, what’s the point in them being there? This is why, for example, we never met Fitz’s brothers or family. We know they exist, but I never brought them into the story because they were never going to influence anything. It’s also why Chloe never had a single line in the story, even though she certainly influenced Liam and his behavior quite a bit.
Creating a solid minor character isn’t easy, but it’s important to remember that they are just as 3D as the protagonists – they have flaws, desires, futures, likes, dislikes, motives. Knowing those simple things about a minor character should help determine how they fit into the overall plot!
Awkward Beat and 1DFF questions
How did you first come up with the story line for Awkward Beat and where did the inspiration of the title come from?
I started writing a 1Dff fan fic back in October that was really inspired by the things I was learning and experiencing at the time (I was volunteering in Africa). It was pretty heavy, and because LIFE was pretty heavy at that point, I had to stop writing after the third chapter. But I’d already decided to use the 1D boys as a medium and was browsing around on 1Dff to see what was out there. I read a story that I’d expected to go one way but instead had gone another, and I thought about what I would have done differently… and then the idea wouldn’t leave me alone. I knew I wanted to write something lighthearted, so pretty much as soon as I got over my crippling jet lag at the end of November, I started writing.
The title is a long and a short story… however, I like the idea of “beats” instead of pauses in scripts, because it sounds musical and for some reason, I can feel the tension and silence so much more in a “beat” than I can in a “pause”. Though she puts on a pretense of confidence and purposefulness, at heart, Fitz is fumbling and making everything up as she goes along – and that leads to some awkward beats.
I love awkward beat! Is there a sequel in the works? Or even just a new story?
A sequel is for sure in the works, and I’m almost scared about how many ideas I have floating around and the things I’ve organized for it. I mean, I have character tables, details on character arcs, inspirational pictures, a playlist, a title… but I won’t 100% be able to confirm that there’ll be a sequel until I start writing and see if it’s going to work.
You’ve recently finished your first One Direction fan fiction, do you have plans to write another, or will you move on to another site?
I go where the wind takes me, but at this point in time, I’m happy on 1Dff and might like to stay there for a while provided I still have stories to tell :)
Are there any similarities between yourself and Fitz?
Yes and no. Our common thread, I think, is a sense of confusion and misdirection in university and the future, and the desire to just keep on trucking along the same path because we’re not sure where else we’d go even if we had the option.
Did it take you long to develop the concept and start writing Awkward Beat?
Not too long. Sometimes I let ideas marinate for longer than others, but with Awkward Beat, I’d only been thinking about it for a few weeks before I sat down and wrote Chapter 1.
Here at Underground 1DFF we would like to thank Cat for taking the time to answer all these questions and for allowing us to ask them all! It was a great experience working with you.
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