Books Can Be DangerousSA2-Stack of Books

I didn’t notice her reading the book at first. It was odd for her to be reading, but I figured, with as small as it was, it was probably some schoolbook she’d been assigned. But then I realized something odd; she had not complained about the book once. As I had said, Jessica isn’t much of a reader, so usually her assigned reading for school is accompanied by much huffing and puffing—that is, if she even reads it at all. I’ve walked into her room to find Spark Notes pulled up on her computer screen before a test more than once. I didn’t exactly approve, but I also didn’t really blame her either. Some of the books they assigned were very dry and uninteresting to an avid reader, much less someone like Jessica who didn’t like to read in the first place. Finally I decided I had to know what this book was that she was reading so willingly.

Using all of my stealth skills I had learned tiptoeing around the house when she was a baby, I snuck into her room, hoping to find the book. Luckily for me, I didn’t have to search too hard; she had left the book sitting on top of her bed. Of course, she happened to walk in as I was reading the title, catching me in the act of snooping. She rolled her eyes and gave me one of those signature, “Mom!”’s that teenagers are so apt to give, but she had really made me curious. Plus the title, A Field of Dandelions, hadn’t given me much to go on. So I hesitantly asked her what it was about, and what class she was reading it for. Her answer was quite the surprise. Not only was she reading it because a friend told her about it, but it was also a fantasy book! I have to admit, I was pretty stunned. I can’t recall ever seeing her with a non-schoolbook that wasn’t written by Nicolas Sparks. But it was also obvious that she wanted me to leave her alone so she could get back to reading, so I did.

That didn’t mean I stopped watching her though. Right before I started cooking dinner, she had sat down in her favorite chair in the living room, the book in her hands. The entire hour I spent cooking dinner, I kept one eye on her, watching. It was odd, watching someone read a book that I knew nothing about. Her face went through a whole range of emotions, none of which I could really figure out. Her eyes went wide, later she gasped, and at one point she even laughed out loud. By the end of the book tears were streaming down her face, and she looked like she had just run over somebody’s cat. With a soft little sigh, she uncurled herself from the chair and went to wash her hands for dinner. As soon as she left the room, I dashed over to the side table she had left the book on. I was going to read that book tonight.


Map of Daryian

Daryian Map

This is the map I drew for my novella, just to help me clarify some locations and distances, and I thought I would share it with you all. You can click it to see it in a little more detail.


A Thousand Years

For this assignment, I had to write a panagram mini-story. Some of the letters were really hard to find words for! And of course, I didn’t realize until I had written 23 of the 26 sentences that “x” would be nearly impossible to find a word to work with! And this is the song that gave this piece its title: A Thousand Years.

A single tear rolled down her cheek, making a track through the soot and dirt that covered her face. Beth had risen at an unholy hour—in fact I wasn’t even sure she had slept!—so that she could finish her morning duties as a maid, and meet me before I left. Cold, misty rain dimmed the light from the streetlamps, the only illumination against the pitch black night sky. Despite the dim light, I still drank in every detail of her face, wondering how long it would be before I would see her again.

Every fiber of my being begged me not to leave her. For, though her face was more familiar to me than my own, I still feared that, with time, the memory of her would fade. Gratefully I had accepted the miniature she had given to me mere days after I had told her I was to sail, but only now I realized it would be a lifeline.

Holding out my arms to her, open wide, I swept her up into what would be our last embrace for a long time. I leaned down gently, to give her a kiss, sending a shock that would linger far longer than the actual kiss, shivering through me, before finally, hesitantly, letting her go. Jogging swiftly up the dark cobblestone street, I could barely see through the rain that was blowing into my eyes. Knowing that it wasn’t healthy to lie to myself, I reluctantly admitted that the light rain wasn’t what was keeping me from being able to see well—it was the tears that swam in my eyes. Love hurt.

3b2fc14e8e8249898cea2ccb9bb77acdMen—other sailors—scurried around the deck of the ship as I climbed the gangplank and came aboard what would be my home for the next year or two. Neptune was her name, of Her Majesty’s Royal Navy, and she was a beauty of a ship. Of course, she wasn’t nearly as lovely as my Beth, and as I sighed, I wondered—was it really going to be worth it? Possible death on the high seas—we all knew the stories of the sailors who had been lost at sea during a storm, or even fighting pirates. Questions continued to assail me, showing me gruesome pictures of my imagined fate. Run through on a pirate’s cutlass, dying slowly of dehydration on a piece of wreckage—the list of possible deaths was varied and vast. Shaking my head vigorously, I tried to push the terrible thoughts to the back of my mind. There were so many other things I needed to be focusing on.S1-Looking for Beth

Under scrutiny from the first mate, I quickly jumped to work, checking ropes and knots, making sure everything was held securely. Violet light glanced off of everything, the sun just peeking over the horizon. Water sloshed against the side of the ship as the tide let out, and we finally set sail. Xavier, one of my friends, came up and gave me a slap on the back and a greeting, but I hardly noticed. Yelling and waving on the dock was Beth.  Zigzagging my way across the deck, I stood on the railing and waved back, watching her until she was out of sight.


“When you are describing

A shape, or sound, or tint,

Don’t state the matter plainly

But put it in a hint

And learn to look at all things

With a sort of mental squint”

~ Lewis Carroll


The theme of a story is the main message or life lesson that the author is trying to teach about life, society, or human nature. It should have universal appeal, regardless of age, race, or gender.


Pride comes before a fall.

(From the story of David and Goliath in the Bible)

Strength of character knows no gender.

(From Mulan)

Slow and steady wins the race.

Persistent effort pays off.

(From the “Tortoise and the Hare”)

Believe in yourself.

Accept others’ differences.

Honesty is the best policy.


  • Theme is the cornerstone of any written work. Theme should be hinted at or implied throughout the whole story. You can have more than one theme, as well as major and minor themes.
  • Theme in story is related to thesis in essay writing.
  • Theme is the “answer,” even when the answer may not be very clear; the question motivates the unfolding of your plot.
    Why do bad things happen to good people?
    God is in control.
  • Conflict and theme are directly related. Whatever the main character is struggling with and needs to learn is generally the theme of the story. Conflict is easier to determine than theme. Once you’ve identified the conflict, you should be      able to easily identify the main theme.
  • For good ideas to write about, consider the fruit of the spirit or the seven deadly sins.
  • Often themes are highlighted best by coupling them with their antitheses:
    Pride/Humility                                   Good/Evil
    Love/Hate                                           Innocence/Experience
    Life/Death                                           Liberalism/Legalism
    Joy/Sorrow                                          Aging/Youth
    War/Peace                                           Wrath/Mercy
  • The most effective way to use theme is to highlight a current hot topic or controversy:
    Why do we have war?
    Sometimes you have to fight for what you believe in (insert belief).
    Fighting is never the answer.




Creative Writing
Story Analysis

Title: Mulan
Author: Disney
Genre: Children’s
Audience: Children/All Ages

List the characters in the story and give a thorough description of each one. Consider physical, emotional, relational, social status, and occupational characteristics.

Fa Mulan/Ping-The main character of the story, Mulan is a young woman of marriageable age. The story shows early on that Mulan is intelligent and kind, willing to help others around her, especially those who can’t help themselves. She continues throughout the story to be a strong young woman, willing to take her father’s place so that he won’t die fighting against the Huns even though she knows that if she were found out that she would be executed. She continues to show her courage when she charges the Hun army with a single cannon, shooting it at a snow covered mountain with Shan Yu only three feet in front of her.

Fa Zhou-Zhou is Mulan’s elderly father. When Zhou is drafted to the Chinese army in response to the approaching Hun army, Mulan disguises herself as a man to take his place, hoping to save him even though she is likely to be killed herself.

Fa Li-Mulan’s mother, Li is anxious for her daughter to be married.
Shan Yu-Shan Yu is the leader of the Hun army, and thus Mulan’s main adversary. He is a merciless warrior who feels like he has been challenged by the Chinese when they built the Great Wall.

Captain Li Shang-Shang is the leader of the group of soldiers Mulan is attached to. He is a strong warrior, the son of one of China’s most renowned generals. Though he is young, he is given a commanding position, eventually, throughout the course of the movie, proving himself to be a worthy leader. When he discovers Mulan is a woman, he spares her life, though the law said that he ought to kill her for her deception.

Mushu-Mushu is a dragon who acts as Mulan’s protector and counselor. He was once one of the guardians of the Fa family, but was demoted, and now desperately wants his job back.

SA-Three SoldiersYao-Yao is short, stout, and has one eye that has swollen shut. He is one of the soldiers in the army that becomes friends with Mulan. Yao has a bit of a temper, and is easily provoked.

Ling-Ling is extremely thin and tall. He is also one of the soldiers that becomes friends with Mulan. He is always trying to crack jokes, but most of them are not funny.

Chien-Po-Chien-Po is the most laid back of the threesome that becomes friends with Mulan. He is big and round, and loves to eat.

Shi Fu-Shi Fu is the Emperor’s consul who is put in charge of watching over the training of the new troops. He is very critical of Shang, commenting that he was given the command instead of earning it, and often alludes to the fact that his report he is preparing will be an unfavorable one.

Point of View
Who tells the story?

3rd person narrator

Write a sentence stating the time and place of the story. If nothing is mentioned, give your best estimate.

The story is set during a period loosely based on the Han Dynasty in China.

Plot Outline
Write a paragraph summarizing the story (6-8 sentences).

The beginning of the story finds Mulan preparing for her audience with the SA-Mulanmatchmaker, hoping to make a good impression so that she can fulfill her only duty in life—to make a good match and bear sons. Despite her preparations, she is thrown out of the matchmaker’s home in disgrace, and told she will never bring her family honor. When her elderly father is drafted to the Chinese army to combat the threat of the Hun army, Mulan dresses as a man and takes his place. She manages to keep up the disguise throughout training, but she is injured during combat against the Hun army before she uses the last remaining cannon to bury the Huns in an avalanche of snow, and her deception is discovered. Captain Li Shang spares her life, but sends her home in disgrace while the rest of the army travels to the Imperial City to inform the Emperor of their victory, leaving her as the only one to see a small force of Huns pull themselves out of the snow. Though no one believes her when she tries to warn them about the Huns, she saves the Emperor and defeats Shan Yu, saving China.

What type of conflict do you see in the story? Give specific examples. Distinguish between major and minor conflicts.

SA-Saving Captain ShangMan vs. Environment, or Mulan vs. the cultural standards, is a major, and arguably, the main theme of the movie. Throughout the story, Mulan finds she is unable to do what she feels is right because of the way women are viewed in Chinese society. She fights these cultural standards by disguising herself as a boy in order to fight in the Chinese Army in her elderly father’s place, and later, after she has been discovered to be a female, by saving China from an small attack on the Emperor by the Huns.

Man vs. Himself is a minor conflict, seen as Mulan struggles to reach the standards for the troops in the Chinese army. This conflict reaches its climax when she is cast out of the army, but impresses Captain Li by accomplishing the seemingly impossible task he had set the first day of training where she climbed a tall pole, approximately 40 feet tall, to retrieve an arrow at the very top while wearing two weights on her hands.

Man vs. Man, or Mulan vs. Shan Yu, is a major conflict that culminates into the climax of the entire movie. Shan Yu is set and determined to destroy China, and after she is expelled from the army for being a female, Mulan finds evidence that he survived an avalanche. She realizes he is heading for the capital to hurt the Emperor. Convincing the other soldiers to sneak into the barred Imperial Palace, she confronts Shan Yu, firing a large firework rocket at him on the rooftop, defeating him.

State the main theme or message of the story in universal terms that apply to everyone, regardless of age, race, or gender.

Courage is being willing to do what’s right no matter the consequences.

Literary Devices
List at least three different examples of literary devices used in the story.

Analogy-Zhou uses an analogy when comparing Mulan to a cherry blossom that has not bloomed. The Emperor later expands on this analogy when he says, “A flower that blooms in adversity is the most beautiful of all.”

Foreshadowing-When the Huns pop out of the snow, there is a brief discussion about the Emperor, letting the viewer know where they were going.

Simile-There are several similes used in the course of the movie, for example, “They popped out of the snow, like daisies!”

What is your overall opinion of this story and why?

Mulan is one of my all-time favorite Disney movies. Many times throughout the story, Mulan shows herself to be courageous and selfless in the face of danger. She desires to do what is right, no matter what the consequences are for herself. And in the end, she is “the bravest of us all.”

100 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Write Your Novel

I came across this blog post, and since I’ll definitely be looking at these questions as I get ready to start working on my novella for class, I thought I would share.

From thescriptlab.com

The Main Character

1. Who is your main character? Hero? Anti-hero?

2. Why should we be interested in them?

3. What attracts you to your protagonist? Do you like them? Loathe them?

4. Why do you need to write about them?

5. Why should we be excited about them?

6. Why do you believe we will find your hero sympathetic? Empathetic?

7. What makes us curious about them? What is their “mystery”? What is their “magic”? Charisma? How do you show it?

8. What does the audience find in the main character’s story that is relevant to them? Why do you believe they will identify with them?

9. What is the cherished secret desire of your main character?

10. Do we laugh at your hero, feel amused by them, or do we admire them?

What Drives Your Main Character?

11. What do we hope for?

12. What are we afraid of?

13. What is the worst thing that could (and hopefully will) happen to your hero?

14. What is the most favorable, brightest moment that they will experience in the story?

15. What are they going to lose if they don’t find a way to overcome the adversities?

16. Why can’t your characters get what they crave?

17. How can you make the obstacles – inner or exterior – more insurmountable?

18. How can you make the threat, the danger, more excruciating, agonizing, humiliating? Who can do that? Why should they?

19. Why can’t your characters live at peace with their conscience, respect themselves if they don’t get what they so passionately want?

20. And: what is it that your characters want (consciously and tangibly)?

21. On the other hand: what do your characters need (on the emotional, subconscious level)?

The Plot

22. How can you make the temptations more irresistible and the stakes higher?

23. What can you do to eliminate the audience’s disbelief in the initial situation or collision (willing suspension of disbelief)?

24. Is there a deadline (time pressure) for the action to come to a resolution? Could there be? Who can create it?

25. When and how do your main characters realize that they are in trouble and that they must extricate themselves?

26. What are the alternatives you can imagine? How can the problem be solved?

27. But why is it impossible? Who or what makes the solution unattainable?

28. Can the predicament be evaded? What would happen if it were? Who makes the evasion impossible?

29. Can the complication be ridiculed, ignored, forgotten? Make sure that it cannot!

30. Can it be solved peacefully on friendly terms? Who will impair it?

Supporting Characters

31. Who are the supporting characters your main character can rely upon?

32. Who are the supporting characters your protagonist hopes to get on their side?

33. What doesn’t your hero anticipate, know about?

34. What does your hero – falsely – expect that won’t happen?

35. Who are the supporting characters who are a threat, who try to humiliate, stop, ridicule, or destroy your hero’s plans? Do they know about the secret desires that your hero cherishes?

36. What are their plans? What tactics do they use? What mimicry, what subterfuge? How do they try to mislead, misdirect, confuse the main character?

37. What are their hopes, desires, dreams? What do they want and need?

38. How do they rationalize their moves?

39. How can their stubbornness, hatred, rage, damaged self-esteem, ambition be fueled? What can help them to feel righteous in their actions?

40. Will the audience understand why your characters act as they do?

41. When does the audience get to know your characters’ particular intentions, desires, hopes, and fears?

42. How can the next step that your protagonist makes lead to the unexpected result? What’s the miscalculation?

43. What did the counter player do? How did the circumstances change?

44. How can the goal be made more desirable? Who can do that?

45. What can create the hesitations, doubts, or scruples in the character’s mind?

Locations and Events

46. Try to imagine all the places, locations, sites that your character can enter in pursuit of their objective or evasion of the danger. Aren’t there some more interesting situations there? More contradictory?

47. How can the locales make the story and the specific scenes or sequences more dramatic, more complicated and difficult (therefore, more revealing) for the characters?

48. Make a list of possible events that can happen believably and plausibly in your chosen environment and a list of possible events that would be unusual, out of routine, and order. Do you see which ones will work best?


49. What are the emotions, conclusions, and decisions that result from the setback, failure, or complication?

50. What emotions does the insult, mistreat, injustice evolve? What danger, what abyss becomes visible for the viewer that the hero doesn’t see?

51. What are our expectations now? What do we hope for? What do we wish the characters would do? Why can’t they do it?

52. What doesn’t the main character know? What is the error, intentional blunder?

53. Do the antagonists mobilize their forces? Do they set a trap? Do they try to confuse the main character?

54. What are the social reasons for their actions? Do they come with accusations? Direct lies? Do they outwit the main character? How?

55. Does the hero panic? Feel alarmed? Insecure? Horrified from the realization of what could happen?

56. And what happens that helps the protagonist? On the other hand, what can help the antagonist?

57. What characters can act as catalysts that can alter and increase the reactions of the antagonist or protagonist?

58. What character (or characters) can go through a similar plight and find a different solution – compromise, assimilation, rejection etc.?

59. What relationships become threatened, broken up, or suddenly transformed?

60. What consequences of the previous actions can aggravate the situation?


61. What are the places your characters don’t want to go? Are afraid to go? How do you force them there?

62. What is the prevailing mood/tone of the whole story? Does the environment have a face, character, and temperament?

63. Does the time period reflect on the environment? How? What expresses it besides costumes, props, architecture and means of transportation and communication? How does it reflect our human attitudes, habits, customs, social events, rituals, and language?

64. Are the events sufficiently important and impressionable? Do they help to elucidate the life style, engagement, and involvement of your protagonist?

Main Character Growth

65. Does the main hero show naiveté, weakness? Disbelief? Re-evaluate everything?

66. Do your hero regret? Recriminate? Seek conciliation? Reject the original plans?

67. Did you exhaust all the possibilities of self-assurance, shrewdness, and foresightedness that your hero can possess?

68. Did you give your antagonists a chance to show their intelligence, vigilance, and alertness?

69. What precautions do your characters take? Do they look for advice? For help?

70. What new plans do they come up with? How do they acquire new courage? What or who can suggest a new stratagem for them?

71. How does your hero study the adversary? Does your protagonist discover the weakness of the antagonist? Or are they wrong in their assumption? What trap can both sides set?

72. How can they attack each other? How can your hero test the enemy?

73. How does inner turmoil grow in their minds? How does it embitter the antagonism?

Plot Twists

74. What do you feel is the rhythm of the story? Does the tempo of the main action accelerate?

75. What can interrupt, temporarily stop, misdirect, or confuse the growing conflict?

76. Are the chances for the desired resolution and for the despised outcome equal?

77. What is the moment that the viewer becomes ultimately curious about?

78. What does the audience impatiently expect?

79. What doesn’t the audience realize will happen when the moment comes?

80. Is the resolution becoming inevitable? What could reverse the course of the action? Did the hero try all the possible ways and means and find out what they inevitably lead to?

81. What hopes still remain for the main character?

82. What are the most feared confrontations that the protagonist tries – in vain, obviously – to avoid, postpone, deny?

83. What is the most humiliating, painful extremity your hero will experience?

84. What is the moment when your antagonist feels triumphant?

85. How can you increase the adversary’s determination not to give up, not to show any restrain, to fight to the bitter end?

86. How can bad – or good – timing heighten the stakes (too early, too late, speeding up the plans, etc…)?

The End

87. When does the hero realize the inevitability of the outcome? Can an appeal be made to the antagonist’s better nature?

88. Can the fear of shame or disgrace of losing one’s face be used?

89. How did the circumstances change to make the outcome more weighty, impressive, convincing?

90. Does anybody admit the errors?

91. Does anybody plead, beg forgiveness, or confess?

92. Is anybody willing to give up?

93. Is anybody trying to escape?

94. Does anybody feel shame, disgrace, insecurity, betraying one’s most cherished principles?

95. Does anybody feel terror stricken of being exposed?

96. Is there a rescue for any of the adversaries? Is this possible? For what price?

97. Is there a moment when a conscience stricken character realizes the consequences of their actions, sees themselves truly and rightly, and tries to stop the inevitable?

98. What is the last thing the main character finds out about?

99. What does “victory” mean after the whole story is over?

100. How should the viewer/audience feel when the story ends?