why you probably hate Shakespeare

Hello, everybody, and welcome back to Quote, Unquote!

Today I have a controversial topic. Well, it’s not terribly controversial, but in the literary world it can be. In my circles it definitely is.

What’s that topic, you may ask?


I love Shakespeare’s works. It was part of our curriculum last year, and I thought it was going to be awful at first, but I ended up a total Shakespeare fangirl. And I know a lot of people don’t really like Shakespeare or don’t even know how to like Shakespeare, but that’s what I want to fix in this post.

Now, my sister is going to be reading this and immediately rushing to the comments section going “SHAKESPEARE DIDN’T EXIST, AND IF HE DID, HE PROBABLY DIDN’T WRITE HIS PLAYS.” Yes, there is a large group of people who believe that very thing. My sister happens to be one of them. That’s a part of the controversy, but not the part I’m going to be covering today.

So here are some reasons you probably hate Shakespeare, and here are some ways around it.

why you should read Shakespeare

You might be thinking, “Okay, Liesl, you’re right, I do hate Shakespeare. I never liked it, and I don’t see why I should like it.” Why would you want to read Shakespeare if you hated it?

To that, I would encourage you to go back and reread a post I wrote a little while ago titled “four reasons to read the classics“. You can absorb so much from reading old literature. Long-ago language, customs, humor, and ways of life that have been all but forgotten can come alive in classic novels, stories, and plays.

Besides, Shakespeare is just plain fun. It can take a little while to learn how to understand it, but once you’ve picked up the slang that was used back then, you can figure out just how funny and inappropriate (scandalous, I know!) the renowned playwright actually was. I mean, one-liners like “I do desire we may be better strangers” (As You Like It, act 3, scene 2) don’t age. Toss that one out next time your friend is being particularly annoying.

I hope that I have sufficiently convinced you to at least give Shakespeare a chance. Now we’re going to dive into…

why you probably hate it

you never watched it

Shakespeare wrote plays. He did not write novels. And Shakespeare was never meant to be just read–no script was.

Any Shakespeare you have been exposed to has probably been in the form of words on a page. This isn’t the way the playwright intended it. You’re meant to be watching the characters slowly go mad or fall in love or die extremely dramatically.

And, honestly, wouldn’t you much rather be doing that? It’s way more fun (and quite a bit easier) to be able to pick up on what’s going on through the characters’ actions when you don’t understand all the ye olde English.

Also, each production puts their own unique spin on it. No two performances of the same script are going to be exactly the same. Some may even alter the script–my class watched a few performances where they cut out entire scenes to make it flow more smoothly. Every production brings something new to the table.

you were forced to read it

Shakespeare is the staple of every high school English class, most often Romeo and Juliet. And there’s nothing I personally hate more than being forced to read–it seems to suck all the fun out of it for me.

Now, there’s not much either of us can do about having been forced to read it in the past. But what if you wanted to? What if you picked up that copy of Romeo and Juliet or Macbeth from ninth grade English and dusted it off?

Reading (or watching, as we discussed) something that you’ve already read (however grudgingly) has benefits. You’ll at least be familiar with the story, having probably thoroughly dissected it for a grade, even if you don’t remember much. You might even be able to go back and find some old notes, or something that your teacher said might come back to you.

Plus, if you read it for school, chances are many other schools in the country have as well. You can look up example essays, study guides, plot summaries, and so much more. There will be a wealth of knowledge on the more common plays. All you have to do is ask–or Google, rather.

you don’t understand it

I get it. Language has changed a lot since the early seventeenth century. It’s hard to work your way through all of the “by my troth”s and the “prithee”s. You’re reading English, technically speaking, but it doesn’t feel like English.

This is where I’ve stumbled with Shakespeare versus a lot of other old texts. Last year I read Beowulf for school, and even though it was ancient, I could understand it because it had been translated into modern English. With Shakespeare, it’s already in English, so there’s no need for it to be translated, and English speakers can read them in their original forms–which is extremely difficult for anyone who doesn’t understand 1600s-speak.

There are tools to get around this. SparkNotes has something called No Fear Shakespeare where you can read the original text side-by-side with modern English. They’re available in print format–you might be able to find a few at your library–or you can pay for a membership to read it online. Or, if you’re cheap like me, you could find a free alternative like Shakescleare by LitCharts. This one is only available online, but it’s helpfully color-coded and quite easy to understand. It definitely takes a lot of the effort out of reading Shakespeare.

you never discussed it with anyone

I can confirm that watching and studying old, seemingly boring plays gets a lot more fun when you’re having heated debates about them. I often found myself defending my opinion about why Hamlet didn’t really love Ophelia quite…passionately in class. Our Shakespeare discussions were probably one of my favorite things about my junior year.

Find a play to watch with a few friends, and then have a discussion. Pick something controversial. A lot of Shakespeare is still relevant today–it’s pretty easy to tie in current events to the plotlines of this play or that one. I guarantee you that Shakespeare will be more fun when you’re arguing with your friends about the dumb things that Shakespeare characters did.

final thoughts

I hope that by now you’ve been persuaded to give Shakespeare a chance (or a second chance). If you need a springboard to get back into his plays, here’s a good article outlining the best plays for beginners.

And I can’t just leave without linking my absolute favorite performance of Shakespeare: Hamlet by Bob Jones University. Hamlet is my favorite play, and this performance absolutely does it justice. Give it a go, if you’re so inclined.

And with that, I shall exit, hopefully not pursued by a bear. Do you enjoy Shakespeare? Why or why not? Let me know.

Thank you so much for reading, and I will see you next Wednesday!


reading booktok books so you don’t have to

Hello, everybody, and welcome back to Quote, Unquote!

If you’re on the reading side of TikTok, Instagram, or even Pinterest, there are likely a few books that you just can’t stop being recommended. Those ones where it seems like everybody’s read them, and for some reason they all decided to make videos recommending them to you.

Well, recently I sat down and made a list of the most popular ones. And then I read them. Was it a mistake? Maybe.

In any case, here I am reviewing them from a Christian perspective with content warnings so you can decide for yourself whether you want to try them or not.

A quick warning before we begin: While I try to keep my book reviews on this blog spoiler-free, a few of the books in this post will have to have spoilers for the sake of content warnings. They will generally be broad, but if you want to be surprised, this is your last chance to click away.

At the end of each review, as well, I will be giving my opinion on whether you should read the book. This is only my opinion, based on what I personally feel comfortable reading. You might not be okay with reading a book with certain content, and that’s all right. Don’t feel like you have to read something just because I thought it was okay.

Are you ready? Then let’s jump in!

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson


The case is closed. Five years ago, schoolgirl Andie Bell was murdered by Sal Singh. The police know he did it. Everyone in town knows he did it.

But having grown up in the same small town that was consumed by the murder, Pippa Fitz-Amobi isn’t so sure. When she chooses the case as the topic for her final year project, she starts to uncover secrets that someone in town desperately wants to stay hidden. And if the real killer is still out there, how far will they go to keep Pip from the truth?

content/trigger warnings

This book has quite an extensive list, including but not limited to detailed discussions of rape, drugs, self-harm, and suicide. Racism is prevalent. At least one side character is a drug dealer. One side character is a lesbian. Underage drinking. Fairly strong language, but it’s not common.

should I read it?

Yes–if you’re not easily grossed out. The plot was engaging and drew me through the book–I could barely put it down. It was full of unexpected twists and turns that kept me on my toes, and I loved the characters. If you’re a fan of thrillers and mysteries, check this one out.

The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes


Avery Grambs has a plan for a better future: survive high school, win a scholarship, and get out. But her fortunes change in an instant when billionaire Tobias Hawthorne dies and leaves Avery virtually his entire fortune. The catch? Avery has no idea why — or even who Tobias Hawthorne is.

To receive her inheritance, Avery must move into sprawling, secret passage-filled Hawthorne House, where every room bears the old man’s touch — and his love of puzzles, riddles, and codes. Unfortunately for Avery, Hawthorne House is also occupied by the family that Tobias Hawthorne just dispossessed. This includes the four Hawthorne grandsons: dangerous, magnetic, brilliant boys who grew up with every expectation that one day, they would inherit billions. Heir apparent Grayson Hawthorne is convinced that Avery must be a conwoman, and he’s determined to take her down. His brother, Jameson, views her as their grandfather’s last hurrah: a twisted riddle, a puzzle to be solved. Caught in a world of wealth and privilege, with danger around every turn, Avery will have to play the game herself just to survive.

content/trigger warnings

A side character is in an emotionally and physically abusive relationship. Gun violence, murder, and attempted murder. A small amount of mild language, including the use of similar-sounding words. One side character who openly identifies as bisexual, and one side character who is sapphic. Alcohol use.

should I read it?

I read this book in one sitting. (Actually, that’s not true–I got up in the middle of it to eat some jelly beans.) The story was engaging and full of twists and turns that kept me on my toes. However, the writing was less than stellar. Given both of these factors, I would say a tentative yes, you should read it. (If you do, note that it is the first in a trilogy. I made that mistake and didn’t check out the other two from the library–and then suffered dearly for it.)

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamine Alire Sáenz


Dante can swim. Ari can’t. Dante is articulate and self-assured. Ari has a hard time with words and suffers from self-doubt. Dante gets lost in poetry and art. Ari gets lost in thoughts of his older brother who is in prison. Dante is fair skinned. Ari’s features are much darker. It seems that a boy like Dante, with his open and unique perspective on life, would be the last person to break down the walls that Ari has built around himself.

But against all odds, when Ari and Dante meet, they develop a special bond that will teach them the most important truths of their lives, and help define the people they want to be. But there are big hurdles in their way, and only by believing in each other―and the power of their friendship―can Ari and Dante emerge stronger on the other side.

content/trigger warnings

Alcohol use. A car accident resulting in broken bones. The main characters end up in a gay relationship, and homophobia and AIDS are frequently discussed. A side character has PTSD. A side character committed a transphobic hate crime in the past.

should I read it?

I personally loved this book. It was highly philosophical, with lots of deep thoughts about life and the world. The main characters’ friendship was so real and raw. I would say that yes, you should read this book, but only if you’re all right with discussions of gay issues.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart


A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from New York Times bestselling author, National Book Award finalist, and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart.

Read it.

And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.

content/trigger warnings

Arson, disassociation, grief, and racism. Alcohol use and abuse. The main character has implied sexual intercourse.

should I read it?

This book is…poetic, but almost in a bad way. The writing style could be kind of info dump-y and pretentious, and sometimes it was hard to know what was going on. There was a great deal of entitlement. I liked it well enough, but I would say that if contemporary isn’t already your thing, you probably wouldn’t enjoy it.

final thoughts

These books aren’t for everyone, that’s for sure. But for you guys I will suffer through them. I may do another one of these in the future–I’ve got a whole list to work through. In the meantime, let me know–what do you think? Have you read any of these? Have I changed your mind about reading any of them now?

Thank you so much for reading, and I’ll see you next Wednesday!

new blog on the block: an interview with Natasha Joy

Hello, everybody, and welcome back to Quote, Unquote!

You may remember that just a few weeks ago I posted an interview with my friend Mia about her new blog. Well, it seems to be new blog season, because I’m back with another one!

This time it’s my friend and mentee Tasha with her very own brand-new blog. She was kind enough to join me for an interview today, so let’s jump right in!

Natasha Joy is a 17 year old fantasy and dystopian writer with a passion for creating stories that are inspired by and bring glory to Yahweh. In her spare time, you can find Tasha reading, going for walks, experimenting with photography, and memorizing scripture for Bible quizzing. She loves the beauty of nature…from ladybugs to towering pine trees. Keep in touch with her and learn more about her writing at her blog joyfullynatasha.com and her Instagram @natashajoywriter.

introduce yourself–who is Tasha?

I’m a bookworm, coffee addict, photographer, introverted writer, and most importantly a Christian. I’m the second oldest of eight kids and spend a lot of my time procrastinating school, writing, photography, and everything else I love XP. You can usually find me taking walks or rereading my favourite books which include anything written by Sara Ella and Nadine Brandes as well as The Hunger Games, Vivid by Ashley Bustamante, and The Reflections by EK Seaver.

how long have you been writing? what do you usually write?

I’ve been writing since I was really little but I’ve only been writing seriously for about 2-3 years. I primarily write fantasy and fairytale retellings!

what’s your blog’s name? what is its mission statement?

My blog’s name is Joyfully Natasha. I never even thought about my mission statement before so this is gonna be rough XP. My goal is to have a blog that can be an encouragement to other creatives and Christians and give them a site they know they can read without worrying about inappropriate content. I want to serve my readers in everything I post, but most of all I want to bring glory to Yahweh.

what can your audience expect from Joyfully Natasha?

They can expect one post a week on writing, photography, Christian living, or anything else I want to post. 

what motivation or inspiration was behind starting this blog?

There were a couple things. First, I missed blogging. I’d been blogging for the past three years and I realized I didn’t want to stop. Second, as a writer, it’s important for me to have a growing platform. I guess my motivation would just kinda be what I said…my love of blogging and the need of a growing platform XP

how are you feeling about your new blog?

I’m really excited to start blogging but nervous that life is gonna get crazy and I’m not going to have time to post lol.

how can your audience best support Joyfully Natasha?

Well, there’s the obvious way of subscribing but then also commenting on posts. I’m not always the best at this but if you’re a blogger, you know there’s no better feeling than getting to interact with your followers in the comment section 🙂

where else can we find you on the Internet?

You can find me on Instagram at @natashajoywriter

That’s all for today! You can find Tasha’s blog here:

I’m excited for Tasha, and I hope you are too! And a great big thank you to her for joining me here this week.

Thank you so much for reading, and I’ll see you next Wednesday!

yet another goodbye

Around this time last week, I was heading to my very last day of school. I had a cake in the front seat that I was trying desperately to keep steady on the twisty-turny roads, “Out of the Woods” by Taylor Swift blasting out of the speakers, and a heart that felt weighed down. I knew that at the end of the day I’d be leaving for the last time.

For the past eleven years of my life, I’ve been homeschooled with a program called Classical Conversations. It’s all I’ve ever known, and I’ve loved–well, maybe not every single second, but most of them. CC has made me what I am. It’s shaped me and my worldviews and my perspectives and my tastes. It’s an enormous part of me.

I spent eight years at one campus close to me. The last three–in fact, all of my high school years–have been spent at one farther away. It’s been a wild ride.

For most of my ninth grade year, I thought my classmates hated me. In tenth grade I came to know that that wasn’t true. In eleventh, I wondered how I ever thought it was. In twelfth, I’m not sure what I’ll think of them.

All my life, I looked forward to graduating from CC–completing the looming, incomprehensible threat of Challenge IV (as it is called) and proudly calling myself a CC graduate.

But God has other plans. Because I’m not going back.

Leaving on Wednesday was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I gave my hugs and said my goodbyes and walked out of that church for one final time. And as I sat there in my car, getting ready to leave, it hit me that this was it. This was when my life was changing.

Isn’t it funny how life changes? Every day, you make decisions. Little ones, usually. What will I eat for breakfast? How will I spend my time today? Should I text him?

And then, sometimes, there’s the big ones. Should I have kids? Should I move? Should I say yes?

Every time you make a new decision, your life shifts. Changes permanently. You can never unmake that decision. Whether you had waffles or cereal for breakfast is now something that has completely altered the course of your life. And the bigger decisions…well. You can imagine how your life changes with those.

This was one of those big-decision moments. For eleven years, I’ve been doing more or less the same thing. Sure, there were variances on a yearly, semesterly, and weekly basis, but it was much the same. 294 weeks of my life (give or take) have been spent in this pattern. See your friends. Go home. Complain about homework. Write the essays, memorize the speeches, read the books. Wait until you can see your friends again. Repeat and repeat and repeat.

For the first time in my entire homeschooling career, I will be facing something different. Something completely new, uncharted, unmapped.

I’m terrified.

Change is scary. Change has always been, and will always be, scary. But without change, how will you grow?

I’ve said a lot of goodbyes, faced a lot of change over the past year and a half. My opa died–the first grandparent I ever lost. My closest friends moved away. My dad left his longtime job for a new one and was laid off six months later. And now this.

My classmates and I are parting ways. I’ll see them again, and we’ll still be friends, bonded by three years of shared experiences, but it’ll never be quite the same. My academic world is expanding. For better or for worse? I don’t know.

I’m so grateful for these years. Every day in class, every assignment I completed (and even the ones I never started on), every tutor and director I’ve ever had has shaped and molded me into who I am today. Even all the trials, all the tears soaking into my ink-stained paper and the late nights agonizing over memorized speeches and the hours spent staring at the same page wondering what I’m just not getting–I wouldn’t trade those for the world.

I cried as I drove away. I’m crying a little now as I type this. Because this is yet another goodbye. Yet more change. I’m scared and sad and anxious.

But I’m a little elated, too.

What more will the future hold?

ninth grade ~ tenth grade ~ eleventh grade

arrows and disappointment: talking about life

Hello, everybody, and welcome back to Quote, Unquote!

If you didn’t already know, I’m an archer. I’ve been shooting for something like five years now, and only recently did I figure out what was making a huge difference in each shot.

For a long time, my shots have been super inconsistent. I could be aiming at the exact same spot every time and hit points a foot apart from each other on the target. Now, a foot doesn’t sound like a lot normally, but in archery, those twelve inches can make the difference between ten points and none. It was pretty discouraging to be doing the exact same thing over and over again and yet see results shifting wildly–sometimes I’d shoot twenty-five points out of thirty, and sometimes it was ten.

I didn’t know what I was doing wrong. In fact, I thought I was doing everything right, and I was frustrated beyond belief. But then, as I watched my fellow archers, I realized that there was something.

For the longest time, I had been forcing the elbow of my drawing arm down, and it was creating an unnatural stress in my shoulders. And as soon as I brought my elbow back up, my shots immediately improved. Quick as that.

I was stunned. Something as inconsequential as the height of my elbow had been drastically affecting the results of my shooting–for years. Surely it had to be a fluke, right?

But as I watched again and again as my arrows pierced the bulls-eye, my elation and surprise gave way to something else. Something I didn’t expect to be feeling.

I was mad.

If I had figured this out earlier, I could have placed first in the competition last year instead of second. Second was respectable, but I could have easily surpassed it. All this time I thought I had been doing the right thing, and there was something so simple as moving my elbow up just an inch or so that could have fixed it.

That’s how it is sometimes. You’re struggling along, splashing down the stream in your metaphorical canoe, and you discover that there was a paddle in the bottom of your boat all along. You’re shocked and surprised and excited, but there’s always that tinge of I could have been going faster this whole time?!

If you’re feeling this right now, I want you to know that that’s part of being a human. You’re going to discover easier ways to do things than the way you’ve been doing it all your life, and you’re going to be angry, wishing you had known it sooner. I know I was. It’s just a thing that’s going to happen.

The problem here is not that it happens–it’s what you do with it. Feel disappointed. Be upset. Life isn’t fair, and it’s okay to feel that.

But when you start stewing in your frustration, the success that you do have becomes tainted with that. You’re no longer thinking about the thing that you did well–you’re only dwelling on the bad. I talked about this in my last post–how when you focus on the bad, you’re actively blinding yourself to whatever little bit of good there is.

When I’m facing this kind of disappointment, I catch myself doing this a lot. But eventually I’m forced to look at the bright side. In this case, it’s the fact that I am so ready for the archery tournament in a few weeks. I’ve identified my problem area and fixed it, and I’m ready to get out there and win.

The bottom line: Feel the disappointment. Don’t get embroiled in it. There’s a bright side–there always is.

I hope you guys enjoyed this post. It’s a little different than what I normally talk about, but it was a message I felt like I needed to share with the world.

Have you ever faced this? I’d love if you shared your experiences and how you overcame disappointment.

Thank you so much for reading, and I’ll see you next Wednesday!

why you should keep writing your book

Hello, everybody, and welcome back to Quote, Unquote!

This post went up earlier today, but WordPress glitched out and ended up erasing half of it. So here it is once again.

There is one question that always nags at the back of a writer’s mind. It’s the worst possible thing for a writer–a weed that kills motivations and ends stories before they’ve even started.

The question takes many forms, but it essentially boils down to:

“Why am I doing this?”

The time will come when you are writing your story, and the words are coming slowly and your brain feels like it’s slogging through molasses, and you just take back your hands from the keyboard and think, “What’s the point?”

At which point I will physically enter your house, force you to look at me, and tell you that what you are thinking is LIES ALL LIES and pump you up until you have to start clacking away again.

Okay, maybe I won’t actually come to your house. But consider this post your “grabbing by the shoulders” of the writing world. We’re going to go through some things you might be thinking to yourself and debunk them, one by one, until you have no choice but to write the awesomest story this world has ever seen.

no one will like my story

In 2020, I started writing and posting this Minecraft fanfiction on my writer’s workshop. It had no plot, awful dialogue, a confusing storyline–and more fans than any of my other writing has ever had.

I read part of it back recently to remind myself of how far I’ve come, and let me tell you, I cringed the entire time. It was probably the worst thing I’ve ever written. Yet people still love it (and recognize me as “the person who wrote that Minecraft fanfiction that one time”).

Everyone has their own personal likes and dislikes, and no two peoples’ are going to be exactly the same. There are seven billion people on this planet. You cannot tell me that there is no one who will like your story. Somewhere out there, there’s someone who is going to love your WIP so much that they are going to make fanart and write fanfiction and squeal about it on social media. The book that’s sitting in your drafts or in your head right now could be someone’s favorite book.

Someone will love it. I promise you.

I’m never going to finish it, so why bother?

I’m going to tell you a boiling hot take that I don’t see often enough in the writing community.

Your time spent enjoying the creative process is infinitely more valuable than anything you could ever create. I’ve made dozens of little cross-stitches and embroidery projects that I immediately shoved in a drawer and forgot about. The pleasure for me was not in the having, it was in the making.

This goes for anything creative–including writing. Especially writing, I might go so far as to say. Humans were made in the image of God, and what did God do? He created. Creation is one of the essentials of human life. It’s what we were made to do.

I don’t care how much you wrote of that new, exciting WIP. I don’t care if it was half the book or just one chapter. You still carried on that human tradition of just creating, and you took joy in it (I hope). Even if your story never gets finished, you still created. And that’s the important thing.

someone might have done it better than me

There’s something I found on Pinterest a little while ago that I found really inspiring. (I had to censor it a little bit to make it appropriate for my audience, but you’ll get the gist.)

This image pretty much sums it up. What you, as the artist, see as lesser compared to someone else’s art, the audience sees as an absolute win. For them, it’s another fun thing that they get to consume. It’s not better or worse to them, because they aren’t looking at the inside–they’re just happy that there’s more.

Even if someone does do it “better” than you, it won’t matter. Your audience will love it either way.

my writing is terrible

This one fills me with such rage that it’s going to be a struggle to write a few coherent paragraphs about it. Every time someone tells me “My writing is terrible,” I want to pick them up and slam-dunk them into a pit of positivity until they behave. I’m typing at insane speeds right now because of just how angry this phrase makes me.


Please. Please hear this. Your writing is not terrible. Your writing is not terrible. Your writing is not terrible.

This one, I feel like, stems from comparison. You look at talented writers and think, “Man, I could never write a metaphor like Markus Zusak. I could never weave together storylines like Jodi Picoult. I could never come up with a world that sticks with generations to come like J. K. Rowling.” And then, because you’re focused on the “can’t”s, you miss the “can”s.

When you say, “I can’t write metaphors,” you’re missing the way your dialogue flows so smoothly. When you say, “I can’t create coherent and seamless storylines,” you’re not focusing on the way your characters feel so human. When you say, “I can’t worldbuild well,” you’re ignoring how your action scenes grip your readers with suspense.

It all boils down to strengths and weaknesses. Maybe you feel like you can’t write a metaphor like Markus Zusak. But I bet Markus Zusak couldn’t come up with something that you have.

Every writer struggles with this. It’s natural, it’s normal. It’s just not good. Your writing is not terrible. I promise you.

And if you keep saying that? If you think there’s absolutely no way it can be good? Show me. Show me your writing. And I will confirm this for you: Your writing is beautiful.

Quit comparing and get to work.

final words

I hope that this virtual shaking by the shoulders has somehow encouraged you. And I hope that you’re ready to go out into the world, confident in your abilities as a writer, and slam out someone’s new favorite book.

Thank you so much for reading. I will see you next Wednesday.

the truth about plot and character

Hello, everybody, and welcome back to Quote, Unquote!

A long time ago–like, back when I was using capitals in my titles long ago–I wrote a post titled “Plot- or Character-Driven? Understanding the Difference.” In it, I outlined the differences between plot-driven stories and character-driven stories and how to tell the difference between them.

Now I want to go back to that and tell you to disregard that post. Crumple it up in your mental recall and toss it in the incinerator. Because I was wrong.

I’ve been watching a lot of Abbie Emmons videos recently, and one of the things she stresses a lot is internal conflict. Well, I say “stresses a lot,” but it’s really the main backbone of her channel. She talks about how you need internal conflict to drive the story, and how there’s no plot without characters.

So I have come back to that post nearly two years later to rescind almost everything I said.

I now realize that all stories are character-driven. If you have no characters, you have no story. You have to give the reader something to care about. And more often than not–in fact, almost all the time–that something is a somebody: the characters.

To have a plot, you need characters. The epic journey won’t go on itself. The lost idol won’t find itself. A plot depends on its characters to survive.

But here’s where I messed up last time. Not only do you need characters, you need to show your readers why the plot matters to the characters. It’s all about internal conflict–why should you care about these characters? What do they want, and why can’t they have it? What are they going to learn? And how does all this apply to you, as the reader?

Let’s use my story, Everything We Ever Wanted, as an example. The main characters, Cady and Tessa, are traveling across the country. They’re running away together. They’re encountering all sorts of troubles and running out of money and fighting in a library parking lot in the middle of nowhere. That’s a plot.

But you don’t have a story until you’ve shown the reader why it matters to them.

Cady is traveling because she wants to not be forced into running the family business. Her biggest fear is being stuck in the same place and never getting to follow her dreams. Tessa is traveling because otherwise she would be losing her freedom, which is her biggest fear. They are both acting on their fears and making decisions based off of them.

Do you see what I’m getting at here? The formula goes like this:

plot + internal conflict = story

The plot has to matter to the characters. Then, and only then, do you have a story. If you can pull one specific character out of the story and replace them with another random person without the plot changing drastically, you don’t have a story–you just have a plot.

All of this to say that no story is plot-driven. Every single story needs that internal conflict, the fears and motivations of the characters, behind it. You can have the greatest, most compelling plot ever, but without showing why it matters to your characters, it means nothing.

If you want more on this topic, I would highly recommend Abbie Emmons’ channel. Here’s a good video on misbeliefs to start with. I probably wouldn’t have been able to come to this realization and write this whole post without all of her videos.

Thank you so much for reading. Now go forth, and create strong plots and even stronger characters! I’ll see you next Wednesday.

how to show your readers you care

Hello, everybody, and welcome back to Quote, Unquote!

Not everybody likes to write, I know that. And some people who do like to write don’t quite understand the intricacies of spelling, punctuation, and similar concepts (it took me a long time to get the hang of parentheses, but now…here we are!).

But these things are so vitally important to the presentation of your story that I wanted to dedicate a whole post specifically to them. Today I am here to tell you about how crucial proofreading is in your story.

A quick note before we begin: This post is specifically targeted towards authors who intend to publish independently. Though proofreading is just as important for a traditionally published author, your publishing house will usually supply an editor for you that will take care of proofreading. Indie authors face much more pressure because they do much of the work themselves and may not always hire an editor. So if you want to publish independently, this post is for you!

Let’s jump right in.

errors can pull readers out of the story

I am not terribly detail-oriented, much to my parents’ chagrin. I often miss things that are right in front of my nose in favor of the bigger picture. But there is one exception to this rule, and that is in anything that I read.

Typos, punctuation errors, and especially egregious grammatical errors can pull me out of a book and break the spell faster than you can blink. I don’t know what it is that frustrates me so much about it, but my attention is drawn to the typo and it’s extremely hard to get back into the story afterwards. You could have the greatest, most captivating story in the world, but if each page is filled with errors, I’d put it down immediately.

(This could just be me, of course. You might not be the type to be distracted by errors—in which case, good for you. However, there are people like this out there, and it’s best to respect them by making your manuscript as clean as possible.)

You get fewer typos in traditionally published books because they typically go through rounds and rounds of professional proofreading, but in independently published books errors are far more frequent. I’ve read indie-published books (and I won’t say which ones) that have errors more often than not, and it frustrates me to no end.

Which brings me to my next point:

errors can diminish the readability of the story

It’s no fun to have to try to puzzle out what the author is saying. (Oxford commas are important, people!) By proofreading and making yourself familiar with both basic and advanced grammar rules, your story will be clearer and more readable.

I’m not just talking about line editing, either. There’s a difference between line editing and proofreading, though people often get them confused. Line editing is where you’re going through your manuscript, line by line, and fixing small-scale things to help your story flow better. It’s what beta readers often do. Proofreading is similar to line editing in that you’re going through and looking at the sentences instead of the whole story, but with proofreading you are focusing less on the content of the story and more on how it is presented.

Line editing is just as important as proofreading—both will eventually make your story clearer—but proofreading will make it clean as well as clear.

errors can show a lack of respect for the reader

These two factors—interrupting the flow of the story and making it less clear to read—reveal something serious: that you might not actually care for your reader.

What? you say, outraged. Liesl, of course I care for my reader! I wrote this whole book for them, didn’t I?!

Yes, you did. I think that’s great. But the value of the story is significantly diminished if the reader can’t actually understand it.

By proofreading, you are helping the reader through the story, allowing them to flow through it like a calm boat ride. If your story is full of typos and punctuation errors, or if it’s not formatted in a clean, clear way, it can feel less like a cruise and more like whitewater rafting.

Your job as an author is to give your reader something new, fiction or nonfiction. A new perspective, a new experience, a new concept, a new world—whatever it may be. And since human minds aren’t necessarily always receptive to new ideas, it is also your job to give it to them in a nice, shiny package. Proofreading helps with this. By making sure your writing is as uncluttered as possible, you can prepare your readers’ minds for the new thing you’re about to give them.

errors can make you appear less professional

Now let’s talk about you. So far we’ve discussed how your readers are impacted by errors in your story. How are you impacted by your readers?

Whether your reader realizes it consciously or not, if your book is full of typos, they will recognize that you are not making the best use of their time by forcing them to wade through the mush of unedited writing to get to the actual story. This can lead to them getting frustrated with you, the author, and likely deciding to put the book down.

Now, this already sounds bad—you worked so hard on your story, only to have a hopeful reader get discouraged. But it gets worse, because it can spread. Your reader might tell another potential reader, “The story was great, but the writing was bad, and there were too many typos”—and just like that, the potential reader might no longer be a potential reader.

This has happened with me more than once. I have had a friend, knowing how picky I was about grammar, tell me about a really good series that she loved but that had common grammatical errors and typos. I didn’t even have to try to read the book to know that it wasn’t going to work for me. That disappoints me because I know I’m missing out on a great story, but for whatever reason, the author, whether they knew it or not, didn’t respect their readers enough to package it up cleanly.

This is going to sound harsh, but ultimately it boils down to this: Your oversight/decision/whatever it may be to not make sure your story is grammatically correct reflects badly on you.

Also, this doesn’t just apply to stories. This applies to anything you write: articles, blog posts, essays, whatever it may be. Respect your reader and their time by proofreading and cleaning up your writing.

how can I avoid this?

I’m so glad you asked. The very best way is to familiarize yourself with grammar rules and use them. Internalize them. If you need to, find some middle school or high school exercises and practice using the grammar rules that trick you the most.

I highly recommend buying a copy of Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style at your local used bookstore—that book will walk you through most everything you need to know. And if you can’t find something that you’re looking for, there’s always a Google search—Purdue Online Writing Lab (or Purdue OWL) is my go-to site for things like this. Online programs like Grammarly can be good for proofreading, but they don’t catch everything, and they don’t read like a human would, so I would use it sparingly.

The next best way is to get someone else to read your writing, preferably someone who you know is good with grammar. This could even be your parents or grandparents, if they know what they’re doing. They can help you point out the small issues that you might have missed and teach you how to fix them. Better yet, if you have the money, hire a professional editor. They’ve been trained in this very thing.

If you don’t have someone else who can read your writing for you, you can do it yourself. Just follow the age-old rule of stepping back from your writing for at least a few days before attempting editing so you can look at it with fresh eyes, or put it in a different style of formatting to trick your brain into thinking it’s different.

I wanted to make one last thing clear: If you forget a comma now and then, or you don’t put an apostrophe where you’re supposed to, it’s really not a big deal. In this post, I’m mainly talking about writing where there’s a typo every other sentence. It’s rare, but it happens. Small grammar issues aren’t the problem here—lots of small grammar issues are.

Writer, if you have a hard time with grammar, don’t get discouraged. Lots of people struggle with it. It takes practice and patience to learn how to wrangle the English language. If you really want to learn—and if you’re reading this post, I assume you do—you’ll put the time and effort in and pick it up in no time.

So go forth with your new knowledge, but don’t use it to correct your friends when they make a tiny grammar mistake. You don’t want to be that person.

Thank you so much for reading, and I’ll see you next Wednesday!

the trope tag

Hello, everybody, and welcome back to Quote, Unquote!

I’m back with yet another blog tag today–a battle of the tropes. This one was created by Kenzie @ Featherwick Press, but I found it on the lovely Christine Smith’s blog. In this tag, all of our favorite tropes are pitted against each other in pairs to determine the Ultimate Winner.

But without further ado…let’s jump right in. And don’t be too horrified at my answers.

the chosen one vs. the mentor

Lots of classic books, mostly fantasy, have “chosen ones”. Think Harry Potter. While I appreciate the occasional necessity of this trope, it’s too often overdone. I’m tired of sixteen-year-old blonde-haired, blue-eyed MackKayLeigh being the only one that can save Dystopian Society #1156.

But the mentor? Yes. As long as they’re not problematic (I’m wondering how I ever liked Dumbledore in the first place), give me a good mentor any day. Old or young, grizzled or beautiful, give me a character to knock the protagonist back to their senses and gift the world with the top liked book quote on Goodreads.

The Mentor wins this round!

enemies to lovers vs. friends to lovers

I always found the enemies to lovers thing slightly…off. Maybe it’s my trust issues, but how do you know that they actually love you and aren’t just using you? I suppose that is one of the challenges most characters in this trope face. That on top of the inevitable betrayal I can see coming from a mile away discourages me from the beginning.

The one caveat to this is academic rivals to lovers, which can be done really well and I enjoy in certain settings. But the normal fantasy enemies to lovers is a no for me.

But friends to lovers. Ohhhh. Friends to lovers, man. Especially childhood friends to lovers? I squeal like a little kid every single time. Even when I know it’s coming, it delights me. Like, when they have inside jokes already but now they’re sappy? And they know everything about each other already? I CANNOT. I will simply CEASE TO EXIST. Every time something cute happens, I have to sit there and make dying pig noises before I can continue reading.

I think that this is the most fangirl-y I’ve ever gotten on this blog. If you didn’t know already, I’m a sucker for romance. Stuff like this makes me so happy.

Friends to Lovers wins this round by a mile!

matchmaker gone wrong vs. love potion

Given the fact that I don’t read much fantasy, I haven’t actually read a book with a love potion in it before. But the idea of manufactured love (or infatuation) is kind of iffy to me. I’m sure it could be done well, but I don’t know how comfortable I am with the idea of that.

I’ve never read a book with a matchmaker gone wrong trope either, but I have watched Shakespeare’s Much Ado about Nothing and oh boy do I have opinions. These two hated each other with a passion at the beginning of the play, but by the end of the play they’re suddenly in love? How does this work? It’s not even real love! Their friends just set them up!

I genuinely can’t decide between these two. I think that they’re both equally bad, but I’m going to say that Matchmaker Gone Wrong wins this round by default, given that it’s the only one that I’ve actually read.

trapped in an elevator vs. working with an ex

Again, I haven’t read either of these in depth, though I understand that they’re both common tropes in fanfiction. I’m going to answer this question from a writer’s perspective rather than a reader’s perspective.

I think that the “trapped in an elevator” trope has a lot of potential, especially as a major plot point like the climax. Or trapped in any small, enclosed space together, really. This trope works so well as a setup for something like a confession (of love, perhaps?). Even if they’re not lovers, the idea of two characters putting aside their differences for the sake of the common good is something I enjoy.

But working with an ex? The drama. The sheer pettiness. If there’s some good banter, I’ll take it every time. This trope doesn’t necessarily have to end in getting back together for it to be good, either (though when it’s done well, I enjoy that too). It could make for some uncomfortable yet hilarious situations. As long as it’s not too uncomfortable–secondhand embarrassment is real, y’all.

It’s a close call, but Working with an Ex wins this round!

mistaken identity vs. marriage pact

The first thing I think of when I hear “mistaken identity” is The Parent Trap. Romance isn’t the only application for this trope. I think it has a lot of potential, but sometimes it’s infuriating. Like, she (or he) is right there in front of you! Open your eyes, you doofus!

Whereas a marriage pact often fits neatly into the friends to lovers trope, and I’ve already squealed about how much I love that one. I read a true story about a marriage pact once, and it was so sweet. I think that when done right and when the characters actually love each other, the marriage pact can be really sweet and good.

So Marriage Pact wins this round!

kidnapped vs. the one that got away

Kidnapping brings to mind…questionable ethics. Sometimes it’s a “good” kidnapping, like stealing someone away in the middle of the night to go on an epic adventure or rescuing a child from an abusive family. But when it’s, like, a potential love interest? Not a fan. I think that for kidnapping, it depends on the situation.

Versus the one that got away. I’m not sure how I feel about this one. I think that it can be a good setup for all kinds of drama and wondering and pining and angst, which can do very well keeping me on the edge of my seat. I’m reminded of They Both Die at the End, except they both got away, so I’m not sure if that counts.

It’s tough, but I think The One That Got Away wins this round!

final thoughts

I want to say one last thank-you to Kenzie for the tag and to Christine for bringing it to my attention! And, of course, to you, my dear readers. Once again, thank you so much for reading.

What did you think about my answers? What would you have answered differently? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Until next Wendesday!