Saturday, December 15, 2018

TIPS FOR WRITING BITTERSWEET ENDINGS // at least... how i wrote one!

I've never been comfortable sharing writing tips here on the blog, which is why I tend not to post writing advice articles. For one thing, whenever I try to write writing-advice posts, I usually feel like a very amateur writer who doesn't know what she's talking about. And for another, I read a lot of blogs/websites whose primary focus is giving writing advice, and I don't want to end up unintentionally paraphrasing their epic words of wisdom. Especially if I don't have a whole lot of experience on the topic.

I hate being uncertain about these things. :P

Today, though, I have something to say. Advice I haven't seen before. A topic I have some experience with. And I couldn't say I'm completely certain about any of it, but then again, since when is anything about writing set-in-stone? The realm of storytelling is a vast ocean full of possibilities. Its flexibility is part of what makes it so fun, and so beautiful. <3

But I digress. Today we're going to talk about bittersweet endings. Why do I love them even though they're painful? And how does one write a bittersweet ending effectively? I haven't written a LOT of bittersweet endings - story conclusions that are a mix of happy and sad - but I've written one or two. So... I'm kind of wingin' it here, but not totally. :D

Why I Love Bittersweet Endings:

1) They're realistic. As a Christian, I know I'm going to ultimately have a sweet ending (and by ending I of course mean eternal ending, as paradoxical as it sounds). But temporally speaking, there's always going to be SOMETHING unpleasant, stressful, or downright painful going on in our lives, whether we're talking a pinprick or a tsunami. Most books, I'd say, end with at least a pinch of bitter along with the buckets of sweet. What I'm referring to by "bittersweet ending" in this post, however, is a more even division of the satisfactory and the sad. Like Allegiant, for example. (though maybe not quite so brutal as that, idk.)

2) They do things to your heart. Done right - and the rest of the book done right - bittersweet endings will TORTURE A READER'S FEELS. Something about that fascinating blend of satisfying and heartbreaking messes with us. And the realisticness of it only adds to the intensity of the feels punch, while at the same time solidifies once and for all our undying love for the book.

3) They're memorable. Ties in with #2. A bittersweet ending sticks with us more than a sweet ending does.

No one's going to forget the end of Allegiant.

White Sketch Pad Beside Cup of Coffee


Now that we've established why bittersweet endings are FTW, and briefly what I even mean by "bittersweet," the most important question now is, How does one write a bittersweet ending effectively?

Here are some things I think are important to keep in mind.

Tips for Writing Bittersweet Endings:

1) Make sure the bitter part of your ending is important to the story. Don't kill a beloved character simply for the sake of being able to say your story has a feelsie ending. If the bitter (sad, heartbreaking, etc.) part of the ending is thrown in with no relation to the main plot, doesn't have an equal or near-equal impact on the characters as the sweet part, or hasn't been foreshadowed/built upon throughout the story, then it's probably going to feel like it doesn't fit quite right. Which probably means that it doesn't fit right. Which probably means that your bittersweet ending is not effective.

By all means, lay on the bitter! Shatter my heart and squish my soul! But you've gotta make sure that feelsie ending is important. Make sure it fits.

2) Make sure the story has closure. Unsatisfactory ≠ bittersweet. Unless your story is the beginning or middle of a series, make sure you tie up all the loose ends. And whether there's a next book on the way or not, be sure the main storyline is resolved and complete. It's important to tie the plot together with its proper bow, because the sense of satisfaction it brings is what puts the sweet in bittersweet. 100% bitter will just leave a bad taste in the reader's mouth.

Don't leave me hanging. Instead...

3) Leave me with an ache in my heart but also with a smidgeon of hope. I don't care what horrible thing you did to your character(s) to put the bitter in bittersweet. By the very last page, I need a sliver of hope in regards to that horrible thing. I need at least a half-promise of healing and restoration, however small or gradual, to accompany the satisfaction of a well wrapped-up storyline and to tap the brakes on my broken heart.

The last thing you want is to leave your reader with a feeling of hopelessness. Leave them with tears in their eyes. Leave them soaked in feels. But please, don't forget to squeeze on a drop of hope that even after that terrible thing, maybe whoever or whatever was affected by that terrible thing will be okay.

Cappuccino Coffee Beside the Notebook

Examples of Books With Bittersweet Endings:

1) Allegiant by Veronica Roth (will never recover)
2) Scorpia Rising by Anthony Horowitz (sooooo well-done *sobbing*)
3) North! Or Be Eaten by Andrew Peterson (a little different because it's in the middle of a series, but it still fits the bill)
4) Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin (wouldn't recommend this one, but it CERTAINLY fits the bill)
5) Hope Was Here by Joan Bauer (eeeeeep <3)
6) Chasing Jupiter by Rachel Coker (I hope I'm remembering this one's ending correctly...)
7) Messenger by Lois Lowry (#ShatteredHeart #SquishedSoul)


So that's my two cents on bittersweet endings - the most realistic, most feelsie, most memorable story conclusions. So heartbreaking yet wrapped up so nicely. Sad yet satisfying.

Now comment down below with your opinion on bittersweet story conclusions! Do you love them? Hate them? What are some of your favorite/least favorite books that end bittersweetly? I would love to hear all your thoughts! <3

The Lord's Truly,

Saturday, December 8, 2018

3 BOOKS GOD USED TO INSPIRE ME // that may inspire you!

God uses so many things to inspire us. His Word, definitely. Other believers, for sure. Music, absolutely. And, hmmm... What else? BOOKS, OF COURSE.

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It's always super special when I feel God's encouragement, His comfort, His very presence in a book I'm reading. <3

My two topmost pieces of advice for experiencing this are 1) Be in tune with God! Make sure your relationship with Him is priority in your life and that you're communing with Him in the Word. After all, if you aren't hearing from Him in His own Book, what are the chances of hearing from Him elsewhere? And 2) Step away from secular books for a moment and read! Christian! Books! I'm not talking about those popular "Christian" romances, obviously. Noooo, what I mean is delving into a search for the real gems. Goodreads, Amazon, Google in general, friends and family. There are SO many resources!

Oftentimes, though, Spirit-inspired books don't have to be hunted for. For me, they tend to plop into my unsuspecting lap almost out of the blue. The three books I'm going to be talking about in this post - three of the many stories God has used to inspire me - came from three different sources not the result of intense search: a casual library find, a Christmas present, and an advanced reader/blog tour opportunity.

Let me tell you about my experiences with these books.


Image result for the door within wayne thomas batson

First, the casual library discovery. I honestly don't remember how I heard about The Door Within by Wayne Thomas Batson. What I do remember is that it was around Christmastime (like now! *turns up Christmas music*) in 2016. It had to have been 2016 because my mission trip to Honduras was coming up fast, and this mission trip was a BIG deal to me. (Reading this book was only part of the spiritual prep God led me through. XD)

The Door Within is about a boy living an ordinary life until he discovers an important object (I think it was some kind of scroll??) and ends up entering a different world, where he is challenged beyond anything he could have imagined. When he thought he would fall, he was given the strength to continue. When he pressed on even through darkness, he saw and experienced marvelous things. I don't even remember most of the book, it's been so long. Only the vaguest outline of it.

What struck me in the heart about this book was that this boy (I think his name was Aiden...?) and I were on a parallel journey! Both of us had been transported by our King into new territory, where things were so different from what we were used to. I hadn't gone to Honduras yet, but 1) I would soon, and 2) God had taken me to a brand-new place in my relationship with Him as well, almost like a breathtaking new world. As I followed this ordinary, flawed, so very HUMAN protagonist through his up-and-down, faith-testing adventure, I related soooo hard and drew such inspiration from it.

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It didn't have an original fantasy plot, and the writing may have been on the juvenile side, but the story holds a VERY special place in my heart nonetheless. And the Christian allegory behind it may not have been subtle, but I actually loved it for that. It's what I needed at the time.


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Next up is the Christmas present. I hadn't put this book on my wish list - hadn't even heard of it - but I'm so glad I got Hidden Blessings by Kim Cash Tate because it turned out to be beautifully, heart-breakingly inspiring. A spring 2017 read of mine, I believe. :))

This story is an adult Christian contemporary about a woman living the dream, until her life is turned UPSIDE DOWN by a diagnosis of inflammatory breast cancer. Her fiancé backs out of their engagement even though their wedding was right around the corner, leaving her virtually alone and utterly broken.

Again, it's been a hot minute since I read this, but I can't say much even out of what I remember. It inspired me to find the warm light of joy even in the bitter cold, to reach for the already out-stretched hand of God even when everything seems to be going wrong. It inspired me with the reminder that God is here, and God is working, no matter what.

What also made this book so special was the new perspective it gave me. Stepping into the shoes of a main character whose main antagonist is cancer was a valuable, insightful experience. Reading it felt important, rather than just entertaining.

I give away nothing, but... I almost cried, okay??? There was something so raw and real, so brutal yet beautiful, about this story. And the title captures the theme SO WELL. <3


Image result for dagger's sleep tricia mingerink

And finally... the advanced reader/blog tour opportunity. This one is the most recent, a read of mine from earlier this year (which is over in less than a month, wut)!The blog tour post, including my review of Dagger's Sleep by Tricia Mingerink, is linked HERE if you're interested.

This book is about a prince and a princess. Now, that may not sound like anything special, but I promise you, this prince has a character arc that BLEW MY MIND, whereas this princess broke out of the mold so many YA princesses are crammed into it. It's gorgeously written, and it combines two of my favorite types of books: 1) fairy tale retelling, and 2) Christian allegory. You know how Chronicles of Narnia has probably THE most epic allegory of them all? Well, it may have been waaaaay too many years since I read Narnia, but I'll venture to say that Dagger's Sleep comes close. At least to me personally.

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What made the allegory aspect so epic wasn't any originality or clever subtlety of Christian symbolism. What made it so epic was how it made me feel. There's one scene in particular that was basically God reminding me that nothing can take my breath away like He can. That He is omni-beautiful (I hereby dub it a word). That He deserves all praise and respect and reverence. That He is everything.

That, simply, is how God used Dagger's Sleep to inspire me.


Well, friends, I'll wrap up this post with a word of encouragement: If your reading life has been feeling sort of dry lately, maybe pick up a Jesus book. There are so many secular books I love, SO many I want and plan to read, but I think it's important to read Christian books too (Christian books that don't just have the label but are truly Jesus stories <3). They're the real gems, refreshing the heart and soul because they are SPIRIT-INSPIRED.

So pick up a Jesus-inspired story. Jesus wants to inspire you.

The Lord's Truly,

All right, friends, I wanna know... What's a book God has used to inspire you?? And have you read any of the books in this post? (IF NOT, YOU SHOULD. THEY'RE LOVELY. <3) What are you thoughts on secular book intake vs. Christian book intake? I'm DYING to chat with you in the comments!