11 Scary Stories To Read This October

Spooky Season is finally upon us!

For this season’s edition of My Favorite Things, I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite scary stories. This list is dedicated to short fiction–since I’m sure you can easily find dozens if not hundreds of scary novel recommendations out there. The titles on this list were handpicked by yours truly and whittled down to only the eeriest, scariest stories I know of. And, for your convenience, I’ve included a “spookiness rating” to separate the eerie from the scary and the scary from the down-right nightmarish.

I hope you enjoy these as much as I do.

Happy (and haunted) reading!

Yours always,

Miss Breathing

Harry by Rosemary Timperley
Rating: scary

There’s a reason I included two Timperley stories in this list: she’s that good. “Harry” is a beautifully written story about a mother’s growing weariness toward her young daughter’s imaginary friend Harry. Timpereley’s makes great use of literary language in this story. Intrigue is built and maintained so well that reaching the story’s climax feels at once dreadful and inevitable.

This one’s not for the faint of heart, though. I’d recommend you skip it if malevolent spirits and creepy kids aren’t your thing.

Control Negro by Jocelyn Nicole Johnson
Rating: chilling, but not at all scary

Strictly speaking, this is not a horror story; but, it’s haunting nonetheless. This story is written in the form of a letter from father to son. As the story unravels, we learn that this letter is an apology. I don’t want to give too much away, but I urge you to read this one.

If you like your spooks in the vein of Jordan Peele, full of cerebral social commentary, this one is for you! There are no ghosts or demons anywhere in it, but this is one of those stories you won’t be able to shake.

In the Tube by E.F. Benson
Rating: very scary

Making use of a conversation between friends as a framing device, this story details a man’s ghostly encounters in the London Tube. The descriptions of the paranormal are superb–eerie and believable and at times downright terrifying. (I could write an entire essay on why the supernatural elements work so well here).

While certainly not a perfect story (Benson falls repeatedly into the “too much telling, not enough showing” trap), I highly recommend this one if you’re looking for something haunting and full of rich imagery. Just don’t blame me for your nightmares!

The Lottery by Shirley Jackson
Rating: bone-chilling and eerie as hell, but not scary

This is another one of those genre-defying stories that, although free of any supernatural elements, shocks and rattles readers to our cores. A haunting exploration of mob-mentality, this story takes place on the day of a small village’s annual lottery. Shirley Jackson remains unrivaled in her ability to so elegantly and seamlessly establish a tone of horror within descriptions of the mundane. This is the type of story one could read over and over.

Eight Bites by Carmen Maria Machado
Rating: chilling and just a little bit spooky

Like most of Machado’s works, this is social commentary at its core. Set in a futuristic but recognizable universe, the story focuses on a woman’s decision to undergo a surgery that will prohibit her from eating more than eight bites of any food. Machado’s poetic style of prose is one of a kind, albeit at times pretentious. This story is richly imagined and just the right amount of spooky.

Content Warning: This story could be triggering to anyone with a history of eating disorders.

The Sweeper by A.M. Burrage (Ex-Private X)
Rating: scary

In this story, the young new employee at a wealthy old woman’s estate becomes increasingly frightened by the mysterious sweeper who sweeps the yard late into the night. The writing in this one is a tad embellished, and the story runs a bit long, but it is oh-so-scary. This story has the single best (and spookiest) description of a ghost I have ever read. If you’re here for spooks, this one’s for you!

This is easily one of my favorite stories by one of my favorite writers, and I simply cannot recommend it enough. I promise you will never forget this one!

The Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Allan Poe
Rating: spooky

I had to limit myself to only one Poe because otherwise, this would have just been a list of his stories. I can’t imagine there is anything I could say about this one that has not already been said, but I love it so. This story starts with a man luring another down into the catacombs under the pretext of showing him some wine. Unsurprisingly, things get very spooky.

This story is a testament to the darkness of Poe’s imagination and a brilliant exploration of evil. No ghosts or demons in this one either, just very evil men.

Christmas Meeting by Rosemary Timperley
Rating: spooky

This story details a curious encounter between two lonely souls on Christmas day. Approximately three pages long, it is the perfect length for a quick read that’ll haunt you for days. Timperley packs in a surprising amount of spooks and twists into this one, making it the perfect October read.

The Husband Stitch by Carmen Maria Machado
Rating: eerie but not scary

At an author reading at the Harvard Bookstore, Machado referred to this story as her “hit single.” This dark and twisty retelling of “The Green Ribbon” enamored critics with its feminist overtones. Machado carefully balances all the creepy elements of the original story with more modern spooks surrounding femininity and marriage and sex. While it runs a bit long, I promise you will never be able to shake that last, haunting image.

Content Warning: This story contains graphic depictions of sex and some gore.

The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell
Rating: eerie and thrilling, but not spooky

If you’re looking for an atmospheric and twisty read, minus all the creepy crawlies that typically come attached, this one is for you! The Most Dangerous Mind is the story of a castaway who, following a shipwreck, finds himself alone in a wealthy and mysterious gentleman’s private island.

I first read this one back in middle school, and it stuck with me for years and years. Revisiting it in adulthood, I was pleased to find that the story holds up as one of the eeriest I’ve ever come across. Plus, the Zodiac Killer quoted this in his infamous letters to the police, so it doesn’t get any spookier than that.

The Hitch-Hiker by Lucille Fletcher
Rating: very spooky

This was technically written as a radio play, and it is, therefore, a bit more dialogue-heavy than your typical ghost story. Luckily, transcripts are easy to come by, and I highly recommend it for fans of classic ghost stories. It follows a man on a cross-country road trip as he tries to make sense of the unsettling hitchhiker he inexplicably keeps seeing throughout his trip. This story goes seamlessly from atmospheric to oppressive so that, by the last few lines, you are quite literally at the edge of your seat.

My Favorite Things: Summer 2019

Shorts have given way to jeans, school buses are back to making morning traffic even more hellish, and supermarkets have started filling their aisles with big bags of candy. Although we’re still a ways away from the Autumnal Equinox, it’s safe to say summer 2019 is already over. As an autumn lover, I’m more than ready for my favorite season to properly begin, but, as I get ready to say goodbye to summer 2019, I feel I should highlight some of the things that brought me joy this summer. 

I’ve decided to start a new tradition here on Miss Breathing. Every month, I’ll try to draw up a short list of some of my favorite nerdy things. These aren’t necessarily new things, just things I’ve been enjoying lately. I want this to be like Oprah’s list, but way nerdier. A way to spread the geekish love. 

So, without further ado, here is my first ever list of favorite things. I hope you enjoy!

Books

Blogging For Writers by Robin Houghton: Books about the internet are a bit of an oxymoron, I’ll admit. They can easily become outdated, and this one is no exception. That being said, I found it extremely useful in the process of starting this blog. Basically, without this book, there would be no Miss Breathing. 

In one of my earlier posts, I spoke more in-depth about my love of rules. I love having guidelines and roadmaps, and I was lost when I decided to start Miss Breathing. Then I found this book while browsing at Barnes & Noble. It is specifically meant to help writers and authors create a space for themselves on the Internet. It touches on everything from the basic technical aspects of starting a blog to what type of content gets the most reads. It’s been a huge help, as evidenced by the millions of sticky notes and highlights on my copy, and I’d recommend it to anyone looking to start a blog of their own. 

Let’s Talk About Love by Claire KannAlice is an asexual college student who, after a nasty breakup, decides to stop trying to find love. But then she meets Takumi, her kind and handsome new coworker, and she has to figure out what it means to be asexual and in love.

Asexuality is seldom discussed (like at all), so it was incredibly refreshing to read a book about a bi-romantic, asexual Black woman trying to figure out romance. This novel doesn’t just skirt around the topic of asexuality. Rather, it explicitly explores asexuality in the context of a crush, which in itself is remarkable because it goes against the erroneous idea that ace people inherently want nothing to do with love or romance. While asexuality is different to every individual ace-spec person, this book is a great introduction to the subject for those looking to know more.

So, while I found the prose a bit stilted and clichéd, I’d be remiss not to include it in my favorite things of the summer. I dog-eared and underlined so many passages. This book is important, and it made the slower moments and imperfect writing style worth it. I don’t just recommend this book—I urge you to read it. Whether or not we personally know an ace-spec person, we all have a lot of learning to do on the subject, and this novel is a great start. Bonus: it’s also a cute story with a happy ending! 

Red White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston: The First Son of the United States and the Prince of England are sworn enemies, but all that changes when they are forced to spend time together and their true feelings begin to come to the surface.

Let’s get real: if this isn’t one of your favorite books of 2019, it’s probably because you haven’t read it yet. What can I say about this exquisite book that hasn’t already been said? It’s steamy, humorous, ambitious, and full of heart. 

I’ll admit I went into this with a good amount of skepticism. The premise seemed so ambitious to me that I wasn’t entirely convinced it could be pulled off. But I couldn’t have been more wrong. McQuiston not only excelled in creating lovable, rounded characters and an alternate reality you’ll want to live in forever. The writing is witty and full of literary insights that make it stand out from other books in the romcom genre. The romance was so touching and well developed and beautiful; I have never been more satisfied with a romantic plotline in my life. I cannot recommend this book enough! It was a delight through and through, and I know it will stay with me forever.

Television

Sex Education (Netflix): The sexually repressed teenage son of a sex therapist and his smart-but-misunderstood classmate start a sex therapy clinic at their high school. 

I can’t believe it took me so long to watch this show! (Except I can totally believe it because it has been a ROUGH year, and I haven’t even found the time to catch up on some of my favorite shows yet). From a writing perspective (fun fact about me: I actually majored in Writing For Film & TV), this show is excellent. The story is original, relatable, and expertly paced, and the character work is exquisite. I love a coming-of-age story that takes its subjects seriously the way “Sex Education” does. 

One thing I will say about it is that a lot of people have recommended this show to me because they think it has great asexual representation, but this is simply not the case. I don’t fault the show for this since it’s more of a mistake in interpretation than mishandling on the showrunner’s part. Regardless, I thought I would clarify where I stand on this. My disappointment that the protagonist is not asexual but sexually repressed due to emotional trauma is mostly because people already conflate asexuality with sexual trauma, and the two are not at all the same thing. But, as I said, I don’t believe the writers’ intention was ever to portray an ace character, so I do not fault the show with this. 

That being said, I think this show does a lot for other underrepresented groups. It handles socially taboo subjects such as masturbation, religion and sexuality, and abortion in an open and unique way. It’s inclusive and respectful of the marginalized groups it portrays. 

Between the wonderful performances and the superb writing, this show is sure to steal your heart, make you laugh, and maybe even inspire some tears. 

“La casa de papel” (“The Money Heist”), Season 3 (Netflix)A group of criminals comes together to pull off the biggest heist in Spain’s history.

This was one of my most anticipated releases of 2019. My mom and I have always been big on Spanish dramas, even before they became popular on streaming platforms (this basically meant leaving my laptop logged into illegal websites overnight because it took twelve hours to download a forty-five-minute episode). I’m thrilled about the recent growth in interest for international programming (I could dork out over the globalization of media for hours), and “La casa de papel” is just one of the wonderful rewards we’re reaping from this. 

This show features some of Spain’s most talented actors playing one-of-a-kind characters in unique scenarios. All of the performances this season are to die for, but then they always are with this show. I was especially blown away by Alvaro Morte’s performance, but I’m biased because I’m completely in love with him and his character, The Professor.

This show is also brilliantly written–it’s smart and fast-paced and impossible to predict. The writers had a pretty big challenge ahead of them this season since the original heist had wrapped up neatly by the end of season two. Needless to say, they more than delivered with this new plotline. I don’t want to spoil the show for anyone, but I highly recommend you add it to your Netflix list. (Side note: watch it in Spanish if you can! Even if you can’t understand the language, I recommend subtitles over dubbing with this show).

Music 

Happiness Begins by The Jonas Brothers (Album): This should come as no surprise to anyone who follows my blog. I’ve been a faithful Jonas fan for over a decade now, and their comeback ranks among one of my favorite things of 2019. 

This album, the Jonas Brothers’s first since 2009, is an absolute triumph. There isn’t a bad track in Happiness Begins. The Jonas Brothers have managed to create an album that at once evokes nostalgia in old fans and expertly taps into current musical trends. The result is 45 minutes of sheer joy (except for Hesitate, which will make you cry in the most delicious way). Some of my personal favorite tracks are “Strangers,” “Trust,” and “Rollercoaster.” (Although, if you have not already done so, I recommend listening to the whole album top to bottom). 

Unplugged Rock (Playlist by Apple Music): As I get back into the groove (musical pun not intended) of writing, I like to listen to music to help me concentrate. Finding the perfect writing music is a never-ending quest and one that has become increasingly challenging now that I my phone company made the switch from free Spotify to free Apple Music. I’ll admit I’m not loving the service as a whole, but this playlist was a gem of a find. 

Featuring Tori Amos’s acoustic cover of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and Alanis Morissette’s MTV Unplugged version of “You Oughta Know,” this playlist is great for both attentive listening and easy listening. I play it when I’m writing, when I’m doing mini photoshoots for my bookstagram, and sometimes even when I’m driving. It’s a short but versatile playlist, and I’ve been beating it to death this summer. 

Well, there you have it, folks! I hope you enjoyed this list. See anything you like? Let me know in the comments! Hopefully, this tradition sticks, because I’m excited to keep sharing my favorite things with you! 

Love,

Miss Breathing

A Writer’s Journals

I got my favorite journal in Venice when I was seventeen. Had we known that the pretty, Italian leather journals and customizable wax stamps were a staple in all the large Italian cities (an obvious tourist trap), maybe we wouldn’t have stopped in that Venetian shop. But it was our family’s first time abroad, and Venice was the first city we visited.  After a full day of seeing me stare longingly at displays on store windows, my uncle caved in and offered to buy me a journal. 

Inside, the store was heaven. It was dimly-lit, as if by candlelight, and wooden shelves covered the walls from floor to high ceiling. The scent of leather-bound books was intoxicating. I deliberated for at least a half an hour, trying to choose the prettiest journal to take home. Eventually, I picked a blue-green hardcover with a leather spine and a set of thick strings holding it shut. 

Some of my favorite journals. Featuring the Venice one (the second from the top).

At first, I was scared to use it. I’ve always been a little superstitious, and I kept holding off on writing on the new journal until I could find something important enough to write about. I brought the journal with me to Boston when I started college that fall, and I christened it by writing a crappy little poem about some boy I never saw again after the first month of classes. I’m no poet, but the moment felt just right regardless. I was sitting under a tree in the Boston Commons, the leaves had begun to turn, and there was the slightest nip in the air. It was my first autumn, and arriving in Boston for the first time had felt like coming home. It’s hard to explain, but that moment sitting in the Commons felt like a (happy) conclusion, like everything in my life had led to that small moment. 

A small sampling of my journals.

It gradually became easier to write in the journal. This was notable in that I had never before been able to keep a journal; I had tried countless times, and I have shelves of evidence at home. But, little by little, I began to fill the pages of that journal with everything from haikus (all of which suck) to opening lines to character descriptions.

Years later, as a junior in college, I had a scriptwriting professor who gave us a grade for keeping what he called a writer’s journal. According to him, a writer’s journal is different from a regular journal because it’s not about reflecting or documenting; writer’s journals are meant to be a place in which to document anything that might lead to stories. At that point, I had already learned to carry my Venice journal around with me everywhere I went, and I found it extremely validating that someone had thought of a name for this. My favorite journal was a writer’s journal. 

On the last day of my junior year, we were having class in the Boston Commons when I felt the sudden urge to write a poem. I have to reiterate, I am no poet; however, the need to write these words down was strong. I stuck around after class, and I sat on a solitary stretch of hill to write. The words flowed out of me until they filled every corner of the very last page. I thought it absurdly fitting that both the first and the last thing I wrote in the first journal I ever filled was a poem inspired by the Boston Commons. 

When I started writing this, Dear Reader, I intended for it to be a brief and practical post about the usefulness of keeping what my old professor dubbed a writer’s journal. I didn’t mean to get into overly-sentimental detail about my one journal, but I suppose this kind of discovery is what the blog is meant to be for.

My current writer’s journal has a full family tree for the character

I won’t try to preach to you about the importance of keeping a writer’s journal since I’m well aware that the process is different for everyone. But I will say that writer’s journals take many forms–I’ve seen everything from an iPhone Notes document to an actual piece of crumpled notebook paper kept in jeans pockets. And I can personally attest to the usefulness of journals kept specifically to jot down and expand upon creative ideas. Everything I know about Anne Marie and her family started out as a few lines in my current writer’s journal. At first, it was a handful of descriptions of things I found inexplicably alluring: a Cuban restaurant, a homemade carrot cake. It wasn’t until I began asking myself, “what’s the story here?” that I could flip back through the pages of my own writing and begin to connect the pieces. Writer’s journals, I’ve found, really work for me. I urge you, Dear Reader, to give it a try too. 

Yours,

Miss Breathing 

Self-Care For Writers

What makes good writing? 

I’m seriously asking here. I have no clue what qualifies as “good writing.” I’m not even sure such a thing exists. Even when I think about my own writing, all I can talk about is a feeling; some pieces of writing just feel better than others. 

One thing I do know, however, is that, for me to write something “good” (i.e. something I don’t want to rip to shreds and set ablaze), I need to have somewhat of a clear mind. In other words, I believe that what a writer does when she is not writing is almost as important as the act of writing.

With that in mind, I’ve compiled a list of my top 10 favorite ways to unwind before and after (and sometimes even during) writing.

Table for one! Take yourself on a date. This doesn’t have to be expensive–in fact, it doesn’t have to cost you anything at all if you don’t want it to. For me, this usually means treating myself to a cup of coffee and a cookie at the Barnes & Noble Cafe. Even if I don’t buy any, just being in the company of books feels like a treat. You could do anything from taking yourself on a picnic to making fancy dinner reservations for one. The objective here is to take yourself somewhere new or novel.

Read. You know the old saying: writers read. The tricky part is finding the time, between writing and researching and procrastinating writing and researching, to simply unwind with a book. I try to gift myself a couple of pages before bed every night. Another little trick I like: keep a book in the bathroom instead of a magazine or newspaper. Leave your phone in another room, and enjoy the go (I’m not sponsored by Charmin, I’m just a dork)! 

Word games. My personal favorites are word searches and crossword puzzles. The key here is to keep it analog, to give your eyes and brain a break from backlit smartphones and computers. Dollar Tree and Five Below sell entire books of word games for as little as 1$. Alternatively, try finding some free crossword puzzles or word searches online and print them out. 

Collaging. Tired of words? If you’re sick of staring at words on a screen, options 2 and 3 might not sound very appealing. Whenever I get like this, I try to focus on images and colors. If you’ve got a stack of old magazines somewhere in your house, skim them for images that catch your eye, cut them up, and work them into a collage. This is a great way to keep the creative momentum going while still giving your brain a little break. 

Coloring. There’s a reason therapists keep coloring books and crayons in their waiting rooms. Coloring is a great way to relax and unwind. The adult coloring book phenomenon has grown so much that you can now find themed coloring books for almost every show, movie, and graphic novel you can think of. I’m especially fond of the Harry Potter coloring books. 

Soothing smells. Aromatherapy is the real deal, guys. I’m a sucker for a good scented candle! When I was still in college, I went through at least half a dozen sticks of incense a night during finals season. I also have a trusty diffuser by my bed and an assortment of essential oils to choose from–lavender, citrus, and mint are the best for relaxing. I have to mention Five Below again because I’ve seen scented candles, incense, and essential oils in their stores for 5$ or less.

Beautiful noise. This could mean something different for everyone. For me, it means listening to Brandi Carlile or Ben Platt as well as the instrumental piano songs and rain sounds included in my Calm subscription I highly suggest this subscription for any writers who can afford it. It helps me stay grounded and focused while writing, and it relaxes me after a long day of working on my WIP. Whatever you listen to, try to do it mindfully. Lie down, turn off the lights, plug in your headphones, and just concentrate on the music for a few minutes. It might also help to listen to something new or that isn’t on your daily playlists.

Stress toys. The Gen-Z in me (I’m on the Millennial-Gen-Z cusp) is showing, I know. But trust me on this! Squishy toys, slime, and even clay are great ways to unwind. Psychologists agree that engaging with our senses helps soothe and ground us. The good news is that with the increasing interest in “satisfying videos” (type that into the YouTube search bar and enjoy your trip down the rabbit hole!) you can find stress toys almost anywhere. I get my slime at (you guessed it) Five Below, and Dollar Tree has tubs of Play-Doh for 1$. 

Use your phone. Just NOT for social media. Social media is the enemy of the modern writer. Admittedly, it is also a great self-marketing tool, but this means that mindless surfing can easily turn into a form of work. Instead, try using your phone to play a game that keeps you engaged. My favorite smartphone game is a hidden-objects game called Seekers Notes. It’s non-competitive, fun, and it features a pretty neat storyline!

Retail therapy on a budget. I promise this is more than just another plug for Dollar Tree and Five Below (how do I look into getting them to sponsor me?). I love the feeling of coming home with a new purchase; it’s like Christmas morning, minus the surprise element and a bit of added guilt. Luckily, there are a couple of ways around that yucky feeling of guilt. Firstly, I get things I will actually use and enjoy. You could lose me in the school supply section of Dollar Tree (a girl can never have too many pens)! Secondly, I hunt for bargains–hence my love of Dollar Tree and Five Below. Thrift stores and the dollar section at Target are great alternatives too. Even if you have just 5$ to spend, you can get yourself something you’ll enjoy at any one of these places. The best part? You made it outside of your house, away from your computer, and probably interacted with other human beings. Go you!

I really enjoyed compiling this list! I hope, Dear Reader, that you can find some use in it! 

Yours,

Miss Breathing

Loving-Kindness and Writing Teenage Characters

Back in 2014, I had the chance to attend Leaky Con in Orlando. It was an all-around great time, but the absolute highlight was a panel called “I Was A Teenage Writer.”

One of my Leaky Con 2014 treasures.

From what I understand, “I Was A Teenage Writer” is a recurring event in these conventions. With good reason, too—it’s an amazing panel! It consists of some of the biggest names in YA literature—back in 2014, this included Rainbow Rowell, John Green, Holly Black, and many others—reading excerpts from their early works. And when I say early works, I mean early. The featured authors read from stories, poems, and essays they wrote as tweens and teens. The goal is to show aspiring writers that everyone was a “bad writer” at first.

The 2014 panel was, for the most part, hilarious— at one point, Holly Black burst into tears from laughing so hard at one of her old poems. While most of the authors present took jabs at their old writing, there was one notable exception. Writer and artist Kazu Kibuishi took a slightly different approach to his old writing. Before he started to read, Kibuishi made a disclaimer that he wanted to “show his younger self some respect and compassion” (I’m paraphrasing here. 2014 was a little while ago.).

At the time, I didn’t think much of Kibuishi’s statement, except maybe that his seriousness had briefly shifted the mood in the conference room to a careful silence. But all of this came back to me last week when I was writing Wednesday’s post.

The title of this post was almost “What The Jonas Brothers Taught Me About Loving My Teenage Characters & Younger Self,” but

  1. That’s a fucking mouthful.
  2. Two back-to-back posts about the Jonas Brothers might be a bit much for this audience, no?

Writing about something you loved so passionately as a teenager is tricky because there’s a tendency to talk down on our younger selves. Being in my early twenties, I think about my teenage self quite a bit. But it’s usually something along the lines of “thank God I’m not sixteen anymore.”

All of this reminds me of a meditation term called “loving-kindness.” Essentially, loving-kindness is about killing judgemental thoughts and replacing them with gentleness and understanding. Recently I realized that, when I think about my younger self, I’m often missing loving-kindness.

I’m not exactly alone in this, either. I’m willing to bet I’m not the only twenty-something who cringes at the thought of all those Team Edward posters. (And T-shirts. And the New Moon themed birthday party.) I can’t be the only person who went to the trouble of deleting old social media accounts in an attempt to erase boyband-related posts made at suspicious hours of the night back in 2012.

I can laugh about it now (because 48 posters of Robert Pattinson is a laughable amount), but sometimes I wonder whether I should. Hating on our teenage selves is an almost unavoidable bandwagon behavior; we all do it. And the closer in age we are to our teens, the more vocal we are about how “dumb” and “childish” we used to be as if by doing so we’re putting some sort of metaphorical distance between our present selves and the people we were six years ago. Well, recently, I started thinking about whether that’s fair to past me. 

Speaking of merch…

The flip side of being so close to my teens is that I still remember what it felt like to be a teen. A lot of the embarrassing things I did as a teenager came from a place of strong emotions. When I liked a book or a show, I hung posters and live-tweeted and bought all the merch my Christmas money could buy. When I loved someone, I was loud about it. When I hated someone, it consumed me. And just because I don’t feel the same way anymore doesn’t mean those feelings aren’t valid. 

This is 11 year-old me at her first Jonas Brothers concert.

For me, showing my teenage self some loving-kindness means admiring the strength of her emotions. Sometimes, when I catch myself being overly critical of my younger self, I try to flip the script on myself. It usually sounds something like “I love the way you love things. I love the way your eyes go wide when you’re talking about a story you love. I love the way your heart flutters when you see your favorite actor on screen. I love that you feel so strongly.”

I can’t say I’m perfect about this. I still talk down on my younger self sometimes. But, after a few months of loving-kindness, I have a newly found respect for my teenage self.

Strong. Fucking. Emotions.

The reason I’m writing about this now, Dear Reader, is because the protagonist of my WIP is a teenage girl. Her name, I might as well tell you now, is Anne Marie. I absolutely love Anne Marie, but, as I was looking through some old drafts of the story that inspired this novel, I realized I could have shown her a little more loving-kindness.

It was interesting going back to my workshop notes and finding that readers really liked the narrative voice poking fun at Anne Marie’s flair for drama. Anne Marie, much like my younger self, is all about strong emotions and wearing them on her sleeve. Going back to those early drafts made me realize that when we’re writing about all the awkwardness and urgency and the theatrics of being a teenager, we can choose to talk down on our characters. Or we can choose to show them some loving-kindness. 

Writing teenage characters in a way that truly honors their experiences is all about compassion and understanding. It’s about toning down judgments. It’s a practice I’m finding especially challenging as I attempt to write a novel with a teen protagonist but for an adult audience. 

I am not an expert writer, and I’m not trying to tell anyone how to write. But I find that practicing loving-kindness with my characters really helps me understand and sympathize with them. If you’re writing a character that you aren’t quite sure how to feel about—especially if this character is a teenager—I urge you to try some loving-kindness with her. You might be surprised at what you learn about her. And about yourself. 

Yours,

Miss Breathing