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3 Lessons You Can Only Learn from Your Grandmother

Creative inspiration can come from anywhere, and some of the best comes from the people you love most: your family. Every family member has their own unique qualities and abilities to contribute to your stories, but one in particular stands out for how much unconditional love and care she showers on you: your grandmother! Grandmas have plenty of love to give their grandchildren, so they can serve as great inspiration for grandparent characters in your stories!

So to honor someone special in my life, today’s post features three lessons you can only learn from your grandmother. Enjoy!

1) Grandchildren are meant to be spoiled.

If there’s one thing grandparents are experts at, it’s spoiling their grandkids. Every family visit to my grandmother’s house includes platefuls of delicious homemade food and lots of fussing over us, mostly about how we’re “not eating enough”. She also makes a point of complimenting her granddaughters and telling us how much she adores us, and we can’t help but smile and tell her how much we love her too!

So if you’re writing a grandmother character, be sure to make her as doting as possible of her grandchildren. Have her share her best cooking with them, fuss over them without end, and constantly let them know how much she loves them and that they’re the greatest joys in her life. Grandmothers love spoiling their grandchildren, but that’s fine because we love being spoiled!

2) Nobody cooks like Grandma!

Going back to those “platefuls of food”, one thing I love about visiting my grandma is getting to enjoy the delicious snacks she makes! They’re something we always look forward to when we visit, since we get to enjoy them almost exclusively at family gatherings for special occasions. Her cooking is always a treat, so I’m glad her gift has passed on to my mother (and hopefully someday to me)!

When writing fictional characters who are grandmothers, it’s common to give them the skills to cook and bake delicious treats, especially for their grandchildren! Remember, nobody cooks quite like Grandma does, so for Heaven’s sake, learn those family recipes! You’ll definitely miss them otherwise.

3) No matter how old you get, your grandmother will always see a child in you.

Grandma Loves You, by Helen Foster James

Every time my family and I see my grandma, some story from when I was little inevitably comes up. My grandmother loves reminiscing about when her grandchildren were small enough to be picked up and were doing something adorable every minute, and I can’t really blame her. I too love to remember the good old days of childhood; in fact, my inner child is one of the main reasons I’m a writer today!

If one of the important characters in your story is a grandmother, a good touch is to give her excellent storytelling abilities, as much of her youth as of more recent times when her grandchildren were little. Grandmothers enjoy telling stories of the people they love most, so grandchildren will naturally be a favorite subject for them! And if nothing else, telling your own story inspired by your grandmother may be the best way to show her how much you love her too!

What lessons have you learned from your grandmother? What other lessons would you add to this list?

Dedicated to my grandmother, whose love has always been a wonderful inspiration. Happy Birthday, Grandma! I love you!

My 5 Favorite Fictional Fathers

Father’s Day is coming soon, so what else could I write about this week on my creative writing blog but the awesome dads in fiction? Fathers are among the most important family figures we know, and fathers in fiction can be just as influential to the other characters in their stories. There are plenty of well-known dads in literature, film, and television, but I finally managed to narrow this list down to a few of my favorites. They aren’t always perfect, but these lovable dads are still awesome parents!

So to celebrate this coming holiday, here’s a list of my five favorite fathers in fiction. Enjoy, and Happy Father’s Day!

1) Mufasa (The Lion King)

Look inside yourself, Simba. You are more than what you have become. You must take your place in the Circle of Life. – Mufasa’s spirit to Simba

For those of us who grew up in the ’90s, the death of Mufasa in The Lion King was a defining moment in our childhoods. It was heartbreaking and tearjerking, not just because it was one of our first hard lessons about the tragedy and permanence of death, but because we witnessed a child lose his greatest mentor, role model, and friend.

Through his brief time on screen, Mufasa imparts much of his wisdom to Simba (and the audience), teaching valuable lessons about the circle of life, the responsibilities that come with power, and the difference between courage and recklessness. Even in spirit, this wise and powerful king guides his son through the most difficult time in his life and encourages him to become the leader he was born to be. This great lion may not have lived through his movie, but to all us lifelong Lion King fans, his lessons have stayed with us since childhood and contributed to our understanding of the world as adults. It’s no wonder Mufasa is everyone’s favorite Disney dad!

2) King Fergus of DunBroch (Brave)

Princess or not, learning to fight is essential. – Fergus disagreeing with Elinor on Merida’s use of weapons

If I see myself in Princess Merida and my mother in Queen Elinor, I definitely see my father in King Fergus. The Bear King of DunBroch in Pixar’s Brave, Fergus is essentially the opposite of his wife: loud, easygoing, and hot-tempered. This polarity explains why Merida clashes so often with her mother while getting along so well with her father, as the king passed much of his personality on to his daughter. His views on the princess’s future are even more progressive than the queen’s; while it takes Elinor the length of the film to let go of tradition, Fergus believes from the beginning that Merida should be free to live her own life and make her own choices (even if he’s too anxious for household peace to bring it up).

Fergus has a great sense of humor and loves a good brawl, and while he doesn’t handle every situation ideally, his training and other contributions to Merida’s upbringing prove invaluable throughout the film, as the courage and fighting skills she inherited from him help her save her mother and lift the curse from her kingdom. Clearly, Merida is a strong and fierce young woman thanks to her equally strong and fierce father!

3) Mr. Bennet (Pride and Prejudice)

An unhappy alternative is before you, Elizabeth. From this day you must be a stranger to one of your parents. Your mother will never see you again if you do not marry Mr. Collins, and I will never see you again if you do. – Mr. Bennet after Mrs. Bennet tries to force Elizabeth to marry Mr. Collins

While he may not be winning any Father of the Year awards given that he totally neglected to leave his five daughters a proper inheritance, Mr. Bennet from Pride and Prejudice is still a pretty cool dad where it counts. He’s witty and sarcastic, which explains much of Elizabeth’s intelligence (she definitely didn’t get it from her mother!), and he has a delightfully cynical sense of humor, to the point where he delivers some of the funniest lines in the book.

Unlike his wife, whose sole obsession in life is to marry her children off to wealthy gentlemen, Mr. Bennet is in no rush to see his girls get hitched, especially to people with whom they would clearly never be happy. After Jane, he’s the only other person Elizabeth can confide in for most of the novel, and if not the greatest role model for happiness, he at least has the sense to recognize his faults and warn the daughters who will listen not to make the same mistakes he did. Mr. Bennet isn’t nearly the greatest father in literature, but his cleverness and close relationship with Elizabeth make him awesome nonetheless!

4) Arthur Weasley (The Harry Potter series)

Yeah, Dad’s crazy about everything to do with Muggles; our shed’s full of Muggle stuff. He takes it apart, puts spells on it, and puts it back together again. If he raided our house he’d have to put himself under arrest. – Fred Weasley to Harry

There are dorky dads, and then there’s Arthur Weasley. The patriarch of the Weasley family in the Harry Potter series, Arthur works in the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Office in the Ministry of Magic, but he’s so enthralled by Muggle objects that he spends much of his time breaking the very laws he’s supposed to uphold by studying and enchanting said objects (the most notable example being the flying car Harry and Ron use to get to Hogwarts in The Chamber of Secrets).

Aside from being eccentric, Mr. Weasley is a kind and laid-back wizard, a good father to seven children, and a strong advocate for Muggle protection. And while Harry does have a pretty cool godfather in Sirius Black, given all the time he spends with Ron’s family and all the hospitality they show him, Arthur is arguably the closest thing Harry has to a father figure throughout most of the series. He may be one of the dorkiest dads we knew growing up, but we Potter fans can’t help but love Arthur Weasley for his odd magical parenting skills and his heart of gold!

5) Marlin (Finding Nemo)

There, there, there. It’s okay, Daddy’s here. Daddy’s got you. I promise I will never let anything happen to you… Nemo. – Marlin to his only surviving egg

Yes, Toy Story is a classic and I do write a lot about Brave, but if you ask me what my favorite Pixar movie is, I’ll definitely say Finding Nemo. Maybe I’m biased as a marine biologist, but as visually stunning as this film is, I find it especially appealing for Marlin and Nemo’s story and its depiction of the lengths a parent will go to for the love of a child. Sure, Marlin is far from the perfect father; he’s neurotic and overprotective, and at one point even tells Nemo he can’t do anything by himself. But can you really blame the guy for being so afraid of the ocean after losing almost his entire family to it?

Despite his flaws, this lovable clownfish turns out to be a great father where it counts; when Nemo is taken by divers, Marlin instantly overcomes his crippling terror of the “Big Blue”, facing fear after fear as he crosses the ocean to bring his kidnapped son home. The best part is that his adventure, Dory’s optimism, and Nemo’s bravery all help shape him into a much more relaxed and encouraging parent by the end of the movie, which really takes the strain out of his relationship with his son. As far as Disney dads go, Marlin is certainly one of the most devoted of the bunch!

Who are your favorite fictional fathers? What other fathers in fiction would you add to this list?

Dedicated to my dad and all the other amazing fathers out there! Thank you for all your love, wisdom, and support! Happy Father’s Day!

What If? Writing Prompts: Nature VI

World Environment Day was on Monday, so here’s a new set of “What If?” Writing Prompts to acknowledge the date! This week’s batch features another collection of prompts about nature and environmentalism. See what stories you can create based on these ideas, and feel free to add more of your own! Have fun!

What if… every person in the world became a vegetarian?

What if… all non-renewable sources of energy on Earth suddenly disappeared?

What if… deforestation of the rainforests could be completely stopped?

What if… every nation in the world contributed to the effort to clean the oceans?

What if… humanity could halt global warming in time to reverse climate change?

Good luck spinning more stories about the environment!

If you have any “What If?” writing prompt suggestions (for any theme), please feel free to share them in the comments below. Ideas I like may be featured in future “What If?” posts, with full credit and a link to your blog (if you have one)! Also, if you’ve written a piece based on an idea you’ve found here, be sure to link back to the respective “What If?” post. I would love to see what you’ve done with the prompt! Thank you!

What If? Writing Prompts: History V

After researching Memorial Day for my last two posts, I was inspired to write another set of “What If?” Writing Prompts. In keeping with the themes of war and the past, today’s batch features prompts in the history genre. See what historical tales you can create from these ideas, and feel free to add more of your own! Enjoy!

What if… none of the major conflicts of history had been resolved with war?

What if… the territories of the British Empire had been conquered by another nation instead?

What if… the American Civil War had never happened?

What if… the atomic bombs had never been dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

What if… the American Civil Rights Movement of the ’50s and ’60s had failed?

Good luck writing some more historical tales!

If you have any “What If?” writing prompt suggestions (for any theme), please feel free to share them in the comments below. Ideas I like may be featured in future “What If?” posts, with full credit and a link to your blog (if you have one)! Also, if you’ve written a piece based on an idea you’ve found here, be sure to link back to the respective “What If?” post. I would love to see what you’ve done with the prompt! Thank you!

Off The Bookshelf: Sense and Sensibility

Back in January, I finally returned to my Off The Bookshelf segment with a review of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. So today, I’d like to continue my reviews by writing about the other Austen novel I read last year. Since I’ve definitely been enjoying reading her literature, there was really only one novel could I review next: Sense and Sensibility!

Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen

Summary

Sense and Sensibility was Austen’s debut novel, first published in London in 1811. The story follows sisters Elinor and Marianne Dashwood as they adjust to their new life with their widowed mother and younger sister, who have all been left impoverished after Mr. Dashwood’s death. Over the course of the narrative, the sisters experience love, romance, and heartbreak, and eventually come to realize that they must learn to master the delicate balance between sense and sensibility in order to achieve happiness.

Review

Though I wouldn’t say I liked it as much as Pride and Prejudice, I enjoyed Sense and Sensibility for Austen’s realistic take on romance and manners, seasoned with all her classic humor and wit. Much like in the author’s more popular novel, the main characters of this story are faced with the challenge of finding love in a world where their low income and social status put them at a severe disadvantage. What really sets this novel apart from its successor, however, is the comparison it draws between the tempers of Elinor and Marianne, who each occupy one extreme of the romance-realism spectrum.

Movie poster for Sense and Sensibility (1995)

As the title suggests, the most prominent theme in Sense and Sensibility is the contrast between good sense and overt sensitivity (known as sensibility back then). As the eldest Dashwood sister, Elinor has the best judgment in her family and is highly skilled at exercising good sense and composure. Her younger sister Marianne, on the other hand, has no control over her emotions and no desire to keep her overly sensitive demeanor in check, favoring romantic idealism over etiquette. This contrast between their personalities makes for several interesting situations throughout the story, but in the end both sisters learn the same valuable lesson: too much sense or sensibility only leads to unhappiness. Only after Elinor learns to open her heart to sensibility and Marianne learns to temper her spontaneity with sense do they both achieve their happy endings.

Another major theme in the book is the role of money and social standing in romance. Though her novels all have happy endings, Jane Austen was never one to tell an idealistic love story; in her view, even the truest love isn’t immune to the real-world obstacle of low income. In the most notable example, Marianne and Willoughby seem like a perfect match: they’re both romantic and outspoken about their opinions on art and love, and spend so much time together that everyone assumes they’re engaged before they even say a word. Unfortunately, being one of the author’s well-known “hero caricatures”, the charming Willoughby couldn’t be anything less than a scoundrel, and sure enough, his expensive tastes coupled with Marianne’s poverty lead him to jilt her for a wealthy young lady he doesn’t love. Funnily enough, the same obstacle of wealth turns out to be a saving grace for Edward Ferrars, who for most of the story finds himself honor-bound to a loveless engagement only to be saved at the end from said commitment by his disinheritance from his mother, leaving him free to give his heart to Elinor after his conniving fiancé abandons him. From beginning to end, wherever there are love and romance, the shadow of money looms in the background.

Overall, Sense and Sensibility is an enjoyable read that shows less-than-idealistic romance in a humorous light, as well as an interesting dynamic of character development between two polar opposite sisters. Just as Marianne learns from Elinor that excessive emotion can destroy one’s life, Elinor learns from Marianne that excessive repression of emotion leads to intense suffering and risk of abandonment. Still, in true Austen fashion, both sisters achieve their happy endings by the story’s conclusion, finding comfortable lives with gentlemen who can provide them with all the security and emotional fulfillment they desire. In this way, from her very first novel, the author reveals that despite all the realistic obstacles in its way, romance can still thrive in a world plagued with social barriers, a hope not yet forgotten in the modern age.

Inspiration

Much like Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility offers a glimpse into the romantic and realistic elements of past life that have survived into the present. The novel also teaches a valuable lesson on the importance of both practicing good sense and being willingly sensitive, albeit a somewhat imbalanced one that favors sense. We shouldn’t give our emotions total control over our happiness, but we also shouldn’t be afraid to feel vulnerable in the pursuit of love. There are plenty of opportunities in life to be both sensible and sensitive; it’s all a matter of exercising the right judgment.

Though her novels often highlight the limitations placed on women in the society of her day, Jane Austen clearly had a way of demonstrating the strength that women have always had to succeed within their means. Because of that, I know I can always turn to one of her novels for inspiration on writing heroines with real personalities, issues, and aspirations. Whether you seek inspiration for historical fiction, realistic characters, or contrasting themes in human behavior, Sense and Sensibility is an excellent novel that warrants a place beside Pride and Prejudice on any Austen fan’s bookshelf.

14 More Redundant Phrases You Should Edit in Your Writing

Remember that list of redundant phrases I shared on my blog a few weeks ago? Well, here are some more examples of phrases collected from the Elevate – Brain Training app that should be edited for brevity. Sometimes it seems like we never run out of these common redundancies, doesn’t it? One of the many reasons editing will always be a necessity for writers!

So for your reference, here are 14 more redundant phrases you should simplify during your editing phase. Enjoy!

Edit to: “If you buy one shirt, you’ll get another free.”

1) Absolutely crucial: Crucial already implies that something is absolutely important. Simplify “absolutely crucial” to “crucial”.

2) Added bonus: Bonus indicates something extra, making the word “added” unnecessary. Simplify “added bonus” to “bonus”.

3) ATM machine: ATM stands for “automated teller machine”, so the word “machine” is redundant. Simplify “ATM machine” to “ATM”.

4) Circle around: To circle already means to move all the way around something. Simplify “circle around” to “circle”.

5) Close proximity: Proximity already means the state of being close. Simplify “close proximity” to “proximity”.

6) First introduced: Introduced already indicates something that was seen or shown for the first time. Simplify “first introduced” to “introduced”.

7) For free: Free by itself means no charge, so the preposition “for” is unnecessary. Simplify “for free” to “free”.

8) Honest truth: Both the words “honest” and “truth” indicate an adherence to facts and reality. Simplify “honest truth” to “truth”.

9) Necessary prerequisite: A prerequisite, by definition, is a requirement, so the word “necessary” is redundant. Simplify “necessary prerequisite” to “prerequisite”.

10) New discovery: Discovery already implies that a finding is new. Simplify “new discovery” to “discovery”.

11) Temper tantrum: A tantrum is an outburst of anger, so the word “temper” (in the sense “an angry state of mind”) is redundant. Simplify “temper tantrum” to “tantrum”.

12) Temporary reprieve: A reprieve is short-term relief from something unpleasant, so the word “temporary” is unnecessary. Simplify “temporary reprieve” to “reprieve”.

13) Various differences: Differences are ways in which things vary, making the word “various” redundant. Simplify “various differences” to “differences”.

14) Visible to the eye: Visible already means able to be seen with the eyes. Simplify “visible to the eye” to “visible”.

Do you use any of these redundant phrases in your writing? What others would you add to this list?

My 5 Favorite Fictional Mothers

Mother’s Day is this Sunday, and to mark the occasion, I thought it would be fun to share a list of some favorite moms in fiction! Mothers are undeniably among the most important figures in family dynamics, so it’s no surprise that fictional mothers also play a highly influential role in the lives of other characters in a story. There are so many famous mothers in literature, television, and film that it was hard to narrow this list down, but at last I managed to put together a post on the memorable moms in my favorite stories. They each have different strengths and weaknesses, but in the end, they’re all loving and dedicated parents!

So to celebrate the upcoming holiday, here is a list of my five favorite mothers in fiction. Enjoy, and Happy Mother’s Day!

1) Molly Weasley (The Harry Potter series)

NOT MY DAUGHTER, YOU BITCH! – Molly Weasley to Bellatrix Lestrange, whose Killing Curse had just narrowly missed Ginny

Molly Weasley, Ron’s mother in the Harry Potter series, may well be one of my favorite moms in all of literature. Not only has she raised seven children (and done a fine job of it too), but her maternal instincts are so strong that she extends her nurturing love to her youngest son’s best friends. Molly makes perfectly clear to Harry and Hermione that they’re always welcome in her home, and within moments of their first meeting, she quickly becomes to Harry the mother figure he never had growing up. Mrs. Weasley is proof that whether a witch or a Muggle, a mother will do anything for her children: while she runs a tight household and never hesitates to keep her mischievous sons in check, she is so fiercely protective of her children that she willingly steps between them and Death itself (namely Death Eater Bellatrix Lestrange) to keep them safe. The ideal mix of loving parent and badass witch, Molly Weasley is truly everyone’s favorite magical mom!

2) Margaret “Marmee” March (Little Women)

Don’t you feel that it is pleasanter to help one another, to have daily duties which make leisure sweet when it comes, and to bear and forbear, that home may be comfortable and lovely to us all? – Mrs. March to her daughters after their week-long “experiment” in being idle

While Little Women centers on the various stories of four sisters growing up in 19th-century New England, it’s made clear in the beginning of the book that they all share a common aspiration: to live up to the example of their mother. Among women in classic literature, Mrs. March (known as “Marmee” by her daughters) is often held up as the image of the perfect mother: patient, compassionate, and highly principled. She works hard to support her family while her husband is at war, she cheerfully contributes to charity and the war effort, and she always has time to console her daughters no matter how busy she is. Yet Marmee does even more for her children by raising them all to be the best people they can possibly be, ensuring they’re all well educated and independent thinkers, encouraging them to marry for love instead of money, and always being there to offer them advice while still allowing them to learn from their own mistakes. With such a strong and loving mother to guide them, it’s no wonder the March sisters aspire to be such fine “little women”!

3) Queen Elinor of DunBroch (Brave)

Oh, my brave wee lass, I’m here. I’ll always be right here. – Elinor to a frightened young Merida

I’ve mentioned before that I often watch Brave and see my own relationship with my mother in Princess Merida’s relationship with hers. From the beginning of the film, Queen Elinor is determined to teach her daughter every possible lesson on proper princess behavior, from etiquette to diplomacy to compassion. Though at first it seems that her words never stick due to Merida’s strong will and stubbornness, it becomes clear toward the end of the story that no matter how many times they’ve butted heads over the years, Elinor’s wisdom did make an impression on her daughter after all. Merida mostly takes after her father on the outside, but it’s her mother’s lessons that help her calm the other royal families and ultimately get her through her trial. Elinor in turn also learns much about Merida throughout their adventure, enough to eventually shed her uptight persona and allow her daughter the freedom she’s always wanted to live her own life. A mother and daughter may not always see eye to eye, but the love between them is still one of the strongest bonds in the world!

4) Lady Cora Crawley (Downton Abbey)

You are being tested. And you know what they say, my darling: being tested only makes you stronger. – Cora to Edith after the latter was left at the altar

The Dowager Countess may be one of my favorite characters overall in Julian Fellowes’ popular period drama, but as far as mothers go, Lady Grantham probably sets the best example in Downton Abbey. Cora Crawley is the mother of three daughters, each with her own personality and aspirations, yet she always seems to know how best to handle each one—a difficult task given how the two elder sisters are always at each other’s throats. Generally sweet and willing to believe the best of anyone, Her Ladyship also proves to be a strong and highly capable woman: during World War I, she agrees to make Downton a convalescent home for recovering soldiers and works full-time to assist in running it, an experience that prepares her for her eventual position as President of Downton Hospital at the end of the series. She is quicker to embrace change than the rest of her family and is kind even to her servants, earning her immense respect among the staff of Downton. Overall, Cora is a loving motherly figure and, even as an American heiress and aristocrat in early 20th-century England, sets an exceptional example of a modern woman for her daughters!

5) Mrs. Bennet (Pride and Prejudice)

When you have five daughters, Lizzie, tell me what else will occupy your thoughts, and then perhaps you will understand. – Mrs. Bennet to Elizabeth on why she thinks of nothing but marrying off her daughters

Yes, I know she’s not the best mother, or even a good mother on many counts, but given all the times she made me laugh, there was no way I could leave Mrs. Bennet off this list. Throughout Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth’s father and younger sisters are embarrassing enough, but her mother proves by far the most humiliating of all. Foolish, noisy, and downright vulgar, Mrs. Bennet’s actions are solely driven by her desperation to marry her five daughters off to fine gentlemen, which often has the adverse effect of driving away the very suitors she tries to attract. Still, this simple woman provides much of the comedy in Jane Austen’s beloved novel, and for all the grief she gives her eldest daughters, she still manages to get what she wants in the end, gaining two wealthy sons-in-law and happy marriages for the most deserving of her children. She may go about it the wrong way, but readers can’t deny that her intentions, however misguided, are always good, even if just for a few laughs!

Who are your favorite fictional mothers? What other mothers in fiction would you add to this list?

Dedicated to my mom and all the other amazing mothers out there! Thank you for all your love, patience, and support! Happy Mother’s Day!

Love and Friendship: 5 Types of “Friends First” Romance

This week marks a special occasion for two of the most important people in my life, the couple who taught me everything I know about love, especially the value of romance born from friendship. Thinking about their love has inspired me to write about the different levels of “friends first” romance and my favorite fictional couples who started as friends. There are many types of romance I admire, but love based on friendship is by far my favorite!

So to celebrate the occasion, here is a list of five types of romance based on friendship, with my favorite examples of fictional couples for each. Enjoy!

1) Coming-of-Age Romance – Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley (Harry Potter)

Being an avid fan of the Harry Potter books, Hermione and Ron are one of my favorite examples of a Childhood Friend Romance couple. Though they don’t like each other very much when they first meet, they quickly become close friends as the series progresses, and even more than that by the time they reach young adulthood. Through all their arguments and disagreements, Ron and Hermione clearly harbor some complicated romantic feelings for each other in the second half of the saga, so when they finally get together in the last book, it’s nothing short of epic. A magical love story indeed!

2) Reunited Childhood Friends – Simba and Nala (The Lion King)

If you grew up with Disney movies like I did, you no doubt have fond memories of watching (and probably singing along to) The Lion King. Though the central theme of the story is Simba’s coming of age, his romance with Nala deserves special mention as a classic example of how best friends can turn out to be soulmates as well. After being separated as children, these two lions are reunited in adulthood by chance and, in true Disney fashion, quickly fall in love by rekindling the affection they’ve always had for one another. Nala does whatever she can to push Simba in the right direction, while Simba is ready to defend Nala and the rest of their pride after gaining the sense to return home. From their adventures as cubs to the final battle for Pride Rock, these best friends prove they’ll always have each other’s back, so after they reclaim their home at the end of the story, you know the Pride Lands will be ruled by the best king and queen ever!

3) Lifelong Love – Carl and Ellie Fredricksen (Up)

On the other hand, sometimes childhood friends end up staying together their whole lives, and the best of these friendships turn into a romance for the ages. Such is the case of Carl and Ellie Fredricksen from Pixar’s 2009 film Up, who’s four-minute montage of their marriage tells one of the greatest love stories ever seen in a Disney movie. From exploring old abandoned houses as children to sharing a loving home into old age, these two adventurers at heart were clearly meant to be together for life. Seriously, just try to watch the beginning of this film without tearing up! Sweetest romance ever!

4) Crossing Paths – Forrest Gump and Jenny Curran (Forrest Gump)

The childhood friends of the famous 1994 film, Forrest Gump and Jenny Curran are a classic example of a pair of soulmates whom fate continuously throws into and out of each other’s lives. After growing up together in 1950s Alabama, they end up going their separate ways after college, from which point Forrest’s story mentions several reunions between them up to the present day. Despite living so far apart from her for much of his life, it’s made abundantly clear by the end of the story that Forrest never stopped loving Jenny since they were kids, and that deep down she always knew he was the right man for her. It may not be the happiest of romances, but Forrest and Jenny had a beautiful love story nonetheless!

5) On Again, Off Again – Ross Geller and Rachel Green (Friends)

Every fan of Friends remembers the on-again-off-again rollercoaster that was Ross and Rachel’s relationship. Having grown up on the same street, these two friends have known each other since childhood, though at the time they were really friends by extension through Monica. After their reunion as adults in the first season, it becomes apparent that the crush Ross developed on Rachel in high school never burned out, which leads to ten years of one of the most complicated friendships ever. Although they suffered many breakups and makeups throughout the series (“We were on a break!”), Ross and Rachel’s unwavering love would inevitably lead them back to each other in the end, solidifying their status as one of television’s favorite couples. Best friends for life!

Who are your favorite “friends first” couples? What other examples of “friends first” romance would you add to this list?

Dedicated to my parents, the happiest couple I know. Thank you for teaching me everything I know about true love! Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad! I love you!

16 Redundant Phrases You Should Simplify in Your Writing

A couple of weeks ago, I shared a list taken from the Elevate – Brain Training app of common phrases that are unnecessarily wordy and should be edited out of most writers’ first drafts. Continuing on that theme, today I’d like to share another list of phrases from a similar Elevate game, Brevity, this time of redundant phrases that should be simplified for conciseness. Redundancy is another common plague of first drafts, so you can never know too many tips for making your writing as clear and concise as possible!

So for your reference, here are 16 redundant phrases you should simplify while editing your writing. Enjoy!

1) Empty space: Space, by definition, is an unoccupied area, so the word “empty” is redundant. Simplify “empty space” to “space”.

2) Evil fiend/villain: The word “fiend” or “villain” already implies said person is evil. Simplify “evil fiend” to “fiend” or “evil villain” to “villain”.

3) First and foremost: An unnecessarily long phrase to indicate something that is most important. Simplify “first and foremost” to “first”.

4) Follow after: To follow already means to go or come after someone or something. Simplify “follow after” to “follow”.

5) HIV virus: HIV stands for “human immunodeficiency virus”, so the word “virus” is redundant. Simplify “HIV virus” to “HIV”.

6) In order to: A longer and less direct way of saying “to”. Simplify “in order to” to “to”.

7) Join together: To join means to connect two things to each other, making the word “together” redundant. Simplify “join together” to “join”.

8) None at all: None, by definition, means not any, so the phrase “at all” is unnecessary. Simplify “none at all” to “none”.

9) LCD display: LCD stands for “liquid crystal display”, so the word “display” is redundant. Simplify “LCD display” to “LCD”.

10) Might possibly: Both “might” and “possibly” indicate uncertainty of an event taking place. Simplify “might possibly” to “might”.

11) Past experience: Experience already indicates knowledge gained in the past. Simplify “past experience” to “experience”.

12) Please RSVP: RSVP stands for the French expression “répondez s’il vous plaît”, or “please reply” in English, making the word “please” redundant. Simplify “please RSVP” to “RSVP”.

13) PIN number: PIN stands for “personal identification number”, so the word “number” is redundant. Simplify “PIN number” to “PIN”.

14) Terrible disaster: A disaster is an event that causes great damage, making the adjective “terrible” unnecessary. Simplify “terrible disaster” to “disaster”.

15) Totally destroyed: To be destroyed is to be completely ruined, so the adverb “totally” is unneeded. Simplify “totally destroyed” to “destroyed”.

16) Unsolved mystery: A mystery is already an unexplained or unsolved event. Simplify “unsolved mystery” to “mystery”.

Are you guilty of using any of these phrases in your writing? What other redundant phrases would you add to this list?

What If? Writing Prompts: Nature V

Earth Day is this Saturday, and that means it’s time for some new “What If?” Writing Prompts! This week’s post features yet another batch of prompts in the theme of nature and environmentalism. See what stories you can spin from these ideas, and feel free to add more of your own! Enjoy!

What if… there were only one way to save the environment from total destruction… and it came at the price of half the global human population?

What if… human beings were the only animals in the world?

What if… all the trees in the world disappeared?

What if… every food source on the planet became sustainable?

What if… all major sources of carbon emission on Earth suddenly stopped?

Good luck writing more environmentalist stories!

If you have any “What If?” writing prompt suggestions (for any theme), please feel free to share them in the comments below. Ideas I like may be featured in future “What If?” posts, with full credit and a link to your blog (if you have one)! Also, if you’ve written a piece based on an idea you’ve found here, be sure to link back to the respective “What If?” post. I would love to see what you’ve done with the prompt! Thank you!

About J.C. Wolfe

J.C. Wolfe is a fiction writer, biologist, and aspiring novelist of science fantasy and romance. A natural-born American and graduate in Marine Ecology from a university in Brazil, J.C. now writes for a living in California while spending free time blogging and penning stories and poetry.

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