Monday, November 14, 2011

There's Always Something to Learn from Rowling, Right?

Everyone's heard the story of Harry Potter's birth -- the train ride, the cafe, all that jazz.  Right?  By now, it's morphed into something of a legend.  And sometimes you have to be careful with legends, becayse it's easy to lose the moral of the story in them.

    I mean, I'm not a huge fan of morals in stories -- not obvious ones, anyway.  All too often, they ruin the story, and we can't have that.  Still, J.K.'s lesson has a pretty important point in it:

    Always have something with you to write on, and always write your ideas down, no matter how stupid or inconsequential those ideas might seem.
    It doesn't matter if you're writing on paper, a McDonald's sack, your hand (or arm, for those massive, detailed ideas), or typing it out on a cell phone.  (For the record, if you don't have a pen or notepad app, I learned a couple of years ago that you can text yourself.  This also means explaining to others why you have yourself saved in your contacts, but whatever.)  Anywho.  Most writers always have portable means to write with; I don't really need to say much about that part.

    Back to that "no matter how stupid or inconsequential" bit I mentioned earlier.  You know those tiny thoughts that sometimes flit through your subconscious -- the ones that don't make much sense, or seem incredibly random, or not even slightly important?  Like "Taj Mahal" or "death by elevator shaft" or "what if..."?  Probably a good idea to write those down, too.  You never know when one of those thoughts could connect with something else, some bigger, and turn into your next Big Idea. 

    There's nothing worse than having some almost-memory tickle the edges of your brain, only to realize you've forgotten what that oh-so-wizard idea was.

    So what about you?  What's the oddest string of words you've ever written down as an idea trigger?  Have you ever had one of those random thoughts merge with a bigger-scale idea? 

Monday, October 3, 2011

Why Happily Ever Afters Don't Make Me So Happy...

Okay, so this post may make me sound like a total pessimist.  Glass half-empty and all that.  Acknowledged, but I have a point to make here.

    First thing's first:  the perfect ending doesn't exist -- for me, anyway.  Because if it really is a perfect ending, in the conventional "everything's wrapped up and happy" sense, it's automatically imperfect for me.  I don't want a happy ending -- I just want it to be tolerable. 

    By "tolerable," I'm not saying I think endings should stop at acceptable, that they should just be ho-hum.  Definitely not; I like explosions and betrayal and fight scenes as much as the next reader.  But I want endings to be bittersweet and slightly painful -- I want the "we missed Happily Ever After by about ten miles" version. 

    Everything can't just work out.  That, unfortunately, is what Disney movies are for. 

    Maybe that's why I don't like the happy endings so much.  Maybe I watched too many Disney movies when I was younger, where Sleeping Beauty and Snow White woke up and Prince Charming found the shoe and Beast turned back into a human, and everything worked out.  (Extra points go to Pocahontas, since John Smith got hurt and shipped back where he came from.  Negative points go to Pocahontas 2, because that movie was moronic and nobody likes John Ralfe or whatever that punk was named.  I guess you can tell I'm more of a John Smith fan.) 

    Anyway, some more examples of endings that had some element of bittersweet in them?  I think yes.  Technically, I guess I can't talk about the endings if you haven't read them already, because that would just ruin life, but it's understood that I highly recommend the books listed below. 
  • A Separate Peace by John Knowles.  Love this book.  I'm normally not into this genre or time period, but this is tied for first in my All-Time Favorites list.  (Team Phineas all the way.)
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.  Lots of people probably read this in school, so the ending's not as big of a secret, but I thought it was so refreshing that it didn't end very well.  How many other stories out there had an ending to a similar effect?  Plus, it had characters like Jordan and Gatsby.  Nick wasn't bad, either.
  • The Cay by Timothy Taylor.  My mom read it to me when I was sick in the fifth grade.  I hadn't thought about it in a while, but when I was thinking of bittersweet endings, it popped into my brain.  Must reread this....
  • Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell.  This was one of my favorite books.  I need to read this one again, too. 
    Okay, that's probably enough, because I think you get the point.  At this point, I'll also slip in a quick apology for my blogging failures in this past month.  Bad me. 

    Do you agree, or are you more on the Happily Ever After side?  What are some books with bittersweet endings you've read, and did you think the books pulled them off?

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Apprehension and Swagger

This year I was old enough to sign up for evening classes at the local vo-tech, so I went for the fiction writing class.  I didn't really know what to expect, but I figured even if it didn't cover anything new, it'd still be worthwhile.  Being around other writers, chances to learn new stuff . . . I was pretty excited.

    The first thing the teacher/instructor had us do was describe a character.  Randomly.  Then we had to pick three random character names.  And then write an opening scene.  She stopped everyone after a certain amount of time and have us read what we'd gotten down so far, so it was sort of a "write really fast with no clue where you're going and try to get stopped mid-sentence" sort of thing.

    And it's a blast. 

    What with the time restraints and all, I was just trying to get something down, but it's quickly evolved into something legitimate.  I'm pretty excited about it -- throughout revisions, there hasn't been much raw writing, and I've missed it.  This has definitely shown me that it's not a bad thing to be working on a new project while massively editing something else.  It keeps the writing fresh, you know?

    Anyway, now I bring you this quote from A. M. Rosenthal:

    "If you don't have a sensation of apprehension when you set out to find a story and a swagger when you sit down to write it, you are in the wrong business."

    Well said, Rosenthal.

    Now I'm working on balancing the revising -- priority number one -- and the plotting for the new project, but either way, I'm pretty optimistic about this new project.  The whole apprehension/swagger bit A. M. was talking about, I guess, plus it's still in that happy stage where everything seems simple.

    So what about you?  How do you feel when you start a new project -- and how long does that happy, simple stage last for you before the real work starts?

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Actually, Go Ahead -- Judge Away

"Don't judge." 

    It's an expression I hear quite a bit, mostly in joke -- but let's face it.  Whether we want to or not -- whether we realize it or not -- we judge people and characters.  And a lot of the time, one of the first impressions is actually a name. 

    Names are obviously important -- they need to match the character's personality, time period, social status, and so on.  Eugene Fitzherbert isn't a great name for an adventure-loving thief, and I'm sure Flynn Rider would back you up on that one. 

    But even though names are important, they don't necessarily make or break a character -- that's all up to the characterization. 

    Example time --

    Four from Divergent by Veronica Roth.  I mean, anyone else ever read a character with a number for a name (besides the temporary title Boy 412 had in Magyk by Angie Sage)?  Yeah, not really.  And somehow it seems like Four makes a natural name, whereas, I don't know, the name Three or Five or Eight would just be ridiculous. 

    It's the same way with Dustfinger with Inkheart by Cornelia Funke.  At least Four is a nickname -- Dustfinger's kind of stuck with his name.  Still, he's an awesome character, and if you focus on him and don't consider his name too deeply, he manages to make "Dustfinger" a pretty cool name. 

    A lot of high-fantasy books are the same way.  Who would've ever thought Aragorn or Frodo or Legolas could've been names? 

    These are only a couple of examples, but I the point's pretty clear -- any more would be overkill.  Have you come across any other names that at first sounded riduculous, but ended up seeming rad once the characterization had done its job? 

Friday, August 12, 2011

Wisdom from Kathryn Stockett, Author of *The Help*

Okay, so if you haven't already, you really need to read this.  It's an article by Kathryn Stockett -- she talks about her book, The Help, and everything she went through to get it published.  More specifically, everything she went through to get an agent.

    Her book was rejected 60 times.  The 61st letter was an offer of representation.  She kept trying for three and a half years before she got an agent.  Now her book's a bestseller and has its own movie.  Nice turn of events, right?

    Anyway, if you're querying or going to be querying in the future, I hope you'll keep this in mind, maybe even print it out.  Even if you're not writing, if something else is your passion, it's a great reminder to never give up.  Plus, bonus:  The way she writes is sort of hysterical.  That never hurts. 

    A lot of people claim J.K. Rowling as an inspiration.  She is, no doubt, but in the "agent rejection" respect, her story never really encouraged me much.  I mean, sure, she got rejected by multiple publishers before her book sold, but she got representation from the first agent she queried. 

    On the other end of the spectrum, Kathryn Stockett got representation from the sixty-first agent she queried, and won over the first publisher she tried. 

    What sort of stories encourage you?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Liebster Award -- A.K.A., I'm a Cheater

First thing's first:  Thank you, K.V. Briar!  (Now is the part where you follow her if you haven't already.  You know, not to be bossy or anything.)  Also, an apology to her:  I'm sorry I took so long to get this posted.  Back to school stuff and excuses and all that.

    I've already made a Liebster post, but since the award's meant to highlight up-and-coming blogs, I figured it'd be okay if I posted again and shared five more blogs.  (Does that make me a cheater?  Not sure.  Anyway, I come from a very competitive family, where boardgames are cutthroat and the occasional display of cheating happens -- you especially have to watch my 12-year-old sister.  Let's just say there's a reason we don't play Monopoly much.)

    Here's a quick glimpse of the rules:

    "The goal of the award is to spotlight up and coming bloggers who currently have less than 200 followers. The rules of the award are:

1. Thank the giver and link back to the blogger who gave it to you.
2. Reveal your top 5 picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.
3. Copy and paste the award on your blog.
4. Have faith that your followers will spread the love to other bloggers.
5. And most of all - have bloggity-blog fun!"

    Aaaand here we go (remember, no sales pitches -- it's for your own good):

    AderuMoro's Too Many Ambitions


    Keep on Writing, Keep on Dreaming

    Live to Write...Edit when Necessary

    Thoughts of a Shieldmaiden

    Okay then, I'm off to alert these blogs like a responsible blogger. 

    For the record, if you laughed/scoffed at me for that last sentence, no worries -- my feelings won't be crushed.


Tuesday, August 2, 2011

"Good designers can create normalcy out of chaos...." --Jeffery Veen

In the above quote, replace "designers" with "writers".  Because writers are just people who design with words, right?

    About a week ago, I finally got around to reading Divergent.  (I know, I know, it took me long enough.)  It was great in general, but one of the things it did reminded me of the Inkheart books -- both Roth and Funke use simple, everyday occurences -- even the most mundane of things -- to give the reader a sense of normalcy.

    Example time -- first, from Inkheart:

    " 'And, Meggie,' [Mo] said over his shoulder, 'you go back to sleep.'  Then, without another word, he closed his workshop door.
    Meggie stood there rubbing her cold feet together.  Go back to sleep.  Sometimes, when they'd stayed up late yet again, Mo would toss her down on her bed like a bag of walnuts.  Sometimes he chased her around the house after supper until she escaped into her room, breathless with laughter.  And sometimes he was so tired he lay down on the sofa and she made him a cup of coffee before she went to bed.  But he had never ever sent her off to her room so brusquely."

    "Dustfinger must have been waiting in the road beyond the wall.  Meggie had picked her precarious way along the top of that wall hundreds of times, up to the rusty hinges of the gate and back again, eyes tightly closed so she could get a clearer view of the tiger she'd imagined waiting in the bamboo at the foot of the wall, his eyes yellow as amber, or the foaming rapids to her right and her left."

    "Meggie was just throwing [the sparrows] the breadcrumbs she had found in her jacket pocket -- left over from a picnic on some long-forgotten day -- when the door suddenly opened."
    "It was a strange feeling to be spying on Mo.  She couldn't remember ever doing it before
-- except the night before, when Dustfinger had arrived.  And the time when she had tried to find out whether Mo was Santa Claus."

    Throughout these bits of story -- most of them slipped seamlessly into the main narrative of the novel -- you get a real sense of how life was before.  Before the characters' lives went crazy, before the story itself started and everything changed.  You get a glimpse into how close Meggie and Mo's father-daughter relationship is, how Mo isn't exactly the most responsible parent, but he loves Meggie and makes things fun.  You see how Meggie used to climb the fence and imagine she was on adventures -- who hasn't played in their yard as a kid? -- and that she goes on picnics and leaves crumbs in the pockets and tried once to determine whether her dad was Santa.  In these paragraphs, in relatively few words, Funke establishes the characters' lives before, to better show how they change after, and again, sets a normal background that makes it easier to believe the fantastic, sometimes unrealistic things that're going to happen. 

    Divergent did the same thing for me:

    "We walk together to the kitchen.  On these mornings when my brother makes breakfast, and my father's hand skims my hair as he reads the paper, and my mother hums as she clears the table -- it is on these mornings that I feel guiltiest for wanting to leave them."
    "[M]y brother made breakfast this morning, and my father made dinner last night, so it's my turn to cook."

    "We sit at the table.  We always pass food to the right, and no one eats until everyone is served.  My father extends his hands to my mother and my brother, and they extend their hands to him and me, and my father gives thanks to God for food and work and friends and family."

    And then there's the example Tris goes back to the most -- her mother trimming Tris's hair.  It's mentioned several times, so I won't pick an example.  Throughout Divergent, these pieces of background information show how her family interacts and works, which is really complex, given their dystopian world's customs and standards.  Family plays a large part in Divergent and Inkheart, and I think that shows.

    Both authors managed this well --- a light-handed sprinkling of background information, of the characters' pasts, that isn't forced or heavy.  It feels so natural that it also makes the world seem normal, real, and to me, that's important in a book. 

    Agreed, or no?  What books have you read that had the same effect as these?

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Liebster Blog Award

First off, here's a huge thanks to Jenna Cooper!  If you haven't already, go follow her blog.

    Here's all the Liebster stuff:

"The goal of the award is to spotlight up and coming bloggers who currently have less than 200 followers. The rules of the award are:

1. Thank the giver and link back to the blogger who gave it to you.
2. Reveal your top 5 picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.
3. Copy and paste the award on your blog.
4. Have faith that your followers will spread the love to other bloggers.
5. And most of all - have bloggity-blog fun!"

    Got that?  Good.  Let's go. 

    Here are the five blogs I'm passing it on to:

     The Story Queen


    Hello, World

    Amaranthine Forever 

    Scribbles and Ink Stains 

    Granted, I think I was technically supposed to write up a short line about each blog, and I honestly tried.  But I make a horrible salespitch, and they all sounded forced and robotic, so...I know there aren't descriptions, but don't take it out on them!  Go visit and comment and follow, agreed?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The First Sentence -- Hook, Please

First off, if you saw the title of this and thought it'd be remotely helpful . . . yeah, sorry about that.

    It won't be.

    But it's amusing, and in my book, amusing is always a plus.

    Apparently, there's a contest every year -- called the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest -- to see who can write the worst opening sentence for an fake novel.  (Anyway, I hope these are fake. Eek.)

    The 2011 grand prize winner is Sue Fondrie, a professor from Wisconsin.  This is her entry:

        "Cheryl's mind turned like the vanes of a wind-powered turbine, chopping her sparrow-like thoughts into bloody pieces that fell onto a growing pile of forgotten memories."

    Pretty bad, eh? 

    There are different divisions within the contest -- you can read a few of them, and the original article where I learned all this brain-enriching stuff, here

    Really, I don't do morals of stories, but I guess the main lesson is this:

    If you're having trouble nailing the opening sentence of your novel, be sure to keep all the attempts -- the more laughable, the better.

    You could always enter next year's contest.

    So now I have to ask:  What's the worst opening sentence you've ever read?  What made it so bad -- or is it wince-inducing and self-explanatory?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Only Constant in Life is Change, or Something Cheesy Like That

"Only the extremely ignorant or the extremely wise can resist change." -- Socrates

    If we've heard it once -- and we've all heard it once -- we've heard it one-point-three million times: 

    Characters need to face significant growth by the end of a novel.

    Well, sure.  I'm not denying that.  After all, if Scrooge had been a total cad at the end of A Christmas Carol and let Tiny Tim ("God blesh us, ev'ry one!") die, the story probably wouldn't make such a warm, fuzzy Christmas movie/play. 


    Not all characters are Scrooge, you know what I'm saying?

    Characters need to change.  Like Socrates said, only morons and brilliant people resist change -- and a lot of main characters don't fully fit into either category.  Practically everything that makes characters themselves are their personalities, actions, reactions, quirks.  And if you remove all of those traits from the equation, what's left? 

    A boring imposter-of-the-original character that, quite frankly, I don't want to read about. 

    Example time -- and that means if you haven't read the books about the bolded characters, I don't know if you'll want to read their paragraphs.  I'm not spoiling plot events, exactly, but I do go through the character growth in the books.

    Artemis Fowl changed throughout his series, making friend and becoming less cold and ruthless.  But he's still sly and calculating, and unafraid of lying or manipulation.  If he'd become a total softie throughout the books, I wouldn't like his character anymore (because really, he's really more interesting when he's being cold and ruthless). 

    Maximum Ride became softer throughout her series, too.  Sometimes against her will, she became warmer, friendlier, and more emotional.  She isn't always exactly happy about these developments, but her character has changed -- grown -- so she deals.  I don't always like Max's weaker side -- slightly annoying, if you catch my drift.  I'm the tough one, I don't know why I'm crying, I can count the times I've cried in front of these kids on one hand, blah, blah, blah.  But it's usually fine. 

    Tally Youngblood (Uglies series) -- okay, this one's kind of a doozy, and it's not even completely Tally's fault.  (This one actually has spoilers.  Close your eyes if necessary.)  In Uglies, thanks to society standards, Tally considered herself worthless and hideous, but knew she'd be amazing once she got the pretty-making operation for her sixteenth birthday.  By the end of the book, after a nice little visit with some rebels, she decides she doesn't need any operation and that real is beautiful.  However, she also volunteers to be turned pretty so she can test a cure -- and thanks to the surgery, forgets all about her whole "natural beauty/brainwashing is bad" epiphany.  She's a vapid, self-absorbed pretty now.  Once she gets the cure -- cough -- she's back to her pre-surgery, post-Smoke self again.  Then she gets turned into a Special, and she's arrogant, ruthless, and cold, determined to keep everything under the city's control.  She cures herself from being Special and finally finds her own way of thinking, free from any surgery or city-manufactured thinking.  Major growth-rollercoaster there.  Three- steps-forward-four-steps back-five-steps-forward kind of thing, yes?  Even though I halfway hate Tally for what she inadverently did to Zane (who's one of my listed Favorites), I still like her and her growth arc okay. 

    Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games) used to be a happy little girl.  Then her dad got blown up and her mom turned worthless.  It was up to Katniss to ensure her and her little sister's survival, and she ended up cold and hard, a total survivor.  (Spoilers coming from here on out.)  She ended up softening a tad around Peeta, then slightly insane after her sister's death, and back to her normal, less-distant self again.  One could definitely say her growth arc is more of a wave, though not as erratic as Tally's.

    Dustfinger (Inkheart) was a roaming fire-eater in his own world.  He had a wife, two daughters, and a stellar way with flames -- and then Mo read him out of his world.  To get back home, Dustfinger's willing to lie, cheat, steal, manipulate, and generally throw morals out the window.  But he's only doing it to get to his family again, and he tries to fix the problems his double-crossing starts.  Basically, he's good if you're helping him, bad if you're not, a character with flexible morals and a generally good heart.  (He's a Favorite, too.)

    Characters usually change in their stories -- sometimes drastically, sometimes subtly -- but not too much.  Because if they do, they lose what makes them them.  I'm not saying your Twihard-axe-murderer protagonist should still be going around chopping people up at the end of the book(s) -- certainly that first bit needs to change.  But maybe your jewelry thief should still have a weakness for emeralds; maybe your MC still chews other characters out.  (Lame examples there, I know.  Oh well.)

    Do you agree with this, or are you for the characters being reformed by the end of the story? 

Saturday, July 16, 2011

You Heard the Man

          "They say, best men are moulded out of faults,
           And, for the most, become much more the better
           For being a little bad."
            -- William Shakespeare, "Measure for Measure", Act 5 Scene 1

    Today, I think we'll take it from an expert. 

    All of my favorite characters on the All-Exclusive All-Time list are definitely flawed.  (Peeta's on that list, which almost dashes the continuity there, but I think Snow and a certain venom took care of that.)  Maybe that's just a personal preference of mine, but I think it raises a point.  We all know that no one likes perfect characters, and most normal people don't like purely awful characters either.  Society tends to frown upon that -- but then again, I frown on society, so who knows.

    All of my Favorites have some sort of quirk that makes them interesting -- and not necessarily nice -- and influences the story line.

   A great example of this is Artemis Fowl.  He's not one of my Favorites -- I mean, he's a great character and all, but he's not on The List --, but he's quite flawed, thank you very much.  He can be ruthless, manipulative, completely full of himself.  (The fact that he's the biggest supergenius out there doesn't exactly hurt matters, either.)  He ends up showing gradual growth -- peachy -- but he doesn't completely lose his flaws in the process.

    What about you?  Is there a common thread between all your favorites -- or do you even pick favorites?  (The notion is completely foreign to me, but my mom actually doesn't pick favorites . . . except for Peeta, that is.) 

    And what scale should the characters be on -- way flawed or, in the words of Shakespeare, "a little bad"?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Do Everyone a Favor -- Skip the Lecture

For me, there are several things a writer can do to ruin a book:

    1)  Mention a vampire

    2)  Mention a werewolf

    (Thank you, Twitlight.  But that's beside the point.)

    3)  Turn the book into a preaching platform

    There we go -- today's topic. 

    Really, people don't read fiction to hear the author's opinion on anything other than what pertains to the story.  It's annoying, it's something that everyone can't agree with, and it totally interrupts the plot.  I don't read to learn anyone's stand on global warming or environmental awareness (ahem, The Final Warning and MAX: A Maximum Ride Novel, both by James Patterson.  Max is still great, though), politics, the economy, etc. -- unless it directly relates to the story.

    That said, I think it's amazing when books teach us about important life issues -- when it's done right.  Some of my favorites do this, without ever outright saying "War is bad" or "Be true to yourself".  Not only are these stereotypes (not all wars are bad; being yourself is great and all, unless you happen to be an axe-murderer or cannibal or Twihard), they need to be handled with more subtlety.  Here are a few of those favorites, in no particular order:

  • A Separate Peace by John Knowles.  Of course, being slightly biased, I consider all my favorite books amazing, but this one is especially so.  That's mainly because of my favorite character, Phineas, but the book also touches on deeper subjects, especially the darker side of the human nature.  (Really, we aren't so nice.)  While it takes place at a boy's school during World War II, the focus is more on internal war.  And while I would've judged the book by the cover (and synopsis and setting) and expected it to be boring, probably not even giving it a chance, it's now my favorite.  I'm primarily a fantasy reader, so that's definitely saying something.
  • The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins.  Most people have read this one, so I don't have to go into as much detail -- but the way she handles themes like war, violence, and freedom seems so effortless, so smoothly integrated, it never ceases to amaze me.  Okay, the gushing is over.
  • Uglies trilogy/series (I guess it depends on your opinion, and whether or not you include Extras) by Scott Westerfeld.  It hits a whole range of themes, from self-acceptance to society's place and influence to, again, freedom.  Even with all that going on, it doesn't seem too busy, and the world-building's fabulous.
  • Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling.  Again, this is an obvious pick, which is part of why I couldn't leave it out.  Good and evil, fighting over power (of the ruling and magic variety) -- it's all there.
    Of course, there are countless other out there, and you can find morals or symbolism to almost anything, if you try -- but what are some of your favorites?  What themes/lessons do they express?  Do you think it's okay to preach in books, or do you also feel like it's a no-no?

    This lecture on lectures was presented in blog form, so I decided to ignore the irony and go with it. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Rewriting: It's Kind of a Love/Hate Situation

Well, I'm still very much in the clutches of rewrites.  

    Yeah, I have been for a while now.  And to be honest, I haven't been working on them as much as I should've for most of June. 

    But it's July now.

    So I'm pulling myself out of this whole "writer's drought" issue and getting the rewrites done.  I've actually got most of the drudge work done, and now it's actually entering it all into my computer and then bridging the scenes together.  Since I've done a ton of rewriting on this book (it's changed a lot throughout its almost-three-year-lifespan), I've pretty much got my method down.  It goes something like this:

    First, I printed the manuscript out.  Slasher -- my neon-pink editing pen, which miraculously hasn't run out of ink -- and I got to spend lots of bonding time, since I need to cut at least 27,000 words from the book.  Ideally, I'll cut more (which looks like it's going to be easy enough) so I can go back and bridge the scenes.  More on that below. 

    When I'm cutting words for an overhaul on this scale, I have to look at each individual word, the sentence it goes with, and the paragraph it's part of.  If it doesn't have to be there
-- if it doesn't bring something incredibly important to the story -- it bites the dust. 

    In some chapters, there's more to be scrapped than there is to save.  When that's the case, I go through and highlight anything worth keeping.  I'll type up all the rest of the edits directly into a document -- there's not enough of the original document left to bother with --, but I'll completely rewrite any chapter I used the highlighting method with.  Since I had to pick out threads of paragraphs that could stay, there won't be enough left to salvage anyway.

    After I arrange all the chapters in the right places, including the rewrites, I can go through and bridge everything together.  I'd cut out plenty of extra words in the first stage, so now I can go through and add some, making transitions smoother and reinserting some of my details.  I can't go crazy, of course, but the bridge work makes the writing seem natural again, taking away the stilted sound that the bare-bones version has. 

    The biggest thing in cutting out words, for me, is that "What does it add to the story?" question.  In this way, I find that lots of things, from words to paragraphs and even whole scenes, can be removed.  For example, towards the middle, my MC gets generally broken.  Another character heals her, but the main thing is that MC gets broken, then healed.  By establishing that, I can go back and cut out chunks of details about the healing process, probably even have my MC unconscious or something for most of it.  I actually had lots of little moments like this, where I'd written in unimportant pieces instead of just hitting the main idea. 

    After it's all "done," I can make a draft specifically targeting speaker tags.  Like I've mentioned before, I used to have a huge problem with tags other than "said," and I'm still working on that.  I'll go through and check all the tags and beats.  I'll read through it one more time to see if I can catch anything else, make sure it makes sense, and then I'll have people proof-read it for me. 

    For general editing, I listed some tips here.  Have you ever had to completely rewrite something?  If so, any method you'd like to share? 

Friday, July 1, 2011

-Cue Shakespeare's Cliche Rose Quote-

Yeah, I'm totally not going there.  I can barely stomach Romeo and Juliet as it is.  (More of a Julius Caesar girl, see?)  But as I'm considering names today, that was the natural allusion to make. 

    So.  Names.  Incredibly, ridiculously important, right?  Socially acceptable or not, whether we admit or even realize it or not, we all judge books by covers -- and people by names

    Some authors like to pick names with meanings that connect with their characters -- J. K. Rowling and Suzanne Collins are two popular authors who do this.  J.K. employs this, especially with Latin, more than any author I've ever read.  (Here's a list of character names and meanings behind them -- it doesn't have all the characters, but a lot of them, and it probably does a better job handling it all than I could.)  And in Collins' case, Katniss was mentioned in the book as a plant that the character was named after, but "Katniss" also means "belonging to an arrow" in Latin.  Peeta's name sounds just like "pita" bread -- fitting, since he comes from a family of bakers.

    Of course, there are other authors who pick names specifically for the meanings -- and tons who don't.  In my current project, I just went with random names I liked.  But if I can find a name that I like the sound/look of and applies to the story, I'd definitely be open to doing that in the future. 

    Just for fun, I looked up a few name meanings.  My first two names -- Jenna and Blake -- mean "light" and "dark" (depending on which language/search engine or website you're consulting).  My MC's named Mallory, which apparently means "ill-fated" and "unlucky".  Kind of makes me wonder . . . .

    Anyway, how do you pick your characters' names?  Have you ever looked up their names
-- or yours?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Speaker Tags: Like the Plague

Semi-recently, I stumbled upon the first draft I'd ever written.  I'll spare you the shameful and wince-worthy details, since there are some things you just shouldn't put people through, but among all its issues, my speaker tags were rampant.

    I'm not just talking about using tags other than "said" -- that's another post, and it has a lot of different facets.  (Though I had that problem, too.  When you use the word "queried" instead of ask in the attempt to change things up, you know things are bad.  But it's all in the past, right?)

   Nah, I'm talking about attaching speaking tags in general.  Especially when there's already an action tag in place.  Suzanne Collins is pretty much the queen of this -- I love The Hunger Games and its trilogy, I've made it painfully obvious and redundant in the past, but yeah.  She'll set an action tag, lay down the dialogue, and then -- no, no no.  A speaker tag.  And usually "I say" at that.  Eek.  Talk about pet peeves.

    But hey, like I said.  Suzanne Collins can do -- well, some wrong, but not a whole lot. 

    Besides avoiding my annoyance, cutting all unnecessary tags has another shining benefit: slashing the word count.  And if you're anything like me, Word Count is the enemy.  (Otherwise, you're lucky.  Word-by-word editing is a major pain.)

    Here are a couple examples of speaker tags not only done right, but kept at the barest minimum:

            Her horse was panicking; he took a deep breath and ran from cover, grabbing it by the bridle.  "Get down!"
    She jumped, and they both fell.  Then they were squirming into the bushes, lying flat, breathless.  Around them the forest roared with rain.
    "No.  You?"
    "Bruised.  Nothing serious."
    Claudia dragged soaked hair from her eyes.  "I can't believe this.  Sia would never order it.  Where are they?"

    This is from Sapphique, by Catherine Fisher.  I think it's excellent -- there's no tag at all from the first line to the last, and even then, it's action-tagging.  She doesn't spell out who says what, and she doesn't have to -- as a reader, it really isn't rocket science to figure out. 

    Here's one more example, from A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L'Engle --

    Sandy paused, a handful of forks in his hand, to grin at their mother.  "Thanksgiving dinner is practically the only meal Mother cooks in the kitchen --"
    "--instead of out in the lab on her Bunsen burner," Dennys concluded.
    "After all, those Bunsen-burner stews did lead directly to the Nobel Prize.  We're really proud of you, Mother, although you and Father give us a heck of a lot to live up to."
    "Keeps our standards high." 

    Sure, this one uses more tags, but I still felt like it was a good example.  I'm not exactly loving the phrase "a handful of forks in his hand," but I still love how the twins are always interrupting each other, so I'll let it slide. 

    Okay, there it is.  Speaker tagging -- something better left in small doses.  What's your opinion?  Speaker tags or action tags?  I think a good mix of both is important to keep a natural-sounding balance; do you?

Saturday, June 25, 2011

You Know What This Means?

    Yeah.  Fresh battery.  I got it last night.

    The laptop's alive again. 

    Pure.  Happiness. 

    Meh.  I'll make a real post later.  I'm too deeply rooted in laptop world right now to do anything else, so this'll have to do for now.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


Sad news.  My laptop battery's dead.  Like, dead dead, as in This thing won't charge even if I plug it in, and I am officially going to die.
[Photo credit link]
    Scratch that.  It's been like this for about a week now -- we couldn't order my new battery while everybody was at Falls Creek, so it got pushed off.  I'm pretty sure it's been ordered,  but by now I'm half-dead.  It's like some natural extension of my hands has been lopped off, you know?

    Okay, so I probably seem a little . . . I hesitate to say "dramatic," but sure, something like that.  Really, though, this is a majorly bad situation.  I write with my laptop.  Blog with it.  That's where all the pictures I've taken go (I take a lot of photos), and I can't upload more and clear out my camera's memory card until the laptop's back. 

    Basically, everything revolves around the laptop. 

    So all this woe's got me thinking.  I used to do everything by hand, before I got my computer.  I could've used the house computer, and I occasionally used the desktop that used to be in my room -- but I usually chose to do things by hand.

    On one hand, that makes some sense.  I wasn't committed to a single story concept back then, so I never really typed things to print them out.  Obviously, notebooks are a heck of a lot more portable than desktop computers, so there's that.  And I was only writing for myself at that point -- no one else ever read my stuff, which I'm thankful for now --, so there was no reason to type it up to print.  (Not to mention the issue of trying to blog with a notebook.  Let me know how that one works out, all right?)

    But now I simply can't function without computers.  Instead of scribbling out whole lines of handwriting, I say hello the the Backspace button.  Copying, pasting, spellcheck.  Emailing the document, and not having to type it all out again later on after writing it in my notebook.  I can type faster than I can write things out, and there's always the plethora of fonts out there to choose from.  I'm a total font nerd, so that makes most of the decision for me.

    I've heard that writing by hand gets your creative juices flowing better than typing, but that doesn't hold any weight for me.  Maybe it's because I'm used to all things digital, but things just seem smoother with typing.  It's easier, less of a hassle.  Especially on laptop keys -- my fingers are a lot more prone to stumble when I'm using a regular keyboard.  And while I really don't care about it, I'm sure I make tree-hugging hippes proud of the paper I save.

    Until I print it all out, of course.  

    Of course, I'm not saying I don't like doing things by paper.  I always print my manuscript out for editing -- I catch a lot more mistakes that way --, and if I'm writing poetry, I actually prefer paper.  (Not sure why, but whatever.)

    But everyone's different.  What do you prefer -- keyboard, or notebook? 

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Who Doesn't Love a Giveaway?

That's what I want to know.  I mean, hello, free stuff.  Please and thank you, right?

    I'm not hosting the giveaway -- I guess I should mention that.  It's hosted by Margaret Free at her blog, Hello, World.

    She's giving a Moleskine notebook and pens away, so if I were you, I'd check it out.

    Not to sound like a certain stuttering pig or anything, but that's all for now.

Friday, June 17, 2011


Well, I'm still at camp, so I don't have another character analysis mapped out yet. (I know, excuses, excuses. Sorry.) But I brought Uglies with me and was rereading it today for the umpteenth time, when I thought of something.

Sometimes, authors take capitalizing too far.

I'm not saying Uglies does. In fact, I consider it one of those books you should consult to see something done right -- in this case, capitalization. Usually, when a writer designs a new world or culture she/he designs new terms and "inventions" -- for lack of a better, more inclusive word -- to go along with that world. And all too often, authors capitalize way too many of those words they coin. An example of this? Magyk by Angie Sage. (She also deliberately misspells "magic" words and puts them in bold, which I'm not exactly crazy about, but hey, that's a different rant altogether.) Then again, one of the main characters in that series is named Jenna, so I can't pick on the book too much.

There are some other examples of capitalization gone right besides Uglies, of course. Harry Potter does a great job of it. The Hunger Games series doesn't offend of that front either, though there aren't as many opportunities to over-capitalize there.

So maybe we should all take a cue from e. e. cummings and go easy on capitalizing made-up terms. Agree? Disagree?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Character Analysis: Keiro

Okay, so last week I said something about analyzing characteristics of the Greats (characters who've made my All-Time Favorites list, which is pretty exclusive). I'm still going to be doing that, but I'm at both yearbook camp and Falls Creek through Saturday, so we'll see how that goes.

I do have an analysis for you today, though -- the character Keiro from *Incarceron*. (Sorry. I'm doing this from my phone, and the whole "Italics" concept seems to be freaking it out, so I have to stick with asterixs) by Catherine Fisher.

One of the things I love about how Fisher handled Keiro's characterization is all the layers she gave him. On the outside, Keiro was cold and self-serving, fierce and arrogant. And on some part of the inside, he was -- well, he was still like that. But deep, deep inside -- we're talking waaay down inside, mind you --, he was actually, you know, *human*: insecure, uncertain, even a little *caring*.

Of course, this mix of traits isn't exactly rare in characters in general. From the description I gave above, I'm sure you could name a handful of characters with those same qualities. To me, that only reinforces the ever-mentioned technique of showing-versus-telling. I mean, that list of traits is *okay*. Maybe a little bland, even verging on "stock character" syndrome, but still fine.

Really, though, all of that's just the recipe for a character. If you had all the necessary for a batch of brownies, that still won't cut it if you bungle a step in the process -- say, the amount of time in the oven, or cracking the eggs before adding eggs to the brownie mix itself. Will it? Uh, no. Because you didn't follow through with the right particulars -- you did everything, but maybe not in the right way --, the brownies didn't turn out quite right. Didn't "rise to their potential" or whatever. (Plus, no one's going to eat your brownies. Just warning you.)

*You had all the right components, but the execution just wasn't there.*

I think it's the same principle with characters. You have to pull them off just right, or you'll miss the mark completely.

The execution of Keiro's characterization -- well, this might sound kind of strange, but it's beautiful. The development, reveal, building up -- it's the Goldilocks scenario, "just right," spot-on.

This was partly due to the recipe, sure, but the brilliance was in the execution. Fisher, for the most part, is a master of show-versus-tell in *Incarceron* and its sequel, drawing on Keiro's relationship with his oathbrother, Finn, to convey his character more fully. Sure, Keiro mocked Finn, ripped him off, occasionally used him. But whenever Finn needed help, reassurance, or a confidence boost, guess who was there for him? Yeah. Cold, hard little Keiro. My favorite. The character whose motives I couldn't figure out, the one who I couldn't tell if he was good or bad. (He made the list either way.)

And you know what the kicker is? Keiro isn't even a main character. Not a *main*-main one. He's definitely a supportive character, and he's in most of the book, but you never get to see inside his head. Which is what makes the use if showing-versus-telling so important, right?

So. You go read *Incarceron* -- which I've been meaning to review -- while I'm in camp mode. (You know . . . if you want to and all. It's an amazing book, I promise.) In the meantime, have you ever read about a character with the same general "recipe" as Keiro's? Did it work out, or no?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

What Makes Characters Special? And the Big 3 of Rules

I can sum up my favorite thing about books in one word:


    It doesn't matter where they take place -- New Pretty Town, Middle Earth, Hogwarts, Panem --, it's always the characters that stand out to me, no matter how cool any setting is.  So I always ponder what makes those characters special.

    And the truth is, I don't really know.  Probably no one does.  There's just too much in a great character to really express -- kind of like you can't sum up a person with words.  You can try, you can get close, but there's some sort of residual essence you just can't translate into print.  Since I think of characters as people, I figure it's that same principle that keeps me from completely taking the characters apart and seeing what's so great.  Circumstances and backgrounds play a pretty big part in them, I'm sure. 

    What I can do, though, is go through and analyze traits of the Greats that contribute to their characters, their personalities.  Of course, since favorite characters and "good" qualities are really subjective -- I know some people who don't even have favorites, which my brain just can't fathom --, we're not all going to agree.  And that's okay.

    For today, though, here are some main rules that I figure everyone can agree with:

    1)  Your characters can't be all good.  Really, they shouldn't come close, either.  Nobody likes a Goody Two-Shoes in real life, and that trait doesn't come across so well in print, either.  (That's probably one of the biggest reasons I can't stand the character Eragon.  Again, personal opinion.)

    2)  On the flipside, your character can't be all bad.  Sure, an evil character might not be as annoying as a perfect character, but s/he'll still be really flat, boring.  Some of the best books have the best villains -- I'd name some, but that sounds like another post to me.  Shades of grey need to be included in all characters, but this is especially neglected in villains. 

    3)  Your characters need to have weaknesses.  Probably kind of obvious, but the above two weren't exactly top-secret, either. 

    Actually, this post is getting sort of long, so I'll leave it at that for now.  Up next?  The character analyses, or whatever you want to call them.

    What about you?  Do you pick favorites -- and if so, what qualities seem to stand out in them?

Monday, June 6, 2011

Blog Award and Blogs to Check Out

First off, I want to thank Jenna Cooper for the Irresistably Sweet Blog Award!  You should go check out her blog if you haven't already.  Like, right now.  I'd wanted to write this post over the weekend, but my Internet went mysteriously out.  Anyway, it's mysteriously back on again, which brings you this post.

Ooh. Strawberries.
    Here are The Official Rules:

    1)  Thank the person who gave you the award and link back to their blog.  Which you should do anyway, really.
    2)  Include seven random tidbits about you in your blog post.
    3)  Link to 15 other blogs.
    4) Let those 15 other bloggers know that you've awarded them.  So you can keep the chain going, you know?

    Okay, so here are seven completely random things about me you didn't know, and probably never wanted to, either:

    1)  I switch favorite songs all the time, but I always love 80's music.  Currently, my favorite song is "People Are Strange" by The Doors.
    2)  I'm somewhat addicted to the show "Angry Beavers".  It aired when I was little, in the 90's, but thanks to Netflix, I have instant access.  (When, you know, my Internet is working.)
    3)  I'm insanely jealous that I didn't come up with the X-Men.  Especially "X-Men: The Animated Series" -- again, a 90's cartoon.  (I'm able to watch this one with the help of YouTube.  Bless you, people who make videos of old cartoons that don't air anymore and post them.)
    4)  I'm going into the eleventh grade.  (Thank goodness for summer.)
    5)  My favorite poet is definitely Edgar Allan Poe.  My favorite poem?  "Alone," by said favorite poet.
    6)  I'm incredibly clumsy.  (Scarily clumsy, I guess I should say.)
    7)  For my birthday in April, I got a Sheltie puppy.  I named him Dax -- which means he gets called Daxter, Daximus, and for some reason, Daxy -- and he's also incredibly clumsy.  We make quite a pair.

    Okay.  With that out of the way, I can link to some helpful blogs out there.  You might already know some of them, but that's okay.  In no particular order --
    So there it is.  I really need to let those blogs know -- but that's probably something for tomorrow. 



Friday, June 3, 2011

When a Movie Becomes a Book...

What with all the buzz about the movie adaptation for The Hunger Games being underway, I've been wondering -- how do authors react when they learn their book's being adapted?  Sure, in one way, it'd be great, as a measure of success and a way to attract more readers and all.  But what about when the movie doesn't live up to the book?

    Usually, when a book's converted into a movie, you get a group of people happy with it, and a mob of disgruntled readers.  I've been one of those readers several times over (They gave Annabeth dark hair?  There's no unicorn in Inkheart!), as I'm sure most every has.  So for the author, it makes sense to assume that it'd be much worse. 

    I really think that it's all about how you handle it, though.  If you go into things, deciding beforehand that it's going to be different from the book -- maybe something else entirely -- then you'll probably fare much better.  And have more hair when it's all through.  This is someone else's interpretation of your darling -- isn't that cool in its own right?  Seeing something through someone else's eyes, seeing how your words, your worlds, characters, inspired someone and took shape in their head? 

    Once I read an interview with an author -- I think it was Cornelia Funke, but it was several years ago, I can't find the interview now, and I've slept since then, so I can't be 100% sure -- and a question came up about a movie based on the book the author had written.  (Again, I'm fairly certain it was for the Inkheart movie.)  The question was about how different the movie had been from the book, and the author said something to the effect of not really minding, because, "The movie isn't mine.  It's the director's project, so I just view it as something else completely."

    Even though I can't link to the interview, though I can't promise if the author was Cornelia Funke, and I don't have a direct quote -- it's the same basic principle, isn't it?  The movie isn't yours.  Distance yourself from it. 

    Anyway, you can worry about all that after you've finished the book, gotten it published, hit it big, and gotten a movie in the works.  And for most people, that's still far enough away to have plenty of time to worry about it later.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Spy Kids 4 and Slightly-Related Book Series

Maybe you've all heard -- maybe you haven't -- maybe I'm the only one who cares.

    But there's going to be a Spy Kids 4.

    Okay, I love those movies.  Always have.  I was probably in kindergarten or first grade when the first one came out, and everything about it -- the gadgets, the missions, the fact that the kids were spies -- fascinated me. 

    Also, the thumb-people and the guy with too many heads really freaked me out. 

    I really don't know about this fourth movie, though.  Carmen and Juni are adults now, and according to a Yahoo! article (which is how I found out about the movie in the first place), they're "still with the OSS and give the new kids -- Rebecca (Rowan Blanchard) and Cecil (Mason Cook) -- some pointers and much needed spy gadgets in their battle against the fiendish Timekeeper".

    All this kind of reminds me of what they do in books sometimes -- finish a series, then start a new, slightly related one, usually with an original character's kid as the new main character.  I hate it when they do that, so I figure I won't like this movie, if I even convince myself to watch it. 

    So really, in a small way, this has to do with writing.  Granted, the connection is pretty slim.  And sort of tacked onto the end, almost like an afterthought. 

    But mostly, it wasn't.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Endings Are Important, Too: THE LAST OLYMPIAN by Rick Riordan

The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan, come on down.  You're today's contestant for "the endings" series, which is probably drawing to a close itself.  (For a little while, at least.  I'm feeling a little like a broken record.  Of course, if I don't actually think of anything to blog about or it's been a long time, I may spring one every once in a while.  Just to keep everyone on their toes.)

    But.  Like I was saying.  Here's the last bit to The Last Olympian:

        " 'Could be a problem for another generation of demigods," I agreed.  "Then we can kick back and enjoy.'
        She nodded, though she still seemed uneasy.  I didn't blame her, but it was hard to feel too upset on a nice day, with her next to me, knowing that I wasn't really saying good-bye.  We had lots of time.
        'Race you to the road?' I said.
        'You are so going to lose.'  She took off down Half-Blood Hill and I sprinted after her. 
        For once, I didn't look back."

    Now then.  Let the pondering begin.

    I think, overall, it was an okay ending.  Granted, it wasn't amazing, but I told myself I'd quit holding other endings up to Mockingjay's, which everyone's most likely sick of hearing about.  (Sorry.  I can't help it.) 

    By that point, everything had been wrapped up -- and one last flag had been raised.  Another prophecy, towards the end, which is what Percy and Annabeth were talking about in the excerpt.  According to my sister -- I haven't read the other series yet, because of a loyalty to "originals" and a dislike for spin-offs that basically translates into stubborness --, the new series is pretty good and still features some of the characters from the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series.  Apparently, he had the other series in mind when he ended the first one.

    So, no fireworks or total amazement at this ending, but that's okay.  It'd really already taken care of all the big stuff by this point, and this chapter was the epilogue that tied up the loose threads blowing around.  It's one of those endings that a lot of books have -- the sort of peaceful, calm piece with something trivial and "normal" tacked onto the end.  In this case, it's the race. 

    However, the main point of interest here isn't the ending itself -- rather, it's the thread Riordan did leave hanging.  The prophecy, and Annabeth's almost foreboding unease about it.  I haven't seen a ton of books do something like that, so I have to say, it was a pretty nice touch. 

    Now that I've thought about it, I'll probably have to check on that other halfblood series sometime.  In the meantime, the question falls to you --

    The Last Olympian had a satisfying ending.  Real or not real?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Endings Are Important, Too: HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS by J.K. Rowling

Okay, so that was quite a title.  Moving on. 

    As you've probably noticed, this is a series on book endings.  Sooo . . . I'll be talking about book endings.  This little paragraph is just a disclaimer explaining that, so I don't have to mess with a "Spoiler Alert!" announcement every time I write one of these posts.  Sound like adequate warning?  Good. 

    Today, I'm going over Deathly Hallows.  J.K. Rowling cuts from the main wrap-up of the book to an epilogue set 19 years later.  In that epilogue, you learn that Harry and Ginny have three kids, who they're seeing off to Hogwarts.  The fates of a few other characters are revealed, Harry talks to his kid about a few of his own experiences at Hogwarts, skipping to the ending now --

        " 'He'll be all right," murmured Ginny.
        As Harry looked at her, he lowered his hand absentmindedly and touched the lightning scar on his forehead. 
        'I know he will.'
        The scar had not pained Harry for nineteen years.  All was well."

    Maybe I expected too much, but this ending really didn't do it for me.  It seemed too abrupt, almost . . . I don't know.  Forced, maybe?  The words didn't flow, if you know what I mean.  Read the last two sentences out loud.  Is it just me, or do they seem sort of -- stilted?  

    The only Oprah episode I've ever watched was the one where she interviewed J.K. Rowling in Scotland.  There, J.K. explained that she'd originally intended the last word to be "scar," but something -- either she didn't mention it or I, you know, forgot -- made her change her mind.  Instead, she wanted the last line to be "All was well".  She did just that, but in some ways, I wonder if it would've been better if she'd stuck with "scar".

    Also, this is just personal opinion, but I generally don't like it when authors end series with a tell-all epilogue set a number of years later than the rest of the book, the rest of the series.  With Mockingjay, I wasn't 100% sold on the idea, but I've accepted it over time -- and that's the only book I actually like the post-story epilogue for.  But that's another post, isn't it?

    In her interview with Oprah, J.K. also talked about how she'd grown close to Harry -- understandable, since he's been her protagonist since 1990.  (Plus, you know, her stories of him catapulted her into fortune, fame, and writing legend.)  And after he'd been through so much, it makes sense that she'd want him to have a happy ending; she probably felt like a mom toward him, fictional character and all.  But sometimes, you just shouldn't give the obvious happy ending.  The series had plenty of darkness in it, so I feel like this ending should've had some, too.  Perhaps something not quite so positive, something a little more subdued, bittersweet?  Look at all the people (yeah, I always call characters "people") who died throughout the books.  I'm sure she could have referenced something to make the ending feel a bit more melancholy.

    Still.  I can't really call J.K. Rowling out for anything -- she's a genius, literary royalty, agreed?  I love tons of other stuff that she did with the series, and how she wasn't afraid to kill her darlings.  She deserves tons and tons of praise -- and she gets tons and tons of praise.  All I'm talking about here is the ending she wrote for the series, which, unfortunately, I wasn't all that impressed with.  Not when I really think about it.  Because if I had to make a list of the top endings, out of all the books I've ever read?  Deathly Hallows wouldn't make the cut.  And that's surprising, I think, considering the impact that Harry Potter and his adventures had on so many readers, on the world itself. 

    Agree?  Disagree?  Both?  Feel free to share your thoughts. 

Monday, May 23, 2011

Endings Are Important, Too: MOCKINGJAY by Suzanne Collins

People are always talking about the importance of a book's beginning lines.

    Well, sure, that's definitely true.  I mean, what else is supposed to keep a person reading?  (I'd take a strong, interesting opener over a flowery weather forecast any day -- The rain slashed across her window pane.... Cliche alert! Cliche alert!)

    But no one ever really mentions how important the ending is. 

    I don't necessarily mean the general ending, what happens, but the last couple of lines.  Since that's the last thing you really take away from a book, I think it's just as important -- if not more, in some ways -- than the beginning.

   For me, the best ending line ever comes from Mockingjay, the third installment from The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins.  (You probably shouldn't read on if you haven't read these books.  Also, you probably should read these books.)  But hey, the whole last piece is great, so I'll throw in the last two paragraphs.  It helps you get a better feel for the conclusion if you've never read it before, anyway:

     "I'll tell them how I survive it.  I'll tell them that on bad mornings, it feels impossible to take pleasure in anything because I'm afraid it could be taken away.  That's when I make a list in my head of every act of goodness I've ever seen someone do.  It's like a game.  Repetitive.  Even a little tedious after more than twenty years.
    But there are much worse games to play."                       
   I really only need one word to sum this up:  Amazing.  The reference, of course, ties back with the title of the first book and a major plot point throughout the series.  It has a certain sense of finalty to it -- read it out loud.  Hear that unspoken "the end" quality it has?  That's what I'm talking about.  The whole section has a bittersweet mood going on, which I love, because that fits perfectly with the book, the series, the main character.  It somehow wraps up the beginning of the first book and the last thing, plot-wise, that's happened in the last book, and ties them together with some kind of grace and ease that I've never seen before in any other piece of writing. 

    Obviously, I'm in awe of Suzanne Collins' ending (even if she read the exerpt for Mockingjay's beginning with a hick accent -- I must be pretty forgiving).  In fact, I'm kind of wondering if she's even human, because the ending definitely wasn't. 

    Sometime soon -- probably tomorrow -- I'll go over another series' ending.  Maybe the seventh Harry Potter?  Anyway, what do you think is important for an ending?  Have any ending in particular that really strikes you?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Making Time

Long time, no posts.  Yeah, I'm painfully aware.  In my defense, though, things have been ridiculously crazy lately. 

    But after tomorrow, thanks to a little blessing called summer vacation, things are bound to get better.  More writing time, blogging time, family time . . . writing time . . . hey, maybe I'll even be able to see my desk again soon, without having to excavate a hand-sized tunnel.  Maybe.

    Still, for the past couple of weeks, any spare time has been pretty sparse for me, and my main writing time has been editing on the bus or in those snatches of class time where I've finished my work already.  As I'm sure you know, moments like those don't come often enough. 

    Anyway, I've been trying to figure out how I'm going to structure my writing time this summer, and it really makes me wonder:  how do other people do it?  What's the best way?  I'll have plenty of time for writing this summer, but once school starts again in the fall, time will crunch again, too.  In some ways, writing with school is worse than writing with work, because there always seem to be plenty of those days where all the teachers have plotted together to give you Guinness record-worthy loads of homework.  Of course, I'm sure writing with work won't be a walk in the park, either.

    So when summer's over, I'll need to have a system worked out.  I'm thinking the best thing is going to be having my plot figured out well enough that I can set deadlines for myself and won't waste time puttering around my storyline.  (Don't judge.  While I realize those last four words of the previous sentence make me sound like an old lady, I refuse to hit the backspace button.)  In doing so, I'll also be (theoretically) much more focused when I do get the chance to write, so I'll hopefully get more work done in whatever time I have.  I'll work through lunch.  Get up earlier, even though I'm usually not a morning person (I prefer not to speak to anyone for at least the first thirty minutes after I wake up.  My sister and I get in a lot of fights, because she's also a total bear in the mornings -- but if I'm getting up to write, I won't have to talk to anyone, will I?).  Also, I'm going to be ordering The Weekend Novelist by Robert J. Ray and Bret Norris any day now, and judging from the exerpt I read on Amazon and the feedback I've read online, that book will help, too. 

    To be honest, I don't have a ton of this worked out yet.  But one thing I do know:  there's never time.  For writing, for anything.  And there never will be. 
    Time's something you have to make.