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?