Saturday, September 25, 2010

Hunger Games Trilogy

It's true, I am addicted to reading. I stay away as long as I can and then plunge in for a fix. The past two days I have been absent from life and immersed in books two and three (Catching Fire and Mockingjay) of the Hunger Games trilogy. There are several points I want to make here - they are all my opinions of this trilogy.

  • In a recent blog post Tamara Passey posed the question of whether we had ever wanted to re-write the ending of a book. I could only think of one at that time, Villette by Charlotte Bronte (a brilliant novel until I reached the end). I will now add Mockingjay to that list as I scream into my pillow in frustration.
  • In a "Daily Kick in the Pants" by David Wolverton the title is "Killing Your Babies." (side note and off topic: my daughter walked in while I was reading this and a horrified expression crossed her face - she thought I was plotting to kill her. I did laugh out loud and then I explained what he was talking about) Back on topic. So we have to be careful about killing off our babies (aka our characters). He talks about readers getting attached to our characters and becoming offended when we kill them off - some so much so that they will no longer read anything by that author. One reason for eliminating characters is that it is necessary to motivate or to reach a particular end. Ms. Collins does a lot of eliminating in these two books - some of which I think could have easily been avoided. 
  • David Wolverton also talks in several "Kicks" about dream sequences or misleading your readers. Your readers don't like it. Yah, we don't like it! Maybe I missed some clues, maybe I read things into the story that really weren't there, but in the end I felt misled and I'll repeat it: we don't like it!
  • I think Ms. Collins is incredibly creative - right up to the end of Mockingjay. Really? Didn't I just read this in the beginning of book three? Plus, the character arc works through book one, but I think it falls flat in two and most of book three and then suddenly in the epilogue we're supposed to think it all works out. It wasn't very believable for me.
  • I look at this as similar to George Orwell's '1984'. It has political allusions. I would say it's not futuristic, but current. The 'capitol' to me is no different than our governments, both local and national. They continue to reach deeper into our pockets and control more and more of our lives - and like the people in the districts we continue to let them. How will it end for us? Will we make a stand before our children are 'sacrificed'? Oh wait, I almost forgot the trillions of dollars of debt we are hefting on their shoulders. Their standard of living will be hard pressed to live up to ours. 
  • Would I recommend the series? After book one: Yes. After books two and three: No.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Writing Compelling Characters

I think this is something we as writers think a lot about - I do anyway. I was contemplating recently a character in my current work-in-progress. He doesn't enter the stage until toward the end of the novel but plays a very important part. So, I was thinking ("a dangerous pastime - I know"*), how do I give him his own voice and make him someone my readers want to cheer for (or despise if he were a villain)?

I need to get to know my character better because I'm struggling with this. What motivates him? Why does he care? What things does he dislike/hate/fear? What is his biggest strength? What is his biggest weakness? Because we know him for such a short time, his growth will be less than that of the main characters, but we still need to see either a way he grows or a way he digresses - because we like him, I'm choosing growth. He will have to overcome an old and bitter grudge and come to realize that he was wrong.

Now, how do I give him a unique voice? That's a dilemma because I don't personally know anyone like him. I guess I need to dig a little deeper. Arrogant, always right, strong willed, justice-oriented (wait, I do know some attorneys...)

It's true, my characters are all bits and pieces of people I know or have known. It's so fun to people watch and use things we do or reactions we have - you know, truth is stranger than fiction...

These are just some of the ways I create my characters and I do hope they are compelling.

*LeFue and Gaston, Disney's Beauty and the Beast

Friday, September 10, 2010

Independence

Independence. A good word. (I know, interdependence is much better, but I'm not on a psychology rant today, I'm taking an introspective vein). It's a word I like and one that describes me on most days. The past week and a half and for at least another four or five days my independence has been challenged. I had a little surgery and cannot drive. It was fine and dandy until all my drivers left. My sweet mother was here until early this morning. My husband left town yesterday morning. My teenage driver has to be at school. So today, the busiest driving day of my week, I had to humble myself and ask for help. Oh, and not just one person. Turns out that I had to rely on four people - my niece, Taylor, my friend, Stephanie, and my father-in-law and his wife, Lynn and Jean. And the day is not over. The good news is that tomorrow is Saturday and my teenage driver doesn't have school and my husband will be home in the afternoon.

It's difficult to rely on others when you are accustomed to doing things yourself. Believe me, I really wanted to get in the car and drive this morning. That being said, I am such a newbie writer that I definitely depend on the many resources that are out there to improve and learn this fabulous craft. I love writing and I love telling stories. I am so glad there are good writers and knowledgeable people out there who are willing to share what they know.

And although I really like being independent, I've learned that the writing world is not a place for that. We depend on others to get through the entire process. Think of all the books you've picked up with the little blurb in the front dedicating and thanking and acknowledging the many people who made the book possible. Just last night I was texting my childhood best friend and resident horse expert with questions. She texts me right back and never makes me feel like an idiot for not knowing the simplest things about horses. Love her and will certainly acknowledge her expertise in the front of my novel - I've just got to get it finished! So, Write On, my friends!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Blogger Frustration

I am not a techie! I was so excited last year when my friend, Cindy Williams, hosted a "How To" blog class. It was wonderful and helpful and I slowly figured out how to do a few things to customize my blog. Then, Blogger goes and changes their format adding the fabulous (NOT) Template Designer. I really hate it. It is NOT user friendly for those not interested in the few basic designs they have available. I have tried to look in the help section, but there isn't anything there that I found helpful. I have spent hours trying to get back to the fun blog I had, but as you can see, I haven't had any success. So, as with writing, I must persist until I find a solution. Write On my friends! (and any of you techies out there that know how to add custom templates in the new Template Designer, please help me!!!)