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That Inevitable Post…

December 6, 2009

You knew it would happen, ladies and gents. Eventually, with all of the yammering on and on about the series, you knew that I would eventually cave and see the second film. So I took a Friday night with my two best friends and went to see “New Moon”. I’ll give you a moment to get over your surprise.

Let me begin by saying that this sequel to “Twilight” was quite a bit better than the first film. The script was in closer keeping with the book, for one thing. (And there was no Great Stammering Scene, hallelujah.) There was a lot less Edward-Bella-deep-eye-staring-drooling-and-so-forth as well, which was lovely. Again, tip of the hat to the cast. Throw a fit over it if you will, but 99% of the casting was spot on, take that in what sense thou wilt. I have to say, also, that I am delighted with the director swap, because, hey! The first film was a bit dry by comparison. So, thank you, Chris Weitz, for not making the film suck (pun most definitely intended). I will now have to go and re-read the book, because there were things that were kept in the film that I’d forgotten were in the book. When a page-to-screen film makes you want to go back and re-read the story, you KNOW it’s a great adaptation!

Granted, yeah, there were a few times where it got mushy and we all had to restrain ourselves from getting sick in our purses, but then, they have those scenes in EVERY romantic flick. (Reason #684 why I’m not a fan of romance.) They were tolerable. I was delighted to see that the werewolf aspect of the series finally came into play; I was looking forward to that. Hats OFF to the visual effects team for making the wolves so believable!

Granted, there were a few things that bugged me. You’d think that, if Bella and Edward were just so dang in love, and the actors playing them were so dang in love, that would be able to better show that on the screen. They did a better job with this in “New Moon” than they did in “Twilight”, but still, it could still step it up just a little. Not to an unnecessary degree, but the infrequent smiling is a bit too much of an understatement of their feelings. There was a bit more kissing in this film, but the transfer from blank-faced conversation to sudden snogging was a bit of a lurch in the film. The emotion should be a bit more consistent. The effect of Victoria’s murders were a bit too understated as well; Charlie looked hardly panicked when Bella went missing. There should have been a bit more concern there. Other than that, the film was great!

I will say that the fact that we were in a theater full of people with a sense of decorum was nice. There was no shrieking when Bella fell off of her motorcycle and Jacob “lost” his shirt over it (though I did hear a faint “woo!” from the back of the room.). Nor was there a lot of gagging over Ed and Bella’s PDA scenes. Truly, the atmosphere in a theater affects one’s enjoyment of the film. Everyone seemed to handle all the shirtlessness (thank you, La Push!) and so on quite nicely.

Now, obviously, this is a film that has been massively hyped up. Between the posters, pictures, cardboard cutouts (didn’t know you could buy them things), Sweetheart candies, action figures (I kid you not), and Burger King fanpacks, I think we’re all getting more than a wee bit sick of the “Twilight” craze. I mean, they may as well start a cult following at this point. But for those of us who enjoy the series and its movies for what they are- an entertaining read and a fun film series- we should just enjoy them, despite the madness. So, if you like the book, it’s safe to see the film! I give it an A overall. Don’t miss it!

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De-Roughing a Rough Draft

November 24, 2009

I will admit it; when it comes to my writing, I am a perfectionist (even with this blog). As in, after about five years of work, my story is nowhere near completion. In fact, when I first began, this story was very different from what it is now. Characters have been dropped and changed, and new ones have been added. Places have been renamed. Entire races have been added and removed. So how does a story change so much over the course of the writing process?

Now, the concept of a rough draft was one I loathed from the beginning. With a passion. So I didn’t expect what I thought, at the time, to be a great story to turn out to be nothing more than a rough draft for the finished piece (which has yet to materialize on account of I type slowly.) But that’s precisely what has happened. So, realizing that, I began “de-roughing”, as it were, my rough draft. So how does one go about “de-roughing” a rough draft?

  • I hate to say it… start with an outline. Why? Because an outline is the easiest thing in the world to alter. Yo can easily delete a section of an outline and replace it as the writing process moves along. Sometimes I wish I had begun with an outline from the get-go, rather than waiting around to write one when I was halfway through the rewrite.
  • Let me capitalize for emphasis: GRAMMAR CHECK. Basic issues with grammar are big issues. This is not to say that the Microsoft Works Word Processor Grammar Check function is all-powerful and always right. Sometimes what it may see as an error is, in fact, a cleverly artistic play on words or the like, but it will pick up on words you may have skipped in a flurry of fast typing. It’ll also pickup on those run-on sentences you wrote and then forgot about. Just PAY ATTENTION to what it’s picked up as an error before you hit “Change”. (BTW, for those of us who are not so versed in the ways or Microsoft Works Word Processor, all you need to do to find the Grammar Check, really, is type something along the lines of “hhgvfgeufygf” and then hit Spell Check. When Spell Check pops up, check the box in the lower left corner of the Spell Check window that says “Check grammar”. Very simple. Make sure you delete “hhgvfgeufgf”, by the way, unless of course that’s the name of a character.)
  • Grammar Check’s best friend (and again I emphasize): SPELL CHECK. Even easier than Grammar check, this function picks up typos and misspellings (duh). Now a side note: Spell Check may identify certain character’s names as typos, so PAY ATTENTION and don’t simply zip through Spell check’s LONG list of supposed spelling errors. Spell check, like Grammar Check, is NOT God. Here’s a tip: If Spell Check continuously ID’s a character’s name as a typo, add it as an accepted spelling. When the name comes up as an error in the Spell Check window, hit the “Add” button rather than “Ignore”, “Ignore All”, or “Change”. The word will no longer appear as a typo.
  • As with writer’s block, ANY and ALL bits of action and dialogue that you come up with should be written down. They may seem asinine at the time, but I guarantee that much of the dialogue and such that you write down will, eventually, find its way into a story. This goes for names as well.
  • Having trouble naming a character? Check out www.name-meanings.com for an EXTENSIVE list of names from all over the world, as well as their meanings. Try to find a name whose meanings can be related to a character’s personality or actions (such as a name meaning “defender” for a soldier). Do not fear making up names!
  • Write it out in longhand if it helps. Often, when you sit down to type it, you will find that much of what you wrote needs to be rewritten. DO NOT THROW OUT THE ORIGINAL!!!! You may find out that bits you dropped out of the second draft may make it into the final. I have a friend who wrote an entire play out in longhand, and it was helpful for him. As with typing everything, however, it all depends on you. If you find typing is easier, by all means, type away! Just print out copies of each draft, in case you want to use something from the first draft that you dropped from the second draft in the final draft.
  • Write as many drafts as you need until your story is where you want it.
  • Have a friend read your first draft, and take criticism in stride. Consider the person to whom you give the draft to preview to be part of your audience, because they are. If they are confused by a passage, chances are anyone else who reads it will be confused there as well.
  • Rewrite if you must. Feel free to start over completely! Just make sure that you save your first draft. I rewrote a good portion of my work, and it helped a LOT.

Most importantly: PERSERVERE. Never set a deadline for yourself. That kind of pressure distracts you from your writing. Enjoy the writing process! It’s the best part of the author’s experience.

Writer’s Block!

November 24, 2009

So what do you call it when you get up in the morning, sit down in front of your computer, open up the document you’re supposed to be working on, then stare aimlessly at it for about ten minutes? That would be writer’s block. What do you call it when this happens consecutively for about thirty days in a row? My personal hell!

Writer’s block is the most frustrating part of writing. I’ve gone for months on end without writing a thing, even when I want to, because I can think of how to properly word things, or dialogue refuses to come into my head. (Matter of fact, I had a mini writer’s block when it came to writing that last sentence!)  So what do you do when that happens?

Here’s some things you might try:

  1. The fact is, when you have writer’s block, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have NO ideas. So carry a notebook around; that’s what I do. Sometimes just scribbling down ideas or random bits of dialogue will prompt you to write more. I have notebooks with pages of random dialogue that I haven’t found a place for yet, but writing it all down has helped.
  2. Yes…. I’ll say it… and you’ll hate me…. but outlining seriously helps! Even if you just scribble down some bullet point of basic parts of yor plot, you’ll have guideline that you can refer to if you ever think to yourself, “Where was I going with this?” Nothing too elaborate; keep it simple. Your outline isn’t meant to tell the whole story. If it was, you wouldn’t have to bother writing the book. (It took me about three years to realize, “Dangflabbit, my English teacher may have been right!”)
  3. Go back and re-read what you’ve already written. You may find that you’ll have to change some things to make the next part of your story fit. (Trust me; I’ve done this a dozen times!)
  4. Though not always advisable, (and ONLY try this after you’ve tried #3), skip ahead! If you have a section in mind, write it out. Just remember to go back and fill in the story later!
  5. DON’T THINK ABOUT IT. Just let it come to you. You can’t force inspiration!

That’s about all I have for now. But honestly, writer’s block is awful, but it’ll pass.

The Meyer Effect

October 12, 2009

Here we go! So I’m sure the majority of you have read or at least heard of the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer. I know that many of the teenagers in my area have read and are fanatical about the series. I’m sure many of them are counting down the days until New Moon hits the theaters.

So here’s my first question: Why is the series so popular? (I’m sure plenty of us, whether you’ve read the books or not, are asking the same question.)

Well, part of it may have to do with the vampire aspect (insert collective “Duh!” from the audience). Something about immortality and beauty is appealing, for obvious reasons, and somehow the whole “vegan vampire” thing is appealing because (regretfully, for some people I know) there’s no fear of one of these guys sucking your blood. So maybe Dracula had the wrong idea. But why are theseparticular vampires so fascinating? I think it has something to do with the fact that Stephenie Meyer gave these blood-suckers some personality. They are likeable; readers see them as teenagers who just happen to have a longer life span. None of the Cullens appear to have a bad Eastern European accent, nor do they stalk around in completely black frock coats and capes in the middle of the night. So they aren’t your stereotypical Dracula-esque characters. They also seem to have a certain dgree of sensitivity; apparently, the Cullens don’t “hunt” humans (eww). Add that to the vampire-werewolf prejudice-against-one-another bit and you’ve got a series! Which brings me to part two. The werewolf aspect seems to draw as much appeal as the vampires. (“Team Edward” and “Team Jacob” ringing any bells here?) Here you’ve got two sets of characters that seem to have been yanked right out of a book of fifteenth-century folklore, and they don’t like each other too much. The werewolves in the story are members of a local Native American tribe. And here, again, Meyer has created a cast of characters that are likeable. This may have something to do with the fact that, when Edward leaves at the end of the first book, the character Jacob steps in to become Bella’s best friend. The werewolf characters relate well to one another.

The romance between troubled teenagers has become a theme in a lot of young adult novels, and so it is with Twilight. The Edward-Bella-Jacob love triangle (oops, have I said too much?) makes the story that more interesting, it seems. Everybody has their opinion on who Bella should end up with. (Personally, I’m glad thing turned out the way they did, because Edward and Bella continually acting sappy was grating on my nerves.) This makes the story more interesting and drives readers to finish not one, but all four of the books just to see what happens in this particular situation. The fact that it takes place in Forks, WA, an unassuming (rainy) little town rather than somewhere that everyone’s heard of before adds some interest as well, because if it can happen in Forks, WA, it can happen anywhere!

So here’s my second question: How long will the series last?

And by that, I mean, how long will it remain popular? Seems to me that, just like everything else in the entertainment industry (yes, reading is a form of entertainment, for those of you who are skeptical), books go in and out of style. This isn’t to say that EVERY novel that’s hit the shelves has come and gone in a wave of hype, but one has to wonder if this will be the case with Twilight. Once it’s run its course in the theaters, will Twilight lose its momentum? Who knows? The fact is that some books become classics, and some don’t. There does seem to be quite a bit of hype around Twilight. I have spoken to people who love it, and to people who hate it. I also know some people who, like myself, are lukewarm on the series; it’s good, but not the GREATEST thing ever. The fact that “they” have come out with calendars and posters and dolls (yes, I’m serious) and candy (“special edition” Sweethearts) based around the film and the books does get one’s nerves after a while. It seems that Twilight has become a cult classic, but how long can that last?

The same thing happened when Harry Potter first showed up on the scene, and fans nearly rioted when hints were dropped that the title character may have to be killed off in the last book. And you’ve got the four different Hogwarts houses and everyone claims allegiance to one or another ( I haven’t read the stories, so I don’t pretend to be an expert), but the fandom seems to have grown quieter and quieter over the years, to the point where I wasn’t even aware that the last book had hit the shelves until weeks after the fact. In fact, as soon as the last installment in the series hit the shelves, Harry Potter seems to have lost most of its momentum. All that’s left are the film that have yet to hit the big screen. Yes there ARE die-hard HP fans who would disagree, but the fact is that some readers have outgrown series like Harry Potter and Twilight. It’s geared toward a certain demographic of readers that may or may not continue to read and enjoy the series once they reach a certain age.

One can hope that Stephenie Meyer will continue her writing career, because she really is talented. She obviously loves to write. And I’ll congratulate her again on the success of Twilight. Here’s hoping the devoted fans will continue to read her books.

 

Frank Herbert’s “Dune”

October 6, 2009

It’s been said; Frank Herbert is to sci-fi what Tolkien is to fantasy. Frank Herbert has come to be known as a master of the genre. I recently purchased and read a copy of “Dune”, the first in the series. Having grown up with series such as “Star Trek” and “Star Wars”, I expected a similar read, and was pleasantly surprised to find a completely original and complex story that only a truly talented writer could bring to life.

“Dune” begins the tale of Paul Atriedes, who would come to be known as Muad-Dib, and takes place thousands of years in the future. (At the risk of spoiling it for you, I’ll be vague on the details.) In an attempt to quell the popularity and rising power of Duke Leto Atriedes, the Duke and his family are dispatched by the Emperor Shaddam IV to Arrakis, a desert planet with a surprisingly lucrative major export. Not wanting to outright destroy House Atriedes, the Emperor plans to use a long-standing rivalry between House Atriedes and House Harkonnen to eliminate any threat to his power.

The political complexes and the descriptions of ritual and modes of survival make “Dune” far more interesting, I think, than most of the other Sci-fi books and films. Another characteristic that may interest the reader is the  number of Islamic references in the book, such as the use of the word “shaitan”. The Bene Gesserit women in the books are often described by the other characters as “witches” due to the cryptic nature of their rituals and beliefs. That the Bene Gesserit cult is exclusive to women makes this reference seem all the more appropriate. It seems the Bene Gesserit are attempting to identify a Messiah. In a world where Bene Gesserit are commanded to produce only daughters, Paul is a rebellion against many of the Bene Gesserit beliefs that Lady Jessica has been brought up to accept as right.

The book also seems to bring to light the age-old theme of intolerance and misunderstanding between different peoples. The Fremen, a group of indigenous desert dwellers on Arrakis who have mastered the art of surviving the desert (and giant sandworms), are a people often misunderstood by outsiders. The Bene Gesserit are seen as elitist.  Each group on Arrakis, however holds its own key to surviving the harsh climate and, at times, the even harsher atmosphere created by interplanetary politics.

This a book that I would definitely recommend. I’d say more, but I don’t want to give too much away! Check out “Dune”; it’s a book no avid reader and sci-fi fan should pass up. (By the way, it’s also been adapted into a film!)

For more on the series, check out the official website.

It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane… It’s a Flock of Flying Kids?!

September 17, 2009

Erin will kill me if I don’t write something on this series! James Patterson has taken a step away from co-authoring thrillers and mysteries to create a new series: Maximum Ride.

In the spirit of X-Men and The Fantastic Four, the series tells the story of six genetic experiments known as Max, Fang, Nudge, Iggy, Angel, and the Gasman, and their dog Total, a group whose DNA was altered to create superhuman kids with wings. Do not adjust your computer screen. I’ve read all five of the books, and believe me, there are feathers galore. The series is comprised of five books, titled The Angel Experiment, School’s Out- Forever, Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports, The Final Warning, and Max. That the series has become as popular as it has is no surprise. For those of you that worried that mutants and superheros and talking, flying dogs had gone out of style, fear not.

So why is the series so popular? Short chapters! I jest, but that may have something to do with it. It’s a book geared towards a younger demographic that seems to have suddenly given up on books with lengthy chapters. (I still prefer a good thirty-page chapter, thanks much.) It’s an easy read. Max, the main character (she’s a girl, just to eliminate any confusion), narrates most of the story. (I have never met a more sarcastic, smart-alecky character in my life. So, that’s a plus there.) The fact that these kids have escaped a wicked institution ironically known as “the School” and are living on their own by their own means seems to be appealing as well. They are stronger than the average person (i.e., they’re handy in a fight), and are unafraid to dumpster-dive behind a McDonalds to get dinner. They are living the life that every kid dreams about at one point or another.

Or so it seems. Apparently, these six bird kids are not the only genetic experiments the School has manufactured. They are continually chased by Erasers (School, Erasers, ha ha!), a breed of lycanthropic super-hunters that seem determined to destroy them and bring them back to the School, whichever happens first. To this deadly recipe, add that the Erasers have similar super-human strength. When Max and her friends are attacked and one of their own is kidnapped, Max and the flock set out to recover their friend and stop the School’s research. Having grown up in a laboratory with no knowledge of their past, they are also on a mission to discover their origins, something that the School never wanted them to find out.

Overall a good series, and one that any kid who ever dreams of flying should have a go at reading!

(Maximum Ride, the film, is set to hit the big screen in 2010. It’s also been adapted into a graphic novel.)

“The Silmarillion”: Another Round of Tolkien!

September 11, 2009

FINALLY getting to writing this post! I recently read “The Silmarillion”! My sister bought me a copy of the book in paperback about a year ago, and I finally read it last month. I was expecting the dull history that had been described to me, but I found that the book was filled with all of the  adventure, danger, romance, and action that I’ve come to expect from Tolkien’s other works.

Who knew there was a powerful treasure BEFORE the One Ring? “The Silmarillion”, if you haven’t read it, chronicles the history of Middle Earth LONG before the War of the Ring. It begins with the creation of Middle Earth itself, and the origin and rise of Morgoth (remember the Balrog of Morgoth in “The Fellowship of the Ring”?) and the creation of the Elves, right up to the forging of the Rings and the end of the Second Age.

A little bit of background on the book.  Tolkien worked on it throughout his life, but he died before the story could be completed. Christopher Tolkien, his son, collected and edited “The Silmarillion” and published it posthumously. I was originally put off the book, partly at the recommendation of a teacher who told me that it was “boring”, and partly due to the fact that it’s not entirely J.R.R. Tolkien’s work; Christopher Tolkien had to fill in some gaps to complete the story. However, I give the man credit; he managed to keep to the spirit of Tolkien’s writing style. There are parts of the book that were also published separately as individual books (i.e., “The Children of Hurin”). Like much of Tolkien’s works, this is definitely not for those of us who are easily distracted. This book is LONG. And long-winded at points. I have to say, though; it’s quite a bit more complicated than “The Lord of the Rings”. (Granted, LOTR was divided into three books.) It won’t leave you bored.

 For those of us who sat through “The Lord of the Rings” films and said, “Where did Sauron come from?”, “What’s Numenor?”, “Who are the Valar?” and “How old is Gandalf, anyway?”, those questions are answered in “The Silmarillion”. This is DEFINITELY a book I would recommend, and a book that NO die-hard Tolkien fan should ignore.

Thanks to Erin for “The Silmarillion”, and Hai for the illustrated copy of “The Children of Húrin”!