Tuesday, April 23, 2013

when your characters do things you don't expect

Now, the title isn't meant to imply that I have no control over my characters. I do. But sometimes, as I'm writing a scene, I realize that how I initially thought my characters would react to a certain situation (or comment) isn't correct. And sometimes - just sometimes - their reactions surprise me.

I don't know if I'm the only person that this happens to. I very well may be. I also very well may be crazy - but we're not going to get into that.

What we are going to get into is characterization. Yes, you need to have control over what's happening in your book - you're not a very good author if you don't - but you also need to know your characters. If you force them to react in a way that isn't natural for them, it's not going to make for very good writing. If you find that you're doing this a lot, write a new book or create new characters, because your story and characters aren't matching up.

So how do you know if something's a natural response or not? Well, one easy way to test it is to have other writers read it. When you're reading someone else's book, it's easy for you to see when the characters aren't reacting naturally. Let others point out things in your novel that may be forced. Another way is to read other books/watch movies that have characters similar to your own, and see how they react to similar situations (this is NOT to be taken as gospel - every story has different circumstances! Somehow, however, drawing comparisons helps).

Me, I have a slightly different approach. I am heavily involved in theatre, and my work as an actress and director has always been character-focused (which I believe is the only way to act). I delve completely into that character's mind and personality when I'm preparing to perform in a play. When I'm writing, I do the same things I would do when acting - I hold "interviews" with my characters, ask them different questions, then put myself in their shoes and give the answers.

Yes, all the thoughts (questions and answers) are coming from me. But sometimes the characters surprise me.

I still need others to look at my work (for goodness sake, of course!) but for me, it's relatively easy to get inside the mind of a character. And you can't force your character to be something they're not.

So a slightly scatter-brained post, but that's what you get when you're neck-deep in finals and suddenly two of your characters decide to kiss (which you did not foresee happening at that point in the novel).

Have your characters ever surprised you?


Saturday, April 20, 2013

giveaway winner...

So I was going to give away three books, but since there was only one entry The Book Thief goes to Katrina Lantz! Check out her awesome blog here!

And with that, I go back into the abyss that is studying for finals. I'll hopefully surface on Monday for you!

Have a great weekend!


Friday, April 19, 2013

books i can't wait to see on the big screen

Today is your last chance to enter my giveaway - I'm giving away Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, Ender's Game, and The Book Thief. As of right now, only one person has entered, so your chances of winning are extremely high! Go enter, and spread the word!

In keeping with this week's theme about movie adaptations of books, I thought I'd share with you the book-movie I'm most looking forward to (that's already in production) and the book that I most want to turn into a movie.

First, let's start with the book that I really, really want to see turn into a movie. And it is...

Angelfire by Courtney Allison Moulton

Guys, I've posted about Angelfire so, so many times. When I first read it, I posted on Afterglow Book Reviews and raved about how much I loved it. The same day I posted a review on my own blog, because I couldn't stop talking about how amazing this book was. A few months later, I posted about it again as part of the Killer Characters Blogfest back in October of 2011. Because life has been so crazy, I have yet to read the sequel, Wings of the Wicked, but I'm dying to get my hands on it this summer.

I can't even describe how much I want to see this book turn into a movie. Read my Afterglow review to see my initial reaction to the book (and read the blurb). If I heard this was turning into a movie, I'd probably die of excitement.

Okay, now that that's out of the way, here's the book-movie (that's already in production) that I'm super psyched for:

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

SO excited for this movie! I blogged on Wednesday about my favorite book-movies, and Hunger Games was one of them. When I saw this trailer earlier this week, I almost jumped out of my chair. It looks like it's going to be AMAZING!

So, that's all. Don't forget to enter the giveaway before midnight tonight!

What books would you like to see on the big screen?


Thursday, April 18, 2013

book-movies that didn't quite hit the mark

Hey guys! In case you didn't get the memo, I'm hosting a giveaway this week to celebrate reaching 500 followers on Twitter! I'm giving away three awesome books that are coming out as movies in the next year!

In keeping with that theme, here are two book-movies that I think really missed the mark.

1. The Golden Compass

Let me just start out by saying that in general, I'm not  a fan of narration. At all. Especially when it doesn't do its job. At the beginning of the b=movie, there was narration trying to explain some of the elements of this fantasy world, but if I hadn't read the book I don't know if I wouldn't have understood it entirely. 

Also, they took plot elements in the book that were barely mentioned and made them huge, and vice versa. As I've said in the last couple posts, this isn't usually a problem for me, when it's done well. These changes were done clumsily, and they didn't entirely develop their plot points and characters that were different from the book.

And needless to say, it didn't fit the tone of the books at all. Even though there is a fantastical fantasy world, the His Dark Materials series is edgy and dark, especially the last two books. The movie didn't have that edge. Had it done better in the box office and they'd tried to make the sequels, they would have had a really hard time making them seem like they were from the same franchise.

2. A Series of Unfortunate Events

You gotta love Jim Carrey, but this movie was atrocious. I was so excited to go see it - I loved the books - but so disappointed in what I saw. 

They tried to combine the first three boks into one movie. Again, if this had been done well, I wouldn't have had a problem with it. But it wasn't - it was sloppy, and the plot points didn't make sense. They tried to make an original story without changing any of the individual elements. Scenes didn't naturally progress - they were spliced together. 

Again, if the changes had been done well I wouldn't have had a problem. But they just threw scenes from the books together in a different order without making logical transitions, and it was truly awful.

What are some of your least favorite movies based on books?


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

my favorite books on the big screen

Hey guys! In case you didn't get the memo, I'm hosting a giveaway this week to celebrate reaching 500 followers on Twitter! I'm giving away three awesome books that are coming out as movies in the next year!

In keeping with that theme, here are three of my favorite books on the big screen:

1. The Count of Monte Cristo

This one is very controversial, because the movie takes a lot of liberties with the original story. Characters that barely knew each other are best friends, Edmond's time in the Chateau d'If is shortened considerably, whole story-lines are completely ignored - and I love it. As I said yesterday, when I watch movies I try to forget there was a book at all and see the movie as its own story. This is one of those movies where if you get hung up on the changes, you will hate it. But if you let yourself enjoy it for what it is, it's absolutely phenomenal.

Can I say whether I like the book or the movie better? Not even if I tried. They're so different, but they're both amazing and beautiful because they're true to their own language.

If you haven't seen this movie yet, please do. It's one of my top three favorite movies of all time. And if you haven't read the book - be ready for an adventure!

2. The Hunger Games

I read this whole series in two days. I was late to the party, not reading them until a couple weeks before the premiere, but oh my gosh I couldn't get enough! From the characters to the world building to the writing itself, they were just phenomenal. I was immediately sucked in and couldn't leave until I read all there was to read.

When the movie came out, I was at the midnight premiere. I was excited, but also apprehensive. The Hunger Games is one of those books that relies so much on internal monologue (largely because Katniss is alone in the arena for the majority of the book) and I wasn't sure how it was going to translate onto film, but I LOVED IT. I loved every minute of that movie, and the little changes that were made didn't bother me in the slightest.

This is easily one of the best book-to-movie adaptations ever made, and it's so true to the book, more than any other I've seen. Also, it's just plain intense.

And last, but definitely not least...

3. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2

Harry Potter. What more can I saw about Harry Potter? Those books were my childhood. They changed my life in so many ways. They helped me become the person I am today, and helped me see what was possible. They've inspired me, uplifted me, given me hope. The affect they've had on my life - and the lives of countless others - cannot begin to be measured.

The movies. There were hits, there were misses. I personally enjoy them all, but there are definitely some parts that I don't think they should have changed and some parts that they cut out that I think were important to the story. However, they're all still great movies.

I almost died when I heard they were making the last book into two movies. Deathly Hallows, Part 1, exceeded my expectations. I was thrilled with it, and couldn't wait to see part 2.

Oh. My. Gosh.

What a magnificent end to an era. I know some people won't agree with me, but I loved everything about this movie - even the battle with Voldemort at the end. Yes, I loved the battle in the book too, but I felt that the way the movie portrayed it was very fitting. The whole movie was just phenomenal, and I cried when it ended almost as much as I cried when I finished the seventh book.

You can disagree with me all you want. It was a phenomenal movie, easily the best of the Harry Potter series, and if there had never been a book everyone would be in agreement.

So there you have it, my top three book-movies! Tomorrow I'll tell you what some of my least favorite book-to-movie adaptations have been (and why)!

What's your favorite movie adaptation of a book?


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

books vs. movies

Hey guys! In case you didn't get the memo, I'm hosting a giveaway this week to celebrate reaching 500 followers on Twitter! I'm giving away three awesome books that are coming out as movies in the next year!

And in keeping with that theme, I thought I'd talk about movies that are based on books.

There's always controversy when books are brought to the big screen, over the screenplay, the actors, the costuming - you name it, someone has a problem with it. You are never going to get a unanimous "YES" from a book's fans when a movie is released.

Why? Because literature and film are different languages.

It's true. The way you tell a story through the written word is vastly different from how you tell it visually. There are some things you can do in a book that you simply can't do in a movie, and vice versa.

So which is better? The right question is, which do you like more?

Personally, I love both! They speak to me in completely different ways, because they can't be the same! 

People tend to have problems with book-movies because they want to see on the screen exactly what they saw in their head while reading the book. The thing is, thousands of other people read the exact same book and they all had a different movie in their head than you. That's the great thing about books - they stimulate your imagination, and you create your own movie.

But the great thing about movies is their ability to bring the story to life. Sometimes, the life they bring to the story is slightly different from the book, but that's only natural. If filmmakers tried to mimic books exactly, we wouldn't have very good movies.

Think about it. If the screenwriters for Lord of the Rings had tried to put everything in those movies - that would not have been enjoyable. Some things just don't translate well onto film.

Besides, I really love going to a movie and seeing the story in a new light, for the first time. I treat the movie as its own individual story and let them tell it to me, without worrying about what's different from the book. I also love the surprise when they show certain scenes differently. I like not knowing exactly what's going to happen.

Yes, filmmakers make mistakes. Yes, some book-movies are awful. But when you realize that it's a different language and look at the movie as its own story, you'll see just how beautiful and wonderful they can be.

Tomorrow I'll blog about some of my favorite book-to-movie adaptations, so check back in!

Which do you tend to like better - movies or books?


Monday, April 15, 2013

my first giveaway!

So over the weekend, I hit 500 followers on Twitter! I'm pretty excited about the milestone, so I've decided to host a giveaway!

The theme of this giveaway is books that have made it to the big screen!

Because I'm so excited (and thankful to all of you) I will be giving away three books!

And they are....

1. The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

I will admit, I haven't read these yet (I know, so sue me!) but they've been on my list forever. And now that the movie's coming out August 23rd, it's time for me to pick them up. From everything I've heard, I'm super excited to read them!

2. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

The word "finally" comes to mind here. Who else is counting down the days to November 1st? 

3. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

This book had me captivated from the first page, and I'm excited (and just a little apprehensive) to see it turning into a movie January 17th, 2014! I'm hoping the film can live up to my memory of what it was like to read this story for the first time! 

Three wonderful books up for grabs, and one of them could be yours! What do you have to do? Here are the rules:
  • Follow my blog (scroll down on the right! You can follow through blogger OR networked blogs)
  • Leave a comment below, telling me your 
    • Order of preference, 
    • Which movie you're most excited for, and
    • Your email (so I can contact you!)
Once you've done that, you're entered! However, you can earn additional entries by
Each of the above earns you one additional entry! You can tweet once a day, so that gives you a total possible eight entries!

The giveaway ends Friday, April 19th, at midnight, and the winners will be announced in my Saturday morning post (they will also receive an email)! Oh, and did I mention, it's open internationally!

So, which book do you want?


Saturday, April 13, 2013

blessings in disguise

Let's go back to Tuesday's post about technology woes, and Wednesday's post about outlines, and talk about blessings in disguise. This may not strictly be a writing topic, but I think it's still an important lesson I can share with you!

As I posted on twitter and facebook Wednesday afternoon, I succeeded in rewriting the whole outline I lost to my evil flash drive. This truly was an accomplishment, and a bit of a weight off my shoulders.

But I didn't stop there - inspired, I kept working on it. Parts of the book that were hazy and completely unplanned (like the whole middle) suddenly became clear to me. I was able to almost completely finish my outline by that night.

Now, I have a fleshed out roadmap to help me finish this first draft, something I didn't have before.

Now let's talk about the 5000 words I lost - are they exactly the same? No. Do they still tell the same story? Yes. Might they be even better than the ones I lost? Why yes, I believe so.

I still have a long way to go in this story, but I've recovered everything I've lost and been able to create more. So how do I feel?

That about sums it up.

My point? Sometimes, setbacks are exactly the opposite. I don't know if I'd have gotten so much done this week if I hadn't been pushed to rewrite what I'd lost.

Another point? Never give up. Ever. Because whatever mountain you're climbing, you'll get to the top and realize it wasn't so bad after all. (Or it was really bad and you'll get to feel super accomplished for overcoming it!)

What are your writing success stories?


Friday, April 12, 2013

writing the opposite gender

For many writers, this is one of the scariest things about writing a novel: writing the opposite gender.

Let's face it - as much as the world tries to say men and women are the same, we really aren't. There's a difference between "equal" and "the same." Men and women see the world differently. That's not to say one way of seeing the world is "better" or "right" - just that they're different.

So how do we bridge that gap in our writing? How do we go over to the "other side"?

The first step is reading a lot of literature written by the opposite gender. Harry Potter's great - I think J.K. Rowling did a wonderful job of making Harry a real character - but it doesn't help me as much as reading novels written by male authors. Notice how their characters respond to things. You can even look specifically at their opposite gender characters and see if there's anything that seems out of place to you. That's a good clue to where and how they might think differently than you.

The second step is to write. You're going to get stuck forever if you don't just start writing. As you write, you'll discover things about your characters, start connecting to them individuals (not just as men or women) and start to understand how they think.

The third step - and this is the most important - is to have members of the opposite sex read it. Notice that I said "members" - plural. Each individual is different, and what one man might think is too feminine others might not blink an eye at. Take every opinion into consideration, but don't rely too heavily on one person's comments. Don't be embarrassed if all your readers come back to you with the same comment about a certain characteristic, scene, or action by your character. You want that feedback, because you want to make your characters as real as possible.

Fourth, forget it all. This is also a very important step. You know your characters - even if they're the opposite gender of you, you've been inside their heads long enough to write them. There may be some things you need to tweak because of how they're coming across, but you should understand them better than anyone else at this point. Now, this isn't to say that you literally forget what people are telling you - if all your friends think the male love interest in your romance novel is gay, that's a problem - but have confidence in the character you've created and that you know who they are and what they want.

Now, here's a quick don't: don't bog yourself down with psychology books and the like. You generally know when something will be viewed as "feminine" or "masculine" - follow your instincts, don't over-think it.

Yes, men and women are different, and those differences should not be ignored. However, do not let the fact that you are a woman keep you from writing from a man's perspective, or vice versa.

Do you have any MCs of the opposite gender? How did you approach writing them?


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

outlines - going beyond what your high school english teacher taught you

So I mentioned in yesterday's post that I lost a whole outline to my evil flash drive. But if you've followed this blog for a while, you'll know that in the past I've said I don't like outlining. So what changed my mind?

Well, I made a shocking realization - you don't have to follow your outline exactly!


It's a revelation, isn't it? Outlines aren't written in stone! They're flexible! Once you've been something in an outline, it doesn't have to stay there!

Seems like common sense, right? So why was this a revelation for me? Well, I'm the type of person who really likes checklists. There's something very satisfying about crossing something off, marking that I've finished it. I treated my outlines that way - I marked things off as I wrote them, so I was always following what I'd written in my outline exactly so I could mark the next thing off.

Once I realized that outlines aren't checklists, but rather roadmaps, they became my friend.

When you're on a roadtrip, you're allowed to take detours. You're allowed to stop at gas stations, stay at a middle-of-nowhere motel for the night, get off the freeway to check out an interesting antique mall. Your map (or GPS) is still there when you're ready for it, but you don't have to follow it every step of the way.

And sometimes, your map is wrong. Sometimes there's a roadblock, and you have to find another way. Trying to drive through the construction wouldn't exactly get you to your destination.

So here's my advice about outlining: try it. If you don't already outline, give it a shot. Now that I look at it as a roadmap rather than a checklist, I get so much more done. It helps to have something I'm moving toward, but I also know that if a detour comes up I have permission to take it!

*Note* - I don't organize my outlines by chapters, simply because I don't want to feel forced to squeeze things into a chapter that don't fit. Chapter endings write themselves, and when I try to write them myself they don't usually work out very well. I write my story and separate it into chapters later.

Now to try to recover the outline I lost in my memory...good news is it doesn't have to be exactly the same, because it's just a guideline anyway!

Do you outline? Why or why not?


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

the wonders (and woes) of technology

Sometimes I sit back, look at my computer screen, and wonder how they did it. How did authors manage to write masterpieces like The Count of Monte Cristo, Pride and Prejudice, The Divine Comedy, The Iliad, and so many others, without Microsoft Word? If you make a mistake typing or want to change something, you simply backspace. If you make a mistake on paper, you have to (eventually) get out a whole new sheet and rewrite everything. It's the same with typewriters--though they are much more convenient then writing by hand, you still can't backspace or delete whole paragraphs (or chapters) like I sometimes do.

The technology of our world is simply amazing. When you think back to where we were twenty, thirty, forty years ago, it's hard to believe just how quickly things have advanced. (True, according to all the old cartoons we're supposed to have flying cars and ray guns by now, but one step at a time, right?)

But with the wonders of technology come challenges. If you write by hand, as long as you keep your papers in a safe place (and your house doesn't burn down) you're not going to lose your work. But typing, there's always the chance that your computer will decide it's had enough and eat your files, refusing to spit them back out.

Thankfully, that didn't happen to me--my computer's fine--but the next worst thing did.

I have a flash drive that I save all my files on. I periodically transfer them onto my computer (because I know how fickle flash drives can be), but I like to have everything on the flash drive so that if I go somewhere without my personal computer, I can still work on my books.

Great idea in theory, right? What's not so great is when you have 5000 words and a whole new outline on your flash drive that aren't on your computer, and your flash drive decides to die.

Granted, it's only 5000 words. I can deal with it. But that doesn't mean it's not inconvenient.

So lesson of the weekend? If you do use a flash drive (like I used to) transfer your important files every time you have access to your computer, and work directly on your computer (not on the flash drive files) when you have it with you.

Now to go write 5000 words....


Friday, April 5, 2013

that awkward moment when

You walk home after a long, hard day. It's dark outside. College sure isn't a piece of cake. You're looking forward to relaxing on the couch, possibly watching a TV show or two, before collapsing on your bed and doing it all again tomorrow. One more block and you'll be home. Just one more block....

The stairs leading up to your apartment are endless. When you've finally conquered them, you open the door. Your backpack gets caught halfway down your arm, about to be dropped, when you stop short.

They're caught. On the couch, just where you were heading, your roommate and her boyfriend jump away from each other. You saw enough--you know they weren't just cuddling. They both send you half-smiles and attempt to laugh.

That's when you decide you weren't in the mood to watch Bones anyway. You drag your backpack (and your body) to your room, shut the door, and crawl into bed.

In real life, this is just awkward. In your novel, this can be gold!

Awkward moments are relatable. We laugh at them because, hey, we've been there! And depending on how you use them, you can further the plot, develop character, create sympathy for your characters, or even just lighten the mood.

Side note: next time you watch a comedy, on the stage or on the big screen, just count how many awkward moments there are. I promise you you'll need to take off your shoes and use your toes (which itself could be an awkward moment....)

But as I said, awkward moments don't always have to be for comedic purposes. Use them in your story where they'll be the most powerful.

Take the example above. This could happen on any given day at any given time, but let's look at some different scenarios. Say the character just broke up with her own boyfriend--would that not make you feel for her? What if she didn't know her roommate had a boyfriend (gasp!)? Or what if (worse still) the roommate's new boyfriend is her ex?

There are all sorts of possibilities for development in your stories with awkward moments. It's just a matter of choosing when to write them in and not throwing them away.

And good news--if you're writing YA, there are PLENTY of opportunities for you! :p

What are some of your favorite awkward moments in literature?


Thursday, April 4, 2013

new spring, new blog!

That's right! Not only did I change the design this time, but the title as well.

It all came down to one question: why? Why do I write? Why do I read? Why do I blog?

The answer was one simple word--


I am passionate about writing! I can't get enough of stories, of characters! I am passionate about reading for the same reasons--learning from other writers, seeing their brilliance printed on a page!

But most importantly, I'm passionate about helping others! If anything I say on this blog, anything I learn, is helpful to someone else, this blog is a huge success!

Because that's what it's all about--sharing our passions, learning from each other, and helping one another achieve our dreams!

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