Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Everything Guide to Writing a Novel part 2

So I have recently finished Chapter 7 in the Everything Guide which is titled "Getting Characters to Talk" and focuses on the writing of dialogue. Before I go in too deep about what this chapter says, I'd like to say that I personally find dialogue the easiest to write. I listen to a lot of people's conversations in the real world, and I believe it has helped me to write dialogue well/believably. That being said, I also find that I tend to rely on dialogue a lot as I'm writing Gayle (probably because it does come so easily to me), and I struggle to fill the gaps with descriptions and action. I think what has surprised me the most about undertaking writing a novel is how much description and action is needed to make it read and flow well and to not lose the readers. Because I read very well-written books, I don't think I've noticed the extent of those large chunks in between dialogue as a reader. So, here are the major points from Chapter 7 that may come in handy for you.

The Everything Guide talks about important things to keep in mind when writing dialogue such as use dialogue that reads as realistic but isn't "real" because most conversations in the "real world" are short and mundane. Readers don't want those "real" conversations in a work of fiction. On the opposite end of the spectrum, readers also don't want the characters' dialogue to be too formal, stilted, or trying too hard to be intelligent (unless of course that character is a well respected doctor, lawyer, scientist, professor, etc.). Dialogue should fit the character; readers shouldn't question whether a character in that particular situation would speak that way or say those things. When considering realistic/"real" dialogue, don't use too much slang either. While lots of people use slang in the real world, too much slang in your dialogue may actually date your writing and make it less accessible to multiple age groups and multiple generations. Some limited use of slang that has made its way into the dictionary is acceptable, but only when you would miss it if you left it out. Also avoid clichés whenever possible. People in the real world do use clichés from time to time like slang, but also like slang, readers do not want to read it too much in fiction and it can date a novel.

Dialogue can also be a good way to inform readers of characters' traits or further the story. Especially when writing in first person or third person limited, secondary characters can tell the reader things about the main character that the main character can't reveal about himself/herself. If a main character talks about his/her appearance or features too often, it can come off as vain or self-centered (which is not necessarily what you want your readers to think about your protagonist). Using the secondary characters to talk about another character's appearance however is perfectly acceptable, and readers will not give it a second thought.

Once you've decided what point of view you're going to tell your story in, there are two other main questions you must answer before writing your characters' dialogue. The first question is do you want your character (or your narrator if writing in third person) to have a gendered voice. Most men and women speak slightly differently and have different points of view or motivations even in the exact same situations. If you are a woman writing a female character or a man writing a male character, it may be easier (or even subconscious) to write that character in a gendered way. However, you have to ask yourself whether that may or may not alienate any readers from fully connecting with that character. Personally, I find that I like characters of both genders equally even when their dialogue is gendered, but some boys/men may have a hard time relating to a female character if she speaks and her motivations are overtly female and vice versa. When I consider Gayle, I think that what I have written so far for her dialogue is relatively genderless. She is not an overly "feminine" girl, so I don't think I will alienate any male readers at this point. However, the feminist in me is a bit piqued that an author should adjust whether a character speaks in a gendered voice or not. I write my characters how I hear them, in a way that is true to their disposition and persona, and if it is overtly gendered, then that is who they are. I wouldn't consider changing it.

The second question is whether you want your character(s) to have a dialect. The Everything Guide suggests (as well as Strunk and White) that you only use a dialect if you are a devoted student of the tongue you hope to reproduce. If you grew up in an area that has a very distinct dialect, you know exactly how it is supposed to sound, and you want a character(s) to come from that place and sound that way, then you can attempt to incorporate it. However in my opinion, it is a very thin line you must walk to make this work. Dialects that your readers aren't going to have the first-hand knowledge of like you do can easily get annoyed with reading a dialect and possibly put down a book for good. The Everything Guide also suggests that if you choose to give a character a dialect or accent to add richness to his/her characterization, then you only have to introduce it a few times and then phase back into regular writing as the reader then gets the drift. I am not using any dialects or accents in Gayle. The setting is a fantasy one so I don't feel it's necessary that my characters speak differently, and even if it is loosely based on a European setting around the late Middle Ages/Renaissance era, I wouldn't have the first idea what a person would have sounded like in any particular area of Europe at that time.

One last important note from chapter 7, try not to use dialogue tags too often. You should use them often enough that the reader doesn't get confused about who is doing the talking. Don't use the same spacing of dialogue tags too often on the same page. Also, do not use more "flowery" tags than said too often either. I am guilty at times of trying to use more "flowery" tags simply because I don't like my writing to be too repetitive. However in this instance, the repetition of "said" as your most used dialogue tag helps you as a writer to stick to the most important mantra ... show don't tell.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Escape from Eden by Elisa Nader

*I was given this book free by the author/publishing company in exchange for an honest review. I was not compensated in any way.*

Escape from Eden is a gripping tale of the corrupting force of absolute power, even under the guise of care, compassion, and Christianity. Our protagonist Mia is a teenage girl who lives in a Christian commune in the jungles of South America. Her mother brought Mia and her baby brother Max to Edenton when their father left the family. Mia's mother hoped that the Reverend would help to keep her family safe and raise her children in a Christian community far from the sin and degradation of the real world. But when slick New York teenager Gabriel is brought to Edenton by his parents, Mia's whole world gets turned upside down. All too soon the secrets and horrors of the commune are brought to Mia and Gabriel's attention, and the questions becomes not whether Edenton is worth living in, but will they be able to escape it.

Elisa Nader writes a fluent, well-paced story that will have readers engrossed and turning the pages. The characters are well-wrought and relatable. While the ending is a bit abrupt (I know I was hoping for more insight as to where Mia's future would take her), it isn't an overt disappointment.

I would recommend Escape from Eden to all avid readers and especially to fans of YA and thrillers. I give the book 4 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New Year's resolution 2014

Last year I made 2 resolutions - 1) to write everyday in Gayle - failed at that miserably; 2) to see the following 20 movies. Now I didn't get to see every one of these in the theatre as I had hoped but several of the ones I missed in the theatre, I saw on DVD before the end of the year. The only ones I haven't seen at all by this point are 10, 14, 18 & 20. Thor 2 and Hobbit 2 are still in theatres and I'm still hoping to see them there; Lone Ranger and Wolverine are out on DVD and I still intend to see them. So all in all, my second resolution wasn't a bust. :)

The 20 movies I have to see in 2013 (in chronological order of release)
1. Beautiful Creatures
2. A Good Day to Die Hard
3. Warm Bodies
4. G.I. Joe: Retaliation
5. The Host
6. Iron Man 3
7. The Great Gatsby
8. Star Trek into Darkness
9. The Hangover Part III
10. The Lone Ranger
11. After Earth
12. Man of Steel
13. World War Z
14. The Wolverine
15. Elysium
16. The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones
17. The World's End
18. Thor: The Dark World
19. Catching Fire
20. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

For 2014, I have basically the same resolutions. Firstly, I intend to finish Gayle before I turn 35 - that gives me more than this year (since I don't turn 35 until October 2015), but I will have to work tirelessly on it this year to achieve that so it's still a resolution for this year. Secondly, I resolve to watch these 25 movies in the theatre this year.

The 25 movies I have to see in 2014 (in chronological order of release)
1. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit - (Jan 17) This movie looks really good - starring Chris Pine, Keira Knightley, Kenneth Branagh and directed by Branagh. Based on a Tom Clancy character, the math alone makes me want to see it! :)
2. Monuments Men - (Feb 7) This is another movie directed by George Clooney and starring George Clooney, Matt Damon, and Bill Murray. I love all these actors, and I'm interested to see their on screen chemistry. Plus the plot sounds interesting.
3. The Grand Budapest Hotel - (March 7) Directed by Wes Anderson and starring Ralph Fiennes, Bill Murray, etc., This looks like one of the strangest movies I'll see all year, but I don't think I can pass it up. I love Ralph Fiennes. :)
4. Divergent - (March 21) I read this book and absolutely loved it. I'm super excited to see it. Starring Shailene Woodley and Kate Winslet. I think Kate is going to be awesome in her role, and I hope Shailene will as well.
5. Noah - (March 28) I'm not a huge fan of biblical stories on the silver screen. I feel that they either over-hype them, or don't do them justice. But I am intrigued by this movie, especially since it stars Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly.
6. Captain America: The Winter Soldier - (April 4) Starring Chris Evans and Scarlett Johanssen, among others, this is the second installment in Captain America's saga. I'm interested to see how they move forward in this storyline after the first movie and the Avengers - hope it's good.
7. The Amazing Spider-man 2 - (May 2) I really enjoyed the first Amazing Spider-man. I didn't really see the need for a reboot of the franchise because I liked the first 3 with Tobey Maguire and I hadn't read the comics so I wasn't "burdened" with glaring inaccuracies. I decided to give it a try anyway since I enjoy just about any superhero movies, and I was pleasantly surprised. Andrew Garfield does well as Peter Parker and I love Emma Stone in just about anything she does. Jamie Foxx joins the second installment as the nemesis. Definitely looking forward to it. :)
8. Chef - (May 9) I don't usually anticipate comedies with as much fervor as I do my sci-fi/fantasy/YA/superhero/action movies. :) However, this movie will be starring Jon Favreau, Robert Downey, Jr., Scarlett Johansson, and Dustin Hoffman. Need I say more?
9. X-Men: Days of Future Past - (May 23) I think this may be the movie I'm anticipating the most. :) I love X-Men, I think First Class was AWESOME, and if it could have been any better it would've included some of the greats from the first movies. Well Days of Future Past is still including James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, and Nicholas Hoult but it is also incorporating Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, and Halle Berry! I CANNOT WAIT! :)
10. Maleficent - (May 30) I have been waiting to see this movie ever since stills of Angelina Jolie in full make-up popped up online. I think this looks so amazing; it seems like Jolie was born to play this role.
11. Edge of Tomorrow - (June 6) I hadn't heard much about this movie, but when I saw a trailer for it today, I knew I wanted to include it in this list. Starring Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt, this looks like it's going to be a sci-fi action powerhouse. I'm not a huge fan of Tom Cruise but I really enjoyed Oblivion and I hope this surprises as well.
12. The Fault in our Stars - (June 6) Another movie this year that is YA, based on a book, and starring Shailene Woodley. My friend Meghan loved this book and told me how much I need to read it - hopefully I have time to before the movie comes out. :)
13. How to Train Your Dragon 2 - (June 13) Can't wait for this one either! :) My whole family loved this first movie and have been dying for the next one for so long. With the added voice talents of Cate Blanchett and Kit Harrington of Game of Thrones, this one looks sure to live up to the first one.
14. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes - (July 11) Rise of the Planet of the Apes was an unexpected gem that I really enjoyed. From the trailer, this one looks to be just as good.
15. Jupiter Ascending - (July 18) I hadn't heard about this movie before today either, and while the trailer tells you little, it looks really good. From the directors of The Matrix (which is high expectation on its own) and starring Mila Kunis, Channing Tatum, and Sean Bean.
16. Sex Tape - (July 25) Another comedy - I don't usually include that many on these lists - but I really liked Bad Teacher in a raunchy way :) and this movie is from the same director and also starring Jason Segel and Cameron Diaz again with "special" guest Jack Black as well. Awesome. :)
17. Guardians of the Galaxy - (Aug 1) This is another superhero movie so of course I'll check it out, but it seems like this will be the craziest one. Starring Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Vin Diesel, and the voice of Bradley Cooper as a raccoon. Should be interesting but looks funny. :)
18. Sin City: A Dame to Kill For - (Aug 2) It's been forever since the first one came out, but I enjoyed it and am looking forward to this second one. Starring Josh Brolin, Eva Green, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Jessica Alba.
19. The Giver - (Aug 15) One of my all-time favorite YA books. I HOPE they don't ruin it, but with Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep in it, I can't imagine it would be horrible.
20. The Maze Runner - (Sept 19) Another YA book that my friend Meghan loved and said I have to read, again hope I can finish it before the movie comes out and that it doesn't disappoint.
21. Gone Girl - (Oct 3) This is a crime thriller movie adapted from a best selling novel starring Ben Affleck. Since it doesn't come out till October, there isn't a trailer yet but the director Fincher also directed Fight Club, Social Network, and Girl with the Dragon Tattoo which I've all loved. Hopefully this movie is another stellar addition to Fincher's resume.
22. Interstellar - (Nov 7)  Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, and Michael Caine star in this sci-fi film. This is another movie that I added to the list because the trailer makes it look really good.
23. Hunger Games: Mockinjay p.1 - (Nov 21) I loved these books and the movies are living up to them. Catching Fire was fantastic. I can't wait for this installment and hope Julianne Moore does her part justice.
24. The Hobbit: There and Back again - (Dec 17) I haven't seen the second movie yet, but I will soon. The first movie was really good. I know that most people are a little weirded out that it isn't so close to the book like the Lord of the Rings trilogy were, but it doesn't really bother me that much because I understand that a lot of storyline was take from other Tolkien works and not just made up to make the movies longer. I can't wait for the finale. :)
25. Into the Woods - (Dec 25) I haven't had the pleasure of seeing the play that this movie will be based on, but I can imagine I would really like it, and I'm sure I'll love this movie. With an amazing all-star cast that includes Johnny Depp, Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, Anna Kendrick, and many more, I'm sure this will be one of my fav movies of this year. :)
I hope I'm as successful with my movie resolution this year as I was last year, and I hope I am WAY more successful in my writing resolution. Any movies you're anticipating the release of this year that you haven't seen here? Leave a comment. :)

Friday, November 1, 2013

NaNoWriMo!!!

For those of you who don't know, November is National Novel Writer's Month and the NaNoWriMo organization (at www.nanowrimo.org) sponsor a challenge to novel writers that they will complete 50,000 words toward their novel in the month of November. I've never done NaNo before, 50,000 words seemed like a crap-ton to get done in one month, and I didn't know if I wanted to commit to something like that. I have a few local friends who are writers who have been discussing doing NaNo recently, but honestly, I didn't think I was going to be one of them.

Then today, I just signed up for it on a whim! :) I figured that by officially signing up for something that will basically keep me accountable, then I'll progress much further on Gayle then if I didn't. Plus, through the course of updating my info on the website, I found out I've already written 13,450 words on Gayle which is pretty awesome! :) Now I'm not shooting for writing an additional 50,000 on top of that 13,450 (to be honest, I don't know if Gayle will be that long before conclusion anyway) so that 13,450 gives me a nice headstart in my eyes. :) I will be posting about my progress on NaNo in addition to my other posts this month. So, wish me luck! :)

Monday, July 8, 2013

My Mother's Secret by J.L. Witterick

*I was given this book free by the author in exchange for an honest review. I was not compensated in any way.*

My Mother's Secret is a work of fiction, but it is based on the basic attributes of a true Holocaust story; Franciszka and Helena Halamajowa were real people who lived in Poland during the German occupation and helped many of their Jewish neighbors escape the concentration camps or death. The story is broken into five parts, each told from a different person's perspective. The writing is direct and informative - fitting to the stark reality of the story. There is no flowery language, and it is not prone to long passages of description. I do not believe that readers will find this style unreadable, but some may find the writing style a bit lacking. That being said, I think that the plot is written well, paced nicely, and it reads very quickly. I did think at times that if the story was set up in a diary or letter format, that the writing style might fit better.

Overall, I quite enjoyed this book. I had not heard this particular Holocaust story before, and I think Witterick wrote it well - adding to the historic fact with humanity and depth. I would recommend this book to any readers who enjoy historical fiction, history, biography, or realistic fiction. I give it 3.5 stars out of 5.

Harper Lee and Peppermint Candy by Paula Hennessy

*I was given this book free by the author in exchange for an honest review. I was not compensated in any way.*

I recently read Harper Lee and Peppermint Candy by Paula Hennessy. I would consider it young adult fiction mainly because the protagonist is in her teens. It is realistic fiction also, which in YA, I don't tend to read a lot of. However, going in I didn't have any bias toward the genre. I was actually pleasantly surprised how much I liked it, considering the fact that I read much more sci-fi/fantasy. I thought that the main character Megan was very realistically written, and even though she has a bit of an extreme personality, at first, I thought it was also easy to identify with her. What she goes through and deals with as a teenager doesn't seem that far-fetched for any teen these days, and therefore, her reactions also are within the realm of believability. I also thoroughly liked the grandmother, Addie. She's very comforting and loving like most grandmothers, but she is also very no nonsense which is refreshing.

The plot is written well. The book flows very nicely and is a quick read which is usually an indication of its quality. Considering the hardships that they go through in the course of the book, the ending is not as sad as it could have been. Where Hennessy chooses to end the plot for Addie and Megan is more bittersweet than tragic - though I still shed many tears.

Overall, I think that Harper Lee and Peppermint Candy is an engrossing read, well-written with likable characters, and I would recommend it to anyone (not just readers of young adult fiction or realistic fiction). I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Man of Steel

I know I've already missed several movies on my bucket list - not sure if anyone is even aware - but I do completely intend to see them. However, today was my husband's birthday and of all the movies on my bucket list that are out in theatres right now that we haven't seen yet, Man of Steel was his hand's down pick so we went to see it today.

Overall, it was amazing. I thought that the effects were just mind blowing - the increases in technology for cgi have made fantasy, sci-fi, and superhero movies miles ahead of what they once were. I also thought that the movie was very well cast. Anyone who read my bucket list saw that one of the main reasons I wanted to see this movie was because of Henry Cavill, and I have to say he didn't disappoint. I thought that Cavill looked very much the part of Superman, but more so, he played Clark Kent/Superman as a very human, very relatable person. The final scene between Superman and General Zod was especially moving. I also thought that Michael Shannon was very good as the antagonist. The great thing about his character is that he is not one dimensional. It is completely believable that he would go to such extremes (as annihilating the human race) because he believes totally in his cause - he was created, engineered to keep his race alive and he will do whatever it takes. I also thoroughly enjoyed Amy Adams as the relentless reporter, Lois Lane.

The one problem that I had with the movie may be a personal issue, but I had a hard time feeling connected during many of the action sequences. While I think that cgi has made modern fantasy movies like this one truly epic, I also think that it has a bit of a detriment. I think that the whole point of telling a story is to get the audience to connect to the story (its themes and even morals) and be able to relate to the characters. With the increase in cgi technology, movie makers can make the superhuman or supernatural closer to its "reality" without making it look obviously fake. However, this superhuman "reality" is so grand in scale that people don't really have a scope of experience to really be able to process it. That's why I couldn't connect to these scenes; my brain has no way of even processing what is going on in any believable or relatable way. While the scenes were amazing, they were hard to relate to.

The part of the movie that I did not have any trouble connecting with or relating to was the writing, the story itself. I think that David S. Goyer (who wrote the script) did an amazing job. The thing I most thought of throughout the movie's more emotionally stirring moments (and this may sound corny to some) was how I wanted to do better in my own life. The words from Clark's biological and adopted fathers are so strong. They both want their son to grow to be morally strong, to do what is right, and to make a difference in the world. The scenes with the younger versions of Clark and his struggles were so great because I felt his pain and his hardship in living up to an ideal that would be so difficult for someone so young to come to grips with. I was very moved by it. As a writer, I can only hope that any work I contribute to this world touches someone in that way.

Overall, I give the movie 4.5 stars out of 5.