Is This A Kissing Book?

Readers, I’m proud today to be kicking off this month’s Teens Can Write, Too! blog chain.  Honoring Valentine’s Day and Cupid and whatnot, this time around the theme is:

What are your thoughts on romance for your typical genre?  Do you tend to have a little, a lot, or none at all?

I’m not sure if I really have a typical genre, but I suppose lately the majority of what I’ve been writing is dystopian (yes, technically a subgenre, but you can’t expect me to simply call it sci-fi when dystopia is barely that).  Ah, yes, Dystopia, Land of the Love Triangles.  With such hits as The Hunger Games and Matched featuring this particular shape, it’s no wonder I’m perfectly okay with a bit of romance in my reading.  Even novels in this category that don’t favor three sides to their relationships have some sort of love story mixed into the plot.

Love is sort of hard to avoid in the future, it seems.

Writing is much the same.  When I write something like this, sure, I’ll have some romance here and there.  It’s my opinion that every great book has at least some such aspect to it.  However, just as The Hunger Games leaves its share of infatuations in the background in order to focus on the larger plot at hand, a dystopia shouldn’t just be about the kissing.  A dystopian novel, almost by definition, is about a group of oppressed people making a stand against a corrupt and unlawful society.  It’s about fighting back and being strong in the face of adversity.  It does not leave room for the main characters to be obsessing over whether their crush is going to call them or not.

Readers, this is something that must be kept in the right balance in order for it to work.  I understand that in stories, people do find each other, and yes, maybe they fall in love.  That’s okay.  A lot of times it might even be better for the overall arc of the story to put that in there.  In dystopia, though, the romance angle must be kept backseat to the larger plot, which is of course fighting aforementioned corruption.  That’s how I try to write my dystopias.

Of course, that being said, I should probably address the preferred geometric state of my characters’ love lives.  As attractive as it may seem to include one to mix up the plot a little, love triangles are a bit overdone in my opinion.  I mean, essentially they were run into the ground by the whole Twilight/Teams thing, and although that’s not even in the same genre as dystopia, it seems to me that any book today featuring a triangle will inevitably be compared with the Saga. (For more of my opinion on love triangles and Teams, see this post.)  Sure, I’ve considered a love triangle, but to actually put one in my writing would require a lot more thought and planning in order to make it seem somehow different from all the other ones out there.

I mean, really?

In the end, though, this post isn’t about triangles.  This is about how much love and romance and such I like in my dystopian writing in general.  My verdict is this: it’s all right when doled out in small portions.  Even in a terrifying future, people can get together and break up and marry each other.  However, dystopia should very rarely, if ever, feature this in the forefront.  That’s the job of the action and politics that form the core of this genre.

Most of that isn’t a problem for me, since I’m not what you’d call a romantic type.  I’m in no way a poster child (poster writer?) for a Valentine’s Day-type novel.  I do find it interesting, though, that our society seems to think that romance must be in any book that’s halfway good.  What if writers of this genre moved away from the relationships?  I’d like to see a dystopian series that has none of that kind of love in it, just to see if the story by itself can still be just as good.  Say, that gives me an idea…

Happy reading.

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From the Shire to Mount Doom

Warning: there WILL be spoilers.  If you haven’t read all three books in the LOTR trilogy, you might want to skip this post.

Well, readers, I did it.  I finished the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  It was long and hard going (just like the journey made therein), but I finally pushed through, determined to get to the end by the New Year.

Granted, I still haven’t read the Appendices, but that’s okay.  For me, the main bit of the text is what really counts.

My final thoughts on the series?  It got a bit more endurable by the end, what with the climactic battle scenes and the bit with Gollum and all.  (Gosh, Gollum is creepy.)  I was a bit surprised when the main part of the plot was over with about eighty pages still to go, but then- BAM- a wild subplot appeared!  And I did enjoy that, with the Shire being under attack and Frodo and the gang having to save it.  Although Frodo didn’t really do much, did he?  I suppose he was too worn out from getting rid of the Ring.  You can’t go through something like that and come away unscathed.  He never drew his sword again after that business in Mordor.

The good thing about that was Merry and Pippin and Sam got their fair share of action.  I mean, doubtless they already had some moments in the spotlight, what with the former two becoming knights of Rohan and Gondor and with the latter basically carrying Frodo’s weight through the entire trek into Mordor.  But for Merry, at least, the battle in the Shire was his shining moment.  I loved that.

Indeed, this entire trilogy was vastly different than anything I had expected.  I thought it would be a boring documentary of everything Frodo did, Frodo’s journey, Frodo’s hardships.  But it was not that at all.  It was about Aragorn becoming the King Elessar, about Gandalf’s plans coming together, about the friendship between a Dwarf and an Elf, about the corruption of men once considered the best of their kind.  It was about the passing of one age and the coming of another, about time’s inexorable flow that sweeps away civilizations and erects new ones in their place.  It was about the wounds time can heal, and the ones it cannot.  It was about hope and perseverance and sacrifice.

And I was pleasantly surprised by all of these things.  It wasn’t just the story of Frodo, it was the story of an entire world being shaken apart and put back together again, along with all of the people that made it happen.

Granted, there’s probably some sort of even deeper meaning that sailed over my head.  I’m more inclined to see the story than what it represents, no matter what the book is.  But from what I have seen, this deserves to be called a classic.

I’m not going to say I enjoyed this series.  It took too long to read and the first two books still seem a bit long-winded in my mind.  But I can firmly say that I respect this series.  For all of my griping about how long it was taking to get through, I have to give it credit in the end, and I have to acknowledge that maybe this wasn’t as bad as I’ve been making it out to be.  I realize now why it is so loved by its fans, and I finally know what this is all about.  This was a splendid way to end my year, with a series that I finally got to read after years of putting it off.

My next step is to watch the films and see how they compare.  On the reading front, though, I’m quite looking forward to starting off the year with something new, seeing as how I don’t plan to read The Hobbit or The Silmarillion anytime soon.  Of course, I’m going to finish Omnitopia Dawn as soon as I can so that can get out of my sidebar, but after that, I’m not sure what to read.  There are so many novels to choose from in the To-Be-Read stack.  I suppose we’ll find out.

Readers, do you have any thoughts on the Lord of the Rings?  Is there anything important that I missed?

Happy reading.

Easier Said Than Done*

You know what irks me?

When writers make it look so darn EASY.

You know the type.  You’re watching an interview with a favorite author, or you’re reading their blog, and they’re going on and on about how they write.  They’re all, “Oh, yeah, I was sitting in my room and suddenly this idea came to me.  It was like the story just sprung fully formed out of my brain and onto the page.  Like Athena.  Sometimes I couldn’t stay away from the computer!  And the characters are like my BFF’S.  And blah blah blah SUCH AN AMAZING EXPERIENCE blah blah blah.”**

If there is one thing- one thing, mind you- that being an amateur writer has taught me, it is that THIS IS NOT NATURAL.  Being a writer is hard.  It is nitty-gritty, up-in-your-face, pounding-your-head-against-the-monitor hard.  It involves blood, sweat, and tears (but mostly blood).  Characters do not normally spring into your head like some origin story gone wrong.  The story takes weeks to work out and tons of tweaking.  Unless you are an alien or a cyborg, you are not likely to get an idea that is ready to go from the first conception.

No stress here, in the court of Happy Queen Writer! NO STRESS!

Writing is not simple.  Even once you have cleared the barbed wire of the first draft, there is still the land-mined field of editing, where your story gets blown to smithereens and then put back together again.  There will be times throughout the whole process where you will want nothing more than to take your fingers off the keys and back away slowly.  You will want to give up.  But you keep going because THIS IS WHAT YOU SIGNED UP FOR.

Oh, and this thing about characters being awesome people who magically get along with you?  They’re not.  Characters will do things you don’t want them to do, or they’ll refuse to do things that will further the story.  Characters will get you stuck.  In terms of plot, they will turn on you eventually.

Eventually, yes, it’s worth it.  In the end you get a beautiful book with your name on the cover.  But that doesn’t mean we should make it sound easier than it is to write.  Sometimes it seems like published authors have everything figured out, that they know exactly how to write a story STRESS-FREE.  And I know for a fact that this is not true.

There are two morals to this rampaging monster-child of a post:

One, don’t beat yourself up when something goes wrong.  It’s part of the process.  You probably knew that already, though.

Two, WE’RE ONTO YOU, AUTHORS.  You cannot hide your hardships from us!

Yes, we see you there, adorable hypothetical writing-puppy.

Happy reading!

 

*Wow, that title makes it seem way more serious than this post actually is.  Funny how that works.

**Please note that I am not singling out any particular writer.  This is a purely hypothetical situation based on a lifetime of authorial experiences blown to cosmic proportions.  That being said, I hope you enjoyed it.  Disclaimer over.