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.

Continue reading

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Battle of the Prose

Ladies and gentlemen, readers of all ages, there is a war being waged at this very moment within the literary universe, a war which has held us in its grip for centuries, a war which has produced avid warriors dedicated to both sides and both causes.

I speak, of course, of the war between the Novel and the Short Story.  And now, if you’ll forgive me, I’m going to drop that ridiculous war analogy for some plain American English and proceed with the post.

The man himself.

In my high school English class, we’ve been reading the works of the great American writer Edgar Allan Poe.  Not the most joyful of writers, but nonetheless one of my favorite literary figures.  In addition to some of his poetry, we read The Cask of Amontillado, which of course is one of his deliciously gruesome short stories and which you can read here.

Now, in learning about Poe, both in class and with the help of my handy-dandy anthology from Christmastime, I found out that he was a staunch supporter of the short story.  Poe claimed that the short story was essentially the pinnacle of prose in its ability to be read in one sitting.  Poe became a master of the short story, writing other such works as The Tell-Tale Heart and The Fall of the House of Usher (the latter of which I, admittedly, have not read yet, but the former of which I have, and let me tell you, it is every bit as creepy as The Cask).

This got me thinking: which is really better?  So, I think this post will be written much in the way of my earlier one concerning buying or borrowing books, meaning that I will name the pros and cons of each.  Here we go!

Novels:

The full-length novel certainly has its advantage in that everything is bigger and more elaborate.  Plot can become more complicated and interesting, characters can be fully flushed out and elaborated upon, and there is more time and more pages in which to indulge all of a writer’s literary fancies.  A novel sucks you in because it makes you just want more and more and it gives you that, supplying the reader with hundreds of pages of a single incredible story.

There are some drawbacks, though.  A novel can often get boring, as those hundreds of pages are indeed only one story.  Also, it can take a while to finish when one might wish to read something else, and some book series admittedly drag on forever with no signs of stopping.

Short Stories:

Short stories, on the other hand, are not at all long.  They can in fact be read in one sitting, and allow the reader to momentarily become immersed fully in a certain story.  A true master of the short story does not need hundreds of pages to get the job done.  The narrative is concise and wholly enjoyable, and over soon enough so that a reader of short stories always has something fresh on his or her literary plate.

But this style of prose is not without its cons (no pun on homophones intended).  A short story often lacks in richness of plot or fullness of characters.  And if one likes the story and the tale leaves something to be desired, there is the disappointment of never being able to return to that world after too short a journey into it.

What do you think, readers?  For lack of a better phrase, which Team are you on?  Do you prefer a concise narrative with less extravagance, or a longer tale which allows for more time in the fictional realm?  For myself, I am undecided.  I appreciate both for their respective virtues.  But I would like to hear your opinions, as well.

Happy reading.

To Buy or to Borrow?

Readers, as a book nerd, one of the hardest questions in life is whether to own a book or to borrow it from the library.  I figure it’s time we settle this once and for all.  Here’s an explanation of the pros and cons for each:

Buying:

I’ve always preferred to buy my books rather than borrow them.  If you buy, you can expand your personal library and thus impress your book nerd friends when they see the awesome might of your bookshelf.  In addition, if ever you feel the urge to re-read something (as I sometimes do), the book is right there for your convenience.  Owning books for yourself also helps if you need to research something in one of the novels or nonfiction volumes (hey, it’s happened!).

On the other side of the buying spectrum, books are a tad expensive, and there’s always the question of what to do when your shelf fills up.

Borrowing:

Libraries, unlike stores, are inexpensive, and you can get as many books at once as you like.  Also, a good library will almost always have a great selection of old and new novels to look at.  If you have access to a library close to you, that would perhaps be your best option, as there is a plethora of knowledge for free at your fingertips.

The problem I have with libraries is that there are no good ones close to home.  The nearest decent one is a forty-minute drive away, if you don’t count my school library, which admittedly is pretty good.  In addition, you often have to wait for the book you want to be available, and new releases aren’t always on library shelves right away.

Well, that’s my bit for today.  This post is rather short again.  I’ll try to work on something longer for next time, but I guess we’ll see.

I’m still on Team Buying, even though I admit libraries have their uses.  I suppose it’s simply a matter of convenience, and a store happens to be more convenient for me.  Feel free to leave a comment telling me what side you’re on and why.  Happy New Year, everyone!  And, of course,

Happy reading.

What to Look For In Your Fictional Boyfriend

Or Girlfriend, If You Are So Inclined.

But I’m going to be talking about boys in this case, so if you’re not into guys, just substitute the word “girl” in there, ok?

Ok.

Here’s the deal.  Fictional boys are always perfect.  Always.  The heroine ends up with the perfect guy.  Every time.  There’s a reason girls will pick Teams and fight viciously over which one is better.  It’s because most of them wish their chosen dude was real.

Truth.

(It’s kind of depressing, when you think about it, considering none of them will ever really exist.  Sigh.)

However, I learned recently that there is such thing as too perfect.  As in, this guy is handsome, he’s athletic, he’s smart, and he’s student body president.  The kind of guy that does everything right, all the time.  This example is Ian, a character in Carrie Jones’ book, Need.

Behold, thine visual!

Since the first time Ian showed up, I was wary of him.  The protagonist was a new girl, and kind of emotionally dead (but I won’t get into that).  Ian didn’t care.  He was just there, showing up, all the time, always with a gigantic smile and just the right thing to say.

It wasn’t sweet.  It was creepy.  Ian was a creep.  A friend who had loaned me the book asked who I thought was a pixie (because, oh yeah, this book involves pixies).  I automatically answered with Ian.  He was too perfect.  No human could act like that, all the time.

I suppose it’s confusing that a guy’s perfection can be exactly the reason I don’t like him.  After all, aren’t all women searching for “the perfect guy?”  This book helped me learn that technical perfection is not the same as what a protagonist actually needs.  Writing a good boyfriend-type figure is much harder than it seems.

The protagonist needs someone who is kind, and understands her, and sure, let’s put good looks into the equation, because what fictional boyfriend doesn’t have those?  But the guy should also have enough flaws that he seems real.  Ian didn’t seem real to me.  Every person has flaws, but he didn’t appear to have any.  No matter how good the guy, they have to be believable, and that means putting some kind of vulnerability or vice in there.  This is something I think all writers have to remember when creating romance within their works.

I guess what I’m trying to say is the perfect fictional boyfriend isn’t perfect.  He’s flawed.  He’s real.  He’s human.

And he’s mine.

Happy reading!

 

P.S. Oh, and the pixie bit?  Yeah, I’m not telling whether I was right or not.

P.P.S. Quick review: Need was an awesome book.  Even with Ian in it.  My only negative thought is that it was EXTREMELY Twilight-ish.  Not exactly, but close enough to make some pretty major comparisons.  I think I like Need better, though, because the protagonist ends up with the guy she SHOULD end up with.  Tomorrow, though, I’m most likely going to talk about Divergent, which is AMAZING.  So stay tuned!

P.P.P.S. This is my 50th post!  WOO!  Party!

This is basically our Golden Anniversary. But with posts.

The BOOK Nerd Commandments

During one of my trawls through cyberspace, I came across a list of Nerd Commandments on a site dedicated to all things nerd.  Thinking it over, I have now come to the conclusion that while these are very right and true commandments to live by, there are many specific types of nerds, and this list does not always carry over.  With that in mind, I have taken it upon myself to create the Book Nerd Commandments: a list of special rules for our breed of bibliophiles, readers, etc.*  Some quick brainstorming on my part produced almost 20 guidelines, but I’ve narrowed it down to the 10 most universal, written out in classic Commandment style and listed in no particular order:

  1. Thou shalt consider all film versions to be inferior to the books from which they sprung.  This one goes without saying, guys.  Movies are never better.
  2. Thou shalt choose thy Team in whichever love triangle thou hast read of.  Yes, even if it’s a Team Switzerland.  At least you’re taking the side of not taking a side…I think.
  3. Thou shalt seek out and purchase for thyself collectibles, t-shirts, or other such memorabilia related to at least three books which thou hast enjoyed greatly.  I’m still on the fence about whether this includes companion books…
  4. Thou shalt read Harry Potter.  No exceptions.
  5. Thou shalt not limit thyself to one genre of books.  Branch out a little.
  6. If thou shalt enter a bookstore, library, or other such place, and depart from there without having purchased for thyself at least one item of literary value, thou shalt be lowered amongst the ranks of thy nerdy peers.  Because what true book nerd can resist a bookstore?
  7. Thou shalt attend at least one book signing during thy lifetime.  Book signings are awesome.
  8. Thou shalt have concocted at least one theory by the end of each series thou readest.  It’s so fun predicting who’s going to die.
  9. Thou shalt never bend to the teasing of thy non-book nerd friends.  Wear your nerd colors proudly!
  10. Thou shalt keep thy series in accordance with the Law of the Golden Mean.  This spectacular rule was on the original list of Nerd Commandments, so all credit goes to that site.  Basically, it says if you own more than about 60% of a series, you are required to either buy the rest of it or sell books until you are below that percentage.  Some examples, along with very hastily taken iPod Touch pictures:

Must...complete...

This is most of the Gone series, by Michael Grant.  Except I don’t own the first book.  I need the first book.  Also, sorry it’s sideways.

Can you spot what's missing?

Most of the Spiderwick Chronicles, by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black.  Except the fourth one.  I now feel an urge to buy the fourth one.

See what I mean?  Good rule.

My posts may be irregular in the next week due to Family Vacation.  Tonight I’m going to the Harry Potter Exhibition in NYC.  Should be fun.

Happy reading!

 

*If you don’t feel like you need to follow these rules, that’s okay.  This is just for fun.  Feel free to read books as you please.  I won’t be mad.

How To Start A Fan War

Hurrah for the double post!

Since the last post was just me rambling about my favorite series, today I’m posting double.  That way there’s something new on the ol’ blog for everyone.  (There were some great links in that last post though.  Seriously, go check out that map of Panem.  I wish I had that kind of patience/research ability.)

That being said, this will probably be the last post about fandoms for a while.  Time to move on to bigger and better topics.  Not that I have anything especially against fandoms.

So.  On with the post.

In 2005, Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer, was released, and the public’s understanding of vampires consequently exploded into a thousand sparkly bits.  The next year, New Moon (and the general werewolfery within) was unleashed upon the world, and with it came the end of all love triangles as we knew them.

*SPOILER ALERT!*

Before I go any farther, I should warn you that if you haven’t read New Moon yet, or the Hunger Games trilogy (especially the second and third books), there are spoilers ahead.

Okay.  Continuing…

Suddenly, there was no more polite disagreement over whether Edward was good for Bella or not (I should tell you that this is all just my fanciful imagination of what happened; I didn’t catch onto the series until much, much later).  Now, the naysayers suddenly had a face to go with the argument, an excuse for rejecting Edward and Bella’s love.  That face, that excuse, was Jacob Black.

At first, Jake is a lovable, normal guy who helps Bella out of the unhealthy depression she sinks into following Edward’s breakup with her.  But then-gasp!- it turns out he’s actually a werewolf!  This, of course, was just great news for the naysayers.  Not only is he a living alternative to cold vampires, he can also take on his vamp rival in a fight!

With the release of Eclipse, and later, Breaking Dawn, the rivalry between the naysayers and those who loved Edward skyrocketed.  Before long it was a full-blown fan war.  They even had names for the opposing armies: Team Edward and Team Jacob.  Soon came t-shirts, jewelry, banners, you name it.  The movie only made things worse.

My response to all this was, of course, to immediately join Team Jacob (for the win!).  But now, as I look at this once more, I find myself mourning the loss of a united fandom.  Stephenie Meyer, maybe without even knowing it, created a rift, a tear if you will, in the delicate fabric of the “Twi-hard” community.  There was no more polite conversation between the opposite Teams.  Instead, there were glares and heated arguments.

“Jacob!”

“Edward!”

“Jacob!”

“Edward!”

And so on.  I ask you, why must this happen?  Can’t we all just get along?  Can’t we accept that we feel certain ways about certain things and move on with life?  That’s what happened with myself and a friend of mine.  She is a staunch supporter of Edward, and yet we still remain friends.

Team-choosing doesn’t have to be the end.

But now, it seems, Team-choosing is all there is in the YA world.  This is a genre where love triangles are as plentiful as grass in my neighbor’s yard (he has a very nice lawn).  And, because of the lessons the Twilight Saga has taught us, no doubt there will be a set of Teams for every popular series in the near future.

It happened in the Harry Potter fandom before Deathly Hallows came out (remember the Harry/Hermione theory?).  It’s happened with the Hunger Games.  Tons of blogs and web sites are separating into Team Gale or Team Peeta (or, extra bonus Team, Team Katniss).  Even though I don’t think these Teams are as adamant or as earth-shaking as the Twilight Teams are, it irks me a little to see such a great and complex series (see previous post) be simplified into Teams.  There is so much more to consider than which guy is hotter!

For example, I’m Team Gale.  However, I’m happy with the way the series turned out.  Peeta is, in the end, better for Katniss.

Now, I’m not saying you shouldn’t pick a side.  It’s great to get these types of discussions going within the fandom (at least in my humble opinion).  Just don’t go too over the top with the arguing, I think.  We fans have to stick together, you know.

I guess all I’m saying is, there is more to a love triangle book than who the main character should be with.  Opposite Teams should find some common ground.  (I’m still Team Jacob, though.  Always.)  Remember: what the author says, goes.  No need to grab your pitchfork and start hunting down everyone on a different Team, just because the author had a different vision of the interpersonal relationships than you did.

After all, that’s what fan fiction is for.