Wherein a Writer Takes a Break From the Internet

For the past few days, I’ve decided to use one of my hundreds of unused journals in leu of battling my internet addiction in an attempt to crank out a chapter or two. I believe the results speak for themselves.

I started writing about three days ago and I’m halfway through with this journal.

That’s with taking breaks for six or seven hours to hang out with my boyfriend or take care of unfinished business.

While the pages of my journal are smaller than a piece of copy paper, I’ve still averaged about 27 pages a day.

One thing I’ve noticed about writing everything long-hand is the experience feels so much more personal. More than anything, it’s just fun.

It reminds me of back in the day when I didn’t have my own laptop and had to settle for my dad’s ancient brick when he wasn’t using it for work.

In between those times I didn’t have a choice but to use a notebook. I’ve since thrown away most of those away out of shame, but I still look back fondly on those nights when I would go through ink pen after ink pen, working on something just because I enjoyed it.

So I think the best way for me to accomplish my goals is to return to basics. I know I won’t get much “networking” done (I’ll get to that in a later post), but I miss being able to fully immerse myself in the work without the temptation of the internet.

I don’t fixate on word choice or getting the plot exactly right. I’m a boulder rolling down a hill and nothing can slow me down.

I want to write now. I want to continue the story and spend time with these characters. It feels like I’ve been backpacking through a world of my own design. Is there anything cooler than that?

I Made My Characters Steal a Horse: a Tale of Writer’s Block

I have a plan, reader.

For the first time in a long time, I’ve set up a writing goal for myself.

I am forcing myself to finish the first draft of my novel by  May 31.

It’s been a tiring struggle against doubt and writer’s block. However, I’ve reasoned with myself that I must fight onward, no matter how embarrassing the result.

One such result was forcing one of my characters to steal a horse because I had absolutely no idea what to do with them.

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You see, a bunch of intricate and entertaining things are going to happen in this tale: interdimensional portals, hopeless wars, death, and victory snatched from the maw of defeat. Sounds sexy, doesn’t it?

But I am experiencing difficulty with getting where I need to go.

So until the thought comes to me unexpectedly in the shower or while I’m teetering just on the edge of unconsciousness, I have to make due with what my mind produces at the time.

I try to be a plotter, but I’m a panster by heart.

This is my usual process:

Brain: Hey, remember how we spent days and weeks planning how we were going to make the main character do this thing? Yeah, they’re doing that thing now.

Me: But won’t that make all that time we spent constructing a plot completely irrelevant?

Brain: Don’t worry. If you keep at it like this, you should have the first draft done by the time you’re in your 40s.

Me: Sweet! *chucks notebooks used for outlines in garbage can*

I appease myself by reasoning that I can just take a giant pair of scissors to it later if need be. Until then, I guess I’ll have to power through.

My friends can’t understand why it takes me so long to finish a project or why it is so easy for me to give up. It’s likely because my ambitions are much higher than I am allowing myself time for. Instead of exercising patience, my go-to response is to throw in the towel.

Not this time, reader. This time I will make my characters do whatever I need them to, even if it kills them. I will make them search tirelessly, doing all sorts of useless crap until they are able pick up the loose plot threads and tell a decent story.

 

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Who knows how long this story will be in the end? All that matters at this point is that it gets finished.

The Big Ben Conspiracy

WARNING: POST CONTAINS TRACE AMOUNTS OF TONGUE-AND-CHEEK HUMOR. 

Author’s Note: Big Ben actually refers to the bell inside of the tower and not the tower itself. However, since everyone calls it Big Ben regardless, I will refer to Big Ben as the tower, clock, and bell for coherency’s sake.

As part of the British Isle study tour class I am taking this summer, I’m doing a presentation on the most obvious site I could possibly think of: Big Ben.

I chose this mostly out of laziness because all of my other ideas for a project such as Baker Street and Buckingham Palace were shut down. I thought this lovely clock would be the easiest touristy area to squeeze information out of.

However, I discovered some disappointing information in my digging.

Apparently only UK citizens are allowed to tour the clock tower. 

Not only is this tour excluded from people outside of the UK, but these tours must be sponsored by a Member of Parliament or a Member of the House of Lords. 

Um…what?

I looked through several sources just to make sure this wasn’t a lie, but, yes, people outside of the UK are not allowed to go inside Big Ben.

Well, there go my dreams of reenacting the fight scene from The Great Mouse Detective.

Come on, British People.

I know we don’t always see eye to eye and we’re not always as witty or fit as you lot, but how could you deny us our cliché tourist attractions?

Is it because we pronounce “Thames” incorrectly?

Or we have extreme difficulty remembering which countries are actually British?

Or because we call your favorite sport “soccer” even though literally everyone else in the entire world calls it “football”?

Is it because we sew Canadian flags onto our possessions to trick you into thinking we’re Canadian for some stupid reason?

If so, I suppose I understand.

I am a bit disappointed though as I’ve seen a few tours of it online and the view is beautiful.

At least, if I’m able to journey to London while I’m abroad, I’ll be able to see Big Ben from afar and hear the chimes before they silence them for the next three years for repairs.

As for the rest of the non-British world, we’ll just have to build our own touristy attraction and not invite the British.

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Thoughts on “Bird Box” by Josh Malerman

WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE ENTIRE NOVEL. DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVE NOT READ THE BOOK OR WISH TO DO SO IN THE FUTURE. 

You can find a synopsis here.

This was recommended by “ChapterStackss” of BookTube as one of her favorite horror novels so I thought I’d give it a shot.

I am so glad I did.

It’s difficult to pick a topic in this book for discussion. It was so mouth-wateringly good I’m left babbling incoherently.

I’ve decided to break up my thoughts into pieces so it’s less of a jumble.

The Plot

One aspect of this novel that I love is it turns traditional horror on its head. The darkness is the protagonist’s greatest defense against the enemy rather than a means for the main baddy to attack.

They aren’t afraid of what will happen to them when they close their eyes, but rather when they open them.

If this is meant to be a metaphor for truth, infinity, or whatever it’s done a lot more effectively than in any other novel that I’ve read.

I still can’t get over how exceptionally well paced this piece is. No chapter seems too long or too short. They all seem to be exactly as they need to be.

The Creatures 

Frigging finally.

A horror writer has created a new monster.

It’s not that traditional monsters like ghosts and zombies aren’t scary, it’s just that they’ve been done  to death at this point.

Especially zombies.

Don’t get me started on zombies.

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My favorite theory as to what these things are is George’s: these beings are from another dimension that is bleeding into ours. Because our bubbles were never supposed to merge, it’s too much for our brains to handle.

Maybe these things are us from another dimension!

We never find out.

I realize there is more fear in the unknown, so revealing what these things are would ruin a lot of the intrigue, but I really want to know. I want to shake down the writer and demand he tell me.

Regardless, the mystery of these beings forces the reader to devise their own explanation. This makes the threat as psychological as it is physical.

There are no silver bullets or wooden stakes to defeat them. Humans can only take preventative measures to make sure they aren’t driven to madness.

Blindfolded 

In my opinion, one of the things that makes this book so great is how atmospheric it is. Since the characters are often blindfolded, the narrative is mostly told through sounds and senses.

The monsters are represented in the crunching of leaves, the sudden footstep, the screaming of the birds.

Even in silence.

The characters hear the monster.

They sense it’s presence.

But they can never know what one looks like because no one that has spotted one  has lived to tell about it. Except Gary. Screw Gary.

I just love the image of Malorie and her two children rowing down a river where they can see nothing. They’re surrounded on all sides by possible dangers: deranged animals, madmen, and the elements.

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Malorie is completely reliant on the superpowered hearing of the children who can detect any noise from a great distance away. She’s trained them since birth to do this and some of the things they hear are chilling.

The Characters 

If I have one nitpick about this book it’s that some of them are not as fleshed out as others. Nevertheless, I still think I have a rough idea of who they are as people.

My favorite characters have to be Malorie and Tom.

Malorie was a great character because she had to worry about the life of her baby as well as herself. Once her child and Olympia’s child are born, she demonstrates an astounding amount of resilience as well as humanity. She breaks down, she makes mistakes, she second-guesses almost everything she does. She’s a great protagonist all around.

It’s hard not to like Tom since he has the most backstory aside from Malorie. He’s a great leader and loves everyone under his charge. I was unsurprised, but sad when he died.

The only characters I actively dislike are Don and Gary.

Especially Gary.

I wish he’d gotten his come uppins in the end, but I guess you can’t have it all.

Character Relationships

These characters don’t operate as typical base-under-siege stereotypes.

While there is some tension between them at some points, their relationship with each other is mostly harmonious. They act as a family throughout and genuinely care about one another.

Even though Malorie is giving birth in unendurable agony and knows that Don is betraying them as she speaks, she still loves him like a brother and wants someone to help him because he’s losing his mind.

That is some serious character development.

And there are no unnecessary romances.

I think Malorie has romantic feelings for Tom, but this is implied rather than shoved in the reader’s face.

The Ending

I’m actually surprised this book ended with Malorie and her children being found by a group of refugees.

I thought it was going to conclude with her seeing one of the creatures and killing the children before committing suicide.

Am I a sadist for being just a pinch disappointed this didn’t happen? My logic is we would have finally found out what these things are. We’d get an intimate look into what people that see them go through on a personal level.

On the other hand, the girl probably deserves a hopeful ending after all the crap she’s had to survive through.

I don’t reread books very often, but I may make an exception for Bird Box. 

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Thoughts on “My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry”

WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE ENTIRE NOVEL. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED

Synopsis can be found here.

Positives: 

It has a unique premise. There aren’t enough stories about grandparents and their grandchildren. I think this is a shame since they often share such a strong bond and I, personally, have nothing but love for mine.

I love Granny! Granny was the rockstar of the whole novel, even though she died towards the beginning. I desperately want a prequel that follows Granny’s life and misadventures. They gave her a lot of backstory, but the character-writer in me was drooling for more. I saw the author wrote another book about Britt-Marie, who was way less interesting, so why not write one for old Granny as well? Based on what he’s created for her, he has material for days

It references Harry Potter and the X-men shamelessly. I loved Elsa’s obsession with stories, particularly Harry Potter. She wears a Gryffindor scarf all the time which says a lot about her character. She believes in heroes like Harry and wants to become one herself.

The characters were memorable. I wouldn’t say they popped off the page, but they each had depth and a sympathetic side. Even the ones that Elsa (and I) found the most annoying. I’d have to say Elsa’s mom is my second favorite character. She’s just too cool and it was fun seeing her Granny side come out when she was giving birth to Halfie. Elsa’s dad was so lame and Type A, he made me laugh.

It had a satisfying conclusion that saw a fitting end for each character that lived in Elsa’s building. Some people might think the Epilogue went on for too long, describing the things that happened to everyone, but I liked knowing their happy endings. 

Negatives:

Elsa was way too smart for a 7 year-old. Yes, I get that she’s supposed to be precocious for her age, but in many places the writer pushed my ability to suspend disbelief.

The repetition got old after a while. Sometimes it was cute and gave the piece symmetry. But after chapters and chapters of it, I got tired of hearing the same lines being repeated ad nauseam like “she hated him for that” or “she loved her for that.” I also got bored of hearing about Britt-Marie’s floral print jacket. It’s cool. You don’t have to remind us she wears that everyday. We get it. 

Seriously, Elsa-

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……Sorry,  I had to do that at least once.

The villain wasn’t really present for most of the story. I liked the idea of Sam, the abusive father to the boy with the syndrome, but I wished we’d seen more of him. He was characterized as a Shadow most of the time, which is why I think he didn’t have any speaking parts. Perhaps it shouldn’t bother me this much that he didn’t have anything to say. I just thought it would make him more human, which is what the point of the book is.

It’s like Granny said, no one is a complete shit or not a complete shit. We all have a little shit inside of us.

Or something to that effect.

Overall, I thought it was a good read. I recommend it to anyone that believes in the magic of imagination and a grandmother’s love.

The Author Knows Best: Book-to-Movie Adaptations

I’m not a purist like some readers when it comes to book-to-movie adaptations. I believe it’s okay to change certain elements, or cut out scenes if the time constraints don’t allow for them.

However, Hollywood has a bad habit of fixing things that aren’t broken.

They make badass characters completely pointless (Annabeth in the Percy Jackson films), they remove all humor from a story that is supposed to be a comedy ( Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy movie), or they just straight up give the story an icepick lobotomy (Cat in the Hat).

The main reasons movies like these fail is because those behind the movie don’t care about what made the original source material great in the first place. They just want to cash in on the book’s success.

As a result, a lot of these movies make a bit of money, then vanish into the ether, never to be watched or spoken of again.

The best book-to-movie adaptations I’ve seen are usually the ones where the author has had at least some influence on the production.

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Without J.K. Rowling’s input as a consultant, Alan Rickman wouldn’t have known how to approach the character of Professor Snape and the twist that Lily was actually the love of his life would have come completely out of left-field.

Gillian Flynn wrote the screenplay for Gone Girl and, as a result, it was able to successfully juggle the action, intrigue, and social commentary of the book. If this had been written by someone other than the writer, this would have likely been a train-wreck, or a dime-a-dozen thriller rather than a brilliant commentary about the media and modern relationships.

Especially since Hollywood doesn’t seem to know how to write social commentary anymore.

The Fault in Our Stars was also a brilliant adaptation that captured the humor and heartbreak of the book. John Green was a strongly involved in the making of the movie and, of course, it became a big hit unlike many  YA novels that are made into film (excluding Hunger Games and Harry Potter, obviously). I believe this mostly had to do with the cast and crew’s willingness to listen to Green’s input instead of interjecting an unnecessary love triangle or “hip lingo.”

If the filmmakers haven’t bothered to read the book they should, at the very least, have an understanding of why these stories resonate so strongly with readers, and respect authors as fellow artists rather than brushing them off.

Authors may not be able to write a screenplay of their work, but they do understand the material. They spent months, maybe even years, with these characters and settings.

They’ve had to kill their darlings before so they understand that some things have to be changed for a visual medium. However, their input could prevent something important from being chucked in the bin.

Some writers may not be well acquainted with the world of cinema, but that doesn’t mean their views should be discounted. After all, they were able to make thousands, or even millions, of dollars without A-list actors, exotic sets, or fancy cinematography.

Think about that for a second.

Also, stop making movies about nonfiction self-help books.

Just…..stop.