Saturday, April 18, 2015

P: The Princess Bride


My theme for the A to Z Blogging Challenge this year is a mishmash of books, movies, writers and TV shows that have in one way or another taught me something about writing and helped me be a better writer. Some inspired my own stories and a few taught me what not to do. Each post is a one minute lesson on writing. And today I'm posting at the IWSG blog and reminding you to pamper yourself.

The Princess Bride proves that the best stories are actually love stories. The search for true love is filled with danger and adventure and over the top characters. If you haven't seen the movie, (are there people who haven't?) you owe to yourself to check it out. The movie doesn't take itself seriously which is what makes it so fun. And it have everything. a beautiful innocent peasant girl raised to princess, an arrogant villainous prince and his minions, a gifted swordsman committed to revenge, a kind-hearted giant, an evil genius, powerful wizards and a mysterious pirate and a story of true love. Hilarious dialogue and the hope for a happily-ever-after complete this film meant for adults and children alike.

Lesson: All great stories are love stories no matter how much action and adventure is mixed in. A novel or movie doesn't need a lot of kissing or sexual content to be romantic. Great movies are filled with quotable lines that live on forever. 





Do you have favorite quotes from this movie? Can you think of another movie that is a great romance with very little kissing or sexual content? Do you think you've written any great quotes into any of your book?

Friday, April 17, 2015

O: Once Upon a Time

My theme for the A to Z Blogging Challenge this year is a mishmash of books, movies, writers and TV shows that have in one way or another taught me something about writing and helped me be a better writer. Some inspired my own stories and a few taught me what not to do. Each post is a one minute lesson on writing. You can also find lots of inspiration at the IWSG blog the entire month.

I may have mentioned on this blog how much I enjoy the TV show, Once Upon a Time both as entertainment and for the amazing writing and plotting in the program. The characters are fairy tale characters ripped from their enchanted worlds where magic is common to our world where they try to cope with the histories they shared in that other world. The writers do an excellent job of creating terrible villains and then  exploring what turned that character undo their evil path. And many times redeeming the bad guys. The fairy tales they explore are usually based more on the origin tales rather than the Disney animated interpretations. And no one is a perfect, sin-free hero either. Family
dynamics are complicated and entangled. The writers run a theme through a season such as what home is, what makes a hero or a villain and accepting people for who they are. And the characters are all searching for their happy ending like a book come to life. Some of my favorite twists they've used is that creepy Peter Pan was the bad guy. Captain Hook was driven to villainy and trying to redeem himself. Rumpelstiltskin is the beast from Beauty and the Beast and is the biggest villain of all, Snow White has become friends with the Evil Queen. Red Riding Hood is a werewolf and even more familiar fairy tale characters are told.

Lesson: People still enjoy the retelling of classic fairy tales. Those classics can be twisted and retold to make them fresh and interesting. Making villains complicated and sympathetic adds depth and emotion to stories. Don't make the heroes squeaking clean or too perfect.

Captain Hook
Once Upon a Time
"If only your wits matched your looks." Cruella de Vil to Prince Charming

"Magic always comes with a price." Everyone on Once Upon a Time at some point

"Careful, Mate. It's unwise to insult the size of a pirate's ship." Captain Hook

Do you believe that fairy tales still make popular reading material? Is there a TV show where the writing really impresses you? Can you name a good book or movie where the villain is redeemed?


Thursday, April 16, 2015

N: The Name of the Wind

My theme for the A to Z Blogging Challenge this year is a mishmash of books, movies, writers and TV shows that have in one way or another taught me something about writing and helped me be a better writer. Some inspired my own stories and a few taught me what not to do. Each post is a one minute lesson on writing. And the IWSG blog is participating in the challenge. Check it out.

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss is a book that could be very confusing if you're trying to figure out a timeline for what's going on. The book starts in the present but it takes only a few pages for the reader knows there's something very mysterious and special about the innkeeper. And something sinister is happening across the lands. But then his simple innkeeper, Kvothe, starts telling his story to a biographer. His tale begins when he was a happy child traveling with his family's company of entertainers. The novel goes back and forth from the far past to the ominous present. Superior writing really makes Kvothe's back story intriguing and at the same time hungering to know what is happening in the present. And how did Kvothe grow from that young, eager student to the
grim, secretive man he is now. And the miserly clues draw you deeper into the mystery. And the second book, The Wise Man's Fear deepens the mystery with sparse glimpses into the present while continuing to delve into the past. In case you couldn't tell, I love this series. Patrick doesn't write as slowly as George  RR Martin, but he's not speedy either.

Lesson: If you do it right, starting a book in the middle (or is it the end?) can really intrigue and capture readers. Bouncing back and forth from past to present can also work, especially if tiny threads connect the events in present and past. Rothfuss has a few secondary characters who are so different and interesting, the reader really wants to know more about them. And he's an expert at feeding the reader tidbits. Painfully slow but worth it. This is something I try to work on in every book. As a reader I love a surprise at the end where I realize all the clues were there and I missed them.

“The day we fret about the future is the day we leave our childhood behind.” Kvothe in The Name of the Wind

“You are not wise enough to fear me as I should be feared.” Bast, one of the mysterious characters in The Name of the Wind

Do you enjoy books that are written in chronological order or ones that go back and forth from present to past? Are you good at doling out the secrets and clues a bit at a time? Have you read Patrick Rothfuss?

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

M: George RR Martin

My theme for the A to Z Blogging Challenge this year is a mishmash of books, movies, writers and TV shows that have in one way or another taught me something about writing and helped me be a better writer. Some inspired my own stories and a few taught me what not to do. Each post is a one minute lesson on writing. And stop by IWSG blog for some inspiration all month long.

Most readers and writers have heard of  The Game of Thrones and George RR Martin who writes the book series, A Song of Fire and Ice. The books are famous for killing off popular characters and HBO has rocketed the series to stardom. For the show fans who haven't read the books, some of the violent endings to characters is shocking. Martin is also know by book fans as one of the most frustratingly slow writers ever. His longest stretch between books in a series is 6 years. That's a long time to keep readers waiting and a good way for most writers to lose fans. Thanks to the HBO series, Martin continues to sell the first books in the series. I had started reading the series years before the TV show came into being so the violent deaths didn't surprise me. That HBO would make the show
knowing that the writer hadn't finished the books yet did surprise me. The show is good. The books are good though not my favorite. Martin had been accused by fans of being lazy, not having the story plotted out and not knowing where its characters are going or where it will end. Some think he kills characters just for the shock, or that he has too many plots going and is constantly adding new characters and ignoring the story lines of the original characters. 

Lesson: If you're going to write really slow, you better have a loyal fan base. Slow won't work for most of us. Kill your characters if it makes the story better but not just for shock. Know the ending of your story before you start it. If HBO offers you a contract, write at whatever pace you want.

"When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die" Cersei Lannister

"A dragon is not a slave." Daenerys Targaryen

How quickly do you expect an author to write the next book in a series? Know any authors slower than Martin? Have you read a book where a character's death disturbed and didn't seem to make the book better? Are you a fan of these books or the HBO show?

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

L: The Left Hand of God

My theme for the A to Z Blogging Challenge this year is a mishmash of books, movies, writers and TV shows that have in one way or another taught me something about writing and helped me be a better writer. Some inspired my own stories and a few taught me what not to do. Each post is a one minute lesson on writing. I hope you'll also read my post at the IWSG group today where I wrote about letting it go.

The Left Hand of God by Paul Hoffman is a cross between dark fantasy and alternative history fantasy. I'm going to reread it from the beginning to try and figure it out its genre. But there are elements in the book that kept me glued to the pages. It has everything. Perverted religions. Corrupt leaderships. Class warfare. Antiheroes galore. Love; unhealthy, unrequited and sweet. And the main character is young, never
older than his teen years throughout the series. Yet this book is far from a YA tale. The subject matter from the first chapter when the protagonist is still a child, is dark and scary. The abuses heaped on that young boy read like a horror story. And like many dark fantasies, there is no Happily Ever After for many of the characters. Well, nearly all of them. They save the world but not themselves.

Lesson: Religious fervor and conflicts make for great fantasy plots. There's a lot of leeway in interpretation of heroism. It's okay to convince a reader to love a character and then kill that character off. Even psychological damaged antiheroes really only want love. You can write a terrific adult story even if your main protagonist is a child or teenager.

"Silence is also speech." Yiddish proverb

"Any fool can have bad luck; the art consists in knowing how to explain it." Frank Wedekind (This book reminds of Paul Hoffman's series)

I hope A to Z is going well for you. It's fun so far. If you're starting to feel overwhelmed you might be trying to do too much. 

Do you find religious conflicts are common in fantasy novels? Has it always been that way or is the current world situation leading to its popularity? Can you name a book that has children as main characters but that written for an adult audience?

Monday, April 13, 2015

K: Kahn


My theme for the A to Z Blogging Challenge this year is a mishmash of books, movies, writers and TV shows that have in one way or another taught me something about writing and helped me be a better writer. Some inspired my own stories and a few taught me what not to do. Each post is a one minute lesson on writing. Also find inspiration at the IWSG blog every day in April.

Kahn is a bad guy in the Star Trek universe. He's a genetically engineered soldier with some god-complex issues. He's brilliant, physically superior and the embodiment of arrogance. Soldier is the Kurt Russell character in an older movie. He's raised to be soldier after a very cruel upbringing to mold him into a merciless and tough fighter, trained to follow orders. In the movie, his generation of
soldiers are being replaced by genetically improved and younger soldiers. Both these futuristic science fiction play around with the idea of people trained or bred just to serve as soldiers and little value is place on their lives. Both of these movies gave me ideas for my bestselling series Recon Marines which is about genetically-engineered soldiers. The questions I asked myself about these two plots: Would the creators of such soldiers eventually come to fear them? Would these soldiers ever question their superiors? What would we do with them when they were too old to fight? If they were created in a lab, would they have the same human rights as others? How might their harsh upbringing and training influence their characters and personalities? Could they ever live as normal citizens? What would their emotional states be like? My Recon Marines are not like Kahn or Kurt Russell's character but my own creation inspired by those movies. I have a biology minor, so throughout the
series I was able to include real science about genetics.

Lesson: If a movie or show inspires you, watch as a writer and ask yourself what works in it that makes you like it. Use what you know to help you in your writing such as I used my biology background. Find ways to make sure the reader sees your protagonist as sympathetic. Asking yourself questions as you plot will help you deepen the plot and avoid holes in the story line.

"A fault denied is twice committed." French proverb

And since today is Thomas Jefferson's birthday here is a quote from him.
"The price of freedom is eternal vigilance."

If you saw the Star Trek movies with Kahn (old or new), did you ever feel bad for him at some point? Do you think our future might hold some type of genetic engineering to improve people physically and intellectually? Are there problems you would foresee with that? Are you keeping up with A to Z?


Saturday, April 11, 2015

J: Julie Garwood


My theme for the A to Z Blogging Challenge this year is a mishmash of books, movies, writers and TV shows that have in one way or another taught me something about writing and helped me be a better writer. Some inspired my own stories and a few taught me what not to do. Each post is a one minute lesson on writing. Speaking of inspiring, please visit the IWSG blog for A to Z also.

One of my favorite romance authors is Julie Garwood. Of all her many novels, there are none I like better than, For the Roses. Julie has a way with dialogue that makes you smile but in For the Roses, she creates a family of characters so interesting, you really don't care about the plot of the book or the developing romance. For the Roses starts out as the story of four homeless boys in Civil War era New York City who have banded together for protection. They find a baby girl in the trash and decide to leave the city and raise her in a good home and become a real family. It is a lovely story of family.
Even though this book is sold as a romance, the best part for me is the family dynamics between those four brothers and their little sister. The secondary characters make the story. I think this book could be used as a textbook for how to make your secondary characters flesh out and improve the basic plot. Their interactions with the main protagonists show the reader the hearts and souls of the main couple. The secondary characters were so popular, that Julie Garwood wrote a story for each of them in the years following the publication of For the Roses.

Lesson: Make your secondary characters more than decoration in your novels. When writing a series, introducing interesting secondary characters in the first novel is a great way to set up additional books. Everybody loves a story of family that overcomes hardship and challenges.

Today is also my turn to post on the A to Z Challenge Blog. I hope you'll stop in and share your views on Juggling.

"If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant." Anne Bradstreet

"If opportunity doesn't knock, build a door." Milton Berle

Tomorrow is Sunday. Are you doing some catch up for A to Z or taking the day off? Is spring a big enough payoff for this past winter? Any book every stand out for you because of secondary characters?