Posts Tagged ‘Hunger Games’

I would like to blame thank my good friend Kat Impossible from Life and Other Disasters for tagging me in what clearly looks to be a ton of fun. It’s the Burn, Rewrite, or Reread Book Tag, which doesn’t actually involve burning but is like a book version of Kiss, Marry, Kill.

Alright, here are the instructions:

  • Randomly choose three books.
  • Choose which of these three you would burn, rewrite, or reread.
  • Do three rounds of this, and then tag someone to do the book tag as well.

Alright, here I go. Let’s see what I come up with:

ROUND ONE

Burn: Day Four by Sarah Lotz. Oh my God, what a book that promised to be good but ended up being a great waste of time. Sure, it started out okay: cruise ship stalls in the middle of the ocean, everything’s in chaos. Quick pace and lots of interesting stuff going on. But then when it slows down after the initial chaos (because things can’t always be quick-paced after a ship breaks down), it just gets boring, with little to no clear direction of where the autor wants the story to go and an ending that is just bizarre (and not a good way). It’s enough that I probably won’t ever read a book by Sarah Lotz again (and considering the reviews online, I’m better off not).

Rewrite: A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay. If you read my review of that book, you know that I liked it but I wish it could’ve been a bit scarier. Especially since Stephen King recommended this book to me (why, Your Royal Scariness? Why did you say it was so scary? It wasn’t!). Anyway, if I could I’d rewrite this one and maybe make it a bit more on the scary side. How? I don’t know, some changes in atmosphere, a few more parts where the older sister acts like a creepy possessed girl. It’s a thought.

Reread: Battle Royale by Koushun Takami. You know what I just realized? All the books in this round I’ve listened to as audio books. Also, I’ve actually reread Battle Royale already, but that’s because it’s one of my favorite novels. The language is flowing, nearly every character in the fifty-or-so large cast gets really fleshed out, and it really makes you think on a while bunch of different levels. Plus it does in one book what the Hunger Games wishes it could do in three. So I’ll probably end up rereading (or re-listening to) Battle Royale again someday.

ROUND TWO

Burn: The Coldest Winter Ever by Sister Souljah. No offense to Sister Souljah, I admire her work, but I did not enjoy her debut novel, about the daughter of a big-time drug king who suddenly finds herself without money or connections and tries to come out on top as her world falls around her. Not only was the main character totally unsympathetic (imagine a novel narrated by an even more annoying Veruca Salt from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and you have Winter Santiaga), but it’s basically one big morality tale about why you should walk the straight and narrow and stay away from drugs and hustling and all that or it’ll come back to haunt you. Yeah, I think there are a few memoirs out there that told that story better.

Still, I will say that the book’s language influenced me when I was writing Reborn City and I wanted to really show the dialect of West Reborn. That’s one thing I’ll always be grateful to Sister Souljah for.

Rewrite: Destroyer of Worlds by Mark Chadbourn. This was the last book in a trilogy, the trilogy itself being the third trilogy in a trilogy of trilogies that took our modern world and placed it into a mystical universe mixing Celtic mythology with Eastern philosophy. It’s a wonderful series, but the last trilogy had its problems. Especially the last book, which felt rushed to the point that characters who should’ve gotten some character development got none at all, barely a mention in one case. I really think this book could’ve used a hundred or so more pages to really tell the story the way it should’ve been told, and if I could I might help out with that.

Reread: The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud. If you liked Harry Potter, you should love the Bartimaeus trilogy, which is kind of like Harry Potter but is told in three books (plus a prequel) and is slightly more grown up than HP. The story of a magician’s apprentice who summons a demon to help him get revenge on another magician and the mayhem that ensues when he and the demon get embroiled in a plot against the British government is pure fun, with a wisecracking demonic narrator and a world that is beautifully constructed and mirrors our own in interesting ways. I’ve reread the trilogy before, and I’m always entertained when I do. Check out the first book. You might just find the same gem I found as a kid.

And finally…

ROUND THREE

Burn: Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. Honestly, I’ve had to read this novel twice for classes, and each time I wasn’t at all surprised that Emily needed a review by her famous sister Charlotte to get this book noticed by people, because it sucks! Not only is the narration and style annoying, but the story drags, and a lot of what happens makes you scratch your head. Seriously, did the Lintons never consider calling the local sheriff when Heathcliff kidnapped his niece and tried to marry her off to his sickly son? Like I said, I’ve read it twice, and I don’t plan to read it again. It may be a classic, but it’s a classic that never should’ve been one.

Rewrite: Your Heart Belongs to Me by Dean Koontz. Koontz has written some great novels–I love the Odd Thomas series, though I’m behind on the books, and The Face would make an amazing movie, it’s that good–but this one really got me angry. It started out with promise: guy who made money off the Internet needs a heart transplant, but he’s very low on the donor list. His new doctor gets him put high up on another list, and he gets a new heart. Thing is, the person who gave up their heart for him might be coming back for it. Yeah, sounds like a ghost story, but it turned out to be some weird spy thriller tied up in a Christian morality tale. I kid you not, if Koontz had stayed with the ghost story element instead of switching things up about two-thirds in with the spy twist, I might’ve really liked this novel. And now you know how I’d rewrite it.

Reread: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. This is a wonderful novel about following your dreams and fulfilling your personal destiny in this grand world, as told through the eyes of young shepherd Santiago as he goes on a journey to Egypt after having a dream about finding treasure at the pyramids. I read it as a teen and it blew me away. If given the chance, I’d love to reread it again, because it’s such a beautiful story that gets you on so many different levels. If you haven’t read it, this is definitely one you should check out, especially since it’s been translated into so many different languages. Trust me, you won’t regret it.

And now, the people I tag:

Have fun! And make sure to link back to me when you post these.

That’s all for now, I’ve got a busy day ahead of me and I’m going to get to it. Wish me luck, my Followers of Fear!

Advertisements

I’ve been watching a lot of Supernatural on Netflix lately, and something in the most recent episode I watched got me thinking. It was stated at the beginning of the season that the main villain of the season, the demon Lilith, is breaking magical seals to raise the demon Lucifer out of Hell, and she needs to destroy sixty-six seals to do so. Based on that, I thought there were sixty-six seals in total, which seemed reasonable. According to the episode I watched yesterday though, there are over six-hundred possible seals, and Lilith needs to only destroy sixty-six to get Lucifer out of Hell.

Now I’ll admit that I’m still working my way through the season, so there may be more to these seals than what I know right now, but based on just the description I have above, that’s a pretty poor security system. You’re keeping the ultimate evil bound by six-hundred seals, but only sixty-six need to be destroyed to let him out? That’s like only needing an eleven percent passing score on a lie detector test to get access to Top Secret national security files. You’re just acting for trouble.

With that in mind, as well as my thoughts on the movie The Boy that I reviewed earlier this week,* I got to thinking. Sometimes creators do things in fiction that make absolutely no sense when the fans get to them. Obviously, there are things in fiction that are most likely impossible–the magic of Harry Potter, actual giant lizards like Godzilla, TARDISes and Time Lords (sadly)–but we forget that so we can enjoy the story. This is called suspension of belief, and it’s how we can enjoy these stories. However sometimes a creator–whether it’s a book, a movie, a comic, or a TV show–is just too hard for us to believe. When that happens, the story, and our enjoyment of the story, suffers horribly.

With that in mind, here are some things every storyteller can do to make it easier to tell a story without dong something that will make a reader/viewer say, “What the hell? That’s so stupid!”

  • Avoid the unnecessary or stupid twists. Back to The Boy again, which, if you haven’t read my review, singled out the twist that the boy Brahms was alive and a full adult as the movie’s biggest fault. I get that they were trying to distinguish the movie from others like it with a unique twist, but besides feeling kind of lame, the twist made the whole concept of the movie nonsensical (see my review for full details on that). If you plan to include a twist in your work, ask yourself a few questions before you use one, such as: is this twist necessary to make a good story? Is it predictable? Does it make the story seem silly or even make the events of the story make no sense? I’m convinced if the filmmakers of The Boy had asked these questions, they might have had a better movie on their hands.
  • What brought people to your work in the first place? I love bashing 2009’s Friday the 13th remake, because it is such a terrible film. In fact, the filmmakers even seemed to think that the movie was crap, or that they were unable to really make a great Friday the 13th film, so they packed in as much swearing, sex and nudity, drugs, alcohol, and raunchy or childish humor as possible. The result was a film that felt like it was trying to be one of those dirty teen camping trip comedies that had to remind itself every few minutes it was about a serial killer living on a lake.
    If you’re going to tell a certain type of story, keep in mind at every step what sort of story it is and don’t focus unnecessarily on elements that are only a small part of the story or even unnecessary. In the case of Friday the 13th, people watch those movies to see Jason go on a rampage. The sex and drugs and all that other stuff are just added bonuses as well as what causes Jason to target his victims, not why we pay nine dollars at the box office. And the fact that the filmmakers felt those elements were more important is why I’ll always enjoy bashing this piece of crap out of Michael Bay’s bum.
  • Could this happen in the real world? I have a lot of problems with the Hunger Games books.** One of my biggest problems is how the series ends: Katniss finds out President Coin ordered the bombing that killed her sister, so she kills Coin in revenge as Coin takes control of the nation. The new government of Panem hushes up Coin’s treachery to preserve the new order, so for all intents and purposes Katniss just assassinated the new President unprovoked. And Katniss…is portrayed as a girl gone mad with grief over the loss of her sister, she gets exiled to District 12 with weekly phone conferences with a shrink, and lives happily ever after?
    I don’t care if you’re the face of a movement, if a similar revolution occurred in America, and the face of that revolution killed the new leader, you bet that person would at least get locked up in a prison or psych ward so they couldn’t tell anyone what they’d done. Exile and getting to raise a family? Nothing bad happens to her? I don’t care if she has nightmares a lot and never tells us her kids’ names because she’s afraid of losing them, that still would never happen in real life!
    So when you’re telling your own story, ask yourself if a situation is so unbelievable, even in the wackiest of fiction, that people can’t suspend their disbelief anymore. If it is, you might want to consider tweaking it so that guys like me don’t go on a rant about it on the Internet.
  • If it needs a lengthy explanation for why it happens, you might want to rethink the why. This one comes from personal experience. When I was writing Reborn City, I had this really complicated reason as to why my protagonist Zahara Bakur had to join the Hydras. That, and another situation later in the book had really complicated reasons why those things had to happen. It wasn’t until later drafts that I realized how overly complicated those situations were and found simpler explanations for why Zahara had to join the Hydras or the other thing had to happen, explanations that were so simple but worked so perfectly I wondered why I tried to use the run-around logic that a smart reader could easily poke a hole in.
    So if you want a specific event in your story to happen for the sake of the story but the way you get it to happen is really overly-complicated, requires a lot of explanation, and from certain angles makes no sense, perhaps you should reconsider either the event or why it happens. It beats having two unnecessary pages of dialogue explaining why something needs to happen when a much simpler explanation is at hand, at any rate.
  • And finally, don’t forget what is obvious or necessary. This kind of fits into my third point, but I’m making it separate because I feel that’s the best way to present it. Anyway, in one of my fiction workshops in college, a classmate turned in a story that took place in a post-apocalyptic setting. It was a good first draft, but a major problem I had was that the protagonist apparently forgot his bow and arrow at home. I said to her, “This is a world where people dumb enough to leave their weapons at home while on a trip are likely to get killed a hundred different ways. No seasoned hunter like this guy forgets his source of food and protection.” In the same way, make sure that you avoid moves like that, where a character does something that makes no sense for someone in their position or the setting has some part of it that also makes little sense when you think about it. Trust me, it will improve the story if you avoid those problems.

In the end, the thing you want to tell is a good story. Avoiding anything that strains the credulity of your audience can be very difficult, but with trial and effort, you can get very good at it. This is also why I recommend having your stories looked at by editors or beta readers who won’t spare good advice because they’re afraid of hurting your feelings or risking your friendship. They can help you avoid these traps and improve the overall product of the story.

What tricks do you have for avoiding situations that strain the credulity of your audience?

What are some stories where they did something that really took you out of the story?

*By the way, it’s been nearly a week since I published that post, but an average of 36 people a day have been checking that post out since. I guess I’m not the only one who found that twist completely stupid.

**Especially the trilogy’s very backstory. A nation in the far-flung future had a massive civil war, and the Capitol decided that to stop future rebellions, the entire country should revolve politically, economically, and socially around an annual death game involving youth from the Districts? If Panem can genetically engineer scary monsters, they can synthesize a drug that takes out aggression and dump it into the Districts’ water supply. Problem solved, and all those seventeen-hundred and twenty people who died for the Capitol’s perverse pleasure instead grow up to be contributors to society. Yes, that is diabolical and I know I’d make a great dictator. My mother informed me of this fact when I pointed out this problem with the books.

RC cover

It’s been a long time in the making, and a lot of work since I announced that I was planning on turning Reborn City, my science-fiction novel, into an audio book back in August. I listened to a lot of audio samples, contacted a bunch of potential narrators, and even received a couple of auditions. But as of today, I am very pleased to announce that Reborn City has a narrator!

If you’re unfamiliar with Reborn City, it’s a dystopian science fiction novel that follows Zahara Bakur, a Muslim teenager who’s forced to join a street gang called the Hydras, and her involvement in a strange plot involving the gang’s superpowered leaders and the shadowy corporation that rules the city they live in. The novel contains themes of Islamaphobia, racism, gang violence, drug addiction and several others.

It also is a world that has much more resemblance to our own than Hunger Games or Divergent does (just look at the refugee situation these days and how some governments have responded to refugees these days) and I like to think it makes a little more sense than those books.

The audio book will be narrated by Barron Bass, an actor and voice artist based out of New York (check out his website here). I heard some of his samples on ACX, the website I’m using to produce the audio book (see my article on that site here). I liked what I heard, and I started corresponding with him. Once I heard his audition, I had a pretty good feeling I’d found my man. After some more weeks of correspondence, I sent him an offer and he accepted.

Our esteemed narrator, Barron Bass.

Now, I’m hoping we’ll have the whole thing done by early March, but I’m flexible. If Mr. Bass needs more time, I’m willing to give it to him. You can’t rush perfection, after all.

So I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next, which following the production process on ACX is that the first fifteen minutes of the book are recorded for my approval. After that, I give some feedback, and we work chapter by chapter on the book. Once it’s all done and it’s uploaded onto Amazon, Audible, and iTunes, I’m hoping a lot of people decide to check it out and take a listen. Maybe leave a few reviews while they’re at it.

And if RC does well, then maybe I’ll do Snake as well, and any other book I decide to publish from here on out. We’ll see what happens.

In the meantime, I’m going to go do my happy dance. Have a good rest of your day, my Followers of Fear. I know I am.

I just recently finished the second draft of “Gynoid”, a sci-fi love story novelette. During that time, I thought a lot about romance in fiction. Have you noticed that it’s everywhere? In fiction, you find a lot of time devoted to find your one true love, and in real life, you find people not just actively looking for their one true love(s), but even measuring themselves by fictional couples! Our music is rife with love songs or how love is betrayed (the so-called “Song of Songs” in the Bible is one huge erotic love song), and if you go back in time, some of our oldest stories involve love and lovers.

Heck, it’s in a lot of my fiction too! And I write fiction where “love” is more likely intense adrenaline and a shared peril being mistaken for attraction. Snake has a love story that’s central to its plot, Reborn City has a bit of romance in it here and there, and..well, you saw the description for “Gynoid” above.

But rather than speculate on why romance and finding it is such a big thing (I think we can all guess at the answer, right?), I think I’m going to share some of the trade secrets I’ve gleaned over the years from other writers and from my own romantic experience, both writing it and from experiencing it (do not ask me which I have more of. I wouldn’t want to upset anyone) on writing romance in your stories. Why? No particular reason, it’s just on my mind and in my stories so much I feel like talking about it. And I know I might not be the most qualified person to talk about the subject–I know I’m not a romance writer–but I know a bit, and since when has not being an expert ever stopped anyone from talking about anything? (*cough* climate change deniers in Congress *cough*)

So let’s begin on my tips for including romance in your stories:

  1. Give the characters personalities, make them fully-rounded and three-dimensional. I feel like often times some of our most celebrated romances involve people who are just good-looking nice folk and not much else. Romeo and Juliet were a sad emo guy with a thing for teenagers and Juliet was a teenager, Cosette and whatever her guy’s name was were good-looking and nice but they weren’t much else, and Katniss Everdeen…okay, Katniss was at least well-rounded. You knew who she was, what her problems were, what she stood for, and what she was willing to do to overcome those problems. Her love interests, on the other hand, just seemed there so as to add something to the story that the story might have done fine without. I mean, Gale is just handsome and angry with the Capitol, and I can’t tell what Peeta is besides sweet. One minute he’s skillful enough to manipulate the hearts of the whole Capitol, the next he’s too naive to tell that Katniss is using him for survival. Make him one or the other! Seriously, if you’re going to bother putting love interests in the story, I’m going to need a reason to ship either of them besides their attractiveness and professions of love.
    And that brings me to my next point:

    It took a long time, but these two became a wonder couple.

  2. What’s the reason they fall for each other? Please don’t say, “Oh, they’re good-looking”, it’s got to be more than that…or heroin-flavored blood. Take one of my favorite anime of all time, Sailor Moon (yeah, I’m a huge fan of that even so many years on. Moonies forever!): all of the main characters are good-looking. So why does Sailor Moon end up with the male lead, especially when in every adaptation of the story they start out fighting and disliking each other and in some he’s already seeing someone else? Leaving aside backstory exposition, I think they just grow comfortable with each other over time. They realize they can be honest with each other and that their faults are just part of who they are. Cute parts too. And it helps when they find out each other’s secret identities, which shows how courageous and reliable they are to one another, to the point they make a pretty good partnership, in love and in combat.
    Another example I’d like to use is Captain America and Peggy Carver in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (which is my only reference point, I was never much of an American comic books reader for some reason). Heck, at the beginning of their relationship, Cap’s a scrawny guy who doesn’t seem like much of a hero, while Agent Carter is…well, Agent Carter. What forms the basis of their relationship is that Carter likes that Cap wants to help out despite all the barriers facing him, and his sweet and loyal personality, while Cap likes that she’s a unique and confident woman who doesn’t need a man and who also doesn’t look down on him for not being tall and buff. Over time and numerous battles, their relationship grows closer and they fall in love, which ultimately doesn’t end well but I’m sure that if things had gone differently, it would have been a different story.
    Speaking of which, here’s point 2a. Shared experiences, especially combat experiences, can bring a relationship closer. Unless of course you and your supposed lover work really horribly together, in which case fighting will just highlight it and you’ll fall apart at the seams.
  3. There is no point where the relationship becomes perfect. Work is involved. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about relationships in the real world, they’re always a work in progress. Why? Because we’re all works in progress, so our relationships are too. There’s going to be rough times, where the characters struggle or worry that something or someone will come along and the good thing they have going will be ruined. Back to Sailor Moon for a second. Fans agree that the heroine and her man are a strong and stable couple (though whether or not it’s a good coupling, I find people disagree on the subject more than you’d think), but they do have to work at it. Besides enemies that threaten to pull them apart for whatever reason, they have the normal couple troubles: people who seem like better matches coming along, occasional misunderstandings, an unexpected child. Heck, they even broke up for a time during the anime’s second season. Just goes to show that even great couples have ups and downs.
    And the best part is, you can extend these meetings, character explorations, falling-in-love scenes, and ups and downs over several books. In fact, half of the fun of the TV show Scandal is watching the heroine Olivia have an on-again, off-again relationship with the (married) President of the United States. You never know how that one is going to work out. And as long as you can keep it going, the more you get to explore these characters and their relationships (provided fans don’t start to get bored, of course).
    And now that we’ve discussed what makes for a relationship, let’s discuss some content.
  4. Sex is not always necessary. Yeah, I know we live in a hyper-sexualized society where everything has a sexy component to it, and I know I included a steamy sex scene in Snake, but seriously, sex isn’t always necessary. In fact, some people prefer romance stories without anything racier than a kiss or two. There’s actually an entire sub-genre of romance like that, it’s called sweet romance, where the characters don’t have sexual relations before marriage (or commitment too, maybe) and it has a big and loyal following. Besides, some authors aren’t comfortable with sex scenes. I know I wasn’t at first, though I later got more comfortable with them. So if you don’t want to do one, there’s no law saying you have to.

    Love the relationship dynamics of this show!

  5. Also, you don’t have to just have one person love only one other. I know there are a couple of Buffy fans reading this blog. One of the best parts of that show is the characters had many different relationships over the 7 seasons. Buffy herself had three major relationships over the course of the series.  The writers could’ve had her with Angel, her first love, through the whole series, but they allowed her, Angel, and many others to explore other relationships and really mature through that. Same with Teen Wolf, which had two main characters being “meant to be forever and ever”, but gradually changed things up over time. So if you want to, you can have characters wait a long time and go through several relationships before finding the right person.
    Especially with love triangles. I hear there are quite a few series out there where a good dose of fun is trying to find out who the main character will end up with in the end, especially when there’s two really great, fleshed-out characters to choose from (though usually from what I hear it’s whoever the protagonist meets first).
    And this brings me to my final point.
  6. Don’t do it because everyone else is. And no, that’s not a drug PSA (though you shouldn’t do those either. Not even weed, that stuff will mess with your system). Yeah, you see people putting all these different things in their stories–love quadrangles, the other man or woman, unexpected pregnancies, even some sexual exploration. Only put those in your story if you feel they’re what the story needs, not what others say you should put in or what others are putting into their stories. Believe me, that’s how I avoided something really unnecessary romance-related stuff in Reborn City, and that worked out great for me.

I’m going to end it right here, but I have to say, there’s a lot more that I could include in this post. Suffice to say, there are a lot of intricacies to writing romance and love stories (point number 7, a romance has a happy ending, a love story doesn’t have to. Learned that a romance writer friend of mine), and you learn these things over time. But hey, in the end they can lead to some really great stories, and maybe melt a heart or two while you’re at it.

What romance writing tips do you have? Do you feel romance is important to your stories or not so much?

It’s been a while since I’ve really done a post to reflect on anything, but some stuff has been on my mind lately, so I’d like to talk about that.

First, Tuesday was the second day of the new term at school. I get an email concerning one of the classes I took the day before, a literature class I found interesting and intellectually stimulating. The email is from another student in the class, and it basically says, “Dropped out of this class. Anyone still haven’t bought books yet?” I don’t know why, but somehow I felt disappointed in this person. I mean, it was only a single day in the class, and you’re already giving up? I tend to stick with a class, even if I think I won’t do well in it. Granted, that may have been why my Linguistics grade last quarter wasn’t so good, but at least I can say I tried, right? I’d feel weak or like a loser if I dropped a class without giving it a real go.

What are your thoughts on this? Is it okay to drop a class after the first or second day?

Another thing that took me by surprise and has been on my mind lately:

I read an article about one of the actresses from The Hunger Games film. The little girl who played Rue? Apparently some extremely devoted “fans” are pissed off that the actress playing her is black instead of quote-on-quote “some cute little blond girl”. Really? I’ve never even read the books, but apparently Rue was supposed to have light-brown skin, so the actress is actually a pretty good portrayal. And people, it’s 2012! Don’t say that kind of stuff on the Internet, those tweets will come back to haunt you! And what does race matter anyway? I mean come on, they have a black guy playing Felix Leiter in the last two Bond films.

Race should be a thing of the past.

What do you have to say to these comments on race?