Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Plot Bunnies and Editing Turtles

They've attacked! I should have seen them coming.

I've been able to get away for them for a few minutes at a time, but they always find me! I think they have my scent. And those editing turtles... they're fast! I don't know how they catch up! They must hitch a ride on those bunnies. Or they latch on to me. I've dodged the plot bunnies a few times, but they've rubbed their fluff all over my notebook.

No one seems to know how to get rid of them. They're immune to chocolate -- which was my last resort. If I can't shake them soon, I don't know what I'll do.

This is serious. I can feel them pacing outside my bedroom window. They're waiting for the moment to strike. They're laughing. The evil plot bunnies with their deceptively cute faces but those glowing red eyes. And the editing turtles -- looking all harmless, but with those snapping jaws.

Oh no! They're coming! I can hear them! I have to get away from here! Wish me luck!

(This post was in no way meant to be taken seriously.)
(It was also in no way productive.)

Sunday, May 23, 2010

A Post About Books You Just Can't Finish Reading

I'm sure it happens to everybody, and it's really a shame when it does. You see a book, you pull it off the shelf, and you get really excited about it. The cover is interesting, the premise sounds promising, but a few chapters in, you realize you're forcing your way through the pages.

It sucks, but it happens, and it may be for a number of reasons... you're busy, you find a more interesting book, the library won't let you renew it anymore, or the worst of all, it just doesn't capture your attention.

It makes me wonder what it is exactly that makes a book lose someone's attention. Obviously, the book was good enough to make it to print. And it was picked for a reason. Most of the time, it's surely just the personal preference of the reader. And sometimes, like with me, the reader jumps to unrealistic conclusions, and expects the book to be something completely different -- even something that contradicts the summary on the back of the book.

Take for example one book I've only gotten halfway through. I went into it knowing that it would be about alchemy and that it would take place in the past. But I automatically assumed it would a version of Frankenstein. I thought a person would be brought to life, but it was only a scientific endeavor with a rose. There went my interest.

Then there was another. This one I didn't have unrealistic ideas sprouting out about it, but it lost me a little over a third of the way through. There was something interesting about it, but the writing, and the droning, left me itching to get to the good part, and I couldn't force my way though the pointless text to get through it.

I wish there was a scientific formula for figuring out why books fail to catch some people's interest, but it's true that it's all based on opinion. It's a curse we all face when we write. The publisher might like it, but it doesn't necessarily mean that the public will.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Why I Love Lois Duncan


This is technically a book review, but in more ways I would say it's a shout out to my favorite author and why I love her writing style.

For starters, I had to pick a book off a list for summer reading when I was in 9th grade. The one I wanted wasn't in the library, so I picked Lois Duncan's Stranger With My Face. Needless to say, I loved it. Since then, I've been periodically reading her books. Every time I need inspiration, I pull out one of her young adult suspense novels -- which, by the way, is why I write what I write.

So I finally finished Down A Dark Hall. I say finally only because I had to stop reading so I could devote my time to working, editing, reading Hamlet, editing, reading Frankenstein, editing, and working. (Hey, that sentence reminds me of a frame story!) But I finally got back to it, and, a positive point, it didn't take long for me to jump back in it. That is to say, it's easy to follow. It isn't insulting, but it isn't like jumping into the middle of Supernatural (television series) and wondering why they just killed the guy with the black eyes. (Poor example, I'm deprived of chocolate, and I'm listening to Led Zeppelin. Zeppelin=Supernatural in my book.)

So next I have to say, there's just some great things about this book.
  • Third person point of view - I automatically love. This is a preference, but like the title says "why I love Lois Duncan."
  • SUSPENSE! - again, a preference, but most people will agree that they love suspense. I'm reading this book and I'm wondering what the heck is happening to these characters. I was nearing the end today and I couldn't put the book down. I was wondering if the main character won over the guy, or if he was going to turn on her. I was forcing myself not to read ahead so that I could absorb every word. The cliffhanger left me upset, but only because I had to wait a few hours (thank you school) to finish the book.
  • Cliff hangers - again, with the suspense. They're not so in your face that you just get bored to death of them, they aren't obvious, and they aren't "blah." It's real suspense. "Fire, power outage, secret," stuff like that. I guess if that makes sense.
  • Characters - I wasn't overly sick of them like I am in most YA novels of today (then again, Lois Duncan isn't a YA novelist of today. Another key point). They weren't the most likable out of all of her work, but I could listen to their voices and their conversations, and feel genuinely concerned for them.
  • 1972 - the date this book was published. Let me get to that later.
  • The ending - left me with questions. I hate when every single question is answered and I'm left with happiness or despair. I want room to wonder. Was she welcomed home with open arms (random, unrelated example) or was she shunned, when all we know was that she escaped the evil person? I want to imagine that she either had a happily ever after or a not-so happily ever after.
So, Down A Dark Hall is about four girls who get accepted into an elite private boarding school. The twist is they are the only girls at this school. The only students! Three teachers, four students, a creepy building with a nightmarish past. As the days pass on, strange things happen, around and to the girls. Like I said, suspense, and I don't want to give away too much.

And here's another thing that I love. This book was originally published in 1972. There were no cell phones. There was no internet. Entertainment was cheap, and natural. Obviously, you're not going to see everything like that in today's literature. I don't write my characters into the "stone age." Even Lois Duncan herself is writing new editions of her books - updated to fit the more modern world. As she said on her website "it's time to step in and give my characters cell phones and computers and digital cameras."

That being said, what I admire is that the story isn't dependent on those things. If those things had been present when the stories were originally written, they'd be different, yes, and things would be easier for the characters, but also possibly harder. (We have had technology turn on us before, right?)

It may not be that easy for me to explain. Just think of the style of writing. You've got edgy, suspenseful, gripping story telling here. It leaves an uneasy feeling in the reader when they're done. Now read today's. The uneasy feeling is masked by school dances and sparkly vampires. Teenage problems are the meat of so many current stories.

By all means, correct me! Point and laugh and turn me towards an example of something that proves me wrong. I'm just speaking from my experience. But if you read the work of Lois Duncan, or even Christopher Pike (another great writer) and compare it to a lot of the books out right now... all the trendy supernatural books with vampires and demons and "blah, blah, blah..." You'll notice a difference, and hopefully you'll see where I'm coming from.

Don't get me wrong. I like supernatural stuff. Just not the overdone stuff.

Check her out some time! http://loisduncan.arquettes.com/index.htm