Saturday, September 13, 2014

Top 10 books that stayed with me

So, I was tagged by Soumi Roy to list the top 10 books that stayed with me/ influenced me at some point or other. In no particular order:

1.       My side of the mountain, By Jean Craighead George –
After reading this book, I got my grandma to buy me a rabbit skin and I made very detailed plans to move out and live in the woods.

2.       Island of the Blue Dolphins, By Scott O'Dell –
Another lone survival story. I used to build forts in the woods in my back yard. Still planning on living out there on my own.

3.       Child of the Wolves, By Elizabeth Hall (Wife of Island of the Blue Dolphins author, Scott O'Dell! Which I didn’t know till now.) –
My favorite animal is a wolf, so I went through a huge wolf reading phase. I think this was the first book I ever bought at one of those scholastic things.

4.       Stone Fox, By John Reynolds Gardiner –
A pretty sad story, I think I read it in fourth grade? Maybe fifth? I can’t remember if we read this for class or not…

5.       Lord of the Flies, By William Golding –
After we read this in school, I got back into the survival type stories, and also planning to live in the woods alone again

6.       The Girl Who Owned the City, By O.T Nelson-
Not sure how I came across this book, but ever since I read it, I’ve always remembered that can openers are very important in a post-apocalyptic world.

7.       Memoirs of a Geisha, By Arthur Golden –
I got the paperback of this book at a yard sale for 25 cents after my 8th grade economics teacher told me about it. She knew I liked the Asian culture (I was really into anime and manga at the time)

8.       Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones –
I read this because the Miyazaki movie was coming out and I wanted to compare. It was the first time I noticed how many threads could be weaved into one story.

9.       The Twilight Series, By Stephanie Meyer –
I went a long time without reading anything, and then I had a long commute to work and figured I should see what the big deal was. This series kind of gave me the jump start needed.

10.   The Harry Potter series, By JK Rowling –
I was late to the boat with this one too. I was given a copy of the first book when it came out, read the first chapter, but never finished. I went back and read the whole series straight out after it came out, and I’m kind of glad I didn’t have to go through all the waiting? :P

                You can probably see a sort of pattern here. Kids surviving on their own and wolves. I had to do a bit of digging for titles and authors since the books that really stuck with me were books I read in middle school.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Secondary Characters are like Dessert

I’ve never had a cheesecake I didn’t like, have you?

Secondary characters are my favorite. Yeah, the main characters are cool and in love and tough and go through all these obstacles. But the secondary characters add pizazz to everything- yes, I said pizazz. *Spirit fingers.* 

Something about being a minor or secondary character gives them freedom to do and say whatever the heck they want. Without good secondary characters, your MS could end up like a pumpkin spice latte without the spice. Bland. I know I’m using a lot of food analogies here, but seriously, who doesn’t understand food? 

Hot chocolate is delicious, but add some marshmallows or fluff and YUM!
But seriously; secondary characters are IMPORTANT. It’s hard to get into a story that only has the main hero/heroine and a villain thrown in. Someone needs to be there to cut in so they don’t spend all 400 pages making out and being angsty. 

Okay, so I might have lied about not having read a secondary character I didn’t like, and maybe I made a cheese cake that was too lemony and it wasn’t so great either. Those would be the secondary characters that aren’t really characters. They’re plot tools, placed in the story line for only one reason—to forward the MC along somehow. To betray them, to help them get information they couldn’t have gotten themselves, to be a part of a love triangle—the list can go on.

These are characters that I wouldn’t even call characters. They’re plot tools.  They may have a reason to betray the MC at the last minute, but it’s shallow and not tapped into and looked into as deeply as needed. 

Secondary characters shouldn’t be used as a tool or crutch for information needing to be relayed to the MC—or a savior at the perfect time. They should be incorporated and woven in with the good and the bad. They should be their own main character of their own story. It’s hard to get a good grasp of how much is too much. 

Now… writing a good secondary character is just as hard as writing a great MC. They have to have the same amount of personality, background, wants, and needs as the main characters and villains, except we don’t see as much as we see the MC’s, so you have to fit in glimpses of them.

I love a good secondary character that takes the spot light, but doesn’t overwhelm.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Power of Research

           While writing fiction—especially fantasy, you may think that there isn’t much research to be done. I mean, everything can be magical right? You don’t really have to know how a lock works—except I did when most of my characters now how to pick them.

Or maybe you THINK you know something, like if your character gets a concussion, they’re not supposed to fall asleep because they could never wake up again—which is wrong by the way. See how foolish I would have looked to someone who knew the truth, if I had one of my characters get a concussion and the doctor tell his friends not to let him sleep—the exact opposite of what the doctor would actually say? 

                This is why doing your research is important. Something so small can throw a reader out of the world—the story—so easily.

                But not only do you need research to fact check how long it takes a broken finger to heal or how to check if a berry on a purple bush would probably be poisonous by the color alone, but it also leads you to discover things you didn’t know; things that you can add into your story and make it even better and more interesting.

                I was looking into why people have hangovers. (Which may have started as a question for my own curiosity…) And while I was looking into the reasons, I came across a preventative. Not only a preventative, but this stuff is practically a poison repellant! Activated Charcoal.  I’ve never heard of this stuff. Ever. But people eat it. Intrigued, I looked into its uses. Poison control. This stuff prevents you from dying if you ingest poison. How cool it that?

If you mix this stuff with five times the lethal dose of arsenic and drink it—nada.  You won’t die.  Not only that, but it’s used to nullify the poison I have one of my characters using—haaaaaa the sun comes out and everything fits together.  

Not only is it used against poisons, but it also whitens teeth and helps with stomache problems and is used to filter water. 

                It’s amazing what kind of interesting tid-bits you can find while researching.  You never know what kind of inspiring things you could find and who knows? Maybe it’ll inspire your next book or scene or even series!