Books > Movies

I went to see Mortal Instruments: City of Bones this weekend. I really enjoyed it.

If I’m honest, I have to admit the main reason I chose to go was to see how they handled the Plot Twist Which Must Not Be Named. (That’s a lot to type. Let’s call it PTWMNBN, or PeeTeebDubs for short.)

You see, I’ve read the first three books of the Mortal Instruments series so I knew about PeeTeeDubs. In fact, I lamented and stewed and gasped over PeeTeeDubs for almost 2 whole books before it was resolved.

But the thing is…I kept reading. There was no way I was going to stop until PeeTeeDubs was resolved.  That, my friends, is what all writers hope to achieve.  The page-turner. The “I-don’t-care-if-I-sleep-tonight-I-have-to-know-what-happens-next” syndrome.  That’s what Cassandra Clare did with Mortal Instruments.

I attended the movie with two people, one of which I updated constantly as I was reading through the first three books, and another person who was only vaguely familiar with story.  While we all three enjoyed it, I think I got to most out of it. Why? Because I knew what the characters were thinking because I had already been in their heads.  In movies, sometimes even the very best actors can’t portray every thought, motivation and nuance of a character.  Books can. And do so if they’re written well.  

Books are also better than movies at providing a personal connection.  When I read about a place that isn’t Central Arkansas 2013, I use my imagination and experiences in the world to conjure up setting.  While the sets/costumes/characters themselves in Mortal Instruments were fabulous, I prefer the sets/costumes/characters in my head.   (Only one time has my head matched exactly what I saw on screen. That was the Shrieking Shack in Harry Potter. Does this mean my mind works exactly like JK Rowling?  Yeah, let’s go with that.)  Great writers provide just enough setting to ground you and leave just enough room for your imagination to fly on its own.

And my imagination did fly when I read the series. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how PeeTeeDubs was going to end because it couldn’t be… I mean, she wouldn’t really…would she…?

I have to admit when movie PeeTeeDubs first appeared, I felt cheated.  PeeTeeDubs was addressed and dismissed with one simple line. A few words and all the movie-goers already know the truth about PeeTeeDubs.  My first reaction was NO WAY, I HAD TO GO THROUGH PAGES AND CHAPTERS AND BOOKS to know the truth.

But when I started thinking about it, I realized I wasn’t cheated at all.  The journey to the resolution of PeeTeeDubs was far more rewarding than one line of dialog could ever be.  For me, anyway.  And now I feel bad for the movie viewers who didn’t get to experience the agony of not knowing.

And that’s why books will always > movies. 

To me, anyway. 

Disclaimer: all opinions on books and/or movies in this blog are mine.  I’m entitled to them. And you’re entitled to your own, even if they don’t match up.  I’m good with that and I hope you are too. 

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What’s in a Name?

A lot, it turns out. 

I have always been fascinated with names.  I can’t say when my name obsession began really, but I remember making baby name lists in elementary school. And when it was time to name each of our children, my husband and I had lengthy discussions regarding their names.  I remember being fond of more unusual names.  Not crazy, hard-to-spell, unpronounceable names mind you, just different names.

I felt like we were being original with our daughter, but there ended up being more Courtneys in her school than there were Heathers in the mid-eighties.   Perhaps that’s why she insisted upon being addressed by her middle name for a brief period.

And perhaps that’s why Courtney says sometimes she chooses to read books based on the characters’ names only.  For example, she picked up Uglies by Scott Westerfeld* because the main character was named Tally.   She was also drawn to Hunger Games by Katniss’ name. 

Recently I read a book series in which the love interest of the main character was named Leon.  Now he was a great character. I liked his personality, had compassion for his situation, and I truly wanted the girl to fall for him.  But his name was Leon.  To me, Leon screamed wrinkled old guy, not hot young dude that would make a girl swoon.   (No offense to anyone named Leon or anyone with a grandpa relative named Leon.)  Throughout most of the series I mentally called him Leo just so DiCaprio would be in my head, not the wacky guy from the Six Flags commercials.

I think that shows that there’s power in names. The name is the first thing you process about a character.  In most instances, you know a character’s name before you read any physical descriptions, or are given any background info, or get to know the character at all.  So choose wisely young Padowan writer.  You don’t want to use a name that’s going to trip up your readers and force them to DiCaprian places in their minds.

I’ve been watching the television show, Under The Dome which is based on a Stephen King novel.  If I had no previous knowledge of what this show was, I could have told you within a few episodes that it was King.  Why? The names of the characters.  He favors simple Americana-style names: Big Jim, Rose, Ollie, Joe, Angie, etc… Something about those names just spells out Stephen King.  That’s a great example of having a “voice” in writing.

I’ve chosen unique names for my first novel.  I hope they’ll invoke the spirit in which I intended. For my second novel (yes, I said second, a writer has to write if there’s something begging to get out of her head) I’m using names in a very specific way.  The name of the main character was chosen to signify a certain image.

 In everything that I’ve written thus far, I have to let the characters live in the story for a while to see if I’ve chosen the right name for my characters.  In some cases I did. And in some cases, I renamed.  In all cases, I seem to instinctually know when I’ve got the right name on the right character.   And when that happens, they become more real and I’m able to do so much more with them.

*If you haven’t read this book series, I highly recommend you pick it up immediately! File this one under the “If you liked Hunger Games, you’ll love this” category. 

Exposing Your Boxers

Who hasn’t had an embarrassing moment that they want to forget? Nobody, right? This Tuesday I’m going to talk about my daughter’s most embarrassing moment. (Because, why would I talk about my own? It’s embarrassing.)

My daughter will tell you that her most embarrassing moment came when she was nine years old. She was performing with Central Arkansas Children’s Theatre. The play had a farm setting. Her costume was a pair of blue jean shorts overalls. Her character had to stand on a chair, then jump out of her overalls, revealing a pair of blue paisley polka-dotted boxers. I remember the underwear exactly because I shopped all over Conway searching for the “right” pair that would a) fit without falling off of her, and b) read as funny on stage.

She performed the scene beautifully with stellar comic timing that went way beyond her age. And no, the boxers didn’t fall down on stage. Nothing as dramatic as that. My daughter will tell you this was her most embarrassing moment because she was out there on a stage in underwear. Never mind that it wasn’t her underwear. And didn’t matter that the boxers covered her up better than some of the shorts in her own closet would have. It was the fact that she was in underwear. UNDERWEAR.

Just like it took my daughter a lot of courage at the time to perform that scene (twice!), it takes writers a lot of courage to get beyond the writing and actually let someone else read your work. This may not be a problem for all writers, but it certainly is for me. The perfectionist, the introvert, the person that struggles with confidence.

But if I’m going to do this writing thing, I have to step out on the stage with my boxers showing.

I entered a pitch contest recently. I was notified that I did not make it past the first round. Of course, I was disappointed. But as the organizer of the contest said, “You should be commended for putting yourself out there for critique.”

I’m going to get valuable input as to why my entry was passed over. Was it my writing style? My premise? My character development? I’ll find out soon. Then I’ll take that information and apply it to my story and it will be better for it.

I’ve also submitted my work to a community of children’s authors. It was so hard to do that. Really hard. But I did it because I want to know how to make my story better. I’ve been given some feedback. Some harsh, some kind, all of it helpful. The problem others have pointed out is that my first 5 pages are not engaging and exciting enough…yet.

So now I revise and edit and make my first 5 pages better. I’m no longer blindly revising, not knowing which things to keep and which to cut. I have a direction to go with clear goals to achieve – because I let someone else read my work.

And suddenly it feels completely normal to stand on a stage in paisley polka-dotted boxers.

(Posted with much love to my daughter who gave me permission to share her story.)

Words for My Readers

Tap, tap, tap. Is this thing on?

Okay, welcome to my Blog.  When you’re a writer, that’s what you do, you blog. I’ve put this off while I was finishing my first draft of my first novel. (It’s still weird to admit that in public.) But now that I’m in the editing/revising stage, I feel like it’s time.

So what’s this blog going to be about, you ask?  Thanks for asking.  It’s going to be about my writing experience. There’s a different experience for each and every author.  None of them are right, none of them are wrong. So, if you’re a writer and have a different experience, then that’s great. Me? I’m going to write about what I’m doing on my path to publication.   I hope that it will serve as information for the people who will be reading my blog to begin with. (Family and friends). And I hope it will serve as inspiration for other writers on their own journeys.

Occasionally there will be other things that creep onto the blog. That’s how my mind works.  One of the things that I have discovered since I’ve started writing that almost everything in the world can be tied back to the story-telling process.  So I may mention other YA books, tv shows and movies that I like.  I hope you’re okay with that.  (Oh and I can promise you that there will be references to Doctor Who.  For example, I feel like the recent casting of Peter Capaldi as the 12th Doctor is great counterpoint to Matt Smith’s younger more physical Doctor.  I think it will had a new dimension to the story of the Doctor that hasn’t been addressed in the latest incarnations.)

Speaking of incarnations, I went through several name choices for my blog. I’m obsessed with names and have been since I was young. (Perhaps the budding writer in me coming out.)  I wanted to get the name of the blog right.  I started with the obvious “must have the word write or writing somewhere in the title” choices.   The Write Stuff was already taken. Unwritten was good, but I don’t want that song in my head every time I open my blog.  Writer’s Cramp?  I know, right? Lame. Wait a second… I Know, Write? 

Uh, no.

I had just decided to call it Michelle’s Blog O’ Writing.  But as I was revising Chapter One, a line I had written kind of jumped up off the page at me.  It has absolutely nothing to do with the writing process.  But something about it made me pause. (Sometimes I kind of love my own writing a lot. That’s not being arrogant and thinking I’m the best writer Ev.er.  It’s knowing enough to feel it when something clicks.)

The line:

 People whiz by me, hurried, distracted, bumping shoulder-to-shoulder. To them, this is just another Tuesday. 

And so my blog, Just Another Tuesday springs directly from words I’ve already written. 

I like it for two reasons. 

  1. It will help me keep on track.  I will make every effort to post a new entry on Tuesdays.  There will be no “having to remembers” and “when did I post lasts” to worry about.
  2. It gives me hope.  One day, if I’m Blessed in this way, there will be a Tuesday when my book is published and released into the world.  Until that day, every other Tuesday will be just another one.  Now every time I open my blog, I’ll look forward to that very special Tuesday that I hope is to come. 

Again, welcome to my blog.  I’ll see you again next Tuesday!