Sunday, January 29, 2012

Call me unsophisticated, but I LIKE happy endings!

When did stories that end happily become the literary (or cinematic) equivalent of drinking wine from a box?

I really love stories; I am in awe of great storytellers, regardless of the medium, and I respect a storyteller's right to have that story take whatever direction suits his or her fancy.  I count many stories that end sadly among my favorites, but to be perfectly clear, I completely prefer happy endings.  I like the couple to get together, the sick person to recover, the goal to be reached.  Good stories can and do end this way.  So, why is it that stories that don't end in sadness, heartbreak, or confusion (as in "wait, what just happened?") are often dismissed as commercial (although I still don't totally understand what is wrong with appealing to consumers) or worse, as unrealistic?  Nice things DO happen you know.

Here is an example:  I was lucky enough to be able to see an incredible film that just played at Sundance at a special screening (I won't spoil the film in any way by naming it).  Afterwards there was a Q&A session with one of the writers and the director.  An audience member asked if any drafts of the screenplay had the lead characters ending up together and the writer explained that no, the ending was the first scene written and it never changed.  He said he and his co-writer felt that this ending was more realistic.  The other people in the theater loudly applauded.  I was so confused- why were they applauding?  Yes, this was the best ending for these writers, but why were people applauding that the sad ending was more realistic?  The crowd was an artsy one and I could feel the judgment oozing out of our neighbors as my sister and I discussed that we liked the film but still wished the ending had been a happier one (and you should have seen the sneers that question-asker was getting- brutal!).

I don't think all films or all books should have feel-good endings, but I also don't see why stories that end nicely attract so much automatic derision as if they could never be as good as their gloomy counterparts.  Readers, what do you think?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

This is so hard

Changing the perspective of my novel from third to first-person POV is so incredibly difficult.  I knew it would be more than a "find and replace" of all "her"s with "I"s, but I had no idea that every single sentence would need a complete rewrite.  I am feeling a bit deflated. 
But, I know in the end it will make AN UNEXPECTED KINGDOM so much better.  I'll keep repeating that.  And chugging Diet Coke.
In the meantime, I am incapable of thinking of anything to post about today so here are the one-sentence reviews for some of the most recent books I've read.  They were all fabulous and I recommend them highly.  (I remain a staunch over-recommender; it's a fault of which I'm well aware.)

The Fault in Our Stars   by John Green
Not one, but two boxes of tissues were necessary to mop up my tears.

Across the Universe   by Beth Revis
Beth Revis makes great use of alternating perspectives and excellent writing to give an almost contemporary feel to this science fiction journey.

Howl's Moving Castle   by Diana Wynne Jones
The word that best describes my mood upon finishing Howl's Moving Castle is blissful- the tone of the story reminds me of the fairytale books I loved most as a child, filled with whimsy, humor, intrigue, and misunderstandings.

The Girl of Fire and Thorns    by Rae Carson
Gorgeous description and a heroine who learns her strength along the way make this beautiful novel unforgettable.

Shatter Me   by Tahereh Mafi
I am insanely jealous of Ms. Mafi's writing- the utter gorgeousness of this book defies description.

Has anyone else ever changed POV after the fact?  How did it go for you?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Two hours of sobbing that were well worth it

First- I have been interviewed (I know! I feel so fancy!) by my truly lovely Critique Partner Jenny S. Morris.  Please check out the interview on her blog and stay a while to read some of Jenny's great writing. 

The title of this post refers to the actual TWO HOURS I spent in bed last night bawling while reading the beautiful THE FAULT IN OUR STARS by John Green.   It was so great that I don't have adequate words to express it yet, but I had to put something out in the universe about how amazing it is.  I have enjoyed all of John Green's books and while this is the least quirky, it is also the first one in a girl's POV and so maybe this made me feel closer to the story somehow.  Perhaps someday soon I will have something much more coherent and important to say, but for now- loved it.  Below is the summary from Goodreads:

Diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at 12, Hazel was prepared to die until, at 14, a medical miracle shrunk the tumours in her lungs... for now.

Two years post-miracle, sixteen-year-old Hazel is post-everything else, too; post-high school, post-friends and post-normalcy. And even though she could live for a long time (whatever that means), Hazel lives tethered to an oxygen tank, the tumours tenuously kept at bay with a constant chemical assault.

Enter Augustus Waters. A match made at cancer kid support group, Augustus is gorgeous, in remission, and shockingly to her, interested in Hazel. Being with Augustus is both an unexpected destination and a long-needed journey, pushing Hazel to re-examine how sickness and health, life and death, will define her and the legacy that everyone leaves behind.

Has anyone else read THE FAULT IN OUR STARS yet?  Did you love it?  More importantly, did you cry your eyes right out?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

One From the Vaults

You know, I never think of myself as a weird kid, but I am having to reconsider that classification.  My mom and dad are selling the house I grew up in and so we've spent the past few weekends clearing it out.  I found boxes of stories that I wrote between second and seventh grade.  As everyone else painted and scrubbed, I sat and sifted through my childhood and laughed so hard that I was crying hysterical can't-breathe tears.  Here is a fun example from second grade:

If I Were a Turkey by Megan Dolan (age 7)
Once upon a time there was a turkey and her name was Nicole.  There was another turkey.  Her name was Megan.  She was very nice and I mean nice.  But one day she heard a gunshot.  Nicole was dead.  My little sister turkey said, "I am scared."  I wanted to say shut-up but I didn't.  She was crying.  The End.

In addition to the sudden switch from third-person to first-person POV (an egregious error) this story seems to show that I had it in for someone named Nicole.  There was no one named Nicole in my class so I'm not sure who that bullet was meant for, but I am surprised my teacher chose only to give me a "Good Job!" accompanied by a smiley face.

In addition to huge amounts of literary gold from young Megan Dolan, great books I read over the past two weeks include LOLA AND THE BOY NEXT DOOR by Stephanie Perkins, HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE by Dianna Wynne Jones, ACROSS THE UNIVERSE by Beth Revis, and THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS by Rae Carson.  Of course I have already made my thoughts on the amazing SHATTER ME clear.  See this post. I love good books, don't you?  Anyone have some early writing they'd like to share? 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Road Trip Wednesday- The Writing Retreat of My Dreams

This week the mission from YA Highway was to describe the ultimate writing retreat- where I would go, what I would bring, who would come with me, etc. I love this assignment! It would be a DREAM to take a week, a month, or three months to do nothing but write (and drink Diet Coke and read good books).

So, here is my answer:
Front Courtyard
I would rent a cottage in the French countryside (France won out over Scotland for weather reasons only).  The cottage would have a huge bathtub and a lot of hot water.
I would bring brand new writing supplies (this is a dream, right?)- new desktop Mac (I like them better than laptops), big whiteboards and corkboards, lots of colored index cards.  I would have an endless supply of American Diet Cokes (I learned the hard way last summer that Diet Coke is not the same in Europe) in cans as well as someone who would do the grocery shopping for me.  If I was there for more than two weeks, I would have periodic visits from my husband and dogs.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Is it too early to start the best of 2012 list?

Shatter Me (Shatter Me, #1)

Because I just read SHATTER ME by Tahereh Mafi and oh WOW [takes cold shower].  This book is incredible.  Ms. Mafi weaves an amazing story- I dare you to not read this in one sitting- while employing the most gorgeous language and writing style.  Her slightly unorthodox style grabbed me right from the beginning and lines like this one made me catch my breath:

"His voice hugs the letters in my name so softly I die 5 times in that second."

I mean.... wow.  You must read this book!  Here is the summary from Goodreads:

Juliette hasn't touched anyone in exactly 264 days.
The last time she did, it was an accident, but The Reestablishment locked her up for murder. No one knows why Juliette's touch is fatal. As long as she doesn't hurt anyone else, no one really cares. The world is too busy crumbling to pieces to pay attention to a 17-year-old girl. Diseases are destroying the population, food is hard to find, birds don't fly anymore, and the clouds are the wrong color.
The Reestablishment said their way was the only way to fix things, so they threw Juliette in a cell. Now so many people are dead that the survivors are whispering war-- and The Reestablishment has changed its mind. Maybe Juliette is more than a tortured soul stuffed into a poisonous body. Maybe she's exactly what they need right now.

Juliette has to make a choice: Be a weapon. Or be a warrior.
In this electrifying debut, Tahereh Mafi presents a world as riveting as The Hunger Games and a superhero story as thrilling as The X-Men. Full of pulse-pounding romance, intoxicating villainy, and high-stakes choices, Shatter Me is a fresh and original dystopian novel—with a paranormal twist—that will leave readers anxiously awaiting its sequel.

Did you catch that this is a DEBUT novel?  I am agog. I am awed. I am impressed. I hope some of her brilliance rubs off on me! 

Have you read SHATTER ME already? Did you have a similar reaction (i.e. instant love)?