Tag Archives: QOTW

QOTW: Living as a Character

7 Oct

This week’s question is:

If you could live the life of a single character for one day, whose story would you want?

~~~

If I could live a character’s life for one day, I’d definitely want to be Menolly from DRAGONSONG (by Anne McCaffrey). I realize I’m probably dating myself with this choice, BUT…I can’t help it. My first world-love is still my biggest. The world from DRAGONSONG has everything I’d like to see:  Dragons? Check. Unique culture? Check. Danger? Check. Scale and depth? Yep. Handsome guys? OH YEAH.  Yes, I realize now that Menolly’s character is something of a Mary Sue, but as a lonely, self-conscious, painfully shy 13-year-old, I needed that kind of character to look up to.

-Susan Dennard

~~~

I’d want to be Sabriel (from SABRIEL by Garth Nix) for a day! Kick-ass necromancy skills, a talking/sarcastic cat, a super-cool sword, and a killer outfit…? Totally my thing. I’d rock that bandolier of bells so hardcore.

 

-Sarah Maas

~~~

Wow, what a difficult question. There’s so many worlds I’d love to get into. Is Hermione a cop-out? 😉 I want to transfigure something, just once! And now for my real answer… definitely Thursday Next, of the Thursday Next series. A literary detective hopping from book to book to solve mysteries in a world where time travel exists and you can literally get inside the pages of your favorite novel? Sign me up for Spec-Ops 27; then I could visit ALL the worlds!

-Savannah Foley

~~~

I’d want to be Lyra Belacqua from HIS DARK MATERIALS trilogy by Philip Pullman for a day. I mean, who DOESN’T want a daemon companion? Plus, Pantalaimon is amazing. And cool. He’s the only daemon I’d ever want.   And let’s not forget that I’d live in a sweet alternate universe – one way more exciting than our plain old one! Witches, talking polar bears (one I could RIDE on, which is just icing on the cake) and a nickname like Silvertongue? YES PLEASE!

-Vanessa Di Gregorio

~~~

Which character would YOU like to live as?

Advertisements

QOTW: When to do Research

2 Sep

This week’s question is from Rae, who asks:

When you have to do a lot of research for a novel, do you do it beforehand or after you finish the first draft?

~~~

So far, I haven’t written anything that required a ton of research from the get-go, but whenever I come across anything in a particular scene or whatnot that requires research, I generally do the research before writing the scene. For me, it’s just much easier that way. An essential part of the scene might hinge on something being so-and-so way, and all that would have to be scrapped later on if the something wasn’t so-and-so way after all.

This seems, to me, even more critical when the research is relevant for the novel as a whole. I mean, you wouldn’t want to write a Victorian novel that centers around poor girl who decides to make a living off being a photographer, only to find out that photography was extremely expensive in the Victorian era and not really a job for the penniless. Of course, adjustments can always be made, but it just seems like added trouble.

Plus, when I do research beforehand, I often stumble across facts and tidbits that inspire me more for the scene/book!

-Kat Zhang

~~~

Great question! I actually research before, during, and after.

For SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY, I did a solid month of research before I wrote the book. I learned about etiquette, technology, clothing, etc. I gathered maps and studied the people and wound up researching much more than I actually used…and yet I still had to research things as I wrote! What kind of carriage goes here? How strongly does that chemical smell? If a corpse has been dead four years, how much has it decomposed (nice stuff, eh?)? Worst of all, months after I sold the book, I finally got to visit Philadelphia (where the story is set), only to find that I had totally mis-imagined the layouts or feel of certain settings! (Fortunately, I could still make changes during my editorial revisions!)

With the sequel to SS&D, I did minimal research before I began writing–a few maps and some books with descriptions. As such, there are a lot of sections that say <insert description of gardens here>,or <insert description of waltz here>. These are things that I’ll research when I visit Paris (tomorrow, actually!). Admittedly, I already know all about the clothes, the etiquette, and the technology, but by not boning up on 1876 Paris (and saving that work for later), I’ve saved myself many, MANY hours of work while writing the first draft.

-Susan Dennard

~~~

For me, it depends on what I’m writing. I’ll do some preliminary research beforehand just to make sure I’m not completely wrong. During the actual writing, I’ve been known to get lost in references and Wikipedia for hours at a time. …Some call it procrastination ;).

While actually writing, I find research inspires me and helps me develop a plot with solid connections. One of my favourite things is when events in history are so perfectly intertwined with events in your story that suddenly your plot seems like it’s genius. You may never mention those events in your writing, but knowing they fit gives you a much better context and feel for the setting.

It’s also great to come across side things. Doing research exposes me not only to what I’m researching, but to things I wouldn’t have even thought of looking up. If it’s interesting, my mind starts racing and all the possibilities of how I could incorporate it zip through my head. There have been a few times where chapters have turned out very different than how I imagined because of all this new information. I truly believe that it not only makes my plot stronger because the aspects are accurate, but because of the depth that the small and interesting details add. And like I said, even if you don’t use it, you still know it exists, and it gives you a better understanding of the story. Or at least that’s what I’ve noticed with myself.

In terms of research afterwards, like Susan said, there are a few things that I’ll skip over if I know they won’t do anything for the plot. To use Susan’s example, waiting until later to research the waltz won’t change the fact that they’ll still be dancing the waltz. The only time this kind of thing can screw you over is if you do something like talk about waltzing in the 1700’s.

-Biljana Likic

~~~

I find it easiest and most effective to research before and during writing. Before I star writing, whether it’s the whole project or a certain scene I like having all the background information I might need. For instance, travel times by different modes of transportation. You can’t have someone ride a hundred miles in a day on one horse and if you don’t know the correct timing it can throw off not only your facts but your pacing as well. For more modern projects knowing the layout of a they city you’re using as a setting or local slang can be important. If you don’t do the research beforehand you might have to change big portions of the MS later.

I also do research while I’m writing. If there’s something I’m not sure about I’ll get to a stopping point and look it up. Not only does this make sure I get my facts write, I often come across new information that answers questions I hadn’t even thought to ask yet. It all depends on how you write and what’s easiest.

-Jenn Fitzgerald

~~~

When do YOU do your research?

QOTW: Keeping Personal Bias from Your Stories

4 Aug

This week’s question is from Ramani, who asks:

How do you keep personal bias from your stories? Like, I’ve noticed that my relationship with my mother often reflects on my character’s mother.

~~~

Interesting question. I’m not sure I’ve ever had that issue… Maybe because my character’s lives are so very different from my own? Also, I never model my characters after real-life people, so maybe that’s another reason why bias has never come into play. For example, all the mother figures in my novels are drastically different from my mom (like, they’re cruel, filled with secret pasts, or money-hungry while my mom is loving, honest, and generous).

That said, my attitudes might make appearances. I feel strongly about the environment and global climate change, so if I ever wrote an MC in a position where those issues mattered, I’m pretty sure my protagonists would feel the same way I do! And I’m not sure that’s a bad thing–like, if it was appropriate to the story, I wouldn’t try to keep that personal bias out.

I think as long as your bias isn’t negatively affecting your story, then there’s no need to worry! If it is, then clearly your conscious of it and can change it! Remember, in the end, YOU control your characters–not the other way around. 🙂

Susan Dennard

~~~

I’m with Sooz in that I don’t really have that problem either — I generally steer clear of basing characters on people I know in real life. Fiction is about exploration, and what fun is that if you’re just dredging up things you see and experience on a daily basis? Obviously it’s good to write about what you know, but it’s just as important to use your imagination. Honestly, you know yourself pretty well, and the great thing about writing is that it’s fluid — you can always go back and delete any personal bias with the hit of a button. If it suits the character, leave it. If it’s definitely you speaking through them, then it’s time to reevaluate.

That being said, my characters definitely tend to share similar likes and dislikes with me. All of my characters hate bananas, dress well, and listen to great music 😉

Sammy Bina

~~~

I totally agree with Sammy and Sooz–very rarely do I base characters on people I know in real life (though I mighttt have used some names of particularly awful people for villains that meet untimely ends in my novels). Some of my novels or scenes, however, DO come from personal experiences–not the exact details of those events, but the feelings behind them.

My characters all share SOME things in common with me, mostly in terms of their quirks, dietary habits (like me, Celaena, the heroine in QUEEN OF GLASS, abhors eating fish), and musical preferences. But I also like to make heroines that are vastly different from me. In A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES, my YA “Beauty and the Beast” retelling, Feyre, the heroine, is nearly illiterate. As someone who can’t LIVE without books, it was really fun and challenging for me to write about a girl who grew up without the comfort of books/stories. It made me, as a writer and a person, really re-examine what life would be like without those things–and without the privilege of an education. It was both fascinating and a bit terrifying.

Like Sammy said, though, fiction is about exploration! There’s nothing WRONG with your heroine having a similar relationship with her mother, but don’t be afraid to branch out. You might discover some new things about yourself–and your writing–in the process! 🙂

Sarah Maas

~~~

I am very careful while writing to never force my own feelings and opinions on my characters. I hate it when authors give their characters the same exact social and political outlook as themselves; it’s a type of self-insertion behavior I associate with immature writing (fan fiction anyone?). Also it can frequently read as preaching, which is obviously a big no-no. Note: I’m talking about really obvious preaching, not occasionally sharing some of your attitudes with your characters, as in Susan’s case 🙂

I had to learn to take a lot of political stuff out of Nameless just because it’s not interesting to anyone else; if they want to learn about gender equality issues hopefully the story will inspire them to learn more, not my preaching in the novel.

But it’s not exactly like not preaching is some huge sacrifice. I love getting into different perspectives with my characters, and of course you can always apply details from real life into the anecdotes that explain why they feel a certain way. For example, in my YA zombie book, Milani’s father was stationed at the military base at Pearl Harbor. My own father was in the military, so I was able to draw character similarities between our fathers just based on their military training, even though her father and mine are vastly different people.

I think it’s fine that you’re exploring your relationship with your mother through your characters, as long as you stay true to the character and don’t turn the story into a platform for preaching, or get into the habit where you insert so much from your real life that it hijacks your plot. 🙂

Savannah Foley

~~~

Do you find your own viewpoints and biases sneaking into your stories?

QOTW: Are you affected by your story’s own tragedies?

8 Jul

This week’s question is from Allie, who asks:

Do you ever find yourself crying over the death of one of your characters? Or angry over a betrayal in the story? Even though you are the one who has devised the tragedy. Because sometimes when I am writing, I find myself slightly angry at one of my characters. Or kind of sorry when a character tells a sad part of their back story. I was just wondering of there is anyone else who goes through the same thing in their story.

~~~

Absolutely. I think it’s only natural that you would feel the emotions that you put your characters through, especially during high-emotion scenes. If I know I’m going to have a death scene I’m usually thinking about it months in advance, but when I actually write it I spend hours on it, getting really involved in all the nuances of the scene. Recently as I wrote a death scene in my sleeping beauty retelling, ROSES OF ASH, I cried. It was just a really beautiful and sad death.

I do sometimes get angry at my characters, too, especially if they’re being mean on purpose. But it goes back to getting really involved in your scenes so that you can channel honest emotions.

Savannah Foley

~~~

I was talking about something similar to this just the other day.  I don’t know that I cry over the deaths (since I’ve been steeling myself for it for so long), but I do get completely fluttery and giddy when I write the love-interest scenes.  I literally fall in love with the love interest for whatever book I’m writing at that point (shh! Don’t tell my hubby!).  Heck, I’m grinning right now just thinking about the next scene I’ll write with my WIP’s lover-boy. 😀

And as for betrayal scenes–oh yeah!  I sink right into my MC’s head, and inevitably, the outraged tears will come.  I just channel those reactions right onto the page.  I also get frustrated with my characters when they refuse to change (even though I’ve crafted them to be that way!) or see the truth.

I think part of writing authentically is really feeling all of your emotions, so I think it’s a great thing you get choked up or annoyed when you write!

Susan Dennard

~~~

I tend to write really close third person narratives or first person narratives, so I definitely really get into my character’s shoes and try to feel everything they feel. So for me, it’s sort of done on purpose. I feel like I can’t write the scene properly unless I really put myself in their situation and work out their emotions. It’s always been sort of easy for me to feel what other people might be feeling (a bit too easy sometimes, lol. Makes watching some movies/reading some books really difficult), so I definitely feel things my character does….unless it’s like….murderous intent. 🙂

Kat Zhang

~~~

Are you affected by your story’s own tragedies?

QOTW: Emotional Scenes

6 May

This week’s question is from Nicole, who asks:

How do you write deep emotional characters and events using the show and not tell method.?

~~~

To write anything in a SHOW method instead of a TELL, you’ve gotta first understand the difference.  Compare:

“Why did you do that?” I yelled as we stood in the kitchen. I was furious he had cheated on me.

to:

“Why did you do that?” My words came out screechy and filled the entire space of our tiny kitchen.  Howdare the bastard cheat on me–how dare he!  I clasped my hands to my chest because if I didn’t, I knew I’d slap him.  Oh man, how I wanted to slap him.

Notice a difference between the two?  Which one pulls you into the character’s feelings more?  Telling involves summary–condensing all the feelings and thoughts and actions into a few words.  Showing, on the other hand, involves sharing specific feelings, describing sensory details, and pulling the reader directly into the scene.

Another example:

Carrie was determined to find her brother, Mark, in the wharf riots.  She had to see tell him their mother was dying.  But the riots were against people like here, so she would have to be brave.

VERSUS

Carrie knew she had to tell her brother, Mark.  She couldn’t let Mother pass away without him there to say goodbye. But she also knew the only way find him was to go straight into the riots at the wharf–the riots protesting people like her.  The riots that had already killed fourteen members of her clan.

But she had to do it.

So with her jaw set and her chin tipped high, she marched from her mother’s sickbed and to the front door.

Of course, showing doesn’t always have to be longer (i.e. more words) than telling.  Here’s one more example:

In my bedroom, I typed quickly.  It was raining outside.

VERSUS

The rain hit my bedroom window, a staccato descant to my furious typing.

Another thing to remember: sometimes you want to tell. Sometimes telling carries more weight or is more appropriate–it’s up to you to decide when. 🙂

~~~

Sooz is pretty much a genius and took the words right out of my mouth. Listen to her.

(yes, that’s my answer)
.
.
.
.
.

~~~

Susan gave an amazing answer! There’s just one small thing I want to add… some of my favorite moments in books is when we come to a realization of truth where the MC realizes that a character they trusted has a dark secret, or had betrayed them in the past. In those moments, the author never has to tell us the significance of this revelation; we already know, because we’re familiar with the relationship and story surrounding these characters.

That’s something to keep in mind; when your characters are reacting during the climax of the plot, you don’t have to re-explain why the MC is upset, you can just show their reactions, which mirror the reader’s.

~~~

The only tiny thing I could think of to add to Susan’s brilliant answer is an example of when you might want to tell instead of showing.  The best example I could come up with of that situation would be in THE HUNGER GAMES when Katniss feels like crying but fights to hide her emotions. In a case like that, if the writer doesn’t tell us what Katniss is feeling, we as readers have no way of knowing the conflict between her thoughts and her actions.
 Other than that example, I cannot add a thing to Susan’s great explanation.  Great answer, Sooz!

~~~

How do you tackle showing, not telling, emotional scenes?

QOTW: Favorite Books

29 Apr

This week’s question is from Chantal, who asks:

I’d like to hear what each LTWF girl would choose as top 5 best books they’ve read in the past year, minus the one’s that have already been mentioned in reviews.

We didn’t all manage to come up with five, but here are our favorites!

~~~

In no particular order:

TEXAS GOTHIC by Rosemary Clement-Moore (not out until this summer)

FIRELIGHT by Sophie Jordan

THE GRAVEYARD BOOK by Neil Gaiman

SOULLESS by Gail Carriger

ARCHANGEL by Sharon Shinn

~~~

11 Scandals to start to win a Duke’s heart (Sarah Maclean)

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Septys

.

.

.

~~~

LIFE AS WE KNEW IT by Susan Beth Pfeffer

WORLD WAR Z by Max Brooks

TOMORROW, WHEN THE WAR BEGAN by John Marsden

THE GRAVEYARD BOOK by Neil Gaiman

BEFORE I FALL by Lauren Oliver.

~~~

THE BOOK THIEF by Marcus Zusak, THE CHEESE MONKEYS by Chip Kidd, JANE EYRE by Charlotte Bronte, THE ATONEMENT CHILD by Francine Rivers, WHEN YOU ARE ENGULFED IN FLAMES by David Sedaris

.

~~~

INCARCERON by Catherine Fisher

THE POISON DIARIES by Maryrose Wood

I AM THE MESSENGER by Marcus Zusak

FARENHEIT 451 by Ray Bradbury

PERSUASION by Jane Austen

.

.

~~~

Finnikin of the rock, Game of Thrones

.

.

.

.

~~~

A Hat Full of Sky, Terry Pratchett

In the Hand of the Goddess, Tamora Pierce

Night Watch, Terry Pratchett

.

.

.

~~~

Mine would be ON THE JELLICOE ROAD by Melina Marchetta, REVOLUTION by Jennifer Donnelly, LIKE MANDARIN by Kirsten Hubbard, FALL FOR ANYTHING by Courtney Summers and THE PAIN MERCHANTS by Janice Hardy.

.

.

~~~

I always recommend my faves, but there ARE a few I’ve read recently that I haven’t yet had time to write reviews for: THE SWEETNESS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PIE by Alan Bradley and THE HUNDRED THOUSAND KINGDOMS by N.K. Jemisin

.

.

~~~

Oh, gah…this is always so hard!! Ummm…I adored THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE (yes, I did review it but I have to put it anyway!) I liked CEREUS BLOOMS AT NIGHT a lot (very beautiful language. Very not YA). To be honest, I haven’t done as much leisure reading as I would have liked this past year…Need to fix that! Ooh, yes THE BOOK THIEF. I second that one.

Man, I know I’m going to come back to this post tomorrow and rage about how I forgot like twenty books I loved. I always forget the books I’ve read when people ask this sort of thing 😦

~~~

Which books have been your favorites this past year?

QOTW: Voice

1 Apr

This week’s question is from Marina, who asks:

How do you find a voice for you novel? Is it consistent or does it change from one project to the next?

~~~

I find my voice by writing a first draft.  It usually takes me about 50-100 pages to finally hammer down the voice.  Not always, of course!  Sometimes it starts on page 1, but more often than not, I have to settle into the voice by writing.  But once I’ve got it, I’ve got it.  When I read the story aloud, the character literally has a “voice”–a diction unique to that person.

And it’s definitely not consistent from one novel to the next!  Nor is it always consistent in one novel–or rather, the voice can evolve as the character does. In SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY (formerly called THE SPIRIT-HUNTERS), the main character, Eleanor, is a high-society girl who grew up in the 1870s.  She’s somewhat prim and proper with appropriate Victorian slang sprinkled in.  Of course, as the story develops and her character grows closer and closer to the low-society Spirit-Hunters, her diction changes.  She even starts–gasp!–swearing. 🙂

Of course, Eleanor’s voice is nothing like the MC, Echo, in my WIP.  Echo is uneducated and grew up in a harsh, desert-world.  When I read her aloud, it comes out with this (probably hilarious) cowboy kinda twang.

Keep in mind, though, that to some extent your voice will stay consistent. Maybe your dark sense of humor or your preference for short, clipped sentences, or your love of poetic description will show up each time you write.  It’s your story after all, and there’s some defining way about how you create that will shine through in each of your novels.

The Writer Who Lives Next to a Castle!

~~~

 

Like Sooz, it usually takes me the first 50-100 pages to figure out the voice. Sometimes I’ll hear the voice SO clearly in my head, but it’ll take a bit to learn how to translate that onto the page. Everything from how they narrate to how they interact with others and the world around them all changes from series to series, so when I begin a new book, I spend most of those 50-100 pages rediscovering how THEY see the world, and their place in it.

Some voices come easier than others, though. When I first started writing QUEEN OF GLASS, Celaena’s voice (even told in 3rd person) hit me like a brick in the face. The same goes with A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES–I knew instantly who Feyre (the heroine) was, what she wanted, and how she viewed the world. But then there have been some other projects that took a little longer to figure out. In HADES (a YA retelling of the Greek myths), the title character’s voice was just SO vastly different from anything I’d written that it took me a while to figure her out. And in a recent, top-secret WIP that I started (but had to set aside in order to do my revisions), it took me FOREVER to understand her voice, and how I wanted to present her to the reader.
.
So, in short, don’t worry if it takes you longer to find the voice in your book–some voices come easier than others, but that doesn’t mean the ones that take a bit longer are weaker! Don’t be afraid to use those first 100 pages to find the voice (or even the whole first draft)!
.
The Writer Who Is Even More Kickass Than Her Heroines (and that’s saying something!)
.
~~~
.

I absolutely agree with everything Susan and Sarah said. It can take 1 page or 100. Sometimes you know immediately and sometimes you don’t. I notoriously struggle with voice, not because I don’t know who my characters are, but because I have a hard time sticking with a strongly YA or a strongly Adult feel.

Something I did want to share, however, was how surprised I felt when working on the sleeping beauty retelling after having worked on Nameless for so many years. The writing was still mine, but the way they the Poetess and Rose tell their stories is very different. The Poetess is very emotional; everything revolves around how she is reacting internally to her surroundings. Rose is more interested in what’s happening around her than what she’s feeling; I found myself paying far more attention to the scenery, and character’s movements within it.

Now, as for secondary character’s voices… I don’t usually have too much of a problem with my MC’s, but secondary characters give me a harder time. Maybe it’s because I’m not as interested in them as I am the MC. For example, I recently realized that one of the romantic interests in the Sleeping Beauty retelling had this whole secondary motivation for his actions that I wasn’t aware of until 50k in. I’m going to have to go back now and add in trails of that story so that the reader gets a better feel for him.

So, it’s okay to discover as you go. That’s what First Drafts (Zero Drafts) are for. As you revise you can modify and tighten both your plot and your voice until your character shine through clearly.

.
~~~
.

My “voice” definitely changes from novel to novel, but to be honest, I’ve never had to put too much thought into it. Rather, I put effort into making my characters distinct, and the voice flows from that–even if the story isn’t in first person because I write a rather close third. Voice is like the lens through which you see the story world, and it is so, so important to me. Voice can really make or break a story.

But like my fellow LTWF girls, I think that this is something you develop as you write more and more. I know when I first started writing, I tried to imitate writers whose voices I loved–not plot-wise or character-wise, but just in the way they phrased their sentences or crafted their dialogue. Over time, you incorporate more and more writers and do more and more writing of your own until “voice” is something that comes naturally (though that doesn’t mean a new story won’t need a little while to settle into the right voice!) and pretty easily.

I recommend reading books that have great voice (either ones you enjoy a lot yourself or ones that other people recommend) and pick out what it is you love about them. But remember you’re trying to develop your own style, not become the next so-and-so! Study what other writers do, but in the end, you’ve got to make it your own 🙂

~~~
Do you think you’ve discovered your “voice”? Is it consistent from story to story? We want to know!

QOTW: Fairy-tale Retellings

11 Mar

This week, the we’re answering two questions! They come from Miss Rae, who asks:

What advice do you have for a writer trying to write a fairy tale adaptation? Do you have any good resources for such projects?

and Marina, who asks:

What do you think are some of the best, or your favorites, of the fairytale retellings?

~~~

Fave fairy tale tellings (I have a lot):

– ELLA ENCHANTED by Gail Carson Levine (Cinderella retelling) <– DUH (I’m channeling my inner Charlie Sheen)

– THE GOOSE GIRL by Shannon Hale (The Goose Girl retelling) <– I wrote a recommendation for it because it’s amazing!

– EAST by Edith Pattou (East of the Sun, West of the Moon retelling) <– read this YEARS ago, but I remember loving it

– SPINDLE’S END by Robin McKinley (Sleeping Beauty retelling) – Also read this years ago

– BEAUTY by Robin McKinley (Beauty and the Beast retelling) – And again, read this years and years ago, but it is seriously amazing

– ROSE DAUGHTER by Robin McKinley (Beauty and the Beast retelling) – Yes, she wrote TWO Beauty and the Beast retellings. Honestly can’t remember which one I love more

– SHAPESHIFTER by Holly Bennett (Irish folktale/legend retelling of Finn mac Cumhail) <– loved this so much I wrote a book recommendation!

– WINTER ROSE by Patricia A. McKillip (a Tam Lin retelling) – Beautiful prose, wonderful characters, and just all around stunning!

– Oh, and last but definitely not least, QUEEN OF GLASS by the very lovely Sarah J. Maas (a Cinderella retelling) – It is FULL of #winning! But most of you already know that!

Vanessa Di Gregorio

~~~

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine (Cinderella). I echo Vanessa on this one; Ella is one of the most memorable heroines ever, and this story is so full of humor and heart I think it might be my most favorite.

Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister – Gregory Maguire (Cinderella). I love this one because I like twist endings, and I think he took this in a supremely unique (and disturbing) direction.

In the Forests of Serre by Patricia McKillip (Baba Yaga and the Golden Bird) – I read this one recently but it totally captivated me. Patricia’s portrayal of Baba Yaga was creepy and yet comforting; she was true to legend and also part of the circle of magic, a take I loved.

Snow, Glass, Apples by Neil Gaiman (Snow White) – This is part of a short story collection, and I bought the whole book just to have it. Snow White is undead and the ‘Evil’ Queen is the heroine. So creepy, so unique, so awesome.

-Savannah Foley

~~~

I’m seconding V on THE GOOSE GIRL. I was absolutely enchanted by it, and never wanted it to end!

THE BLACK SWAN by Mercedes Lackey is another favorite of mine. It retells the Swan Lake legend from the point of view of Odile, the “evil” black swan. I think I was 12 or 13 when I first read the book (though it’s an adult fantasy), and seeing Lackey boldly and beautifully take on the Swan Lake legend was a huge influence on my later decision to retell Cinderella and write QUEEN OF GLASS.

I recently read WILDWOOD DANCING by Juliet Marillier and thought it was an absolutely lovely retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses (set in Transylvania!!). Any of Robin McKinley’s retellings are thoughtful and magical, and Neil Gaiman’s “Snow, Glass, Apples” is beyond phenomenal. I’ve heard great things about Margo Lanagan’s TENDER MORSELS, a dark retelling of the Snow White and Rose Red legend, and Angela Carter’s “The Bloody Tower” (collection of stories).

In the research side of things, check out Joseph Campbell’s HERO WITH A THOUSAND FACES (I think in order to retell fairy tales, you should first know where they come from, why they exist, and how they are structured and categorized), and if you’re looking into doing a more female-oriented retelling, check out FEARLESS GIRLS,WISE WOMEN, AND BELOVED SISTERS by Jane Yolen.

I’m sure I’m missing a bunch of fantastic books, though!

As for writing retellings…I wrote a post about it here.

-Sarah Maas

~~~

I am also jumping on the ELLA ENCHANTED bandwagon. That book basically defines my childhood. I’ve read it so many times my copy is yellowed, dog-eared, and one of the pages actually fell out. I had to tape it back in. I wanted to marry Char… and I kind of still do.

Sammy Bina

~~~

There are already so many great recommendations from the other LTWF girls that I won’t add any more! I’ll try tackling the first question instead. I’m afraid I don’t really have a resource for that sort of project (other than the link to Sarah’s great article!), but I do love a good retelling, and I can think of a few pointers…

First off, bring something unique to the retelling. That’s pretty obvious, huh? But nowadays, that’s actually pretty hard! In my mind, there are two kinds of retellings…those that stick with the fantasy setting and those that bring the story into modern times. If you’re trying to write the latter kind of retelling, then you’ve pretty obviously already got your “twist.” In that case, I’d try to remember the theme of the original fairy tale. Also, what are the main symbols? (Cinderella: glass slipper, midnight; Little Red Riding Hood: wolf, red hood; Beauty and the Beast: roses, the ‘beast’) Incorporate those into your story, but in a fresh way. And don’t be afraid to add a new symbol or motif that is all your own.

If your retelling is of the fantasy sort, it can be harder to stick with the original story without making your story…well, basically the original story. It becomes even more important to bring something new to the telling. Sometimes, this can be as simple as making Cinderella a tomboy or as big as making her an assassin ;P Remain true to the original story (unless, of course, your purpose is to twist it, and then by all means change that story around!), but breathe fresh life into it.

A fairy tale retelling is a truly beautiful thing when done well. I wish you the best of luck!

-Kat Zhang

~~~

What do you think? Favorite fairy-tale retellings? Any tips on writing one? Let us know!

QOTW: Book-to-Film Adaptations

4 Mar

Winter is slowly coming to an end, which means those lazy days spent in front of the TV because it was too cold to leave the house are a thing of the past. Being the book lovers that we are, we thought it might be fun to commandeer this week’s QOTW for our favorite book-to-film adaptations, in honor of our treasured winter months gone by!

~~~

In terms of ‘Best’ I think the Fight Club movie stayed really true to the book. But in terms of my favorite, What Dreams May Come wins hands down. It was way better than the book, and completely gorgeous, to both the ears and the eyes. It just blows the book out of the water. I really hope heaven is like the one presented in What Dreams May Come.

~~~

Mine are:
-The Secret of N.I.M.H., adapted from Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of N.I.M.H.
-Howl’s Moving Castle
-Pride and Prejudice (both the BBC and Kiera Knightley versions)
-Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (best one)
-The Lord of the Rings
-The Hours
-The Black Cauldron (don’t judge!!!)
-Stardust

-The Last Unicorn

-Coraline

-Gone With The Wind

-The Princess Bride

~~~

I’m rather fond of the Kiera Knightley PRIDE AND PREJUDICE adaptation, too…as long as we disregard the meadow scene and the sappy American ending, lol. Something about lovers walking in slow-mo across the screen at one another as the sun rises (and his shirt is unbuttoned) hits me the wrong way. My sap meter goes through the roof  😛

I liked the ATONEMENT adaptation, too. (wow, I’m just on a Kiera Knightley kick, apparently). I thought Saoirse Ronan was brilliant in that. Hmmm…what else?

Well, this is a BBC production and not a movie, but the most recent EMMA adaptation with Ramola Garai is quite nice, too.

And if anyone is looking for a modern-take take on SHERLOCK HOLMES, “Sherlock,” co-created by Moffat and Gatiss, is a great three-part series. Apparently, I have a thing for movie adaptations of British literature??

ETA: Ooh, I can’t forget HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE!! I think that’s one of the
only book/movie pairs where I can’t say which one I like more. I love
them both equally on their own terms 😀

~~~

I’m going to second Sarah and say Prisoner of Azkaban. The third book was my favorite, and I think the film was fantastic. I mean, come on. Gary Oldman. Need I say more?

And I can’t believe no one mentioned this one — Black Beauty! That was one of my favorite books as a kid, and I am not ashamed to say I still watch the movie occasionally. It’s just too pretty not to.

Also, I know I’m getting ahead of myself here, but the new Jane Eyre movie. I’m currently reading the book, and from what I’ve read, compared with the trailer, I’m sure it’ll be fantastic! In the same vein, the 1999 version of Mansfield Park is also one of my favorite. I’m such a sucker for period pieces based on literature.

~~~

Sarah already said Stardust but I have to agree! I love the music, and the sweetness of the characters. I also adore that they have different endings. They both work for what they are as a piece of art/literature. Even though I do like the ending of the book more, because bittersweetness just gets to me :).

~~~

I gotta agree with Sarah and Biljana: STARDUST!  I actually prefer the movie over the book. ::sigh:: Tristan is just so adorable and conflicted.  Plus, the music!  What a score!

I of course love almost all the ones everyone else named, but they BEAT me to it! ::waves fist at LTWFers above::

Other wonderful movie adaptations: LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy is fantastic, JURASSIC PARK (one of my favorite books as a kid, but I couldn’t see the movie until I was 13 because of the darn PG-13 rating. Ha! If my parents only knew the content of the novel!), THE PRINCESS BRIDE is as hilarious and exciting as the book, CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY with Johnny Depp is just amazing, and ABOUT A BOY (probably one of my all time favorite movies, and possibly better than the book, which is also fabulous!).

~~~

I’m seconding Sarah on Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (totally the best one!) and The Lord of the Rings. I’m also a mad fangirl for the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. I liked the Keira Knightley movie, too, but not quite as much.

~~~

I’m seconding Kat on the BBC version of Emma, it actually made me like Mr. Knightley a lot (I used to think he was kind of a creep). And I totally agree with Sarah and Kat on Howl’s Moving Castle; I think I may still like the movie better than the book! Also, while the book The Shining made more sense overall and I’m a big fan of the epilogue, I really like the movie, and definitely prefer its ending scenes.

~~~

Wow.  There are a lot already mentioned here that are great, but I think I have to go with the Kiera Knightley version of Pride & Prejudice.  And I hate to say it, Kat, but that slow-mo scene of Lizzy and Darcy meeting at dawn is my FAVORITE SCENE in the whole movie!  Guess I’m just a sappy romantic.  😉

 

 

What about you guys? What are some of your favorite book-to-movie adaptations?

QOTW: Villain Theme Song

25 Feb

You may remember, about a month ago, we shared with you our personal theme songs. Today’s question, posted by Heather, is in a similar vein:

In the movie of your life, what are your villains’ theme songs?

~~~

So, the villain of my life’s movie has this theme song: “Space Dementia” by MUSE. It’s deliciously creepy and dark, but hauntingly lovely at the same.  A truly tormented villain in my life’s movie. 🙂

~~~

My life’s villain is called Procrastination. Perhaps you’ve heard of him? This is his theme song: “Living Dead Girl” by Rob Zombie.

~~~

My movie nemesis is definitely my evil twin/doppelganger, and “Maneater” by Nelly Furtado is most definitely her theme song.

~~~

I don’t really have one overarching person who’s been a villain in my life. As for personal flaws, of course I have some, but none that have really held me back from my dreams [so far]. I think the biggest obstacle I’ve encountered are people who don’t take me seriously because of my age, or who tell me that I’m too young to know what I want. I feel this conflict is best expressed through Alanis Morissette’s Right Through You.


~~~

What about you guys? What’s your villain’s theme song?