Thursday, March 29, 2012

Better than an interview

You've probably heard the advice to ask your characters questions. You know, what is your name? What is your quest? What is your favorite color? What I've tended to notice about when I do those, is that sometimes my characters are really open with me. Sometimes, they shy away from a question, or I can tell they're holding back.

So how do you get around these difficult characters? While I was at Writing for Charity, Jennifer Nielson talked about the psychology of character. She worked at a camp for troubled teens, and for them, they had to do fill-in-the-blank statements. So, for example there might be a question like:
I'm happiest when _________
I trust ________
I'm afraid of __________

It's amazing what your characters will tell you with this format that they won't with the interview. Also, you tend to notice patterns crop up. One of my characters feels a longing for love but fears it at the same time. And I never knew. So next time you have a character giving you a hard time, one you want to know better, or just for kicks, come up with these types of questions and see what you get!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Movie Review: The Hunger Games

This is a SPOILER FREE review, so if you haven't seen it yet, no sweat. However if for some reason you haven't read the books yet, this might not be the best one for you.

The Hunger Games is my favorite book series of all time. And, I think given the way it could have turned out, this overall is an excellent adaptation. It really captures the horror of the situation, and how awful the Capitol is for using this as entertainment. I thought the world-building was done very well.
There can't be enough praise for Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss. She owned the role, and if you had any doubts about her, don't fear. Other wonderful performances: Elizabeth Banks as Effie, Amandla Stenburg as Rue, Stanley Tucci as Caesar Flickerman, Donald Sutherland as President Snow, Woody Harrelson as Haymitch. In general a really good cast. Josh Hutcherson did a better job of Peeta than I was expecting, however, there were times when I thought he lacked a certain Peeta-ness present in book-Peeta. I felt he either got it on the nose, or else made me go "eh." And all the chemistry between him and Jennifer, it was really carried by Jennifer, what bit of it they had. Liam Hemsworth did a good job as Gale, however, you tend to forget about Gale as soon as Katniss leaves him. Lenny Kravitz did better as Cinna than I expected, and even though he didn't act in quite the way I thought of Cinna, he definitely had the magnetism for the role and I see why Gary Ross gave him the role.
I felt a deeper connection with Prim in the movies than in the books. Willow Shields and Jennifer Lawrence had great sister chemistry, and unlike the other person Katniss left behind (Gale) you really remember Prim.
There are extra scenes that don't appear in the book, and I think they did a lot to add to the story behind The Hunger Games. Very good stuff. They also added a lot more depth to Cato's character.
However, the last third of the movie. Once Rue dies, the movie is much too rushed. Which is strange to think, considering the movie is 140 minutes long, it doesn't feel like it. I think they could have cut down the beginning to add more time at what happened to the end of the Games. In general, the relationship between Peeta and Katniss was half-baked. The bread scene was presented in a confusing way, and if you haven't read the books, you won't get it. And all of the parts in the book where they build their relationship had been cut down to near oblivion.

Did you see The Hunger Games? What did you think?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

My Top Ten Book-Into-Movie

In honor of The Hunger Games being released tomorrow, this My Top Ten is on movies who didn't screw up the book. Fingers crossed I'll be able to add The Hunger Games to this list after tonight!

1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1

This had everything a Potterhead could have wanted. Kept the action up and covered everything important to the book, and the actors were simply amazing in it.

2. Pride and Prejudice (A&E, 1995)
So they had 6 hours to get this right. But it's more than that. They picked the right actors for the right parts (with the exception of Jane, imo). Kiera Knightly can't even hold a candle to Jennifer Ehl's performance of Lizzy. Practically perfect in every way.

3. Gone with the Wind
I feel like this movie just wouldn't be the same if it were made now. The classic feel of it makes it so perfect for the book. Also, again with the actors. Could you imagine anyone else playing Scarlett or Rhett or Mammy?

4. The Princess Bride

Hilarious just like the book. Same storyline as the book. Same feel as the book. Great actors and jokes. I love it.

5. To Kill a Mockingbird
Again with the iconic actors portraying these characters! Gregory Peck especially makes the movie with his portrayal of Atticus. Carries the same wonderful message as the book does.

6. Sense and Sensibility (1995)
Emma Thompson did a marvelous job adapting Austen's classic book into this movie. She and Kate Winslet portrayed their characters so fully and richly that it's one of those movies you can just love while also thinking about the book.

7. The Age of Innocence.
Wonderful feel that the book had, too. It's for a contemporary audience but captures the audience Wharton had with her classic book.

8. A Christmas Carol (1999)

This is the TV version with Patrick Stewart. Such an amazing adaptation of the classic Dicken's story. The only one that I feel really does the story justice and covers what the book does. And Patrick Stewart? How can you go wrong?

9. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
All right, so I know some people weren't thrilled with this adaptation because the trio and rest of the kids didn't have much experience in acting, so they're not the best, but to me, this first Harry Potter captures everything Hogwarts and the whole Wizarding World is to a kid. It's magical and wonderful, with danger and adventure. It hit the series off on a perfect note.

10. Emma (1996)
There are a lot of fantastic versions of Emma, but I really like the Gwyneth Paltrow version the best. So much fun and a lot of how I envisioned it while I read the book.

What are some of your favorite book to movie adaptations? Are you going to The Hunger Games tonight?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Book Review: The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams

Title: The Chosen One 
Author: Carol Lynch Williams
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Genre: YA (contemporary)
Why I read it/how I found it: Written by one of my professors

Thirteen-year-old Kyra has grown up in an isolated community without questioning the fact that her father has three wives and she has twenty brothers and sisters, with two more on the way. That is, without questioning them much---if you don’t count her secret visits to the Mobile Library on Wheels to read forbidden books, or her meetings with Joshua, the boy she hopes to choose for herself instead of having a man chosen for her.
But when the Prophet decrees that she must marry her sixty-year-old uncle---who already has six wives---Kyra must make a desperate choice in the face of violence and her own fears of losing her family forever.
Yes, my professor wrote this book. And she doesn't know about this blog, so this isn't going to be a review to get an A from her (though I certainly wouldn't turn it down ;). However, I was actually unsure about reading a book by my teacher, because what if I didn't like it? How could I take advice from someone who I didn't see merit in their work? 
Well, thankfully, I didn't need to worry about that, because I read this book in three hours. The premise of it hooked me. Her fate to marry her uncle...ugh. I didn't even want to think about it, but I just couldn't. Kyra's personality fit well into what she had to do. If she would even think about escaping, she had to have a powerful personality, which she did.
I also think that Carol gave justice to this community. Not to the Prophet or Kyra's uncle, but to her father and mothers. Overall, they seem happy with their life up until Kyra's engagement. Kyra's father and three wives aren't portrayed in a horrifying manner, although there is certainly some tension between the wives,  instead the horror is focused on the young girls being married to older men, the young men being chased out for threatening the elder men with competition.
Plus, great writing! Always wonderful to read refreshing prose. 
Other information: Carol Lynch Williams can be found blogging here.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

7 and 11...I should get a slurpee!

If you are a writer in Utah, this paragraph is for you. If you are not, skip on down to the next paragraph. Now that I have the attention of all you Utahans, I wanted to give you the FYI on Writing for Charity. At the Provo library this Saturday, you can get your work critiqued by a published author (like Shannon Hale, Brandon Sanderson, Brodi Ashton, just to name a few) and go to workshops. The best part is, the $25/$45 you spend all goes to charity! Whooo! Head on over here to find out more and register. Now onto the rest of the post.

I've been tagged by Carrie Bastyr and Karina Lawrence for The Lucky 7 meme. Carrie also tagged me for 11 questions and the Kreativ Blogger Award. Thanks to both of you for tagging me! And in celebration of the 7/11 I give myself a Slurpee. Half cherry, half pina colada.
Ok, first for the Lucky 7 Meme.
The Rules:
1. Go to page 77 of your current MS/WIP
2. Go to line 7
3. Copy down the next 7 lines - sentences or paragraphs - and post them as they're written. No cheating
4. Tag 7 authors
5. Let them know

This is from my WIP Forget Me Not, not edited for style yet, and already I see some things to change.

After I pretended to read over a hundred pages, Silas and Morcant entered the library. They nodded to me and continued onto their study.
My plan wouldn’t do any good with Morcant in the library. I chomped on my finger so hard I almost broke skin. After a few frenzied ideas, I finally settled on one.
I went to the writing desk and scribbled out instructions for Morcant to meet my father immediately. This wouldn’t guarantee me much time, but I would be given some. Hopefully it would be enough. I hurried out and found one of the pages, giving him the note for Morcant. 
And so I pass the Lucky 7 Meme onto:

  1. Sarah Pearson
  2. Krista McLaughlin
  3. Jennifer Fischetto
  4. Sophs
  5. Kelley
  6. Jenny Keller Ford
  7. Laura Josephsen

And here are the 11 Questions Carrie tagged me in:
1. If your WIP had a theme song, what would it be? Straight to You by Josh Groban.
2. How did you come up with the name for your main character? I researched legendary couples and all of them sucked (everyone dies or betrays each other). Then I came across a Shakespearian character named Imogen, who went through a hell of a lot and always remained true to her husband. I liked that part of her, and I liked the sound of the name. It just fit with my MC.
3. About how long does it take you to complete a first draft? A few months. If I don't start over, or from start to finish, about five months, when I'm busy with school and everything.
4. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be? Coronado, California. A quaint little town by San Diego, the greatest place ever. Yeah, totally want to live there. No snow, perfect weather, beaches. Sigh.
5. What's your favorite candy bar? Oooh just one? Ummm...Reese.
6. Early bird or night owl? I can be both, but I'm probably a bit more of a night owl, if put to my own ways and not enforced by school or work.
7. Name one thing you're looking forward to this year. LDStorymakers Conference!
8. If you could have one question answered about your future, what would it be? I wouldn't want to know anything big, because then I might end up like someone from a Greek tragedy, trying to prevent it or just sliding into a self-fulfilling prophecy. I think I'd ask how many cats I'll own over my lifetime.
9. What is your favorite part of the writing process? I really like getting the ideas. You know, when you go, "Oh my gosh, that's what happened in my character's past!" or "So that's how they're going to storm the castle!"
10. Are you going to see Hunger Games on March 23rd? If not, why? YES. 12:01 AM, baby!
11. Team Peeta or Team Gale? Peeta. I went from "I like" to "I dislike" with Gale, but with Peeta I went from "I don't want to like him" to "I LOVE THIS BOY SO MUCH WHY ISN'T HE REAL WHY IS HE SO AMAZING HE IS THE BEST CHARACTER EVER!" And if we're talking about who Katniss should've ended up with, Peeta's the only choice in the end. He's her dandelion, and he gives her hope when things suck. Gale doesn't do that.

That was fun! Great questions, Carrie! 

All of you Utah writers, let me know if you'll be at Writing for Charity! To everyone else, if there's a question you like, answer it! I'd like to know how you'd answer.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Book Review: Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Title: Cinder 
Author: Marissa Meyer
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends
Genre: YA (sci-fi/retelling)
Why I read it/how I found it: Promoted on blogs, and decided to read for the 2012 Debut Author Challenge.


Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . .
Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

As a character, I really enjoyed Cinder. She has a lot of struggles, she has insecurities, but feels she should be treated as anyone else. I loved the way she was portrayed. I loved Kai, and how he and Cinder didn't get into a huge sweeping romance in this first book. Hopefully this will unfold at a nice pace like it goes in this first book. Cinder's robot friend, Io, is a lot of fun and quirky. Meyer does a fair job with the world-building. I could sense the type of world they lived in, the conflict going on politically, the social constructs. I think she could have described New Beijing a bit more, but that was really the only downfall to it. Also, when the book started, I got a huge sense of a Star Wars-inspired layout with the robots and the market. 
Now, one thing Meyer didn't do as well would be to put shocking plot twists along the way. Granted, this is inspired by Cinderella, so we all know general points in the arc of the story. However, it's easy to pick up on points that should shock you in the end. For example, we're told at the beginning that the Lunar Queen killed various members of her family to keep them from getting the throne, including her three-year-old niece, Princess Selene, but conspiracy theories suggested she had escaped the fire and came to earth. Bet you'll never guess what happens.
Also, I wonder how the arc of this story will go. It's Cinderella, but all of the plot points in Cinderella is hit (except for the happily-ever-after, seeing as this is a series). Will Meyer pull in more fairytales? Will she branch out? Also, personally, I found this book could have wrapped up in one, and I think I might have favored that more, mostly because of the Cinderella arc, and the fact that Cinder had a chance to finish it off in one book. But I haven't read any of the rest, so who knows? Maybe it's a good thing Meyer didn't finish off the story here. For right now, though, I wish she had.

Other information: The Lunar Chronicles will be a four book series. Cinder is the first. Mariss Meyer's blog is here.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Kony 2012

You've probably seen Kony 2012 all over social media the past two days. Maybe you've taken time to watch this video that explains this project. Maybe you've glanced over what this is about.

Well, I agree with Invisible Children. If a thirteen-year-old girl can become a celebrity overnight for a horrible music video, then it's time for Joseph Kony to become famous for his crimes.

What the heck is Jenna talking about? You might be wondering. Who is this Joseph Kony guy?
Let me take you my freshman year of high school, 2006.

For my English class, we took a period to watch a documentary that some local college kids made about something going on in Africa.

Oh, boy, did the waterworks pour.
Three Americans went to Uganda and discovered that a man named Joseph Kony led the LRA (Lord's Resistance Army, and no, this isn't a religious group) who abducted children, forced them to become soldiers, mutilated people, killed people, raped girls, and committed just about every atrocity you can think of. I saw hundreds of people huddled together at night for protection. I saw the victims of these crimes, the few who had escaped. I heard a boy's testimony of the horrors, saw him cry, heard him admit he'd rather die than live, even now that he was free. All of this has been going on since 1986. And no one knew about it, until three California boys with a camera captured it all.
These three college boys started Invisible Children, a group that was determined to end this war.

I donated what I could when my high school's club would have fundraisers. I didn't go to the club because of schedule conflicts. Honestly, I didn't do as much as I could have. I did some, but not as much as I wish I did.

Other people did, though. Invisible Children has grown and this year, they're determined that Kony will be famous for his crimes.
Joseph Kony, the world's #1 most wanted war criminal
I'm not going to be able to give up school and march around America shouting for this cause, but I'm determined to do more than I did before. Evil only continues when we sit by.

Some people criticize Invisible Children's involvement in this. They say America should sit by and worry about our own problems. Let Uganda deal with this. We have no business interfering.

But get this. All Invisible Children is asking is that 100 advisers stay in Uganda to help the government capture Kony. None of our troops. None of our soldiers dying. Only 100 advisers to save thousands of lives.

Is this really such a hard decision to make? For me, it isn't. Kony must be stopped. And 2012 is the year.

This is only the briefest of information, but I encourage you to learn more about this and get involved. Helpful links to do this:
Kony 2012 video
Invisible Children's first documentary
Invisible Children's website
Sign the pledge

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Book Review: Gregor and the Code of the Claw by Suzanne Collins

Title: Gregor and the Code of the Claw
Author: Suzanne Collins
Publisher: Scholastic
Genre: MG (fantasy)
Why I read it/how I found it: Fifth and final book in the Underland Chronicles

Everyone in the Underland has been taking great pains to keep The Prophecy of Time from Gregor. Gregor knows it must say something awful but he never imagined just how awful: It calls for the warrior's death. Now, with an army of rats approaching, and his mom and sister still in Regalia, Gregor the warrior must gather up his courage to help defend Regalia and get his family home safely. The entire existence of the Underland is in Gregor's hands, and time is running out. There is a code to be cracked, a mysterious new princess, Gregor's burgeoning dark side, and a war to end all wars.

This book doesn't disappoint with the ending to a great MG series. If you've read The Hunger Games, this is sort of the Mockingjay of the series, although less depressing, as it is for younger readers. At the same time, Gregor doesn't escape a hard path, and the results of it are less happily-ever-after than most other MG books. Character arcs are filled out nicely, there's a satisfying resolution to the Underland, and a lot of action and suspense to fill it out. This was my favorite book out of the series, and for any MG fan, I'd recommend these books.

Other info: Last book of the five-book Underland Chronicles. Suzanne Collins's website is here.