Monthly Archives: May 2013

A Rose By Any Other Name

Actually, the title has almost nothing to do with the content of the post, it just happened to mention names–which happen to be the topic of the day–and I’ve been reading Romeo and Juliet, and it seemed convenient, so…yeah. Anyway.

I saw this awesome post from apprenticenevermaster a few months ago and have been planning to do something similar for months now. However, as I have absolutely no idea how to make the cool little yearbook-y grid thingamawhozit, I’ll be listing my favorite names a bit differently.

If you haven’t read the aforementioned post(you really should go do that now), allow me to explain.  Names are very subjective things (as evidenced by, say, watching parents-to-be bicker over them). Some people just adore the name Bertha. Some might loathe it. Either way, there’s likely a reason. A TV character you fell in love with, an aunt you couldn’t stand, a book hero that changed your life–all of those can lead to a certain fondness or dislike of a name for years to come. That happens a lot in my case. These are some of my favorite fictional names.

James

James T. Kirk, James West(from the original show, not the movie), and James Herriot(though he himself was not fictional and his work only slightly so) come to mind. I grew up on the Original Star Trek instead of Disney movies. Watched it with my dad from my toddler years on up. Needless to say, Captain Kirk was very important to my childhood. It was kind of the same way with Secret Agent James West of The Wild, Wild West, though he came along later. I fell in love with the idea of Victorian-era gadgets, adventures, and steampunky supervillains, and that love probably helped lead up to me writing the kinds of stories I write now. As for Mr. Herriot, my parents and my aunt both adored his work and introduced me to it sometime in middle school. I’ve been rereading the books ever since.

And that is why one of my villains is named James.

Western ~ "The Wild Wild West", 1965...

See? The dude on the right. Not Will Smith.

Kurt

“If I had a normal life, I’d quite cheerfully go mad and fall over right now.”

From Kurt Wagner, of course. As some of you know, I am an unashamed comic geek, and one of my favorite teams is the X-Men. And within that said team, Kurt is one of my favorite characters. He is essentially the only Christian comic book character I’ve ever come across. It was refreshing to see one portrayed as well as they did with the original Kurt. There were a lot of things about him that I didn’t like or agree with, but it was still a nice change and I liked the character.

I haven’t found anyone to name Kurt, yet. But I will, no doubt.

Bamf

Tommy and Tuppence

From the lovely novels by Agatha Christie. My family always listens to audiobooks on long drives, and it usually ends up being something by Louis L’Amour or Agatha Christie. As such, I think we’ve listened to all of the Tommy and Tuppence books, and I’ve read most of them as well. It’s amazing how such otherwise plain names can take on such personality, if you actually like the people behind them. Tommy and Tuppence are quite possibly my favorite investigative couple ever. They’re smart, funny, a bit romantic in places, and neither one outmatches the other. I may end up naming my children Tommy and Tuppence.

Agatha

“People keep giving me rings, but I think a small death ray might be more practical.”

If I didn’t read Girl Genius, I would hate this name. Without context, it just sounds so…old. Not that there’s anything wrong with old, but I wouldn’t go and name a character or a pet or anything Agatha. However, the magic of personality crops up again. How can you not like a brilliant, awkward mad scientist who lives in a steampunked world and happens to be one of the most relatable characters I’ve seen in a very long time?

Rory

 “I don’t care that you got old! I care that we didn’t get old together!”

Before Doctor Who, I wasn’t overly fond of the name. It wasn’t as if I hated it or had any particular aversion to it, it just didn’t strike my fancy. And then I became acquainted with Rory Williams. The chap who never dies, makes fairly practical observations in the middle of a sci-fi show, and is quite possibly the most romantic chap on the face of the planet. I couldn’t help, but like his somewhat dopey sweetness and his cautious, awkward manner.

Tony

The Mark III armor as featured in the 2008 fil...

Must I explain?

Amelia

Not only do I love Amy Pond, but I have a cousin named Amy. I suppose that helps. Either way, I love the name and its derivatives. The character had her annoying moments, but overall–she was great. I cried when she left.

Now, I have a lot more names–Logan, Declan, Elinor, Jack, Will, Clara, Ilsa, Amanda, Cameron, Bex, Alec, Helen, Connor, Clint, Artemus *deep breath*–but not enough time to go into them all. How about you guys? What are your favorite names? Are they rooted in a real or fictional person? Let me know in the comments!

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Summer Schedule!

My apologies for my abrupt absence, but with school drawing to a close, I’ve been caught up in the mad dash to finish everything off for the year. Blogging was put on hold, for obvious reasons. However, I wasn’t entirely lazy when it came to looking after the blog. I’ve been working on the summer schedule, as well as a few ideas for improving the overall quality of the blog itself, so be on the lookout for new things from here on out. Here’s the (entirely changeable) preview of what I have in mind for doing throughout the summer months. There should be one main post per week, along with whatever writing prompts, exercises, and general miscellany I can manage thrown in between.

-The names post I promised ages ago is first up, and it’s already in the works.

-A piece on structure is already partially written.

-The ever-important topic of characterization next.

-The character-driven vs. plot-driven debate arrives on Sanity Optional.

-Setting. One of my least favorite aspects of fiction writing.

-A few thoughts on themes.

-A post on realism in fiction.

-Word usage: it’s complicated.

At which point, we hit a very, very important time in the summer. My family and I are going on a road trip from Missouri to my father’s home state of Arizona and back, taking two weeks and two separate routes to do it. Depending on how good my internet connection is, I may or may not be liveblogging the trip as general writing practice in lieu of the posts that I won’t have time to write while I’m off adventuring. We shall see. That’s quite a ways off yet, and I’m still too excited about the prospect of poking into ghost towns, sledding on sand dunes, and adding graffiti to Cadillac Ranch to think much beyond it.

Anyhow, that’s what’s in store, starting next week. Thanks for reading!

 

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The Hunger Games

So. It has come to this. Me, reviewing one of my least favorite books of all time, by popular request. To be honest, I never intended to read the series, but my best friend and a significant number of the girls I knew were raving about it. Now, for the most part, they all have good taste in books(they haven’t grasped the glory that is Sherlock Holmes, but they’re pretty good with YA), so I decided to give it a try.

Cover of "The Hunger Games"

Cover of The Hunger Games

I hated it.

I ended up reading the first two and skimming the third purely for the purpose of this review(hence why said review will be general at best). I’m not going to include a summary, since most people have either read one of the books, seen the movie, or been bombarded by enough Pinterest, Facebook, and Tumblr posts to know the basic plot. Instead, I’ll be starting with the good points of the series and moving on to the things I wasn’t as fond of. Be forewarned, this review is not spoiler-free!

It is also a rant. However, that being said, I have nothing against the author. The series was well-written and there were more than a few good things about it. In my case, however, it just wasn’t my kind of story. Because of that and various other reasons, my opinion of the series is somewhat negative and somewhat controversial. So, feel free to comment, but flaming will be deleted immediately.

Good Points:

The main thing that really stood out to me was the writing style. Collins has a way with description and craft that pulls you deep into the story and refuses to spit you out until the last page is turned. That’s why I read as far as I did. It made everything very clear and easy to follow, which is a real asset in dystopian sci-fi.

For the most part, the characters were very well-crafted. The majority of them had solid, unobtrusive backstory, logical motivations, and were fairly easy to connect to in some way. Katniss, in particular, was wonderful. As far as YA fiction goes, she’s one of the best heroines I’ve ever seen, especially in the role of the protagonist. Also, the minor characters–which are often problematic–really shone as well. They were there when the story needed them and then faded out before they became a nuisance.

Also, the themes of the novels were fantastic. I may not have liked the storyline, but the underlying themes were very thought-provoking, intelligently written, and quite relevant. Sacrifice, the danger of complacency, perseverance, and far too many others to list were all woven into the background. And in a very cohesive way, I might add.

Bad Points:

Well, the main thing that annoyed me was the simple fact that it’s depressing.  I realize that it’s dystopian, and therefore meant to be a pretty horrible picture of our future, but this pushed it a little far for my tastes.

In the first book, all of the tributes except for Peeta and Katniss die. In the second book, more people die, including most of District 12. In the third book(which I have not read entirely), you have Finnick and Prim. It began to feel like a little much. Again, that may just be me, since this isn’t really my genre. When it comes to story-telling, I think C.S. Lewis says it best.

Since it is so likely that children will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brace knights and heroic courage. Otherwise, you are making their destiny not brighter, but darker.

But that’s just my personal opinion on dystopian fiction. Rant over. Back to the review.

The second thing was the romance element of the series. I honestly didn’t care for Peeta.  For one thing, I think I would have liked him better if he hadn’t turned out to have been in love with her from the beginning. While a good move for fleshing out both characters’ backstories, it felt a bit convenient that Katniss was paired with a boy who’d been in love with her forever.  Also, despite the fact that they end up married by the end of the series, I didn’t really see any chemistry between them. The romance felt slightly forced and might have worked better if it had been left as the for-the-cameras version it began as.

Thirdly, my suspension of disbelief had some trouble kicking in when it came to the base logic of the story. You can do a lot of things to people who have been beaten down as the people of Panem were. Limit their food supply, pigeon-hole them into set occupations, take their basic human rights–but taking their children? Pretty much every mother I know would claw the eyes out of anyone who tried to harm her children. The fathers wouldn’t stop there. Most parents would sooner die than let anyone take their children, so I have  trouble swallowing the fact that generations of people have allowed the Capitol to send their youngsters off to be killed.

So, that’s it. As always, this is merely my personal opinion and nothing more.

I’m going to go find something with a happy ending.

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You Had Me at Character Development: The Romance Post

So, the next on the list of voter-chosen posts is romance.

Yay.

One of the reasons I included it as a potential topic is that I have serious trouble putting together a decent romance that’s cohesive, logical(if romances count as logical), and still fun to read. They’re a pain, to be honest. Hence why I need to work on them.

I’ll try to do what I did with the villain post last week and list a favorite fictional couple with each point. However, there really aren’t that many fictional couples I’m crazy about, so no guarantees.

1. Flynn Carsen and Simone Renoir–A good couple is balanced.

The Librarian: Curse of the Judas Chalice

The Librarian: Curse of the Judas Chalice (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In one of my favorite movies, The Librarian: Curse of the Judas Chalice (Yes, I’m aware that it’s a corny Indiana Jones parody–that’s why it’s awesome), the hero and heroine are thrown together by a series of events that would sound entirely ridiculous if I tried to summarize them. So I won’t. Go watch the movie. The characters themselves are a) a burnt-out genius who safeguards the world’s most dangerous artifacts and b) a 400 year-old vampire who safeguards the key to unspeakable power,  and despite how it sounds, they actually fit together quite well.

As a couple, they are very well balanced. Simone is immensely powerful, but Flynn is brilliant. Flynn is awkward, but Simone is confident. This cuts out the risk of Lois Lane syndrome and makes for a fun story because both characters have complimentary strengths and weaknesses. In fact, the only problem I have with them as a couple is the speed with which they became one. Two days, guys? Really?

In writing your own romances(especially if it’s in first-person), it’s easy for one character to become the focus–they end doing all the thinking, all the rescuing, and heroically solving all the problems. That isn’t good reading, regardless of whether it’s the hero or the heroine. Balance is key.

2. Emma Woodhouse and George Knightley–A good couple doesn’t always get along.

Jeremy Northam as George Knightley in the 1996...

Jeremy Northam as George Knightley in the 1996 American film adaptation of Emma (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Let’s get one thing straight right now–outside of Emma, I…well…I don’t want to say hate, but that’s pretty close to what I feel about Jane Austen’s work. There’s just so much talking and dancing and discussion of feelings and…ugh. I tend to prefer explosions and murder over tea and country walks.

That said, I did enjoy Emma, partially because of the good romance. As a couple, Emma and Knightley (more on his part than hers, which was a bit irksome) spent most of the book bickering about one thing or another.

The fact is, no couple gets along all the time, regardless of how much they love each other. That’s something to keep in mind when writing couples. They’re going to have their disagreements and said disagreements will be unique to each couple. Some will have soft, quiet arguments, some give each other a week-long silent treatment, others go for broke and start throwing things–but they all have their moments.

3. Carl and Ellie–A good couple takes time.

I think the first twenty minutes of Up contains one of the sweetest, most well-crafted romances in animated film history. It hits all the high points of a fifty or sixty year relationship and shows the growth of said relationship from playmate to best friend to significant other to spouse. In other words, it takes its time.

Carl & Ellie

Carl & Ellie (Photo credit: dr.chesed)

Too-quick romances are one of the things that usually trip me up when I’m attempting to weave a little sweetness into a story. Since I know they’re going to end up together, it’s incredibly easy to forget that the audience doesn’t know the characters or their motivations or their reasons for getting together nearly as  well as I do, and just shove them together within ten pages. All done! Back to the fun stuff! Yay!

That doesn’t work, sadly.

To really connect with the characters and to root for their relationship, your readers need to see the development of their friendship and their feelings. I realize that different couples move at different speeds, and you can feasibly have one head-over-heels within a week whereas another one can date for a decade, but there still needs to be development of some kind. Otherwise, your poor readers are simply going to be confused.

4. Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark–A good couple needs chemistry.

In this case, the example couple is there to show what not to do. In my opinion, at least, there was no chemistry in their relationship. Admittedly, I’m not a fan of The Hunger Games, but I just couldn’t see it. (Frankly, I’m more Team Gale.)

The Hunger Games (film)

The Hunger Games (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Regardless of how much it seems like two characters should fit together as a couple, there are times when they just…don’t. No matter what you do, what situations you write them into, they can be ridiculously stubborn little beasts and absolutely refuse to fall in love. It can’t be helped. So don’t try to force it! If a couple has no chemistry, try something else.

Next Post: Hunger Games Review

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