Posts Tagged With: Agatha Christie

Semptember Sequels!

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 I just subscribed to this amazing blog, which posts weekly linkups and prompts. As you may have guessed, this week’s topic is the sequel, a creature which can be incredibly wonderful or perfectly deplorable depending on both the book and the reader. I’m told there are people who don’t like any sequels, whereas there are other folks who love them. I’m firmly in the latter group, as you can read below.

1. Best sequel you’ve ever read?

The Horse and His Boy. I know it’s a children’s book, but I’ve loved it since I was a child. Who cares if I still do? I actually end up rereading the whole Chronicles of Narnia series every couple of years, and The Horse and His Boy even more often.
2. Worst sequel you’ve ever read?

All of the Challenger and Company short stories that followed The Lost World. I’ve loved that book since I first read it, so I was hugely excited when I found out Conan Doyle had written more with those characters.

And then I read those stories…
3. Sequel that outshone the first book?

The Horse and His Boy. Again. I think the writing is tighter, the characters more likeable, and the story just generally better than the earlier books.
4. Do you often read sequels or do you read the first book and move on?

It depends on whether I liked the first book or not. If I did enjoy it, then I’ll likely read the sequel(s). If not, you couldn’t make me touch it with a thirty-yard pole.
5. What’s a sequel that really surprised you (in a good or bad way)? Why?

I’m not sure if it’s the latest one to do it or not, but The Mark of Athena really stands out. If you’ve read it, you will know why. If not…spoilers. Big, honkin’ spoilers which I cannot and will not inflict on you.
6. What’s the last sequel you read? (Briefly, what did you think of it?)

Fired Up by Mary Connealy. It was decent, but honestly the quality of her books in general has been declining in recent years. It wasn’t nearly as good as some of her previous books.
7. What are 3 sequels you’re planning to read (eventually…)?

1) Allegiant by Veronica Roth

2) United We Spy by Ally Carter

3) And whatever the next sequel to The False Prince is.

8. What’s the first sequel you see when you look at your bookshelf?

Isaac Asimov’s Robots and Empire. I haven’t actually read it yet, but it’s sitting right next to the first of the series, which I loved.
9. Best sequel cover!?

The Runaway King by Jennifer A. Nielsen. Actually, the cover art was gorgeous for both books. Simple, but beautiful.
10. What book(s) do you think desperately need a sequel…but don’t have one?

The Man in the Brown Suit by Agatha Christie comes to mind. But due to the pesky little fact that Christie is dead, I don’t see one happening any time soon. *sigh*

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I’m Not From Around Here, You See…

A lot of the characters I work with tend to be international, partially because Americans like myself are kinda boring (unless they’re insane…like myself) and partially because I’m from a family of vagabonds with a taste for farflung places. Either way, writing about said characters can be a bit of a challenge since I have yet to even make it out of the States*grumbles*. And considering the tendency of most people to be highly offended when their particularly nationality is maligned, you jolly well better get it right when writing about one foreign to your own, eh? Here are the things I’ve learned from my time writing about certain Italians, Brits, and Spaniards.

1. Travel Guides

RICK STEVES!!!!!!!! Between this guy and all the Lonely Planet travelers (who are far inferior to Rick), I’ve been to a lot of places visually, if not actually. And not only are the shows great ways to learn both the sites and the history of various regions, they’re a good base introduction to the people and typically give some information on how the people act.

Actual travel guides are great, too, though books intended for transplants to your selected country work even better. There’s a series(whose name I forget) out for students studying abroad that details how to adapt to daily life in most European countries, and conveniently mentions a lot about daily life. There are also comprehensive guides for business people who do a lot of international work on how to deal with various peoples and avoid offending anyone too badly.

2. Your Friendly Neighborhood Vagabonds

Either you know one or someone you know knows one. In every circle of people, there’s going to be at least one person who feels the need to throw darts at the map and go wherever they land. I’m rather lucky in that respect; I’m surrounded by travelers. My parents did mission work in Central America for two and half years. My cousin backpacked through Europe by himself. One of my Youth Group friends spends a little over a week each summer floating down the Amazon on a riverboat and doing medical work in the villages. My uncle and his family make frequent trips to Canada and Romania. And another cousin currently lives in Belize. So, yeah. My family knows about about globe-trotting. And I’d wager someone in yours does, too.

While there’s really no substitute for going there yourself, talking to someone who has been there is a good alternative. They can tell you little details that the travel guides won’t, as well as gritty realities that they try to sweep under the rug. For instance, did you know that Belize is a major melting pot for essentially every country in the world? Me, neither, until the parents who lived there shared that.

3. I Read, Therefore My Characters Are

Read books by authors from the country you’ve selected. I presume you know the whole “you are what you write” shtick? Well, I happen to think it’s true, and you can usually tell a lot about the psychology of the writer(and thereby the people like him) by the books he writes. Take Agatha Christie, for example. You can tell a lot about 1900’s England by reading those. Also, on a side note about Agatha’s work, you’ll note that Americans are almost always rich, blustery, slightly nutty egomaniacs who talk through their noses. It’s utterly hilarious.

The James Herriot books are awesome for peeking into the British lifestyle, as well. You get the atmosphere, the environment, the slang, the attitudes–all in a nice, funny, little package. (I know, those are both for people writing about Brits and are singularly unhelpful for people writing about anyone else. I’m sorry! I write about Brits. These are just examples.)

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I Know Those Neuroses…

One of the things I’ve noted while writing is that nearly all of my main characters have something of me in them. The main character of my current novel is essentially a better version of me who gets to run around having adventures and doing all the things I currently can’t due to parental restraint and the lack of traveling money and explosives. Also, she’ll dismember anyone who speaks to her before 9 a.m. Her brother is a shy, contemplative sort who just happens to love archaeology. Her boyfriend is an only child. And her best friend is an exaggerated version of mine. In all of my imaginary friends, there’s some fraction of me, no matter how small. Even the villain (and we won’t mention what that says about me).

Sneaking ourselves into the story is a nice way of exploring the things that we may never get to do in the drudgery of real life. I somehow doubt that I’m ever going to get to jump off a train or foil a bombing or meet an alien, but for my characters, that’s all in a day’s work. My chances of finding Mr. Perfect are somewhat slim, but no character of mine is allowed to meet their “The End” without at least meeting him (well…unless I’m in a feminist mood). They get to do all the things I dream about–globetrotting, adventuring, escaping terrible deaths, and never running out of actually funny one-liners. And I get the honor of coming along for the ride.

It seems like most writers tend to pull from their own lives when they’re building their characters and their plots. Think Dick Francis. Agatha Christie. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. They all pulled from themselves and the things around them to build their characters and settings. That actually seems to work pretty well, considering that Doyle came up with the most famous fictional detective of all time and Agatha Christie was one of the most popular writers, period. Not to mention that it’s fun. You can name the poor unfortunate soul who was eaten by rabid sloths after the math teacher who tormented you in 4th grade and then claim coincidence. Pulling your own feeling and your own preferences and peeves and such and transferring them into your creations can be a fantastic way of humanizing them, if nothing else. Bringing in all the little details that make you human can do the same for Mr. Protagonist.

One thing I’ve really had to watch as far as projecting myself into my characters goes is preventing them from all becoming carbon copies of me. Considering that the world is already in peril dealing with one of me, a whole army of them (fictional or not) would not be a good thing. That’s where pulling in the bits and pieces of those around you comes in. The aforementioned brother, Flynn Churchill, is rather a mixed-up individual because of that very fact. He contains my love of history, a healthy dose of the shy, bumbling professor archetype, and a dash of Indiana Jones and my cousin just to make sure that he doesn’t turn out a complete doofus.

Besides making a patchwork character, another way of combatting multiple-you’s syndrome is to just have someone else invent the character. Granted, this isn’t always a good idea if you want to keep your work entirely to yourself until it’s done or if you can’t find anyone creative enough to help you design a character, but sometimes it works brilliantly. In my novel, one of my best friends invented the main secondary character (incredibly redundant, I know), and as a result of having such a different personality behind the creation of the character, it created a lovely opposites-attract, Sherlock and Watson friendship to build the story on.

And that’s really all I have today. Not the best post ever, I’m well-aware, but it’s been a tough day and I’m tired. Therefore all I have for closing remarks is this: the end.

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