Thursday, July 29, 2010

Keeping Secrets

One of my biggest pet peeves when reading novels is when the narrator doesn't reveal everything they know, espcially if it's written in first person. Don't get me wrong, I love twists and having to guess endings, but when a crucial piece of information is withheld from the reader, then that's one of the main things that makes it hard to continue reading.

I have read several where the character turns out to be something else (one wasn't even human), but they were portrayed as ignorant for half the story. So, how should one choose what to divulge? I like to create detailed character sheets about my character and decide what the reader needs to know. If the lifestyle of the character is important, then that character should at least mention it... it's not a twist if the reader comes to not trust the character.

So, how do you choose what information to reveal in your story? What is your biggest annoyance with novels? What makes you stop reading?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Review: Read My Lips

Read My Lips by Teri Brown

Synopsis (From Goodreads): Serena just wants to fly under the radar at her new school. But Serena is deaf, and she can read lips really well-even across the busy cafeteria. So when the popular girls discover her talent, there's no turning back.

From skater chick to cookie-cutter prep, Serena's identity has done a 180...almost. She still wants to date Miller, the school rebel, and she's not ready to trade her hoodies for pink tees just yet. But she is rising through the ranks in the school's most exclusive clique.

With each new secret she uncovers, Serena feels pressure to find out more. Reading lips has always been her greatest talent, but now Serena just feels like a gigantic snoop...

Teri Brown has created an emotional joyride through the eyes of Serena. No good can come of being a new students, especially a deaf new student. Serena's gift has always been lip reading, so when the popular girls learn of this talent they persuade her to use her gift to spy for them. Serena has never fit in and now she's offered the chance to be a part of the popular group and join an exclusive secret society, how can she say no?

I wanted to read this novel to see how the author dealt with telling the story through the eyes of a deaf girl, and she handled it fantastically. Serena isn't 100% deaf. She has hearing aids that help her hear, but it's not perfect. I was able to immediately relate with Serena. Who hasn't wanted to fit in before? And, having such a disability probably isn't the easiest thing in high school. This novel is full of choices gone wrong and peer pressure, which totally reminded me of high school. Even though it's hard to understand why she would give personal information about others to these popular girls, her motivations are believable.

It has a simple plot that's not too complicated and an expected ending, but it did keep me reading to find out how deep the secrets would get.

Plot: 4/5 stars
Ending: 4/5 stars
Cover: 4/5 stars
Overall: 4/5 stars
Recommend: The Clique
Debut Author Challenge: #7 of 12

Friday, July 23, 2010

Does stuff like this just happen?

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
                                           Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken 
Yesterday was just weird, it felt as if someone was writing an intricate plot that required events to line up perfectly or they would just fail. Well, the main event that happened yesterday was that the car broke down on the way to uni... that doesn't seem like much, does it?

Other things that seemed to have lined up perfectly:

  1. My iphone broke a few weeks ago and I just received a replacement two days ago (so I was lucky I didn't break down when I didn't have a phone to call for help).
  2. Talk about bad luck, my brother's car also refused to start yesterday (flat battery), so he had to call in sick... lucky me, that meant that I was able to get a ride home. 
  3. I was actually going to do this post before I left for uni yesterday, but I couldn't get the page I wanted to look at to load... and now, I have so much more to add about it.
It doesn't seem like much, but there are lots of 'what if's' that could have made the situation a lot worse, like I could have been on a main highway when I broke down... I could have been in peak traffic... and I could have been missing a phone.

All stories need to concern themselves with 'What if's' in order to lead anywhere, and there's one lot of scenario's which I just love to read, and would love to be able to plot (and that's exactly what yesterday reminded me of). And, that's the Xanatos Roulette.

 This is where a series of random encounters leads to a particular plan or action that was devised by the hero/villain and if one thing doesn't align then the whole plan will be an utter failure.

I love reading about indepth plans that twists and turns and this is something that I would love to be able to tackle in my stories. The best example's of these sorts of strategies are Batman (Joker is the perfect character that uses the roulette to achieve his devious plans), it also appears in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

As long as the roulette doesn't seem too perfect and coincidental, these are fantastic story arcs to try and figure out what's going to happen.

So, what sort of stories do you like? Do you like the intricate plots? Do you try to write twisted and intricate plots?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Importance of Dialogue

In books and movies what does dialogue hope to achieve? It's there to help the reader/viewer get to know the character (by the way they speak) and for the characters to interact. The biggest thing for dialogue is to help with the suspension of disbelief (after all, isn't dialogue one way we interact in everyday life), so what the characters say has to be believable and actually serve a purpose.

I've seen several movies lately where the majority of dialogue (apart from being cheesy) was only hidden exposition. It's okay to learn things that may be foreign, but when one of the characters takes time out of the action to describe, in detail, some part of what's going on or the significance of a magical book that is very secret that no one besides a few people knows about then it's going overboard... especially when they're talkinga bout past events that could be rounded up by showing a flash back if it's absolutely needed (not asking a random stranger to give in intimate details about the event... yes, I've seen this being done lately).

So, when thinking about dialogue, what does need to be considered?
  1. If it's necessary: is the character saying something important or can what they're saying be told through action?
  2. Is it being repetitive?  Do you mention it in action or does another character say something similar? Don't need to bore the reader with the same information.
  3. Is it believable? Does the dialogue match who's saying it? 
  4. Does it move the story forward? Yeah, in the real world we have mundane conversations about what we want for breakfast, or arguments about putting the trash out... but does the reader really need to hear these conversations if they're not related to the story?
Dialogue is an important element in any story, if the reader doesn't believe in what the characters are saying, then the story will be hard to believe.

Do you find it difficult in giving your characters words? What sorts of dialogue do you find irritating when you're reading or watching a movie?

Friday, July 16, 2010

Mapping things out

I'm getting back into writing Heroes and it's made me think about plotting out the entire novel. Usually I have a bare bones outline and let my characters direct where they want to go, but with this novel, I've found out that I need to reign in my MC's and I need to know exactly where I'm going. Since there's 2 MC's I need to know exactly what's going to happen, what I'm going to leave in and most importantly what I'm going to leave out.

Now, there's only one problem I've got to deal with when writing, and that's making sure my characters actually listen to me.

So, how do you write? Are you the plotter or the flyer?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

And the winner is...

I haven't been able to do much over the week due to not feeling well. Mix that with a week full of assignments due and you have one very tired and stressed out girl... oh well, at least I'm keeping busy.

So, just dropping a quick line to say that the blogfest was great and thanks to all those who participated. After a random drawing from it is my pleasure to announce that Mesmirix over at Scribbler to Scribe has won the $30 gift certificate. Just drop me a line with your email address and I'll email you your prize.

Thanks to everyone who participated.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Review: Deception

Deception by Lee Nichols

Synopsis (From Goodreads): When Emma Vaile's parents leave on mysterious business trip, it gives her the perfect excuse to be a rebellious teen. Throw some parties, get a tattoo (or maybe just a piercing), and enjoy the first few weeks of her junior year. Then her best friend stops talking to her, the cops crash her party, and Emma finds herself in the hands of a new guardian—her college-age "knight in J.Crew armor," Bennett Stern—and on a plane to his museum-like mansion in New England.

Lee Nichols gives us a new ghost story in DECEPTION, the first Haunting Emily novel. Emily is just an average girl who's just a bit mixed up, that could have something to do with spending time in a mental institution (which she calls the POOF) as a child or the fact that her gallavanting parents have now disappeared. Now she's been taken away from her home and placed under the care of gorgeous Bennett's care at Echo Point. Here, she discovers that her family's been lying to her about herself. She's actually a ghostkeeper, someone who can see and communicate with ghosts. As she tries to adjust to a new school and learn about her powers, she discovers that not all ghosts are nice and that there's something out there dilling people. Emily has to find out who or what is out there before it finds her.

What's not to like? Ghosts, mysteries and cute boys. Nichols has created a unique supernatural mystery with plenty of twists and turns that will keep you guessing all the way till the end. The only thing I found a bit upsetting was the ending. Don't get me wrong, it's definitely a terrific ending, but it left the story on a cliffhanger with more unanswered questions than resolutions. The story was left up in the air, which does the job of enticing the reader to pick up the second book, but now I have to wait until the next one is available. I'm definitely going to have to wait for the second one, bucause overall it is a great read.

Cover: The cover is beautiful, it definitely has a hint of the supernatural and creates an eerie notion that ghosts will probably exist within the pages. This cover is definitely one of the things that drew me to pick up the novel in the first place.

Plot: 5/5 stars
Ending: 4/5 stars
Cover: 5/5 stars
Overall: 4.5/5 stars
Recommend:  For lovers of ghost stories

Debut Author Challenge: #6 of 12

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Tales from the Sideline Blogfest

Today's the day for my Tales from the Sidelines blogfest. The rules are simple, just post a scene that highlights a minor character. Minor characters are fun to write and now it's time to show them off. Make sure you sign up below (if you haven't already) and check out everyone else who's participating. On Saturday I'll conduct a random drawing of participants of the blogfest and post the name of the lucky winner of the $15.00 Amazon gift certificate. 

And, now for my scene: Just a bit of information that takes place beforehand. My main character, Scar (who's a vampire/dhampir) runs into Paul (who's a witch) who has made it very clear that he doesn't want to be seen with her, mainly because there's a feud between all three creatures.

A low buzzing seeps in from the next room, like some kind of deranged cricket running laps. Even through all the ambient party noise, it seems out of place. I should know by now not to investigate every strange sound or mysterious presence I come across, numerous horror movies have taught me that, but hey, I’m bored. Thus I go and look.

A small kitchen, possibly the servants’ quarters. The room’s sole occupant sits at the table, watching a wheel of five coins spin rapidly in the air. Blue sparks leap between each coin, completing the ring. The space within its boundary bends and distorts, forming images. Moving his hands swiftly, the witch controls his loop, one revolving with the coins and the other waved back and forth to change the image. A strange physics defying orchestra. The buzzing intensifies as more electricity fills the air.

With one final flick of his wrist, the circle breaks. The coins clink together in a stack and fly into his awaiting hand. When his spell is over, the witch looks up. It’s Paul.

“Hey, Scar. Long time no see.” His usual goofy grin lights up his face.

“Not my fault,” I say coldly.

“Yeah, I know.” Paul hangs his head, suddenly turning serious. “It might have been a bit callous to just give you a note like that, but I think you’ve been here long enough to understand the reason. This place isn’t like the Non’s world. You stick to your own kind and avoid drawing attention to yourself.”

“Fine, you don’t want to be friends, we won’t,” I snap. I may still be a tiny bit bitter.

“I didn’t say I didn’t want to be your friend. You saw what happens between the races. There is no middle ground. Imagine how your friends would react if you started hanging out with a witch, especially that stuck-up bimbo you call a roommate.”

He has a point. Rayne was a little too happy in her crusade against the witches. Even if it was provoked, both sides rose to arms without a second thought. Slowly, I nod.

“We can still be friends, just not out in the open, too big a hassle. So, pull up a chair and chill for a bit.” Grinning again, he pushes a chair out for me to sit. “Tell me how the world is.”

“Round, full of people.” Taking a seat, I decide against talking about my life. That’s too much of a train wreck, anyways. “What was with the coins?”

“That?” He laughs. “That’s a little trick I invented, a way of checking email long distance. It may look cool, but it wastes an awful lot of power. I’m considering just buying a PDA instead, easier than magic.”

“Not as impressive though.”

A sudden beeping permeates the room. Paul presses a button on the side of his watch and the sound dies. “Crap, I’ve got something I have to go and do. Sorry, I’ll see you around.”

Without looking back, he leaps from the table and rushes out the door. Great, now what am I supposed to do? Sitting alone in this cramped little kitchen for the remainder of the night may sound 
good on paper, but in reality, it’s boring as hell. I may as well go join the party for a bit.

So, that's my scene. I look forward to reading all the others.

Wind-down Wednesday

Hope everyone's Wednesday's are going superbly. A lot's been happening this week, and I'm getting in the swing of things again (well, actually trying to keep up with everything... surprisingly I'm able to).

This week I've been able to:
  1. Pass my last subject from last semester, English (I learnt the valuable lesson of backing up files, or computers are totally useless when the file corrupts so it didn't end up in my tutors in box and then the computer crashes... just my luck).
  2. A new semester has started, and I've vowed that I'm going to try this semester... hey, I passed an assignment I didn't even try hard at and I didn't hand in all of the components of it... imagine what I could have gotten if I'd tried.
  3. Keep ahead with my critique group.
Well, the one thing I haven't been able to do a lot of is actual writing... I need to work on that.

Here's a couple of blogfests that are happening on the blogosphere:
  1. The blogfest of Death hosted over at Tessa's blurb on the 18th July
  2. And, don't forget about mine which is happening tomorrow, 8th July. A good chance to show off your minor characters.

So, how's everyone's day going (or week)?

And, to leave everyone, I've found one of the old Looney Tunes cartoons on YouTube. I've always wanted to see it, it's the legendary moment where Wile-E-Coyote finally catches Roadrunner.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Don't say it's only a minor role...

Yesterday I listed the common types of minor characters that populates stories. Today, I'm asking which minor characters do you find memorable?

To read a novel or watch a movie/show I've got to love the leads, but if I'm able to fall in love with one of those on the side lines it makes the experience so much better. So, here's a few of my favourites (well, those that I can remember at the moment):

1. Castiel
I'm a huge Supernatural fan and this has to be one of the best minor/major characters that have appeared on the show. He's actually the 3rd major character, but he is still in the sidelines compared to the Winchesters. Castiel is a Fallen Angel, and the more he has Human experiences the funnier and more lovable he becomes.

Supernatural has a lot of minor characters that can rank up the top. One of them I wouldn't have even counted as a minor character until it became the talk of the forums when the final was coming close, boy the fans didn't want to even think about the writers killing it. What is is? It's the beloved car that the brothers travel around in... minor characters can come in different shapes and sizes.

2. Maggie Simpson
Well, technically not a minor character, but definitely one that has remained on the sidelines and is underused. I reckon she is one of the best characters on the show. So sweet and innocent and mischievous (without anyone even knowing).

The Simpsons is another show that is chock-block full of interesting and different minor characters, and that pretty much what makes the episodes interesting.

3. Spike
Who doesn't love a minor character that was supposed to last a couple of episodes and ends up lasting till the end of the series, appearing in the spinoff as a regular (and this is after he has actually died) and getting a comic. The fans loved him so much that Whedon couldn't kill him off... and I'm glad he didn't, now this is the vampire that I like.

He was a bad boy from the start, and I don't know if it was just that English accent, or his attitude, but he was definitely worth remembering. I guess there would of been some sort of protest if they got rid of him.

4. Alice Cullins
I admit, I've read the stories and appreciate them, but am not a real fan (mainly because I like my heroine's to be the one doing the butt kicking). But, what really stood out in the Twilight saga was the minor characters. I ended up really liking Alice, I guess it was her perky attitude (and the future seeing thing didn't hurt either).

So, which characters do you remember the most?

Just a reminder that it's not too late to sign up for my "Tales from the Sideline" blogfest which is taking place on Thursday. Let those minor characters shine.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Crowded Pages

Last week I spoke about the heroes and villains that brings the stories alive, but they're not the only characters that populate the novel. It's not just enough to only think about the main players in stories. In fact, some of the most interesting characters emerge from the sidelines, sometimes these characters do unexpected and interesting things that wasn't even planned for.

What are some of the side characters that need to exist to make the story complete?

1. Mentor
A character that exists to pass on knowledge to the main character. They can be helping the antagonist or protagonist and helps push the story along. Usually without a mentor, the character will just be sitting around waiting for something to happen. 

  2. Comic
Who doesn't like a comic relief? They are the light-hearted character who doesn't really take themselves seriously. These characters exist to release some tension from the novel.

 3. Best Friend
All heroes need characters that will support them and encourage them to succeed in their missions, especially when the hero feels like everything is falling apart around them. A lot of the time the best friend(s) gets into trouble along the way and this gives the hero an opportunity to step up and overcome the obstacle.  

4. Guardian
Sometimes a parental figure, or a character who's main purpose in the story is to go out of their way to protect the hero.

5. Nemesis
A nemesis can be a main antagonist, but sometimes if the actual villain is someone/something else the nemesis exists to stand in the road and block the hero from succeeding in their quest.


6. The Messenger
When the hero comes across an obstacle and they don't know which way to go this is when the messenger comes into the story. They have some vital information that the hero requires in order to proceed with the quest.


7. Trickster
These characters can be one of the most interesting to develop. They exist purely to deceive the main character. Sometimes they can be a friend or helper of the hero who is actually working for the villain, or they can give out misleading information that sends the hero in another direction.

  So, what sorts of characters do you love writing into the sidelines of your novel? Which ones do you like reading?

Just a reminder that it's not too late to sign up for my "Tales from the Sideline" blogfest which is taking place on Thursday. Let those minor characters shine.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Review: Academy 7

Academy 7 by Anne Osterlund

Synopsis (From Goodreads): With a past too terrible to speak of, and a bleak, lonely future ahead of her, Aerin Renning is shocked to find she has earned a place at the most exclusive school in the universe. Aerin excels at Academy 7 in all but debate, where Dane Madousin—son of one of the most powerful men in the Alliance— consistently outtalks her. Fortunately Aerin consistently outwits him at sparring. They are at the top of their class until Dane jeopardizes everything and Aerin is unintentionally dragged down with him. When the pair is given a joint punishment, an unexpected friendship—and romance—begins to form. But Dane and Aerin both harbor dangerous secrets, and the two are linked in ways neither of them could ever have imagined. . . .

Anne Osterlund creates a unique world full of intrigue and adventure, and lets the reader experience this world through the eyes of two fantastic characters, Aerin and Dane. Dane is the typical bad boy, always in trouble with the law and trying to escape his family. Aerin is a runaway slave trying to survive. The two gets accepted into the most prestigious school in the universe, Academy 7. At first the two promising students start off as rivals, but soon a friendship forms (and a romance follows). The more time they spend together they discover that they have a lot in common, and they put all their efforts behind finding the truth about their parents and their past.

I have to admit that this was the first sci-fi I've actually read, and osterlund did a fantastic job at painting a vivid image of the world. The story is told from both Dane and Aerin's perspectives and all the emotion and struggles is very clear and believable (which I especially like). I was hooked from beginning to end, I definitely hope this isn't the end of the adventure for Dane and Aerin.

Cover: The cover is absolutely beautiful. It paints a grand image of the romance between the two. What it doesn't show or suggest is that this is a space sci-fi (I probably wouldn't have picked it up otherwise, no offense), but it definitely does suggest the struggle and uncertainty that's in the novel through the expression on the girls face.

Plot: 5/5 stars
Ending: 5/5 stars
Cover: 5/5 stars
Overall: 5/5 stars
recommend:  For those that love strong female characters and romances
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