August 17, 2017

5 Writing Lessons from Sing

5 Writing Lessons from Sing

Of all the non-Disney kids movies that came out in the last year, my favorite was Sing. It interested me from the first trailer, and when I watched it, I was blown away. It was so good. Yeah, there were a few problems, but those were easily overlooked by list of great things about it.

There are a lot of things writers can learn from this movie. Today, we'll be looking at the five lessons we can learn from Sing and how we can apply them to our own novels. Warning: There will be spoilers for the movie ahead.


1. Characteristic moments are important

Sing opens with a bit of Buster Moon's backstory, then does a quick montage to introduce all the main characters. What the filmmakers did so well is that each little scene shows us who the character is, how they enjoy music, and gives a hint towards their conflict. Buster is a showman who wants to share his joy of theater with the world. Rosita is shown to be a mom who wants to be noticed again, while it's easy to tell Johnny doesn't want to be part of his dad's gang. Ash has a horrible boyfriend, Mike is a jerk, and Mina has fear issues.

When you introduce your character, show readers who they are quickly and easily. Try to show their personality, desires, and flaws all in one scene. It's tricky, but it can be done. And when it's done well, people will feel quite quickly that they know your character and get a feel for who they are.


2. Give us good arcs

Over the course of the movie, the characters go through arcs and become better people (or animals if you want to be technical). They overcome their flaws and show the world who they are. Each character has a point where they could just give up and go back to the way they were, and each rejects it marvelously.

Follow a good arc with your characters, and readers will be rooting for them. Make them fail, then get back up again. Let their insecurities shine through in the Dark Night of the Soul. Then when the climax comes, they can rise from the ashes like a phoenix.


3. Develop all your characters

Sing had one disappointing character. Mike. He's introduced as a busker, a con man, and mean, and never progresses past that point. The whole movie I was waiting for them to drop the bomb on why he's like this and make me sympathize with him, but it never came.

I guess with so many characters, it could be easy to overlook one, but I feel like it was an oversight on their part. Mike could have been used so much more effectively. Instead, I think he was just there as some extra conflict. My sister and I make theories about why he is the way he is. (And hopefully, should they ever make a second one, they'll expand on him.)

The lesson we can learn from Mike is that you shouldn't overlook characters that are a major part of the plot. Make sure to develop all of your characters. If you give us a reason why a character is nasty, then we're more likely to like them then if we never see why. Take Loki, for example. If we never knew his backstory and all the hurt and betrayal he felt, he'd just be a psychotic bad guy. Instead, he's one of Marvel's most popular villains.


4. Think about worldbuilding

The other major disappointment in this movie was the worldbuilding. It was hard not to compare it to the other big animal world film, Zootopia, which I loved. While very different stories, both take place in animal filled cities. And while Zooptopia's world was one of the best I've seen, Sing's was. . . not.

It felt like they took ideas from Disney, but didn't fully develop them. They tried to make the world work. Buster's bike has extra tall pedals. Mike's car has a tiny steering wheel, way smaller than the size of the car. There's even a water way for water animals to use. But it didn't make much sense. Wouldn't they have different sized things for different sized animals? Or what about housing? Mina's house was so small she had to squeeze through doorways.

Take time to build your world. That step is often overlooked anymore and it shouldn't be. What happened to the epic fantasy worlds of old? Instead we're left with half developed, mush worlds with questionable rules. Please, take a little extra time in prewriting and work on your world. People will thank you for it.


5. Make the stakes personal

Every character has something to prove and something to lose in this movie. That is clearly displayed in the climax, where they have their singing show despite the fact that there is no money, there isn't much of an audience, there isn't even a real theater left. As Buster says, they're doing it for themselves. Each one steps up and defeats their own inner demon through the songs they sing.

Rosita lets herself go and proves that she still has it. Johnny makes up with his dad and proves that it won't hold him back. Ash sings a powerful song about how she won't let someone else push her around. Mina gets over her shyness to learn she can perform. Mike just does it to show off. But still, it remains true to their character and gives them a lovely arc.


Give your characters something personal to lose in the stakes. Does the villain plan on world domination? Then make him threaten the hero's sister as well. Have a bully at school? Make the bullying affect their performance skills, threatening their school play auditions. Make it personal and readers will be hooked, plus they'll root for them.

Let's talk! Have you watched Sing? What was your favorite part? What did you learn from it about storytelling? Tell me in the comments.

August 14, 2017

How to Add Length to Your Novel

How to Add Length to Your Novel

I'm an underwriter. When I write a novel, they hit my intended word count, but still tend to be on the short side. I've tried Googling solutions to this, but there aren't a lot of answers for my problem out there. In fact, most people seem to have the opposite problem. They write massive drafts that need toning down, not bulking up.

Over time, I've learned how to do this on my own. That's why I decided to write my own post on how to add length to your novel. I'm going to share what I've learned in hopes that some other writer out there might be helped. Ready to get started?

1. Outline well

A good outline is a key factor for me in writing a well filled-out novel. If you know all the scenes in your novel ahead of time, you're much less likely to miss something important. Take the time to do some outline before you start writing and it will help a lot.

I would totally recommend K. M. Weiland's Outlining Your Novel book and workbook for anyone who wants to learn more about this. I used her method for my recent novel, Return to Wonderland and so far, I've actually had to make my goal larger. Everything she does doesn't work for me, but that's normal. You've got to make your own method of doing things.

2. Find the missing scenes

When you've finished your novel, it's time to edit it. One of the first things you should do is find where you might be missing scenes. Some may jump out at you immediately. Others may be more difficult to find.

You can start by checking that you have enough reaction scenes, something that has a tendency to be skimped on. Another large cause of missing scenes is if you tell a scene instead of showing it. Of course, not every scene can be shown, but you need to check that you didn't skip one (or add one) that should be part of the plot.

Once you've made a list of missing scenes, write them and add them it. It's not that hard. You just need to make sure you transition nicely with your additional scenes. And don't forget to keep your novel consistent as you add in your scenes.

3. Flesh out your plot

Scenes are also related to plot. If you outlined your novel well, you may have no plot problems. But plot editing is always important, especially to catch plot holes. For this, I suggest K. M. Weiland's other book Structuring Your Novel and the workbook that accompanies it. It has helped me so much in editing some of my older novels that I didn't use proper outlining techniques on.

As you go through your plot, see if there are subplots you can add to add length. A short novel can often be the cause of a flat plot. Find the places that your plot needs work and improve your novel.

Often when I'm working on my plot, I find I've missed something important, or find a new layer that can add depth and length to my novel. It's amazing what changing a few things can do to make your story better.

4. Enhance your characters

Characters are the heart and soul of your story. No characters, no novel. You've got to make sure you have good, full rounded characters as you edit your novel. Making sure your characters are perfect can also add length to your novel.

Start by taking a look at your character arc. Your main character needs lots of work to be a good protagonist, and if you don't give him or her that, your novel will fall flat. Guess what? K. M. Weiland has a whole blog post series on that too! It has helped me a lot with rounding out my characters.

See where you might need more scenes to help your characters come to life. Do you need another clash with the antagonist? A mirror scene to show how your protagonist has changed? A date with the love interest?

5. Deepen your descriptions

Finally, let's talk about descriptions. They get often overlooked or cheated because people don't think they're important or don't want to go overboard. However, adding description can not only make your novel come to life, it can increase your word count.

Some of my favorite authors have the ability to make me see, feel, taste, and smell their world. Tolkien, Jacques, Lewis, all of them have amazing descriptions. (Interesting fact: Brian Jacques wrote such lovely food descriptions in his books because as a child he always wanted to know what the people were eating at feasts.)

Everyone remembers to add some descriptions of what things look like. But try to make things come alive by adding what it smells like, tastes like, feels like. Have you ever been a super smelly place where you try to breath through your mouth, but then you can taste the smell? That level of description will make everyone think of a time like that.

6. Don't go overboard

A word of warning on lengthening your novel. Don't go overboard and add in unnecessary stuff. You might have to accept the fact that your novel might just be a little shorter than average. Figure out how much you can add without going over the top and stop there.

Let's talk! Do you have problems with underwriting? Do you have any tips to add for writers who have that problem? Tell me in the comments.

August 12, 2017

Beautiful People #27: August Edition

Beautiful People #27: August Edition

I've decided to start joining up with the Beautiful People tag each month. It's a tag made by Paper Fury and Further Up and Further In. I'll try to post it either the second or third Saturday each month, depending on my schedule. Anyway, on to the questions! I'll be doing this for Hana, the main character in The Girl with the Sword.

1. What are they addicted to/can't live without?

Her sword that gives her superpowers (for obvious reasons) and her art supplies. If she doesn't have a way to draw, she doesn't know what to do with herself.

2. Name three positive and three negative qualities about your character.

Positive-
Brave
Big hearted
Talented

Negative-
Shy
Self-doubting
Indecisive

3. Are they holding onto something they should get rid of?

Hana still has every drawing she's ever made since like first grade. She should really sort through them and get rid of all but the best ones.

4. If 10 is completely organized and 1 is completely messy, where do they fall on the scale?

Probably around 8 1/2. She likes to keep her things neat and organized so she can find things when she wants them.

5. What most frustrates them about the world they live in?

Besides all the bad things in it? (Which is part of the conflict of my story.) She is most frustrated by bad drivers. She doesn't like it when people don't follow the rules and drive safely so no one gets hurt.

6. How would they dress for a night out? How would they dress for a night in?

For a night out, Hana would wear a cute little dress with a statement necklace, flats, and maybe something in her hair. For a night in, she'd wear either jeans and a geeky tee shirt or some sort of nice looking pajamas.

7. How many shoes do they own and what kind?

Hana owns eight pairs of shoes, which are mostly made up of flats, tennis shoes, sandals, and boots.

8. Do they have any pets? What pet do they WISH they had?

She does not have a pet. She doesn't have time for one with all her other activities. But if she could pick any pet, she'd have a dolphin. They're smart and beautiful.

9. Is there something or someone they resent? Why and what happened?

She resents a guy who used to a be a good friends of hers. But I can't tell you what happened or why because *spoilers*.

10. What's usually in their fridge or pantry?

Healthy foods, ingredients to bake things like cookies, and lots of rice.

Let's talk! What are some of your answers to these questions? How many pairs of shoes do you own? Tell me in the comments.

August 10, 2017

Everyone Is An Artist

Everyone Is An Artist

How often do you hear people claim they can't draw? Or how often do you say that yourself? People assume that just because they don't have a talent for drawing or painting, they can't create art.

However, I have a different opinion. I believe that everyone in the world is an artist and can make art. Curious to know why? Then read on.

The Comparison Trap

Let's start by talking about the comparison trap. This is when people get caught comparing themselves or their work to others. It normal ends in feeling of inadequacy and frustration with yourself or what you do.

No matter how good you get at something, no matter what it is, there will always be people that are better than you or that you think are better than you. Once you start comparing yourself to these people, you'll have a hard time stopping.

When people say they can't draw or don't  have the talent for art, that's normally because they are comparing themselves to people who have a different style or more practice. If you don't see yourself as an artist, you need to stop right now and see who you're comparing yourself to (because I know you have someone in mind). Now, let go of that feeling of inadequacy and let's talk about the next thing.

Practice!

Many people have a talent for or enjoy making art of some kind. But they think they aren't good at it because they compare themselves to people who have practiced what they do for years.

If you're one of those people, you need to remember that important fact. Other people are probably better at it because they've practiced more! If you really want to get better at your favorite art form, you need to take time to practice. I've found the idea that if you love something enough, you'll find a way to make time for it to be true. Even just five or ten minutes a day can help you improve.

Some people also believe they aren't good at art because an art teacher told them that, or they had a bad experience with it. Don't let that sort of thing stop you. You just need to keep experimenting to find out what your area or style is.

Artist?

And finally, let's talk about artists. The general term is used to refer to someone who creates visual arts, like painting, drawing, sculpting, collage, and more. The actual definition can refer to anyone who does an art, whether that is creating art with mediums (pencil, paint, markers, etc.), making movies, acting, dancing, or singing.

So, if you make YouTube videos, you're an artist. If you draw amazing pictures, you're an artist. If you are a graphic designer, you're an artist. If you dance, free style rap, or play the saxophone, you are an artist.

That's why I believe everyone is an artist. We've all been given some artistic gift of some kind. We just use our gifts different ways. All you need to do is go out there and try. Don't give up because someone is better than you. The majority of famous artists are famous because they are unique. Let you shine through in your art.

Let's talk! What do you think about artists? What's your artistic talent? Tell me in the comments.

August 7, 2017

Reversing Time: Why You Shouldn't Use It

Reversing Time: Why You Shouldn't Use It

Tell me if this sounds familiar. The heroes of the story have gotten themselves in deep trouble. Everything seems lost. Then one of them makes a wish, goes into a time stream, or does something that reverses everything and keeps it from happening. The story is over, but everyone, except maybe the protagonists, have forgotten what happened. But at least nothing bad happened.

This is something my sister and I call reversing time. And it annoys us to death. Why? That's the subject of this post.

What Do I Mean by Reversing Time?

Like I said in the introduction, reversing time is when you get to the end of the story, then someone does something that makes everyone go back to the beginning of the story. They then prevent the whole chain of events from happening and most of the time people lose their memories of what did happen that was prevented.

Sorry if that's a little confusing, but it's a confusing concept. There are several problems with using this storytelling technique that I'm going to cover.  Let's get straight to the first one.

Reverses Character Arcs

When people reverse time in stories, it takes away memories from most of the characters. Taking away their memories and going back to the beginning also undoes anything they learned along the way. The characters return to their previous selves. If you do that, what is the point?

Example:


• Tamina from Prince of Persia. The princess goes along with Dastan on his journey to find the Sands of Time. As the story progresses, the two fall in love and she becomes a better person. But when Dastan reverses time and stops his uncle from killing his step-father, they have to meet and fall in love all over again. Which makes her whole arc useless.

Makes the Story Pointless

If you undo everything that happened in your story, what was the point of telling it? Maybe you could use this properly, but I've never seen it done. Your theme is wrecked because the characters learned nothing and it just makes everything that happened pointless.

Example:


• The end of Ninjago Season 6. (Yes, I watch Ninjago. It's a good show.) At the end of season 6, Jay uses his last wish to wish none of this had ever happened so he can save Nya (so cliche). It takes them all back to the time when the story started, and though they sort of remembered, it really gave the whole season very little point.

Takes Away Memories

I've already mentioned this one with the others, but I'll say it again. Reversing time normally makes the characters, except maybe the protagonist, forget that anything happened. Relationships forged, friends made, lessons learned, all out the window. It is so annoying every time it happens.

Example:


Superman (Christopher Reeves movie). At the end of the movie, there's a lot of disasters going on and Superman is hard at work saving lives. Unfortunately, he doesn't realize that Lois is being suffocated until she's already dead. (And we're not even going to start the discussion of how much of a damsel in distress Lois is.) Superman flies around the Earth and reverses that whole chain of events (we're also not talking about how that wouldn't work or that fact that he just killed a bunch of other people to save Lois). And since he reversed time, no one remembers anything that happened.

Messes Up Timelines

Another problem with turning back time is when they don't fix the problem. Instead, they have to keep living in a giant paradox. Or they do fix it, but change the timeline so that something else happens instead and confuses everybody. Don't reverse time, it isn't worth it.

Example:


• The end of Meet the Robinsons. I liked this movie, but the ending could have used some work. There's lots of jumping through time, changing the past and the future, and basically creating a mess. Lewis technically made so many paradoxes and anomalies, I think the universe would have ended. I mean, how do you learn your motto from yourself? It doesn't make sense.

It's a Cheaters Way Out

My biggest problem with this method of ending a story is that it is normally used because the writers got themselves in too deep and couldn't figure another way out. Instead, they cheat and reverse everything. Problem solved, right?

Except that leaves readers and viewers unsatisfied. We can tell you ran out of ideas. We know you're cheating your way out. I'm sure this isn't always the case, and you may be able to pull this off well, but I've never seen one I liked yet.

Example:


• The final episode of Power Rangers: Dino Super Charge. At the end of the season, the Power Rangers go back in time through a black hole to stop the events that happened during the two seasons. They also stopped the dinosaurs from going extinct, so when they got back to the present, there were live dinosaurs. Not only is that cheating your way out of the ending, it's impossible for dinosaurs in exist in today's environment.

Final Word

Reversing time is something that annoys readers or viewers to death. My sister and I get so mad when they chose this as their ending. It also turns people off of re-watching the movie. Why would we invest all that time in something that doesn't matter because it's all reversed?

There are variations on this that work well. In Doctor Who, Donna loses all memories of the Doctor, but only to save her life. It hurts the Doctor to do that to her. Or in Teen Beach 2, where Lela rewrites the timeline so Brady and Mack never met, but they still meet each other after that. If you must use time travel in your novel, think of new creative ways to use it that won't tick off your readers.

Let's talk! What are your thoughts on reversing time? What do you hate about it? What do you like about it? Tell me in the comments.

August 3, 2017

Book of the Month: The Wish Granter

Book of the Month: The Wish Granter

The Wish Granter
by C. J. Redwine

Blurb: The world has turned upside down for Thad and Ari Glavan, the bastard twins of Sundraille's king. Their mother was murdered. The royal family died mysteriously. And now Thad sits on the throne of a kingdom whose streets are suddenly overrun with violence he can't stop.

Growing up ignored by the nobility, Ari never wanted to be a proper princess. And when Thad suddenly starts training Ari to take his place, she realizes that her brother's ascension to the throne wasn't fate- it was the work of a Wish Granter named Alistair Teague, who tricked Thad into wishing away both the safety of his people and his soul in exchange for the crown.

So Ari recruits the help of Thad's enigmatic new weapons master, Sebastian Vaughn, to teach her how to fight Teague. With secret ties to Teague's criminal empire, Sebastian might just hold the key to discovering Alistair's weaknesses, saving Ari's brother- and herself.

But Teague is ruthless and more than read to destroy anyone who dares stand in his way- and now he has his sights set on the princess. And if Ari can't outwit him, she'll lose Sebastian, her brother. . . and her soul.

Cover Review: It took me far into the book to realize what the cover had to do with the story, but that's okay. When I got it, the cover made perfect sense. It's a beautiful cover with all the embroidery, including the words. I think the needle and blood are a bit distracting, but they do make sense with the story.

My Thoughts

Plot: The Wish Granter is a pretty fast paced novel, but it also has it's down moments. It was a great combination of action and reaction scenes. It kept me flipping pages and was very exciting. It's based off the fairytale "Rumpelstiltskin", which I think is awesome because there aren't a lot of those. It takes place after the events in the original fairytale, however, I won't tell you more than that because I might spoil it.

Characters: The characters were my favorite part of this book. Although it may sound like it, Thad isn't that important of a character. Ari and Sebastian tell most of the book.

Ari was awesome because she's a princess, curvy, and has amazing appreciation for food. She can make the best sounding desserts. And I want more curvy princesses! That was one of the best parts. Sebastian was a more sensitive character but just as deep as Ari. He's emotionally scared from an abusive father and has PTSD. (I could be wrong though. I'm not sure if I have the right one.)

Then there's Teague. He was scary and awesome and had his own problems from his past. He was a great villain. He even had some soft spots. Teague was much scarier than Rumpelstiltskin in Once Upon a Time.

World: This was a beautifully built fantasy world. This story takes place in one of seven countries, and there's a map in the front and everything. I felt like there was nice politics and worldbuilding as well.

Other: There was some great magic in this world to. Wish Granters are fae that can grant your wish, but some, like Teague, take your soul in return. It could be scary, but I loved it.

My Rating:







Let's talk! Have you read The Wish Granter? Do you want more princess in various sizes? Tell me in the comments.

July 31, 2017

July Monthly Recap

July Monthly Recap

July in Maryland is hot and humid, when it's not raining. Not that it rains that much, but it feels like a lot. My month has been really busy, as you'll see. I'm going to dive right into the post.

What's Been Going On

Well, at the beginning of the month was Independence Day here in the States. My family did fireworks out in the yard and watched the Capitol Fourth celebration livestream. The highlight of that was Sofia Carson singing singing the National Anthem. It was beautiful.

Then we've been doing normal summer stuff. We went to the pool twice. I finished watching all the Middle Earth films in order and finished season one of Once Upon a Time. We've also seen a few more episodes of Supergirl season one.

Then, of course, this month was both D23 and Comic-Con, only a week apart. I had to keep up with all the news from each. Like the casting announcements for Disney movies or the new trailers. I may not be able to go, but I can still stay on top of these things.

What I've Done

Writing-

I'm up to 58K words on Return to Wonderland. I was originally aiming of 55K words, but now I've backed that goal up to 70K. I'm really hoping I can reach that.

I've also been working on character edits in my novel The Girl with the Sword. I haven't gotten as far as I would like, but that's okay. I'll work harder next month. Summer only comes once a year.

Art-

I finished the rest of the outfits in my Frozen collection. Here are the pictures.

The Kristoff outfit. The boots are one of the best parts of this one.

Olaf outfit. I love how the ombre bottom of the skirt came out.

And this one is inspired by the trolls. The whole idea came from their leafy collars.

I also nearly freaked out when an outfit I designed inspired by Jay from Disney Descendants was picked to be featured on the Descendants Instagram. It wasn't the only one, but I was still flipped.

I also made paintings for my mom and grandmother that say "Laundry today or naked tomorrow". They were lots of fun to do.

Where I've Gone

• The movie theater. We've gone to see several more movies, including Sing, one of my favorite kids movies from last year that wasn't Disney. (There will be a post coming up on that next month!)

• The library. Because what else are you going to do in the summer than read and watch movies? I've been working really hard at getting my account down to only twenty books. Right now I have 30 or so checked out. (When I was younger, I'd have around 60-80 books at a time. I'm kind of an obsessive reader.) My problem is that every time I go, I see a book I've been wanting to read or something that looks interesting, so I check out more than I intend.

• Drivers education. Bleck. *makes a face* It's super boring, but required if I want to have my licence soon. I had it all last week and this week and three driving sessions, and then I'm done. (Anyone else sympathize?)

• The Walter's Art Gallery. This is one of the highlights of my month. All the teen girls in my church went down to Baltimore and had a great day together. I had an amazing time spending time with my friends. Here's a pic.



Thoughts on August

• It's my birthday! Yay! I'll be twenty, which is horribly scary.

• I'm hoping to have my licence soon. Driving by myself will be weird, but it will be nice too.

• I'd like to finish drafting Return to Wonderland by the end of the month. I don't know if I can do that, but it's my goal.

• More drawing. Hopefully I'll finish a drawing of a certain pirate and maybe get started on a new drawing.

Let's talk! How has your month been? Have you done anything interesting? Tell me in the comments.

July 28, 2017

Writing Relationships: Other People

Writing Relationships: Other People

Acquaintances. Fellow workers. That librarian you always see when you go to get books. Each day we have little interactions we never think about, but are relationships in their own ways. Welcome to part four of my writing relationships series. (If you missed it, here parts one, two, and three.) Today we're talking about relationships with people you don't think about that much. These sorts of interactions can be great examples of what sort of person your character is.

Also, my apologies for getting this up late. I was out all day yesterday between an art gallery trip with my friends and drivers ed. I was home about an hour total, so I had no time to upload this post until today.

Casual Acquaintances

You know who I'm talking about. People you know well enough to greet, but not close enough to be called a friend. In novels, these types of people are often left out, because they aren't often important to the narrative. That's fine. But when do they come in, normally to give some sort of information to the protagonist, we need to think about how the characters react to each other.

Try to make your character react the way you would. Unless the character is one that needs to improve their attitude, they will probably be polite and somewhat friendly, depending on how well they know the person.

Don't forget that these sorts of characters in novels, the ones that aren't that important, don't need development or lots of description. But if that character is going to be important later, show the reader that this person is special and you should keep an eye out for them.

People Seen Daily

Classmates. Co-workers. Carpool families. Neighbors. Any people that you might see daily and be familiar with. They can fall anywhere from friends to casual acquaintances to almost strangers. How our characters act towards these people can be an important show of character.

If your protagonist is a extrovert, the way they react to the people they see daily will differ from someone who is an introvert. The many facets of a personality can really show through when put in a situation like this.

You may not have a chance to put a scene with people your protagonist might see daily, depending on your story, but if you can, it can be quite good to show what sort of person your MC is. Too often, these opportunities are overlooked. But try to make sure your protagonist treats other well, unless they're going to go through a major character change. People aren't nearly nice enough to each other any more, even if they see each other every day.


Other People

There are so many we interact with each day. Clerks, librarians, postal workers, and more. These types of people in stories are mostly throw-away characters, since they aren't important to the plot. The barista who serves your MC a coffee on the way to work isn't exactly someone the readers will remember. But like I said before, they can be a great way to show character.

Too often, I think we think of people we don't know, workers especially, as people simply there to serve our needs. We forget they're people too and treat them unkindly or harshly. They aren't always the nicest either. That's why we should try to show our protagonists being considerate of others.

One writing prompt I read was to have your protagonist in line at the coffee shop, then have someone cut in front of them. See how your character reacts, which can be a good insight to personality. We need to write more characters that are willing to be polite and still willing to stand up for themselves to others.

What I'm trying to say, through all of these posts, is that we should try to write relationships that we want to see between people. This may not work for every story, depending on what you're writing, but that doesn't mean we can't fill our novels with examples of good. How else can we influence the world?

Let's talk! How do you think our characters should react to people around them? Do you think we need more examples of good relationships in our novels? Tell me in the comments.

July 24, 2017

July Book Reviews

July Book Reviews

Here in Maryland, July has been a hot, sticky month. I've never been a big outdoors person, so that's fine by me. It just gives me more time to stay in and read. It's time to take a look at what I've read in the past month and what I thought of them. Let's get start!


Best Books


A Tail of Camelot- Julie Leung

My Rating: 5 stars

Likes:

• The story. The story is about a young mouse, named Calib, who needs to find his courage and keep the kingdom of Camelot from tearing itself apart instead of focusing on the real enemy. It's powerful, engaging, and well written.

• The world. The author was clearly inspired by the Redwall stories, and it showed in this book, but in a good way. It didn't feel like she was copying Jacques work. Instead, she did her own spin on the idea. It was lots of fun, with humans and animals living side by side in their own worlds. There was also a touch of magic that I really enjoyed.

• Calib. He was a great little protagonist. (Ha, see what I did there?) At first he was a bit cowardly but he had a great arc through the book. His story was paralleled with a human boy's named Galahad, which made for interesting reading.

• Girl knights! This story takes place during the time of King Arthur, but in the mouse ranks there were girl knights and pages. It was fun and there was no girls are better than boys or vice versa.

Dislikes:

• Nothing that I can remember. Except maybe that things like stoats and weasels are always bad in these sorts of books. What's with that?


The Mysterious Benedict Society- Trenton Lee Stewart

My Rating: 4 1/2 stars

Likes:

• The children. This book was centered around four children who are all gifted in some way. Whether it's remembering everything or being very smart, each one has a special skill. I loved all of their personalities and the way they worked together.

• Great writing. It reminded me of Roald Dahl and Lemony Snicket mixed together. It was fun and easy to read.

• Lots of fun puzzles. Like in Lemony Snicket books, the kids are constantly having their intellect tested through various puzzles and tests.

• Page-turning plot. I was kept on my toes through this book as the four kids try to save the world. The plot twists were unexpected and I didn't see any of them coming.

Dislikes:

• Constance. I found her attitude a bit annoying. You may love her, but I preferred Kate or Reynie.

• A bit long. This book was over five hundred pages, which is pretty long for a children's book. I think it could have been cut back a little. It also occasionally felt draggy.

Worst Books


The Dark Prophecy- Rick Riordan

My Rating: 3 stars

Likes:

• Leo and Calypso. These two are so great together. And any part with Leo in it is sure to be entertaining.

• The humor. As always, Riordan's humor was spot on throughout the whole book. He's great at getting me to laugh out loud. My favorite part? Calypso's backup chorus for Apollo's last words.

Dislikes:

• Apollo, or Lester. He's just impossible to empathize with. All he does is run around, whine, and be useless. His master, Meg is more interesting than. He's the whole reason I don't like this series as much.

• Lots of gay relationships. Riordan is pushing this sort of stuff into all his books. The Apollo ones are worse because he himself doesn't care who he likes. All those types of people make me feel uncomfortable and take away from the story.


The Last Day on Mars- Kevin Emerson

My Rating: 3 1/2 stars

Likes:

• The cover. Isn't it so eye-catching? You don't see a lot of books with a warm color scheme, especially orange. That's part of the reason this book caught my eye.

• The premise. It had an interesting premise of humans have moved to Mars while they work on making spaceships to get to a new planet because the sun is burning up our planets. This added an interesting dynamic between the people who moved to Mars and those that were born there. There were aliens too, so that was fun.

• Time crunch. Who doesn't love it when the protagonist has to do something before time runs out? While this one didn't go quite like I thought it would, it still added urgency to the story.

Dislikes:

• Not what I expected. This is the biggest reason that I didn't like this book. I was expecting a more serious book, like something you would find in YA. However, this book was quite light. After it wasn't what I thought, it was hard to get in to.

• Phoebe. I can't say much about her without spoilers, but suffice to say I didn't like her character from the beginning, so I wasn't surprise when the plot twist came.

• I didn't understand much. I didn't understand the bad guys, though that might come in a later book. I didn't get how the world worked or what a link was. I felt everything could have been explained more. At least the science seemed sound.

However, I do plan on continuing to read this series, just to see where it goes. Maybe I'll like the next book better since I'll know what to expect.

Other Books

Alex and Eliza- Melissa de la Cruz (5 stars)
The Story of Doctor Dolittle- Hugh Lofting (4 stars)
Attack of the Bayport Beast- Franklin W. Dixon (3 stars)
Heart of the Land- Sarah Prineas (4 stars)
Wonder- R. J. Palacio (4 stars)
Brown Girl Dreaming- Jacqueline Woodson (4 stars)
Horten's Incredible Illusions- Lissa Evans (4 stars)
Lost- Sarah Prineas (4 stars)
Rise of the Isle of the Lost- Melissa de la Cruz (4 1/2 stars)
The Wish Granter- C. J. Redwine (4 stars)

Let's talk! What have you read this month? Have you read any of these books? Have you ever expected a book to be different than it was? Tell me in the comments.