Tag Archives: author

Faces Behind the Pages

It’s easy to see books as just paper and ink. Sometimes I suppose that makes us a bit overly critical of them. Because tearing apart these two substances can’t really hurt can it?

I’m taking a class on controversial topics right now; it’s a required class to graduate form my college. Being forced to take a class is never fun. And reading a text that you are forced to is equally unenjoyable at times. So it is with the book we were asked to read for class, it shall remain unmentioned as I wish to avoid biasing anyone towards it.

I tried to go in with an open mind. But I’ll face up to the fact that I can be a pretty opinionated and judgmental person sometimes, especially when I set my mind to it. Being an English major also never helps when trying to go into a book with openness as the key approach. Continue reading

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Saving Characters like Mr. Banks

You can probably guess what this post is going to be about. Good for you.

For any who haven’t seen Saving Mr. Banks yet I highly recommend it. I thought it was an excellent movie and very much enjoyed it. And I think there’s a lot to see in the film, even beyond the immediate story.

For any who don’t know, it recounts P.L. Travers’, the author of Mary Poppins, struggle to maintain control of her story that is being transformed into a Disney movie. In the process, she recalls her childhood memories that inspired her to write the original story, including the purpose behind it.

As a writer myself, I strongly connected with Mrs. Travers (as she likes to be called in the film). Admittedly, I’ve had a much easier life than she’s had, but I still can share in that agony of surrendering your character into another person’s hands. It’s painful enough for me to give up my works as reading material even to my closest friends and family, because those characters are precious to me.To anyone out there who’s read my fictional works, you should understand just how much I’ve surrendered even just in giving a glimpse of a chapter. Even this blog, can be difficult for me to share.

Mrs. Travers tells the Disney corporation that Mary Poppins and the Banks are family to her. Of course, she means in the sense of having created them based on real people, but for me there is a strong reality of seeing my characters as more than fictional beings on a page.

SAVING MR. BANKS

I dealt with a lot of loneliness in my junior high days. And one of the main things that kept me going was my writing. I spent most of my free time at school scribbling down stories on pieces of notebook paper, folding them up and tucking them away to take home. To this day I have hundreds of pages just from eighth and ninth grade year. And in those times, my characters felt more like friends than simple figments of my imagination.

There was a sense to me that if my characters could go through the things they did, then I could find the strength to face each new day. I could push myself out of bed, get ready for school, head off for a few hours of lonely writing time. In many ways my characters could achieve the things I’d only dream of, and I could create their own reality that was different than mine. And it gave me hope.

I’m not the lonely little girl I was back in those days. But I still find a sense of happiness in writing, in creating new people to become acquainted with, who will not judge me when I share my darkest secrets. They never disappoint me. They never leave me. They’re always their. A constant companion to guide me through my hardest times. Real friends come and go. They break hearts, they tear open wounds. That’s not to say characters are always perfect. They have their struggles, they have their quirks, and they have their weaknesses. But there’s something indescribably special in breathing life into an empty dead piece of paper covered in ink.

And then to have others look at your characters and change them or criticize them. It’s painful. They’re like my children. Like my best friends.

“Life is full of risks,” my father said when I explained how much I sympathized with Mrs. Travers. And I guess it is. But putting out your works feels like so much more of a risk. What if people hate your beloved characters? What if your publisher changes things around and makes it seem utterly different from how you originally thought it would be? What if they end up utterly misunderstood why you have to stand on the sidelines as their only champion? There are so many things that can go wrong. And it’s so hard to understand if you have never created a character that you know and love as much as a good friend.

“Why did you have to make him so cruel? He was not a monster!” Mrs. Travers cries when she sees their portrayal of Mr. Banks. How accurately this captures the author’s unique perspective on a character, the insight they have that others don’t. A character is an author’s whole world. And seeing them ripped apart is never easy.

SAVING MR. BANKS

There are many wonderful aspects of this film that I cannot even begin to cover. But from a writer’s perspective there is much to garner from this author’s struggle to maintain control of her beloved story. Life is full of risks. For Mrs. Travers it’s possible the risk wasn’t worth it. But I think those of us who enjoy the wonderful film of Mary Poppins would disagree.

As writers we have to risk putting our characters out there (or just our works if we’re not interested in fiction). Sometimes we cannot save them from the fate of what publishers, movie makers, or readers consign them to. Nothing has been more painful than having a friend tell me they don’t like one of my characters (one they’re not supposed to hate anyways) or having someone tell me: “he’s immature, she’s too grumpy, or he just isn’t at all appealing as a person.” Because so often they’re missing the true perspective only I can give them. I’ll reply to the criticisms: “He’s never been given a proper childhood, she’s just gone through a death of her beloved, or he’s just working on developing into a better human as we all are.” But often it’s too late. They’ve made their judgements. And only for us are those characters saved.

Do any other authors out there agree with my analysis? Have you seen problems in other people’s perceptions or changes to one of your characters? As someone who has not been published I can never fully give a perspective on that, but I’d love to hear from others. To any other readers, tell me your thoughts on the movie if you’ve seen it. If not maybe tell me about a movie you have seen that’s inspired you as a writer. I always look for more!

This trailer might contain a few spoilers but I thought I’d post it anyways.

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The Problem of Endings

This summer I had a goal to finish another novel. And so far I’m right on track and wrote out my epilogue today! However, as I wrote out my last part of my book today I realized how terrible I am at writing last lines. Sure, I can finish up a chapter, or write a conclusion to an essay, but when it comes to novel endings they just end up being a mess.

I’ve only finished four novels, so I haven’t had a lot of practice. But regardless every time I get to the end I sit there and ponder what on earth I need to write to make a proper ending. Half the time it ends up as something awful and cheesy. Hey I write fantasy romance most of the time! Therefore cheesiness is my specialty! The other half is just a line that seems inconclusive and therefore I’m not sure the audience will really feel the book is finished. As a reader I always hate when I turn a page in a book expecting more and then finding it’s the end.

So what makes a perfect last line? In my effort to try to figure out I thought I’d put a few last lines from some books I own to see some examples. So if you haven’t read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows, Jane Eyre, Lord of the Rings, Little Women, The Last BattleGrapes of Wrath, and Oliver Twist, don’t read this upcoming section. So here are seven last lines from well known books!

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1. “The scar had not pained Harry for nineteen years. All was well.” Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows

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2. “Amen! Even so come, Lord Jesus.”Jane Eyre

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3. “He drew a deep breath. ‘Well, I’m back,’ he said.” Lord of the Rings The Return of the King

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4.”Whether it ever rises again depends upon the reception given to the first act of the domestic drama, entitled ‘Little Women’.” Little Women

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5. “All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.” The Last Battle

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6. “She looked up and across the barn, and her lips came together and she smiled mysteriously.” The Grapes of Wrath

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7. “I believe it none the less because that nook is in a Church, and she was weak and erring.” Oliver Twist

So, in examining these one thing seems clear. There is no right way to write an ending. These are all vastly different. There are biblical quotes, last actions, last words, strange sentences that seem to have little to do with the story itself, or simply a reassurance that all evil is finally gone and the adventure is over.

So I guess in worrying so much about endings I forgot that just like anything else about writing, it’s about personal style. You fit an ending to your book, to how you want it to be. And if you like it, let it be.

Does anybody else have trouble with last lines as a writer? And if you have a favorite last line or something else you’d like to share please do! Maybe I’ll do another blog in the next month about some of the best endings to books. So, contribute and maybe I’ll give you a shout out!

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What’s in a Name?

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As a writer the creation of characters can take awhile. You have to work on their appearance and their back story and figure out how they would react to different environments and situations. But one of the most basic and also most interesting parts of creating characters is naming them.

As a writer with a lot of characters it’s sometimes difficult to find the perfect name. There are many challenges, and I look forward to any feedback from readers on their methods in naming. So below I’ve posted some good things to consider when naming as well as a few problems to watch out for.

Methods for naming:

1. Random- sometimes it can be good just to pull a random name. It’s easy and simple and you don’t have to worry about it. After all, there are plenty of people who share the same name who are nothing alike. You invent the character, so feel free to just work the name into what fits rather than molding the character around the name. I like pulling out newspapers and using the first name I see. This is often good for a minor character who is not essential to the plot.

2. Name generators- Also a random system but sometimes a good way to just circle through a few dozen names with ease rather than hunting. These can also be nice if you already have a first name without a surname, or the other way around. You can find something random that sounds nice with the name you already have.

3. Baby name books/websites- if you’re like me you probably like having a name that means something. Whether you name the character after a historical or mythological character, or pick a name that means something related to him or her, you can start getting a feel for a character with a well planned name. My personal favorite is Behind the Name. Or my favorite book: The Oxford Dictionary of First Names. But really most any reputable naming site or book will do.

4.baby_name_book Namesakes- now I will cover this in problems too, but sometimes it’s fun to honor a friend or family member with a character named after them.

5. Number one names- Based on what time period you’re writing in (if you do fantasy like me this is useless) you can find out the top baby names of the era and pick from some of those. While the character might not seem as unique they’ll fit in a bit better with their time period.

So here are some problems to consider:

1. Namesakes- watch out for naming characters after people you know. Sometimes they can get offended if they don’t like the character, or don’t like what you do to the character. I named a character Jack years ago and had lots of people ask if he was based on a boy from my church. I kept having to tell them he wasn’t and he was my own unique creation.

2. Whole names- Always carefully consider what the whole name sounds like together. It’s easy to get caught up in parts and not realize what the whole thing might sound like. Just today I almost named a character Metion Metz because I wasn’t paying attention to what parts I’d already chosen. Be intentional about how the whole thing sounds.

3. Pronunciation- It’s easy to get excited by meaning and forget to really look at what the name is. It’s nice to choose fairly easy to pronounce names for readers because something utterly foreign makes it harder to relate. Of course this depends on what you’re writing, but I feel personally I relate better to a character if I know how to pronounce their name. So while Hjördís or Fakhriyya or Gwrtheyrn might seem like a cool name at the time, remember readers might not enjoy figuring out how to say it. Of course, that’s just my opinion, but I’ve definitely had my share of names with hard pronunciation.

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4. Research- while some laziness (random picking) is ok, it’s still good to know a bit about the name you’re picking. It would be foolish to name a life giving character Anubis when the name is the Egyptian god of the dead. Names have connotations just like words do. If you’re writing in a different time or different place consider carefully your name origins. It makes no sense for a fourteenth century Frenchman to be named Carlos.

5. Names you like- I find it a good principal to pick a name I like for a hero and perhaps a name I dislike a little bit more for a villain. If you can’t even get past the fact that you don’t like a name, how can you interact with your character at all? I could never have a character I liked named Gertrude, simply because it’s a name I don’t really like. It’s all a matter of taste, but I say pick something you can work with well. It’s your choice. This is another reason to stick with names that are more in your comfort zone. The more you relate with a name the easier it is to relate with a character.

So these are a few things for you to consider. There are lots of complexities behind the naming of characters. But don’t stress out too much about it. As I said before, your job as a writer is to mold your character. Sometimes you’ll make the name fit him or her. Other times you can let the name shape them. You’re the writer, so just have fun and figure out the methods that work best for you.

For any fellow writers out there, what do you do to name your characters? What problems do you sometimes face and how do you overcome them?

Any non-writers out there, what have you noticed about names from reading? Any comments?

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Define Success?

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A loud sigh escapes my mouth. I’m trying to refrain from appearing tired but I really can’t help it. Sometimes it’s so hard on busy days like this. I’ve been signing books for an hour and I have to be at a television interview this evening. However am I going to survive? It’s just not easy when you’re book is on the bestseller list.

Well… this is what I hope my life will look like someday when my biggest worries are over exhaustion from press releases and signing. However, at the moment my life as a writer does not look anything like this. And that does make me worry about my success as a writer.

In many ways, my picture of success has always been something like the above vision. In 5th grade, my class was required to write a poem called “I Am”. We followed a format set out by the teacher but other than those requirements, we were free to fill in the blanks after the starting words as we wished. I wrote mine all about how I wanted to be a writer. I will let you read it (although I warn you it is of course merely a child’s prose and certainly not very good).

I Am

By Emily Moore- 5th grade

 

I am a happy girl who likes to write.

I wonder who is the best author in the world.

I hear people cheering for me.

I see letters stacking up.

I want to become an author when I grow up.

I am a happy girl who likes to write.

                          

I pretend to be the best author in the world.

I feel that I am meant to be famous.

I touch all the books I hope to write.

I worry that no one will like my books.

I cry for all the sadness in the world.

I am a happy girl who likes to write.

 

I understand that it is hard to write a book.

I say that I will be great one day.

I dream that I will succeed in writing.

I try to write neatly.

I hope that people will give me a chance.

I am a happy girl who likes to write.

 

I think many people might follow with my young self in their definitions of a successful author. To be successful means to have several books, to be on bestseller lists, to have a fan base. However, while the world might view it that way, I view success a little differently.

Certainly, I recognize that a writer is obviously doing well if he or she is published and if a large amount of the populous is clearly enjoying his or her books. These are all wonderful things for a writer. However, I like to think of success on an individual level. Sometimes I feel successful just for getting smoothly through a chapter I was worried about. Sometimes I feel successful for a blog post other people seem to appreciate. Other times success is a good grade on a paper. There are levels of success and though I have yet to reach those of published writer (in any way, shape, or form other than this blog), I still hold onto what are successes of the moment.

I did well when I got through more than five chapters of a book without quitting back in junior high. I was courageous in showing my writing to my friends my freshman year and felt successful in earning their approval. I felt thoroughly accomplished when I finished writing my first novel last year and finished my second just a few short months after. Though the world may not view me as a successful writer, I can find small victories even amongst the basic work I do on my own laptop.

I just send this out as an encouragement to those of you who dream of being writers and don’t always feel you are accepted yet. You are a writer and you define your successes and failures. You can be great just in finishing a work for yourself. You can be a good writer in getting something published, even if it gets bad reviews. You can be successful even in conquering a particularly challenging blog post, essay, article, or chapter.

Don’t let the world’s definition of writer drag you down. You are a writer and you define how great you can be.

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