Lessons from My Reading

M. K. Theodoratus, Fantasy Writer, blogs about the books she reads--mostly fantasy and mystery authors whose books catch her eye and keep her interest. Nothing so formal as a book review, just chats about what she liked. Theodoratus also mutters about her own writing progress or ... lack of it.

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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Suzanne Collins: War's Not Glorious

The Read ...
Ever since I listened to World War II tales as a kid, I knew war wasn't "glorious" -- in spite of having heros.  The impression I got was more like war was the "drizzling shits".   

Over the weekend, I immersed myself in Suzanne Collins' Catching Fire and Mockingjay.  Along with the Hunger Games, the books well deserve the raves the trilogy is getting.  Collins lets you know front and center that even just rebellions are dirty, disgusting, and fearsome things that damage people even if they manage to survive.

Again, Collins' lean prose impresses even if the violence in the books upsets some people.  War is violent by definition ...  and it hits the most submissive the hardest.  Collins had me suspending my disbelief and totally immersed in her world.  So, immersed that I haven't started reading another book since Sunday.  [I'm watching the DVD and VHS of two different versions of Pride and Prejudice instead.  How's that for escaping?]

Opening hook in the first three sentences of Catching Fire.  "I clasp the flask between my hands even though the warmth from the tea has long since leached into the frozen air.  My muscles are clenched tight against the cold.  If a pack of wild dogs were to appear at this moment, the odds of scaling a tree before they attacked are not in my favor."   The paragraph ends:  "I can't fight the sun.  I can only watch helplessly as it drags me into a day that I've been dreading for months."

The reader knows immediately what were the effects of the Hunger Games on Katniss Everdeen.

Mockingjay has a brilliant opening hook too.  "I stare down at my shoes, watching as a fine layer of ash settles on the worn leather.  This is where the bed I shared with my sister, Prim, stood.  Over there was the kitchen table.  The bricks of the chimney, which collapsed in a charred heap, provide a point of reference for the rest of the house.  How else could I orient myself in this sea of gray?"

If I ever wore a hat, I'd take it off to Collins.  Even her secondary ... and tertiary ... characters are well, and pointedly drawn.  I don't think I'll ever forget Snow and his bleeding mouth he got from ingesting the poisons he killed people with.  [While not stated, I assume it was the old mystery writers' arsenic ploy: build up a resistance and you eliminate yourself from suspicion.]

Progress...
Yeah,  I'm worrying about opening hooks at the moment.  There's these two projects I want to query Emma and There Be Demons.  I'm seem to be bumping my head against a blank wall when searching for marvelous images.  No changes in the manuscripts yet.

The demon book may break too many rules, especially the ones about presenting your viewpoint characters, but then again, I use two main viewpoints in a tween book.  Emma is more conventional middle grade book.  Okay, in Demons, I've got the demon rising from the portal, but he doesn't appear again until the end of the book.  :throws hands in the air:

Rules.  Rules.  Am back on the fence for Dark Solstice  [About my Half-Elven, not Tolkien's]  There's entirely too much telling, I think, for current tastes ... plus I have all sorts of multiple viewpoints giving their interpretation of the same events.  Does that sound like literary?  Maybe, I'll just self-publish the thing ... and go on and finish the trilogy about Kerry as a young adult.  In short, I don't know what I'll do.

Be careful when you complete more than one project.  Your headaches increase exponentially.

Web Stuff ...
Voice is an important problem for writers.  Even though I've given up on what I "sound" like when I write, Justine Musk has an significant blog on the distinctions between your  "essential self" and your "social self".  With the rush to e-publishing and building platforms, I think it's especially important.  Include, chasing an agent too in this discussion too.

[I gave up on figuring out what my voice is long ago.  If it's there, it's there.  If it's not, I don't know under which rock to find it.]

Had the above all set up for my web comment when I read Scarlett Parrish's blog on Erotica vs Porn  -- Let's Talk About Sex on Sunday night.  A lot of writers shy away from writing sex scenes, ie. the story fades to black when he carries her up the stairs.  Others jump in with both hands and feet, giving the reader minutes details.  Parrish makes a good distinction between what makes explicit sex in a book/story a part of the plot ... or porn.  [Don't ask me what porn is unless someone is getting hurt against their will, either.]

[My "sex" writing?  Well, I did indicate the females in my Gorsfeld story were running around without shirts on while they worked in the field.  I also implied a threesome ... which is a big plot point in Dark Solstice.  Sorry, no groping.] 

Then, there are the invaluable Beta readers and critique partners.  The GotYA blog has a neat bit on comparing them to characters in the Lord of the Rings.  Check it out for fun, if nothing else.

Trivia ...
The last of the home-grown peaches are eaten.  We had to buy more at the farmers' market.  Raspberries too.
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