Booking Through Thursday: One or Many?

Vampira2468 asks:

Series or Stand-alone?

I know this question is about reading books, whether you prefer reading a series or a stand-alone novel, but since I’ve answered that before (somewhere… don’t quote me) with a resounding “Well… both….” I’m going to instead look at this today from a writer’s point of view.

Forgive me if my answer stays more or less the same. Do I prefer writing a stand-alone novel or a series? Well… both.

If you look at my “Works” page, you can see that my two main WIPs at the moment (though really, I’m letting the one wait in line as I finish the other) are a stand-alone (Daughter) and what I at least hope might have the meat to pull off a series someday (Jethro). Both of them are very different writing experiences. One is an epic-fantasy-adventure that’s somewhere between The Princess Bride and Anastasia (figure that one out) and the other is about a bunch of high school kids in a small town who have to face the fact that they all have unexplained powers. One is focused very closely around one main character and a few of her closest connections, while the other technically has a main character, but also has an ensemble cast list as long as my arm.

I cannot tell you which one is more fun to write.

I really can’t. And I’m not going to make any comments about it being like picking between two children (though really, it is) but what I will say is that both stories have their own challenges and benefits, and I love that. So let’s talk about those challenges and benefits… let’s call them bonuses, though, because that’s what they really feel like.

Writing a Stand-Alone Novel (One or Two Main Characters)

 Challenges:

  • Typically you only have one (or two) perspectives to work with, even if you’re working in third-person. Unless of course you’re working in third-person omniscient, but that’s not often the case. This can make it hard to show the audience something without letting your character see it, which is sometimes vital.
  • Your character also has to be strong enough to carry a full-length novel. There’s really no half-ways-ing on this. Either you have someone who feels like a real person and is exciting or relatable, or you don’t have anything. Really. Because if your character doesn’t hold up, nothing else will. There’s no room for it to.
  • This is your one shot. Everything you want to say in this story, has to be said in this book. It’s a little bit different with the internet now, because we have the opportunity to do ebook tie-ins and things like that, but it doesn’t change the fact that if there was something you wanted to happen in this story and it didn’t make it there, it will never be there. The end.

Benefits:

  • The story has a clear-cut ending. This may not be the case with a series, at least with an ensemble cast like I’m planning. The story could well go on forever in an ensemble piece, but with one character, it’s easier to see where to say goodbye. (Clarification: this does not make it easier to actually SAY goodbye!)
  • You get to really fall in love with your characters. Not saying you can’t do this in a bigger cast (and obviously you can if your series is all based around one character, but that doesn’t seem to be the way I work), but fictional characters are often enigmatic and untrusting, and it takes time to peel away their layers. You get to do this if most of your time is spent with only one or two of them.

Writing a Series (Ensemble Cast)

Challenges:

  • Think making one character strong enough to carry a book was difficult? Now you have to have half a dozen (or more!) characters and they each have to be different enough to feel like different people. No use having a lot of characters if no one can tell them apart.
  • You also have to be very, very careful that your characters don’t fall into archetypes. Or if they do, that they have something about them that really makes the archetype worth it. Make sure there’s a twist. If the character just really needs to be an archetype, make sure that they feel organic. Avoid clichés as best as you can.
  • You have to make sure that your ending lets everything be said. Again, this is a little different now that we can offer side novellas and what not, but if you have half a dozen important characters, you have to make sure they each get their due and that their storyline ends by the time you say “The End.” This may not be an easy thing to balance out.

Benefits:

  • So. Many. Voices. Really that’s what’s fun about an ensemble cast and the time a series will give you to feature them. You get to experiment with so many different characters and write in their distinct voices. You don’t get “stuck” with one or two characters.
  • Time. Really a big benefit of a series is that you have room and time to get to a lot of things. In my case, a lot of different characters with personal storylines that play into the bigger story arch. You can even end a book halfway through one character’s personal struggle… it will bring some back to read the next book, to see how it turned out.

So… sorry to turn a reading question into a lecture about writing… but really, I’m not. I wonder if anybody else can think of benefits and challenges to the two?

Booking Through Thursday: Eternity

Bookish Sarah asks:

What book took you the longest to read, and do you feel it was the content or just the length that made it so?

I don’t know what book has taken me the longest to read, but lots of books have taken me a long time to read, and here are some reasons why:

1) I’m not enjoying the story, but there’s a story question I want answered. Or just a plot twist. Or one small character I can’t let go of enough to give up altogether.

2) I’m enjoying the language more than the story. Or equally as much as the story. I’ll read a beautifully-written book slowly, as it was probably written.

3) I’ve lost it. Or had to return it to the library. This has happened on numerous occasions over the past three years, because I’ve lived in three different states… in six different time periods. Figure that one out.

4) I love the story but the language is slow. Or complex. This is sort of the same as 2, but a little different. I’m reading Bleak House at the moment… well, I will be when I get it back from the library sometime (See Reason #3) and I’m fully drawn in, the wording just takes longer to read, period. This is the same for a lot of classics for me.

Booking Through Thursday: Different Kind of Romance

Ted asks:

Have you ever fallen in love with a fictional character? Who and what about them did you love?

Well the short answer is, yes. Multiple times. Here is a glance at a few characters that really stand out to me in particular.

Captain George Wentworth from Persuasion by Jane Austen

I think Captain Wentworth is impossible not to love. He is everything masculinity should be. Strong, but not rigid. Proud, but not to a fault. Also, he speaks to the heart of every single person who has ever lost a love over a misunderstanding, or circumstance, or happenstance. He is the promise of love conquering over all even when time and everything else imaginable has intervened in the worst way possible.

Edward Fairfax Rochester from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

Rochester is all about charisma. He has one of the strongest charismas of any character that I have ever encountered, and charisma is inherently attractive to me. I’ve always thought of Rochester as Anne Shirley’s “someone who could be wicked but wouldn’t.” Of course, Rochester was a little wicked, but he changed his ways for Jane. He was tempted to go on in his wicked ways, but Jane wouldn’t allow it, and eventually was able to marry her rightfully.

Ron Weasley from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

I know, I know. A lot of people don’t care for Ron. A lot of people write him off as the jealous one of the HP trio who simply can’t grow up. This is not how I see Ron. I see Ron as someone who, despite having less natural ability or inclination towards greatness, wanted nothing more than to be great. As someone on my tumblr list pointed out, we see this in the very first book. In the Mirror of Erised, Ron sees himself as having made great accomplishments. His greatest desire was to be Extraordinary. And that’s really something we can all relate to, isn’t it? This isn’t even going into his unquestionable loyalty—maybe it was overridden by jealousy once in a while, but whenever it counted, Ron never hesitated.

Finn in the Books of Bayern by Shannon Hale

This one is a little more obscure, but one of the dearest characters to my heart. Finn is the epitome of the slow burn. His love for Enna is calm and quiet, but fierce and strong. Finn probably says less than 150 words in all four of the Books of Bayern, but his action and presence are tremendous in their quiet steadiness. He was also willing to change himself—make himself stronger and better for Enna. He’s like what Westley from The Princess Bride would have been, had he never become the Dread Pirate Roberts. (Speaking. Of. I love Westley. I guess for the same reasons.)

Booking Through Thursday: Blogs

Yvonne asks:

What do you look for when reading a book blog? Does the blogger have to read the same genre? Do you like reviews? Personal posts? Memes? Giveaways? What attracts you to a book blog?

I have to admit, I don’t read a lot of book blogs. I think book blogs are great, but I have trouble keeping up with them, so I don’t usually follow book blogs the way I follow writing blogs. That said, I think book blogs are GREAT. The book blogs I run across without actually following them (and that’s a lot of them) keep me pretty well-informed about what’s happening in the publishing world. I do usually read YA-focused blogs, since it’s what I write, though.

What really brings me back to a blog are things like dissections of trends going on in the Young Adult publishing world, and posts that talk about the issues in books. Posts that try to be aware of not just how good a book is, but also the effect of popular books on teens, as well as on the genre and the publishing industry. I feel like book bloggers get such a great view of this—they’re not nearly as pinholed as I am in my reading usually, so they get a wider view of how the Young Adult genre is growing and maturing. I like the extra perspective.

Booking Through Thursday: Fan Fiction

Pepca asks
Have you every written any fan-fiction? If yes, why and for which book(s)? If no, would you like to and for which books(s)?

For that matter, do you ever READ fan-fiction??

Yes, I’ve written fanfiction… I’m not going to divulge for what here, because I think I’ve gotten to the point where I’m going to plead plausible deniability. I will say that it wasn’t a book, though… it was for a TV show.

Do I ever read fan-fiction…. not anymore. I used to read a lot for the show that I wrote for, and then I went through a period when I read some Harry Potter. But now I don’t really have time to read all the books I want, so that doesn’t leave any time at all for fanfic.

I will admit, though, that I have a dream of someday having written something that will inspire fanfic. I don’t expect to inspire legions of it… but I’d love for there to be enough to support a fanfiction.net page. Even if I never liked that site, particularly.

Booking Through Thursday: Only Five

Before we get started, two things:

1) Today is my first post at the Dojo! Go read about my love of the Pomodoro Technique!

2) This is my 100th post on this blog! Woohoo!

And now, back to today’s originally scheduled BTT question:

If you had to pick only 5 books to read ever again, what would they be and why?’

I’m not going to mention my LDS quad in this, because that’s a given and the reasons therefore should also be fairly obvious, though if I really were given only five books, this would of course be one of them, as I try to read a little every day. On to the more objectionable stuff… I’m going to make two seperate lists here:

Cheater List

1) The Complete Works of William Shakespeare – Because I want brilliance, and I want a lot of it.

2) The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson – Because no other poet has satisfied me as much, as consistently.

3) The Complete Works of Jane Austin – (See reason for #1)

4) The Complete Works of Ray Bradbury – I’m not totally married to this, but I’ve really loved a lot of Bradbury shorts, and I think I’d need something short and diverse.

5) The Complete Harry Potter – Okay, I know this isn’t a volume yet… but you know it will be someday.

Non-Cheater List

1) Jane Eyre. I don’t know that I could ever get tired of this book. For some people it’s Pride & Prejudice, but for me it’s Jane Eyre.
2) Little Women. I start reading this almost every Christmas. I have to admit, I don’t usually read the whole thing through, but I’ve read it enough that it’s one of my oldest and sweetest friends. Even though a very big part of me still wants Jo to marry Laurie.
3) Anne of the Island. Why this one? Because this is the book where Anne rejects Gilbert and then realizes that she loves him. Ah, the tortuous angst. I love it. I am all over it.
4) Enna Burning by Shannon Hale. Again, it’s all about the long-withheld requitement of love in this one. Plus Enna is awesome. Which I like. I don’t think I’d get tired of it.
5) I Never Promised You a Rose Garden by Joanne Greenburg. This book has saved my sanity more than once. If I were say, on a desert island or something, I think I’d need literature like that. For those moments I’m not trying to feel all the fall-in-love pangs that I’m so addicted to.
If you’re stopping by for BTT, be sure to check out my Books are for Lovers post. Buy a book on Valentine’s to show your local bookstore some love!

Booking Through Thursday Interview

This is really a “part 2,” but I missed “part 1,” so.

 But enough about interviewing other people. It’s time I interviewed YOU.

1. What’s your favorite time of day to read?

I don’t have a favorite time to read, really… My days are usually pretty busy, so I have to squeeze it in any time I can. But I do love cuddling up with a book first thing in the morning.

2. Do you read during breakfast? (Assuming you eat breakfast.)

I don’t usually, but lately The Mr. and I have been listening to the Harry Potter audio books during breakfast. (The Stephen Fry version, which I like so much better than the Jim Dale ones!)

3. What’s your favorite breakfast food? (Noting that breakfast foods can be eaten any time of day.)

Mmm… cheesy omelets, maybe. Or oooh! A ham and swiss croissant. Oh yes.

4. How many hours a day would you say you read?

Probably less than one, unfortunately. Maybe about one, or a little more.

5. Do you read more or less now than you did, say, 10 years ago?

Less, again sadly. When I was young all I DID was read. Oh to have that back… (well, the option, at least!)

6. Do you consider yourself a speed reader?

Not remotely. I’m a fairly slow reader. I like to hear the characters’ voices in my head.

7. If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

Sometimes I think I’d like to freeze time, so I could read and write and finish as many things as I want to.

8. Do you carry a book with you everywhere you go?

I try to.

9. What KIND of book?

Whatever I happen to be reading that is most gripping. Lately I’ve been preferring to carry a blank book, though, because my journaling has suffered even more than my reading these days.

10. How old were you when you got your first library card?

Good question… ten? Twelve? Maybe much younger. I didn’t really start using the library until I was in my twenties, though. I was fairly spoiled in books before that. Then it became a lifeline.

11. What’s the oldest book you have in your collection? (Oldest physical copy? Longest in the collection? Oldest copyright?)

I don’t know that it’s the very oldest, but I have a Longfellow’s Complete Poems by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow that was published in 1899, and it is one of my absolute treasures.

12. Do you read in bed?

Whenever I get the option.

13. Do you write in your books?

No…. not yet, at least. I did tentatively edge into marginalia in college (usually to make snarky remarks on other peoples’ marginalia in library or used books) but I so love the pristine look of a printed page. Maybe when I’m a rich author and can afford to have multiple copies of something to mark one up and keep one lovely.

14. If you had one piece of advice to a new reader, what would it be?

Don’t be afraid to try different things. Or OLD things. Classics are classics for a reason—most of them, at least.

Booking Through Thursday – Discoveries

Hey look, it’s actually Thursday!

There’s something wonderful about getting in on the ground floor of an author’s career–about being one of the first people to read and admire them, before they became famous best-sellers.

Which authors have you been lucky enough to discover at the very beginning of their careers?

And, if you’ve never had that chance, which author do you WISH you’d been able to discover at the very beginning?

I think the closest I can come to saying that I discovered someone on the “ground floor” is Brandon Mull, writer of the Fablehaven series, among others. I picked the first Fablehaven book up as an impulse buy at a Deseret Book (an LDS bookstore) down in San Diego, just a few months after it came out. Back then it was just a couple of copies on a very low shelf hidden in the back of the store in the kids’ section. Granted, these are kids’ books, but when the final Fablehaven book came out, it got its own table displays at Barnes & Noble. That’s a far cry from being hidden away on the second-to-bottom shelf in a cornered-off kid’s section.

The cover of the book got me to pick it up. I’ve heard some rumors that a green cover is death to a book for some reason, though I’ve never understood a word about that, but in this case it definitely caught my eye. The illustration on the cover did, as well. It wasn’t until after I finished the book that I understood what the cover illustration was supposed to be, and I’ll admit that the cover illustrations don’t do a whole lot for me… I either disregard half of the picture with some kind of mental-block, or I’m just not big on the cartoony appeal, but bygones.

The interesting title, gold lettering, and sparkly-ness of the cover was enough to get me to pick it up. I had been in the mood for something fantastical, and the Fable– part of the title gives away immediately that this was, even though I thought the character on the cover was creepy, and didn’t notice the colorful fairies on the cover for an embarrassingly long time. I flipped the book over and became EXTRA intrigued. In place of a carefully-worded pitch or a list of quotes was something made to look like a want ad torn from a newspaper.

If I’d had any doubt that this was going to be fantastical, the ad asking for a new caretaker “willing to perform emergency dental surgery on a fog giant” and listing knowledge of gnomish language as “a plus,” snagged my imagination from the get-go. I read the synopsis on the inside flaps of the paper cover (the book was in hardback) and decided I’d take a gamble on it. This isn’t usual for me—I like to pick up a book half a dozen times before I buy something, especially in hardcover, because I just don’t have the funds that often, but this seemed like a good day. Besides, something from found at Deseret Book can’t necessarily be found somewhere else. I was with my mom that day, and she had a membership card, which at the time still consisted of points (now you have to have a premium membership), and I think the book ended up being about free. Well, ish. You know.

The book was a slow go for me the first time I picked it up, but the second time I stuck to it, and by a couple of chapters in I was stuck. And thrilled. It was everything I’d been hoping for and more. Kendra and Seth are a VERY realistic pair of kids with a very realistic sister/brother relationship. The creatures they come across span from the amazingly beautiful to the grotesque and terrifying, but Mull does it in a way that is constantly uplifting. (Rather than being emotionally dark, like the Spiderwick Chronicles seems to be, based on the film, at least).

The books are by turn funny, scary, and downright cool. The kids make mistakes but learn from them in a very real way. And every book gets better and better. I just love this series, and I’m thrilled to know that so many people have come to love it also. It is very deserved. I’ve been passing on the excitement, fantasy and fun by word of mouth ever since. Just recently, my husband has finished reading the first book and started the second. He loves it, too.

I haven’t read any of Mull’s other works yet (except for the children’s book Pingo, which is adorable!) but I do own The Candy Shop Wars and am really looking forward to his Beyonders series, the first of which is due out next month. Woohoo!

Booking Through… Saturday?

Okay, I’ve loved Booking Through Thursday since I first found out about it a couple of years ago. It’s a weekly question about reading or books that serves as a great writing prompt for blog posts.  Problem is, I always forget to do it. This year I’d really like to get used to the idea, though, and so I give you my first Booking Through Thursday prompt. Yes, I know it’s Saturday night. Give me a break.

What’s the largest, thickest, heaviest book you ever read? Was it because you had to? For pleasure? For school?

I have to admit, the thickest book I’ve ever read all the way through is probably Gone With the Wind. Mercy, even Middlemarch isn’t as long, and Middlemarch is 800+ pages. And if you’re curious, yes I read that one, too. All. The. Way.

Like many a girl before me, and probably (hopefully) many to come, I had a deep infatuation with Gone With the Wind when I was younger. It started with the movie. I’d seen it once when I was very small, but all I really remembered from it were the (amazing!) dresses and the fire. Oh, and Clark Gable. Because… he’s Clark Gable. *blushes*

When I was eleven or twelve I watched it on TV—on the WB, to be exact, back when the network still existed alone—and fell utterly in love with it. My mom would sigh and tell me how Vivian Leigh wasn’t her Scarlett O’Hara (I had to get it from somewhere, you know?) but I didn’t mind. I watched enthralled from the twins (Frank and Fred? Oh dear… someone will call me out on that if it’s wrong) fawning over Scarlett, through her dancing in mourning clothes and the Atlanta Fire (which nothing has ever compared to cinematically since, if you ask moi) to her declaration of Tomorrow being another day.

This was right before they digitally remastered the film and made all the colors brighter. I think I got that double VHS copy for Christmas that year.

And so, I read the book. Oh, that book. I remember bits of it so vividly. Rhett leaving her on the bridge… Scarlett beating her horse so that it got her to Tara, the thick, thick mist in her dream that was so much more oppressive than they were in the movie. Also, all of the extra husbands and kids that didn’t make it into the film version.

I would think about how Margaret Mitchell used the manuscript as a stabler for her kitchen table for years, something that appalled me as an already-aspiring author. How Clark Gable was afraid he couldn’t pull it off because he was a comedian. How he was actually who she pictured as Rhett Butler, which was completely amazing to me. I read the book twice, but I’d like to read it again someday… I wonder how different I’d take to it now that I’m all growed up and whatnot.

Other thick books I have read at least most of:

Middlemarch by George Eliot — As mentioned. I loved this book. It’s long and dry in some parts, yeah, but definitely a classic for a reason. You know how Jane Austen said that Anne Elliot from Persuasion was “almost too good” for her? That’s the feeling I get from Middlemarch, except in this case Dorothea is really, honestly, VERY good in every single way. Kind, pious, generous, etc. Somehow she’s not unrealistic, though. And she’s not immune to romance, either.

The Assassin’s Cloak: An Anthology of the World’s Greatest DiaristsI completely loved this book. I can’t say I’ve read every single entry, because it was for a class and I got behind a bit, but it has writing from so many amazing, brilliant and diverse people. I highly, highly recommend it.

The Norton Anthology of Poetry — I read through the first half of this (I think I actually read every poem) for a class. I wish I could have taken the second half of the class, but it was at the same time as another class I wanted to take more. I don’t know where my NAP (as I called it affectionately—though in all honesty, the content rarely made me sleepy) is at the moment, and that thought saddens me greatly, because it’s such a pretty book. I’d like to take it out and read it slowly.

The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson — This… was also for a class. Are we seeing a pattern here? I re-read it just over a year ago, though, because that class officially made me a Dickinson lover for life. Every time I read an Emily Dickinson poem, I want to read a hundred more of them. She is that good.

A seriously thick book I want to read, which is sitting on my shelf just waiting? Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. I’ve heard it described as a Harry Potter* for adults, complete with seriously awesome footnote** content, something Thursday Next novels have made me a complete geek for.

What’s the thickest book you’ve read?

*I suppose a couple of the HP books are long too, eh?

**I completely forgot this word for a good five minutes. Had to resort to Google to figure it out. Then had to head-desk.