Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Halleluiah and Holy Hand Grenades it Worked! And Musings on Characters...

Well THAT was exciting. I managed to both change my profile pic and add one in a post, all without destroying the computer, locking it up, or somehow burning out my internet connection. Pretty good considering my track record. But enough about my technological hang-ups, onward to what I really wanted to post about...

So, you really made me stop and think, Tink (please ignore my inability to avoid rhyming on occasion) when you said that you loved that my character was named Pony. I hadn't given her name much thought. It's a nickname, her real name is Nelian. To me, she just appeared in my head as Pony, herself. All the characters that I've ever come up with have just popped into my head, largely formed, if not entirely defined. Sometimes, I'll actually wake up from a dream with a new character, or story idea. I've never been one to sit and 'brainstorm' not about developing characters or stories. Now, AFTER I've gotten a story idea in my head, I might sit and iron out details, especially when it comes to any sort of magic system, or how various races relate to each other, or timelines. But as far as my main characters, they've all just 'shown up'.

It's like looking in the foggy bathroom mirror after a shower a lot of the time. I can see the character's shape, a rough of who they are, but their details grow, the more I look at them, their personalities begin to define themselves, their little quirks solidify and eventually, there they stand, staring back at me. I leave them on occasion and come back later to see how they've changed, how they've clarified, if they've gained any new scars from their continuously coagulating histories. It's my favorite process of writing, the growth and development of characters, although I think every aspect is enthralling, if also sometimes vexing. But having a new character form before your eyes is like meeting a new friend, or enemie, as the case may be.

How do YOU find your characters? Do you spend hours brainstorming? Or just wake up knowing them? Do they drive you nuts? Or do you know who they are and where they're headed right from the off?

Time to Tempt the Techno Gods...

So, I figured it was time to try something new, and change my picture to one that actually had me in it. Yes, that's me, in the persona of Dandy Leon, Pin-Up Zombie Extraordinaire. Well, you didn't think I was going to put up a serious photo did you? As serious as I am about writing, I'm going to be a complete goof about everything else. The eye that I've been using as my photo belongs to the little pile of furry sweetness pictured above. His name is Ari and he is my son in every way except genetics. Well, going to leave it short for now, I have no idea what this'll even look like when I hit 'Post'. Here goes...

Monday, April 6, 2009

Book Reviews, Sort of...

So here's the thing. I HATE the idea of trying to review a book. Movies, theater, anything of that sort, no problem. But with books, it's another matter. It's just so personal, passing judgement on someone else's dream-on-paper. And it's not critiquing because the author isn't getting feedback, they're just having their work picked over. But I do love discussing why I did, or didn't, like a book, and trying to figure out what the author was thinking when he or she did, or didn't, answer or raise questions in their work. So here goes...
I managed to finish two books this weekend, each in one evening. I like reading everything from teen things to the masterful Stephen King. These books were both of the former variety.

The first was 'The Bones of Faerie' by Janni Lee Simner. For the most part, I adored it. Without revealing too much about the book, I can say that it took an idea that I could see actually taking place and spun a tale of what might happen afterward. It was a strange and lovely mix of 'us' and 'them' and the sometimes blurred lines that run between the two. But there were a few things that were left drifting, even in a teen novel that might not be expected to drag on and on about details and plot background.
For instance, WHY was there a war? There are people who remember the War, some of them were directly involved in it. Yet we get no definitive answers as to what started everything and even more importantly, what the aggressors hoped to accomplish, should they win. Things like that irk me. It's like an adult telling you 'no' and then when you ask 'why?' they say, 'because'. Because? What the hell kind of answer is that? Maybe I'm just spoiled. My mother had a reason for whatever rule she laid down. Not that I didn't get a red backside now and then. but at least I knew WHY my rump was stinging, and not just 'because'.
My other issue is with the magic. It's not a terribly big issue, but it irks me the same way that the lack of background about the War does. There doesn't seem to be a trade off for the use of magic. There isn't any 'price' on the effort one must put into casting and using their magic. It's discussed, but you never see anyone ever deal with the price, not beyond getting exhausted. Again, trying not to say too much, there are instances where someone accidentally does great harm with their magic, not even understanding what they've done, not yet. But even when they find out, it turns out fine. People use their magic to the point of killing themselves, but they're saved by others, who suffer nothing for the effort but getting tired. I know that being a teen book 'The Bones of Faerie' has no need for copious amounts of death, but the situations have a serious gravity, and there is a blatant tone of owning your responsibilities, so you would think that there might be something to the magic along the same lines. On the whole though, a great, quick read, I didn't even put it down fro bathroom runs, and two toes met with door facings as a result.

SPOILER WARNING The first lines are spoiler free, but then I couldn't help it.

The second book was 'The Darkangel' by Meredith Ann Pierce. I had high hopes for this book (another teen variety) after reading the cover but I was disappointed in the end. The idea (roughly) is that the Darkangel, a vampyer, steals maidens away to be his bride. The main character Aerial, is a slave whose mistress is stolen. Right off the book was rather confusing from the standpoint that there is no sun, it's the Solstar, there is no moon, it's a planet called Oceanus. There aren't days, there are 'days' that lasts months, and no nights, but 'nights' that last a fortnight - I think. Honestly, I'm still not sure about that. At the beginning they refer to something as nightshade, but it's never mentioned again. And within the first pages, Aerial's mistress and 'friend' makes fun of her very harshly, in a way that no one I have ever called my friend would do.
Still, I liked the story overall, ignoring confusion over names and timeframes, and although the foreshadowing was heavy enough that I knew pretty much what was going to happen before it did, I kept reading, eager to see what happened between Aerial and the lovely, evil Darkangel.

And then the ending smashed it for me. Aerial 'saves' the Darkangel by poisoning him and then giving him her blood and her heart and *poof* he turns into a beautiful prince, who although stolen as a young child has grown up but conveniently stopped growing at 16 even though he's been enchanted for twenty-some years, which puts him neatly right at Aerial's age. And the best part? Even though he was only four or six when he was taken, he remembers everything that's happened to him and he understands how evil he was and sorrows for all his misdeeds and yawn yawn yawn.
Right their I lost all interest in the story. Everything enthralling about the Darkangel, the fact that he did horrible things and yet stopped doing nearly all of them to please Aerial, that he treated her poorly and spoke harshly to her and yet let her do as she pleased, was banished in the end. He turned into the boy next door.
This is a pet peeve of mine. The whole 'I want to be unique, just like everyone else.' It would have been so much more interesting if he'd been trapped in the shape of the Darkangel, or won against his evil tendencies but still had to struggle against them. But no, the Darkangel turns out to be just another prince charming, irrevocably linked to a former slave girl. That and the much over used term 'pity' rather ruined an otherwise good story. I really loath the word pity. To me, it insinuates that whatever you're pitying is worth less than you, and thusly worthy of your pity.
I very much enjoy the idea of having compassion and affection for something that doesn't deserve it, at least one of my characters is utterly weak to having compassion for the most dangerous and undeserving of things. But what (I think anyway) makes Pony so unique is that she has such compassion even knowing that she won't get a reward. And she has no pity for those evil things she loves. If circumstance had been different, SHE might be in the position of the evil creatures. It was just chance. Anyway, when you take a perfectly evil creature who is still somehow completely endearing and then 'fix' him by turning him into a prince charming, or restoring him to his former glory, I loose interest. It just flattens everything. I won't read the rest of the series. But I won't throw away Darkangel either. I'll just put it on the 'I wish' pile.
What about books annoys you?