Writing Portfolio – Session One

Part One of my session on types of writing.

All about creative writing and embarrassing stories of my teenage years

Again, for those of you who have read my blog but never seen me in action… prepare to see a lot of hand gesturing. But over all, I do have a better accent than most Australians.

Just Saying.

Writing Portfolio Video – Session Two

Behold!

I have made this a public video now, so if you’ve ever read this blog, never met me and though ‘I wonder if she’s as random sounding in real life?’ all of this will be answered

When The First Book Is Good And The Rest Suck

In the passenger glove box of my fiancé’s car is a book.

It is called the Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor.

I read this book when I was in High School and was basically obsessed. I remember sitting in my form class like, unable to do anything but focus on it.

Basically the idea is this: Alice and Wonderland totally happened, the version we know penned by Lewis Carol was a fairy tale he wrote based on true events.

Alice (or Alyss) is a princess from an alternative reality where imagination is like a super power. Her parents had been the king and queen but they are murdered by the evil Queen of Hearts, and as a result Alyss is taken to earth to remain safe. Then the rest of the story tells about Alyss’s return to her kingdom and rise to her throne.

It is a pretty epic book. The whole thing. Brilliant writing, the characters are stunning, Alyss is really awesome and the love story between her and her former childhood friend Dodge is adorable.

The thing is, there are two other books in this series, Seeing Red and Archenemy, and I cannot remember what happens in either of these not because I didn’t read them but because they are boring.

The same can be said for Of Poseidon by Anna Banks.

I mean I love mermaids as much as the next person so when I spotted this book I read the whole thing in like… a day. The super awesome story of a half mermaid half human girl and her super stud prince from under the sea. I mean it wasn’t profound or anything but it was pretty entertaining.

There are two other books in this series too… I’ve read one of them, hardly remember what happened and didn’t bother with the third.

I am a committed and loyal reader. When I find characters and a concept I like I don’t need to be begged to read it.

I do have to like it though.

Isn’t it funny how you get a book series like that? When the first book is awesome and the rest are a wet bus stick slap to the face?

The fundamental question (especially as an author) is how do you avoid this?

Here are my ideas:

– Avoid the Middle Book Muddiness. As in, avoid the fact that it can be easy to go book one: people know what is happening, book two: stuff happens that isn’t resolved because I have one more book to go, and book three: everything concludes. Make sure that there are specific purposes to each book including the middle ones.

– Take advantage of mini conclusions. Obviously you don’t need to wrap up the whole story but we want to see some happy endings and resolutions to the storyline

– Make sure there is a specific purpose for each book. I am Number Four didn’t do this. There is no specific point to each of the books so I struggle to tell them apart. You need to decide which pieces of the puzzle will be found in which books and make sure there’s no stringy unfinished edges.

At the end of the day a good series needs to be like How I Met Your Mother.

By this I mean good small storyline conclusions, parts that are small victories and contained to their own episode. Then there are parts that nod to the whole storyline. Oh right, the yellow umbrella belonged to the mother… ish parts. Then there are ‘This will not be resolved until the very end’ parts. A good book series must have all three of these kinds of elements.

The Looking Glass Wars and the Of Poseidon books? They didn’t.

What I Am Listening To: Beauchamp

Let’s be honest. New Zealand is a pretty sweet country.

As well as having like… a ton of sheep, and being associated with Lord of the Rings (which I am told is a good thing, not that I am a huge fan of Lord of the Rings…) not to mention the fact that we are generally just awesome people.

Totally being biased here.

Anyway, New Zealand also is the home to some pretty sweet music. Here’s a really excellent single from NZ Artist Beauchamp, pretty poppy, a little Broods/Lorde-ish but enjoy!

The Problem with Dystopian Fiction

Confession.

More times than not I hate dystopian fiction.

I can already hear the collective gasping at this, as well as ‘But what about the Hunger Games!?’ or ‘But Divergent…!’

You need to appreciate something. Dystopian and I… we just do not get along.

I could get on board with super-natural romance (as much as I totally gave up in the second Twilight Book) and I totally loved the whole School-Of-Criminals-And- Con-Artist thing that happened for a bit but I have never been all that chummy with the whole Alternative-Dark-Society-Thing.

You would think I would be. Given I love politics and history and social issues and the like but when it comes to any kind of grand Dystopian book I really do struggle.

Yes. I do like books that challenge us and force us to ask the big questions that shape our society.  Yes I love history, and books that highlight previous historical situations with more intensity (such as the oppression that was done and should never be allowed to be repeated by the Nazis during World War Two, or even the fact that we need to not judge people because of culture – something people are tempted to do in today’s world, and something I write about a lot.)

But what I don’t like is fully immersive Dystopian stories that are super cliché.

Authors paint huge pictures of these societies that operate almost entirely on their own, which usually focus around the whole ‘The United States Has a New Name Now… And It’s The Only Country That Exists And Now It Has This Super Weird Social Order This Whole Book Is About’ thing.

Because this is what Dystopian books always assume and this is why they annoy me:

– The protagonist world is ALWAYS a variant of America that has fallen into a plague/war/something else that makes it the only KNOWN nation that survives.

– This nation either operates as the ONLY existing nation (aside from like… other small people groups seen as ‘savages’ or ‘not as good’ that bumble around in settlements outside of a major metropolis) and everything happens inside of it.

– There will always been a headstrong angry girl OR a soft ‘I cant do this’ boy who faces some kind of challenge, is almost always on their own initially and finds some underground/rebel force that they become a part of.

– The Family must ALWAYS die. Either the whole family or a significant family member. Apparently that makes it super intense for the character.

– There is always a class structure. The character will always be that lower class structure.

I could go on but I won’t.

The other thing I super struggle with (aside from like… a total lack of creativity from authors of this genre) is that the story never fully resolves. So you finish it, completely dissatisfied that it sort of just… crumbles and you never know how things get better. And yeah, the world is never perfect and things aren’t always better and blah blah blah, but I don’t care. I want to know how the mess the author concluded with ever sees a fulfillment, good or bad.

You may think I am crazy, but I really, really do struggle with Dystopian fiction. I have since I read my very first dystopian story (Divided Kingdom) when I was fifteen. The reason I bring this up is that I am thinking of reading Red Queen (not sure who it is by) and I read the reviews and rolled my eyes.

I will probably read it just eventually rather than right this very moment because I am compelled to.

Me and Dystopian. we don’t see eye to eye.

Reflections on Creating Characters

The other day, Aladdin was on TV, so needless to say I watched it.

It was as I watched it that I realized something.

I think I had inadvertently stolen personality traits for one of my most central characters in the main series I write from Aladdin.

Last week I had the privilege of speaking with a bunch of students at my old high school Carmel College. I made a point to them about the process of coming up with ideas. I told them that I had once heard it said that creativity was basically just being really good at stealing other people’s ideas.

It is sort of true though.

Most if not all of my ideas that I use in my stories have generally begun life in something I’ve read or watched or seen and thought ‘Oh yeah! That would be cool but what if I …. (insert idea here).’

This can be the same for characters.

So I started to think. I have this main character in a series I write called ‘The Tasks.’ He’s an anti hero. Good guy who has had some bad times and made some bad decisions but the whole series follows his rise, fall, and final ascendance in the fullness of his whole personality  and seeing his purpose.

I started to reflect on just where I’d borrowed his personality from and I have managed to track down five examples from five characters in TV shows I used to watch.

aladdinOf course Aladdin – as mentioned before. Cunning, smart, quick, and noble.

LiI was never a huge fan of Li from Cardcaptors – mostly because I wasn’t a huge fan of Cardcaptors. I did however watch it sometimes when I got home from school. Li’s dedication to Sakura and his short temper balanced with a sort of reflective moodiness was something I totally borrowed.

kovuIn reflection, Kovu – from the Lion King 2 – was a character I completely stole nearly every trait from for this central character I have. Dark and cunning, his bad guy to good guy shift was always something I found interesting and used for my character.

number 1

When I was younger I was a HUGE fan of Code Name: Kids Next Door. It was epic. Number 1 was awesome because he was brave, strong, quick thinking and also HUGELY egotistical and these were all traits I borrowed from him for my character.

And of course…

robinRobin is probably one of my favorite characters ever. Ever ever. What I loved about Robin was his seriousness and the underdog nature of his persona. Dick Grayson (the best Robin) lost his entire family and because he has no powers or pedigree he always had something to prove. I love Robin and his small start in life to becoming Night Wing. Dark and edgy. All stuff  totally stole for my character.

Last but not at all least:

trunksTrunks. Oh yes. Dragon Ball Z. What I loved about Trunks is that he was the son of a bad guy so had some of those personality traits himself but was quite funny and relaxed. A huge part of this was ‘borrowed’ for my character. The balance between being relaxed and being a little bad…

Anyway. It’s funny when you stop to think where you got ideas from. For me these are some examples. Again, I don’t think it is bad to pilfer ideas from places because ultimately it is all ‘research’ and getting inspiration then rolling it together and making something awesome.Have a think about your characters and ideas. I will bet you’ve done the same thing!

 

What I’m Listening To: Mostly Covers and Our Last Night

Because I haven’t posted this in ages, here’s what I am listening to at the moment.

Going through a bit of a covers stage to be honest. Mostly from Our Last Night and Punk Goes Pop.

If you haven’t heard the band ‘Our Last Night,’ you need to.

Also, the Punk Goes… albums are life changing.

Here’s what I am listening to when I write right now

playlistAlso, a super blurry picture of me and my cat looking equally unimpressed…

Manny and I

A Must Have Book: Battle Bunny

This afternoon my mother brought me a book.
In her words it ‘could not stay in the store.’
I am not kidding you when I say it is brilliant. The idea is that the book is presented as a typical children’s book which has been edited/expanded by a kid.
The results are amazing.
If you ignore the annotations you have a perfectly sensible story about a bunny who has a birthday.
If you read all the comments it is an epic saga of an evil rabbit who is taking over the world.
Written by Jon Scieszka and Mac Barnett, illustrated by Matthew Myers.
It is wow.
Check out the photos

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