In Which: Plots Are Favored Part 3

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I should have said before but these are just my favorite plots and plot elements, not the only ones I enjoy or think are good. When all is said and done we all look for different things in fiction :).

Now we come to some of my all time favorites:

  • The living book. 

I love symbolism. Back in the day when ‘Read! Read! It’s fun, we promise!’ was the tagline and undercurrent  of every childrens show I joined the Fellowship of the Book (“And my bookmark! And My library Card!”)  in a flash. It helped that my ma only bought me books as gifts of course, but that’s another blog post.

Anyway, the idea that books could take you to far of places without you needing to go anywhere and let you be anyone that could do amazing things was great (To little me, who lived in the middle of nowhere, didn’t mind reading as boy characters, and sometimes had my CP getting me down, it was especially therapeutic.)

But the idea that that book world might be alive and able to be affected by a reader character in their outside ‘normal’ world, spilling one into the other by books end? Those stories were, and still are, pure magic to me. As years have gone on from the days of The Neverending Story I’ve hunted for this plot and its lovable brother ‘Everything is Real Somewhere‘ tirelessly. Somehow, no matter how  many times I read it, my love for this plot is neverending.

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In Which: Maybe I Start A New Thing?

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I was thinking of starting to do ‘old-books- I-have’ haul posts since I don’t get new books as often as I would like (And haul posts seem to be all the rage lately). These would be supplemented with new (used) books I get now and then, some background about why I picked the book, and a very short review if I’ve already read it….

I’m still getting use to wordpress as a blogging site, since I’m more accustomed to the very informal journaling format of livejournal and tumblr.

In Which: Plots Are Favored Part 1 of 5

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I admit it, I’m a reader of habit. I try my best to read out of my zone of favorite themes and plots, but always return to them. Maybe it’s the warm and cozy feeling they give me of knowing how something might play out, maybe it’s because the new trend toward ‘the future is grim and then our great great grandchildren all die’ isn’t for me. But whatever the case here are some of my favorite elements and plots in no real order…

  • The sympathetic (anti?) hero vampire that actually loves being a vampire.

There are vampires that spend their time crying about their fate into wine glasses of blood and vampires that want to go to high school for all of time. This vampire is neither of these and yet I can’t help liking them. Normally they are bloodthirsty monsters, but done with just the right balance and they are blood thirsty monsters who think humans are nice but wouldn’t want to be one (if they ever were human to start with).  But they still have emotions, they simply don’t use them to mope about the hand they were given. Well fed and taken care of this interesting mix of old and new vampire myth is pretty rare, even in romance novels. Even rarer than that is them being the hero of a story and not the villain. Where’s the love?

  • Main characters that react positively to supernatural and weird happenings in fantasy novels.

I’ll say right away that this favorite element did not come from a happy reader place for me. I swear if I had to read one more novel where the hero mumbles to everyone and her Aunt Bess about how she must be dreaming/going crazy/losing it/ she’d miss school/a date/she was so unlucky etc over finding a hidden magical world I was going to scream. Doubly so  if the only one who reacts with joy at finding a magical world/discovering magic in our world/finding a talking unicorn is only the goofy nerdy sidekick of the book. For that matter why aren’t there more books about the goofy nerdy sidekick as the hero character? I feel like in this day and age we outnumber the sensible ‘I’d rather be in my nice boring world feeding my goldfish’ adventurers five to one 😉

In Which: Young Adult is Still Adult

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While on one of my journeys across the internet for info into the inner workings of writing young adult fiction (which somehow ends just as often in Facebook as it does in my opening a FocusWriter document) I came across a few interesting articles. The common consensus these days seems to be if you are over 18, or worst yet, the dreaded 30,  and ‘still’ read YA novels, you should have your ‘I am a sensible adult wise in the ways of the world having no happy endings’ licence revoked. Or, on the other end, that not liking YA novels as an adult makes you a member of the ‘Bitter, old, dusty literary book lovers and puppy kickers’ club.

I’m not sure if either side is totally right or wrong. As I get older though I actually feel like I enjoy young adult and even *gasp* children’s books more  than I even did when I was their target age group. Part of that isn’t because I somehow grew up without learning how unrealistic these stories are, but really, because I did. The same goes for the other worlds in classic scifi or the happily ever afters in a good romance novel. Of course love doesn’t last forever, of course the hero doesn’t always get rid of a government that is corrupt and killing people. But for the short space of a novel or a series it does an adult heart good to believe in that impossible thing. Maybe, so if someday we get even a small bit of that impossible in our real life we will still be able to recognize it , and turn the page to something wonderful.

In Which: Romance: Love is UnLoved

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I love romance novels. There seems to be some inherent reluctance to admit that online, most of all if you also read  classic novels like I do. After all romance novels are a dime a dozen, easy reads, and hardly memorable, right? (Note: I don’t agree with any of this, but that’s a topic or two for my next few blogs). 

But of all the hate aimed at romance, no subject seems to get more internet flames fired up than the romance sub-plot in a normal novel. The common gripe is that romance is unneeded and hurts a story rather than helps, most of all in YA. Sometimes even in books where romance is the actual stories sub-genre, front and center, with no frills or theme masks to hide behind.  But, why? Rather than focus on how romance is a failing in of itself to a story like I’ve seen ranted about many times before, I thought I’d talk about the topic from  my romance fan reader\writer pov of:

Reasons Why Romance Fails To Be Feel Necessary In A Romantic Plot 

1) Characters Are Unrelatable.

This is a big one. Romance is about two characters getting to know and love one another. If the characters are not somehow enduring to the reader, how can they be the same to each other? This doesn’t mean, of course, that the reader has to know first hand about a character’s favorite hobby or pastime. But the basic human emotions and failings that ground all of us should be there somehow in fictional form. Speaking of emotions….

2) The Only Emotion Characters Show Is Love\Love Related

Characters are little fictional people. People are more than just love\lust even when they are in love. When the only thing that the characters talk about\angst about is love, most of all if other things are happening that are equally important that have a long standing in the characters life years before they met their lover, something feels off. Of course, there are cases where they forget everything swept up in the moment, but what makes those moments so great is their momentary coming and going , just like in real life.

3) The Romance In The Story Does Not Match In Tone

A war is raging, soldiers are dying, rebel fighters are firing elemental arrows from their crossbows, and the couple of the story is fighting over a package of jerky in a foxhole because the hero looked at another girl once.  This problem is probably the one that gets to me most in YA fiction with a subplot. I understand a case can be made (and a good one to) for characters acting their age, but I also see it in romance subplots with adults. The main plot is placed on a grand scale, while the romance subplot is treated like a cheerful Saved By The Bell episode of the week. The drama and cold, hard, reality of maybe dying, or at least being badly hurt, seems to have no bearing on how the lovers act or value one another. They could as easily be sharing a milkstake at a diner fighting with each other and the scene would play out no differently.  

4) A Character Says ‘I love you’ But Shows ‘Meh’

The characters say they are in love. They have sex. They call out for each other whenever they’ve been away too long. But that’s it. They go through the motions, and have long talks with themselves in silence about their true love, but their actions fall flatter than a pancake with the word ‘love’ written on it in crayon.  Sometimes the plot tries to throw in characters fighting  over and over and over as a placeholder for hidden passion but this only ends in more sex, and little else. While sex is great, it can become wearing if it is the only gesture of affection characters ever use to show that they are in love and not simply lust. 

5) The Characters Don’t Grow 

Growing up is hard to do. Most of all when you find out that no matter your age you’re still a work in progress. A good romance should foster growth in someway, adding to characters knowledge of not only the other person, but themselves. When romance is at its best it makes people into a newer, fresher, better version of themselves somehow, at its worst, weaker and scarred. Sometimes this growth is so dramatic that even after a romance ends the character will carry  that changed, matured version of themselves onward in life always. But the problem comes when the character we’re introduced to at the beginning of the story is already a fixed personality that never changes. They are already great at everything they try, self assured (even if they have bad self-esteem) and unswayed by any actions of the surrounding world, much less their romantic  partner. The characters spend time with each other and their mindsets are never  challenged. They fight, but afterward act like nothing happened. They have realizations late at night, only to wake up, shrug them off, and  go right back to treating their lover the same way they did on page 5 as page 355. While a ‘perfect’ character can be a placeholder for the everywoman/man reader to see themselves as while reading, this perfection and unchanging pov can also be a placeholder for ‘boring’.

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Feelings on what is good writing and what isn’t varies, of course :). But I still like thinking about it now and then. I will be doing a couple more romance themed posts . One I’ve been stewing on for a while is vampires, which I’ve been a fan of long before they sparkled like snow. Back in my day they sparkled like gold and were half elf! But that’s another story… 

In Which: The Bookmark Lives Up To Its Name #1

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It’s no secret I love bookmarks. Whenever I am lucky enough to see some anywhere, I always pick up one or two.

Todays feature bookmarks  are some emotional little guys from China called ‘Sunny Dolls’.  They are the more interesting ‘ hairclip’ form bookmarks, and their cutest comes in a trade for meh quality

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Still, $4 or so for six little bookmarks is not the worst deal I’ve ever heard of, and they are something to look into if you are a fan of the cute chibi/anime emo vibe like I am.

(Note: Future reviews will be done using my own pictures of the bookmarks and a rating system. Right now my camera isn’t talking to my computer. I’m getting tech counseling for them both to work out their issues peacefully)  

In Which: I Don’t Know Where My Books Are From

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Book stores were a rare thing for me to visit even before the internet. A big part of it was my family did not have a car, and my not-living-with-us family didn’t visit often. 

Books were mostly:  Hand me downs I got as gifts, where I was grateful for anything with pages. Or, well chosen glossy marvels, eating up money from School Book Club tissue paper order forms. ( My promises of any other birthday or Christmas gifts vanishing as soon as they arrived) 

Now, Amazon seems to all but made used book stores in my area as mythical as I once thought them to be. The one shop nearest us that sold brand new books died even sooner, some ten years ago.

But Amazon has not felt like an evil being to me because, well, I never had the freedom without it that I now have with it. In a few clicks I can hear about a book, search for a book, and buy that book, easy peasy. No mess, no fuss, no tissue paper form or  ‘please wait 3-5 weeks for delivery’.

Well, that last part varies. For my cool $3.99 I’ve seen Amazon take anywhere from two days to three months to get a book to me.  Sellers on Amazon, most of all penny sellers, do not seem required to act like the company they say they are and list a location. Even just a notice to say they are in the US somewhere.

I ordered a copy of Taming The Forest King by Claudia Edwards (a rec from a forum I belong to) on the 1st of this month, only to finally get it yesterday. The postmarks proudly proclaimed it had traveled all the way from the UK to my little slice of Nowheresville, CA, USA.

Normally this wouldn’t get to me. I love getting objects from far off places. But the fact that I don’t know where my books are actually coming from anymore hits a nerve I didn’t even know was there  Silly, I guess, really.

Here’s to you Amazon. Please be careful with our books, won’t you?