Great Characters!

Hey! Sarah here, and today I’m going to be writing about something more writing oriented.  Keep a look out for a book review soon though, on one of the books that Sam and I received as part of our Random House Canada fall preview!  I’ll also be posting on my own blog soon, about everything that went down there! (http://sressiambre.wordpress.com/)

For now though, I have a post that was inspired by our recent trip to Comic Con Montreal (Sam, Meli, Michelle, and I). And it’s all about great character writing!

Alright, so what is it about characters that make them so memorable?

On the surface, when wandering around Comic Con, I think it would appear that cool looking costumes and weapons are the sole reason for a cosplay choice.  Upon deeper speculation however, I think there’s much more to it.  I believe that good characters have the ability to capture the love of an audience, and that if well written, they can last for many years, even when the book/film in question is not in the spotlight.

Firstly, and perhaps the most popular costume choice is that of a superhero.  Everyone wishes to be more than they are at some point in their life.  Imagining that you can save the world, and protect those you care about? Who doesn’t think that would be great?

Now, when writing our protagonists, they will most likely be heroes and heroines of some sort.  Not always with powers, not always with disguises, but they are almost all inherently good at heart and want to take action to overcome the antagonist or obstacle in their way.  We want to write protagonists that our audience will cheer for.  And we want our audience to be able to empathize with them, and many times, wish to be them in some way (though not the situations we put our characters in!).

Next, villains! Writing good villains can be harder than writing our protagonists.  They can come out looking like stereotypes; card board cut outs of what evil looks like, with no redeeming qualities.  Though this type of monolithic evil can work occasionally, I have found that I prefer my villains be more complicated.  I think that a good antagonist had justified reasons for what they are doing, and that it should be less certain that they are wrong in their beliefs.  Having villains as complex and real as your antagonist is what’s going to make your story levels better, and stop it from falling flat.  It keeps readers on their toes, not always sure if good will actually conquer evil, and questioning even where the line between the two lies.

Some of my favourite characters are not necessarily good ones.  And of course, this is my time to once again rave over George RR Martin’s character building in his Song of Ice and Fire series (Game of Thrones, for the HBO viewers).

Though there are characters you hate (Joffrey, anyone?), many have gathered a following of fans.  Tywin Lannister, for one.  The things he does are so heart breaking to Stark fans, and yet he still commands a certain respect from readers who see he uses his skills to accomplish what’s best for his family (though the way he treats them is not particularly admirable).  Then there’s a character like Theon Greyjoy, who is so cowardly that he loses all respect, and yet still manages to get pity for the situation he’s in (though I’ll admit, I’m in the minority of those who actually enjoys his character and POVS).  And who can ignore a reader’s (and viewers) favourite: Tyrion Lannister.  Though he’s witty, and relatable, he has still done terrible things (read the books!) and it’s amazing that Martin can still make him so loveable.

The line between a protagonist and an antagonist is not always clear, and I’m sure that’s why the more complex characters are so much fun to choose for cosplay at an event like CC.

Lastly, I want to talk about the more obscure costumes I saw.  Which brings up the topic of secondary and minor characters.  They may seem insignificant, but in reality they run the story just as much as the main ones do.  Now, continuing on with Martin, there are so many characters that this point really becomes important.  A character like Beric Dondarrion may not be on as many pages as Tyrion, but he holds a lot of power and is a fan favourite because of his endurance and skill.  Jaqen H’ghar (a personal favourite) plays a seemingly small role in the books, but has a remarkable presence (I also believe he will have a much larger role in the next books).

Looking at JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series, it’s characters like Fred and George, Dobby, Luna and Neville (though I’d argue that they’re main characters by the end of the series) that make readers laugh and cry; sometimes more than I would for the main characters.  Writing good secondary and minor characters could make or break your story.  They can greatly influence the main plot, and can certainly capture the hearts of your readers just as much as your main characters.

So who are your favourite characters of all time? Why?

Do you prefer a more complex villain to a monolithic evil?

How do you go about writing diverse and riveting characters?

Let me know!

A book review should be my next post here.  Til then, hope you’re all enjoying yourselves! Feel free to recommend your favourite books to me!

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Picture It & Write: Once Upon a Cloud


Once Upon a Cloud

How He wished he could part of that world, the sounds of traffic, the bustling footsteps of hurried peoples, the numerous smells from all corners mixing as one and the spreading out again and the tall structures with their outrageous design reaching up to the sky. They were all blissful to him; he could sit up in the sky for hours and never blink for fear of missing something. Oh how he wished he could experience it all.

When will there be a day where he wasn’t busy rallying the young cloud-dust whom would much rather change shapes than be still or prepare a new weather cloud for another day or be in his office buried in paperwork,

overlooking statements from other cloud-watchers worldwide? Would there be a day where he would wake up in a non-translucent form among the race he feels closely connected to? He knows that the others like him do not think the way he does. They are content and happy, and they say the world of man is filled with much disappointment that we up in the clouds should never stray away from out heaven.

Even if it felt more like hell, was it truly worth staying he wondered but never out loud. These were his personal confessions he carried with himself each time he snuck away to watch over the world so close but far from him. The world which makes him feel much more than just a cloud.

The world in which he is finally free.

This is Meli‘s Entry to this week’s Picture it and Write prompt hosted by Ermiliablog!
Enjoy and join in on the fun! :)

For Sam’s submission click [here].

Until Next time

Nostalgic tales: Dream Lake

Title: Dream Lake
Author: Lisa Kleypas
Type of Book: Trade Paperback
Pages: 336
Genre: romance, contemporary, paranormal–ghost

Ahh miss Kleypas but you truly know how to make my toes animate themselves and start singing a mighty fine tune. But seriously, if you guys thought Sam Nolan was delicious, y’all best make room because Alex Nolan is just sinful and no amount of finger biting will make you turn away. Although I haven’t read Crystal Cove the third instalment, Dream Lake is my overall favourite.

Alex Nolan bad soul, heavy drinker, the youngest of the Nolan kids who suffered the most thanks to his parents’ alcoholic ways. Got married and divorced made him a very bitter man. Highly believes the world is better off if it just left him the hell alone. Which I will say he probably is better off. Sadly enough for him and delightful giggles for us readers the supernatural just got thrown into the mix. If that wasn’t enough on Alex’s plate wait till he meets his lady-in-waiting, cute, bubbly, petite and so much sunshine you need sunglasses Zoe.

She needed a house to get a fixing for her ill grandmother and he was the best in town.

A real opposite attract kind of couple, in the previous book Rainshadow Road we got a sample of these individuals, once more the author plays the magic bit around but it’s a lot more tone down in comparison with her previous novel. Mostly I think is because of there being a ghost in the mix and his tale is equally as sad. A ghost who can’t remember isn’t as sad as a ghost who can’t remember and the lost-love who never stopped loving/waiting for him. What worked really well too was the theme of alcoholism and how it affects not only the abuser but the people around them as well and I found the author did a good job is highlighting the dangers of it without making it seem cartoony or over dramatic.

Throughout the book Alex and Zoe go through many rough patches, Alex and his devils coming to haunt him and Zoe who behind her upbeat-ness hides tons insecurities and loneliness. Nobody said love between the broken would be easy; however it was nice to see how both of them, by being with each other were in fact healing one another and together became stronger. I truly do recommend this book, a great read, great writing style and gourmet dishes Zoe cooks up will have you drooling all over.

Grading: 5/5

Meli<3

Nostalgic Tales : Sweet Tooth

Title: Sweet Tooth
Publisher: Jonathan Cape
Author: Ian McEwan
Type of Book: Trade Paperback
Pages: 320
Genre: Spy thriller, romance, historial fiction, mystery

So before I start off this will perhaps one of hopefully few books where I am required to have two different ratings. The reason for this is because at the end of it I truly am not sure where my vote lies, or maybe in the end of it all, once I’ve regurgitated my feelings I will look on this book and give it a permanent mark in my mind.

Let’s begin.

Ian McEwan, at the beginning of the description of his novel Sweet Tooth, it was written: In this stunning new novel, Ian McEwan’s first female protagonist since Atonement is about to learn that espionage is the ultimate seduction. – By Goodreads.

I wish I had been more mindful to the words: Ian McEwan’s first female protagonist, merely because ladies I feel this author does us women no justice, this author… presented me with the most pathetic, useless, and frivolous female leads that I have ever come across. Makes me wonder…why write such a character?

Serena Frome a gorgeous, gorgeous girl with long blond hair, big blue eyes and rather big on literature is a floosy. This well-rounded person, has a feminist for a mother who forced her to make more of herself academically, a Bishop for a father whom she does not have a close relationship with, and the wild sister who is the total opposite. Overall she be an okay gal, but once gets to university now that’s when things unravel.

Again in the few 100+ pages she throws herself from one relationship to another all because of her undeniable need to possess all which is not hers. She seeks constant approval for all her deeds and pretty much…opens her legs without even knowing a person long enough, once more all in the act of needing to possess a person. What made me curious is that while you’re reading, all this in her POV she does make it a point to remind us the reader that she does need to be praised and for me while reading that I still had to ask “but you’re a babe! You should be able to make men beg for you!!” later on you do find out why she is like that.

Daddy Issues…plain and simple.

This book, bore me to death, I perhaps had too much hope when I heard it was a spy-thriller, I expected my female lead to be cunning and daring and strong. She was weak, confused, the life she lead and career path (the secret service) was not of her own volition, but she still continued on to make her past-lover content, even though he did end their relationship and left her in a random location. She felt very 16. But then again during the course of everything she may have been only 25-26 by the end of it all.I had to forced myself to get threw it because it was just very me-on-a-rainy-day-lazy. The first 100+ cover her life and time in the agency, her friendship with Shirley who I rather liked a lot and wished more of her was showcased.

There are many historical terms and facts which are thrown about and all the men are pompous, egotistical, machos who think women only need to be around to look at. Anything else, they’re not cut out for it. So it wasn’t until she was assigned her mission to recruit a fellow writer Tom Haley, later on lover to work on behalf of her undercover agency that things looked to be picking up. But Serena was still sucking for me. Even when she had her new lover, that didn’t stop her to be flirty and pompous to her ex-lover, who broke with her and later on it comes to bite her in the ass.

Nevertheless, the flirty-jealousy bit I do not mind, he is one crazy guy.

So that concludes the first rating and review = 1.5/5. I don’t like things to be rushed but I am not riding a camel in a desert either.

The second half of my review, cover chapter 18 (20 if I want be really generous) till the end of the book. This was the highlight of my long suffering, the ending had my jaw open and I could not stop saying “oh damn”. Up until that point I would have never suspected who the real spy was in the end. Serena does not get better, her only brownie point would have been when word of her cover blew up and she silently told her superiors to “screw off”. The only time in her life where she finally decided to do something for herself, which was to stay with Tom—awww romantic gesture, it did nothing to console me nonetheless. And perhaps, it was nice that her long questions of whether or not her older-lover truly loved her or not, was finally answered. She spends a huge amount of time obsessing over it.

Total rating for this section = 4/5, it wasn’t perfect but considering everything I went through it was.

Meli<3

Nostalgic Tales: Shiver

Title: Shiver
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Type of Book: Paperback
Genre: romance, urban fantasy, young-adult, Paranormal–>werewolves

Ahhh this book, wow let’s start. When thinking back on this particular story I actually do have a black in my file cabinet, its folder is filled with tattered paper work. Nevertheless I manage to gather some details.

Our main cast Sam and Grace a pair of lost souls each pinning for the other, or at least Grace doesn’t know she is pinning for Sam, because they’ve met long before when Grace was attacked by wolves as a child, who were tearing at her but for some reasons she remembered the one wolf who was watching by…the one with the yellow eyes. Since then a major obsession was created, so much so that it was ruining her social life.

*sigh* poor girl, they can never keep obsession and reality separate. Anyways, I would assume such an event would make one lead a very stressful life, maybe with a flinching after bite, but not Grace. Full on: I love you we’re meant to be! Especially when she figured out he had human parts under all that fur.

Another interesting fact, remember that number one rule where all werewolves transform with the moon or even sometimes they can do it at will, well this time it’s all about the cold. Poor pups gotta get all hairy when mother-winter comes along.

The whole story itself is OK, Grace doesn’t have anything going for her. Her parents are too obsorb in themselves to really notice her, her friends…I’m still not sure is they’re really friends, are drifting away. As soon as Grace meets Sam he becomes her whole world, so much that she goes into mass depression/panic-mode at the mere thought of losing him. Sam himself is very passive himself just because you never really know how he really feels and Grace tries really hard to make him feel sometimes it’s a little too much.

Did I mention that he even rejects having sex with her because “he wants to do it right?” yet, he has no qualms with sharing a bed with her and living in her home without the consent of her parents… so many tilting-head motions happen with this guy.

There is some drama in this story, a rogue werewolf who wasn’t supposed to be one and an old flame-but not really-although she claims she is.

Redeeming qualities for this author is the way she write I did like very much and the way she describes the COLD made me feel I was never going to see spring and summer. So if you decide to dive into this, it’s slow pace, characters are rather dull with their own angst issue and it may take you a long long time before finishing it. So good luck on reaching the end…p.s. there’s a sequel but I rather stay away from that. The ending of the first book is conclusive so why add more?

Grading: 3/5

Meli<3

Nostalgic Tales : Girl of Nightmares

Title: Girl of Nightmares

Publisher: Tor Teen

Author Kendare Blake

Type of book: Hardcover

Pages:332

Genre: Romance, Fantasy supernatural, horror

So it finally happened, the ending, the conclusion, the final round between good and evil. I didn’t want it to end.

Once more Madame Blake takes us on a magnificent journey, time has passed since Anna Korlov made the brave decision of descending into hell to save Cas and his friends, and while everyone is grateful for her sacrifice the only one to still ponder about it is Cassio. Where did she end up going? Is she content? And what of the Obeahman, is he truly gone? Thankfully all these questions and more get revealed in this stunning sequel.

Cas is restless, angry and generally heartbroken, he feels that nobody really understands and I think in a way he cocooned himself from life itself. He is haunted by visions of his beloved Anna causing him to lose sleep, and if that’s not bad enough our once ghost busting trio have a rift. If I saw anyone who might want to reconsider their role in the group, I wouldn’t have called that person out first. I guess sometimes supernatural experience can either make you bond together like The Ghost Busters, or fall apart like so many music bands we know today.

Despite their fallen member Cas’s waste no time in conjuring his next move. Rescuing Anna— which everyone is so against it but you know what they say “love makes you do crazy things”. I just would never imagine venturing into the deep red tomb of evil would be it. It’s a bloody fantastic ride to get there let me tell you that. However, they can’t do it alone and a trip to England is proving to unfold many mysteries and a new ally/enemy named Jestine. The best way to describe this girl would be as Cas’s female version, but more mature? Perhaps just knowledgeable and better skilled? The part where they venture away to London though does highlights some very interesting places I did not know about and perhaps I will want to see from afar of course.

Either way I was torn between being thankful that she was there when they needed help and hating her when we find out her true reason for sticking around and what it might mean for Cas and his position as…the guy who fights which goes bump in the night?

All in all I felt the book was too short, I knew it had to end but it happened way too soon so that is just my little thing, overall I enjoyed it Anna got what she deserved. Of course the sappy romantic in me wanted them to be together…even if he had to die…THERE I SAID IT I WOULD HAVE NOT MINDED IF HE DIED! Wow that feels nice to let that out. I think though, reflecting on the ending again, it kind of showed mirrored what we all wanted, or at least what I wanted. that even in death, love triumphs all or something of the latter. The selfish part of me also says that it wouldn’t be a bad idea if she did continue with this story…just one more, but I know that won’t happen so I’ll settle and just let it continue in my head.

Nevertheless, I love this author to bits and if she comes out with another work I will tune in so please look into this :)

Grading : 5/5

-Meli

Book Wish List: Strands of Bronze and Gold

Title: Strands of Bronze and Gold
Author: Jane Nickerson
Type of book: Hardcover
Genre: Historical Fiction, fantasy, fairy tale, mystery
Pages: 352

Nothing says trouble more than a young girl, down on her luck with no money, no home and no family suddenly receiving a letter from a man you haven’t seen in years. This particular man invites you to live with him and suddenly you are saved from your desperate situation. Already her circumstances give me grave anxiety, the girl is all alone, just 16 years old and is forced to embrace a world and way of life unlike anything she has experience. Boys and girls if you are hoping for a happy-go-lucky-tale you will not find it here.

She finds herself both attracted to and shocked by the charm and easy manners of her overgenerous guardian. But as she begins to piece together the mystery of his past, it’s as if, thread by thread, a silken net is tightening around her.

This is supposed to be a retelling of the fairy tale Bluebeard and for those of you unfamiliar; it is a tale of a aristocratic man who repels all women because of hideous Bluebeard. Although he has had many wives they all end up disappearing. He eventually gets himself a new wife, but soon leaves her to attend important matters in another country, and before he does he gives his new wife a set of keys which opens many doors. Bluebeard tell her that she may go anywhere those keys allow her to, except the smallest room. It was forbidden and she promises him to be a good wife and not open that room. But like any other heroine, she doesn’t listen and learns the secret of her husband’s strange hobby, as well as the mystery of his past wives. Frightening story I must say, so to have a retelling I can’t help but nibble on my curiosity and wonder what will be different and the same. WILL THERE BE A HAPPY ENDING? . I know I have an addiction so sue me… actually, please don’t, my name has yet to reveal any monetary value teehee

And as she gathers stories and catches whispers of his former wives—all with hair as red as her own—in the forgotten corners of the abbey, Sophie knows she’s trapped in the passion and danger of de Cressac’s intoxicating world..

Goodness I get chills at that, could he possibly trying to re-create the image of a past love with all these girls with this one repetitive feature? That is such a typical sign of a serial killer based on a lot of Law and Order.

When you are given everything when you use to have nothing what do you do when faced with a terrible secret? I know I would run for the hills, but this 1855 so obviously my solution is a lot less possible. I have heard from other reviewers that this author is rather good and the general public have been pleased. I am hoping to end up having a similar reaction and feel that my hard earn 5$ plum points will be well spent.

-Meli <3