Judging a Book by its Cover

We all do it.

We say we don’t, but we do.

Our minds are drawn to beautiful or interesting visuals.  That’s just the way it works.

So first, I want to look at those oh so beautiful ‘leather bound classics’ that Barnes & Noble sell.

They are wonderful.  I would buy them all, if it wasn’t for the terrible shipping rates to Canada!

Here are the ones I do have:

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As you can see, I went for the same type of collections. Fairy tales and children’s stories!

This one, I’m hoping get rereleased.

narnia

Now, I’d love to talk fairy tales, and their impact on both writers and society as a whole, but I’ll save that for another post because I have tons to say about it!

This is all about the cover art.

I believe having shelves of old books, with decorated spines and beautiful imagery is a romantic idea that many people have.  Finding old books for a cheap price however is not easy! Now these books are not old, though the stories inside them are.  They are however beautiful, and are really like a piece of art in a way.

This brings me to a question though.  Do you prefer having your shelves filled with a variety of sized and styled books, or do you like the uniformity of having, let’s say, all the Barnes & Noble leather bound collection.  That would be all your classics, styled in this way.  Does that appeal to you?

As much as I think they’re beautiful, and I do want to get a couple more of them, I think having too much of the same would probably not be to my liking.  It would be too intentional, and would become more about the art, than the books themselves.  What do you think?

Another great cover:

Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane

This one is gorgeous.

ocean-at-the-end-of-the-lane-neil-gaiman

A.G. Howard’s Splintered

splintered book cover2

So I haven’t read this one yet.  This is one of those cases where my thought process went: Oh wow, that’s beautiful! Oh, it’s about Alice in Wonderland.  I’m interested!

So clearly, that’s good marketing!

Hopefully the book is gripping as well.

 

And of course, no post would be complete without a mention of George RR Martin’s book series A Song of Ice and Fire.  Walking into the fantasy section of a bookstore can feel overwhelming if you don’t know what you’re looking for.  Though this is changing now (possibly do to Martin’s covers), most fantasy covers tend to feel like they all started from the same template.  There will be a guy (or once and a while a woman) wielding some fancy sword, hair whipping around in the wind, determined look on their face.

You see the same kind of generic art in Romance covers, and it can be off putting.  Maybe the book is great, but I don’t know that when I’m looking at a cover, and I will not be inclined to read it.  So what sets Martin’s books apart, at least until everyone catches on and does the same, is that they don’t have typical fantasy art . Just a single image, on a plain background.  That’s it. Nothing fancy, and yet totally gripping!

A_Game_of_Thrones_Novel_Covers

Another fantasy writer got me this way as well.  Joe Abercrombie’s First Law Trilogy:

the-first-law-trilogy

They are so simple, with only the title being the focus, that I immediately was drawn to them.  And that’s what a good cover does, it makes you pick up the book, and read the synopsis (which is hopefully well written!).

This has worked in many genres.  Just look at how Fifty Shades of Grey, and other erotic/romance novels have used this kind of cover to grab an audience.  It really works!

As I’ve said however, people will catch on to this, and soon there will be too many books using this kind of cover, and then its impact will be lost.

 

So, when you walk in to a bookstore, what catches your eye?

What book on your shelves do you think has the best cover design and art?

Let me know in the comments!

 

Until next time,

Sarah

 

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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!

Hello! / Books to Film

Hello!

So I’m new, and really happy that Sam approached me about contributing here.  I love reading everything that the girls post, and hope I can live up to their magnificence!  If you want to know more about me, it’s all in my bio, or you can always come visit me at my own blog.  I’ll post the link at the bottom!

So, it’s not quite a book review today.  I actually thought I’d talk about film adaptations.

I love movies, I really do.  And whenever I hear that one of the books I love is being turned into a film, I really want to get excited.  There’s so much potential to create beautiful portrayals of the worlds that can only be seen in our minds.  And yet, there have been so many poor adaptations that the excitement I feel at hearing about a potential film version of my beloved stories, is mixed with doubt, and the preconception that it probably will never live up to the original.

To extrapolate, I could never expect a perfect adaptation that includes every great scene, every perfectly crafted piece of dialogue, or every instance of character development.  I’m aware that it isn’t possible to include everything, both because of time constraints, and because some things just don’t transition well visually.  I accept that.

And yet, so many films have not only changed characters or plot lines, they’ve destroyed the essence of the story.  When you look at a film, and you can barely recognize it compared to the book, you know that there was a complete disregard for the original material.

I’m not that person who quibbles endlessly over trivial changes, like a character’s hair color or the fact that their ages might be slightly off.  I would rather have a great film, with a character that looks different than I imagined, than a perfect looking character in a terrible film. When a character is devoid of any of the pain, motivation and experience that was felt in the book however, that’s when I have a problem.  I can suffer through plot changes that speed up results, or cheesy one-liners to add humour (though, admittedly, this usually makes me wince).  When a character’s essence is compromised though, I feel that the film-makers (be it the fault of script writers, directors, actors, or editors) have no real respect for what they are using to create their work.

I won’t name any of the adaptations that have made me want to pull my hair out, because I don’t really believe that’ll accomplish anything.  I do however think that looking at some of the ones I’ve enjoyed can only be helpful.

Even though there have been minor, and a few major changes throughout the seasons, I really feel that HBO has done an amazing job with Game of Thrones.  The book series, A Song of Ice and Fire, written by the amazingly gifted George RR Martin, is so intricately crafted that no film or TV series could ever do it full justice.  Thousands of pages, and thousands of characters, all with their own personalities and ambitions could never be contained by a film, and though making it into a TV series does allow for more, even that could never contain the extensive world and character building Martin has encompassed in his books.  Personally, I feel that David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, the creators of the show, have done a great job with the material, and have not lost any of the essence that makes Westeros and its people so intriguing.

On to young adult adaptations, which so often are the victims of that added comic-relief I talked about.  I have not read or watched Twilight, so I can’t comment on that one, even though it has a huge following and would have lots to say, I’m sure.  The Harry Potter films often drove me crazy as a super fan, but I enjoyed those enough, and thought that certain aspects, like the young actors, really got better as the movies progressed.  And who can hate something that has such an amazing congregation of British acting talent (i.e., Gary Oldman is a wonderful man).  More recently, one of the most popular ones has been The Hunger Games, and I can see why.  The book series, though Suzanne Collins did a great job on it, is not meant to be severely complex like Martin’s work above.  It’s written for a younger audience, and doesn’t have quite the scope of his series.  I really enjoyed the books (specifically books one and two), and thought they were entertaining, and that the characters were far more realistic than we see in so many YA books.  They are deeply flawed, but loveable anyway, and certainly the third book demonstrates, much like Martin’s series, that endings aren’t always like those of fairy tales.  As for the film adaptation, I really liked it.  I thought it perfectly encompassed the essence of the book, and I really look forward to Catching Fire, out this fall.

I’m late on going to see the adaptation of Cassandra Clare’s City of Bones.  Not sure what to expect.  Her writing has really gotten better with every book she’s written, and I think the films will do so to, if given a chance.  I’ve heard the box-office sales weren’t quite as high as expected, but am curious never the less, to see what the film makers have made of the book.  There’s also the 2014 adaptations of Veronica Roth’s Divergent and John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars coming up, both starring Shaileen Woodley to anticipate.  Finger’s crossed.

Now apart from this, there have also been a few graphic novel adaptations.  Among them, The Walking Dead.  I’ve been reading the graphic novels, though I did start with the show on AMC.  The adaptation is different, and many changes would probably have driven me crazy if I had been a reader first.  This however, is one case where I felt that even though it was different, I really enjoyed the show for what it was.  I’m not saying it’s better, but it’s still very, very good.  I really liked Shane’s character, and was glad to have him on my screen for so long.  And like many women, I absolutely adore Daryl Dixon’s character, and how he’s developed over the seasons.  And I quite miss not having him in the graphic novels.

So, as writers, would you allow your work to be adapted into film?

Would you want to be involved in the process?

What are the best adaptations you’ve seen?

Let me know!

Until next time,

Sarah

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This post was first published @ http://sressiambre.wordpress.com/