City of Bones Review

Taken from my account on Goodreads.com

When I walked into this I had a lot of preconceived notions about what to expect. I wasn’t a part of the Harry Potter fan community back when Cassandra Clare was, but I remember the rift she caused in it and there’s still some of that same rift going around today. Those battle lines drawn over her Draco Trilogy were never really erased and her version of Draco has become somewhat a staple in the community because it’s more interesting than what Draco turned out to be.

So when I read this I was expecting to hate it and spend my time picking out the similarities between it and Harry Potter. But after about 10% of the book passing that faded. Mundanes were the Muggles of this word, that’s true. And there were other small things, but there was a lot here to suck you in. Clare is a good writer, she can tell a story and it sucked me in and surprised me, really really surprised me in the end and she’s not too scared to go to a place that a lot of YA authors won’t. I won’t spoil any of that, because that’s what got this book that last star…that and the fact I just read Hush Hush and anything is better than the tormenting characterization of some of the characters in that book.

I literally stopped reading the book to write this and tonight, when I get off from work I am going to be reading the second one. 

Reading this it’s not hard to see how she made the leap from this to Fan Fiction. it reads less like a fan story with the numbers filed off and more like someone who wrote so far and realized she had a unique way of looking at these characters and that they weren’t who they had started out being in the beginning of it. What really got me to liking this book—this is a four star review, by the way—was that she took risk and mentioned gender issues and gays and other things that are still somewhat taboo. I have a soft spot for people who dare to tackle things like that.

First Person: Revisited

This is more of a note left here for proof of me doing this. I’m not going to be able to write this current story in the first person perspective, but I’m going to have to make the effort to learn how to do it or at least get comfortable enough to do it.

Over the past several months when I have tried to write anything in first person it seems too unnatural and bogged down for me to get much further than the first few lines. So far reading first person hasn’t done much to help me. The way I see it there’s no point in me not writing anything else at all just because this one thing is giving me trouble.

Literary Ship Has Sailed

I read this post about the death of Literary fiction. Lately I have been having a lot of arguments on the subject of literary versus genre fiction. It’s obvious which I favor, but I think that personal preference plays a very large role here. A lot of times in the academic world you will see professors touting the wonders of literary fiction and the beautifully written prose. But that was never what interested me and that wasn’t what got me into writing.

I’ll never forget discussing my writing with someone who was reading it and having them ask about a chase scene that I had been working on. Another person (who was also a writer) had been nearby and overheard the conversation. He piped up with the snide remark: “I used to write stuff like that, then I grew up” referring to my writing of a chase scene.

This attitude didn’t surprise me and it’s one that I’ve dealt with from family or others throughout my writing. “Why don’t you just write stuff that really happens?” is pretty much the common way I’ve heard it brought to my attention. My answer is that reality tends to be a little boring. It’s not what I like to write, for the same reasons I don’t write Westerns or Erotica. It’s just not what I want to do.

There’s a trend in schools here in the US to discourage the writing of genre fiction. Most creative writing classes actually tell you to shy away from science fiction or crime thrillers or any of that. People write what they like, so when the people who want to write genre fiction drop the class or don’t sign up, what’s left is simply people who want to write for other literary authors.

Sure the genre writers don’t get as much practice with that part of the craft because they’re not in the class for it, but they’re what’s selling and popular. So if this trend is repeated it won’t matter how good your book is if all the industry wants to find is the next Meyer, Fifty Shades of Gray or Hunger Games. If those things are what sell, why would a business model permit them to take chances on something else? The wonder of the digital age isn’t that the gate keeper is removed, it’s that the gate keeper has changed. The industry realizes there’s a place for fan fiction and light (horribly written erotica) and other things that were branded as a no-no previously.

This might sound petty or rude, but in a way I think literary fiction did this to itself. It ostracized itself from genre fiction and to most pretty prose and the human condition aren’t enough to leave their genre of choice behind. Hell, you can get well written prose elsewhere, but most people aren’t looking for a heavy read. Had academia welcomed more genre writers into the fold we might have seen more of a mixing of the two, but it seems with the age of digital information, that ship might have sailed.

Changing Appearances

There’s a bit of inspiration to be taken from all over the place, I’m not really big on sitting out in nature and looking to be inspired. In fact I never really believed in that Romanticized version of writing habits that were common with the likes of Shelly, Keats and Wordsworth.

Instead I always took it upon myself to remember that if you needed to write, that you needed to take it seriously and treat it like a job rather than some passing fancy which you indulged only where there was nothing else to do. You need to do away with any distraction and make yourself actually do the work. Sometimes that means being a little anti-social or putting the phone on silent. It’s easiest to explain to your friends beforehand what you’re doing and what kind of dedication it takes and needs.

But I’m getting away from myself, lately here I have been writing again and this is becoming sort of a reimagining of Keep Austin Safe, rather than an entirely new story or even a simple rewrite. I ended up changing a lot of the larger points in it and even some of the characterization and the look of the characters. I don’t think I have come up with anything ground breaking, but I have decided to represent a wider array of characters in this story.

I’m pretty sure that I mentioned before that Lewis and Holly slipped into the story out of nowhere, which is actually a huge change. But I have actually began to change the other characters in slight ways like appearance and personality and the like. I sometimes wonder about things like this and these kind of small aesthetic changes and wonder if this is something that happens with all authors or if this is just something that certain people do. Perhaps it’s seen as somewhat amateurish?

Then again there are all these stories about characters changing after conception. There’s things like Ed from Cowboy Bebop being a boy before. And then there’s Elaine, who never existed in the original Seinfeld pilot. Obviously things change after the original idea is conceived. That’s editing. That’s just a natural part of the writing process.

But I think it’s silly to think that any change like that doesn’t have a rippling effect. Even changing the hair color of one of the characters could change how people perceive them. Look at how society thinks of blondes as opposed to brunettes. Or how a bald man is seen differently from a man with a ponytail. A lot of authors seem to think that appearances don’t mean much, but how often do we judge others based simply on what we see of them?

True, it’s naïve to write using clichéd appearance traits to try and describe the personality of your character, but it’s probably just a naïve to think that appearance counts for nothing in a society where beauty products for hair alone are a billion dollar a year industry. 

In an attempt to make things more sensible I am going to shy away from idealized characters and more toward realism. Of course realism isn’t going to be the thing people associate most with fantasy writing, but in a way it still needs to be. Things need to be realistic for the world that they exist in. There’s some kind of boundary or place for this in every fantasy world.

I try too hard not to concentrate on these things, I got stuck in that trap before and never stopped building the world and the characters—it seems like now I just need to write.

Perspectives

I have been trying to resume something resembling a regular writing regiment. It’s significantly more difficult now that I have writer’s block and an active social life. So far I think I am managing to get somewhere. Two thousand words have been done since my last post.

There are some characters in Keep Austin Safe that appear in other places in my writing. Some of them go by different names more of the time. For instance Lewis and Holly from the novel are more often referred to as Agents Reynolds and Prescott in the Keep Austin Safe. It wasn’t a conscious choice I made to do this. When I started writing it just happened that way. I guess it really is perspective that dictates things like that.

It’s interesting to note that in Aurthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes series it is very rare for Watson or Holmes to ever refer to each other by their first names. This is just odd, when you think about it by today’s real world standards. Which is probably why in the BBC Sherlock they pretty much only refer to each other by their first names—the same way you and I would. It’s a small change really and one you might not even notice because the use of first names is so common, it’s just how we do things.

My reasoning behind using the last names of the characters in Keep Austin Safe is kind of the same. Normally when someone else refers to an authority figure like a police officer, judge or Federal agent they would do so by last name. Since the story doesn’t really belong to Lewis and Holly in this instance I think that it’s appropriate to refer to them in that way.

One of the other characters I refer to differently is one I can’t discuss at length because in her case it’s actually because she pretends to be someone she’s not in the novel and the name would give her away. There’s no pointing in spoiling stuff in my narrative if I don’t have to.