Friday, August 31, 2012

What I Read Over Summer Vacation by Melanie Crouse

And my top 10 Must Read books for Fall...

On the first day of summer vacation, I posted my summer reading list. Unfortunately, I haven't read them all yet, partly because I strayed away from it on more than one occasion. Hopefully that won't affect my final grade on this report. J

A quick note about The Prosers Read: I still LOVE this idea, and long to do it. However, other projects have hit me over the head and hijacked my time, and I have made a conscious decision not to feel guilty about letting it slide. Some day I hope The Prosers Read will get the attention it deserves. 
Books I Finished:
1. A Spy In The House by Y.S. Lee

This was the first book I read over summer vacation, so many months ago that it seems like a dim memory. It is the story of a girl in Victorian England who works for a spy agency. This is her first assignment, and she makes a lot of mistakes, but things work out in the end. I'm only going to mention the complete implausibility of the story this one time, because it was fun. I will probably read the sequel someday, but I haven't rushed out to get it yet.

2. The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner

Susan recommended this series. It starts with The Thief, which is a much more simple story than the rest of the series (kind of the way The Hobbit was such an easy read compared to The Lord of the Rings). I read this book three times this summer, because I love Gen so much. It hurts to watch a character I love so much purposely open himself up to such humiliation, but that just makes his comeback that much more fun to read.

I <3 Eugenides!

And, for extra credit, I read A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner. I still love Eugenides. J

3. Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Gorgeous book. It's marketed as Young Adult, and it belongs in that category, but it's really for the older YA readers. There is some sex, which makes me cautious in my approval, but I did recommend it to my daughter in high school. This is a book I would love to read with a book club, because I long to discuss it with someone.

4. The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak

I've gotten stuck in a huge fantasy rut lately, and I thought a little historical fiction might help snap me out of it. Wouldn't you know that even my historical fiction would have a speculative element? I really enjoyed this book, though I try to read sad books sparingly. You can see my post about it here

5. Bloomability by Sharon Creech

You can see my post about Bloomability here. My family listens to this book on audio every summer. There are two versions, and we listened to the newer version for the first time this summer. I like the older one better, but it is still an amazing middle grade book.

6. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Read by Jim Dale

I love Jim Dale's voice, and chose to listen to The Night Circus completely because he was narrating. I'm only about 2/3 of the way through, but I'm enjoying it. I probably wouldn't have gotten very far into the book if I'd been reading it myself. The plot is really just an excuse for the descriptions of the circus and the lyrical language throughout the book, and it's probably too slow for my taste. 

If it hadn't been Jim Dale's voice reading, the use of the present tense (and the occasional slippage into second person point of view) would have turned me completely off as well. It's my opinion that present tense should be saved for high action/suspense novels. However, 2/3 of the way through, I'm beginning to see why she chose to use it. She wants us to slip so fully into her novel that we feel like we are experiencing the circus, not hearing about it. If you like this sort of thing, I recommend it.

(I was completely put-off by hearing Jim Dale say the F-word a few paragraphs into the story. But I think it might be the only swear word in the whole book.)

7. Sorcery and Cecelia or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer

Sabrina recommended this one, and it was the catalyst for our own version of the Letter Games that I talked about a couple of weeks ago. It seemed appropriate to read it, so I finally checked it out from the library.

I'm almost finished reading it for the second time. These women are geniuses. I haven't had this much fun reading a book for a long time. I am in awe of the way the two authors, completely independently, were able to write two plots and merge them together. Besides, who wouldn't like an action packed version of Jane Austen, complete with magicians and the London Season? I highly recommend this one.

8. The Makeover of James Orville Wickenbee by Anya Bateman

I read this while I was on vacation in Utah. When I went to the library, I tried to check out as many books by LDS authors as I could, since I would like to find another one that I like well enough to purchase their books. This one was by far my favorite. It's about a girl whose brother becomes best friends with a nerd (James) who happens to be Mormon too. When he decides to run for student body president, she decides he needs a makeover--before her brother commits social suicide. Jana is not a very likeable main character, but she grew on me over the course of the book.

9. The Supernaturalist by Eoin Colfer

I've never been a huge Artemis Fowl fan, and I wasn't very impressed by The Supernaturalist either. I'm not sure what puts me off about them, except that the character development doesn't seem very deep. IMO, you shouldn't give your character so many flaws unless you are going to take the time to make us like them.

10. White Cat by Holly Black

Another YA read for more mature teenagers. I'm looking forward to reading more, especially because of the twist at the end. I'll say no more. Sh...

I know I read more this summer, but those are the only ones I can think of right now. If you compare this list to the one I wrote at the beginning of the summer, you'll see that I haven't read everything I wanted to yet. So, here's a quick peek at
My Fall Reading List:

1. The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling

2. The Grand Tour by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer (The sequel to Sorcery and Cecelia)

3. Legend by Marie Lu

4. Insurgent by Veronica Roth

5. The Fault In Our Stars by John Green

6. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskill

7. Red Glove by Holly Black (sequel to White Cat)

8. Kill Switch by Chris Lynch

9. The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson (sequel to Girl of Fire and Thorns!!!)

10. The Kill Order by James Dashner

11. The Outcasts: The Brotherband Chronicles by John Flanagan

12. The Mark of Athena (Heroes of Olympus book 3) by Rick Riordan

How about you? Are you planning to read/have you already read something you'd like to recommend?

Thursday, August 30, 2012

When do sad endings work?

When I started this series, I got briefly distracted by talking about dark themes in fiction rather than what I’d originally intended to talk about: stories that are dark and depressing through and through, sad endings and all. For a lot of people, that sad ending is a deal breaker. I’m saving why it works for me to next week (partly because I’m still figuring it out). But for this week, I want to talk about when those sad endings can work.

There is an inherent difficulty in talking about endings in that it guarantees spoilers for those not familiar with the material. To at least minimize the spoilers, I’m discussing things that have been published/released more than ten years ago (except for the Flash Fiction Online stuff, but I’m not sure how much you all read the ‘zine anyway). Feel free to avoid this entirely if you don’t like any spoilers. I won’t be offended.
It’s not done for cheap emotional reasons
Of course, not all sad endings work for me. There are the ones that just seem to be done to provoke emotion in the reader. To prove a point, maybe. Like the theme of Cold Mountain, which is “it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” Okay, that’s great. I even agree with it. But by making that the theme of the story, it cheapens the hero’s journey. He went through all of that hardship, all of that struggle to reach his girl, just to get killed off. It seemed less like a natural outgrowth of the plot and more of the author twisting the story to get his point across. And speaking of twists…

It’s not a random twist ending
I can’t recall any examples of this at the moment. Perhaps because it’s something I mainly see in slush. You know, everything’s going hunky dory, the main character is suddenly struggling toward some goal, and then WHAM, car accident. Or serial killer, zombies, dragons, robots, sudden and inexplicable desire for suicide (not making that last one up). If you want to do a twist ending right, see MaryAnn’s excellent post from a while back.

It’s a natural outgrowth of the story
This, of course, is the opposite of the other two. It’s a natural direction the story takes, either by the skill of the author, or because of the theme of the story. For any of these, there is always hope of that the characters will prevail, but it’s clear from the subject matter that it’s likely that things will not end happily for the characters. For example, the film Requiem for a Dream is about drug addicts. It’s a wonderful, well done film that I’m not sure I’ll ever watch again. It ended rather poorly all around. I had hopes that the characters would escape their struggles, but I wasn’t shocked when they didn’t.  

And then there’s the internationally recognized Most Depressing Book Ever, “A Fine Balance,” by Rohinton Mistry.  I give it this label because I was talking to Sarah about this series, and I mentioned that I wanted to talk about the most depressing book ever, and she right away said, “Is it A Fine Balance?” and I said “HOW DID YOU KNOW???”  For me, it beats other depressing novels like 1984 and The Bell Jar, no contest.

Anyway, A Fine Balance works for much of the same reasons that Requiem for a Dream does: the quality of the prose, and the setup. The novel is never anything but bleak, though the ending chapters really do make you want to curl up in a corner because the world is a terrible, terrible place and there’s nothing you can do about it. (How I could possibly enjoy that book is again a subject for next week, though wild zombies couldn’t force me to ever read it again.)

Perhaps other people would find those to be the author trying to make a point, either about drug addiction or the casual cruelty of life. But for these two works, the quality of the presentation sets them above that, in my opinion.

There is beauty and wonder mixed in with the sorrow
I come across this story most often when I read for FFO. For example, take this absolutely gorgeous piece we published a little while back, and one of my all-time favorites. Go on, read it. It's fewer than 1000 words! And I promise it's not hideously depressing. Just a little sad.
For this sort of story, the ending is sad, but the imagery and the prose are so lovely that I can't help but fall in love with it.  As another example, this story has less of the lovely imagery, but is still emotionally compelling. I have to say, I think it'd be even better without that last paragraph, but I'm picky like that.
Best of all, these stories have impact. Even though they're short, they stick with you - not like pine sap that never washes off your hand no matter how much soap you use, but something that stays with you emotionally, that makes you think. And that, in any category of fiction, is something worth reading.

And does anyone have another entry for the Internationally Recognized Most Depressing Book Ever?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Have a Little Charity, Proser

Be Kind to Those Who Write
Remember we are all at different places along the writing journey.
Cheer success.
Commiserate with roadblocks.
Edit honestly, specifically and kindly.
Give other the benefit of their dreams.

Be Kind to Your Family
They listen to your crazy ideas.
They leave you alone for hours when you say, "Just a minute. I only have to get this one thing down on paper."
They let molehills of laundry grow into mountains without complaint (maybe some of them even do it for you).
Your family loves you.
Give them your heart and your time. First.

Be Kind to Your Friends
They make you laugh.
They take you out for late night ice cream when you really, really need it (and sometimes when you don't).
They are the shoulder to cry on when everything falls down.
And the extra pair of hands to help build you back up again.
Your friends are your treasure.
Hold them close.

Be Kind to Yourself
You are the only you you have. Be nice.
Speak kindly to yourself.
Think good of yourself more than ill.
Breath deeply.
Give in to your dreams (I'm looking at you, Sheena).

Thanks, Prosers, for everything.
You inspire me.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Actors and Characters

Picture from stock-xchng taken by Scott Liddell
So many times I have no idea what I’m going to blog about until I read Sheena’s post.  In fact all The Prosers have inspired me to write a blog topic at one point or another (thanks ladies, I hope you don’t mind), and today is no different.  Sheena’s post yesterday on being an actress made me think of what I learned about characterization from my drama classes I took in high school.

I’ve been thinking about blogging about this for a while now ever since I wrote this blog post on characterization.  I thought that maybe some people would find it interesting if I shared what I learned about characters from my very very limited acting experience.  But now that I’ve learned that Sheena was a drama major in college and Trisha spent a year working as an actress, I feel a little intimidated about writing this post, but…I’m going to do it anyway.  Cause I got nothing else. 

So Sheena and Trisha please chime in and share your expertise.  I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

Okay, now after that lengthy and insecure introduction, I’ll get started.

Acting isn’t just memorizing lines.  Actors create the characters as much as writers do.  It really is amazing to see the same play done with different actors.  They say the same words and tell the same story, but each actor brings something different to the role.  They create something truly unique.

The role of Indiana Jones was originally offered to Tom Selleck, who had to turn it down because of Magnum PI.  It is hard for me to imagine Tom Selleck or anyone else really as Indiana Jones.  Harrison Ford truly took that role and made it his, and I’m not sure if the movie would have become so iconic if it hadn’t been for his performance.

My point is that actors know as much if not more about creating realistic, memorable characters than we writers do, and I really think that there is a lot we writers can learn from them.

1.  Motivation is the key to creating a believable character.  The phrase I heard over and over in every drama class and every play was, “what is your motive.”  Every actor needs to know what their character wants, and not just in the overall play, but in every scene, every word, every movement.  Stage direction is given to provide movement, but the actor must give that movement meaning.  

I’ve blogged many times before that knowing your characters’ motives is essential for good characterization, but I’m going to say it one more time at least (probably more).  You need to understand what your characters really want, what they think they want, and what they are in denial about wanting in every scene, every movement, every word.

2.  The small movements are important, but can be overdone.  In my drama classes, a lot of the students (including me) struggled with what to do with our hands.  The director gave us those big movements like sitting down or crossing to stage right, but we had to figure out those small movements.  It was tough.  Too few movements and the character seems too stiff, but too many wild gestures and the character looks comical, both of these extremes can make the character feel unnatural (unless of course the character is supposed to be stiff or comical, then it works J).   Ultimately, every actor needs to find the right balance.  But those small movements were more than just making the character look natural.  They can convey thoughts and meaning that aren’t in dialogue.  They are a way of subtly showing character.

Balancing small movements is important in writing too.  Too little movement and you get talking head syndrome, too much movement and the characters seem twitchy, but just the right movement at just the right moment can show aspects of a character’s personality that can’t be shown in dialogue or even internal monologues, especially when the character thinks they want one thing but really want something else.

3.  Be in the moment.  There are a lot of things to worry about when you are performing on the stage.  There is remembering the lines, the cues, the stage direction, and sometimes, gaging the audience’s responses.  A good actor needs to be in the moment.  He can’t worry about what is coming next or what the audience is thinking, he has to be that character at that moment and think of nothing else.  The audience can tell when the actor is not completely immersed in his character.

I’ve found that my best writing comes from being in the moment.  I find that I have to go over every scene at least twice.  The first time just trying to get down on the page what happens, but the second pass, I try to immerse myself in the character and imagine what exactly she/he is seeing and thinking.  I can’t always tap into that, but when I do, I can feel it and I think the readers can too. 

4.  Always give yourself somewhere to go.  I mean emotionally, not physically.  I’m not sure if this has a technical name, but it was acting advice that always stuck with me.  No matter how angry or sad the character is, you always leave room for the character to get angrier or sadder.    If you give all your anger to the scene, your character can’t get more angry, and you will have no place else to go.   I don’t know why, but the audience can feel this.  The scene loses tension because the audience knows that you’ve reached your limit.   So you need to hold back some of the anger or the sorrow or whatever the emotion your character is feeling, so the audience always feels that tension that things can get worse.

I think this is true in writing as well.  I’ve heard the advice of torturing your characters.  Trap them up in a tree and throw rocks at them.  I think we do need to let our characters suffer, but we also need to hold back a little to.  Take them to the brink of being broken, but don’t break them.  Let the readers feel that as bad as things are for the character, it can still get worse.  Keep that tension going because once they’ve hit rock bottom, there is no place for the story to go but up.

So those are the lessons I learned about writing from my brief experience with acting.  I didn't have a very long acting stint, but I'm thankful that I was able to take something away from it besides just having lots of fun.  :)


Monday, August 27, 2012

I'm a Writer/ I'm an Actress

I'm the one in the green.
And in the grin.
This is my favorite picture of me ever. It's a copy of a copy, so I apologize for the low photo quality.

 This is me in my very first play. I love this picture, because I can see my joy reaching deep down to my fingertips.

I love acting. It brings me a kind of joy I don't feel doing anything else. There's something about reading an author's words, and knowing exactly how they should be spoken, knowing exactly what kind of inflection will bring the audience to laughter, and what kind of pause will bring an audience to feeling emotion, that I can't really explain. It just feels natural to me, like it's ingrained into my spirit, like I was created to do it. It's something that I can do without trying, and it's where I shine.

I was in at least one play every year from the time I was that old, until nine years ago. I loved it.

While I was in High School though, I learned something that filtered my perception on acting. People don't like you when you are better than them at something. Boys don't like girls who are weird, and when I was seventeen, I learned that acting was weird.

But I didn't care. Acting was part of who I was. When I played a character, everything made sense. I could speak, communicate, feel, shine, without even trying. I was the best. I could be in a room with a hundred kids, and I was the best. When you're a teenager who hates herself, being good at something meant I had hope, a reason to exist, a way to keep going, even when life sucked.

When I got to college, I wasn't the best anymore. I didn't understand where all these talented kids came from, or why they kept stealing the parts I should have been given. Reality snuck in, and I had to work my butt off, just to be noticed. I saw so many people who were so talented, so driven, living in a culture they created of alcohol, parties, infidelity, homosexuality, and creative genius. As a sheltered  young Mormon creative girl, I was lost. I wasn't good enough to fit in with the brilliance of the culture, and I wasn't bad enough to feel comfortable with the questionable morality. By trying to figure out who I was, and what I'd be, somehow I lost the joy in acting that I knew as that little girl in the picture.

That's where I was when I fell in love with the handsomest man that ever existed. We created children and a life that has brought me a different kind of joy. A brilliant beautiful happiness, that I wouldn't trade for anything; not for Broadway, or SNL, or any other dream I once had.

For nine years now, I haven't been in a play. For nine years, I thought I was okay with that. I expressed myself through my writing.  That should have been enough.

But in those nine years, I've been sad.

 I've been tired, and false. Something was missing, and I pretended so hard not to know what it was.

 I found myself trying to play the character of the Perfect Normal Mormon Woman, and hating myself for failing. I was so busy trying to fit myself into a mold that no one told me to try on, that I didn't understand why I felt broken all the time.

This last week, I tried out for a play. I tried not to. I really tried not to. I came up with as many excuses as I could for why I shouldn't do it, and I have plenty. But I still did it.

Maybe it's the nine year break I took, but that one hour of being the person I was created to be made me feel joy all the way to my fingertips again. It's not Broadway.  It's not living the dream. But I'm being authentic. I'm being the person I was created to be, and it feels SO good to stretch out of the mold no one used to create me.

Dream. Do it for the love. Do it because you can. Do it because when you shine, when you are the person you were created to be, you give permission to other people to be themselves.

But mostly, do it because it makes you happy down to your fingertips.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Little Red Writing Kit

I had one of those rare nights recently where I got to tuck my kids in, leave my husband in charge, and disappear to the book store.  I roamed around, picked out a few books that have been on my "To Read" list for a while, and then I came across this:

I probably would have kept walking--it's kind of gimmicky, and that's not really my thing, but it was only twelve bucks so I figured what the heck.

The Little Red Writing Kit includes four "Instant Plot" dice, fifty scene cards, a dry erase marker and a guide to writing better structure and style.

I got home and flipped through the book.  I was expecting it to explain how to use the dice, but instead I found twenty miniature writing lessons, full of examples and exercises.  I won't say the lessons were all brilliant, and several of them were not designed for novel-writers, but it was a nice refresher course.

The dice are cute. You roll them to find out what you're going to write about.  You have a Hero die, has options for a male or female protagonist, an anti-hero (of either gender), a non-human, and child protagonist.  The plot die provides the story's narrative plot, with options like Quest, Escape, or Revenge.  The genre die determines (wait for it) the story's genre.  The final die determines your plot twist.  Things like Dead End or Trap show up with that one.

After you've got your protagonist, plot, genre, and twist, it's time to get working on your scene cards.  The cards are coated in plastic, so the dry erase marker wipes off.  Great for people like me that change their mind about a thousand times. This is where you map out the story, work out the kinks, without having to make a comprehensive outline.

I don't know how well this method works.  I've seen similar exercises online, but this is the first time I've played around with the idea myself.  It's fun, but I haven't actually sat down to write anything yet.  We'll see how it goes.

Bottom line, if you happen to come across this cute box set in the book store, you might consider picking it up.  Especially if you can find it for under fifteen dollars.  If nothing else, it's a great way to exercise your creative writing muscle.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Wind Chimes and Other Important Possessions

 I still remember when I got my wind chimes. It had to be about fourteen years ago, since we hadn't moved to New England yet. Instead, we were in Utah, in our own little starter home, the home that I'm certain was not nearly as idyllic as my memory has painted it, but that I'm happy to remember so fondly. It was my birthday, and the box they came in was white. The silver tubes were covered in plastic, which was covered in tape. It took a long time to unwrap, but when I finally lifted the chimes into the air, the resulting clang was one of the most beautiful sounds I had ever heard. The music they made was mellow and rich.

I don't remember if we ever hung the wind chimes up before we moved across the country, but after we moved, it hung over our back deck, which was a sturdily constructed, but decrepit-looking thing, with a set of stairs leading down to the swing set, and another that led to our swimming pool. Behind our house, there was nothing but woods, and the sound of the wind chimes blended beautifully with the rustle of birch leaves, until I barely noticed it anymore.

My daughter noticed it though. Whether it was because she heard us talking during a particularly strong gale, or whether it was her own active imagination, I'm not certain. What I know is that when she was young, she was terrified of the wind; certain that it would blow trees down onto our roof and kill us all. Since in her mind, the wind chimes obviously created the wind, she was terrified of them too, and begged me to take them down. Reasoning with her didn't work.

Perhaps it seems hard-hearted of me, but I never did take them down to prove to her that I was right. In retrospect, it seems like it would have been a simple thing to do, but for some reason I didn't. What I know is that when a small breeze catches the wind chimes, it transports me to somewhere magical, a place where cool breezes riffle through my hair as I lie in a hammock looking up at leaves and crisscrossing bars of sunlight and sky. Perhaps somewhere in my subconscious, I thought that taking the wind chimes down wouldn't just destroy her magic, it would destroy mine too.

She got over it. And one day, my husband took the wind chimes down because someone was coming to put new gutters up. Instead of putting the chimes back up, we packed them away, because we were thinking about putting our house up for sell, and it was the reasonable thing to do. The economy tanked, and selling our house took a lot longer than we thought it would, and the wind chimes were gone for over a year--perhaps closer to two.

I forgot about the magic until we moved to the house we live in now. As soon as we got here, I hung them up near the front door, on the only hook that was already there. It's probably not the most convenient place for them, because they aren't quite far enough from the walkway. They are no longer the sparkling, shiny things they used to be. The wood is weathered now, and the silver tubes are dull, but I don't know how I lived without them for so long. Their sound hasn't changed, and it still transports me to that magical place. I need it even more now that I live on this treeless plot of lawn where my neighbors are people instead of woodpeckers and squirrels. Sometimes, when I'm walking in my front door, I veer to the side just enough to brush past the wooden clapper with my head. I've got it perfected so that the clapper hits just one or two of the chimes lightly, and the music follows me wherever I go. Magic.

That's an absolutely beautiful story, Melanie, but what does it have to do with writing?
 I ruminated about my wind chimes while I was walking this morning. I thought about the teacher at my kid's school who uses wind chimes as a relaxing signal that it is time for the kids to stop what they are doing and gather in a circle at the front of the classroom. I thought about my grandma, who collects wind chimes. I once thought I'd follow in her footsteps, but I've never heard another set of wind chimes that I like so well as the one I've got. I don't want another set. The jangle would ruin the music of mine.

I'm amazed at all the glimpses into my personality you can get from this one possession.

The possessions a person chooses to surround themselves with tell a great deal about who they are and the way they live their lives. If you were inclined to delve deeply into my wind chime soliloquy, you could make some pretty fun guesses about my socio-economic status, my family background, my parenting style, my interests, my age, and a bunch of other things.

The way your character interacts with their possessions says as much about them as their interactions with other characters. The things they value tell a story. A story about a woman whose home is full of the musical chiming of hundreds of wind chimes would be different than a story about a woman who loves her wind chime and hers alone, which would be different from a story about a person who tosses her wind chimes in the garbage as she's packing up to move to a new home, which would be different from the millions of stories that already exist about people who never spent a moment of their lives thinking about wind chimes.***
***Burn Notice fans: Can you just imagine this paragraph being read in Michael Weston's voice? 

Michael gives Fiona a "Welcome To Miami" snow globe
As you know, Burn Notice is one of my favorite TV shows. In that show, Fiona loves her weapons. If that was all she had, she'd be a pretty one dimensional character. But she also loves her snow globes--a scene from every country she's ever visited. A room full of snow globes can be a pretty heavy burden when your line of work requires you to get up and go at a moment's notice. How about Michael? He's got nothing. (No cash, no credit, no job history... J) But he does have some sunglasses, and without those glasses, things are not right in Michael's world. I'm not quite caught up with all the episodes, but I've been a little disappointed that there isn't more about his car in season 5. His Dodge Charger is a symbol--though he was a person who couldn't afford to have roots, he didn't want to lose his, even the bad parts.

It's more intuitive to do this with your main characters, but its one mark of a well thought out story when a writer takes the time to think about the possessions of minor characters as well. That's my challenge for you this week. Take the time to think about the possessions of your minor characters. You might be surprised to find a story hidden there.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Writing dark fiction - addendum

I’ve been reading fantasy and dark fantasy since I was a kid. And those have always been the stories I've most wanted to write. Since my focus has been on fantasy, I've spent the most time reading and learning about fantasy writing. But occasionally, I decide to turn my stories more toward horror than dark fantasy. 

And then, when I was researching my previous post, I came across this quote. It captured my attention so thoroughly I felt it deserved its own post. (I can’t find the original quote anywhere, so here’s the blog I found it on.”)
To quote the critic David Aylward, “Writers [of horror fiction], who used to strive for awe and achieve fear, now strive for fear and achieve only disgust.” 
The quote certainly describes a certain type of horror, particularly the Lovecraftian model, where the characters constantly slip into unfamiliar (and terrifying) worlds. I’m not sure awe is always the way to go… but it certainly is easier to end up with disgust. Think of all those serial killer villains whose minds we really didn’t need to linger in, even though they do make really evil villains.

But I have to say, I’ve… never even thought about it that way. So much of the advice I come across is straightforward, designed to rescue words from excessive obscurity, and to bring themes and motivations to the front rather than to the back. It makes me wonder, how could I write the horror elements in my new dark fiction story to be awe-inspiring rather than just aiming for scary?

What do you all think? And have you ever come across anything like this, where in attempting one thing, you end up with something different and better? And when is subtlety the way to go?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Have a Little Hope, Proser

For some of us, language and reading come as naturally as breathing, as a fish swimming, or as anyone with double X chromosomes craving chocolate...

But for some of us, language and reading don't come easily at all.

With school starting soon for everyone, I thought I'd share a tale near and dear to my heart, and hope it gives a little courage to kids who struggle (whatever their struggle may be), and to parents who worry about and fiercely love those kids.

Once upon a time there was a cute (and I do mean cute) little boy with white blond hair and root beer eyes. Before he was one year old, he babbled and knew a plethora of baby signs. He loved to point to pictures in his storybooks as mom and dad read to him.

Sometime before he turned two, he stopped looking at mom and dad. He fixated on drawing tiny, perfectly formed circles. He stopped talking. Speech therapy followed, and occupational therapy, and lots of tears from mom and dad and boy. But finally, after years, something clicked and the little boy began to speak.

When the little boy was five and six and seven, and ten, he struggled with his letters. Written words didn't make any more sense to him than spoken words had a few years earlier. His mind wandered. He doodled pictures. The parents met with teachers to find out what they could do to help this incredibly creative, incredibly unique child fit into the world. Intensive classes followed to train his eyes, his hands, his mind. There were lots of tears from mom and dad and boy. But finally, after years, something clicked and the boy began to read.

This past summer, this not-so-little boy who had once struggled to look people in the face, to speak his thoughts, and to make sense of words on the page, has devoured (and would recommend to all the guys out there):

Dead Reckoning by Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edghill
The Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer
Hive by Mark Walden
The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
The Daniel X series by James Patterson
The Monster Hunter International series by Larry Correia

This summer he also finished his first 100 page novel, which his friends are wild about. He is head of social media for his school's ASB. He is generous, hardworking. loves to crack jokes, and is still incredibly, creatively quirky.

There have been, and still are, miracles in his life (and I offer my sincere gratitude to my Heavenly Father for them). Whenever it seemed he stalled out in his progress or faced insurmountable problems, people or programs were put in his path to help him overcome them. But one of the biggest miracles in his life has been his own perseverance through tears and frustrations and feeling like there was no way he could do it.

So, to kids who struggle (whatever your struggle may be), you can overcome. You can persevere. You can make today a little better than yesterday, and tomorrow a little better than today.

And to parents who worry about their kids, whether you are just starting the parenting journey, or are many years into it, you know your child better than anyone else in the world. You are your child's best advocate. As you seek out opportunities to help your child, answers will open to you. Today can be better than yesterday. Tomorrow can be better than today.

Young or old, I hope you take the opportunity to make the most of this school year before you.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Getting the Motives on the Page

I recently read this brilliant blog post by Elizabeth Bear, where she talks about striking the balance between over-explaining and under-explaining.   Summed up nicely in this quote from her post.

Picture from stock.xchng
“There’s this tremendous tension for me as a writer between making things too easy and making them too hard. Or not even hard, because that implies some intent to confound–but rather it seems as if the entire course of my self-training has been a see-saw back and forth between obscurity and hand-holding.”

She goes on to say that what makes finding the balance difficult is that not every reader is the same.  What some readers might find obscure others will understand perfectly and others still might find painfully obvious.  There is no way to strike the perfect balance for all readers.

I find this very interesting because the advice I’ve always seen is to “trust the readers” and not spell things out, but I think that sometimes this leads to writers expecting too much from their readers, leaving too much to be interpreted.  As a reader, I find this frustrating, especially about important things such as characters motives. 

Connecting to the main character (MC) is crucial to my enjoyment of the story.  I need to understand why they do the things they do or I can’t relate to them.  Often times when readers think a character is stupid, it is because the reader doesn’t understand the character’s motives.  A character can do anything, even something stupid, and as long as the reader understands why, it works.

This is why some stories don’t need too much character development.  If the motives are obvious, the reader doesn’t need much backstory to understand why the characters do what they do.  If there are engineered dinosaurs chasing them, the characters want to survive.  I don’t need to understand their childhood and defining life moments.  They do whatever they have to do in order to escape the dinosaurs.  I get that.  It is exactly what anyone would do in their situation.

But the more complex the motives are, the more the characterization is needed to explain the motives.  For example:  Gone with the Wind would be a frustrating read and Scarlett would be an infuriating character if the reader doesn’t understand why she continually pursues Ashley.  Her motives are complex, and not even fully realized by her, so in order for the readers to relate to Scarlett, she needs in-depth character development.

Of course I’m sure that there are plenty of readers who didn’t understand Scarlett and probably hated her (or thought she was stupid) and hated the book because of it.  This goes backs to what Elizabeth Bear said about each reader being different and needing more or less on the page to understand.

I read the book Everneath a while back that I reviewed on The Prosers Read.  I thought the book had an interesting premise and fascinating mythology, but what held the book back for me was that I didn’t understand the MC’s motives and because of that I never connected to her.  And I’m sure that there were readers who didn’t have that problem, but for me I wanted the POV to go deeper, and to see more of what the character was thinking and feeling.  I found myself working too hard to try to figure out why she was acting the way she was acting, and I came up with possible reasons, but none of them seemed to be supported by what was on the page. 

I’m not saying that I need motives spelled out for me.   In fact subtext is very important for characters motives.  Very few of humans are self-aware enough to understand why they do the things they do, and characters should be the same way.  Characters should think they know what they want and why, but rarely they do.  Still the evidence needs to be on the page to support that subtext.

So a character’s motivation is complicated (unless their motives are truly simple like wanting to survive).  If there is too much on the page, the character comes across as too self-aware and feels false, but if there is too little, the reader may not understand the character enough to connect with them.  So it is very difficult to strike this balance, and impossible to make it work for all readers.

So what do we do? 

I think this is a tough question that has no easy answer, but in her blog posts, Elizabeth Bear says it best.

“And I guess the answer is really to write the story I want to read, but try to make it as open as I can while still meeting my own needs as a reader. To embrace my own quirks and transmit them honestly, because anything else results in self-homogenization, and since my readers aren’t widgets, it doesn’t help me any to try to be a widget myself.”

I agree completely with her.  I think a lot of these writing dilemmas come down to doing what works best for us as readers.  If you can’t please everyone, you might as well please the one person you know you can, and I promise, there will be plenty of readers who share your tastes.  J


Monday, August 20, 2012

Angel Choirs Sing

Girl Child: "Kick, kick, I'm kicking you."
Boy Child "No, don't kick me." Quiet. "Hey Mom, I saw this on the commercial, that's why I told you to buy it."
Girl Child: "I'm kicking you." Giggling. "I'm kicking you. I'm punching you, I'm tickling you, Ian, I'm getting all your tickle out."
Boy Child: "This level's gonna be easy."
Girl Child: "Now it's my turn." Silence. "Ian! I never had a turn."
Boy Child: "Okay." Continues to play video game.
Girl Child: "Ian!"
Boy Child: "Okay, you can try all the rest. Don't fight because we didn't... "
Girl Child: "I'll do this level."
Girl Child grabs Mom's kindle from Boy Child's hand.
Boy Child "Oh." Quiet. "Wonder why you can't...You don't have to tri-duck it. Did you know that?" Quiet. Boy Child attempts to steal kindle.
Girl Child: "Ah!"
Boy Child: "I'll help you."
Girl Child glares, and takes back the kindle.
Boy Child: "Oh, you cracked the code."
Girl Child: "I made it! I'll check the collection. We found the bar of soap! Your turn."
Boy Child: "Okay, I'll try two levels. What the? There's..." Humming. "Oh I found it. I did it. Owt." Girl Child sits on Boy Child's back to see. Boy Child goes back to video game. "This is it! This is eight."
Girl Child: "Let's play dodge ball."
Boy Child: "Hey, do you know what this level is called, Mom?
Girl Child: Simultaneously. "Mom, can I have a banana?"

School starts tomorrow.

Angel choirs sing!

In case you were wondering, this is the game they are currently playing, wheres my water.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Happy Back to School Season!

He's a big boy, now!
My son started Kindergarten on Wednesday.  It was the first time for me, dropping a child off at elementary school.  He was in Pre-K last year, but for some reason, this was different.  My husband and I drove him to school.  We helped him line up out front with the other kids.  When it was time to shuffle into the building, we helped him find his backpack hook.  Inside, he gave me a quick hug and ran over to the carpet, ready for circle time.  And that was it.  Suddenly my little boy was a big kid.

No, I didn't cry.  I mean, I ran out to the hallway as fast as I could, and it took several long minutes of staring at the wall to convince myself I wasn't going to cry.  Afterwards, the Kindergarten parents went to the library for coffee and donuts.  We met the principal.  The moms talked and joked nervously, none of us really wanting to show how hard this process was for us.  Then it was time to drive home, sans children.

That night at dinner, my son talked for nearly half an hour about everything that happened at school.  Which was mostly sitting and listening to the rules, and playing on the playground.  It was harder than normal to get him to go to bed that night, because he still wanted to tell me about every little thing his new friends had done or said.  I let him, because I think he's got a little bit of storyteller in him, too.

All kids do, I think.  We all start out with this epic sense of adventure, even if our experiences are limited.  The bathtub is an ocean.  The backyard is a jungle.  A blanket thrown over the bunk bed is a fort.  As we grow older, some of us lose this.  Bathtubs are just one more thing to clean.  Yards need mowing.  Bunk beds are a pain in the neck to change sheets.  A few of us, the ones called writers, get to tiptoe along that line of fantasy and reality.  My tub really does need cleaned, but it can also be an ocean.  The dinner table at my house is a place to eat, but it's also the stage for all kinds of stories, some that I tell, but most my kids dream up.

I hope I never lose this sense of imagination.  When I take the dog for a walk and my son shouts, "Charge!" I hope I always see the invisible army he's battling.  I hope he sees it, too.  Imagination is one of the greatest gifts man possesses.

I'll share one last link that occasional guest Proser Stefan recently shared with me.  I'm linking to it so there's no issue with copyright infringement, but I hope you'll check it out.  It's called Scary Smash and it's written by a kid.  Very cute.

Have a great week everyone, and if you're dropping kids at school soon, I hope you have an easier time than I did!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Motivation for the Dog Days of Summer

In my little corner of the United States, even the nicest houses don't usually come equipped with the most important invention of modern times--central air. People surmise that it just doesn't get hot enough for long enough to make that kind of investment. But, oh, global warming...look what you have done!

The heat and humidity rot my brain. They make my arms so heavy that moving them takes all my concentration. I yearn to sit on the couch and stare into space. If I am feeling particularly motivated, I might find the energy to imagine I am sitting in a snowstorm. But not by August. Early August is the bane of my existence. My kids are going to start school soon, and  I long to want to play with them. My house and other responsibilities have suffered from my lack of energy for so long that I am riddled with guilt and self-recrimination. There is produce to can (though I'm successfully ignoring that fact this year) but adding to both the heat and humidity levels in the house seems nearly suicidal.

And so, this time of year often seems more like a time of new beginnings to me than spring does. Like a phoenix I am ready to rise from the ashes of summer and begin again. I'm just waiting for the burning to stop.

Meanwhile, I stumbled across this quote:

"How does one become a butterfly?" she asked pensively.
 "You must want to fly so much that you are willing to give up being a caterpillar." (from Trina Paules, Hope For The Flowers)

It was just the right moment for that thought to enter my brain. With the hope that I am not the only person who needs a pep talk here in the dog days of summer, here are a few more powerful quotes for you:

  • "Often, out of periods of losing come the greatest strivings toward a new winning streak." (Mr. Rogers)

  • "Who is mature enough for offspring before the off-spring themselves arrive? The value of marriage is not that adults produce children but that children produce adults. " (Peter De Vries)

·       "Transitions are almost always signs of growth, but they can bring feelings of loss. To get somewhere new, we may have to leave somewhere else behind." (Mr. Rogers)

·       "There are times all during life when we need the inner resources to keep ourselves busy and productive all by ourselves." (Mr. Rogers)

·       "You can never solve a problem with the same kind of thinking that created the problem in the first place." (Albert Einstein)

·       "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit." (Aristotle)

·        "Imagining something may be the first step in making it happen, but it takes the real time and real efforts of real people to learn things, make things, turn thoughts into deeds or visions into inventions."(Mr. Rogers. Again)

·        "Dream as if you'll live forever. Live as if you'll die today." (James Dean)

·       "We often miss opportunity because it's dressed in overalls and looks like work." (Thomas Edison)

·        When a great moment knocks on the door of your life, it is often no louder than the beating of your heart, and it is very easy to miss it.” (Boris Pasternak)

  • “Sometimes opportunities float right past your nose. Work hard, apply yourself, and be ready. When an opportunity comes you can grab it.” (Julie Andrews)

  • "Someone once told me that we move when it becomes less painful than staying where we are." (Anne Hines, The Spiral Garden)

·        "Continuous effort - not strength or intelligence - is the key to unlocking our potential."  (Winston Churchill)

  • "Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around." (Leo Buscaglia)
·       "The trick is to enjoy life. Don't wish away your days, waiting for better ones ahead."  (Marjorie Pay Hinckley)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Writing dark fiction

When I started this series, I posed two main questions. Why do I like to reach such depressing fiction? And why do I like to write it? I’ve chipped away at the first question a bit, but not yet touched the second. Originally, the only reason I could come up with was, “because that’s where my ideas come from.”

Seems sort of obvious, but there is a bit of depth to that. One possible explanation is that I hide a dark nature deep inside. I’d like to think that’s not quite it. Sure, I have my cranky moments – especially those torturous minutes between when my alarm goes off and when coffee is ready. But overall, my life is pretty good.

The second explanation is that I read a lot of dark fiction, and where I read, I get inspiration for ideas. And I do read a lot of dark fiction, but that can’t be all. Right?

As I often do when I’m having trouble explaining myself, I sought out why others like to write dark fiction.
I write horror because it’s horrible. I want to bring light to what has happened in the real world. I can’t do that by becoming a politician or a civil rights activist, because that’s not who I am. I am a writer. I write… There’s a lesson. Sometimes you have to dig for it, but it’s always there. I write to make you think. And if I can make you think, then maybe I can make you talk. And if I can make you talk, well…maybe then I can make a difference.
I like that thought, but it doesn't match my reasons. 

These next two are very far off:
Why is it so fun to write horrible/terrifying things into a book? I think the main reason (for me) is catharsis. There is something so cleansing about putting a character (even one you love) through the ringer. I find it easier to dump the stresses in my own life onto their fictional shoulders in the form of monsters in the darkness and painful injuries than it is to carry it around myself. They cannot suffer like a real person of flesh and blood, and for those moments as I write, I can forget my own suffering.
I think the first, and possibly most obvious reason, is people are consumed by death. The fact that we are mortal, that our time here is finite, haunts us daily. And perhaps the only thing more haunting than the idea that we will someday die is the fear that we may one day die a brutal, violent, tortuous death—or maybe that’s just me.The entertainment is the catharsis involved, the ability to give ourselves over to our greatest fears in a safe environment where we know we’re not going to die. This point, I believe, is also true for why I write dark fiction, as it gives me an active role in working out some of my own deepest, darkest fears, exorcising them on the page and leaving them to haunt the imaginations of my readers.

When I was first writing, I would indeed tell dark stories as a way to take these ugly emotions inside me and turn them into something whole, something beautiful. That’s not so much the case now. I will write about situations that I find scary, but I don’t really have the desire to “haunt” anyone either.

I certainly don’t exult in torturing my characters or in designing Bad Guys. On the contrary, I get a little bored of serial killer stories, particularly those short stories about serial killers and scenes from their POV. I get it. You’re crazy. You think Evil Thoughts in overly dramatic and excessively foreshadowed style.
One reason was a little closer: 
In real life, you would never want to endure watching people die around you, fight in a horrible battle, or crawl through a slimy hole in the ground filled with terrifying creatures, just to feel like you succeeded at something... In fiction, the characters can endure such things, and their success is almost as fulfilling to the writer as if they had done it themselves. Seeing your character grow, knowing that they are becoming more and more real is a point of great pride and pleasure to a writer. The same can apply to the reader.

This is close. I do like to write stories where characters overcome tough obstacles. But I wouldn't say I had pride in their achievements, being that they are created and controlled by me.

When I wasn't able to find anyone whose reasons perfectly matched mine, I stared at the ceiling for a while. I even had to turn off my music (sorry, Yo Yo Ma) to avoid any distraction. Finally, I wondered if I'd been thinking about the question in the wrong way. I started this out thinking about why my ideas for stories were always dark ones. But maybe that was the wrong way for me to look at it, because inspiration is a nebulous thing that occasionally defies description. But why do I keep working on those dark ideas I get? That's a little easier. Since I read a lot of dark fiction as a teenager, I was inspired by the stories of characters who overcome terrible situations. And that's my goal every time I sit down to write a dark fantasy story: someday I might inspire someone to overcome their problems the way I was inspired to overcome mine.

And okay, maybe I also like to come up with cool and original demons. I blame my biology background for that.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Have a Little Faith, Proser

A funny thing happened to me on the way to the bookshelf. Actually four funny things.

First, I read a book in which the villain was a preacher who turned out to be an evil cult leader bent on his own monetary gain irregardless of how many people he hurt.

Next, I read a book that began in a post-apocalyptic village ruled by a religious group of women. So intent were they on keeping power that they ultimately committed the vilest of sins, leading to the destruction of nearly their entire flock.

The third book, I just started (but cheated and read an online summary to make sure it was okay to read aloud with my boys). Set in a post-apocalyptic village, an insane preacher is willing to manipulate anyone, even kill to maintain his grip on his people.

Fourth, these three books read right in a row reminded me of another book I read in the last couple months that I didn't finish (a rarity for me). In an ensemble cast of blatantly cardboard stereotypes, the religious girl with the perfect exterior was, of course, exposed as the hypocrite everyone knew she was. Her character arc consisted of denouncing her beliefs so that she could truly 'find herself.'

 Most of the books I typically read don't contain any references to faith at all. And I'm fine, and have always been fine, with that. Faith is a personal thing. And my faith is not necessarily yours is not the person next to us. So, although I like learning about religious traditions, I don't need my literature to be affirming to be fulfilling.

But, I will say, I found the succession of negative portrayals more than a little discouraging. Was it because these were all dystopian or alternate universe - literature I'm not as well versed in as fantasy - and that's how they're written these days? Or did I just stumble upon an anomalous trifecta (quadfecta?) of religious acrimony?

Anyway, after reading those, I tried to come up with some positive counterexamples of faith that I've read recently in YA lit. Here are three:

The first is my perennial favorite, the Queen's Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner. Most inhabitants of her world don't pay much attention at all to the pantheon of gods. They go through the motions of obeisance and celebrate feasts simply for tradition's sake. Gen and his companions, who absolutely understand the reality of the gods, have very ambivalent relationships and feelings toward them.

The second is Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale. I'm rusty on this one, it's been a while since I read it, but I think I remember the world was based somewhat on Mongolian tradition. The mc, Dashti, takes comfort in her ancestors and nature worship, doesn't she? (Goody, now I'll have to reread it to find out!)

The last book, The Girl of Fire and Thorns, by Rae Carson, was the only one I could think of where religion played such an integral and positive part in the main character's life. Blessed to be a chosen one, Elisa keeps her faith and ultimately uses it to claim victory over her enemies.

So, how do you see faith (and I mean any faith from real world beliefs to ones created to fit a novel's world) fitting into YA literature?

Does the acceptance of faith by the reader change depending on the genre? Do you have faith traditions in your books? What books can you think of that do? And since faith plays such a large role in many real people's lives (over 90% of Americans profess a belief in God), what do you think the place of faith could/should be in creating well-rounded characters?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises-How to End a Series

I finally saw The Dark Knight Rises.  I’m sure that many of you haven’t seen it yet, so I promise no spoilers, and I’m even hesitant to give it too much praise because that can raise expectations, and I don’t want anyone to be disappointed because they were expecting more, but I’m going to say it anyway.  I thought The Dark Knight Rises was the best of the trilogy.

The others were very close, maybe even too close to say.  All three movies go together in a cohesive way that they can almost be thought of as one story.  And I think that this has to do with why this final movie was so satisfying.  If we look at all the movies as the journey of Bruce Wayne, it could be thought of as one movie, and I think that is the importance of a trilogy or a series, that it all fits together, and on some level, the whole thing is one story.

I think this is really tough to pull off and why so rarely does a series end strong.  X-men, Spiderman, even the Hunger Games series all failed to achieve this, just to name a few.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed all those movies and Mockingjay, but they weren’t strong finishes and did not leave me with a sense of satisfaction that this movie did.

I don’t want to imply that this movie had a happy ending.  I don’t need a happy ending to be satisfied, and I did cry a little (or a lot, maybe my husband and I had to watch the credits roll for a little while I regained my composure).  But to me the ending was perfect.

 So here is what I learned from this movie on how to give a series a strong end (I’m going to be a little vague here because I don’t want to spoil the movie for anyone who hasn’t seen it).

1.  All the stories tie together.  I hate the middle filler that you sometimes get in trilogies.  All the stories need to stand alone, and they all need to build and be connected.

 I’m not saying that that all the movies have to continue the same plot line or involve the same villain that was not the case in The Dark Night Rises.   The Joker wasn’t involved in the League of Shadows, but the first and second movie had a strong impact on the third.  The legacy of Harvey Dent and the death of Rachel had a hefty influenced the mental and emotional states of both Bruce Wayne and the people of Gotham City, and this set the stage for the third movie.

But Bruce Wayne was really what connected all three stories together.  The series was his story, his evolution.  His character arc goes through the entire three films and ties them all into his story.

 2. Stakes need to be bigger and the challenge needs to be harder.  Honestly how can there be a better villain and a stronger opponent then Heath Ledger’s Joker?  Well, there can’t.  IMO, Heath Ledger’s Joker will go down as one of the best villains of all time.  He truly was amazing.  So how does The Dark Knight Rises up the stakes?  By starting the movie with Bruce Wayne already damaged by The Joker. 

Batman doesn’t start strong.  Rachel’s death has taken a toll on him.  He isn’t the man he needs to be to beat Bane.    And a weakened hero against such a formidable foe (Bane is good, he just isn’t The Joker) makes the stakes bigger and the challenge harder, and batman struggles in this movie as he has never struggled before.  That is what we need to see in the final installment of a series.

 3.  Need to go back to the beginning, and address the original problem.   I’ve heard the saying a lot in writing that the ending needs to connect with the beginning, and in a series, the ending movie/book needs to connect with the first book and solve the first problem presented.

I’m not going to give anything away, but there are lots of references to the first movie in the last one, and the original problem of Bruce Wayne trying to find a way to heal is at the heart of The Dark Knight Rises.   

 4.  Needs to feel like it was all worth it.  With all the suffering a character goes through in three stories, the audience needs to feel that it wasn’t for nothing.  Whether the story ends in tragic or triumph, there needs to a sense of victory in the end, lives saved, hearts changed, lessons learned, hope restored.  The Dark Knight Rises delivers on this big time.

It has been a long time since I walked away from a movie or book series feeling this satisfied.  Maybe that’s why The Dark Knight Rises is at the top of my superhero movie list.  Really all three movies in this series were brilliant.  Yes they did have flaws, they were all a little overwrought in their plots, just too much going on, but the emotional payoff was huge, and that is the most important element of storytelling.

So what did you think of The Dark Knight Rises?