Characters, Emotion, and Viewpoint: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting Dynamic Characters and Effective Viewpoints by Nancy Kress Book Review

Review by: dancingonrain.

 

Synopsis on the back of the book:

“How do you create a main character readers won’t forget?  How do you write a book in multiple-third-person point of view without confusing your readers (or yourself)?  How do you plant essential information about a character’s past into a story?  Write Great Fiction: Characters, Emotion, and Viewpoint by award-winning author Nancy Kress answers all of these questions and more!  This accessible book is filled with interactive exercises and valuable advice that teaches you how to:

1.) Choose and execute the best point of view for your story.

2.)  Create 3-dimensional and believable characters

3.) Develop your characters’ emotions.

4.) Create realistic love, fight, and death scenes.

5.)  Use frustration to motivate your characters and drive your story.

With dozens of excerpts from some of today’s most popular writers, this book provides you with the techniques you need to create characters and stories sure to linger in the hearts and minds of agents, editors, and readers long after they’ve finished your book.”

 

I read this book cover-to-cover at the library, but  I also don’t think that was necessary.  Someone could have easily picked and chose certain topics or chapters that s/he specifically needed help with and only read those sections.

All-in-all the book does cover a lot of topics and I did learn a few new insights here and there.  For example, in one chapter, Kress talked about how frustration is generally the highest motivation for a character.  Yes, many other things can and will motivate that character, but in the end, s/he generally acts because they’re frustrated in some way.  So what would frustrate your character and drive them to act/behave in a certain way?  Kress obviously  explained it better in the book, but that was another way of explaining character motivation that I hadn’t heard before.

If I had to choose a number one strength of this book, it would be the exercises at the end of each chapter.  There was usually 3-6 exercises (most of them in-depth) and they definitely helped me broaden my insight to my characters and/or plot (or whatever else the chapter had discussed).

While this book did have many useful exercises and gave me some more insight, I feel like some chapters didn’t spend enough time on the topics discussed for that section.  Yes, this book went through a lot of topics, but because of that I felt that some of the topics were given the short-end of the stick.  I don’t know if I’d buy this book, but if you’re near a library, check it out and see for yourself.  It would be a nice reference to have here and there.

😀

 

Champion by Marie Lu Book Review

Review by: dancingonrain.

 

June and Day’s story concludes with their paths separated in Marie Lu’s third and last book of the trilogy.  June is working for the Republic again while Day is working a high-level military position. While a peace treaty is in the midst of being formed, a new strain of a plague breaks out and threatens war between the Republic and the Colonies. But there is hope.  A potential for a cure.  If the world is to stop itself from crumbling, Day must hand his little brother Eden back over to the Republic for experimentation.  Elector Anden gives June her hardest task yet: using Day’s feelings for her and manipulating him to comply for the good of the people and to prevent a war that may have already started.

This third book was a satisfying way to end the trilogy.  While I did feel like the epilogue (the ten years later bit) wasn’t necessary, I also understand that most of the younger people would want a happy ending.  The reason I didn’t think the epilogue was needed was because although it would have been more of a bittersweet or even just bitter ending without it, it would’ve made June’s action in the last chapter (before the epilogue) seem more selfless.  But at the same time, the epilogue still does work because by now Day and June have a mutual friend, Tess.  So it was probably inevitable that Day and June would eventually be reunited anyway.  I will admit that I liked the whole “start anew” idea by the books end too and Day and June definitely deserve the second chance.  Either way, the last book of the trilogy did not disappoint.

This was one of the series where the story/plot and characters just got better and better through all three books.

I don’t think either of the main protagonist’s characters changed all that much during the entire series, but their motivations and allegiances did.  While that sometimes can lead for a boring story or novel, it didn’t bother me at all, mostly because I thought the characters, plot, and motivations were all well-constructed.

Like in the previous two books, the emotion that each of the characters expressed was excellent.  I feel that most of the time, the main protagonist feels bland and monotonous, even lacking emotion, especially in the young adult genre.  I think this only added to and helped the book be even better.  So many times the male character is written as emotionless, invulnerable, and perfect, which, of course is a boring and unrelatable character from the start.  Unless his character is one that is supposed to present himself as one devoid of all feelings (a socio/psychopath), then the emotion part actually strengthens stories more than taking away from them.

Likewise, often times we see the main female protagonist as a Mary Sue character, which Marie Lu avoids completely in this series.

For those of you who don’t know, a Mary Sue character is just there for the author’s or reader’s wish-fulfillment and has absolutely no logic behind any of their actions other than they never fail at anything ever.  These characters are beautiful, strong, and smart.  She often holds her own with the boys or even beat them most times, but they never can lose to them, which is unrealistic.  No one wins all the time.  These characters are flawless, which makes them a boring and unrelatable character, especially the flawless part.  Last time I checked, no one, regardless of gender, is perfect.  Everyone has flaws.  Everyone has weaknesses.  And everyone makes mistakes.  Gender or race is not an excuse for a Mary Sue character.

Marie Lu does great in avoiding this type of character.  She makes both characters flawed and shows how their past mistakes have affected them and the others around them in the present and as a reader, I loved the characters more for it.

Take June, for example, her mistake is she basically killed Day’s mother in the first book, and yet, these two still found a way to work it out.  Day’s weakness is his family and June.  While we still don’t see him expressing all his feelings of loss and sorrow to other characters openly, there are plenty of scenes when he’s alone, mourning their deaths/murders.  Only a sociopath wouldn’t feel anything after all the stress these two have been put through.

And let’s not forget that June and Day are teenagers, kids, and they are written as such.  I’ve read some young adult novels where their main characters seem like adults rather than children.

Another part of the trilogy I enjoyed was that what June and Day didn’t confide in each other or other characters, they confided in us, the reader, which made me feel all the more part of the story.

Marie Lu’s Legend Trilogy is currently my favorite young adult series for the dystopian genre.  While she has a new series she’s working on now, The Young Elites series, I still prefer her first series: Legend, Prodigy, and then Champion.  I would recommend the Legend Trilogy to anyone and everyone who likes YA dystopian novels and for anyone who enjoyed the Hunger Games, but even if you didn’t enjoy the Hunger Games, I would still suggest you dab into Marie Lu’s world.

 

A Perfect Murder Movie Review

Review by: dancingonrain.

 

When a husband finds out his wife is cheating, normally he would be devastated.  Not Steven Taylor (Michael Douglas).  With Steven’s financial business plummeting, he sees his wife Emily’s (Gwenyth Paltrow) affair as an opportunity to get rid of her and inherit her millions of dollars for himself.  After learning about Emily’s lover David shady past (Viggo Mortensen), Mr. Taylor hires him to murder his wife.  Steven Taylor has thought out every detail for it to be the perfect murder.  It couldn’t possibly go wrong . . . too bad he didn’t think of everything.

While this movie started off a little slow and I didn’t understand everyone’s motivations, by the end of the movie, I understood where the characters were coming from more or less.  For example, David says he loves Emily, but clearly doesn’t love her enough since he goes through with Steven’s plan.  He’s more concerned with saving himself rather than actually being in love with her.  That didn’t make sense to me.  But by the end, I understood that David cared more about the money than anything else.  How incredibly similar to Steven.  As for the rest of the characters, there were a few plot holes in their motivations I thought could have been worked out more, but all-in-all I enjoyed the movie.

To be honest, I was a little skeptical of this movie at first.  I normally don’t watch this type of movie and I figured it would basically be the same-old-same-old set up.  It wasn’t.  At least not to me (although, I did just say I haven’t seen many in this genre either lol).  I mean it did have some of the similar aspects you would expect a murder mystery couldn’t do without.

By the end of the movie I was convinced that all three main characters were sociopaths from the start.  Even the victim.

I found it funny how I went into this movie thinking I wouldn’t like Emily all too well.  She seemed kind of bland to me.  They all kind of did, but I think that works because in the end they all acted like sociopaths (to an extent) anyway.  At least they all had a similar mindset to one.

While this movie did have its flaws, most films do.  I still enjoyed it and would definitely watch it again . . . when I have time.

 

Finding Dory Movie Review

Review by: dancingonrain.

 

Finding Dory takes place a year after Finding Nemo did.  Dory is now having flashbacks to her childhood where she was with her mother and father.  The adventure begins as Marlin and Nemo both embark on Dory’s quest to find her parents that she may or may not remember.

Like all Disney/pixar movies, the animation was amazing.

The story and characters picked up right after where the original movie left off.  It had its happy and sad moments and was definitely worth my time seeing, however, it wasn’t as well put together as Finding Nemo.  There were some points in the movie that I felt jumped around or felt choppy, but, for the most part, this was an entertaining, cute movie.

I did like all the references they made to the first movie, but it also didn’t necessarily add much to the movie.  Finding Dory’s storyline was basically the same storyline as Finding Nemo’s, but with its own twists here and there.  While the movie was pretty predictable, I did enjoy the new characters such as the octopus (or septapus), Hank.  He was actually probably my favorite character in the movie.  As a character, he started off as kind of a jerk, but as the movie progressed, we saw that he’s more than just a jerk-character, he was actually three-dimensional, which, when you think about it after his motivations after the “Touching Pool” scene is actually kind of sad.  That whole character arc and pool scene made me feel bad for and understand him more.  This is something movies meant for the older age groups sometimes lack.  Having a jerk-character have more dimensions than just being another jerk.

I felt this movie catered more to the adult (20-30 years old) demographic because this group would have been children when Finding Nemo first come out.  For example, there were a few scenes like the one at the “Touching Pool” where I thought it was actually more of a horror-like scene and some children may not have liked it.  But since it was Disney/Pixar, they realized that there would be children going to the movie too, so they did put in scenes from Finding Nemo, or at least explained the premise of the first movie in case the children hadn’t seen that one going into Finding Dory.

The after credits scene was a nice take back to Finding Nemo where we got to see past characters like Gil, but it was also like a “not again,” feeling, which wasn’t bad; just funny, but sad at the same time.  You mean to tell me that those fish from the dentist’s office have been in those plastic bags they escaped the room from for a year and are still alive?  It was still a ha-ha moment anyway though.

All-in-all, although Finding Dory did feel choppy at some points and wasn’t as good as Finding Nemo, it was still a good movie and well worth my time.

 

The Nice Guys Movie Review

Review by: dancingonrain.

 

The Nice Guys takes place in 1977 Los Angeles where Holland March (Ryan Gosling) is and alcoholic and the world’s worst private eye.  Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) makes his living as basically as a hitman.  When Healy needs to find Amelia (Margaret Qualley), a girl March had been searching for earlier, Healy seeks his help.  They team up for an adventure of hilarious fun to find the missing girl.  But they aren’t the only ones searching for her.  Along the way they discover that anyone who was affiliated with the movie Amelia was in, are the targets of murder.

When I first saw the trailer for this movie, I thought it was just going to be yet another lackluster crime/comedy film, but when I read many peer reviews that said it was good, I thought I’d give it a try.  And I was not disappointed.

While this movie did have its slow moments that I didn’t always think they were necessary scenes and while the villains’ identities and motives were pretty predictable, this movie’s entertainment/comedy and action scenes far outweighed the weaker aspects of the film.

One thing I wasn’t sure about was I’m not entirely sure how March even became a private investigator in the first place.  He’s not the brightest person and is a goof more than anything.  The only reason I can think of is that he used to be a great investigator.  His daughter knew what she was doing more of the time than he did, but because of this it made me think that before March was an alcoholic and lost his wife, he may have taught his daughter how to be a good investigator and be safe before he became an alcoholic.  That, to me, told me he probably used to be a good private investigator until he became jaded.   Maybe I’m overthinking it, but I like to think I’m not.

While I thought this movie was good, you also do need to like a certain amount of dark and slapstick humor in order to enjoy this movie.  If you don’t have a problem with either, then you’ll probably enjoy this movie.

The Girl of Fire and Thorns (Book 1/3) by Rae Carson Book Review

 

Review by: dancingorain.

 

Elisa, the younger of two princesses, has always been overshadowed by her older sister, Alodia, and has never believed in herself.  She is fat and believes that she’ll never amount to much other than being a piece in an arranged marriage to King Alejandro, who does not seem all that invested in her in the first place.  But at the same time, only he and a few select others know that she bears a power most will kill for.  She is the bearer of a Godstone imbedded in her navel.

She feels like she’s going nowhere fast and will never be worth much of anything, but that changes the day she’s kidnapped by revolutionaries who believe that she may be their savior, especially one, Humberto.  Join Elisa on her adventure and discovering just how strong and powerful she really is.

I really appreciate stories that have a character start off as weak (or something of that sort) and over time grow stronger physically and/or mentally, but unfortunately I don’t feel all stories do that specific journey justice.

A Girl of Fire and Thorns is not one of those stories.

I think that Elisa’s character development from being weak,  unconfident, but smart to starting to become stronger was done well and once I finish all the books in my unread bookcase, I’ll definitely go back to this series and see how this character continues to progress.

Another aspect of this book I appreciate is it technically could have been a standalone novel instead of the first in a trilogy and still been a good story.  While the ending did begin to set up the second novel in the series, if Carson had wanted this to be a single book, it could still have worked out that way.

The book did lag and lose me in some places (although rarely,) and even when that happened, the pace or my interest picked back up within a matter of a few pages.

I did like the fact that most, if not all, characters were a race other than Caucasian.  This is not to say that I have anything against reading stories that have white protagonists.  The majority of books I read are primarily Caucasian or half-Caucasian in a predominantly white society so it was nice to read about a world and characters who were a different race and a culturally different fantasy world.

All-in-all, I would say that I enjoyed this book more than Cinder from Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles, but less than the Legend Trilogy by Marie Lu.  I would recommend to anyone that likes epic/high fantasy stories, but for teens.