NaNo Day 9: Movies I’m Excited to See

I didn’t get as much written yesterday as I’d ultimately hoped for, but at the least I didn’t fall more behind. And I managed to get everything else done yesterday that I needed to! (Yay for small victories.)

I’m now at 13.3k in NaNoWriMo, which is only a little under 2k below where I meant to be by today. And I don’t have as much going on today as I did last Monday, so hopefully I’ll actually have a chance to write during a sane hour! (Although I also have to do some homework and catch up on work for the extra-curriculars that I’m running this year, so that’ll take a lot of my free time.) (But shhh.)

In my contemporary film industry class, we discussed today how Spectre finally dropped The Martian from the top spot in the U.S. box office, after a whole month as #1. Talking about box office dynamics and all that got me thinking about which movies will probably take over the #1 spot in the next few months–which then got me also thinking about which movies coming out over the next few months (whether they’re likely to break box office records or not) I am ABSOLUTELY DYING TO SEE.

So: My 2015 list of Movies I’m Excited to See.

*****

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2

Release Date: November 20, 2015

What It’s About: The Girl on Fire sets everything else on fire.

Why I’m Excited: No duh.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens


Release Date: December 18, 2015

What It’s About: I mean.

Why I’m Excited: See answer to this question under Mockingjay Part 2.

Bridge of Spies


Release Date: October 16, 2015 (Out Now)

What It’s About: The CIA taps on an ordinary American lawyer during the Cold War to represent a Soviet spy in court, in an effort to ultimately facilitate an exchange for a captured American pilot.

Why I’m Excited: I love spy stuff and I love stuff based on true stories and I love Tom Hanks. Basically, this movie was made for me. (And you too, if you also like that kind of stuff!)

The Good Dinosaur

Release Date: November 25, 2015

What It’s About: I actually have no idea what this movie is about. BUT:

Why I’m Excited: Pixar and dinosaurs? Sign me up.

Joy

Release Date: December 25, 2015

What It’s About: This movie follows a powerful and corrupt family across four generations, as one woman (Joy) founds a business dynasty.

Why I’m Excited: Let’s be honest: I’ll watch anything Jennifer Lawrence is in, at this point.

*****

What movies are you excited about? Anything I missed that I should add?

Goal for Today: 2,000 + 2,000 (from Friday)

Overall Goal: 17,000

Current Word Count: 13,368

~Julia

Wordy Wednesday (“The End Where I Begin, Chapter One”)

First off: The Divergent trailer premiered today. React accordingly. (I’ve watched it five times already. It’s not my favorite trailer ever, and I’m worried how much people who haven’t read the book will be able to get out of it, but it’s got me excited nonetheless.)

Second: I’m currently in the midst of my final re-read of Catching Fire before the movie comes out next week, and OHMYGOSH I am both terrified and overwhelmingly excited to see this on the big screen. I don’t know what I’m going to do with myself next Thursday.

Third: This week’s Wordy Wednesday is an excerpt from my NaNo, The End Where I Begin. (Note: Gillian’s name has been changed to Amelia since I posted the plot blurb I just linked to with the title.) (Also note: I know this is really rough and probably more than a bit cliche, so keep in mind that this is just a first draft, por favor. I’m sure it’ll get better with revisions.) (Also also note: I realize some of the names, like Mrs. Prudent, are ridiculous. Please bear with me until I find better ones.) (Also also also note: The number of these asides right now is getting even more ridiculous than the names. Sorry ’bout that.)

**********

Chapter One

            The stares begin in English class, the day of the Recruitment Assembly. The most important day of the year for students in the Fifth Reality. My desk is situated in the second to last row of the low, wide room, two from the left, in the perfect position to simultaneously take notes on Mrs. Prudent’s lesson about Thoreau and share exasperated looks with Amelia.

She sits to my right, with her legs crossed and pencil tapping against the edge of her desk, black hair held back in a long, straight ponytail that sways in time with the beat. She glances at me out the corner of her eye, then glues her gaze to the black board again. I frown, but she doesn’t answer the question the look shoots at her.

“Excuse me, class, give me just one moment.” Mrs. Prudent teeters to her desk and yanks a tissue from the box. As she blows her nose, twenty two pairs of eyes turn to take me in. The girls shiver; the boys snicker. I swear despite their reactions, we are not five years old.

Amelia’s pencil stops tapping and she leans over the aisle in a manner that would appear cautiously conspiratorial if it weren’t for the onlookers.

 “What’s this about the Ram coming for you during the Recruitment Assembly this afternoon?” Her voice quivers a little, whether from excitement or disgust I can’t tell. Her European accent turns the sentence down at the end, even more dramatic than her scowl.

I roll my eyes at the students waiting with bated breath to hear my reply and lean towards Amelia as well. “I don’t know.” Her brown eyes widen, accentuated by the thick streaks of black crayon around them. “All I’ve heard is that she’s planning to beat the snot out of me. No idea if it’s true or not. But do you truly think even the Ram would be gutsy enough to go after someone at the Recruitment Assembly of all places?”

“I don’t know, it’s not like she’s exactly—”

Mrs. Prudent clears her throat at the front of the room, a long, low sound like a cat hacking up a hairball. “Miss Anderson, Miss Dylan? Do you have something you would like to share with the rest of us?”

The rest of the students already know what we were talking about—the entire student body of New Capital High has probably heard the rumor by now. But my classmates have all turned back to the chalk board, backs straight, eyes barely even flicking to take in my paled cheeks and the way my fingers have clenched into a death grip around my pencil, so I don’t say a word.

Amelia composes herself enough to flash Mrs. Prudent one of her infamous, daughter-of-a-representative smiles. “No, ma’am. We were just discussing how especially interesting the lesson has been today.”

Mrs. Prudent doesn’t fall for the words, but the smile thaws her scowl. “All right. Just don’t make a habit of speaking out of turn in my class, or I’ll have to report you to Principal Scully.”

A few of the students around us—the ones who like the safe distance from learning the back of the room provides—hide snorts behind their hands. Mrs. Prudent has said the same thing to Amelia at least once a week since the semester began. Thank God that girl always has a way of getting us out of trouble.

Amelia doesn’t smile like she’s pleased with herself, the way she normally would. Instead she turns back to me with her lower lip sucked into her mouth, thin eyebrows so low her mascaraed eyelashes brush against them. She lifts her shoulders in a question. I nod.

I’m fine, the action says. I’m not worried about Ramsey.

But Amelia knows me, which means that she knows why the pounding of my heart is visible straight through my uniform and my knuckles are white around my pencil.

Ramsey Carp has been suspended probably more times than the rest of New Capital High combined, just since this semester began. Ramsey Carp has a history of landing her victims in the hospital with bruised kidneys and shattered wrists. Ramsey Carp hates me more than anyone else in the Fifth Reality—and today, my name and hers have begun passing lips in the same breath for the first time since last school year.

Chalk squeaks across the black board as Mrs. Prudent writes quotes from our text book, and pencils whisper across paper in reaction. Amelia doesn’t take her eyes off me as I spin my Identiband around my left wrist once, twice, three times. A nervous habit.

Out the corner of my eye, I make sure the bracelet is still lit the same green as an old-fashioned traffic light, as it always is. It’s stupid, because that’s the only color an Identiband can be, but sometimes I still check. It’s been a nervous habit since my first confrontation with Ramsey. All she did was twist my wrist, then, leaving her fingerprints as bruises. I’m sure, if she does attack me during the Recruitment Assembly, she’ll give me much worse now.

I spin the thick wristband two more times, then lace my fingers and place my hands on my desk. I nod to Amelia to say, I’m okay. I swear.

I wish it were true. I wish I were the sort of person who didn’t have to worry about my old best friend giving me a black eye in front of the recruiting officers from the Clinic. But I stopped being that girl four months ago.

**********

65

day 13

~Julia

Fashion Friday: Katniss Everdeen Costume

Okay, okay, okay. I know. No more posting except for on Wednesdays. But it’s October Break and I don’t have Spanish again until next Thursday and I’m getting super psyched for Halloween, so here we go: I’ve been getting a ton of hits lately on my Hunger Games Movie Reaction post by people wanting to dress up like Katniss Everdeen for Halloween (I went as her to the midnight showing of the movie last March), so I figured I’d do a quick post to help y’all out, with where I got all my costume pieces and all that. I purchased my entire costume over the course of about an hour, flitting in out of these fantastically high-end, expensive, costume-oriented stores like Meijer and Target. All in all, it came out to about $75, which is a huge bargain when you consider that I can also wear all of it (minus my Mockingjay Pin) just in every day life, as well.

(By the way, a huuuge thanks to Emma of Nose in a Book for tagging my post in her post. Thank God my roommate isn’t home right now, because I started freaking out really bad.)

Anyway, here we go: How to dress like Katniss Everdeen of the wonderful, beautiful, amazing Hunger Games trilogy.

**********

To start, here are some pictures of my costume:

Also, check out Detroit Metromix. You can see some great photos of fans dressed up for the midnight showing, including me and a girl dressed as Effie Trinket, and me and another girl dressed as Prim. (Now, for all you creepers out there, please take note that NO, I do not live anywhere near that movie theatre, so you can think twice about stalking me through it. Kibosh on your plans.)

Next up, the Clothes:

Black V-Neck:

Target, $8.00*

Black Jacket:

Target, $34.99

Green Cargo Pants:

JC Penney, $11*

Brown Combat Boots with Buckles:

Meijer, $35.00*

Lastly, the Accessories:

Scholastic’s Gold Mockingjay Pin:

ebay, $9.99**

Katniss’s Braid:

If you’ve got time, here’s a fancy Youtube tutorial so you can do your hair EXACTLY like they did in the movie.

Or, if you’re lazy like I am, here’s how I did it:

Step 1: The day before you want to wear your Katniss costume, don’t brush your hair after showering. Instead, twist it back until it’s wound as tightly as possible into a bun, and have it dry that way. If you have any sort of curling products, like curling cream, use it before putting your hair up. Make sure you have your part to one side. If the bun begins to fall out at any point in the day, take down your hair and twist it back again. Keep it in over night, and the next morning. The main thing is that you want it to be as curly and messy as possible by the time you want to put your braid in. (Note that this only works if you have straight, fine hair, like I do… if you’ve naturally got curls, just skip this step, you lucky human being you.)

Step 2: Once you’re ready to put your braid in, finger-comb your hair until it’s manageable although still poofy and messy, and then spritz it with hairspray (the weakest hairspray you can find–you don’t want extra hold on this; you just want it to maintain its body).

Step 3: Katniss’s braid comes down her shoulder on the side closest to her part, so go to the opposite side and pick up the hair closest to your face through the hair above your ear, and do a couple loops of a regular braid with it, pulling it back as you go. Make sure to leave some hair out on either side of your face–Katniss has side bangs.

Step 4: Grab the next clump of hair, now directly behind your ear, and add that to one portion of your braid, and then continue doing this as you loop it back around your scalp, angling it horizontally down, towards the nape of your neck. (Technically, this is not the proper way to do Katniss’s braid–she has a Dutch braid, which is basically an inverted French braid–but remember: this is Katniss Hair for lazy people. This is a much simpler way of getting a similar look.)

Step 5: Once you reach the back of your other ear, take your remaining hair and add a part of it to each of your three clumps of hair. Then do a regular braid down, and tie it off at the bottom with a thin hairband the same color as your hair.

Step 6: Bask in all your Katniss Everdeen-impersonating glory.

Nails and Makeup:

I don’t think I should have to tell you not to wear any jewelry other than your Mockingjay Pin, but nails and makeup are another thing. In the book, Katniss has flames painted on her nails. In the movie? Not so much. I ended up choosing just to do a simple clear polish.

As for makeup, go for minimal and natural: I wore some dull (i.e. not glittery) gold eyeshadow over my eyelid, a thin line of black eyeliner above my eye and in the outer corner of my bottom lash line, along with some natural-looking mascara (so it lengthened and thickened my lashes without looking like I was coating them in tar). I also had on light pink-tinted lip balm (it gives you an air of very Katniss-like innocence), concealer, foundation, and a little bit of blush on my cheeks, but all in all, wearing makeup with this costume isn’t necessary. I just really enjoy putting it on. But if you don’t, then you don’t need to.

If you’re interested, here are links to the products I used:

**********

Well, that is basically EVERYTHING I can think of to cover the Katniss Everdeen costume. If you can get your hands on a hunting bow or an orange backpack, those are obviously some useful props to have as well, but don’t sweat it if you can’t. The braid alone should make it pretty obvious who you’re dressing as.

If you’d like to send me pictures of your costume once October 31st itself rolls around, feel free to email them to me at: jbyerswriting@aol.com.

Good luck, may the odds be ever in your favor, and happy early Halloween! Talk to you on Wednesday!

~Julia

*Not the exact product I bought, but the closest I could find. (Also, as far as the cargo pants go: If you can find a pair of legitimate cargo pants instead of cropped ones, please let me know, because between looking in March and looking now, I haven’t been able to find any.)

**This isn’t the version of the Mockingjay Pin used in the movie–at the time, the bronzier-looking movie pins were way more expensive than the original ones Scholastic produced to promote the books. However, at this point, you can get a movie-version pin for about the same as a book-version, from places like ebay, Amazon, and Hot Topic.

***I honestly do not recommend this eyeliner, because it runs and smears like crazy, but for some reason I keep going back to it. Anyone got suggestions for another twisty-crayon-style eyeliner that’s cheap but doesn’t smear as bad?

Hunger Games Movie Reaction

I’m a bundle of mixed feelings.

Part of me REALLY, SUPER LOVED the Hunger Games movie. The other part of me was extremely disappointed.

Now don’t go calling the Peacekeepers on me or anything, because I truly did think that there were some awesome parts of the movie, but there were also some other parts that were close to my heart and were left out of the film, and that bothered me. (Such as 99% of the ending, such as *spoilers* Katniss having to mess with Peeta’s tourniquet, and then admitting to him right before they get back to 12 that she only faked loving him in order to win the games).

However, for all that was lost in the translation from book to film, there were some great added scenes in the movie that I adored, especially the ones with Seneca Crane (although his amazing beard occasionally distracted me from what was actually going on, throughout that 😉 ).

The movie did make me cry, but not when *spoilers* Rue died. It was when I saw her father in District 11, reacting to her death.

The movie did make me laugh, but it was less for Peeta’s self-deprecating humor from the novel — which really only presented itself in one scene, during his pre-Games interview — as much as the dynamic between Effie and Haymitch (which is very humorous, let me tell you).

Honestly, I thought Haymitch was not nearly drunk enough throughout the film, the emotional scenes didn’t play out well because they didn’t vamp up the emotion but instead jumped from Low Emotion straight to High Emotion, and the ending was just plain messed up — and not in a “we ran out of time to do the ending properly” kind of messed up way, but like they thought the book ending wasn’t important enough to portray… which is what, above all else, really, truly bothered me.

I’m not mad… overall, it was still a good movie. And I’m not exactly disappointed, either… it’s more like I’m, well, grieving. All these months anticipating this movie, and picturing it in my head, and in the end it wasn’t what I was expecting it to be.

Which is, I guess when you think about it, to be expected.

So the Hunger Games movie wasn’t what I wanted it to be. Oh well. That doesn’t take away from the fact that it was a good movie, most of the acting was superb (although don’t get me started on Liam Hemsworth’s Gale, which was extremely shaky in the scene that he’s introduced, out in the woods), and the setting was spot-on and beautiful in the way that only a fully-contrived universe can be.

… Which basically leaves me back at square one: I don’t know what to think. Part of me loves the movie, part of me has no choice but to be disappointed. But either way, I’m glad that I got to see the midnight screening of it, and I’m glad that I’m getting to see it again this weekend — maybe then I’ll be able to think through what I think of it more and make a decision on it.

My reaction? A solid film, one of the best book-to-movie adaptions I’ve seen, and definitely worth the money to go out and see it (even if it’s only so you can swoon over Josh Hutcherson)… But be prepared to lose some of the depth from the novel, especially dealing with the subplot-character-relationships. I’m excited, now, to see how they’ll handle the second movie. 🙂

I’d give it 4 out of 5 stars.

A couple of shots of me in my Katniss costume before I left for the movie. 🙂

UPDATE: How to Make a Katniss Costume

~Julia

Wordy Wednesday (“Horoscope”)

Random Facts About Today:

  1. The weather’s supposed to be in the 80s today, which will break the last record by like 10 degrees (which is what happened yesterday, too — the last record had been set in the early 1900s; this weather is CRAZY).
  2. Exactly one month from today, I’ll be eighteen. 😀
  3. TWO DAYS TO THE HUNGER GAMES!!!!!

I’ve been obsessively watching this clip (and all the others, too, but mostly this one):

 

This week’s Wordy Wednesday is going to be a short one, but I don’t think a piece has to be long to be significant. This is a poem called “Horoscope” that I wrote the night before I left for the Writer’s Digest Conference this year — I hope it conveys some of the emotions I was feeling that night, thinking about the past year and what the future might bring.

The style is inspired by e.e. cummings.

**********

i am so scared
terrified
so scared that i cant breathe
that everythings changing
for better or for worse
counting down the seconds
til midnight ten nine eight
i cant breathe
i cant breathe
i cant breathe
tell me my future
but leave out the part
where i find out
what kind of person i am

**********

 

~Julia

Bonus Post: On the “Book Series”

Something I’ve always found interesting is how there are so many different ways to write a book series, and how there are different types of stories you can tell with each. The two main divisions of book series are “episodic” and “single story arc,” and while there are popular examples of both, I think single story arc is definitely used the most right now (think The Hunger Games).

In an episodic book series, you have the same characters in each book, but the stories are independent of one another; there aren’t any cliffhanger endings and you don’t have to read the books in any particular order. An author could stop writing the books at any given time, and the audience wouldn’t suffer for the loss, because there wouldn’t be any plotline that they’d be intent on following. This type of series, I’ve found, is more common among younger readers, in “chapter books” such as the Magic Tree House series or — my personal favorite when I was younger — Animal Ark. However, there are also books in the MG to YA range that function this same way, like the Alex Rider series. (Alex Rider only partially qualifies as an episodic series, though, because his adventures do need to be read in order.)

In each of the Alex Rider books, Alex begins by saying that he doesn’t want to work as a spy, gets caught up in some MI6 mission, saves the world, and then ends the book with the old mantra that he’ll “never be a spy again” and is happy being just a normal English schoolboy… only that then, of course, the process repeats itself the next book. The purpose of this is to enable the author — in this case, Anthony Horowitz — to be able to stop writing the books whenever he wants to. Say they’re no longer selling well or he’s bored with the series? No problem, because Alex ends off each book happy. (Except for, of course, the one book towards the middle of the series that at the end of which he doesn’t… but that’s something else entirely.)

Now, the single story arc series is just what it’s named for. While each of the books in one of these series has its own specific storyline and arc, these are just smaller parts of a whole, and there are storylines that continue from one book to the next. As I already mentioned, The Hunger Games is a fantastic example of this type of series.  In the Hunger Games books, there’s no definite conclusion to anything until you get to the end of the third and final book; any form of trilogy or cycle works this same way (such as in Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle).

These series allow for more complex plots and characters than episodic ones do, but are also harder to sell, especially as a debut author, because whereas if an episodic series isn’t selling well, a publisher can shut down production easily, if a single story arc series isn’t selling well, the publisher is pretty much obligated to keep pumping them out until the storyline’s wrapped up (although, of course, single arc series often sell better than episodic series because they hook readers better — like how it’s almost physically impossible to stop reading The Hunger Games halfway through, but if you can’t run out to get the next Alex Rider book right away, it’s no big deal).

These are generally the stereotypes for the two (main) types of series, but some book series manage to cross over between the two, like — believe it or not — Harry Potter. When the Harry Potter books are just starting out, they very much give the appearance of an episodic series, outside of the fact that, like the Alex Rider books, they need to be read in a certain order. In each book, Harry hates his relatives, goes off to school and has a fantastic adventure, and then goes back to live with his cousin. After the first couple novels, it would have been very easy for JK Rowling to stop writing them without leaving many loose ends.

However, then book three comes along and Harry meets his long lost godfather, and it’s suddenly looking a lot more difficult to leave off the series there.

And then: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire happens, and what once seemed to be an episodic series suddenly becomes a single story arc series. The momentum picks up and subplots stretch between the books, carrying the readers through literally thousands of pages just to see the conclusion to a certain storyline, such as if Ron and Hermione will ever get together. One thing that sets the Harry Potter story apart from an episodic series from the start, though, is that the antagonist in all seven of the books is Voldemort (yes, in the first three books, Voldemort himself doesn’t make too much of an appearance, but he is very much the villain from the very beginning).

Between the two types of series, I’ve personally always preferred the single story arc series, because I like how the plots get so complex and the characters really have a chance to grow and develop and change. However, episodic can be nice sometimes too, because you can read a few of those books without having to get intensely involved in the series. It’s the same way with TV shows — on a lot of sitcoms, you can watch the episodes in any order without missing too much information, whereas on dramas (like my current favorite show, Glee) (don’t judge), you have to watch the episodes in order or you have no idea what’s going on.

What’s your opinion on the matter — episodic or single story arc series? Which do you prefer?

Oh, and cute picture of my dog Sammy as a puppy while we’re at it:

Be looking out for the usual weekend post coming sometime in the next couple days!

~Julia

Wordy Wednesday (“Innocent”)

Three awesome things happening this week:

  1. Hunger Games tickets are on sale (YAAAY!!!!!!!!!)
  2. Miss Snark’s First Victim is starting a new sort of contest (talk about exciting — the contests Authoress already does are pretty freaking awesome, so can you imagine a new one? WHOA.)
  3. Yesterday was Fat Tuesday (SO MANY DONUTS, SO LITTLE TIME!)

One not-so-awesome thing happening this week:

  1. I gave up ice cream for Lent, and already I’m craving it. This is going to be even worse than when I gave up Youtube last year (and that was horrific).

Mmm. Paczki, paczki, pazki!

This week’s Wordy Wednesday is going to be a short story I wrote called “Innocent,” which garnered an honorable mention from the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards this year, as a part of my senior portfolio. Enjoy!

_____

“I can’t believe you’re making me drive five hours for this.”

Adelaide’s voice is terse, but not angry. I rest my head against the window and don’t reply. On the other side of the glass, the highway glides by, on and on and on, but inside everything is quiet, save for my friend’s exasperated voice.

“Do you hear me, Maggie? Five hours. That’s a long time just to visit some stupid playground.”

“Shut up,” I murmur, blinking my eyes shut. I can picture the park in my mind – the slides and monkey bars and swings – and there’s no way she’s going to talk me out of it. She already knows that or she never would have agreed to drive me in the first place.

And if my car hadn’t been totaled in the accident, I never would have asked.

But still she goes on – “I just don’t get it.” – as if I never spoke.

“It was my childhood, Adelaide,” I sigh, not opening my eyes.

However, then I do open them, because I’m picturing myself soaring, soaring through the air, and tears bite at my eyelids. Last time I flew, it was into a windshield.

“Don’t you start in on that innocence kick again,” she says.

I think, Sometimes innocence is just what you need.

 

When we reach the park, it’s nearly dusk, but even in the lowlight I can tell that it’s changed from when I last visited. The trees are taller, the benches are maroon instead of that putrid green that I remember, and the metal structure of the swing set has given way to rust. A couple of children play in the sandbox, laughing, but otherwise the place is empty.

I feel almost like an unwelcome bystander, staring at it, and I wonder, as I have every moment since I saw that truck swerving towards me, if I turned out the way my childhood-self wanted me to.

With a determined inhale, I walk to the swings and plop down in the one on the right. My fingers trace over the chains before looping around them.

I breathe in, I breathe out.

The grass tickles the arch of my left foot like a thousand fingers reaching up from the dirt as I drag it over the ground, swirling my big toe in the soft strands and closing my eyes, letting my skin soak in the sunset, trying not to think, trying to slow my heart.

Adelaide sits beside me and I feel her gaze settle on my face.

“I just don’t get it, Mags,” she repeats.

I don’t look at her as I say, “Everybody has a dream, Adelaide.”

She’s silent after that, for once, and I can’t help but notice the crickets chirping, and the children laughing, and my skin tingling in the cool breeze; how alive I am.

Without thinking, I lean back and kick off – feel the air breathe over my bare feet.

Innocent.

Higher and higher, and for an instant it feels like I’m flying.

_______

 

Have something you’d like me to talk about in a future post? Leave your ideas in the comments!

 

~Julia

Writer’s Digest Conference: NOTES (Part 4)

One of our neighbors went walking through our backyard with her dog about a half hour ago and now my dog won’t shut up about it. It’s driving me nuts. (If you have ever heard a beagle do that half-howl/half-bark thing, you’ll know where I’m coming from.)

In other news, MORE NOTES!!!! 😀 (If you guys are starting to get tired of these, let me know and I’ll lay off on the WDC stuff for a while.)

SATURDAY

Conflict and Suspense: How to Keep Readers Turning Pages in Any Genre by James Scott Bell

  • The movie Moonstruck is fantastic for studying conflict/suspense. Watch it.
  • Unpredictability = good.
  • True character comes out when you’re tested. Every other time, you’re just wearing a mask.
  • Suspense = the withholding of the resolution to create an enjoyable experience for the reader.
  • If a reader can predict what’s going to happen, and it happens, there’s no pleasure in the reading experience. You need to create a suspense that “I don’t know what’s going to happen next” – that’s what’s called a Page Turner
  • “A great story is life with the dull parts taken out” – Alfred Hitchcock. No trouble = dull part. Your job is to have trouble from the very first page, even just minor trouble – you must disturb the world of your characters. You start with page 1, create that sense of trouble, and then go all the way to the end where the trouble is resolved
  • You have to make a lead character that readers care about – if they don’t care, they won’t be engaged
    • Positive lead: the hero; vindicates the values of the community (not just in the story, but in the community of readers) – reader is on your char’s side –
      • can be extraordinary, like Indiana Jones (give him flaws: afraid of snakes, etc)
      • can be ordinary, caught up in extraordinary circumstances (normal guy, convicted of wife’s murder, put on death row; must survive, becomes an escapee, etc) – You want the readers to be asking, “Will he be victorious? Will he support the values?”
    • Negative Lead: does the things we don’t like. Does not vindicate the values of the community. Reader asks, “Will this person be redeemed throughout the story, via the conflict?” Create the anticipation of a redemption (Scrooge – shows an emotion for the first time when he goes back to his childhood with the first ghost, etc)
    • Anti-hero: Americans love anti-heroes. Rebels. Don’t want to be involved with any sort of community; don’t want to be bothered (Rick in Casa Blanca). He gets dragged into a conflict that he has no interest in – gets forced into involvement. What happens at the end? Does he become selfless, does he go back to the way he was before at the end, etc? (Dirty Harry in some cop movie thing – symbolically, throws badge into bag – it’s over) HAVE TO HAVE BONDING EXPERIENCE WITH LEAD CHARACTER
  • The stakes of the story as a whole need to involve death. A great novel is how a character overcomes or comes to terms with death.
    • Physical death – thrillers. The character dies. (Jason Bourne)
    •  Professional death – what the character does for a living is on a line (Silence of the Lambs)
    •  Psychological death – people dying on the inside. Lit fic. (Catcher in the Rye– Holden’s odyssey to NYC) At the end you’re asking, “Has he found it? Will he make it?” – genre romance
      • You have to make the mistakes feel like death to your MC.
  • Open with a disturbance. Chapter 1 is often “Happy people in Happy land” – that’s BAAAD. Readers want an initial disequilibrium, or they won’t care. Readers read because they want to worry about a character. “The cat sat on the mat is not the beginning of the story. The cat sat on the dog’s mat is.”
  • Open with:
    • One line paragraphs. Works especially well in thrillers
    • open with a little bit of disequilibrium. Something is off about the world.
    • Dialogue openings are fine because they’re opening scenes. A lot of writers try to open with description; scene doesn’t actually start for a while. That’s bad. Make sure you have dialogue on the first or second page – that grabs you. Dialogue = action.
    • ALWAYS START WITH DISEQUILIBRIUM, or  the possibility of trouble.
  • Opposition in a novel. Doesn’t have to be a villain. It just has to be stronger than your character and have an agenda. Death stakes – they hold the death stakes to oppose your character. (The Fugitive– Tommy Lee Jones – not a bad guy, but his job is to catch the fugitive, who’s the protagonist).
    • By way of physical or collective strength
    • By way of psychological strength – will of iron, won’t give up
    • Is justified in his mind about what s/he’s doing. Nobody is pure evil; they all think that they’re doing the right thing in their own mind. Every great villain (except for Dr. Evil) is justified in their mind about what they’re doing. They think they’re doing the right thing. Readers aren’t analyzing it – they’re just feeling it. Great villains are those who evoke not just terror, but also sympathy. Reader needs to understand the villain. (Like Alan Rickman in Seminar) (or Hannibal Lector – you’re going, “eat that guy, already!”)
  • The key to scene tension: novels are built by scenes, so you don’t want any scene that drags or reduces the momentum. You want FEAR; the fear factor – fear is the continuum, begins with simple worry and develops to outright terror. You have innumerable things to choose from to create a sense of terror in the characters. Watch out for the sit-down-for-coffee scenes. Create some kind of worry that prevents total communication between two characters having a sit-down-for-coffee scene. A simple bit of worry can create scene tension. The continuum is unlimited.
  • Structure Scenes: a scene is about some character who has an objective; there’s the objective of the story, and the objective of the scene. Trying to get information, trying to find something or prevent finding something, etc. There’s a series of obstacles in each scene that prevents this objective from occurring. Will the character realize the objective in the scene? Then there’s an outcome; they accomplish the goal in the scene or they don’t.
    • In worry novels (thrillers, suspense): You want the outcome to be a setback, or if they accomplish their goal, it leads to future trouble. Never make things easy for your character.
  • Study The Fugitive and The Graduate. Great examples of scene tension.
  • Never dial back your tension – always play it up as much as possible
  • Suspense doesn’t have to be realistic. “We’re not in the business of writing realism, we’re in the business of styling realism.” – Manipulate life, but don’t get caught at it.
  • Remember: “Your first chapter sells your book, your last chapter sells your next book” – Nicky Splain.

That’s it for today! I have an AP literature and composition paper to write so I don’t have a lot of time to be going through notes right now, but I still have another few sessions to go over, so there’ll be more notes this Wednesday (unless, of course, y’all want a break).

Also, my current addiction:

I personally preferred the first trailer to this one (watch it here), but this still looks good. What’s your opinion?

Enjoying and learning a lot from these notes? Click here for your chance to win a free pass to the San Francisco Writers Conference this February, also held by Writer’s Digest!

~Julia