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When Ka Decides Book to Movie Adaptations

The last time I addressed this topic I had been jaded and disappointed in Hollywood and most screenwriters for “screwing up” or “mis-interpreting” a beloved book/series. If you wish you can read it HERE. Warning, it is nit-picky and kind of pretentious.  My younger self (even just a few years ago) would throw out an entire movie just on some little details or expectations that far exceeding the truth of what book to movie versions represent.

This hard truth, a pill some fans are resistant to swallow (including my slightly younger self), is that each work of art (story, film, song) is interpreted by each reader/fan. They bring to that interpretation their own past, their hardships, their memories, which change the experience and perception of the art. And those interpretations that make it through the vetting process of a studio and a screen writer, the ones that make it onto the big screen might not match our own.images (1)

And it’s OKAY that the interpretations don’t match the source material. (Yes, even the most widely agreed upon as the worst of interpretations. Cough The Scarlet Letter with Demi Moore cough cough). Because the interpretation isn’t a reproduction. It is the viewing of the source material, quite literally, through the lens of someone else’s mind.

thought-policeThis may be an obvious reminder, but if we interpreted works of art the same then our lives would be worse than those in 1984 where they were spoon-fed their opinions by the government. If we are imposing on ourselves such an exclusive thinking, that our interpretations are better than other, then we are the ones to blame for hampering creativity. That’s the last thing the artists, writers, musicians, and filmmakers of the world want. That’s the last thing the readers and fans want (even if they don’t know it). Because without the independent, unique thoughts of the individual, we would deprive ourselves of some of the most beautiful creations known to man.

I’ve had a few of my favorite books turned into movies (most recently the sci-fi favorite Ender’s Game) and out of every possibility that could go wrong (inconsistencies, plot changes, terrible casting choice) I always left the theater with a huge grin, squealing my fangirl squeals all the way back to the car.
Undoubtedly, the phenomenon of having a non-pictorial story come alive in a very graphic and visually-appealing format….is a satisfaction that goes beyond anything I’ve ever experienced. To have story, its characters, its setting brought to life in front of my eyes—how can I NOT watch in awe? Some books are so vivid and so rich that they can play like a movie in your head. The scenes and character descriptions built in your mind are now standing in front of you on the screen. Voices are given timber and accents, bodies are given shape and clothes, and gestures and mannerisms are played out on the screen.

Even if every scene has one flaw, there is something magical that happens when someone takes the colors of prose and paints the filmstrip with them.

Speaking of Ender’s Game. Yes, I’m a fan. No, I will not be discussing the author’s private views in this blog. Yes, I have read every book in the main series and still don’t care about the author’s private views.

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The movie…blew my mind. Not in its accuracy (since the ending did not match the book it was titled from), but in the simple fact that a book I had come to love and revere for its intricate analysis of human emotion and psychology and sociology, was alive before me.

Were the actors everything I imagined? I will admit my poor visual imagination (thanks to aphantasia-it’s a real thing, I swear) pales in comparison to what the writers and producers put together. I recognized Ender when he came on screen not just physically, but for how the actor portrayed him. I felt the admiration Graff showed him in the final moments of the battle and the horror his team felt when he found out the truth of his victory. THAT is why I learned to enjoy book to movie interpretations. Because it gives new life to something I already love. It brings characters new dimension by adding this visual facet that wasn’t there before.

Maybe it’s because I found myself overly criticizing other’s works and I needed to reign in my own elitist thoughts. Or because I’ve actually written a piece I can imagine becoming a movie, but I’ve slowly learned to appreciate the amount of work it takes to translate something that is so complex and detailed on the page into a new format successfully.

Let’s turn now to an upcoming adaptation that has already experienced the sting of elitism even before the entire cast list is set.

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Yes, my lovelies I am talking about the long-awaited adaptation of Stephen King’s The Gunslinger. To most, you know that I am a constant reader and dedicated fan to the writer who has astounded us for decades with his ability to merge genres and themes into beautiful, sometimes horrific portraits of humanity. He is not only a constantly evolving author, but an intense inspiration for any writer who simply loves the craft regardless of the paycheck.

His alternate worlds, science fiction, fantasy western is finally coming to the silver screen. And his fans are pissed. Let me preface this conversation with the fact that although The Gunslinger is one of 8 novels in the Dark Tower series, there is no plan to make the rest of them into movies. This will be important later.

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The crux of fan issues is in the casting choice and their displeasure lies in the elitism of what we as the reader view for the character in our minds as well as what we know to be true from the content. The casting the Man in Black as Matthew McConaughey was taken fairly well as he has played enough bad guy roles that he can characterize the elusive chaotic Man in Black with ease.

Yet when we come to the namesake of the movie, the gunslinger Roland Deschain of Gilead who would be played by Idris Elba. Although at first I agreed with some of the confused and annoyed fans that the choice was poorly made in reference to everything we knew about Roland: his description within the books (i.e. he was lighter in skin color-although still tan I imagine, blue eyes and silvering black hair) and the huge racial issues that occurred in the Drawing of the Three when Odetta (eventually Susannah), one of his ka-tet (destined companions), was battling a deeply wrathful and racist other personality Detta who hated Roland for his whiteness.

idrisHOWEVER, and this is a big HOWEVER. Most of the issues that would affect the story telling and character development (the racial and personality conflict in Drawing of the Three) will never reach the big screen. Therefore, the only real attachment to content here is based on physical description, which in almost every single movie adaption has changed based on what the interpretation needs. In this case, The Gunslinger as a standalone doesn’t require Roland to be fair-skinned. It requires a rough, sometimes cold personality of a man who has lost his love, his home, and his mind a few times in his unending quest to save his world from utter destruction. Idris Elba is capable of that character. Idris Elba will succeed well at bringing a new version of Roland to the fans of the Dark Tower series, if we have faith in the screen writers and the producers and the actors to be good to a story we hold dear.

Because, constant readers and new readers and never readers, how do we expect others to excel if we continue to doubt what they’re capable of?

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Again, the key here is…the movie will be someone else’s INTERPRETATION of King’s work. I began reading about the topic of The Gunslinger movie upset at why they would change the content. Until King reminded me (and the whole world) that someone else is telling the story now, and we should sit down, shut up, and enjoy the freakin’ ride, man! Just as many fans interpreted Roland as Clint Eastwood, there are others who would see Idris Elba as their calloused yet talented Gunslinger. The man whose obsession with Tower made him ignorant to the death of his friend until it was too late. This character, this man, this….Gunslinger is not what one person expects him to be. He remembers the face of his father. He follows the path of the Beam. He respects Ka above all other forces in the universe.

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I, for one, reigned in my inner critic really quick. Since I am currently reading Wolves of the Calla (Book 5), I tried imagining (poorly due to my aphantasia) Idris as Roland. And I pasted him in like a paper doll in a book. He fit right in. I find him just as easily subduing the Calla with the Commala Rice song and his quick footwork on the stage. I imagine him carefully following Susannah out into the swamp/woods to find out what’s going on. He is just as much Roland as I would have imaged the men who are drawn on the covers of the books. It’s just a new interpretation, a new version of the Roland I admire.

Book to movie adaptations are a hard subject among readers. We view the book as the superior source because it was there first and because it has more to the story that the movie ever will. I implore you friends and fellow constant readers. Set aside your personal images of the characters. Open your mind to a new interpretation of a story you’ve come to love. You never know what might surprise you about this interpretation. It may show you more to love about the story and characters than before.

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Happy reading and writing and watching my minions!

Don’t worry I didn’t forget the bengal cat picture for your viewing pleasure. Nyla says hello!

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Like A Boss: Writing Exercises for your Work in Progress

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This was one of the first “appropriate” pictures that came up when I searched for Mistress. I think it’s perfect. She even has a book and writing materials!

I may only be Mistress of Fine Arts, but I am boss (my favorite trendy adjective, by the way) at using writing exercises to maximizing their use on my current work in progress. In almost every workshop or writing group I’ve attended in the past four or five years, my novel Dollhouse Daughter has always been at the forefront of my mind to finish and get it into the hands of my future readers. It’s been a long road and like all masterpieces is still incomplete.

As accomplished as I felt after completing my degree, my novel was in urgent need of structural renovations, character makeovers, and an addition of approximately 100 pages…at least! Add to that a start date of January and a deadline of July, and you have a recipe for confusion, disaster, stress, complete meltdown.

My sweet, beloved minions must be asking, “Mistress, how can you pull that off when you’ve expressed many times how slow your muse works, how you are notoriously slow to get new content written, and how much you procrastinate?”

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Yes, this is what writing exercise looks like!

My answer…drum roll please…WRITING EXERCISES. Now you’re thinking, “Okay, but those are just to help with the fundamentals and they aren’t even fun.”

Except my minions, they are! Character charts filled out like dating profiles, timelines for plots handwritten on notecards and taped to the wall, writing prompts specifically geared toward the book’s subject. When a book requires this much attention to detail or revising, the key is organization and focus.

Take for example my new outline for the revised plot. I have three separate pages of lined paper, draw so that on the left column you have the major points in the plot: obstacles, midpoint, denouement. And on the right side some keep points or summaries of the chapter’s contents.

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This diagram is both easy to outline with and also not too simplified.

The reason I have three? Well, my book has a main character (Cassie), with a subplot and important point of view from her mother (Marge), and a secondary mother-like character (Azalee). In the current version, let’s call it my MFA version, it had a lot of Cassie (as expected) and she was present in all 15 chapters. Marge was present in about 13 chapters. Azalee was only present in only 6 chapters. Thus I had to equalize the distribution of mother and mother-like character in order for the book to be balanced.

So, now that I was organized, I needed to focus. And here’s where my writing exercises came in handy. I needed new content, and a lot of it was for Azalee because she is a catalyst for the change Cassie had been waiting for.

I’m starting by using my monthly prompts (which you can read about here) in reference to write new content about Azalee, and thus add more content to my book. I feel like it’s an kind of art to take seemingly unrelated exercises, like prompts which pose a different story and genre in each one, and write a chapter or scene somehow related to one piece. This month, I chose a prompt about love spells and how someone would ever come to the decision to use magic to make someone love them. And who better to write this scene with than my vodou priestess!

So, I’m going to share my three tips for using writing exercises to benefit your current work in progress.

  1. Most stories beyond their theme or genre are about people, so choosing a character based prompt that focuses on why a character is making decisions or how they’re feeling are best. They are easiest to apply to many story ideas. You could use the love spell one, most obviously, for fantasy, but if you interpret spell differently you can use it as a scientific breakthrough or natural phenomenon in science fiction, or an emotional state for realistic fiction like romances or westerns or mysteries (to clarify: someone’s emotions are so strong, to call it a love spell would be a figurative description of the emotions). The most important part about that prompt is the intention or emotion you’re focusing on about the person willing to use a love “spell” on someone else is quite a character to write.
  2. There are hundreds of prompts out there that you can tailor to what you’re looking for. If you have a character who will soon have a flashback to childhood, but you’re having trouble envisioning that character. A prompt like this would help you find out what details to include with the flashback by creating the child’s setting: Imagine your character’s childhood room. What color are the walls, what kind of toys do they have, what posters hanging on the wall.
  3. Lastly, don’t be afraid to write something completely off topic. Say your work in progress is located in a warm climate. Don’t be afraid to choose a prompt relating to snow or ice because it puts your characters in a completely different environment or situation and can reveal something truly remarkable or unknown for you to use in your actual piece.

Whatever the reason, don’t be afraid to use simple, seemingly unrelated writing exercises to help you and your characters get to know each other. Because getting to know your characters in any situation, no matter how ridiculous, is the most efficient way you can tell your story. Look out for the prompt submission I’ll be posting on 2/22 using my vodou priestess Azalee and how she handles a love spell. If you want to read more about the prompt I used or want to try one of your own. Check out my monthly prompts chosen here.

Happy reading and writing!

 

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12 Days of Blogmas Writing Contest

Now that I have finished my Master’s degree (yes you may call me Mistress), I am ready to get back into the groove of blogging with this new series.

Writing prompts have become profoundly important to my education as a writer and the development of my stories. And then…

unnamed                                                           I had an idea!

What if I took my favorite writing exercise—choosing prompts and writing scenes or stories from them—and made it into a quick writing contest?Everything about the contest (the prompts, rules, prizes) is listed below for you to review and decide if you might try your hand at this casual, fun writing contest.

The Prompts:

Any of these three “winter” themed prompts can be used to create a stunning story. I will request that submissions for the contest be in prose format simply due to my lack of knowledge in the realm of poetry (and no one wants a noob reviewing contest submissions), and ALL genres will be welcome. I will also be joining you in writing one of these (outside of the contest, of course), and will share mine at the very end of Blogmas!

 

  1. Silvery flakes drifted down, glittering in the bright light of the harvest moon. The blackbird swooped down…
  2. While shopping in a department store during the holidays, a child is separated from his or her parents and discovers a portal to a winter wonderland.
  3. Use the below photo as inspiration for a story.1ac6755cebce4562c48969d6bb80bbb9

 

The Rules:

1.Only one submission per person because…well, fairness.

2.Try to keep submission under 1200 words, they can be a scene/chapter, a piece of flash fiction, or an excerpt. The reason behind this is that I want each submission to be eligible for potential publication elsewhere (yes, I believe in you), so keeping the word count limited will allow that (since some publishers are picking about online copies of excerpts).

3.The first round of the contest will be conducted by me in that I will choose from all of the submissions and elect 12 to be featured (one per day) in its own individual blog post. After each submission is published, each finalist will be entered to win the prizes which will be chose

4.All submissions must be sent via email to Amyoung0606@gmail.com by 12/14/2015 at 11:59pm. The first blogmas submission will be published on 12/13/15 and run until 12/24/15. Submissions should be sent in word document format with no name in the document, your name (pen name if applicable), and a short paragraph about you or what you like to read write should be in the body of the email. If you wish to describe the inspiration of your submission please feel free to add anything you would want included in published blog post.

There will be three winners chosen from the 12 finalists at random to win the prizes. Winners will be chosen and announced by Monday 11/28/2015 due to the holiday, and photographs of the prizes will also be posted before they are shipped out.

THE PRIZES:

The first winner will receive a copy of On Writing by the King. It is one of my personal favorites and a great anecdotal account of learning the craft.

The second winner will receive a “Mystery Geek Package” filled with all things geeky, nerdy, fantasy, sci-fi to inspire the writer caught in a winter block.

The third winner will receive a “Curl Up By the Fire Package” for those nights when a writer needs a break and sits back to read a good book. Contents may include homemade cookies, delectable hot beverages, and warm words of encouragement.

So my faithful minions, I dare you to put on your writer’s cap, plug in your computer/ get out your pad and paper, and join me for the 12 Days of Blogmas where you may find your work published on here for the world to see and a well-earned prize in your mail after Christmas.

As always, I wish you Happy reading and writing!

And let’s not forget the obligatory cat selfies/human selfies from Mistress Spotted Writer and her muse, Nyla Troublemaker!

 

 

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If You’ve Got the Money, I’ve Got the Friends

Credit goes to my dear friend Alora who is photographed in this picture as well.

Credit goes to my dear friend Alora who is photographed in this picture as well.

I have some talented, creative friends. Some I’ve known since high school while others I’ve had the pleasure of meeting through the interwebs and social groups. And yet I’ve found a few of the most rewarding and passionate people through my MFA family at Carlow University. As easy as it is to enjoy the company of people with similar interests, I think I admire my friends more for our differences. Now, I know this is a normal side effect of being social is having the opportunity to learn from those around you, but I hit the jackpot which brings me to the main event of this post.

Rion.  K Orion Fray to be exact. That pseudonym will be one to remember, so it’s important to establish who you will be googling long after this post is over.  Currently residing in Virginia (too far from me in little ‘ol Pittsburgh), my time with Rion is limited to the interwebs for which I am incredibly sad. At the same time, I am forever grateful for the moments where I had the opportunity to hang with her in person and enjoy her company. She is a wealth of not only knowledge beyond both our years (Rion is older AND wiser), but of sheer talent and creative expression.

Credit to K Orion Fray. This is her recent cosplay of Cecil Palmer from Welcome to the Night Vale at Tekko Con 2015

Credit to K Orion Fray. This is her recent cosplay of Cecil Palmer from Welcome to the Night Vale at Tekko Con 2015

When I first met the phenomenal entity that is Rion, I was just settling into my writing chops and discovered some writers within my MFA program to have honed skills that I never imagined could exist.  Rion and I were in the same workshop group for the semester and our mentor, the wonderful Janice Eidus, assigned us a quick ten minute writing prompt. It was one of many that we would get over the next two weeks, but it also allowed us to share or writing with each other.

And this is when I realized what a powerhouse Rion is with words. In the ten minutes we had to write I managed a measly half page of composition notebook paper. Rion had typed well over 5 pages worth of material. I’m not talking D-grade, needs a dozen revisions quality writing. I’m talking A-quality, ready for an editor’s commentary and approval. She is like the Mariah Carey of wordsmithing.

AND THAT’S JUST THE BEGINNING!

Below are three of the services my beloved friend has to offer my beautiful, intelligent internet friends. Each service has a description from Rion as well as the link to said services. I have the pleasure of ordering a pair of her handmade earrings, which I will show photos and my experience down below in that section.

Writing/editingkorionfray.com

I love writing and telling stories, so those two have been something I was interested in for ages! When I found out people would /pay/ me to read stories? Gracious. That was something I jumped on, especially since for most of my life, I was always the one who had to read everything in school, because I was the only one “good at it.”

The website hasn’t been updated recently, but I promise I’m still around. I’ve done copyediting semi-professionally for several authors, and am willing to talk about doing it for others. Payment can be discussed on a by-project basis, at korionfray@gmail.com  I’ll do anything from manuscripts to looking over essays and college applications. Just gimme a shout and we’ll work something out.

Audio workhttps://www.acx.com/narrator?p=A1WR4LIZKZJRWN

I am on ACX as an independent contractor available for audiobook narration. I have clips up of my work, and can answer questions if needed via the same email as above. I’m very flexible in what kind of work I do, and I’m always willing to try something new! I love narration and have a pretty quick turn-around time. And at the prices I suggest for my work, I’m significantly cheaper than a lot of other VAs out there.

 Azazel and Penemue: Handmade Jewelrywww.etsy.com/shop/AzazelandPenemue

I’ve been dabbling with the idea of making and selling jewelry for a while now. In fact, I had several finished pairs of earrings already made when I opened the Etsy store, from when I first bought/got the beads. (I don’t have a clear memory of where they came from, though! How strange.) So when I lost my job, I figured that now was a perfect time to finally get on that bandwagon. Not only did it give me a potential source of a little money, but it also gave me something to do, to keep myself active instead of sitting like a sad little unemployed lump. I’m hoping to branch into other jewelry outside of necklaces, as well as knitted/crocheted items as well, and maybe some embroidery floss bracelets. You never know! The possibilities are endless.

 

Credit goes to K Orion Fray owner of Azazel and Penemue. This is the mascot  Toby, the Corgi.

Credit goes to K Orion Fray owner of Azazel and Penemue. This is the mascot Toby, the Corgi.

The set of earrings I purchased were Hoo, Hoo Brown Owl Post Earrings. The photos below show what you get in the bubble wrap envelope. A hand written note and the earrings packaged in a neat, little bag come with your order along with an invoice (not shown) with a thumbnail of your order and all the details.

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I’ve got to say the earrings are flawless. They don’t feel heavy despite the fact that they are posts with a little dangling charm. At the same time, the material feels much sturdier and wearable than most of the jewelry I have in my jewelry box. I cannot wait to purchase more earrings when she has more animal based ones in stock, and I even have a collaboration planned with her for a custom necklace based on the one in my novel, Dollhouse Daughter.

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2015-04-18-19-09-42-982So, my minions. That concludes the feature of Rion or K Orion Fray—my friend, colleague, and entrepreneur. Check out the links to her work/services and you will not be disappointed. Let me know what you all thoughts of this Friend Feature I’m starting and if you have any suggestions for friends of yours that you’d like to feature!

 

P.S. Rion’s website korionfray.com also has a multitude of material for your reading pleasure including a blog about writing and several serialized pieces. There is plenty of Rion to go around. You will not regret the time you spend getting to know Rion.

 

Happy Reading/Writing!

Obligatory Cat photos:

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Bringing Characters to Life: Your Book As a Movie

Every writer has done it at one point or another. Even without meaning to, we all imagine what it would be like to see our story, our characters, our heart on the big screen. It typically happens after the book is out in the world, published and gathered a following, but for me the daydream came after I shared my completed work with a very trusted friend. With at least 30 books being made into movies just in 2014, it’s not uncommon to consider a book potentially being made into a movie after its completion. IF you climb your way onto the NY Times list or achieve fangirl/fanboy status with a large enough demographic (the two things aren’t mutually exclusive) because both will ultimately lead your book(s) down the path to Hollywood greatness.

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While visiting family for Christmas, some inquired thoughtfully about what plans I had with the manuscript now that I’m nearing the completion of my Master’s degree. Besides asking about the title, subject, etc. of the book, they  were anticipating on my novel being so popular that it could be the next Hunger Games. I’d like to point out here that this is not my goal. The Hunger Games are phenomenal movies, and based off of stellar YA books, but my plans or writing is never in attempt to be the next “whoever”. Sure, Dollhouse Daughter is YA and  it has elements of fantasy much like the book to movie versions making waves in the box office.  However, that wasn’t my original intentional. I wrote Cassie’s story (and Marge’s) because they deserved a chance to be heard.

And yet, the thought of seeing my story on the big screen is thrilling. My characters, my funny bits of dialogue spoken by actors trying to capture the same essence I wrote into the book. It would be an accomplishment beyond my furthest expectations.

Now that the book is nearly finished (pending revisions/epilogue) I want to share my inspirations and casting choices if the powers that be would decide my book should be made into a movie. Please note, some characters will have both inspirational photos and popular actors shown while others have inspirational  photos only. In addition, the choices are almost exclusively made in regards to physical descriptions. So, without further delay, I give you:

 

Left is actress from Newfaces.com and right is Elle Fanning

Left is actress from Newfaces.com and right is Elle Fanning

Cassandra Brooks-13 years old

Inspiration-This was the first picture I found that reminded me of what my brain had conjured for Cassie. It’s nowhere near exact, but the white blonde hair, bright, clear eyes, and a simple beauty of budding pubescence.  The actress was found on New Faces, where most of the “inspirational photos” listed in this post have come from, and provided a foundation for what was cooking in my brain.

Hollywood-Elle Fanning is my choice for Cassie. She has a sweet demeanor and an innocence that fits perfectly for the personality of Cassie. And as fate would have it, I’ve found a photo of her wearing a summer romper similar to the one I imagined Marge dressing Cassie in Chapter 5.

 

From New Faces or Google

From New Faces or Google

Mita Lachman-13 years old

Inspiration- I found this girl, I think on New Faces also, but I’m not sure. She was actually the exact image of who I expected Cassie’s bff to be even down to the red bindi on her brow. I haven’t found a Hollywood comparison, but we’ve got some time considering the book hasn’t even been published. Maybe I should be thinking Bollywood instead of Hollywood for the actress choice. I didn’t want to make her stereotypical for someone of Indian descent, but I absolutely adore the Bollywood and more traditional Persian fashion that it was impossible not to include a character as straightforward as Mita.

 

 

Left is inspiration from New Faces and Right is Glenn Close from Fatal Attraction

Left is inspiration from New Faces and Right is Glenn Close from Fatal Attraction

Marge (Bristler) Brooks-45 years old

Inspiration-This one was difficult. Finding the right look for Marge was a careful blend of strong, feminine features and crazy eyes. The actress found fit most of the description I wanted: strong, angular cheeks with eyes that command attention and wavy light hair that could have easily been teased and out of control when she was younger.

Hollywood-This choice was even more difficult, but my good friend mentioned at the beginning of the post came to my rescue. During our discussion of premium A-list actresses to take on the demands of a narcissistic, obsessive compulsive  mother whose defining moment in her personality was finally beating her mother (both physically and emotionally) into submission. Glenn Close is perfect for the role. After villainous characters such as Cruella De Vil or Claire from The Stepford Wives, Glenn Close is uniquely qualified to play my deranged Marge.

 

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Inspiration from New Faces and Jason Bateman on the right

Henry Brooks- 43 years old

Inspiration-This actor from New Faces captures the roughness I was hoping to express with Henry. His history of working in the coal mines hardened him in a way. He even kept the disheveled look even after he was promoted to a project manager position (cozy office job) almost as a physical manifestation of the difficult marriage with Marge. And yet there are times where he is allowed to show emotion when it comes to Cassie and his father. I think the combination of these physical descriptions and emotional experiences will make Henry a pleasing character for the audience.

Hollywood- Jason Bateman.  Good looking, talented, and capable of the hardened, stoic persona that Henry gives off while also managing to be heartfelt and utterly adorable when needed. Other than that, there’s not much else I could ask for. Just put Jason Bateman in some flannel and work boots and give him a slight Pennsylvanian accent and he’s perfect.

 

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Inspiration from New Faces and Matt Kane on the right

Nathan Brooks-21 years old

Inspiration-Like most of the inspirational photos, I found this fellow at New Faces, and for the life of me never wrote down the names. Yet, he captures the gorgeous perfection I wanted for the Brooks golden boy. His hair naturally brown, but dyes it black after meeting girlfriend Miranda who requires a specific “look” for her boyfriends.

Hollywood-From Switched at Birth and Once Upon a Time, Matt Kane is a prime model of male physique to play Nathan. He, in all honesty, doesn’t require much in the way of acting prowess. He’s just a regular 20-something who’s trying to get along with his family while also trying to separate himself and grow up.

 

Now that we’ve covered the main characters before the Brooks move to Georgia (spoilers, I know), I wanted to show case some of the more prominent characters in the rest of the story.

Starting first with my antagonists, Jessica and Clarence O’Donnell. Enter two perfect specimens of Southern grooming, accentuated by lots of money and encouragement from society to be the best out of everyone. And then add one, uncomfortable, slightly introverted, neglected young girl (Cassie) to the mix and you have instant teenage drama.

Bella Thorne for Jessica O'Donnell

Bella Thorne for Jessica O’Donnell

Jessica O’ Donnell- 16 years old

Jessica didn’t have an inspiration to begin with, so I ended up finding her Hollywood match from the start. Bella Thorne is perfect…literally.  Cassie refers to Jessica as a Barbie in her internal dialogue, which can only accentuate Jessica’s perfection. This picture to the left is as close as I could get to what I thought she’d look like. My only change would be to lighten Bella’s hair to a fair, strawberry blonde.  And the eyes. Both Clarence and Jessica have the same shade of blue eyes, so we’d have to affix both Thorne and Brodie-Sangster with different colored pupils. No biggie in the way of movie magic.

 

Clarence O’Donnell- 13 years old

Left is Inspiration from the Googles and Right is Thomas Brodie-Sangster (specifically in his role for Doctor Who)

Left is Inspiration from the Googles and Right is Thomas Brodie-Sangster (specifically in his role for Doctor Who)

Now onto Clarence, who by the picture (above right) was an adorable young boy in my mind, and perfect for my leading lady to fall for, right? Who doesn’t expect a YA book to movie to have a teen heartthrob that the main character struggles with at first and then  grows to love within the confines of the film. And that’s what makes Clarence so clever. Teen heartthrob is a must, and so when it came to choosing the Hollywood actor for my book to movie version, I wanted someone heartthrobby enough to capture the hearts of young movie-goers, but able to crush their hearts with his arrogance (acting). Thomas is perfect for it. His work in Doctor Who as a bratty school boy is an ideal foundation for Clarence.

 

Next is a much more positive character– Jean Abellard. 27 years old. Caretaker. Haitian. Friend. Lover. He’s the kind, Southern man that keeps Cassie grounded and allows her to be herself while at home with people who don’t really know her. My inspiration skipped straight to the actor I’d love to play Jean sans hair in this picture–K.C. Collins from my favorite show, Lost Girl.  He’s a phenomenal Canadian actor who would capture the grace and casual handsomeness that I had hoped for Jean.

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And last, but certainly not least, my favorite character–Azalee Longchamp-26 years old. The short (least spoiler-ridden) description is that Azalee is the shining light in the dreariness of Cassie’s existence. Take the compassion of a mother who lost a child too soon, add a little mystery, a little vodou magic and faith, sprinkle in a bit of spiritual intervention, a dash of calculated recklessness and what do you have. A gorgeous, confident vodou priestess in the market for a young girl to teach the ways of the world and keep her on her toes.

left is inspiration, middle is Kat Graham, and right is hairspiration for Azalee

left is inspiration, middle is Kat Graham, and right is hairspiration for Azalee

We’ll start first with the inspiration. In the prologue I describe the below outfit in what hopefully is an aptly written description that isn’t too specific or too vague (that’s really the dream isn’t it?). And so I direct your attention to the full-figured photo above left for the outfit that first inspired my vodou priestess. Next to that image, in the center, is my Hollywood choice–Kat Graham. She’s currently most notable for playing the witch Bonnie Bennett is The Vampire Diaries, which makes her uniquely equipped to handle supernaturally-based roles. She’s the perfect skin tone, age, temperament. Well, she’s everything. The photo to the right is the hairspiration for Azalee’s beautiful locks. While I’d like to say she would keep Graham’s dark locks, the box braids on the right in that warm caramel shade is exactly what I pictured for Azalee. Granted, there were also little beads and many many more braids, but that is neither here nor there when your imagination can fill in the blanks.

Alas, there was one other actress who could have played Azalee. Angela Bassett would have been brilliant for the role, but I wanted to shy from the current portrayal of Marie Laveau and New Orleans voodoo in American Horror story. It is my most treasured goal for Dollhouse Daughter to highlight the traditional vodou found in Haiti, which can be seen in the different spellings between the Haitian vodou and New Orleans voodoo in this very post. I want to celebrate the wonder and glory of the vodou faith and beliefs, which can get muddled in the theatrics of the New Orleans influence. I love them both, but Azalee and co. come from Haiti and represent a purer form of vodou that has captured my heart in the years I’ve researched and written this book.

In the end, the actors, the photos, the inspiration is simply another way to bring the story and characters to life. I, by no stretch of the imagination, assume that my book will be good enough to make it onto the big screen. But it is a dream. A dream that one day I hope you, my lovely minions, may support and help me achieve. For now, I hope you enjoy this post and look for some excerpts of the novel to come in the near future!

Lastly, I leave you with an adorable kitty selfie. Happy reading/writing!

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The Spotted Writer and her Spotted Inspiration- Nyla. Future book jacket photo? Maybe!

 

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Why I Lost NanoWroMo And Other Exciting News

Before I begin the analysis of my ill-fated attempt at NanoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), I want to congratulate some of my lovely writer-ly friend who did win this year and showed me what Nano can offer every writer if given the right motivation. Both of my friends Denise and Rion are seasoned winners, and Rion has been an ML(Municipal Liason) for multiple regions in the U.S. These phenomenal ladies have many helpful tips and encouragement for any who wish to learn more about Nano or need help throughout the event. So, don’t forget to check out their blogs (linked above).

ATT_1418613029912_CYMERA_20141121_093517December 2014 marks the first failed attempt at NanoWriMo  for the Spotted Writer. While it is only a technical fail since I didn’t write 50,000 new words for the month of November, I knew beforehand that I couldn’t succeed. Well, wouldn’t is a more appropriate word. If I had scheduled and outlined I might have won, but I did none of those things. There was little time for me to prepare when I was finishing Dollhouse right before November began. That on top of the fact that I had never written more than 700 words in a day meant that I was destined to lose.  (For those who don’t know, a daily word count of 1,667 is needed to complete the 50,000).

Don’t worry my lovely minions, I was not discouraged and I’m not upset at the outcome. I knew going in that any amount of new words would be an improvement from my current standing (about 1,500) for the piece tentatively titled The Hawthorne Grove.  I managed a total of 350 words give or take a few, but my mind was still focused on my manuscript.  Which is why I’m hoping the below  tips will be of help for those who also didn’t manage a win at NanowriMo to improve for next year-including me.

#1- Any new words…any at all 1-50,000 is a true win. The simplified goal for National Novel Writing Month is to create an uninhibited habit of writing daily and consistently. That kind of discipline is astronomically helpful for a writer no matter what age or experience level. I still continue to struggle with putting down new words daily, so next year, the plan is to write every day no matter what. Maybe not 1,667, but new words every day is a great achievement.

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#2-Even if you’re not an outlin-er, a basic plot outline makes the goal of reaching 50,000 more manageable. Now in my case I did have an overall idea of  what The Hawthorne Grove could be about. Unfortunately, I hadn’t ironed out any specifics other than some character profiles. For some, that may be enough, but for me I needed more direction if I’m going to write at a faster pace. And thus I say unto you slow writers, plan. Plan for all of October and by the time November arrives, you will have everything in your arsenal ready to go. This is also where I fell short because I was still writing a majority of Dollhouse Daughter even into the first week of November, so I never made time to plan.

#3-Focus on the one idea. This is a good tip in general, and coming from someone who skips between different works frequently this is a challenge in itself. I became so distracted in November (even after I finished Dollhouse) with revisions and my beta reader comments that I never switched my brain to focus on the novel I was supposed to be writing. So, focus on the idea at hand and don’t let revisions clutter your mind and distract you. If necessary, make notes in a separate document or put [] in the place where you want to come back.

This is my advice. I found it all on my own. It’s little, and simple, but good. Yeah, still good. Now onto the phenomenal events that have happened in the last month.

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First and foremost, I finished my first novel. You can view the post  about finally finishing the piece here. It isn’t publishable yet, but Dollhouse Daughter has a completed first-ish draft. I hate say first draft because I’ve revised the overall story and the setting so many times. Ultimately, though, I finished it. Woot!

And then, my minions, I was asked to speak at a creative writing class at the school my boyfriend works at.  The request came as a complete and utter suprise because I assumed that my boyfriend had been whispering awesome compliments about me to his coworkers. In reality, I had a fan in my midst…a.ka. my boyfriend’s boss.  Imagine my further surprise as I had never met his boss and he had never actually read anything of mine.  He was fantastic in his support, especially when I discovered he was an avid reader and huge supporter of local writers.

10703751_10152855200426804_6683006687294229484_nI accepted without question at the opportunity to share what small nuggets of wisdom I can manage to articulate to other. Most of the wisdom I’ve learned from my mentors and guest speakers is currently bumbling around in my brain waiting to be absorbed and utilized at the right moment. So, what I really wanted to focus on was giving them an introduction into writing in the real world. Beyond the classroom assignments and what to expect if they want to pursue higher education (which even to this day and thousands of dollars in debt I still support).  Lucky for me, the class was made up of mostly seniors and some sophomores and underclassmen and the class was an elective, so the students were invested in what I had to say at least in some respect.

I started off the class with Mark Twain’s “what what you know” not in the sense that you must ONLY write what you know. Instead, I wanted to impress upon these writers how import it is not to put more into your story than you’re capable of accomplishing. I had learned first hand that no matter how much I wanted my novel to be in Revolutionary war England, it was going to take my characters and I decades (and a degree in history) to write it. It didn’t fit to try and make the story work in a setting and a time that I knew nothing about when I had all of the knowledge about modern day America already in my arsenal.

My initial fear is that I would sound pretentious and condescendingly repeat the same precepts that are drilled into every beginner’s brain. The students, however, were a blessing. Sure, every speaker would love to have more questions, but out of the eight or nine students there was at least a dozen questions, which was exciting. There is so much promise for these writers to be even if they were just taking the class for fun.

10660214_10152829833841804_7786051364276860172_nOne of the most difficult points to cover during the class was higher education (my Master’s degree included). For the parents of the millennial generation and later, college in general may seem like the obvious next step, but for the students it’s much bigger than that. In 2014, college is the equivalent to the mortgage on an incredibly expensive home without the guarantee of a return on investment (although to be honest depending on where and when the house may not be guaranteed either). And with a liberal arts degree or concentration…forget about it! With the average American having a potential of two to three career changes in their lifetime (source: some article that is probably now outdated by a few years) what room is there for thousands of dollars in debt for an education you may never fully utilize? These are a few of the fears/concerns that make it that much more difficult for students to choose what to do next, especially if their true passion is writing.

Yes, an understanding of the English language and communication is a vital skill set that students, and people in general should be more in tune with, but how does that translate to a well-paid career? With the right choices, it can pay off well. If you push yourself toward an unconventional or non-traditional career path, it could bring you a wealth of success and stability. I guess my main point (and I made this to the class) is being confident in your decision. I knew in high school that English/writing/reading/literature would be my life. I knew that nothing else would do, and I was willing to sacrifice everything I had been taught to achieve it. I was willing to forgo the more traditionally stable positions in the medical field (at the behest of my father) or education (at the request of my mother) in favor of my passion. To this day, I don’t regret that decision. What I regret most is not choosing wisely about which school to ascertain my degree from, allowing my debt to pile higher than Mt. Everest.

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But, I digress. My temporary class had little to no knowledge or advice on what to choose or even if they had a choice. I impressed upon the necessity to fully support their decision and if they had doubts not to make one hastily or at the behest of anyone! I agreed to the possibility of living paycheck to paycheck until I found my place in the work force. I was 100% ready to follow my passion wherever it lead. And I am so incredibly happy with where I’m headed.

I’m sure these students still have their reserves and questions about the craft and especially about how writing fits into their future, but I think…I think…I gave them something to chew on for a little while. They had the opportunity to read some of my novel that I continue to slave over for three+ years, and experience a public reading. It gave me a chance to see how it would be in front of a high school level class as well as a chance for those students to see possibilities for themselves if they are passionate about writing. And even deeper, it provided a continuous flow of information between writers regardless of age, experience, education or amount written. I saw in those students a glimmer of hope for something they enjoyed or the potential for it to grow. The experience has opened me to the phenomenal path ahead, and I cannot wait to share more milestones with you.

I’ll leave you all with some of the pictures from my vacation. I attended Blizzcon in Anaheim and experienced the glory of San Diego. If given the choice to live in a mansion in Pittsburgh, PA or homeless in San Diego, CA- I would choose San Diego in a heartbeat. It is quite the change from being on the east coast and I relish the thought of going back! Look for more updates and maybe even some excerpts from Dollhouse Daughter to come.

Happy reading and writing!

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Not So Trivial Pursuit of the Perfect Novel: Colloquialism and Place

Welcome minions! I’m finally adding another installment to this never-ending blog series. I find myself looking forward to these posts more and more because it gives me a chance to truly reflect on what kind of piece I’m developing and to share what I’ve learned along the way.

Onto the topic at hand—where is my story going? No, I’m not talking about the plot or the character’s movements from room to room. I’m talking about the where. The setting. The place. Whatever you call it, it’s the magic behind the scenes or a character all its own. In the dozens of writing workshops and seminars I’ve attended, place isn’t something you just throw in or use without proper consideration.

Not utilizing the full potential of place is as much of a writing crime as too many adverbs. This may not be a carved-in-stone rule of writing, but hell what rule is carved in stone? Mostly, I just want to express how underutilized place is in a ton of commercial writing. When I say commercial writing, I mean books that are made with the intention of being sold or published on the commercial market i.e. Amazon, Createspace, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Scribd etc. Whether it costs money to read your book or not, never ever forget about place. It represents the where in the all-important foundation of your story (simplified: who, what, when, where, why).

If you simply choose New York for your  alien story because it’s easy—think again! Place can ground readers in history like Anglo Saxon Britain or allow the reader an escape to a faraway galaxy uncharted by humanity. I, for one, have fallen prey to laziness in this department for a few of my unfinished pieces that I dare not share with the world yet. This is especially true for my earlier drafts of Dollhouse Daughter, which was initially set in London during the late 1700’s. Without knowing it, I set myself up for disaster.

I knew nothing about the 1700’s much less London in that period. It was after two pages that I made the switch to a modern London with a few chapters based in modern U.S. The change in period was a fantastic relief because it made my job as the writer so much easier, but I unknowingly still struggled with place. My manuscript, still untitled at that time, had grown to a whopping six chapters before my laziness caught up with me. Eventually, my Irish mentor suggested I write what I know because in the chapters I’d written there was little to nothing about British culture. At that moment, I realized the right place for my story wasn’t in London; it was a town called Warrenton, Georgia.

Step 1–to finding the true place for your story is research. A normal part of every story has at least some research. Outside of realm of “write what you know”, we wordsmiths crawl onto the world wide web searching for delectable bits of information. Now that I’ve found the right setting for Cassie’s story, I had to figure out what it meant to live in the deep South. Being a native Northerner, I had quite the task ahead of me, but research is only useful if you…well, if you use it. So, I studied youtube videos, pictures, and articles in hopes that I could catch the essence of Warrenton. But I couldn’t research too much. I had to put a limit on how much I perused because I’m not writing an essay of the culture of the deep South. I only need to learn enough to keep my story moving. And I hope others can appreciate place a little more after sharing the fundamentals I used in my own novel.

Step 2–Dialect is both the easiest and hardest part of showing place because it can be simple for someone to write a dialect they know, and so easy to create stereotypes or bog the story down with unintelligible dialogue.  Mark Twain is by far the best and most controversial example of how dialect can transform a simple novel ( The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn) to a piece of timeless literature. He had a magic formula that made his writing seem realistic without distracting from the story. So my challenge was not only to include accurate, exciting Southern dialect to give the right characters flavor, but my Haitian Kreyòl had to be just as present if I wanted to truly represent the vodou of  Haiti. It was even more thrilling to know that my past French classes were put to good use since it was a major component in the construction of Kreyòl as a language.  Below are just some examples of my own use of dialect in Dollhouse Daughter:

Southern:

“Burn my biscuits, that woman’s nose is up so high in the clouds she could drown in a rainstorm,” Betty said.

“And just to ruffle my feathers, that foul woman had the au-da-city to tell me that Sandy should be having little Samantha baptized in a Lutheran church instead of St. John’s.”

Oh, honey,” Jessica said, flashing her too-bright teeth. “It’s all Coke in Georgia. They mustn’t teach common sense in them Northern schools.”

Haitian:

“No, pitit mwen, it will not hurt.”

“Papi, please hear me.Your LeeLee needs guidance.”

“Bonjou, pitit Brigitte,” he bellowed, his baritone voice thunderous even against the sound of the drums. “You have come to us humble vodouisants on a special evening. Tonight we celebrate the changing of the moon by meeting Mambo Azalee’s nouvo zanmi, Cassandra from the North.”

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Let me know what you think and especially if anything screams out as being inaccurate or unrealistic because I want to make it the best it possibly can be. The next installation of N.S.T.P.P.N. will be coming up shortly with an emphasis still heavily devoted to place. It should be posted within the next few days, so don’t forget to check back. And as always Happy Reading and Writing!

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