Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Ultimate Summer Camp

...And the best part is, you don't even have to leave your own backyard!

Yes, everyone, it's finally here, the long-awaited "Camp NaNoWriMo." What is Camp NaNoWriMo? It's a version of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month -, if you're not already familiar with it, although if you've been reading my blog you should be.) that you can do in the summer months. It's definitely helpful if you're like me, and can novel your heart out during November but can't get more than 10,000 words a month during the rest of the year. I'm not yet sure whether I'll participate in the July or August session, but I AM going to give this a try.

More Reasons You Should Do Camp NaNoWriMo

1. It is created by the folks at the Offices of Letters and Light, and therefore is made of awesome
2. It's the perfect solution to the I-want-to-write-a-novel-in-November-but-stuff-keeps-getting-in-the-way problem.
3. It's the perfect solution to the I-want-to-participate-in-NaNoWriMo-more-than-once-a-year problem.
4. You'll be doing something productive with your summer and will feel better about yourself.
5. It is going to be FUN.

This list should have made you as excited about this as I am, so I'll give you the link.

Off to find the deep-woods bug repellent and marshmallows,

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Too Horrific?

In general, I'm not a big fan of horror as a genre. I don't watch horror movies. I don't read Stephen King. The main reason I like Halloween is because it's an excuse to eat lots of candy, and it's the day before NaNoWriMo starts.

That's not to say that I haven't written some pretty creepy stuff myself. Some of the descriptions I've written as writing exercises or in response to prompts have made me shudder when I reread them later. I even have a pretty detailed idea for a novel about ghosts with some interesting (at least I think they're interesting) twists. I plan for this novel to become my long-term project once I finish the trilogy I'm currently working on.

This all seems a little odd. After all, I've never even read or watched anything in the 'horror' genre. It's always seemed entirely unappealing to me, so how could I possibly want to WRITE it? After thinking about this, I had to ask myself, is the reason I don't like horror because I don't like the concepts, or because most of it is so graphic?

It's definitely the latter. Realizing this was looking at the summary for the movie 'Black Swan'. I thought it had something to do with ballet but wasn't sure, and I was intrigued, so I looked it up online. The concept - a ballet dancer who gets the part of Odette in Swan Lake but becomes more and more like the black swan, Odile - sounded interesting, but looking at the parental guidance ratings made me lose any desire to see this movie. It's rated R, described as 'graphic and explicit' and 'frightening and disturbing'. There's swearing, too.

And why? I don't understand the need for it. I can appreciate the fun in being a little scared, but why would anyone want to see or read something that's going to disturb them? I was a little grossed out just reading the parental guidance rating! I can't imagine how bad the actual movie is.

I really think it's unneccesary. I understand that people have varying levels of comfort and the effect something has differs, but some things are just too extreme. No matter what the genre, the point should be to produce a good movie or write a good novel, not shock and scare people to the extreme just for the sake of it. I honestly believe that there can be good horror books and movies that don't make you lose sleep for the next week and a half.

I don't know if I would have seen Black Swan even if it had been much less extreme and rated, say, PG-13, because with something like that I do prefer a book because I have more control over the images that I see in my brain. But I do know that I will never, ever watch it now, and I'm sure there are other people who think the same thing.

Maybe 'horror' is a bad name for the genre, since that implies that the point is just to scare, even if you lose the plot behind all the gore. But there are some elements of fiction that are specific to this genre, and I just wish there was way to have those without all the negatives that come with it.

Off to think about my not-too-horrific-horror-novel,

Friday, June 3, 2011

Reading/Writing Cliches

Because I read a lot, I'm usually somewhat knowledgable about what's been done in the world of books, especially young adult fiction and fantasy, the two genres I read the most. Of course, similarities are not the problem; if one or two books have a similar plotline or voice to something that's already been written, there's nothing wrong with that. The thing that annoys me most? Cliches.

Cliche has become a term that can mean almost anything. It can mean an overused expression, an unoriginal character. It can mean a plot that's been done a thousand times or something that's parodied for humor in certain TV shows. (I'm not going to name any names, but if I did, I would name Phineas & Ferb. Not that it's not a great show.)

But I think the thing that annoys me the most isn't plots that are all-around cliche, but little pieces that are used over and over. Subplots, things about character. It drives me crazy. There are many of them, but these are my top three most hated. I advise writers to stay away from them at all costs.

1. The Star Athlete Who Hates Sports
You know the type. They're the most amazing thing to happen in the history of the high school sports team, but for some reason they're not interested. They're amazing, but they want to do something else. The catch? Their father has planned out their life since they were three, won't let them quit because they need a scholarship to college, and they're too spineless to stand up for themselves. They're mostly in movies - "A Cinderella Story" and "High School Musical" come to mind - but also in books. In fact, there's one in the book I'm reading now, which is what originally prompted me to write this post.

2. Girl-Finds-Out-She's-Pregnant-After-Boyfriend-Dies
Doesn't have to be her boyfriend, of course - could be her husband, fiance or the random guy down the street. But as soon as the funeral's over, she realizes that the one night (or several nights) they spent together resulted in her getting pregnant. The first examples that come to mind are the novel "Numbers" (which had about three awesome places where the book could have ended before it even got to this point - and the actual ending wasn't even that good. But I'll save that for another post) and The Last Dragon series by Chris D'Lacey. And of course, it was the entire plotline of Sarah Dessen's "Someone Like You", which was the only time I could actually tolerate it.

3. Platonic Relationships
This is what I hate the most. I understand they happen, but I don't think they happen as often as most books would lead you to believe. I especially hate it when the guy realizes he's in love before the girl and spends half the book pining while she dates someone else. The only time this is ever - EVER - acceptable is when it's Lorelai Gilmore and Luke Danes in Gilmore Girls. Every other platonic relationship in the world needs to disappear forever.

Of course, there is the one cliche that I doubt I will ever get tired of - the one where a couple is formed from two characters who bicker constantly throughout the book and then at the end, realize they're in love with each other. I know it's used a lot, possibly more often than ANY other cliche, but...I just love it.

Off to make sure there are none of these cliches in my own writing,