Friday, August 22, 2014

What We Love About Game of Thrones That We Shouldn't

We here at Crazy are writers and as such, have this um…problem. It’s like when my friend got a headache then learned on the internet that she was dying of dengue fever, unless the lymphoma got to her first. We writers go to the internet for advice about, you know…writing. The sheer number of “rules” makes us want to stop writing, because we’ll never get it “right.” Yet on every bestseller list sit stories which defy the rule creators.
The series of novels, A Song of Ice and Fire (beginning with the fabulous Game of Thrones), sits on a few of those lists. And the New York Times (July 14, 2011) goes so far as to suggest that "it's high time we drove a stake through the heart of J. R. R. Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings." {GASP!} Did GRRM earn that praise by following the rules? Well, some of them certainly. But no matter how hard I try, I can't imagine him surfing for writing advice.
I can imagine some random brave soul—even in the 1970s when he began writing for real—offering up some writing gospel (“Hey, you know what would be better? If you…”).

I can imagine GRRM applying the blank stare.

We read and nearly weep at the pure genius of the 3 interweaving stories. We marvel at the simple magic of the red comet—how the characters each feel a personal connection to it. We’re jealous that we didn’t think of it first. So what do we love about the series that we would think twice about before writing? Which of these “rules” are given the finger by GRRM?

 1.       Don’t kill the main character. Valar Morghulis. Every man must die. And every character can too (and uh, probably will). Even the main one, the best one, the brightest one. This is risky if the rest of your book does not scream to be read. Readers who are plunged into the cycle of grief are likely to plunge your book off a moving bus (sorry, but hitting the [delete] key on an e-book does not provide the same level of satisfaction). Yet, they tolerate it over and over again in this series. At some point, it becomes a game of morbid curiosity: “I hate this. I’m not reading it anymore. Who is going to bite it next?”

2.       Every sentence should work hard. Not every sentence contributes to the plot. Or does it? How do I know until I get to the end then read it again? Answer: I don’t. Say for instance that I get to the end and realize there were whole sections that were disconnected to the outcome. Writing advice says to cut those. Yet, now that I’ve finished, do I even care that those parts didn’t contribute? Maybe I spend an afternoon at the pool pondering the odds that I’ve been tricked. “They MUST have been part of the plot. I’m just not seeing it! What am I missing?” GRRM has won, because I read the book(s), I enjoyed the story and I’m at the pool still thinking about it.

3.       Write satisfying, realistic characters. Non-conformance to gender roles or other stereotypes runs rampant here! See? Even in a period piece, good guys don’t have to be handsome or strong. Girls don’t have to have girly moments. Other stories develop characters that might seem unique and non-conforming, but somewhere in the text, somehow, they eventually meet reader requirements. For instance, an ugly hero is eventually found beautiful by someone. A tomboy girl eventually brushes out her hair and feels feminine. Nope. Doesn’t have to happen, according to GRRM. And we readers like that. Little girls can kill men. And that’s okay.

4.       Don’t make the reader wait too long. If your story is good enough, you can create a cult following who will a) buy anything, and/or b) wait for a very long time for it.

5.       Start with a theme and keep it in mind. One of the more common themes out there is good vs. evil. Try to pick just one in A Song of Ice and Fire. I dare you. Power? Betrayal? Family? Justice and Judgment? Maybe this is like the red comet: for each of us, we “see” the theme we prefer.

I do not stand on the side of anyone who desires to drive a stake through the heart of J. R. R. Tolkien. Nor do I need to scour the internet for the unbreakable rules of writing. I will deal with my problem in my own way: by giving the finger to these rule creators and getting vaccinated for dengue fever. Then I will read more novels that I shouldn’t.


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Wishbone for Grownups or Three Things about Me

Hi there. I'm Marianne and a member of this blogging team. Here's a little about me.

  1. I like lists. I start nearly every day with a to-do list, which is not to say I end the day with all (or any) of the items checked off. But I keep making them anyway. I just like the idea that I actually have control over my days. Mostly I don't, but pretend is good, therefore, let there be lists. (Note: the following is not today's to-do list. I just wish it were.) 
  2. Along with the rest of this gang, I like books. Like really, really, really a lot. When I'm happy, I read. When I'm sad, I read. When I'm standing in line, I read. And while driving or cleaning, I read through my ears. And so, let there be book talk. In list form. 
  3. I miss Wishbone. I loved that show. It's one of the few kid shows I'd actually watch with my little ones and not use as a way to sneak in more reading time. Wouldn't it be great to have a Wishbone in real life? At a crossroads? Facing a dilemma? Moral crisis? Never fear! Wishbone is here to provide life advice through the mediums of literature and dogs in drag. And so, let there be Wishbone. And book talk. In list form. 
    See you soon.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Without further introduction ...

Let me start off by saying hi. Hi.

I'm Krissy and I make up 1/6 of the crazy here. I'm a mom by day and a gunslinging, mean-drink-making, dill-pickle-eating, crazy-painting, crime-fighting-ninja from space (who can fly) by night. When I'm not trying, to get two boys under the age of 12 to where they're supposed to be going, I can be found either reading, writing, sewing, painting, crafting or doing laundry. I have a theory that laundry actually doubles at night. You know all those missing socks? I think they're actually recruiters and they go out and find dirty laundry and send it back home. My theory also applies to dishes, dust and muddy boot prints.

What I will contribute to the Crazy, is crafts. Lots of crafts, mostly. There may also be a book rant/review in there too. Those crafts for the most part will be book themed, but they may also be something crazy, like how to make a pocket snake using lint (don't ask). I assure you these crafts will also involve lots and lots of glitter. 

Are you wondering what that picture is of? Did I mention I'm the worse picture taker ever? It's a Star Wars lightsaber pen I crafted from polymer clay. And yes if you follow this blog you will learn how to make one for yourself, along with a multitude of other cool things, including a Potter wand. 

So hello and welcome to the Crazy ...

Friday, August 1, 2014

Highly Adaptable

Hello, I'm Susan. I'll be covering adaptations. While the blog's focus is novels (because we're all authors and we're obsessed) I will not just be talking about works based on novels, but also plays (because you can't talk about adaptations without talking about Shakespeare) and comic books (because they are some of my favorite stories in the universe).

In thinking about how to introduce myself, while also sticking to my chosen subject, I decided the best thing to do would be to let you in on my fantasies. So here is a list of the best literary adaptations that only exist in my mind—so far.

1) The Ocean At The End Of Lane by Neil Gaiman as adapted by Studio Ghibli

It's no secret that I'm a huge Neil Gaiman fan. There have been some excellent adaptations of his previous works and some that never got off the ground. I've liked pretty much all of them, but none, except the Neverwhere BBC Radio play starring James McAvoy, Natalie Dormer, and Benedict Cumberbatch, completely lived up to the books they were based on.

His most recent novel, The Ocean At The End Of The Lane, has already been optioned and is set to be directed by Joe Wright. I like Wright, but when I read it there was only one person I could see as the director Hayao Miyazaki. Miyazaki is the director behind anime classics like My Neighbor Totoro and Spirited Away. The book is told from the perspective of a seven-year-old boy (though it isn't a kid's book and shouldn't become a kid's movie). The nameless narrator, based on Gaiman as a child, inadvertently releases a malevolent being that wrecks havoc on his family. Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli, the animation studio he founded, specializes in original plots that feel both totally fresh and like ancient legend. And usually feature a child at the center. I couldn't help visualizing everything, from the enormous creature made of saggy, billowing canvas, to the reality devouring birds of prey, to the trio of archetypical witches, as drawn by Miyazaki.

2) Goblin Secrets by William Alexander as adapted by the Jim Henson Company.

Goblin Secrets is the story of a city where acting and plays are forbidden. And of a boy who falls in with a renegade band of traveling players, who happen to be goblins.

I have loved the Jim Henson company for as long as I can remember. While the Muppets have had a recent resurgence under the Disney umbrella, the Henson company has been flying under the radar. They've been focusing on educational programming. Which is great and in line with their history. But there's an aspect of the company's legacy that has fallen by the wayside, the creation of completely realized fantasy worlds, such as the Dark Crystal, Labyrinth, and the Storyteller series. It's been a decade since their amazing scifi series Farscape went off the air. It's time  they waded into that pool again.

There is a lot in Goblin Secrets for Henson to sink their teeth into. A crone with mechanical chicken legs, masks that come to life, and the goblins themselves. Maybe if I wish hard enough it'll happen.

3) Anything by Daniel Pinkwater as adapted by Spike Jonze.

Daniel Pinkwater is a bit hard for me to describe. He's a children's author from Chicago (my home town). Reading Pinkwater has always felt like stepping into the mind of someone not from this reality, but from somewhere sort of similar. His settings are very grounded and real, but the characters and the plots are delightfully absurd.

If I had to choose one of his stories to adapt, I'll go with the one that introduced me to him, Lizard Music. In which a kid watching tv late at night stumbles upon a rock band made entirely of lizards. The book follows him trying to find out what they are and where they came from.

Spike Jonze was behind one of my favorite movies ever in Being John Malkovich, as well as a brilliant adaptation of a classic children's book in Where The Wild Things Are. He's the only person I can think of who could capture Pinkwater's skewed worldview. He knows how to create worlds that look like our own, but follow completely alien rules.

Side note: Fat Men From Outer Space would make a fantastic Pixar short.

4) Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell as adapted by Jane Espenson

I read Fangirl earlier this year, and nothing I've read since has stuck with me as much. It's the story of Cath, a college freshman with high social anxiety. She also happens to be a wildly popular fanfic author. She's spent most of her adolescence writing a novel length  slash fic based on the Harry Potter-esque Simon Snow series.

I first became aware of Jane Espenson as a writer on one of my all time favorite tv shows, Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Since then she's written for such varied series as Gilmore Girls, Battlestar Galactica, and Game Of Thrones. I know she'd be equally good at capturing Cath's awkwardness and insecurities, as she would be at bringing the snippets of Simon Snow's fantasy world sprinkled throughout the book to life. I don't know if she's interested in  directing, but she's more than qualified to write the screenplay.

5) Anything by Jonathan Carroll as adapted by Guillermo Del Toro

In some ways, I think of Jonathan Carroll as the adult version of Daniel Pinkwater. They both trade in the surreal hidden in plain sight. And the both should be better known than they are. The big difference is that where Pinkwater's brand of bizarre is hilarious, Carroll's is creepy as Hell!

Guillermo Del Toro has spent the couple of last decade creating beautiful nightmare's. Sleeping In Flame, Carroll's haunting take on Rumpelstiltskin would make an excellent film. Honestly, it's a crime that none of his books have made it to the screen yet.

So there you go, my fantasies lean toward the dark and strange. Good to meet you!