Sunday, April 29, 2012

Disappointed, In the End

I love to read.  No matter how busy school keeps me (I'm grading for a 14-day stretch right now, until finals come, yeesh), I will always make time to read.  Even if it's a few precious minutes a day.

Because my time is so precious right now, it's particularly frustrating to invest time in a novel and be disappointed in the end.  I finished a novel last night and closed it with....a shrug.  Up to the last five pages, I'd adored this book, and had expected to close it with a triumphant smile, glad about the characters getting together (finally!) in the end.  And they did.  But the way it happened was....strange.  Unexpected.  And maybe that's what the author was going for.  Maybe she was trying to rattle expectations and keep the reader on her toes.  But, instead, it left me disappointed and confused.

So, does a disappointing ending cancel out the whole book?  Taint the whole reading experience of that novel?  Some people might think so.  I think it depends on how disappointing the end was.  The novel I just finished was only mildly disappointing, so I didn't regret reading the other three hundred and fifty pages before it.

Also, I think something else factors in, with writers.  We tend to close a book we've read, disappointed, and take it further:  "Man, if I'd written this book, I would've ended it this way or that way..."  (C'mon, I know you've done it).  And yes, those were my thoughts last night.  :-)

I guess the main lesson here is that we (as writers) can't please everyone all the time.  We can't expect to meet each reader's expectations.  Surely, the author of the book I finished last night didn't intend to disappoint.  I'm sure she thought her ending was creative and unique.  And, there might be some who loved it.  But I didn't.  And that's okay.  As a writer, I'll try to please my own sensibilities first, follow my own writing instincts, and then hope the reader is pleased, as well, to the very last page.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

So, there's a new video game in development - Thoreau's Walden.

I'm torn about this -- one part of me is intrigued, after seeing the video promo (link here).  I love the soothing music, the idea of hearing/seeing quotes from Walden in a new way.  But the other part of me is a bit horrified at the notion of entering a "fake" nature that's computerized.  I mean, isn't that completely defeating the purpose of Walden?  Sitting indoors, in our pajamas with a joystick, staring at a screen?  And not experiencing actual nature with our own senses, for ourselves?

Heh.  Wonder what Thoreau would think.

Sometimes Predictable is Good

Consider the action movie:  our hero battles the villain(s) for an hour and fifty minutes, but in the end?  We know he'll win.  That bullet he just took to the shoulder?  Nah.  Not gonna kill him.  That train speeding his way as he chases the bad guy?  Not gonna kill him.  We know that in the end, he'll survive and the bad guy will be violently killed by him.  Predictable.

Consider the romantic comedy:  two people meet, likely hate each other, but Fate continues to place them in each other's paths.  (There's also usually the sidekick guy and the sidekick girl, who put the "comedy" in romantic comedy).  After a long series of misunderstandings and obstacles, the air is finally cleared, and our couple will look dreamily into each other's eyes and kiss while the music swells.  Totally predictable.

Some people hate that kind of predictability and will avoid it at all cost.  But some of us actually like it.  There's an odd sort of comfort in predictability, I think.  Since we know the ending, we can sit back, relax, and watch the journey.  In fact, for me, the mark of a good romantic comedy is the journey---when it's unique or quirky or well-told.  Or when the couple has amazing chemistry.  Sure, I know they'll get together in the end.  But how will it happen?  That's what I'm interested in.  What will their journey be?

My most favorite examples are While You Were Sleeping (quirky, original, even silly "journey" to the predictable ending), When Harry Met Sally (smart, witty dialogue and great jazz music), and Return to Me (again, quirky/original plot and sweet chemistry between the leads).  I knew the outcomes of these movies the first time I saw them, but that didn't stop me from enjoying them.  Over and over again, in fact.  It's all about the journey.

So, when I write my women's fiction and am occasionally told the ending feels a little "predictable," I don't always see that as a bad thing.  Because, hopefully, I've given the reader an interesting journey along the way, with strong characters and good chemistry between the protagonists.  Some might like that kind of predictability, and some might not.  And that's okay with me.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Character Come to Life

Surely any writer has felt, at one time or another, a profound connection to a main character--to someone he/she has crafted, created.  When we spend time with these characters, they really can seem vivid in our minds.

Well, I found a new movie trailer that takes this concept to an adorable extreme--it's about an author with writer's block who gets a sudden burst of inspiration, and his character actually does come to life (a la Stranger Than Fiction).  

Looks cute!  Wanted to share...

Friday, April 20, 2012


I love this one:

"You must write every single day of your life…You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads….may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world." ~Ray Bradbury

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Your Personal Best

It's easy to become intimidated by good writing--to open a book and see how fluid, how clever, how brilliant someone else is being. It's easy to compare yourself to another author and feel like you've come up short.

But I found this quote today, and it's a wonderful reminder. The only one we should be striving to out-do is....ourselves. Our own personal best is all we can ever hope to achieve, as writers. In fact, it's futile and sometimes harmful to wish we could be "the next" whoever. Instead, we should strive to reach and maintain our own personal best. Not that it's easy, of course....

“I do not try to dance better than anyone else. I only try to dance better than myself.” ~Michail Nikolaevi─Ź Bary┼ínikov

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Happy Birthday, Leonardo

(Nope, not Dicaprio).

Just found a great quote by the master painter. I think it can apply to many things, including the "flight"/journey that writing can take us on...

"Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return."
~Leonardo da Vinci

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Ripple Effects

So, I'm making some fairly minor changes to a previous novel, trying to "warm up" the main character. In the first chapter, I decided to give her a memory where she nearly drowned at age ten, and her father scooped her up and saved her, brought her to shore, sputtering. I then mention that this character is now afraid to go into the water.

Well, I discovered some ripple effects (no pun intended!) later on in the novel. There's a key scene halfway through, in which the character is a teenager, enjoying a swim in a lake. Of course, I wrote that long before this new change (with the near-drowning memory). It dawned on me tonight -- she's now afraid of the water! She shouldn't be going into the water at all (and if she does, I had better address her strong fears, or else the reader will see it as a major inconsistency).

The difficult thing is that I really don't want to move the lake setting to another dry-land location because I'm satisfied with that scene "as is" (it's an important one, in terms of what happens with her and another character in the water).

I've got a couple of options spinning around in my head, and I'll figure it out one way or another -- but it's amazing to me (and a bit unnerving) how just one small change in a plotline can have such far-reaching ripple effects in the rest of the story. That's why it's essential to carefully glean over the pages after the changes we make, in order to catch these types of inconsistencies.

Not easy, but certainly worth it!