Writers on Writing

One of the fun things about being a writerly-type person, besides the actual writing and reading that you do, is that your friends often know you are a writerly person. Maybe its because you are constantly writing down tid bits of life in your journal to use later on in your own work, or maybe its because you never buy a bag unless its big enough to carry a book. Either way, they know. But then sometimes they send you fun literary things. Last week, a friend of mine sent me an article from the guardian – Ten Rules for Writing Fiction, where various authors share their tips and suggestions on being a writer.

I always enjoy reading this kind of thing and seeing what works, or what doesn’t work for different people. Whether they are famous writers or just like to put down a few words in their free time, I’m always interested. Some of these tips I had heard before from fiction writing classes in college and some of them are new. Some of them I do already, like keep a journal, and some of them I struggle with.

There are a couple of mentions of not working on a computer that is connected to the internet, or not having the internet in your work space, which is something I’ve struggled with ever since I realized its easier to write on a computer than it is to write on paper. Especially after college where we had assignments due, it was just easier to write it all out on the computer to begin with as opposed to writing longhand before transferring it to the computer. And I have found that the quality of my writing is better on the computer as well – easier to change things around – but there is always the internet…

Some of these pieces of advice contradict themselves in one way or another, but that is bound to happen when you get a long enough list. I think the point of that is to find what works for you. Some people write really well in the mornings and can’t seem to get anything done later in the day. Some people, like me when it comes to my own writing, are the opposite. And some of these pieces of advice are universal. Maybe take a few tips of the trade from other people, or from this list, but also find what works for you and go with that. And then maybe you could have your own list of tips of the trade.

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Frozen on a Snowy Day

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This past weekend I went to see Frozen, and I figure the best time to write about it is during a snowstorm, right? I kept on hearing about Frozen for a while before it came out, but it was never in too much detail so I didn’t really know what the movie was about for a long time. All I knew about it was it was about sisters and the snowman was the comic relief character. But as I heard more and more about it after it came out I decided that it was something I wanted to see.

So on Friday I went to see it. I have gone to see a lot of movies recently which is kind of nice because for a while over the summer and fall there wasn’t a whole lot I was interested in seeing. But Frozen was so good! I really enjoyed it. It kind of reminded me of Brave  in that it reimagined the traditional Disney princes
s story.

Frozen, which is based on Hans Christen Anderson’s The Snow Queen, focuses on the relationship between two sisters rather than one princess finding true love. Elsa even says to Anna that “You can’t marry someone you just met” as a kind of nod to Cinderella, Snow White, The Little Mermaid etc.

Also I found the emotion behind Anna and Elsa’s relationship very real and pretty complex which was nice to see in a Disney movie. Elsa has the power to create snow and ice but her parents hide her away from Anna and the rest of the world for her own protection. It’s not in a Rapunzel way where Mother Gothel hid Rapunzel and her hair away for her own gain. It is clear from the movie that Elsa’s parents love her and care about her, but it is also clear that their actions and decisions did leave serious consequences both for Anna and Elsa.

All Anna wants is to play with her sister when she is younger and Elsa wants that too but as she gets older and her coronation day draws nearer, she sees that she really doesn’t know how to control her powers and ends up freezing the town and sending the whole area into an eternal winter in the middle of summer. She ends up fleeing and Anna runs after her to convince her to come back and not hide away anymore.

So that’s a bit of a recap, but I found the characters to be more complex that that, especially when it came to Anna and Elsa. Anna has spent her whole life in an empty castle but always manages to see the good in things. She is very chipper but she is also hugely naive as is seen throughout the movie. But it is after all a coming of age story, and a bit of naiveté is to be expected. She had flaws and weaknesses but is still portrayed as a strong character, which is pretty realistic and nice to see in movies.

Elsa is also going through a lot of her own issues – many of which have to do with essentially being shut out from the world and hiding this huge part of herself from everyone she knew including her sister. Her mantra growing up was “Conceal it. Don’t feel it. Don’t let it show.” There is a lot of anxiety and loneliness in her character and it would have been easy for Disney to make her the villain of the story but they don’t which I really liked. Instead they went into more of Elsa’s character rather than making her a stereotype as she grew up and accepted herself (Let It Go) and then was faced with new challenges like returning to her old home. And she also deals with issues a lot of people deal with all the time which made the movie all the more real.

Frozen doesn’t really have a central villain the way that Aladdin, or The Little Mermaid does throughout the majority of the movie. Yes there are bad people, especially towards the end, but the focus is mostly on Elsa and Anna and their relationship. Also I have been pretty obsessed with Idina Menzel ever since I saw Wicked when I was 16 (I didn’t see it with the original cast but I bought the cd immediately after the performance and have loved it ever since) so this has just reaffirmed my obsession with her and her voice. I had Let It Go running through my head all weekend.

Also there is talk of bringing Frozen to Broadway, which I am super excited about. I read in a comment section of a different article that based on other Disney movie musicals and their timelines of getting shows on Broadway that it could take up to four years but I will definitely go see it whenever it comes out. And I really hope Idina Menzel comes back for Elsa because that would be amazing. I’m also curious to see how they do the magic/snow sequences on stage as well. But it is definitely something to look forward to.

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Catching Fire is on Fire

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Well, I finally did it! Last weekend I finally went to see Catching Fire! I was away when  it came out and then there was Thanksgiving and all. Everyone I was going to go see it with had seen it already by that point but they all assured me that they would be happy to go see it for a second (or third) time in theaters.

So last Sunday after church a friend and I were trying to figure out what to do for the rest of the day before watching Downton Abbey that night (!) and we decided on Catching Fire.

It was rainy and gross outside so it wasn’t like we were missing out on anything else we could have done really, and watching the movie gave us a chance to dry off. And for me it was a chance to finally catch up with The Hunger Games franchise. Plus we ended up using our free movie passes we got after the projector for The Hobbit broke at the midnight premiere, so we didn’t have to pay for the movie itself.

I was determined to reread Catching Fire before watching the movie, which also added to my delay in seeing it. I had first read it two years ago, but it took me about a day and a half to read it. Since it took me such a short time, I don’t think I remembered many of the smaller details of the book so it was nice to go back to it again before watching the movie.

I am one of those people who will point out inaccuracies in a movie if it is based on a book to anyone who will listen (you have been warned). This is also true about anything that is filmed in New York. But I was really pleasantly surprised at how accurate it was to the book.

So many movies that are based on book series cut things for time or try and add their own spin on the plot or characters. I love both the Harry Potter books and the movies but I have come to view them as two separate entities because in a way, they are. And I don’t really like talking about the movie version of Half-Blood Prince since they slimmed it down so much. So while I love movie franchises based on books, I am also a little hesitant around them and I try not to rant about inaccuracies too much.

But with Catching Fire it was different. Yes, there were a few things that were slimmed down (I would have liked to see the scene with Plutach Heavensee’s watch at the ball while he dances with Katniss) and they did add a few small things here and there but I was surprised at how accurate it was. Many of the actor’s lines even came straight from the dialogue in the book and the scenery was really accurate as well.

The three Hunger Games books are so visually written that they really lend themselves well to a movie franchise, especially the arena for the Quarter Quell. I heard so many people say the way it was portrayed in the movie was exactly how they saw it because that’s exactly how it is described in the books. And the ridiculous outfits and parties at the Capitol lend themselves well to the big screen as well.

But I also think that the plot of Catching Fire translates well into a movie as well, even more than The Hunger Games. In The Hunger Games, Katniss is alone most of the time, and a lot of the narrative is internal dialogue, which can be a challenge to translate into a movie. But in Catching Fire she finds herself in a completely different situation.

During the games she is surrounded by people the whole time, which adds more conflict, action, and dialogue to the movie, not to mention what’s happening outside the Games themselves with all the rebellions spreading around Panem. All in all it was a much faster paced movie with more intrigue and action than its predecessor. I really like the first Hunger Games movie, but I this one is definitely my favorite so far.

Also, I love Jennifer Lawrence, and watching Catching Fire has gotten me excited about her again. It blows my mind that she is my age and has a Golden Globe, an Oscar, and is nominated for another Golden Globe this year. And she’s such a real, down to earth person off the screen. She really isn’t afraid to be herself in front of the press and I just find that really refreshing. Not to mention that she’s a great actress on screen as well. She has great facial expressions, and Catching really shows that well throughout the movie (see the following gifs).

Anyway, I can see why so many people I talked to were willing to go see it again in theaters. And the DVD comes out in March! 😀

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Read a Good Book (or two) in 2014

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photo from The Independent

Hello all and happy new year! Have you all gotten used to writing 14 in the date yet because I’m not sure I have. Also I hope everyone is keeping warm with all this snow the North East is having.

Last week there was an article floating around Facebook that peaked my interest having to do with brain changes and reading novels. It sounds nerdy and academic but as a former English major and Psychology minor I was interested in what it had to say. (Here is another article that goes into a little more detail about the experiment.)

Researchers at Emory University tested the effect reading a novel can have on the brain. They gave a group of 20 students a gripping book to read that was fast paced and plot driven and then took an fMRI of their brains after finishing certain sections of the novel.

They found that reading a book develops the area of the brain that deals with language comprehension in the left temporal cortex. This makes sense – reading a book helps with language comprehension and development. The interesting part of the article, I thought, was that reading a novel also stimulated the primary sensory motor cortex that deals with physical motion and sensation in the body. Each part of the cortex is devoted to a different body part and its sensory/motor functions, and these areas of the brain can be triggered by physical movement or thinking about a particular sensation or movement.

The scientists conducting this expedient suggest that the stimulation of the primary sensory motor context has to do with a reader relating to a protagonist and putting themselves in their shoes. One scientist told The Independent,

“The neural changes that we found associated with physical sensation and movement systems suggest that reading a novel can transport you into the body of the protagonist,” said neuroscientist Professor Gregory Berns, lead author of the study.

What’s more was that the scientists found that these changes in the brain stayed for days after finishing the novel. It was a fairly small study, but I thought the results were pretty interesting.

I have noticed that I haven’t been reading for as long periods as I normally do. I have a good book going (I’ve moved on to rereading The Two Towers now). I get distracted easily by television, the internet, Netflix, work, anything really. But I do want to carve out more reading time for myself on the weekends or at night where I just sit down with a good book for however long to stimulate my primary sensory motor cortex. And of course to unwind and read a good book. That and work on my story some more. Any goals, literary or otherwise, that you have for 2014?

I also wouldn’t mind reading on that beach. The weather in New York right now is slightly colder than it is there…

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