The Kind of Books I Want to Read….

Here’s a question you may or may not have asked yourself in a while: “Why did I decide to become a writer? Why do I labor over page after page, pouring years of my life into a single book? Why do I work so hard towards my first big break as an author?” Okay, three questions, but still…they’re worth asking yourself now and then, especially when you find yourself lost in the mire of words and story structures and plot lines and character development, all while trying to squeeze it into the very narrow gaps of time you have in-between papers and schoolwork and work-work and bills and blah, blah, blah.

Flicking through the special features on the extended edition Lord of the Rings DVDs, my favorite bits will always be the background stuff on Tolkien himself. Not that I don’t enjoy all the behind-the-scenes stuff (all the work involved to make the Battle for Helm’s Deep is an epic unto itself), but the wide-eyed I-wanna-be-a-writer-just-like-you side of me gets a nice dose of motivation out of watching that kind of stuff. One of the blurbs I best remember is about how Tolkien and his friend C.S. Lewis came to realization that they were going to have to write the kinds of stories they wanted to read, seeing as how no one else appeared to be writing them. And from them we got The Lord of the Rings (of course), the Hobbit, and The Chronicles of Narnia (that last one being Lewis’ obviously).

For myself, I’d say that’s part of it. Actually, there’s almost a dark side to that kind of thinking. Or maybe a healthy envy: when you come across a book so freaking good you wish you’d written it yourself. I have a personal shelf of books that I’ve come across that I would say I love so much I’m almost jealous of them in that respect, in that I wish I’d written them myself. Chief among them is the Harry Potter series. In that case, I wouldn’t say for the wealth or the fame that resulted and fell into J.K. Rowling’s lap, so much as the profound effect it had on the world. Yeah, I know that sounds like the same thing as fame, but I mean it more as the fact that it reached the hearts of so many people and basically created a shift in the entire industry of literature and the printed page. Coupled with the fact that it stirred controversy on par with Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code, you know with the whole witchcraft thing and all. Yeah, it’s ridiculous to judge a book based on stuff like that, and it’s my disagreement with that thinking that makes me not feel so bad about having stuff like the Twilight saga on my shelf next my copies of Harry Potter and The Hunger Games.

Controversy aside though, at its core, Harry Potter is a beautiful story, simply put. And that’s what strikes me most. It’s full of heart and sincerity, and stands on its own as something wonderfully unique. This is what it is about all the other books on my personal shelf of books-I-wish-I’d-written. For my money and personal taste, that’s something I will never get tired of, and will always look for in a story, and so…that’s always the story I try to write. Another book that does this for me is Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, which is probably my most favorite book by him (though that may change once I get around to reading American Gods). It’s just one of those stories that somehow fits into the real world even though it’s so fantastical at the exact same time. Again, a kind of story I enjoy reading as well as writing. I would also put Melina Marchetta’s The Chronicles of Lumitere trilogy on that shelf too, if only because of the profound effect it had on my feels while reading it, and doing so far more than I expected. Let’s not forget the His Dark Materials trilogy either by Philip Pullman, one of the best science/magic crossover stories tapping into the ticking of the universe this side of Fullmetal Alchemist.

And right at this very moment, I’m reading a book that I’ve barely dented and already I can tell it’s gonna go on that shelf with those other books: V. E. Schwab’s Vicious (mentioned previously). I’ve FINALLY gotten to reading it and it looks like my anticipation will be generously rewarded. More than that, but it scratches an itch inside me I can’t describe, but it’s one that only a story like this can satisfy. Perhaps it’s something in my current state of mind, my recent mood, what I’ve gotten into and exposed myself to lately that influences my interests and tastes (including listening to songs like “Bad Blood” by Bastille). I guess I’d call the kind of itch I’ve got now a “wicked” itch, an itch to see wickedly badass characters who harbor a kind of bitterness towards something in the world, leaving me curious how things are going to turn out when two such characters become locked in a clash with each other. That and of course revenge is always a dish best served…well, anytime for me.

It’s the same reason every now and then I enjoy reading or watching something high on nightmare fuel masterfully combined with beautiful imagery, grim and yet alluding to the possibility of hope shining through all that darkness. There’s not one genre of story I enjoy reading or writing, but there is one thing that they all have in common to make it onto that personal bookshelf: they have such heart and soul that they feel like living entities, real and breathing worlds of their own.

Oh, there I go again, getting high on my own words.



Following YA Book Reviews

This revelation is probably a long time coming, but better late than never on this. That and, all timing aside, I’ve been finding this a great inspirational tool, particularly with work on my manuscript (which has sucked up a lot of my time of late) coming ever closer to fruition. THAT, and I’m desperate to reflect on something apart from how much Donald Trump’s parade of idiocy wants to make me bash my head in while simultaneously keeping a daring escape to Canada as an option on the table.

I got in early to work one morning and decided while I played catch up on some tasking, I’d flick through videos on YouTube for something discussing topics in YA to listen to while I did this. I’d had YA romance tropes on my brain for a while, and after sifting through different videos throughout the day (thank you Selena Gomez’s “Same Old Love”), I came across a channel which featured a video on “The Most Hated Line in YA” followed by “Top 5 Most Hated YA Tropes”, and then “Top 5 Favorite YA Tropes”. From there I started thumbing through videos reviewing different books in YA, as well as rants on things like how copycat some YA books have become following certain popular trends within the genre. The practice triggered something in my brain that gave me new insight on tweaking and editing my own YA manuscript.

It was just little things really. I picked up on bits like what might make a character work or not work, what a reader might consider tired as to what one might consider fresh and new, and honestly agreeing with them based on the evidence they had to back it up in their critiques. It served to stir something in my imagination, including the idea of looking at book reviews as a writing and self-editing guide. I say it’s worth a try, even just following a couple of reviews and “Top 5” or “Top 10” lists.

Actually, I think this is probably pretty obvious, but I thought I’d mention it nonetheless. Moreover, it’s given me a few more things to add to my reading list for further enjoyment and study (not that my list wasn’t already large to begin with).

Here are a couple really good channels I’ve looked at that I recommend, but surf YouTube at your own leisure.



Okay, now we can go back to getting wrapped up in untangling plot threads in the writing/editing process while trying not to think about the similarities between Donald Trump and President Snow.

Why Do I Waste Leisure Time When I Have More of It?

So, I’ve been on vacation for over the last week or so, and let me just say that at the beginning, I could only think of how I longed to have all sorts of time to catch up on work on my novel, catch up on blogging posts I’ve put on the back burner (like my Coriolanus post, though to be fair, like I said in a previous post, I’ve realized the truth of how boring and draggy Shakespeare’s histories are–maybe I’d do better with something notoriously violent, like Titus Andronicus?), and catch up on personal needs like picking out a new pair of glasses, pleasure reading, sleep, cleaning up/writing articles for my new gig on, etc.

This isn’t to say that I did none of this, but as far as getting work on my novel done? Well…it doesn’t help that I’ve come to a point in the editorial process where I’ve felt I’ve needed to rewrite/rework an entire sequence, made all the more frustrating by the fact that I’m adding  to my word-count and creating what could only be described as a five-car pile-up in my narrative. So while I’ve picked at it, I haven’t had the beautiful writing-filled days I’d fantasized about.

I think part of it is the fact that with such unlimited free time, I’ve been more inclined to fritter a lot of it away. Free of the pressure of making the most of my leisure time, combined with the highs and lows that come with an artist being frustrated with a primary work (and a massive one at that, it being a novel and everything). I haven’t gotten as much done with nearly as much urgency as I’d have liked to have done otherwise, or even as I might’ve managed in a regular work week. And now that my vacation time is drawing to a close, it makes it all the more frustrating.

On the other hand, perhaps I’m being too hard on myself. After all, vacation time is meant to be wasted on frivolity, at least partly, right? That IS what a vacation is for, isn’t it? That, and I’ve always felt that if I ever get stuck in my writing, recharging with a read-a-thon tends to recharge the batteries, as it were.

Should I feel guilty? Well, maybe. But then maybe I shouldn’t, since we all need a little veg-out time, so long as it all amounts to a brilliant burst of creative ingenuity and industriousness. True, the most successful people will tell you that part of their success comes from “never wasting a day”. However, the exercise of imagination and churning the creative juices doesn’t always work on the same schedule as “normal time”. That’s why most successful people, writers in particular, will tell you to overcome this through sheer willpower. I’d like to think though that a large amount of free time, again, is detrimental to willpower, by its very nature of being there in such a large quantity. This combined with the fact that I put far too high expectations on myself as far as what I planned to get done, and, overwhelmed, picked at everything here and there with little sense of urgency, or too much of a sense of urgency perhaps–that and not knowing where to focus throughout the day.

It seems that the struggle to balance the double-life of a writer and a member of the day-to-day workforce marches onward, even when I’ve taken time off.

That and the unfortunate fact that I’m often possessed by a little demon of procrastination.


But now with the most famous time-consuming season approaching with the coming of winter (my internal clock skewed by the time change notwithstanding), I can take my foot off the brakes and go in for the long haul and the home stretch with the goal of at least having my novel done by New Years’.

Now that I’ve gotten all this “time wasting” off my plate. ;D

The Grumbles of Disappointment

Like with anything we decide to pick up and read, a lot of that hinges on that little synopsis, either on the inside of the dust jacket or on the back. That and any blurbs that might have been sprinkled on the book too, a little boost to the book’s selling power. And that’s fine, how else are you going to know whether you want to take a crack at reading that book unless you’re given some idea as to the premise and plot?

But that doesn’t make a payoff that was anything less than what you were hoping for or expecting any less disappointing.

Sure, you can’t really come to an absolute final conclusion until you read the book, and nowadays if you’re reading through certain genres–like anything in YA for example–it might be the book you pick up is in fact the first book in a series, so in that case, of course you don’t bank on an all-conclusive climax.

But, there are still certain expectations to be met. And perhaps part of it has to do with my own preparation, since I’m working on breaking into YA fiction. Of course the industry is always changing, and with the hot machine of teen-novel-to-movie-franchise cooling off a little, the whole idea of guaranteeing a publishing deal for your YA novel being in part because you wrote it with the mindset of turning it into a trilogy, or quartet, or a series of any given number of books, probably doesn’t necessarily count for anything at this precise moment. Again, always just write what you want to write, not what the stats say you should write. With that said, if, like me, you are writing a YA book with the intention of building it into a series, there are certain things you have to do to sort of “safeguard” it, as it were.

For starters, the first book still has to be its own complete story, and stand strong on its own, with possible plot threads woven in. But not so that they feel like loose ends by the end of the story, more that the reader wouldn’t know they were woven-in threads at first glance, but then when they are revealed to be such in future books (remember, you haven’t even gotten a deal on the first one yet) it’s not jarring, but feels clever (that Hogwarts Whomping Willow, *wink, wink*). Experienced/previously published authors have a little more leeway with this, but that’s because they have the resume to back up their proposal to write a series and therefore agents and publishers have confidence in selling the fruits of their labor such that even if the first book does leave a little more dangling threads, they don’t have to worry about the book not selling well enough that they wouldn’t follow through on moving forward with getting the rest of the books in the series published. From what I gathered in my readings, anyway.

That said, that doesn’t mean readers can’t still be disappointed.

Like I just was.

I just finished reading a book (I won’t mention names, I’ve learned my lesson) that looks to be the first in a trilogy, and while technically it wasn’t bad…it didn’t quite meet my expectations either, and I spent most of the time reading frowning in frustration. I can’t justify that bad feeling you can get when a story isn’t going the way you want it to, and I can’t say that the twists and turns the story took with the logic in the world the author conceived weren’t creative, but even so…for me it somehow dragged the book down in the read.

Maybe it was because it was almost…too creative, to the point that I felt like a good chunk of the book was spent going over the different elements in an almost textbook fashion, and there were parts of the world itself that were rather disappointing to me how they worked and what their purpose was, but…I honestly couldn’t say why.

Again, I felt like so much time was spent going back and forth that…maybe it all just came across as needlessly complicated, and left little breathing room for character development, particularly where the romance was concerned. On the surface, it was perfectly serviceable, and I even enjoyed it at times. But it was also a bit paper-thin and clunky, where the two parties of the couple at first were in a damsel-and-distress situation, and then an I-hate-your-guts situation. Then, while it did give itself sometime to develop into a romance, I guess the story could have afforded to spend more time on its development and less time on the mechanics of the world, moments where the two of them could just be characters together rather than constantly going over battle strategy and building their relationship partly on the fact that they were working toward the goal of defeating an enemy. I mean, there were one or two moments where they were talking just like normal people, but I could’ve used more of those.

I don’t know.

Then again, maybe it was the climax that threw me off, which, while rife with action, somehow still felt anticlimactic somehow. Maybe because the main villain wasn’t built up as well as I’d have liked (so his last-minute introduction actually was just that to an extent, a last-minute introduction), and neither was the second-in-command who was vanquished. Again, this is the first in a series, so I understand not everything can be resolved. But now that I think of it, going back to how much explanation was put into the mechanics of this world, there wasn’t too much time spent in any of the many locations, for me personally anyway, to really feel any impact when the climax was unveiled in a place that I had never been in before. It was explained why, of course, and again, there was some buildup, but…it just was not doing it for me.

I think that last thought is the bottom line. I was really intrigued by the setup of the story, but the aftertaste of it was bitterer on the edge than I’d have liked.

But that’s life, isn’t it? It can happen with any story you try to get into, whether it be a book, a TV show, or a movie. You read the premise and it hooks you, but then it just leaves you disappointed for one reason or another. And I know too that stories can’t be what the audience wants them to be, but what the author wants them to be. Thankfully, we have message boards and sites like to cope with things not going the way we’d have liked in the stories we read (Sirius Black somehow and for some reason not ending up dying, anyone?).

On the plus side, I can say that this at least was not a book super-hyped by the media. That would just leave room for throwing the book against the wall and wailing, “Why the hell is this so popular?” and then questioning the fate of the civilized world.


But then, on the other hand, I think I remember reading somewhere that just because a book is popular is no sure indication of how technically good it is. So if this book I read wasn’t particularly popular, is technically good, and I still can’t like it as much as I want to….

Well, that’s just frustrating too.

Fritter Day

With all that’s been going on with work and novel-writing, it’s weird to come across a day off and have nothing really to work on at the moment. I just submitted another short story for the Writer’s of the Future Contest, and I have my novel set aside at the moment before I dive back into putting it through it’s final edits. Now I come across this day off, and the most pressing thing I have going on writing-wise is picking at a couple of fanfiction stories in the works and writing this blog post.

And reading.

I’ve been warned time and again that novel writers find little time for pleasure-reading unless they DON’T want their novel to get written. But now that I’ve come across this break, I find myself with an afternoon to do nothing but pleasure read right after I write this post. Indeed, I still have Coriolanus to read for review, (though at this point I can already say that I’m probably not going to be a fan of Shakespeare’s historical works, but we’ll see about that). But other than that, I’ve got nothing but books and books and books to read for the rest of the afternoon.

If you happen to come across a day like this, it’s almost like finding a twenty in your jeans you didn’t realize was there. Exciting, if only for an opportunity to recharge the batteries. So don’t feel bad if you take a writing vacay now and then and fritter an afternoon away. We all need that fritter day to get out of the writing head space, otherwise you’ll just crack. 🙂

Why Do We Enjoy Killing Off Badasses?


If there’s one cliche that I haven’t mentioned on this site that I really ought’ve that also NEVER seems to get old, because it is in the essence of awesome contained within a very character, it’s the BADASS. The charismatic, jack-of-all-trades, often heartthrob, cool-as-can-be, handles-every-situation-with-flair-poise-and-mad-skills character, who can be anything from “the hero with the edge” to “the dark hero with the hidden heart-of-gold” to a douchebag who’s just so awesome we don’t care, to the GAR* who can totally betray you for noble reasons, so you can still totally love him for it when he repays his debt in the end. THAT guy. Easily the best part of any book, movie, or show.

And man do we secretly enjoy killing that character off.

Think I’m wrong? Okay, I’m not saying we don’t shriek and throw the book we’re reading about this character in across the room, or the remote control at the TV as we watch them die on-screen. But you can’t deny that killing off “the badass” seems to just add to that character’s badassery. Heck, even just having them go out quietly at the end of the series has just as much emotional impact as having them exploded out of our lives in some “fry-the-Coke” scenario.

That being said, I think that’s why, as much as we hate to see them go, having them die off is not only another gilding on their decoration of badassery, but it feels almost fitting. Most of these characters, with their habit of being drawn into daring and or dramatic situations, have it coming that they’ll end up dying in either a violent setup, or later on as the lingering result of one.

On the other hand, not all badasses end up dead, and still manage to turn out just as cool and memorable in our minds. Others just get a “death scene” that later turns out to be somehow staged for some reason or another, which is almost like a bonus, because they get an awesome exit while at the same time a reason to come back into the story that actually isn’t usually some kind of cop-out.

But I think the self-sacrificing badass tends to be the running favorite, and yet another cliche that doesn’t appear to have run out of steam, mostly due to the fact that if a character is deemed awesome enough to be badass, it just doesn’t matter. It’s like the nature of tired cliches can’t touch them they’re so awesome.

So even while we mourn such guys as these who get offed, we can’t help feeling a little satisfied that they were able to die by the principle of, “a good death is its own reward”. It comes from the kind of enjoyable sadness that only good drama can bring, and badasses blow it out of the water. In terms of entertainment value, there just isn’t much more you can ask for.


*see the entry on Urban Dictionary

“Coriolanus” – Before Thoughts

All right, so I decided to start with Shakespeare’s Coriolanus, and it’s probably something that does get covered in college classes that concentrate on Shakespeare and Elizabethan poetry, etc, and may even crop up in high schools that include it in the curriculum (mine wasn’t, but that’s just me, so that’s what I have to go off of on including it in my list).

Why did I pick this one first? The Hunger Games of course! That being said, I already had a few ideas on what Coriolanus was about, but now that I know that the tyrannical leader of Panem, President Snow, shares his namesake with it, I can make a guess that it’s probably about a tyrannical leader named Coriolanus. And since this is Shakespeare, there will likely be murders most foul, political backhandedness, falls from grace, blood, etc.

And I promise I won’t cheat by watching a film adaptation, though some might argue that since all of these works are plays, they’re really meant to be seen performed (as in a film) rather than simply read. But we all read these plays in English class (and also from my experience, any scenes that were acted out were pretty starved for emotional impact, but I would guess that’s just par for the course, not everyone’s an actor, no less on cue).

With those thoughts taken into consideration before reading, I’d like to just add that I will continue (or try) to post other things on here as usual while I’m reading these plays, so keep your eyes peeled for each play’s “After” edition, as well as the introductory “Before”.

Right, on with the show! 😀

Here Are a Few Thoughts

So I finally got around to picking up a copy of collected Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I felt I ought to since BBC’s Sherlock is one of my favorite TV shows. I do have a blog post in mind that will serve as a continuing commentary on the “good use of recycling” in storytelling.

That, and this got me thinking on doing a few posts concerning my big fat book of Shakespeare’s works, maybe something following the plays that most generic high school curricula never touch on. So basically skipping Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet and going for the nice obscure ones you might only cover in college if that’s your concentration of study. I figure since I didn’t get the opportunity, I might as well make use of that big fat book rather than just have it sit on my bookshelf and proclaim that I’m clearly a well-read person.

More posts to come!! ;D

Finally Finished the Chronicles of Lumatere Trilogy

Being that I read just about everything and anything I can get my hands on, I will often switch between reading four or five books at once. Now if I could just master reading multiple books at the exact same time, that would increase the amount of books I could read exponentially, but alas, I don’t have the brain for that (yet). Usually, I’ll have one book going on my eReader in my bag, tucked away for emergencies like unexpectedly waiting in a doc’s office or a VERY long grocery line, and then I’ll have one or two books set aside at work that I usually pick between for my lunch break depending on my mood, and then I’ll have one on my nightstand by my bed, and there might well be one tucked away somewhere amongst my bookshelf books that still has a bookmark stuck in it.


Well just a couple days ago I finally finished one of the books I had kept to the side at work, Quintana of Charyn, last book in the Chronicles of Lumatere Trilogy, and a book trilogy that I highly recommend–again. I’ve recommended it before, but I seriously think it’s an underrated gem of YA fiction. Granted, YA fiction has EXPLODED in recent years, and that seems to be where some of the money is (I don’t think it’ll ever change that romance and crime fiction are the biggest sellers) if you’re lucky enough (film deals, etc.). So obviously there are far more underrated gems than just this one, (Watersmeet I also highly recommend). That said, it’s very different from most of the medieval fantasy YA fiction I see lately. It has a gritty realism that feels more like a historical YA fiction story with some suggested magic thrown in based on the beliefs of the characters in the story, rather than anything tangible. Very spiritual, go-on-faith stuff. It’s very different from most YA fiction that I’ve read, which is why it stands out to me.

I guess my only complaint with the book would be that at times I thought it was a bit melodramatic, which is saying a lot for me, since I LOVE anything that’ll engage my emotions, be it moving fiction or captivating non-fiction that makes me question my significance in the universe (Amir D. Aczel’s Present at the Creation had that effect on me, ME, who thought she would never in a million years pick up a book about the LHC at C.E.R.N.). BUT there were times where I wanted to smack characters I otherwise liked because they were being…overly stubborn. And without giving anything away, let me just say that as much as I love a well-written, strong female character with a reasonable stubborn streak, when it gets to the point where she’s making decisions that, despite her understandable anger, are just…well…stupid, frankly, it makes me wince. From personal experience, I know that blame and anger can distort the truth and perspectives for someone, but nevertheless, in the case of this character,I felt she was a bit of an infuriating hypocrite who at times acted more like a child than a queen. I’ll leave it at that, because I can forgive the fact that she makes up one half of one of my most favorite literary couples.

And again, she’s only human. As all of these characters are, and no one is exclusively evil or good. Some swing closer to one of the spectrum than others, but there is no real villain in these books (okay, maybe that one S.O.B.), and again, we don’t get to see a whole of that in YA fiction of this genre. I’ve mentioned it before, but I mention it here again because it’s definitely worth mentioning.

That said, I’ve moved on to a new book in my ceaseless quest to conquer as many books as possible, one that goes back o my roots of good, ol’ fashioned good vs. evil fantasy YA fiction. Ah, the fairy tale world of black and white only occasionally painted with shades of gray. 😀

Film Adaptations

In the first place, I would like to point out that I do in fact understand that film and literature are two different art forms. That said, there can be no denying that in spite of that, the journey from novel to screen is not always a success, and by that I mean specifically, if a studio hopes to build a film franchise on a series of successful books—in other words, to be able to make the rest of the books in any given series into films after making the first of the series into one—the first film has to be a hit.


I’ve noticed a particular pattern where these film-adaptations are concerned, as far as being a hit goes, and there are a couple things that I think that are required if it’s going to be a hit—at least most if not all of them are—and I’m going to expound on these features, which I hold altogether as a personal opinion, but that I think film execs ought to note when they want to option the first book in a series for a movie in hopes that it will grow into a memorable franchise.

Howls-Moving-Castle-2004-2-poster arrietty-posterAU

In the first place, the first film adaptation has to hold true to the spirit of the books. In addition to that, it doesn’t hurt to actually follow the content of the book, especially for the sake of the fans, but there have been successful films that have stayed true to the original book without drawing from the original content. Or, in the case of two Hayao Miyazaki films—Howl’s Moving Caslte (by Diana Wynne Jones) and The Secret World of Arrietty (based on The Borrowers by Mary Norton)—remain true to its own spirit. In those instances, Miyazaki took the content and made it his own, more or less, in an organic and honest way. But in the case of succeeding with widely popular book serials, the spirit has to be maintained (and again, no it doesn’t hurt to stick to the original plot material either).


For example, let’s take the hugest book-to-film project probably ever endeavored in history, Harry Potter. That’s eight whole films, all of which were hugely successful. Not an easy feat. When they were first making the film for the first book, Sorcerer’s Stone (or as it goes by its original, European title, Philosopher’s Stone), they weren’t even sure they were going to get to make films out of the rest of the books. That didn’t stop them from working to craft a quality film on the first go. I’m not going to say that Chris Columbus is my favorite director (more on this when I touch on the adaptation of the first Percy Jackson book), but as far as adapting Philosopher’s Stone, he and everyone else made an excellent first impression, and after that, well, the rest was history: from then on, when a Harry Potter film came out, fans left the theaters not wondering if there would be a next film, but already on tenterhooks for when.

Sadly, that hype is now over and done with, but to prove a point, the impact that these books and these films alike has had on people across the generations for the last ten years or so is palpable. There are still Harry Potter conventions alive and kicking, wizard rock is still quite popular (you know you’ve hit it big when your books inspire its own genre of pop music), and with the public launch of Pottermore, fans can relive the magic of the books all over again in a new and exciting way, with ALL secrets revealed! Fans just can’t get enough, though luckily J. K. Rowling has the prudence to know when enough is enough (that’s why I don’t think we can expect to read any kind of series following the lives of Albus Severus Potter and the gang).

Getting back to the adaptation of the first film though, how exactly did Chris Columbus and Co. “keep to the spirit”, as it were? Well, in the first place, the focus was on the human story of Harry, not on the special effects that it would entail, being a fantasy film with plenty of action. Indeed, the techonology for Quidditch was not at its best at the time, but that’s not what was important, and the filmmakers knew that. The other thing they shied away from was adding plot points that were never in the book to begin with, and I think they owe that in part to the third ingredient of keeping to the spirit, which was in giving J. K. Rowling’s opinion its due. When they drafted the script, she was pretty much the quality control system. It’s true things were cut (alas, there was no Peeves!) for the sake of the film medium, but nothing was ever added, like some kooky new character or a tangential plot point (at least not in this one, let’s not forget the little dancing lesson scene in Goblet of Fire, or the attack on The Burrow in Half-Blood Prince, though again, those were plot points that made sense in the world of the book, and by then the films were so successful it almost didn’t matter, because fans enjoyed them for their humor or for their heightened action, respectively).


But it does make me wonder if any other studios trying to adapt books into films ever took much input from the original authors—or if, I hate to say it, the author was too excited about their book becoming a film that they didn’t care if their opinion didn’t matter to the filmmakers, or if they didn’t know enough about film to realize that the filmmakers were making bad choices. It’s pretty clear, you see, that the Twilight Saga benefited from the involvement of Stephanie Meyer, and yes, that first film was an excellent adaptation, down to a T in fact (even if the content is questionable and a little oversensationalized—yes, I did read the books, and I own them on my bookshelf next to my Harry Potters and my Hunger Games, but I enjoyed them purely in the same way others enjoy 50 Shades of Gray).


And on the subject of The Hunger Games, in that case too, they relied on consultation from author Suzanne Collins. And like with Harry Potter (and I’m sure, Twilight too) director Gary Ross was not sure they were going to make another film, but it’s clear that they were, following in the same vein as Harry Potter and Twilight and making the last one into a two-parter, which I have to say, benefits the content of the books all the more. But that first film indeed captures the human story (which according to Ross is what he focuses on anyway, as he did with other films of his, like Seabiscuit), and doesn’t focus on the stunts and action and flashing gizmos. And certainly no adding of additional plot-points (though again things were cut): there was one scene that was not in the book (this film did take a few more liberties in adding the perspectives of people other than Katniss’, being that the books are written in first person limited, like Twilight, which in fact does also veers off of Bella Swan’s POV too) in which Haymitch observes two Capitol children playing and laughing with toy swords given to them by their rich and indulgent Capitol parents, but it adds to the story, and it gets across a point that was actually brought up in the books, that the privileged Capitol children didn’t have to compete in these vicious games, only the children of the Districts had to suffer.

I would also throw The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, but I like to think I’ve gotten my point across.


All that said, here are a couple of films in particular based on two different book serials that simply…flopped. One of them were the monumental and unfortunate aberrations of the first book of The Inheritance Cycle, Eragon. Like with Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, the filmmakers could not be certain that they would be making another film, and unfortunately, they failed to make a good first impression. I myself loved The Inheritance Cycle, and I will say that my favorite parts were not just Eragon and Saphira’s relationship (which I think was glossed over terribly in the film, which is why I was confused when Jeremy Irons as Brom said, “Your bond with her is strong,” because I was thinking, “What bond?”), but also the love story of Roran and Katrina, which if you’ve read the books and then seen the movie, you’ll notice was entirely cut out. I assume it was because they didn’t think there would be any more films, but I think that by cutting that out, it was a self-fulfilling prophecy. Overall, the book was poorly translated to film. I won’t say that the spirit of the books wasn’t kept alive, but at the time I don’t think it had a good interpreter. And I think that it suffered the secondary pitfall of putting too much into the special effects, making Saphira the best dragon she could be, without giving her a damn good story for her setting.


Now it has been pointed out that the original author of the The Inheritance Cycle, Christopher Paolini (who I admire simply based on the fact that he published the first of this four-book series when he was only 15), drew a lot from The Lord of the Rings, and even if he himself’s never confirmed this, you can tell just by looking at the book: at the beginning there’s a hand-drawn map of the world of Alagaesia, his race of elves are immortal, beautiful, and wise beings, and the Urgals are…well, at first glance I would say they were Orcs, but they actually have more diversity amongst themselves as a race than the Orcs do, and aren’t just a race of monsters for our heroes to slay through to get to the end of their quest and stop from destroying the world, because I’ll concede that the Urgals feel like a race of beings that, while demonized, are not without certain idiosyncrasies that make them more complex as a race. AND a friend of mine even admitted that he didn’t much care for the books based on his feeling that the style of the writing made it seem like Paolini just picked words here and there out of a thesaurus to make it sound smarter (I didn’t particularly agree, but I could see where he was coming from).

THAT said, the books themselves did have a voice of their own, and that’s one of the basic tenets of a well-written story: a unique voice that identifies the story. When turning this book into a film script however, good grief was it ever full of cliche after cliche after cliche (and not the good ones I’ve praised and/or not ones used genuinely enough that I’d let it pass). Now I wouldn’t say it was The Last Airbender bad, but it came close. Maybe it was just a book that wasn’t meant for film, however good the prospect of it sounded.


Another not-quite-up-to-par book-to-film adaptation, I will admit, was the first book in Cornelia Funke’s trilogy, Inkheart. It had basically the same problems as Eragon in terms of formula, and the fact that you could tell that they changed the ending to wrap up on the pretense that they would not be adapting the two books that came after, Inkspell and Inkdeath. BUT one thing it had on Eragon was that, apart from that, they kept to the spirit of the books, and managed to come up with something that, while it wasn’t a masterpiece, had a quirky character and rhythm of its own that didn’t just make it seem like it was a string of cliches. I really felt like the main character Meggie and her father Mo had a real relationship, even if Mo was being played by Brendan Fraser (ah 90s nostalgia). Somehow these cliches in this film worked because they still felt real and natural enough to how the characters played them out. And I think the casting was better done, even in the case of Andy Serkis as Capricorn (though I was disappointed they didn’t have him wear red, because I’ll admit, I imagined him more as looking much like a sort of Cardinal Richeleu from Three Musketeers), but they gave him some interesting character bits here and there that was part of what made the film still an entertaining watch for me. Actually, now that I think about it, it almost reminds me of the so bad-it’s-goodness of Dungeons and Dragons: not nearly as campy, but you could tell everyone involved was having fun and that there was effort put into creating a decent product. Add that to the fact that filmmakers of Inkheart still cared about creating a realism in the world from the page, whereas in Eragon it quite frankly felt utterly slap-dash. So in this case, I enjoy it for what it is, and accept it for what it is as a result.



Then we have film adaptations that try to build a mass-market franchise on a book that quite frankly wasn’t written containing subject matter that would conducive to that end. This is not to say that the Harry Potter books didn’t contain some contemplation on the spiritual, like the nature of the human soul (more or less), but you have something like The Golden Compass, from the His Dark Materials Trilogy, which talks about, ultimately, killing God, (or I’d like to think, metaphorically speaking, the idea of God as the one and only answer for everything, take that as you will) and you make a film about that, and then, as I understand it (this film I didn’t actually see), try to edit out all religious references and yet still adapt that story into film…it’s just going to end up a mess, and you’re going to end up shooting yourself in the foot as far as how it goes in production, which in the end gave us an ending that was premature compared to how it went in the book with no clear resolution, or even purpose for that matter, since nothing was going to be built on all of that. Was it because, on top of not wanting to offend everyone from the church who swooned at the box office success of The Da Vinci Code, the climax dealt with the fact that we have a heroine, Lyra Belacqua, who’s the product of an illegitimate affair, whose mother, Mrs. Coulter, and father, Lord Asriel (no, not religious at ALL) both seem to have questionable stances on morality and are at once villains and anti-heroes, that the screenwriters just thought, “Oh, we can’t possibly put this to film and not cause a riot in the streets, let’s just stop it after the dirigible battle!”?

Whatever the reason, I have two words:


If you’re going to adapt a story into film, don’t betray that story in the adaptation because you’re afraid of offending someone, or whatever the reason might be. If you don’t want to put that content to screen, why put the book to screen at all in the first place? I think this quote below sums it up nicely.


On the other hand, I probably never would have read the very awesome His Dark Materials trilogy if I hadn’t seen ads for the film. Maybe.

So why am I bringing this up? Well, it’s mostly just reflection on the fact that I feel like I’ve seen a lot of it of late. It’s not like books weren’t made into films before Harry Potter steamrollered in with its awesomeness and box office record-breaking, and truth be told when those films came out, I was still a kid and hadn’t experienced any kind of pattern of events in the media like that beforehand. However, I do have memories of being inundated with TV ads as a child, and of those ads, I don’t think I remember seeing so many adaptations of books marketed towards younger kids before, because let’s face it, Harry Potter essentially put YA fiction on the fast track towards a profitable future that went beyond just being a niche genre of fiction with a hodgepodge collection of various sub-genres and a tiny, off-to-the-side corner in every bookstore. It has much more of an identity, and I think gained more respect from those who may have previously looked down at YA fiction.

I get the sense that years ago, children’s books were not written in a way that could appeal to adults and therefore were not read by them. With Harry Potter, the fact that adults devoured them as much as kids doubled their sales, and probably have, as a result, made them an easier sell than they were before, almost to the point that I think that anyone who aspires to be a YA author writes with the awareness in mind that should their book become popular enough (though in the universe of “yet-to-be-a-reality”, that’s still a big “if”) it will probably be optioned for a film. And not that I can speak from experience (yet), but let’s just say that if it were me, I’d take this recent history in adapting YA franchise books into films into account in the case of studio execs approaching my future agent & co. for optioning my manuscript for a film script. I recall that in the beginnings of turning the first Harry Potter into a film, not only was J. K. Rowling initially hesitant about doing it (the books weren’t even all written and published yet), but when it came up that either the studio or whoever had some say, American actors in mind for the role of Harry, or the like–either way, it was established from the get-go that this case would be 100% British (or 100% French in the case of characters like Fleur Delacour, or 100% CGI if you’re Dobby the House Elf) and thank goodness for that.

Coraline-movie-poster MOV_7cf10bbc_b

Now true, we also have an adaptation of Coraline, set in Britain and written by British author Neil Gaiman, which was Americanized. We have Matilda, set in Britain and written by British author Roald Dahl, Americanized, and those adaptations turned out okay (my bestie would disagree where Coraline is concerned, but I’ll leave her to lament the lack of what she coveted so dearly about Gaiman’s original work). So maybe that has nothing to do with it. Again, I think it comes down to keeping the spirit of the source material alive, and keeping the characters honest to how they were conceived in their original manuscript forms. Even the characters of Inkheart had this earmark in the film adaptation. The characters in flops like Eragon did not.

And it’s like with any good story: it’s more than just a good idea, it has to be good in the execution too. The characters have to be just as real and relatable on the screen as they do on the page. No amount of flashy special effects to cover it up is going to fix that, and no amount of trying to rewrite to avoid offending naysayers is going to have the end product turn out any better. Either way, the audience and the original fans and readership will see right through that garish veil. And this is true, to me, of any book-to-screen project, not just in the explosion of YA films.

So yeah, just something to bear in mind when you finally make it big as an author. ;D