Tag Archives: death

What to Read: The Outsiders

outsiders

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton


 

Summary

Revisit the classic, or experience it for the first time. The Outsiders is the story of Ponyboy and his gang of Greasers, and the consequences of a social rivalry taken too far. On the run, Ponyboy must face the wider world outside of his familiar streets. Then when further tragedy strikes, he must decide what type of man he wants to be — the kind who takes to the fight, or the kind who would have the heart to stop it.

Overall Impressions

This was my first time reading The Outsiders, and I can’t believe it took me this long to get to it. It’s easy to see why it’s such a long-withstanding title. Easy to read but incredibly thoughtful, I loved the themes of brotherhood and sympathy that permeated the book. It captures the frustrations and hope of every young adult as they begin to realize that not everyone sees the world as they see it. That everybody’s hurting and loving in some way, and all it can take to mend the gap is a small change in perspective. I recommend this for readers middle school and older.

Happy Reading, and stay gold!

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A Guide to Preserving Literary Parents

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(Photo taken from Flickr)

When it comes to protagonists, we all know the drill–child loses parents at a tender age, discovers the world is not as friendly as it seems, and eventually becomes her own hero, cobbling together a family-of-circumstance along the way. Don’t get me wrong, I love these types of stories. They’re often my favorite. But, my fellow writers, where does it end? Will no one save the parents?

Parents as Motivators 

The most basic role of parent figures in fiction is probably that of the motivator. Often in YA it’s their death that leads to the main character’s emotional struggle. (For example, in classic Disney films parents have what I  would guess to be a 3% chance of surviving past the first twenty minutes.) But it doesn’t have to be this way! Living parents can be just as effective at motivating protagonists. Reuniting with estranged family can serve as a strong motivation or end goal. In my novel, Marley is offered the chance to find her parents as extra incentive to comply with the antagonist’s scheme. On the other hand, parents can also serve the “prove you wrong” purpose, leading the underestimated heroes to take up a cause to prove their worth.

Parents as Protagonists

Sometimes young writers such as myself forget that a parent can function as a stand alone character, or even the hero. In this capacity, they are the ultimate protectors. Case in point, the movie Taken. At the same time, parental characters don’t have to be confined by their guardian role. They can go on their own adventures, fight their own personal battles, and be their own comic relief. Two words. Dad jokes.

Parents as Antagonists

Ah, villains. How we love thee. Although a bit cliché, parental antagonists are fantastic, creating joyous inner conflicts that have given us gems like:

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Sorry, Darth. Not today. Of course, there are times when children fall in line with the evil whims of their parents as well, such as the case of Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter series. The turmoil between the will of a parent and a desperate to please hero is absolute gold. Not only does it increase tension, but it ups the stakes of the protagonist’s success. Basically, fictional parents rock, so let’s think twice before casting them out to sea.

Happy Writing!

Question of the week: Who are you favorite fictional parents?

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What to Read: The Night Circus

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The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern


Summary

Raised among backstage curtains by her ruthless father, illusionist Celia is trained to compete in an age old rivalry. Her grooming leads her to Cirque de Rêves, a massive and fantastical undertaking like the world has never seen. As strategies unfold and terrible secrets are revealed, Celia and her opponent begin to realize they are competing for more than victory–they are competing for their lives.

Overall Impressions

Ladies and gentlemen, my favorite book, The Night Circus. Nothing prepared me for the absolute marvels inside the iron gates of Cirque de Rêves. Gorgeously written characters from all flocks of life capture the imagination, ignite the wonderment of childhood, and make a home in the heart. But amidst the magic are deeply human struggles. Hunger for power, unrequited love, and sacrifices for the sake of success. I smiled, I cried, and I fell in love with everything about Morgenstern’s magical circus world. Without question, I would recommend making The Night Circus your next read.

Happy Reading!

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7 Stages of (Fictional) Grief

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First, I would like to establish that this is a safe space, and we are here together for one reason: We have lost a fictional friend. Please accept my deepest condolences and the thought of a tissue, since this is a blog and I cannot physically hand you a tissue. Let’s embark on this journey of grief together.

  1. Disbelief – CAN YOU BELIEVE HE/SHE IS DEAD? No. No you cannot. That is why the first stage is disbelief. The loss of a character is always met with a dreaded, heart-stopping moment of impact. We think, What just happened? This must be a dream sequence. Or an alternative future. SOMEONE PLEASE TELL ME THIS IS A DREAM SEQUENCE! My friends, it is not, and I am so, so sorry.
  2. Denial – Liar! It is a dream sequence and they are alive and well. Shut up! Please, take another tissue. I’m going to need a few more myself. This is usually the point where I re-watch or reread the death scene, looking for a way out, for something I missed. There’s always a loophole…right?
  3. Bargaining – Dear Steven Moffat, Joss Whedon, and every other writer who has ever MURDERED a beloved character, WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME?
  4. Guilt – If only I hadn’t opened the book, then they never would have died. Wait, by reading the book, I set events into motion. Is this my fault? (No, that’s ridiculous. This is fictional…but still HEARTBREAKING.)
  5. Anger – This stage usually goes something like this: bigstock-portrait-of-young-angry-man-52068682.jpg
  6. Depression – At  which point you literally can’t even, you can only odd. If you’re like me, you may also suffer from the urge to look up character fan art on Pinterest for three hours straight. (It’s an addiction. Send help.) Also, what is life? Nothing, because that one person from that amazing tv show or book or movie or video game is no longer a part of yours. Hang in there, brighter days are coming.
  7. Acceptance – And now, my dear friends, we have made it to the end. By which I mean, we are still FURIOUS about losing that one fictional friend who meant the world to us, but are able to love again. (Unfortunately, we will probably see each other here again soon.)

Happy Friday!

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This Isn’t the End: Killing Characters with Purpose

RIP (1)Every reader has a fictional death they will never get over, from books to movies to television shows. If you have ever mourned a character who was close to your heart, whether it was because of his/her personality, skills, or hotness, I feel your pain. Let us have a moment of silence for our fallen.

And…moment is over, because, if current writing trends have proven anything, it’s that he/she probably isn’t so dead after all. Look at shows like Supernatural, Doctor Who, or Arrow. Characters are continuously killed off and then resurrected by popular demand. Because of this, fictional death has lost its punch.Why worry if the writer has a history of reviving his characters? (I’m looking at you Joss Whedon, you beautiful devil.) Why care about the character’s life if it isn’t finite?

I think the mainstream writing community, television or otherwise, needs to put weight back into the concept of death. If the audience knows there is a good chance a character might come back then, more likely than not, they won’t care if the character dies. After the initial two second shock the emotional tether is broken. Strange as it may seem, I would rather be heartbroken over a character’s death than apathetic about his existence.

So how can we as writers make death more meaningful?

The Wow Factor

It can be fun to kill off characters for the sheer purpose of shocking readers. But just because you can doesn’t mean you should. A character’s death should have purpose, whether it’s to advance the plot or motivate another’s actions. That’s what makes it meaningful. If a writer kills off a character simply for the “wow” factor, or because the character no longer has a purpose, it’s probably a good time to reflect–does that character belong in that story?

Don’t Hesitate

As many a warrior has said, “Kill, or be killed.” Reluctance to kill off a character because they are likable can create a significant stumbling block. If a writer knows his character is going to die, he should think it through, but shouldn’t hesitate because of personal preference. If the character is really that loved and still relevant to the story then it makes sense to keep him on. If not, a writer’s gotta do what a writer’s gotta do. Be strong, my friend.

We’re almost There

So your character is dead, and you know you’ve made the right decision for the good of the story. Now all that’s left is to fight the temptation to bring that sucker back to the land of the fictional living. The more a writer loves her character the more tempting it is to resurrect him, especially in genres like fantasy and sci-fi, which make it easier to do so. To be clear, reviving characters is NOT a bad thing. Becoming predictable is. It’s important for writers to think carefully before bringing a character back to life.

Well, here we are at the end of another post. I hope you find it helpful. Thank you for reading, and as always…

Happy Writing!

Question of the Week: Whose fictional death will YOU never get over? Comments welcome!

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