Can a Bad Book Be a Good Book?

What do I mean, can a bad book be a good book?  Well, I mean a poorly written book.  One criticized and mocked, and treated with derision by a good deal of the general public.  Perhaps it’s ridden with plot holes, or the characters are all shallow, or the writing itself is just plain shoddy and hard to follow.  Want an example?  I’ve already ranted about Twilight, so, in honour of the recent movie, I offer 50 Shades of Grey up for examination.  Now, I must mention that I’ve yet to actually read this work of the imagination, but I’ve heard all the criticisms.  You either love it or you hate it.  For the purposes of this post, let’s just assume the criticisms are at least mostly valid.

But that’s the thing.  People love it.  Selling at ridiculous rates, this book seems to be a favourite among middle-aged mothers everywhere.  These women don’t know anything more or less about the literary arts than the average person.  And yet, they devour this trilogy like a wealthy, fetishistic young man might devour his young female employee.  One must ask what it is exactly that appeals to them in this series.

Alright, alright, I’m sure it’s nothing especially nuanced, and likely exactly as obvious as it seems.  And yet, the author,E. L. James,  has tapped into some essential interests, urges, and emotions underpinning a significant portion of women in the west.  It would seem that no other authors recently have managed to do that, not to the level E. L. James seems to have managed.  If there wasn’t something special in those books, we wouldn’t have heard of them.

Not just anyone can write a story that makes people passionate, and gives them the desire to share it with their friends.  It takes a certain amount of intuition into the human psyche.  After all, some stories just won’t sell.  Nobody wants to read a book about a koala trying to eat as many leaves as possible and suffering from fleas.  Nobody can relate to that, and so nobody’s really interested.  But if you can give that koala a douche-bag crocodile boss who continually hassles him about his leaf quota, coworkers who gossip about the koala’s illicit affair with the kangaroo, who suddenly gets pregnant with a baby who’s suspiciously green and scaly, and all of a sudden, you’ve got a hit Australian office drama on your hands.  Appealing to an audience is a skill, a skill most prized by lawyers, politicians, and artists, or at least, the ones who want to make money.  Most authors apparently must lack it, or have yet to develop it.

And it would seem that that skill is completely unrelated to actually writing ability, if the 50 Shades phenomenon can be taken at face value.  And so, my question becomes: can a poorly written book which appeals to some fundamental aspect of human nature be considered a good book if it is prized by a large enough number of people?  Conversely, one could ask whether a skillfully written book which no one cares about is in fact a terrible book.  After all, the purpose of art is not to put strings of words together in a way that is clever, or perfectly replicate some image, or to create a really complex sequence of sounds with skillfully mastered instruments.  The purpose of art is to make people feel something.  No artist wants anything more than to make someone cry, or laugh, or break out into goosebumps.  Or, apparently, to orgasm.  And if you can do those things, well, you may still have work to do, plot holes to fill in, characters to fill out, grammar to brush up on, but I think you’re well on your way to being a good writer.  Even if you suck.

Are Children’s Books Condescending?

What got me thinking about this question, you ask?  Well.

I was shopping in Costco, and was drawn magnetically to the book section, as I always am.  I am sure some of you know this feeling.  For me, it also occurs with dresses, jewellery, and shiny things in general.  What can I say.

What drew my eye even more was a certain name.  Suzanne Collins.  Suzy!  And this name was NOT on The Hunger Games novels.  She had a new book!  A series, in fact.  The Underland Chronicles.  Without any thought at all, I bought it (technically, my partner in shopping bought it for me).  Because Suzanne Collins.

So, I take it home, have a good look at it, and start reading.  Throughout this, the realization dawns on me.  This is a kids’ book.  The protagonist is, like, 10, the language is relatively simple (still lovely, don’t get me wrong, but simple) and it contains a few basic plot holes  (why would they not retain contact with the outside world, particularly in times of trouble?) and silly little concepts.  But, I kept reading, partly because I felt not finishing it would be a betrayal to my shopping comrade, and partly just do to curiosity.

Thank god (specifically Thoth)!  The more I read, the better the books got, with all the little things pooling together into one grand adventure that left me nearly breathless at the end.  I could go on about why it was so good, but what really interested me was that the kinds of things I consider “good” were the kinds of things that I wouldn’t expect to read in a children’s novel.

Firstly, while the themes were simple (racism, war, friendship) they weren’t TOO simple and could be expanded and deepened with almost no effort, allowing the reader to take what they could handle.  Heck, I even managed to make some observations about religion and political structuring.  So many books meant for kids have no real POINT to them, no themes, nothing to think or talk about after the book was over.  I mean, we don’t expect our kids to do that, right?  Maybe we should.  (Either that, or they’re overly moralistic with not enough substance backing those claims up or adding interest.  You know what I’m talking about.  Listen to your parents, don’t get dirty, eat your vegetables.)

The structure was both complex and clear.  Never was I lost, wondering who was supposed to be where, and where that guy came from, but at the end, all these paths that you weren’t even aware were being created came together and blew you away.  Now, I do understand that even this might have been too much for someone much younger than the target audience to understand, but so many children’s authors for all ages don’t seem to go to any effort at all to actually work out an interesting plot.  You rarely see much more than, “And she went out to slay the dragon, and crossed some hills, and some mountains, and a forest, and then she slayed it and then went back home.”  The point is, Suzy could have just wrote five separate books with five separate adventures and called it good, but she didn’t.  Because Suzanne Collins.

In The Underland Chronicles, sometimes, stuff gets DARK.  And I mean that literally and figuratively.  Not all the characters were nice and good all the time, in fact, few of them were, even the ones on the “good side”.  In fact, Suzy went out of her way to show that maybe there wasn’t really a “good side”, and that people and societies are too complex to be described that way.  But of course, written in such a way that anyone could understand.  Often, all you see in children’s books are everybody being nice and beautiful, except the bad guy(s) who are often just misunderstood.  Not only is this not how life works, it’s also just not interesting.  But of course, we do this because we assume children are so terribly delicate and we must coddle them.  The real world is for then they’re older.  Now, trust me when I say, Suzy was not much for coddling.  The violence?  Everything was vivid; nothing was censored.  I’m talking guts spilling, brain spattering, eaten alive kind of violence.  Should children be exposed to that kind of violence?  Here’s my thought:

Adults should not expose children to violence.  But children should be allowed to expose themselves to violence.  See, nobody WANTS to be traumatized.  So, if I’m a little kid, and I’m starting to get way too scared by a book, I’ll stop reading right then and there.  I’m setting the boundaries for myself.  Hell, I still do this.  I don’t watch too many horror movies, and will sometimes turn one off if its going to far.  And this is most certainly not too difficult a judgment for a child to make.  They know what’s scaring them, what’s just too gross, too gory.  It’s a very base reaction.  I suspect the only times a kid will subject them to more they can handle is when they’re trying to rebel, or prove something, and if the only person telling them what not to watch is themselves, then the feeling that they need to do that diminishes.

(Sometimes I wonder if Suzy actually intended to make the books as violent as they were, or if she just started to get back into Hunger Games mode.)

And yes, while I did say the language was simple, it was not THAT simple.  There were plenty of words that kids might have to look up, and that’s exactly how it should be.  Only ever being exposed to words you already know are what creates the “Speak English, why can’t you just say (insert simpler version of chosen word here), why do you have to talk so fancy,” attitude.  It’s not anybody’s obligation to only use words you know.  It’s your obligation to know the words that people use.  Luckily, this particular aspect of writing for children is more consciously worked toward in children’s literature, to varying degrees of success.

Now, this particular aspect is less relevant to The Underland Chronicles specifically, though perhaps I could cite the cover artwork, but the artwork in children’s books is almost always sub par.  I suspect the idea is to mimic how children draw.  You know, those one-dimensional, stick-y looking figures with all their features completely out of proportion.  You see them in children’s television too.  Me, I ask, “Um, why?”  Why do you need to lower your drawing abilities to that of a child to draw for children?  I suspect that you’re actually slowing their learning to draw by only exposing them to the incorrect or basic way to do it.  This is much the same as only exposing them to a basic vocabulary.  Not helpful.

So, overall, what I’m trying to say is this.  When writing books for children, you must write in such a way that they understand, and are captivated (a point I did not bring up specifically, because it was done so well in The Underlander Chronicles, and is also usually done well in popular children’s fiction) but this does not mean you should lower the quality of your writing, the standard you’re holding yourself to.  Really, writing for children should be much harder than writing for an older audience.  You don’t get to slack off and make everything simple and sloppy, because you don’t expect your audience to notice.  The Underland Chronicles is the perfect example of how to keep an audience entertained without stooping to condescension.  Because Suzanne Collins.

Percy Jackson and the Way Too Consistent Olympians

I really didn’t intend this blog to just address a bunch of specific novels, but if it occurs to me, and relates to writing… why not?

When it comes to Percy Jackson and the Olympians, I has mixed feels, I must confess, and I must also confess a bit of apprehension about sharing them, because so many people LOVE these books.  I mean, lots of action, memorable characters, and of course, it’s educational.  I mean, look at all the ancient Greek mythology you learn!

And that’s my number one problem.  While not claiming to be an expert, I do consider myself more educated in Greek mythology than the average person.  Can’t remember what I did yesterday, or what I was supposed to do tomorrow, but I can tell you all about Aphrodite’s birth, or what happens when you kill two snakes mating.  (Hint: the gender change surgery industry could save a lot of money by cooperating with snake farms.)

Am I going to complain about accuracy problems?  No!  They were fairly accurate, or as accurate as one can be when there are several versions of the original myths, all with their fair share of contradictions.  They were simply… too consistent with the original stories.

See, here’s the premise.  The gods from ancient Greece are all real, and are now centred in America (Americentrism by definition, though justifiably) and are all going about their business as usual.  The “as usual” part is the bit that bothers me.  In many, many instances, the gods are acting EXACTLY the way they did thousands of years ago.  I mean, I don’t object to static characters as a whole, but there is NO WAY an intelligent being is going to perform the exact sequence of events it did before, particularly when it failed.  They’re simply retelling these stories with a modern twist, and, while entertaining, is hard for me to swallow.

Example:   Aphrodite, the goddess of love, beauty, and sex, is married to Hephaestus, the god of the smith.  He’s actually quite an ugly fellow, making for an unusual match, and possibly for that reason, Aphrodite engaged in an affair with Ares, the god of war.  I mean, who else but your classic bad boy, right?  Hephaestus began to guess that something was up, so he forged a magnificent trap, a net, and hung it over their bed.  As planned, the net falls and catches Ares and Aphrodite in the middle of a “session”, and Hephaestus brings everybody in Olympus out to laugh at them, much like a reality TV show.  Rick Riordan jumps all over this, and decides that now, Hephaestus controls a big reality television channel among the gods in modern times.  I like this!  Very clever!  If they left it at this, I’d have been happy.  But, this is revealed after a scene in which Percy and crew are accidentally caught up in a net he made intended for, guess who, his wife Aphrodite, who is apparently STILL cheating on him, after thousands of years, with the same guy, and apparently, has still not figured out the net thing.

There have even been cases of previously  defeated characters being resurrected from the dead without explanation.  Medusa.  The creepy guy who ties people to beds and forces them to fit.  I believe the cyclops with the fleece died as well, though I could be wrong.  (Actually, I haven’t gone to any effort to confirm my memory of this stuff; I’m sure some ancient Greek mythology buff more knowledgeable than myself, or Percy Jackson’s biggest fan is going to tear me a new one with all my factual inaccuracies, but I’ve got the general stuff right anyways.)

Now, this next bit isn’t a flaw exactly, but seems like a wasted opportunity.  Why is Percy the son of Poseidon?  Okay, sure, he needed to be the son of one of the big three.  Zeus was too obvious; you don’t want to make your main character TOO heroic.  But… what about Hades?  Think about it.  When the god of the underworld, hell, is your dad, the relationship issues are way easier to justify.  Hades is actually quite often misunderstood and portrayed; he was never evil exactly, he just got a dirty job.  But everyone, everyone, is going to be against him, and therefore, Percy is going to be an extension of this.  And just think about the inner conflict opportunities!  “Is my dad evil?  If he is, am I?  What does having the powers of death and judgment MEAN for my character?”  This would all go perfectly well any and all prophecies (a totally overdone literary technique, IMO) regarding him saving or dooming the world.  I mean, it would obviously throw off the plot in numerous places but… I dunno.  Doesn’t it seem more interesting to you?

Perhaps Rick has already thought of this and discarded it for some reason; I don’t blame him in the “Son of Poseidon” respect.  But I think if he wanted to do a modern retelling of Greek myths, he should have set it up better.  In fact, if he’d just done it, without referencing the characters and stories as being the same ones from the originals, and simply said “Here are some weird characters with familiar names, watch them do stuff!”, I would have felt just fine about it.

I was much more impressed by his lesser known Egyptian series, The Kane Chronicles, though perhaps because I know next to nothing about Egyptian mythology.  However, after reading it, I can tell you that Bast is badass, and Anubis is sexy as hell (no pun intended).  Actually, I’m probably too old to say that now.  Ah well, he was sexy when I read him.  Anyway, go ahead, read ’em both, particularly the Egyptian one.

 

 

Warm Bodies

I’m back!  Yes, I see you there, looking over your shoulders, whispering to your friends, “I thought she was dead!”  No, I am in fact still here, and as busy, easily distracted, and frankly, lazy, as always.  I never promised to be consistent.  And of course, I flatter myself that anyone out there has been anxiously awaiting another post from The Loracle (me).  However, if you are, don’t be afraid to bug me about it.  I need to be nagged.  Anyway.

This is SO late in coming, but I thought I’d write something about Warm Bodies, the novel and the film.  Why?  Because it’s… weird.  And easily misunderstood.

So, what is it?  It’s a zombie love story, to sum it up.  Yes, you heard me.  I won’t go so far to claim it’s the beginning of a genre because, for one, I’m not confident of a genre emerging from it, and for two, such a thing may very well have existed before.  (Actually, I think the movie poster may have made Your Favourite Martian video about a zombie falling in love, or perhaps it was the other way around.  I’d show you the pics for comparison, but I can’t get the bloody pic insertion thing to work, so you’ll have to do the work yourself.  It’s a funny video; you won’t mind.)

Now, if the idea of a zombie love story makes you shudder, I have some explaining to do (spoilers ahead).  Firstly, the story was 100% necrophilia free.  No sexy corpse contact… well, unless you count the kiss at the end, but that quickly progressed to non-corpse-ness.  How, exactly?  Well, now I’m going to explain the general concept for Warm Bodies style zombies, which was a very unique concept, and also, very philosophical.  Basically, at some point in the near future, humanity had begun to die.  Not actual physical death, but to lose the traits most valuable to life: emotions, hope, appreciation of nature and art, and most importantly, love.  Essentially, they became the sort of zombie people casually talk about: “Man, that guy is a total zombie.”  “Yeah, I’m kind of a zombie in the morning.”  I think Shaun of the Dead may have had a similar theme; that people’s lives got so monotonous and mind numbing that people just became zombies.  If you’re super into realistic zombie concepts, then this story isn’t for you.  In fact, nearly everything in the story is a metaphor for or a reference to a philosophical concept; I won’t spell it out for you though.  Well, except in the case of Julie.  This girl enters the story, and is the exact opposite of the deadness that is zombification.  She is life, through and through: bursting with emotions, hope, a love for art, and is, of course, the love interest.  Through “unusual circumstances”, the two are thrown together and love happens.  It is in fact, the progression of this love that reawakens the “life” within the zombies, and essentially cures the plague.  Unfortunately, this is not clear in the movie, (understandably, as such concepts are hard to show, and they were probably wary of more monologue; still though, they could have done a better job) and I’m sure many people walked away going, “What the heck?  Why did being nice to the zombies suddenly cure them?  That’s just stupid.”  Well, now you know.

Another major objection to this story is the same objection to vampire love stories.  “Zombies are MONSTERS.  They’re not SUPPOSED to have feelings!  We should just shoot them!  This is degrading the concept of the zombie!”  I disagree.  I think, were this to become a genre to some degree, it would expand the concept of zombies, not degrade them.  Using vampires or zombies as romantic figures doesn’t prevent them being used as monsters or villains in other literature.  I seriously doubt that zombies will become as popular as vampires, simply because… they’re not as sexy.  I mean, R was adorable, millions of girls surely are in love with him (especially when portrayed by Nicholas Holt; SUCH a good acting choice!), but zombies still don’t have that dark sex appeal of vampires.  Regardless, if you want to use trolls (been done), ogres (been done) or demons (been done) as protagonists or positive characters, all the more power to you.  And if you want to write stories of them tearing people apart, go right ahead.

This story is actually compared to Twilight quite a lot, said to be “Twilight, but just with zombies.”  Such claims cannot possibly be made from people who’ve actually read the novel.  It was quite intelligent all the way through, and in other ways than being philosophical.  Much of it was tongue in cheek, an aspect clearer in the movie.  I actually didn’t get the BLATANT Romeo and Juliet reference until watching the movie with my best friend right after finishing the Romeo and Juliet unit in school.  When the balcony scene came on, we laughed and laughed…  And this isn’t even mentioning the other hilarious moments throughout the movie and book.

“Wow, this seems like such a good book/movie combination!  Seemingly flawless!”  Not so fast.  Honestly.  You can’t expect that I, the Loracle (please, let this catch on) would see no flaws in either the movie or the book?  Let me describe a single scene in the movie for you.  R and Julie are being chased by a throng of angry… Bonees?… (honestly people, that’s the name you chose?  You don’t think ANY 13 year old is going to find ANYTHING amusing about that name?) and, in classic movie style, must jump off a high place into a pool of water.  R takes the brunt of it and sinks into the water.  As a viewer, you’re mentally trying to figure out whether he can die or not from drowning (does he even breath?) but, hooray!, Julie retrieves him, and he’s just dandy.  Then, they apparently completely forget that there’s a group of angry, terrifying monsters right above them who are, for some reason, not jumping in right after them, and engage in a totally adorable, romantic, quite well done, kiss, which I will admit gave my R-loving heart shiveries.  Of course, Julie also forgets to have this awkward but totally necessary conversation beforehand (which was at least mentioned a little in the book):

“If I kiss you, will I, like, die?”

“Huh?”

“I mean, will you pass a disease or anything to me?”

“I dun-”

“And do you think it’s weird anyway?  Because, I mean, you are kind of a corpse.  I mean, no offence; you look really good for a corpse, but still.  It might be a little creepy.  Ah well, anything once, right?  No, wait, hold on.  Promise you won’t, like, eat me?”

“Wha-”

“I mean, I know you’re nice and all, but you DO eat people.  So, like control yourself, okay, because if you bite me, I’ll be pissed.”

“… Okay.”

(I think the main reason I was so much in love with R was because he didn’t really talk back.  THAT’S a man.)

And then kisses could commence.

Anyway, after the non-safety stamp approved kiss, Julie’s father comes out and shoots R.  This absolutely delighted me, because I just loved terrible situation that puts the dad in.  I mean, imagine if Rick caught that blonde girl making out with a zombie in The Walking Dead?  Just… terrible.  Anyway, he’s shot and… he bleeds!  Hooray!  He’s human now!  Everyone is happy and goes to share the good news.  Except… nobody cares that R is SHOT.  Even he is just sort of smiling along, all the while he’s bleeding out.  Nobody thinks to patch him up, and it is apparently unnecessary.  I preferred it in  the novel when he starts bleeding from all the wounds he had amassed as a zombie.  I mean, to cover up the scent of Julie, he reaches down into his ARM and pulls out some ARM GUNK and smears it on her face.  (As if that small amount will do it.)

So, that’s Warm Bodies for you.  A philosophical, tongue in cheek, unconventional romance.  I approve.

WHY HOLLYWOOD, WHY?!

I need to RAGE.  The raging may be preemptive, but I still must RAGE.  However, this is really just for fans.  Nobody else well truly understand.

For those who don’t know, my favourite series is The Mortal Instruments (technically, I prefer The Infernal Devices but…) and now, the first novel, City of Bones is being made into a movie.  I.  Was.  Thrilled.

And then I began to find information out about he movie.  First, the actors.  Oh.  No.  Nooooo!  Clary Fray/ Fairchild does NOT look like a natural redhead and her eyebrows… they’re not ugly exactly, but they’re just too PROMINENT.  If Clary had crazy eyebrows, we would have been told in the novel.  And the WORST is Jace (no last name; too confusing).  He is supposed to be what?  GORGEOUS.  Undeniably, overwhelmingly sexy, sexy enough that total strangers approach him about his “mango”.  And… he’s… not, really.  I mean, it’s a personal opinion, but I saw a post about the actor titled “Hot or Not.”  There should be no QUESTION about whether Jace is hot.  Bad choice of actor.  Sorry Jamie.  I’m also just not seeing it with Valentine.  However, the rest of the actors seem okay.

And then I saw the trailer…  Oh Hollywood.  Come ON.  This is ALREADY an action packed book with a cool plot line and wicked action scenes.  Why did you have to… overdo it?  I mean, at WHAT point did Clary use a FLAMETHROWER?  At.  What.  POINT?

And they MISSED the other parts of the novel, the parts that endeared it to me.  They’re probably still in the movie, but the fact that they’re not emphasized in the trailer indicates that they’re likely not emphasized enough throughout the film.  I’m talking about the romance(s), the keep-you-on-your-toes-and-emotionally-stretched love stories!  The romantic and sexy (and slightly kinky) relationships! And what about the humour, the unique-and-sudden-laugh-out-loud quips?!  The cute and sarcastic one liners!  It’s these that make the whole book.  Without them, the movie looks really dark, with all those demons and things.  The trailer, based on just the tone, makes it seem like an entirely different movie.

https://i0.wp.com/images5.fanpop.com/image/photos/31900000/Magnus-magnus-bane-31963239-815-1000.jpg

Totally apt fanart.

And the all time, most important thing they missed in the movie?  MAGNUS BANE.  The flamboyant, flaming warlock who oozes sparkles and sass!  He’s the BOMB.  And he didn’t make any appearance at all in the trailer.  None whatsoever.  He’d probably ruin the whole scary-action-floating-girls-in-spooky-white-dresses vibe.  And none of the pictures of him show sparkles!  Come on!  There needs to be a glitter budget of, like, $500 per scene Magnus is in, not to mention the refills for the Bedazzler. 

Anyway… Hollywood, don’t overdo it, okay?  It’s not supposed to be ALL demons and strange runic letters.  Remember the whimsy, remember the sass, remember the love, and most importantly, REMEMBER THE SPARKLES.

Look here for the characters and trailer.   http://themortalinstrumentsmovie.com/

Inspirational

It is my understanding that dear Joanne would like to show her health class my blog, for reasons beyond my meagre comprehension.  Could it be that the silly woman considers me to be some sort of success, as if she’s impressed by what I’ve accomplished?  If so… come on.  Up your standards.  I suck.  🙂

Anyway, I feel I should write something “health class worthy”, and maybe even inspirational, in case she’s convinced you that I’m oh so great.

No matter how much adults deny it and say that “Your age doesn’t matter and you can still accomplish your dreams, no matter how old you are,” they still make it so you can’t.  Youth have very few rights, actually, and it’s a form of prejudice.  (Hold on, I’ll make my little rant circle back; you just wait.)  Examples?  Well, any time there’s an age limit on something instead of a skill or experience limit.  You can’t get your drivers licence until you’re 16.  If you’re 15 and drive like a BOSS, and can prove it in a test, you cannot get your drivers license.  Discrimination based on nothing but age.  So many things work like that.  All of a sudden, the day you turn 18, you’re intelligent enough to vote.  But CERTAINLY not before.  Me, I think everybody should be given some sort of “mental maturity test” where you decide things like that.  But, it would be a pain and it’s much easier to just judge the book by its cover and the kid by the number of years they’ve been alive.  Those are the big things, but you see it in little things too.  There’s this idea that, because you have “teen” on the end of your age, you don’t have as many rights and can’t accomplish as much.  This has got to change.

Everybody has a thing.  No, I’m not talking about wearing parachute pants and talking with slang only you know, I’m talking about a personal interest or skill.  It emerges very early, yet again, here are the adults deciding when and how you can actually act on it.  I’ve known I was into writing since, what, before grade 3?  Yet, until grade 10, I’ve been doing the exact same class as the kids who couldn’t care less about novels and adjectives and poems.  Now I’m in a dash 1 class, with slightly fewer kids who couldn’t care less.  And I still have to take classes _I_ couldn’t care less about (ehem, math, cough cough), just so I can enter university to take classes I like.  Raise your hand if you think this is flawed.  (Oh gosh, now she wants audience interaction.  I haven’t responded to a screen since Dora the Explorer needed to get rid of Swiper.)  Far more flawed if you think about how few people actually use everything they learn in school.  I actually did a study, (yeah, that’s right.  I, a 15 year old, performed a study.  And promptly got kicked out of the food court for it) and it proved that the majority of people could have missed much of their classes and came out A-okay.  Then, they could have focused on whatever it was they liked, and they could have been getting paid for it and accomplishing things far earlier.  While the education system is slowly picking up on that, you should be focusing on your own thing so you can get a head start without the help of formal, forced-to-attend classes.  And you need to practice your skill, work on it, perfect it.  And I’m talking NOW.  None of this “when I finish high school” crap.  “Oh sure, Laura, you can write a blog and enter writing competitions at 15 and whatever, but it’s not so easy for us with REAL, non-writing aspirations,” I hear you say.  Oh no?  What do you want to be, then?  A doctor?  No.  Bad goal.  Try this: “Best doctor in the world.”  That’s your plan.  And oh yes you can start it now.  Something like that requires loads of learning.  Learn everything you can about medicine and anatomy.  I don’t care if you’re 14 or 7, start learning.  Maybe even take a university course online, that is, if they don’t let you in the actual building.

I guess this sounds kind of crazy, the way the world works now, but I have some radical beliefs about education.  Well… this is my blog… I guess I could explain them… kind of a long sidetrack though… oh well.  I think it’s inspiring.

Can you imagine if, instead of everyone being shipped off to a school building, you chose your own courses from day one?  Now, I mean, beyond super basic stuff, like reading.  Basically, from the day you decided the human body was cool, you could go to, not a school, but a hospital building, and take your class there, where everything, tools and knowledge, was available.  As such, you can imagine how much more interactive and up-to-date classes would be.  You would be grouped, not by ages, but by skill levels.  Theoretically, a very gifted 10 year old could perform surgery.  If you think that’s a scary thought, you’re rather prejudiced.  This little guy has passed all his exams just like the other doctors, so he ought to be allowed to cut you open and fix you.

Other careers?  Mechanic.  Once your kid shows an interest in taking apart toy cars, take him to a car shop and let the mechanic take him on as an apprentice.  Kid gets to learn, mechanic gets some help.

My friend wants to be a translator.  She started to learn the languages on her own every since she developed a liking for foreign music.  (Gangnam Style, anyone?)  If she could skip most of her English Language Arts classes, (let’s face it; that chick will never be able to write creative fiction) and study under a Korean teacher, she could have that language under her belt by now.

As I said, everyone has a thing, and these things emerge early.  Go into a group of pre-schoolers and give them the option of blocks or colouring, you’re gonna see a split emerge.  I know you can’t point at the blocks kids and say, “Trades” and the colouring kids and say “Arts”, but you can help them build the road that leads to their future career with far fewer side trails.

That’s why I do extra-curricular activities.  I’m dramatic, so I do dance, singing, and acting.  I love it, and I’m better at it than people who don’t.  I don’t do hockey or soccer because I’m not athletic and hate to sweat.  That road leads to no where for me, as does the advanced math road.  Teach me how to pay my taxes and I’m set.

You should be doing stuff too, if I haven’t yet made that clear.  You jocks, you should be taking those types of sports.  Take them as far as you can, and a little farther.  You math nerds, start looking at what numbers exactly you want to work with, and get at it.  Accounting could start with working the cash register at Tim Horton’s.  I know a kid who wants to be a nano technician.  The learning starts here, and if the education system worked as I’d have it, the working would start soon after.  Alas, tis not so.  But you guys can help make it so.

Oh, any writers in the room?  YOU guys are my favourite.  Sure, most don’t consider it a real career.  Every single time I tell someone I plan on writing novels, I hear anything ranging from, “Yes, but what are you going to do to support yourself?” to “Ah, but what’s your real job gonna be?”  Ugh, rage face.  I’ve already started; I came runner up in that contest (twice), have a blog (utter failure), and have written lots of words that will probably lead somewhere.  Maybe.

But there is another issue.  Sometimes things… change.  (Buh buh buh.)  What if little Suzy sketches her little heart out, her only desire to be a famous artist (the best ever), when she realizes, on here 10th birthday, that horses are really cool and being a groomer sounds kind of neat?  Well… start grooming.  When I say everybody has a thing, I must add that many people have several things.  Your road can be split.  The fun part is making them work together.  Maybe I’ll… write a novel, then have it turned into a musical in which I sing, dance, and act, thus involving all my favourite things?  I’m also into psychology.  I use that in my writing.  Suzy can draw horses.  They don’t even have to be things that relate, really.  A dude can be into football and flower arranging.  Well he CAN.

You can also find groups who like what you like.  Get involved.  I was in a writer’s club (will be again if I can figure out when it is), and I did some role playing on the internet (not the kinky kind, the story kind).  Stuff that would make you guys die of boredom was uber fun to me.

So, I guess the message is pretty easy to take.  Do what you like.  Start now.  Do it well.  Unless it’s drug dealing or pole dancing.  Don’t do that.

A Commentary on The Twilight Craze

In my last post, I mentioned Twilight.  Would you believe that a teen vampire romance could be so controversial?  My thoughts?  I’m so glad you asked.

One thing you should note is that most of the people who trash the Twilight saga have never read the books.  I’m telling you right now that I have read all of them and seen all the movies, excepting the one yet to be released, the finale.  And Imma tell you something right now.  The movies SHAMED the books.  On so many levels.

The choice of actors was DISMAL.  Main character: Bella/ Kristan Stewart.  Kristen is perpetually dissed and even has a meme of her because of her apparent complete lack of facial expressions.

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This is the face you will see 90% of the time you encounter her acting or IRL. The other 10% is the same, except her mouth is closed.

Now, I’m not saying she’s a bad actress.  She’d be great for specific parts.  Like… a zombie.  Or a dazed and estranged aunt.  Or someone suffering from insomnia.  Or a pothead.  She did, however, make a great teenage sister in that movie with the board game and space.  But she is NOT right for Bella.  Bella was, if anything, OVER emotional, as any teenage heroine in a romance novel is.  Edward obsessed over the fact that you could read her face like a BOOK (not emphasized in the movie.  Wonder why).

Love interest: Edward/Robert Pattinson.  The actor chosen for the love interest is actually MORE important than the main character, because the main character will spend an endless amount of time describing them, and the reader must see them the same way as the lovestruck fool (a bit redundant, I guess).  Rob disappointed.  I’m sorry bro, but you are not as handsome as Edward.  I mean, according to the book, no human can be, but… you weren’t handsome in the right way.  Many people, myself excluded, think Rob is to DIE for, which his rough, chiselled good looks.  I think he could play a werewolf or something.  But Edward was not a werewolf.  He was a vampire.  Vampires do NOT look like they need a shave.  He was supposed to look chiselled, yes, but like a statue of a Greek god carved by a master.  (Quote from the book, actually.)

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I just don’t see it. Could be worse though.

He’s a teenage heartthrob, or he’s supposed to be, but he looked more like a 30 some heartthrop.  Unlike our next contestant…

Secondary love interest: Jacob/Taylor Lautner.  This guy is everything he’s supposed to be, save for one thing.  He’s not actually Native.  He doesn’t look to far off, but I’m sure anyone more familiar with them can spot him a mile off.  Plus, there aren’t that many parts for Natives, so we should be giving them all the parts that call for them.  Taylor’s only other problem was that he was TOO good.  He was better than Rob, and I mean mostly by appearance.  Taylor is G-O-R-G-E-O-U-S.  I’m going to go out on a limb (much like a spider monkey) and say that more people would be Team Edward (which I am) if Taylor wasn’t soooo hunky.  And he’s supposed to be!  But when you put them together, Edward’s sheer handsomeness was supposed to blow his out of the water.  And it didn’t.  Taylor, if you’re reading this, try not to smirk too hard the next time you see Rob, ‘kay?

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There were many other issues as well, for smaller characters, but it’s the major ones that fell short.

And, like any book turned movie, the choice of scenes was depressing, but this movie was probably the worst.  I believe that, when charged to turn a book into a movie, the script should be the novel.  Too long?  Undoubtedly.  Split the movie up.  And they ARE doing that with Breaking Dawn, and they STILL left out important parts.  Example:

Bella is pregnant, but Edward is freaking out over his belief that the baby is going to kill her.  He just can’t convince her to change her mind and get rid of it.  He approached Jacob with an offer.  He offers to let him “supply” Bella with all the babies she could ever want, so long as he convinces her to get rid of this one.  “She can have puppies for all I care!”  <-Not a direct quote; I was too lazy to look up the exact one, but the word puppies is there.

Anyway, WHAT?!  This is an INTENSE scene.  Look at what is says about the relationship between Eddy and Jake, and how it does or could change.  It shows perfectly the state of Edward’s mind and his protectiveness of Bella.  It also leads to an emotionally charged, relationship altering conversation between Jacob and Bella.  COME ON.  This is a DRAMA.  Do not leave out the drama.  Later, there is also another scene where Edward allows Jacob to borrow his car, fully knowing that he’ll most likely smash it, and Jacob drives around, desperately looking for someone to imprint with, just so he’ll get over Bella.  It gives more significance to a certain later event, as well.

All these things are absent from the movie.  However, they KEPT the scene where Bella shaves her legs.  I am displeased.

But yes, the book itself gets haters too.  I’d like to point out that a VAST majority of the haters are NOT in the target audience.  Think about this for a sec.  This is a teenage romance vampire novel.  No heavy sex scenes, very high school appropriate.  This is CLEARLY for teenage girls, just like the main character.  I am the target audience.  Not the 10-25 year old guys who whine about how gay Twilight and Edward are.  I mean, why are you even exposing yourself to something that you KNOW is not for people like you?  Not saying that you can’t read outside your genre, but if you do stick to your age and gender standards of literature, don’t whine because an entirely different age and gender group has different tastes than you.  Now, some of this is not their fault.  My mom pointed out that the Twilight franchise was WAY over marketed, and I have to agree.  I mean, you can get Edward Cullen panties.  Think about that for a sec.  Now stop thinking about it.  Even I, a lonely teenage girl longing for a romantic vampire, find it a tad tedious.  Now, these guys take out this annoyance by whining about how “this isn’t how vampires are supposed to be.  They are supposed to be reanimated corpses, bloodsucking killing machines.  These vampires sparkle and are therefore

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Now hold on there.  I am, believe it or not, a vampire EXPERT.  I read this huge freakin’ encyclopedia about vampires which I referenced in my own vampire novel (yet unfinished).  I can tell you about vampires in all different cultures in all different centuries.  And they all have one thing in common.  The vampire has ALWAYS been a sexual being.  First, they were males who preyed solely on young women.  They were accosted in their beds and from then on were considered “defiled”.  They were the “bad boys” of the day, seducing virgin maidens.  Some theorize this comes from the fact that, often, when exhuming the body of an accused vampire, they often had an erection.  Today, science considers that a natural part of the decomposition process but at the time… well, the body was OBVIOUSLY raping all night long.  Then, there became stories of vampires returning to loved ones, usually a fiance never consummated with, and laying with them to the point of sexual exhaustion, after which they promptly died.  That’s about where female vampires came into existence (in English folklore, anyway.)  Even the famous Dracula was basically the porn of the day, the Fifty Shades of its time.  Ridiculously conservative at the time, but there was an undeniable sexually predatory aspect of the deadly count.  Just ask Mina and Lucy.

(To my Church friend: yeah, I said some of those words.  The Bible has worse, does it not?  This is educational.)

And it was without prevention that the vampire should emerge as a romantic figure as the world grew less afraid of things that go bump in the night.  What lady could tame the feral beast that was this mysterious creature of the night?  Scores upon scores of vampire romances have existed, and are still being written,  It’s a genre of its own.  Vampires could be lovers, even heroes, if you look at post 1800s literature.  There are vampires that drank only the life “essence” of their victims, or lived on artificial blood substitutes, or even tomato juice.  Vampires drinking animal blood and falling in love with human girls has existed for a LONG time.  Twilight isn’t breaking ground here.  The only reason I think these haters take issue is because it’s the only novel of this type to receive such stunning and sudden popularity.  They may never have heard of these non-Draculon vampires.

The undeniably biggest complaint however, is sparkling.  Apparently, to a 17 year old male, this is unforgivable.  And here, Twilight WAS breaking ground.  In all the history of vampires, they have never sparkled.  Do I think they should?  No.  No I do not.  However, Stephanie Meyer did something different.  An unforeseen explanation for the myths.  You gotta giver her credit for THAT, and, in a way, it makes sense.  If you paid attention, Twilight vampires have skin like rock and break apart like porcelain.  Do some rocks not glisten in the sun?

https://i0.wp.com/www.minresco.com/display/djpg/mi1244.jpgIf you think about it, the rock hard skin is way more screwed up than sparkly flesh.  Jacob uses the phrase “kissing a stone.”  Why do you think Bella was so bruised during her honeymoon?  That’s… not hot.  However, the weirdest thing to think about was something I didn’t think about until I read the “bonus” book, “The Short Second Life Of Bree Tanner.”  In it, Bree overhears two vampires having sex.  She describes the sound like, “a cascade of rocks rubbing and bumping and clicking against each other.”  <-Again, just the general idea of the quote, but still.  I find that mildly hilarious.  Stone flesh is a great idea for a monster, but for a lover?  No.

But what of the actual writing?  On of the most common criticisms is as follows:

“Still a better lovestory than Twilight.”

I mean, Google image that.  I’m not attaching a picture; there are just so many memes.  So, that’s operating under the assumption that Twilight is a bad love story.  Is it?

Well, remember, most of these memes are created by guys who never read the book and think it’s not a romance if it can’t be summed up in a 20 minute video on Motherless.  Don’t ask me how I know about a specific porn site.  Anyway.

I already justified vampire romances in general, but what of this one specifically? (Spoilers, but, come on, you know this.) A 200 year old vampire falls in love with a high school girl who has a scent that is as dangerous as it is enticing.  The get together, despite the fact that she will grow old despite his immortality, essentially dooming their love.  Events conspire and he is forced to abandon her for what he believes is her own good, leaving her devastated.  She expresses a desperate disregard for her own safety, and after a specific event, he attempts suicide under the impression that she had died.  He is only stopped by her desperately travelling across the globe, where they encounter a group of powerful vampires who forbid their love, which they continue anyway.  There is conflict, as well as the growing emergence of another love interest, very different, but wonderful in his own way, a choice safer and more desirable by her family and friends.  Despite this, vampire and high schooler get married, have a beautiful child who is the perfect soul mate for the rejected but still loved secondary love interest, then must defend their way of life from a sect of powerful vampires, the same who had forbade their love.

Hmmm.  It’s not exactly simple or juvenile, is it?  I mean, it’s not fancy, high grade adult literature, but that wasn’t the intention.  The love story shows clear parallels to what is considered “good” literature, ex. “Romeo and Juliet” and “New Moon”.  Yet, it maintains a certain individuality that sets it apart.

I however, HATE the ending.  I honestly do, with all my heart.  So much, it may be the reason why I wrote my own vampire romance, so I can prove I can do it better.  Throughout the whole book, the whole series, the running theme, the reason the whole thing was written, is that this vampire falls in love with this human and vice versa.  Everything is built around that.  If it were vampire and vampire, it wouldn’t even have been written or memorable, because in the Twilight world, vampires fall in love all the time.  If Bella was a vampire, we may as well have followed Jasper and Alice.  Edward loved Bella BECAUSE she was a human.  Everything about her was so deliciously (pun totally intended) human.  And then she was turned into a vampire.  That just… makes me want to punch a wall.  I mean, yeah, it was the only choice and everybody won, and it made for an entertaining plot and blah blah blah.  I found a way around it.  And Edward totally had a point in his arguments against it!  I don’t wanna explain; ask him; read the book; decide for yourself.

Back to the legitimacy of the romance, I suppose some find fault with the characters, but I think the whole “dead pedophile” thing is just grasping at straws.  Like, really?  Bella is post-pubescent, therefore utterly boring to a legitimate pedophile, and Edward isn’t exactly a rotting corpse.  His heart doesn’t beat, but then, they’d have complained it it did, because vampires are supposed to be dead and gay gay gay gayyyyyyy.

Edward is a proper gentleman who loves her with all his soul, but has an intriguing dark side.  He’s just what you want and expect from a love interest of this genre.  Bella is a conflicted teenager who has fallen head over heels for a love her parents won’t approve of.  She’s someone every girl can empathize with, necessary for this genre.  And the writing wasn’t bad, no matter what anyone tells you.  Clear, with every description leaving you with a strong mental image.

Most importantly, many, many people love this series.  The Twilight Saga has an active and dedicated fanbase.  THAT, more than anything else, is a sign that the author did a good job.  As my mom says when I express pity regarding all the hate that Stephanie Meyer received, “She’s crying all the way to the bank.”