The Momentum Blog
Posted August 7, 2015 by Emily Stamm
These days, Hollywood can’t seem to get enough of rebooting our favorite books into gritty dystopian movies and television shows. The latest beloved classic to suffer this fate is Little Women. The loving sisters are going to be uncovering conspiracies and trying not to kill each other in Philadelphia, while we watch and wonder how on Earth someone thought this was a good idea.
Let’s take a look at how we could remake five other childhood favorites into ridiculous television drama or made for t.v. movies.
The Secret Garden
After her parents are murdered, sixteen-year old Mary Lennox is sent to live with her reclusive uncle. She’s miserable until she discovers a mysterious locked garden…with an attractive boy inside! Mary breaks into the garden and is shocked to discover that eighteen year old Dickon is running her uncle’s opium smuggling operation out of…The Secret Garden. We’ll kill cousin Colin off early, throw in a dash of star-crossed lovers from different socioeconomic backgrounds, and BAM! You’ve got a hit.
Wilbur the pig is shunned by the other barnyard animals, until Charlotte the spider takes an interest in him. She is the leader behind a group of animals who want to revolt against humans and take their lives into their own hands. Charlotte comes with with a scheme to spell words in her webs, manipulating the humans to think that Wilbur is chosen by God and should not be slaughtered after the fair. She begins convincing them that he should be set free, along with all the other farm animals, but is tragically killed in childbirth before her plan can come to fruition. Almost all of her children flee as soon as they hatch, but three remain behind to carry on her fight to free the animals.
Anne of Green Gables
Anne’s parents are killed by rival wizards when she is a baby, leaving her to float from foster home to orphanage and back again. When she is in her early teens, she is accidentally sent to the Cuthberts on Prince Edward Island. Furious that she isn’t a boy, they threaten to send her back. Anne casts a spell that makes them, and the entire town, adore her. The wizards who killed her parents find Anne, and she must battle them while maintaining her spell on the town. Scenes of note include the wizards changing the raspberry cordial into currant wine in order to discredit Anne; Wizards trying to kill Anne, but instead killing Matthew; and Anne becoming a powerful enough witch to teach at the Prince Edward Island equivalent to Hogwarts.
A Little Princess
Young Sara Crewe is taken by her father to one of the best boarding schools on the moon in 2075. Knowing her father is a rich explorer who has been doubling his fortune every five years on Mars, they treat her like a little princess. A few years later, the school receives word that Captain Crewe’s whole team was lost on Mars during a dust storm, and he was most certainly dead. The school, especially the headmistress, begin treating Sara like a servant. She regularly has to go outside in a spacesuit to collect rocks and clean dust off the solar panels (because space). Meanwhile, a mysterious man moves in next door to the school. He slowly recovers his memory, and realizes that he was the lead scientist on Captain Crewe’s mission, and that’s why he has a research monkey living with him. The monkey escapes (in a tiny monkey spacesuit) and Sara finds him while cleaning solar panels. When returning the monkey to the mysterious stranger, they learn of their connection.
Bonus sequel: The mysterious stranger and Sara go back to Mars to try and recover Captain Crewe’s body. Once there, they find that the whole crew has become zombies. Space zombies.
Little House on the Prairie
A few decades after most of the world was wiped out by nuclear bombs, the Ingalls family struggles to survive in the desolate wasteland that was once America. If we change the tone of the narrator from unending optimism to resignation, we can even keep most of the major plot points the same! Everyone gets malaria, sister Mary goes blind, locusts eat all the crops, nuclear winter strands the family in their log cabin, and there are so many chores to be done. Think of the possibilities for costumes! Special effects! Dramatic acting! There is no way this wouldn’t be a hit.
Whether you love them or hate them, we want to hear your thoughts on the gritty reboot trend. Do you have any hope at all for the new Little Women series?Tagged: Books, fantasy, fiction, gritty reboots, hollywood, list, Little Women, Little Women remake, movies, remakes, Sci-Fi, television, zombies
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Posted April 20, 2015 by Eve Merrier
At this Easterish, springlike time of year, the mind inevitably turns to bunnies. Here is my rabbit ranking of the best.
- Peter Rabbit. This is number one because my partner just said ‘Peter Rabbit better be number one’, and I have to live with the guy. My partner, not the rabbit. He’s gutsy, adventurous, perhaps rather incautious, and insists on going into other people’s gardens. My partner, not the rabbit.
- The White Rabbit is the very reason Alice goes down the rabbit hole into Wonderland. He is the catalyst for one of literature’s most famous adventures. And he has an enviable pocket watch.
- In Jon Klassen’s I Want My Hat Back, a bear asks all the forest creatures whether they have seen his hat. The rabbit denies that he has while sporting something atop his head that looks suspiciously like the missing item. For gumption alone this rabbit makes the list.
- All the rabbits in Watership Down deserves to be listed, but my favourite was Fiver, the littlest one who could tell the future. I learnt from Watership Down that rabbits can’t count above five. I think that’s just the loveliest non-fact.
- In the novel Chocolat, the daughter of the main character has an imaginary rabbit friend called Pantoufle, which is French for slipper. I find this adorable.
- The Velveteen Rabbit transforms from a stuffed toy into a real life rabbit in the most heartbreakingly gorgeous way: we all learn what it means to be really real.
- Miffy feels very modern to me, but in fact has been around for over 60 years. Stylised with a limited palette, every book has twelve pages with four lines of verse on each. She’s also become an emblem for ecological activism, which is pretty awesome.
- Rabbit from Winnie-the-Pooh likes to come up with elaborate plans and generally lead and scold the other animals of the Hundred Acre Wood. He is very keen on his friends and relations, claiming that he would need “seventeen pockets” if he were going to carry them about with him.
- When God Was a Rabbit is named after God, a pet rabbit given to the main character, Elly by her brother. It is a constant companion during her childhood. It’s a compelling novel about sibling love and growing up.
Who would you add to the list? Comments please!Tagged: Alice in Wonderland, Beatrix Potter, Chocolat, Easter, fiction, Jon Klassen, Miffy, Peter Rabbit, rabbits, Sarah Winman, Spring, Watership Down
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Posted March 26, 2015 by Eve Merrier
If characters stay the same their actions are usually predictable and stories can lack edge and excitement. That isn’t always a bad thing: Winnie the Pooh is always going to like honey and be gently philosophical. That’s his thing and it works for him. However, for humans, change is natural and inevitable as we adapt to new situations.
A classic way to show this is to have a character enjoy a thing, almost to the point of obsession at the beginning of the book, before abandoning it for more important things later on. This can be classed as Shifting Priorities. At the start Angela goes into every comic book shop she sees. At the end she passes one, pauses, and walks on, because she has to be somewhere more important.
A change of appearance can be used to similar effect. At the start of the book Julia polishes her shield each morning so she can have the shiniest armour. By the end it’s battered and filthy, but it’s still doing it’s job and she no longer cares.
Another way to demonstrate development is through Overcoming. We’ve established that Joe has a fear of public speaking. At the end of the book he has to rally a dissident army of apocalypse survivors. His ability to do this shows growth.
A character arc can be a skillful way of introducing a parallel Conflict: The character’s internal strife can mirror the conflict in the plot. This could be in the form of a necessary Moral Adjustment wherein the character must reconsider their ethical position. This could go either way: ‘good’ characters might have to compromise their ethics, or ‘bad’ characters might rethink their world domination plans because they adopt adorable children (I’m thinking Despicable Me here). When a morally questionable person softens, this can also be called Badass Decay. Don’t soften them up too much!
In the most convincing character arcs, change usually happens gradually, for example with a gradual erosion of long-held beliefs, or a slow building of confidence. The Coming of Age paradigm is one of the best places to see this.
Perhaps your character doesn’t need to change fundamentally, but only in the eyes of the reader. We’ll call this revealing Hidden Depths. Maybe Snape didn’t hate Harry so much after all…
Change to avoid:
Flanderization – when a character becomes defined by a prominent quirk or mannerism.
Character derailment – when a character does something that does not compute with what anyone knows about them so far with no decent motive.
Can you think of any good (or terrible) examples of character arcs?Tagged: Badass Decay, change, character arc, character development, coming of age, conflict, Despicable Me, fiction, good and evil, hidden depths, moral adjustment, Ned Flanders, The 100, writing
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Posted March 10, 2015 by Eve Merrier
[A] quotation is a handy thing to have about, saving one the trouble of thinking for oneself, always a laborious business. ― A.A. Milne, If I May
‘Epigraph’ is the name for a quote from an author that appears at the start of another’s book, chapter, story or essay. In general I think they’re a lovely idea. They usually set the mood, tone or theme for the forthcoming word extravaganza. José Saramago said, “Anyone who doesn’t have the patience to read my books can at least cast their eyes over the epigraphs and they’ll learn everything from there.”Moreover, they make me feel like I’m in safe hands. An epigraph says to me: It’s OK, relax, here’s a writer who reads other great writers; they’ve put the research in and they know what they’re doing.
The genre and themes are set at the beginning of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein with this:
Did I request thee, Maker, from my clay
To mould me Man, did I solicit thee
From darkness to promote me? — Paradise Lost, X, 743-45
These could be the words of the monster.
One Day by David Nicholls plumps first for a Philip Larkin poem to frame the whole book, then introduces its first chapter with Dickens:
That was a memorable day to me, for it made great changes in me. But it is the same with any life. Imagine one selected day struck out of it, and think how different its course would have been. Pause you who read this, and think for a moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation of the first link on one memorable day. ― Charles Dickens, Great Expectations
The book, for those who haven’t read it, is based on the same date each year in the lives of two friends. The pertinence of the quote is evident.
Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird has perhaps the most perfect epigraph:
Lawyers, I suppose, were children once. – Charles Lamb
John le Carré is a fan of the epigraph. His 1999 book, Single and Single uses not a quote from a fellow author, but from a legal declaration. It is many levels of intriguing, and wholly in-keeping with his criminal/espionage/corruption genre:
Human Blood is a commodity. -US Federal Trade Commission, 1966
There’s no reason a quote should be literary; meaning can be found in unexpected places, as demonstrated by T. Michael Martin in The End Games:
Everything not saved will be lost. –Nintendo “Quit Screen” message
Alice Walker begins The Color Purple with Stevie Wonder:
Show me how to do like you
Show me how to do it.
The device has been used and adapted in modern literature, with the rise of the fictional epigraph: John Green quotes a book he invented in The Fault in Our Stars, as does Jasper Fforde in his Thursday Next series. Postmodernism loves a meta epigraph.
It is important to ensure that the epigraph has keen relevance: a hastily Googled Shakespearean couplet might not add the desired erudition of it’s not on point. Even if the pertinence isn’t immediately relevant, they can serve as a real treat for re-readers.
Do you like or use epigraphs? Do you have a favourite?
Pictures from the brilliant Epigraphic.Tagged: Alice Walker, Charles Dickens, David Nicholls, epigraph, epigraphic, fiction, Harper Lee, Jasper Fforde, John Green, Mary Shelley, Philip Larkin, quotations, T. Michael Martin
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Posted February 3, 2015 by Michelle Cameron
Gaelland is a nation gripped by fear.
In the country, fishing boats return with their crews mysteriously vanished, while farms are left empty, their owners gone into the night, meals still on the table. In the cities, children disappear from the streets or even out of their own beds. The King tells his people that it is the work of selkies – mythical creatures who can turn from seals into men and back again – and witches. But no matter how many women he burns at the stake, the children are still being taken. Fallon is a man who has always dreamed of being a hero. His wife Bridgit just wants to live in peace and quiet, and to escape the tragedies that have filled her life. His greatest wish and her worst nightmare are about to collide. When an empty ship sails into their village, he begins to follow the trail towards the truth behind the evil stalking their land. But it is a journey that will take them both into a dark, dark place and nobody can tell them where it might end …
The Last Quarrel Episode One is now for sale. All other episodes are available for pre-order.
Tagged: Books, cover reveal, fantasy, fiction, reading
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Posted January 23, 2015 by Eve Merrier
This week I read Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane. It’s very special. One of its best qualities is the blend of ordinariness with the fantastical. This is epitomised by the eponymous ocean, which looks like a duck pond. It struck me that all the best means of travel through space, time, and various other dimensions, are ordinary. Or at least they look it. That’s the joy of it: bringing the magic into the real world, making it feel like you just have to find the right wardrobe…
Narnia is a good place to start. The wardrobe is, of course, the most iconic means of reaching Aslan’s realm, but you can also get there via train platforms, with magical rings given to you by a sinister uncle, or through a picture in your aunt and uncle’s spare bedroom.
Fireplaces work well too. Not to take you to a different world, but to travel around Harry Potter’s version of our own. The traveller also needs to be in possession of Floo powder and to speak the name of the place they want to go to. Apparently, it’s also important to keep your elbows in. I think I might start telling children that Santa Claus is Dumbledore’s brother, travelling by Floo.
The TARDIS may be iconic these days, but the UK used to be covered in police boxes, so it was a subtle way to travel. The interiors of the boxes used to be used as mini police stations, so you could, quite easily, plop it down anywhere and step out without anyone batting an eyelid.
Powered by the fire, the innocuous wooden door of Howl’s Moving Castle has a dial to turn, depending on where you’d like to step out. This works no matter where the castle is. The flower meadow, which Howl is showing Sophie for the first time below, is my happy place.
In Yonderland, the funniest TV series in existence, the pantry functions as a portal. Debbie is a suburban English mum, and a bit bored, until and elf appears from her cupboard, insisting that she is The Chosen One and must save Yonderland. Though they’ve lost the scroll that says how she’s supposed to do it. Each episode, they venture through her pantry to a magical realm, ensuring she’s home in time to pick up the kids. Watch a clip.
Fiction is also full of swirling wormholes, rips in time and high tech teleporters. They’re cool too. But I think there’s something truly excellent in using the ordinary as the basis for the extraordinary. The more closely it resembles our world, the easier it is to believe in magic.anime, Books, C. S. Lewis, Diana Wynne Jones, doctor who, fantasy, fiction, Floo, Harry Potter, Howl's Moving Castle, J.K. Rowling, Miyazaki, Narnia, neil gaiman, police box, portals, science fiction, Studio Ghibli, tardis, teleportation, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, time travel, writers, Yonderland
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Posted October 29, 2014 by Michelle Cameron
I am in a world deeply strange and strangely deep, a world as different from my old life as it’s possible to be, and it feels completely natural.
An unexpected encounter with a handsome stranger in a Russian wood changes the life of 22-year-old traveler Helen Clement forever, catapulting her into a high-stakes world of passion, danger, and mystery. Tested in ways she could never have imagined, she must keep her own integrity in a world where dark forces threaten and ruthlessness and betrayal haunt every day.
Set against a rising tide of magic and the paranormal in a modern Russia where the terrifying past continually leaks into the turbulent present, Trinity is a unique and gripping blend of conspiracy thriller, erotically charged romance and elements of the supernatural, laced with a murderous dose of company politics. With its roots deep in the fertile soil of Russian myth, legend, and history, it is also a fascinating glimpse into an extraordinary, distinctive country and amazingly rich culture.
Trinity comes out on November 13 in all good ebook retailers!Tagged: fiction, koldun code, romance, sophie masson, trinity, Urban Fantasy
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Posted August 21, 2014 by Craig Hildebrand-Burke
We lost a teacher last week.
A teacher whose presence seemed to dominate all representations of teaching in films and books, to the point where graduate teachers around the world still grapple with the impossibility of measuring up to a classroom of students standing on their desks calling out ‘Oh captain my captain!’
And while this post was initially drafted with this teacher’s inclusion, I’m going to leave him out of this list now because, well, frankly John Keating in Dead Poets Society can sit alongside Mr Chipping in Goodbye Mr Chips as logical, foregone conclusions when it comes to handing out positions for Best Fictional Teacher.
So, in the spirit of seizing the educational day– and in memoriam – here’s my list of the 10 Best Fictional Teachers.
10. Walter White – Breaking Bad
Okay, maybe not the greatest person, but if there’s one thing to be gained from Mr White’s inexorable descent into villainy, it’s his ability to teach. Here we have a teacher who takes a student with no interest in learning, only in the results, and turns them into a perfect graduate (we’ll just ignore what happens later on to this perfect graduate, especially in the last few episodes, but hey, he still learned good).
If there’s one thing good teachers should do it’s love their subject, and when it comes to the production of methamphetamine, well Mr White certainly loves what he teaches.
9. Mr Collins – The Wonder Years
He only appeared in three epsidoes, most memorably in ‘Good-bye’, but Mr Collins seems to dominate my entire memory of The Wonder Years. In a really short space of time, the show seemed to encapsulate everything that great teaching is to me, particularly in the little dance Mr Collins has with Kevin where he can see through the student’s lies, but knows he must play along so that Kevin can learn from failure, from effort, and from life.
And ultimately, despite everything, good teachers never die.
8. Grady Tripp – Wonder Boys
Okay, he might be disinterested and under the influence most of the time, and in the position for the tenure, the time he gets to work on his novel, and the proximity to the Dean’s wife, but Grady Tripp does get quite a few things right about teaching.
Most importantly, he understands that teachers don’t have to teach everyone to an A, and that not all students have the same path: ‘You tell them what you know, you tell them to find their voice and stay with it, you tell the ones that have it to keep at it, and you tell the ones that don’t have it to keep at it because that’s the only way they’ll get to where they’re going.’
7. Charles Xavier – X-Men
He has a school for mutants. Pretty much a great teacher there. But most importantly, Professor X takes them all in: regardless of shape, size, skill and colour, despite how much property damage they might inflict on the school, he’s happy to have everyone there.
6. Indiana Jones – Raides of the Lost Ark
Some of my favourite moments in the Indiana Jones films are watching the adventurous archaelogist hero grapple with returning to the classroom, and the unending demands of his students.
But also, there’s a fair bit of vicarious enthusiasm for any teacher, imagining that all they need to do is put on a hat and jump out a window, and they can take all their educational skills off to some far flung jungle to retrieve a lost artifact.
5. Edna Krabappel – The Simpsons
Ever-present (until the end) at the front of the 4th-grade classroom, Mrs Krabappel ended up becoming one of the most consitent teacher figures for anyone who grew up with The Simpsons. But the best thing of all was that despite her flaws as a sympathetic teacher, she was bold enough to show her students that all teachers are people, and have to go home at the end of the day, especially in episodes like ‘Bart the Lover’.
4. Jake Epping – 11/22/63
I had to work one Stephen King teacher in here, especially as King battled through being an underpaid teacher before his career took off. This is probably his most developed teacher character, with Epping not only travelling back in time to try and prevent the Kennedy assassination, but also attempting to fix the childhood of one of his students. On top of that, he doesn’t just go back in time, he goes back in time and becomes the most important teacher for a whole bunch of students in the 1960s, particularly when he convinces the star football player to take the lead in the school play.
3. Laura Roslin – Battlestar Galactica
Teachers in charge of humanity! How great is this premise, and installing the politically inexperienced, but morally driven Roslin as the President of the Twelve Colonies is one of the best updates the remake brought to the series. Despite the emphasis on Adama, Starbuck and the completely unhinged Baltar in Battlestar Galactica’s reception, it’s Roslin for me that makes the show, and binds all the characters and storylines together in a way that grounds the space opera in a reality.
2. Roland Pryzbylewski – The Wire
Prez’s arc of the different seasons of The Wire is possibly one of the most interesting, given that he’s one of the few characters offered up that appears capable of positive change. From terrible cop to conscientious teacher, Prez’s change is contrasted against a broken education system that is static beyond belief, even with everybody’s best intentions.
This is just about the truest depiction of teaching I’ve ever seen, particularly in Prez’s inability to change anything about the school, system or his students’ lives, even when he has success in the classroom.
1. Albus Dumbledore – Harry Potter series
Okay, well this is probably pretty obvious. But for me there’s two reasons. Firstly, I grew up in a boarding school, and so the structure, style and nature of the teachers in the series was altogether very familiar, particularly the godfatherly presence Dumbeldore seems to have over the school.
But most of all, he embodies excellent aspects of good teaching – particularly in The Half-Blood Prince – in that he models at all times just and fair behaviour, and is prepared to provide an environment for the students where they can discover this without coersion. The lessons from Dumbledore have nothing to do with practical, everyday skills, but about being a good person, and living a good life.
Seriously, the chapters where Harry and Dumbledore investigate the horcruxes are some of the best in the series. Good teaching.Tagged: characters, fiction, teachers, teaching, writing
Posted March 20, 2014 by Mark
Ok, spoilers for several major films and TV series ahead. Space is dangerous, space is cold, space is cruel. So you have the opportunity to go out in a pretty spectacular blaze of glory if you’re a character in a science fiction story. Here are a few epic ways to kick the bucket in space.
Ok, and once more just in case….SPOILER WARNING
Heroic spacewalk sacrifice
The above clip is from the French dub of the terrible film Mission to Mars, but it’s the best scene in the entire movie. You’ve become detached from your fellow astronauts and your ship, you’re floating away and the only thing you can do is stop your friends from trying to come after you. Tim Robbins has a sure fire way to make sure that doesn’t happen.
Blasted out an airlock
Poor Cally from Battlestar Galactica. She’d just uncovered the truth about the cylons hidden on the ship, but got blasted out into space before she could tell anyone. Once that airlock opens, there’s no way you can survive unless your name is Sigourney.
Vaporised by the Sun
This is what happens when you don’t put on the correct sunblock.
Give birth to an alien
John Hurt, it looks like that HURTS. See what I did there?
Evil computer takes you out
There were some things HAL 9000 famously couldn’t do. Opening pod bay doors for example. But there were many things he could do. Pilot a ship to Jupiter. Sing ‘Daisy’. And, of course, KILL.
Tagged: fiction, film, list, science fiction, space, television, tv
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Posted March 19, 2014 by Mark
Flu season is almost here so I thought it would be a good time to look at some horrible diseases from fiction. Most of these will get you a lot more than three days off work…
Captain Trips (The Stand by Stephen King)
A highly contagious, constantly mutating flu-like virus that is fatal in 99.4% of cases. Starts as a cough and ends in brutal death. Originally developed as a weapon.
The Phage (Star Trek: Voyager)
A disease that kills off organs and other body parts, the only effective treatment is replacement of the infected organs.
Greyscale (A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin)
A flesh-based disease that leaves its victims disfigured but can lead to madness and/or death.
“My only regret…is that I have…bone-itis!” It’s a horrific disease that, if left untreated, kills you by snapping every bone in your body.
Solanum Virus (World War Z by Max Brooks)
A virus that attacks the human brain, killing the host and then reanimating them as a flesh-eating zombie.
The Pulse (Cell by Stephen King)
Another brain-attacking virus, this one also turns the host into a flesh-eating zombie. But this one is spread by a mobile phone signal. Most phone companies would charge extra for that.
Rage (28 Days Later)
The rage virus is highly contagious and develops in seconds, turning the victim into a mindless rage machine, driven to violence and nothing more.
Vampirus (I Am Legend by Richard Matheson)
This diseases causes light-sensitivity, tooth growth, and compels its victims to drink blood and appear in bad Will Smith movies.
Meningoencephalitis Virus One (Contagion)
A flu-like virus that starts as a severe cough and ends with brain haemorrhage. This movie’s tag line should have been, ‘Nothing spreads like fear. Except meningoencephalitis virus one.’
Dave’s Syndrome (Black Books)
If a sufferer of Dave’s Syndrome is exposed to a temperature over 88°F, they’ll go on a Hulk-like rampage, usually involving a loincloth of some sort. Heat-be-gone-booties are not good at preventing an episode.
Irumodic Syndrome (Star Trek: The Next Generation)
A neurological condition that degrades the synaptic pathways leading to memory loss and confusion.
Uromysitisis Poisoning (Seinfeld)
A potentially fatal illness that’s caused when the victim fails to relieve themselves.Tagged: diseases, fiction, horror, list, star trek, stephen king, the stand, thriller
Posted November 27, 2013 by Craig Hildebrand-Burke
Recently I finished reading John Safran’s new true crime book Murder in Mississippi, and like most in the genre, it was clear that the bulk of the narrative is there to clear up what happened, who was involved, and why. Ultimately, it’s a search for truth.
What else resonates with this book and other true crime stories, is that the more you look the less you know. Safran comments that if he visits a town and interviews one person, he leaves that town with a very clear, definite idea of the place, of the incident, and of the person that he met. However, if he stayed just a day longer, or talked for a bit more, or to someone else, that definite idea suddenly becomes less clear. The more he looks, the less he knows.
While this is patently obvious in the sense that one does need to investigate further in order to understand the complexity, it does reveal the goal of a story: tell the truth.
Is this true in other styles of writing, other genres?
It’s often said that writers starting out should write what they know.
It’s also said that writing what you know is crap, that writing fiction is clearly about writing unknowns.
I like to think it comes from a bit of both. For example, you can write about what you know and then start to creep into territories that are yet to be found. Imbue and extend the known world into undiscovered countries. Or, write about something completely different and distinct from yourself, but then enrich it with details and sensibilities brought from your own parallel experiences. So, either way, whether you’re starting with what you know or what you don’t know, you seem to end up in the same place.
This is where the truth comes in. Somewhere, in the middle of what you know and what you don’t know, there’s the truth. And that’s the story.
‘To read fiction means to play a game by which we give sense to the immensity of things that happened, are happening, or will happen in the actual world. By reading narrative we escape the anxiety that attacks us when we try to say something true about the world. This is the consoling function of narrative – the reason people tell stories, and have told stories from the beginning of time.’
So stories are told in order to get at the truth. This is the glorious nature of fiction for me. By the concoction of a fiction, of a lie, we get to a truth. By obfuscation and masquerading, we reveal.
The writer is allowed to lie and deceive the reader, take them somewhere that doesn’t actually exist. But then, by the end, the truth is revealed. We were talking about the real world all along; we were writing and reading about fictions, and all the while a growing realisation occurs. The real world has changed, we see it differently now, a truth – no matter how small or how large – has been revealed.
For Safran, and I assume any investigation into a known event, the more you know the less you’re certain.We all know Oswald shot Kennedy. Or do we? Maybe he did, but why? Maybe he had help, but who? Life doesn’t fit itself into three acts, or developed arcs, or moments of revelation. We aren’t all on a hero’s quest. We don’t all cross thresholds from ordinary worlds into extraordinary worlds, charged with creating our own mythology. The more we look at life, the less it is a story.
Story is rather the way we can look at life and understand it. Make sense of the disorder and discontinuous moments. We rely on pattern recognition to read, to communicate, to recognise and interact in our daily lives – the use of narrative is merely another pattern we overlay in order to get to an understanding.
The emergence and reliance on tropes and archetypes, genre and style is evidence enough that we can – as readers or writers – take a gathering of events and orchestrate them into a fashion, a pattern, that makes them coherent. The more we sift through the confusion, the more we explore the complexities, the more we can make sense of the uncertainty.
So write what you know. Write what you don’t know. Write both. It doesn’t matter. Somewhere in the middle is the truth, and that’s worth aiming for. Never one to dress up the facts, Hemingway said that ‘all you have to do is write one true sentence, write the truest sentence you know.’ Whatever that might be, it’s worth trying to find out.Tagged: advice, fiction, genre, true crime, writers, writing
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Posted October 18, 2012 by Anne
Today we have the pleasure of unveiling the covers for the first two books in Chris Allen‘s Intrepid series. Starring the dashing Intrepid agent Alex Morgan – policeman, soldier and spy – Defender will be released on November 1, followed closely by Hunter in December.
You can pre-order both books by clicking on the links and choosing your favoured retailer. Defender is available for the excellent price of $2.99 and Hunter has a special pre-order price of $4.99 for a limited time.
Tagged: Alex Morgan, book cover, Books, Chris Allen, Defender, design, fiction, Hunter, Intrepid, soldier, spy
Posted August 22, 2012 by Anne
“We need to make books cool again. If you go home with somebody and they don’t have books, don’t fuck them.” – John Waters
That’s all very well and good, but these days you don’t need to take someone home for them to be able to see your bookshelf. You just need to show them your device. No not that device.
So before you go all the way home with your date, ask them to hand over their e-reading device. Take a quick look at their library, and use this handy guide to what your date’s taste in books says about them as a lover.
Chuck Palahniuk/Bret Easton Ellis/Philip Roth
If you bruise easily you may want to exercise caution.
Jonathan Franzen/Haruki Murakami/David Foster Wallace
You might need to pull the “shut up and kiss me” routine with this windbag, but once you’ve got things underway you can likely expect this lover to last the distance.
Thomas L. Friedman/Tim Flannery/Michael Pollan
I hope you like body hair. [Um, I wrote that before I saw the above photo and now I’m kind of all turned around on the subject. He’s holding Hot, Flat and Crowded, by the way.]
Richard Dawkins/Christopher Hitchens/Sam Harris
If you’re one of those people who has a tendency toward “oh god” exclamations during sexual activity you may want to tone that down.
Diana Gabaldon/Nora Roberts/Jodi Picoult
There will definitely be cuddling after sex, quite possibly prior to and during the act also. Suffocation warning, and not the good type either.
George R. R. Martin/Robert Jordan/Raymond E Feist
This date has no problem with commitment or patience. Likely to be a dedicated lover, but may require a detailed map. When it comes to the cut and thrust part of the night, expect great things.
Anthony Bourdain/Marco Pierre White/Gabrielle Hamilton
Likely to have an excellent appetite, and a willingness to eat out, if you know what I mean.
Charlaine Harris/Anne Rice/Stephen King
Watch out for teeth. If you like that type of thing, by all means, take this one home. But look, you may want to lay down towels. Could get messy.
Stephanie Meyer/J.K. Rowling/Suzanne Collins
Ask to see their ID and double check their birth date.
Definitely, definitely fuck them.Tagged: Books, Bret Easton Ellis, Chuck Palahniuk, dating, e-reader, ebooks, ereading, fiction, Jonathan Franzen, library, list, non-fiction, Philip Roth, reading, romance, sex
Posted August 9, 2012 by Emilia Bresciani
I wrote The Raw Scent of Vanilla as a memoir through the lens of magic realism. In Latin America, where the genre of magic realism originated, daily life is imbued with what many would call ‘raw magic’. It’s all a product of sacrifice and sorrows, Catholic ceremonies, Andean mysticism, Amazonian animism and, an spicy imagination that come to affect daily reality. In the end, the view of life becomes almost multidimensional. Spirits are alive, the dead become companions, curses cause diseases and shamans work their magic. In other words, magic realism is not only a genre of literature, but a way of viewing life. As a writer born in Peru, it is natural for me to also look at life under such colourful lens.
But what is magic realism, the literary genre? It has a number of definitions. For me who learned from Gabriel Garcia Marquez, author of One Hundred Years of Solitude, magic realism is simply realism with a twist. In the genre of fantasy, the world is created with different rules; in realism the world is shaped by conventional wisdom. In magic realism however, one or two elements in the story break the rules and disrupt the fabric of realism. The rupture is the result of imbuing reality with added meaning or symbolism. It also occurs by creating a twist in the reality. How we present the twist is up to the writer as I did with this memoir
It may be that some people believe that a memoir cannot be written with the plume of magic realism because it deals with facts. True, a memoir is a collection ‘real’ moments in life experienced by an individual who has a story to tell. But this factualism can be done through a narrative that reflects feelings, dreams, conflicts and aspirations. Our dreams can add colour to our narrative. Our feelings give meaning to our life allowing us to interpret it. For example, I chose to give meaning to my pain by looking at how my ancestors’ culture dealt with tragedy, and how this view affected my reaction to it. In the process I learned how tragedy was transforming my life. Time of course helped. It was the effect of time that allowed for the transformation to occur. Time provided the distance, and distance revealed the meaning.
Maybe not all of us need to find meaning in life. And that is fine. For me, writing the way I did was beneficial because I could make meaning of my ancestors’ story. Interpreting their story the way I did allowed me to deal with the painful events that took place in my life. At the same time, writing under the lens of magic realism allowed me to unleash my creativity and reach planes I never thought I could. The process filled me with excitement and delight. This, I believe, is the magic of life.
Emilia Bresciani was a television journalist before her husband was tragically killed, and she became the prime suspect in the murder investigation. Her memoir is an account of her life around the tragedy. Read more here.Tagged: digital publishing, ebooks, fantasy, fiction, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, genre, magic realism, memoir, reading, writing
Posted July 30, 2012 by Mark
Here are the most popular blog posts for the last week. Click the headings to read the full posts:
– Why aren’t you paid more?
Because I’m not a professional athlete…
I’ve been thinking about action heroes lately, inspired by the August release of This Green Hell by Greig Beck, the third book to feature kick-ass hero Alex Hunter. Here’s my list of ten noteworthy action stars…
An author friend of mine was talking to another author friend of his about the large number of women who read his books. This surprised him. His books are for the most part military thrillers in which the main character (often a man) shoots and explodes his way through his problems, usually scooping up a lady friend along the way for extracurricular fun. This shooting of problems and gratuitous sexy times, said the author’s friend, did not make any of his novels a boy’s book…
I’m a huge fan of having things beamed directly into my brain, so obviously podcasts are just about my favourite way to pass the time. Well, that and reading books. My favourite podcasts up until now have been largely pop culture-themed – This American Life, Marc Maron’s WTF podcast, all of the Slate podcasts (with the exception of the sports one because what? But if someone wants to make a good argument in favour of it I’m all ears), WNYC-created Alec Baldwin’s Here’s The Thing and RadioLab, and the always salacious Risk…
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Tagged: fiction, list, podcast, Posts With Momentum
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