Books I Love But Others Love to Hate – Part 1

Reading is becoming a lost art.  FAR too many people have told me “I don’t read” or “I don’t think I’ve ever actually finished a real book before,” and it makes me want to cry.  And rant.  And (of course) write about it.  (Even though the only people who will read this are actually readers…)

I’m one of those people who became a bookworm and bibliophile the moment I learned to read.  I have my own personal library at home (I have about 140 books), and I’ve read all of them at least once (some of them more than 4 or 5 times).  Needless to say, I’ve read quite a few books – many of which have been novels and series that became popular within the last 5 years.  Of these books (the ones that have recently become popular), a few have been made into movies and therefore become hotly debated topics of conversation because of their added publicity and popularity.

So, in an effort to persuade people who “aren’t readers” to pick up a book “everybody else” is reading, I thought I’d start a series of posts about books I’ve come to love, but others love to hate.  I don’t know how long this series will last (it’s at least worthy of 2 or 3 more posts), but I’ll only cover one book (or series, or author) in each post.

For this post, it seems appropriate that I start with Stephanie Meyer and her books – The Twilight Saga and The Host.

Yes, I’m a Twilight fan – but not for the reasons I know all of you are thinking.  First off, I hate how people tend to lump the movies in with the books and call them the same thing.  They aren’t the same thing!  And this is coming from someone who has actually READ all the books!  Now I must admit, I do like the movies.  Yes, the first couple got off to a rough start because the cast wasn’t that great and they had small budgets, but once they got a little momentum, I think they’re a series of pretty well-made movies with mediocre-to-okay acting.

The books, however, are a whole different story (no pun intended).  I consider Stephanie Meyer to be a good author.  She’s simply a fantastic writer, and even though she’s been accused of taking cliches and somehow “remaking” them without actually remaking them well, her stories are deeper than that.  Beneath those first person narratives, there’s a pervasive theme that’s present in both the Twilight Saga and her novel, The Host: what does it mean to be human?  It’s a prevalent question!  All Meyer does is explore it in the context of a series of fiction novels.  In the Twilight books, the question is about whether vampires are still “human” in the sense that they retain essential elements of their humanity even after they’re changed into vampires.  In The Host, the question is whether the alien species that has invaded the earth and taken over humanity actually has elements of humanity in themselves, and whether being intimately linked with humans makes them more human.

Whether or not you care about these deeper topics, though, I think Meyer’s novels are worth reading simply because they capture a character’s perspective in a way that makes them easy to identify with and easy to understand.  Bella of Twilight and Wanda of The Host are admirable characters, and they have nuances to their personalities that you’re still discovering even as the story is coming to a close.  In short, Meyer’s characterization skills by themselves are worth witnessing.

One final note – because The Host was written after the Twilight Saga, the quality of writing is noticeably better, and it’s written more for an older audience than the Twilight books were.  Even if you’ve read the Twilight books and not liked them, I would still recommend reading The Host simply because it’s so different from the Twilight books.

What are your thoughts on this author?  What was your reaction when you read these books or saw these movies? Does my argument make you want to read them any more than you did before you read this post? I’d be very interested to hear your answers!  As always, thanks for reading!

Visual and Found Poetry – Do They Count?

One thing I’ve often wondered in all the time I’ve been writing poetry is whether Visual and Found Poetry count as legitimate forms of writing…  I don’t deny that these pieces of art are both beautiful and artistic, but do they qualify as poetry, or should they be defined as a type of visual art instead of a form of writing?  Visual poetry (similar to “concrete poetry”) is when an artist (for lack of a better term) uses other artistic means to augment the meaning and impact of his words:

phantoms_by_adorkablexbabyxwhale-d5920oz (http://www.deviantart.com/art/Phantoms-317541635)

Found poetry is a little different: it’s when an artist takes a piece of writing by someone else and picks choice words out of the text to make a new poem.  In essence, they’re using the words of someone else to create their own art:

the_wind_by_mel_face-d3iqkt9

(http://www.deviantart.com/art/The-Wind-212871645)

One specific form of Found Poetry that I find particularly intriguing is called “Title Poetry.”  The artist takes the titles of a number of pieces of artwork (usually but not necessarily pieces of writing) and arranges them in a particular order so that the author creates their own meaning (usually adding small words here and there to make it flow better, such as “and,” “or,” “the,” or “but,” etc.).  I’ve never written any of these forms of poetry, but I’ve read quite a lot of them; I’ve found that while some artists can structure these kinds of pieces so that it really sounds as if they composed the whole thing themselves, many others only succeed in gathering a collection of poetic vocabulary and fail to actually compose a meaningful poem with them:

Destiny bought me a drink

(http://ninquetari.deviantart.com/art/Destiny-bought-me-a-drink-364666837)

Should such pieces of art be classified as poetry?  Certainly they are both forms of art that use more than raw words to create meaning and make their point, so can they really be defined as writing?  I think some writers (James Joyce being a prime example) would argue that the aesthetics of a text matter a great deal – that they enhance the meaning behind what was written and help the author to communicate his intent.  But is this what they meant by “the aesthetics of the text”?

run_away_with_me__by_dearpoetry-d5d1sxy

(http://dearpoetry.deviantart.com/art/Promises-to-Monsters-324250054)

I think many other writers would argue that Visual and Found Poetry are not forms of true literature because they use too much visual help to augment the meaning of their words.  It can be argued, then, that “true literature” is writing that can stand on its own without the help of any extra visual aid.  Oh, and “found poetry” is just plagiarism.

reality_by_jay_cougar-d54ef2t

(http://www.deviantart.com/art/Reality-309722069)

But what do you think?  Can you “pick a side,” or do you have your own perspective on the subject?  I would love to hear about all your thoughts in the comments!

Publishing… And All It’s Difficulties

Hello readers!  This time I’ve got a video for you about the publishing process.  The guy talking is George Wier, author of the Bill Travis Mysteries.

 

I think this topic is interesting in that there are a lot of ways you can approach it, yet the conclusions you can reach at the end are actually few in number.  Wier makes the point that the “traditional publishing route” is extrememly hard and long, but it’s the “normal” way, and it’s the established/proven/”safe” way.  What I mean by “safe” is that you know you’re doing someting right when you try getting published that way because (to continue the analogy) it’s a well-traveled path – lots of people had tried it and failed, and a few have tried it and succeeded.  The facts say that the chances are stacked agaist you whether you’re a genious writer like Terry Goodkind, or just someone trying to make their living as a writer by putting in their very first novel for publication (i.e. someone like future-me…).

And yet, who’s to stop you?  I mean, Wier talks about two other approaches to publishing (but leaves out the whole idea of self-publinshing…), but what’s wrong with simply having hope and trying your best?  Yes, yes – *sigh* – I know I’m sounding very naive right now, but what’s wrong with makeing a plan for your life based on the future success you think you can acheive?  I know this post is starting to sound more like a pep-talk now, but I think this needs to be said: there may be facts.  There may be odds.  There may even be – wait for it – opposition! But why should that discourage you (I mean, us) from doing things the way we can and want to do them?

I happen to be one of those people who thinks that if you want to succeed at something, you should educate yourself as best you can and then try to do your best to succeed in that endeavor by and means that are available until you do succeed.  In this case (in my case), that means trying the established ways first, and then, if those established ways prove to fail, the less conventional ways.

In other words, if I want to be a successful, published author, I should get myself as prepared and trained as possible and then try to get myself published through the ordinary, traditional way first.  If that doesn’t work, then I’ll try other means, working my way through my list of options until I find one that works.

What I’m trying to say is, if you want to do something, TRY IT before you get discouraged.  Don’t freak out from the first moment you hear the oppostion and odds…  That’s just a recipe for failure – in fact, doing that gets you a day or two’s travel down that road already.  I think that is what we can learn from this video more than anything else.

The Role of the Reader

Style: something that defines the work of any single author, regardless of content. Anyone can write about 18th century England, but only Charles Dickens can make the reader see, smell, hear and feel every detail of the setting he has chosen with such skill. Anyone can write advice to Christians living in a pagan world, but only C.S. Lewis can write with such ingenious wording that it leaves the reader in awe of how perfectly the phrasing was. Anyone can write a fantasy fiction story about weird and fantastic creatures and events, but only J.R.R. Tolkien can weave a story so complex and awe-inspiring that it leaves readers at a loss.

And the key words there? Style and reader. The connection between the two cannot be stressed enough.

Why do we write? Many would answer with responses like, “because I can be myself – I can pour myself out in a way that is beautiful and artistic.” Others would say, “because to create is to be fulfilled.” Still others say that writing is a way to speak – to communicate. And yet, whatever we might say, do we not always write with the expectation that what we create will be read? Are we not always proud of our creation? Do we want it shown to the world? Maybe the thought is as frightening as it is attractive, but the idea is eternally in our minds.

The importance of a writer’s audience, then, is plain. And style? Style is the way a writer actually communicates with his or her readers. It’s the unspoken words and the underlying message. It’s the story behind the words and the emotion behind the description. It’s the attitude beneath the phrasing, and the passion in the ink. Style, I say, is the medium with which we put pen to paper – it is the filter that stands between the creative waterfall originating from our hearts and minds, and the pool of words and ink that etch themselves into the paper.

Whatever idea may occur to us (inspiration, emotion, plot-line, character personality…), it is always tempered by what we perceive our audience will think of our writing. Is it realistic? you ask yourself. Is it believable? Or, if that’s not applicable to your genre of writing, does this make sense? you might ask. Is this understandable? Editing is a task that ensures clarity and correct attention to detail – why bother if we don’t are about the audience? In fact, why even draft the stuff if not for the pleasure of presenting it?

Audience, I believe, plays a part in every act of writing, no matter the content, style, author, genre, or even inspiration. Author and audience – writer and reader – are bound by bonds invisible but undisputable.