On Resurrecting Characters

If you got excited at the thought of me writing zombie fiction, then I’m sorry to disappoint (I’m still too completely terrified of all zombie-related things).

When I was 17 I wrote a young adult novel. I was young and stupid and I’m not afraid to admit it now. I naively thought that this was the book, the one that was going to jettison me to the top of the New York Times bestseller list.

Then I woke up at 21 and realized that it was 53,000 words of utter disaster. My main character was telling the story in first person, yet she had an omniscient look into the other character’s lives. There were plot holes and loose threads all over the place. I overused adjectives, told instead of showing, and (gasp) used an awful mirror cliche to describe a character. This draft will never, ever, see the light of day. My husband has been given explicit instructions to burn this original manuscript should I get hit by a bus tomorrow.

Still, I held onto this embarrassment of a manuscript. I’d bonded with my characters, and despite how terrible the writing was, they seemed like cool people. I couldn’t bring myself to just throw the story in the recycling bin, so I tossed it in my rejection drawer (yes, this is a real thing) with my other failed pieces.

While I never looked at it again, I never stopped thinking about that manuscript. It was the first novel I ever finished. I’ve attempted other novels since, but they never quite held my interest the same way that first one did.

More recently, my characters have been ceaselessly haunting me day and night. They keep begging me to give them a second chance. My main character, Liz, won’t let me sleep at night until I’ve added more dimension to her twisted personality.

I’ve decided I need to give them one more chance. I’m not going to attempt to rework what’s already been written. I’m going to take my time to really get to know the shadows of characters I had created as a teenager and try to get to know them as an adult. I’m going to create a brand new plot, one that these characters deserve to be a part of.

I’ve grown so much as a writer since I first realized that this was the path for me. I’ve read books on writing, taken classes, practiced, and found myself some amazing mentors. I hope I never stop learning despite how many accomplishments I achieve. Hopefully this time around, I can find a story that I won’t be ashamed to show the world.

 

 

Seeker: A Review

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448 pages. Delacorte Books for Young Readers. Release Date: February 10, 2015

I received an uncorrected proof of this book through the publisher. I am not being compensated in any way for this review. All of the opinions expressed here are my own.

I always worry when new books are compared to bestsellers with a cult-like following. After all, shouldn’t writers strive to find their own voices and be proud of them? So when I saw a blurb comparing Arwen Elys Dayton’s newest book Seeker to Game of Thrones, The Hunger Games, and Divergent, I had the sinking sensation that a lot of readers would be disappointed by the literary world’s version of false advertisement. Comparisons like these tend to make readers form preconceived notions about what they’re about to read.

I start reading each and every book with an open mind and try to review accordingly. Unfortunately, there were too many flaws for me to overlook, and as a result I’ve stopped reading Seeker midway.

The story started out strong and captivating. I wanted to know more about the three young warriors and their quest to become seekers. The problem is, I was halfway through the book and still didn’t know what a seeker was. Or what time period the story was set in. And while the characters started off strong, they became more shallow and unbelievable with every new page. Their relationships to one another felt forced. As I read farther, things just stopped fitting together. There were too many unanswered questions, and while I’d like to believe that the ending ties up some loose ends, I was too frustrated to try and get there.

I loved the concept of Seeker, but this just didn’t work for me.

 

Book Review: Since You’ve Been Gone by Mary Jennifer Payne

Disclaimer: I received an uncorrected proof of this book through the publisher. I am not being compensated in any way for this review. All of the opinions expressed here are my own.

 

224 pages Dundurn Group Release Date: February 17, 2015

224 pages Dundurn Group
Release Date: February 17, 2015

I hate to give negative reviews of anyone’s published work. I know the amount of effort that goes into writing and the sting of rejection that comes with it. Unfortunately, no matter how much I’d love to give every book I read a raving review, I would much rather be honest.

The back matter for Mary Jennifer Payne’s new young adult book, Since You’ve Been Gone, intrigued me. Edie and her mother are on the run. Things seem to be going well after their sudden move to London until Edie’s mother disappears. Now Edie is on her own and can’t run to the police for help.

Despite its interesting subject matter, I was disappointed. Payne uses mostly simile when giving any kind of description, but the similes are not very original or interesting. They’re also quite frequent, and at some points are found in every other sentence. They throw off the flow of the story rather than add to it.

The story as a whole, strangely, is both rushed and slow moving at the same time. The overall plot did not move fast enough to keep me entertained; I was halfway through the book and still had no information as to why they were running or why I should care about Edie’s life. On the other hand, smaller events in the book happened so quickly that they felt unrealistic.

I really disliked Edie as a character. So much so that I couldn’t connect to the story. Her inconsistencies made it hard for me to believe anything about her. Actually, I would love to see all of the characters in the book developed more fully.

So, overall, this one’s a no for me. The concept had great potential, but the execution left something to be desired. Of course, that’s just my personal opinion. There are plenty of positive reviews for Since You’ve Been Gone floating around, so give it a shot if this hasn’t deterred you.

Writing fiction is hard work. The same rules we’re told to follow are also rules we’re told to break. We have the task of creating complex plots and even more complicated and believable characters. Sometimes writers nail this formula. Many don’t, at least not on the first try. It’s a learning process. Maybe I’ll review Payne’s next book sometime in the distant future, and I’ll be pleasantly surprised when she blows me away.