Saturday, March 29, 2014

Movie Theaters are Awesome, I Saw Divergent, and How I Feel About Books Made Into Movies

Last night my sister and I went to see Divergent (!!!) As you all know, Divergent is the first in a YA trilogy by Veronica Roth. The last three movies I've seen in theaters (Catching Fire, The Hobbit, Divergent) have all been adapted from books, so I've been thinking about my stance on books-to-movie adaptions (every book-lover must have one, you know).


But before we get into that, can I just say how amazing the atmosphere is in the movie theater tonight?
It was a wet and gloomy night, so it was no surprise that it was a sold out showing. There were all types of people: middle aged adults, teeny-boppers, couples, and younger adults (no kids, thank-you late show). I knew things were going to get interesting when the usher told everybody to move to the middle, and get rid of any empty sits in between parties. With all the one seat buffers gone, and awkward arm-rest dances over, there was definitely a sense of camaraderie.

Right after the lights went down and the theater played their I'm-a-movie-theater-hear-me-roar advertisement for themselves, somebody (probably one of the said teeny-boppers) started clapping. Then someone (probably one of said middle aged adults) hollers:
"Calm down, the movie hasn't even started yet!"
Of course, this was met with laughter from everybody else.

Throughout the movie there were many times where laughter would ripple through the theater. The best times were when some stranger in the theater would laugh with you at some obscure detail that only the two of you found funny. You have the same weird sense of humor as me random person? Instant connection.

 I heard someone whisper at this part:


"He's going to take his shirt off!"
I laughed at that commentary and so did someone else. Instant connection.

I like hearing the rustle of popcorn bags and slurping of drinks when I'm at the movie theater. I like hearing the comments from people around me (within reason of course). It's part of the experience of watching a movie with other people.

Anyways, the movie review. Speaking as someone who read the book, it was really enjoyable. The scenes in the Divergent HQ were so fun to watch. However, if you don't know the story I can see how it might get a little bit confusing, especially since they didn't spend much time introducing the other initiates. The fact that the minor characters were slightly overlooked and a few points under-explained, was really my only gripe with this beautifully shot movie.


Also, this guy (Four, aka Pamuk):
I like him. He's a....er a good actor. Tehe. 

So how do I feel about books made into movies?
I like to look at it like this. The book is the author's creation and the movie is the director's creation. The director/writer/producer/other movie person, is entitled to create something new. Yes, the movie is based off of the book, the story is at the root the same, but I do not expect them to be carbon copies. I want the movie to take a few creative liberties, so I have a new story experience. Since the two forms of story telling are so different (and done by different creators), it would be crazy to expect they stay the exact same. My only wish is for them to keep the essence of the book (themes, humor, atmosphere, the feeling etc.) the same in the movie. 

How do you feel about books to movies? Have you seen Divergent? Are you planning to? Let me know all of your thoughts in the comments!

Reading: Dark Star by Bethany Frenette
Listening: Fun.
Watching: Arrow

Friday, March 21, 2014

Seasonal Recap on A Splash of Ink: Winter

It's the first day of Spring! Even though it snowed here in Canada today -how very un-spring like!- I wanted to usher in the new season by recapping the 2013/2014 Winter season. I started doing seasonal recaps back in the Summer, but ended up doing a year-end recap in lieu of a Fall recap. Now, I'm back to it! This Winter will cover December, January, February and March (until present).

Books: 


I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga was a memorable read. It was incredibly creepy and delightfully dark. This book follows Jazz, the son of a convicted serial killer and his quirky friend and girlfriend. We meet Jazz when he's in high school (obviously, this is YA we're talking about!) and dealing with major inner turmoil. Jazz is afraid that he is destined to become a murderer like his father. This book brings you right inside his head as he battles the good and evil within himself. All the while a new serial killer is active in his home town. Jazz hunts for the killer, partially for justice, but mostly for his own redemption.


This is not my usual book. I'm a huge wimp when it comes to anything scary or dark. However, Jazz's character is so unique and well written; I totally bought into his inner struggle. I had to find out what happened to Jazz, regardless of how twisted the mystery got. The comedic relief also helped lighten the book up.

My only gripe with this book is that it pushed my personal limits of what I can handle content-wise in a book. It got a bit gritty at parts. Fair warning.

4 out of 5 stars  

Series:
Gallagher Girls by Ally Carter
This was a long time coming, and I feel so accomplished! There's six books in this series!
I liked this series, and recommend it to the younger teen interested in the "Spy" genre. Since I'm in my later teen years, I found it a tad bit juvenile near the end (I didn't when I started the series). However, I still enjoyed this super fun, consistently enjoyable series. Ally Carter is nothing if not consistent!
3 out of 5 stars

Divergent Trilogy by Veronica Roth
I gobbled up this dystopian trilogy. I really loved Divergent, but I felt the other two books were weaker, still good, but weaker. I loved the setting and Roth's themes of power, knowledge and bravery. It feels very similar to Suzanne Collin's social commentary through The Hunger Games trilogy. Oh and I can't forget about Tris and Four's relationship *fangirl sigh*. And finally, the ending (if you've read it, you know what I'm talking about!) Roth made a bold move that paid off in my books (no pun intended!). Overall a thought provoking and entertaining read.
4 out of 5 stars 

The Precious Stone Trilogy by Kerstin Gier
I read these books over a span of a few years, so I had a bit of a disjointed reading experience. I remember really enjoying the first two books, but when I read this last one I wasn't so smitten. I loved the time travel/family plot line -that was really clever. Pretty much any book with time travel is "clever" in my opinion. Anyways, I found the main character, Gwen, a bit too "teenage girl" (too much hormonal stuff!) for my tastes. She needed to get her priorities straight aka stop rambling about the love interest! The ending was also a bit anti-climatic. The first two books definitely are the redeeming factors of this series.
Fun fact: these books are translated from German!
3 out of 5 stars

Blogging:
Milestones:
A Splash of Ink got a redesign, I updated my profile picture, and I made a Sunny Smith GIF in January 2014! SOI also turned three Feb. 16 2014!

Top Posts:
1. Housekeeping! (Otherwise Known as Design Tips, Guest Posting, and Social Media)
I take care of some blogger duties and give a few design tips.
2. Righting Relationships: The Four Loves
I share my knowledge of the four types of loves that your characters care share: Agape, Eros, Philia and Storge. I also rant a bit about love interests.
3. Literary BFFs: Linkup
I take part in the Book Chewers link up discussing some of the best friends in books.

BONUS TOP POST OF 2013 WINTER: Writing Research: How to Win a Sword Fight


Although Winter can be gloomy and tiresome, I think SOI made out alright. Let me know in the comments what you think of...anything really, haha. Did you read those books I mentioned? Did you do anything interesting this Winter? Agree, disagree? Feel free to comment!

Reading: Three by Kristen Simmons
Listening: Adele
Watching: Veronica Mars

Saturday, March 15, 2014

A Stab at Minimalist Bookcovers

I've been trying out a new artistic style this past week: minimalist book covers! I thought I'd share the three I've done so far with you guys and get some feedback. It's been a bit of a learning curve, and I've had to tamp down my perfectionist side a bit. However, I'm satisfied enough to put them on the big, wide internet for everyone's eyes. Take a look, if you'd like.

I chose to represent Katniss and Rue in this one, because I loved the relationship they had. It was interesting to see the contrast between their friendship and the games. 

I know this one might be a bit more obscure. I always liked to think that the Gallagher Girls had a certain class to their spying; I wanted to represent that side of the series (even if it could use a bit more "spy").


If you read my post from a few weeks ago, you'll know that this is my "happy book". This is the closest to the actual cover of the book. At this point, I hadn't experimented too much, but I think it turned out alright.

The Real Covers:

Let me know in the comments if you have any feedback or thoughts on my book covers. Also, if you'd like to see more stuff like this, let me know!

Reading: Three by Kristen Simmons
Listening: Mumford and Sons
Watching: Veronica Mars

Friday, March 7, 2014

Setting as a Character (With Examples from Divergent!)


I realized a few weeks ago that my story was lacking something. After some Nancy-Drew-esque investigation, I realized that the missing element was the setting. I had overlooked it and maybe you have too.

I was inspired to think of my setting as a character after reading this article. We all know that flat, boring characters are a big no-no, but it's not as common to think of setting in terms of flat and round. To write good stories that resonant with the reader, we need to get away from the generic forests and castles; we need to get away from flat settings.

How can we do that? By treating our settings like characters and remembering that the setting is more than just physical land, it also includes the culture.

To flesh out my setting, I started by altering a character sketch template to a setting/culture sketch template. This is what I came up with. To get the brain juice flowing I'm going to use the Dauntless area in Divergent by Veronica Roth as an example.

Physical Setting:
Place: Dauntless Headquarters
General Physical Appearance: Entrance is gained by jumping into a huge hole with a net underneath. Lots of slopping ceilings and walls made of stone. Long, dark hallways. Glass, cement, and other "cold" building materials.
Specific sub-settings: The Pit, the Chasm, the Dorms, the Dining Hall, the top of the Hancock Building, the Training Room, the Tattoo Parlor, etc. etc. You can describe each sub-setting in as much detail as you'd like or see necessary. If you'd like to see detailed sub-setting descriptions for Divergent click here.
History: Faction was formed by people who blamed cowardice and fear for the problems of society. This is  a section of dystopian Chicago. See corresponding landmarks such as the Ferris Wheel on Navy Pier.
Surrounding places and relationships:  Surrounded by the HQs for the other four factions. Neutral relationship with all. Works best when every minds their own business and keeps their distance. Take care of minding the city gate and patrolling the factionless.
Memorable/Quirky Places: The old, rusty creaking Ferris Wheel; the Chasm with the slippery, thin railing, a reminder of bravery vs. stupidity; the zip-line at the top of the Hancock building.
More qualifiers: weather/seasons, terrain, potential natural disasters, building types etc.

Cultural Setting:
Social Class(es): Ranking is determined by the number of fears you have, how long you've been around and how brave you are.
Collective Values: bravery, justice, boldness, freedom from fear/tackling fear, loyalty, thrills, control etc.
General Enjoyment: zip lining, getting tattoos, other thrill-seeking activities
General Jobs: Tattoo artist, fence guard, weapon maker, fighter, initiate trainer etc.
Food: enjoy chocolate cake, hamburgers, and other indulgent food
Common Fears: being controlled by the other factions, being "afraid" or not brave enough, not being "Dauntless" enough
Collective Weakness: can be violent and rash. They can also make dangerous decisions for the thrill.
Collective Strength: They are loyal. They are also very strong in the mind and body.
Collective Appearance: Always wearing black, skin-tight clothes. Lots of different hair colours, piercings and tattoos.
More qualifiers: education system, treatment of elderly, government, religion, etc.

If you'd like to look at the Dauntless HQ setting/culture in greater detail I'd recommend these links (Divergent Wiki, Divergent Fans, Divergent Lexicon) where I pulled most of my info for this post.

Once you have a good grasp on what your setting looks like (culturally and physically) you've got to ask yourself why it all matters. How does it effect the journey of your MC? Why is the story taking place in this setting and not somewhere else?

Let me know in the comments what you think of setting/culture. Do you have anything to add to my setting sketch template? What your tips are for creating believable settings?

Reading: Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
Listening: Josh Schott
Watching Veronica Mars

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Is Re-Reading Worth My Time?

It's an age old question and many-a-Goodreads friendships have been broken over it.

Okay, that's a little bit dramatic, but this question does spark lots of debate in book-lover circles.

Is re-reading worth it when there are so many other books to read?

I say yes, especially if you're a writer. If you follow me on Goodreads, you'll know that I recently re-read Terrier by Tamora Pierce. Before this last re-read I had read this book once already and listened to it on audio book. This book is my happy book.

A gif expression of how I feel about my Happy Book
Happy Book:
[hap-ee boo k]
noun.
A happy book is like your happy place, but instead of happiness being in the caverns of your mind, this happiness is bound up nice and neat between paper covers (or in your e-reader, if you're one of those people). This is the book that you find yourself returning to again and again after rereading other sub-par novels.


We all have our happy books that beg to be reread, but sometimes we feel guilty in rereading. I always think that I shouldn't be "wasting" my reading time by reading a book I've already read. I had a teacher who told me that the only real reading was re-reading. I don't know if I'd go quite that far, but I have learned that reading a book again is not a waste of time, but a whole new reading experience (even though you already know the story).

The first read is all about experiencing the story and getting caught up in the emotions and suspense. It's about the entertainment and suspension of disbelief. The sheer enjoyment of it all.

My first thoughts on Terrier:
AHHHHH!! THIS IS AWESOME! I want to live in Corus, Tortall!! Why can't we have night markets? I want to be a cop....er...never mind I just want to read about awesome kick-butt cops like Beka, Clary and Tunstall! Rosto the Piper *sigh*. That ending... *SPOILER* was behind it all?!

The second read (aka the re-read) is more of a sober read. Not only does it give you a chance to enjoy the story again (especially if it's been awhile since the first read) it gives you chance to analyze the different techniques that the author uses to pull the reader in. For example, foreshadowing. You already know what the end result is so you can see how all the clues throughout the story add up to the final conclusion. Re-reading gives you the chance to truly understand why the book is so great.

My thoughts after re-reading Terrier:
Wow, this setting is great. It's great because Pierce really developed the histories behind everything, even though I don't learn everything about Corus, I feel like it existed before this story started. The setting is also enriched because of how the characters talk; the word usage and sentence structure lets me know when we're in the slums or Lower City. I should try adding some new words to my characters' speech patterns and develop my setting's history more...

Once you have examined and understand the ingredients to a great book you can apply it to your own writing. I find it helpful to use a folded piece of paper as my book mark while I'm re-reading, so I can keep notes about aspects that I really love as I'm reading. For a bit of a different experience, you can also try listening to the audio book for the second time around; this works especially well if you really enjoyed the character dialogue like I did for Terrier. Reading like a writer often means re-reading books that you love.

How about you, are you a re-reader? What are your "happy books"? What are your thoughts on re-reading? Let me know in the comments.

Reading: Game by Barry Lyga
Listening: Jon Foreman
Watching: Republic of Doyle

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