Sunday, November 30, 2014

Review: The Raven Boys

Title: The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle #1)
Author: Maggie Stiefvater

Publication: September 8th, 2012 by Scholastic Press
Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Synopsis from The Raven Cycle website:

"Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her. His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Gansey is different. He has it all—family money, good looks, devoted friends—but he’s looking for much more. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little.

For as long as she can remember, Blue has been told by her psychic family that she will kill her true love. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore."

My Review:

I. Love. Maggie. Stiefvater.

I've said it once and I'll say it again. I love this author! She's one of the reasons that I can't "move on" from young adult/teen fiction. Her writing is well done, her plots are original and her story telling is superb.

Okay so maybe her Shiver series wasn't the best, but "The Scorpio Races" continues to be one of my favorite books of all time.

And "The Raven Boys" has definitely met my high standards. The characters are unique and complex, each having their own backstory that could be its own novella. Blue is a great character, and I would definitely nominated for a YA Heroine award.

Not once while reading this book did I ever have the sensation of being bored or too overwhelmed by the amount of information give. I just keep wanting to read more and more, the story having been on I hadn't heard before. To wake the dead for a wish, but each character having their own stakes in it, it's enthralling.

Honestly, this is probably my least coherent review ever posted, but I can't put into words how amazing this book is.


If this isn 't enough to convince you to read the book, check out the book trailer!


Friday, November 14, 2014

Character Profiles

This post is dedicated to character profiles!

Whenever I start any writing, I always have a main character in mind. I know what kind of person I want them to be, sometimes I know exactly what I want them to look like. But then I get into love interests, best friends, distant family members and I tend to forget little  bits of information.

Does she have blue eyes or green? Did I mention his mother was dead or did I just say she was abroad? Questions like these are just examples of what happens when I don't profile them.

Today I'm going to share a couple of templates I use when making characters. Some I use more often than others, some I've grown out of using but think they're a great start to building your own.

1. The "Quick and Dirty"

This profile is just that. It's short and it's meant to just get down the really big details. I usually start on something like this and expand on it. I hardly use this anymore because I'm more into details about characters, but it's a great for beginners I think.

Name: Usually just the first name, sometimes the last name.
Gender: Always important
Age: Not as important but I feel like it helps in their development and how they are supposed to act as a character
Species:I usually use this when doing a Fantasy/Sci-Fi writing
Appearance: Just what the character looks like. I usually have eye color, hair color, short or tall.
Other: Anything I have to remember about the character I write here. Like if she's the protagonist, or the relationship to the protagonist. Sometimes this will have what class year they are if it's at a school.

2. You Got To Dig A Little Deeper

This is for adding just a couple more details than the first profile has.

Name: First and Last
Age: Always important.
Appearance: This is a lot more expanded upon than the last profile. And it's not block quoted.
                 Hair: Usually just color
               Eyes: Color, contacts or glasses
               Complexion: I usually stick with words like fair, beige, dark.
Height: I usually just came up with a number. But it works for relationships, because it reminds me that she either always has to look up or he always has to look down.
Personality: Usually a basic type of personality. Do I want them to be preppy or mysterious? That sort of thing. I've tended to move away since I always beginning with my characters having one type of personality and then end up with another extremely opposite personality.
Job: Do they have one? Usually their role in the story. Sometimes it's like leader of the pack, sometimes I just write full time student.
Life: What is their life like?

             Family: Who else is in their family? Mother, father, siblings?

3. Every Detail Matters!

This is what I tend to do now with my character profiles. I'd like to thank my friend Kenz for helping me come up with it.
Name: First Last
Gender: F/M
Age:
      » Birthday: Month, Date, Year
Residency: City,State/City, Country
Appearance:  For this, I've started using pictures of kind of who I'm basing them off.
Description: The exception here are paragraphs. This can include details like height, characteristics of speaking voice, and other similar things not evident from a picture. Even when using a picture, be sure to describe evident traits (ex. hair color, eye color), because the picture is just kind of the foundation.  

Here's an example of how I use this:

"Raja seems to be like an average Indian-American upon first glance. Standing at five feet and five inches, light brown skin and straight brown hair, no one would think there was anything more to her. But upon closer examination, one would notice Raja's gray-slate colored eyes, with hints of dark blue. They would notice the natural red highlights in her hair, and a small scar on the side of her forehead from her childhood, not to mention the nose stud. In Sanskrit, Raja means king, but in Arabic it means hope, which is what Raja was to her parents. They planned the best life for her, with their hopes and dreams. Raja is much like the fluidity of the liquids and time she controls. She tends to go along with other's plans, much like the plan her parents' had for her; as long as the plan doesn't go against her own beliefs. Yet Raja decided to start forging her own path when she graduated from high school and became more independent. She enjoys learning about the past, knowing well how it can come to repeat itself in the future. Usually a patient person, Raja does have her breaking point, and when it breaks, her temper is fierce. Like how excessive rain can cause destructive floods, and rushing rivers create their own paths, Raja's temper is something to be feared, for it was upon accident that she discovered the fluidity of a person's blood. Though she doesn't actively practice Hinduism, Raja does live by the beliefs of her religion, such as karma."

Background: Also known as the backstory portion of the profile. Who was she before the story began. What's the dark secret he is hiding?
Family:
     » Family Member Name- relation to character, age
    Repeat as needed.
Other: What other things do I need to know about the character? Did they go to school? What college did they go to? What are they currently doing? This is information that doesn't really have a place somewhere else in the profile.

Here's an example:

"Raja's parents contemplated arranging her marriage, but in the end they decided against it for reasons unknown to her. She graduated from Yale University in Hartford, Connecticut with a double major in European history and physics. Raja is fluent in Hindi, and proficient in traditional Indian/Hindu dance."

4. I Don't Have A Clever Title For This One

Not one profile can be used for all stories. Sometimes you just have to improvise. This profile a perfect. I used it for a story where basically the entire family was important to the story. They were each narrators to sections, so in a way they were each protagonists.

First I had the basics in a table format:


Name
D.O.B.
Age during story
College
Major/After College
First, Middle, Last
Month, Date, Year
Number
Name, BA, MA, PhD, etc.
Major, current job


 
Hair Color
Eye Color
Build
Height
Other
First Name
Color
Color
Muscular/Lean/Skin
#'#"
 scars, moles, etc.

And then I get into their relationships, and their futures. So like what kids they were going to have, etc.

Main Character, First Last = Spouse's name First and Maiden name
     -Child First, Middle, Last name -> For multiple children it's ordered oldest to youngest.

And I did that for all the "main" characters.

Then I did a birth order list of all their children, with the first name being the oldest and having a number zero, then all the rest having a number of age difference.

Example:
Jason & Connor- 0
Sebastian- 1.5
William-Lucille-Matthew- 2
Bridget- 3
Raja- 4
Emily- 5
Jones- 6
Gordon twins-6
There's probably a sheet of paper roaming around that says what each of their children look like, but I won't add the amount already on this post.

So that's it. Those of the types of profiles I use when creating my characters!

What kind of profile do you use?

Thursday, November 13, 2014

My Written Thoughts (2)

Welcome to the second installment of My Written Thoughts! This segment is publishing tidbits of personal writing in order share my work and hopefully receive some sort of feedback.

I'm currently working on a creative writing piece for my Creative Writing class here at Tulane. It's a folklore-esque piece based on a statue that exists in Russia (see pic below). There's no real back story to this statue, and all I know is that people love to take pictures on his back and rub his horns for good luck.

Below the goat is the intro to the story. I think it's rather good and I wanted to share with you. As always, I'd love feedback!

http://static.panoramio.com/photos/large/69031278.jpg


                                                                                                                                                                  

All writing, unless otherwise stated, are original works. The author does not grant permission for distribution without consent. All works are also copyrighted to her and should not be claimed by someone else.

In Russia there is a city called Nizhny Novgorod. To get to it you have to take a ten hour plane ride out of DC, which includes crossing the Atlantic, a two hour layover in Germany, flying into Moscow and ending with an uncomfortable six hour bus ride to the east.

            More importantly in Nizhny Novgorod, just a stone's throw away from the Volga, there is  walking street called Bolshaia Pokrovoskaia. And on this mile long, uphill walking street filled with stores, restaurants and street vendors, there are bronze statues adorning the path. They represent heroes of Russia: from Dmitry Donsky to Mikahil Frunze and Yuri Gagarin to Leo Tolstoy, some of Russia's finest are represented.

            But the most important statue, the one this story is about, belongs to a goat. A goat whose horns have been rubbed gold from years of granting wishes to all who believe.


            In a time before Russia was a nation, before prime ministers and monarchs, the country was just a wild land. A dangerous land where food was scarce and safety was but a dream. And somewhere on this land, there was a small cabin with a small family. A mother and father, a young daughter and a goat.
One day, the mother and father decided to send the goat and the girl away.
 
            "They do nothing but eat our food," the mother said.
            "They do no work and she will only cost us what little we have," the father said, referring to the dowry he'd have to give.
            "The goat gives no milk, no cheese," the mother complained.
 
            "I lose sleep to make sure the wolves don't eat him," the father whined.
 
            So one morning the mom dressed the girl in a heavy red dress for warmth, and a yellow scarf to cover her light hair from the sun. The father took out the goat and let him eat grass and drink water, and when the sun had not been long in the sky, they both gave the girl a sack and sent her and the goat away.  
 
                                                                                                                                                                  
 
That's it for now! Till next post!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The NANO Post That Should Have Been

Hello!

Almost half-way through the month of November, but I've always said better late than never.

This post is dedicated to those who are doing, are contemplated doing, or are confused by what NANOWRIMO is.


What is NANOWRIMO?

National Novel Writing Month, more commonly known as NANOWRIMO, is a non-profit organization that challenges people of any age to write a novel in one month.

More specifically, they challenge you to write 50K words during the month of November.

Their mission statement, as taken from their website:

"National Novel Writing Month organizes events where children and adults find the inspiration, encouragement, and structure they need to achieve their creative potential. Our programs are web-enabled challenges with vibrant real-world components, designed to foster self-expression while building community on local and global levels."

To learn more about what exactly the organization is/does, visit the official NANOWRIMO website.

Do I participate in NANOWRIMO?

Yes and no. This is technically my sixth year participating in NANOWRIMO, but I have never done it as seriously as I should.

I have a real problem with starting a writing, and then hitting a bump and moving onto a different idea. The point of NANO is that you just write, you keep writing if you hit bumps and after November you go back and edit. I'm also a full-time student and a part-time worker so I never make the time to just sit and write for at least 30 minutes a day.

So whenever I start NANO, I set my own goals. I make my word count goal 20k instead of 50, or I challenge myself to write a certain number of pages or make it though a certain amount of envisioned scenes.

Have I ever actually reached my goals?

I wish there were more yes's than no's. But I am proud to say that I have reached 50k and finished a whole story!

It's a small piece that I started during a NANO one year of course didn't get a specific word goal. But I worked it almost weekly and it took me almost a whole year but I finished it! Since then its undergone revisions and I've made sequels for it, but like little one-shot stories. I'm actually rather proud of it, but I doubt it'll ever see day light. It's based of an actually book, but not a fanfiction, so for legal reasons I doubt it would ever be published. But that's okay. I don't write to publish but for my own enjoyment.

How do you prepare?

I always have a specific scene in mind. That's how I start off all my stories actually. Usually I had a dream and it was so vivid that when I woke up I wrote it down. Or sometimes I have this one sentence that just strikes me and I have to figure out how to use it.

And then I make character outlines/profiles, to which I'll have a post about sometime this week. They're really helpful in keeping track on what I've written about my characters so far.

If I've really thought out the story, I write a basic outline. Maybe I'll have certain scenes that I want and I'll just make a checklist of them in order. So once I've done scene A, I write about how they would get to scene  B, etc.

Research! I'm very big on research, so if it takes place in a certain location I'll google it and read about the place so I can put in details about that city or country. If it's a certain period, I'll definitely research that and even save pictures so I can refer to them in writing.

Sometimes I don't prepare at all and I just launch into the Nano. I personally don't get very far into those projects, but they're always fun.


Well that's all for now about NANOWRIMO! I hope that answered some questions and got people a little more interested in what's happening this November. This will (hopefully) lead into a series of how to write and answer certain questions that come up during a writing process.

Karina