Blog of a Writer on the Go and Barely Here.
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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Make me Feel Something! Or - The Importance of Characterization

I just had the chance to finish reading The Hunger Games trilogy.  My husband loved the first two but, like so many others, wasn't thrilled with the third.  He insisted that I read them as well.

*Disclaimer - I am not a pop culture junkie.  I will, however, give things a chance.  Like Twilight.  I read the first book and realized I didn't want to waste anymore of my time reading the rest of the series.  Harry Potter, on the other hand, was the opposite, and I read the entire series.

With my disclaimer in mind, I finished Mockingjay, but didn't feel the same excitement everyone else seems to have for the books.  I was a little bit excited for the movie when my hubby told me Donald Sutherland was playing President Snow --- until I realized I was thinking of Donald Pleasance.  (Seriously, how perfect a casting choice would he have been?  Too bad this didn't come out 15 years ago.)

After much discussion with my husband, I realized why I wasn't as taken with the books.  Sure they had a lot of action, but the characterizations never felt real.  I never was concerned about Katniss, Peeta or Gale.  Here they are, supposedly starving and fighting for their lives, but there's never that urgency about their situations.

Katniss is quick to pull her bow on Peeta (twice, in fact) but just as quick to lower it when she deems he's not a threat.  There's no thought behind either action, she simply does it.  I don't know about you, but if my life were at stake, I wouldn't be making inconsistent decisions so quickly and accepting things at face value.

There were only two points in the entire series that caused me to cry/tear up.  The first was Rue's death.  This, to me, was one of the few moments when Katniss seemed human.  The other was when Buttercup mourned Prim's death.  That's right -- I didn't care that Prim had burned in a horrible death until the cat made me care.

There's more, but I'm interested in hear what everyone else has to say.  I know a lot of people will disagree, but I want to hear why you care about the characters.  If reading this series has taught me one thing about my own writing it's that people need to feel connected to the characters themselves, not only to the circumstance surrounding them.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Losing the Art of Communication

Finally got around to putting my blog all together and my first post is concerning something I witnessed online yesterday.

It started out innocent enough.  An online writer's forum discussing the events taking place in England and the sudden visible increase in perceived racism.  One writer was struck with inspiration and wrote out a quick poem:

                        Racist, never, no.
                           Not even to,
                       A fat Black Paki
                             Like you 

What followed next was an outpouring of other writers' outrage.  They demanded an explanation and apology.  He was accused of being racist and ignorant.

Another writer finally stepped up to give his interpretation of the poem, which was the same as mine.  It had been written as a satirical social commentary.  Unfortunately, when the author of the troublesome poem returned to the board, he felt obliged to take it down and offer an apology.

The thing that struck me most about the whole episode was the inability of so many to read past the words written and see the author's intent.  One of his fellow writers and attackers even admitted to not understanding poetry and preferred 'plain speak.'

If other writers are so quick to come to such a misunderstanding, what hope do we have of our readers not doing the same thing?  In this age of having everything spelled out for us, have words and phrases lost their nuances?  Do readers now have a 'what you see is what you get' mentality that we, as writers, now must be conscious of when we put pen to paper?  
As a reader, I hope notAs a writer, I dread it.