The Wednesday Review: The Fire In Fiction

Having something to say, or something you wish to experience, is what gives your novel its power. Identify it. Make it loud. Do not be afraid of what’s burning in your heart. When it comes through on the page, you will be a true storyteller.”

        -Donald Maass in The Fire in Fiction

    Mark Twain once said that words were only painted fire, that the look was the fire itself. I don’t disagree with the statement because, as it is, if I was not the victim of a tragedy, I will never understand the pain and confusion of those who truly witnessed it. Reading a newspaper will not give me the authority to speak for any event as if I were the one in danger of losing my life. Reading a psychology book does not label me a psychological researcher, I will only be a reader of a very smart book.

    However, the key to the statement is that Mark Twain is not discrediting written works. He is instead labeling it an art, and not a witness account. Literature is an art form you will not find in a museum, other than Gideon’s Bible or other ancient literature which age never let us entirely uncover the facts.

    The same way a painting will only impact when well executed, a book burns with written passion only when the craft is well written. The Fire in Fiction by Donald Maass is some of the best advice in the written world on how to bring out the painted fire in a book. It is a painter’s kit of tips and suggestions and tool that will bring out the colors of your fiction. My warning to you: prepare to be a writing arsonist.

    Stop though! Before buying this book, you should know this: it’s better to read this after you’ve written your first draft.

    It’s not like the book isn’t useful for any young writers who haven’t finished a cover to cover yet, it is, but you’ll feel bad because you can’t use the PRACTICAL SKILLS portion of the book. That section of the book tells you to go dig up your manuscript and make the changes that it suggested in the chapter proceeding it. I made the mistake of reading this book before I had written an actual book, and then felt bad every time I had to skip through the practical skills portion because I couldn’t follow the tips I’d just learned. Now, it’s different. I’m 45,000 words into my book, and now I can start to ramp it up. But, save yourself the guilt trip, don’t read this book until you’ve written your book.

    The content goes the whole nine yards, meaning it includes sections on characters, protagonists, villains, scenery, the middle section of your book, your motivation, etc. etc. It gives you real live examples from books that excelled in those categories, and better advice on how to do the same. It also helped me find a series that has given me considerable pleasure: the Temeraire series by Naomi Novik, which I actually reviewed on this blog some months ago. The examples and the material in this book are the real deal, and seeing as Maass also wrote the Breakout Novel series too, it’s easy to figure out that he knows all about how to write impactful fiction.

    Don’t forget writing is an art. That means taking the time to paint it right. Have harmony or dissonance to pop from the canvas of words. Have balance or imbalance to make a statement. I know a lot more art terms that could become metaphors too but I’ll spare you that because those can span whole volumes of books. Just as painting has a millions terms to know when studying it, so do books. There’s a reason why people can’t write books out of the blue: art isn’t something that can be picked up by any random guy on the street. It takes time to learn and to execute.

    But I have a solid belief. I once believed only talented people could make art. Turns out you can learn how to do it too. That’s why writer’s and craft books like each other. This book here, The Fire in Fiction, is not one to forget about. It is one of the few writing craft books that paint fire in its own way, and I’m not event talking about the cover.

    The Fire in Fiction receives a 4.5.

    See you Friday on the second installments on characters. I’ll be doing my research. ;)


    “Passionate writing makes every word a shaft of light, every sentence a crack of thunder, every scene a tectonic shift. When the purpose of every word is urgent, the story crackles, connects, weaves, and falls together in wondrous ways.”

    -Donald Maass in The Fire in Fiction.

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The Wednesday Review: Sherlock Holmes and The Red-Headed League

After watching both the Sherlock series and the both the Sherlock Holmes films, I have to admit I was a bit disappointed while I was reading from the books that gave those series their names. Certainly, in the books, the cases are interesting, and Arthur Conan Doyle is a wonderful creator of short stories, but seeing all the pizzazz in the movies and the show, I expected at least some of the action to have originated back in the very series that brought about the conception of Sherlock Holmes, but it seems to lack in that category. Instead, you get a witty pair of men, against crafty criminals, who catch these villains within twenty pages.

    I must admit, since these short adventures are considered whole books, they really have helped in increasing my amount of books read, seeing as I wish to have read fifty by the end of the year. In terms of action, the books lack in that category by considerable quantities, but if you want to walk through creative crimes with THE cleverest detective ever conceived in fiction, then these books are perfect for you. What’s nice about Sherlock Holmes is you can get a nice long read with over fifty stories on one book for about three bucks on an e-reader, and they won’t disappoint either.

    The reason I probably noticed this particular story, ‘The Red-Headed League’, is because even the readers do not know exactly what is going on with this weird case brought to Holmes in the beginning. In most of these short stories, like in ‘The Man with the Twisted Lip’, Holmes gives Watson a huge description of what is happening and who he suspects and such. In this one, we hear an interesting plot, Holmes doesn’t announce what he’s about to do, and guess what, we get some action. Very docile action, compared to Captain America or Iron Man certainly, but still, action is action.

    What’s also nice in this story is we get a very interesting case from a ginger that got a mysterious job because of his hair color. It really sounds so strange, but you know, it sounds legit. It is a crazy, obsessed, weird legit, but plausible all the same. Although we’re not dealing with Moriarty in this story, we still get a very clever villain who came up with a plot that was so strange that there was no way a policeman wouldn’t laugh at the whole situation and ignore it.

    Of course, that’s where consulting detective Sherlock Holmes comes in. Watson too, although all he’s good for is being a companion, and packing a gun, which he does in this one. ;)

    I will admit, Sherlock Holmes is not your Hunger Games, but it’s perfect for practicing your English accent that most Americans wish they could pick up. It’s easier to take out the tea and crumpets while reading Sherlock Holmes than the latest Patterson novel. Plus, you get some weird gingers, something to do with banks, Watson with a gun, and oh, Sherlock kicking some butt.

    Need anything more? I certainly don’t.

    ‘The Red-Headed League’ gets a solid 4. No decimals this time.

    See you this Friday with a series on Creative Characters. Sherlock Holmes definitely will be joining us again soon.

The Wednesday Review: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

The first three books were a treat, including mouth-watering plot lines and a colorful array of characters guiding us through this entire series, but the Goblet of Fire takes the cake. It is, by far, my favorite book of the Harry Potter series. The reason being that it brings justice to my favorite things in life: plot, character, ideas and suspense. Goblet of Fire dishes out the best of the best of Rowling’s series in these categories, hands down. Although I have one quip I must get off my chest before I begin ranting of the loveliness of this plot.

    The first part of the book was a bit disappointing… It was difficult to get past the first chapter, because we were introduced to some weird guy who is just taking care of a house. I know it’s relevant, fine, but put it anywhere but the beginning of the book. Actually, just begin with the scar, make what happened more of a mystery. Stick to having the protagonist begin to book… sadly, Rowling continues this trend in her next book.

    Plus, the Quidditch World Cup was a bit of a drag as well. Would have rather left that out, like the part above. There were too many details about an event that really had little connection to the plot.

    Once you hurdle over those pages, however, then a treasure pot of wonderful plot and details burst out of the cauldron and into your hearts. First of all, the very idea of a tournament is just AWESOME, here we are, with three different schools, sending their kids into death-defying stunts, and people are getting paid to do this! Of course, such an event would cause a lot of ruckus in the Wizarding community, including sneaky reporters and popularity issues. In this book, Harry Potter isn’t all angry man either, meaning I can still sympathize with his pain and wish him the best. There is so much mystery in this book that just unveils so beautifully by the end, I just love it.

    The best part is, we’re not too deeply buried into the Voldemort plot yet, which is when Harry’s situation gets sticky. Here, we get deception, action, drama, a little romance, frauds, killers, wizards; all without the violent dark mess we call Voldemort. Certainly, this book may not be the best for sensitive hearts, but for those who can take it… prepare for a roller coaster ride.

    There are ideas in this book that I would have loved to write myself. It feels original, action packed, and I couldn’t put the book down. Hermione ends up being a pretty bad-ass character too. Go Hermione!

    I give this book a 4.3!

    Back to School version of Friday Frenzy coming this week! See you then.

The Wednesday Reviews: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban


J.K. Rowling is an impressive author, I’ll give you that. Of course, that doesn’t mean every book she’s ever written is the best in existence. I liked this book, do not get me wrong.

    However, there were a lot of things in this volume I didn’t really like.

    I won’t spoil anything, so don’t worry, if you haven’t read the books. I will only do that is there is some horrible detail that ruined the book. This book doesn’t have that. But one is close. And that topic is the character of Sirius.

    The rest of the book is fine. You’ve got your tension, which is still building up so nicely compared to the two previous books. The descriptions and the ideas are impeccable. I love the thought of Death-Eaters and Azkaban and every little thing going on in this Wizard world. There is no problem with that in this book. It is still a wonderful read that I would recommend to anyone. The only thing that really is digging on my nerves is the character of Sirius.

    Here we have a great build-up of a character. There’s some mystery thrown into there, and I guess there’s a BIT of foreshadowing onto what really happens. Unfortunately, there was WAY TOO LITTLE foreshadowing on what Sirius truly was. You’ll understand if you read the book. Reminds me of Hot and Cold by Katy Perry. One moment, Sirius is this, BUT OH, WAIT. Nope, actually, he’s not. Even though there was not a single thing going for him for a while there, yet, in the end, he pops out of nowhere and he’s something else.

    Perhaps it’s more a problem of foreshadowing than character. However, Sirius’ character is kind of unbelievable. By the end of the book, I was ready for that character to just leave the series, perhaps forever. But of course, that’s not going to happen, now is it?

    Here’s a tip for writer’s If you’re going to have the most of the book spell out something, and then suddenly change it in the end, you’re going to have a hard time. Foreshadowing is there for that very reason. Although unexpected changes ARE what’s necessary for writing a book, you have to coax the reader into it, unconsciously sometimes. Although I love to be surprised by books, it’s easier for me to believe in something that is introduced subtly beforehand. If you want to tell me there are unicorns in this world, then first show me the rainbows on the grass, the sparkles it left behind, and then maybe even show me it’s mom and dad. Then show me the unicorn. You catch me off guard, and might make me mad, if suddenly a unicorn is romping all over the place and I had never had any hunch in believing it was true. Catch my drift?

    That’s where J.K. Rowling went wrong with this book. She’s still a very creative woman, but this will forever not be my favorite Harry Potter book because of that reason alone.

    I will give this book a 2.9.

    Anyone agree? Disagree?

    See you Friday!

    

The Wednesday Review: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Disclaimer: This review has no spoilers, so if you have not read the book but wish to know if it’s any good, this is your review! From those who have read, comments are appreciated!

    If you’ve never picked up the Harry Potter series, I must implore that you go buy these books immediately. You see, these books are good enough to the point where I read three in the series within a period of six days. That is to say, this series cannot be put down.

    I will not go off into different categories like I did the last Harry Potter review, as the majority of the characters, setting and plot (meaning the central issue still involves you-know-who, at least loosely) are relatively the same. However, this does not mean this book is not original, no, this series should be known for its creative originality. There is a new Defense of the Dark Arts teacher, there is a new problem, there are more issues that Harry has to face. This one, in the form of a Chamber of Secrets. (Ooh, if the title is not enough for you to wonder WHAT kind of secret it is, then you might need to go read some Sherlock Holmes to bring up your mystery vibe.)

    What this book definitely improved upon though, is TENSION. To my opinion, the more tension a book has, the more mature it is. Sure, there’s tension in Dora the Explorer, but while she is exploring, the worst thing she has to face is a fox who will give up on stealing from you if you shout ‘swiper no swiping’ three times. Harry Potter, as a book series, grows up because our friend, Harry Potter is finding himself in nastier and nastier situations (and he is also physically growing up- mind you). JK Rowling does not allow us to become bored of the series, she keeps cranking it up until BOOM, the end is awesome-tastic, and you find yourself hankering for more.

    I mean, who does not wish for high-stakes when it comes to flying wands and secret chambers? That’s what the party needs!

    Then, of course, the Characters are still as rich and funny as they were in the first book. Although I’m not sure children under the age of five should to read past book three if they’re not the violent action sort, but this book still is safe enough for children, I think. Okay, there is a major injury or two, and a few people and a cat that go Han Solo, but otherwise, it’s still pretty lax, compared to the other books so far. If you’ve got hankerings for the magical universe, and like a little action, this is certainly a book series for you. The characters are still a bit young, but still brave all the same. The book isn’t a piece of poetry, so don’t expect that either. However, it is just enough to satisfy the reading desire, and has a little extra imagination too.

    For a rating? I give this book a 4.1.

    I will admit, this is not my favorite Harry Potter book of the series, but what I love about this series is it deliciously builds up to something simply phenomenal. I know the finale because I’ve watched the movies, and I know for a fact that Rowling gives you the kind of ending a book series like this deserves. This is the second step into a seven step series that will knock your not-matching socks off. Maybe even literally. I sure wish I could go to Hogwarts now!

    That’s all folks! Friday awaits!

The Wednesday Review: The Fault in Our Stars

Let me just begin to say, I don’t believe in true love, at least the true love society paints it as. I’m not trying to be some hipster by saying that I think love is something that needs work, it needs a reason, it needs each of its complicated parts to bloom out in the right way to become the petal it is. There is a desperate need in all of us to find someone, if not a lover, at least some close friend, to hold the other part of our heart. This book beautifully paints a relationship that needed to be… as heartbreaking and tragic as it is.

    I have tremendous respect for Green for writing this book. Honestly. While writing an impactful novel, he opens us to a world from a different point of view, and executes the story with great literary prowess as well. The craft books would nod their head in approval to this one. Green knew how to hook onto your heart and keep it there. Plus, you begin to understand what it means to live while you are dying.

    I watch advertisements for the Cancer Centers and don’t think about it much because that is exactly it: I don’t have cancer. Three of my grandparents died of different forms of it, and it will surely attack my parents or I at some point, but as the disease does not leer its burning eyes upon my life, I don’t have to think about how it’s like to have cancer in some form in my life. I do not know what it means to be a ‘grenade’ as the protagonist, Hazel, puts it. It is tragic, heart-breaking, but Green manages to throw a lot of humor in there.

    What Green did though, that really popped out of the book, was that he made what Hazel wanted impossible. Even when she sat on the doorstep, even entered into the household with the secrets she wished to know, something would make her dreams impossible. Just when she thought she was the one who was going to break someone’s heart, she is the one who ends up heartbroken. The characters are beautifully lit up in metaphors and other jazz that make them become something more than just the literary character. I certainly am not dying, but I now have some insight to know what it really means to live like you’re dying. It’s a beautiful, tragic thing, filled with staccato humor and humping video game walls in blind-person video games (did anyone else know those things existed? I seriously never knew. Guess blind gamers cannot be stopped.)

    Rating for this book? I’ll give it a 4.

    Reason being, that it continuously had tension, it had sobbing fathers, sudden Atlantic traveling, blind person video games, a boy who puts cigarettes into his mouth and doesn’t smoke them (deals with death without giving it the power to kill him or something, one of the metaphors), interesting insights, insane people, plot twists AND basically a lot of things you would want your teenager to learn. We like to pretend we know everything, but we don’t. They’ll learn something with this.

    

The Wednesday Review: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Remember I’m giving away books! Check out this blog for details: https://rookswriter.wordpress.com/2013/06/24/free-book-giveaway/

I’ve never read a Harry Potter book before this review, no, and for reasons I now shake my head at. When the series was published, I remember looking at those books on the bookshelf and thinking ‘God, those are so effing HUGE’. Besides, my brothers read those books, and I had deemed any books my brothers read as ‘big kid books’, so a little squirt like me could not enter the inner sanctum of mature reading. This led to my reading of series like Pendragon, and even Harry Potter, to my late teenage years. Funny thing is, now I love longer books, means I get a bigger quantity of great plot and book. If the quality’s good, might as well get it in quantity, right?

    Luckily for me, Harry Potter was just that, promising light hearted fun and creative ideas all placed together in a harmony of the genius of J.K. Rowling. No wonder she’s a millionaire, whatever that is in British Pounds.

    FOR ALL OF THOSE WHO PLAN TO READ THIS SERIES AND HAVE NOT YET: My reviews do not contain huge spoilers. I quoted Bird by Bird two weeks ago because that’s an advice book, and there is still much more to learn from it, even past the favorite quotes. For plots and storylines, I will not spoil anything more than an Amazon review would. I promise this here on out, pinky promise. If it ever does come to that though, please do not beat me and throw me into a hole, for if I ever do spoil a book, it was probably so bad you don’t want to read it. There are books like that out there, trust me.

    I will break down this review into parts this time, into the different proponents of plot-driven literature. The categories today are: Character, Plot, Tension and Overall.

    Character:

        This book is definitely cuter than its later counterparts. I felt like a little kid walking around Hogwarts and seeing a new place. Harry Potter is pitiful little thing, stuck in a house that doesn’t love him and treats him like dirt. However, Potter finds a way to escape that life and become something, GUESS WHAT, a witch wizard! I honestly loved Harry and felt it worth it to follow him while he explored a world he never thought possible. If I were in his shoes, I’d be like *HOLY SHISH-KE-BOB* and go eat Chocolate Frogs and fly off on a broom just so I could cackle like a bonafide witch. Harry, on the other hand, always seems to get in trouble, but at least he has his friends, Ron and Hermione! Ron is absolutely adorable. Hermione, on the other hand, is a little too bossy for me. I did not appreciate her character, though I can relate to the fact that being such a smart-bottom gets you kicked out from the cool circle. Scratch that, being anywhere remotely smart to the point where you cannot even control it enough to stop it from flaunting itself, means you won’t have friends. At least not in the first novel.

    My one complaint on characters is that even though I watched every movie, I never understood why Voldemort was such a Scrooge. He should have gotten a manicure, some plastic surgery, and gone to the spa and he would have been good as new. I understand having no nose is absolutely hideous, but going on a killing spree tantrum DOES NOT help anyone. No matter how much you want a nose, killing a poor little boy is not going to make it grow back.

    Grade on characters: 4

    Plot:

        This book is definitely more light-hearted than the rest of the plot, and I actually appreciated it. It’s not the most original plot in all of history, but it certainly has its twists and turns. Hagrid is certainly an interesting twist, and seeing that horrible family of Harry’s be jostled around by the forever rain of letters and huge men coming to collect children is definitely a joyful part. I love how the plot plays on each of the different strengths and weaknesses of the different characters, and the wizard setting certainly makes the place interesting. I want a wand to choose me. I wish I could be like Hermione, a Mud-blood, as long as it would make me a wizard. Bring it baby!

    Grade on Plot: 5

    Tension:

        This was where I felt was lacking in this book. J.K. Rowling picks this up in her later books, but this book definitely has the least tension. It has enough, however, to keep you reading. Unfortunately, as I’ve been reading through the early parts of the series, I have struggled to go through chapters before. There wasn’t enough going on for me sometimes and some of these things Harry was making a big deal out of, I labeled as meh problems, and it made me lose interest at points. Though, of course, the climax does not disappoint in this book, even if Harry can’t do a smidgeon by himself. The end of this book gives a satisfying bang, and the resolution works out well to foretell the future of Harry Potter. I bet the boy enjoyed those days of less tension, after everything he goes through in the series.

    Grade on Tension: 2.8

    Overall:

        It was hard to read at parts, but in the end, I did not regret picking this book up from my college bookstore. It was a refreshing, great read, and I look forward to the rest of the series. The characters fit the series like a glove, and even though the plot could be called slightly generic, it really is a refreshing look on witches and wizards. This is a great start to the series that many people have grown to love deeply, and it certainly deserves its praise. It is nothing like Shakespeare, but it serves its purpose and it’s not scary enough to leave you children having nightmares at night.

    Overall Grade: 3.93

    Oh, and since I’m stuck in this almost no internet type of place… I will be reading A LOT this week. Though I cannot decide whether to finish The Fault in Our Stars or Bourne Ultimatum first. Both have been superb so far. X)

    See you Friday!