Booking Through Thursday: One or Many?

Vampira2468 asks:

Series or Stand-alone?

I know this question is about reading books, whether you prefer reading a series or a stand-alone novel, but since I’ve answered that before (somewhere… don’t quote me) with a resounding “Well… both….” I’m going to instead look at this today from a writer’s point of view.

Forgive me if my answer stays more or less the same. Do I prefer writing a stand-alone novel or a series? Well… both.

If you look at my “Works” page, you can see that my two main WIPs at the moment (though really, I’m letting the one wait in line as I finish the other) are a stand-alone (Daughter) and what I at least hope might have the meat to pull off a series someday (Jethro). Both of them are very different writing experiences. One is an epic-fantasy-adventure that’s somewhere between The Princess Bride and Anastasia (figure that one out) and the other is about a bunch of high school kids in a small town who have to face the fact that they all have unexplained powers. One is focused very closely around one main character and a few of her closest connections, while the other technically has a main character, but also has an ensemble cast list as long as my arm.

I cannot tell you which one is more fun to write.

I really can’t. And I’m not going to make any comments about it being like picking between two children (though really, it is) but what I will say is that both stories have their own challenges and benefits, and I love that. So let’s talk about those challenges and benefits… let’s call them bonuses, though, because that’s what they really feel like.

Writing a Stand-Alone Novel (One or Two Main Characters)

 Challenges:

  • Typically you only have one (or two) perspectives to work with, even if you’re working in third-person. Unless of course you’re working in third-person omniscient, but that’s not often the case. This can make it hard to show the audience something without letting your character see it, which is sometimes vital.
  • Your character also has to be strong enough to carry a full-length novel. There’s really no half-ways-ing on this. Either you have someone who feels like a real person and is exciting or relatable, or you don’t have anything. Really. Because if your character doesn’t hold up, nothing else will. There’s no room for it to.
  • This is your one shot. Everything you want to say in this story, has to be said in this book. It’s a little bit different with the internet now, because we have the opportunity to do ebook tie-ins and things like that, but it doesn’t change the fact that if there was something you wanted to happen in this story and it didn’t make it there, it will never be there. The end.

Benefits:

  • The story has a clear-cut ending. This may not be the case with a series, at least with an ensemble cast like I’m planning. The story could well go on forever in an ensemble piece, but with one character, it’s easier to see where to say goodbye. (Clarification: this does not make it easier to actually SAY goodbye!)
  • You get to really fall in love with your characters. Not saying you can’t do this in a bigger cast (and obviously you can if your series is all based around one character, but that doesn’t seem to be the way I work), but fictional characters are often enigmatic and untrusting, and it takes time to peel away their layers. You get to do this if most of your time is spent with only one or two of them.

Writing a Series (Ensemble Cast)

Challenges:

  • Think making one character strong enough to carry a book was difficult? Now you have to have half a dozen (or more!) characters and they each have to be different enough to feel like different people. No use having a lot of characters if no one can tell them apart.
  • You also have to be very, very careful that your characters don’t fall into archetypes. Or if they do, that they have something about them that really makes the archetype worth it. Make sure there’s a twist. If the character just really needs to be an archetype, make sure that they feel organic. Avoid clichés as best as you can.
  • You have to make sure that your ending lets everything be said. Again, this is a little different now that we can offer side novellas and what not, but if you have half a dozen important characters, you have to make sure they each get their due and that their storyline ends by the time you say “The End.” This may not be an easy thing to balance out.

Benefits:

  • So. Many. Voices. Really that’s what’s fun about an ensemble cast and the time a series will give you to feature them. You get to experiment with so many different characters and write in their distinct voices. You don’t get “stuck” with one or two characters.
  • Time. Really a big benefit of a series is that you have room and time to get to a lot of things. In my case, a lot of different characters with personal storylines that play into the bigger story arch. You can even end a book halfway through one character’s personal struggle… it will bring some back to read the next book, to see how it turned out.

So… sorry to turn a reading question into a lecture about writing… but really, I’m not. I wonder if anybody else can think of benefits and challenges to the two?

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Booking Through Thursday: Eternity

Bookish Sarah asks:

What book took you the longest to read, and do you feel it was the content or just the length that made it so?

I don’t know what book has taken me the longest to read, but lots of books have taken me a long time to read, and here are some reasons why:

1) I’m not enjoying the story, but there’s a story question I want answered. Or just a plot twist. Or one small character I can’t let go of enough to give up altogether.

2) I’m enjoying the language more than the story. Or equally as much as the story. I’ll read a beautifully-written book slowly, as it was probably written.

3) I’ve lost it. Or had to return it to the library. This has happened on numerous occasions over the past three years, because I’ve lived in three different states… in six different time periods. Figure that one out.

4) I love the story but the language is slow. Or complex. This is sort of the same as 2, but a little different. I’m reading Bleak House at the moment… well, I will be when I get it back from the library sometime (See Reason #3) and I’m fully drawn in, the wording just takes longer to read, period. This is the same for a lot of classics for me.

Booking Through Thursday: Different Kind of Romance

Ted asks:

Have you ever fallen in love with a fictional character? Who and what about them did you love?

Well the short answer is, yes. Multiple times. Here is a glance at a few characters that really stand out to me in particular.

Captain George Wentworth from Persuasion by Jane Austen

I think Captain Wentworth is impossible not to love. He is everything masculinity should be. Strong, but not rigid. Proud, but not to a fault. Also, he speaks to the heart of every single person who has ever lost a love over a misunderstanding, or circumstance, or happenstance. He is the promise of love conquering over all even when time and everything else imaginable has intervened in the worst way possible.

Edward Fairfax Rochester from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

Rochester is all about charisma. He has one of the strongest charismas of any character that I have ever encountered, and charisma is inherently attractive to me. I’ve always thought of Rochester as Anne Shirley’s “someone who could be wicked but wouldn’t.” Of course, Rochester was a little wicked, but he changed his ways for Jane. He was tempted to go on in his wicked ways, but Jane wouldn’t allow it, and eventually was able to marry her rightfully.

Ron Weasley from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

I know, I know. A lot of people don’t care for Ron. A lot of people write him off as the jealous one of the HP trio who simply can’t grow up. This is not how I see Ron. I see Ron as someone who, despite having less natural ability or inclination towards greatness, wanted nothing more than to be great. As someone on my tumblr list pointed out, we see this in the very first book. In the Mirror of Erised, Ron sees himself as having made great accomplishments. His greatest desire was to be Extraordinary. And that’s really something we can all relate to, isn’t it? This isn’t even going into his unquestionable loyalty—maybe it was overridden by jealousy once in a while, but whenever it counted, Ron never hesitated.

Finn in the Books of Bayern by Shannon Hale

This one is a little more obscure, but one of the dearest characters to my heart. Finn is the epitome of the slow burn. His love for Enna is calm and quiet, but fierce and strong. Finn probably says less than 150 words in all four of the Books of Bayern, but his action and presence are tremendous in their quiet steadiness. He was also willing to change himself—make himself stronger and better for Enna. He’s like what Westley from The Princess Bride would have been, had he never become the Dread Pirate Roberts. (Speaking. Of. I love Westley. I guess for the same reasons.)

Booking Through Thursday: Blogs

Yvonne asks:

What do you look for when reading a book blog? Does the blogger have to read the same genre? Do you like reviews? Personal posts? Memes? Giveaways? What attracts you to a book blog?

I have to admit, I don’t read a lot of book blogs. I think book blogs are great, but I have trouble keeping up with them, so I don’t usually follow book blogs the way I follow writing blogs. That said, I think book blogs are GREAT. The book blogs I run across without actually following them (and that’s a lot of them) keep me pretty well-informed about what’s happening in the publishing world. I do usually read YA-focused blogs, since it’s what I write, though.

What really brings me back to a blog are things like dissections of trends going on in the Young Adult publishing world, and posts that talk about the issues in books. Posts that try to be aware of not just how good a book is, but also the effect of popular books on teens, as well as on the genre and the publishing industry. I feel like book bloggers get such a great view of this—they’re not nearly as pinholed as I am in my reading usually, so they get a wider view of how the Young Adult genre is growing and maturing. I like the extra perspective.

Booking Through Thursday: Fan Fiction

Pepca asks
Have you every written any fan-fiction? If yes, why and for which book(s)? If no, would you like to and for which books(s)?

For that matter, do you ever READ fan-fiction??

Yes, I’ve written fanfiction… I’m not going to divulge for what here, because I think I’ve gotten to the point where I’m going to plead plausible deniability. I will say that it wasn’t a book, though… it was for a TV show.

Do I ever read fan-fiction…. not anymore. I used to read a lot for the show that I wrote for, and then I went through a period when I read some Harry Potter. But now I don’t really have time to read all the books I want, so that doesn’t leave any time at all for fanfic.

I will admit, though, that I have a dream of someday having written something that will inspire fanfic. I don’t expect to inspire legions of it… but I’d love for there to be enough to support a fanfiction.net page. Even if I never liked that site, particularly.

Booking Through Thursday: Only Five

Before we get started, two things:

1) Today is my first post at the Dojo! Go read about my love of the Pomodoro Technique!

2) This is my 100th post on this blog! Woohoo!

And now, back to today’s originally scheduled BTT question:

If you had to pick only 5 books to read ever again, what would they be and why?’

I’m not going to mention my LDS quad in this, because that’s a given and the reasons therefore should also be fairly obvious, though if I really were given only five books, this would of course be one of them, as I try to read a little every day. On to the more objectionable stuff… I’m going to make two seperate lists here:

Cheater List

1) The Complete Works of William Shakespeare – Because I want brilliance, and I want a lot of it.

2) The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson – Because no other poet has satisfied me as much, as consistently.

3) The Complete Works of Jane Austin – (See reason for #1)

4) The Complete Works of Ray Bradbury – I’m not totally married to this, but I’ve really loved a lot of Bradbury shorts, and I think I’d need something short and diverse.

5) The Complete Harry Potter – Okay, I know this isn’t a volume yet… but you know it will be someday.

Non-Cheater List

1) Jane Eyre. I don’t know that I could ever get tired of this book. For some people it’s Pride & Prejudice, but for me it’s Jane Eyre.
2) Little Women. I start reading this almost every Christmas. I have to admit, I don’t usually read the whole thing through, but I’ve read it enough that it’s one of my oldest and sweetest friends. Even though a very big part of me still wants Jo to marry Laurie.
3) Anne of the Island. Why this one? Because this is the book where Anne rejects Gilbert and then realizes that she loves him. Ah, the tortuous angst. I love it. I am all over it.
4) Enna Burning by Shannon Hale. Again, it’s all about the long-withheld requitement of love in this one. Plus Enna is awesome. Which I like. I don’t think I’d get tired of it.
5) I Never Promised You a Rose Garden by Joanne Greenburg. This book has saved my sanity more than once. If I were say, on a desert island or something, I think I’d need literature like that. For those moments I’m not trying to feel all the fall-in-love pangs that I’m so addicted to.
If you’re stopping by for BTT, be sure to check out my Books are for Lovers post. Buy a book on Valentine’s to show your local bookstore some love!

Booking Through Thursday: Writing or Riveting?

What’s more important: Good writing? Or a good story?

(Of course, a book should have BOTH, but…)

Just a short answer for me today, but I guess I prefer good writing. I can be thrown from a really good story if the writing is awful, but often I’ll pace myself through a slower-plotted book if the writing is gorgeous or the characters are really addictive. If the plot is mind-blowingly brilliant but the character is dumb as a post, I’ll still read the book, but I might walk away with a sour taste in my mouth.