Sunday, December 14, 2014

More than Just a Name

Picture of From Aaron to Zoe by Daniel A. Richman
Whether people acknowledge it or not, names still have great significance in culture today. If somebody’s name is “like Mud” or if a person is “no Sherlock,” often times, people may understand the meaning of such phrases even if they do not fully understand the source. In fiction, characters may have names with meanings that may reinforce or contradict their personalities or significance.
Many great books out there, not just Pilgrim’s Progress, have characters with significant names. In The Naming and in The Messenger, the protagonists receive new names that embody their roles in their societies. In The Kingdom Series, many of the characters’ names represent biblical characters. Even many of the characters in The Hunger Games are representational, and the places may be historical references. Most recently, some of characters in the Allegiance books have names that either reflect their personalities or names that the characters rise above.
In my own stories, I may spend days or even months trying to give a particular character a name with meaning. Villains are perhaps the most difficult characters to name, not necessarily because they are underdeveloped but because they are so vitally important. I can’t just name one of the most important characters John Smith, so my antagonist might go through half a draft with a name like (VN)—for Villain Name—or simply X. A successful writing day is one when I can name one character, and it's a superb day when I can name two.
Throughout Scripture, names have great significance both for God and for people. Abram, Sarai, and Jacob’s names were changed to Abraham, Sarah, and Israel. Naomi asked to be called Mara because she felt that her life was bitter. One of the apostles, Simon, was also called Peter. The list goes on.
Although not every writer may select names for a particular meaning, characters tend to embody a name and can even be memorable for them. Those characters with meaning in their names add layers of quality and depth to literature, which may be interesting to study when examining certain texts. Meaning behind a character name is not always necessary, but such names can hold power in both classical and contemporary literature.
Are there any characters whose names hold meaning that you view as significant? Do you think it is important for writers to give their characters’ names meaning?
Literary references: Daniel A. Richman's From Aaron to Zoe: 15,000 Great Baby Names, John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, Alison Croggon’s The Naming, Lois Lowry’s The Messenger, Chuck Black’s The Kingdom Series, Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, L. Nicodemus Lyon’s Allegiance Series, and the Holy Bible.

Friday, December 5, 2014

"The List"--Splickety Magazine 3.4 Release

Today marks the release date of my most recent publication "The List" featured in Splickety Prime 3.4. This marks the second work I have had published through Splickety. You can view a short description of my first story on my Works Published page.
Splickety Prime 3.4
Perhaps one of the most dreadful questions a reader can ask is "What is your story about?" Before you ask, it’s about Christmas. Because the story is flash fiction—less than 1,000 words—I will refrain from describing the entire story. Instead, I will address a few things related to writing this story.
I first came up with the idea for this story a few years ago, but the story didn’t actually develop until this past summer. I was tired of all the trite Christmas stories that all seem to tell the same story, so I decided to write something different.
One story that served as inspiration, although it may not directly influence my story, is Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Although families may watch the film version to the point of quoting it word-for-word, the story still portrays the realistic importance of life and death through fantastical means.
On the other hand, my intention of writing “The List” is not to deemphasize the importance of the church or of the nativity story. For those of you who have already read my story, this might make more sense. To me, the best Christmas story will always be the nativity story.
Have a warm, merry Christmas!
What are some of your favorite Christmas stories? Do you have any questions concerning “The List”? I'd like to hear your thoughts!
Literary references: Splickety Magazine, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, and the Holy Bible.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Bring the Book

“Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them.” –Lemony Snicket
Somebody once told me that I cannot write a blog entry on bringing a book to a social gathering without being seen as a nerd, but—let’s face it—I read until I needed glasses, and I blog about literary concepts. Although I would not consider myself a complete book worm (see The Average Reader), there have been instances when I’ve spent time around people and wished that I had brought a book.
I wouldn’t venture to say that I am always uncomfortable at social gatherings. Quite the opposite. I can have a good time if I’m with the right sort of people. Nevertheless, I enjoy bringing a book just for those lulls in events when I find myself watching everybody else having a conversation or doing something else.
During one particular Thanksgiving, we had a wonderful celebration, and I brought along Illusion. After our meal, I read while most everybody else either took a nap or watched football. During certain occasions like this, I would consider myself justified to bring along a book. After all, I cannot be expected to engage in conversation at every moment.
Recently, one of my friends brought her copy of To Kill a Mockingbird to a talent show. Although she didn’t actually read during that event, it was a comfort to have the book on hand.
Some books for my young adult literature class.
Even writers are encouraged to always bring a notebook or some sort of paper everywhere they go so that they may take notes or capture random bursts of inspiration. Although I do not always carry a notebook, I try to bring a pen, or I may text myself if something comes to mind. The most common thing I record are interesting quotes because I won’t remember them later word-for-word. When it comes to general concepts, I keep these in mind until I have a chance to type them up on my computer.
More often than not, if I bring a book, I may not use it, but if I forget it, I will want it. I attended social gatherings with friends weekly, but I do not bring a book with me. I would, and still do, engage in conversation, but that does not stop me from browsing bookshelves.
Overall, people may still be able to socialize while they have a book on hand. I primarily carry a book along while I’m travelling, especially if I’m not the one driving. It is even enjoyable to read one book while the person next to me—be it friend or family—reads another. Even when I went horseback riding, I would sit in my horse’s pen afterward and read books such as Huckleberry Finn and The Hobbit. I don’t always bring a book everywhere I go, but I’d like to.
What are your thoughts on bringing a book to a social gathering or event? Do you often carry a book around?
Literary references: Frank Peretti’s Illusion, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, Maggie Stiefvater’s The Scorpio Races, Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, and J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Average Reader

From the Schloss Leopoldskron Library in Salzburg, Austria
Photo Credit: Lori Klein
It always saddens me when I hear some people say that they don’t like reading. The reader in me wants to share all the stories and adventures I’ve gone on in books. On the other hand, the writer in me wants to shove my favorite stories down their throats so they might one day read my own books, not that I would actually do that to anybody, except perhaps my family members and closest friends. I always think that people are missing out when they have not read The Giver or The Naming or The Time Machine or many other books I have mentioned previously.

I always want to be the optimist, thinking every person just have to find the book that is right for them, but is this the case? After all, not all people who don’t read for enjoyment do so because they think reading is boring, although this may be true for some, and not all people who read for enjoyment read all the time.

Over the summer, I struggled with reading because it made my eyes water so much. As it turned out, I read so much prior that I needed reading glasses. Until I could get them, however, reading was tiring. Instead of reading, I would often revert to watch a movie, play video games, or write. Otherwise, whenever I picked up, I would end up taking a nap after ten pages. 

A pair of my new reading glasses.
Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoy reading. I once read an entire series—the Alliance Series—during midterms week—yes, I still passed—because I could not put the books down. Last semester, one of the busiest and most stressful semesters yet, I took the time to read the Phantom of the Opera for fun. Nevertheless, because I read so much, I needed reading glasses, which I finally have and I can enjoy reading again.

Many other people may struggle with reading too. Some people may require glasses. Others may struggle with dyslexia, short attention spans, or boredom. For the majority of people who enjoy reading, they may not always have the time. For me, I have to read for classes. Others may have to study, work, or raise their children.

There are many reasons people don’t read, and not all of them are because people are too busy watching movies. Of course, I still believe it is important to share the joy of reading with others, especially children who may grow up enjoying reading for pleasure.

There are times when I want to read all the time, but I have to remember that it is important to build relationships and spend time in the world around me. So, whether you read for pleasure or don’t, whether you struggle with reading or not, or whether you have the time or not, enjoy life! It may be enjoyable to read, but it is not the most important thing.

Have you ever tried to share your enjoyment for reading, if you enjoy reading, with somebody did not enjoy it? Have you ever read a particular book for fun even though you felt busy at the time?

Literary references: Lois Lowry’s The Giver, Alison Croggon’s The Naming, H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine, L. Nicodemus Lyons’ the Alliance Series, and Gaston Leroux’s Phantom of the Opera.  

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Escaping Fiction

Caution: this post may contain spoilers in William Shakespeare’s The Tempest and Cornelia Funke’s Inkdeath.

If there is one thing I enjoy doing at the end of a long day, it is sitting down to read a good book. I would rather read than watch a movie or some television show. Although the latter are nice, I prefer something that will engage my mind and make me think. Of course, I enjoy reading for pleasure, sometimes to the point where it doesn’t feel like I’m working at all because I’m so engaged in the story. Sometimes, after a difficult day or when a book is well written, I wish I could escape into the story itself.

“Because by now Elinor had understood this, too: A longing for books was nothing compared with what you could feel for human beings. The books told you about that feeling. The books spoke of love, and it was wonderful to listen to them, but they were no substitute for love itself. They couldn't kiss her like Meggie, they couldn't hug her like Resa, they couldn't laugh like Mortimer. Poor books, poor Elinor.” –Cornelia Funke, Inkdeath

After all, what reader would not want to visit the lands of their favorite books? Who would not want to explore Middle Earth with the Fellowship? Or fly to Neverland with Peter Pan and Wendy? Or would readers? After all, many stories include great hardships, enemies, and even death. Why would readers willingly wish they could visit their favorite characters if readers knew they would suffer?

Me with my e-reader in Il Campo, Siena, Italy
Photo Credit: Lori Klein
This summer, my family and I visited several places where some of my favorite books are set. One such setting was Tuscany, the beautiful setting for Lisa Bergren’s The River of Time Series. Although we did not travel back in time to medieval Italy, visiting both Siena and Firenze made the books come alive. This made the books seem less like fiction and almost like reality. The same is true for other book settings I have visited.

If this were the case for other books, would it really be so exciting to visit a fictional setting if it became more like reality? I agree that it is exciting to visit such settings in our world. Nevertheless, I do not believe we would want all the stories or the characters to come to life. Cornelia Funke in her Inkheart trilogy, especially in Inkdeath, portrays the unfortunate circumstances of the relationship of readers and a book itself. Within the story, many of the characters learn that living within a book is far different and even more difficult than reading one.

In reality, readers may not want to go through the same hardships that beloved characters do. At the same time, readers still return to books, often times with a sense of longing for another story or another world. For our own world can be full of perils that readers may not want to experience, so they may turn to fiction. From a Christian perspective, readers may have a longing for heaven, for even Christ said His kingdom was not of this world (John 18:36). At the same time, literature, even utopian literature, can never contain perfect worlds.

As much enjoyment readers get out of their favorite books, they must also remember to treasure their own lives and relationships. After all, reading should be a reflection of life with all its hardships and joys. In the end of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Prospero puts away his magical books to travel back to Milan with his daughter and other character. Ultimately, he puts more emphasis on people and relationships than his own power through books. Even readers should remember that their own lives and relationships are vitally important.

What are some reasons you read? Do you have any favorite story settings you would like to visit?

Literary references: J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Lisa T. Bergren’s The River of Time series, Cornelia Funke’s Inkdeath, William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, and the Holy Bible.

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Best and Worst of Movie Adaptations

In an increasingly digitalized world, books decline while movies rise in popularity. Throughout the years, popular books are made into movies, and fans typically get excited. Until they see the film. Countless times have I heard people complain about movie adaptations of their favorite books. Many such movies leave out key scenes or add ones or—heaven forbid—change an important character.

A mixture of excitement and disappointment arises concerning movie adaptations. Even with good films, it seems that book fans always find something to complain about in the movie. So why should book fans even attend a movie adaption of their favorite books?

Some of the most accurate of such adaptations include The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hunger Games. Although these films could not capture every detail from the books, I would consider these good adaptions because they captured the stories’ essence. Of course, I have still heard people complain about these movies because the directors left out elements the audience deemed important.

On the other hand, some favorite books may have disappointing films. Despite the excitement over the Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Hobbit adaptations disappoints many fans because of all the changes and additions. Other movies that ruin major plot elements include Prince Caspian, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and Eragon.

Nevertheless, several movie adaptations succeed despite inaccuracy, such as How To Train Your Dragon (1 and 2) and The Three Musketeers. BBC’s Sherlock could be added to this list for plot reasons, but the characters are very accurate to the books.

Some devoted book fans often complain about movie adaptations, but other book fans may claim that the movie encourages more people to read the book. This is true to an extent, for not everybody reads. But I have read many different books because I learned about them from their film adaptations. This way, even non-readers may discuss certain stories—to an extent—with book fans.

However, much controversy and sometimes contradictions exist over movie adaptations of biblical stories. Why should people give so much allowance to such adaptations but complain about minor changes within fiction? Why should people enjoy Paramount Pictures’ Noah because it gets people to read the Bible but complain about The Hobbit because Legolas and Tauriel were not in the book? Why should adaptations of Bible stories be allowed creative license but not adaptations of popular fiction?

We, as an audience, should examine our priorities when it comes to critiquing movies. I am not against Scripture-based films because many of them may increase knowledge of biblical stories. Generally, I try not to be overly critical of films and just enjoy them for what they are, even though there are times when certain aspects irritate me. As a writer, it would be exciting to watch one of my stories turned into a movie.

Overall, movie adaptions are the interpretations of the directors. If readers do not like that, fine. Just read the book. Unless the author directs the movie, the book will almost always be better.

What stance do you take on movie adaptations? Is there a particular movie adaption of a book or a story that you enjoy/dislike?

Original literary references: J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia, Christopher Paolini’s Eragon, Cressida Cowell’s How to Train Your Dragon, Alexander Dumas’ The Three Musketeers, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes collection, and the Holy Bible.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Likeable Villain

Most good stories need a good villain. Within society today, the villain is becoming increasingly humanized. No longer are villains a purely evil force working against the heroes. Instead, villains are characters with backstories, motivations, and other characteristics. 

The Black Knight at the Kaltenberger Ritterspiele
Photo Credit: Lori Klein
Recently, it seems increasingly that the villains, or rather the antagonists, may be a more admirable character than the protagonists themselves may. However, from a Christian standpoint, it seems wrong to like the antagonist. How can I reconcile my beliefs with my appreciation for a well-written antagonist?
Some examples of sympathetic antagonists include Loki from Thor, The Avengers, and Thor 2, Rumpelstiltskin from Once Upon a Time, and the phantom from Phantom of the Opera. I am certain that these characters may be debated as to their sympathetic qualities, but I find them to be likeable characters, even though they are villains.
Of course, not all villains have some tragic backstory. Many antagonists are great because they are characters readers like to hate. Some examples of these cruel villains are King Miraz from Prince Caspian, James Moriarty from Sherlock Holmes, and Letah Drahk├┤n from The Alliance Series.
As a writer, I may choose my favorite villains as models for my own. Yet, I have to be careful, for often times I may like a villain simply for his despicable nature. 
From the reader's perspective, I prefer the antagonists with redemptive quality, whether or not they really have an opportunity for change. Many recent writers seem to play on the audience's expectation of hope. Viewers and readers alike may hope for characters to act one way, but they act another.
I believe there is much to learn from antagonists, not just what not to do. Within my own life, I cannot play God, for people are capable of making their own decisions no matter how many ways I wish they would act.
However, I still struggle between liking villains and maintaining good character. As a Christian, I am called to think on things that are noble, pure, and virtuous (Philippians 4:8). Therefore, appreciating the antagonist may seem like indulging sin nature. While I may not strive to act like a villain, should I appreciate any of them at all?
What are your thoughts on antagonists? Do you have one or more whom you appreciate?
Literary References: Marvel’s The Avengers, ABC Studio’s Once Upon a Time, Gaston Leroux’s Phantom of the Opera, C.S. Lewis’ Prince Caspian from The Chronicles of Narnia, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes collection, L. Nicodemus Lyons’ The Alliance Series, and the Holy Bible.