Friday, January 30, 2015

Wrapping Up The Hobbit, Part 2

So, continuing from my post a couple of weeks ago, today I have more thoughts to share with you about The Hobbit trilogy of movies.

First of all, I have to add to my last post, under Things I Loved. Somehow, I completely forgot Bard, one of the my favorite characters in the entire story! Cue my gasp of horror. I’m so glad one of my readers reminded me. So, when I read the book, Bard the Bowman was possibly my favorite single character. I loved Bilbo, of course, but somehow Bard stood out to me. Seeing him brought to life on screen was one of the greatest delights of the films for me. Side note: Am I the only one who thought he was played by Orlando Bloom at first?

He wasn’t, of course. It was Luke Evans who brought the character of Bard to life for us. He was so perfect! Now, I do believe he was darkened a bit from the book. However, I don’t think it was a bad change. And it was certainly balanced out by his interaction with his family. I loved the development the writers gave to Bard and his children. It added a very Tolkien element to the story, in my opinion: something worth fighting for.

I wasn’t entirely happy with Bard at Erebor, though. His motivation for demanding a share of the treasure was to protect his people. In that, I believe he was completely justified. His attitude just seemed unexpectedly harsh. Still, what would you do if faced with a stubborn, greedy dwarf-king? And, ultimately, Bard didn’t want the treasure for the sake of treasure. I think that was made clear. He and his people were promised a share of the treasure in return for helping the dwarves, and, with Laketown destroyed, they desperately needed that share in order to rebuild. Bard is a character who cares deeply about his family and his people, who can’t stand for injustice, and who deals fairly with others. He leads the people of Laketown when their world is destroyed, and, even in battle, his focus is on keeping those he loves safe, not bringing glory to himself. Bard the Bowman was fantastic, and I’m so glad I got the chance to see him on screen.

Since I’ve mentioned Laketown, I’m going to talk about Alfred for just a moment. *shudders* I highly dislike slimy sidekicks with no morals, which is exactly the description of Alfred, assistant to the Master of Laketown. He’s conniving, rude, cowardly, greedy, and malicious. I don’t exactly know why Bard seemed to take him at face value during Battle of Five Armies; he didn’t exactly trust Alfred, but neither did he seem to realize what a danger the man presented. Maybe I read that all wrong, but, watching the movie, I kept wondering what Bard was doing. Perhaps he was giving Alfred a chance for redemption? That could fit with his desire to unify his people. Anyway, Alfred reminded me too much of Wormtongue, and my opinion on his inclusion thus flip-flopped. Sometimes I was annoyed that the writers created another Wormtongue-like character for these movies. Then I would think: it just proves people like that exist everywhere, which is true. Ultimately, I can’t decide what I thought of his role in Battle. I dislike the character, of course, but whether he should have been included or not… I don’t know. Your thoughts?

Now I shall move on from the humans to possibly the single-most controversial aspect of the entire trilogy: Kili and Tauriel’s romance. I know that a lot of people didn’t like it. I don’t fall under that category, exactly, though I don’t think it was perfect. Overall, I liked them together. I loved the idea of a dwarf and an elf finding a way past their racial prejudices. And, yes, I’m a pretty big romantic, so it was hard not to like it. Still, their relationship didn’t feel entirely realistic to me. First of all, they barely interacted. And, of course, attraction doesn’t take long to develop, but the feelings they seemed to have for each other appeared in a rather short amount of time and with relatively little basis. Second of all, it was just a bit cheesy at times. Overall, I liked it. I just wish it had felt more real. I have no problem with an elf-dwarf romance. Had it been better developed, though, I would have truly loved it. Tauriel was pretty heartbreaking there at the end, though, in my opinion.

As for Tauriel as a character, I liked her.  The picture we saw of the Woodland Elves was somewhat hard and closed-off, but Tauriel gave a contrasting picture. She’s curious and kind toward outsiders. She has a different perspective than that of both Legolas and Thranduil. And I appreciated that contrast. I’m afraid her character was somewhat lessened by the love triangle, but it was a strong character who had a lot of potential. Partially unrealized potential, I think, but still real. And my personal headcanon is that Tauriel greatly influenced Legolas’ perspective in LotR. Just because Tauriel wasn’t in the books doesn’t mean she couldn’t have been a real part of the Woodland Realm. I personally feel that she was a very Tolkien-esque character.

That’s where I’ll end today. I still have to tackle the expanded story, Fili, and the climax of Battle, so I definitely have at least one more post to write on this topic. For now, what are your thoughts on Tauriel? I promise to be nice, even if we disagree, but I am curious about why you like or dislike her.

Next week: “Do You ‘Ship’ Your Characters?”

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

I’d Like Your Help to Better This Blog


Courtesy of Pixabay

 Hello, everyone! I hope your week is going wonderfully! I just want to let you know that I’m going to implement various changes in formatting and such with this blog over the next few weeks. And I’d greatly appreciate your help in evaluating those changes. I probably won’t tell you specifically what I’ve changed, but if you notice anything at all, would you comment and let me know what you think of it? You can also email me at rachelleoneilwriter [at] gmail [dot] com; I love to hear from my readers!

In addition, I’d like to know what you enjoy about my blog. Why do you follow? What kind of posts do you like to comment on? What would you like to see more of? So, if you could fill out the poll on the sidebar to the right really quickly, that would be awesome. If you’d like to be more specific or if you enjoy something I haven’t mentioned, let me know in the comments. I look forward to hearing your feedback!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Writing Links to Assist You on Your Journey

I love discovering new blogs and finding interesting articles through Pinterest, Twitter, and blogs. So, today, I’ve decided to share with all of you some of the most helpful writing links I’ve encountered recently. Enjoy!

5 Tips for Writing Funny Characters | The Storymonger

Character Growth Words | Go Teen Writers

Villainy 101: Master-minding Murder and Mayhem - A Villain's Arsenal | Gillian Bronte Adams

Crafting the Perfect First Line | The Write Conversation

Tracking Your Character' Emotional Arc in a Scene | Helping Writers Become Authors

The Treatment of Henchman | Crafting Stories in Red

When it's Okay for Characters to Cry | The Storymonger

How to Build a World and How to Destroy It | J.B. Simmons

Writing Transitions | Liam Wood

And, finally, a book giveaway that I’m sure you all would enjoy:

Giveaway of One Book from The Safe Lands Trilogy by Jill Williamson | Part of Dystopian January with Gillian Bronte Adams

Great Effort in Writing

Next week: Part 2 of Wrapping Up The Hobbit. You can find Part 1 here.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Wrapping Up The Hobbit, Part I

I love The Lord of the Rings. Though I didn’t watch the movies or read the books until I was in my mid-teens, I don’t consider that a bad thing. On the contrary, I believe that experiencing it first when I was older contributed to my deep love of the story.

Anyway, when a movie adaption of The Hobbit was announced, I was thrilled. Not only would there be more Middle-Earth, but I would get to see it on the big screen! I was ecstatic! With The Battle of the Five Armies, out in December, Peter Jackson has concluded his cinematic adaption of Tolkien’s adventure story. I’ve seen all three movies, I own the first two and their soundtracks, but my feelings about the trilogy are mixed.

This isn’t a review; let me make that completely clear. My intention is not to give information of the movies. I simply want to organize and share my many thoughts and emotions about the trilogy. Thus, there will be plenty of spoilers. If you want to jump in with your own thoughts, please do. I’d love to discuss this topic with you.

First of all, I neither love nor hate An Unexpected Journey, Desolation of Smaug, and The Battle of the Five Armies. Honestly, there are few, if any, things in any of them that I truly hate. Ultimately, I’ve come to think of the trilogy like that one song that you sing a little too long, a little too loud, and, occasionally, a little off key, because you love it so much. As I said, I was ecstatic about The Hobbit. I wanted to love it. I love Middle-Earth; I love Tolkien’s elements – his characters, his themes, etc. And so, in tThe Hobbit Trilogyhat way, I do love the movies for giving me more of that. There are, however, a lot of those too long, too loud, and off key moments.

Things I Loved

  • Bilbo – What a brilliant casting choice for Martin Freeman to play Bilbo Baggins. His facial expressions, his wordings… Everything about his performance as Bilbo felt true to Tolkien.
  • Fili and Kili – Whether you agree with me or not, I truly loved most of what was done with the characters of Fili and Kili, nephews of Thorin Oakenshield. I don’t think Fili got enough focus, though. Sure, Kili’s adorable, but Fili was my favorite, and I wanted more of the dependable, kindhearted older brother. In the book, they were always mentioned together. I feel rather slighted that Fili got essentially overlooked in favor of his younger brother.
  • Balin – Every story needs a mentor, and Peter Jackson found his in Balin, warrior of Erebor and oldest member of the Company. Now, it is true that, in the book, Thorin is older than Balin. The movies’ writers chose to change that, and, honestly, I’m not particularly bothered by the choice. I love the character of Balin. He sees the good and the bad in Thorin; he senses the potential in Bilbo; he truly cares for each member of the Company. He adds a necessary element of heart to a story dominated by action.

What I Didn’t Love

  • The CGI – I was probably more disappointed by the obvious use of CGI in these movies than by anything else. During An Unexpected Journey, I thought the visual “quirks” I was noticing must be caused by the new style of filming (48 frames/sec.). Lord of the Rings had such fabulous, innovative uses of effects, from its “bigatures” to its costuming to its sets, that I assumed The Hobbit couldn’t be as CGI-heavy as it seemed. Desolation of Smaug (and the profusion of Internet complaints) convinced me otherwise. I feel like not as much focus was given to making these films as natural-feeling as possible. It seems like they defaulted to computer graphics more often than they strictly had to, and it pulls me out of the story.
  • The Length – Strictly speaking, it’s not the actual running time that bothers me. Obviously, LotR is longer than average, and that’s not an issue for me. I like long movies. In this case, though, the movies feel too stretched out. I don’t really have a problem with the story being broadened (more on that in a later post). I just think it was extended too much. I’m curious about what wasn’t included, though, since apparently there’s a lot of filmed footage not in the movies. Three films was all right; I just wish they had been tighter, especially the first two. The stretched pace of Journey and Desolation set me up poorly for The Battle of the Five Armies, which, despite its length, felt like it rushed along without breathing room. Was I the only one who felt that way? I think the makers didn’t want their time in Middle-Earth to end, which I fully understand. I can forgive a lot of the slightly bloated scenes because I, too, want to revel in Tolkien’s world. Unfortunately, on the whole this indulgence came at the sacrifice of the story.

My Favorite Scene

There are plenty of little scenes I love, but I think my favorite may be the Riddles in the Dark scene in Journey. Andy Serkis’ performance as Gollum was brilliant in LotR, and I feel that it only got better here. More of Smeagol’s personality comes through in his interaction with Bilbo, whose reactions were priceless. This scene contains exceptional acting from both participants, it includes definite chunks of Tolkien’s words, and it sets up the events of LotR. I always love watching it. A close second is Fili’s protectiveness when the orcs attack Bard’s house in Desolation.

My Least Favorite Scene

The climax of Battle of Five Armies. No contest there. Fili, Kili, and Thorin’s deaths tore me apart, especially Fili’s. I’ll go more into detail about this in a later post, but that scene is definitely my least favorite in the entire trilogy. I didn’t appreciate how it was done, for the most part, and the gut-wrenching lack of closure did me an incredible amount of emotional harm.

This is far from a complete hashing out of my thoughts, but I’ll finish here for today. I’ll do one or two more posts on this topic, in which I’ll deal more specifically with other aspects of the movies. Now I’d like to hear your thoughts: What are your favorite and least favorite aspects/scenes of the trilogy? Let me know in the comments!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Descriptive Details: Giving Your Story Flavor

What makes a story stick in your mind as you read it? More specifically, what makes a scene jump out at you? Witty banter and emotional punch are definitely large parts of that equation. However, another important element of scenes is descriptive details, those tricky little things that can either trip us up or make our writing soar.

Descriptive Details

I’m not a fan of huge chunks of description, partly because it eliminates white space and partly because I’m not particularly visual. Other people may enjoy it more, and every author will handle their descriptions a little differently. There is no perfect rule. As with most things, though, I’m in favor of a moderate approach.

  • Pick the important details – Sure, you could describe every aspect of the character’s bedroom – trust me, I once spent hours researching colors and 19th century styles just so I could do that very thing – but does any of it matter to the story? If the color of the chair helps explain some facet of your character, then go ahead. If it’s just another word to add, though, be careful. Sure, giving an idea of where things are is good, but I’m personally more in favor of a sketch than a detailed drawing. In the same story as I referenced above, I was very exacting with measurements and the like. As a result, those scenes were bursting with boring, unnecessary details. Mentioning a chair by the window and a bed across the room is fine, but what’s more important? The delicate, fairylike curtains or the music box on the dresser? The answer to that would vary by story. For a tomboy character, those curtains could highlight either a mother’s unwanted influence or an unexpected facet of said character’s personality. The music box might be unimportant in a room full of pretty things, but it may be the highlight for a child who has very little. Mention the things that have meaning in the setting. In addition, when describing people, focus on the distinctive details – the scar across the brow, the pale complexion, the unusually colored eyes. Most people form their own image of a character anyway, so there’s little need to be specific down to the last detail.
  • Don’t dump everything at once – I often skim description when it extends for more than a few sentences. So, if you tell me everything about the ranch house and then go on to paint the hills, sunset and far-flung herds as well without mixing in any action, you may very well lose me. Description becomes infinitely more interesting when intertwined with action and dialogue. So, to replace:

The dark-stained, irregularly-shaped oak boards led her gaze around the house’s exterior, where she took in dark green window shutters against brown frames and a plethora of potted plants. Three wide steps were contained by ivy-covered railings. They looked old but sturdy. In front of the door, a carpet greeted guests with a faded “Welcome.”

Perhaps instead we could say:

Charlotte’s hand trailed along the railing as she stepped up to the porch, catching on thick ivy. Staring at the dark-stained siding, her mouth turned up. “Those aren’t even.”

Jackson passed her. “That’s ‘cause they were made by hand. They’re plenty sturdy, despite the look.”

She moved to the door, glancing at the faded “Welcome” mat. “The potted plants kind of ruin the rustic image.”

Winking, he unlocked the house. “Don’t tell Mama.”

See the difference? Of course, my examples aren’t perfect, but I think they adequately show the difference between a detail dump and a pleasant introduction to a scene with character interaction and scene movement. Blocky descriptions encourage skimming, especially with the ever-increasing use of digital screens.

  • Don’t be afraid of modifiers – One of the pieces of writing advice that I’ve had hammered into my head aplenty is to avoid adjectives and adverbs. While I understand the reason for that advice – to avoid bloated prose that doesn’t use strong nouns and verbs – I’m afraid it fosters an atmosphere where the use of any adjectives and, especially, adverbs, is criticized. Modifiers add immense depth to writing when used correctly. The keyis to use them for enhancing what’s already there instead of hiding what’s not.
  • Make your details count – This is similar to the first point, but, while that one was more character-focused, this deals with plot. Even if we’re not writing a mystery novel, we still leave clues for our readers. And, while we don’t usually tell them everything up front, it is important, in my opinion, to be intentional about what we do show them. If Carol goes to a party and her diamond earrings later become the center of a smuggling investigation, I’d better have been told about her wearing those earrings, or at least owning them, earlier. If a valuable book is lying on my main character’s table and is then stolen, I’d like to have seen the book at least once. These examples don’t apply to everything, and there’s always an exception. The principle, though, is this: if something about a scene is important to the story, mention it somehow, even if you don’t assign any particular importance to it at the time.

Ultimately, as writers, we usually have a grasp on what things look like and how they unfold in a scene. Readers have only what we give them. So, every now and then we need to step back and look at a scene from our readers’ perspectives. Do the details I’ve included give an accurate picture of this person, room, or object? Are readers given access to things that will prove important later, detail-wise? Are they being overwhelmed and lost in prose? This story is for them to read and enjoy; I just want to make sure they can.

Do you like writing and reading description? What kind of details do you focus on? Let me know in the comments!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Letting Go Of The Fear

Happy New Year! Or, in other words, welcome to a few weeks2015 graphic of crossing out the date you write because it’s the wrong year. Kidding aside, 2015 is here. Remarkable, isn’t it? I suppose we’re all wondering where 2014 went. I know I am. However, I’m also looking forward to where 2015 will take me. The end of last year brought a flurry of changes for me, so I’ll be adjusting to them as this year gets underway. I know God’s got some things to teach me; I’ve just got to open my ears, eyes, and heart to Him.

A few weeks ago, I blogged about courage. But, the thing is, I hadn’t yet figured out what courage is. It was one of my words for 2014. I don’t know if you’ve heard of this, but some people choose One Word to define each coming year. I’ve never done that before, and I don’t necessarily plan on making it a habit. As I talked to God at the beginning of 2014, though, four words struck me, and I’ve subsequently blogged on each of them: Diligence, Initiative, Love, and, finally, Courage. Thus, my post on Courage was a planned post. And, though I did indeed have many opportunities to practice courage last year, I missed a key aspect of its personal application in my life until after I wrote that post.

Despite being an extrovert and loving people, I tend to be a bit of a fraidy-cat. I will literally cross the entire store to use the self-checkout instead of using one of the many open checkout lanes. I avoid eye contact with people I know when I spot them in town. I have a near panic attack when I’m preparing for a job interview.

And I came to a realization about a month ago: THIS IS RIDICULOUS. I am perfectly capable of confidence, yet I choose not to practice it. What? That moment of discovery stopped me in my tracks. Communication is my forte – why do I shy away from it? I can lead. I can be strong. Why in the world do I choose not to?

It’s as if I’ve let myself be bound by this nameless fear. Am I scared to step out on my own? To trust God? What is it? I still don’t fully know. I do know this, though: it stops now. I am tired of being stressed out and strangled by fear. I can’t let it run my life anymore.


Courtesy of Pixabay

I start college classes for the first time in less than two weeks. And for the past week, that has had me beyond stressed out. Today, I say no. You will no longer control me, fear. You, The Unknown, have no power over me. God has revealed an amazing path to me; He’s working out all the details. Do I truly think He’ll just abandon me now? No, I don’t. So, why should I be scared? I serve the God of the Universe, Who spoke the world into motion, Who sent His Son to die for me, Who has never let me fall. Today, I choose to trust in Him.

Have you been shying away from what God has for you because of fear? Have you, like me, been choosing to hold back on your potential? Let go of it. Fear’s not worth it.

Brandon Heath - Hands of the Healer