Category: Book Review


Sorry for the lack of a podcast so far this week, guys! I’ve been pretty busy getting some things organized for work but I did want to make a book recommendation for character exploring and development.

I find that the best advice usually comes from unexpected places. I was doing an acting workshop when it was suggested that we read Audition by Michael Shurtleff to use as a lens for studying our roles. The section on relationships is especially powerful for me, as it helps me better understand how to handle my own characters.

To give you a taste for it, the book suggests that actors (in an audition setting) should move beyond the obvious motivation in a scene. While it may be tempting to make a shy character lower their head, avoid eye contact, play with their hands, and generally avoid human contact, it is a cliche at this point. It doesn’t add to the character and leaves the actor (or writer in this case) much room to go anywhere. The book suggests to dream big, to allow the character to desire opposites at the same time.

There is an example in the book of a meeting between a man and his new stepmother, who is his own age. The director asks for their motivation, and each actor says that they are “discovering” that they are attracted to each other. The director suggests that they push harder, that the characters be madly in love with each other from that very first moment, the reason being that it gives the actor a lot more to work with. And then you have a powerful opposite that is simultaneously true: for the stepson, the desire not to hurt his father outweighs (in the first scene anyway) his desire for his new stepmother; and the stepmother’s reminding herself that she JUST married the man’s father counters her own desire for him.

The powerful opposites make for a far richer performance (and written scene) than an obvious reaction.

It reminds me of a common problem writers have with beginnings. I’ve heard several times that whatever you’ve got written down, you should cut the first three paragraphs and then begin the story there. The first part is useless information. It isn’t a strong beginning. I think this is part of that concept, that two characters are already in love when they meet rather than “discovering” one another.

So that’s one interesting thing I got from the book but there are plenty of other lessons. Definitely check it out, I’m rereading it right now and loving it.

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Advice from a Master

Was going through my backlog of blogs I normally read (oh my god, I am so bad at keeping up with all of the news I love reading about) and I find this short list of Three Editing Tips to Help Get Published by one of my favorite authors, Jordan Castillo Price, the author of one of my favorite series: PsyCop. It’s m/m for anyone who gets squeamish about that sort of thing but the plot, characters, and everything about that series is so phenomenal, I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to see how a master puts together a great story.

10 Influential Books

I know I just posted my huge Kindle reading list earlier this week (and believe me, that took a lot of doing considering how long it is) and right after, Marissa Meyer posted her top ten (or at least ten) books that influenced her. Pencil_gal responded here and Loki_onyx responded here to Marissa’s question: which are ten books that influenced you?

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Currently Reading

1)   The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco

Yes, I am still reading this one. I keep getting interesting books and I want to read them right away so I read this between whatever I’m currently reading.

2)   Traitor’s Moon by Lynn Flewelling

I think, if I could only ever read one author for the rest of my life and no one else, it would have to be Lynn Flewelling with her Nightrunner series. It is so good, I can’t even stand it. This is the third book in her series. In a nutshell: her main characters, Seregil and Alec, must journey to Aurenen (Seregil’s birth country) to help Skala in their war against Plenimar. Amazing, brilliant, gripping, I can never stop reading her words. I’m only about a tenth through it and I’m already wishing she had a hundred more books for me to read.

3) The Scene Book by Sandra Scofield

I’m already about two chapters in and it’s rhetoric with a few good points so far. I need to try one of the exercises because thus far, I’m not sure if it will help my specific issues.

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Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Since I can’t seem to stop myself, I’m reading another book now (this will be number 43 for the year, or at least the ones I tracked through my Kindle app on my iPhone) and getting really into it. When I was young, I didn’t think there was anything strange about reading three books a week. In fact, my English teacher in middle school didn’t believe me when I said I read this much. So my school tested me – assigned a number of books and asked me to do a project for them. Not only did I do all of this, I distinctly remember complaining about how easy these books were. They’d given me interested material, certainly, but I was more into classical books (I didn’t know they were classics at the time, I just thought they sounded interesting). In high school, I hated the so-called classics we were forced to read because my teachers would dissect all the good parts, overanalyze and read into every line (and even stuff that wasn’t in the book at all) and then assign stupid projects that only served to make us (the students) hate those books even more. In the end, I managed to get away with not reading the books and simply waiting until someone else in my class started talking and then picking up the thread of conversation from there. I… was really good at being a bad student. Not that anyone noticed since I had a 3.78 GPA in my college prep high school, but that’s not the point. I was really good at faking interest in these books.

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Insatiable by Meg Cabot

Title: Insatiable

Author: Meg Cabot

Other notable works by author: The Princess Diaries series, The Mediator series, 1-800-Where-R-U series

Page Count: 464 pages (hardcover)

Method: Kindle on iPhone

Rating: Good

Plot Summary: Our heroine, Meena Harper, works as a dialogue-writer for the popular soap opera, Insatiable, in this satirical vampire book. A living doormat, Meena allows everyone to walk all over her and rarely says what she means, whether it is staying quiet about her brainless co-writer Shoshana (what a name!) getting the big promotion that rightfully belonged to Meena, or not speaking up when someone is about to die. Meena’s special power is the gift of prophecy, specifically seeing how someone is going to die (heart attack because of a terrible diet, suicide bomber in a Morocco hotel, developing brain tumor). Living with her unemployed brother, she seems pretty depressed with her lot in life. She ends up dating the prince of darkness, vampire Lucien, at her neighbor Mary Lou’s apartment (Mary Lou has tried to set Meena up with someone every time she corners her in the elevator). She is swept away by his feelings for him (thinking that he’s just some prince from Romania) but later becomes entangled in family politics and a nasty vampire war. Alaric Wulf, a Palatine guard, joins the foray as Meena’s reluctant protector as he tries to kill Meena’s boyfriend, Lucien.

Notable quote: “She didn’t have time for this. She had a meeting. And a story to pitch. There was that head writing position, vacant now that Ned had had that very public nervous breakdown in the network dining room during spring sweeps” (page 3).

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