The Princess Detective: a narrative break

The townspeople dream of killing the wolves. The wolves, able to do as they please, dream of very little.

Every few years to town sends a fighter to challenge a wolf. Sometimes the wolf allows the fighter to live. But the Prince was no fighter. He had no reason to approach the wolves.

The wolves, the townspeople concluded, must have approached him. The more the townspeople talk about it, the more convinced they become that promises were made and broken. Everyone knows you can’t trust wolves. How, they wondered, did the Prince forget this basic truth of their lives?

Another truth of their lives that they were quite keen to remind the Princess of at every opportunity was chosen to find the truth. They waited for her to do her job. When she walked into a room, they looked at her expectantly.

The Princess realized the moment the crown was placed on her head that while she was expected to find the truth, nothing in the all of the documents and scriptures of the town said that she had to share it.

The Writer Games

In front of a live audience, write until you drop dead. The last one writing gets a book deal.

What do you think?

Have you read The Hunger Games? I don’t want to link to it lest I end up with too many people over here. Seriously.

I haven’t read it or seen the film. I’ve decided to read the books, but doubt I’ll see the movie. The idea of the story is depressing enough without adding visuals.

Anyway, I don’t know why I care, but there is this argument going around the Internet that I find annoying. A friend of mine recently stated that he wasn’t going to see The Hunger Games because it was a copy of Battle Royale. Copied? Was it? Well, I had to know more about that. We (as in we writers) try so hard to be original, it is maddening to see someone copy and end up with a best seller.

So I search for reviews, interviews, and whatever else. But after reading several pieces about the stories, I have to say I don’t believe Suzanne Collins copied the Japanese movie. If you disagree, please keep insults to yourself.

But I find I’m really, really irritated about this whole brouhaha over nothing.

I’ve seen comments that go something like this, “I haven’t read The Hunger Games, but I’ve heard it’s a rip off of Battle Royale, so I’m not going to.” Yes, letting hearsay form your opinions is always a good idea.

And this, “Battle Royale came out ten years ago–before The Hunger Games.” Okay. Valid observation. But Collins says she never heard of Battle Royale. Is she lying? One friend said, “People will say anything for fame and money.” Sure. But Collins dislikes media attention and there’s nothing about her lifestyle to indicate she’s all about the money. And not to point out the obvious, but if you’re all about money, writing a YA novel may not be the best choice. And I don’t call people liars without proof.

And until the other day I hadn’t even heard of Battle Royale. Well, it’s Japanese and had a limited release here in the States. I’m not sure why people assume Collins has heard of it. It’s not exactly like she’s said she didn’t know they’d made a movie of Titanic.

I also fail to see what is so amazingly unique about Battle Royale that someone else couldn’t come up with a similar idea all on her own. Am I to believe that in the whole of the world and history, only one person can come up with the idea of young people killing each other for sport? Anyone with a passing knowledge of Greek myth, Lord of the Flies, and reality TV would have a chance of imagining just such a plot. People come up with similar story ideas every single day. Anyone who writes should know this. You write something, and then–presto!–you come across something that is basically your idea. Was it stolen? No. I guess, it’s unfortunate Joseph Campbell isn’t around to ask about myth and collective storytelling.

And finally, am I to agree that only one version of any story can exist? If that is the case, then a lot of people better put down their pens. Battle Royale has a male lead (from what I’ve read about the plot). It is Japanese. So that’s it? No one else can tell their perspective on such a story? You know what, Romeo and Juliet has been written, so please, no more star-crossed romances. What else. Oh, no more stories aliens invading earth. No more assassination stories. No more war stories. No more man vs nature stories. Sorry. Been done. We should have a Only-One Rule. That would save us all a lot of trouble.

Have you ever known anyone who loves a particular band until that bands gets popular. Suddenly they don’t like that band anymore. They accuse the band of selling out. Or they look down at those Johnny-come-latelies as not real fans. Some smug nonsense in that. I hear a similar tone in some comments–they’re so cool as to know Battle Royale before the rabble, anything else pales in comparison. I’ve seen a few comments by people who love BR and are angry that only is it getting more distribution here in the States. Can they be pleased that THG has given their film some attention? No.

You could also read this post about the whole kerfuffle. I found it level-headed.

I’ve been trying to understand why this issue bothers me so much when I’ve no vested interest in either. Maybe I’m worried (hopeful!) it could be me. Maybe the novel sitting in my hard drive has already been done and I don’t know it. I’d like not to be raked across coals by people who don’t know anything about my work or me.

What sort of literary ruckus do you care about?

My Miss Havisham

I met Miss Havisham late at night when I was 14 and alone in the house. I lived with my father, and he, as he was wont to do, was out for the night. Perhaps he’d be home at 3am or Sunday afternoon. He never promised any particular time.

from Great Expectations

We lived far from everything, fields around most of the house, a lake in front of the house, a highway in the distance. An only child, I had to find my own way to forget that the neighbors might not actually be close enough to hear screaming.

I’d curl up on the sofa and watch television. We got 5 channels, but two of them required going outside into the dark to turn the antennae, so after a certain hour, we really only had 3 channels.

On one of the channels I met Miss Havisham and fell in love with Charles Dickens. Perhaps you know his 200th birthday was the other day?

I watched the movie Great Expectations, and afterwards couldn’t stop thinking about Miss Havisham and Estella. They seemed to confirm my 14 year old perspective on love, and while I felt I was supposed to feel bad that Estella was being raised impervious to love, I also suspected this was not all together a bad thing. I rather wished I was Estella.

She was not afraid of boys.

But I feared I had far more in common with Miss Havisham–unstable and most likely to be left at the altar. Years later on my wedding day, when I was 27, I walked to the church in my wedding dress, my father at my side, with the slight nagging notion that my soon-to-be husband was going to change his mind.

I didn’t tell anyone Miss Havisham was at my wedding, but she was, quietly sitting in the corner of my mind, rather disappointed I wouldn’t be joining her.

Still, back when I was 14, having watched the movie, I went and read the book. The book was even better, and so I fell for Mr. Dickens.

Yes, he was flawed–seriously so–and not everything he wrote was perfect by any means, but how perfect does a writer need to be?

What if I could write one character that could stay with someone all of her life?

Is there any character like that for you?

Happy Birthday, Charles Dickens. Glad you’re still with us. You know, in the way great story-tellers always are.

Crappy Books

There are different book likability levels.

One. Finish book and think, “I liked that.” Put book on shelf.

Two. Finish book and think, “That was great. Who do I know who ought to read this too?” Send a particular someone a message. “You should read this book.”

Three. Finish book and think, “Oh my God. Why didn’t I write this book? This is amazing.” Hang my head and feel like crying.

When talking to others about writing books, I often hear people say something along the lines of, “There are so many bad books out there. I know I can do better.” Or maybe, “I can’t believe the crap that gets published and I can’t get an agent.”

Yes. It is motivating to believe you can do better, and it is annoying that people named Snooki get book deals. Of course, it is annoying.

Now, I don’t read books by the Snookis of the world, so maybe I’m missing out on under appreciated gems. You can’t fit everything into one life, after all.

But I really don’t know what are all these crappy books? I love the books I read with a few exceptions. But even the books I was indifferent about, I wouldn’t say they were crap. My thinking was more, “Yeah, I can’t get that excited about Italy.”

So usually I finish a book and think, “I am never going to get published. Of course this got published and I didn’t.”

Does this mean I have no taste and will like anything?

Does this mean I am just so discerning I pick up only good books?

What books have you read lately, and how well did you like them?

Green-eyed Monster Sucks Out Soul

Have you read The Night Circus? I’m in the middle of reading it–a gift from my husband, who didn’t even know the book was on my wish list.

And as I’m wont to do when something captures me, I’ve read more about it online–like this interview on CNN.

I love the novel so far, and I’ll probably love it til the end. I’m like that when I give in to a book.

(I’d like to add that I don’t understand those who claim this book is “the next Harry Potter.” Yes, it is about magicians, but it is nothing like Harry Potter. It’s like saying How to Train Your Dragon is the next Lord of the Rings. And I certainly don’t see 12 year olds lining up to meet Ms. Morgenstern no matter how charming and delightful she is. Nor is the book part of a series…oh bother. I guess they’ve got to claim something is the next Harry Potter. They’re wishing.)

Anyway. Erin Morgenstern started the novel as a NaNoWriMo novel. Sigh. You know, I’ve written 7 NaNoWriMo… Her novel is about, obviously, a circus. A year and a half ago, I participated in Story-a-Day. The stories were all meant to be fairy tales. And in the city the stories take place in, a circus sits in the heart of it. Granted, many of the cities don’t mention the circus, but it is there, in my mind, and it is open only at night. Sigh.

It isn’t anything like the circus in Morgenstern’s book. But…you know know that if the collection of stories were ever published, everyone will think, Oh, like The Night Circus!

But her book is beautiful. (And did I mention that Ms. Morgenstern is also an artist?)

My book has been eviscerated by a foaming, rabid beast.

I’d like to tell you that I wrestled the best with great strength of character and defeated it. But in truth I think I’ve thrown myself under its claws.

Too Late to Fall in Love

“I don’t want to waste my time.”

“Nobody reads short stories any more.”

“It’s not real. I like to read things that teach me something.”

Comments said to me recently about reading fiction.

Part of me reacts with dismay.

But then I wonder if my dismay is self-serving. I write. Of course I want people to read.

Can you learn to love fiction as an adult? Or if you don’t fall in love with stories as a child, is it too late?