Write Perspective: Caraval

 

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Book Description:

Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the far-away, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever.

Welcome, welcome to Caraval . . . beware of getting swept too far away.

Good for people who enjoy: strong female leads, beautiful scenery description, diverse personality group

Review: Where to begin?  The first thing I’d like to point out is how easily it was for my to fall into the rhythm of the world that Stephanie Garber created.  Her opening scene already had be empathetic towards the protagonist, Scarlett, even though I didn’t know too much about her yet.

Then, we’re swept away to the magical world that is Caraval, now paired with the love interest, Julian.  I’ve always been one who loved the dark, mysterious man.  Perhaps that’s why I was shipping the two from the get-go.  My only complaint about their relationship is how forgiving of his mistakes she is time after time, with little fight against it.  Still, he was so complex with a history that I was dying to figure out.  I have to insert my favorite quote in the book here: “Not quite sure how far she’d already fallen, she imagined loving him would feel like falling in love with darkness, frightening and consuming yet utterly beautiful when the stars come out.”  I enjoyed his progression throughout the story, and how he softened throughout the novel in regards to his willingness to falling in love.

The relationships between the characters was one of the best parts, in my opinion. Scarlett and her sister Tella’s personalities bounced off of each other in a way that only sisters can.  Having two sisters of my own, I could feel the weight that Scarlett felt trying to save her sister.  I loved her struggling between loving Tella and loving Julian, and fighting between her own desires and her protectiveness of Tella.  Even the minor characters had very strong personalities that made you instantly like or hate them.  She was constantly meeting new characters on her journey, trying to decide who was friend or foe.  I liked one in particular, Aiko, who just popped in randomly and was awesome.

Caraval itself was a world I’d love to visit.  It balanced magical curiosity and imminent danger in a way that I have to give applause to Garber.  You wanted to see its wonders and experience everything all at once, even though you knew there was something not quite right.  I felt like I was walking right along with Scarlett and could see and feel its pull all around me.

I think what I love most about this book is how I was constantly filled with so many questions that I had such a need to know the answer to right then and there.  Garber knows exactly how to give you just enough information to wanting more.  This is the first book in a long time that I read in one sitting.

 

Overall Rating: 4.5 stars

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Chapter 15: 5 Most Hated Characters in Literature & Film

As writers, we invest so much time into our characters.  Sometimes, we even end up knowing them better than we know ourselves.  We think up their back story, and learn who that makes them today.  We spend time getting to know what they would do in the situations we throw them into.  It takes time, and it matters.  Characters can make or break a book.  Often the best serious have the best characters that we either love to love or love to hate.

For the sake of relatability, I decided to limit the list to characters in well-known series.

#1 – Dolores Umbridge from Harry Potter

This one is overly obvious.  I mean, seriously.  She’s more hated than He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named.  How the hell does she manage to be more detestable than the Dark Lord himself?  Well, she makes it look easy.  Rowling took the evil of Voldemort but put it in a pink little box tied with a bow.  Think about how complex she was as a character.  She gave depth to the ‘evil’ in Harry Potter.  Pushed it away from a grotesque villain with no nose, evil minions in skull-like masks, and hideous creatures that suck away your soul.  She made evil look polished.  She showed how even the most refined can have the nastiest layers underneath.  There were obvious hints at her being eccentric.  (I mean, y’all did see her office, right?)  So, what does she teach us?  Your main antagonist has followers just like your protagonist.  Challenge that definition.  Don’t have them the same.  Just as you want your protagonist and side-kick to complement each other, do the same on the other side.  You might make someone so beautifully horrible like Umbridge.

#2 – Joffrey “Baratheon” from Game of Thrones

Okay, let’s be real.  His real name is Joffrey Lannister and his death was the first real happiness any GOT felt either reading or watching the series.  There is nothing worse than watching some silver-spooned little brat play victim.  Even worse?  He had them kill a direwolf.  A very easy (yet cruel) way to make your readers hate a character is to have them hurt/kill an animal.  Literally, nothing sets off people more.  Another is to put them up against your more loved villains.  People hated Tywin Lannister, but they respected his counsel.  When Martin wrote the scene of Joffrey versus Tywin, ending it on the note of Joffrey being sent to bed, it marked Joffrey as pitiful.  We hated him.  Even though we didn’t like Tywin, we applauded him in that moment.  Don’t limit yourself to hero versus villain.  Be bolder than that.  Show your villains up against one another, their dynamic.  It’ll provide more depth and create a bigger bond between them and the reader.

#3 – Gríma Wormtongue from Lord of the Rings

He’s a much smaller character as the others in this list, but is too cringe-worthy to not include.  For those who can’t place the name, he’s the grimy little servant who was whispering in King Théoden in Edoras.  For starters, he sexually harasses Éowyn, being known to “haunt her steps,” aka stalk her.  In the film, he also tries to take advantage of her grief of her cousin’s death to lay on some creepy-ass moves.  He also completely exiles her brother, after he tells Gríma to back off.  Hell, he even claims to have eaten (yes eaten) Lotho Sackville-Baggins under Saruman’s orders.  His only redeeming moment was when he slit Saruman’s throat, but even then we were not sad in the slightest to see him die shortly after.  (That scene only takes place in the books for those who are confused.)  How did Tolkien make someone so detestable that even when their last act was heroic, you applaud their death?  Well, for starters, no one likes a traitor.  People theorize that Gríma was offered Éowyn for his services to Saruman, and that’s why he did it.  What’s worse than someone with no moral code who throws away honor for obsession?  Easy.  Someone who’s willing to force the woman, despite her clear disinterest.  To make it worse?  Make him slimy.  He was too pathetic to stand up for himself.  The moment he didn’t have an army under his illusions of power, he ran away.  So, he’s a coward, too.  Also, cannibalism is always a no-go on people’s radar.  In other words, a very easy (albeit drastic) way to make your readers not like someone.

#4 – Jar Jar Binks from Star Wars

Now, the next two characters are a bit different.  Why?  They weren’t designed with the intention of being hated.  Jar Jar Binks was put into the films as a comedy relief.  Their mistake was the sheer level of stupidity.  There’s nothing wrong with having someone who’s not academically inclined – in fact, I encourage it as to show a more variety of strengths in your characters (just because they’re stupid with ‘academic’ knowledge, doesn’t mean they can’t be savvy with their people skills, or maybe art).  Although there were definitely other things wrong with Episodes I – III, Jar Jar played a large roll in ruining the trilogy.  All your characters (no matter how stupid) need depth.  Make them more than just the idiot.  That’s not fair to them or your readers.  All of your characters should be three-dimensional.  Don’t think that just because your character isn’t classically intelligent, that they don’t have layers.  They do.  Still get to know them.

#5 – Bella Swan from Twilight

I expect more backlash on this one, but plain and simple, Bella doesn’t fulfill the role of protagonist well at all.  She is too dependent.  The second book is literally her trying to kill herself constantly.  The book doesn’t exist without Edward, and neither does she.  Now, I’m not saying suicidal thoughts in themselves are a no-go.  But, please, don’t use them lightly.  That’s a very real problem in society today, and instead of using the opportunity to highlight Bella overcoming the terrible thoughts and finding herself, Meyer had her completely lost until Edward was back.  That’s not okay.  She was not developed enough as a character.  Make sure you establish your characters independently from one another.  Yes, have them complement each other.  Dynamics can be really fun to write.  But, please, make a character more than their dynamic with the other characters.  Give them values and passions past staying with their boyfriend.

Chapter 14: Action Plan

I’ve been querying the Freedom Game to several agents.  Right now I’m sitting at seven submissions and three rejections.  And, as most of you know, a non-response is still a response.  Every time I see the rejection email, I’m hit with that little twist right in my heart.  Several of the agent are very gracious, reminding me that the literary arts are subjective, and that just because they didn’t connect with my piece doesn’t mean that it’s not good.  Well, nice words aside, that’s exactly what it feels like.

Well, guess what.  I don’t care.  I wrote a damn good book, and I know it.  Is it perfect?  No.  Is it better than my last novel?  Hell yes.  Can I honestly picture it on a bookshelf at Books a Million or Barnes & Noble?  Yes.

I can honestly see my target audience (Young Adult) picking up this book on just an average day.  I can picture them reading about my main character Ethlynn and falling in love with her.  I see people arguing over if she belongs with Nash, the main love interest, or her best friend, Wystan.  I can see my readers growing along with Ethlynn and finding their strength.

It’s going to happen.  I’ll continue querying, and will do so until March of next year.  That’s the deadline I gave myself.  If by then I’ve still only heard rejection, then I’ll self-publish.  Then I’ll self-publish.  Plain and simple.

So, what have I been doing in the mean time?  Writing the sequel.  I’ve told you all in the past how major selling platforms have algorithms set up to help you advertise up until 30 days and then another until 90 days.

Right now, I’m not sure how many books this series will be, but I know it’ll at least be a trilogy.  Even though it’s not for certain that I’ll be self-publishing, I want to be prepared.  (Also, I absolutely love these characters and writing their story.)  If I take the Indie author route, I want to be able to publish the novels within 90 days of one another.  I’m still a business woman at heart, and I can’t imagine not taking advantage of the marketing opportunity.

I’m still presented with the problem: me.  I’m a slow writer.  This year I’ve finished the Freedom Game and written over 17,500 words of its sequel.  In 10 months.  Thinking realistically, I want this second book to be completely finished before I publish the first.  Ideally, I’d like to be well into the third, already outlining the fourth.  (My writing style involves me writing the original outline of the following book whilst writing the predecessor.  This means that I can add in foreshadowing and adjust my subplots to make them more relating to one another.)

What’s the point of all this rambling?  Writing itself is the reward.  I don’t write for anyone but me.  With that said, I want to get books published.  I want them to do well.  The better my books sell, the closer I am to being able to do this full-time.  That means I have to come up with a plan.

My final thought: set up an action plan for your writing!  Make it happen.  Success hardly ever falls into our laps.  You have the same 24 hours in your day as any successful author.  Use them.

Chapter 12: Game of Thrones, Theories, and Lessons

As an epic fantasy writer, I am one of many people who recognize the talent of George R.R. Martin.  He has challenged the genre in many ways, despite his self-proclaimed difficulty with writer’s block.  (I must say, as well, that the fact someone so successful still struggles with something that I myself do is such a comfort in this trying profession.)  I’d like to begin by saying some of my own theories for the remainder of the season, and then finish off by saying what we as writers can learn from him.

My first theory stems from my biggest fear in the show: a dragon dying.  We all know it’s going to happen.  My only hope left is that it isn’t Drogon, which I doubt will happen this season because he’s Daenerys’s personal one, and I don’t see her going into the deep end the remaining two seasons.  Plus the poor baby was already injured in Episode 6.  So, what could be worse than them dying?  Them being taken over by the Night King.  As seen in the previews, Jon finds himself in a bit of a predicament up north.  I’m feeling pretty certain that Dany is going to send up either Rhaegal or Viserion to save him.  I think the rescue mission will end up being successful, with sacrifice of the dragon.

My second theory has already been proven partly true.  It stemmed from the fact that I’ve been upset on how focused on the Army of the Dead Jon has been.  Yes, it is obviously extremely important; however, he can’t just wish his other enemy into non-existence.  While it’s true that Cersei would be weary to travel up north to the snow, she’s proven herself to be resourceful with the help of Qyburn.  But then, I thought, wouldn’t Cersei like to know about the army marching toward her kingdom?

She showed that she already has planned to use this in her favor, but it’s unclear if she actually believes the army to be real.  Will her sentiments change when she sees the walker that Jon brings back?  Or will she remain just as heartless as she’s grown to become?  That’s not even mentioning the fact she just claimed to be pregnant.  So, here’s my theory:

The baby, if he/she isn’t just a lie Cersei conjured up, will be miscarried.  Why do I think this?  Because, quite simply, it’d be the last straw for Cersei to go full-on Mad Queen.  The only thing that ever made her a sympathetic character was her love for her children.  I don’t see them bringing her back towards sanity, so this would be just what she needs to not give a damn about the Army of the Dead.  Despite the proof that I believe Jon will successfully bring back, I think that she’ll still not care due to the miscarriage.  She’ll still manipulate Jon and Dany’s armies, with the hopes that they’ll lose men and give her a more even fight for the war to come.  I also think that will be the point that Jamie calls it quits with her and joins the effort to fight the north.  She’s going to do something so diabolical that he just can’t forgive her.

Now, what about the group headed up on this dangerous mission?  They basically put a bunch of bad ass characters together to make an epic team.  I’m fairly certain Jon will survive long enough to show King’s Landing the ‘live’ walker.  (If not, that’s just cruel…)  So, who’s going to die?  Let me just say, if the answer’s Gendry, the list will also extend to the writers of this show curtesy of myself.  There’s only two things known to kill the dead: Valyrian steel.  I’d like to think that Jon was smart enough to man all the people he’s bringing with the steel, but honestly with him who knows.

Either way, I’m sticking to my theory that the dragon is coming to save them, meaning there will be fire.  Who’s someone we know that is scared of fire, despite his recent vision?  The Hound.  I’m pretty nervous for his possible death, but to be honest his plot in the series has basically ended.  As an author, I don’t see what much else he could offer to the storyline, so they might as well give him a glorious fighter’s death.  I also don’t see the Brothers without Banners lasting long.  They’ve never been up north, and have no idea how to fend for themselves in that type of situation.  I think they’ll be part of the ‘sacrifice,’ and that was why the Lord of Light told them they have to go – so that Jon (and hopefully Gendry) can survive.  I’m iffy about Jorah’s storyline.  Personally I think he’ll survive, if for anything that I’m hoping that he has time to repay Sam for healing him.

I was hoping Jon going up North would mean that Bran would have time to tell him that he’s a Targaryen, but apparently Jon didn’t feel the need to go say hi to his two siblings he thought was dead before going out to his possible death.  Now, there’s always the chance that Bran wrote it in the scroll he sent to warn Jon about the marching army.  That could possibly explain his genuine lack of happiness despite finding out about his two favorite sibling-cousins being alive.  Or it could just be Jon being Jon.

On the subject of Jon being Targaryen, people were freaking out over how Drogon let Jon pet him.  “It’s because he’s Targaryen!”  Okay, but can than really be your logic if you don’t agree with the theory that Tyrion is also Targaryen?  After all, all three dragons decided to spare him when their mother was miles away.  Your logic can’t change based on what you want or don’t want to be a thing.  Rather than theorize over if Tyrion is a Targaryen or not, I’d rather try to think of where he would be in the family line – or in other words, what would his claim be to the throne if it was true?

Rhaegar (bless his soul) has so far shown himself to be the best of their bloodline, aside from Daenerys.  So, unless he decided to bang Lady Lannister in between his marriages, he wouldn’t be Jon’s older brother.  There’s also of course the age to reaffirm that.  That means that, if Tyrion is a Targaryen, he’d be son of the Mad King (or possibly one of his siblings).  Then that begs the question of if he is the older or younger than Rhaegar.  No matter what, he’s a bastard, and that weakens his claim on the throne.  But let’s be honest, Tyrion would be such a good king!

In Episode 6 there was clear tension between Arya and Sansa.  Little Finger, being the little cunt he is, saw this and is now trying to manipulate the two sisters into fighting.  In the talk after the episode, they mentioned how Arya is used to being the cleverest one, and that she’s not used to Little Finger.  They happily left out the fact that Cersei has been dealing with both Cersei and Little Finger the entire duration of the show.  She knows how they work, and has become a heartless entity in the making.  She can be paralleled with the Cersei back in the day – a power-hungry game player with only her family to keep her empathetic.  Although I will always love her, Sansa has been rather standstill this season.  So, with her knowledge of the game, and Arya’s over-willingness to kill, I’m looking forward to (hopefully) the two of them outsmarting Arya.  She was also recently given the dagger by Bran that was used to attempt his murder – the one that Little Finger claimed he’d given to Tyrion, although never proven.  Let’s be honest.  From the beginning, Tyrion was never someone who would send an assassin after an unconscious, cripple boy.  It’s pretty safe to say that was a ploy for Little Finger to start his chaos ladder.  Just think of the poetic justice of Arya using that dagger to kill him.

Now, with all that said and done, what can we learn as writers?  The first is pretty damn obvious: the power of a good death.  As authors, we often become attached to the characters we make.  Who wouldn’t?  We put a lot of working into their creation and development.  It means we look for any way possible to keep them alive, no matter how improbable.

Always take a step back.  How can this character contribute to the plot?  If they’re simply alive because you want them to be, take a look at what their death could do to the plot.  I’m not saying slaughter them by the masses (perhaps avoid weddings…) but sometimes a character can be more powerful for the storyline by dying than staying alive.  Look at your characters as a bystander who doesn’t know them would.

The second thing to learn from Martin is the power in overlying plot versus per book.  Throughout all of Game of Thrones, the biggest thoughts have been: (1) the overall fight for the crown and (2) the threat of the Army of the Dead.  As one of the plots comes to a close, the other is beginning to take full force.  Then, there’s the balancing act of fulfilling an entire plot with a great climax within each book/season.  Before starting a series, we as authors have to think: what do I want the end to look like?  This process is of course different for each individual.  For my current series, I just have a vague idea of who I want to have the power, and what nations I want to be left standing.  I’m about to write a timeline of what I need accomplished in each book for that to happen.  Otherwise, I put a focus into each book of an outline before shifting into actually writing.  Some famous authors have claimed to have written their stories backwards.  They knew how it wanted to end, and then they decided what could happen for them to get there.  However you decide to do it, realize what you want to be the central focus and themes.

It’s up to you where the focus shifts towards per book, but be sure to put some part of critical information to the overlying plot in each book.  Because, really, it should all tie together.  When you’re outlining your book, be sure to put in several key scenes.  Otherwise, you’re dragging your readers through muck instead of showing them insight on what they’ve grown to care about.  From there is where you should flesh out and expand into the plot of the individual book.  Generally thinking about the climax first will help you put in all the scenes to get there, and then editing, editing, and some more editing.  Flesh out scenes.  Give depth to characters.  The whole nine yards.

The third thing to learn from Martin is diversity in characters.  Ned versus Robert.  Tyrion versus Tywin.  Cersei versus Jamie.  Arya versus Sansa.  Robb versus Jon.  Varys versus Qyburn.  All those people started in basically the same position at the start of the series, and now look at them.  They all had key personality traits and then became detrimental when it came to the test.  Really take the time to get to know your characters.  If something happens in the plot, truly take time to realize what they would do in that situation.  And, don’t stop there.  How would that scene change them?  Reassess them as a person.  Your plot should be as complex as your characters, and they should complement each other to create the final masterpiece.  That doesn’t happen through forcing your way through and rushing your way to the finish line.

I’d like to end with some cool merchandise that you can buy!  To the bottom is a photograph I took personally after I received the bottle opener, with a pencil to the side for size reference.  If you want to be the Hand of the King/Queen, it’s an awesome but useful gift that you can buy here.  The other is the adorable dress (purchase here!) which is just subtle enough to be worn every day, but yet fully and completely showing off your inner Westeros lover!

 

 

 

 

Chapter 11: Questions to Ask When World-Building

To say it’s harder than it looks would be an understatement.  Your story is more dependent on it than you think, especially in both fantasy and science fiction.  You have world that are so complex like in Game of Thrones, more simple and based on this world like Harry Potter, and then complete universes like in Star Wars or Star Trek.  It’s always so beautiful to watch how the setting influences the characters.  But, how do you build it from the beginning?

Ironically, much the same as you do a book.

Outline the big stuff.  Is it all in one country?  Several?  Know where they are in relation to one another as far as north, west, east, south.  Simple enough, right?  Next step is to put that into Microsoft Excel.  Set each country to a different color, and put a key to the right accordingly.  (I’ve put a picture as reference from my latest book for what I mean as far as using Excel, minus the key.  I don’t mean to have it so detailed and laid out in the beginning.)  This outline should be completed while you are outline your main plot.

Once you have your basic outline of the main plot points (Again, I’m going to have to suggest Structuring Your Novel by K.M. Weiland if you’re having problems.), then it’s time to delve into the culture.  If you already have a clear image of your characters in mind, this part should’ve technically been at least part way done.   Now it’s time to go more into detail.  Make sure to put sub-races within the same culture.  Look at America, Germany, France.  There’s people of every skin tone.  If your culture is ‘pure’ like the Japanese, why?

Do they celebrate religious holidays?  What different classes does it compromise of?  How is violence looked at?  Gender equality?  Religion?  Liberal or conservative?  Monarchy, democracy, anarchy?  Animal life?  What’s their main source of food?  What’s the weather like there?  How does that affect your plot?  What’s their take on honor?  What do the buildings look like?  How do they view art?  Do they have their own language?  What type of job does a ‘commoner’ have?  What sports do they play?  All of this might not make it to your book, but nonetheless it works in your favor to show a well-rounded nation.

Now that you have your outline, time to go into the subplots.  If you already have some in mind, how’s your map effected?  Do you need to put in mountains?  A lake?  River?  Sea?  If you’re struggling with creating subplots, refer to the last paragraph.  If it’s all within one or two nations, delve more into it.  How could the answers you come up with affect your protagonist?  If you’re going across many countries, create a whole new one.  Make it drastically different than your protagonist.  What’s the worst type of culture they could stumble upon?  Now, create it and add it into your map.

Look at your excel sheet.  Think about natural geography.  What’s missing?  Add it.

Once that’s complete, look at the new countries you’ve created.  How do they affect your general plot?  If there’s a war, why aren’t they helping?  Could they help?  How would that change things?  What’s their relationship like with the surrounding countries?