Life in progress


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Business As Usual by Sirius Bizinus – A Book Review

Business As UsualBusiness As Usual by Sirius Bizinus
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sometimes irreverent, always bizarre, Business As Usual is a hard book to put down. Set in a freakishly corrupt world through which the main character wades through her first day on the job, it balances between social commentary and how society worships both its deities and the almighty buck. I found myself nodding my head as many times as I laughed out loud.

It’s a fantastic first time out for a new author. I recommend this novel to anyone who wants a combination of a good giggle and a thought-provoking read; as I said, bizarre. In a good way.

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And now it’s out in print too! Click here for details.


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Doctor Sleep – A Review

Doctor Sleep (The Shining, #2)Doctor Sleep by Stephen King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved Doctor Sleep. It seemed to me a coming of age not only for the main character, Danny Torrance, but for Stephen King as well. Going into this story with the expectation that it goes on where The Shining leaves off will only leave you disappointed, as many of the reviews I’ve read state. The author does his character justice by lending him new struggles, forcing him to put the past behind him. For what I remember of The Shining having read it last more than twenty years ago, I would say that Doctor Sleep can stand alone as an epic.

As a well-told and plausible continuation to the story of a little boy with the shining from the book of the same name, this novel not only exceeded my expectations, it left me wanting more.

I sincerely hope there is a third book, Mr. King.

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Character-Driven vs Plot-Driven Stories

There are many writers out there who craft their stories based on a “what if” situation. They will come up with a scenario, such as “what if a meteor hit the earth?” or “what if a guy goes to the store and finds all the cars in the parking lot stacked on top of each other?”

These two scenarios may sound very similar, but they’re not. Yes, both start with the same three words, but the difference is this: the first revolves around a plot. The plot has yet to be populated by humans (assuming there are humans left alive after the meteor hit). The second scenario already has a human in it. Here may be the difference between a plot-driven story and a character-driven one.

For me, populating a story that contains a story first (aforementioned meteor crashing down) is near impossible. I can’t wrap my head around a crowd of people who have been plunked down in the middle of a situation. But give me a person to work with first, and I’m off and running. What any ONE person would do in a strange situation is fairly unique to that one person. That, to me, gives a story its excitement and its hook, if you will.

This whole topic came about when I started to think about how difficult it is for me to write a short story. Given a plot, I may be able to bang out a few words. But when I get my head wrapped around a character I find it hard to let go after just a few hundred words. I get attached to my characters very easily, and once I have them in my head I don’t just want to tell a bit of their story, I want to tell it all. Before I know it, I’m well on my way into a novel.

When I first began writing, I belonged to a Yahoo group in which a bunch of writers developed characters who not only interacted with one another, they told each other stories of their lives before they met one another. Quite like anyone would in real life. So I’m thinking about writing a character on my fiction blog rather than attempting and consistently failing to write short stories. Just a thought at the moment.

The character-driven story is a subject very dear to my heart. My characters become almost likeĀ  family to me, much as the characters do in some of the novels I read. Especially the ones I’m sad to put down when they’re finished.

I’d like to hear from the writers out there – do you write character-driven or plot-driven stories? Have you ever ventured out of your comfort zone and tried the other one?

And from the readers – have you ever become attached to a character that was so well written, you never wanted their story to end?


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My Name in Print!

Worms of Heaven by Misha BurnettI picked up Misha Burnett’s latest installment of The Book of Lost Doors series, entitled The Worms of Heaven last night and I noticed at the back he had included a chapter of Acknowledgements. I went there to have a read and, lo and behold, there was my name! Right there in black and white!

So I thought what better excuse could there be to promote this fantastic series of books which I am thoroughly enjoying? I’m not one to give out praise willy-nilly and so you can take it from me that if I say a novel great then I really, truly recommend it.

You can read my glowing review of the first novel in the series, Catskinner’s Book here and the second book, Cannibal Hearts here.

Thank you so much, Misha for thinking of me. šŸ˜€

 


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The Most Important Thing in Fiction

The mark of an excellent novel, in my opinion, is made by how much I fall into the story and its world and how much I care about the characters. There’s really nothing quite like a book that I don’t want to put down. You know the kind – they’re the ones that leave you sad when they end.

I was thinking about the elements that go into such a story and it occurred to me that for me, it’s the author’s ability to leave things out. Description, in too much detail, takes away my need to imagine them. But having said that, it’s only certain things I don’t want described to me.

If a land, for instance, is extremely foreign then I need as much detail as I can get. But certain actions… Take sex scenes for instance. I find them much more erotic if they are sparsely described than if they are laid out like a users’ manual, unless there is something particularly unusual about the scene. Another one for me is the description of characters. Even if someone is described in minute detail, I tend to get my own impression of their appearance and I think a lot of what I imagine has to do with their character itself, for instance whether they are a villain or a lover. It’s like when I talk to someone on the phone on a daily basis – I get an idea of what he or she looks like based on their voice and the way they talk. It’s usually a shock to see what the person actually looks like!

The point is, it’s the lack of description in many cases that makes me think–makes me imagine more–and this is what draws me in. If I’m able to place a modicum of my own experience into a world I’m reading about, it becomes mine. It becomes a place I love to be, populated with people I can truly envision.

What do you like left out of the stories you read? Do you have a favourite thing you like to envision for yourself?