Tag Archives: Jane Eyre

#WW: Pros and Cons of Reading Goals

25 Mar

Intro:

Normally, I have guest bloggers on Mondays, but today is an exception. (Shannon accidentally overbooked her website for March). That being said, today’s guest blogger is discussing a topic I’m sure many book bloggers and bibliophiles can relate to: reading goals. We’ve all seen them, the 2015 reading goals, the reading challenges, the reading lists. CL Mannarino is an avid reader who has found herself facing many of these lists, and her enlightening discussion brings up the question of why we read in the first place.

Pros and Cons of Reading Goals

Last year, I had a goal to read 35 books. It was going to be brilliant: I had a whole list of books/series that I would tackle for that year. Each one was designed to either clean out my bookshelf (10 unread books for every 1 book I’d already enjoyed), or round me out into a more aware, well-read person.

Didn’t happen.

Instead, according to Goodreads, I read…maybe 19. There were a few books listed that I didn’t finish. So let’s say 15. That’s generous.

clmannarino_2014editIn the past, this would’ve torn me apart. I would read lists that appeared on Facebook saying, “How many of these classics have you read? Most people read less than ten” and hurriedly go through to make sure I’d tackled at least ten listed. After I could check off at least fifteen, I would smirk to myself and sit back.

Those kinds of things made me feel so well-rounded. Until I followed who would review James Baldwin and Jack Kerouac and I would feel guilty. None of those kinds of writers ever interested me. I was never an Austen person, and the only Bronte novel I enjoyed was Jane Eyre. But because I’m an English major, any post or person, no matter how off-base or high-horsed, telling me “well-rounded people read classics” made me feel guilty for not reading more of them.

It’s why I set my Goodreads goal. These other people – smart bloggers, who enjoyed deep literature that didn’t speak to me but I felt like ought to because I considered myself fairly intelligent – set lofty goals. Read more this year, they said.

They had plans. So I planned, too. And I planned a plan for someone else’s dreams instead of mine.  That, and I’d read about 30 books in 2013, so I thought I could duplicate my success.

I thought I’d be more broken up about it than I am. I thought I’d feel guiltier about reading so much more slowly this year than I do. More than anything, though, I feel relieved.

I didn’t meet the goal, but I didn’t become a less-rounded person because of it. I tackled some pretty important literature, but I also read a lot of duds. And I didn’t finish everything I started. I’d just decided I didn’t want to waste my time with something that didn’t hold my attention.

Don’t be afraid to not finish something, by the way. Often, you’ll wind up coming back to it in the future, when you’re ready to read it.

I think a big part of this guilt-free feeling is that I know more about my ability to fulfill resolutions than I did before. I know my desires better, and I’m not going to beat myself up for not being the kind of reader I expect myself to be. (Or the kind I expect myself to be based on others’ outspoken expectations of “good readers.”)

This year, I’m going to tackle my bookshelf. I’ll widen my horizons a little bit. I’ll read a few things I’ve bought. I’ll read some stories from places I’ve never read from before. Above all, I’ll go where my literary desires take me and keep the pressure off.

Reading was fun for me. It should be, still.

Bio:

CL Mannarino is a fantasy and realistic fiction writer and personal essayist. She works in Massachusetts as an editor while she writes, reads, walks, and bakes on the side. She’s trained in line-editing, extreme shoveling, and home improvement. CL can be found on her blog, her Facebook, or her Tumblr.”

Want to be a guest blogger? I would love to have you on! I am accepting original posts that focus on reading and writing. A picture and a bio are encouraged. You do not have to be published. If you qualify, please email me at shannonathompson@aol.com.

~SAT

#MondayBlogs: Writing Relatable Teens

16 Feb

Intro:

What better way to start off the week than with a great guest post from YA author, Ava Bloomfield? Writing is a complicated journey, but with Ava’s help, everyone can create believable teen characters. Feel free to share your tips in the comments below!

Writing Relatable Teens

Nobody wants to grow up. We learned that in Peter Pan. So how does an adult write a relatable YA character? How does anyone write a relatable character?

It’s a subjective thing; we all know that. It’s impossible to wholly judge a character for their realism while we go about our particular lives, with our particular experiences, in our particular way. It fits that novel writing is such a personal process, in that context; our characters are born from us after all.

AvaSo what makes Charlie from The Perks of Being a Wallflower just as ‘relatable’ as, say, Bella Swan from Twilight?

Some argue those two aren’t remotely comparable. Some would say they’re too different; one is ‘deep’ and one is…well, Bella Swan. It’s all subjective anyway, so how do you guarantee you’ll write a Charlie and not a Bella?

The answer is simply that it depends on the journey, not the character itself. We can relate to almost anything if the underlying themes ring true to its audience.

While Charlie is coming of age, Bella is experience her first love. Or infatuation. Whatever you call it, there are inferences to be drawn. Just because Perks examines abuse and mental health issues doesn’t mean that Twilight’s love story is a vacuous waste of time by comparison. Didn’t Jane tell an unconventional love story with Mr Rochester in Jane Eyre?

Granted, Meyer doesn’t hold a candle to Charlotte Bronte.

But when we put the calibre of any particular writer aside, it’s easy to see that there’s room for any variation on topic. It’s how the writer weaves their message through a character that makes them believable, relatable.

Characters in YA aren’t just reflections of ourselves, or unfathomable things we just dreamed up one day. They’re extensions of ourselves. Teen characters are ghosts of our past, holding hands with today. In my experience, the whole process of writing about a young character is as familiar as it is daunting. We set out to write about a ‘real’ teenager, with battles to face, and through their development we thread together the fragments of our experience.

That ‘thread’ I’m talking about is a sensation that never leaves us. It’s the sensation of being on the cusp of adulthood, unprepared; plunged utterly defenseless into the wolf-pit that is the world. And it’s that thread that binds the YA writer with their characters and entwines them; it’s a natural occurrence. It’s necessary. It’s our link with our former selves, however near or far that is.

But therein lays the opportunity for disaster. By the logic of what I’ve just described, writing YA characters would be purely therapeutic. We’d confront our demons and wrap things up neatly in the end. We’d snuff out conflict in a way we never could in the real world, because we’ve walked that path before. And that’s not realistic at all.

Teen characters have to be monumental screw-ups in one fashion or another. They’re the lessons we wish we’d learned, failing all over again. There’s nothing palatable about success without sacrifice, is there? It’s as true for the protagonist as it is for the writer.

To write an authentic teenager, we give away the depths of what makes us who we are today. It’s not slaying the demon that wins the battle for any YA character; it’s the metamorphosis they experience on their journey. It’s the awareness that they aren’t the same person they were before.

And you, the writer, will have experienced it with them.

Charlie from Perks wasn’t the same come the end. Bella from Twilight wasn’t the same either. It’s all in the journey. It’s in the believability of their transformation.

The reader will experience that metamorphosis and evolve. The writer connects with its reader by way of character. Within that thread of experience, binding it all, is a common vein we share.

Isn’t that why we read YA, after all? It’s more than just an escape, and it’s certainly more than nostalgia. It’s a way of holding hands. It’s a way of saying, ‘I hear you’ that transcends any other medium.

Writing a relatable teen character is like shouting your deepest secrets into the void and waiting for them to echo back to you. Just know you’re not the only one listening out for it.

Bio:

Ava Bloomfield lives by the sea with her partner Matt and their Scottish Terrier, Sputnik. When she’s not busy with her day job as a transcriber, Ava can be found rummaging in charity shops for hidden treasure, mooching about in her local library, or writing her next novel.

Ava writes stand alone books about angsty teenagers. Check out: Honest, All Girls Cry, Leap and Beyond on Goodreads.

Ways of chumming up to Ava: TwitterBlog.

Alternatively, send her a psychic message over the cosmos. She’s not quite tuned into it yet, but she’s certain it’ll happen any day now.

Want to be a guest blogger? I would love to have you on! I am accepting original posts that focus on reading and writing. A picture and a bio are encouraged. If you qualify, please email me at shannonathompson@aol.com.

~SAT

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