Tag Archives: The CW

My Hate-Love Relationship with Historical Fiction

8 May

I love historical fiction. In fact, I’m currently binge reading, watching, and writing it right now. But I have a beef with it. (Does anyone even say that anymore? No? Oh, well.) If you’re curious, I’m reading Stalking Jack the Ripper, watching Reign, and writing a book set in the ancient world. Very different time periods, but all can easily fall into my hate-love with the genre.

So what is my issue with the genre?

My biggest pet peeve with historical fiction is when I look up the factual story and the factual story is MORE—more fascinating, bizarre, fun, gory, symbolic, or anything MORE.

Let’s look at a few examples:

In the movie The Revenant with Leonardo Dicaprio, Hugh Glass fights his way back from the wilderness to enact bloody revenge on the two who left him to die. In real life? He actually tracked down the two men and ultimately forgave them, because it was better for society. (One was a solider and the other a young man with a family.) I actually LOVE the real version, because I think it teaches us more about survival and sympathy and societal sacrifice. But forgiveness doesn’t feed into the bloody climax many expect, does it? (On a side note, Hugh Glass could’ve been a pirate…but that also doesn’t make it into the movie either. Boo.) Here’s an article if you’re interested in more info: The Real Story of ‘The Revenant’ is Far Weirder (and Bloodier) Than the Movie.

In Reign, the show follows Mary Stuart, Queen of Scotland, as she marries the Dauphin of France. And it’s entertaining, don’t get me wrong. Lots of betrayal, murder, and sex. But the real-life version, if the show had been expanded to show more years, has MORE. Nearly everyone loses their head, country, or both. (It’s very Game of Thrones.) What I find strange, though, is not the focus but some of the blatant inaccuracies portrayed as fact. For instance, the show takes (weird?) liberties in taking shots at the blond hair Francis has when Mary herself was famous for blond-red hair, while Francis was the brunet. They even go as far as to say all Scots have dark hair. (Or bringing her mother into it, when they never saw one another after her childhood.) In real life, over time, there are three husbands. (Perfect for a trilogy, no?) That aside, I’ll absolutely acknowledge that brutal story is not the target audience or goal for the romantic TV show on the CW. Which brings me to my next point…

I don’t blame the authors or any creators behind this. Why? Because I get it. Truth is often stranger than fiction. If you wrote down some of the actual events that happened, readers or viewers would have a harder time believing that than the completely fictionalized version of an event. Not to mention that life doesn’t serve a linear, symbolic purpose…and with stories, that’s the whole point, especially when you bring genres and expectations for that genre into play. Not to mention the traditional narrative viewers and readers expect from certain historical periods. 

It was discovered, for instance, that slaves were not used to build the Great Pyramids. Skilled (and paid) craftsman were, which is why they could stage protests. (In fact, the first protests we now know of.) But our fictional worlds have yet to reflect this. (Oh, did I mention they were often paid with beer? I mean, come on.)

History—and what we understand of history—is constantly changing, and the genre should change along with it.

I want to see more Norse women out on Viking Voyages, as skilled seafarers. (Source) I want to see black cowboys (Source). I want to see skilled craftsmen building the pyramids (Source). I want to see the female sailors on the doomed Franklin expedition, especially since the entire crew was reported to be male (Source). I want to see an all-female battalion in the Russian Revolution (Source). I want MORE.

I get that it might be a little strange to see some of your favorite historical figures (and narratives) in a different light. But why not?

Why not challenge the traditional narrative, especially if it’s backed up by science and other types of studies? Why not write a version that’s based in factual evidence more than on speculation? On the opposite end, why not write a version that owns the fact that it’s not based in reality at all, like My Lady Jane (where royalty can shape-shift into animals)? Why not push those limits and expectations of what historical fiction can be? (On a side note, there’s actually a really funny/enlightening Oatmeal comic on why this is so difficult, and you can read it here.)

Historical fiction has limitless, constantly changing possibilities, and I cannot wait to see how it morphs in the future.

~SAT

Character Motivations vs Morals

3 Apr

Not going to lie, I recently binge-watched The 100 through Netflix. For those of you who don’t know, The 100 is a TV show based off a young adult series with the same name. The first season follows a group of 100 kids dropped off on earth after a nuclear disaster destroyed the planet 97 years prior. It’s currently airing season 4. (I’m only on season 3.) Granted, I’m not normally a TV person. In fact, I usually have to be extremely ill to watch a bunch of TV, but I made an exception for The 100. Why? Because I fell in love during episode one. What do I love about The 100? The character motivations. They are 100% believable, even when the plot gets crazy, and I feel like that’s pretty rare.

There’s no spoilers in this article for The 100. Don’t worry. But definitely check out a few episodes to see what I mean.

Character motivations are so important, but often dwindled down to right vs. wrong. But motivation can (and should) be more than that. As an example from The 100, Bellamy just wants to save his sister, no matter what it requires (right or wrong) and whether she wants it or not. In fact, he often does horrible things in order to achieve his goal. Therefore, he is driven by his motivation to save his sister, not his morals to be a good person. On top of that, though he believes saving his sister is his responsibility, he doesn’t lie to himself and think he is morally perfect because of it. He doesn’t have a “hero complex.” An older brother complex, sure. But not a heroic one. He is driven by motivation, not morals.

Why do I bring up morals? Because morals is sometimes the opposite of motivation in fiction. Though they can be synonymous, it’s easy to let a character slide one way or the other. Personally, I always prefer believable motivations to morally-driven characters. Why? Because completely morally-driven characters can be hard to relate to. I mean, let’s be real. Sometimes, that self-righteous hero trope gets a little…boring.

I would much rather watch a show or read a book where the characters’ motivations are believable, morals be damned. Let’s take villains, for instance. The most popular writing tip today is that every bad guy believes they are the good guy, and while I love that tip, I disagree. Not all bad guys think they’re good guys. Granted, I like a bad guy who thinks he’s good. I often prefer them that way. But it’s also fun to follow a character who knows they are selfish, who has reasons for their selfishness, and owns it.

Of course, it’s always best to have both worlds, right? Motivations and morals (and sometimes one fueling the other) can be fun and exciting and terrifying and interesting. But I would like to see more books with strong, sometimes twisted motivations that overcome morally-driven characters.

What about you? Do you prefer characters with motivations or morals or a mixture of both?

Discuss away! Just don’t be the evil one and post spoilers about The 100 in the comments below. (Or at least put a warning at the top of your post.)

Thank you,

~SAT

P.S. Bad Bloods: July Thunder releases next Monday! I also received my first review from Babbling Books! “Another fantastic addition to the Bad Bloods series and a marvelous start to a new duology. Wonderful writing, captivating characters and a story that will reel you in until the last page, these Bad Bloods may have a tendency of breaking the rules, but their stories are way too good not to read!”

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#WW I Avoided Certain Books. Here’s Why.

3 Jun

#WW I Avoided Certain Books. Here’s Why.

Right now, I’m basically reading all the novels I’ve avoided over the past year or so. Why did I avoid these reads? I can honestly just guess—since it’s difficult to remember—but I thought it’d make for an interesting topic.

The first novel I picked up was The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey. I already finished and reviewed it on Goodreads. Five fantastic alien stars. (No kidding.) I could barely put it down, and it kept me up way too late at night . . . which caused me to have some awesome (and wicked) alien dreams. That being said, I definitely reflected on why I avoided this phenomenal YA novel. My best friend and her husband recommended it to me first, and I often love their suggestions. In fact, I exchange nerd-dom news with them on a regular basis. So why did I immediately shut down The 5th Wave? It was everything I’ve ever enjoyed before: thrilling science-fiction with an underlining mystery in the midst of survival. And there’s a teddy bear. Who doesn’t love teddy bears?

This is Kiki, judging me for not reading The 5th Wave sooner.

This is Kiki, judging me for not reading The 5th Wave sooner.

I pondered my avoidance for a while for two reasons:

  1. I would hate to see this “avoidance” turn into a weird reading habit, which then causes me to miss out on some of my favorite reads of the year (like in this case.)
  2. I’m an author. I want to understand this from a psychology standpoint for my own novels. Was it the cover? Could this be avoided for readers looking at my books? Was it the back cover? Was it the main character’s name? Etc. And being an author made me HATE the possibility of being a judgmental reader, a.k.a. a book snob. That’s not me. So what’s going on?

I literally made a list of possibilities. (Literally. I love lists . . . and psychoanalyzing myself.) And I was brutally honest with myself.

At first, I thought it might have been because the protagonist’s name is Cassie, and my best friend’s name (yes, the one I mentioned above) is Cassie. Maybe it was too weird for me. (What author can avoid this?) But then I realized that couldn’t have been the case, because I read this entire 500-page novel in a few nights, and I never pictured my friend shooting a M16 at her enemies. They even have different hair colors. So . . . it wasn’t that. And it wasn’t the cover, because I actually kind of like how different the cover is, borderline thriller (which the novel is), mixed with an almost sepia-like glow in a forest. (Basically, if there were a pretty girl in a dress on the cover, it would not have made sense. At all.) My problem wasn’t the language or the violence either. I loved both. And the title didn’t confuse me, and the concept didn’t . . . wait. The concept.

So, the concept is where I saw myself stumble. (And you might want to read the synopsis just so you get what I’m talking about.) But the back of the book explains that this novel is about aliens taking over in a variety of “waves” (ex. The 1st Wave is an electromagnetic impulse, so we can’t use our technology.) Now, we’re waiting for The 5th Wave.

Why did this bother me? It sounds AWESOME.

Well, that’s what I had to figure out, and I did. Although it might be strange to some, I started with “why did I pick it up this time?” I thought starting in the NOW would help me figure out the THEN. And it did.

I recently watched Star-Crossed, a CW show about aliens that evidentially got canceled. (A fact I did not know while watching it on Netflix.) And even though Star-Crossed and The 5th Wave are VERY different, I was dying for another alien story. So then it occurred to me. When was the last time I actually READ an alien story?

This was difficult for me . . . which is strange because I read a lot . . . so I then realized I avoid alien books altogether . . . which was strange because I grew up around tons of alien books and intergalactic travel novels in my house because my mom was a trekky and overall book junkie.

And it hit me.

I’ve probably avoided alien novels since my mom died . . . back when I was eleven. Not entirely of course. But most of the time. Even though I love them, I think subconsciously aliens might have been “too close”—a topic that brought back too many memories. And while that sounds sad and all, (I get it. It was for me.) I think I overcame this psychological subconscious avoidance of alien books just by reading The 5th Wave. This novel solved a problem I never even knew I had.

Isn’t that amazing?

Books truly affect our lives in ways we can’t even begin to understand, and I like to believe that’s because reading falls along the lines of love. You can’t explain it, but it shapes you. And that’s why I’m picking up even more novels that I’ve avoided for one reason or another along the way.

Who knows? It could be the most impactful read of my life.

~SAT

On a fun side note, my recent vlog on my YouTube channel, Coffee & Cats, covered The 5th Wave, including the upcoming film adaptation, and a movie recommendation similar to it while you wait.

TV Time: Gossip Girl

7 Oct

Considering I’ve been watching this show since 2007, and I started reading the book series in 2002, I cannot believe the last season is premiering tomorrow night!

Based on the best selling YA series by Cecily von Ziegesar, Gossip Girl is a drama-filled soap about the Upper East Side—who’s rich and who’s richer. Although the show itself doesn’t follow the books at all (except for the very first episode of season one) I fell in love with this guilty pleasure of mine. If you have the same guilty pleasure—watching melodramatic teenagers throw money around while attempting to control their angst and act like adults, then this New York soap is for you. Even better, the final season is upon us tomorrow, so you don’t have to wait for anything new once this season is over.

Click here to watch the season promo (because it’s as drama-filled as the show itself).

And click here to read more on the original series.

XOXO,

~SAT

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