Tag Archives: Veronica Roth

When the Protagonist Dies

12 Oct

Announcements:

Zoe Mortez, an avid reader, reviewed Take Me Tomorrow on her blog, “When I’m about to flip over to the next page, my mind kept saying things that really determined me to read more and more and more until the last page of this story. I’ll be rating 5/5 for this book and it’s highly recommended for those who love Young Adult Dystopian Genre novels!” You can read the entire review by clicking here or check out Take Me Tomorrow by clicking here. Thank you, Zoe!

When the Protagonist Dies Introduction:

Shannon, here, but only for a minute. Today is a guest post, and as many of you know, I pick out guest bloggers by your activity right here on ShannonAThompson.com. This particular guest blogger commented on my post, Why Are Parents Dead in Fiction, and her comment struck me so much so that I just HAD to have her elaborate today. Cogpunk Steamscribe wrote about how death in fiction continues onto a whole new level during a protagonist’s death, and everything Lynne wrote can be found below. I hope you enjoy this discussion as much as I have!

When the Protagonist Dies … a response to ‘Why are Parents Dead in Fiction’ 

Spoiler & Trigger Alert! This is a post about books that have a main character who dies. As well, I’m avoiding John Green and his body of work in this discussion. I really don’t want to give away any spoilers. Most of the books in this discussion have been around for a while.

Shannon mentioned in her blog on that she wrote about absent parents or orphans because that was her experience growing up. Other writers want to throw their protagonists into situations where parents can’t interfere with the unfolding of the story. Disney really likes to take parents out of the situation so that the protagonist – or protagonists – is/are isolated, and this creates more drama and suspense and creates sympathy for the orphaned characters (think ‘Frozen’). When you want to ramp up an emotional response, kill off a parent or two.

But why stop there? Let’s take this one step further. Why not kill off the protagonist? Of course, there is a real risk when you kill off a protagonist that you will alienate the audience. But sometimes, in real life, people you love die. Why should literature ignore this?

The most famous examples of one of the protagonists dying in a Young Adult book is ‘The Bridge to Terabithia”, by Katherine Paterson. The author has openly admitted the book was inspired by the death of one the friends of her own child; she was writing from experience and from her heart. The book created a controversy when it first came out, as the topic of death was considered unsuitable for the target Young Adult audience. I don’t know why, when ‘Frankenstein’ by Mary Shelley is studied in schools, and the main protagonist dies in that book, so it isn’t like Katherine Paterson was reinventing the wheel.

Movie still provided by Cogpunk Steamscribe

Movie still provided by Cogpunk Steamscribe

A lot of water has passed under the bridge since then. The death of a protagonist or a main character has become a part of the tropes used in Young Adult Fiction.

The main character, Tris, dies in the final book in the Divergent series, ‘Allegiant’, by Veronica Roth. Both Bruno and Smuel die in the gas chambers in John Boyle’s ‘The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas’. In Morris Gleitzman’s ‘Then’, Felix has to watch his best friend Zelda die at the hands of the Nazis. As well, though the ending is ambiguous, ‘The Giver’ by Lois Lowry should be mentioned; I was certain Jonas and Gabriel were most certainly dying after finishing that book. All of these books are Young Adult, and none of them flinch away from the death of a main character or characters.

All of these books treated the deaths with honesty and respect. All of these books cover serious topics that are part of the human history, or analogies of the failings of human nature, and use death to highlight the points they are trying to make. The authors are trying to make people think. This is why all of these books have been banned at some point or another.

Not all books let death be the end of a character. Harry Potter, in ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows’, dies as a major plot point, but then lives again. His death and rebirth made perfect sense as part of the plot, and wasn’t just used for dramatic effect. In ‘The Lovely Bones’ by Alice Sebold, the protagonist Susie narrates her own story even after her murder, as an entity from heaven. But these are more the exception than the rule, and aren’t the same kind of books as the others I have mentioned. As well, coming back from the dead is rather Hollywood’s set piece these days.

In the end, I don’t believe a writer should flinch away from the death of a protagonist or a main character, if that death is meaningful. Death is ugly, but like a shadow, it throws everything else into sharp relief. If you only ever paint with sunny and light colours, a painting is rather boring. If you only ever write about happy events, your writing will be bland. I’m not saying kill off your protagonist just for the hell of it, but don’t close yourself off to the possibility.

Bio: Lynne Lumsden Green has an addiction to learning that has seen her collect a B.A. in Creative Writing and a B.Sc. in Zoology. She runs Steampunk Sunday, Queensland Australia on Facebook, and writes the Cogpunk Steamscribe blog on WordPress. She has too many toys on her desk, but her excuse is they help ‘inspire’ her.

Censoring Myself in the Publishing World

10 Jul

Fantasy is More Fun is giving away tons of prizes to celebrate their one-year anniversary. Check out the raffle by clicking here, be sure to join, and you might win ten novels! Minutes Before Sunset is included!

Censoring Myself in the Publishing World

It’s hard to be yourself in an art industry – as strange as that sounds.

Correction: It’s hard for me to be %100 myself 24/7 in the publishing industry. Perhaps this a fact of life – not just something in the publishing industry – but I have found myself censoring myself about my lifestyle because I’m afraid that I will lose readers if they don’t agree with me. (Personally, I don’t see why we have to agree about everything, but this still happens.) This happens in and outside the publishing world, but I wanted to share the topics I struggle with as an author in order to help other authors talk about their personal troubles. I also hope to take my first step at being %100 honest without fear of reader rejection.

So here is a list of things I have been afraid to mention before:

Books I Dislike and Like:

This isn’t about if they are good or not. I am a firm believer in the fact that books can both be good and be disliked. My personal example of this is Divergent. I just could not get into it. I could not wrap my mind around a society the forces you to be only ONE thing, and the color scheme seemed too simple for such a complex topic. I also felt like it had a lot of religious undertones that made me very uncomfortable. That being said, I still think Veronica Roth is a fantastic writer. I can see a variety of reasons to love it. I can appreciate her prose. On the opposite spectrum, I enjoyed Twilight. There. I said it. Granted, I was 14 when I read it, so it was also marketed to girls my age at the time. I actually remember buying Twilight after a friend told me about it and being reluctant only to go back the very next day to buy the second book that had just released. It wasn’t until much later that I considered the themes in it – when others saw it as abusive, I saw it as just a story – just entertainment. Either way, it still makes me really sad when readers hate on other readers, so that’s why I think I censor myself about my personal book tastes. I don’t want a fan to think I’m attacking their favorite book, because I understand how personal a book can mean to a reader, how much joy and heartbreak can come when a reader loses themselves in a story and how destructive it can feel when others try to tear it to pieces.

I smoke hookah and I drink:

I’m 23, so both of these acts are legal for me, but I try not to mention this about myself because my readers are primarily young adults, and I don’t want to encourage them to do either of the things. As a contradiction, my next novel, Take Me Tomorrow, deals with a lot of themes about drugs in society, including the youth. The sad fact is that many young adults find themselves involved with drugs. This a reality. But my biggest fear is someone telling me their kid blamed me for trying hookah or trying a drink. Here’s another ugly truth: my mother died from a drug overdose. They were legal painkillers prescribed to her. So I know the deadly consequences that can derive from drug use, legal or not. Perhaps – because of my various experiences – I am sensitive to how people perceive me in regards to the drugs in my upcoming novel. Who knows? When I’m asked in interviews “Where do you write?” I find myself struggling to answer honestly, “In a local hookah house.” Because I don’t want other kids to smoke because I smoke occasionally. I know it’s bad for you. I understand this. I am only afraid readers will somehow think I am saying it’s good for you when I’m not.

From Post Advertising

From Post Advertising

Depression associated with publishing:

It happens. I have days where I struggle – just like any person in any industry – but there seems to be a strange stigma associated with artists. If we complain, we aren’t grateful. If we complain, we are selfish because there are so many writers who wish they were published. But can’t we be honest? Can’t we say it’s hard? Can’t we feel sad sometimes, too?

Characters I’ve based off of people:

I don’t directly and purposely try to base my characters off of people in my life, but – as time passes – I can see strong correlations. Still, I am terrified of admitting to my relationships (friends or not) with these people because many of these people are no longer in my life. It feels rude. It feels selfish. Maybe I’ll get over it. Maybe I won’t. But sometimes – when I realize this – I miss them. I miss the characters that were once my closest friends. And I have struggled to even make friends. Since I moved around a lot as a child, friends didn’t last very long. We always moved. But losing friends when I still lived in the same area was an extremely difficult part of my teenage years. I didn’t have to deal with it until I was 15 – and it was hard. Really hard. I couldn’t comprehend how someone I confided in could turn their back on me (or how I managed to turn my back on others.) So when those characters clear up, it can be confusing and unreal and strange, so it’s much easier to deny the possibility that my characters might – in fact – be them.

Certain scenes:

When I was younger, it was easier to be true to the story. I didn’t care what readers thought of a controversial scene, but now I find myself changing them or cutting them out completely – mainly because I or people I have met have gone through many of these trials and I don’t want to stigmatize the victims. I don’t want to hurt them. I don’t want to trigger something.

My personal life:

So you know I have a cat. You know I live in Kansas. You know that I work for AEC Stellar as an author and an employee. You know I lost my mother at a young age and my college roommate. But you don’t know how much I mentally struggle to believe that I created a relatable female character because I struggle to relate to females in general (which I think stems from the fact that I was mainly raised by my father and brother, therefore feeling more comfortable around males.) I’m also more comfortable writing as a male, and when readers ask me about it, I get really uncomfortable about it, because I don’t even know why. To clarify, I’m not uncomfortable with the fact that I enjoy writing as a boy; I get uncomfortable when someone tries to make sense of it, like there has to be a reason for it. I – on the other hand – just want to accept it for what it is. The only other topic I would like to clarify on is that I am not just a “cat person.” I grew up with dogs, and I love and miss my husky, Shadow. (So much so that Argos in Take Me Tomorrow is based off of him.) He was in my life for 15 years. If I had a yard and the proper time and money for a puppy, I would get one. But I don’t. So I have my cat, Bogart, and I love him very much. But I love cats and dogs and pretty much every animal on the planet.

There are ugly parts of everyone’s life and art, but – even though it is common – it is hard to confess to those darker moments. That being said, confessing to those thoughts can help others who struggle with truths they avoid. I like to believe that my “ugly” parts aren’t ugly at all. I am human. That’s what makes us artists.

Feel free to share those things you avoid mentioning below! It’s quite a freeing moment, and I’m glad to share my struggles here, especially if it helps other artists come out with their struggles!

~SAT

Is that Novel REALLY Dystopian? How Market Trends Affect Incorrect Labeling

14 Mar

yDhftSBDesirable Purity asked me about my inner life, including what my secrets are. If that isn’t enough to intrigue you into reading my latest interview, I also shared a verse of poetry I have never released and shared a message to those  who see me as an inspiration. Desirable Purity also made the lovely banner you see on the left, so check out the full interview by clicking here.

With the Divergent movie releasing in a week, my television commercials are filled with dystopian images – a broken society, a dramatic tension, a fight against suppression. We’ve seen these images before, especially with the recent popularity of The Hunger Games sending this genre into the “What is Hot” category on numerous entertainment websites.

This happens all of the time.

The popularity of one novel is the catalyst for a growing infatuation with that genre. While dystopian has been around for ages, there has definitely been an increase in the recent market – but is the market ACTUALLY filled with dystopian novels or just novels claiming to be dystopian when they are, in fact, something else entirely?

I believe a mixture of both has happened, but I will get into why I think that is later. First, I want to take this moment to clarify that I am not against dystopian novels at all. In fact, my first novel, November Snow, is definitely dystopian, and that was published in 2007, one year before The Hunger Games. So I’ve always been a HUGE fan of dystopian. This piece is more along the lines of how to understand the industry and how we shift popularities by blending genres over time.

So let’s tackle this genre where I believe it gets confused:

There are many novels out there claiming to be dystopian when they probably aren’t. Not really anyway. Instead, they fall into sub-categories, like science-fiction and post-apocalyptic. And not every novel in those categories are dystopian.

What’s the difference? Let’s break it down: (Definitions provided by The Oxford Dictionary)

  • Post-apocalyptic: “Denoting or relating to the time following a nuclear war or other catastrophic event…Denoting or relating to the time following the biblical Apocalypse”
  • Dystopian: “An imagined place or state in which everything is unpleasant or bad, typically a totalitarian or environmentally degraded one.”

And just for clarification reasons:

  • Utopia: “An imagined place or state of things in which everything is perfect.”

Here is the main difference for me: Post-apocalyptic is more about an event’s effect on the world, while dystopian is more about a setting’s effect on the world (like government.) Aliens fighting humans to the death is post-apocalyptic. Aliens setting up a new, controlling government where fights take place is dystopian. Both are science-fiction.

So, why all the confusion?

Actually, I don’t believe there’s confusion at all. Instead, this is generally a marketing strategy, and a successful one at that. When novels are labeled by category, there are many options to consider, but the market often chooses to take advantage of that blurry line in order to gain more readers by convincing them that it is just like the last book they loved. And you know what? Readers might actually love it. (So, yes, I’m not saying this is always a bad thing. I’m just pointing out why I think this happens.)

Personally, I LOVED this article: Dystopian Fiction: What is it Really? 

It explains why Lauren Oliver’s Delirium trilogy and Lauren DeStafano’s The Chemical Garden trilogy are NOT in the same genre despite both of them being labeled as dystopian. As a lover of both of those trilogies, I found myself nodding my head at every sentence of this article. (Also, the writer’s name is Shannon, too. Small world full of Shannon’s. Beware.) It’s definitely worth the read if you want to know more about the differences between the genres.

But because of the blending of these genres, I wanted to add one more thing:

If I had to guess where the market is headed, I would say that this exact blending of genres will cause science-fiction to be the next “big” thing, but who knows what will take over next? My bet is on aliens.

What do you think? Have you seen genres blend during popularity spikes? Do you think the blending affects where the market takes off next?

Join me on FB, and your responses might be used next!

Join me on FB, and your responses might be used next!

On my Facebook author page, I asked what makes a novel dystopian, and here were a few answers:

Alexis Danielle Allinson: Dystopian to me means a darker, non-conformity ending whether it is death, hum drum life goes on, the “bad-guy” takes over or the end of everything. (continued on FB page.)

Dan Thompson: My current WIP ‘Here Lies Love’ touches on dystopian themes. In my story, the sun has disappeared, leaving existence and life futile and mundane. More of subsistence really. My book isn’t about the dystopian setting however, more about how my main character deals with the obstacles thrown at her and how she tries to create a life for herself.

Tell us your thoughts below!

~SAT

2014 Books to Movies

10 Jan

First, I am taking a moment to apologize for my extended absence. I was having unusual difficulties with my normally cooperative technology. But now my internet is fixed, and I’m delighted to return to my every-other-day blog schedule.

Since I was stuck on my phone rather than my laptop the past few days, the only thing I could really do was read up on book related articles, and this one was really popular: 16 Books to Read Before They Hit Theaters This Year. Now I’ve talked about what I think of movie adaptations before, and you can read about that here, but I just want to repeat my opinion in case you’re a newcomer (welcome!)

I look at movie adaptation as sister pieces – rather than something that needs to represent the novel exactly. I normally quite enjoy movie adaptations, even when other readers don’t. This doesn’t really mean anything aside from I love seeing a piece of art being interpreted using another method. So I wanted to share the upcoming movie adaptations and what I think about the book and/or the future movie. The links will take you to IMDB rather than the book. I would also love to hear what you’re looking forward to and what you’re worried about, so comment below so we can talk about it 😀

1. Labor Day by Joyce Maynard

I am a Kate Winslet fan, and the trailer left me wanting more. I will probably see this, but I have yet to read the 4.2/5 star novel. I will probably wait for the DVD, but it looks like a promising drama that leaves questions about the good, the bad, and the ugly.

2. The Monuments Men by Robert M. Edsel and Bret Witter

I must see this. Again, I haven’t read this novel, but I am planning on checking it out a.s.a.p. I love history, and I love art. I plan on seeing this in theaters. It looks worth it to me. I’m also a John Goodman fan, so that helps.

3. Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin

I’m really on the fence about this one. I wish I could say more, but I honestly don’t know how to elaborate except that I’m afraid the magic will be hard to convey on the screen.

4. Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

As much as I’m a young-adult fan, this novel failed to gain my interest, and – like many – I’m a little burnt out on vampires. (Although it is directed by the same director who did Mean Girls. I don’t know if this means anything, considering I’m not a fan of the story, but I hope it does well for the fans!

5. A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby 

I don’t think this is my cup of tea, but this doesn’t mean I think the book is bad or anything.

6. Divergent by Veronica Roth

I think this might be one of the biggest films of the year in terms of young-adult trends. It will be interesting to see how the Chicago setting is done and/or if it fares well with the diehard fans. I’ll definitely be checking it out.

7. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

If I have the urge to have a cry fest, then, yes, I plan on seeing this emotional tale on the big screen.

8. The Hundred-Foot Journey by Richard C. Morais

Although this is a remarkable tale, the trailer didn’t really interest me enough. I might change my mind, depending on what else it out around this time.

9. The Giver by Lois Lowry

This is one of my favorite novels of all-time, and I’m a HUGE fan of Meryl Streep, but I am worried about their decision to cast Taylor Swift. It makes me feel like they are simply trying to get people to come using big names, rather than finding the right people for the parts, but I still have hopes that Ms. Swift will live up to the high expectations of this classic and prove everyone wrong that she can, in fact, act.

I am wishing for too much, but I think it would be really neat if the first half shows how the world sees in black and white until the color vision begins to develop with the apple and hair through the protagonist. In fact, I made the photo below when thinking it would be really neat to see in black and white for one day. My roommate mentioned The Giver, and I got even more excited for this movie adaptation. I guess you could say this one is the one I look forward to the most.

So this is my black and white photograph inspired by black and white films!

So this is my black and white photograph inspired by black and white films!

10. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

I really want to see this dark tale, too. I think it will translate well, and I hope the visuals add to the dramatic and twisted story.

11. This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper

Not sure about this one, but I am not familiar with the novel either.

12. The Maze Runner by James Dashner

Yes. Yes. and Yes. I will be seeing this. I think that’s all I need to say.

13. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Wow. Second movie of the year inspired by Gillian Flynn. I’m a fan of Flynn, so I’ll probably see this, but I think I might wait until it’s out of the theater. But congrats to Gillian Flynn on the big year!

But I do have some (sad?) news about this movie adaptation. According to the guardian, the ending has been rewritten by choice of the director. Flynn has supposedly written it, but this mysterious ending is leaving readers wondering why and what will happen.

14. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand & 15. Wild by Cheryl Strayed 

Again, these both sound interesting, but I don’t think they are for me.

16. Serena by Ron Rash

I love Jennifer Lawrence too much to not see this. It’s on my top movies to look out for in 2014. Although I have to admit that I used to not be a huge fan of Bradley Cooper’s, he’s made a huge comeback with me since Silver Linings Playbook, and I adore every movie Lawrence and Cooper have done together. (American Hustle was great!) So I will be seeing this on the big screen if possible! Not that this matters, but Serena is also my favorite name for a girl, so…that’s one more reason, right? :] (Fun fact: Serena is the name of my protagonist in my first, published novel, November Snow.)

So what do you think? Are you looking forward to any of these flicks? Are you worried about any of them? Which novels have you read? Are there any you plan on checking out before you watch it? 

Feel free to elaborate as much as you want to about a specific novel. In fact, I hope you do! I would love to hear more about a story I’m on the fence about from someone who has read it and loved or hated it. Some of my favorite movies were ones I never thought I would see. (I can admit Silver Linings Playbook was actually one of those.) I’m really open-minded, and I love a challenge – meaning, I adore those moments where I have low expectations and the art blows me away. Surprises can be a beautiful thing.

~SAT

P.S. I took Bogart to the vet for his annual checkup, and he’s 18 lbs.! Now, I was worried he was overweight, but it turns out he is part Maine Coon. I thought that was pretty cool – and explains why he’s so HUGE! So I had to share 😀

He’s a little mad at me after the vet, but he’ll come around.

He’s a little mad at me after the vet, but he’ll come around.

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