Friday, September 19, 2008

Writing Exercise

So I've decided to do NaNoWriMo this year. I've come up with a plot idea and now I'm just sort of biding my time until November rolls around.

In the mean time, I thought, why not do some writing exercises?

When I was in high school, Miss Blackstone (no that's not her real name, but it was what she had us call her) had us do fun writing exercises every Friday. Other than getting to read good books, it was the only redeaming quality of that horrid class that left me for years thinking I wasn't very smart when it came to books and literature. Stupid teacher...

Anyway, that got me to thinking that if it was fun then, it might be fun now, and while I don't actually remember any of the exercises she had us do, I figured there had to be something out there similar, so I went to Borders and found Caroline Sharp's A Writer's Workbook.

The exercises aren't quite as much fun, but they do seem to be useful, so from time to time I'll post an exercise.

Here goes!

This exercise is called Reviewer, and you're just supposed to review something, anything. I'm reading Dead until Dark, the first book in the Southern Vampire series by Charlaine Harris, which is the basis of HBO's new series True Blood (great series! but that's for another review...)

I also read Twilight this summer by Stephenie Meyer. She's a great writer, but as I started reading Dead until Dark, I noticed some things.

Both books are about Vampires in the present in a small town. Both books are love stories about a male Vampire and a human woman. In both books, one of those two characters can read people's minds. In both books, the telepath can NOT read the other characters mind. In both books, the woman has a second love interest (SPOILER ALERT) who can change into a canine of some variety. It's starting to get a little monotonous.

The thing is, both books were superbly written. The characters are thought out and rich with complexity. But I can't help feeling a little annoyed at Stephenie Meyer for taking so many aspects of Dead until Dark (which was written three years earlier). Unless, by some amazing coincidence, they both wrote such similar stories within a few years of each other...

Another thing I find so frustrating is that Twilight has become such a huge success, while the Southern Vampire series has not. Both were brilliantly written books. You'd think the one that came first and was actually written for an adult audience would be the more successful of the two. But here we are with Twilight the third highest selling book on Amazon and Dead until Dark ranked 111th, even with True Blood coming out.

Still, even with all this frustration with a repeating story, the part of me that loves new verisions of old tales (who doesn't love a Cinderella story?) enjoys being able to read something I already love with new twists and turns. It's reading Bridget Jones' Diary after reading Pride and Prejudice, or watching Clueless after watching Emma (don't know why I'm stuck with Jane Austen right now...). It's a treat.

I think part of my frustration is due to the number of times it's happened to me recently. Before reading this, I read a new book called The Magicians and Mrs. Quent, an historical novel that has magic in it. While I was hoping to find something familiar inside the covers (anyone who knows me well knows my obsession with Mairelon the Magician by Patricia C. Wrede, one of the best books I've read to date and tragically out of print), but rather than finding a new plot with similar devices, I found two of the most famous plots one after another: Pride and Prejudice, and Jane Eyre. It was incredibly frustrating. But I'll save that for the next review...

So basically it comes down to this: I would recommend both these books, but probably not together. The juxtaposition (thank you Miss Blackstone for teaching me the proper use of that wonderful word) of the two doesn't leave Twilight in the best light, when otherwise, it is utterly desrerving of the success it has had.


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