Hopkins and Rowell

You know what sucks?  Being sick.  I started my new, glamorous job at Applebee’s the other day.  I am a waitress there (if you’re super into being PC then replace “waitress” with “server”) and I got super sick just in time for my last couple days of training and my first day off training.  So that meant no reading, writing, thinking, breathing, or blogging.  It was the worst.

But now I’m all better!  And I’m getting slightly better at waiting tables.

I also read a couple books.

The first: Crank by Ellen Hopkins.  This one is going on the Books I Recommend list, so look for a link there if you’re interested.  It’s a really chilling, powerful book.  My favorite part is that it’s part poetry, part prose, and part artwork.  Like the words are arranged in patterns.  Sometimes certain words are isolated so that if you read just them it becomes an entirely new sentence.  Which is awesome because it makes me feel like I’m breaking a secret code and reading all these encrypted messages.  I had the pleasure of hearing Ellen Hopkins speak at the SCBWI conference in NYC and she was an absolutely fantastic person.

The second book: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell.  It’s not going on the Books I Recommend list, but not because it was bad.  It was a really good book.  It kept me turning pages.  In fact, the only reason I’m not putting it on the list is because I have to be somewhat selective.  Otherwise that list is going to be ten miles long.  But I will recommend it here.  If you’re interested, it’s about a girl named Cath(er) who is a twin.  She’s starting college, but her social anxiety keeps her locked in her room writing FanFiction while her twin, Wren, takes the opposite approach to college life.  Cath’s also got some family problems, some boyfriend problems, and some school problems.

Reading Rowell’s book made me realize why I have so much trouble writing realistic fiction: Real life, especially real life for teenagers, is very boring and repetitive.  If you are a teenager in high school or college, this is the short list of real-life problems that you might face:

  • Parents
  • Siblings
  • Teachers/Professors
  • Classwork
  • Who is or isn’t kissing you
  • Alcohol/drugs
  • Sex

And it is really hard to make that list unique.  Like, you could add in something about how Sarah’s archery coach told her that she doesn’t have the eye for the bulls-eye like she used to.  Or Peter is going on a camping trip with his class and he is extremely worried about sleeping at night without his stuffed Zebra, Furkle.  But for the most part a lot of these books seem to boil back down to the above list.  And that’s a difficult problem to overcome.  It is.

So that’s the main issue I ran into with Fangirl.  It had this flavor of familiarity like I’d seen and read it all before, despite the characters’ names and hair colors being different.  But what’s an author to do?  If you suddenly veer off the course, people might start criticizing you for having unrealistic realistic fiction.  It’s why I have a great respect for realistic fiction writers, and why I feel like I hit a big, fat roadblock whenever I try it.  My biggest problem with rewriting The Dreamcatchers has been this block.  The Reality Block, I’ll call it.  I want my main character’s real life to factor into her dream world, and I also want the two other teenagers she meets to have their own lives and their own stories which also become apparent in the dreams.  That’s three different lives I have to create!  Three different realities that need to appear unique while still being believable, but without being cliche.  And that’s hard.  So my hat goes off to Rainbow.  She did a hard thing, and she made it entertaining.  Go ahead and read the book.  You’ll see what I’m talking about.


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Filed under books, Humor, writing

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