A to Z Challenge Reflection Post

 This is the first time I’ve completed the A to Z challenge. I’ve tried twice before and missed half the letters. Third time’s the charm.

The difference this time is that I was a little more focused, instead of doing random posts about the first thing that came to mind. I still wasn’t very organized. Lots of people planned the whole months’ worth of posts in advance; some people planned a week in advance.

Me? I was lucky if I managed to write a post the night before. I would have been a lot less stressed if I’d managed to write more in advance.

But I managed. Some posts may have been a stretch, but I squeezed all the letters into a post related to the theme.

I enjoyed the challenge. I discovered quite a few new-to-me blogs that I liked and I will be doing my best to keep up with them in the future. Though since I am not doing a good job of following the blogs I currently subscribe to, this is bound to be a little difficult.

As in past years, the biggest problem was people who never commented back. I suspect a few people never even clicked on a link to see who commented, as odd that seems to me.

One of things that helped me figure out which link to follow from the linky link page is the categories. I went mostly with blogs that were on similar topics to mine – books! writing! – and that was better than clicking on random links. The hosts wanted us to click on links close to our own name. I did that, too, but the results were random. I mean, I can’t comment on a post if I have no interest in the topic. I just can’t.

I did notice a few people liked a post instead of commenting. It makes think they had nothing to say, but liked the post anyway. That’s good to know!

One of things I think I got better at during this challenge is picking pictures to illustrate a post. I usually suck at finding just the right picture and posting it.

The most time-consuming part of the challenge was returning comments and choosing the five/ten new random blogs to comment on. I hardly read anything during the challenge. I hardly wrote anything, either.

But it was worth it. The challenge was a lot of fun and I would do it again. But maybe with more preplanned posts!

Z is for Zonk

Zonk as in the books that put you to sleep.

I had to read a lot of these for English class. They are classics, yeah, but so boring. They are why I still avoid all books that look like they belong in an English class.

They are a pretty big reason why I didn’t major in English, despite a lifelong of reading. I was afraid I would have to read terribly boring books.

Some of these books include:

Bored Baby

1) Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck.

Sorry to all the Steinbeck fans out there. But Mice and Men hardly held my attention.

2) Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad.

Despite being very short and despite it being required reading, I skimmed from the middle of the book all the way to the end.

3) Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse

I suspect this book was an attempt to insert multiculturalism in the class, but it moved like at a snail’s pace. It was awkward to read, too.

And for a book about religion, I never got God like vibes from Govinda and I should have. (Else the name ought to have been different!) Also, the characters were confusing. I never figured out if they were supposed to Buddhist or Hindu or something else. It starts with Hindu stuff and moves on to Buddhist stuff. Confusing. So . . . yeah.

I did not, however, skim this book because it was confusing enough without that.

But mostly it was an awkward read and moved slowly. I could have tolerated it better otherwise.

4) The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams

The main character was nearly as annoying as Bella from Twilight and that’s saying a lot. I skimmed a lot in this book.

What books make you zonk out?

Y is for Yelp and Other Sounds Characters Make

Y is for yelp and other sounds characters make. Other sounds include, but are not limited to: squeal, squeak, grunt, bark, snarl,

Hear Me Snarl

growl, hiss and whimper.

One of my favorite writers, Anne Bishop, is particularly prone to making her characters snarl, growl and whimper. On rare occasions it annoys me.

But other writers, ones I like less, have their characters grunt and growl their way through the page. It is beyond annoying, and may lead to me putting the book down. It’s just so irritating – no one grunts/growls/barks every sentence they say. And if they do, there is still no need to put these tags in every other bit of dialogue.

Also, sometimes even with the dialogue tag, I cannot hear the sentence as a grown/grunt/whimper.

Does this annoy you? And, whether it does or doesn’t, can you always hear the sound in the dialogue?

X is for X Placeholder

X_GI use X as a placeholder. His friend X, Uncle X, baby X, pet X, and event X and so on.

Lots of times I don’t know what the character’s name is and I don’t have time to go searching baby name websites for a good name. So the picture-placeholder-femalecharacter becomes X on the page. It’s a silent reminder to find a name later.

It’s the same thing for scenes. Sometimes I’ll be writing and I need a scene to show something somewhere in the middle of the story. I’ll insert Scene X in big bold letters wherever the scene needs to be.

As for why X and not A or – or some other symbol as a placeholder? I don’t really know. I suppose X represents the unknown to me. No doubt this is a result of spending years in the classroom being told to Find X.

How do you deal with unknown characters?

W is for Waffled

A Winner’s W.

I have waffled when in the middle of many books – do I want to finish? Do I want to continue?

This is when I skim to decide. 

But there are books I still haven’t decided what I want to do, despite a fair amount of skimming. Like the Game Of Thrones book; I came to a stop, I looked for and read scenes with some of the characters I liked best and I still haven’t decided.

I’ve been waffling for 3-4 years on it now.

Not that this is a big deal. It isn’t. But sometimes it is just hard to decide.

V

V danced for the crowd. The red folds of her dress swirled around her, sometimes obscuring her from the crowd, sometimes revealing her.

The crowd chanted her name: Red V. V. V. Red!

The music thrummed through, a counter point to her own nature, named for her. Venom.

The crowd swayed with her.

She twirled over the stage, her bare feet pounding the floorboards. Thump. Step. Thump. Leap.

With each step the venom in her music spread. One by one the people in the crowd crashed like felled trees.

Only one man was left standing. The reason she was here. The reason for these destroyed lives.

He grinned and jumped atop the nearest body. But the music didn’t stop and she didn’t stop moving.

Soon he, too, fell.

She was free! She turned one last somersault and landed on his chest.

U is for Unchangeable and Unchanging Characters

Some characters are unchangeable, unchanging, and in fact, have no business changing.

This isn’t the normal thing that is taught in writing classing and it is not the normal writing advice given. But, months after watching the Skyfall, I have become convinced of the truth of it.

I blogged about Skyfall after I saw the movie. I don’t mention it in the post, but I feel like this movie hurt Bond’s icon status.

In this movie, 1) Bond grows older and 2) also has a past, complete with parents and big house.

Someone asked me how it was and I replied: emotional. Which is damn odd for a James Bond movie.

Before this movie he was the Man of Mystery. He had no past, no future, few connections to people other than a bevy of Bond Girls in each and every movie.

The only movie he ever changed in was the one where the girl he was in love with betrayed him and broke his heart. Nothing otherwise.

Every writing class, most every piece of writing advice will say that characters need to grow. Good stories have characters that grow and change.

I feel like someone tried to do exactly that to James Bond in Skyfall and it failed.

I feel like him getting shot by friendly fire, retiring in the Caribbean, and coming back vastly off his game were attempts to give him a character arc he wouldn’t have otherwise. I also feel like he doesn’t need to have a character arc necessarily.

James Bond is an icon. No need to mess with that.

Or if they insist, they ought to have done it slower. Lots slower. The character development should have been done at a snail’s pace, over a number of movies. That might have worked. As it is, I just feel like they were trying to shoehorn a past and development and all that jazz into his character.

Also, at the end of Skyfall, he says he’s ready for the next mission at the end and its business as usual. So, yeah.

I have to reconsider if I even want to see the next James Bond (comes out next year!) in theaters. If it is like Skyfall, than maybe not.

T is for Title Changes

Some books have one title in US and another title in the UK. Wikipedia has a whole list.

I don’t know why that is or even if it makes much difference. The books are the same, aren’t they? Just with British spelling and grammar. 

But, aside from that, does it really make a difference in sales or first impressions of the book?

  • Outlander by Diana Gabaldon is Cross Stitch in England.
  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling is Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in the US.
  • His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik is Temeraire in England.
  • The Warded Man by Peter V. Brett is The Painted Man in England. (I thought they were different books at first!)

Do the title changes make any difference to the book? It’s hard to imagine.

S is for Skimming

I skim books. Yes, yes, I do. I feel guilty for it. I would stop if I could.

Three ways I skim:

How To Skim A Book

1) I usually skim over the ending.

This is when I need to know my favorite character is alright at the end, so I can live through their trials with them with no worries for how it will end. Sometimes it is not reassuring; the character ends in a bad place and I must read through the trials knowing there will be no happy ending. So depressing.

2) Sometimes I skim through the middle.

This is when I want to know if the book will get more exciting later on or if I am looking for my favorite point of view character – damn you, POV changes! – and I cannot stand to read about any other character.

3) Occasionally I skim through the whole book.

This is when the book is so boring I can’t force myself to actually read it, but am still marginally interested in the story and call it done. It is slightly better than not finishing at all. I did this quite frequently in school and never suffered for it. ;)

Do you skim through books a lot?