Thursday, October 28, 2010

Characters: Mary and Gary Revisited (Part Two of a Series)

So the other day I mentioned Mary Sue and Gary Stu, two individuals who tend to show up in fiction, usually under various aliases and disguises. So who are they, and how can you ban them from your fiction? (Trust me, you want them banned. They're annoying.)

We'll start out by discussing the most obvious characteristics of Mary or Gary. Usually, each character will be quite good looking. I'm not talking everyday, nice looking, attractive individual. No, that's never good enough. I'm talking mind-blowing, in your face, you-could-never-hope-to-look-this awesome. Generally, Mary or Gary will have striking eyes. Striking, in this case, usually means a color that no normal iris could be. Blue is a popular eye color for Mary or Gary, but brown and green come in at a close second. Of course there's always the inexplicable "lavender" or "golden" that tends to show up from time to time. Mary Sue will never have acne, despite usually being an older teenager or young adult. Her skin will be "milky" or "creamy" or "flawless." She may have blond hair, but not always. Brown is an option as well, but always "soft" brown or "flowing chestnut locks." Black hair is a plus, especially if Mary has had a particularly difficult life. Gary Stu will tend to have brown hair. Most of the time, Mary Sue and Gary Stu will be quite tall for the time in which they live, but never too far above average. This works out in romantic situations or fights. Towering over men would mean that Mary Sue would be seen as competition for the men or be harder to rescue. Gary should be an average height. Eventually, he will be required to wrestle with some large individual, not a foe, but an ally who does not think Gary can do the job. Gary will win, because he is perfect. (If he were too tall, he would have an unfair advantage over the other men. Perfection in a world where everyone is less than such is always fair.) Gary or Mary will always be athletically fit, regardless of whether they lead an active life. Doing hard chores on a farm will give them particularly sculpted muscles, all over. Mary, of course, will not be too muscular. Just strong and pretty.

Mary Sue and Gary Stu usually also have certain abilities that they can learn or be born with, regardless of the ability. Often, Mary is an orphan girl who grows up a slave on a farm or a misunderstood apprentice to the nice florist in the village. Usually, she will have endured an illogical amount of abuse. Gary has the same background, usually. Their abilities are always amazing, but they will need to be honed. Things like controlling plants or calling up various weather phenomena (love you Stan Lee!) can be an ability for Mary or Gary, but are usually limited to Mary Sue. Magic, in any case, will be available to both Mary Sue and Gary Stu, if they just believe in themselves, or have the usual wizened mentor to lead them in all paths of magic. (Note: this does not mean that any magical system in any book will lead to Mary Sue and Gary Stu showing up. Harry Potter is a good, gawky, awkward example of a magical character who is not a Gary Stu.) It will be true, almost without exception, that Mary Sue and Gary Stu will both be able to wield a sword with an amazing proficiency, with little instruction. (This may or may not be because his or her father or mother or both were also masters of the blade.) They will be fast, agile, strong, and skilled, usually on a level that one only achieves by being raised in an institution that shares similarities with the Jedi Temple. They may also be slightly depressed, for whatever reason.

Where do they usually show up?

Fanfiction is a common place for Mary Sue and Gary Stu to show up. (Visit the Inheritance Forums writer's section for a good, centralized example of what I mean. Some of the other fiction on there, not necessarily fanfiction, will also have examples of Mary Sue or Gary Stu.) They also tend to show up the most in fantasy, because most of the more reality-based fiction out there has little room for unrealistic perfection at the office. Plus it's just not that entertaining or engaging.

The most blatant example of a Mary Sue in published fiction is Estella in the Feather Book Series. She is introduced as a depressed young adult who has just aged out of the foster care system. As mentioned before, she has managed to complete a four-year degree in her spare time, implied to be through night-courses after she finished her high school homework. Instantly, this is a turn-off, because she's so remarkably intelligent that the reader can't hope to relate...or compete. She also describes herself as being remarkably beautiful and unique (this is always a warning sign, when a character begins to describe him or herself.) While it's acceptable for her lover boy, Edgar, to say that she's pretty, for her to constantly (yes, seriously, several times or more) go out of her way to describe her remarkable hair (platinum blond) and eyes (crystal blue) is annoying. This is just one example, and it occurs in what could be considered a fantasy book.

Why does it happen? That's pretty easy to tell you. Mary Sue and Gary Stu tend to show up because the authors express how they see themselves. This is not unnatural, or any indication that the author thinks too highly of herself. Think of a girl who has a crush on some dude, and another girl flirts with him or is even dating this crush. The first girl (we'll call her Lilly) will automatically think, however subconsciously, "I"m better-looking than her. How could he pick her? What does he see? She has like, nothing on me." Yep, I've done it too. I'm not the first, and I won't be the last with this type of thinking. This gut reaction can lead to Mary and Gary sneaking into fiction without warning, and they're hard to deal with because they steal the spotlight and get in the way of the rest of the story (mostly because of how annoying they are, but also because the plot is overshadowed.) What you will have to learn to do is keep them out or kick them out if they've become squatters in your universe.

First, avoid having your characters describe themselves very much. In reality, it's not too necessary to describe your main character because many readers tend to see the character as either looking like them or completely different from what you intended. Often, I will get a picture in my mind of what the main character looks like either because of her personality or her name. It's a reality of writing, so go with the flow and let your character define him or herself by personality rather than looks. Second, don't give your character too many remarkable abilities. One talent or particularly special ability is fine, as long as this character is not solving every single problem that arises. (When this happens, it's like deus ex machina, but not as clever.) Third, let the character have flaws. A human character (or elf or vampire or misunderstood orc), who is sweet or fair all the time, without fail and without wavering, is not realistic in fiction. Many readers see this type of character as someone with whom they cannot relate and it's a turnoff. Make characters that are convincing, can carry the story without being able to solve all the problems, and who are on the same level as your readers. Example: I love Spiderman and Batman. Why? Simple. Spiderman starts out as a poor college student, something I have definitely experienced, and that makes him closer to the reader despite superpowers. Batman is wealthy, but he's human. He has no superpowers and is forced to literally do things the hard way. (And I would love to give Chris Nolan a big hug for his take on Batman. Brilliant.) I love these characters because I can relate to them as a human, though they are men and I am a woman. I can't relate to a character who is too beautiful, talented, and sweet, because I am not those things. I knit, make jewelry, write, and play violin; and I'm really not all that sweet most of the time. Readers like me want to read about a character who is just as average. They feel cheated out of some serious boosting when a character who is already magic, beautiful, and talented wins a battle, because it's predictable. Readers want to see the character struggle, just as they would struggle themselves. It's not because readers are cruel or antagonistic. They just want to look at a character in fiction and think "Hey, maybe I can do that too."

Thanks for stopping by today, and stay tuned for more.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Guardian: A Book Review

So you've probably read my review of Feather, by Abra Ebner.  Feather is part of the Feather Book Series, which has a total of three books, the other two being Guardian and Raven.  I finished Feather for the second time and decided to read the sequels for purpose of review, and to see what happened next.  I bought the remaining books, plus one other, and anticipated beginning Guardian.

If you've read the first review, you already know my feelings on the potential of Feather.  That potential carries through the whole series.  In Guardian, Estella is trying to come to terms with the events of the first novel, and is trying to move on, with the sometimes help of her guardian angel, Sam.  (Sam's story is pretty interesting itself.)  She visits her former college to see her friends Scott and Sarah, and to see the decoy of Edgar that was left behind to teach Edgar's classes.  She finds out where Scott and Sarah are staying and, after some inconsistent snarky inner thoughts about the "slightly British" nurse, meets up with Scott and Sarah, who are engaged and living in her old cabin.  Estella, trying to tell the other two that she is a hybrid (of what, I'm not sure), manages to tell them that she is a Wiccan (which she is not; I looked up the definition of Wiccan to see if there was one I didn't know; there isn't.)  Scott and Sarah think it's just peachy keen that Estella's a Wiccan (she tries to correct them with hybrid; I get confused); Sarah starts jumping up and down and clapping her hands. (Again with the junior high behavior.  How did these people get to grad school?)  After talking to her human friends, Estella returns to her home and goes on a quest to find Edgar (spoilers...oops) in the City of the Gods, somewhere under the earth.  She is accompanied by Sam and another character; if you read the book, you'll see who it is.  (Or you can wait until my analysis; either is good.)  At the end, Estella returns empty-handed to her home, and sometime later helps Sarah and Scott with their wedding, getting a surprise visit from a certain someone at the end.

Pretty interesting, but it failed to captivate me.

When the three characters are traveling in Heaven (which is under the earth; according to the text of this novel, Jules Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth is accurate.  I've read Journey to the Center of the Earth; subterranean earth in Verne's book is not anything close to what it is in Guardian.)  This series is self-published, self-edited, and full of grammar mistakes and typos that may have been avoided had anyone else read the book.  The story is quite interesting, though I will disagree with the author as to the "mystery" surrounding Edgar Allen Poe's death; it isn't a mystery, and I think someone attending him on his deathbed would have noticed the icy skin he possesses in this book (he's a guardian angel.)  Again, Estella sees fit to remind us that she is perfect, beautiful, and powerful.  This lack of flaws is not what keeps her from being a likable character; it's the fact that she's rather mean and can be self-absorbed and a touch bi-polar.  Her actions tend to be passive ("I noticed" rather than "I saw"), and once again, we get a play-by-play of her facial expressions and the tone of her voice.  Estella often cannot decide whether she resents or appreciates Sam and often thinks some pretty mean stuff about people that she calls friends; she then goes on to say how much she treasures that person.  When she meets the council of gods at the end of the book, Estella even has the nerve to say that a goddess who is closely scrutinizing her face is less beautiful.  In the first chapter, Estella admires her face in the reflection on the kitchen counter.  Honestly, when I read that, it made me want to shut the book and not pick it up again.  Unless the point is to make this character very unlikeable, she's not put together well.  With a little more work, I think she could have been a great character, but I think Ebner wrote this book too quickly to really give her characters the justice they deserve. 

The book's grammar is also off and she uses the word "butt" way too much, and it's not really comical.  (That word belongs in movies like Shrek and others that are meant to be funny on different levels.  In a fantasy romance like Guardian, it looks awkward, immature, and first-draftish.)  The editing is lazy.  I say this because it may be hard to edit your own stuff, but it is possible.  Sure, a book's huge, but taking it chapter by chapter would have alleviated some of the glaring problems that I found.  The writing gets repetetive.  Here's a paraphrase of one short passage.  "...the wall.  'It's a wall,' I said.  But it wasn't just any wall."  The second two sentences were redundant, uneccessary.  Describing the wall would have told us that it "wasn't just any wall." 

Overall, Guardian had the same potential as Feather.  The plot was more involved, but quite linear.  The characters were passive and never changed or grew.  The main character is not one that readers can relate well to; not only does she exhibit Mary Sue-like tendencies, she also can be unjustifiably mean towards those she considers to be "the little people" (quoted directly from the book, I swear.)  Guardian could have been a good story, but like the book that came before it, it fails to live up to what it could have been and is plagued by the same problems as the first one. 

Right now, I'm working my way through Raven (spoilers!  Edgar's point of view gets some air-time) and I am looking forward to posting a review of it on here.  If you can, try to take a look at the text, and I'll be posting an analysis of the book with tips on writing based on what I've read.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Out for a few days...

I've been less than frequent with posting lately, but I will be delayed for a few days.  Let's just say it's a family emergency going on, and I'll be back as soon as possible. 

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Characters: Putting Yourself in Your Work (Part One of a Series)

Let me start by confessing that when I write a story, I tend to make cameos within the narrative.  I don't always function as the main character, but I am there, keeping an eye on the inhabitants of my mini universes.  I could be anyone from the work-stressed sister on the other end of the phone to the blue-haired (yep, my a hair's been that color more than once) background character who's actions are a catalyst of sorts, but it's a habit now for me to be there in some capacity.  I believe that there is nothing wrong with that in the least bit.  In one of my current projects, my main character basically is me, tweaked of course, and with several differences, but she is me, exploring a world I made up.  I'll restate that there's nothing wrong with this.


Oh yes, until.  This word just makes me giddy with anticipation, because it means I'm about to fully analyze and critique something.  (Favorite hobby, seriously.)  Okay, I'm back now.

It's fine to stick yourself in your story.  If you want your main character to be a variant of you, that's fine, but watch out for Mary Sues and Gary Stus.  They tend to be rampant in fanfiction, but I have also caught them lurking in books that I've purchased.  (Yes, there are different degrees of Sue and Stu, and the pair is quite sneaky.  They're like glamor ninjas.)  The most blatant type of Mary Sue tends to occur when the author inserts herself as the powerful and extremely beautiful main character.  Gary over here shows up in the same way.  Usually, they're pretty average height (a 21st century type of average, regardless of the era they live in) and either have something inexplicable about them (abilities or appearance), and they never live an average life.  If they are not a princess/prince, then they are a beggar who is really a princess/prince and life is hard.  Abuse is common for Mary and Gary.  Sobsob, crycry.  Writers, avoid this at all costs.

When you decide to make your main character a version of you, do so in personality.  If he or she looks like you, fine.  Having a picture of a character in your head for reference is a great idea.  It helps you visualize actions that they or other characters make, see someone's face as they speak, and understand how the character would move if they walk, run, swing a sword, or drive a car.  But a mistake that some writers make is going out of their way to describe the character, pointing out Mary or Gary's eye color or hair sheen or unblemished skin constantly.  Usually, when you flip to the author's picture, you'll find that they are the spitting image of their perfect main character.  (Feather, which I reviewed earlier, has the dubious honor of being exactly like this.  I do not exaggerate when I say that Estella describes herself every few pages.  It gets old reading about someone being perfect in looks.)  I know that as far as the Twilight Saga goes, many people either love it to obsession or hate it with a passion, but the lack of self-description was actually something that impressed me.  There's a little bit of description, but it's in context as to where the character lives at the beginning of the story.  Actually, you never get a clear grasp on what Bella looks like until the fourth book, when one of the Cullen sisters remarks on the color of Bella's eyes when she was human.  Nicely done.  Yeah, she looks like the author, but does not ever come across as "I'm perfect in every external way."  Also, if you have an evil character, please refrain from making them look like the slightly petty, mean, and popular girl in your school.  Female villains tend to be slightly perfect as well, and that's just as annoying.

Give your character flaws.  And I don't mean "they're a worrier" or "they get stressed easily."  I mean give them real flaws.  They're scared, or they have acne.  (Glasses, by the way, are hardly a cosmetic problem.  Yeah, I wear contacts now, but mostly out of convenience.  For me, they're easier to maintain.  If they were harder to own, I'd totally have glasses.)  Maybe they're mean sometimes, even to their best friend, or *gasp* they can't use a sword with any competence whatsoever.  You have to be careful, though, of making your main character unlikeable.  Let them have flaws, but normal, human, every day flaws.  Characters who are unpopular in school because "popular kids are mean" are not realistic.  (I went to private school for 13 years.  I wasn't exactly Homecoming Queen, but I wasn't ridiculed for stupid stuff like having curly hair or wearing knee socks with my skirts.  Actually, high school was rather nice.)  That's one of the things I liked in the Harry Potter series.  Harry can be an awkward guy, but he has friends.  Yeah, he has enemies, and he's not super popular at Hogwarts, but he has a good circle of people who like him, and with whom he hangs out.  Most of the ones who don't like him feel that way because they are actual foes with an agenda.  (Poor Snape and his unrequited love for Lily, though.)  Without the list of mortal enemies, it's a convincing story of adolescence.  Okay, J.K. Rowling hardly put herself into that story, but you see the point.  Don't make your story into a pity party about your life if your life is pretty average and pretty good.  (Okay, the Dursleys were mean, but jealousy fueled it, and the 90s were a grungier time anyway.)

You don't always have to be the main character.  Remember, there is an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.  Let yourself be an observer, or a background character.  You could be the main character's best friend, helping them decide stuff.  But most writers will choose to make the main character another version of themselves, and that's fine as long as the character is convincingly imperfect, just like you.  It can be hard to build a character that everyone can relate to, but if you're willing to actually work on a character instead of taking the lazy route and making them perfect/powerful/the Chosen One, you and your readers will be rewarded.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

How to Annoy Your Audience: Stereotypes and Generalizations

The typical fictional New York City will usually be characterized by a few things. First, fictional NYC citizens are rude and soulless.  Old people and children will always be roughly shoved out of the way of tough city folk, and money and success define a fictional NYC citizen's life. Second, in the fictional NYC, soulful, green-haired, spontaneous, and poor artists populate Greenwich Village or any of the nicest neighborhoods in Manhattan. Third, you have to use a specific lingo in order to receive food from any eating establishment.  Topping it all off, the negative vibes in fictional NYC are enough to cause a river of Pepto pink slime to run under the city and bring back the soul of Dracula's rival-in-meanness neighbor.


See how annoying all that is? Not only that, it's pretty insulting to make all those generalizations.  (Except for the last part.  Ghostbusters, you get an exemption.)  New York City, to the average tourist, is quite fast-paced, but the people are awesome and the city is amazing.  Okay, my second point was first made in my creative writing textbook, but it is true.  People tend to put poverty stricken, fictional artists in a lovely loft apartment in Greenwich Village.  Only thing is, Greenwich is a beautiful neighborhood and it's pretty expensive to live there.  (Also, I don't know too many artists, but I do know that most of them are fun people who are focused on their work rather than doing random and typical free-spirited things.)  Also, since most New Yorkers speak English, they understand perfectly when you say "I'd like a cheeseburger and an iced tea, please."

Now we can move on to the stereotypical South.

In the stereotypical South, everyone everywhere drawls everything.  Sentences take five minutes to finish. Cotton is still king, and football is the life of everyone who's anyone.  Southern belles always have an air of treachery about them, and every upstanding woman wears pearls.  There is also lots of background music, usually consisting of a harmonica or some slow, methodical picking of random guitar strings.  The stereotypical South, Louisiana especially, also tends to be a choice residential area for vampires.  They like the football programs, I suppose.

While music and vampires aren't necessarily stereotypes, everything else is.  How do I know this?  Well, I live in the South.  Fiction that includes Southern locations and a Gone with the Wind accent permeating all the speech is, quite frankly, annoying.  (No, I didn't intend that Rhett Butler allusion there.  That's just a bonus.)

Granted, I do live in North Carolina.  Cotton wasn't king here so much as tobacco.  Being more of a vaguely British/pirate persuasion, we don't speak all that slowly.  True, there are certain people who insist on the haughty, Southern blue-blood, old money thing, but even that has a different flavor than somewhere like, say...Georgia.  There aren't old plantation houses on every block.  (In truth, only about 4% of the antebellum Southern population actually lived on a plantation.)  Recently, I've read somewhere that North Carolinians speak more of a "proper English" than other states, stemming from the many English settlers in the state.  North Carolina is pretty unique, actually.

It's not the only unique place though.  When a character is described as having a "Southern" accent, and when that accent is the only defining feature of that character, the writer is cheating both herself and the readers.  For one thing, every state has a different accent, or two different, or three.  (North Carolina has at least three regional differences in accents, spanning from the Coastal Plains, which I have, and the Western North Carolina accent.)  "Southern" characters who are Southern in accent only are annoying, flat, and less than they could be.

British accents can be the same way.  There are many different accents in the British isles, and saying that someone has a "slight British" accent (as Abra Ebner does in Feather) is a little bit lazy. Not only is it lazy, it also means that you're cheating yourself out of some character development and dialogue, and this goes for any accent.  Instead of your main character observing that another character has a British/Southern/whatever accent, have them make conversation.  It might look something like this:  "The boy had an accent, but Susie couldn't place it.  'Where are you from?'  Louis looked up from his book.  'I'm from....'"  This conversation establishes characterization.  If your main character doesn't want to be embarrassed by asking such a question, imply that and let them find out later.

If you're unsure about a location, and you want to write about it, please do your research.  My complaint with many books is that the author simply does not do research in key areas.  If you set your stories in a real life location, but get things blatantly wrong (you'll see more of this in my analysis of Feather) about the area, then someone is bound to notice.  (Spoiler alert:  Feather mentions the "hillsides of London" once...but London is a metropolitan area.  Ravines of New York?  Crashing waves in Oklahoma?  I've never been to London, but Doctor Who is sometimes set there and 28 Days Later was a great story partly set in London...I have a good idea of what it looks like.)  When you don't bother to get details right because you assume that no one will know or care, you insult your readers.

Also, there's generalizations about people that you never want to make.  Many times, I am assumed to be Goth, and I am not.  I do wear a lot of darker colors, for various reasons.  Mostly taste.  I do like dark red lipstick (classy!) and lace.  (I even wear pearls, but I swear I stay away from the hoop skirts.)  Also, I tend to be seen as a pessimist.  (I'm not.)  While I realize that I probably invite these generalizations (unintentionally...), they're not fair in writing.  Again, defining a character solely by appearance, dress, or accent is a bad idea.  You end up with flat characters who cannot grow or change because they have no substance to change from.  The same applies to places.  Defining New York City, the South, Southern California, or anywhere based on what you've read in books or seen in movies is going to prove problematic.  That's why it's important to write what you know.  If you want to do differently, then at least research what and where you are writing about.  Your story will make more sense and will seem more real.

Check back for my next post.  Right now, I'm reading through Guardian, the sequel to Feather.  I hope to have a review of that up soon, and an analysis of Feather that can help you see where a story can go wrong.  I'll also be writing about characters next.  Stay tuned, and thanks for stopping by.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

I Now Present to You...Feather: A Book Review

And your patience is definitely appreciated. I have just finished re-reading this book to refresh my memory of it, and I must say, the experience was interesting for the second time.

You may be wondering how I came across Feather. Here's the story. About a year ago (maybe a little more) a writer, Jordan Scott, tried to bring a lawsuit against Stephanie Meyer. Scott claimed that Meyer had stolen text from her obscure book, The Nocturne, and used the ideas in the not-so-obscure Breaking Dawn. Being immensely curious, I had to look into this case more, and found parts of The Nocturne on Google Books, then looked up reviews on Amazon. One reviewer mentioned that this book was "nothing like Twilight" and that the Feather book series was better for Twilight fans. That got my attention, because I had never seen Feather or the sequels in a bookstore. Long story short, after a couple of days of reading previews on Google Books and some hemming and hawing, I ordered Feather to see for myself, just out of curiosity. I found that the author, Abra Ebner, had published this book herself along with several others that she wrote. (Here is her blog, with links to her other blogs.) Ambitious, to say the least, and she definitely knows how to market, which did impress me. Despite taking 20 credit hours in college at the time, I read this book eagerly, hoping to give my mind a break.

Not possible, sadly.

I'm a notoriously picky person, but if a book is enjoyable enough, I can push aside some of my nitpicking and just enjoy the book (hence the rather odd place that the actual Twilight series has on my bookshelf. I like it. End of story, no pun intended.) I was willing to give Feather a chance to wow me, but it didn't.

The plot is of an 18-year-old orphaned student named Estella. This character has grown up being able to inexplicably manipulate plants and make them grow, being ridiculed by her peers because of her green thumb, and basically being beautiful and perfect. Estella leaves her foster home and goes off to a secluded little college in Washington State (hmm?) to earn her master's degree, having already gotten a bachelor's from night school in her "spare time" (I just got a four-year degree. It took me four and a half years. Methinks Estella is unconvincingly perfect.) The first person she meets is a plucky ginger named Scott, who has a crush on her. It is clear that Estella, while wishing for friends, shows disdain for other people, and knows that they hate her because of her "different" appearance (platinum blond with "crystal" blue eyes.) However, she starts classes, and has a near disastrous encounter with Professor Edgar, a permanently 18-year-old college professor.

Estella and Scott form a fairly convincing friendship, while Estella tries to get closer to Edgar. Estella fixes Scott up with someone who is giggly and really doesn't act like she's in grad school. In a rather sudden turn of events, Edgar and Estella fall in love and Estella begins to learn more about who she is. At the end, Estella, Edgar, and a character named Sam face off against a particularly nasty villain who is nasty for apparently the heck of it. The story concludes and leaves open the option for a sequel.

This book had promise. The concept of Edgar and Estella's magical-ness (hint: they're immortal) and the lack of vampires was pretty refreshing. Some of the dialogue was decent, and the descriptions of the setting (Washington State, and it never rains once either) are quite detailed. Despite the promise, though, the book reads like a first draft. There's a lot wrong with it, and Ebner just wasn't careful enough.

Feather was written in first-person perspective. First-person is an interesting way to write, because it can be used like a diary entry or a memoir (Princess Ben is a good, and funny, example of this use of first-person.) In Feather, Estella describes herself several times (hint: don't do this in your writing.) She rolls her eyes at her friends, ignores professors' lectures when they're boring, says lots of things "sarcastically" and "angrily," and basically gives you a play-by-play of her facial expressions. She even goes so far as to describe herself as perfect.

The secondary characters in this book are very flat. Scott and Sarah, Estella's friends, are always plucky, giggly, and clueless (according to Estella.) The nurse in the book has a "slight British" accent. (I couldn't decide what Ebner meant, so I just imagined Mrs. Doubtfire.) The main villain seems to have no motivation other than destroying the world so he can have all of its energy. All of the other college students don't apparently like Estella because of her perfect looks and the fact that she sticks out like a sore thumb (she's pale with white blond hair, as she reminds us many times.) In short, no one at this grad school acts like they are 22 years old. Lots of granola and tofu are consumed in the cafeteria, and everyone wears sandals and has a tan.

I will have a more detailed analysis of this book later. I may have to do it in parts to keep the posts from getting too long, but I'll go deeper into every problem that I saw. Don't worry, I'll also go over the good stuff, because this book does have some good things in it.

Bottom line is...Feather had a lot of promise. But with the lazy editing (Ebner runs her own publishing company, Crimson Oak Publishing, and turns out a surprising amount of books every year), inconsistencies, and character problems, Feather is missing some things. If you want to read some of it, here's the Google Books entry for the first book in the series. Take a look, read some, gather your thoughts, and then I'll move on to the analysis of the book. My personal opinion? With a professional editor, agent, and publishing house behind her, Abra Ebner could have turned out a really great story, but Feather falls short of its promise.

I'll be back soon with an entry on stereotypes and generalizations, and how to avoid them. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

And...We're Back!

It's taking bit longer to get finished with Feather than I anticipated, but I've just ordered the remainder of the series, Guardian and Raven.  Basically, I'm refreshing my memory, taking mental notes, and getting familiar with the book again.  It should be ready in the next few days, so thanks for your patience. 

I've also been working quite a bit on my Etsy shop (shameless plug, I know), and I hope you'll check that out too.  I've built another blog that I'll be updating often.  Best Anything Ever is basically a review site, but I intend to keep it fun and review a broad spectrum of stuff.  Opinion pieces?  Don't mind if I do. 

So coming up, when I get finished with the book, you'll be seeing a review of Feather, followed by an analysis of the good, the bad, and the cringe-inducing.  Am I excited?  Oh yes. 

Recently, we've discussed developing your style and how to make it your own.  I think next I will discuss stereotypes in writing, why they're annoying, and what you can do to avoid them.  Thanks for stopping by again, and I'll be seeing y'all soon with a review of Abra Ebner's Feather.