October 31, 2010


Instead of National Novel Writing Month, a few friends and I are doing National Novel Reading Month instead. We're all going to pick our own goals and whatnot and try to accomplish them by the end of the month. So far for week one(not in reading order), I have:
  1. The Journal of Ben Uchida: Dear America by Barry Denenburg (review)
  2. The Giver by Lois Lowry (review)
  3. Moribito: Guardian Spirit by Nahoko Uehashi
  4. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
  5. Sisterhood on the Mic by E-Fierce
  6. What Would Emma Do? by Eileen Cook
  7. The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
  8. The Dead Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan
That's 8 books. As soon as those are finished another 8 books.

If you are doing NaNoWriMo, what are you working on? If you are going to do NaNoReaMo, what books are you choosing to read? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

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October 27, 2010

The Counterlife by Philip Roth

Date Started: October 19
Date Finished: October 26

Summary: Nathan Zuckerman, an author, is revising and rewriting his own life story using the people in his life as characters. He explores different scenarios in which his brother dies, his brother goes on a religious pilgrimage, the author himself dies, and many other situations.

Likes: I have a love hate relationship with this book. On the likes side, I like the idea of an author writing about different situations and exploring the outcomes. I like the idea of the writer not being able to turn off that "pull fiction from fact" kind of mentality. Zuckerman likes to exploit situations and make people more interesting than they actually are. Some people, like Jimmy, are more interesting than the author could hope to make them. My favorite scene is Jimmy, the fanatic fanboy, attempting to hijack a plane. The dialogues between Maria and Zuckerman are also interesting to read.

Dislikes: There were too many rants for me to be fully engaged in the story. The moment I would suck in, especially when the story dealt with the relationship between other characters, someone would go off on a religious rant/diatribe and push me out of the story. They almost always talk about Judaism and what it means to be a Jew, which would be all fine and good if I could find a way to connect to it. I can in other books, like Sam's struggle with her identity in Shine, Coconut Moon. For some reason I found it really hard to connect with the struggle of Jews in America. And it's not that I can't relate to that struggle, but the book was written in a way that assumes the reader knows about Jewish history, which I unfortunately don't. And it's not that I would do the research to find out the deeper meaning, but I found that I didn't care about the main character's struggle enough to look into more than just the surface stuff that I know. He's a 44 year old writer that had been married 4.5 times and I felt that he was a little too old to be having this identity/mid-life crisis. 

Overall: The dislikes being said, I'm sure everything would tie together had I read the other Zuckerman novels. I do like the author not being able to turn off the writer in him, trying to exploit life to get the best story possible. I like the theme of people creating their own counter lives, because it rings true. It is almost like reading someone brainstorm and then making a semi-coherent narrative of the process. I would recommend it for that reason, but I would warn people who aren't really religious or political rants should probably just skim those parts over.

Recommended by: Professor Andrew Winer's Survey of Fiction Class

Acquired: Amazon.com
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October 23, 2010

The Wind Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami

Date Started: September 25
Date Finished: October 22

Summary: Toru Okada, an 30 year old unemployed man has been living a rather mundane life until his cat, Noboru Wataya (named after the brother in law he hates) goes missing. He is asked to contact a mysterious woman, Malta Kano to help find the cap. Toru meets a series of strange characters, the morbid May Kasahara, the stoic Lt. Mamiya, and Malta's sister, Creta, a stylish woman and her silent son, Cinnamon. Shortly after the cat disappears, Toru's wife, Kumiko leaves him. The rest of the novel is spent trying to unravel the mystery of Kumiko's disappears, the trauma of World War II and the Japanese campaign in Manchuria, and the stories of each characters tragic history.

Likes: This summary does not do the story justice. It is just a way of putting the story together, but don't go by just this summary. Read the book. The book, while long (it's actually 3 books in one), is surprisingly very engaging (I didn't expect to be engaged in every part that I read, but I mostly was). The story at times is very domestic, Toru living his days languidly and being left by his wife. At other times it's very strange with the Kano sisters and their psychic powers and Toru discovering his own power. At other times, it's part war story detailing Lt.Mamiya's days in Manchuria and the unspeakable horrors that he witnessed.

The story breaks all the rules of what we traditionally think of when we think of a novels. It reminds me a bit of reading a novelization of Miyazaki movie. We meander along and take different routes to ultimately get the destination. There are a lot of "mundane" moments, but mixed with the fantastical, every thing is given meaning. Nobody seems to question these strange happenings (though Toru does at points, but it's merely a passing thought) and just accepts these things as fact. I think the lack of heavy duty conflict that we see in alot of western novels makes this novel more appealing. Like Miyazaki, I was willing to meander along and take all the side roads that the author deviates to just to get to the point. (think Totoro and Ponyo only for adults)  I found myself not demanding the story to make its point quickly.  A novel that sets this kind of tone early allows for a lot of "nothing" to take place. At the end of the novel, it is clear that all the stuff one thought was "nothing" was actually mildly important. 

Dislikes: I have no idea why the U.S.edition thought it wise to put all three books in one. That was my biggest complaint. Putting them together made the book intimidating. I mean,I might have read it earlier in the quarter if it wasn't so big.

Overall: I loved this novel, but not for the reasons I typically like other novels. This novel didn't have a lot of conflict in the traditional context. It was all about the hero's journey and the look at the trauma of a nation. The book is thick and intimidating, but don't be scurred. It's a soft novel, in which you aren't overwhelmed too much despite it's size.

Recommended by: Professor Stephanie Hammer for the Metafiction class.

Acquired: Amazon.com
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October 22, 2010

Blank Play Writing Outline

Here's the Blank Playwriting Outline for your use.


Antagonist/conflicting forces: 

Part 1
Inciting Incident: 

Initial Point of Attack: 
Major Dramatic Question: 

Part 2
Character embarks on struggle/search for answers/goals: 

Action that leads to conclusion:

Part 3
Final Conflict:
Character's goals achieved or lost: 
New order:

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One Way to Outline Your Story for NaNoWriMo

I'm currently flipping back and forth on whether to do NaNoWriMo or not. I'm chugging along in my current work in progress (Sex, Drugs, and Steamwork), but I'm not finished. At any rate, my playwriting class has given me a unique way of looking at the structure of a story.

Before I begin, I will discuss the Six Elements of Aristole's theory on drama. This is primarily for playwriting, but I'll try to express what I think the literary equivalents are. I don't think I'm necessarily "qualified" to do this, but I am studying the stuff, so it does help to see how certain forms of the medium can be translated into fiction writing, which is what I typically work with.

So, Artistotle proposed in order for drama to work, it must include these six things:

For the purposes of fiction writing, I believe that spectacle would be the hook in someways. For something like Harry Potter, the spectacle/hook would be the magic. I think, the spectacle in the novel is the one thing that carries through it. In playwriting, spectacle is what is seen on the stage and the author of the book we're reading for class (The Art and Craft of Playwriting by Jeffrey Hatcher) states that it's whatever looks neat onstage. In the case of a novel, I believe, the constant thing that is the cool undercurrent of the book. In the case of Harry Potter, again, I believe the spectacle is magic. However, magic isn't used for everything little thing, but without it, you lose the "Harriness" of it all.

Music refers to sound effects. In novels, this could be extended to sensory information such as touch, smell, taste, sight, and sound.

Now on to the outline. I'm going to use the first Hunger Games book as an example. (contains spoilers for the first book, but not the other two)

Character: Katniss Everdeen
Want/Goal: To protect herself and her family.
Antagonist and/or conflicting forces: The Capitol and more directly, the Gamemakers and the Hunger Games.

Part 1: Beginning. This should happen ideally in the first few chapters of your novel.
Inciting Incident: Katniss's little sister, Prim, despite all odds, is called into the Hunger Games. (The inciting incident is the event that pushes the character to action.)
Initial point of attack: Katniss volunteers to go in her sister's place. (The Initial Point of Attack is the action that your character takes in response to the inciting incident.
Major Dramatic Question: Will Katniss survive the Hunger Games? (Major Dramatic Question or MDQ refers to the dramatic moment of the story, what the story is hinged on. Think of it as the dun dun DUNN! moment)

Part 2: Middle
Character embarks on struggle/search for answers/goals: Katniss struggles to survive the Games. (this refers to what your character has to deal with in order to achieve their goal)
Conflicts: Katniss has to deal with the games themselves, faking a romantic relationship with Peeta to get sponsors, hunger, trackerjacker stings, the other players...etc (these are the obstacles that prevent your character from achieving their goal.)
Crisis: I think things get really bad when Rue dies. If the stakes weren't high enough before, they are now.Also when Peeta goes missing. (the Oh Snap! moment, past the point of no return...etc, the moment when the character has come too far to turn back
Action that leads to conclusion: Katniss dedicates her energy to saving Peeta. (what steps does the character take in response to the crisis)

Part 3: Conclusion
Final Conflict: After everything is said and done, there are only two tributes left: Katniss and Peeta. Both take attempt to take the nightlock to avoid fighting each other. (This is the climax of the novel, the peak of the action)
Character's goals achieved or lost: Katniss achieved her goal, first by surviving the Games, and secondly by providing her family with shelter and stability. (this is the resolution. Has the hero achieved their goals?)
New order: Katniss and her family move to Victor's Village after winning the games. Katniss is now a political target for The Capitol. (This is what happens after everything is over, the denouement.)

Spectacle: The Hunger Games themselves. (remember this is the hook.)

I hope this diagram helps. I'm going to post my own diagram and a blank one for you to enjoy.

Do you have an outlining and plotting ideas or templates? 
Share in the comments!

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October 16, 2010

The Blue Flower by Penelope Fitzgerald

Date Started: October 6
Date Finished: October 14

Summary: Fritz Hardenburg, poet and philosopher, is looking for someone who understands the meaning of the Blue Flower in his written work. He is an eccentric and somewhat clueless man being forced into being a salt mine inspector, despite his passion for poetry. Much to everyone's surprise, he falls in love with Sophie, an innocent and a little bit dull 12 year old of a middle class stature. Despite their age difference (Fritz is 10 years her senior), Fritz is convinced that Sophie is his hearts heart, his Philosophy.

Likes: The writing of this story is so beautiful. Despite misinterpreting the story as something perverse (even given the era the story takes place) The subject matter is actually very innocent when you get to understand Fritz and his character and his thought process. He's actually kind of a moron in some ways. He is one of those people that has high ideals but can't seem to make the connection from fantasy to the real world. The other characters, especially Sidonie and The Bernhard (yes, he's actually referred that way in the novel) are funny. Sidonie is a sarcastic and witty woman and the Bernhard is a lovable little brat. Sophie, Fritz's love interest, is his complete opposite. She's a bit of a moron because she doesn't understand much of anything, which is to be expected, she's only 12 years old. Despite the age difference between Fritz and Sophie, their love is innocent and not perverse in anyway. It's a bit odd because he's so smart and she's so dumb that she doesn't get a lot of what he says. 

Dislikes: The ending is rather depressing especially given the lighthearted tone that was carried during the rest of the novel. Things start to go downhill and what makes the story even more sad is that its based on a true story about the writer Novalis.

Overall: It's an easier read than it looks. The writing is witty and engaging and the characters are unique and rather delightful. The ending is sad, but it's made worse by the afterword, which I suggest not reading in case you don't want to know what happens to the characters in the end. It is a fun read otherwise and is hilarious in this wry sort of 18th century writing style that is actually more contemporary. It's a really fun read in a way that I didn't expect. Edit: I recommend reading this book for a look in good writing and how to deal with a 3rd person objective narration. The writing is really nice. It may have a sad ending, but it would be worth anyone's while to read.

Recommended by: Professor Winer required reading for Survey of Contemporary Fiction

Acquired: Amazon.com

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October 8, 2010


I just got my first two blogger awards ever.
I received this award from Crazy Bookworm.  and most recently A Tapestry of Words
 and The Clumsy Reader.
1. Accept the award, post it on your blog together with the name of the person who has granted the award and his or her blog link.
2. Pass the award to 15 other blogs that you've newly discovered.
3. Remember to contact the bloggers to let them know they have been chosen for this award.

I pass this award to:
Fifteen people who want it. =)

 Lastly, the Versatile Blogger Award was rewarded to me by Missy at Missy's Reads & Reviews. I met her through the blog hop and she has the cutest layout and the most honest reviews. I also enjoy her 30 days of insight posts as well. That might be something I steal borrow.

Here is how the award works:
1. Thank and link back to the person who gave you this award.
2. Share 7 things about yourself.
3. Pass the award along to 15 bloggers who you have recently discovered and who you think are fantastic for whatever reason! (In no particular order...)
4. Contact the bloggers you've picked and let them know about the award.
 Seven things about myself:

  1. I play three instruments at varying levels. I played the saxophone (7 years), piano (6 years) and trumpet (2 years). 
  2. I like to watch informercials and shopping networks for their food and kitchen prep products. This has expanded into gardening tools too. 
  3. My all-time favorite show in the world is The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. 
  4. I like to listen to Korean and Japanese hip-hop. My favorite bands at the moment are Epik High and Monkey Majik.
  5. I like anime and manga. My favorite anime(s) are Ouran High School Host Club, Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo and Full Metal Alchemist (both versions). (just to name a few). 
  6. I wrote two books in elementary school the first one based on Balto and the second one based on a book on Homeward Bound. They were called Blaze and Blaze 2: Kalahari's Adventure. I even hand drew the pictures in the second one. 
  7. I love food, making it, eating it, and watching people make it on Food network. You'll find people eating a lot in my story (whether they actually eat a lot or spend a lot of time talking at the table.)

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October 5, 2010

Diary of A Bad Year by J.M. Coetzee

Date Started: September 29
Date Finished: October 3

Summary: Senor C is writing a book about his opinions and hires Anya, an attractive young typist to type it for him. Over the course of a months, Anya's boyfriend, Alan, creates a plot to do something horrible to the elderly Senor C. Does Anya have the power to stand up for herself and Senor C?

Likes: This novel was told in three different parts. Typically there were three sections per page, one with Senor C's opinions, the second his narrative, and the third in Anya's point of views. Each of these pieces were somewhat independent of each other, yet fit together as well. There are parts that you can't really skip over (though you can skim), because each part is necessary to the overall format of the novel. I don't think each piece would have been interesting to read as separate pieces. Without the other two narratives, Senor C's opinions seem to be essays that I don't necessarily find interesting. If the story was just Anya or Senor C's narrative, it wouldn't be as interesting if we couldn't read what Senor C's exact opinions are. They could each work separately though, but they compliment each other well.

Dislikes: It took me a while to get used to the format, especially when some sections seem to be read horizontally. Sometimes the narrative need to be finished before moving on the next section and there were gaps of white space where this could have taken place. There is a whole section where Senor C's ruminations go blank and I was wondering why that was.

Overall:  What you can learn from this novel, and perhaps the reason the teacher had us read it was that an author isn't always confined by structure. I learned that you can write a story in an format and structure that you want and you can break the rules at times (there is one section that is just all opinion which I found interesting.) What makes the story work in this structure is that all the pieces fit together. If someone were to experiment with this format, they need to make sure that each piece could somewhat standalone and yet compliment each other as well. Our teacher likens this to jazz and since I was/still am somewhat of a musician it makes sense to me. If a saxophone were to play by itself, it would sound beautiful, but when accompanied by other instruments, the sax is complimented and yet you can pick out exactly what melody or harmony its playing. Sometimes it takes a backseat and lets another instrument take the spotlight and sometimes it enhances another instrument. If you took it out, you'd notice that something was missing and when you play it when it's not supposed to be there, it would be too much.

I guess for this format to work, a novelist would want to know what plot threads compliment each other and when do they need to shine and when do they need to be silent. They need to fit together in a way that show that each piece can stand on its own, but is enhanced with the other pieces. 

Recommended by: Professor Winer, required reading for Survey of Contemporary Fiction

Acquired: Amazon.com

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October 2, 2010

Novel Push Initiative Word Count Sheet


Novel Push Initiative is: (copied from website):

NPI stands for ‘Novel Push Initiative’. The goal is to write 250 words per day for a month.
This is a great way to help you write through manuscripts you’ve been struggling with, or it can help you get used to writing every day. The reasons for joining are many, but participating always results in adding more words to your manuscripts, letting you get that much closer to the end of your stories.
And most importantly, we’re all in this together, so there’s lots of support and encouragement to go around.

So go join this and finish your work in progress. 

Novel Push Initiative Week One:

Update at Midnight!

Day Word Count
Oct 1 340
Oct 2 604
Oct 3 92
Oct 4 304
Oct 5 653
Oct 6 0
Oct 7 0
Knocked out. =(
Oct 8 ?
Oct 9 ?
Total Word Count Week One ?

October 1, 2010

What's Happenin' October

 First and foremost, my mother's birthday is in 4 days. My birthday is in 26 days. I'll be 22. Egad, my friend was right, after 21 everything goes downhill from there. I mean, no one ever waits until they turn 25. I remember wanting to turn 13, then 16,then 18, then 21, and when those times came, it was a little lackluster. For all the young kids out there, savor your childhood because you can never get it back. You'll find yourself getting nostalgic for the old days, which for me are the great old days of the 90's.

At any rate, I'm going to try to make true on my promise about reading for leisure on the weekends. I'm also going to take Thursdays off to read leisurely too. Classes are going okay. I had a mini crisis because I was behind on some work, but I have the weekend to get caught up. I wrote my first play yesterday too and I'm quite happy about it. When I get my grade, I'll most likely post a lot of my work or at the very least after the quarter is over. I don't want to post it before in case someone sees and thinks that I'm trying to get critiques beforehand (people flipped out about that once and it was very irritating and they didn't even help!.).

As for writing, I will try to spend most of October finishing Sex, Drugs, and Steampunk for Novel Push Initiative, which starts today. I have 6/26 chapters which is a start and I really like where the story is going. During NaNoWriMo, I'll set this aside and work on my untitled contemporary YA. December will be for script writing for IAR the graphic novel edition (this playwriting class is really helping me out a lot). I can't believe this is going to be my last Fall quarter. It's kind of scary and exhilarating at the same time and after that, one more quarter left!

What's happenin' in your October?  

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