Thursday, May 25, 2017

Beautiful People: May 2017 // Lynnie

~Beautiful People is a monthly linkup for writers hosted by Cait at Paper Fury and Sky at Further Up and Further In.~

Lynnie is one of the minor characters in my fantasy-fairytale novel. She is Rozella's maid. 

1. Overall, how good is their relationship with their parents? 
Overall, very good. Lynnie is a little distant from her father because he works so much, but she knows that he is always there for her if she needs something. She is closer to her mother, or, rather, her mother is closer to her. Lynnie's mother has many sons, but Lynnie is her only daughter. She relies on Lynnie a lot and can sometimes be annoying in a way that only a mother can be to her daughter, but Lynnie loves her nevertheless. 

2. Do they know both their biological parents? If not, how do they cope with this loss/absence and how has it affected their life?
Yes. (That was an easy question. :P)

3. How did their parents meet?
Lynnie's father was a humble mill boy... Lynnie's mother was a humble farm girl. One day, she was sent on a mission to his mill to tell him that the next portion of wheat would be arriving late. He was very kind about it, even though he should have been angry since it was going to put the mill behind schedule. From that day on, she made sure to walk by the mill every day on her way home from the field, even though it was out of her way. One day, he followed her home and, after that, he walked her home on his way home every day, until his home became her home, too. 

4. How would they feel if they were told “you’re turning out like your parent(s)”?
Lynnie would feel that it was a complement if someone told her that she was like her father, for her father is reliable and kindhearted. If she were turning out like her mother, on the other hand, Lynnie would be appalled. Her mother loves learning the latest royal gossip and spreading it to whoever will listen. She is also very particular about her children and grandchildren; people call her a hen. Lynnie doesn't like to gossip, and she would rather have her children as free-spirited as possible. 

5. What were your character’s parents doing when they were your character’s age?
Lynnie's father was working hard at the mill and Lynnie's mother was expecting their first baby. 

6. Is there something they adamantly disagree on?
Lynnie believes that King John's treatment of the lower classes (of which her family hails from) is deplorable and that they should do something about it. Her father agrees that King John treats his peasants horribly, but he thinks that it is too dangerous to speak or act against the king. 
Lynnie and her mother disagree on celebrity gossip. Lynnie thinks that her mother should find better things to engage her time, but Lynnie's mother is convinced that one day her knowledge of All Things Royal will come in handy one day (it turns out that she is right).

7. What did the parent(s) find hardest about raising your character?
Lynnie was never content to stay at home to learn mending or cooking. She was always out exploring the countryside with her brothers. This was fine, except that Lynnie's parents didn't always know where she had got to! When their family was forced to move to the city, Lynnie explored it on her own. Often, she wandered into parts of town that she was not supposed to go as a peasant. Her parents spent many afternoons wondering where she had gone and if she was going to come home that night. 

8. What’s their most vivid memory with their parental figure(s)?
Lynnie remembers refusing to learn to sew as a little girl until her father came to her and asked her a special favor to him to learn to sew so that she could help her mother mend the clothes for the family. Maybe someday, he said, she could help her mother make the quilts that the family made for extra money, and then Lynnie would be a productive member of the family. From that day on, Lynnie decided to love sewing. 

9. What was your character like as a baby/toddler?
She was an amiable baby. She hardly ever cried and smiled a lot. When she learned to crawl, she never stopped until she learned to walk. She has been going place ever since. 

10. Why and how did the parents choose your character’s name?
"Lynn" was the name of Lynnie's grandmother. Her parents wanted to honor Grandma, but they also wanted to make their baby's name unique, so they added "ie" at the end of her name. 

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Summer Reading List 2017

SCHOOL IS OUT! And do you know what that means? Summer reading list time! Huzzah! Woo hoo! Hip hip! (Can you tell that I'm slightly excited to read what I want to read this summer??)

-My goal was to read all of Shakespeare's plays over the summer, but then I realized that I would need to read four a week for that to happen. Since I also have Big Writing Plans over the summer (and also need to find a full-time job), I don't think that I can read four Shakespeare plays a week, so I am going to prioritize the ones that I am the least familiar with. Namely...

The Tempest
The Two Gentlemen of Verona
The Merry Wives of Windsor
The Winter's Tale
Pericles, Prince of Tyre
The Two Noble Kinsmen

Histories (I don't think I've read/watched any of Shakespeare's histories, so I would love to get through all of these!)
King John
Richard II
Henry IV, Part 1
Henry IV, Part 2
Henry V
Henry VI, Part 1
Henry VI, Part 2
Henry VI, Part 3
Richard III
Henry VIII

Troilus and Cressida
Titus Andronicus (I was warned to never EVER read/watch this play. Shall I follow this advice? We shall see)
Timon of Athens
Antony and Cleopatra

If I finish all of the above, then I can read the rest of the tragedies and comedies:
Romeo and Juliet
Julius Caesar
King Lear 

Measure for Measure
The Comedy of Errors
Much Ado About Nothing
Love's Labour's Lost
A Midsummer's Night's Dream
The Merchant of Venice
As You Like it
The Taming of the Shrew
All's Well that Ends Well
Twelfth Night

-I want to read a biography over the summer. Right now, I am leaning toward Stalin by Robert Service. My history professor recommended it to me as I am interested in learning more about Russian history in the twentieth century (and particularly Stalin and how he was able to gain and keep so much power for so long).

-I want to read another nonfiction book over the summer about women working in factories during World War II, but I don't know which book to read yet. I might try to find one about women working for Boeing, since I come from the Land of Boeing. (This is research for my next novel, but you didn't hear that from me.) If anyone has any recommendations, let me know in the comments!

-The rest of the Chrestomanci series by Diana Wynne Jones. I'm halfway through the second one, and I'm eager to read the rest!

-Undoubtedly, I will end up re-reading something, too. Pride and Prejudice, perhaps? Or the Penderwicks series? Time will tell.

What are YOU planning to read this summer?

Thursday, May 11, 2017

What Makes a Good Reboot or Retelling? ~In Response to Tracey~

Tracey Dyck over on Adventure Awaits recently wrote a post about why people have strong reactions to retellings. She says, "I propose it's because of people's deep emotional attachment to the original story."

I agree.

Tracey uses the live-action Beauty and the Beast movie as her example. Some people loved it because of "the many little nods to the original Disney film," while other people felt "angry and betrayed because...the heart of the original was lost." 

I want to expand on this point, using the example of two rebooted movies (though the principles I talk about can be applied to retellings, too).

What's the difference between a reboot and a retelling, you ask?

Reboot: A finished story that is remade with modern technology and ideas. 
Retelling: A finished story that is re-imagined with new twists. 

We can all agree that we are living in a world of reboots and retellings of popular stories. At least, I see little ingenuity outside of the online community. 
There's only one problem: reboots and retellings are tricky. 

If you change the story too much, people will become angry because it doesn't have the same intention—and, therefore, feeling—that the original did. A good example of this is Star Trek (2009) and Star Trek Into Darkness. 

A lot of Trekkies (myself included) don't like these two movies because J.J. Abrams focused too much on modernizing the franchise by adding more sex and violence. Now, Star Trek has always had a lot of pretty women in it, and it has always featured some pretty cool fights, but Gene Roddenberry's intent when he created Star Trek was to make a show that glorified peace, exploration, and respecting people's differences.

Because the rebooted Star Trek movies change the original intention, Trekkies don't like them because they have, in Tracey's words, "a deep emotional attachment to the original story."

On the flippity flip, if you don't change the story enough, fans will be unhappy, too.
Take Star Wars: The Force Awakens, for example. While it had the same intention as the original Star Wars—and, therefore, felt like a Star Wars movie—many people complained about it because the plot is very similar to Star Wars: A New Hope. 

Both movies follow the adventures of an orphaned desert-dweller as he/she travels off-planet for the first time with a wisened mentor (who later dies) and a droid carrying secret information. Oh, yeah, and both movies have weapons of mass destruction capable of destroying entire planets that, in turn, get destroyed because of a basic construction flaw.
Because The Force Awakens steals the plot from A New Hope, Star Wars fans don't like it because, again, they are attached to the original story.

I don't like many reboots because I think that the people who reboot popular books, shows, and movies do so because they want money. Much like a name brand of clothing, people will pay for story titles that they have seen before. My particular pet peeve is when people write books about beloved characters under the name of the original author who is dead. 

Although this looks like an Agatha Christie book, it was, in fact, published last year. How, since Agatha Christie is dead? Well, it was written by someone else. Isn't that some form of plagiarism??
While I dislike many reboots, I do like Marvel's superhero movies (maybe because I didn't have any exposure to Marvel beforehand?), and I love the modern seasons of Doctor Who.

Another reason reboots are difficult is because people have a pre-established idea of who each character is and what they should and shouldn't be doing in their world. Retellings are different because they are usually based on fairy tales or mythology where characters, situations, and places aren't as well-established. While people expect Sherlock Holmes to be slightly sociopathic, all that is expected of Cinderella is that, by the end of the story, she has gotten out of a bad family situation.

Fairy tales and myths lend themselves easier to being retold because they are more about themes and less about someone's original character doing something specific within the created world of the author.

I think that both good and bad reboots and retellings exist. I think that if a storyteller can add a fresh angle to the original spirit of a piece without copying the original, he or she will have a great story of his or her hands.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

I Find Your Lack of Faith in Whimsy Disturbing

Being an English major is hard.
It's hard because everything we read is analyzed and overanalyzed until we find meaning where there is none. We don't read many whimsical or even happy stories because they, evidently, don't contain the same kind of meaning that depressing stories do. While it is fun to examine stories and poems to find hidden truths, I do not believe that everything has to have a deeper meaning. Sometimes, a story is just a story. Sometimes, a story is meant to take us away from this depraved world for a few hours and show us glimpses of God through noble characters, pure love, and humorous exchanges.

Star Wars is a story that does this well.

Geek fact: this Star Wars poster is by the Hildebrandt Brothers, who also drew pictures for Lord of the Rings calendars in the 1970s and '80s.

Noble Characters
Even though Luke Skywalker whines about staying on his uncle and aunt's moisture farm for another year, his loyalty is still to his family. When Ben Kenobi offers Luke an opportunity to get away from Tatooine, Luke refuses because he has responsibilities at home. When Ben warns Luke not to go home after they find evidence that storm troopers have been in the area, Luke returns home to see if his family is all right. He doesn't go with Ben until he is sure he isn't leaving his responsibility.
Although Han Solo is a scuffy-lookin' ruffian with a price on his head, he does the right thing by coming back to fight in the final battle against the Death Star.
Although Princess Leia was raised as royalty, she became a politician willing to die for her people if it meant destroying the Empire.

Pure Love
(We're overlooking the Luke/Leia kiss, okay??)
I think we all agree that Han and Leia's relationship is pretty cute, what with their "Your hands are cold" and their "I love you" "I know," so why don't we step back from Han and Leia and examine some of the other relationship in the franchise?
Han continually returns to his friends because of his love for them.
Luke, Leia, and Lando are willing to risk their lives to rescue Han from Jabba the Hut.
Chewbacca is willing to do anything to help his friends—including fighting off strange little recycling monsters who are trying to melt down C-3PO.
Darth Vader destroys his boss/mentor and sacrifices his own life in order to save his son.

Humorous Exchanges
"It's not my fault!"

"I've got a bad feeling about this."

"Why you... stuck up... half-witted... scruffy looking... nerf herder!"

And my favorite...
"We're fine. We're all fine here, now, thank you. How are you?"
"We're sending a squad up."
"Negative. Negative! We had a reactor leak here. Give us a few minutes to lock it down. Large leak... very dangerous."
"Who is this? What is your operating number?"
"Uh..." *shoots intercom* "Boring conversation anyway... Luke! We're gonna have company!"

Life—especially my life as an English major—seems filled with sad and depressing, yet deep and meaningful, stories. It seems as if whimsical and fun stories are viewed as the illegitimate offspring of Real Literature (insert person with a snobbish accent snobbishly rubbing his or her nose [here]).
While it's okay if a story is just a story with no deeper meaning, I want to remind you that fun stories can be just as deep and meaningful as sad stories. We find sad stories meaningful because we, like the author, have gone through hard times to learn life lessons, but lessons can be taught through happy stories, too. If you need an example, just look to Star Wars' lessons of friendship and sacrifice.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Life of Our Lord by Charles Dickens

"My Dear Children, I am very anxious that you should know something about the History of Jesus Christ. For everybody ought to know about Him."
So begins Charles Dickens' least-known work.

In this little volume, Charles Dickens tells the story of Jesus' life and ministry in his own words. He intended this book to be for his children and only his children, so it was never published until eighty years after it was written, when his family decided to publish it. Even so, many people do not know about this book.
I found out about it because Charles Dickens' great-great grandson gave a chapel at my school (which I found out about after the fact, unfortunately) where he talked about this book. He is in Minneapolis for several weeks acting in a one-man play based on the writing of the The Life of Our Lord, and I was able to go!

It was a fabulous play. Gerald Dickens is an amazing actor. He used many voices to portray the different characters in the play (it was rather like Charles Dickens was telling us, the audience, a bedtime story). This play was especially meaningful for me as I went to see it during Holy Week. There is a part where Dickens is recreating the scene of his cross (for he has got it into his head that he will act out the live of Christ for his children) that pierced my heart. After that scene, he reminds us that light comes after darkness, that resurrection comes after crucifixion, and that redemption comes after condemnation.
After the play, I got to meet Mr. Dickens and he signed my copy of The Life of Our Lord (graciously given me by my friend Joseph).

Wow! What an opportunity! It's not every day that you get to meet the great-great grandson of one of the best authors in history! I asked him whether or not there was a lot of pressure growing up with the last name "Dickens," and he said, "No. My father was good about that and told us to do whatever we wanted." So, he became an actor. (He also has a travel blog about his acting tours.)

I was struck by both the play and the book by the legacy of faith which Charles Dickens left to his descendants. He wanted his kids to know the story of Jesus Christ and, here, several generations and over 100 years later, his great-great grandson is still sharing that story with the world!

Here is what I thought of the book:

Stylistically, The Life of Our Lord reads like a fairytale, which is good as it is for children. It does not, however, make the story of Jesus out to be a fairytale. Dickens was careful to make sure that his children knew that.
Throughout the book, he explained terms like "trespasses" and "synagogue" so that his children would understand, which I enjoyed. I even learned a new vocabulary word from this book! Ever since I was a child, I have heard the word "prodigal" and the word "son" and assumed that "prodigal" must mean "returning" or something of that sort, as that is what the son does in the story. Alack! no! It means "extravagant" or "wasteful." Of course, I took to Twitter to proclaim this discovery.

Dickens emphasized Jesus' purpose to do good rather than to save humanity from their sins. Because of this, he included several moral lessons for his children within the narrative of Jesus' life. Here were two of my favorites:

"He chose [his disciples] from among poor men, in order that the poor might know...that Heaven was made for them as well as for the rich...Never forget this, when you are grown up. Never be proud or unkind, my dears, to any poor man, woman, or child. If they are bad, think that they would have been better if they had had kind friends, and good homes, and had been better taught."


"We learn from this that we must always forgive those who have done us any harm, when they come to us and say they are truly sorry for it. Even if they do not come and say so, we must still forgive them, and never hate them or be unkind to them, if we would hope that God will forgive us."

It bothered me that the book focused on doing good rather than salvation, but, at the same time, it made me think a lot. The simple way in which Dickens wrote about Jesus' ministry hit me in a way that the actual Gospels never have (although Dickens' book makes me want to go and read the New Testament now!).
Jesus spent his time with prostitutes, tax collectors, beggars, and seriously ill people. These are people that society tends to shy away from, and society includes Christians. We are called to help the poor and needy but when we are faced with someone in that condition we are more like the priest and the Levite than the Good Samaritan.
I know that I tend to be scared of these kinds of people because they are different than I am. I don't know how to act around them because I don't know how they will act around me, so I tend to stay away from them.
What a horrible reason not to help those in need!
Another horrible reason not to help those in need is that I get too wrapped up in myself and my friends to care about strangers. I think that myself and other Christians are too wrapped up in our own salvation to care about other people's salvation. We're supposed to "get right" with God before helping others, and getting right with God means searching ourselves for sin and fixing it; oh, and maybe perfecting our daily quiet time with God, too. It's not that these are bad things, but if we wait until we've "fixed" our sin to bring the hope of God to others, we'll never share the Gospel because we continually fall back into sin!
I think another reason that we don't share our salvation is because we are scared of rejection and hopeless for the world. The world is a scary place for a Christian to live in. We've been persecuted since the beginning, and, according to recent news, things aren't getting any better. I think we have accepted that the world is evil and that if we share our faith we will be persecuted, so we tell ourselves that it's hopeless and that the world won't listen anyway, so why even try?
It is not in our power to change the world, and it is not our job to change the world. It is, however, in God's power, and it is God's job. Our job is to follow Jesus' example. We are supposed to share our hope with the world. We are supposed to help the poor and those in need. It is God's job to do the rest.

Dickens had something to say about this, too: "[Jesus taught] them to go forth into the world, and preach His gospel and religion: not minding what wicked men might do to them."