The Feeling of a Story

Recently, I filled out a little questionnaire for authors. The one question I remember was “What do you consider to be the most important part of a story?” It was a multiple choice questionnaire, and the choices were “plot”, “characters”, “setting”, and “theme” (if I remember correctly), with an option for “other _____”. I had to choose “other”. Without doubt I consider the most important thing about a story to be the feelings it gives to the reader.

The last two books I read left me wanting something more. The two books were about as different as two novels can be, but both of them seemed lacking in the area of making me feel like I’m in the story. One was called Chronicles of Krystonia. It’s a light children’s book about a fantasy world, but it hardly had any plot. It’s seemed like the author just wanted to do an exercise in world building using a series of anecdotes about his fantasy setting, but without much of a story at all. I didn’t actually finish it and I’m not sure if I’m going to bother finishing it. It had an utter lack of making me care, which is pretty much the worst thing you can say about a book.
The other book I read recently was Dickens’ Great Expectations, and as classic literature, my expectations were a bit higher for this one. I thought it was good, but not great. I cared about the characters, but it didn’t give me what I like in a book. The feeling of it, as with most of Dickens’ work, was rather dreary. It had interesting characters and a decent plot, and the ending was good and satisfying enough, but it never really drew me in to the story.

So I started a new book today. Maybe it has something to do with the last two books leaving me hungry for something better, but I’m loving this one so far. I love the kind of the writing that makes me feel like I’m there with the characters and gives me a feeling of haunting and wonder, making it hard to put down or sleep until at least an hour after it’s finished. And that’s what this book does. (Well, I can’t be sure about the latter part because I’m only on chapter six, but judging from what I’ve read so far I wouldn’t expect anything less.) It’s called The Forbidden Library by Django Wexler. I had never heard of it until I picked it up while browsing at my local library the other day, thinking it looked interesting. (I love libraries.) I’m glad I found it.

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The Key of Dirt (part 2)

don’t listen to it
all my fear, fury, and pain made audible
yes, you’ll want to cover your ears
You don’t want to hear this
it’ll be reddish brown soundvenom
that enters through your eardrums
and oozes inside your head
and if you let it, you may get a taste of what I feel
listen closely enough to all that drives me
you might just recognise something deeper
it’s something I’ve denied
something I think you share
it’s hope that the impossible might yet happen
That the dead might yet live.

(This poem is written by Alisha Kamil’s subconcious. Alisha is the main character of The Sacred Key. She has a violin and she knows how to use it.)

Soundtrack to this post:

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Zooming Out / A Path to Many Worlds (another dream)

Every once in awhile I have a flying dream. I had on this morning, but this was not like other flying dreams.
In this dream, I flew through the roof and I flew higher up. As I flew higher, it was like zooming out on my view of the world, and I began to see structures that were too large to have possibly been build by any human. As I flew higher still I noticed that these structures were objects and buildings and highways for a race of giants. Finally, I saw one of the giants. In our measurements, he must have been something like ten miles tall, but in the scale of the building I saw around me now, he appeared to be the average size of a man. I was the one who was the size of a gnat to him.

I flew around the giant town and saw the signs of businesses I recognised, including a McDonalds, and I saw some which had closed down in our world over ten years ago (I don’t remember the names of them now).

I went back and told people what I saw. Of course, no one believed me, but some were willing to come and see for themselves. So somehow I put some people a clear plastic box and carried them up when I flew. This time, when I flew to a certain height, I seemed to hit a roof, but then I saw a line of daylight getting bigger so I flew toward it. Once outside, I realized that my town was inside of a giant’s garage. And I flew around and showed the people the giants and how we were the size of tiny bugs here.

Then in the evening, I decided to fly still further out. Like zooming out on the view again, the giant town seemed to grow smaller and I noticed another line of brighter light on the horizon. I flew toward it and higher again, coming out of another giant garage. And I saw another level of giant buildings, so that the other giants would seem like gnats in this place. Soon, I saw yet another line of brighter light on the horizon, and found a place which they called Avalon, a path to many worlds and each world opened up into the next.

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What Were They Laughing At? (The Dream I Had This Morning 7/30)

My family was on a road trip and stopped at a travel center for lunch. There, we got sub sandwiches, and, while we were eating, we heard several people, including my dad, comment about a certain special map. Some local artist had done an artistic map of the area, which the public could look at using a public computer at the travel center. So, I went to the computer to look for this artistic map, but while I was on the computer, I got distracted by other things to do on it, and never got around to looking at the map.

In the next part of the dream, we were still eating our sandwiches in another part of that travel center, when the people around us started loudly acting out some kind of weird story which seemed to be in the genre of comedy-horror. We went to yet another part of the travel center to escape this, but it seemed that everyone there was taking part in this act. There were definitely some amusing and funny parts to the things the people were doing and saying, but my parents were getting very annoyed because the act was loud and going on all around us, so my dad got on his phone to complain to someone about it. In a few minutes a lady arrived to speak with my parents about the complaint. The lady said something to the effect of, “I’ll regester your complaint with the authorities, but first let me show you this short informational film…” The film was shown as from a projector on a wall next to us, and told about the reason for the act. This day was apparently the anniversary of certain events in that town which people remember by putting on this loud and hilarious act. The film showed a picture of a older man, then showed a picture of three children, saying the man was convicted X number of years ago for _____ -at that point the audio on the film stopped, and I only assumed that the man had killed these three children, but judging from comments from the people around us, the criminal soon came to his just end in some very humorous way. So from that point on, people put on this act to basically make fun of this horrible criminal. I remember some people had doubled over laughing from the act that other people were putting on, but my parents were not amused, so we finally left that travel center.

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The Adventures of the Duracell Bunny and the Easter Island Man

Disclaimer: This is an unedited short story I wrote when I was a teenager. There’s some inncorrect stuff, but it is intentionally left unfixed.

One day the Duracell Bunny went walking through the clouds. After a while he saw a little black dot in the white clouds, and when he reached and picked it up he found it was an appleseed. In fact, it was one of the very appleseeds that Johhny Appleseed dropped when he went tossing seeds around the continent. It had evaporated with the rain one day and went up to the clouds. The Duracell Bunny decided to eat it, so soon apple branches started growing out of his sides. The Duracell Bunny didn’t mind at all because now he could have fresh apples whenever he wanted. After doing what the Duracell Bunny does (go on and on when accually he was walking in circles while the cloud was moving), he suddenly fell into a hole in the cloud and kept falling, for it was a long way down. As he fell there was a rainbow, and he fell right through it. The Duracell Bunny-apple tree thought this would probably have some strange effects, and he soon found that it made all his apples grow to be every color of the rainbow. When he finally did land on Easter Island, he broke in half from the fall and became somewhat helpless.

Now before I go further, I must tell you something about this Easter Island. The easter island people were a happy but short lived people. Rumor has it that when news of Jesus’ ressurection went out to all creation, a certain group of rocks on a certain island were so overjoyed that they came to life. Then they carved themselves to human shape so they could dance and party. Their downfall was that, because they didn’t have brains, they never thought to do anything else, so when they ran out of energy they just stopped and stood where they were. This was how the island and it’s stone people got their names.

There was one Easter Island Man who once saw the water and wondered how it tasted so he stopped dancing and took a drink. So because he had a rest and a drink, he didn’t run out of energy when all the others did. A while after the other people ran out of energy, he forgot why he was dancing so he stopped and took a nap. A long time later he woke up and when he looked around and saw all his friends stopped where they were standing and suddenly remembered why they were dancing. He didn’t start dancing again because, while he was sleeping, a group of fleas had started a circus in a hollow place in his head, so now he had a brain.

This last Easter Island man was just thinking how he could get other people to continue the celebration, when he saw something fall from the sky. When he rushed to the place, there was a half a bunny with apple branches with colored apples growing out of him still clutching on to a drum that had also broken from the fall. The other half had fallen into the sea. When the Easter Island Man saw that it was still alive, he franticly looked around for something to keep it from dying. The first thing he found was a hen, so it cut the hen in half and stuck half of the hen with the half of the bunny-apple tree with rainbow apples. He was thinking that two halves always make a whole. (a whole what?, you may ask) Luckily, the hen half was the inside half and the bunny half was the outside and, naturally, the apple branches stopped growing, for now they had no roots in his body. When the Duracell bunny-chicken came to, he had a strange feeling and soon he had produced a rainbow-colored egg.

“Are you okay?” asked the Easter Island Man.

“I’m great, let’s go explore that cave,” the Duracell bunny-chicken loved to do anything he saw to do, as soon as he saw it. So they went into the cave and found a huge mountain of candy. This had been the accumulation of Christmas presents that Santa Claus left for the Easter Island people before they ran out of energy. It had never been touched because, as I said before, the Easter Island people never stopped dancing. Just as a clown flea was juggling tiny torches, the Easter Island Man had an idea. He proposed that the Duracell bunny-chicken should go around the world every Easter and give people candy and rainbow colored eggs to continue the celebration about Jesus’ Ressurrection that the Easter Island people had stopped long ago. Since the Duracell bunny-chicken thought his job with Duracell extremely boring, he gladly agreed. This is how the Duracell bunny-chicken became the Easter Bunny.

If you ask how the Easter bunny gets around the world every year, the Easter Island Man is very fast and he doesn’t get tired so he carries the bunny around. He would do it himself but he isn’t cute enough to be appealing to all the kids and he can’t lay rainbow-colored eggs.

This story is also why there is no Duracell Bunny today, much to the relief of the Energizer Bunny.

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Day Shall Come Again!

So there’s this game called Angband which I went into the code and made my own variant of.  This game is (extremely loosely) based on monsters, characters, & other aspects from Tolkien’s Silmarillion.  And I noticed one of the artifacts in this game had a pretty cool description:

“Wielded by Hurin Thalion, last lord of Dor-Lomin at the Battle of Tears Unnumbered. He stood alone, his friends and kinsmen dead about him, his axe smoking in the black blood of Gothmog’s troll-guard. No less than seventy times, as he slew his foes, did he utter his mighty war-cry: ‘Aure entuluva!’ – ‘Day shall come again!'”

I can’t think of what else to add here, I think the quote from the artifact description speaks for itself.

And here’s the soundtrack for this post (heavy metal warning for those who aren’t into metal.)

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Horror Update

Back in december, I said I was planning to read a horror story aimed for a middle grade audience. The book is The Last Apprentice: Revenge of the Witch by Joseph Delaney. Part of the reason it was high priority on my list of things to read is that I wanted to see if he actually pulled it off, that is, if the story was both scary and appropriate for its intended audience.

As I read this book, I was very impressed. I just finished the book a few minutes ago and I think he pulled it off very well. Here’s some of the reasons why:

1) It really was scary without being overly disturbing or gory. In order to be scary in a ghost-story sense, it would be hard to go without some level of disturbing and/or gory. But (my friends can testify) I’m pretty sensitive about disturbing events or scenes in stories and movies. I walked out on at least three popular movies because they bothered me in ways they apparently don’t bother other people. Revenge of the Witch was not like that at all. There was definitely some scary scenes and descriptions, but nothing that came near making me want to put the book down and gag. I wasn’t sure about this when I was hearing about the book before reading it, but now that I’ve read it, I would recommend it to its 9-12 target audience. (note: some of the reviewers on Amazon don’t agree with me here, so I can’t say there’s nothing that anyone would find objectionable. Obviously, different people have different standards.)

2) The ‘good guys’ realy are good. Another thing that bothers me in some other recent movies and books, especially in ‘dark’ stories, is that the good guys aren’t really good. I like to have a heroic main character. I’m not saying they shouldn’t make mistakes. If he didn’t make any mistakes, he wouldn’t be much of a main character. Tom, the main character of this story makes several mistakes, but he was still clearly a good guy. He didn’t just look out for himself or justify means with ends.

3) Alice is a great character. I said I like having a main character who is really good, but it also tends to be good to have another major character who is kind of on the line between good and evil. Alice’s aunt and great-grandmother were the (very evil) witches who were the main villains of the story. Alice herself was sometimes their victim and sometimes their accomplice. Other characters pointed out that she was likely to grow up to be like them, but she also helped the main character against the witches.
A comparable character is Professor Snape. He also kept both the reader and the main characters guessing about whether he would turn out to be more good than bad or vice versa. A big difference here is that Snape knew what side he was on, but Alice hasn’t made her final decision yet, and may never make a final decision. That makes her an even more intriging character in my opinion. As readers, we cheer for Alice to make the right decision.

Overall, I think Joseph Delaney did a great job of writing a horror story for kids -something I think would be difficult to do well. To be honest, the ending didn’t impress me as much as the rest. It was still good, and I can’t put my finger on anything that was actually wrong with it (it still fit the good things I talked about above). I guess it just wasn’t as exciting and climactic as I had hoped. It’s still very impressive, especially considering this is Delaney’s first novel.

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