Archive for February, 2024


Group Projects

One good bit of writing advice I’ve heard is to pay attention to your own likes and dislikes. What are the story elements that catch your eye if you see them in a movie description or book blurb? Is there something that makes you think, “Ooh, yummy!” when you come across it? Pay attention to that feeling when you get it and try to figure out what it is that makes you feel that way, then try to determine why it gives you that feeling.

These are the elements you should use in your own writing. For one thing, that will make you more interested and invested in your own work. It’s more fun to write your own catnip. But it will also likely resonate more with others, since there are few things that are so specific that you’re the only person who likes them. That’s why you figure out the why, since nailing the reason you like a thing can allow you to use the reason even if you don’t use the specific thing.

This week I noticed a new one for me that I hadn’t realized before. I was watching a British documentary series in which a group of historians and archaeologists were spending a year on a 17th century English farm, trying to go through a year doing the things people would have done then, using the technology and techniques they would have used. They were taking things that they’d found in their studies and putting them to the test. The same people (mostly, the members of the group vary from series to series) have done similar series set in other time periods. There’s one in which they join that project in France where they’re building a medieval castle using period technology, one in which they live on a Tudor-era farm, a Victorian farm, an Edwardian farm, etc.

While I’m mostly interested in the history of it, I found myself getting caught up in the teamwork aspect. These people are having to do some really difficult things, often figuring them out as they go, but they all seem to be getting along, encouraging each other, and helping each other. I was fascinated by the dynamic, and seeing them working together was giving me warm fuzzy feelings. I found myself really hoping that this wasn’t just for the cameras, that they were becoming friends from working together. I’ve learned that when something really catches my interest like I should think about it, and I’m having to add “teamwork” to my list of things I like.

Which is weird because I dreaded group projects in school. But still, I seem to really enjoy team/group stories in which a group works together toward a common goal and becomes friends along the way. I think that’s probably because this is the fantasy of a group project, where everyone’s equally invested in the process and the outcome and really does work together and come to like each other, unlike almost any group project I’ve ever been a part of. In fiction, you can make it work that way (or when you only see the parts that are edited into the finished program — they’re probably not going to show these archaeologists cursing at each other because the way one of them thought something should have worked based on things found in digs turned out to be wrong).

My favorite part of The Lord of the Rings is The Fellowship of the Ring — the part before the party splits up, when they’re all working together. In fact, in just about any group/questing party/team fantasy series, I’ll lose interest when the party splits up. I loved the prison arc in season one of Andor because I liked that the prisoners all worked together on an escape plan. It wasn’t like your usual story in which the falsely accused hero is thrown into prison and has to survive against the vicious prisoners. These guys all worked together well and looked after each other. I guess this is connected to the “found family” trope in which a group of random people thrown together come to function like a family.

I haven’t written much of this in my books, mostly because it’s really hard to write a good team/group/ensemble cast in a novel. It’s like juggling, and I’ve never gotten the hang of juggling. I can’t toss and catch two balls at once, let alone keep a bunch of plates in the air and moving without dropping one. It’s a lot easier to focus on one or two characters than to keep a team moving.

This is also connected to that “community” thing I noticed when I was watching Christmas movies, where I was more interested in the characters finding and building communities than I was in romantic plot lines. I think I’m doing that with the Rydding Village books. I may focus on one character at a time, but I’m gradually building a community that will get bigger as I address more of the characters, and they’re all going to have to work together eventually.

I just started writing book 2 yesterday, so I can be conscious of using this element as I write it.

writing, movies

Main Character or Protagonist

One of my movies last weekend was 10 Things I Hate About You, the modern (well, 1999) teen retelling of The Taming of the Shrew. I saw it at the theater when it first came out, but I don’t think I’ve seen it since then. In part, it served as a time capsule for things that were happening around that time. For instance, the fashion. I remember those platform flip-flops one character wore because that kind of shoe caused a minor drama in my office. Some of the women were wearing those for work (they were expensive, designer platform flip-flops), and our boss sent out a memo banning them from the office, saying they weren’t appropriate office attire and the sound they made when people walked up and down the halls in them was distracting. Except the boss was Australian, so he used the word “thongs” instead of “flip-flops,” and thong underwear was a big thing at that time, so a lot of people in the office thought he was banning a certain kind of underwear, and it was none of his business what underwear anyone wore. I thought they could have figured it out from context because if your underwear makes “slap, slap” noises as you walk down the hall, you’ve got problems, and the memo could have served as an intelligence test. I hadn’t thought about that in years, but seeing the way people dressed in the movie took me right back to the job I had at that time.

Anyway, in case you aren’t familiar with the movie … The new kid in school falls for a pretty, popular girl, but she’s not allowed to date until her older sister, a notorious shrew, does, so he and his friend cook up a scheme to con a rich guy who’s also into the popular girl into paying the school bad boy to woo the shrew.

It’s a fun teen rom-com that’s very cleverly written. You don’t have to know Shakespeare to follow the story, but there are a ton of Easter eggs related to Shakespeare. The characters are pretty well-rounded, and the cast is a good collection of people who went on to bigger things as they grew up. It’s laugh-out-loud funny at times but also made me cry a bit.

But the thing that struck me on this viewing was a structural thing and the way the character roles were handled. Normally, we use the terms “main character,” “protagonist,” and “hero/heroine” interchangeably because they’re usually the same characters, though there are differences in what each of these terms means. A main character is the character who has the most focus, gets the most screen/page/stage time, and is generally the one we sympathize with. A protagonist is the character with the goal, and their pursuit of this goal is what drives the plot. The term “hero” depends on the context. It can mean the good guy, as opposed to the villain. Or it can be the one who’s on the hero’s journey, the one who is growing and changing and undergoes a transformation. In a romance, the hero and heroine are the main romantic couple (and are often both protagonists).

But this movie is the rare story in which these aren’t the same person. The main character is Kat, our “shrew,” played by Julia Stiles. She gets most of the screen time and is the person most of the other characters are focusing on. In hero’s journey terms, she’s the hero because she’s the one who has the transformation arc and goes on a journey. Her life is upended when Patrick starts pursuing her and she has to learn to let herself be vulnerable instead of pushing everyone away. Her sister grows a bit and has a realization and their father also learns something, but none of the others really change or grow.

But Kat isn’t the protagonist. She’s acted upon by the story, but she doesn’t drive the story. The protagonist is Cameron (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). He’s the one with the goal — date Bianca — who drives the story with each of his schemes to be able to reach his goal, and it’s a really good example of the structure with the intermediate goal that doesn’t work, requiring a new approach, with each one escalating. His first tactic when he learns Bianca is looking for a French tutor is to cram his way through the French textbook and quickly learn enough to tutor her and get close to her so he can ask her out to a French restaurant so they can practice, but then he learns that she’s not allowed to date unless her sister does (since their father knows Kat’s unlikely to date). His next plan is to find someone to ask Kat out, but none of the guys are brave enough. The next plan is to get Patrick, who seems unafraid of anything, to try, but he doesn’t even dignify that with a response. Then the friend comes up with the idea of conning the rich jerk into paying Patrick. Then they have to help Patrick deal with Kat when she’s unimpressed. And so forth.

As far as I can tell, Joseph Gordon-Levitt was the big name among the younger cast at that time. He was something of a tween/teen heartthrob on the Third Rock from the Sun TV series, while Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles were relative unknowns (he’d been on a short-lived TV series but had mostly worked in Australia and she’d had bit parts on TV while mostly working on the stage), so he may have been meant as the main character, but he’s mostly a catalyst character. His actions change other people, but he doesn’t really change. His love interest, Bianca, was played by Larisa Oleynik, who at the time was on a popular TV series targeted at tween viewers, but they aren’t the main couple. The main romance is between Kat and Patrick. The Cameron and Bianca relationship is resolved at the midpoint. Their only conflict from that point is helping get Kat and Patrick to go to the prom together so Bianca can go to the prom with Cameron. The romantic conflict is between Kat and Patrick, with her main issue being that she’s afraid to trust and that making the fact that he was hired to ask her out a ticking time bomb (even though he’s come to actually like her and he’s mostly just scamming the jerk for the money).

It all works, though, and I applaud the filmmakers and the actors involved for going with what the story needed. From what I’ve heard about Gordon-Levitt, he’s a nice guy and must not have had a major ego attack about wanting more screentime or focus in spite of being the biggest star. It would have been a less interesting story if it had focused on his character instead of the hot mess that Kat was, and if they’d made him flawed enough that he needed to grow, then his scheming would have looked creepy. It only worked because we could tell that he was a good guy and we wanted Bianca to choose him over the jerk.

Another interesting thing about this odd bit of structure is that I don’t think Kat would be a viewpoint character if you wrote a novel based on this movie. I think there was one scene in which we saw her alone. Otherwise, she’s always with someone else or being watched by someone else, even if she might think she’s alone. It seems like you’d have to write it with her being perceived by other people rather than ever getting into her head — probably because she would be entirely different from the inside than she seems from the outside and the point of the story is that it takes time for that to come out and it takes Patrick, who’s also got a reputation and is different than people think, to see that.

Anyway, it’s a movie that holds up really well, aside from the belly shirts and platform flip-flops, and a lot of fun.


After the Forest

I love fairytale retellings, novels that take familiar tales and flesh them out and give them context and twists. When you read the original tales (or as original as they were when collected and put in books), the stories are actually pretty thin, the characters are mostly archetypes, and there’s little context. Books that take the basics of these stories and turn them into novels or books that tell us what happened after the happily ever after are high on my list of favorite things. I wrote my own with Spindled, and I’ve written a draft of one involving Cinderella that I haven’t revised and published because I’m still not happy with it and am not yet sure how to fix it. I really love it when the book twists up multiple stories or implies that all the tales take place in the same universe.

I recently found another one of these, After the Forest by Kell Woods. This is a retelling/sequel of the Hansel and Gretel story, with elements of the Snow White and Rose Red story, as well as bits from the other, more familiar, Snow White story and a few others that are pretty deep cuts from the Grimm collection. It’s a sequel in that it takes place after the events of the Hansel and Gretel story, when they’re adults, but it’s also a retelling because it puts that story into a new context, adds elements, and has some of the events happen in a different way.

In the aftermath of the Thirty Years War in a village in the Black Forest, Greta earns a living for herself and her somewhat lazy, gambling-addicted brother by baking gingerbread using the recipe in the book she swiped from the witch’s cottage. But then she learns that her brother is so deeply in debt that they may lose their home, an old friend has finally returned from the war, some wandering mercenaries have come to town, there’s a mysterious stranger living in the woods, the baron has a beautiful new wife, and there have been bodies found in the woods that people think were killed by a bear. All of these things mean Greta’s life is about to change as she learns more about her heritage and the events that happened when she was a child.

I really liked this book. It hit a lot of my buttons. I’ve been reading history of the Thirty Years War in the past few years, so I’m intrigued about that. I’ve visited the Black Forest and lived not too far from where the book takes place. Putting the story into that particular place and time gives it a lot more weight than with the generic “once upon a time.” A lot of the theme is about a woman coming to realize what her power really is, which is a storyline that I enjoy. And there’s a subtle romance that gradually grows and builds. Plus all those fairy tales. It makes me want to re-read the Grimm collection to see which other stories are in there. I think I’ve spotted elements from a few, but I don’t know if my memory is playing tricks on me. I also like that most of these are less commonly retold tales. Snow White does come up a lot, but the bits used here are mostly the ones that didn’t make it into the Disney movie.

I’d definitely recommend this one if you like fairytale retellings but want to get beyond the Disneyfied stuff.

Books, movies

Good Endings

Last weekend, I rewatched the movie Stardust for about the zillionth time. That’s one of my all-time favorites, a “comfort” watch that never fails to make me feel good. There’s something about that movie that makes me sigh with satisfaction when it ends.

And that got me started thinking, what makes for a satisfying ending? What is it about this story (I have a similar reaction to the book, though the ending is a bit different) that gives me that happy sigh?

In this case, I think one thing is that it feels like everything is neatly tied up. The villains are taken down in satisfying ways, and even the irritants (not really villains, not really antagonists in the sense of being obstacles to the hero, just people who bother him) get taken down a peg. The woman who rejected him and used him early in the story gets to see what she gave up, and the one she rejected him for may not be as into her as she thought. A couple that was separated gets reunited. We even get the narrator telling us the long-term outcome. All of that comes together to give you that “yes, all is right with the world” feeling. I know a lot of people sneer at stories in which all the ends are neatly tied up, but there’s also something nice about that if it’s done well.

One thing that I think helps is if the “neatly tied up” doesn’t necessarily work the way you expected it to — it’s a way you like, but not what you thought would happen. I don’t know for sure if that’s the case with Stardust because it’s so familiar by now that I don’t even remember what I thought would happen. But I do know I love it when I’m expecting something to happen and what does happen is even better than I expected, or it happens, but in a better way, maybe with a fun twist. Of course, I can’t think of any good examples now, and I suppose it would be a major spoiler to give an example. That’s the challenge in talking about endings.

Tying everything up doesn’t necessarily make for a good ending, though. As much as I love The Lord of the Rings, I’m not crazy about the ending in either book or movie. It goes on and on after what should have been the climactic moment. The movie did help by tightening and cutting a lot. I know that all the stuff going on in the Shire when they got back was thematic, and I suppose it showed how much the Hobbits had changed in the way they handled it, but it still felt like “but I thought it was all over, and now there’s more?” I also have very mixed feelings about the very ending and the fate of Frodo and the elves. Again, I know it’s thematic, but I don’t really like the idea. There’s something about the way that saga is resolved that leaves me feeling not entirely satisfied, like there’s both too much and not enough. There’s practically material for an entire sequel in what’s supposed to be the resolution.

Another kind of good ending is the one that makes you want to read/watch the thing again, right away. I loved the end of the book To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis so much that as soon as I finished reading it, I flipped to the beginning and immediately re-read it. I’m not sure I’d say there were twists, but it was one of those things where you learn some of what really happened and what was really going on behind the scenes, so the end was a big “aha!” moment, and it was fun to re-read with that knowledge.

I’ve written before about what I termed the “Lucas ending” that showed up in a lot of the Star Wars films and one of the Indiana Jones movies — the cathartic victory, reunion with hugs, celebration. That can work really well as an ending pattern.

I find that I like it when the villain has a lot to do with his own destruction rather than the hero actually defeating him. There’s a lot of talk about how you could remove Indiana Jones from Raiders of the Lost Ark and the outcome wouldn’t change much, but I think a lot of it is about the fact that he’s trying, and then I like that the bad guys defeat themselves because they don’t understand or respect what they’re really dealing with, and Indy prevails because he does and he knows what to do, and then his presence means the Ark doesn’t stay in the bad guys’ hands.

On the opposite side of the coin from the “everything tied up neatly” ending is the “leave them wanting more” ending in a series, where it’s just satisfying enough to make you happy but there are enough loose threads to make you eager for the next book/movie. You want to know what will happen next, how the characters will function with a new status quo. I’m not a huge fan of cliffhangers, though. I want there to be some kind of conclusion to each installment. I like the way that the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Deep Space Nine tended to do season finales. The end of the season would wrap up the latest arc in a satisfying way, and then there’d be one thing coming up at the very end that hinted at what the next problem would be. The good guys would get their celebration after defeating the enemy, and then in a kind of coda, we’d see a new villain or problem emerging. You wanted to know what would happen next, but it wasn’t leaving anyone in immediate peril. It was more of a teaser for the next arc following the conclusion of the last one, so things were wrapped up but you wanted to know what happens next.

Another factor in a satisfying ending is the feeling that the main characters are in a better place than they were at the beginning, both physically and mentally. I like seeing that they’ve grown and learned something. That may be why “full circle” endings work so well, where they may return to something that reflects or echoes the beginning, and that makes it clear what’s changed.

I have to admit that I struggle with endings. That’s usually what I end up revising first because my first attempt at an ending is never good. I’m so eager to be done with the book by that point that my first draft ending is usually along the lines of “and then they beat the bad guys, the end.” Once I’ve recovered from writing the draft, I go back and write something a little more detailed. And then I rewrite it again after revising the whole book.

What kinds of endings do you like best? What’s your favorite book or movie ending?



More From the TBR Shelf

One of the books that languished on my To Be Read bookcase, in advance copy form, until after the third book came out was A Plague of Giants by Kevin Hearne. I think when I started reading it, back when it was still ahead of publication, I was afraid it was more intense than I was up for at that time. So it went on the shelf until I decided I really needed to read it a few weeks ago. I suppose it is intense in places, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. It’s definitely not cozy, but it’s not grimdark, either.

This book has a really interesting narrative structure. There’s a framing story about the aftermath of a barely averted invasion of a city by a strange race of giant-like creatures. The city is now full of refugees from places where the invasion wasn’t averted. A bard from a nearby land shows up, saying he has news that may be able to explain something about the invasion and he has reports from other lands. Our first-person narrator is a scholar who gets assigned to work with the bard to help him and record his stories (and also figure out if he’s a spy or enemy agent). Each night, the bard regales the crowd with stories of what happened in the other lands, and he has magic that allows him to “become” the people whose stories he’s telling, looking and sounding like them. Most of the book is these other people’s first-hand accounts. To keep the audience eager to come back each night, he tends to stop each person’s story on a cliffhanger and move on to a different person’s story. We get bits and pieces of a greater story that eventually comes together. In between these stories, our narrator tries to figure out what’s going on with the bard while also dealing with the impact of living in the aftermath of the attempted invasion.

I love it when a story is told a bit out of order, limited to the perceptions of just one person at a time when those people don’t have the big picture, and it’s up to me to put the pieces together and find the patterns, so I found this to be really engaging reading. Writing something like that is on my literary bucket list, but I don’t yet have the right story to tell that way. The magic in this world is also interesting. Each of the lands has its own “kenning” or form of magic that allows some people to manipulate a particular part of nature. To get this power, a person has to go through a particular ordeal that will either kill them or give them power, and there’s no way of knowing which one it will be. But then using the power drains the person’s life force. In small amounts, it’s barely noticeable, but if they have to go all-out, they may age decades. That means that there are real stakes in the use of magic.

Now that I’ve finally read the first book, I’m going to have to read the rest of the series, as we don’t yet know everything about what’s going on with these giants, and the threat isn’t over yet.


A Pandemic, but with Dragons

I’m trying to read as much as possible from my To Be Read bookcase so I can clear out the ones that I want to read but don’t necessarily want to keep. And, yes, I have a whole bookcase, plus a couple of boxes. One of the fun things about being a writer is that when you go to writing conferences, they give you free books! Publishers give away books to writers because they know that writers talk about books, so they’re a good way to get buzz going about a book. My first few conferences, I got a bit excited about it and eagerly scooped up All The Books. I eventually realized that most of them went unread, so I tried to limit myself to ones that I thought I might actually read. Even then, I find that there’s a difference between my eagerness to read books I bought for myself and books I got for free (though there are books I bought that are on the bookcase, too). I think part of the reason is that, aside from things like special sales or used bookstore finds and the occasional booksigning for a writer friend, I generally buy a book because I want to read that particular book at that particular time. The giveaways may be things I might have bought, but they weren’t what I was looking for at the time I obtained them.

I’m afraid I’m mostly useless for building buzz because it can take me years past publication to get around to reading an advance copy. I just read an advance copy for book one of a series, and book three is about to come out. I may post something about it, and maybe that will help book three. I’m ashamed to admit that I got an advance copy of A Game of Thrones but didn’t read it until after the TV series came out. Actually, I did start reading it before publication, but I got it at a romance writers conference (not sure why they thought that was a good place to promote that book) and was therefore expecting it to be a romantic fantasy, so it wasn’t at all what I wanted it to be and I put it aside after a few chapters.

But there are some books I don’t remember obtaining. For instance, the book I just finished reading is an old hardcover copy of a book published in 1983. It looks like it was used, but I don’t remember buying it. Maybe someone else bought it and gave it to me. Although it was published in 1983, it eerily reflects some recent events. In fact, if not for the very 1980s graphic design on the cover and the copyright date (and the fact that the author has been dead for more than a decade), if you gave this book to someone to read now, they’d probably think it was a COVID-inspired book.

The book is Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern, one of Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series. This series straddles the line between science fiction and fantasy. It’s technically science fiction because it’s about a distant world colonized by human settlers. After the colony was established, they learned that every so often the world gets attacked by these spores they call Thread that destroy life. They genetically engineered some of the local life forms to be dragons they could fly around on and shoot down this thread. But because the society reverts to being pre-industrial and there are dragons, it reads like fantasy. If you want to start a debate among science fiction and fantasy readers, throw out the “is Pern science fiction or fantasy?” topic. I read the main part of the series when I was a teenager. This appears to be a standalone prequel. I don’t think I’ve carried this book around since then, but I may have picked it up at a library sale.

This particular book is about an epidemic that hits at a very bad time, and it pretty much sounds like the COVID pandemic with dragons. There’s social distancing, the search for a vaccine, the people who resist the efforts to stop the spread of the disease, the people who think the rules don’t apply to them, the strain on healthcare workers, etc. Even most of the symptoms sound kind of COVID-like. The book is really interesting, up until the ending, which I pretty much hated. It was almost like she’d reached her contracted word count and was nearing her deadline, so she just ended it and then wrote an epilogue to tie up the loose ends without actually resolving anything. It was really abrupt. Since it’s a prequel, it’s possible that this was some element of that world’s history mentioned in the earlier books (which are but a dim memory for me) and that ending was already set in stone.

Anyway, aside from the ending it was interesting reading, and it kind of made me want to revisit that series. I’m not entirely sure I’d recommend it, unless you want to read about fictional pandemics. It will probably go in the box that’s getting donated for the library book sale because I don’t imagine I’ll be reading it again, but I’m glad I did read it.

Books, movies

Why I Love LOTR

Last weekend, I rewatched the Lord of the Rings movies. I reread the books a few years ago, and this was my first time to watch the movies after refreshing myself on the books (and when I reread the books last, it was the first time to read them after seeing the movies). One thing I found interesting was that I seem to have mapped some of the imagery from the movies onto the books, so I was mostly seeing the movie characters and settings in my head as I read (unless I ran into a strong image that remained from previous reads), even in the parts that weren’t in the films. As a result, I had scenes in my head involving the movie imagery that it turned out weren’t actually in the movies, so I was surprised when they didn’t come up. That was a little disconcerting.

Of course, now I want to reread the books again, but I don’t really have time for that right now. I’m trying to read through my to-be-read bookcase as part of a book purge in preparation for a possible move. So no rereading, just reading the books that have been waiting for me to get around to them. Maybe next fall or winter. They feel like fall/winter books to me, the sort of thing you read while snuggled under a blanket, maybe next to a fire.

I’m no book purist. There are book scenes I miss in the movies, but I can also see why they were left out of the films. Even with the regular release (I don’t have the extended editions), they’re very long movies, and these bits would mess up the pacing. But it would be kind of fun to have a whole movie of my favorite part of the whole series, the beginning up to Rivendell. I love so many of the parts that were left out, like the dinner party in the woods with the elves and Tom Bombadil (I know that’s controversial, but that part is basically cozy fantasy). That section of the first book is all about being in this other world and experiencing enchanting things before it gets serious with all the battles. I get bored with the battle scenes in the movies, when it’s all just orcs swarming all over the place. On this viewing, I got distracted by spotting when Orlando Bloom was and wasn’t wearing the blue contact lenses during one of the battle scenes because that was more engaging to me than all the hacking and slashing.

It’s the character stuff I love — Sam finding the strength and courage he always had but that came out when he was put to the test, Pippin growing up right before our eyes (you can actually see on his face the moment when all the illusions shatter), Eowyn being a badass warrior woman without ever being Not Like Other Girls, Aragorn finally accepting and claiming his heritage, the growing friendship between Gimli and Legolas. Gandalf’s gentle fondness for hobbits. I just really love all these people, and I think that’s a big key to the enduring success of these stories.

The ending is always a bit bittersweet for me. On the one hand, I’m usually tired from making it through the whole thing, but on the other I’m a little reluctant to leave that world and return to reality.

Incidentally, I’ve decided that my ideal home might be a hobbit hole in Rivendell. I like the coziness of Bilbo’s house, but I also love the airiness of the elven homes and I like the general setup and aesthetic of Rivendell. Maybe an elven house with an attached hobbit hole for a cozy nook. Incidentally, the movie depiction of Rivendell is one place where I can’t make the movie version fit what I see in my head when I read.

Maybe next time I read/watch, I’ll do it back-to-back or around the same time so I can do a real comparison between books and movies.


Steampunk Fairies

While I’m on the subject of things that might remind you of some of my books, I’ve been watching Carnival Row on Amazon, and it’s kind of like a mix of my Fairy Tale series and my Rebels series. It’s a steampunk world with the fae in it.

I’m not entirely sure I like it. It’s interesting and I want to see what happens, but I’m not really enjoying watching it. In fact, I have to be doing something else like knitting or working puzzles while I’m watching because it’s a bit unpleasant to just watch. I’d compare it to A Game of Thrones in tone. It’s got that same grim grayness to the look of it, and almost all the characters are pretty awful people. The “good guys” are just less awful than everyone else. In fact, the “hero” has what I guess is meant to be a “save the cat” moment early in the pilot in which he does something reasonably good, and it stands out as unusual in this world although it’s really just basic decency. He’s not totally terrible, yay. There is a character who gets a surprisingly satisfying growth arc and there’s another character I’m hoping will get his act together, though where I am now in the story he’s pretty hate-worthy. I think part of the problem is that the writers focused so much on creating horrible, complex antagonists that they forgot to make the main characters interesting. There’s only so much Orlando Bloom can do with a character who mostly just mopes a lot, and he’s grubby enough that he’s not even that pretty in this.

But the world is pretty fascinating. From what I can tell (I’m still not entirely clear on the backstory, even though I’ve started season 2), there was some kind of war in the world of the fae, and refugees have come to the human world, where they’re treated the way refugees generally are, especially if they’re seen as different (not so well). It’s a kind of Dickensian Victorian world, very steampunky, though the war stuff has a World War I look. There are airships.

The first season is essentially a police procedural set against a lot of political maneuvering. There’s a serial killer, and there doesn’t seem to be a link between the victims—until our hero the police detective finds a surprising link. Meanwhile, there are social issues involving the fae in human society, a politician’s wife scheming for power, and a snobbish sister and brother dealing with a wealthy fae who’s moved into their neighborhood, much to their dismay. In the middle of this is the newly arrived fae woman who thinks her former lover, the police detective, has been dead for years.

I should warn that it’s at about the sex/violence language of Game of Thrones. Very graphic violence, a lot of nudity (especially female), some fairly graphic sex scenes, R-rated language. Not family-friendly entertainment. But if you like stories about the fae and the steampunk aesthetic, give it a shot.

One other link to my books is that one of the writing staff members was going to be the head writer for one of the attempts to make an Enchanted, Inc. TV series. I wish that project had worked out because she really grasped the concept. We had a conference call in which she gave me the pitch they were going to give to networks and production companies, and she nailed it, really capturing the spirit of the books. It’s nice to see that she landed somewhere else when that didn’t work out.

Speaking of stories about the fae, I’m participating in a group promo of books about the fae. You can find a whole collection to browse here. This is my first time to try one of these group promo thingies, and it would really help me if you click on the link because then I get credit for sharing it and have a better chance of getting into future promos where we all share each other’s books. Check it out and see if there’s something that looks interesting.