Friday, May 15, 2009

Skellig the Opera (Michelle)

David Almond's Skellig is a wonderful, lyrical book. And now, apparently, it's an opera --- which I actually think makes complete sense.

Here at the Guardian's Books Blog you'll find Almond's reflections on the process of adaptation. It's fascinating and rich, whether you're interested in adaptation or not. I'm always intrigued by the ways in which a single story can exist in multiple media; but I'm also intrigued by the analogy that Almond draws between his own writing and music before he ever dreamed that Skellig could be an opera. In writing like Hemingway or Flannery O'Conner, he was also writing like Purcell or Monteverdi. An amazing act of analogy.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A Bit of Card on Character (Michelle)

I have just spent a (frankly unpleasant) day held captive to Orson Scott Card's Speaker for the Dead. I just couldn't put the darn thing down, which meant that in the course of one day, I have witnessed quite a few horrors. I don't usually resent being drawn into a novel as though it were a black hole --- quite the contrary --- but today I did. I still don't know if I liked it or not, retaining the prisoner's dull hatred for her captor that prevents me from making a clear judgment.

Some interesting reflections on character, though, from the novel's preface. (I'm working with a 1991 TOR paperback.)

Most novels get by with showing the relationship between two or, at most, three characters. This is because the difficulty of creating a character increases with each new major character that is added to the tale. Characters, as most writers understand, are truly developed through their relationships with others. If there are only two significant characters, then there is only one relationship to be explored. If there are three characters, however, there are four relationships: Between A and B, between B and C, between C and A, and finally the relationsihp when all three are together.

Even this does not begin to explain the complexity---for in real life, at least, most people change, at least subtly when they are with different people...Our whole demeanor changes, our mannerisms, our figures of speech, when we move from one context to another. Listen to someone you know when they pick up the telephone. We have special voices for different people; our attitudes, our moods change depending on whom we are with.

So when a storyteller has to create three characters, each different relationship requires that each character in it must be transformed, however subtly, depending on how the relationship is shaping his or her present identity. Thus, in a three-character story, a storyteller who wishes to convince us of the reality of these characters really has to come up with a dozen different personas, four for each of them.

Something to think about. Something sobering, because as I try to count my main characters, I am seized with fear that I have at least four. I try to comfort myself with remembering that Dickens certainly doesn't follow the three-character rule. Then I remember that I'm not Dickens.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Comfort Reading (Michelle)

I've figured out why Stephenie Meyer feels like my big sister: she loves all the same books.

Here's her list of favorites on Amazon. It's legit --- the link to this Amazon list comes from her website.


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