Let’s Talk: What’s so Good about Fanfiction?

fan fiction definition

Image result for fangirl rainbow rowellAs you may or may not have been aware of from either Goodreads or a sneaky glance at my blog home page, I recently (finally) got my butt into gear and read Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. For those like me that are still massively behind on the YA contemporary trends, Fangirl’s central character, Cath, is a very popular fanfiction writer. She has thousands of readers and has even won awards for her stories. Basically, Cath lives and breathes fanfic. Her fandom of choice is a Rowell created series about a teen named Simon Snow which has some big similarities to something that rhymes with Gary Trotter. Just as you’d expect, reading this book got me thinking about fanfiction.

These days I feel like fanfiction gets a bit of a bad rap from the reading and broader community. People don’t seem to understand it and have a tendency to brush it off as being simplistic, weird, trashy, obsessive, even creepy. I’m in no way naïve enough to not be aware of the…darker and dodgier areas of the fanfiction webverse (come on, it is the internet), but at the same time, I also believe people discount the value of fanfic and the amount of work that goes into it. I’ll even willingly admit that during NaNoWriMo, I caught myself making a face at the idea that some people were spending their challenge working on fanfiction rather than original work (which is stupid considering I used to write it myself in my teen years – Twilight fics *shivers* dark days, guys, very dark days). Yet, now that I’ve sat down and thought about it (as well as chastised myself for being an idiot), while it may have it’s issues, fanfiction actually holds a lot of really great benefits.

Express Fandom Love & Meet Likeminded People

Pick any book, television show or movie in the world and I guarantee you that somewhere out there is a devoted group of fans who absolutely worship it beyond imagination. And the thing about fans is, once they get a taste of something, they just can’t get enough. Fanfiction is a fantastic way for people to not only constructively express their love of a particular fandom (okay, sometimes constructively), but also help them to connect with like-minded people. For the commonly found introvert (much like Cath in Fangirl), this is a good opportunity for socialisation and the ability to bond over a common interest. For people who have trouble socialising or difficulty finding others in the real world who share their interests, it’s a fantastic solution.

Writing Training Wheels

Writing is hard. Like, seriously hard. Plotting without epic holes, creating layered and interesting characters, world building that makes sense, and then there’s writing style (or in my case, trying to avoid saying ‘he said’, ‘she said’ fifty million times in one conversation. I panic, okay!). Fanfiction can be a great way for newbie writers to develop their skills. By already having a deep understanding of the characters, setting and rules, fanfic writers are able to focus on plot and the actual writing itself. I look back on my fanfiction entries from a decade ago (the horror) and can definitely see a big improvement in the way I write as I go along. It’s like writing with a support system in place until that person decides to try their hand at something original. They have the freedom to experiment and try new things in a safe space. The fact that people are then able to comment on their posts can also be a good way (well, not always) for those writers to get a sense of what they’re doing well and where they could improve.

Enjoyment & Entertainment

I don’t think it’s wrong to say that there are many people out there who enjoy certain fanfictions just as much, or perhaps even more, than some published books. Some fics build up enormous followings of people, thousands and thousands, who sit around excitedly waiting for a new chapter update and drop everything upon publication. In some instances this popularity factor is so big that it even drives fics toward publication as their own works, complete with a full set of name changes. I mean, just look at (I can’t believe I’m actually using this as an example) Fifty Shades of Grey. If you want to understand the power of people’s love for fanfiction, look no further than the money making force that is that trilogy. Sure, there are large percentages of fanfic that fall into the “trashy” category but hey, if it’s not damaging people with toxic ideas, what’s the harm in bringing people a bit of fun and enjoyment?

Continuations, Gap Filling & Spin Offs

One of the really fun parts of fanfiction is its ability to build on and expand canon stories in interesting ways. I can’t even count how many times I’ve come across a loose end I needed explained or a character that I wish I could have gotten to know better. Perhaps a sequence of events was mentioned during the narrative that would be cool to read about more directly or maybe the world has such a rich history ala A Song of Ice and Fire that’s it’s just bursting with stories? Well, fanfiction is the answer. There is a wealth of fics for every whim, interest, history, plot gap, romance, and side character. Fanfics can also be a great way to continue on with a beloved series or story even after it’s finished. While the published books may be over, the characters and their adventures can continue on through the writing of others.

Niches & Representation

I think it’s an understatement to say that there are some severe representation issues within mainstream books. We’ve made some great steps forward recently but there’s still a long way to go. A great characteristic of fanfiction is it’s diversity and inclusivity. No matter your interest, there’s fanfiction out there somwhere to float your particular boat (even if it happens to be…Drarry). Unlike published stories, online fanfiction isn’t bound by the rules of what publishers believe is “mainstream”/popular or will sell. Fanfiction can be written by absolutely anyone and its writers have the amazing freedom to take existing narratives & characters, and rework them to place a spotlight on the more marginalised and minority based groups. By giving these types of characters starring roles and more prominent stories within an already popular setting, they help those who enjoy, but often have difficulty seeing themselves in, the original works to find common ground and relatability.  Divider 3

Let’s Talk!

Are you someone who enjoys reading fan fiction? If so, from what kinds of fandoms? What’s your favourite website? Do you have a favourite fic?

Are you a fan fiction writer? If so, what about it appeals to you? What are your favourite types of fics to write?

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Let’s Talk: Aussie Book Blogger & Bookstagrammer Woes

Let’s be honest, the literary world does have a tendency to revolve around the US and UK. Big name authors are often from there, the large international publishing houses are located there, and things are released first there. I live in a little, island country known as Australia (you may have heard of it? I really hope sarcasm translates in written form) which happens to be positioned in the middle of absolute nowhere and, coincidentally, is located nowhere near either of these countries. For this reason, being a self-proclaimed book worm who likes to spend what little free time they have blogging about and taking photos of books comes with its own challenges and woes.

Let me just say in advance, this list is largely in fun and is me simply whining for the sake of whining about a lot of very trivial things. Enjoy my pettiness.

Later Release Dates

FOMO is the root of all evil and it rears its ugly head with this one. There’s nothing worse than finding out about an amazing book that everyone overseas is already loving only to realise you’ve got to wait another few weeks or even MONTHS (*rages*) to find the damn thing in Australia.

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In the meantime, you simply have to watch as others write about it, photograph it, and just generally dangle it in your internet face like a donkey with a carrot. Worse still, by the time you do get your hands on it, ready to write a review, the hype wave has already come and gone which is a major bummer. Sure, online shipping can be saving grace in some circumstances but there are exceptions, however, even then, sometimes you just really want it NOW.  I cannot even explain how annoying it was waiting months for both Scythe and, its sequel, Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman to finally show up on shelves.

Shipping Fees

As I’ve mentioned before, Australia = Narnia, or at least it might as well be because the damn SHIPPING RATES ARE THE SAME. This creates a number of woes.

Merch and Subscription Boxes

As much as I’d like to imagine so, money does not grow on trees. While I may want to get my hands on an amazeballs looking Victoria Schwab themed box which I can then unbox in all its glory on both my blog and insta, there’s simply no justifying buying a product where the shipping is the same or more than the actual box. Me upon seeing other people’s photos/posts about unboxing:

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I mean, yes, it is due in part to the weight of these boxes but then again, I’ve also wanted to buy $5 book marks from certain websites and almost choked upon seeing the $25 shipping fee. Damn you Australiaaaaaaaaa!!!!!

Competition Exclusions

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If there’s one thing being a university student taught me, it’s that there ain’t nothing better than free stuff. Mostly food but this defs applies to books too. Bloggers and bookstagrammers love a good giveaway (*cough* sneaky ploys to get more followers *cough*). The only problem is, because shipping can be super expensive, sometimes they have to limit their entries to the US or Europe only. I understand but, boy, does it break my little Australian book loving heart. We want free stuff too!

Repping

Because of the high shipping rates, some stores just aren’t open to/can’t afford having international reps for their products. This can be a bit disappointing, especially when it’s a brand you really love but it’s just something you have to accept.

Physical ARCs

Publishing in Australia is usually heavily linked to publishing in the UK. As you know, the two are nowhere near each other and for this reason publishers can often be a little reluctant to send out physical ARC copies of books to Aussie reviewers unless they’re extremely popular and likely to reach a big audience. Don’t get me wrong, even just getting an e-copy ARC is fantastic but having something physical that you can photograph to boost promotion of the book and accompany your review is a nice bonus. Plus, the formatting on these e-copies isn’t always the smoothest.

Scheduling Posts for Different Time Zones

The bane of my blogging/bookstagramming existence. Australia happens to be positioned in the Southern Hemisphere. It’s a magical place that exists in the future from many countries up north. Day is night and night is day. In other words, trying to time your posts so that people in other parts of the world aren’t (a) sleeping (b) working/at school or (c) out socialising (ha, kidding! Book worms don’t actually socialise) can be a mind-boggling equation.

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There’s nothing more facepalm worthy than writing an amazing post or taking a fab photo that you’re super proud of only to post it and find out that, oh dear, it’s the wee hours of the morning overseas. *sigh* You’ve also got to consider the whole weekends vs weekdays thing. It may be Saturday morning in Aus, where everyone is chilling out and free from obligations, but overseas, it’s Friday night and people are out… well, doing whatever it is they do on a Friday night (I don’t know these things, Netflix is my bestie). The struggle is real, friends.

Expensive Hardbacks

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Hardbacks are pretty, okay. They’re have nice shiny jackets, embossed fronts, and they don’t seem to get as damaged in my handbag on the way to work as paperbacks. BUT, can I find things in hardback in Australia that don’t cost a kidney and my first born child? Um, nope. Fun fact: I recently saw the new Jodi Picoult book in hardback at the bookstore for, wait for it…$50. FIFTY. FOR ONE, THIN BOOK! What if you end up hating it? Then what? You’ve spent $50 on a book you don’t even like and it’s not even heavy enough to be considered a fancy paperweight. I get massively jealous of the US here – their hardbacks are the price of paperbacks and their paperbacks are the price of a McDonald’s meal. Now that is goals.

The main drawbacks with this are that hardbacks look super nice in Instagram photos – jackets on, jackets off, stacked in artful little columns, etc. and more importantly, some books aren’t originally released in paperback (e.g. The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue) meaning we have to wait until they are to get our little hands on them (see point one above). No fair.

Less Author Events/Signings

It’s not only shipping that’s expensive and time consuming to Australia, but also flights. We’re a looooooong way away and for this reason we do tend to get far less author visits, events and signings. You may only see your favourite author once every few years at best and in some cases, if they’re not a massively popular one, not at all!

DArcy Carden Janet GIF - DArcyCarden Janet MannyJacinto GIFs

This is nothing new and, again, perfectly understandable but let’s just say, we Aussies are very envious of your huge book conventions and tours, especially when you post photos of your amazing meet and greets (one day I’ll make it to book con, one day!!). This also unfortunately limits the opportunities for author based content on blogs such as a post I did a while back from the Obsidio launch (woo, Aussie authors).

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What are your biggest book blogging/bookstagrammer woes?

Let’s Talk: About Sex, Baby…in YA Fiction (Part 1)

This is a discussion post that I’ve been wanting to write for some time now but my issue has always been the question of how best to approach it. I’ll be up front, on this one I’m in the camp of include sex in YA. Although, the bigger question is how should it be included? In the end, I’ve decided to break it down into three questions: 1) should sex be included/discussed at all, 2) to what degree should sex be included, and 3) how should sex be represented in YA books? As it turns out, I have a lot to say on this topic so I’ll be publishing this post in two parts.

The Audience of YA

Before we get stuck in, I’d just like to touch on the audience and readership of young adult books. From a publishing standpoint, the YA category is aimed at ages 12-18. When you look at the changes and experiences that happen over the course of these six years, it seems like an enormous and diverse group. Then there’s the fact that these days YA is also extremely popular with adults, myself included. So how do we possibly cater to all these people in one category? That’s the question, isn’t it?

Should Sex be Included/Discussed in YA?

Sex as Taboo

Despite what some people try to claim, sex is not some evil, virtue ruining, disgusting thing. It’s a very normal human experience which can be romantic as well as something fun and empowering. A large chunk of the population is going to have sex at some point in their lives. It’s a simple fact. By failing to include it even slightly in YA fiction I feel as though this gives the impression that sex is something to be hidden or embarrassed about.

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The last thing we want is teens feeling like they shouldn’t or can’t voice sex related questions/issues, or, worse, that they’re the only one going through these experiences. The great thing about books is that they allow us to feel less alone by seeing our own characteristics, flaws, and experiences in characters. Without representation that benefit is lost, which is why it’s so important that teens read about fictional young adults tackling familiar issues (of which sex is a big one).

Sexual Education

Spend a couple of minutes on the internet and you’ll find pretty quickly that there’s a huge problem with regards to sex education. There are a lot of countries, even ones as developed as the US, that do not properly teach their teens about sex and reproduction.

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This makes me ridiculously mad because it’s so, SO important that teens learn early on the importance of having sex at the right time for them, ensuring both parties are consenting, and taking steps to protect against unwanted pregnancy and STDs. Just saying “abstinence” won’t cut it, kids. No, it isn’t fiction’s job to be the only educator on these things but by failing to include topics like this in YA fiction, you’re not only depriving teens of a great source of information during a time when they’re desperately searching for it, but also failing to take advantage of the opportunity to illustrate/discuss positive and negative sexual behaviour.

To Quote Lily Allen, ‘Everyone’s At It’

Let’s be realistic. If you honestly believe that all teens are waiting until age 18 to engage in sexual behaviour or discussion, gather round because I have a bridge to sell you. Sure, studies show that the average age young people lose their virginity in most countries is 17+ but unless I’m remembering school wrong, you can bet that the ones who aren’t having sex are likely already (a) doing some form of hot and heavy activity OR (b) talking about it with their friends, even at really young ages. The truth of the matter is, a lot of teens are far more mature than adults like to give them credit for and by cutting sex and sexual discussion out of the fiction they read, you’re failing to include a very large part of the teen experience and conversation. It’s difficult for readers to relate to the books they’re reading if they’re so sanitised they resemble an early 2000s Disney sitcom more than real life.

Gwyneth Paltrow GIF

I should preface the next part of this discussion by mentioning that in this post I am not advocating for throwing sex in for the sake of just having sex in YA novels. I am saying that, where it suits the narrative, setting and characters, sex should not be shied away from and be included organically. If the story the author is telling has nothing to do with sexual themes, then don’t add them in for the sake of it. 

To What Degree?

Putting sexual discussion aside for the moment to focus purely on actual sexual scenes, from what I can tell there seems to be three ways to approach this:

  • Fade to black
  • Sex with an internal character focus
  • Heavily descriptive sex

Fade to Black

It’s safe to say we’ve all come across this approach. I have no problem with the good, old fade to black provided the author does two things (a) treats the build up to the fade out properly and (b) addresses the impact of what we missed.

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I recently found a great example of this in Adam Silvera’s History is All You Left Me. There’s one scene a fair way through which continues long enough to establish consent, protection, and intimacy before fading out and then picking up again to deal with the emotional fallout and narrative purpose of that interaction. Fade outs can be a great way of instigating sexual discussions and dealing with associated issues without being too graphic for younger readers who aren’t at the maturity level for fully descriptive content.

Sex with Internal Character Focus

This is an approach I’m also very on board with. When sex scenes are written like this, as a reader, I very clearly understand what the author is trying to achieve because there’s nowhere to hide. It may be a crucial plot point, a character defining moment, or even an evolution of two characters’ relationship e.g. Rose and Dimitri in Richelle Mead’s Shadow Kiss. While we do get some details on the physical side, they tend to be limited as the focus is on what the character/s are feeling and thinking. For example, in Jandy Nelson’s I’ll Give You the Sun we get to experience Jude’s first time from her perspective. It’s not a comfortable experience in the slightest and she regrets the encounter almost as soon as it begins but feels as though she can’t bring herself to stop it. It’s a very well written scene – emotionally mature but more focused on Jude’s mental state than the physicality of what’s happening. More importantly, it successfully discusses important sexual themes such as consent whilst giving us character development.

Heavily Descriptive Sex

Now this is where it gets complicated. To demonstrate, both Looking for Alaska by John Green and A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J Maas feature sexually explicit scenes at some point during their narratives. Each is marketed as YA, but are they in any way similar? That’d be a no.

Generally, when it comes to this approach, I’d say it’s not something I consider appropriate in YA books and should be left to adult or new adult fiction. In fact, I’m a little shocked when I come across scenes like this in something marketed as YA as they just seem extremely out of place. However, I think my main problem here stems from the fact that so many of these scenes are written unrealistically as being all fantasy (something I’ll discuss in part two).

While I’m sure a lot of the people who read YA nowadays are more than able to handle explicit scenes, and may even enjoy it, there does have to be limits in place for this category of fiction, otherwise why separate it from adult fiction at all? This is to ensure that those who aren’t comfortable with such explicit content, or their parents, don’t have to constantly worry about whether such a scene may potentially come up at any given moment.

With regards to sexual discussion, I feel I’m on the same page.  Do I need a conversaton between two characters involving a play by play of one character’s sexual exploits?

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Ah, nope.

However, characters discussing things such as their worries about their first time or whether they’re ready to take things further with their partner, that’s 100% a-okay.

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Just a reminder, everything in this post is my personal opinion and I am very much aware that a lot of other people feel very differently with regards to this topic. And that is completly fine!

Let me know your thoughts, do you believe sex should be depicted and/or discussed in YA novels? And if so, how detailed do you think it should be?

For more discussion on how sex should be represented in YA novels and the representation issues commonly found in today’s novels, be sure to check out part 2.

Let’s Talk: Picking Books to Review

As book bloggers, one of the biggest components of what we do is writing reviews. However, also being book lovers, we tend to read a substantial number of books every year. Writing lengthy reviews for each and every one just isn’t possible (especially when you’re as slow as I am) – we’d go grey before we even made a dent. So how is it that we pick which books we want to spend several hours discussing with our computer screen?

It’s Absolutely Fantastic (Five Star that Baby)

There’s nothing like finishing a ridiculously amazing book to send you running for your keyboard. When a book has completely rocked your world, the first thing you want to do is tell the world about it (well, after jumping up and down, and searching the internet for fan art, of course). You want everybody else to see just how much of a gem this book is so that they can enjoy it, too.

You’d think these reviews would be easy to write but sometimes they end up being even harder than those for books you don’t like. I find that this is usually because, while I know I enjoyed the hell out of a book, the struggle is breaking down the exact reasons why. Why did I fall so completely in love with the MC, what was it about the plot that shocked me so much, why is this couple my new OTP? Still, these are definitely the most heavily featured types of reviews on my blog because they’re just so much fun to write.

You Hated It (1 Star that Sucker)

In much the same way as an overly positive reaction can push you to write a review, so too can a particularly strong negative reaction. Anger, disgust, frustration, disappointment – these are motivators behind many reviews, especially where the book is something you were led by others to believe was great. I find that I rarely run out of things to say with these types of reviews but the problem is ensuring you don’t cross the line from constructive to cruel. Critiques are a natural part of any art form but we need to be mindful that we’re criticising the work, not the person.

It’s an ARC

Yes, yes, I know this is an obvious one and pretty self-explanatory. The majority of the time when you have an ARC, you’ve been given it by the publisher for the express purpose of writing a review. Therefore, these books are almost guaranteed review picks. If it’s a book people are looking forward to, you’d be silly not to use the opportunity to get extra traffic to your blog. People want to know about this book and you get to read it before everyone else! Use it!

It’s Hyped/Popular

I can’t be the only one who sometimes chooses books to review on this basis (can I?). This reason only really applies, for me, to books that have just come out. If I’m reviewing a popular book that’s a little older, it’s probably for reasons 1 or 2 above. However, if the book is a new release and people have been waiting around for it, much like with an ARC, I’ll review it because I know it’s what people are interested in. Not everyone reads hyped books right on release, some people wait a few months. At least this way people know whether to bump it further up their TBR or perhaps let it linger on the bottom for longer.

Good but Flying Under the Radar

I have to say, I don’t read a lot of not so well known books and that’s a weakness of mine. There’s just so many popular ones that I constantly feel like I’m catching up! However, when I do read something that’s not as well-known and actually a pretty solid read, I’ll usually write a review.

There are so many big name books out there which have ended up being mediocre that I feel it’s important to get the word out when you find something good (or even great) flying under the radar. Give a less known author/book the credit they’re due, you may just help someone find a new favourite read.

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I’m sure there are book bloggers and reviewers out there with very different motivations behind their review picks. I mean, for all I know, there are some crazy superheroes out there that manage to write legible and amazing reviews for most of the things they read (HOW?? I spend like five hours on just one damn review). Still, this is at least an accurate summary of mine and I feel like they’re pretty reasonable. Recently I’ve been trying to increase my reviewing frequency so perhaps new motivations will arise as time goes on.

Why do you review the specific books you review? And what motivates you to read some else’s review?

 

Let’s Talk: What Makes a Great Book Cover

Come on, admit it. At some point in your life, there was a book you bought because you fell head over heels in love with its gorgeous cover. Don’t worry, we’ve all been there. I know I certainly have. Sometimes it pays off, and other times…not so much. At least it looks fabulous on your shelves, right? But what is it about some covers that makes them so attractive whilst others send you running to the e-reader?

Below I’ll look at some of the main characteristics or styles that my favourite book covers tend to utilise. This isn’t a checklist, as in, put all these things on one cover and you’re bound to have a winner (what a Frankenstein’s monster that’d be). It’s more a couple of things that work well when used selectively and in the right combinations.

An Eye-catching Background Colour

There’s nothing like a bright or bold colour on a cover to draw the eye amongst a shelf full of titles. Some of my favourite covers have utilised the approach of one feature background colour to really give a book something special and I find that it works especially well when designers incorporate texture at the same time e.g. sponge blend effects. However, with these kinds of cover designs, it’s important to let the background be the star of the cover by embracing neutral accents and simple imagery.

Covers 1

Interesting Title Font or Design

For text-based covers, this is crucial, but even with image/text combo covers it’s something to really consider (unless perhaps you’ve got a fabulously attention-grabbing image). It’s important that the title design or font is engaging and fits the tone of the book whilst still being legible. The best case scenario is a font that definitively belongs to that book and which readers will be able to pick out even with different text, but as long as the title is interesting to look at and doesn’t feel like something people have seen a million times before, you’re in the clear.

Covers 2

Contrast

While flashy, single background colours can work very well, utilising colour contrast, often through feature accents, can also result in a great cover. Balancing bold colours against black, white, navy and neutrals is usually the way to a winner but incorporating contrasting colours from the colour wheel is also an interesting way to change things up. Although, this approach does require having an engaging photograph or graphic in order to properly showcase the colour differences.

Covers 3

Simplicity Without Being Boring

Sometimes simple designs with clean lines can be really attractive and soothing in their purity. One thing some covers get wrong is they try to do too much when a more stripped back approach would have worked far better. Basic shapes and images are a great way to highlight a feature element of a cover and create a certain vibe. However, it’s essential this approach isn’t taken too far, resulting in something that’s just plain boring. With so few things to look at, designers need to think about where their audience’s eyes will go and how to make that location engaging enough to keep them there.

Covers 4

Striking & Book Specific Photography

Photography can be fantastic on book covers when it’s used appropriately. I find it works best when the photo has a clearly identifiable connection with the book, as in it looks as though it could be of a particular moment, item, or location from it. Editing is important but the subject is key. The best photography covers look as though they could have been shot purposefully for that book (even though it’s unlikely), not just picked from a bunch of stock pictures.  I want to be sucked into the novel just by looking at that one moment displayed in the cover photography.

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Models in Positions that Don’t look Campy or Awkward

I cannot be the only one who’s wanted to hide a book cover because it’s featured models in odd or cheesy positions which display a vague (or no) connection to the actual contents of the book. If you’re going to use this approach: (a) the models need to look like the character/s, (b) the styling and posing must fit with the aesthetic of the novel (not just the genre), and bonus points if (c) it looks like it could be scene taken right out of the novel. I don’t want to see some random photoshoot that could be in any fashion/teen magazine or a model in a supposedly powerful or come-hither position imposed on a computer-generated background (unless it’s a damn good background) And well, if you’re not going to adhere to any of this, it better be one hell of a fantastic looking portrait image.

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Memorable Use of Graphic Design or Illustrations

Moving away from the realms of realistic covers, there are also some amazing covers achieved through the use of art and computer graphics.  I often find that these are very strong because the designer is frequently creating an image directly inspired by the source material. Line, shape, colour – they all come into play, and I find it particularly engaging when artists play with symbolism. Where the design manages to capture the tone and feel of the book whilst still being creative and visually dynamic, it’s usually a big success.

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So that’s all completely clear, right? Of course not! I wish I could say there was a definitive reason why some covers work better than others but with particular books there’s just something indescribably magical about their cover. Pinpointing why may be difficult, but we all know pretty quickly whether a book’s got it and to what degree. I guess the best explanation I can give is if a cover helps the reader understand a fraction of what they’re in for and it’s not something they’d be absolutely ashamed of having to carry openly on public transport, you’re halfway there.

What are some of your favourite book covers and what is it about them that makes them so special?

Let’s Talk: The Sins of Love Triangles

I’m going to suggest something controversial, so bear with me.

Love triangles aren’t as bad as we think they are.

Yep, that’s right. You heard me.

I can hear the collective gasp from here. But Ashley, you cry, love triangles are terrible! How can you say such a thing?!

Alright, put down those tomatoes you’re planning on throwing my way and hear me out.

Yes, I’ll be the first to admit that LTs are an extremely overused trope, especially in the fiction I tend to read, but as we all know, there are some tropes out there that are extremely enjoyable in their trope-ishness. So why’s this one so bad? Let me just throw something out there:

It’s because they’re not well written.

Uh, huh. I said it. A LOT of authors do not know how to write a good love triangle. Let me tell you why.

A Clear Winner

Plot complications are meant to create drama. They’re supposed to be an emotional roller-coaster. But you know what ruins the fun? Knowing exactly how the damn thing is going to pan out.

One of the main sins of many LTs is a glaringly obvious outcome. Most of the time the author already knows exactly which character is going to win their fair maiden or…er, fair dude’s heart and they’re so damn happy about shipping them that they do an absolutely terrible job of hiding it in their writing. Take Vampire Academy for example. Were Dimitri and Adrian both great characters? You bet, but was there ever a chance in hell Rose was going to end up with our favourite mopey, alcoholic moroi? Not one.

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Even worse, once you know result, every bit of information or scene introduced to try and make it seem like the other side may have a chance (you aren’t fooling me red herrings!) feels like a waste of time and just ends up being extremely frustrating.

Sucky or Underdeveloped Suitors/Suitresses

In a well done triangle, readers should be able to root for both sides of the equation (how do you think Twilight got to where it was?). Going even further, they should be able to understand why the MC might end up with the either one of their potential partners even though it may not necessarily be the reader’s choice. One of the best examples of this is probably found in Cassandra Clare’s The Infernal Devices Series. While I may have been drawing hearts with Will and Tessa’s names in them I also adored Jem. Why? Because both suitors were well written and likeable characters, given an even amount of page time, and had vastly different dynamics with Tessa. This meant that Jem as a final decision would have been fine as it made just as much sense as Will did.

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In order for a triangle to work, all characters need to be given a little love by an author – they need their own stories and captivating personalities (I’m looking at you Mal from The Grisha Trilogy *glares* ). It sounds simple but so many authors fail to meet this, with members of their triangles ending up either two dimensional or just complete assholes.

Too Much Angst

It’s time for the worst reason of all. Angst. WHY IS THERE ALWAYS SO MUCH ANGST?? With a situation like a love triangle, of course there’s going to be some emotional turmoil. What would be the point of the plotline without it?

I mean, just sayin’, if there were two amazingly gorgeous men with six packs and killer smiles fighting over me, I’d have an intense internal dilemma too (if only, am I right?) and the same goes for if the person I liked was torn between me and someone else. The problem is, authors have a tendency to flog this emotional horse so hard that it’s died, zombified and then died all over again.

A little bit of pain and suffering among the characters is expected but so much moaning, back and forth, and whinging that I actually want to stab someone is NOT OKAY.

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Writers tend to have this problem when they don’t resolve their triangle quickly enough or they fail to give the plotline an intermission (e.g. the MC dates one suitor exclusively for a while, one suitor exits for a book, etc.).

So let’s be clear – we want some angst okay, just don’t make us take a bath in it.

They Render the MC an Annoying, Senseless Idiot

Most of the LTs you find feature a female character at their centre. Yet, for some reason these storylines have a habit of turning once smart, witty and generally wonderful women into complete morons. Suddenly all they can do is think about their love interests, fall into pits of tear filled despair, and make some really awful life choices. It’s like, girl, get your ass into gear and worry about saving the world! BOYS CAN WAIT.

Then, even worse, there’s the MCs that become almost insufferable in the face of love triangle-dom. Case in point, America Singer from Kiera Cass’s The Selection series. Now there was a girl I wanted to hit with something heavy. Like a dictionary. Or a bus. JUST BLOODY PICK MAXON ALREADY, WE KNOW YOU WANT TO.

If a book has to damage the quality of its MC to make its LT work, it’s doing something wrong.

Let’s Stack Tropes

A LT is a well-used trope on its own. What potentially sends it heading for an iceberg is when authors layer tropes on tropes. It’s like playing a game of Jenga, you’re just waiting for that sucker to fall. One of the most common and annoying ones is the BFF vs New Shiny Object trope. How many times have you read a LT in which one of the suitors is a long-time friend of the MC who’s only just decided to make a move and the other is an intriguing newcomer to their life?

Yeah, that’s what I thought.

I have faith in the idea that, one day, I will eventually find some other non-cringe worthy love triangle plotlines. ONE DAY. And sure, it’s always easier to criticise than to do but eh, that’s bookish discussions for you.

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Let’s Talk: Are you guys avid haters of the LT trope? What LTs out there have you found that defy the odds? What are some of the worst ones you’ve seen?

Love Ashley

Let’s Talk: Lending Books

It’s time for another Let’s Talk bookish topic. This time we’re talking lending out books, the pros and cons, because after all, sharing is caring isn’t it? Or so I’ve been told…

PROS

You Save Them Money

Books can be expensive. Whether you’re a serious bookworm or a more casual reader, the costs can easily sneak up on you. One minute you’re going into the bookstore for just one title, the next you’re standing at the counter with a stack bigger than your torso and the shop assistant is reading out a three-figure number while you attempt not to hyperventilate because you know you couldn’t possibly part with any of those beauties.

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By lending there’s at least a little bit of a saving which they can put towards a book neither of you own.

You get to scream about it together!

There’s nothing better than lending a book or series and finding out that your friend loves it just as much as you do. There’s a brief period of joyous screaming, followed by some jumping up and down, and then you get to talk ships, plot twists, favourite characters and mutual grief.

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Plus, if the series is unfinished, you have someone to share in the waiting and go to book launches with. It’s the most awesome thing EVER.

Temporarily Free Bookshelf Space

Books going out means more room for books to come in! WIN. I hear you saying, but Ashley, you’ll have to fit them back in when people return them? HUSH I say, that’s future Ashley’s problem (aka. Game of Tetris).

They’re Likely to Return the Favour

YESSSSS!! You get to save a little money, potentially be exposed to some amazing new reads and don’t have to worry about finding space in your house within the already existing book fort. Sure, if you love the book and want to re-read it later on, you’ll have to either borrow it again or buy a copy, but hey, at least you know it’s worth the effort.

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CONS

Entrusting Someone with your Precious Babies

I’m a nutjob when it comes to my books. I’ve probably gotten a lot better in recent years, but I’m still pretty strict. When you lend books there’s always the concern of: will they treat my book the way I would treat it? Will the spine come back with five million enormous, ugly cracks down it, will the cover be creased, the pages marked, or heaven forbid…they’re a page corner folder…

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Regardless, there’s always a sense of the unknown and accidents do happen to everyone. It’s a roll of the dice.

When Will it Come Back?

Everyone reads at different paces. Some people finish a particular book in one or two days, others take a bit longer. And then there’s others that get busy and just decide to forget about the book or lose all reading motivation until it’s eighty-gazillion years later and I’ve almost forgotten I ever owned the damn book in the first place *cough* one of my friends with A Darker Shade of Magic and Throne of Glass *cough*.

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I just want you to finish it so we can talk about it, OKAY? Is that so much to ask?! Definite word of advice though, make a list of who you lend things to in order to keep track. Especially if it’s books you love.

Book Enjoyment Envy

I’ll admit, I get serious fear of missing out. I could have read a book a zillion times already but you can bet your butt that the minute my friend starts quoting or referencing one of my recommended reads, I will want that book back in my hot little hands for a re-read like the selfish person I am. I can feel you enjoying it from here and I want in, damn it.

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Then I have to wait, during which I will pout and sulk like crazy. But in a totally classy, not pathetic, adult way, of course.

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And that’s all from me. Despite my concerns, I’m definitely in favour of lending. Spread ALL the book love!

Do you guys lend out your books? Why/why not?

If you do, what are some of the books that you try to force onto people the most? Vampire Academy is definitely one of mine but I’ve lent out Harry Potter as well!

Love Ashley