Thoughts On…

Being a writer.

I started watching Gossip Girl this week, on a recommendation from a friend. And while this may seem like a strange intro to thoughts/feelings on being a writer, I promise it’s relevant. One of the characters, Dan, who is of course my favorite, is a writer–and gorgeous! His ex-musician father and artist mother pay tens of thousands of dollars to send he and his sister, Jenny, to private prep school in NYs Upper East Side–for anyone who hasn’t seen the show. In the beginning, his dream is to attend Dartmouth, but that eventually turns into Yale for the superb English Lit department. Can’t say I blame. After getting a short story published in The New Yorker (thanks to his bff, Vanessa), Dan acquires an internship with one of his favorite writers, obtains a well-known author as a mentor, and gets a recommendation letter from a Dartmouth Lit professor. All seems to be going perfectly in writer-land.

Except he gets nixed from the internship because he fails to complete the last requirement: turn in a new, completed story to be reviewed by the author then sent to The Paris Review. It seems like a HUGE mistake to not follow through with the task. But Dan finds himself stuck–writer’s block. No matter how hard he tries, he just cannot write the story. Then his mentor tells him that he needs a new perspective, his stories are all from the same point of view and it’s boring. Dan’s reply, “I thought writers were supposed to write what they know. This is what I know.”

The sage advice given: Then learn something else.

But like Dan comes to find, you can’t just learn something else. We experience life just how we experience it, it’s unique and individual to each of us. If, like Dan, I tried to step into the shoes of someone from what seems like an entirely different way of life than mine…I’d still experience that world as, well, me. But maybe I could get some inspiration.

Write what you know. Write what I know. But, what do I know? Doesn’t feel like much most days. The things I do know would be liable to make for some depressing poems/stories, not to say that that means they wouldn’t be decent or relatable, I guess. I know about growing up in a small town, hating it and wanting nothing more than to get out. I know about being out and missing some of the small town things I used to hate. I know about cats and getting sunburnt and feeling frustrated with life.

Perhaps I’ve been going about trying to write all wrong. Basing it off inspiration alone, which would require having inspiring people/events/occurrences on a pretty regular basis. Which I don’t have, besides nature. And once upon a time, when I wrote all the time, there was a LOT of nature in it. Maybe it’s time to get back to basics, back to the root of where it all started, and try to make the best of it.

Killer, Pretty Little Liars Book 6

Likes:
Character building

Dislikes:
Lack of action

Sadly, my like and dislike sort of go hand in hand. Throughout Killer there’s a lot less A action and more average teenage drama. What’s nice about that is that Shepard can build the characters even further and give more depth to their personal situations…like Spencer’s messed up family situation.

By doing this, readers really start to feel for the girls–and feel what they feel. There are a number of times where I hated Spencer’s family just as much as she did, or felt as skeeved out by Xavier as Aria does. Taking a break from the suspenseful action we’re used to does make for a slower read, yet allows readers to really step into the girls’ shoes for a little while. Which in some ways is a great way to feel as if you’ve really entered into that world, rather than just watching from the outside. Sure that’s a little escapist of me…and a therapist would probably say that’s not healthy…but that’s part of what I love (and always have loved) about books/reading!

Jason DiLaurentis and Wilden finally become the questionable characters they’ve always appeared to be in the show. Maya may be on that list too, it’s hard to tell for sure, but she’s definitely acting a little A-like with the sneaking up on Emily and all. With more and more people becoming suspicious, Aria, Spencer, Hanna, and Emily seem to finally be coming together more fully than ever before. And it’s about time. They’ve placed themselves right in the line of danger by contacting Ian for information and have just found a secret they never expected.

Wicked, Pretty Little Liars Book 5

Likes:
Ian Thomas
Ali memories
Spencer

Dislikes:
Girls’ lack of sharing
Xaiver

So far Book 5 hasn’t been as action packed as the preceding four novels. With Ian Thomas in jail for Ali’s murder and the A notes, things in Rosewood seem fairly quiet. Spencer, Aria, Emily, and Hanna haven’t gotten any scathing texts/emails/IMs from A in months, which is obviously thanks to Ian’s arrest. But when Ian is released on bail in order to spend time with is sick mother, things are right back to crazy as normal.

Byron and Meredith’s relationship is still going; Aria thought she found a new crush on artist Xavier at his gallery showing that her mother sent her too; Ella has a new boyfriend, Xaiver, that she met via Match.com; Hanna is back with Lucas, for now, since Mona is out of the picture; Spencer is seemingly crushing on Andrew Campbell, her academic archenemy; and Emily is dating…a guy.

Part of me continues to be in disbelief that the girls don’t just share the secrets A continuously holds over their heads. At the same time, the fact that they don’t makes much more sense in the novels. While they’re all plagued by the same harassment, none of them actually trust each other. Ali was the only one of the group who actually knew ALL their secrets, yet they all considered themselves to be the best of friends. In this way, Sara Shepard does an excellent job of portraying the inner-workings of female relationships which are often so delicate and intricate like a spider’s web, and just as sticky.

Xavier is a mega-creep. He certainly was flirty with Aria at his gallery showing, but then he showed up as Ella’s blind date. Aria decided that was the end of that, she wasn’t going to cause any more problems for her family. Yet, Xavier is still being flirty, and goes so far as to KISS her while Ella is out one night. Naturally, Aria is uncomfortable, especially since New A has been witness to Xavier’s indiscretions. Twisting it to look as if Aria were trying to steal her mom’s new man wouldn’t be the hardest thing to do. It’s best she try to keep her distance.

The novels usually focus around a specific Ali memory; book 4 was the day before the end of 7th grade sleep over, book 5 is focused on Time Capsule event held by Rosewood Day. As the novels progress, these memories gain more and more detail, from each of the 4 remaining friends. What makes it really interesting are the different details each girl recalls. These would probably be really useful for finding the killer, and A potentially, if the former friend posse were actually talking to one another.

Kate, Hanna’s soon-to-be stepsister, is a new and improved Ali or Mona replica. In fact, she may be even more wicked. Rather than keeping secrets, to potentially destroy Hanna’s reputation, she does everything she can to destroy Hanna’s relationship with her father. Not that it was good to begin with, but with Kate running the show things have only gotten worse.

Then there’s Ian Thomas. Out on bail, but under house arrest, he sneaks into the Hastings’s yard to talk to Spencer. His plea of innocence falls on deaf ears, but the secret he claims to be on the verge of uncovering piques Spencer’s interest. On the day of his trial, Ian doesn’t show up to court. His family can’t find him and the trial is postponed. Rosewood PD is on a manhunt. At this point, Spencer is forced to share her conversation with Ian, and her latest A message, with Aria, Emily, and Hanna. Even if they all believe Ian is guilty, doubt has begun to creep up on them. Will the real A, and the real killer, ever be found?!?

Unbelievable, Pretty Little Liars Book 4

Likes:
Less teen relationship drama

Dislikes:
Back to somewhat abrupt endings

Of course I still like and dislike all the other stuff I’ve liked about previous books too, but Shepard’s writing has definitely gotten better the further the series goes. While she still name-brand-name-drops quite a bit, it’s a lot less frequently that the first novel. Now it’s at least used in a way to give an accurate portrayal of someone or a situation, rather than just throwing it in to show that, ‘Hey these girls are RICH.’

I also really like that when a relationship ends, it just…ends. Granted that’s not entirely true of teen dating, or any relationships, most of the time, but I really enjoy that the Fitz story isn’t a long drawn out merry-go-round type of deal like it is in the show. Similarly, Maya and Emily’s relationship goes the same route; as does Aria and Sean Ackards’. Personally, I prefer this to the up and down, back and forth mumbo-jumbo that the show gives. However, I understand that it’s a primetime DRAMA so without that it’s more a mystery/horror show.

Also, the books are 100% more crazy than the show. A continues to seem helpful, in some ways, with her bitchiness. Mona-as-A kidnaps Spencer and tries to fight her to the death. Unfortunately for Mona, that doesn’t work in her favor, which leaves Hanna without a BFF yet again.

Honestly, I should have written this before I started reading Book 5 because now I’m trying not to mingle the details and muddled the facts presented in Book 4. So, it’s probably best that I walk away at this point…next review will be more thorough and hopefully, coherent.

Perfect, Pretty Little Liars Book 3

Spent my evening reading, and finishing, Perfect. The story just keeps getting better!

Likes:
Spencer!
Action between A fiascos
Hanna isn’t completely shallow

Dislikes:
Reminders…

I must say I was a little bit unsure how much better the books could be than the show. Considering Sara Shepard has been working with ABC Family to produce the show in accordance with the books, I assumed it was pretty accurate. And, in reality it is, however, the books offer SO much more.  

There are some flashback memories in the show, as are in the novels, but there aren’t as many. In Perfect we get video footage of the girls together, flashbacks from scenarios with each Pretty Little Liar, as well as some major conflict with Spencer (whose character has just solidly taken the position of favorite for me–even though in reality I’m probably a bit more of an Aria).

Sure the show is filled with tons of A drama–notes, emails, texts and more–as well as other teen-girl drama, but the books offer insight into the girls’ lives outside of A. Shepard is able to illustrate the complexities of their relationships with each other, friends and family, and of course Ali, in way that the show doesn’t allow.

The biggest complaint I have with Sara Shepard’s writing is the constant reminders that “Ezra is Aria’s AP English teacher”, “nothing is ever what it seems'”, and other similar instances. Not to mention, there’s a lot of reuse of descriptors, not just between each novel but within in them as well–like Rosewood apparently smells like Neutrogena sunscreen. Yes, it’s Young Adult Fiction, but she doesn’t give her readers/fans enough credit!

Perfect brings to light more potential suspects, incriminates Spencer who seems more than just a little off kilter, destroys relationships for more than one girl, and just makes you want more! No surprise there. Of course, just when they think they know who A really is…something unexpected and awful follows.

Flawless, Book 2 Pretty Little Liars

Started and finished Flawless yesterday, during my lazy/girly Sunday.

Likes:
Dynamic between characters
Little less name dropping

Dislikes:
Not too much really

Sara Shepard’s writing seems to have gotten exponentially better in Flawless. It’s still just as much of a page turner with constant drama or action, but the chapters don’t end out of nowhere and while there are still plenty of labels name-dropped, it’s not nearly as relentless as in the first book. Thank goodness!

We get it already: they’re rich private prep school girls in a kitschy town full of seemingly perfect people!! But what makes the quartet likeable is the many, many flaws they each have.

Unlike the show, Shepard’s words are able to bring us a new look at each girl and her motives for actions and lack of action. With insight into their minds’ inner workings readers can come to more full understand that characters. As with Pretty Little Liars the personalities continue to grow thanks to this method.

As a result of getting to know how each girl thinks of herself, her surroundings, and her “friends,” the dynamic between them and those in their life gets more interesting. In the show it seems like they’re constantly running out on someone without a reason–which they also do in the novels, but here it seems vaguely less spastic. I mean, what would you do if you were in the midst of tryst with your hottie AP English teacher and suddenly got a semi-anonymous text basically saying ‘I know what you’re doing and I can ruin your lives’? Personally, I’d probably freak a little too.

With Alison’s body found, the texts from A stopped. For awhile anyway. The problem(s) seemed to be under control, until Toby and Jenna Cavanaugh return to Rosewood putting the girls on edge yet again.

Because I’ve watched the first 3 seasons, I know what’s happening…for the most part. I remember episodes that play out all the main events and all the suspense that I felt during them. What the books offer, thus far, is a lot more depth. The in-between happenings may seem insignificant for a show, but they really bring a new level of sense to the situations Aria, Emily, Hanna, and Spencer find themselves in.

Starting Perfect, book 3, today. Cannot wait!

 

Book One, Pretty Little Liars

Finished!

Likes:
Easy to read
Great detail
Kept with show almost perfectly

Dislikes:
Abrupt endings
Name-brand name dropping

While the girls of Rosewood, on the show, don’t look exactly like the ones Sara Shepard had created in her novel, it’s a detail I can actually let slide. However, I think I like the girls in the book better. They seem fuller, more realized as characters and have way more personality. So far, Aria and Ali are the only ones that I would say were cast pretty accurately. Brunettes are blonds, blonds are brunettes but everything else is basically the same.

Spencer is your All-American girl who studies her ass off, plays field hockey, and whose relationship with her family isn’t exactly picture perfect; Hanna is the used-to-be-chubby-girl turned popular and gorgeous, she’s mean to the world, self-conscious beyond belief, but deep down still that old chubby girl; Aria is the quirky one who knits all the time, falls for the “wrong” guy, and finally was able to find herself in Iceland; Emily is the quiet swimmer with more inner turmoil than appears on the surface; and of course there’s Ali–the one who brought them all together, made them feel special, and kept all their deepest secrets. Or did she?

Each chapter directly correlates to an episode of the show, keeping in tact all the main events that make the story so addictive. But what’s different is the amount of detail you get about each of the girls. The relationship between Spencer and her sister, Melissa, is a larger part of what makes Spencer who she is. Hanna has more than ‘Daddy issues’ and struggles a lot more than she does in the show. Emily feels out of place in her own life and once she begins to make crucial decisions for her future she constantly questions herself then tries to convince herself otherwise. Aria still feels a little like an outcast after returning from her time abroad, but at least has more confidence than before, but she’s way more quirky, nervous, and anxious seeming than the show lets on.

Much is the same, but toward the end of the book, chapters started just ending. I would be reading along, the scene would get intense in some way and when I turned the page, BAM! new chapter. Then I’d flip back, press the pages together and try to separate them, sure that I had missed one by accident only to find that that’s precisely how it ended and we were moving on to the next thing. Not only was that a little unsatisfying, but it was jolting to just end at such a crucial moment. Yet, I guess that’s exactly what the show does at the end of every episode.

Because the books are set in a prep school, the fancy clothes and cars make a little more sense in the books–versus the public school version of the show, which is probably more accessible to more viewers. But I really hope that Shepard got some sort of commission or some of the residuals from all the companies/brands she’s dropping all over the place. Sometimes it helps paint the picture, but every miniskirt or pair of jeans doesn’t need a label attached to it for readers to get the idea of the setting. Eventually it becomes annoying and I just skip over it, unless it seems important for the point being made.

As texts from A start rolling in all the girls question where they may be coming from. But until Ali’s body is discovered and a memorial service is held, the four don’t turn to one another for help. Even in the moment when they all receive the same message, it’s uncertain whether they’ll come together or continue to go their separate ways. A lot has changed in the 3 years Ali has been gone, more than they probably realize.

Pretty Little Liars

Every Wednesday, the day after it airs, I watch ABCs Pretty Little Liars on Hulu. On Tuesdays I get so excited for my Wednesday night event that it’s a little ridiculous. I mean, it’s just a television show after all! But, after starting the show on Netflix about a year ago with a serious binge of the first season (and a half, maybe) I couldn’t just give it up.

Every episode is full of suspense, not to mention killer fashion. However, the fashion is sometimes I little over the top for me (Hanna). Even though I’m fairly sure that no real, 16-17 year old girl really dresses like that daily, there is plenty to the wardrobe that I would love to add to my own adult closet selection.

Now, after being prompted by a friend, I’ve started the book series. According to my trusted friend, who is not a booky like myself, the books are even better, more suspenseful, and fashion name dropping than the show. Because she’s not one to delve into a book, let alone a series, and become entire absorbed it must be pretty rivetting.