Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Lessons from Anime- Mental Illness in Your Lie in April

Well I waited forever to post the second part of my Your Lie in April writing lessons, didn't I? Oops. Last time we explored the portrayal of physical illness in the show. Today, let's talk about how Your Lie in April portrays MENTAL illness.

The media is really bad at getting this right, aren't they? At best, you’ll have a stirring drama about one man conquering the trials of his mental illness like in Beautiful Mind but at worst you’ll have a protagonist who only experiences things like depression, anxiety or ptsd as other people have heard about them. Usually that means a watered down...consumable form of the mental illness. Sometimes it means making them a straight up horror movie villain. Thanks, Split. Glad to see you’re keeping the trend alive.

And then there’s Kousei Arima. Kousei is not just that basement dwelling guy who just needed a manic pixie dreamgirl in order to stop feeling depressed. In fact, he has legitimate depression and PTSD that plays an active role in the story and CANNOT just be solved by Kaori. 

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His mother pushed him very hard to be great at the piano. Way too hard. She beat him when he got the notes wrong and made him practice for hours and hours every day as she was slowly dying herself. Since her death, Kousei hasn’t been able to play the piano the same anymore. He struggles to hear the notes and he keeps seeing and hearing his mother when he steps onto the stage.

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When we meet Kousei at the start of the show his whole world is represented in dull shades, at least when he is alone. It makes the mood around him so heavy. And when he plays the piano, it takes a step up by plunging him under water, where all sound is dulled and everything moves sluggishly. This is a pretty apt visual representation of depression. Dulled colors, dulled senses and this feeling of sluggishness that permeates everything. All the while, there’s this distant light far above Kousei’s head, too far away to reach.

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Now of course, he doesn’t just have depression, he also has a fair amount of anxiety and PTSD to the point where he sometimes shuts down on stage, cradling his head in his hand, tears rolling down his face, sweating buckets. This show doesn’t pull any punches with our main character’s mental breakdowns. He has triggers like sitting at a piano on stage or hearing certain songs and they affect him physically, making him nauseous and want to throw up, or making his legs shake backstage until they go numb. It is an ugly, terrifying, messy affair, and I was glad to see it well represented with Kousei.

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Now this isn’t a show about depression or ptsd or anxiety or any of that, and Kousei is not just a conglomeration of mental illnesses. He’s a prodigy at the piano, he has perfect pitch, he’s serious but can be convinced to have fun, and he’s extremely compassionate. Like Kaori he’s a well written character with some big problems that affect his life in palpable ways. And yes, Kaori does play a part in changing his life, but she doesn't CURE him. She simply pushes him to work through his fears and try to get to a better place.

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And that’s one of the reasons why Your Lie in April works as a show even with clichés galore. It easily could have been eyeroll-worthy because it has tropes for days and it’s pretty predictable. However, the excellent character writing for the leads carry the show to amazing places.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Season of Wind RELEASE DAY

Hey, what's up guys?

So today is pretty exciting. It's the release day of SEASON OF WIND the long awaited sequel to Hour of Mischief. Well...long awaited by some. You all know who you are.

Whatever the case, the kindle edition is availible for purchase on Amazon. Print editions should be available soon. Just go to this link here

If you haven't read HOUR OF MISCHIEF yet, pop over here to order a copy of that. There are a limited ammount of versions with the original cover yet. The new cover editions will be availible soon.

As always, remember that reviews GREATLY help authors to get the word out, so if you have a goodreads or an amazon account, drop me a rating. An honest rating of course ;)

Hope you guys enjoy the book!

Friday, September 15, 2017

Game of Thrones Predictions- House Stark

Back with more Game of Thrones posts, today we’re going to focus on the Starks and go more in depth with the fate of our favorite and most sorrow prone family.

The Starks have had a rough series run. The majority of Starks have been killed off, and those who haven’t were put through the ringer. Bran was crippled in episode one and now appears dead inside after taking on the responsibilities of the three eyed raven. Sansa has been married or engaged to plenty of terrible people, beaten, raped and generally tormented. And Arya endured abuse as a servant for the Lannisters and later as a trainee assassin, even having her sight stolen from her for a time. It is not easy to be a Stark. So how are they going to come out of this story? Will they have a triumphant ending or will their journey end in tragedy?

I should mention that for the purpose of this post I am NOT going to be talking about Jon Snow. While I consider him, personality wise, more of a Stark than a Targaryen, I am still going to save him for the Targaryen post, just so I don’t have so much to write.

That said, let’s focus on the true remaining Starks: Sansa, Arya and Bran.

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Game of Thrones has garnered a reputation for killing off main characters with no mercy. However, there was never a doubt in my mind that these three would make it this far. Because these are characters that suffer rather than die. That is the hallmark of their journeys: Suffering great personal losses and having to change to overcome the world around them. They are children who had to grow up very quickly to survive and they all developed into very different people. This is significant because none of them are a plot device in someone else’s story.

Take Shae, Oberyn and Tywin for instance. Each of these characters was killed off in season 4. But their deaths were not culminations of their own arcs but rather, Tyrion’s. Oberyn had to die so that Tyrion was forced to leave Westeros. Shae died as Tyrion’s tragic love interest, breaking his heart. And Tywin’s death was a long time coming and showed Tyrion finally standing up to his father. These characters, while all very interesting, were never going to be major players because they were tied to a different POV character.

On the other hand: Arya, Sansa and Bran are each a part of their own story. Therefore, they had substantial plot armor throughout the show. It’s not a knock against the show’s quality. All fictional stories have characters with plot armor. Some characters are necessary to the plot.

But now we must ask what the culmination of all this Stark suffering will be. After losing so many family members and spending their days in hellish environments, how will this madness end? With triumph or tragedy?

I think the answer is different for each of the Stark children, so I’ll cover each of their arcs separately before talking about them and their family as a whole.


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Let’s start with Bran, the youngest surviving Stark and the plot device that started it all. Bran’s fall from the tower is one of the great inciting incidents of Game of Thrones and it sends him on a journey of self-discovery. He learns more about his magical powers with the help of friends and, after being kicked out of his home by Theon, goes beyond the wall to the tree he saw in his dreams. There he becomes the new Three Eyed Raven, ascending to a higher form.

In many ways, Bran is already dead. His wolf, Summer, has been symbolically killed and he is a shadow of his former self. Really, he’s a plot potato, showing up to give exposition when needed but not doing much of his own volition. Because of this, his arc as a character seems to have ended already. He is no longer Bran. He is the three eyed raven, and more of an accessory to other’s stories now.

For this reason, his journey will likely end in tragedy. His suffering has culminated in his rise as the Three eyed raven, learning to fly. But as he is so powerful, the plot cannot allow him to live. It’s too easy to have an all seeing person around and that can open up a lot of plot holes if the all-seeing person doesn’t dispense much needed information.

Thus, Bran will fall in season eight, coming full circle from season one. His first death scare came in the first episode, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he lives up until one of the last episodes, maybe even sacrificing himself to help defeat the Night King. He does have one of the most personal relationships with the Night King because of his visions, so it would not be surprising if he was key to taking him down.

Alternatively, if Bran does live, he must find himself again and divorce himself from the three eyed raven. I don’t know if that is even possible, but I am open to possibilities. Maybe he could lose his memory again in an echo of the first episode. Right now, however, it seems like he will follow his wolf to the grave.


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Next we come to Sansa, one of my favorite characters, and also my candidate for most likely to survive this damn show. If someone asked me to bet my money on ONE character who I thought would survive Game of Thrones, I’d bet on Sansa. I would have bet on Sansa since the end of season one when we see her first true moment of strength.

Sansa’s arc has been marked by suffering, suffering and more suffering. She has arguably suffered more humiliation than anyone else on the show, being engaged to Joffery, beaten and psychologically tormented, married off to Tyrion, the member of the house that killed her family, engaged to another prick shortly after escaping while Littlefinger creepily preys on her, sold to the Boltons and tortured and raped by Ramsay. I could go on. But Sansa is the example of a character who started off naïve and slowly but surely learned to play the game.

With each passing season she got better at lying and hiding her true emotions, developing a mask worthy of even the best manipulators. She has become a powerhouse much like Dany and Cersei, but in my opinion, she’s a smarter politician than Dany and has a kinder heart than Cersei. She has become the game’s best player.

And since this show is called Game of Thrones, this means good things for Sansa. Now that she has finally cast off her so called ‘mentor’ Littlefinger, she has really come into her own. Not only that, but she is back at Winterfell where she belongs, along with her surviving family. This is a well earned victory for Sansa. And while season 8 will no doubt be a hard road for her, the only satisfying ending for Sansa Stark is her survival.

If she suffered so long only to die, it would feel excessive. This show has not been building to Sansa’s tragic downfall but her rise. When all the soldiers and fighters lay dead on the battlefield, she will outlive them all and be the one to bring the Stark house into spring.


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And last we come to my dearest Arya. The treasure of my heart. While I grew to love Sansa, Arya has been a favorite of mine since day one because I’m biased toward tomboys. Which is why I’m extremely nervous for her in the upcoming season of Game of Thrones.

But let’s reflect back on Arya’s journey first. Our pint sized Stark daughter has been through her fair share of suffering too. She watched her father die, then narrowly escaped the castle dressed like a boy. Soon after she fell into the hands of Lannister men and was forced to serve the patriarch of the family who destroyed hers. She survived travelling with the Brotherhood without Banners and the Hound and, after months without seeing her family, thought she might finally reunite with her mother and brother. Instead, she bore witness to the red wedding. This started her on the path of a killer, which eventually led her to Bravos where she endured the ruthless training regimen that one day even left her without her sight. Still, after all of this, she could not become faceless or abandon her family. She is still a Stark through and through.

At the beginning of season 7 was worried that Arya may have fully changed into an assassin when she did not immediately return to Winterfell. However, it is clear that by this season’s end, Arya has chosen her family over her vengeance, even making up with her sister Sansa. Her list is nearly exhausted and she just wants to protect the loved ones she has left.

Arya has had one of the journey’s most independent from other characters. She didn’t see any of her family since season one and wasn’t even in Westeros for two whole seasons. Now that she has returned with bad ass fighting skills and come into possession of a Valyrian steel dagger, it is clear she will play a big part in the war to come.

I stated in a previous post that Arya was one of my 50/50, live/die characters. Because there are a few ways I can see her story going.

1. The tragic revenge plot- Though she wants to become a Stark again, she has gone too far down the dark path and cannot leave the assassin life behind. She decides to go after Cersei herself and ultimately loses her life.

2. The sacrificial hero- Now that Arya is back with her family she will do anything to protect them, including sacrifice her own life. When one of her loved ones is in danger, probably Jon, she will step in to defend them. She can’t watch one of her siblings die again without doing something about it.

3. The survivor- Arya has already suffered a lot and proved herself a survivor. If she makes it through the Game of Thrones, she will experience more loss, but ultimately become stronger for it.
Whatever the result, Arya will never be a player of the game. She will not be a lady in a castle but rather her own person, following her own path. If she survives the war, she may even travel to get away from Westeros for a while. Now that she has seen so much she can never fit into a mold again. Her ending will be bittersweet no matter what. Though I would not complain if she and Gendry got a sweet resolution.

The Starks as a whole

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Whoever lives and dies, the Stark family must survive. After suffering so much, the name Stark will continue one way or another. It will be the finest revenge against their enemies: enduring. At this point, either Sansa will be the lone survivor of her house (not counting Jon if he lives), or the two sisters will live on. It is up for debate.

Let me know what you think in the comments. Next week we’ll talk about the Lannisters.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Season of Wind COVER REVEAL

I've already done a reveal on twitter and facebook, but I'm throwing in a blog post as well. I finally have the cover for SEASON OF WIND. And, as a bonus, a redesigned Hour of Mischief cover.

You all know my deep and abiding love for my first Hour of Mischief cover, but, of course, to give the series aesthetic some continuity, it makes sense to do the redesign. But that means that the original print of Hour of Mischief is going to become RARE so if you want an original cover version in print, hurry on over to Amazon to grab one ;)

And of course, don't forget, Season of Wind comes out on September 19th so it's a good time to refresh your memory on Hour of Mischief. If you read either, drop a review on goodreads or amazon. It always helps!

Here's the summary for Season of Wind- 

After her stint saving humanity with the God of Mischief, Janet Redstone now has a host of other problems on her mind, namely saving her friend Sylvia while avoiding the fast approaching godly war. Now travelling the desert realm of Kabila with her two surviving teammates, she just wants to kill as many wendigos as possible to get Sylvia's soul back.

But then strange things start happening. Janet begins healing faster than normal. She dreams of Itazura imprisoned in a dark room, even though he's a god and that's impossible. Oh, and when she touches locks, they just open. That's a midlly concerning development.

Turns out Itazura really is in danger. Captive of the Elder Gods, he's sent the majority of his powers to Janet for safe keeping. Said powers exhaust her every time she uses them and make her a target for all sorts of new enemies if she doesn't get rid of them soon. Now she must team up with a god she loves, a god she hates and a god she fears to save him, and avoid getting smote by the Elder Gods in the process.

Well, that's enough plugging from me. I'm excited about Season of Wind and the rest of the series to follow and hope you will be too!

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Game of Thrones- Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story?

BEFORE we jump into this post, just a quick plug- the sequel to Hour of Mischief, SEASON OF WIND, has a giveaway on goodreads right now so pop over if you'd like to win a copy. It comes out September 19th. Cover reveal will come soon.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Season of Wind by Aimee Hyndman

Season of Wind

by Aimee Hyndman

Giveaway ends September 30, 2017.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway

Okay, now to todays post! The question of Game of Thrones has always been ‘who is going to die’? As a show that built itself a reputation for murdering beloved characters, with each passing season fans have prayed for the survival of their favorites. But with the last season nearing the question becomes: Who will live?

It’s an exciting question, right? Whoever survives this season gets to live indefinitely in our hearts. We never have to watch their death scene. That’s the stuff dreams are made of. I certainly have favorites that I want to make it through, but I want to take a step back and think about this as a story teller. Putting my personal feelings aside, who do I think will make it through this season based on the needs of the plot? I have a few ideas.

1. There must be at least one survivor from each of the original houses

The original logo of Game of Thrones sported a wolf, a lion, a stag and a dragon, each symbolizing the houses of Stark, Lannister, Baratheon and Targaryan. These were our initial players. Obviously, there are other major families who have come and gone, but these four started it all.

With the arrival of Gendry, the one surviving member of the Baratheon family (literally the only one, the others have been out for a while), this old theory of mine becomes possible again. Many of the members of these houses are dead and gone. Certainly all of the original leaders are in the ground. But at least one member of each will survive to tell the story--and hopefully rebuild their family.

On the Baratheon side of things, there’s really only one option: Gendry. He didn’t come back from rowing just to get axed in the finale. I think this bastard son is going to make it through with his war hammer in hand. He’s been through a lot but he’s good at heart: brash like Robert but not a drunk or a war lord.

On the Targaryan side of things, it seems deceptively simple. Danerys has been the last Targaryan for a while. UNTIL of course, Jon Snow’s true parentage was revealed. Now there’s another Targaryan on the scene, which means Dany may not be safe. The more I watch the show, in fact, the more convinced I am that she is going to die. It has always been a little too obvious that she would be the one to sit on the iron throne. She’s been planning it since the beginning whereas Jon is a dark horse in the running. 

Jon could die. It’s in character for him to make reckless decisions and perish as a hero. But we’ve already had a death scare with him, so killing him at the end would lack punch (unless of course it happened in conjunction with Daenerys). There is a possibility they’ll both survive, but since George R.R. Martin has talked of a “bitter sweet” ending, I doubt it. If they do both die, you can bet that their child is going to survive. I don’t think there’s any question that Dany is going to get pregnant. The show has been a bit heavy handed with it’s foreshadowing in that department. But, whether that child will grow up parentless remains to be seen.

The Lannisters and the Starks have, oddly, the most surviving members, both standing at three. Let’s look at the Lannisters first. I don’t think there’s any question that Cersei is going to bite it by the end of this series. She will never bend the knee and with her children gone, she has no more love to give anyone. I don’t think she’s really loved Jaime for a while. She manipulates him and uses him, but she doesn’t seem to bare much true affection for her brother anymore, hence why he has finally left her. Loveless and cold, she will bend for no one and that will be her downfall.

As certain as I am that Cersei will die, I am equally certain that Tyrion will live. Tyrion is the underdog of his family and has also been close to death more than once. But, other than his sister, no one is out to get him anymore, and he’s established himself as important to many characters. Considering his arc, I can’t think of a satisfying way that the writers could kill off Tyrion. No. He is the dwarf who was underestimated all his life so he must be the one to survive.

And then we have Jaime, smack dab in the middle. Oh Jaime. He’s one of the only characters in the mix that I’m 50/50 on his chance of dying. On one hand he’s finally left his sister and his arc is headed in a positive direction. But will that result in ultimate redemption or a heroic death? Again, I can see either. If he’s going to die, I’d like it to be in the arms of Brienne as a small confirmation of my ship of all ships. But I’ll talk more about that in a later post. At the very least, Jaime will make it to the very last episodes, and if he does go, it will be fighting for the right side.

And then there’s my favorite family: the Starks. After losing so many Starks I am head over heels for all of the survivors. I want them to be safe and grow up strong. But I don’t think they’re all going to survive.

Bran is probably the Stark most likely to die at this point. The series started with him being crippled and now, according to the writers, he’s sort of dead inside. At least, he has moved beyond Bran Stark. But, simply put, he is too powerful to be left alive. He will likely play a huge role against the Night King, but in the end he will sacrifice himself. The show will come full circle.

Sansa is the Stark most likely to survive. If a character has been through enough, killing them is just excessive and not productive for their arc. And Sansa has been through a lot. She has grown from a naïve girl into a strong woman and I have no doubt that she will be one of the prominent rulers in Westeros at the end. Likely, the Queen in the North. She’s earned it.

Arya is another one of my 50/50 characters. As a fighter, she’s going to want to be in the thick of battle. That puts her in the line of crossfire. And though I dearly love her, there is a chance she could be killed, possibly protecting someone she loves. I think after reconciling with her sister, Arya is 100% on the side of her family. They are where she finds her identity and her name. She can’t deal with losing them again and would sooner die first than watch them go. But, on the other hand, she is a survivor and she could live on past the war and find her place in the world as a strong woman who no longer has to fight for her right to hold a sword. I am intrigued by both possibilities.

Those are the major families, but what about the other side characters? I’ll give you a quick rundown of their possible fates.

Theon- 50/50. He has been through enough at this point that killing him, again, seems excessive. However, he may die heroically, saving his sister, finally surrendering his cowardice.

Yara- 50/50. They’ve kept her alive for the last season for a purpose. Possibly just for Theon’s redemption arc, but who knows. If she dies, it will be fighting but I can see her living on. And wouldn’t it be great if a Lesbian actually lived in this show? That’d be rad.

Euron- He’s gonna die. Absolutely gonna die. No way he won’t die, hopefully at the hands of Yara or Theon.

Brienne of Tarth- 50/50. The other half of my ship is a warrior who will fight to the bitter end, but she does have a Valyrian steel sword. She’s gonna make waves and I do think, if Jaime dies, she will outlive him. Likely one or the other of them is going to die. Because happy endings never happen. Not that I’d complain if they did.

Davos Seaworth- Davos is going to live. It wouldn’t feel right to kill him. He’s one of the old characters who lives to a ripe old age and surprises us all. He will survive to adopt all the lost children of Westeros.

The Hound- If he goes, the Mountain is going first. I think he might live. He’s already had a death scare.

Tormund- Probs gonna die. They keep faking us out with his death, but since he doesn’t make much of a difference in the story anymore, the writers can let him go whenever they want to make us tear up.

Jorah- It’s amazing to me that he’s lived this long. I put my money on death. He will die fighting for Dany and have no regrets.

Lyanna Mormont- My girl is gonna live and be awesome. No question

Bronn- Another character who is...somehow still here? He’s either going to die in battle or get his castle.

Berric- Doesn’t have much of a point anymore and he’s on his last life with Thoros dead so...yeah, his days are numbered.

Melisandre- She has to die in this strange country and she will before the end.

Varys- Considering Melisandre’s foreboding line, Varys will likely die before the end. But he outlived Littlefinger, so he won that game.

Greyworm- Much as I love him, I doubt that D&D will let him live. He’s a loyal soldier and commander and we know what happens to loyal people in this show.

Missandei- She will live, even if Dany dies, and remain in an advisor role. She seems too smart to get herself killed and if she has to live with Greyworm’s death that would be more tragic.

The dragons- Obviously one dragon has already gone down, and I think Drogon will join Viseron before the end, just like his namesake. I think Raegal might be the dragon to make it through if any do.

And then, last but not least, Samwell Tarly. If I were to name a character for ‘Most likely to survive Game of Thrones’ it would be this boy. He’s the one you never expect to get this far but he has. And he is the reason for the name of this post. There’s the question of who lives or dies, but Samwell Tarly will be the one who tells the Song of Ice and Fire, which will be told for generations to come.

Those are my predictions. We’ll see if they’re right or wrong. Let me know what you think in the comments! I’ll be posting more detailed prediction posts in the coming weeks about the various families so stay tuned.

Happy Game of Thrones drought everyone and see you soon.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Game of Thrones Season 7: A Review

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And so the penultimate season of Game of Thrones comes to an end, leaving us with a possible year and a half wait for the conclusion of the epic fantasy series. Before I start a long series of posts containing my season 8 predictions, I think we need to look back at season 7. Because boy do I have a mix of thoughts.

Season 7 was a messy damn season, no doubt. The writing quality was up and down and the pacing set at light speed compared to previous seasons. Plus, because the writers are very far off of the book material now, they don’t have George’s writing to fall back on which gives us a mixed bag.

Before I start ragging on some of the writing, I think I should say something: I don’t hate the show runners. Shocking I know, since everyone seems to these days. Considering the massive project they have on their hands, I’m not surprised that there were mistakes and low points. Remember George has taken decades to write these series, whereas the show runners are working on a tight deadline of a few months to get scripts written and sent in. As a writer myself, I know that’s not a lot of time. This past season was also probably the toughest to pull off as they had to trim the fat of unnecessary characters and bring this huge world together in order to prepare for the final battle. This was a mammoth writing project, so I give credit where credit is due: they did try.

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s start talking about the bad bits of this season.

The Low Points

I remember when people used to complain about the pacing in previous seasons. They would whine about how a conversation was ‘slow’ or had ‘nothing to do with the plot’ or was just ‘filler’. And yeah, maybe some of those convos were filler, but I loved them. They gave us a chance to breathe and get to know the characters more. They built relationships between them before sending them into the fray. But, to those people who were complaining, CONGRATS. You got your wish! There is no time to breathe in this season.

Everyone has their hands on a teleporter now and ravens travel at the speed of light. It’s a real shift from the first season where they make a point that it takes one month to travel vis caravan from King’s landing to the North. Now, people can get from Dragonstone to the wall in a jump cut. This wouldn’t be such a problem if they showed time passing. But time is, frankly, a nebulous thing in Game of Thrones now. How old are the characters? We don’t know. How long did Arya stay in Bravos? Don’t know. How much time passed over the course of this season? Not a damn clue. It’s odd that the concept of time requires more suspension of belief than the dragons or white walkers.
That being said, the time thing doesn’t really detract from the story. It speeds it up and it’s hard to accept, but, whatever. We want to get to our good content right?

The problem is, while Game of Thrones rushes some things like no one’s business, it moves at a snail’s pace for other things. Which brings me to the most frustrating stories this season.
Did you know the Stark sisters and Jaime Lannister are among my top five faves in the series? They are! Do you know how frustrating they were to watch this season? EXTREMELY.

Jaime Lannister has been on a long game redemption arc for several seasons. He’s trying to go toward the side of the good but Cersei just keeps yanking him back with her manipulative ways. The problem is, it takes him too damn long to figure it out.

I get what the writers are trying to do. They’re trying to show inner conflict in Jaime and give weight to his relationship with his sister. He can’t just shrug off a manipulative relationship like that quickly. It takes time. But when Jaime has pretty much dropped his sister in the books (or so I hear. I haven’t read that far), it’s annoying to see him continuously serve her. ESPECIALLY after she blew up the sept. That should have been the thing that sent Jaime running so seeing him linger at her side for the entirety of the season was exhausting.

Obviously, they wanted him leaving her to happen at the end of this season. They couldn’t just do it in the middle because that doesn’t fit with TV pacing. The culmination always comes at the end. But they could have written more resistance on his part. More arguing with her. More pulling away. Calling her out on her blowing up the sept. But because this was all subdued, perhaps in effort to trick us into thinking Jaime is going to stay with his sister, it just ended up frustrating. And yeah, seeing him walk the hell out was one of the most satisfying scenes in all of scenedom. But that doesn’t mean the process wasn’t excruciating.

You know who did an arc like Jaime’s better? Avatar the Last Airbender. Yeah, remember when Prince Zuko went on a redemption arc but then at the last second turned back because he was pressured by his manipulative sister and driven by his desire to rejoin his family? That was really sad and heartbreaking. But then halfway through the next season he figured things out and left the family for good. They didn’t drag it out. His arc had its ups and downs but it made sense. I really wish they did something more like that with Jaime but *shrug*, at least he got there eventually.

Jaime’s arc is the example of slow writing but Arya and Sansa’s story is just an example of bad writing. Episode five and six were just painful to watch. Let’s break down why.

It is implied, in episode seven, that Arya and Sansa have been plotting together in order to out Littlefinger. Arya is clearly in on the plan, as is Bran. But there are a lot of questions here: how long have they been in on it? When did Bran tell the sisters what was going on? And why wait so long to kill Littlefinger if they figured it out?

Let’s say that the Stark sisters were never against each other. Let’s say that they had a plan from the start. That is the solution I would like to believe. But there are a lot of issues with that idea. Sansa and Arya aren’t always arguing in public. One time they have a conversation with the door open and another time outside in the courtyard. Theoretically Littlefinger could be listening in (though they don’t show him there, which is a problem). But the most emotionally dramatic of their scenes happens behind closed doors. No Littlefinger in sight. If the writers wanted to get across that this was a show for Littlefinger they should have shown him being nearby or snooping or something.
But this story wasn’t about fooling Littlefinger. It was about fooling the audience. The writers wanted to make the audience think that the sisters hated each other so they could have their big twist. And what a cheap twist it was: an ending we all saw coming because of the totally forced nature of the conflict between the sisters. The death of Littlefinger may have been amazingly satisfying, but the lead up was some of the worst stuff they’ve ever done on the show. Period.

I have other small quips about this season. Like how there seem to be a lot of side characters with nothing to do. Or how Tyrion didn’t seem like the main character in his own story up until the final episode. Or how plot-device Bran has dug the writers a hole because they’ll have to come up with wild reasons why he doesn’t share important info. But those things were more minor for me. So, let’s jump into the good stuff.

The Good

This was a season of closure. Finally, we get Dany in Westeros. Finally, Jaime leaves his sister. Finally, all the surviving Starks are back in Winterfell. Finally, Littlefinger got what was coming to him. Finally, Gendry is back from rowing. Finally, Theon is taking control of the Iron born and going on his redemption arc for his sister. Finally, that damn wall is coming down.

We’ve wanted a lot of this stuff since season one. We’ve made jokes about the Starks never getting back together and laughed about the White walkers slow, slow moving army. We’ve complained about Dany spending too much time in Essos and screamed at Jaime to just leave his sister. But now, we get what we wanted. Resolution to arcs set up in the very beginning.

For that reason, this season was very satisfying to me. Patience pays off here because finally I get what I’ve wanted. My Stark survivors reuniting at their home was so healing to me. Arya and Sansa hugging twice and admitting each other’s strength despite their differences--that was so nice to watch. Danerys actually touching down in Westeros was almost unreal. Seeing her in a room with characters like Jon or Cersei--priceless.

I’m also a sucker for all the small character connections. The Hound and Brienne talking about their adopted murder child, Arya. Tormund speaking dreamily about Brienne to the Hound. Gendry and Jon laughing about their fathers. Jon and Tyrion reconnecting. It shows what an interconnected web of characters we have now. If even one of them dies, several of them will feel it and that’s a great thing to set up going into the final season. Cause season 8 is gonna have so much death.

I also think the series was smart in restablishing the original four houses. Yes, there have been others, but at the beginning it was Stark, Lannister, Baratheon and Targaryan. They bring Gendry back as the remaining Baratheon. They put the Starks in one place. The Lannisters all reunited in the last episode, reestablishing their familial bonds before parting. And Jon was revealed as a Targaryan as he slept with his aunt (which was probably one of the most hilarious reveals ever, not gonna lie).

Meanwhile the show runners trimmed the fat, getting rid of the Martells and Tyrels. The Martells I won’t miss because of their terrible writing. There are still some survivors in Dorne who will rebuild. Just...away from the show. And though the Tyrels were awesome, it was good to cull them here before the big conflict. We still have the Greyjoys, but even Theon was established in the finale as an honorary Stark.

I’m glad the writers are narrowing the story again. It got so spread out but now everyone is coming back together, joining forces. There is one common goal now: defeat the Night King. Many character arcs have wrapped up or are close to wrapping up so it’s time to see where everything goes. Even though the writing quality was uneven, I think the show runners are setting themselves up for success.

On another note, I am a sucker for some CGI action sequences with dragons. I know it’s sometimes fanservicey but...whatever. I don’t care. I had fun watching. And I appreciate the continued moral ambiguity of Game of Thrones. They didn’t show Dany’s burning of the Lannister army as totally triumphant. They showed the horror of it. Even Littlefinger’s murder, though satisfying, was kind of sad and pathetic. Moral ambiguity has always been my favorite aspect of game of thrones. No one is wholly good or wholly bad. They’re all in a grey area.

In Conclusion

Honestly, this was a tough season for the show runners to write and I think we’re set up for a great eighth season. The pieces are in place for a lot of great reunions and battles. It was probably one of the weakest seasons in terms of quality, but still very enjoyable for the most part. I’ll be rewatching it soon for the highs and lows, and, until season 8 comes around, I’ll be making predictions like crazy.

Next time on the blog, we’re going to jump into season 8 predictions. See you then!

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Friday, April 21, 2017

Lessons from Anime- Your Lie in April and Physical Illness

In the next two weeks, we’re going to look to anime for a rather serious topic: physical and mental illness. These are two subjects that lots and lots and lots of media cover extremely poorly, some to the point of offensive for different reasons. This week we’re going to focus on physical illness.

Physical illness, particularly terminal illness, is often used as a gimmick in films to portray a strong, sweet soul, pushing through their lives despite their sickness, only to die in the film’s climax because it’s “sad”. Films like this ring hollow to the extreme because it’s so emotionally manipulative. It’s just a tear jerker ending to tug at the heart strings. It’s cheap and its cliché.

Particularly egregious is Nicholas Sparks’ Walk to Remember, partially because we never see the horrible reality of our main heroine’s illness. We barely see any symptoms or hospital rooms. Our main character looks pretty, acts strong, and goes quietly into that good night without much kicking at all. This is not the way to write physical illness. Physical illness is often debilitating, painful, and has a clear effect on the afflicted and those around them. Actually, I think the Fault in our Stars did this well because it focused on Hazel’s daily struggle with cancer. It was everywhere, from the pills and her oxygen tank to the hospital visits. Your mileage may vary on how Fault in our Stars handles other things but that’s a topic for another time.

I bring this up, because anime does this kind of thing too: regularly. Plenty of anime end with a death from a physical illness just to make you cry. It’s pure emotional manipulation without showing any of the harder parts of illness. But Your Lie in April is one anime that handles sickness well.

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Yes, it’s is easy to see Kaori as the suffering but strong heroine at the beginning. A manic pixie dream girl who’s going to help our main hero change. But she isn’t just an inspirational figure. She’s loud and brash, living life impulsively because of her illness. To hell with what anyone else thinks. She wants to get the main character to play a duet with her since she has admired him as a pianist and she’ll do anything to push him onto the stage. She honestly has a lot of character that is not based around our leading guy.

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But of course, she’s sick, which you figure out pretty early on, and her slow loss of health is not an easy or gentle thing. As time passes she starts snapping at her friends more as her emotions come unhinged. It becomes clear that her bubbly personality was often a mask to hide her illness. She takes more falls, her legs stop working right and we even get a scene of her screaming and hitting her legs in the hallway, begging them to stand. We see her seizing up on the hospital bed. Even her coloration grows paler as the show goes on.

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However, Kaori’s illness doesn’t define her. She is bursting with personality outside of her eventual death. That’s one of the keys: her illness affects her life in a variety of ways but it also doesn't dictate who she is. Its not just a one off note to make the audience cry but she’s not just that sick girl we should feel sorry for. She’s a nuanced human being beyond her struggles.

Because people who are sick aren’t just there to make people cry or develop able bodied characters arcs. They get arcs of their own and they are their own people, and Your Lie in April gives a stirring example of that done right.

We’ll talk about mental illness in Your Lie in April next week. Until then, happy writing!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Notes from New York- Quiet Middle Grade

Today on notes from New York, I want to talk about a category of book that I don’t see often, but wish I did, because of how visceral and charming it can be: quiet middle grade. Because middle grade novels are aimed at kids turning teenagers, a lot of books in this category are fast paced and action packed, or filled to the brim with humor. Sometimes both! That’s all great. I love a fun middle grade like Percy Jackson. But quiet middle grade is another beast entirely and quite hard to pull off.

When I say quiet, I don’t mean slow or boring. Quiet stories are often extremely engaging on an emotional level. They tug at the heart strings and envelop you in the ambiance, completely drawing you in even though the plot isn’t racing by at the speed of light. Rather, the plot is drifting, and you’re content to watch it pass.

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A good example of a ‘quiet’ story for younger viewers is Kiki’s delivery service, which is an incredible little movie from Miyazaki. Though the main character is a witch, the film isn’t an action fest. Rather, its about a young girl moving to a new place and starting a little business. There are so many quiet moments in this movie but they’re often pleasant, calming...even moving. The film isn’t afraid to sit in silence and let the moment pass.

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When I was interning in New York I read a submission that fit under this umbrella. Because it was set on the gulf coast I was utterly transported to my childhood vacations to Florida, so much so that I could smell it. I could feel it. It was oddly emotional and it made me home sick for the beach. That’s the kind of power that quiet middle grade can have.

So, if you have an idea that you think might be “too slow” for a younger audience, give it a go anyway. There are lots of kids who don’t mind a calmer plot, and you can trust them to sit still in a moment without getting bored. We all need our special, quiet stories to relax with on a lazy Sunday when we just want to watch the world drift by. 

That's all for now. Happy writing!

Monday, February 27, 2017

Notes from New York: Memoir and Platforms

Welcome back to Notes from New York. Today we have a shorter post, less about writing and more just a query tip in general regarding memoirs. When I first started interning I hadn’t read many memoirs (or much nonfiction in general), but within the first month, I had read several samples and two full manuscripts. The two full manuscripts were both well written and engaging. One came from a writer with a strong journalistic background and platform who had an exceedingly interesting life to boot. The other came of a writer who also had an interesting life, but did not have much of a platform to speak of.

Guess which one drew more interest from the agent?

Yes, that’s kind of the hard thing about memoirs and nonfiction in general. Any editor or agent is going to look at your life story and judge it not just on quality of story, but also on marketability? It’s not that a memoir from someone without a platform can’t sell, but it’s certainly less likely. It’s one of those difficult facts about the nonfiction publishing world. If you don’t have a platform through your work or even through social media, an agent is going to wonder if you can advertise yourself. Memoirs, unlike fiction, are deeply personal and require more self promotion.

On another note, don't try to sell your memoir as fiction. Agents can usually tell a memoir masquerading as women’s or contemporary fiction. They’ve been in this business awhile, and you don’t want to try to get an agent by lying. That’s not to say you can’t use your life as influence for a fictional novel, but remember that there is a difference between real life and fiction. Real life doesn’t have a concrete story structure, for instance, nor does it always have a complete arc.

And lastly, if the agent doesn’t accept memoir…don’t query them with memoir. Not even if they also represent women's fiction, romance, etc. Unless specified otherwise, that means the fictional genres, not memoir. It seems like common sense but you wouldn’t believe the number of people who ignore submission guidelines.

That’s it for today. Happy writing!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Lessons from Anime- The Lost Art of Tragedy in Fate/Zero and Madoka Magica

When’s the last time you watched or read a good tragedy? If you’re most people, its probably been awhile. After all, tragedies are kind of a bummer and can tug your heart strings in all the worst ways. Most story tellers aim for dramas or comedies instead for their more hopeful endings. And even when a show or book goes for tragedy, often it isn’t very good. It feels emotionally manipulative when a character is killed at the end just to get a sad, tear jerker finale. Simply put its hard to earn that tragic conclusion in a way that makes the story feel satisfying. But when it works, it works.

In a lot of ways, tragedies are kind of a lost art. When you hear the word tragedy, you probably think of the ancient Greeks or one of Shakespeare’s great plays. Good modern tragedies are far more rare because they are so hard to pull off. But today I want to take a look at two anime that understand the art of tragedy. And they both come from the mind of the same man- Gen Urobuchi.

Nicknamed the Urobutcher for the fates of many of his characters, Urobuchi, is one of the greats in the anime industry. He’s a masterful storyteller, having a talent for really getting his audience emotionally invested in the fates of the characters.

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In one of his works, Fate/Zero, magicians fight for the right to the Holy Grail through the use of heroes from all historic ages. Most of the audience goes into the story knowing it will end in tragedy (as it is a prequel). But none the less, its impossible not to get invested. The characters are likable and they have goals they hope to achieve with the power of grail. But they also have damning flaws such as arrogance, stubbornness, or naivety that ultimately will keep them from their dreams (or lives).

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In Madoka Magica, an anime that explores the Magical Girl genre (think Sailor Moon), young girls make contracts to gain powers and fight witches in exchange for the granting of one wish, any wish at all. But the venture of being a magical girl may not be so glamorous as it appears and every wish comes at a hidden cost.

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Both of these anime’s have a similar element that proves Urobuchi really understand tragedies--wishes. A great tragic hero is ultimately driven by something important to them. Maybe its even a goal to which we relate like the desire to help a close friend, make amends or even to simply survive. However, in a tragedy, the hero ultimately fails to grasp this goal because they have a damning flaw that will keep them from a happy ending. Maybe they go about getting their wish the wrong way, at the expense of others, or don’t think of the consequences. Hamlet spends too much time thinking about the path to revenge and more people die because of it. Othello acts too quickly on jealousy and kills his love. Romeo and Juliet are surrounded by a society that curses their love and they die because of it (or because they needed communicate the plan better).

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Madoka Magica is the best example of this idea simply because each of the girls make a distinct wish that ultimately determines their fate. It’s not predictable by any means, but it does follow story telling 101- set up and pay off. The beginning leads to the middle leads to the end, and it all flows seamlessly together. Its one of my personal favorite anime for just that reason because its just one of the best written things I’ve ever watched.

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And its gorgeous

In all of these tragedies, the flaw is built in from the beginning. From the moment the hero sets out on their journey, we get the feeling they may falter. They may not lose everything. They may not even die. Maybe they’ll even get some semblance of a happy ending. But there will be losses and they will feel earned. It won’t just be for a tug on the emotional heart strings. Really good tragic endings feel necessary. Almost inevitable. And it is in that kind of tragedy that we find as much satisfaction as we would in a happy ending.

Madoka Magica and Fate/Zero are two stellar examples of modern tragedies, both with bitter sweet endings. They make you root for the characters despite the dark path they walk, and they make you cry when everything comes crashing down. But you don’t feel cheated. You don’t feel manipulated. You feel good, ultimately, because you’ve got to love a well told story. So if you feel like consuming a great modern tragedy in the near future, check either of these works out!

Monday, February 13, 2017

Notes from New York: Forced Immitation

Welcome back to Notes from New York! Its about time we get back to our usual schedule of updates don't you think? Well let's jump right and talk about "trying too hard".

Is there such thing as "trying too hard" in the writing world? After all, we all put our blood sweat and tears into our manuscripts. Some days it feels like we can never be enough. How can we ever put in enough effort? But actually there is such a thing as trying too hard, and it usually shows in your prose in the form of forced immitation.

In my internship, there were many occasions when I opened up a query, read the sample pages, and found myself reading a piece of literary fiction that was putting way too much effort into flowery prose. They used lots of big words that, theoretically, could be put to beautiful use. But it just didn’t sound natural. This is often a case of forced imitation. The writers behind these pages really wanted to emulate their favorite authors so they tried to mimic their style. But when you’re mimicking and trying to force your prose to be flowery through an overuse of adjectives and large words…it can verge on sounding fake, unnatural and pretentious.

Why is this? Well because this isn’t your style. It’s someone else’s that you are forcing yourself to emulate. Pro tip, a reader can always tell when a writer is faking it. Its something about the way the words are strung together. They come out stilted rather than flowing. Confused rather than clear.

Forced imitation shows in the work of commercial fiction writers too, of course. Sometimes you can tell an author is trying way too hard to mimic the style or sense of humor of one of their idols. I had a phase myself where I strove to recreate the sarcastic wit of Maximum Ride. It came out very forced and cringy...and honestly, the sense of humor in those books was already forced and cringy. 

The best way to fix this problem? Get to know your own style. Heck, maybe your style is literary, with prose like honey. Maybe your sense of humor is a riot. But as long as you’re simply imitating, you won’t find that genuine voice that sets you apart from the others. 

Of course you may continue to draw inspiration from your favorite authors. Of course continue to read, read and read more to improve your own writing. But remember, imitation at the detriment of your own voice is a killer. An agent doesn’t want ‘the next blank’. They want someone new and fresh. Take a risk on your voice and maybe you’ll find something special.