Symbolism in Addie La Rue

I first encountered The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab on bookstagram where it seemed like everyone was discussing the story. This novel hit the NY Times Bestseller List for 37 weeks straight through July this year, and not without good reason. In my opinion, the story more than lives up to the hype, and it is so effectively compelling because of the symbolism Schwab weaves through the narrative. Today I want to discuss three of the most important motifs that make Addie’s story so memorable and how aspiring authors can learn from Schwab’s writing to create meaningful symbols of their own. This will contain some spoilers, so if you haven’t read the book yet, beware of that before reading.

Synopsis:

Adeline LaRue is a young woman living in the small town of Villon, France in 1741, who desperately wants to see more of the world. She feels trapped in an engagement she doesn’t want, and fears the headlong rushing of time, saying, “I don’t want to live and die in the same ten meter plot.” Her faith is torn between the Christian God of her parent’s and the old gods of her elder friend, Estele. On the night of her wedding, she flees into the woods and pleas for some higher power to save her from her fate, and the night answers. Despite Estele’s warnings to never pray to the gods who answer after dark, Adeline strikes a deal with him. At first, she offers a wooden ring, carved for her as a child by her father, but the god doesn’t deal in “trinkets.” They bargain, and draw their terms: immortality in exchange for her soul when she doesn’t want it anymore.

When she returns to the town, she finds that everyone she knew has forgotten her. She cannot remind them of her name, because every time she tries to speak the words, they get stuck in her throat. She cannot write or leave any permanent mark. Any interactions “reset” the curse. As soon as the other person walks away, they forget her again. However, she can steal. She takes some bare essentials and a wooden bird from her father’s workshop before fleeing the town. The story follows Addie – no longer Adeline – between her past through the centuries, and modern day NYC, as she navigates her curse and meets Henry Strauss, the first person in over 300 years who remembers her.

Continue reading

Author Interview: Hyba Ouazzani & Apartment

Today I’m pleased to introduce you to my good writing friend and inspiration, Hyba! I’ve mentioned her before on this blog: specifically to promote her podcast in my writing resources post, and to leave a glowing review of her novel, Apartment, in my last goals recap. I’m thrilled to have her on the blog to talk about how she developed her book, and I hope you enjoy reading this interview as much as I enjoyed conducting it.

Etta: Can you start by telling us about yourself and what you write?

Hyba: My name is Hyba Ouazzani, and I’m a Muslim author, podcaster, and blogger based somewhere on the vast continent that is Africa.

I enjoy writing in a range of genres. Apartment is my psychological thriller, and I’m currently working on a murder mystery called Marie/Elise, a high fantasy novel called The Pirates of Sissa, a futuristic sci-fi called Neon Vape: A Vaporwave Odyssey, a horror novel called An Entity in Your Midst, a GameLit serial fiction called The Beast of Ildenwood, an epistolary Gothic tale called Letters to Adam, and many, many more! Sometimes, I write poetry and short stories. In short, I enjoy writing in all kinds of formats and genres. If the story and concept idea are good enough for me, then that’s all that matters.

That being said, I am most interested in writing pieces that make certain statements about society and humanity at large. Pieces like Apartment are meant to challenge the reader, make them ask questions about the darker aspects of human nature and the world we live in. The Pirates of Sissa deals with justice, conflict resolution, and the lasting effects of imperialism. Neon Vape takes a hard look at the extent to which companies are willing to go to make a profit and be market leaders—in other words, the dark side of capitalism. I’m working on a short story that challenges the impossible beauty perceptions and other expectations pushed upon women. Anywhere there’s a good discussion to be had is where I want my books to be!

Etta: That’s a wonderful variety, and I’m looking forward to reading the rest of your works! I recently finished Apartment, so I wanted to know, what gave you the idea for that story?

Hyba: Apartment came out of the blue as I was sitting criss-cross-apple-sauce on my bed. I had the urge to write something, and I started writing it—though I wasn’t even certain what I was writing at that time. There was just the apartment building, huge and ugly and empty. And there were just the two inhabitants—two in the midst of this great, big beast of a building. Those first words that the book starts off with are the first words that I wrote for Apartment (though they’ve undergone a bit of editing ever since, especially when it comes to keeping track of the numbers!). I chose a place to anchor my ship and got to work.

It was weird, messy, and entirely unexpected. But somehow it worked together in such a way that I began to see it take some kind of form. These characters that went about their mundane everyday lives but were just a little off. That sticky suspense that clung to their skin like sweat. The cold, isolated, hollow building set in that sprawling hot desert. All of it came together, and as I started weaving all of these elements into a picture that made sense, I knew that this was an intriguing project.

I wanted it to mean more than what I was putting on paper, so I took a lot of care to craft the story in such a way that it could be analyzed, read and re-read. The story unfolded, the characters came to life, and even when I got to that muddy middle, I somehow found a way to trudge through and see the whole book to the end. It was the first book I’d ever finished.

Etta: This story is labeled as ‘magical realism.’ How did you choose which aspects of the story to make fantastical and which to keep grounded in our world?

Hyba: I knew that the fates of certain characters needed to be metaphorical and symbolic of wider themes—for example, James and Eli have very fantastical ends as characters. In other areas of the book, I chose to insert magical or fantastical elements to highlight key points about the plot, characters, settings, or themes—and almost always signal to readers that “This means something deeper!”

In other words, the fantastical aspects are almost never added just to be there. Most, if not all, convey specific messages and invite readers to think about what these strange and unexpected events and characteristics actually mean about the characters, the settings, or the themes found within the story.

Etta: Do you think horror and suspense stories based on speculative fears (demons, supernatural, ghosts etc.) or real world fears (stalkers, serial killers, natural disasters, etc.) are more effective? Or do you think it depends on the particular story?

Hyba: Not only do I think it depends on the story and its execution, but I also think that it depends greatly on the reader and what they believe in. For some readers, the supernatural is a very real thing, and is therefore a very real fear, but others scoff at the supernatural and find pure entertainment within the pages of such horror. For some, fear of the unknown is stronger than fear of the known, while the opposite is true for others. An unstoppable event, like a natural disaster, may be much more frightening for some readers than something that could potentially be stopped, like a stalker. And yet, there are also some that will find a natural disaster much less horrifying than a malicious, evil human being.

I think it boils down to the psychology and beliefs of the reader. We all have those little things that really make us tick—that make us smack those pages closed and check to make sure our doors are locked and the windows are closed and the bathroom light is on before we fall asleep. At the end of the day, any kind of horror will find its intended audience, and that audience will appreciate it as a horror that is true to them and, in some ways, very real.

Etta: Psychology plays a large role in the story: how did you develop the characters with such specific neuroses that play off each other so dramatically?

Hyba: The characters’ psychologies are based on real-world issues, arguably magnified (and arguably not). I think when you get a cast that has such a diverse set of vices, opportunities for these vices to come head-to-head start popping up naturally. While I didn’t set out to have their neuroses play off of each other, I did enjoy pairing together characters that are destined to meet again (ex: Alex and Eli), and characters whose meetings are unexpected (ex: Angela and the Manager).

In fact, my main focus was on their demises. I knew that Eli and Alex’s fates were intertwined, and therefore their final scenes had to be with one another. I also knew that their destructive nature meant that one of them wouldn’t make it out of that final meeting alive. I knew that Angela’s new-found delusions of grandeur would lead her to her downfall, and what better way to do that than at the hands of the Manager, whose own superiority complex and history places him much higher up the abominable “food chain”, as it were? And, I knew that the Manager, for all of his arrogance and self-confessed hunting prowess, needed to be put to a stop in a way that was entirely unspectacular and unimportant—and so his death came at the hands of the driver. And, the driver, for his part, comes to meet his fate as a result of Eli’s death. Some deaths are interlinked in ways that are fantastical, which allows me to paint a broader, more profound picture for the reader.

That being said, I can see how putting two characters together because of their psychological conditions might turn out various intriguing scenarios. Say, for example, a pyromaniac and someone with a pyrophobia being stuck together in a setting rife with flammable items. I can certainly see this playing out into a very tense psychological thriller!

Etta: How fascinating! Thank you for explaining your reasoning! Now, of course, the setting is crucial in any suspense story, and especially in this one. What inspired the aesthetic of Apartment?

Hyba: It was so long ago, I’m not quite sure what first inspired me to create the Apartment aesthetic anymore. I want to point to the concept of the liminal space, and the idea of someone existing in an empty place on their own. I might also point to various architectural styles and buildings, especially the strange not-quite-rightness of brutalist and/or constructivist architecture—especially those huge buildings that seemed to dwarf everything around them. It seemed so alien, so impersonal, so isolating. I think these are a couple of aesthetics that may have inspired Apartment in its early days.

Etta: That makes a lot of sense! Carrying off the last question, what prose choices did you make to help build up the atmosphere such as a certain extended metaphor or motif or symbol?

Hyba: One of the big decisions I made, though it might have happened subconsciously at first, was creating a sense of the mundane in the prose, especially towards the beginning of the novella, to help strange events (hopefully) stick out in stark contrast to the regular everyday goings-on of the characters. For example, you have a scene where James is going about his usual morning ritual until something strange happens, something out of the regular day-to-day, something that stands out in contrast to what he has become used to. And from there, that little thing starts picking at him, again and again, becoming more and more apparent, demanding more and more attention, and ultimately transforming him.

There were many reasons for choosing this kind of narrative technique. Not only did it serve to create contrast, but it also served to pull the reader into an almost sleepy lull—until they come upon a little detail, pass it, recognize that it wasn’t altogether a normal thing, and go back again to double-check. I wanted readers to almost-miss these little threads that begin to unravel at the beginning of the story. In addition, it also created a sense of suffocation. We’re so trapped inside the characters’ heads—stuck with them in their minds, and stuck with them in this building—that it creates a sense of frustration and restlessness, a sense of suffocation. I believe it helps readers understand better why certain characters are so easily led astray once they are given the chance, and why some of them seem to act almost desperately restless, just looking for something to do.

There are quite a lot of other elements in the book—choices that I made for a variety of different reasons as it pertains to prose, symbolism, metaphors, and more—but it would take a long time to write about them. If anyone is interested in learning more, though, I’ve written and released an entire literary companion for Apartment that’s available here (for free). Check it out—but only if you don’t mind spoilers!

Etta: Thank you for sharing that resource! One last question, what was your favorite part about writing Apartment?

Hyba: Writing suspense—building it into my stories—is one of my favourite parts of writing in general.

With Apartment, I felt it was almost all suspense. In fact, that was one of the reasons I enjoyed it so much, and possibly one of the reasons that I was able to push through and finish it in a shorter amount of time than any other book I’ve been working on. That slow-burn, rising tension is one of my favourite things to write, especially when laid into the perspective and mind of a character that may or may not be completely alright—or completely reliable.

Up until Apartment, I didn’t think I could write something that was almost purely suspense-driven. I always stumbled upon plot, and how to reconcile suspense with other elements that were—well—not so suspenseful! Apartment was a huge learning experience for me as an author, and I’m very happy with the result, and so happy to know that readers have enjoyed it, too.

Etta: Well, I know I loved the story, and I’m sure others have as well. Where can people find you and your writing?

You can find me over on my blog (hybaiswriting.blogspot.com), where I share short stories and snippets, a range of updates for WIPs, talk about my characters and worlds, and sometimes write advice or research posts related to books and writing. To connect with me on my social media, find me on Twitter (@HybaIsWriting), Instagram (@hybaiswriting), Tumblr (@hyba), and Pinterest (hybaiswriting). Finally, you can also check out my podcast over on Anchor (anchor.fm/hyba) or your go-to podcast app!

Thank you again to Hyba for agreeing to do this interview with me and for leaving such thoughtful and thought-provoking answers! If you enjoyed this, be sure to go check out her other work. Thank you for reading, and until next time, happy writing!

6 Types of Framing Structures

Framing Structures are a literary device used to add context to a story for the benefit of the audience’s understanding or deepening the experience. They’re everywhere in fiction, but how can you choose which one works best for your story? In my experience, they fit into one of the following six categories, which I’ve defined for you today! Each has different purposes, strengths, and weaknesses, and none is better than the others, so this article takes an analytical look at what makes them work well, and includes examples to illustrate. So let’s get into the trope talk, shall we?

Passed down

These are stories that start with one character (normally an elder) passing down a story to a younger audience that serves as a reader stand in. We hear the story within a story through the lens of the character hearing it for the first time. This is often the simplest kind of framing sequence and creates a feeling of familiarity or relatability with the framing characters. Writers understand the joy of telling a story to an enraptured audience, and who hasn’t sat for a read-aloud as a child? This framing sequence also brings the story into our world, and people may want to go find the story from the story. A great example of his framing structure is The Princess Bride (both the movie and book), where the grandfather tells the story to his sick grandson, and the author makes snarky commentary in the margins.

Recounted

This structure is very similar to the “Passed Down” structure with one key difference – the character doing the storytelling exists diegetically or in-universe. The scale of this frame can vary from the protagonist recounting their entire life story to a new acquaintance to sharing a short tale between characters as they sit around the campfire. This is another common and relatively simple structure that can be used to great effect for immersion or demonstrating a moral. Often, at the end of the story, a character might explain what they or the subjects learned from the experience and how they came to be in the current situation. These can take a first or third person approach and the form of a retrospective or in media res, where the reader is filled in on the history as necessary. The audience learns more about the world through the characters, as this is a great way to sneak in subtle exposition. It also helps you learn about the characters themselves. Are they an unreliable narrator or lecturing their subject?

An example of this structure is seen in A Monster Calls, by Patrick Ness, where the monster tells Conor three stories in exchange for his truth. This is one of the oldest examples of a framing sequences as well, being found in One Thousand and One Nights, where the storyteller is a woman in the sultan’s court who receives a death sentence, but tells the king a story each night, never ending it before dawn so that she can postpone her execution one more day. After One Thousand and One Nights of stories, the king decides to spare her life. (For further reading, The Library of Congress has a fascinating article on this.)

Dream Sequence

This structure is very useful for playing with surreality and fantastical elements without breaking the status quo. It allows endless what-if scenarios to put the characters through a gauntlet of incredible (or horrifying) experiences without necessarily putting them in physical harm, though the stakes can be raised if what hurts the character in the dream world can also hurt them in real life. Sometimes this trope gets a bad rap for being used as a fake-out, but dreams give us a deeper look into a character’s psyche, especially if they’re not the type to share their emotions externally. The Matrix is the quintessential example of this trope, but my personal favorite is my good friend Quinn’s book, Dream’s Shadow, which takes this framing sequence to the next level in a way I’ve never seen pulled off so well. If you’re interested in reading more about this WIP, you can read our conversation here!

Nested

Nested structure is an exponential version of the recounted structure, where a character begins to tell their own story, then takes a tangent to explain an element of that story. This gives a “story inside a story inside a story inside a…” situation, which can provide more depth to the world and set up foreshadowing for future plot points to come back later. This is less common in modern literature, which is as streamlined and trimmed as possible, but it can be seen often in classic literature. In Frankenstein, the framing character is the sister of a sea captain receiving his letters from an artic expedition. The captain comes across Victor Frankenstein who tells him the story of how he arrived in the artic, which includes telling the Creature’s story of how he survived abandonment by hiding near a family cottage, which includes telling the story of that family, and then backing out of the layers towards the present. The entire novel is told in retrospect using a dive in-climb out model.

Another subset of this is the tangent-setup nesting structure, which is seen in The Count of Monte Cristo. Every few chapters when Dumas explores a new plot thread, it may seem like he’s simply getting distracted and exploring unnecessary backdrop – I remember when first reading, I found the Italian Bandit and Haydee subplots to be tedious, but just when I thought I’d forgotten about the event, the characters return to play a role in the final revenge schemes. It’s pulled off so well I wrote a 4 part analysis last year, so if you’re interested in learning more about this, I’ve linked the first part here.

Epistolary

Epistolary framing structures tell a story through letters, newspaper clippings, journal entries, and the everyday writings of characters interacting with the plot. Often, each snippet contains one limited POV, and the sum of each part gradually reveals more about the story through the eyes of the narrating character. This format is especially useful for mysteries and suspense where keeping the audience partially in the dark is important to the plot, and they allow for an extremely narrow focus on character psychology. Dracula is the best example of this framing structure, and I also wrote this post breaking down why it works so well for the horror genre if you’re interested in reading more.

Discovered

In a discovered plot, the framing character is an investigator of some sort collecting clues about what’s really going on. This framing structure is not unique to serial mysteries, but this is perhaps one of the most common examples, where an anthology of standalone adventures gradually builds to an overarching meta plot. While it is difficult to pull off, the culmination of events can be extremely satisfying, and red-string brigades will have a blast trying to connect the dots before the framing character does. This structure also supplies endless rewatch/relisten/reread value as you can go back and pick out the foreshadowing in each episode. My favorite example of this trope is Rusty Quill’s The Magnus Archives, a horror fiction podcast that has some of the best setup/payoff delivery of any work I’ve seen.

Which framing structure is your favorite? Have you read, watched, or listened to any of the examples provided here? Are you using a certain framing structure in your wip? Tell me about it in the comments, let’s start a discussion. Thank you for reading, and happy writing!

In the Dark – Dracula

Hello my friends, it has been a hot minute since I last shared a reading rec, but what better month to get back into it than October! Today I want to share my personal favorite classic horror novel, and break down what makes it work so well. I’m sure we’re all familiar with the characters of Dracula from pop-culture, but they’re often so far removed from the original context that the concepts lose their teeth (heh). To understand why Dracula became such a ubiquitous icon of the vampire horror genre, we need to revisit why people feared him in the first place. For this article, I’ll be referring to the book with italics, and the character in normal text, to avoid confusion. This will also include spoilers, since I stand by a copyright-spoiler expiration policy. If you want to read the book for free, a copy is available from Project Gutenberg (which is what I used to find my excerpts.)

I’d also like to preface this with a disclaimer that if you’ve read the SparkNotes summary, this article will have a much different analysis. In my opinion, the SparkNotes takes a bad-faith assumption that treats the male characters as sex-motivated repressed Victorians who ignore religion for scientific advancement and fear Strong Women ™. I disagree, but I encourage you to read the book and both analyses to form your own opinion. If you’ve read the book already, leave a comment to start a discussion!

Framing Structure

Dracula is an epistolary novel, told through a series of 1st person journal entries, letters, and newspaper clippings. Bram Stoker introduces us first to Jonathan Harker, who meets Dracula at his Transylvanian castle and experiences the threat first hand, and isolated from the rest of the characters. His diary entries show his desperation and fear as he tries to escape, then cut off, leaving us to wonder if he’s still alive.

The story then cuts to an exchange between Mina Harker and her friend Lucy. Through these letters, we meet the most of the rest of the supporting cast: Dr. Seward, Arthur Holmwood, and Quincey Morris, the three men who propose to Lucy. During this portion of the story, the tension is low, but since it comes after Jonathan’s diary entries, we know that the threat is still out there. Stoker creates a feeling of dread as we wait for the Dracula to reappear. When he does, the characters remain oblivious to the growing horrors that plague their town, as they lack the context of Jonathan’s experience. The dread becomes dramatic irony, as the characters live in ignorance and the reader watches the events unfold, unable to warn them.

This framing sequence throughout the book also maintains a sense of mystery, as the reader still doesn’t know Dracula’s whereabouts or ultimate plan until halfway through the story. We learn more about the true series of events alongside the characters as they collect pieces of evidence and put the full picture together. Once the characters are on the same page (literally, after they transcribe and share notes), the festering slow burn becomes a race against the clock as they try to prevent Dracula from destroying England, and the world, once and for all. The act of transcribing the details of the events immediately after the fact also gives us a view of the scene as the character themself tells the story and reflects on their experience. The way they choose to describe the settings and feelings helps to build up the tone of dread and terror throughout the story.

The Characters

Every character in this book is memorable and lovable in their own way. Through their writing, we gain insight into each personality and how each views the world. Dr. Seward is analytical, Jonathan is straightforward, Lucy is romantic, and Mina is emotional and perceptive. We also get to see how they perceive the others. It’s wholesome to hear Seward and Quincey praising the qualities of Arthur when he gets the girl instead of him, and saying he’s happy that Lucy is happy. Mina’s and Jonathan’s love gives them hope amid the disaster. Whenever one member of the group does something especially brave or clever, we only hear about the event from their friend recounting the glory of the deed. The framing sequence gives us a deeper insight into the group dynamics, and it became one of the sweetest found families I’ve ever read. When adaptations remove the characters from this POV, they also lose this interpersonal element of internal admiration, which the original captures so well. Mina remarks of her new friends:

Dr. Seward went about his work of going his round of the patients; when he had finished, he came back and sat near me, reading, so that I did not feel too lonely whilst I worked. How good and thoughtful he is; the world seems full of good men—even if there are monsters in it.

From Mina Harker’s Journal

By creating these dynamics that invest the reader, Stoker also raises the stakes. Losing any one member of the group would devastate to all the others, and when Dracula attacks Lucy and Mina, it’s not only scary, it’s also tragic. We feel their grief through their personal writings, in a way they don’t always share publically, so we know what they’re suffering when their friends don’t. We also see how they lean on each other for support when it is too much to bear alone, and this combination of dynamics makes the story compelling for more than just the titular character.

The Stakes

This is a Catholic book!

Even if you’re not religious, I believe anyone can still enjoy the story by experiencing the threat through the lens of the characters who wholeheartedly believe in the Christian afterlife. To them, vampires are an affront against God’s holy plan of salvation. Dracula is a murderer and a rapist, but beyond that, he also brings other people into the living hell of immortality against their will. This is a sin paramount to the others, as the Bible condemns leading others into sin: “It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble.” from Luke 17:2.

There are also exponential implications past Dracula’s immediate influence. Each victim that loses their humanity goes onto turn other people and terrorize their local communities with a single-minded blood-thirst. Van Helsing likens this to a plague and insists that they must stop the cycle before it is too late. It leaves you wondering how many people he’s indirectly hurt throughout the years, and how many times this tragic story has played out in the past. From the weeping townsfolk pressing crucifixes into Jonathan’s hand, we can take a guess.

It takes convincing from Helsing for Seward, Quincey, and Arthur to accept the existence of vampires.

My thesis is this: I want you to believe.”

“To believe what?”

“To believe in things that you cannot…Now that you are willing to understand, you have taken the first step to understand.”

Van Helsing and Dr. Seward

As soon as they have the faith to listen, Van Helsing systematically proves what he knows to be true, proving that science and faith rely on each other and the characters value both in their approach to the world. He takes the men to the graveyard that evening and they see first-hand how vampire-Lucy has lost almost every shred of her humanity. At first, Seward (who recounts the event) is still skeptical, but his disbelief is born out of love for Lucy and desperate fear. With the evidence staring him in the face, he doesn’t want it to be true, because that means the only just and merciful solution is to kill the vampire that took the soul of their friend. They decide to let Arthur strike the final blow. As her would-be husband, they know Lucy would want to be laid to rest beside him, and this is the closest she can have. Vampire-Lucy beckons him to join her, but she is selfish and callous, wearing the appearance but completely replacing the kind and generous woman they knew. Arthur still has to kill her, so she will stop killing children, and it is just as much justice for Lucy as it is a tragedy. He considers it an honor to be the one to drive a stake through her heart, and let her have the peaceful death and chance at true eternal life and happiness in heaven that she deserves.

Thematic Inversion

It is also worth noting how Dracula perverts what the heroes see as good and holy for his own means. When he speaks about the vampire ladies in his court, Luca, and Mina, his language is possessive and obsessive. He sees the women as his property, compared to the men who speak with devotion about the ones they love. Jonathan and Helsing exclude Mina at first from the meetings to discuss how to deal with Dracula, a fact they deeply regret later when the Count attacks Mina. Love and a desire to protect motivate their choice, rather than dismissal.

Van Helsing obtains a dispensation to use the Eucharist (God’s body, blood, soul, and divinity under the appearance of bread and wine), to use against the evil. When it touches her, she burns, and in her later diary entries, her grief hurts just as much. As soon as the men realize their failure, they go out of their way to support Mina and respect her input, which ultimately helps them create their final battle plan. But even as they scheme, Jonathan remarks on how the vampire’s influence compromises his position:

To one thing I have made up my mind: if we find out that Mina must be a vampire in the end, then she shall not go into that unknown and terrible land alone. I suppose it is thus that in old times one vampire meant many; just as their hideous bodies could only rest in sacred earth, so the holiest love was the recruiting sergeant for their ghastly ranks.

Jonathan Harker’s Journal

There is also a symbolic perversion of the presence of blood throughout the book. Christians believe that we are saved from sin and eternal death through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross – his blood fulfilling the Moasic covenant from the Passover, where the blood of an unblemished lamb saved Israelite families from the angel of death. Stoker’s inclusion of the Sacred Host throughout the story, treated with the utmost reverence and not simply as a fantastical tool, makes a clear (but oft overlooked in pop culture) parallel between Mina made unclean by the blood of Dracula, but saved through the blood of Christ.

How can writers use Dracula to develop their stories?

  • Using limited or first person POVS and/or unreliable narrators preserves the mystery and fear of the unknown
  • Revealing the twist to the reader but not the character creates dramatic tension and dread
  • If the reader falls in love with your characters, any deaths or threats will hurt more. Likewise, hurting a character’s loved ones is a gut punch. Or worse, forcing your characters to hurt their loved ones for their own good.
  • Ask what your characters have to lose? Is their humanity or free will at stake? What would be a fate worse than death?
  • How does evil warp what the character’s love? Can you twist any symbols or themes into dark mirrors of themselves to create a poignant parallel between the heroes and the villains?
  • What separates a hero from a villain? How close do your characters get to turning? Having them walk the knife’s blade between good and evil can make for excellent drama, especially if they’re conflicted about their state/actions.

I hope you found this analysis interesting and useful! It was fun to revisit this format after so long, just in time for Halloween. Do you agree with what I have to say? Did you learn something new, or use any of the questions to develop your characters? Leave a comment below, and let’s start a discussion. I’m curious to see what you have to tell me. Thank you for reading, and happy writing!

Reading Rec: How to Market a Book by Ricardo Fayet

Hello dear readers! This month’s book review is a little different from my usual fare because I’m covering a non-fiction craft book. Following last week’s post, I was motivated to dig into some deeper research on marketing, and was pleased to stumble across this How-To guide from one of my favorite resources. Today I’ll be sharing some notes and major take-aways that I hadn’t already learned from my earlier research! Hopefully this will include some insightful new information

How to Market a Book: Overperform in a Crowded Market (Reedsy Marketing Guides Book 1)

This book is an incredibly detailed, thoughtful, and relevant look into the online publishing industry in 2021. It reiterates the fundamentals of building an author’s platform and offers advanced ideas for anyone who wants to take the business side of writing seriously. If you’re anything like me, you grew up with a lecture of “Writing isn’t a real career” and “you don’t want to be a starving artist, do you?” While it’s true that an extremely small number of authors become household names, there are countless other authors making a decent living off their craft and even working for themselves full time.

If this is your end goal, and you’re familiar with or at least willing to learn how to be a businessperson, then I highly recommend this book for you. If you’re not sure yet how much time and effort you want to put into your author’s platform, I still recommend this book, but specifically sections 1-3, which explain the fundamentals of how to make it in the publishing world. The language is very easy to understand, and it’s an excellent in-depth primer to get you thinking and planning for the future. Then, when you’re ready to tackle the advanced marketing and advertising sections of the book, you already have the reference material in your back pocket.

Additionally, the e-book is completely free. It’s roughly 60K words, but its an easy read and I got through it in about a week. The author, Ricardo Fayet is an expert in the industry and the co-founder of the company, Reedsy, which is how I found the book. Reedsy has proven to be one of the MOST valuable resources I’ve found in my researching endeavors, and I look forward to taking advantage of their free courses and other resources when I reach those points in my author’s journey.

So, without further ado, let’s get into the big ideas, shall we?

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Awesome Adaptations: The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

Welcome back to the Reading Rec series, where I rant about my favorite books and talk about how reading and analyzing them can make us better writers! This month, I’m covering tropes and how to adapt them to different stories, and there’s no better genre for this than folktales. Because these stories are so ingrained in pop culture, everyone already knows the main characters, plot beats, and motifs, which makes them perfect to translate into retellings. Not only does this series have a great premise, it also has great cover design. Even if you’ve never read this series, you can guess the main character of each book.

Recommended Read: The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer | Christian  Douglass Writes
There are new covers which are also awesome but these better illustrate my point. They keep a consistent minimal but dramatic color pallet, one with duller colors for the villain’s book, and an old fashioned elaborate font that looks like it came out of the Renaissance Fair.

This article will focus on the first book, Cinder, and will contain spoilers. At first, I tried to write this article by explaining the tropes out of context, but in the end they were worked into the plot so well that it was impossible. These books are fairly predictable in terms of overall plot by nature of being fairy tale retellings, but there are some interesting twists within the way they connect, so proceed at your own discretion if you’d like to read this series with a fresh view. Content Warnings for plague, fire/burns, mind-control, and fantasy racism. Rereading these books in 2021 is really interesting, because while they don’t predict every aspect of a pandemic, they still hold up in a lot of ways and the story and characters are as interesting as ever. I meant to skim the story to find the certain quotes I wanted to use, but ended up sitting down and reading the whole book in an afternoon!

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Perfect Prose: “The Pedestrian” by Ray Bradbury

Today I’m covering a short story that may already be familiar to my American followers from our high school English classes. Ray Bradbury is the author of many famous dystopian, science fiction and fantasy works such as Fahrenheit 451, and I was introduced to “The Pedestrian” as the primer for our unit on that book. While most English classes focus on analyzing diction and prose, and I could have picked any of the countless pieces I had to dissect over the years, I picked this one because I remember how vivid it was, and how it was the first time I really understood the way words could be used to draw somebody into a story. 10th grade was the year I started seriously learning about the writing craft and working on my own books, and this was the first time I really read like a writer. The act of being able to pick apart a story and learn how it works and then using that knowledge to put your own stories together is a valuable skill that I need to practice more, and it’s what I’m hoping to share with you by doing this series of reading recommendations. So let’s see what we can learn together, shall we?

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Reading Rec: Worldbuilding in The Spiderwick Chronicles

Welcome back to the Reading Rec series, where I rant about my favorite books and talk about how reading and analyzing them can make us better writers. Following last week’s post about where to start worldbuilding, today I’m looking at a story that takes place in a modern earth setting but includes fantastical elements, and how the authors fit those two worlds together. In the interest of not doing another long ramble, and to show how to simplify the process, I wanted to look at a shorter children’s book. The Spiderwick Chronicles is a 5-book middle-grade series by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black that follows the adventures of the Grace children as they encounter the faerie world.

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The Count of Monte Cristo Plot Analysis Part 4

Welcome to the last part of this series and the thrilling conclusion of the book! If you happen to be reading this in the future and missed the first three parts, I’ll leave links to those here so you can catch up: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3. Obviously if you don’t want to see how the book ends, avoid this part for the sake of spoilers. I also wanted to put a trigger warning at the beginning of this one for suicide. It’s been mentioned before in the book, but one actually does occur in this part, so steer clear if that’ll be troubling for you. Stay safe, my friends!

When we last left off, the pieces were in place, the secrets known and ready for release, and the undoings begun! The coward Caderousse was murdered by Benedetto Villefort and Madame Danglar’s illegitimate son, now masquerading as an Italian nobleman named Andrea Cavalcanti thanks to the Count’s patronage. Danglars is teetering on financial ruin after losing a million francs in the stock market, so he’s set up a marriage between his daughter Eugenie and Andrea to get his money. Noirtier’s Bonapartist political affiliations ruined an unwanted arranged marriage between Valentine and Franz, and potentially his son’s Royalist political career, but instead of now being free to marry her true love Maximilian Morrel, she’s been framed as a poisoner. Meanwhile, the Count still can’t figure out his feelings for Mercedes, and news about Fernand de Morcerf’s military scandal in Greece was leaked to a local newspaper. Though it was missing any connection to the family name, Albert was still concerned, and asked his friend Beauchamp to investigate.

The Morcef Mess, Chapters 85-93

This chapter opens with Beauchamp arriving at Albert’s home to tell him the bad news that he has solid proof of his father’s crimes in Greece. Because the original story didn’t have a direct link to the Morcerf family however, this news can still be suppressed, and Beauchamp promises no to release it because of his friendship with Albert. He thanks his friend and visits with the Count for a vacation at the beach. Three days later however, the story is published in a rival newspaper linking Morcerf with the whole scandal and Albert rushes back to Paris to do damage control and hear the whole story. Fernand belonged to the government Chamber, and after the news got out, they ordered a trial and extensive investigation into the betrayal. At the trial, Haydee appeared and testified to the murder, as well as how Fernand sold herself and her mother into slavery and presenting evidence in the form of the selling/buying contracts from Monte Cristo.

40202m
*claps* drag ‘im girl!
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Reading Rec: The Count of Monte Cristo Part 3

Hello! I’m picking up again today with this series, but if you missed the first two parts, you can read those at the following links: Part 1, Part 2. For convenience sake I’ll put a summary and color code guide, but if you’re already up to speed, you can skip the next paragraph.

When we last left off, Edmond Dantes (aka the Count of Monte Cristo, Abbe Bussoni, Lord Wilmore, and Sinbad the Sailor) had moved to Paris and started meddling in the affairs of the other characters. He gets the default black color. His old love, Mercedes, who recognizes him but says nothing out of fear and her son Albert are pink. The Count met Albert in Italy and saved him from bandits. Mercedes’s husband, Fernand Mondego (aka The Count de Morcef), in red, accused Edmond of treason to get him out of the way but doesn’t recognize him as the count. He is now wealthy after a military career in Greece. The reader also meets the Count’s “slave” and friend – a Greek girl named Haydee who is traveling with him. The Morrel family are old friends of Edmond is green. Notably, Maximilian is in love with Valentine de Villefort, but their marriage is impossible due to a family grudge and her existing arranged engagement. Her grandfather, Noirtier loves her to death and does not get along with his son due to differing political views. He is disabled due to a stroke but communicates with her through blinking. Valentine’s mother hates her, dotes on her son, and takes an interest in poisons while ignoring her husband. Valentine’s father, the prosecutor Gerard Villefort, sentenced Edmond to prison, and tried to bury a baby in a box one time before he got stabbed by Bertuccio – a man with a vengance who took the child and raised him as his own. Their fun dysfunctional family is violet colored. The child, Benedetto, grew up to be a criminal and ran away from home at age 11. He’s not missing, and he gets Brown.. In the meantime, Bertuccio was also witness to Caderousse (the old cowardly and selfish neighbor) killing a jeweler to keep a diamond and large sum of cash. He was last seen on the run from the police, and is shown in yellow. The Count also makes an impression on Danglars, the greedy sailor who schemed to betray Edmond now turned banker, by taking out a huge line of credit. We also meet Madame Danglars, a scheming woman who doesn’t actually like her husband very much. Their daughter, Eugenie is engaged to Albert Morcef, and the family gets this blue color.

Connections, Continued… Chapters 54 – 57

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