Wednesday, July 9

Movie Tie-In Book Covers

I judge books by their covers. It's not a logical thing to do, but I'm in company with many. While it is no question that a book's contents are the most important factor, there is nothing wrong with wanting them to look nice too.

One of the most popular trends is for books to be repackaged with new covers, either leading up to or after their film adaptation has been released. This is an intelligent way to capitalise on media promotion. It is no secret that marketing for visual media is a lot more prominent than it is for books, which still relies heavily on word of mouth. So when a book is geared to be played out on the big screen, it makes sense for publishers to reel it back to the original source by printing the book with a movie tie-in cover.

Some people hate books with film covers. I wouldn't count myself one of them, because sometimes they can be visually appealing. However, I can see where readers are coming from with their distaste. Plenty of readers don't like to have characters blatantly portrayed on the covers of books. They like to be able to imagine the characters for themselves. This is the reason you see so many books with long haired women turned away, or shirtless men with their heads cut off.

Then there is the fact that film adaptations do not stick to the physical portrayal of the character. You can purchase 'The Princess Bride' by William Goldman with the film cover, yet Buttercup won't be blonde within the pages. While it's understandable that a film may not have the character's physically match the author's depiction, the juxtaposition of having an actor on the cover who doesn't represent the character's description in the text is a little nonsensical.

When it comes to my preference for books with film covers, it really comes down to how attached I am to the story, the price of the book in question, and aesthetics. Yet, what I recently discovered is that I do have a peeve when it comes to movie tie-in books. Not because of their covers...but because of inserts. There is nothing so jarring to the immersion of reading a novel than having it cleft down the middle with scenes and captions from the film adaptation. It's one thing to slap an actor on the cover of a book, but to invade the imaginative freedom of the reader during the story seems invasive to me, regardless of whether I like the adaptation in question.

What are your thoughts on books with movie tie-in covers and inserts?

Thursday, June 26

Writers with Good Sense

Visualisation is a significant part of writing. Authors want to immerse readers in the surroundings of their story. They emphasise the hues and vibrancy of colours, the shapes of objects, and the human form. They use similes and metaphors to bring movements to life, and personalise their characters with physical descriptors and unique expressions.

There is nothing inherently wrong with romanticising the things we see. The problem lies with too much focus on the visual, and not enough on the other senses. In the stories I read – and even in my own writing – the primary focus is on what the characters can see, with audio coming in second, usually tagged on to dialogue. Taste, touch and smell are too often an afterthought, with coincidental appearances.

I'm not going to suggest that writers drown their work in descriptors of any sense, but we need to be mindful of these things. It is fine to write whatever comes to you in a first draft, but in rewrites it is important to curl your toes into the earth, roll your tongue against the sour burst of citrus, and inhale the nose tickling scent of a dusty library.

I know that my descriptors squeal and grind from ill use, and I don't want t be over slick with their application. Still, I hope to practice and improve until a reader can step into my story, eyes closed, and not be displaced in their surroundings.

What are some of your favourite works/quotes that utilise good sense?

Wednesday, June 25

The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet by Bernie Su and Kate Rorick

In accordance with the FTC, Quill Café would like to disclose that the reviewer received a review copy of this title through NetGalley. The opinions expressed are hers alone and no monetary compensation was offered to her by the author or publisher. Cover art is copyright of Touchstone and is used solely as an aide to the review.

You've seen her videos diaries...now read her personal diary.

Lizzie Bennet is a 24 year old grad student, with a brand new video blog. What starts out being for her thesis, turns into a tell-all about her family and her interactions with the arrogant William Darcy. Yet, as much as Lizzie divulges to the internet, she still keeps some things to herself. Only her personal diary can know her true, unfiltered thoughts and feelings as she struggles to understand herself and those around her.


'The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet' is the companion novel to the web series adaptation of Pride & Prejudice: The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. Having followed the series from the start, I was already attached to the modern twist on the classic tale, and eager to gain even more of an insight into Lizzie's world.

Lizzie's narrative voice is engaging, and her diary was not – as a part of me feared – simply a rehash of the web series. Technically, the web series is a theatrical recap and only a brief insight into Lizzie's life. Her diary delves more into the story and characters, adding substance, and revealing private details.

Something that is evident from the start of the book is Lizzie's journey as a vlogger. There is a reference to the Vlogbrothers and she is very self-aware of her videos and honest about her progression, for instance mentioning her heavy makeup in the first episode. It is exceptionally relatable to video content creators, particularly budding ones.

There are a smattering of diagrams and pie charts, which Lizzie includes in her diary, along with a poem titled 'Ode to a Broken Phone.' She also incorporates her interaction with social media, particularly some of the comments on her videos, although the commenters' names are not included. If there is one aspect of the social media reaction that I wish they would have included in the diary, it would be the fact that as soon as Darcy made an appearance on Lizzie's videos, her viewers made a meme out of him called "Socially Awkward Darcy."

'The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet' aligns a lot more with the events of Pride & Prejudice, and the scene parallels are apparent. It appeased me, as a lover of the classic, but also impressed me with the innovative ways that the writers had adapted events and circumstances into a modern setting, such with Caroline's insistence for Lizzie to take a turn about the room with her. Reading the diary confirmed how clever the adaptation truly is.

Through Lizzie's diary, we get to see more of her parents than through their mere caricatures in the series. This means more of the father-daughter dynamic that is so relevant in Pride & Prejudice, but also a look at the more grounded, less theatrical, side of her mother. The greater presence of her parents made the dynamic of her family a lot more realistic and added tension to the weight of their financial situation.

With relation to other characters, Lizzie's dynamic with Darcy are obviously a lot more developed, considering that he is absent from most of the web series, apart from hearsay. It was wonderful to read about her first meeting with him at the Gibson wedding, and also to be immersed in parts of the story that we were only allowed glimpses into through social media sites, such as Twitter and Instagram.

Lizzie's relationship with George is more evident, and readers will be happy to learn that Darcy's letter is included to read in its entirety. Catherine de Bourgh has more of a presence in the diary, and her exasperating comments are on par. However, you do not get to see as much of Lizzie's friendship with Fitz as you do in her videos, which was a little disappointing. 'The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet' also reiterated just how much I love the way Lydia is portrayed. She is a far more developed and empathetic character, while still remaining true to her classic counterpart.

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries has a strong cast of characters, but Lizzie's portrayal is particularly important to a successful adaptation. I've always found Elizabeth Bennet to be a relatable character, primarily for her flaws, so the fact that her dogmatic and, of course, prejudiced nature translated so well is a great credit to the writers. I particularly love how Charlotte and Jane are constantly challenging her in their own, but very different, ways.

'The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet' manages to stand well on its own as an adaptation, although familiarity with the context of the videos is beneficial. It also answers many of the lingering questions from the web series, such as: "Why did Mr. Collins never tell Mrs. Bennet about Lizzie's videos?" and "Why did Bing buy a house in Netherfield?" I would recommend it to any lover of Pride & Prejudice, and of course to fans of 'The Lizzie Bennet Diaries' web series. You won't be disappointed.

Tuesday, June 24

A Cynic's Guide to Social Networking for Writers

Ten Steps to Building an Online Platform

1. Promote your new book or blog post several times a day on every social media site. Remember to attach at least five hashtags. #amazingbook #mustread #hedgehogsftw #fivestars #bookworm

2. Join literary chats, and constantly veer the conversation to your own work. If someone asks, 'What is the best book you've read recently?' suggest yours.

3. Mass follow/friend people – particularly book reviewers and industry professionals – in hope that they will notice you.

4. POST IN CAPS TO STAND OUT. YOU'RE NOT BEING OBNOXIOUS, YOU ARE JUST AWARE THAT PEOPLE HAVE SHORT ATTENTION SPANS.

5. Take any and all criticism about your work personally. Directly engage critics, accusing them of bullying. Use insults to solidify your point.

6. Make video blogs, but only when you are overly emotional. Then, upload them straight to the internet.

7. Create dummy accounts to rate, rave about, and review your own books. You're just voicing the opinions of your impassioned – yet passive – readers.

8. Use social networking sites to keep people updated on your personal life. Share pictures of your daily cup of coffee and your toddler's potty training progress.

9. Install bots that write automated messages to new subscribers, and updates everyone on how many people have followed/unfollowed you that week. This frees up your time, while making you appear active, honest, and personable.

10. Regularly tag and message high profile writers and industry professionals, so that they can marvel at your perseverance and inevitable triumph.

Spam and CAPS: The secret to self-promotional success.

Yours,

A Cynic

Tuesday, June 17

Five Quiller Picture Books About Hedgehogs

Quaintly pointed out by Quillbert, books starring hedgehogs are no easy find. So I went in search of picture books featuring hedgehogs in a leading role. While not easy to track down, I did happen across more than enough to whittle down to five recommendations.