The Adventurer – Fan Fic Sequel Pt. 2

Every Friday I will be publishing a portion of my fan fiction sequel to The Adventurer: Curse of the Midas Box. This is by no means endorsed by either the author of the novels nor the creators of the films. This is just a requested sequel as I picture it. Enjoy.

Egypt, 1885

He hated sand.

The gritty element seemed to be everywhere in this wretched place. No matter the fact that he stayed in one of the finest hotels this backwards country had to offer; the sand did not care about wealth nor luxury. It invaded anyway, like the heat that permeated everywhere and made the inflated stench of the common men worse. It would appear soap and water was a rare commodity here, he observed, waving his nose as the carriage he rode in passed by a butcher’s shop. Cleanliness was not the forte of foreigners, it would seem.

Mopping his forehead with a handkerchief, he sank back deeper into the dark shadows of the coach he rode in. The only thing one might see, were they to peer into the vehicle, was the square of linen fabric resting on a darkly-suited set of legs. The formal wear was his custom, the kerchief a remnant of the love he had cherished and the bitter past he hoped to put behind him.

The only place he managed to escape it was in the comforts of his hotel, and that was a long ways away, along with his wife. No, he mustn’t think of her and their sons. They’d already cost him one treasure, he couldn’t afford to lose another. No amount of familial affection was worth that. He’d already lost Luger, who was one of his most valuable assets. But none of that mattered now, compared to the treasure that awaited him.
The carriage stopped in front of a small rundown building, a palace compared to the shacks that leaned against it on either side. He paused to pay the driver who babbled in his unspeakable language, wiping his hands after passing the coin. He could not fathom why Will enjoyed consorting with such filth. Then again, his dear “friend” had never been one to shy at getting his hands dirty.

The small building was little more than a large storeroom, which was littered with various knicknacks and artifacts rather poorly dressed up in the vain hope that any unlucky tourist who happened to wander in might be tempted to purchase a few.

How trivial.

He wound his way around a leaning set of pillars to see a small, dark man waiting for him.

“You are Gormenburg, I presume?” The Egyptian stepped forward.

The Englishman offered a tight smile. “You’re late. The staff was supposed to be found and delivered by the beginning of this week.”

The businessman shrugged. “Men work as fast as their pay.”

“Oh, don’t worry,” Gormenburg said, using his teeth to pull off his gloves. “You’ll be paid, and handsomely. As long as you have what was promised.”

“But of course, my friend.”

He graced the man with a cool look, making it clear that he would not allow anyone to presume such familiarity, especially such a man as this. He followed the man into a back room, trying to conceal his impatience. He had come a long way for his prize and he was not going to let it elude him again.

Leaning down, the Egyptian moved with much ceremony, inserting a key into the richly colored wardrobe before him, pulling open the doors. With an ominous click, a hidden drawer popped out, revealing a moderately long object, wrapped in brown paper.

“The staff of emperors,” the man said, yellow teeth gleaming as he held it.

Gormenburg had expected to feel some kind of power seeing the strange object, the same chill as when he’d handled other such objects. There was no such reaction. Still, he couldn’t help but feel a gleam of satisfaction seeing what he’d waited so long for.

“And it was removed without anyone knowing?” He asked.

The second man crossed his arms and nodded. He could have been lying through his teeth and Gormenburg wouldn’t know based on the large grin pasted across the man’s browned face.

“Just me and those unfortunate souls lost in the river fire. Very tragic.”

The Englishman ran a hand around the object, feeling for the curve of the cane and weighty emblem that should rest on the top. When his fingers met the desired shapes, he nodded and drew the packaged object to him.

“Now, I believe the price we agreed on was 10,000, but seeing as how much effort my crew put into the job, 50,000 should suffice.”

“You’ll get a reward for this,” Gormenburg nodded.

The Egyptian turned, his sly smile sliding off when he saw the revolver pointed at his face.

“No – wait!”

The gunshot was quiet, the bureau’s own invention. It was immensely satisfying to hear the thud of an obstacle eliminated, thought Gormenburg.

Outside the world continued as usual, just as filthy and God-forsaken as it had been when he left it. The small crowds of men who passed him, garbed in white cloth and muttering to one another, eyed him as he passed by with a large grin. They were all fools, he thought scornfully. He felt a strange surge of affection for their pitiful faces. It would be easy to crush them now that he had what he wanted.

Exactly as his buyers wanted.

The carriage driver looked down at him, just as unknowing of the trade that had just been made. Unknowing of the power that had been acquired.

Too easy, he thought, flicking off the brown packaging with precise movement.

His smile disappeared.

The golden staff he’d expected to see was not there, replaced by a wooden rod of the same shape. Anger flooded through his veins, turning his vision red. It couldn’t be – no, of course not. There was no way his wife had managed to get word.

There was only one person who could have taken it.

Charity.

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Re-Reading Childhood Favorites #2

Picking up from last week’s first re-reading post, I am re-reading another series that helped to form my childhood. This week we will be discussing all things Percy Jackson with a brief review of the separate book series, the original Percy Jackson and Heroes of Olympus, the film adaptations, and the graphic novel adaptations. While I’d love to get more in-depth with the review concerning the books, there are too many for me to go as deep as I’d like. Today is more of a comparison between the different forms the story has taken rather than a critique of the novels themselves.

With all that out of the way, on to the review:

1. Percy Jackson – Percy Jackson is a pretty average kid. Well, average if you count the fact that he’s dyslexic and has ADHD. Otherwise, he’s your typical trouble child, always struggling with school. His family life’s not much better, given the kind of jerk his stepfather is. It’s not until one particularly strange day at school that things change. Suddenly Percy Jackson is thrust into a strange new world with a threat old as history – ancient history. With his new friends Annabeth and friend-turned-guardian Grover, Percy must face a future overshadowed by a prophecy, a monstrous new threat, and a future choice that may define the fate of the world.

Whether or not you’re a particularly large fan of the original series, there’s no denying that these are the books that started it all. Rick Riordan certainly breathed new life into old myths and characters with the first book, which kicked off to a really great start and made the majority of us fall in love with the flawed world of demigod heroes. I genuinely enjoyed how the themes of redemption and good vs evil are discussed in this series. Luke Castellan’s arc is one that is to be admired for how it was thought out, written, and explored. Some of the books are weaker links in the chain to me than others, but as a whole series it is a pretty good experience.

2. Heroes of Olympus – Picking up from where the last series left off, the Heroes of Olympus series follows the two halves of the mythical world colliding. Percy Jackson and Jason Grace awake to find themselves in two separate places with absolutely no memory of who they are or where they are. All Jason Grace knows is he has the letters SPQR tattooed into his arm. All Percy Jackson knows is he has a necklace with painted beads around his neck. Both are dressed in the colors of a special camp, but each feels out of place. Their journey back to their true homes will bring about the collision of two very different worlds, two sides of one universe where the Roman and Greek gods must deal with their battling sides to unite against a much larger enemy: the mother of the universe itself.

This series is a hit or miss for me. While I actually enjoyed the newer characters of Jason Grace, Leo Valdez (aka the best new character of the series), Piper McLean, Frank Zhang, and Hazel Levesque, I could have done without this story. I understand that Rick Riordan left room at the end of the last series on purpose and that this is an interesting dilemma for the characters to face, but I disliked some of the character choices made (there is a larger amount of politically correct content than ever in this series), the action, and some of the books seemed unnecessary. Overall, an okay read that I could have done with or without.

#3. The Movie Adaptations – Following the same general plot as the books, the films make a grave error when it comes to the characters. Missing are the familiar traits that made the main trio so memorable, replaced instead by infallible Hollywood teen idols with hashed-up personalities. Relationships are cliched at best. The second film exceeds the first in quality, but is still a rather poor example of what one could do with the original material.

When it comes to the films, I think no fan will contest that they pale in comparison to the books. This is often true of book-to-movie adaptations, but Percy Jackson is especially guilty of botching a well-laid world. Not only are the characters poorly translated to screen, but the world, action, and pacing are completely different. The themes of redemption, family, and trust are completely tossed aside in the spirit of trying to create yet another popular YA flik. According to fellow fans, the films were discontinued after lead actor Logan Lerman refused to keep playing the role on the basis of doing the books a disservice. Is this true? The world will never know (or at least I won’t), but it’s definitely an interesting theory.

#4. The Graphic Novels – Of the two roads to adaptation, the graphic novel version of the books wins by far. Not only are the characters kept consistent with the books, but the friendship dynamic of the main trio – Percy, Annabeth, and Grover – is preserved with clarity and humor. While many scenes are slimmed down or even omitted, the graphic novels do their best to honor the series and do an excellent job of capturing the spirit that made them so good.

Percy Jackson, as a whole, is a diverse universe full of rich characters that is well thought out and plotted. My only complaint is that Rick Riordan is perhaps a little too politically swayed, something that is evident when watching the film. Also, a lot of story choices make little to no sense because they merely waste time or seem to serve no purpose. But, I guess that’s just a part of the adventure/fantasy genre as a whole.

All in all, a pretty good series. 3/5 stars, with some taken away for the PC content, mature implications in the Heroes of Olympus series and films, and some “mild” language.

Chime Time! Have you read the series? If so, what do you think?

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The Adventurer – Fan Fic Sequel Pt. 1

Every Friday I will be publishing a portion of my fan fiction sequel to The Adventurer: Curse of the Midas Box. This is by no means endorsed by either the author of the novels nor the creators of the films. This is just a requested sequel as I picture it. Enjoy.

         Egypt, 1865

Death awaits you.

That’s what was written on the ancient tomb that Catherine Norton stared at now. The clay that made up the encasement of the dead body was beginning to detoriate so that the heiroglyph spelling out the threatening message looked far more like a cheap replica at a sideshow carnival, but still.

It didn’t stop the goosebumps that rippled across her skin.

Waves of heat shimmered across the sand, making the light dress she wore stick to her skin. Any goosebumps she had disappeared the instant the sun touched her in the heat.

“Over here!”

From the other side of the excavation point, a young man waved to her. She approached, offering him a strained smile. He was accompanied by another young man, taller and more elegant. She could not help but grin more genuinely seeing the pair together.

“They’re just burying the you-know-what at this moment,” said the shorter of the two.

She glanced over at Charles. Her soon-to-be-husband had a look on his face. Though his lips were curved in a smile, the grin did not quite reach his cold eyes.
Once more she shivered. It was not the first time she’d been grateful for the involvement of the Bureau of Antiquities. She’d never hesitated to do the job that her superiors ordered, but this one…she feared for Charles’ sanity far more than her life. It didn’t feel right. There was something wrong, something seductive that had been pulling Charles into its grasp…something they needed to escape.

In the pit below, the men raised a hand to indicate that the chest had been dropped.

The crew was done, the treasure buried. Hopefully it wouldn’t be discovered, for a very long time.

Later that day, Catherine packed for the boat back to England. It felt like forever since she’d seen the familiar roads and buildings; it would be good to get back. As she moved at a furious but controlled pace, she heard a familiar knock on the door. Smiling, she straightened.

“Come in, Will,” she called.

The young man came in, chestnut curls brushing his damp skin.

“I shall never be so glad to be drowned in the motherland’s rain,” he panted, wiping his forehead.

“Ever so melodromatic, Will,” Charles said dryly as he stepped into the room behind his friend.

Catherine closed her suitcase, looking around the room for the last time. For a minute, she wondered if she’d miss Egypt. After all, she might never return, especially not if she was to be married to Charles.

Not like Will, who would never have made her leave if she didn’t want to.
For a moment she felt warm, having the two of them in the room. Then she shook herself. That was all over. Everything had been resolved.

Will offered her that easy smile of his, straightening his traveling jacket. Near the door, Charles seemed preoccupied with his own thoughts, a dark look in his eyes that made her turn cold.

“Are you all right?” She asked in concern.
He offered her a thin-lipped smile. “Of course. Just thinking of those artifacts we returned.”

If Will had been different, he might have bristled. As it was, his grip on his cane tightened.

“It was for the best, Charles,” he said casually, eyes never straying to his friend’s face. “Do you really think that much power is advisable in the hands of any man?”

“For some,” the taller youth replied with a smile that chilled Catherine to the bone. “I certainly would have liked to give it a go.”

She spoke up quickly. “Lets not quarrel. The bureau did what was right and we followed orders admirably. That’s what’s important, yes?”

Will nodded amiably and after a moment, Charles followed suit, reluctantly.

“Yes, of course,” he smiled.

She relaxed, turning to put on her hat as there came a knock on the door.

“Who’s that?” She asked, gaze still fixed on her reflection as she pulled on a traveling coat.

“Package,” Charles said simply.

Catherine watched as he signed off for it, signing as he usually did with his grandfather’s name. Charles Mundhi was usually so composed, but she thought she saw something tense in the way he signed, with a slashing G.

They left together, but Catherine had enough time to look back and see the sun glinting off the pyramids’ surface. Charles never looked back, but he still had tense shoulders. She was thankful they were leaving.

There are some treasures never meant to be found.

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Re-Reading Childhood Favorites #1

For the next few weeks, I will be re-reading childhood books that were an essential part of my childhood. Given the fact that my reading experience has expanded significantly over the years and my writing expertise somewhat improved, I thought I might take the time to go back over the books that helped to form my literary journey and give my current and honest opinion about them. For the first week of this project, I will be re-reading the Kingdom Keepers series.

For many people, J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books changed and formed their childhood forever. For me, this is how I viewed the Kingdom Keepers series, especially considering I was a member of the Kingdom Keepers Insider website where I was able to further flex my writing skills by writing fan fiction.

The first book of the series, Disney After Dark, was written by Ridley Pearson and published by Disney/Hyperion in 2005. The series was published before the current rise of YA/tween fiction, making it, alongside reads like the Percy Jackson series, Harry Potter, and other such reads somewhat interesting. Series targeted at an audience who was growing up quickly became trendy around this period and Kingdom Keepers was certainly not the only one to jump on the bandwagon.

Let’s take a look at the first series, not including The Return, a sequel series following the characters as they move into college.

#1 – Disney After Dark – The book opens with the main character of the series, Lawrence “Finn” Finnegan Whitman, opening his eyes to see the moon shining above him and the rest of Main Street, Disneyworld. From this opening we jump into an intriguing conversation with an old Imagineer named Wayne Kresky. Finn is given the assignment to find the rest of the kids (Terrence Maybeck, Dell Philby, Isabella “Willa” Angelo, and Charlene Turner) who were hired to be DHIs – Digital Hologram Imaging or Disney Host Interactive. With the help of a mysterious girl from school named Amanda, Finn sets off on a mission to unite his team. But even with a team assembled, the newly formed “Kingdom Keepers” are up against some of the most dangerous enemies known to the Magic Kingdom and even perhaps the world. The Disney villains – “Overtakers” as they call themselves – are ready to do anything to break free of the Magic Kingdom, including destroying Finn and his friends.

This is a pretty okay read, going back over it. On my very first reading years and years ago, I was absolutely enthralled by the story and fell head-over-heels in love with the characters. However, going back over it I noticed right away that the book is riddled with inconsistencies and the character descriptions are serviceable at best. It is a disappointment, because there are such great moments and a strong plot that are great that more than make up for it. Points go to Ridley Pearson for setting up such an engaging world that feels both familiar and entirely new.

#2 – Disney at Dawn – Unlike the first book, the second in the series starts off explosively with a daring ride down a zip-line in a madcap effort to go after the newly escaped Maleficent. Shortly thereafter, Finn and his friends discover that one of their friends, Jess the magically gifted sister of Amanda, has been kidnapped. The bulk of the book is spent on the hunt to find where Jess has been whisked off to and what the grand master plan of the evil Overtakers is. Their search will lead them to Expedition Everest where only the most evil of Disney’s creations lie, waiting to be unleashed by Maleficent.

This book is about the same quality as the first and on that account there’s not much more I can say about it. Like the first, it has several inconsistencies, a problem that would not have been remedied until Ridley Pearson hired Brooke Muschot as an intern to check for such mistakes. Something interesting to note about this book: it is clear that he never intended for this to be a series. There is a distinctive air of finality at the end of the first book that the second does not have, given the fact that this book has a cliffhanger finale.

#3 – Disney in Shadow – Picking up from the last book, Finn and his friends must discover the whereabouts of their mentor Wayne Kresky while seemingly avoiding the persistent woman who continues to tail them. Has he been kidnapped? Where has he gone? And what do the Overtakers want with him? With several of the Disney villains still on the loose, Finn and friends must discover where Wayne, their biggest ally, is before it’s too late.

Mysteries and future-spotting visions abound in this chapter of the series, with the seeds for future romantic drama being planted here. The families of the Kingdom Keepers are brought into the spotlight much more, Finn’s mother taking a much more prominent role as she helps to solve some of the featured puzzles. EPCOT and Hollywood Studios take a starring role as the locale for this part of the series.

I actually think this is my favorite book of the series. It’s filled with humorous moments, more puzzles than ever, both of my favorite parks from the Disneyworld resort, and great character interaction. There is even some pretty good character development to this part of the series. I think of book number three as the end of a certain era in the Kingdom Keepers series and as an “era”, I really think this is the best one of the series.

#4 – Power Play – Finn Whitman and friends have found Wayne, but life is still not easy for the Kingdom Keepers. The Overtakers seem to be amassing an army made up kids from their own schools and a larger more sinister plan seems to be afoot. With the arrest of a close ally and a curse placed on the sisters Jess and Amanda, the Kingdom Keepers are up once more up against a force that seems to threaten the magic of the parks that they love and know.

The middle point of the series, Power Play was not afraid to take Kingdom Keepers into the area of fiction that could be classified as teen. Romantic tension abounds in this book, perhaps a bit unexpectedly. The plot is easy enough to follow, though the climax is rather confusing and unexpected. Most of what made this read different from the last was the introduction of Disney characters as a force for good, the first mention of the puzzle concerning the whereabouts of Mickey Mouse, and the lead-in to the second half of the series.

I like this part of the series and the humor is amped up. Seeing characters try and fail to be charming with those they are attracted to is pretty funny for characters that were already awkward to begin with. However, on the flipside, much of the romantic relationships come out of nowhere and can even hinder the story. All in all, a pretty good read.

# 5 – Shell Game – This one went even further into YA territory with its mature relationships, high-action, and cliffhanger ending. Following the adventures of the five DHIs as they move to being a part of the Disney cruise line, this part of the series introduces new villain, Tia Dalma, and her attempt to bring the ultimate baddie Chernabog to life. All hands are required on deck for this one, especially given the bumpy nature of the Kingdom Keepers dynamic and the loss of Mrs. Whitman’s support due to Overtaker magic. The cliffhanger ending begs for readers to continue on to book number six.

This book was…interesting. I don’t know of a more polite way to put it. I disliked everything Ridley Pearson did with the characters and even relationships, a fact that did not change from my very first reading to the most recent one. The plot and action is actually rather entertaining, with the villain character of Tia Dalma being chilling. My biggest complaint is really about the characters, but that seems somewhat essential to me, given the fact that they carry the weight of the series.

#6 – Dark Passage – This book picks up right off from where the last one left off with Finn and Willa as they fall to a perilous fate in the dark ocean below. Up above, Cruella’s pet hyenas are still in hot pursuit of their team of friends, including newest member of the team Storey Ming. This book is full of fateful encounters and several new characters, like Mattie, a fellow Fairlie to Amanda and Jess. Dillard, Finn’s childhood friend, returns in a big way that packs a gut-punch. The story basically follows Tia Dalma as she attempts to continue her attempt to raise Chernabog from the dead and the Keepers’ attempt to stop the Overtakers, along with a little help from the Imagineer team sent in to help.

Romance is ridiculously primary in the fifth and sixth books, almost taking as much precedence as the main plot. Also, there are a lot of sacrifices in this book, but with characters that have not done enough to deserve it. Finn’s mother, who was an on-off character of limited importance, is somehow turned to the dark side in these two books and this is supposed to be a huge plot point that gets mitigated to being rather secondary to the previous points mentioned. All in all, I would have been pretty okay with the series ending here, despite the fact that several characters seem lacking for the last three books and the plots became less sensible.

#7 – The Insider – This book was the most interesting for massive Kingdom Keepers fans like me, because it gave us the chance to participate by writing a short paragraph or two to hopefully get our entry put into the final book. It was super exciting to be returning to this world of Disney mayhem, especially considering this final book takes the Keepers to Disneyland. The book picks up a long three years later after the events of the sixth book. The Keepers are graduating, but the Overtakers have finally reared their ugly head. This adventure will take them to Disneyland, California Adventure, Club 33, and treacherous Burbank. Fan favorite characters like Wayne Kresky and even real-life intern Brooke Muschot make an appearance with a *sniff, sniff* less than happy ending for all. The Keepers must find the elusive Mickey Mouse and reunite order to the original Happiest Place on Earth if they are to ever restore balance to the parks once and for all.

Okay. I’ll admit. As much as I dislike the latter half of the series, the seventh book pulled out all the stops and was nothing like expected. I entered for every single one of the contests, desperately hoping against all hopes that I could possibly get a piece of my writing in. Though I didn’t, it was an eye-opening experience that made me appreciate the final product that much more.

Final Thoughts: Overall? The Kingdom Keepers series is an interesting one, because it’s hard to view it as a whole when it’s clear Ridley Pearson never meant it to be. There was never a clear plan for the entire series, something that is evident from even a cursory read of the books. Either way, it’s an enjoyable series, especially for Disney fans who want more than the cheerful Small World version of the parks (speaking of which, those dolls are evil…)

3/5 stars. Good, but not without flaws.

Chime Time! Have you read the series and if so, what do you think?

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The Adventurer: Staff of Emperors – A Fan Fiction Sequel – Introduction

In the beginning months of 2016, Netflix, as Netflix does, decided to play host to a few nondescript movie titles that were produced on a low budget and often committed the great sin of acting like a good story could not be produced with such a budget. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the film The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box. Based upon the novels by YA author G. P. Taylor, the film has a different tone and a few plot changes but is otherwise the same. Take a peek at the trailer:

After finishing the film and enjoying it well enough, I thought I’d give the first book a read.

Midas Box book cover

Interestingly enough, the book has some differences that are significant to the character of Mariah Mundi himself, mainly those of his parents’ death having occurred several years ago (novel) and that the Felix of the film is not his brother but is instead a fellow orphan who left for a better situation long ago.

Now, I know that most people who have read the books are rather content but they point out the same problem as with the films: they accuse it of being a watered down Harry Potter/Indiana Jones. This is rather confusing to me, because I don’t see either the film nor the books as trying to be either. The first book Mariah Mundi: The Midas Box was published in 2007, a time when YA had not yet begun its rise again and the book is plain about that. This first book, along with the rest of the series, could function as either a children’s or young adult read and is set in a Victorian world that has just a few of the frills that the steampunk genre tends to employ. It’s a rather straight-forward read and watch, with neither pretending to be great action entertainment and being all the better for it. Perhaps it is just the result of a generation raised on high-stakes action flicks, but it seems audiences want more out of this simple adventure lark than it gives. Funny, because the adventure films of the past probably equate to having the same amount of action and pacing.

Either way, my biggest issue with both film and book is the main character. Mariah Mundi is a likable enough protagonist – calm, good-natured, generally intelligent as far as main characters go. No, my biggest issue comes from his lack of character development and arc. As I have not yet read the rest of G. P. Taylor’s series, this may be something remedied in the latter books, but as I have said before, both film and book are simple straight-out adventure larks. That having been said, I’d be interested in seeing not only his, but also other supporting characters be given more of an arc.

And now we finally come to the point of this post, besides giving my opinion on a book and film you’ve likely never read/seen. While the first book ends on a decidedly firm conclusion, the film gives a surprise ending that leads engaged audience members wanting more. Having been a member of the fan fiction squad for years, I thought I might as well give my own take on how I thought the adventure might have continued. So from now until I finish it, I will be posting a short segment from the further adventures of Mariah Mundi every Friday. I’d love to hear what you all think about it, what your thoughts are on the film, and whether you’d write a sequel the same way.

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He Said, She Said

If you’ve been reading my blog for quite a while, you may remember how I used to publish posts under the heading “The Writing Files”. While I did abandon these quite a while ago, I am now resuming them as I delve even deeper into the world of writing. Though I am by no means extremely experienced in the field, I will attempt to give advice or to write on the topic to the best of my ability. Just a lil’ advice. Take everything I say with a grain of salt.

In reading others advice on how to write dialogue, I’ve noticed something pretty interesting. It seems to be generally considered a standard rule that when writing a conversation, you should only use the tag “said”. For example:

“Go over there,” he said.

This is the most standard tag, but most books on writing strongly advise using any other, with perhaps the exception of the words asked and replied. A conversation with these tags might go like this:

“Where are you going?” Sue asked. 

“Just for a walk,” Johnny replied. 

“Have fun then.” She said. 

While this is a form that works, I, as a writer, can often find this sort of form of conversation boring. There is no variety or rhythm; nothing changes for interest. Lets take a look at two examples of a conversation using the standard tags first and then the tags usually advised against.

Standard tags first:

Will came running fast, out of breath. “I don’t think I can lose them,” he said.

“We’ve got to,” Lance replied, leaning heavily on his knees.

“How?” May asked. 

They all exchanged looks. 

“I may have an idea,” Will said. 

Before we move on to the tags that are advised against, I’d just like to point out something. I don’t think standard tags should be done away with, nor do I hold anything against their value. I simply think that a more interesting version of this conversation can be achieved. For example:

Will came running fast, out of breath. “I don’t think I can lose them,” he panted. 

“We’ve got to,” Lance replied, leaning heavily on his knees. 

“How?” May wheezed from the floor. 

They all exchanged looks. 

“I may have an idea,” Will announced. 

Now, I’m not saying this is perfect, but there is a significant difference. Do you spot it?

The biggest difference is that the first uses body language to convey the exhaustion of the characters, whereas the dialogue and body language are used.

Now, I do understand there are some instances where standard tags would be put to better use. Lets take a look at an over cluttered example:

Susan turned. “What is that?” She trilled, the songbird in her throat actively at work. 

Nick smiled. “Don’t worry, sis, I have a plan!” He cried with unmatched enthusiasm and curiosity. 

“I hope it doesn’t take too much time,” she complained rather sarcastically and annoyingly, at least to Nick’s ears.

The problem with the tags in this example are that they are rather long. The purpose of standard tags, to my way of thinking at least, is that they are meant for simplicity and ease of reading. Using such terms as panted and announced are single words and help to set a mood without being concerned about having a ridiculously cluttered tag that takes the focus away from the action.

Whether you’re a purist who believes in only using the tag said, a traditionalist who likes using said, replied, and asked, or a writer who believes in a healthy mixture of all of it, find your happy medium so that you can start writing dialogue that sparkles. My advice? Take from both sides to convey the characters’ attitudes and postures without always having to rely on body language.

Dialogue is a powerful tool when used right.

Chime Time! How do you write your dialogue tags?

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Brave

If you need a little bit of a pep me up or something to bolster your spirits as you prepare to take on the brand new challenge of middle school, I think I may have found something for you. The follow up in a series staring with the graphic novel Awkward, this newest installment is both touching and hilarious.

Jensen Graham is going to save the world. Sure, he’s probably not the most likely kid one might think of to do so, but with his zombie survival guide in one pocket and library card in the other, Jensen is prepared for anything. Well, anything so long as it’s not math class or the bullying duo of Foster and Yanic. But, never fear – Jensen has a plan to beat every level of the school game and even a couple of mean kids can’t stop him from achieving his dream of becoming a NASA scientist. At least, that’s what he thinks before he receives a failing grade in math. For Jensen, math tutoring with one of the mean kids is one of his worst nightmares and it just gets worse as his newest friends from the newspaper team (Jenny, Akilah, and Felipe) try to convince him to speak out about the bullying he’s experienced. Can he speak up and say what he really feels? Or will Jensen never find it in himself to stand up and be…brave?

Once more Svetlana Chmakova has proven she knows how to write a story. Her art is full of stylized sweethearts whom it’s rather hard not to fall in love with, especially Jensen. He’s just a big teddy bear and I like how despite the fact that he’s being bullied, he wants to be kind to the bullies. Also, I find it hilarious that he views each day of middle school as a level of an intense game filled with monsters and bonus prizes; it makes it that much fun to read. I highly recommend this read, especially for parents and children to read through together so they can spark thinking of bullying and perhaps begin constructive discussions.

Question! What kind of video game would you compare your school too? Was it like Mario Karts where everyone was racing each other to be the best? Or was it more like Super Smash Bros. where it’s a fight to survive?

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To My Father…

Today I’d like to say a brief word in honor of my knight in shining sweatpants. He is handsome, strong, and if he does say so himself, funny.

Happy Birthday, Pop.

I can’t tell you how blessed I am to have you. Every time I think of where I could be, without a father figure to guide me, I thank God for His blessings. You are half of what holds this family together and I know that you have made Mom one of the happiest women in the world. What more could a daughter ask of her father, but that he be such a role model of fatherhood and a good husband?

I enjoy being able to have enthusiastic discussions with you on the weirdest of topics and that you’ve always encouraged me to learn to think and reason well. I wouldn’t be the person I am today if it wasn’t for that.

So thank you. You are the best father I know. You only rarely have to go to work in an office, you never yell, you tolerate the numerous pets we have, and you’ve fostered our creative skills wherever they may lay. To the man who can play Van Halen as equally well as he can paint a masterpiece or reason circles around others:

Happy Birthday. I love you!

“The righteous man walks in his integrity; His children are blessed after him.”

~Proverbs 20:7.

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The Familiar vs Unfamiliar World

If you’ve been reading my blog for quite a while, you may remember how I used to publish posts under the heading “The Writing Files”. While I did abandon these quite a while ago, I am now resuming them as I delve even deeper into the world of writing. Though I am by no means extremely experienced in the field, I will attempt to give advice or to write on the topic to the best of my ability. Just a lil’ advice. Take everything I say with a grain of salt.

In keeping with this week’s theme of globe-trotting and world-surveying, I thought I’d do a little blog post on world-building. No, I’m not going to be talking about the typical stuff like how to make your world feel more real or how to come up with interesting new species to inhabit the planet alongside humans. What I’m going to teach you about today is a bit of a pre-world-building decision that influences the dynamic of the story in an important way. Today, we will be talking about the familiar vs the unfamiliar world. If you don’t know what those are, in today’s post I will be trying to illustrate the difference using an example from two of arguably the world’s biggest film/book franchises of all time.

First, lets examine the unfamiliar world. Coming off of the backs of television shows like Star Trek and My Favorite Martian, shows that had obvious references and even settings of the era they were filmed in, a brand new space saga emerged that broke the mold. While one could argue that the hairstyling choices of numerous characters are still hip with the era in which these movies were filmed, these are quite possibly the only examples of the fact that this film was in fact filmed inspired on planet Earth.

I am, of course, talking of the magnificent space fantasy opera, Star Wars.

What makes the Star Wars franchise an excellent example of the unfamiliar world is how apart it is. In these films there is no Earth, no New York City, and no George Washington. There is no such thing as a constitutional republic of the Americas, nor disco music, nor even a Great Wall of China. What makes the world of Star Wars unique and captivating for audiences is that it is a world unto itself that always has something new to explore. It is an entertaining way to tell the story, with the characters being the heart and consistent thread of the series that keeps us still interested in what is going on in this strange galaxy.

Star Wars succeeds solely on the merit that the galaxy itself is a fresh, unique setting that demands more exploration. This is an excellent example of the unfamiliar world sort of story. You may assume that this sort of world is standard for fantasy/sci-fi entertainment, but in truth, the second possibility is more often to be seen than the former.

In 1997, a brand new children’s book series debuted. It was both engaging and magical and what took the world by surprise was how relatable it felt. Perhaps the next owl to fly by our window could be the one that brought us our acceptance letter to a very special school. Perhaps that odd gust of air we’d felt on our morning walk was from someone riding a broomstick with an invisibility cloak. The books certainly explained the frustration one could feel with the government: evil wizards had invaded it.

You might have guessed by now that I was already speaking of J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series.

The familiar world is excellently presented in this series. Despite the fact that Harry does go to a secret school for witchcraft and wizardry, much about Hogwarts, the wizarding world, and his normal life intermix. Many of the mysteries of life that children ponder have unique and fun answers given the existence of the wizarding world and the way the two often coincide makes this a story that feels much more close to home than a world far, far away.

Harry Potter succeeds because, just like Star Wars, the characters at the heart of the story are the thread that keeps us interested in this unique world that is so close to our own.

So what is the biggest difference between these two types of worlds? And which truly works better? Mostly, the biggest difference between the familiar and unfamiliar world is the amount of exposition required. With the familiar world, less explanation is needed for the real world, which most of us understand generally. It is only the dual side of this world or perhaps the faint strains of fantastical elements that need exposition. Whereas, the unfamiliar world requires time and energy to lay out and make simple for the audience to understand. Star Wars does this flawlessly, building upon the universe with each movie. The unfamiliar world lends itself more effortlessly to a series, given the fact that it is so far away and therefore often has more to work with. At the end of the day, it’s all a matter of choice.

What do you think? Do you prefer reading/watching a galaxy far, far away or do you prefer a world that’s a bit closer to your front door?

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Around the World

Move over, Phineas Fogg – there are some new adventurers in town and this time, all of their adventures are true!

In the 19th century, Jules Verne’s book Around the World in Eighty Days and other such novels inspired generations to look at travel in a new way. Three separate stories follow the few among many intrepid enough to travel the globe without the help of a loyal sidekick, giant hot air balloon, and the harrowing adventures. The first is Thomas Stevens, the former miner who is now determined to go round the world on the newfangled bicycle. He may not have the full financial support of his company nor even the faith of his former coworkers, but Stevens is convinced he can make it. Then there is Nelly Bly, the girl reporter who revealed the truth about asylums. Her life as a reporter is never boring and neither is this trip. With her one bag, deer-stalker cap, and can-do spirit, Nelly Bly managed to circumnavigate the globe in under eighty days. Lastly is Joshua Slocum, the widower who became the first man to single-handedly sail the world. Together these three daring souls proved that what is fiction can become fact.

Matt Phelan has captured the spirit of adventure in his new graphic novel, Around the World. Focusing on three different adventurers who did what at the time was considered impossible for various reasons, this is a book that is also excellent at examining the past and how we view it. I like the muted color palette as well as the travel posters interspersed throughout. Truly a great read that I recommend to any reader, young or old.

Chime Time! How far have you traveled in the world?

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