Sunday, April 20, 2014

On Breaking Bad's Series Finale and Loose Ends Endings

I hope you enjoyed Easter weekend. And no, I'm not doing the Blogging from A to Z Challenge this year. But for those of you who are doing it, I hope you're having fun. 

Last month, I finished watching the entire five seasons of the Breaking Bad series. Great show, really excellent writing. Once I got started on the last eight episodes of Season 5, there was no turning back.  The talented writers of the show tied many loose ends together in the series finale.  At the same time, there were some loose ends that weren't tied up, and these open endings were left up to viewer interpretation or musing. I don't believe loose ends always need to be tied up. But there were some loose ends in Breaking Bad that kept me thinking after I finished the show. And that's what I want to talk about today.
  
Readers, before you continue, I just want to warn you THERE WILL BE SPOILERS AHEAD. If you don't want to know what happens during the fifth and last season of Breaking Bad and the season finale, you can stop reading HERE.




...Okay, so here I go...





...again...SPOILERS AHEAD...




...So one of the things that popped out at me while watching the series is that it's not a good place for a child to be associated, even indirectly and/or unintentionally, with the meth producing and drug dealing underworld of Breaking Bad. As a kidlit writer, I'm invested in experiences of children, and so after watching the series finale, I was left wondering what happened to the surviving children on the show. 

What happened to that peek-a-boo kid Jesse rescued from that house in season 2? For a minute, I thought that peek-a-boo kid was the same kid that Todd killed in Season 5 by the train tracks, and that when the kid waved to the men after the train passed, it was because he recognized Jesse. But I was wrong, and the peek-a-boo kid is still out there somewhere. As is Brock, now without his mother Andrea, who was killed by the neo-Nazis in another grim moment of the series.  And what happens to Lydia's daughter, Kiira, who might've fulfilled Lydia's worst nightmare by finding her dead in their home? What happens to Mike's granddaughter, Kaylee, who only knows that her doting grandfather disappeared without a trace? What will Walter Jr. do with all that money the Schwartzes hand over when he turns 18? How will Holly handle the stigma of who her father was while growing up? 

And what happens to Jesse? He might be a man but I found him as vulnerable and impressionable as a child for most of the series. I can only hope that during the time he was incarcerated by the neo-Nazis, he thought hard about what he would do if he found freedom again, and now that he's out, he would stick to his escape plan....even though his taped confession is in the neo-Nazi's possession, which law enforcement is sure to find after they recover Walter's body at the hideout.

In addition to thinking about these loose ends after seeing the Breaking Bad finale, my kidlit writing brain also explored how a story about Grown-ups Behaving Really Badly would play out if it was told from the perspective of the children in the story, if each chapter bounced from character to character in a risky third-person omniscient narrative. While the children might not be able to fully explain or understand what's going on, the reader can absorb the clues offered by the green and honest voices of children, and put the pieces of the puzzle together. 

What did you think of the series finale of Breaking Bad, if you've seen it? Were there any loose ends you wanted to see get tied up?

Do you consider the third-person omniscient narrative a less desirable approach to storytelling over the first-person or third-person narrative?

Image from: http://breakingbad.wikia.com

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

IWSG: Why I'm Not Doing the Blogging from A to Z Challenge This Year

It's IWSG day. Thanks to Alex Cavanaugh for organizing this monthly event where writers share about their writerly insecurities and other stuff.

I participated in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge for the last two years. I enjoyed doing the challenge both times. But this year, I'm not doing it. 

My husband and I are planning a move, and if everything falls into place, we're due to move at the end of this month. As I'm writing this post, I must admit that I haven't packed a single box yet. Not for myself, not for my husband, not for our children. So. Lots of work cut out for me this month. 

So what am I doing instead of packing? I'm working on my novel. I know, I know. I really should start packing. But you know there's that thing writers do when they try to avoid confronting their manuscript, so they get busy cleaning their homes instead? Well, as excited as I am about moving to our new place, I'm not so excited about packing and boxing up everything in my home. So I'm working on my manuscript instead.

I'm still with YA Buccaneers' Spring Writing Bootcamp. In March, I got set up with a lovely writing team called #TeamDenali and a motivating team leader named Heidi Sinnett. While I'm not producing as much as I'd like to, I'm still making progress. But the truth is, once I take off with my moving duties, I know my productivity will take a dive. 

So this is my insecurity. It took me awhile to build up momentum again with my WIP earlier this year, and soon, I'd need to slow down. Once I slow down, it'd take me some more time to build up that momentum again. I often dread that part of the writing process where I'm returning to my manuscript after a period of "slowing down," or sometimes just plain stopping, and I'm trying to get back in the driver's seat. Yes, I can view my WIP with fresh eyes and things I need to fix jump out at me. But no, I can't just make 2,500 words appear out of thin air on the first day back. Or sometimes, not even during the first two weeks after I resume my butt-in-chair nights.

I will begin packing sometime next week.

Are you doing the Blogging from A to Z Challenge this year? If so, do you have a theme? If you're not doing the A to Z Challenge, why not?

Any tips on packing for a move?

How do you get back in the driver's seat with your WIP after a period of slowing down?

Monday, March 10, 2014

I'm Doing YA Buccaneers' Spring Writing Bootcamp

I first heard about the YA Buccaneers Spring Writing Bootcamp from author Stephanie Scott on Twitter. (More details if you click on the first link.) After doing Sara Biren's Writer Recharge, I decided to continue challenging myself while supporting other fellow writers in the Spring Writing Bootcamp. The Spring Writing Bootcamp goes from March through May. Here are my general goals, which I tweeted about over the weekend. I am elaborating on them here:

1. Finish up the rest of my WIP. I have another 10,000-15,000 words to go before I have a Crappy First Draft. 

2. Revise the Crappy First draft.

3. Stay healthy and sane. Back in November and December, I had back-to-back sinus infections. Really dreadful times. My late night writing jams were taking a toll on my health. So even though the only time I can currently work on my WIP uninterrupted is after the kids go to bed, I am making a point of going to sleep at a reasonable hour. 

About staying sane...I also don't want the pressure of having Goal # 1 and 2 make me too crazy. Years ago, I was working on a story toward a deadline for a contest. I was driving myself nuts because I was putting so much pressure on myself to finish the story and win the contest. Well, I finished the story but I didn't win the contest. Looking back, I feel silly that I'd pushed myself as hard as I had. So while I still endeavor to do my absolute best, I also try my best to respect my physical and emotional boundaries as well.

I look forward to connecting with other writers in the next few months. Sometimes I will update my progress here on this blog, and at other times, I will simply post on Twitter. On Twitter, I'm @CynthiaSociety.

What are your writing goals for the spring?

What time of the day or night do you write?

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

IWSG: When We Build Things Up In Our Heads

It's IWSG day. Thanks to Alex Cavanaugh for organizing this monthly event where writers share about their writerly insecurities and other stuff.

For about ten years, my husband and I have been driving past this Italian seafood restaurant that serves cioppino. I love a hot bowl of seasoned fish stew with fresh bread. We finally came here last month with our children. 

There were about three occupied tables when we arrived on a Sunday in the early afternoon. So the place wasn't crowded.  But once we were seated, we waited a good 15 minutes before anyone came by for our drink order. Let's say hello to red flag number one. For the remainder of our visit, we were mostly ignored when we tried to wave down the wandering wait staff. 

My husband and children's entrees trickled out after an unusually long wait. The waiter assured me that my dish was on its way. Well, I'd already waited years to try the cioppino, so I could wait a few more minutes. Color me puzzled when the waiter set a burger with fries down. He insisted that was what I'd ordered. Um, no. When he realized he made a mistake, the burger was taken away. By the time my cioppino arrived, we'd been at the restaurant for about an hour-and-a-half, and the kids were full and understandably restless. And you know what, the cioppino I waited ten years to try tasted rather average. 

When the bill came, we were charged for the burger and fries I didn't order. And my cioppino was ten dollars more on the bill than it was advertised on the menu. Turns out we were being charged for dinner menu rates even though we had ordered from their lunch menu during their lunch window. We spoke up about this (and we could've spoken up about much more) and finally, a manager fixed the bill. 

It's not easy to work in food service. That said, the service and organization of this restaurant was exceptionally poor. 

When we were ignored after being seated, my husband and I considered just leaving. But I built something up so big in my head, I acknowledged but easily forgave the early red flags until it became impossible to ignore that this restaurant, which stirred our curiosity all these years, SUCKS.

It also occurred to me if I had lower expectations, I might've had a better experience. Who knows, the cioppino might've even tasted better. Perhaps my high expectations contributed to my disappointment.

Besides good cioppino, there's something else I've been building up in my head, against my better judgement,  for many years. This is the way I sometimes fantasize how certain things would fall into place for me if I become a published author.

That said, I constantly remind myself to be realistic about things. If I ever get published, the old things I'd stressed out about as an aspiring author would be replaced by new things that published authors typically stress over.  I know this because many published authors are quite open about challenges they face. 

And yet, I still daydream, and am therefore contributing to the disappointment I will experience if I get published and the things I'm secretly wishing for don't happen. I hate to think I might be building myself up for bland cioppino. I can't help thinking this sometimes. 

Maybe when the writing gets rough, the daydreaming is all I have. 

Do you approach your writerly ambitions with high or low expectations? Fantasies or reality?

What was your most challenging experience at a restaurant?

Monday, February 17, 2014

#WriterRecharge Update/Spring Cleaning My WIP

This month, I'm doing Sara Biren's Writer Recharge, a month-long event where participating writers set a goal and report on their progress each Monday. My goal is to write/revise 10-15 chapters this month. 

Last week, I completed two additional chapters, bringing my total of written chapters up to four. 

I also deleted an estimated 5,000 words. While spring cleaning my WIP can be such sweet sorrow (e.g. "But I patted myself on the back for days after I wrote this scene that demonstrates my writerly prowess!"), holding onto writing that no longer serves the big picture will only weaken my story. 

Holding onto Writing That Needs to Go is like clinging to a relationship with something or someone that is not helping you grow, but in fact, doing quite the opposite. While there might be something familiar and "easy" about staying in such a relationship or keeping around Writing That Needs to Go, you're headed for a brick wall. 

For those of you who find it hard to delete pages and pages of writing you labored over, here's a tip. For me, it's much easier to select my text, hit delete, and not look back if I have back up copies of my previous drafts sitting in a file somewhere. And even though I do have these the previous drafts for future reference, I actually don't  refer to them very often. But it's nice to know that they're there, in case I do need them.   

Note: Next week, I might post my #WriterRecharge Monday update on Twitter instead. On Twitter, I'm @CynthiaSociety. 

Is spring cleaning your WIP a challenge for you?

Have you ever held onto something or someone, and realized it was better for you to just let this thing or person go?

Monday, February 10, 2014

#WriterRecharge Update/Some Recent Reads

Writer Recharge Update
I signed up for Writer Recharge, and my goal is to write/revise 10-15 chapters by the end of this month. So far, I've written/revised two chapters. 

Last week was the first time I looked at this story since December. I'd purposely wanted to take some time off from it so I could look at the story again with fresh eyes after a little break. I'm glad I did that because a number of things are now jumping out at me, begging to be fixed. 

How is your work coming along?

For all you Writer Recharge participants (and anyone else) who want to find me on Twitter, I'm @CynthiaSociety. 

Some Recent Reads
I'm not sharing all the books I've read recently, just some: 

1.RELISH by Lucy Knisley (First Second- Adult Non-fiction Graphic Novel) In this food memoir created by the daughter of a chef, the author/artist shares her experiences with culinary cuisine from locales such as Mexico, Japan, Europe, New York, and Chicago.    
2. 17 & GONE by Nova Ren Suma (Dutton-Young Adult) A 17 year-old girl has strange visions of other 17 year-old girls who have gone missing. 
3. THE NIGHT CIRCUS by Erin Morgenstern (Doubleday- Adult Fiction) This historical fantasy novel takes the reader to the world of a circus, where the magic performed within is real, and two magicians who are in love are expected to fight to the death.
4. WONDER by R.J. Palacio (Alfred A. Knopf- Middle Grade) A fifth grade boy with a facial deformity is immersed into new peer relationships when he attends school for the first time. 
5. KIRA-KIRA by Cynthia Kadohata (Atheneum- Middle Grade) In this Newbery Award book, a Japanese American girl living in the 1950s watches her family strive for the American dream, all the while the girl's sister falls seriously ill.  
6. ALLEGIANT by Veronica Roth (Katherine Tegen- Young Adult) This is the third book in the DIVERGENT trilogy. In this story, a young girl has a difficult choice to make that will affect a lot of people. 
7. GONE GIRL by Gillian Flynn (Crown- Adult Fiction) A man is under suspicion for murdering his wife when she goes missing; both the man's narrative and his wife's diaries are shared. 
8. GEEKS, GIRLS, AND SECRET IDENTITIES by Mike Jung (Arthur A. Levine-Middle Grade) A boy discovers the identity of his favorite superhero.  Check out my author interview here. 
9. UNTIL IT HURTS TO STOP by Jennifer Hubbard (Viking-Young Adult) A high school girl who was bullied in junior high experiences anxiety and self-doubt when her bully returns to town. Check out my author interview here. 
10. BORN WICKED by Jessica Spotswood (Putnam) A girl and her sisters, secretly witches, live in historic New England where witches are cruelly punished. 

What was the last book you read?

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

IWSG: When an Author Publicly Second Guesses What They'd Written

It's IWSG day. Thanks to Alex Cavanaugh for organizing this monthly event where writers share about their writerly insecurities and other stuff. (Cool news: From Feb. 4-10, the Kindle version of Alex's book, CASSAFIRE, is on sale for 99 cents on Amazon and his publisher's site.)

The following "insecurity" or hindsight, as it is really, isn't my own- it belongs to one of my all-time favorite authors, J.K. Rowling, who recently admitted in an interview that she has second thoughts about pairing Hermione and Ron together and how this confession might cause "rage and fury" among her fans.* True enough, Rowling's recent admission ignited passionate reactions from fans over Superbowl weekend. Many agreed that Ron was wrong for Hermione, and others defended the couple. Some feel that Rowling shouldn't have even gone there at all.  

My opinion is that an author should not be restricted from talking about her work, even if she expresses regrets over choices she made in it. I am not feeling "rage and fury." If anything, Rowling's revelation got me to take a closer look at how I felt about the characters while reading the books and watching the movies, and deciding there was a contrast in how I followed both mediums. 

Reading the books, I felt the chemistry between Ron and Hermione. While Ron has shown some immaturity during his earlier years, he has also shown that he can be fiercely loyal to those he cared about. And it's not unheard of for an "eat-all-your-vegetables" type of girl like Hermione to be paired with an unpredictable boy like Ron. 


But watching the movies, the chemistry between Harry and Hermione was more apparent, especially when the two were alone together during the DEATHLY HALLOWS. Sometimes we pick up vibes from what we read in a book and what we see in a movie, and those vibes may influence our expectations while we're exposed to the other medium.  So that's why I wouldn't have been completely closed to the idea of Harry and Hermione sitting on a tree.

That said, I still prefer Rowling's original choice to bring Ron and Hermione together. While Ron was second fiddle to Harry by public perception, in Hermione's eyes, he was The One for her. Harry was revered as The Boy Who Lived, but Ron got the girl. Hermione got the soul mate she wanted in one of them, and in the other, a lifelong best friend. Therefore, each of the three main protagonists received some validation.

I could sit here and spend another thousand words arguing why Harry should've given light and quirky Luna a chance to bring him out of his shell, why a Hermione and Draco fling would've been fun (fling yes, marriage no, as as long Lucius and Narcissa are still around), and how, while it was thoughtful and fun for Rowling to show us who ended up marrying who from Hogwarts School at the end of DEATHLY HALLOWS, I myself am grateful that my husband didn't know me while I was in high school. And I'll just leave it at that.

For all you Harry Potter fans, do you feel that Hermione should've ended up with Harry instead of Ron? Or would you have rather seen her end up with neither of the two?

How do you feel about an author publicly admitting regret over something they'd written?

Did you or would you marry someone who knew you in high school?

 *A bunch of headlines also declare that Rowling felt Harry and Hermione should've gotten married instead BUT because Rowling's actual interview isn't up yet, I haven't seen an actual quote by Rowling that confirms she said this. So I will wait until the interview is up before I attribute a quote to Rowling about this. Update:  The interview, posted on mugglenet.com, quotes Rowling as saying, "In some ways Hermione and Harry are a better fit..." but she doesn't say the two should've gotten married at the end, as some headlines have misleadingly suggested.

Credit for images: Warner Bros.