Friday, December 14, 2012

Deja Vu Blogfest: NOBLE PRINCES AND DAMSELS IN DISTRESS

Deja Vu Blogfest
For the Deja Vu blogfest, the idea is that "anyone taking part will re-post their favorite blog offering from 2012, or one that never received the exposure it should have." Since my blog is fairly new, I'm going to have to do something a little different, so I'm going to pull out something that I wrote some time ago, but never published online.

I've chosen a piece from my Masters exegesis Finding Fantasy in Fiction. This particular chapter is entitled Noble Princes and Damsels in Distress, modified for online use.



Genre fiction is one that relies on conventions to tell a story, and archetypal characters are an important part of this. However, in order to create unique, relatable characters, archetypes are tools to be used warily, because their overuse has meant that fantasy is a genre “plagued with delicate, frail vestal virgins chained in a dungeon somewhere, hoping beyond despair that her valiant knight will rescue her from harm” (Morris, 2002, p. 43-44). From fairy tale princesses like Rapunzel, who are awaiting rescue, to more the modern fantasy character of Edward in Meyer’s Twilight, who must rescue his ‘princess’ from harm at every page turn, archetypes have been well used.

Lauren Kate’s Luce, from Fallen, is stuck in a reincarnation curse, where she dies before her sixteenth birthday, and it is up to the angel Daniel, to save her each time. At the climax of the novel, again Daniel must do the rescuing: “Not dead then, but saved. By angels. Daniel had come for her”.

Tuttle (2005) says that archetypes needn’t be feared however, and says that when archetypal characters are handled well, “these familiar characters have a ring of truth about them, and seem both familiar and yet original” (p.26). It is this familiarity of characters in the fantasy genre that readers want to see, so a complete rejection of these archetypes is not possible. However, many authors have succeeded in creating characters based on these archetypes, while still ensuring that they are original.

Tamora Pierce is an author who has been hugely successful in using archetypes, while making them original, within the fantasy genre. In her novel, Alanna: The first adventure, the protagonist, Alanna, is anything but a timid girl, awaiting rescue. She disguises herself as a boy and begins training as a knight. She is in no need of rescuing at any time, and while Pierce keeps her believable, by showing Alanna’s physical struggles with keeping up with boys, and dealing with bullies, while giving Alanna the chance to dispatch her enemies on her own. “It had taken weeks of training in secret to beat Ralon. The long hours, the bruises and her constant exhaustion were fresh in her mind”. Hardy’s protagonist, Nya, from The pain merchants. The healing wars: Book one, is another female character in fantasy that manages to defy archetypes but remain within the fantasy genre. Nya is an orphan who must survive on her own wits to provide for herself and her sister. She struggles with stereotypes placed on her, due to her status as both a girl, and a poor orphan. “‘Filthy ‘Veg. Don’t you be bothering my customers.’ She swept me down the walk like dust and shoved me into the street”. However, in the climax of the novel, it is Nya, and Nya alone who ‘saves the day’ by using her powers to free herself and kill the enemy, Zertanik, therefore saving her sister and several others.

The key to these characters is their believability. Despite having elements that have been seen in characters since stories first began, they are all characters one could meet in their own life. Kelly (1991) suggests that a way to increase believability is to increase a character’s moral ambiguity. “Nobody takes seriously a story in which the good guys are all saints and the bad guys are the spawn of hell. Saints can have their bad days and even monsters love their moms” (p.39).

However, sometimes the antagonist can be completely evil, with very little moral ambiguity, but thrive in their ‘evilness’. Valentine, from Clare’s The Mortal Instruments series, is one example of this. He is openly cruel, leading Clary and Jace, the protagonists of the novel, to falsely believe they are brother and sister even though they are in love, and he murders without conscience. Clare offers the reader no moral ambiguity with this character, instead using Valentine as a character to contrast his “son”, Jace, who believes himself to have evil blood running through him, but is revealed on all occasions to be nothing like Valentine. This use of the evil sorcerer archetype is successful in this case.

Voldemort from Harry Potter, is another example of a purely evil character. Flashes of his childhood as an orphan are given, as a direct comparison to Harry Potter himself, but Rowling fails to create any sympathy for Voldemort, since Harry came out of a similar, and arguably even worse situation, without a psychopathic nature. It does not matter however, for Voldemort’s evil nature is what makes him so ultimately terrifying. That such a creature (for he is portrayed as more snake than human) might actually exist is reminiscent of nightmarish childhood memories of monsters under the bed, and creatures of the night. Rowling allows Voldemort to be pure evil, and lets the reader relish in it. Her character of Snape, on the other hand, is a character built on complexity. It is not even until the final book in the series that the reader is allowed to know whether Snape is actually good. However, even while Rowling misleads the reader into thinking Snape is Voldemort’s henchman, she succeeds in creating sympathy for him, by revealing both his love for Harry’s mother, and his hatred for Harry’s father .

Tuttle (2005) says that “in myths and folktales, characters tend to represent one particular facet of the self, and are not complex, many-sided individuals” and fairytales represent internal struggles by splitting the ‘self’ into multiple characters – an evil witch, a helpless maiden and a hero are all the same person, represented in parts (p.67). In novels today though, well-rounded characters are more believable, and have a stronger hold on the reader.  And while flat characters might still be popular, it's characters who have several sides that are memorable and actually worth reading about.



Kelly, J. P. (1991). You and your characters. In G. Dozois, T. Lee, S. Schmidt, I. R. Strock & S. Williams (Eds.), Writing science fiction and fantasy. New York: St Martin’s Griffin.

Morris, T. (2002). How to make your characters real. In T. Dullemond & D. Park (Eds.), The complete guide to writing fantasy: Volume one ~ Alchemy with words. Calgary, Canada: Dragon Moon Press.

Tuttle, L. (2005). Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction (2nd. ed.). London, England: A & C Black Publishers Limited.




Make sure you check out the other entries here!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Steampunk Presents and Gifts

Given that it's the gift giving season, I've come up with a list of ten presents for steampunk fans. These gifts are all affordable (under $100 US each), and will be sure to make any steampunk lover feel like it's, well... Christmas!

Steampunk Canon Ring present

Capt. Blakely's Discreet Canno-Digitus Ring

This intricate ring has a sight that goes up and down. For those of us who have ever wanted to point a finger and shoot...

$64.95 from Clockwork Couture





Steampunk pocket watch present

Flower Mechanical Pendant Watch

A pocket watch with skeleton insides so you can see the mechanical workings.

$46.00 from SteamPunk Threads






Steampunk Ear Cuff present

His Masters Voice Ear Trumpet Cuff Stud

An ear cuff stud based on 'Brown-Tooth' technology from an early Edison patent.

$48.00 (£29.99) from Angel Clothing






Steampunk Compass Present

Steampunk Wrist Navitron

This Wrist Navitron features a compass, sundial and latitude finder. Never get lost again!

$45.00 from Dark Knight Armoury





Steampunk Secret Drawer Book Box Present

Steampunk Secret Drawer Wooden Book Box

This trinket box looks like a book, so its perfect for hiding your steampunk treasures.

$52.00 (€39.00 EUR) from Etsy








Steampunk Goggles Present

Machinists Goggles

The ultimate in steampunk eye protection, these goggles have UV 400 protection and look great!

$27.95 from Clockwork Couture





Demonia Crypto Steampunk Woman's Boots Present

Demonia Crypto Steampunk Woman's Boots

For the steampunk woman in your life, you can't go wrong with these incredible boots. Seriously. I want them myself. *Hint hint*

$98.99 from Steam Punk Boots




Embossed Steampunk Hat present

Embossed Steampunk Hat

Made with real clock and watch parts, this hat oozes steampunk beauty.

$78.00 from SteamPunk Threads









Steampunk Gun Present

Steampunk Space Captain Pistol

Made from a Hans Solo Star Wars Gun, this pistol puts the steam in steampunk. With a removable silencer and working light, you'll be able to get up to all kinds of mischief...

$23.99 from Etsy

Steampunk Wall Clock Present

Steampunk Clock with Thermometer

Showing all gears, screws, nuts and bolts, this steampunk wall clock looks fantastic. There's no numbers to help you tell the time, but it looks so good, who cares?

$64.00 from Dark Knight Armoury

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

All Men of Genius, by Lev AC Rosen

All Men of Genius Lev AC Rosen Steampunk
Lev AC Rosen's steampunk tale, All Men of Genius is, at first glance very similar to Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, with the protagonist having a suspiciously similar name (Violet).  A woman dressing as a man to prove herself equal, and to do what she loves is not a particularly unique plotline, but then most storylines all boil down to the same basic plots.

All Men of Genius is different in that it is set in a steampunk world, but what I love about it is that it is not just Twelfth Night slotted in. It has it's own story, atmosphere and way of pulling you into the story that makes you feel like you are reading something new.

All Men of Genius could possible be considered a work of young adult fiction, with the protagonist being seventeen, but it doesn't feel like this upon reading. The tone is older, amongst other things, but I actually think this works in it's favour. The novel manages to address not only female equality, but issues of sexual orientation and consequent homophobia, animal rights, and genetic engineering. A lot of issues to pack into one novel!

Like the sound of this book? Check out Steampunk Princess's Best Steampunk Books.

Friday, November 16, 2012

City of Bones Movie Trailer

The movie trailer for The Mortal Instruments City of Bones was recently released here. If you haven't seen it, watch it now.

It gave me shivers! I'm very, very excited to see Cassandra Clare's work come to life on the big screen. And I'm really hoping it will pave the way for THIS Cassandra Clare series to be made into a movie too:


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Steampunk Princess's List of Steampunk Books

At the top of this blog you will find a navigation link called "Best Steampunk Books" Here you will find a collation of the best steampunk books any steampunk fan should read.

Steampunk Book Review Etiquette and Espionage Gail Carriger

Etiquette and Espionage, by Gail Carriger

The first in a young adult series set twenty-five years before Carriger's Parasol Protectorate series, but in the same universe. Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is enrolled in Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality, where ingenious young girls learn to finish, all right - but it's a different kind of finishing than Sophronia expects.


Find More Steampunk Books>>

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Etiquette & Espionage, by Gail Carriger: Review

I was lucky enough to get my greedy hands on a copy of Gail Carriger's latest steampunk novel, Etiquette & Espionage, due to be published February 2013 (yes, go ahead and be jealous, you should be!).

Etiquette & Espionage (Finishing School #1) is set in the same universe as Carriger's fabulous adult steampunk series, the Parasol Protectorate. However, this series is aimed at young adults, and is set twenty-five years earlier. This makes for very interesting reading for fans of the Parasol Protectorate series, because there are a few familiar names, and it is very interesting seeing their younger selves (namely Sidhaeg, Lord Conall Maccon's great-great-great (I forget how many greats) granddaughter, who features for the first time in Book 2 of the Parasol Protectorate.

Aside from having a vested interest in this new series due to my complete and obsessive love for Carriger's Parasol Protectorate, there are plenty of reasons to enjoy Etiquette and Espionage. Firstly, while it is very apparent from the tone and voice that this is the same author's work, Carriger has done a fantastic job of giving it the feel of a young adult novel, as opposed to simply making the characters young, like many traditionally adult fiction authors can make the mistake of doing. The series' protagonist, Sophronia, is obviously younger, and less self-assured than Alexia, but she has such a teenage attitude that it made me laugh out loud in quite a few places. Overall this book is a lot funnier. There are some great antics and Sophronia is so (usually unintentionally) mischievous, that she makes a very likable character. Another character who is quite spectacular is Vieve, (who is also a prominent character in the Parasol Protectorate series, but won't spoil it) so be sure to be on the look out for that one too!

The plot itself is quite fast paced, and not overly complex, but it is filled with an array of fantastic inventions, littered with a gorgeous steampunk setting that only Carriger can pull off, and is somewhat reminiscent of Dianne Wynne-Jones' Howls Moving Castle (not just because of the floating school, but because of the whole feel to it).

Overall, I loved it. It's fun, beautifully written and I can't wait for number two!

Steampunk Book Review Etiquette and Espionage by Gail CarrigerIt's one thing to learn to curtsy properly. It's quite another to learn to curtsy and throw a knife at the same time. Welcome to finishing school. 


Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is the bane of her mother's existence. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper etiquette at tea--and god forbid anyone see her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminnick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. She enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality. 
But little do Sophronia or her mother know that this is a school where ingenious young girls learn to finish, all right--but it's a different kind of finishing. Mademoiselle Geraldine's certainly trains young ladies in the finer arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but also in the other kinds of finishing: the fine arts of death, diversion, deceit, espionage, and the modern weaponries. Sophronia and her friends are going to have a rousing first year at school.

First in a four book YA series set 25 years before the Parasol Protectorate but in the same universe.



Like the sound of this book? Check out Steampunk Princess's Best Steampunk Books.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Tone, mood, atmosphere and voice: Creating them in your writing (Resurrection Blogfest)

Resurrection Blogfest
As you can probably see from the lack of posts (and friends haha), this blog is in it's infancy. I have however ran numerous blogs before, so I thought I'd pick a popular post from my old blog for Mina Lobo's resurrection blogfest.

When defining the steampunk genre, it is important to realise that tone, mood, atmosphere and voice make up a huge part of it. If you are writing steampunk yourself, you may find that without the correct use of these elements your work falls flat and doesn't feel at all "steampunk" no matter how many cogs you throw at it.


TONE


Steampunk writing tone
Tone, atmosphere, and mood are often confused with one another. "Tone" is thewriter's attitude that is expressed in the writing.

For example, the tone could be suspenseful, because the author holds back certain information to create this feeling.

Tone is also generally thought of as describing the work as a whole, rather than a particular section.

How do you create tone in your writing?

It helps to decide what kind of tone you want. Often it depends on the genre. If its a mystery novel, then the tone should be suspenseful, if its a romance novel then its likely that you'll want a certain amount of sexual tension. In the case of steampunk, the tone may depend on what subgenres you have in your work, but generally steampunk is very action based, so your tone would reflect that. It's often more the plot than the actual word choice that creates this tone, as the plot generally builds up to a climax that reveals it.

MOOD



Steampunk writing mood

While "tone" is the writer's attitude, "mood" is the feeling the reader gets from the writing. While tone often describes the writing overall, the mood of a piece of writing can change throughout it. For example, at the death of a character the mood could be depressed or sad, but at the discovery of a long lost friend, the mood could be upbeat and joyful. A readers mood often goes hand in hand with a characters, if the character-reader relationship is strong enough.

How do you create mood in your writing?

While tone is often created using plot devices, mood comes more from word choice and sentence structure. Mood can be created in descriptions of the surroundings, feelings of the characters and actions that take place. Choosing appropriate words for different events will create the mood that is right for a particular scene.


ATMOSPHERE


Steampunk Writing atmosphere
The definition of "atmosphere" is debatable. Some say that it is the overall feeling created from the tone and mood, but others argue that it is the emotions and feeling created from the character. I prefer the character definition, and regardless of how a characters mood reflects on a readers, it is important to think about.

For example:

"I bounced on the balls of my feet on the platform and tucked a stray curl into my hat, resisting the urge to pull away from Aunt's firm grip on my elbow. But then he stepped off the train and impropriety went out the window. "Papa!" I cried out, pulling off my hat and waving it in the air in greeting, letting my carefully tamed curls loose before running towards him."

hopefully invokes an atmosphere of excitement in the writing, which is what the character is feeling.

How do you create atmosphere in your writing?

Atmosphere is about understanding character feelings and getting in their head. It is often most effective for 1st person and 3rd person limited POVs, but as long as your reader can have a relationship with the characters, and feel their pain and joy, then atmosphere can be created. For the most part, atmosphere is about choosing the correct emotions that go with a certain character and the situation they are in. It could be best to concentrate on one characters feelings per scene, rather than trying to cover everyones, because otherwise the atmosphere becomes diluted and is harder to relate to.

VOICE


Steampunk Writing Voice
What is voice?


It's a little hard to explain, but about.com has done a reasonable job:

"Voice is the author's style, the quality that makes his or her writing unique, and which conveys the author's attitude, personality and character."

In my view, voice combines, tone, mood, atmosphere and style to create an overall 'feel' in your writing, which generally translates across all pieces of work.

For example, Dean Koontz has written may books, all with a different atmosphere, mood and tone, but the way he combines them is distinctive, and it is easy to know that he has written any one of his books, even if one is written in first person, and another in third.

How do you get 'voice' in your writing?

Voice tends to emerge naturally in writing. They more you write, the closer you will come to discovering it. A lot of it comes down to word choice and sentence structure. Shorter words and sentences create a more abrupt voice, and when combined with particular moods and tones, it becomes quite distinctive.

Sometimes however, it helps to try and define possible aspects of your voice. For example, I believe that my voice tends to have a self-depricating edge to it. It takes a lot of writing (and reading your own work) to discover this, and it can only be done by letting it emerge naturally, without worrying about it.

The most important thing to remember with voice is not to let other's opinions on your work sway you. If someone says that your work could be "funnier", but your voice isn't naturally humourous, forcing it into your writing won't work. Once you begin to discover aspects of your voice however, it is easier to manipulate them, and use them to your advantage.