Friday, June 24, 2011

If AMC’s “The Killing” Was a Book

I finished Season 1 of The Killing earlier this week. Courtesy of my DVR, I was able to watch it when I wanted rather than when it officially aired. By the time I saw it, I’d heard a slew of the complaints from the people who watched it live before.

That surprised me, but only because the people were disappointed to begin with. About halfway through the season, I realized the series was going to be a letdown. The only reason I finished was because I’d already spent a lot of time following the fictional murder and I wanted to see how it played out.

I won’t give away the ending because some people may want to watch the series, but I will say that it was less than spectacular. Waaaay less than spectacular. Below mediocre.

And that got me thinking: what if “The Killing” was a book? How would that have changed the series?

Lot’s of ways. For those of you that aren’t familiar with the series, it’s the investigation of a teenage girl’s death. Pretty much the first half of an episode of “Law and Order,” but dragged over 13 hour-long episodes.

I think a book editor (or agent) would have insisted on a lot of edits if this was a book a client was pitching to them. First, it’s too long, like a 150,000 word cozy romance. There are plenty of ways to make it shorter, namely by cutting a lot of the extraneous scenes and subplots that added nothing to the main story and made the characters less likeable.

Secondly, character motivations are never explained. There are logic leaps that no agent or editor would allow. The main character is a detective who is supposed to leave to be with her fiancĂ© the day of the murder. Instead, she sticks around for 13 days with no reasonable explanation as to why she doesn’t depart.

The characters are terrible. Most start out likeable enough or at the least have understandable motivations. Each of the unneeded subplots provides information about the characters that makes them more annoying. By the end, the character I liked best was the dead girl, probably because she didn’t have any lines.

Which was another thing – the dialogue was atrocious, particularly between the two detectives handling the case. One was childish and immature while the other was rude, bossy, and condescending. That’s another thing an agent/editor would have corrected.

The last and biggest change an agent/editor would have made would be the ending. I can understand why “The Killing” ended the way it did. TV shows rely on cliffhangers to build interest. A lot of book series do too. But it’s not necessary. Want a series that solved a mystery each season without getting bogged down in unnecessary subplots: Veronica Mars. It can be done. “The Killing” failed miserably in its promise to reveal who did the killing.

Basically, the only thing I think an agent or editor would have kept is the main plot. And with all the rewrites necessary, they wouldn’t have allowed “The Killing” to reach publication the way it reached TV.

Maybe I’m spoiled by reading good books with solid plots that have been carefully edited. Maybe my expectations are too high, but I think TV shows could be better. “The Killing” is just the latest example.

Contest: Birthday Blowout First Page Contest with Victoria Marini

Shelley Watters is hosting a Birthday Blowout First Page Contest with Victoria Marini on her blog http://shelleywatters.blogspot.com.

Want to participate and get loads of great feedback? Sign up at Shelley's blog and post the first 250 words on your blog on June 25th. Then get other people's thoughts on your work and share your opinions about theirs.

Friday, May 27, 2011

First 250 for the Made of Awesome Contest

Feel free to be brutal! I've gone through several iterations of this and it's still not where I want it. I appreciate all feedback. Thanks!

Title: Princess Protection Agency
Genre: YA Fantasy

A huge horse thundered down the road leading to the castle, clouds of dust billowing in its wake. Farmers and traders scrambled out of the way to avoid being trampled. Carts were overturned and livestock scattered.

“Who rides a horse that fast? Is there some war I don’t know about?” Evelyn asked as she knelt next to the boar they’d felled. Her eyes narrowed as she glared at the approaching rider.

“I wish,” Ruby said, her hand moving to her axe at the mention of conflict.

“Who cares? It’s some buffoon acting stupid,” Ingrid said. She gnawed her bottom lip as her gaze flicked between Evelyn and the rider.

Another group of farmers scattered as the horse charged toward them. The rider was thirty feet away and closing fast. Evelyn frowned.

“He’s rude. No reason to ride like a maniac. Time for him to learn to be more considerate of Norland’s citizens,” Evelyn said. She pulled her hunting knife from the boar and wiped it on the grass.

“I don’t think so. If I had to guess, I’d say he’s very considerate. A real peach,” Ingrid said. Her translucent wings shimmered as they fluttered.

“Don’t be a coward. We can teach him manners.” Evelyn’s finger ran along the edge of her knife as she headed to the road.

“Too dangerous. We should stay here in the grass,” Ingrid said, not that her argument would do any good. Her trembling hand gripped the wand at her side and her wings beat faster with each thud of the horse's hooves.

Made of Awesome Contest

Shelley Watters is hosting a "Made of Awesome Contest" contest at her blog, Is It Hot In Here Or Is It This Book?.

Everyone who signs up can post the first 250 words of their completed manuscript on May 28th. Then the participants go around and critique each others' post from the 28th to the 30th. That's a great way to get a ton of feedback from other writers.

And since it's a contest, there have to be winners, right? Agent Judith Engracia of Liza Dawson and Associates will read all of the first pages and select one for a ten-page critique.

To participate, sign up on her blog, http://shelleywatters.blogspot.com/.

Good luck!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Pitch Contest with Natalie Fischer!

The amazing team at YAtopia is hosting a pitch contest with agent Natalie Fischer. Hurry and enter - only 150 entries are accepted and the contest closes at midnight tonight.

Check it out: http://yatopia.blogspot.com/2011/04/pitch-contest-with-natalie-fischer.html#comments

Good luck to everyone who enters and thanks to YAtopia for hosting the contest!

My entry (also found in the comments on the website):

Name: Dustin Warren

Email: duwarrs(at)gmail.com


Genre: YA Contemporary

Blog/Twitter/Facebook link: http://duwarr-writes.blogspot.com/

2 Sentence Pitch:

Fifteen-year-old Bailey wants a day free from doctors, free from her oppressive, worrying parents, and free from the misery her terminal disease inflicts on her. And if she has to die a little sooner to get that day, that’s okay by her.

Opening sentence:

Three pairs of hands fumble at the cords and tubes connecting me to the machines around my bed.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Query Letter Blogfest

The Query Letter Blogfest is going on today to help writers improve the first impressions we make on agents. My query for ONE LAST TIME is below and I'd appreciate any and all thoughts. I definitely need to make this better.

Here we go:

Dear Agent,

[Reason I'm querying this particular agent] My Contemporary YA manuscript, ONE LAST TIME, is complete at 50,000 words.

Fifteen-year-old Bailey refuses to waste her last days immobilized in a hospital room. The sickness that’s ravaged her body and made her life wretched is about to kill her, but she's not going to lie in bed like a vegetable waiting for death to find her. With the help of her best friends, Bailey breaks out so she can enjoy one last day of freedom.

Free from the hospital, Bailey attempts the normal, everyday activities she’s been denied: driving a car, visiting the mall, even going to school. But then her heart gets in the way. When Bailey discovers love in an unexpected place, she questions her willingness to die for the first time. Suddenly, she has someone – and something – to live for, but she has to decide if that’s enough to return to the hospital to suffer through her last days in the place she’s grown to loathe.

Per [Agency Name's] submission guidelines, I have included [whatever they ask for]. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Best Regards,

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A Game of Thrones

In my last post, I mentioned how I was looking forward to seeing The Hunger Games on the big screen. I'm just as excited - perhaps even more so - to see A Game of Thrones turned into a show on HBO. I've loved the series, although it has taken a long, long time getting to print.

As intricate as the plot is, I'm really glad this is a story being told on TV rather than in theaters. Hollywood would have to cut a ton to story to condense each book into a single movie. Even with 10 hour-long episodes per book, I'm worried a lot will be missing. Plus, author George R R Martin's slow writing pace means the show's creators will run out of books long before the series ends. But maybe the later books will span more than one season.

Martin's excruciatingly slow style has pained readers; he allegedly missed tons of deadlines while putting together A Dance with Dragons, finally to be released in July of this year. It's been six years since the previous book in the series, A Feast for Crows, came out. I'm looking forward to it, even if it is going to focus on some of the characters I'm less enamored with.

Martin's books are a great read for aspiring authors. His pacing, his plot development, the way he switches from one character's perspective to the next - all are incredible. I'll reread his books to make sure I remember all the important details going into the latest book.

One of the things he does best is making sure his characters each act in accordance to what's in their own best interests. It's infuriating at times when side characters to act in ways that don't coincide with what's best for my favorite characters. But, I always understand why that is. The story is much fuller because of that and there are a lot more twists.

From plotting to character development, there's a lot to learn about writing within the series' pages. I always like reading books that will help me become a better writer and Martin's works certainly do that.

Does anyone have any books they've learned a lot from?