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I am a writer and dreamer, currently working on blogs and a book series.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

At a Glance: Nancy Drew Throughout the Years

Introduction




Nancy Drew is a titian-haired (or strawberry-blonde) “amateur” detective who lives in River Heights.  Her father, Carson Drew, is a lawyer and her mother died when Nancy was three.  Hannah Gruen is their housekeeper and acts as a mother figure for Nancy.  Nancy hangs out with Bess Marvin and Bess’s cousin, George Fayne.  Bess is a blonde girly-girl type who enjoys shopping and is reluctant to solve mysteries while George is a brunette tomboy who enjoys playing sports and will jump at a chance to solve a mystery.  Nancy also has a boyfriend named Ned Nickerson who is a jock and goes to Emerson College and helps Nancy with her mysteries while worrying about her.

This is the basic, original Nancy Drew information.  I am a loyal fan of Nancy Drew, so I get upset when people start messing about with the basics.  I will present some other versions of Nancy that have popped up over time.



The Original Nancy Drew Movies (1930s)

All I can say is that I was very disappointed with these movies, especially since there were made in the same era as the original books.  Bonita Granville portrays Nancy younger than the original yellow books and because of that, I found her judgement impaired which changed Nancy’s character.  She was also too excitable and got upset too easily, for instance, in Nancy Drew, Detective, she is so excited to be going to police headquarters with her father that she’s pulling him across the sidewalk and into the building.  I also think that because of Nancy’s young age, they made Carson Drew constantly tell Nancy to stop investigating and to go to the police; in the yellow books, Mr. Drew helps Nancy with her cases and/or warns her to be careful.  To match Nancy’s young age, they also had Ned—sorry Ted— act younger as well and the writers decided to make them argue.  A lot.  This is not what Nancy and Ned’s relationship is about.


As I mentioned, I am a stickler for details with Nancy Drew and frankly find that changing her boyfriend’s name from “Ned” to “Ted” is an unnecessary alteration.  Consequently, I didn’t enjoy the movies as much as I had hoped when I discovered theses movies existed.



Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys Mysteries (1970s)


I started to enjoy these episodes despite all the changes made to Nancy's story, such as:
  • George having Bess’s characteristics, especially her reluctance and fear of being in a case with Nancy
  • Ned being more of a nerd with glasses since Nancy is the more confident one in the relationship
  • Several actresses playing Bess and Bess's character being two-dimensional
  • More than one actor playing Ned 



I was about halfway through the second season and had just started to watch a Christmas episode when suddenly Rick Springfield makes a guest appearance.  I thought it was cool to have a celebrity on the show, thinking he'd play a victim or suspect.  I proceeded to watch the episode when Nancy calls him “Ned”.  I had reached the end of my rope and I stopped watching the rest of the Nancy Drew episodes for the rest of the season (except for those where she was teamed up with the Hardy Boys because they were perfectly portrayed).  I was glad that I did because in one of the team-ups with the Hardy Boys, Nancy is played by a different actress.  Cue the eye roll. 

I don’t understand why writers gave the first Ned a more reserved and somewhat meek personality which emphasize Nancy's headstrong and sometimes aggressive personality.  It’s as if the writers felt the yellow book Nancy and Ned were not what audiences wanted, so they decided to make them opposites.  If you want a good example, watch "A Haunting We Will Go".


I found Pamela Sue Martin’s portrayal of Nancy is closer to the yellow book version, but she is shown to have more faults on TV.  One could say that Martin's portrayal is a more human one.  Although Martin’s Nancy is truer to the yellow book Nancy, everything around her on the show was not up to par and then she was also changed. 

One more thing: I have always wondered where they got the idea to have Frank and Nancy interested in each other, (although more on Frank’s side).  This has influenced the Nancy Drew computer games and modern book versions of Nancy.

 




Nancy Drew TV Show (1990s)


I will admit that I have only seen clips of this show on Youtube, one of which was where Nancy breaks up with Ned.  I watched the clip without judgement and made allowances for story changes (like Nancy having dark hair), but at the end, I just didn’t like it.  The music made it seem too much like a soap opera.  It was as if the writers behind the show needed a conflict for Nancy and Ned’s relationship to keep the audience's attention because they know any fan of Nancy Drew knows that Nancy and Ned can't break up.  But the writers used a flimsy excuse.  The scene depicts Nancy telling Ned that she doesn’t want to go to Africa with him and can’t wait for him for six months, so she breaks up with him.  


 
 In thinking of the yellow book Nancy, I think she would have either:

1.      Told Ned to go and enjoy himself on such an exotic adventure (especially since she’s either traveling herself and/or solving mysteries)
2.      Would have seen the intrigue in going to Africa and found a way to join Ned for the six months or part of the time

Fans of Nancy Drew, what is your opinion regarding this scene?  

 

 

Nancy Drew Computer Games (1990s-2000s)


I have been playing Nancy Drew games since the early 2000s and I almost have a complete collection (of Lani Manella's Nancy).  The Nancy players encounter in these games is only a voice and a character through writing; we never see Nancy (the closest we came to seeing her in #25 Alibi in Ashes), so it isn't entirely Manella who is portraying Nancy.  Her voice, however, is perfect for my idea of Nancy.  Her voice isn't too high or too deep.  And in the more recent games, say #14 and higher, players have a choice of answers that color the events and outcome of the game.  (Spoilers ahead) For instance, in # 14 Danger By Design, Nancy is asked not to tell Minette that Heather did something.  Players are given the option to tell on Heather.  If she tells, Heather does not allow Nancy to be a model in the fashion show and consequently, Nancy has burned a bridge.

I noticed Nancy sounded older at times in the 20s of the games and found out that Manella was directed to do so.  Again, why are they changing Nancy?  Nancy has always been a teenager which has facilitated her undercover work, (despite being in her 80s now).  I don't see the appeal of making her older.

I am upset that the company Her Interactive decided to change Nancy’s voice actress from Lani Manella to someone sounding younger.  I’m hoping she will do as good a job of being Nancy and that Her Interactive completes the 33rd game, Midnight in Salem, soon.



Conclusion


I have never read a first edition Nancy Drew book and I know that there were many rewrites to update the yellow book Nancy over the years, so maybe Bonita Granville’s portrayal was more inline with the first yellow book Nancy. Nonetheless, she’s not 
my Nancy. 

I have read a few modern books with Nancy Drew paired with The Hardy Boys as well as alone and as much as the mysteries themselves were interesting, the characters did not live up to my standards.  Those versions of Nancy don’t speak to me; they are no different than other book characters.  That leads me to wonder if a more modern setting is the reason for my dislike, but then again, I enjoy the Her Interactive’s computer games.  It must be the writing of her character, then.  Or I’m just too sentimental.

I was very happy to hear that the attempt to put Nancy on TV in a police investigation setting was stopped.  I am glad because I find that we have too many police investigation shows these days that all look the same.  I did not see Sarah Shahi as Nancy, so there is no way of knowing how she portrayed the detective.  Moreover, I don’t agree with cancelling the show because it’s “too female”.  Nancy Drew is still popular, so a ‘too female’ cast is not a good reason for cancellation.  We could easily say that The Hardy Boys is ‘too male’. 




Sources:

Ahsan, Sadaf. “CBS’s Nancy Drew television series remake, starring Sarah Shahi, cancelledfor being ‘too female’ ”. National Post. POSTMEDIA. Updated May 17, 2016.

All photographs in this post are my own.

lise engen haugan, The Hardy Boys Nancy Drew Mysteries 1 08 A Haunting We Will Go DVD2DivX. Youtube. Published February 11, 2017.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=He2NFql_2H4

NigthSky315. Frank and Nancy - At the Beginning. Youtube. Published June 2, 2008.

twtom. Nancy Drew Breaks Up With Ned Nickerson. Youtube. Published July 6, 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Rc48Pbugr8

twtom. Nancy Drew Intro 1995 TV Show. Youtube. Published July 4, 2017.


Further Reading:





Sunday, 13 August 2017

Telling a Story in Another Way

This blog is all about storytelling.  I've done book, movie, game and television reviews, but I've never done anything on photography.  And that's what opened my eyes and continues to help me in my writing.  And it all started when I met Éric Soucy.

Through his photography of Montreal, he showed me the city I had never noticed because I had grown up too much inside myself (and no, I've never owned a cellphone and don't have any portable electronic device that I obsess over).  Now, I see colors, shapes, lines of the underground cities and the above-ground architecture, as well as people.  I look around more and see the beautiful, the ugly, the demolished, the renovated.  He showed me the influence of people on this city and I want to explore its past, present and future.

If you're interested, Éric is going to be showcasing his photography.  For a sneak peek, click here.


Saturday, 6 May 2017

How Time Hasn't Changed: Doorways in the Sand

I've been reading science fiction novels such as Doorways in the Sand by the great Roger Zelazny; it's about alien possession and the copyright date of my book is 1976.  With older science fiction books, readers today notice obsolete things such as rabbit-ear televisions or the absence of the internet and the increased use of the mail system.  With that in mind, I noticed something in Doorways in the Sand when the mentor to the protagonist discusses scientific revolutions,

"that a big new idea comes along and shatters traditional patterns of thought, that everything is then put together again from the ground up [...] After a time, things begin looking tidy once more [...] Then someone throws another brick through the window.  It has always been this way for [humans], and in recent years things have been coming closer and closer together."
 
Doesn't that sound like what's happening today in 2017 with the constant production and improvements in technology, TED talks and the startup company phenomenon?

"Innovation" and "vision" are key terms these days and people are doing exactly what Zelazny said; nothing has changed and that's a good thing.  We are improving upon and building on old frameworks. 

As a storyteller, I am happy to see that big ideas and imagination have not yet become obsolete.



Sources:

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/61998.Doorways_in_the_Sand

Zelazny, Roger. Doorways in the Sand. Avon Books, 1976. p. 185.  

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Reflecting on The Goblin Tunnels




I was asked how The Goblin Tunnels series has helped me in my writing.

For those of you unfamiliar with The Goblin Tunnels, I will fill you in: The Goblin Tunnels began as a series of photographs on Convozine (a site which no longer exists) by Victor Garibaldi and was continued by Éric Soucy.   It is a photo-series that depicts an alternate dimension accessible through public underground tunnels.  I have lent my writing to some of their work.  You can find the series here and here.

When I began writing for The Goblin Tunnels, I never thought about the genre it fit into.  I simply tried to incorporate the same mood Victor and Éric's photos contained and went with that.  I have always been one to feel art first and then try to explain it with words.  I often search for the perfect song to help me write in whatever mood I'm in or need.

Thinking back, the series has helped me:

  • explore different themes and formats (including plays, letters and diary entries) as well as other stories (such as Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness) that led and lead to my creating a new story
  • open my eyes to my surroundings (including colors, shapes, historical architecture, graffiti, etc.) and to environments I had previously taken for granted or ignored, like subway systems

Thanks to The Goblin Tunnels, I am writing more realistically, including the good and the bad as well as adding details people don't notice or forget as they live day-to-day.   


It was only in taking a science fiction course that it dawned on me that The Goblin Tunnels is a science fiction series because of the parallel universe trope.  With this epiphany and my newly acquired knowledge of the genre, I have more stories to investigate, analyze and use for the series.  The Goblin Tunnels continues to push me to look for new ideas and to be inventive.

 
Sources:

*The images used in this post are the property of Éric Soucy and have been used with his permission.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

How A Writer Ends It All

When I was young, I had an epiphany: I could change a story I had read or seen or heard.  I could re-write it and make the characters of a story change direction, multiple times if I wanted.  
  
Some mornings, I would get up to find my mother watching television.  She would stumble upon a movie and watch it without knowing beforehand what the movie was about.  Sometimes I would join her because I loved the mystery and newness of the movie, but other times I refused no matter how good it appeared to be because I had been burned before by the unsatisfactory ending.  I think that this subconsciously added to my drive towards writing.  In writing, I can have my revenge and create satisfactory endings for my readers because I know how they would feel if I did not write that type of ending.

Of course, a "satisfactory ending" is different for everyone and different for each story.  Having everyone live at the end may not be the best thing for the meaning behind the story.

Life is already full of mysteries and unanswered questions.  I want stories to have answers and to not be exactly like life.  After all, that is why I turn to stories in the first place; to escape the reality I know and enter one that I recognize, but is still somewhat different.  



There are some stories that I accept as having what I find to be an unsatisfactory ending because I see that it is necessary for the meaning behind it.  But I can't guarantee that I won't feel like I wasted my time or that I won't complain about it for a day or two.

  Here's the post that got me thinking about this topic:

https://janefriedman.com/story-ending-doesnt-satisfy/

(For fellow writers, I suggest following Jane Friedman's blog; she has great advice!) 



Second image source: http://www.tedxnormal.com/what-a-grandmas-experience-taught-me-about-storytelling-kim-behrens-kaufman-tedxnormal-talk-recap/

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Holiday Read: One Night at the Call Center

 *Spoiler Alert

One Night at the Call Center by Chetan Bhagat is narrated by Shyam, a call center agent in Gurgaon, India. We learn about him and his call center colleagues (Priyanka, Vroom, Esha, Radhika and Military Uncle) and see how their lives are turned upside down in one night while they’re working their shift.  When they have reached the end of the road, they get a call from God which helps give them a push to take control of their lives.



The Characters:


  • Shyam is the narrator who feels inadequate and has low self-esteem; he aspires to become team leader of his group at the call center in hopes Priyanka will want him again.



  • Priyanka is the ex-girlfriend to Shyam; she is under pressure by her mother and family to agree to an arranged marriage; she is working at the call center to earn money towards her B.Ed.



  • Vroom is the best friend to Shyam; he hates his call center job; he used to be a journalist and has a crush on Esha.



  • Esha aspires to be a model and is working at the call center until she gets her big break.



  • Radhika was recently married and is living with her husband and mother-in-law; she is working at the call center to provide for her family and has had to adhere to more traditional customs now that she is with her husband’s family.



  • Military Uncle is a quiet man who deals with customers through the online chat instead of the phones; he has family issues with his son who does not want him to see his grandson.




This book has a little extra something. Bhagat put himself in the prologue and epilogue, making the call center a story within a story.  Bhagat meets a woman on a train and in agreeing to listen to her story, he has to make it his next novel. She recounts the call center story and at the end, Bhagat tries to figure out who the woman is: Priyanka, Esha or Radhika. We never find out for sure, but he implies that the woman is God.

This book fits into the “Fantastic” genre because it deals with the supernatural and the implied reader’s hesitation. Firstly, readers do not know whether or not the Bhagat in the prologue and epilogue is his true self or a version of himself. And did this train sequence actually happen? Secondly, readers cannot know for sure if the woman on the train is actually God or if the call center story actually happened. Bhagat wants us to believe that she is God because of the “holy text” she was reading; he implies that she is supernatural and may have conjured up a book, “Her blanket moved, uncovering a book I hadn’t noticed before.” Bhagat also uses the symbolism of the dawn light and how she glowed.

Although the story took place in one night, we get a lot of character development and I feel that this is the driving force of the novel. The characters were well rounded and felt very real. I also enjoyed this book because I work in customer service, which means that I understand the characters’ frustrations when dealing with annoying customers.  In customer service, there is a lot that is scripted and made into a routine that gets old. It’s not the kind of job I like to be in.

It was a fun read. I had a hard time putting the book down!



Image source: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/105578.One_Night_at_the_Call_Center

Thursday, 27 October 2016

The Halloween Spirit: Quantum Leap's "The Boogieman"

This is one of my favorite episodes, mainly because it diverts from the usual Quantum Leap story line of Sam Beckett changing someone's life or several people's lives in order for himself to leap home.  For those of you who have not seen this episode, do NOT read on because there are spoilers.  And you do not want this episode spoiled! 


***Spoilers***

I never realized all the clues that pointed to Al not being Al.  In fact, on my first viewing, I only noticed one of the clues and thought it was a goof.  Boy, was I kicking myself at the end!  Having watched so many episodes, I should have noticed the clues.  At the end, Sam mentions a few of the clues, but I want to provide a more complete list:
  • Sound: when Sam is with the Sheriff after Tully's death, "Al" speaks off-camera and instead of the usual chords that play when he appears, there is haunting music
  • Visual: The Sheriff and Mary can sense "Al's" presence throughout the show (I associated this to the time of Halloween when spirits are thought to come back to our world)
  • Visual: "Al's" clothes are not of his usual style, although this may just be me.  I find Al wears flashier more hip clothes than the ones "Al" wears 
    "Al" versus Al
  • Sound: Whenever "Al" types into his hand link, it sounds like a typewriter instead of the usual funny sounds it makes; he also never hits his hand link to get information
  • Visual/Sound: "Al" coughs and looks at his cigar at least twice during the episode: 1) when he and Sam go up to the office and 2) when he and Sam are looking around Mary's house.  Al has never done this in other episodes as far as I know.
  •  Right before Dorothy screams, "Al" has disappeared suddenly and he only reappears when the black mamba snake disappears
  • Visual: Sam mentions that "Al" never walked through anything 
  • Visual: Sam also mentions that "Al" never used the imaging chamber door
  • Sound: When "Al" tells Gooshie to center him on Mary, he just disappears without the usual sound effect (This is the one I thought was a goof)
  • Sound: "Al" never makes any lewd remarks 
  • Visual: When "Al" enters Mary's house, the first number of her address, 9, becomes a 6, making three in a row
  • Sound: When Sam and "Al" are confronted by the Sheriff while snooping through Mary's house, "Al" is unusually quiet while he listens to Sam and the Sheriff talk; the real Al often talks over everyone making it hard for Sam (and us viewers) to follow both conversations
  •  Sound: As Sam says at the end, "Al" repeats the quote Tully said earlier about "Them who dance with the Devil..." when there is no way "Al" could have known about that quote.
  • Sound: After Sam looks through a book with images related the Devil, "Al" remarks that maybe the "Boogieman" is responsible for all the deaths.  (Side note: This relates to the first episode when Sam leaps for the first time and doesn't remember anything.  In Sam's narration, he first talks about a being in a nightmare and that eventually a Boogieman shows up.  Later, he refers to Al as the Boogieman: "The Boogieman had arrived")
If I missed any clues, please leave a comment.
  
Happy Halloween!

Saturday, 3 September 2016

A Writing Break: Map It Out

Maps are fun.  They give us a way of seeing a place and all its details before beginning our exploration.  The book I reviewed in my previous post, "Paris was the Place", talks about maps and the narrator-protagonist describes Paris and how its streets are laid out.  Here is Paris's subway map:

Real Paris Subway Map

Subway maps are also interesting, especially those of Paris and Japan.  I haven't traveled very much, so when I was playing the video games Nancy Drew: Danger by Design and Shadow at the Water's Edge, the maps were a bit daunting.  There are just so many stops!

http://www.mobygames.com/images/shots/l/175832-nancy-drew-danger-by-design-windows-screenshot-metro-map.png
Nancy Drew Paris Subway Map

I'm a writer, so why am I going on about maps?  Well, because maps are useful for writing; you can map out your story or create a map to help you visualize the world you're creating.  Sometimes, the ideas won't come to me or I struggle to write a scene with the right words, so I turn to design and images.  That way, I'm still working on the story, just from another angle which can cure my Writer's Block.  

What I've done so far for my novel series is room blueprints.  I think about the room's shape (example regarding a bedroom/living room: "Would a bay window be appropriate or useful for the character(s)?"); the room's decor (example regarding a restaurant: "Do red and white checkered table clothes suit the restaurant's image?"); the room's atmosphere (example: a library would be silent, save for turning pages, footsteps and the occasional cough).

I enjoy designing more personal spaces like bedrooms, kitchens and living rooms because they add to character development.  In the Nancy Drew games, there are very few bedrooms you can explore.  My favorite one is that of Abby from Message in a Haunted Mansion.  Now, Abby likes astronomy, ghosts and holding seances.  Her room emphasizes and highlights her personality in different ways:
 
Abby's Room
We can see from the above image the colors which are blues and purples.  They create a mystical feeling.  Adding to this are the swirls in the bed frame which give off a fluid vibe.

Abby's Nightstand
Upon closer inspection, we can see that the table cloth with its moons and stars along with the candles continue the mystical theme of her room.  We see that Abby likes romance stories and the photo shows she values family or friends.

Abby's Desk
Not surprisingly, Abby has a Tarot deck and a book on fortune-telling.  She also has more photos of family or friends in the room.  Here, we can see something more average: magazines.  So, Abby comes back down to Earth now and again.

Abby's Bookshelf

Lastly, we have her bookshelf.  The bookshelf itself is curved and consistent with the fluidity theme of the room. The book you can take off the shelf is about the Chinese zodiac.  Additionally, Abby has a palmist hand statue and a pyramid, thus completing her collection of mystical objects.

For a more complete view of her room:

Birdseye view
There are so many elements to consider when creating a map or blueprint.  Happy mapping!



Real Paris Subway Map:  http://www.aparisguide.com/maps/metro.htm

Nancy Drew Paris Subway Map: http://www.mobygames.com/game/windows/nancy-drew-danger-by-design/screenshots/gameShotId,175832/

Abby's Room images from arglefumph's video walk-through: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7HlzSiN3re8

Birdseye view of Abbey's room: http://www.herinteractive.com/2015/04/nostalgic-thursdays/

Saturday, 20 August 2016

“Paris was the Place” Book Review



*This post contains spoilers



I enjoy listening to TED talks. I find them informative and the speakers captivate my attention by using a creative way to deliver their speeches. One such TED talk was "The power of story" by the writer/poet Susan Conley.




A few days after listening to Conley’s talk, I was checking out the “Bargain Books” section at Indigo and picked up a book that had an interesting title: Paris was the Place. It was only after reading the story’s description on the book’s jacket that I decided to buy it. Then my eyes caught the author’s name and I laughed at the coincidence. I always search for books by certain authors; never have the books found me.
 
 "Paris was the Place" is full of life.  It's 1989 and the protagonist, Willow Pears, teaches poetry at an academy as well as at an immigration center for girls.  She becomes involved in one of the girls' lives at the center which leads to the question of where the line is drawn when it comes to being a teacher.  At the center, Willow encounters the girl's lawyer, Macon, and they quickly begin a relationship without knowing much about each other.  Meanwhile, Willow is constantly anxious about her brother's wavering health.

“Paris was the Place” is an engaging story that I think fellow writers and poets will enjoy. The narrator has a great way of juxtaposing Paris’s beauty and magic beside the worry and unfairness of reality. I consider this book an excellent reflection of life itself. Willie talks about how bright the sun is after something bad has happened in her life, which is something that I have done.  I found that I could relate to her and her way of thinking.

Since I haven't traveled to many places, I always enjoy a book that describes other cities.  Conley's descriptions were my favorite part of the book: "The train station shadows long banks of dove-gray apartment buildings with wrought-iron balconies and cafés with scalloped awnings. The rain's stopped but not before it froze on the icy sidewalks, and the wind has only picked up. Dark limbs of chestnut tees rock back and forth up near the highest apartments.  And this is a different Paris than even this afternoon. The city changes faces" (Chapter 2, paragraph1). 

Although ‘Paris’ is in the book’s title, a surprising amount of India shows up in the story. Several girls at the immigration center are from India; one of Willow's friends is from India; the food they eat at times is Indian and Willow even goes to India to gather research for a book. Again, I enjoy coincidences; I'm going to be taking an English Literature class focusing on South Asia.
   
I like Conley's writing style and will definitely look for more of her work.



Friday, 1 July 2016

A Thank-You to Noah Wyle

Dear Mr. Wyle,

After having watched the episode, The Librarians and What Lies Beneath the Stones, it made me reflect upon my own family.  We have never been a close family and as I have gotten older, the divide has only widened.  Jacob Stone's search for his identity in the episode reflected my own.  For a long time, I was trapped in my family's world and believed that all they said was truth and internalized their words, which buried my self-confidence and left me feeling like a freak.  

Once out in the world with a job whilst pursuing higher education did I begin to realize parts of my identity that went against the beliefs and expectations of my family, but coincided with others in the world.  It is all the stories that I have consumed that emphasized being true to one's self that have helped me stand my ground.  One of those stories was that of The Librarian.  Before going out into the world, it was only in stories, from books, television and movies, that I found people that I could relate to.  You are the one who gave Flynn Carsen life, in addition to giving me strength and hope.  

I want to thank you for being Flynn Carsen in the movies and for bringing the story back as it was while giving it a new spin.  I also enjoyed your speech for the 2014 Human Rights Campaign.

Sincerely,
The Red Wolf
        




Thursday, 12 May 2016

The Girl on the Train Book Review


The Girl on the Train movie will be coming out soon.  For those of you who have yet to read the book, I encourage you to do so.  I prefer fantasy, science fiction and classic mysteries, but this book does have mysterious aspects and twists that you may never see coming.  I'll begin from the beginning.


**In case you didn’t see it the first time: Spoilers Ahead (and the Culprit is Revealed)!

The Girl on the Train has three women narrating: Rachel, Megan and Anna.




  • Rachel - The main narrator and the girl on the train. She rides the train into town on her way to work everyday and passes her old house and street. Rachel notices a man and a woman a couple of doors down from her old house and imagines their perfect life together. Later, Rachel finds out about the woman’s disappearance and because of the fiction she created in her head, she feels obligated to figure out what happened. She was also in the neighborhood the day the woman disappeared and Rachel suspects the man she saw is responsible.
  • Megan - The woman who disappears. We find out that she is married to Scott, but she isn’t happy. Her past haunts her and she has affairs behind Scott’s back. Additionally, she is hired by Rachel’s ex-husband, Tom, to be a babysitter.
  • Anna - “The other woman”. Rachel and Tom lived together on the same street as Megan until Tom cheated on Rachel with Anna. He then kicked Rachel out of their house and married Anna. They live happily with a baby. Because Rachel keeps showing up on their doorstep, Anna becomes a nervous wreck and fears Rachel will harm her and her baby.

Between Rachel’s memory loss, Anna’s fear and paranoia and Megan’s flashbacks, there are quite a few links to connect and confusion to sift through. Rachel showed her Nancy Drew skills when she researched the suspects and interviewed them. That certainly took guts, especially since Rachel thought at one point that Scott was responsible for Megan’s disappearance.

I enjoyed the use of the “unreliable narrator” and how we see things from different points of view. Rachel isn’t even sure of herself of what happens at times because of her blackouts from her excessive drinking. Throughout the book, I wondered why Hawkins didn’t include Tom as a narrator because he played a significant role in the three women’s lives. Of course, I only realized the reason at the end. On the other hand, Hawkins could have had fun with Tom’s narrative by using it as a red herring with double meanings.

It was only halfway through the book when I began suspecting Tom as a liar since he was the common element among the three women in addition to Rachel repeatedly recounting her experiences with Tom when she was drunk and how she never remembered the things he said she had said and done while in her stupor. Authors use repetition intentionally.

The ending to the book was quite frightening because of its realism. Tom tries to kill Rachel when she tries to convince Anna that Tom was having an affair with Megan (and killed her) just as he was having an affair with her (Anna) when he was with Rachel. Anna is in a state of shock and wants to protect her child, so she doesn’t help Rachel fight Tom until the last moment. Tom dies and both Rachel and Anna are questioned by the police, but neither one of them mention that Anna helped Tom die faster.

I think the element that attracted most people to the book was the Hitchcockian beginning reminiscent of Rear Window along with the romance and mystery of being on a train which is reminiscent of films like North by Northwest and The Tourist.

What made me pick up the book was to see why it was so popular. For several weeks, Indigo proudly displayed shelves of The Girl on the Train at the front of the store, so I saw it many times. Then, one day, I had forgotten to bring a book with me, so I immediately went to Indigo with the book in mind. The cover also appealed to me with its doubled letters and simplicity.

I recommend this book and am planning to see the movie.




Image source: https://dynamic.indigoimages.ca/books/038568231x.jpg?altimages=true&scaleup=true&maxheight=515&width=380&quality=85&sale=12&lang=en

Monday, 2 May 2016

The Quality of Writing


I found this interview with Paul McGann on YouTube (posted by Morgan Creed) and enjoyed the conversation because McGann discusses quality writing and how so many stories on television focus on "crash-bang-wallop" and CGI effects instead of characters.  It got me thinking about how children don't notice the bad visual and audio effects older shows had until they see them again as teenagers or adults.  This allows children to get more enjoyment out of stories.  On the other hand, it's good that we lose that belief when it comes to the scarier (and sometimes gory) elements of stories.  I remember when my parents were watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  I was in grade school and I would shield my eyes from the television screen when I had to cross the room because the creatures were horrific.  A decade or so later, I see them and they are laughable because I can see the actor beneath the make-up and rubber.
  
Although McGann is an actor, he brings up some key points for writers:
  • Look for an alternative when you're contemplating exposition and loaded questions
  • Create characters that sound different from one another in their dialogue and narration
  • Let characters reveal themselves as opposed to other elements of the book (like plot)


 I've seen some of the earlier Doctor Who episodes and I've compared them to the episodes of the 2005 reboot and they are the same in the sense that dialogue and characters dominant the story, which is one of the main reasons why the show has lasted for more than 50 years.


"Sci-Fi is [...] about ideas."
― Paul McGann
 
Whenever The Doctor encounters the villain, they don't share a witty one-liner and then engage in battle or skip the one-liner and go straight to fighting; The Doctor talks.  And talks and talks and talks some more, but this does exactly what McGann says in the interview, "[It gives] writing a chance".  And the audience loves it.  You feel the characters' emotions and get inside their heads.   One word from The Doctor's mouth has more of an impact than "crash-bang-wallop".

Case in point:

 
Video source: authenticgeek247

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Happy Birthday, Alan Rickman

R.I.P

"There will be no foolish wand-waving or silly incantations in this class. As such, I don't expect many of you to appreciate the subtle science and exact art that is potion-making. However, for those select few... who possess, the predisposition... I can teach you how to bewitch the mind and ensnare the senses. I can tell you how to bottle fame, brew glory, and even put a stopper in death." 


Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Interview with Katrina on "Why Writing?"


Today, I did an interview with Katrina to find out why she is passionate about writing:

So, what got you into writing?


My secondary-one English teacher was a huge influence for me. The Harry Potter series was another. But I first realized I enjoyed telling stories in elementary school, when our fourth grade class was forced to participate in a storytelling competition. I hated public speaking, but I remember feeling on top of the world when my classmates told me I was actually funny, and voted me to the next round. I refused, of course.
 
What is it about script-writing that attracted you to it?  
 
I think at first it was the fact that TV is dialogue-driven. Not always, of course, but when I was young I watched mostly family sitcoms; so for me, it was the laugh track that sold me. I wanted to be responsible for making a whole audience laugh—and maybe teach a lesson or two in the process.

What is your favorite medium of writing? 

It’s hard to choose between novels and television. They both do two very different things. My goal is to master both!

Do you have a favorite story? 

So many. Too many.
Short story: The Tell-Tale Heart
Movie: Ocean’s Eleven
Book: Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
TV Series: Gilmore Girls. No, Friends! I can’t possibly decide.

What makes you continue to write?  What do you find in writing that you can't find anywhere else? 
 
If it weren’t for the encouragement from my professors and mentors and the support from my family and friends, I would have given up on writing in my first year of college. I’m a scatter-y speaker, and my mind is always 10 steps ahead of my words; writing is the only thing that allows me to gather my thoughts. Because of this, it’s the only way I’m comfortable telling stories or bringing an important issue to light. Writing is the only way I can change the world—and isn’t that what we’re all trying to do, each in our way?


Thank you, Katrina, for sharing your love for writing.  We look forward to one day watching a television show or reading a novel written by you!


Follow Katrina (@tortz182) on Twitter!


For the previous post on "Why Writing" with Lia: http://redwolfsroom.blogspot.ca/2015/11/guest-blogger-lia-answering-question.html