Bringing Up Books: Needful Things

Needful Things by Stephen KingNeedful Things

Regrettably, my weekend was spent attending my sick puppy, so that long weekend I had planned on dedicating to knockout a book from the poll I posted on Friday (if the choice was other, which it was) was not quite as free as I had planned. So, I will be posting a review shortly for The Prophecy of the Sisters. I am excited to read and review this book as it has been suggested to me several times and the concept seems interesting. For this week, I settled on the runner up, Needful Things. A book I read for the first time only weeks ago, although it has been on my shelf for years.

Another Stephen King novel, but this one is much more synonymous with the assumptions you may attach to what King will bring forth. Needful Things centers on the famous town of Castle Rock, it’s new inhabitant, Leland Gaunt with his new shop, Needful Things. The shop owner is a man of mystery. He sells people items they “need,” but he does not barter for money. Instead, he deals in deeds. A favor for the item, but he does not tell them initially what the favor is or when he needs it done. With numerous characters and a large set up, this book takes off when the deeds start piling up and the blood begins to pour out of the pages. Gaunt sets out to pit the towns people against each other and then light them all up.

It’s hard to really choose a favorite King novel, but I have to go with this one, maybe it’s just the freshness, but I don’t think so. It’s evil and gripping and will keep you reading and wanting more. Yet I found that I was satisfied by the end. I think it is rare to find a book that you really love and connect to the characters and yet by the end feel complete.

Bringing Up Books Poll

For the next review I would like to give you guys the option of choosing the next book. I have an “other” option and by posting this on Friday, my hope is that I would be able to cram a reading in by Wednesday, if you choose something I have not read, but it’s a long weekend so I’m not too worried.

Bringing Up Books: 11/22/63

11/22/63 by Stephen King

This novel tells the story of Jake Epping, a divorced high school teacher, who becomes a time traveler on a mission to stop the Kennedy assassination. It begins with Jake reading and becoming attached to a story, written by a student in his adult GED night-class, about his father murdering his mother and siblings when he was a child. Soon after, Jake discovers a way to go back in time. The traumatic past story from his student becomes a present goal to amend and helps Jake unlock the rules and consequences of time travel before he attempts his main mission of preventing the assassination of Kennedy. As Jake attempts to change the future by inserting himself in past events, he realizes that “time” does not want to be changed and the stronger the difference an event makes in history, the stronger “time” fights against Jake trying to alter it.

This book had me cringing, waiting to see what “time” was going to do to stop Jake, constantly questioning whether he will succeed and how the future will be if he does stop the Kennedy assassination -what all rippling effects will occur. For anyone who reads Stephen King and expects a good scare, this is not THAT type of book, but that does not mean this novel will not keep you on edge. When I read 11/22/63 I thought back to works like The Green Mile; books that were not scary, but unnerving just the same.

One other thing: If you are able to take a look at the cover art, I suggest doing so. On the front cover is the news page with the headline, “JFK SLAIN IN DALLAS, LBJ TAKES OATH” and continues with the legible article. Whereas on the back the alternate headline reads, “JFK ESCAPES ASSASSINATION, FIRST LADY ALSO OK!” and also continues with a legible half article. I just found it interesting to read.

What’s in a Name?

One of the more significant differences between writing poetry and prose is the use of names. In my poems I seldom reference the name of a person and when I do, that name must fit perfectly. When writing prose I feel my inner poet reaching out yelling that name does not fit the character and needs a new one. So, I find myself researching names for the millionth time and I’ve discovered 2 things: my favorite websites for researching names, their origins, variations and meanings and I need a new notebook.

There are two sites I frequent when researching names. First is Behind the Name. I find this site easy to navigate, search for specifics and narrow down choices. For most names it gives the meaning and if applicable the history, which is great because I like to know what kind of weight I’m adding to character by choosing a certain name. Did you know that Evelyn was in the top 25 of 2011 most popular girls names in the United States? Or that Nevaeh was 35th? I might have thought (if I was inclined to use those names) that I would be giving semi uncommon, or fairly rare in the latter case, names to my characters. The second site I often refer to when researching names is Baby Names World. My friend, Dana suggested this site to me and it is really handy. Easy to navigate and you can save names to your “My Names” list. Convenient for any mother to be or in my case, writer.

After researching names I noticed I tend to grab the nearest paper and start jotting down all the ones I like. I easily fill it and start writing in the margins. So it seems, this weekend I will be starting a new notebook (and possibly a word spreadsheet to organize by origin or meaning) to collect my list of names I’ve fallen in love with. A few going in the notebook immediately will be Dagny, Cardea and Alphaeus. All three of these are the possible names of characters in the book I started. I love the idea that Dagny, as a girls name meaning “new day,” can be shortened to Dag. Who wouldn’t love a girl named Dag? Cardea and Alphaeus both mean changing and the characters I have outlined for them will certainly be undergoing some “changing.”

So the next time you are ready to name a character, know the weight that it carries. The history or meaning of a name could help sway you from a bad pairing for the personality of your character, or rekindle a forgotten or disliked name. For a writer creating a whole person, what’s in a name? Well the answer in this case is not so similar to Shakespeare.

Switch to Prose

Here is an update for you guys on my progress for self-publishing. After weeks of fruitful writing for my poetry collection, I’ve finally hit the wall. I could feel it coming over me. One day I was focusing too hard on my theme and tried forcing the words out but everything I put down sounded like a rehashing and felt dull. So, I took a break and decided to do a couple things different: I took walks, I read some different books and articles, googled random things all to no inspirational surge. However, I was thinking about writing something non-poetry, just to keep myself in the habit, and hopefully kickstart my creative juices again. That idea hit me yesterday, and today, on the drive to work I started thinking about the novel I want to publish when I’ve finished my poetry collection. I was able to run a brief outline and on lunch I wrote a solid first chapter. I can feel the surge starting up again. I guess all I needed was a switch to prose for a little while.

Besides, being knee-deep in two projects is a good thing. When I get tired or frustrated or just simply run dry on one, I can change pace and still be working towards a goal. I hope to be back on poetry soon though, because I really would like to get it out there for you all to read. Soon, soon.

Bringing Up Books: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith

Set in early 19th century this story follows Elizabeth Bennet, the second oldest of 5 daughters as she and her sisters search for husbands. This love story, filled with misunderstandings, focuses on the manners, customs, social expectations and economic reliance’s of the time. Now, throw in zombies. The story remains involved with the social complications and values, yet adds the necessity of fighting against the undead. Grahame-Smith keeps a large amount of the original text and seems to basically just cut and swap out certain phrases to include the zombies and zombie attacks. On the back cover it notes “Jane Austen is the author of Sense and Sensibility, Persuasion, Mansfield Park, and other masterpieces of English literature. Seth Grahame-Smith once took a class in English literature.” The two genres are quite different and at times seem clunky. However, no matter how a zombie mash-up transfers with the Bennet Family, the story is fun to read and will bring many laughs. Between the humor found in the original Pride and Prejudice, with the banter and misunderstandings of all the characters, and the added zombie plague and fighting (complete with a ballroom dance/zombie fight), the story had me laughing the whole way. For anyone who enjoyed the original, adding zombies only makes the story tastier.

Guide to Poetry: Terms and Forms

I probably should have written this article before my villanelle post, but I was excited and exasperated by the villanelle at the time and wanted to share, but, it is due time for me to give you all a poetry run down. I’m sure for some people most of this will be a refresher, however I tried to pick a couple obscure terms that might be new and useful.

Poetic Terms

  • Alliteration- Repetition of initial sound in two or more words within a line
  • Assonance- Repetition of vowel sounds in two or more words within a line
  • Allusion- Reference to something outside of the poem
  • Ambiguity- Suggestion of more than one meaning
  • Anaphora- Repetition of word or phrase at the beginning of lines
  • Animism- Giving animals human characteristics
  • Antithesis- Balance or contrast of one thing against another
  • Apostrophe- Direct address to something/someone not present
  • Blank Verse- Unrhymed, metered (iambic pentameter) verse
  • Caesura- A natural pause within a line
  • Cliché- Overly familiar words, phrases or metaphors
  • Connotation- A word’s figurative, associated and nuanced meanings
  • Consonance- Repetition of consonant sounds within a line
  • Couplet/Tercet/Quatrain/Sestet/Octave- Stanzas consisting of two/three/four/six/eight lines
  • Denotation- Word’s dictionary definition
  • Diction- Word choice
  • End-Stopped Line- Line whose end corresponds with a natural pause (comma or period)
  • Enjambed Line- Line that ends without a natural pause
  • Foot- Unit of meter
  • Free Verse- Unrhymed, unmetered verse
  • Hyperbole- Exaggeration/ Overstatement
  • Image- Representation of a sense through concrete description
  • Internal Rhyme- Rhyme that occurs anywhere within lines
  • Irony- Discrepancy between what is said and what is meant
  • Line- Unit of poetry
  • Line Break- End of a line
  • Litotes- Understatement (often delivered by saying the opposite of what is meant)
  • Masculine Rhyme/Feminine Rhyme/Triple Rhyme- one syllable rhyme/ two syllable rhyme/ three syllable rhyme
  • Metaphor/Simile- Comparison of two unlike things / Simile uses “like” or “as”
  • Meter- Pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables
  • Metonymy- Word that substitutes for a thing associated with it. (the crown = the king)
  • Narrative- Including a story
  • Near-rhyme/Off-rhyme/Slant-rhyme- Inexact rhyme
  • Onomatopoeia- Words who imitate their meaning
  • Persona- Fictional, mythical or historic speaker
  • Personification- Giving human qualities to an inanimate object or the abstract
  • Point of View- Perspective of the speaker (first, second or third)
  • Prose Poem- Poetry in block or paragraph form
  • Refrain- Repetition of one or more lines at intervals in a poem
  • Repetition- Reiterating a word or line within a poem
  • Rhyme- Repetition of sounds
  • Rhyme Scheme- Pattern or sequence of rhyme; first sound represented by “a” the second with “b” etc…
  • Rhythm- Pattern made from stresses and pauses and their placement
  • Stanza- Unit of poetry made up of two or more lines, separated by space
  • Symbol- Something that represents another thing
  • Synecdoche- A part that substitutes for the whole
  • Synesthesia- Description of one sense using another
  • Voice- Combination of diction, syntax, images, rhythm and sound

All of these devices are common in poetry, however the point in creative writing is to be creative and use common things in new and unique ways. So, if you don’t write poetry, experiment using these devices in your own way. Maybe, in a short story alliteration in a particular part will extenuate the ambiance.

I hope to delve a little further into some of these terms and deffinetly more forms of poetry in future posts. Until then, if you have any questions, suggestions, or if you have a specific topic you would like me to expand on let me know -leave a comment, or email me- and I will be glad to post it.