The Giver [A Dreaming Hobbit Review]

As a lot of you have probably surmised by now, one of my boyfriend’s and my favorite type of date is going to the movies. What can I say; we like stories and we’re skeptics. Not gonna lie. Recently, I’d been hearing a lot of good reports on the new movie The Giver, so Monday night we went on an impromptu date to go and see it. Unlike any of the other movies we’ve gone to recently, we walked into the theater actually holding out some hope for this one.

 

Summary

The Giver is a story about a community of people who have been stripped of past memories and emotions. Everything is based on sameness. On oneness. The people take a daily injection to keep them in this state. Everyone, that is, aside from the Receiver of Memory, a position awarded to the young protagonist, Jonas. When Jonas receives the memories of the past, along with his emotion, he begins to see things in a new way. The truth about the community comes to light, and he must find a way to stop it, or lose the people he has come to love most.

**WARNING**

Spoiler alert! Proceed at own risk.

 

I’m going to be honest here and say that I don’t even know where to start. I’m used to writing reviews about movies that suck, because, let’s be frank, most of them do. But I’m just going to come out and say this: The Giver was one of the most fabulous films I have ever seen. Everyone should see it.

 

Characters

Despite their initial emotionless state, all of the characters in The Giver are very well-done and relatable. I believe we feel sympathy for them because they don’t feel emotion. Because they are missing a piece of themselves. And not only missing; it has been stolen.

 

The main character, Jonas starts out as a normal boy living in this community of sameness. His world is black and white. Meaningless. He drifts throughout his days like everyone else, but somehow, he’s different. Unlike others in the community, he glimpses color. It is his desire to seek and to dig for the meaning behind this that connects with the audience, because deep down, we all hunger for more.

 

Jonas’ life is forever changed when he meets the Giver of Memory, the only man in the community who possesses the memory of the past, or who feels emotion. It is the Giver who teaches the ability to not only remember, but to hope, to grieve, to fear, and to love. He tells us that from love comes faith and hope, and the strength to fight the fear and sorrow.

 

The Chief Elder, the story’s antagonist, is a very interesting character, because, throughout the story, we don’t get the impression that she is evil as much as afraid. She’s afraid of fear, afraid to love, and afraid to lose control. The answer to this is sameness. If everyone is the same, there is no war, no envy, no hatred. But neither is there love, joy, hope, or true peace. So she, through the community, controls everyone with an iron fist.

 

Other characters worth mentioning are Asher and Fiona, Jonas’ childhood friends, and Gabe, a little, unwanted baby who will be “released to Elsewhere” because he is an “uncertain.” Asher and Fiona, despite living in the community, each starve for something more. Particularly Fiona, who we see is afraid to follow Jonas and share his memory, but at the same time, desires it more than anything. She wants to feel things. Deep down, she knows something has been stolen from her. And Gabe is the promise of the future. The hope of things yet to come. The hope that one day, things will be different, and real again.

 

Plot

The story begins with Jonas, Fiona, and Asher’s Graduation Day; the day on which they receive the various tasks they will be assigned to in the community. But when Jonas is left out of the choosing, things turn upside-down. Instead, he is to be given the highest position in the community: the Receiver of Memory. He will be given the memories of the past so that he may advise the Elders what to do in the future. Only one person in the community may possess this ability, therefore isolating Jonas.

 

But when Jonas glimpses the past, and the color, he begins to feel things again. The Giver shows him memories that he wants to share with others. But sharing memories is against the rules in the community. When Jonas is caught showing his memories to Fiona, and worse, kissing her; teaching her how to feel again, he becomes a target of the Chief Elder, who realizes he is no longer an asset, but a rebel.

 

It is shortly after this that Jonas makes a startling discovery. His father is in charge of the “releases” to Elsewhere. Now that Jonas has had memory returned to him, he realizes that the release to Elsewhere is a lie. The unwanted children deemed “unfit” for the community are not being released to anywhere; they are being killed. With this realization, Jonas’ curiosity turns to anger, and fear for Gabe. Determined to save the baby and show the people of the community what really happens inside their borders, Jonas seeks out the Giver for advice.

 

The Giver explains to Jonas that he must travel outside the community, past a force field known as The Border of Memory, because, if any Receiver crosses it, memory will return to the community. As it happens, the Giver has been waiting for someone like Jonas. He has wanted to fight back since the loss of his daughter, Rosemary, whom he once tried to impart memories to.

 

But Jonas is digging too deep for the Chief Elder. By keeping tabs on him with her many security cameras, she has learned all of his plans and sets out to stop him before he can save Gabe and escape the community. Realizing that he is running out of time, Jonas runs to the hospital where Fiona works and pleads for her help. She refuses to follow him out of the community because she is afraid, but agrees to help him find Gabe. Jonas then barely manages to exit the community borders with Gabe, while Fiona is apprehended for aiding him, and threatened with Release to Elsewhere.

 

There was some good, unexpected tension when Asher shows up to stop Jonas on behalf of the Chief Elder, but changes his mind and lets him go. Jonas then struggles to make his way across the mountains to the Border of Memory, restoring the memories and emotions of the people in the community.

 

Themes

I’m devoting an entire segment to this, because, unlike other movies, this one actually had one. Or a few. Honestly, I think The Giver is a movie that will take a couple of run-throughs to glean all of the richness buried within it.

 

One of the most prevalent themes was that of how the culture and government wants to steal what it is that makes us human. As the Elders take away memory, the government is trying to water down our history; make it “politically correct.” The media creates stories completely void of meaning or emotion. They harden people. Together, they try and make us dependent upon them for everything. They want to unite us into one. They want their own version of sameness, and they want control.

 

The other prevalent theme was the value of life. It is the realization that the “uncertains” (the children who are not deemed useful) are being killed en masse, that causes Jonas to fight back. This is a perfect mirror of abortion in our society, and how God created human life to be valued and protected.

 

If there’s one thing I can say about The Giver, it is that I cannot recommend it enough. This movie was fantastic on so many different levels, it blew my mind. Sam and I walked out of the theater that evening in a zombie-like state of awe, shocked that something this good could come out of Hollywood. And the fact that, with all of its Christian themes, it managed to pass through is a miracle. As I said earlier, everyone should see this.

The Three Elements of Story

Today I’m going to discuss some storytelling basics. Actually, these are the most fundamental parts to any sort of story. Every type of story (books, movies, poetry, songs, etc.) has them. The three core elements that make up a story are:

 

  • Character (Person)
  • Plot (Problem)
  • World (Setting)

 

These are your building blocks. Every story is about a person who lives in a world and has a problem. Breaking story down like this has helped me to see it in a more simple light. Putting story into these terms makes it easy for anybody to understand. We can all identify with these things, which is what makes them crucial to good narratives.

Person

In my opinion, characters are the most important thing in a story. They are what bring life to the words on the page, or to the big screen. Without good characters, the story is meaningless and shallow. This is why I almost always develop my characters first and foremost before anything else. They are the heart and soul of the story. They are the people whom we should care for.

 

Problem

But it’s difficult to care for someone who we don’t know or don’t have a reason to root for. This is where the problem comes into play. Everybody has problems. The character’s initial problem doesn’t even have to pertain to the story goal, but it should eventually morph with or push them into it. What matters is giving us a reason to care for this person we’re reading about. Most of us like to care for people. Especially if those people are under some kind of stress or emotional turmoil. So make sure your character has a problem to carry through the plot.

 

Setting

It’s important to give context for your struggling character as well. They need a place to live. Even if their problem is that they don’t have a house, they’ll still need a place that they call home in the beginning, even if that happens to be under a cardboard box on the side of the road. Establishing the setting of the story is crucial as well. Without a place, the story can’t happen.

 

Here’s an example of my novel, Project RENO broken down into the three elements:

 

Person: Colson Wynters

Problem: His parents don’t trust him. They keep too many secrets, which pushes him to find out what’s going on, resulting in a discovery that positions him as the target of a nation-wide manhunt.

Setting: Project RENO takes place in a dystopian world roughly the year 2279, mainly in two locations: the bombed out shell of a city, New Auster, and the booming, futuristic-Vegas metropolis, Portesque.

 

It is important that these three elements are introduced early in the story—even within the first couple of pages if possible. This is why I like to have a “beginning” scene before the “inciting incident” in my novels. My beginning scenes usually aren’t very long (sometimes just a page or two), but it gives me enough time to establish the three elements before jumping into the action of the story. All of my favorite novels (and movies) establish the character, plot, and world right out of the gate.

 

Some other good examples of this would be Lord of the Rings. (I’m a nerd, I can’t help it, okay.)

 

Person: Frodo Baggins

Problem: Bilbo has been hiding something from him, and he is suspicious. Of course, this turns out to be the Ring of Power, which complicates things even more, because now he’s got to destroy it.

Setting: An earth-like fantasy world with some magic, known as Middle Earth.

 

Tangled:

Person: Rapunzel

Problem: Her mother is over-protective and controlling. But then she turns out to be a fraud, which makes things even worse, because now Rapunzel must escape and find her real family.

Setting: A fantastical kingdom with some magic elements.

 

Percy Jackson:

Person: Percy Jackson (wow, bet you couldn’t guess that!)

Problem: He’s dyslexic, and therefore has trouble at school. He gets picked on and kicked out all the time. But that’s because he’s a half-blood and so now all these monsters are trying to kill him.

Setting: Contemporary New York, with alternate dimensions.

 

From these examples, we can see how the entire story revolves around these three elements. And in all of them, this foundation is established within the first few minutes/pages. So today, I’m challenging you all to study the three elements of story, both in your own works, and in the works of others. Can you identify them? Have you established them in your own work? What are some good examples of strong story foundations that you know of?

Guardians of the Galaxy [A Dreaming Hobbit Review]

A couple of weeks ago, Sam and I went out to see the newest Marvel superhero flick, Guardians of the Galaxy. We’d seen the trailer at another movie we went to, and to be honest, neither of us had high expectations going into it. In fact, it was to kill time between a trip to the beach and dinner.

 

Summary

For anyone who hasn’t seen the movie, I’ll try and give a summary without spoilers. After discovering a special orb across the galaxy, the protagonist, Peter Quill, finds himself the target of a galaxy-wide manhunt, lead by the evil Ronan the Accuser, who seeks to “purify” the universe. Thrown together with a bunch of misfits, Quill must fight to keep the orb from Ronan, and protect the galaxy from genocide.

 

**WARNING**

Spoiler alert! Proceed at own risk.

 

Emotion Blocking [Sketching Emotion into Scenes]

Hey, I’m finally home from Virginia and back in the land where internet works on my laptop. Sorry for the long absence and lull in posting. I wanted to thank my wonderful guest bloggers for contributing and helping me out. I appreciate it very much.

 

Coming out of vacation and back into real life and being an adult and all that, I was having a hard time trying to decide what to post about, when I remembered a concept I’ve been using in my writing and thinking about posting on for some time now: Emotion Blocking.

 

We all know that the main objective in storytelling is to create emotions in the reader. However, creating emotion is something that is much easier said than done—especially for new writers. Emotions are complicated. Sometimes they don’t make sense. This can make them difficult to write about. Emotion blocking is something I’ve been using to structure my scenes based on what feeling I want them to exude.

Sketching

First I need to establish the concept of sketching. At a writer’s conference I went to this summer, one of the speakers talked about what sketching means. In general, there are two types of writers: the Additive Writer and the Subtractive Writer. For the Additive Writer, also known as “The Dabber”, the process of writing a novel tends to be a very slow and painstaking one. They are the perfectionists. Even first drafts have to look perfect. Because of this, their prose tends to be very detailed and refined. The Subtractive Writers, also called “Gushers” find first drafts easy. They can write 10,000 words in a day sometimes, and think nothing of it. Their prose is often messy and amateur, but that’s okay, because they can just fix it in the second draft. Sketching is a good skill for both types, but I think, in many ways, more beneficial to the Additive Writer.

 

Being an Additive Writer myself, I have used sketching for some time now. For me, there are generally two steps to the pre-writing process: outlining, and sketching. The outline is the framework on which I will hang the rest of my story. Sketching is similar to outlining, but more focused. When I outline, it looks something like this:

 

Beginning – Establish Hero’s life

Inciting Incident – The moment that kicks the story into action

Second Thoughts – What comes as a result of the Inciting Incident?

 

Outlining is the very broad basics. When I sketch out a scene, it looks more like this example from my dystopian novel Project RENO:

 

Scene – Flint’s Meeting:

  • They talk about security breach
  • Covering tracks
  • Discuss PR/NAS
  • Man behind the curtain
  • Mission/hero volunteers

 

Sketching is essentially micro-outlining. It’s creating a step-outline for a specific scene. This really helps me when I get hung up on the details to just keep writing. It reminds me what I need to cover so that I don’t have to worry about little things.

 

Emotion Blocking

This could probably also be called “Emotion Sketching”, seeing as it is basically the same thing. This is another thing I use to keep myself writing, rather than worrying about little details in the first draft. I can polish everything up in draft two.

 

Emotion blocking is essentially building the emotional framework of a scene. It’s determining the feeling you want to communicate, and pinpointing emotional shifts. An example of this is from chapter seven of Project RENO where I had some more complicated emotions to work with, due to my main character’s big failure (after which his memory has been erased) that just occurred the chapter before.

 

Scene: Post-Failure

  • [unease] MC gets chewed out/doesn’t understand why [confused]
  • [dread] Interrogation [embarrassment]
  • MC weighs consequences (personal and external) of failure. [anger at self, fear of future]

 

Confusion –> Dread –> Embarrassment -> Anger –> Fear

 

Visualizing emotional progression like this has been very valuable to me in my writing lately. It’s more than just showing a change of ideals in a scene or chapter (i.e. “Happy –> Sad”), and instead creates actual movement; a sliding scale and real morphing of emotions. By blocking them out, I am able to keep my focus on the raw, bare-bones emotion in the first draft. Refining the prose will come later. As long as I know what I’m trying to communicate, that’s all that matters.

 

If you’re like me and tend to get hung up on the details of beautiful prose and flawless execution, I’d suggest trying something like this. See how it works for you and leave a comment. Happy writing!

7 Tips for Surviving NaNo – by Irie Odessa

My good friend and fellow OYAN alumni, Irie Odessa shares some great tips from her experiences with writing a novel in a month–and surviving.

***

When the month of November approaches, most people think about turkey dinners, family gatherings, and Black Friday. However, writers tend to forget all of those things, because November is National Novel Writing Month – most often called NaNoWriMo, or sometimes the Month of Insane Writing Madness.

What is NaNoWriMo? It’s a challenge to write 50,000 words in 30 days or less. That’s about 1700 words a day, oftentimes more, due to the fact that it’s difficult to write when you’re expected to socialize over the holidays. It’s not helpful for everyone, but for some – myself included – it’s a lifesaver when it comes to actually finishing novels.

I’ve “won” (everyone who finishes wins, so it’s not really winning so much as completing) NaNoWriMo four years running, and recently finished my first Camp NaNo, the summer version of the challenge held in April and July. During this most recent writing frenzy, I actually finished the 50,000 words in two weeks.

It’s difficult – writing lots of words very quickly without having time to look back at them – but it’s worth it. I’m going to list seven of the tips I’ve discovered over the years that lead to high wordcounts in short timeframes.

  1. Music. For me, I can’t write in the middle of everyday noises. However, it’s impossible to escape them in my house, so listening to loud music in my headphones drowns out the general clamor of the family and lets my mind focus on my story.
  2. Change of Scenery. I’m unable to write if I’m in one place the entire time. My bedroom’s great, but after a few days, I’m sick of it and my mind tends to wander away from the story and towards tumblr and Pinterest and all those other time wasting websites. It can be as simple as moving your laptop to the living room, dining room, or basement. However, if you’re feeling adventurous, the local library or your favorite coffee shop can be great places to write. Also, if you get any opportunities to physically leave your house for a time, like housesitting, take them. It’s much easier to write when you’re totally isolated with nobody distracting you.
  3. Outlining. I had no outline for my first novel. I had a little bit of an outline for my second, as I’d been trying to write it for ten months previously. My third was totally as-it-came, and handwritten due to my schedule at the time. For my fourth, I had an outline in my head, but nothing solid. I finished them all, but with the exception of the third one (which was written in journal form and I’d never intended to have a plot anyways), the storylines had fallen away to nothing. A simple outline with just the basic events that need to happen will help a lot.
  4. Freedom from the Outline. Feel free to deviate from your outline if it’s slowing you down. The goal of NaNoWriMo is to write like the wind, and anything that slows your creativity should be trashed.
  5. Spreadsheets. With my Camp NaNo Novel, I made a spreadsheet with the descriptive titles of my 42 planned chapters. I had a column for wordcounts, and used AutoSum to bring the total down to the bottom. That way, since I had individual documents for each chapter and didn’t just have the one giant document, I could easily keep track of my total word count and where I was in the plot. Character spreadsheets are great, as well. Making a chart of your main character’s names, ages, physical descriptions, and other points that may be important to remember can be very helpful when you described Johnny six chapters ago and have forgotten if his eyes were blue or green.
  6. Turning off the WiFi. I usually don’t, because I enjoy writing best in short spurts with small internet breaks. But on occasion, like when I have a goal of writing ten thousand words in six hours, even brief internet breaks every few hundred words greatly increase the time it takes to get the words written.
  7. Take breaks. Seriously. After writing like crazy for six days straight, I’d reached twenty thousand words and was about to lose my mind. So I took two days completely free from writing and watched a ridiculous amount of television, not giving a thought to my story. After that, I was able to throw myself back into writing again with joy and excitement.

Writing a novel is hard, and writing it in a month may seem even harder, if not impossible. However, I’d suggest that every writer try it at least once. I’ve only finished one novel outside of NaNo. The pressure of the deadline and the knowledge that so many other people are writing like crazy at the same time is an incredible motivator.

So go forward, write boldly, and don’t fear the terrible quality of the words that will most likely come from writing so quickly. That’s what editing’s for.

Irie Odessa is an eighteen-year-old homeschool graduate obsessed with stories in every form. She also enjoys drawing, theatre, music, and dance, though she isn’t particularly good at any of them. She has finished five novels and is almost done with number six. Her favorite genre depends on her mood, and though she’s experimented with almost every one possible, she’s had the most success writing contemporary and fantasy. Check out her blog here