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christine_weiser_broad_street

Image Credits: Amazon

Broad Street is a novel that focuses around the life of Kit Greene and her new-found best friend, Margo Bevilacqua. This novel opens up by telling the story of how Kit recently broke up with her cheating boyfriend, Dale. Dale has always been a musician and Kit has always been in the background. Through Dale, Kit has gained valuable experience regarding the ins and outs of the Philadelphia music scene. On the downside, through Dale, Kit seems to have lost two very valuable things: 1. Her sense of identity and 2. Her voice.

Breakups are hard for everyone, especially when the relationship was long-term, and Kit is no exception. Weiser does an excellent job setting the mood and showing the emotional side of Kit’s breakup in a way that is not self-depreciating or self-pitying. Sure, Kit has a broken heart and is making some stupid decisions as she tries to pick up the pieces, but the last thing in the world Kit wants is your sympathy or worst yet – your pity. Instead, Kit is determined to move on with her life and recreate her new Dale-free identity.

In order to help  Kit out of her slump her friend Noelle invites her to a party at her friend Pete and his girlfriend, Margo’s house. Kit and Margo immediately bond over their shared interest in music and their love for female musicians. The solution to all of Kit’s problem seems to rest in the creation of a new all-girl band, one that includes her as the bass player and backing vocals and Margo as the lead singer.

But starting an all-girl band is not as easy or as simple as it sounds. It involves constantly going through drummer after drummer, a fierce cat fight with another competing band, the Pussy Willows, endless dates and night of regret, friendships and love and heartbreaks and fights. The music never stops, but neither does the drama.

At it’s surface, Broad Street was exactly the kind of novel that I should have loved. It was set in Philadelphia, the same city I live twenty minutes away from and travel to each day for work. I saw much of myself in Kit – she worked in Philadelphia as a copywriter and loved music. I work in Philadelphia as a Web Content Writer and love music as well. We’ve both made out fair amount of mistakes with dating and relationships in the past and seem to be searching for something more in life.

Also, the book was published by Philadelphia Stories and dedicated to Carla Spataro. Many of my professors at Rowan University worked for or were somehow involved with this publisher and Carla Spataro used to be a professor in my department. Although I don’t know Christine Weiser and am not familiar with any of her other works, I am very familiar with the publisher and Carla Spataro.

However, the book ended up falling flat and being a bit on the disappointing side. It wasn’t completely terrible, but it did seem a bit long-winded and pointless at time. I kept waiting for something big to happen, but nothing too interesting ever really did happen. The band practiced and had drama. They got a show and their was drama but they still played. Kit got drunk and had sex with someone from one of the bands and woke up with a lot of regret the next day if she remembered it at all. Charlie is some guy who is sweet that she never gives a fair chance to who is always kind of in the background. Margo always has a big mouth and is kind of bad ass but not the main character. The end.

I really wanted to see Kit make a name for herself or find herself but I’m not sure she ever really did. It seems like the band is close to getting a record deal at the end of the novel, but you’re not entirely sure if they do or not. It kind of seems like the end of the band may be within hindsight since Margo wants to go back to school to study agriculture. Margo seems to find herself more than Kit ever does. Margo is also in many ways a much more interesting character and I almost wonder why she wasn’t the main character to begin with. I would definitely be interested in reading a sequel if it was told from her point of view.

Another thing that turned me off with this novel is the writing itself. The writing was very clumsy at times, especially towards the end. There were many typos especially in regards to having some missing words. I liked the first person point of view, but I think it could have been stronger. Despite being in Kit’s head through the entire novel I still felt like I didn’t really know her or what she was thinking or feeling. She still felt really distant to me and again I’m not sure this was the right character to use as the narrator; the novel probably would’ve benefited from having Margo as the main character and narrator.

I don’t regret reading Broad Street, but it’s not something I’d recommend running to the book store or going out of your way to read, either. 3 out of 5 stars.

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Image Credits: Amazon

When Amanda McDonough was four, she was diagnosed with mild hearing loss. Her hearing loss didn’t require any special treatment – yet and Amanda made it clear to her parents that she did not want to be treated any differently. Furthermore, Amanda begged her parents to keep her hearing loss a secret.

As Amanda grew older, her hearing loss continued to gradually decline, making conversations more and more difficult for her to hear and her secret harder to keep. By the time Amanda was seven her hearing loss required her to use hearing aids, but that didn’t stop Amanda from trying to keep her hearing loss a secret. Amanda would wear her hearing aids to please her parents, but the minute she arrived at school she would toss her hearing aids in her backpack, ashamed that they would reveal her diagnosis to her friends and other classmates. She tried her best to get by in the hearing world, the only world she knew at the time, with her hearing loss. She did not yet know that Deaf culture and American Sign Language was an alternative option.

When Amanda was in her early 20’s, after contracting an illness she woke up from a deep sleep to the realization that she was now profoundly deaf. All her life she had feared becoming deaf, but when she finally did become deaf, she felt a sense of relief. McDonough stated, “At first, I panicked. I tried knocking loudly on things. I tried yelling. I tried hearing anything. But it was all gone. I sat down at the edge of my bed, staring at my reflection in my full-length mirror as the sun came up in the window behind me, and to my surprise, the young woman looking back at me smiled. I suddenly was overcome with an overwhelming feeling of relief. I was deaf, and I was relieved.”

It was at this moment that Amanda claims to have accepted her deafness, yet she still strived to operate in the hearing world that she has always known. This is why a few years later she opted for cochlear implant surgery in hopes or regaining some of her hearing back. While the cochlear implants helped her to be aware of her surroundings and worked as a tool for her to navigate the world of sound, it still wasn’t the cure for deafness that she had hoped for it to be. Amanda still found herself struggling to get by in the hearing world, so she turned to Deaf culture hoping that she’d be able to better fit in there.

Up until this point Amanda’s only exposure to Deaf culture was through working as a background actor on the set of Switched at Birth. She had taken some American Sign Language courses in high school and observed some of the other castmates signing, but she was nowhere near fluent. She wasn’t a perfect match for the Deaf community either. By the end of the novel Amanda seems to have accepted that she will always be in between both worlds. Instead of striving to be a perfect match for the hearing world or a perfect match for Deaf culture, she lets her guard down and focuses on simply being herself and striving to use her voice to make life better for those with hearing loss no matter which world they belong to — the hearing one or the Deaf one.

Amanda McDonough has a captivating story; there aren’t many memoirs out there about deaf women, let alone deaf actresses. I was initially drawn to her story since I saw so much of myself in her. While I am not, have not, nor ever will be an actress, I still am a bilateral cochlear implant recipient and I’ve faced many of the same struggles and challenges in life that Amanda has faced. However, despite having this knowledge and knowing that I should relate to her story, I had a difficult time connecting and engaging with it.

Ready to Be Heard was self-published through Balboa Press. Amanda did an amazing job designing the cover and marketing her book to make it appear professional and credible, but unfortunately the poor writing gives away the fact that the book has been self-published. From the beginning of the book with the opening scenes focusing on Amanda’s birth readers know they will be in for a long ride. Amanda had an interesting story to tell, but she muddles it with unnecessary details including these very scenes. She continues this trend throughout the book by telling readers about every boy she’s ever dated (most of which she never gives names to), and every small and at times completely insignificant detail about her life in a linear fashion from birth to her present day. The result is a story that drags in many places and becomes slow to read, despite it only coming to a total of 232 pages.

Furthermore, Amanda positions herself as a distant narrator by using no dialogue throughout the novel and little to no scenes. She becomes the annoying friend who never seems to come up for air as she tells us everything about her life, without ever actually painting a picture for us to see the action taking place. For example, we are told that she struggled to hear her friends and to maintain her friendships in grade school once her mild hearing loss began to gradually decline. However, we are never actually shown what this looks like. We don’t get to watch Amanda struggle to hear her teachers and friends or to see her being left out from clubs or activities. We as readers are left to do the guest work on our own, which makes it difficult for us to truly get inside Amanda’s head and to feel any kind of sympathy for her.

As a fellow cochlear implant recipient, I also had a hard time believing everything that Amanda said, specifically in relations to her cochlear implants. I got the impression that Amanda was retelling information that was told to her, but that she never actually took the time to fact check. One of the biggest mistakes that Amanda makes in telling her story is explaining to readers that her internal cochlear implant was implanted into her skull. This information is not only untrue, but something I found to be widely offensive to anyone who has a cochlear implant. Often times audiologists will lie to patients who may be considering cochlear implants by telling them that the procedure is dangerous and involves brain surgery. This is a lie that I was told for most of my life and one of the main reasons why I held off from getting cochlear implants for so long. Once I got older and was told the truth I realized that I had been lied to for most of my life. The internal piece is never inserted in the skull; it’s placed under the skin behind the ear. The reason why audiologists lie about this is because they don’t want their patients to get implanted, they want their patients to continue to wear and purchase hearing aids so that they can make money off of them. Telling patients that cochlear implants are placed in the skull is a scare tactic that they use to discourage them from getting the procedure. After reading this false information I found it difficult to trust or like Amanda as a narrator; her inaccuracies caused me to shut down as a reader.

Yet, despite all of the flaws with Ready to be Heard, I still see potential. I think that the biggest issue now is that Amanda was so excited to tell her story that perhaps she rushed to publish it before it was ready. My biggest piece of advice to Amanda would be to hire an editor and do a full revision and then republish it as an updated (and improved) new edition. The things that Amanda should focus on the most in her next version are creating scenes (showing readers things rather than just telling them what happens), cutting unnecessary details (we don’t need to know about every single man she’s ever dated on how her parents decided to name her Amanda), adding in dialogue (this may require Amanda to do more research and interview people including her parents, former teachers, and former doctors), and working to clean up some of her California slang so that the book reads more naturally and smoothly.

As it is, Ready to Be Heard is a good story that simply hasn’t been told well. I would give it 2 out of 5 stars with hopes that one day it will be republished and all of the writing flaws corrected.

 

 

 


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Image Credit: Amazon

DISCLAIMER: I am a MA in Writing Student at Rowan University who has recently had the opportunity to study under Professor Atwood. The following review may be biased.

When I saw that I would be required to read MC Atwood’s debut young adult novel, The Devils You Know for my Seminar II class this semester as part of my MA in Writing program at Rowan University, I was very excited. Last fall I had a wonderful experience studying under Professor Atwood by taking her Writing Genre Fiction course. Atwood is hilarious and one of the kindest individuals I’ve ever met. She is also seriously talented as both a writer and an editor.

The Devils You Know was a real pleasure to read. I love that while the book is Atwood’s favorite genre – horror – it is also still young adult. While terrifying, it was also extremely relatable.  This novel is about more than a creepy haunted house with scary clowns and dolls (seriously…so many dolls…). It’s a story about friendship and finding yourself in the midst of the terror known as high school.

In the beginning of the novel, Paul, Violet, Dylan, Ashley, and Gretchen don’t know each other very well for the most part. Paul is seen as being the cool black guy that everyone loves. Violet is the quiet “nice” girl that no one knows very well, but Paul has a crush on, and she is beginning to develop feelings for as well. Dylan tries a little too hard to be a bad ass and I can really see him as being a bit of a punk rocker/skater kid. Ashley is the stuck up, rich, right-winged Republican princess that owns the school and absolutely HATES Gretchen (the feeling appears to be mutual), and Gretchen is Dylan’s partner whom is every bit as weird and tough as he is.

The quintent rarely ever crosses paths and most certainly wouldn’t call each other friends. However, when the opportunity to visit the legendary Boulder House on a class field trip presents itself, all five members of the group sign up and find themselves forced to not only share in the same space and experiences, but to also work together as a team and get to REALLY know the truth about each other. Sometimes the truth can be completely alarming and sometimes you think you know someone (as is the case of Dylan and Gretchen), but later realize you don’t know that person at all.

For instance – who would’ve guessed that Paul likes to wear tights and role play during medieval events? Nice girls finish last…and get taken advantage of as seen by the way Mr. Rhinehart takes advantage of Violet by having an affair with her the day she turns 18. Dylan is not actually Dylan at all…he’s John Michael…and despite his foul mouth and constant use of the word “yo”, he’s not as tough as he wants people to think he is. He’s actually a very conservative Christian who attends church every week with his rich parents. On the other end of the spectrum, Ashley isn’t the conservative Christian she wants everyone to believe she is. In fact, she’s gay and she’s trying everything to hide her true identity from everyone, especially her Republican parents. After all, her father IS a well-known senator who HATES anyone that’s not straight. If he knew the truth about her it would destroy him and the rest of her family. What’s worst – she doesn’t hate Gretchen at all. In fact, she’s in love with her. As for Gretchen? She’s tough because she has to be, not because she wants to be. Her family is on food stamps and she makes her own clothes because she has no choice. Her mother is ill and the family constantly struggles with money.

In order to survive the house and everything in it – from demonic angels to creepy evil dolls to scary clowns to even whales and everything in between, the quintent must work together. However, when the quintent’s secrets are revealed to one another, they all feel such a strong sense of shame that they want to go through the house alone. However, they later learn that while they each have their own secrets, it doesn’t make them less and if anything, knowing the truth about who they are is what will not only bring them closer together, but also force them to want to stick together to support each other and to make it out of the house alive and beyond the house, to make it through high school alive, too.

Some of the novel’s strengths lie in the extreme attention to details, particularly with the imagery and descriptions of the house. It’s a very unique and clever book that while sticking to the main conventions of the horror genre, doesn’t fall into the trap of cliches. For example: there’s an entire room dedicated to whales and aquatic lives. I’ve never been afraid of whales and squids/octapuses, but I am now! I also really appreciated the way the novel took the very successful risk of having multiple narrators/points of views. Each chapter was told by a different character – Ashley, Gretchen, Dylan, Violet, and/or Paul. This allowed the reader to get up close and personal with all of the characters. Atwood did a great job of breaking them all down and creating an equal balance between each character’s voice so it never felt like you had too much of one character and not enough of another character. It also never got too confusing or overwhelming; five seemed like the perfect number.

So why four stars and not five? While I really enjoyed this book and struggled to put it down, it wasn’t perfect. There were still some things that bothered me with this book. One of the main things I didn’t like was Dylan’s character. He really annoyed me. I didn’t like his dialogue and I had trouble believing that’s how he would actually talk. I think there was an instance in the beginning where he said something along the lines of “I remembered to turn my swag on” which made me cringe. Do people even use the term “swag” anymore? I thought that died around 2008. “Fuck-a-doodle-doo” also sounded really awkward to me. I could believe him saying it once or twice, but constantly throughout the book? And no one ever comments on how weird it sounds? I had trouble buying it. Lastly, by the end of the book I was really annoyed by his constant use of the word “yo”. I think he said it but I feel like that would be something he’d say in the beginning of a sentence, not the end and reading it vs. hearing it – it reads kind of awkwardly and annoyed me as a reader. Lastly – his name is something completely different than what everyone calls him and no one knew this? I feel like the school would at least have his legal name down and probably call him by it on the first day of class. I just didn’t buy that as being his secret.

Also, reading this as a conservative Christian, I realize I’m a little biased but I did take some issues with the content of the novel. At times I felt like I was being attacked based on my views and like I was supposed to apologize or feel bad about being a conservative, Republican, Christian. I go to church every week the way Dylan/John Michael did – I don’t think that’s a “bad” thing in itself.

Lastly, demonic/fallen angels? The angels which are typically symbols for good, were made into symbols for evil. I wasn’t really okay with that imagery. I felt like the idea of Christianity throughout the novel was being shown in a negative light. Some of the jabs against Christianity/Republicans (such as the subtle George Bush reference…) felt a little over-done/cheap. I also thought of the impact/influence they may have on the novel’s target teenage audience which made me a little uncomfortable.

But overall I did really like this novel. It was very well researched, well written, and engaging. 4 out of 5 stars.

 

 


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Image Credits: Amazon

I recently enrolled in Professor Julia Chang’s Writing the Memoir class at Rowan University. One of the first books she assigned for us to read is Nick Flynn’s now out of print memoir, Another Bullshit Night in Suck City. My first impression of this book was 1. There must be a reason why this out of print followed by 2. I trust my professor’s judgement, despite this book being out of print, it must be good.

However, I found this memoir to be pretty “meh” overall.

The main overarching theme in this memoir is the art of telling stories or searching for stories throughout life. I love that the book works towards this theme and that the theme is supposed to be the glue that holds the book together, however, I didn’t really realize this was the book’s theme until the very end. We get hints at this theme, but it’s not made quite as clear as I would have liked it to have been.

Nick Flynn is a twenty-something year old man living in Boston. Growing up, he never had the opportunity to really know his father. Everything that Nick knows about his father is through stories – those told by others like his mother and those from the occasional letters that he receives from his father.

Individuals like Nick’s mother paint a pretty depressing picture of what Nick’s father is really like. Nick learns that his father is an alcoholic, that he’s a conman with a number of scams and schemes over the years including robbing banks, and that the police are constantly looking for him due to his failure to pay child support.

Nick also learns through letters that his father writes to him while in prison that his father is a writer. Nick’s father often writes him to tell him that his novel is going well and is on its way to being the next great American novel — earning the same ranks and acclaim as classics like The Catcher in the Rye. However, Nick never actually gets to see the story and has no way of knowing whether or not this story actually exists or if it’s merely another one of his father’s famous stories.

Nick’s own story is very similar to that of his father’s. He too, becomes an alcoholic and gets himself involved in drugs, namely cocaine. Nick also becomes involved in a life of crime while working on the boat smuggling drugs in and out. Is he destined to become his father?

It isn’t until Nick starts working for a homeless shelter, Pine Street, one of the largest homeless shelters in the country, that he meets his father. His homeless father becomes one of the residents. However, Nick shows no sympathy to his father. There are often times places when he doesn’t even seem to want to be around his father. It’s as if he’d rather hear about his father through the grapevine. Nick wants to know who his father really is, but he seems to be afraid to do so because he is so afraid of becoming his father, something that he seems to be on track to do.

At the very end of the book, Nick finally does interview his father along with other father-like figures who were involved with his mother before her suicide. He finds that his father’s book does in fact exist, but it’s actually a musical, much of which seems to focus on his alcoholism and how it lead him to prison. While Nick admits that about thirty pages of it are pretty good, he admits that it’s definitely not the masterpiece that his father made it out to be. He reflects on what this means by saying:

What would I do if it was a masterpiece, an overlooked classic? What then? Would our blood be redeemed? Would time be made whole? Would I still have such ambivalence about calling myself a poet? Would I have more? Would I have some idea of what it means to be a father, would I still be terrified of becoming one? He cannot die, he tells me, until his work is complete. Perhaps I am digging his grave, perhaps the book you have in your hands is the coin for his eyes. Perhaps the story of his masterpiece is his life raft, what he’s invented to keep himself afloat.

This is really the highlight of the book and where all of the little stories weaved throughout begin to make sense. However, After trudging through over 300 pages to get to this point, I was a little exhausted as a reader. The book felt as though it dragged on a bit and could have easily been told in only 200 or so pages. Once the book got to the point and began to make sense, it was over.

Still, as a whole it is obvious that Nick Flynn had an interesting story to tell and it made for an interesting read, even if it was a bit cluttered, confusing, and long-winded at times.


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Image Credits: John Green Books

Hey guys! It’s been awhile but I’m finally back with another book review. Now that school is out for winter break I have a few weeks of freedom to read whatever I want. Needless to say, I couldn’t read John Green’s latest novel, Turtles All the Way Down fast enough.

For those of you who don’t know, John Green is one of my all-time favorite writers and quite possibly my favorite author who is not yet dead (I have a BA in English…I like a lot of classic literature written by dead guys…sorry.). However, that doesn’t mean I love EVERYTHING Green writes. I absolutely adored The Fault In Our Stars, Paper Towns and Looking for Alaska, but I hated An Abundance of Katherines and was only lukewarm to Let it Snow  and Will Grayson, Will Grayson

However, with all of that being said, I absolutely loved Turtles All the Way Down. Here are the five things I liked the most about this novel.

  1. How well researched it was.
    Most people don’t spend hours upon hours googling microbiome bacteria, “Clostridium difficile” or “C-diff”, but Green did. He knows all about these conditions, how people get them, how many people get them, and where they get them. He knows when old cells die and new cells are born. He probably understands biology better than most biology teachers do. Green most certainly did his homework in order to create a character who is able to obsessively research these conditions and talk about them in a way that is accurate and makes sense. Furthermore, he is able to present them in a way that is interesting and makes me want to know more about these conditions. I find myself understanding and sympathizing with Aza’s character. Maybe we aren’t ever who we actually are after all. She has a point…how do we really know that we are well, real? Are we real at all?
  2. The way it didn’t turn anxiety into a cliche.
    People with anxiety worry a lot. Everyone knows that and it’s become the same tired and true cliched mental illness. But it doesn’t have to be. We all as outsiders think we know all about anxiety. But the truth is we have no freaking idea. We are completely clueless.  And Green does an excellent job reminding us of that.Everyone worries all the time, therefore everyone has anxiety, right? Wrong. Have you ever created a callus on your hand because you couldn’t stop picking at it as a way to ensure you’re real? Does that callus on your hand never heal because you can’t stop picking at it? Do you have to change the band-aid several times a day because you’re so worried that you have an infection and you’re going to get C-diff and die? Do you drink bottles of pure alcohol hand sanitizer because you’re convinced it’s the only way you can cleanse the inside of your body, killing bacteria, and ensuring you don’t get C-diff? This is Aza’s life with anxiety. It goes far beyond simply being worried.
  3. Davis Pickett.
    If fictional characters could win boyfriend of the year awards, Davis Pickett would be the one to beat. Can we just stop and talk for a minute about how much of a gem he truly is? He realizes that he going to be made famous due to his wealth and all of the crazy stuff going on with his dad, but he doesn’t want any of that. He wants real, true, genuine friends like Aza. And he also got stuck essentially raising his 13-year old brother. He never asked to be a father, but when he had to step up to the plate and become one to his brother, he did. He didn’t want anyone to turn in his dad or submit any tips initially because he wanted to protect his brother. He even pays Aza and Daisy thousands of dollars in reward money to keep them quiet. But then at the end he himself tips off the police so they can find his dad and him and his brother can live in peace and find a small trace of normalcy. Everything he does is in the best interest of his brother, not him. He’s definitely not selfish.Thinking of his selflessness (is that even a word?), just look at his relationship with Aza. As Green so carefully points out, dating someone with anxiety is HARD. Aza’s anxiety is so severe that she can’t even kiss Davis because she fears he will infect her with his microbiome bacteria and cause her to develop C-diff. Sometimes, she can’t even bear to see Davis and instead has to resort to just texting him. But none of that matters to Davis. For Davis, Aza being Aza, anxiety and all, is enough. He loves and support her despite her mental illness. He couldn’t care less about the fact that she can’t kiss him. How many other guys would be so accepting of something like that?
  4. The theme of loyalty.
    I would definitely say that loyalty is one of the key themes in this novel. We first see the loyalty between Aza, Daisy, and Davis when they accept the award from Davis and agree not to tip off the police or share any of the information they have. They value the friendship more than anything else.As previously mentioned, we also see loyalty between Davis and Aza. Aza tries really hard. I really do believe that. However, she’s not exactly the greatest girlfriend in the world to Davis. But Davis understands and he loves her anyway. He is loyal to her, even when she doesn’t have it within her to text him for days on end especially after she is hospitalized following her car accident and anxiety episode. He makes it clear that he will always be there for her, through thick and thin.

    I would also say that there’s a strong sense of loyalty between Aza and Daisy. Sure, they don’t always get along and I don’t think Daisy always understands Aza’s anxiety, but even when they fight they are still loyal to each other. Their fighting doesn’t last for long and they always work things out. I also love how at the end Daisy really seems genuinely interested in learning more about Aza and her anxiety and how she can help and be more understanding and a better friend. Aza also seems to want to work on herself to improve and be a better friend to Daisy. Their friendship is one that requires a lot of work and effort, but it’s their loyalty to each other that makes this friendship so strong.

  5. The Star Wars fan-fiction.
    As much as I hate to admit it, I actually did really like the Star Wars fan-fiction that Daisy wrote. It was so well crafted and it felt real. As a reader I could see how invested in it Daisy was and I like how even though it wasn’t really Aza’s thing, she was a good sport about it and read it in the end. I liked how it also caused tension in their relationship and how even though Daisy was good at it, she still had some major issues with it like the question of whether or not it was promoting bestiality by having Chewbacca fall in love with a human. Even though I don’t like Star Wars and don’t follow it, I could understand everything that was discussed in the novel relating to Daisy’s fan fiction. It was very well done.

 

John Green’sjTurtles All the Way Down was a very unique, well-written, and well researched novel that I highly recommend especially to those who are interested in learning more about anxiety. 5 out of 5 stories. Now the only question is, when can we expect another masterpiece from Green? 🙂


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Image Credits: Dodskypict.com

Hey guys! I know I’ve been talking about my MA project/untitled memoir a lot lately, but today I want to talk about something completely different. For those of you who may not know, I took a genre writing course this semester. I’ll be honest and admit that I initially only took it for the credits. I was going to take an American Sign Language course as an independent study originally, but because the course was an undergraduate level course and I’m a graduate student I’d have to conduct some kind of research study around it which calls for IRB approval and a whole complicated string of events. Between teaching two classes, working full time, and taking two graduate courses, it was just way too much so I backed out. There were not any non-fiction writing courses being offered this semester, so that’s where writing genre fiction came into play.

It’s been quite an interesting experience. Not only do I have little to no experience in genre writing, but I also never read any kind of genre fiction. I love classic literature, young adult/literary fiction, and non-fiction. Throughout the semester I have had to read and write mystery, horror, and most recently, fantasy/sci-fi. Although I did not like writing a mystery and reading House of Leaves or Mama Day, I found my overall experience in genre writing to be pretty enjoyable. Professor Atwood is a sweetheart and one of the most fun and kind-hearted professors I have ever had. I really wish I could take her publishing course next semester! If you have the opportunity, I highly recommend taking any of her courses. It is guaranteed to be a good time with many cat videos and references. 😉

The last project I completed for this course was an extension/revision of my fantasy short story, now titled “Moore Magical Garden”. This story was inspired by the very few fantasy novels I don’t hate like Sarah Addison Allen’s Garden Spells and Jodi Lynn Anderson’s Tiger Lily. 

I also drew some inspiration from my own personal life. Lenny the Leprechaun and all of his sarcasm was largely inspired by my dad who is the most sarcastic person I’ve ever met. He also gave me the idea to have Lenny show up to the well with a beer bottle and to make him drunk.

As a Christian, I don’t believe in magic. The bible warns in multiple places against following magic, witchcraft, and any kind of sorcery, which also had some influence on this story.

This story is not by any means perfect, but coming from someone who’s main writing focus is non-fiction, I was pretty proud of how this revision came out and I wanted to share it. Feel free to read below and leave a comment on what you think!

 

Moore Magical Garden

Magnolia was born in her family’s famous magical garden, known as the Moore Magical Garden. She was tall and tender with strong, light pink wings and a full head of silky blonde hair. According to her parents, she was born right under a bed of freshly blossomed magnolia buds. “She’ll be beautiful and strong, just like the flowers are,” he father said. Her parents both agreed that there was no better name for her than that of the flower, so they decided to call her Magnolia, or Maggie for short.

As a child, Maggie loved growing up in the Moore Magical Garden. Her family was extremely wealthy as they made a living off of their magical flowers. No one knew for sure how the magic worked, but Maggie’s mother, Gloria, would use unique blends of all different kinds of flowers and plants within the garden to cure all of the villagers of their ailments or to bring them whatever their hearts desired whether it be love, wisdom, strength, confidence, healing, happiness, or even just some good old sex. The Moore Magical Garden operated under one motto, “Flower power in one hour.” Meaning they could choose the right flower for any condition and after baking it in just 1 hour or less, have the perfect recipe for whatever you needed.

The Moore Magical Garden was located in the far end of the village away from the ocean where the mermaids resided and the woods where Sasquatch was rumored to roam. Sometimes they received visits from other tribes who liked to roam the forest like the dwarfs, elves, and goblins. Maggie loved it when the unicorns visited. She’d often spend time brushing their long, rainbow manes and riding them through the rows of flowers, being careful as to not crush any of the budding plants. She was often frightened by the goblins, and horrified by how hideously ugly the elves were with their long, pointy ears, big noses, and short statues. However, her parents told her that all of those tribes were harmless and worthy of her honor, respect, and attention. It was the foreigners she had to fear, they warned.

The gnomes, her parents said, were the most trustworthy of all of the tribes, other than the fairies of course. They weren’t always the prettiest creatures in the world, or even the strongest, but her parents said they were the most loyal. “Find yourself a good gnome and you’ve got a friend for life,” her father would say. They were generally always agreeable and extremely hard workers, especially when placed in their natural habitat – the garden.

Maggie’s parents decided to hire a gnome to help them to tend the garden. His name was Gunter and he was 34 years old, meaning he was only a few years away from ripening to the age of 40, which everyone knows means “time to settle down” in gnome world. He worked hard and vowed to always protect the Moore Magical Garden and to ensure that the secrets of the magic always remained secrets. For these reasons Mr. and Mrs. Moore promised Gunter that on his 40th birthday they would reward him with their prized possession – their daughter Maggie’s hand in marriage. This would ensure that the garden always remained within the family, that their daughter was well taken care of, and that the garden remained in pristine condition with the magic not only intact, but a mystery throughout all of the village for many years to come. Mr. and Mrs. Moore and Gunter the garden gnome kept this their secret for many years to come.

As a child, Maggie came to grow to appreciate the freedom she had to roam around the magical garden and smell the sweet aroma of all of the budding flowers and plants. Her mother, Gloria, named after the famous morning glories, would often take her through each of the aisles of the garden to teach her about the different magical powers each flower or plant brought.

“Roses.” Gloria said, “Just a sprinkle of petals and you’ll be well on your way to a beautiful new beginning.”

“What kind of new beginning?” Maggie asked.

“It depends on the color,” Gloria explained as she pointed to each of the varieties. “Red will bring you love. Pink will help you to feel more appreciated. White is for marriage – not to be confused with love. Orange will bring you passion, which you’ll need after marriage. Yellow will give you new friends, for those not quite ready for marriage. In your case, stick to the yellow ones for now, please,” she smiled.

Maggie looked up a Gloria and smiled. “Yellow it is then,” she said.

“Give me your hand, Maggie. I want to show you something else.”

Maggie held out her hand and Gloria pricked it with the thorn of a rose.

“Ouch! What did you do that for?” Maggie said as she clenched her finger in an attempt to stop the bleeding.

“You’ll see. Follow me.”

Maggie followed Gloria back to a row of aloe plants. Even though she’s walked by them dozens of times she never quite understood what they were for. They looked strange and kind of ugly after seeing the beauty in the roses.

“Put your hand out again,” Gloria said as she broke off a piece of the aloe plant.

Maggie put her hand with her bloody finger out in front of her. Gloria took it and squeezed the aloe plant over top of it until a gel-like substance poured over it. She rubbed it into the wound until it stopped bleeding.

“Aloe. For when you get a little too close to the roses. Roses while beautiful, still have their thorns and dangers about them. Much like the love and relationships many of them promise,” she explained. Maggie nodded. She understood now that aloe brought healing, but she wasn’t sure if she understood anything about the love part. At only 11 years old, love was still a mystery to her.

As Maggie grew older, she became more and more beautiful over time. By the time she was 16  and only 1 year away from her secret marriage to Gunter, her platinum blonde locks began to darken and change to a reddish tone and her wings grew larger and an even deeper shade of pink. Sometimes, Mr. and Mrs. Moore could swear they saw a twinkle in her eye, too. She was becoming even more beautiful than all of the roses within the garden, and when the other tribes from the village came to pick up their magical baked goods, they took noticed.

“My, oh my, that Maggie girl of yours sure is a beauty,” a lonely dwarf commented one day. “I only ordered a special helping of your slumber loaf bread to help me to fall asleep at night, but now I’m wishing I would’ve ordered a slice of lustful loving pie. Maybe I’d get lucky and end up falling asleep with her tonight,” he said. Dwarves were never very good with social skills, it’s why they had so much trouble making friends.

“Take a bottle of water lily juice on your way out.” Gloria said, “It’s on the house.”

“Sweet! Thanks, ma’am!” the lonely dwarf replied.

“Water lily juice?” Mr. Moore asked.

“Yes, to cool his passions and purify his heart to ensure he keeps it in his pants and away from our daughter,” she said.

“I can fix this problem tonight,” Mr. Moore said. He knew that as Maggie grew older and more beautiful, she’d have more than just lonely dwarves to worry about, especially if Mr. and Mrs. Moore were to keep their promise of marriage of their daughter to Gunter.

That night Mr. Moore went deep into his garden making sure to pick up as many garden stones as he could along the way. He carried them all into the garden shed located at the end of the garden and pulled out some supplies from the shed like his trusty hammer, a bucket of concrete, a trowel for smoothing over the concrete, and some wood. From there he set to work.

Mr. Moore spent hours in the garden shed. When his wife, Gloria tried to call him for dinner he responded in a muffled voice, “Can’t. Sorry. Busy,” and continued working straight through supper. An empty stomach was no big deal to him, he knew how important his work was. Finally after hours of tedious labor, his work was finally complete: it was a well made out of garden stones and concrete with a little wooden roof over top and a bucket hanging over it. The well was ten feet deep and only three feet wide. Mr. Moore stood back and admired his work. “Ah, she’s a beauty. A beautiful well to protect my beautiful daughter,” he said before calling Maggie out to further admire his work.

“What do you think?” he asked her.

“It’s beautiful, but I don’t understand what we need a well for. The pond is only a few minutes away,” she said. She had grown accustomed to fetching water from the pond outside of the garden. She loved visiting the pond because her beloved unicorns were known to frolic there at all hours of the day.

Mr. Moore let out a sigh. “This well isn’t for water…” he began.

“Really? Then what is it for?” she asked.

Mr. Moore hesitated before explaining, “Maggie, this is your new home. You must live deep inside this well and you must not come out for any reason within the next year.”

“What? A WHOLE YEAR? INSIDE THIS DEEP WELL? WHY? WON’T I DROWN?” She asked. The idea of being trapped in such a tiny space unable to view the beauty of the garden or mingle with the other tribes horrified her.

“No. There well will be completely hallowed with no water inside. You’re getting older now, Mags, and you are too beautiful. The dwarves tried to pick you up the other day,” he said.

“Well…was he a nice dwarf?” she asked, hopefully.

“Mags, you know what the dwarves are like…” he said.

Maggie sighed. “Okay, but what happens after a year?” she asked, afraid of what the answer must be.

“After one year you will be married to Gunter the garden gnome. Then you will be free to roam the garden again, unless he tells you not to. You will belong to him and you must obey everything he tells you to do.”

“But I don’t love him!” Maggie contested.

“Tough luck, sweet heart. He will be good for you and better yet for our garden. Now, climb in this well. For the next year, you can think about all of the ways in which you may grow to love Gunter. We’ll send you your food and water through the bucket twice a day, once in the morning and once at night.

Maggie sighed. She knew it was no use arguing it, her parents had the final word. Always. After all, they were the owners of the Moore Magic Garden. Without the garden, Maggie might as well be a fly, rather than the radiant, beautiful fairy she’s blossomed into over the years.

Mr. and Mrs. Moore’s plans to protect Maggie from other tribes and potential suitors through the village sounded great in theory. The well was far too deep for most of the village tribes to even consider climbing down, and no one would ever guess that Maggie would be hiding down below the bottom of the well. Since the fairies were the only tribes with wings, they didn’t have to worry much about anyone flying down in the well, either. Even the fairies weren’t a threat; everyone knew that all fairies, except for Maggie who was known for her unconventional ways and overall fearlessness, were afraid of the dark and what could possibly be darker than the inside of a deep and narrow well? However, there was one tribe they failed to consider; a foreign tribe residing outside of their village but beginning to make their pilgrimage throughout Germany in hopes of finding buried treasure, or gold, more specifically: the leprechauns.

Maggie was sitting deep against the side of the well braiding her hair to past the time as she waited for her mother and father to send down her daily food rations in the well’s bucket when she heard a loud noise.

THUMP!

Maggie moved towards the front of the well and looked up at the opening. Could this be her daily food rations? Maybe her mother was sending down her famous rose petal jam spread across a French baguette or Maggie’s favorite lilac blossom almond scones. She imagined they must’ve fallen out of the bucket causing the loud noise.

However, when Maggie looked up she didn’t see any of her mother’s magical food creations. Instead, she saw an ugly leprechaun. He stood approximately 3 feet tall; very short compared to Maggie’s height of 5’7”. His skin was dry and wrinkly and had a pale green tint to it. Maggie couldn’t get a good glimpse of what his hair looked like since it was hidden underneath of an over-sized top hat with a four leaf clover in the middle, but she did notice he had strands of bright red hair poking from the sides that matched his red neatly trimmed beard. He was wearing a tiny green tuxedo with pants that were a little too short and that revealed knee-high green and white socks. He carried a bottle of Guinness in his hand.

“Greetings from Ireland! My name is Lennnnnn……” he began to say before Maggie started screaming.

“WHAT ON THE EARTH ARE YOU??????” She screamed.

“That’s no way to greet a foreigner,” he said.

“Sorry.” Maggie said, “But really, who ARE you?”

“It is I, Lenny the Leprechaun,” the leprechaun replied.

“What are you doing here?” Maggie asked.

“What do you think kid? I’m a leprechaun…” he said.

“I don’t know…don’t you have a rainbow with a pot of gold to look for?” Maggie replied.

“Have you seen any rain lately?” he asked.

“Come to think of it, no I can’t remember the last time it rained,” she said.

“Bingo. But that don’t mean that a leprechaun can’t still search for gold,” he said.

“Oh okay. Sorry but there isn’t any in the well.” Maggie replied, “There isn’t much of anything down here,” she said sadly.

“Maybe not, but I bet I could make a few bucks off this here garden of yours,” he said. “I heard it was worth a fortune,” he said.

“You want to sell my family’s garden?” Maggie asked.

“No. No. Not at all. I mean profit off of it. Aren’t the flowers magical or something?” Lenny asked.

“I can’t tell you that,” Maggie replied.

“Hmmm. Okay. How about this…you tell me which flowers are magical and I’ll grant you three wishes,” he said.

“You got yourself a deal…if I can get the wishes first,” she said.

“No, then I’ll give you the wishes and still won’t know a damn thing about these magical flowers.” Lenny said, “How about a compromise? For every wish I give you you’ll show me a magical flower,” he suggested.

“You got yourself a deal!” Maggie exclaimed.

“Okay pretty lady, what’s your first wish?” Lenny asked.

“I wish I could get out of this well!” Maggie said without hesitation.

“Works for me. I imagine you’ll need to be out of this well to show me the magical flowers.” Lenny said, “Now close your eyes.”

Maggie closed her eyes while Lenny threw a handful of green glitter over her face and chanted, “Glitter green, nice and mean, come heaven or hell, allow Maggie to escape from this well.”

When Maggie opened her eyes, she was outside of the well and free to roam around the garden.

“Okay, now you owe me a magical flower,” Lenny said.

Maggie took her time walking around the garden. She knew that Lenny and the other outsiders didn’t know this, but the truth was EVERY flower and growing thing in the garden was magical. The question for her now was, which forms of magic did she want Lenny to know about?

Maggie stopped in front of a long row of tall, fully blossomed sunflowers. Perfect, she thought.

“We’re here,” Maggie said.

“The sunflowers are magical?” Lenny asked.

“Yes,” Maggie said.

“How so?” he asked.

Maggie bent down one of the tall stems and ripped off a fully blossomed sunflower. She pulled off each of the golden yellow petals and crumbled them in her hands. After all of petals were crumbled together she rubbed them on Lenny’s cheek.

“Hey! What in the hell are you doing?” Lenny screamed as he backed away and swatted Maggie’s hand away.

“Showing you your first magical flower,” Maggie replied.

“How is rubbing crushed sunflowers on my face magic?” Lenny asked.

“Sunflowers contain a special oil that when applied to the skin can act as a moisturizer, reduce wrinkles, and also serve as an anti-aging formula,” Maggie stated matter-of-factly. Her skin was perfectly flawless and had a natural glow to it that made it look like the sun was constantly shinning down on her and kissing her face. It was obvious that she had used the magical sunflowers on her own skin.

“Are you trying to say that I’m ugly?” Lenny asked.

“No, no, no. Not at all!” Maggie lied, “I’m just uhhh suggesting it because it will help to highlight your uhhh wonderful cheekbones.”

“I always did have some pretty bitchin’ cheek bones,” Lenny said as he took another swig of his Guinness. Maggie thought about correcting his language; she never liked cursing, but she decided it would be best to just let it go. After all, Lenny had been drinking ever since he arrived. She wondered if he might be drunk and if so, what type of drunk he would turn out to be. So far, he didn’t seem like an angry drunk. Sarcastic? Yes, but she could handle sarcasm. Violence is what scared her.

“Time for my next wish?” Maggie asked.

“Sure,” Lenny said.

“I wish for you to get rid of Gunter,” Maggie said.

“Who the heck is Gunter?” Lenny asked.

“A garden gnome who works for us. My family hired him many years ago,” Maggie explained.

“What did he ever do to you?” Lenny asked.

“See, that’s just it: nothing. My family arranged for us to be married though.” She said.

“You don’t sound too happy about that,” he said.

“I don’t want to marry someone I don’t love,” she said.

“Then why don’t you just tell your parents ‘no’?” Lenny asked.

“It’s not that simple. They want me to marry Gunter to ensure that the garden stays safe and that all of our secrets with the magic stay secret,” she explained.

Lenny let out a laugh. “Don’t you realize you’re already broken all of those golden rules?” he asked.

“What do you mean?” Maggie asked.

“Hellllooooo. Beauty sunflowers? You already let me in on one secret and you owe me two more,” Lenny said.

“Oh. Yeah. Right…” Maggie said unapologetically.

“Yeah so, I mean if you’re trying to respect your parents wishes, there’s no use you already messed that one up,” Lenny said.

“But can you make Gunter go away, anyway?” Maggie asked.

“Sure. I’ll see what I can do, close your eyes.”

Maggie closed her eyes and this time Lenny grabbed for the black glitter and threw it over her face while reciting, “Gunter works day and night, but now it’s time for him to take flight. I wish I may, I wish I might, give Maggie the strength she needs to fight.”

“Now what?” Maggie asked as she opened her eyes, “Is he gone?”

“Not yet, but he will be,” Lenny admitted. “I need a favor from you first.”

“Hey no fair! You still owe me a wish!” Maggie said.

“I need your help for this one. Are there any flowers in your garden that aren’t used for good? Anything that you give people that maybe you don’t particularly like or aren’t particularly happy with?”

“I think mama gave a dwarf some lilies the other day to purify his heart. She thought he was trying to pick me up or something,” Maggie said.

“Okay, I need you to do better than that,” Lenny said. Are any of the flowers dare I say…toxic?” he asked.

Maggie thought long and hard. It was as if she was manually searching each and every flower encyclopedia stored away in her mind, looking for the perfect flower. Finally, she said “follow me” before taking Lenny to the far left of the garden where there was a field of pale purple bell-shaped flowers surrounded by green leaves and black, perfectly rounded berries. The flowers were locked away behind a gated fence, away from all other plants.

“Black berries? This is your poison?” Lenny criticized.

“No. Belladonnas.” Maggie explained, “One of the deadliest plants in the entire world. That’s why we keep them locked away from everything else.”

“Okay. I can work with this. Let me think,” Lenny said. “How about we pick some of these berries and tell Gunter here we’ve got him some nice blackberries for lunch?”

Maggie shook her head. “Nope, won’t work. He’ll know as soon as he sees it it’s not a blackberry.”

“Okay. How about we crush it and make some tea then? Don’t you have some chamomile around here we can mix it with?” Lenny asked.

“Excellent idea!” Maggie said, “I’ll pull the chamomile plants and I can make up the tea mixture. Dad keeps hot water in the shed for when he’s working late at night and wants coffee or tea, so I can just borrow some. He won’t even notice it’s gone.”

“Sounds good, but how about you hand me the supplies to make the tea and then you can go off and find Gunter. I don’t want to scare the guy.”

“Sounds good” Maggie said as she picked off the flowers and berries and handed them to Lenny.

Lenny entered into the garden shed and found the water right away and began the process of making the tea mixture. He rubbed the chamomile plant in his hand until the petals began to crumble. Next, he crushed up the berries as much as he could until they were nearly liquified. He mixed it all together and poured the hot water over it into a teacup he found sitting on a table in the corner of the shed.

“That shall do,” Lenny said as he admired his work. He left the shed and found Maggie standing with Gunter just a few rows back. He walked over towards them.

“Lenny! Meet Gunter. Gunter is our family’s garden gnome that was hired to help out with our garden. Gunter, meet Lenny.”

“Hi, nice to meet you. Which tribe are you from?” Gunter asked.

“Uhm. I’m a uhhh…Elf,” Lenny lied. He knew if he said he was a leprechaun he would risk being thrown out of the garden. Gnomes and leprechauns have always been mortal enemies, especially when it came between the Irish leprechauns like Lenny and German gnomes like Gunter.

“Oh cool. Where are you from?” Gunter asked.

“Where all of the elves are from, the North Pole, silly!” Lenny said.

“Actually we have some elves that are local to our forest here in Germany, but they sure look a lot different from you,” Gunter said. The North Pole sounds pretty far from Germany. What brings you here?” Gunter asked.

“I uh invited him over for tea,” Maggie said.

“Young lady you shouldn’t be inviting anyone over without your parents’ permission. And hey, what are you doing outside of your well?” Gunter asked.

Maggie rolled her eyes and began to answer before Lenny interrupted her. “Enough of the chit-chat. Do you want some of my famous Christmas tea fresh from the North Pole or not?” Lenny asked.

“Imported Christmas tea? Count me in!” Gunter said as he took a big gulp.

Within seconds, Gunter dropped dead to the ground.

“GUNTER? ARE YOU OKAY?” Maggie screamed.

“What do you think? He just drank belladonna tea,” Lenny said.

“You killed him!” she said.

“Well, yeah. You said you wanted him gone,” Lenny said.

“Yeah GONE. Not dead!”

“Sweetheart, we all have to die someday. Pick your poison. Would you rather die alone in a tower, with Gunter, a man you don’t love, or another method of your own choosing?

“Another method of my own choosing,” Maggie answered with hesitation.

“Okay, glad we got that taken care of. Now honey, can I grant you another wish?” Lenny asked.

“Can we get rid of this body first? It stinks and I don’t think my parents would be happy to find it like this,” Maggie said.

“Is that your wish?” he asked.

“Yes,” Maggie replied.

“Sure thing.” Lenny said. “You know the drill.”

Maggie closed her eyes as Lenny poured black glitter over her before chanting, “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Get rid of Gunter’s smelly dead body is a MUST!”

Maggie began to open her eyes before Lenny screamed out, “Keep them closed! Wish in progress!”

“Okay I will!” Maggie said, “But is something burning?”

Lenny was rubbing two sticks together that he pulled off from the nearby apple tree. It was beginning to spark and form a fire. Just as the flames began to rise and inch closer to his hands he threw the burning sticks over to where Gunter’s dead body laid.

“Okay you can open them now. And yes, it’s burning baby. Burn, baby, burn.”

“You lite Gunter on fire???” Maggie exclaimed.

“Sweetheart, he’s already dead. You wanted me to get rid of the body. I figured cremation was the easiest method.”

“You are cruel and unbelievable!” Maggie said.

“You say that, and yet here I am making all of your wishes come true,” Lenny smirked.

“Why do you have to be so evil? Can’t you just use some of your leprechaun magic instead? Kind of like how my family and I use our fairy magic?” Maggie asked.

“Sweetheart, I hate to break it to you like this, but someone’s got to tell you someday. Magic ain’t real,” Lenny explained.

“What do you mean magic isn’t real?” Maggie asked. “My parents having been using it in their recipes and making a fortune off of it for ages. And what about you? You got me out of this well and you got rid of Gunter and you still owe me one more wish,” she said.

“Honey, your parents are better con artists than even I am, and I never thought that could even be possible,” Lenny admitted. “They use ingredients in their recipes that have healing benefits or are good for you in some way, shape, or form. But that ain’t magic. It’s all in everyone’s head. For example, if I want to fall in love I’m going to buy one of those love pies or whatever it is your mother makes and then I’m going go out and claim to be in love because it’s what I think will happen, what I want to happen. But I don’t need no damn pie to make me fall in love. I just need to have that idea planted in my head. And I didn’t get you out of the well, you flew out. You were just so focused on the magic you didn’t even realize it was you all along. And I poisoned and killed Gunter. What’s so magical about poison, Maggie? Poison is poison as murder is murder. I’m not too proud to admit now that I’m a murderer.”

“So, if none of this magic is real, then my entire life, this entire Moore Magical garden -it’s all a lie?” she asked.

“Yes,” Lenny said.

“What happens now?” Maggie asked.

“You’re free. When’s the last time you were free?” Lenny asked.

Maggie thought long and hard. “I have never been free,” she replied.

“The gate is open. Write your own story,” he said.

“What about you?” Maggie asked.

“I can take care of myself,” Lenny said.


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Image Credits: Tiny Pic

I’ve always loved horror movies, but they very rarely scare me. I don’t know if it’s because I have a sick sense of humor or because I was raised to be tough or because so many horror movies are not well done (probably a combination of all three of these factors), but I usually find horror movies to be hilarious. Whenever I see a monster come out to attack their next victim or a character gets their head chopped off or something along those lines, I can’t help but laugh. I find most horror movies to be on the same level as comedies as far as humor is concerned…

With that being said, there is one movie series that stands out as being the only series to ever actually completely freak me out and scare me: the Saw series. I never once laughed while watching the movies in this series. I was completely freaked out, and yet I could not stop watching them. I watched the entire series on Netflix within about two days’ time. Since these movies left such a strong impact on me, it made sense for me to re-watch the original Saw film and analyze it in light of what I’ve learned in class about the horror genre so I could see just what it is that makes these movies so appealing and how I might choose to apply these principles to my own writing.

The first element that works well in this film is the fact that it’s extremely fast-paced. The movie opens with two men, Dr. Lawrence Gordon and a man that simply goes by “Adam” as being locked into a very dirty, almost archaic bathroom together. There is also a dead, bloodied body lying on the floor. Adam and Dr. Gordon have no memory of how they got there and they are also chained to the wall unable to escape. At first they also do not know how the man was killed or what happened to him. The last thing that Dr. Gordon remembers is going to work the night before and the last thing that Adam remembers was going to sleep the night before. This is scary because the characters were just living ordinary, regular lives and now they are in a very unordinary environment. It makes us think it could happen to us, too. There is also a bit of the fear of the unknown because Dr. Gordon and Adam don’t know how they got there or what’s going to happen next. Right away we as viewers know that something is drastically wrong and we are drawn in to the story because we want to know how they got there and how they might escape.

The entire story line and plot for the movie is also so expertly done. Many people would argue that Saw falls under the category of body horror, which I agree with since Dr. Gordon saws his foot off in an attempt to escape from his chains, Adam’s blood is poisoned, and Amanda has to solve a puzzle or risk having her jaw explode, but I’d also argue that this movie can also fall under the categories of police procedural and psychological horror. It’s police procedural because there is a mystery that must be solved throughout this movie. Detectives/police have been working on a case for a while now where a man known as “Jig Saw” has murdered and tortured several different individuals. His motive is that he wants to teach people to be appreciative of their lives. Jig Saw was recently diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor that is slowly killing him. He is very angry and bitter by this news and doesn’t think that others deserve to live unless they can appreciate the beauty of life. For those who manage to survive Jig Saw’s cruel games of torture, their views on life are forever changed, which some could argue is for the better. Since they were so close to death, they realize how easily life can be taken from them so they gain a stronger appreciation of it.

Even though Jig Saw is a horrible person who brutally kills and/or tortures people, I find myself almost sympathizing with him and liking his games at times. The idea that people should be appreciative and grateful to be alive is something that few people would argue against; Jig Saw just goes about it in the wrong way. The film also falls under the category of psychological horror for this reason. It messes with our minds as viewers. Are we really sympathizing and feeling sorry for a mass murderer? Furthermore, the story messes with the minds of the main characters, Dr. Gordon and Adam by putting them up against each other. In order to live, someone must die. In Dr. Gordon’s case, he must kill Adam if he wishes to allow his wife and his daughter to live. In Adam’s case, he must murder Dr. Gordon’s wife and child if he wishes to live since he now has poison in his blood that will kill him at a designated time if he does not complete this task. The characters often have to consider morality and ethics and what’s more important or valuable – their own lives or the lives of others around them. They have to do extremely immoral things if they want to live, and sometimes they also have to do those things just so the people closest to them may live. These are difficult decisions for anyone to make, and they also don’t have time to think through their decisions. Time is of the essence; wasting just 1 minute could be the difference between life or death.

The main takeaways I got from this film that I could apply to my own writing is to get to the action quickly, and have a strong/unique story line that keeps the reader’s attention. The puzzles are disturbing but entertaining to watch because you want to see if the characters will be able to solve them in time and be sparred their lives. They also set the scene for each film after, allowing all of the films in the series to fit together nicely. In writing this would be a great strategy to use if you were planning to write a book series rather than just one stand-alone novel. The film also has several highly graphic scenes such as the opening scene where the characters are in complete isolation with the exception of each other’s’ company in a filthy bathroom, all of the blood from the dead/dying characters, and the scene where Amanda must violently mutilate a dead man’s body and remove his intestines in order to get the key to remove the device from her jaws before she is killed. In order to achieve the same or similar effects in writing I would need to include very strong details for the setting and use very strong descriptions so that my reader could “see” the horror in each scene.



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