Boozy Books: The Idiot

Hello, and welcome to the third in our “Dreary Russian Literature” specials! I think I picked the wrong time to work on my length issues, but I suppose it’s go big or go home, right? Let’s get started.

Prince Myshkin is one of literature’s best, and most famous, characters. In describing The Idiot, one must speak of him because he is the idiot. Or, to be more specific, he is called the idiot because no one can understand his goodness. The world is an affected place, full of hypocrisy and greed, and to people like this, the purest embodiment of the Christian love of man (Christ-like, not Christian in the sense of religion, as Myshkin could — and would — tell you) can only be seen as a lack of intelligence. And so they ridicule the kindness, goodness, and openness of a truly good man. Thus, The Idiot is a look at just how corrupt our world is, and how far from the ideal, a subject that Dostoevsky visits more than once.

Something like this is also seen in The Brothers Karamazov, which A discussed last week, during The Grand Inquisitor, a tale told by Ivan to his brother Alyosha. In it, Christ returns to Earth only to be sentenced to die by the Inquisition, who claims the Church no longer needs him. The Church is a worldly thing, burdened by worldly cares, and is thus antithetical to the true Christ. And Dostoevsky was, as a writer, very concerned with this dichotomy. In The Idiot, he turns that concern into a novel that becomes one of the greatest stories of all time.

This is not an even novel. Of all of Dostoevsky’s works, it is probably the least polished and most meandering, as if the author himself was using it as a chance to explore rather than write a cohesive narrative. And as someone who’s a bit of a philosopher myself, getting the chance to read one of the great philosophical novels is a real treat. Although, because it’s Russia, it does not end all that happily. Oh, Russia. You strange beast.

As with all things Russian, vodka must be on offer. But that is hardly surprising or exciting. So, because I think one needs to keep a mostly clear head while reading this book, I’m going to recommend something called Mors. It’s only slightly alcoholic (so little, in fact, that it’s given to children) and made of fermented foxberries (or sometimes cranberries). It’s typically used as a mixer, though children often drink it straight. If it’s too hard to find here, just toss some cranberry juice into the vodka. I’m sure that’d work. Don’t drink too much, though. You wouldn’t want to be too worldly.



Monday Muse: Getting to Know You

Heyo! Welcome to today’s Monday Muse! In my continuing bid to keep these posts short and sweet, I am going to get to the point.

Getting to know your characters. Yes, this is one of those practical muses. So, short AND helpful! The Holy Grail of Blog Posts.

I’ve done some stuff on writing before. I’ve talked about worldbuilding on multiple occasions, as well as the joys of research. But I don’t typically talk about how you can get to know your characters. I’ve mentioned my love of things like character sketches (brief scenes in which you answer questions about your characters) and finding physical models (especially for the sound of their voice), but there’s another tool that is the best kept secret of the writing community:

The Myers-Briggs Test

Yup. That’s right. The INFJs ad ESTPs you’ve heard about. They’re an amazing tool for understanding your characters. What motivates them, what kinds of characters they’d have good relationships with (not just romantic, either), what kind of careers would fit, etc. The classification is a great foundation tool, and a great way to help a bunch of behaviors coalesce into a cohesive personality type. Of course, the danger of taking this test is using the classification as gospel, refusing to deviate even when it doesn’t feel like your character. After all, this is just a tool, and in the end, you are the person who knows your character best.

Another great thing — and bear with me here — is running your character through the Hogwarts Sorting Hat test. Obviously, going through the whole thing on Pottermore means creating a new account for each character, but there are plenty of other versions that are near-copies and provide just as good a result. And there’s this really cool post that explains why so many characters seem to fit multiple houses that also really helped me come to an understanding about the main character of my NaNo novel. Which is great.

Now… these aren’t fool proof. Obviously. That character I just mentioned? She is one of those for whom the tests aren’t terribly helpful. Hedy’s marginal. She’s introverted, but is also often the brightest star in the room. She’s judging, but also has a tendency to be a dreamer. She’s a thinker whose strong emotions often obliterate her logic. She’s intuitive but her intuitions come from her experiences and sensory input. So, basically, she’s a little bit of everything. And it took FOREVER to come to the realization that, of all the types, INFJ is the only one that comes close. But KNOWING that (along with the Gryffindor primary & secondary with a Ravenclaw model) helped me build off of what I knew and construct her identity. Or, rather, put words to what I already knew. Which is just as important for, you know, a writer.

Well… that’s it from me today. And, yes, this is short. Comparatively. I’m working on it, I swear. I’ll be back on Friday for the continued Russian Literature Depression-Off!


Silly Sunday: Go Loco For Loki

Oh, yes… this is definitely the calendar you’re looking for. Even if you didn’t know it.

Right! Hello, y’all! Welcome to today’s Silly Sunday. In my continuing attempts to keep things short and sweet, I think this post mightn’t be more than a few lines long. Why? Because I need to procure me a calendar.

This Calendar, To Be Specific

Yup. That’s right. A Norse Gods of the Year calendar, complete with Pin-Up sexiness. You know you want it.

OK. Look at that. SO  SHORT. I’m getting better.

Watch me ruin it tomorrow with the Muse. *sigh*


Shakespeare Saturday: Choose Your Own Bard

Hello, and welcome to today’s Shakespeare Saturday! Today, I continue working on my ability to keep things short and sweet by presenting you some of the most fun Shakespeare greatness I’ve had occasion to experience in a while.

You remember those Choose Your Own Adventure books from when you were a kid? You get to pick your character and determine everything your character does, whether for good or ill? And, of course, whenever you realized you’d made a bad decision, you went back and pretended, “Nope. I really meant to do this other thing! The one that wins me the ending I want!” Because, uh, there’s no way you’re dying in some random cave! No way, Jose.

Well… now you can Choose Your Own Adventure: Shakespeare Style! That’s right. You can take on the Bard’s immortal characters and do, well… whatever you want with them. You know, so long as it’s one of the choices. Otherwise, you’re just doing what A and I did and writing your own novel. Which is cool, too. We totally support that!

Anywho… there’s two different choices: Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet. And both of them are FABULOUS! (I am particularly fond of becoming Ophelia: Denmark’s Greatest Ruler!)

Romeo and/or Juliet and To Be Or Not to Be (Either one can be the answer.)

You should do it! I totally plan on doing it.


Boozy Books: The Brothers Karamazov

Happy Friday, readers! It’s time for some more dense Russian literature! Last week we presented War and Peace so now I’d like to move on to some Dostoyevsky. Ya ready? (The Russian for yes is “da”)

If you aren’t familiar, settle in. The Brothers Karamazov is a philosophical novel set in 19th century Russia. It explores ethics, God, free will, and morals. The plot revolves around patricide and paints a vivid and incredibly detailed portrait of man’s struggle with doubt, faith, reason, and forgiveness. Composed of 12 books and an epilogue it is an epic, wide-spanning story set against a backdrop of a Russia that is rapidly modernizing.

The three brothers for whom the book is named are each very different and each experience spiritual and emotional struggles revolving around the centerpiece of their father’s death. There are lots of side stories and rationalist ideologies and nihilist things… Quite frankly, it’s a lot. There’s a lot. Trying to provide a concise overview without writing a novel myself  is kind of impossible. 

But I can tell you that this Russian novel is not really as dense as it is thick. Wait, what. Anyway, it’s not really an intense read the way War & Peace or Anna Karenina are. It’s a lot quieter and introspective and examines humanity in action around a central event that draws people together.

Pair it with vodka. Drink a lot of it.


Monday Muse: Query Schmery

Please, don’t let today’s title fool you… I’m simply trying to follow Dumbledore’s advice and find the happiness (even in these, the darkest, of times) by turning on a light. That light is optimism. YAY!

Now listen, this query writing business isn’t hard so much as it is stressful. Ok, maybe it’s also a little hard. But have you tried to boil your work down into a concise yet exciting pair of sentences? Every word choice has to have the power to grip an agent by the throat and show no quarter. And THEN you have to reel ’em in with a concise and exciting synopsis of your work without giving too much away AND you’ve just gotta sell yourself. That’s the whole point. SELL SELL SELL. Which, frankly, is rather against my nature.

I have done the research, I understand the concept, and I’ve read dozens of queries that have and haven’t achieved success. I’ve even written a rather snazzy hook that I’m pretty proud of. The whole thing still needs a touch of organization and finesse, but it’s on its way. It’s just… So hard, dammit.

But I can do it! And so can you if your project has reached that stage. All you have to do is remember to turn on the light.


Silly Sunday: Not-So-Silly Dreams

Heyo! Welcome to this week’s Silly Sunday. It’s going to be brief because I’m already picking which shows I want to see next year in Stratford. Oh, yeah… we’ve already booked our week up up there and now we’re just left to be SUPER EXCITED ABOUT THE AMAZING FUN!

Like… guys… they’re doing Romeo and Juliet next year. Next year… when our novel could very well be published. That novel that’s a thriller version of, you know, Romeo and Juliet?! OMG. It could be kismet. We already have dreams of doing book signings with the… no extra time we have. Shut up. We’ll do it for a couple of hours the afternoon we’ve set aside for our Anna Mae’s trip… and then the morning before we leave for the airport?

Shut up. We’ve got lofty goals. Doing a book signing of Killing Mercutio at our favorite Shakespeare festival the year they’re doing the very play that inspired our beloved novel… yeah, that’s one of them. It’d mean a lot to us.

But none of this is silly. I mean… maybe it’s a little silly to be planning book signings and stuff, but I don’t think so. I think that’s what anybody with a dream does. So, in order to make up for that, here’s Ron Swanson’s (well, Nick Offerman’s) impression of Hamlet. (Warning: spoilers.)


OK. So… from a girl who’s excited for more theater (50 weeks to go!) and for the chance that a bunch of people she admires might read and enjoy her book… have a great rest of Sunday. A will be back tomorrow with the Muse!