Film vs Novel – The Dark Half

What would your bad side be like, and how would you confront it?

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The opening chapter of the novel does not pull any punches and immediately throws some gore and a shiver up your spine. We get further hits of this through antagonist George Stark’s point of view scattered throughout the book, his actions are truly grotesque… I wanted to cover my eyes until it was over – but of course you can’t do that if you’re reading. The film, consequently took a while to get going, and the SPFX felt a touch amateurish, but was most likely state of the art for the time of its release in the ‘90’s. I don’t think ‘The Dark Half’ took the time to build a creep factor as much as his other film titles.

I felt moments in-between when reading, where the narrative dragged out – embellishing characters and their back-stories, or descriptions of the landscape of the novel that slowed the pace and had me speed-reading through. Though my interest in the novel never waned. I always wanted to know what was going to happen next. Eager to learn the secrets of protagonist author Thad and his alter ego Stark. I actually watched the movie in three chunks because of the same issues in pacing – which is not something you want in a horror/thriller.

FvN The Dark Half Pic 03 by Casey CarlisleThad was an interesting protagonist (played by Timothy Hutton). I related to him immediately being a writer, and how he would get lost in a fugue of writing as if being taken over by another presence entirely. Though the smoking, drinking, patriarch stereotype that edged its way into this character annoyed me a little. But on the whole I found Thad to be intelligent, imaginative and a real risk taker; all with layers of love and compassion. I found perfection in his layers of imperfection. We did not see this set up in the film however. It starts with a montage of Thad’s past and then starts the film off in present day. We don’t get to see the duality of Thad as succinctly as in the novel. And while he is set up to be a family man, there isn’t time to explore the depths of his personality.

His wife, Liz – of which I frequently was reminded of the phrase about poking a mumma bear with a stick when her twin children were threatened. Liz was always the quintessential homemaker, adoring her little family and supporting her husband. But the moment any of that was endangered she roared and snapped like a wild animal. Her protective spirit and tenacity created a deep respect. She was part of the team and very present in scenes with Thad in the novel. Comparatively her screen version played by Amy Madigan was watered down. We did not get to see her strength and though front and centre in the storyline, wasn’t as essential in the plot.

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Our straight-man (so to speak) being Sheriff Alan Pagborn filled the much needed critic against the supernatural. He guides the reader and grounds the narrative. The sceptic who deals only in facts and proof to form a conclusion. His added point of view helps to add credence to the theories Thad and his wife instinctually know. I loved his character in the book – the one person a reader is to use as a voice of reason. Not so in the film. He felt more like a plot device to counter the supernatural and be there at the end to witness the strangeness so it couldn’t be written off as imagination or a crazed Thad. We also never get to see the husband and wife team follow their hunches with uncanny supernatural radar – it was reduced to a raving and yelling Thad for a few scenes. The dynamic between these three characters is lost in the movie version.

I found the cast interesting, fully developed and added something unique to the story line, ultimately rounding it in some realism. Though the plot itself did fell drawn out a little too long, the journey there was paced well and held my interest. Stephen King’s writing style is prominent, though more intimate than his earlier works. For a novel nearly 600 pages long, I seemed to fly through it. But the film felt disjointed – subsidiary characters revealed plot points way to early destroying any unexplained evil phenomena to tease and scare us. I feel there was even some missed opportunity to creep us out even further with some of the murder scenes – especially when Stark and Thad are in the same locale.

FvN The Dark Half Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleI was a little disappointed in the mythology of the novel – I’d read about the significance of sparrows before in Trent Jamison’s Deathworks novels, so this aspect was not a huge surprise to me; though Thad’s role felt like it was left hanging. Why had this event taken place in the first instance? Does Thad have some sort of ability? Was it Stark all along, clawing his way back from some dark place? I felt like I was wanting more resolution to this, or even a paragraph explaining why, but we didn’t get an answer in the novel. Comparatively, we get more answers in the film, but they fall flat. And the climactic scene felt comical. In the novel there is more of a struggle between Stark and Thad, and more of a symbolic changing of places before the final showdown. Even Thad’s twins were much more involved. There felt like there was a lot at stake, more paranormal forces in play for the novel – the film just showed one scene with special effects and that was it.

I’ve read creepier, gorier books from King. But I have to say, ‘The Dark Half’ had just enough of both to satisfy this genre without making it difficult to read. The thriller-suspense is light, but a great story to ignite the imagination of any wanna-be writer. But the film was no-where near what I expected it to be. The suspense and build were not executed strongly enough, and I hoped for more of an air of mystery around the paranormal events, but they were explained away far too quickly and easily.

The novel could have been a tad shorter, a tad more intense, and ended with more of an exclamation point, but I’d be happy to recommend to all. I’d have to rank it in the top half of my King favourites. The film however, though entertaining in a nostalgic B-grade horror film sort of way, I’d happily miss, especially since it was two hours long. Definitely the novel for the win J

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© Casey Carlisle 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Book Review – ‘No Plain Rebel’ (#2 No Ordinary Star) by M.C. Frank

Great concept, poor planning for publishing.

No Plain Rebel Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Science Fiction

No. of pages: 212

From Goodreads:

Felix finds out the truth. 

Or so he thinks. He’s trying to come to terms with that, as well as with the fact that the Clockmaster’s shack has been discovered by his fellow-soldiers, but he can’t exactly concentrate. The match girl’s fiery curls appear before his eyes every ten seconds, distracting him, and then he starts talking to her in his head. 

Because she’s no longer there. 

The Stadium is looming in the distance. 

It’s ten heartbeats to midnight. 

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I was really hoping the story would go somewhere after a ‘meh’ feeling from reading ‘No Ordinary Star.’ There is no doubt that M.C. Frank has a talent for writing, but why she released this trilogy in tiny instalments that aren’t resolved sections is beyond me. It tainted the whole experience.

Jumping around with perspectives of Felix and Astra, in different parts of the timeline, made it difficult to connect with the characters. I loved the descriptions of first time experiences. The alien-ness of customs and objects we use today through the eyes of someone in a dystopian future. It was sheer brilliance. But again, as with the first novel it was too brief, felt out of context, and was difficult at times to figure out where this is all going.

All of this aura of confusion and disjointedness overrides the beautiful writing. And with the addition of a number of grammatical errors, I was left yet again with a bitter taste in my mouth.

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I can see from Franks writing the potential, and why many readers love this series; but for me, it’s not polished enough, not planned out enough for each instalment to stand on their own and make sense. I kept putting down this short novella and spread it out over a couple of days, when it is something that I could read in hours because I was frustrated and disinterested.

I really hope things start to make sense in the final book of the trilogy ‘No Vain Loss.’

Concept is intriguing, writing style is fantastic, pacing is a bit sporadic, but overall the story was not engaging for me. I did not connect with the characters and kept getting lost in time jumps and flash backs.

Though I will preserve and read the final instalment and hopefully it will redeem my opinion.

Overall feeling: Disappointing… again.

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© Casey Carlisle 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Sacrifice’ (#5 The Elementals) by Brigid Kemmerer

Another guilty pleasure – but didn’t feel like the end of the series.

Sacrifice (#5 Elemental) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarliseGenre: Y/A, Paranormal, Romance

No. of pages: 324

From Goodreads:

Earth. Fire. Air. Water.

One misstep and they lose it all. For the last time.

Michael Merrick understands pressure. He’s the only parent his three brothers have had for years. His power to control Earth could kill someone if he miscalculates. Now an Elemental Guide has it in for his family, and he’s all that stands in the way.

His girlfriend, Hannah, understands pressure too. She’s got a child of her own, and a job as a firefighter that could put her life in danger at any moment.

But there are people who have had enough of Michael’s defiance, his family’s ‘bad luck’. Before he knows it, Michael’s enemies have turned into the Merricks’ enemies, and they’re armed for war.

They’re not interested in surrender. But Michael isn’t the white flag type anyway. Everything is set for the final showdown.

Four elements, one family. Will they hold together, or be torn apart?

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At this point in time, ‘Sacrifice’ is meant to be the last book in the Elementals collection. But I didn’t feel it. I was hoping for the all stakes battle, for all the Elementals to join together as one unstoppable fighting unit. We’ve been getting hints of this all through the series – and well… *fizzle* *deflated balloon*

As with all the other books in the series, we get another perspective – this time from Michael, the oldest Merrick sibling. I’m so glad all the hormonal teen boy violence was kept to a hush and we actually got some story. Though there was an awful lot of people getting shot, blown up and killed. But the Merrick brothers seemed to have chilled a bit – that or they are still reeling and in shock.

Sacrifice (#5 Elemental) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlise.jpgI enjoyed the story, but ‘Sacrifice’ just didn’t pack the punch I was expecting. Maybe because Brigid Kemmerer already had a follow-up in the works, who knows. The characters and storylines are feeling more realistic, so I don’t understand why this didn’t grab me as much. Plenty of tension, the stakes were high for Michael… possibly it was the angst that was absent? Or maybe it’s my unmet expectation of the ultimate showdown not being realised? I was also hoping to get more on the mythology of the Elementals, the formation and organisation of the Guides and their motivation. It’s just been very precursory up until now. I want more history and nitty-gritty of these secret warring factions.

I also didn’t get much over the relationships of the other brothers – Kemmerer tends to omit the other characters when she’s concentrating on the story of her books protagonist. I missed Becca, Laney, Adam… I mean it’s a close-knit family unit and is seems common sense that their boyfriends and girlfriends would be present for most of the time.

But that’s just me being picky. And a little gibbed about not getting some of the answers I wanted.

Otherwise ‘Sacrifice’ was another great addition to the Elemental universe. I’m still wondering how there are so many Elementals though, it was getting to a point you couldn’t hurl a stick without hitting one. But that meant plenty of displays of awesome supernatural powers. Me likey! The tension between Hannah and Michael was great, especially with Hannah’s father continually getting in the way. I really enjoyed this emotional tussle.

I read this very quickly, in fact I was wondering where the rest of it was when I’d finished. The same breeze writing style leant to completing the novel in a day.

I’ve seen Brigid Kemmerer’s note on Goodreads informing fans that the next novel in this series ‘Strife’ had been put on indefinite hiatus due to contracts on some of the releases we are now starting to see released and on the publishing schedule. But I hope we get to see her return to the Merrick boys and publish the next book – maybe it will give me the answers I crave?

Nonetheless, I’m putting this guilty pleasure back on my shelf and looking towards the next challenge.

Overall feeling: Where was the rest?

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Sacrifice (#5 Elemental) Book Review Pic 4 by Casey Carlise

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© Casey Carlisle 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Novella vs Novel

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What’s the difference between a novel and a novella? Is there a varied approach in how they are published and marketed? What is right for me?

The technical differences between a novella and a novel is chiefly length. A guide to the different categories is as follows:

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For this post I’m focusing more on the idea of when you’ve finished your work and you’re not sure what you’ve got. Or if you have an idea and uncertain of what form you should deliver it in. The information here is merely a guide. Publishers tend to stick within the rules, but as writers, we are artists and can always break through into something new.

Novel vs Novella Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleNovellas for me usually involve 70-120 pages, and focus on a single point of view. I see them as bite sized fiction that are strong in theme. I like them as additions to a series to introduce (prelude) or enhance the collection (from another character’s point of view.) But as a standalone, I usually feel like the story packs a big punch, have a fast pace, and leave the reader to think afterwards.

Because of this, personally, I’m not a fan of releasing a novel in parts. I know some authors do this to get around a current publishing contracts, or to create a hype in their marketing strategy. But I prefer my story to make sense, and not end in the middle of things – not to be confused with a cliff-hanger. A cliff-hanger is a suggestion of things to come. Ending in the middle of things is when hardly any of the plot points introduced at the start of your story have not been addressed or resolved. It’s a big turn off for readers too – so if you go down the road of releasing a novella, pay particular attention to this concept.

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With the structure and concept of novellas out of the way, we usually see them released in the form of an e-book. Yes, there are physical books published too, but you need to have a cost effective release to a ready-made audience for this to be successful, as the printing costs for novellas is proportionally higher. Hence the popularity for publishing in e-book form. It also gives a little exclusivity to the story. Later, if the novella is a part of a series, you can add it at the end of a novel (formatting permitting) as an added bonus in a limited release to give another sales boost.

I like the concept of a novella, its publishing options are much more flexible and offer unique marketing possibilities. Also they are quicker to create – or can compile of edited-out parts of your novel/series that you expand for a companion story.

This is all my preference, and how I like to use the form of the novella to my advantage. It’s slightly different in tone and pacing to my novel writing, and used to enhance a series. If I release a stand-alone novella you can expect it will only be in a digital format, a condensed punchy read.

Novels are my sweet spot. I like to get lost in the world I create on paper. Take my time to build the world and all of the characters within. So that inevitably leads to story arcs, backstories and differing motivations for my cast… and there is no way you can fit all that information in a novella.

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Developing a character and watching them change and grow through a number of experiences is a delight. Having that time to explore and discover the characters, mythology and landscape is what a novel is all about for me. You get to play with tense, point of view, printing format, change and build tension to set the mood. A novel opens up a lot more creative doors in storytelling to allow you to grip the reader. It’s complexity by nature creates interest.

Novel vs Novella Pic 03 by Casey CarlislePlus I love the journey in producing a novel – the editing and re-writes, the attention to detail. Like producing a film, there is much more involved than simply telling a story. It’s about editing, scene transition, tone, pace, a climactic ending. The journey. And then there’s the fine tuning of the physical product – formatting the pages, creating content for the end pages, cover art. How you are going to launch your novel, a marketing strategy and other related activities to get the word out. I find it all fascinating. As authors we wear different hats to walk in each of our characters shoes – and so in the real world with go through the same process taking on different roles to launch and promote our writing. It’s a constant discovery and learning process – especially in the advent of the digital age.

Depending which publishing track you go down: traditional or self-publishing, will also influence your activities. With novellas, I’m looking at more the self-publishing route. For me it means reaching a wider audience and having more control over the finished product than I would with a traditional publisher, as I mentioned, novellas are sometimes not so cost effective, and the return on them smaller. But with a novel, the reach of a traditional publisher exceeds what I could get online. It also adds credibility – not to mention the vetting process most publishers put your book through to really polish your baby to be ready for the reading public. You still need your own marketing campaign (and online platform) in tandem with that of the publisher, but a traditional publisher certainly opens doors that would otherwise remain padlocked down in any other route.

This is all very general and conceptual, but an interesting discussion and guide into the writing/publishing process. As the industry changes, laws are introduced, and the digital market grows stronger our options too will change. I’m excited to see where this all goes over the next ten to twenty years.

Will novellas become more popular in the advent of a generation of instant-gratification digital users leading the market? Or is a new multi-media form going to evolve?

Keep your eyes on the pulse fellow writers…

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© Casey Carlisle 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.