I Liked the Movie Better…

I like to stay out of the book vs. movie debate.

Book-lovers everywhere love to argue about how accurately film versions portray their beloved stories, but I’ve never thought it made sense to compare books and movies. To me, it’s like comparing a painting to a song. Books and films are two completely different mediums in which to tell stories.

Books of course can contain many more details and story lines than can be included in a two-hour movie, but movies are a chance to see a story truly come to life. And in some cases—even as a book-lover and as a writer—I like the movie versions even better than the books.

This past month I watched the new movie To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and thought it was amazing. Since I liked it so much, I picked up the book from the library. While I thought both were good, I definitely liked the movie version of this story more, and so I wanted to write about it and the other movies I like better than their respective books.

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Some of the books of which I like the respective movies better

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before
Over the past couple years, I’ve been getting more and more into the romance genre, and this story is just too cute. I saw the movie first, and was smiling the whole time because of how fun it is. I really enjoyed the writing in the book, but I thought it didn’t have a good ending. The movie wrapped up the story in a much better way, in my opinion. I’m waiting on the other two books in this series from the library.

The Hunger Games Series
As I’ve wrote about before, these movies were made for the screen. The author was a screenwriter, and I think that just comes through in the writing of the books. I think the essence of the story just works better in a movie.

The Harry Potter Series
It’s not that I don’t like the Harry Potter books, it’s just that they’re so long. I have trouble sitting still long enough to read books that long. I read the first six Harry Potter books a few times when I was in middle school, but I haven’t read any of them since reading the last book when the final movie came out. I love the films though because you can see all of the magic come to life.

Stardust
The book Stardust is on my favorites list because of the excellent writing and cool story. The movie is actually pretty different than the book, but I love it even more because, again, I love seeing all of the magic come to life on screen.

Cloud Atlas
Like Harry Potter, this book is long. I’ve only read it once, and—while I think it’s amazing and I put it on my favorites list—I don’t think I have the patience to read it again. I thought the movie version was very well done, and I love what they did with the actors playing different roles in each storyline.

Les Miserables
I’ll confess, even though Les Mis is my favorite story ever, I’ve only ever read the first page of the book. It’s written like a history book, which I find boring. But I love both the movie and the musical of this story.


How do you feel about the book vs. movie debate? Do you like any movies better than the book versions?

When I’m Not Writing: Watching Musicals

In addition to making jewelry and coloring, one of my favorite things to do when I’m not writing is watch musicals. One of my first memories is when my mom took me to see my very first musical—a community theater production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Seeing this show when I was little launched a lifetime love of musicals.

I love musicals because I love music, and getting to see stories presented in other formats has always been fascinating to me as a book lover/writer. Using music is such an interesting way to tell a story. Plus it makes the stories easier to remember because songs are pretty easy to commit to memory. I can (badly) sing almost the entirety of Joseph and Les Misérables.

I also think that watching musicals can be helpful to writers. Along with watching movies and television, reading comics and poetry, and even acting, seeing stories presented in different formats than fiction writing can be beneficial.

Other forms of stories can infuse your fiction writing and make it richer. For example, I, like many teenagers, couldn’t understand a word Shakespeare wrote until I was cast in a high school play that modernized scenes from various Shakespeare plays. Getting the chance to act out what I was reading allowed me to truly understand it. I can still remember some of my lines from that play, and now I can read Shakespeare with ease. I love his poetry and some of his themes have an influence on my work.

My favorite musicals are Les Mis, Joseph, Cinderella, Shrek, and Phantom of the Opera. My new obsessions are Wicked and Newsies, which I’ve both recently seen for the first time. I’ve gotten to see all of these live except for Shrek and Newsies, but I hope to see them someday. There is nothing quite as powerful as seeing these amazing stories acted out live.

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My Playbills from the professional shows I’ve seen, including Les Mis and Cinderella on Broadway.

Inspiration from my Favorite Movies

Writers can find inspiration from anything: books, nature, the people around you. Anything and everything that catches your eye can become a story. One of my favorite sources of inspiration is of course movies. I have trouble sitting down long enough to watch a whole movie and usually spread it out over a couple of days, but I still love the amazing stories that only movies can convey. These are some of my favorite movies and how they inspire my writing:

The Harry Potter Series
I’ll be honest—I’ve only read the books once over many years. Like I have trouble sitting down for a movie I also have trouble reading books longer than 300 pages. But I love how these movies bring this incredible world to life. The Harry Potter series inspires me with its expansive and complex world. Though I don’t plan on writing any fantasy, I love the world building aspects of these movies.

The Chronicles of Narnia
This is another fantasy series that inspires me with its world building, but I’m more inspired with the spiritual references. The symbolism and connection to Christianity that infuses this story makes me want to do the same in my own writing.

The Hunger Games Series
The Hunger Games series is an action-packed dystopia, full of rebellion and satire on reality television, and it has had a huge influence on my writing. While I’ve been a fan of these movies since they came out (and even dragged a friend to see the midnight release of the first one), I did not like the books when I first read them. My book club in high school read the first novel and I didn’t like it very much, and then gave up on the others. I didn’t actually read the whole series until this summer, and am reading Mockingjay right now. I just feel like this series and the essence of the story is so much better conveyed on screen than on the page.

Moana
Disney’s most recent princess (daughter of the village chief) inspires me with how strong she is. One of my main goals with my writing is to create strong female characters that girls can look up to, and Moana does just that. Plus the story is so fun and this movie has some of Disney’s best music.

Inside Out
Inside Out is by far my favorite Pixar movie. Not only is it a great story about emotions and memories, it takes you inside the mind of the main character and personifies the emotions that are hard to talk about in concrete ways. As a writer I found this movie so interesting with this look into someone’s mind.

Ever After
I love this film’s take on the story of Cinderella. Changing up fairy tales is something I enjoy doing, and I have always been inspired by fairy tales. I love how this movie makes Cinderella independent and strong.

Les Misérables
I’ve talked multiple times about how amazing this story is, so I won’t go on again. Check out these links if you want to know more: Getting Re-inspired by Les Misérables and Favorite Book Feature: A Little in Love by Susan Fletcher.

The Truman Show
This is definitely one of my favorite movies. I love how this film looks at reality television, perceptions of reality, and questions of identity. Jim Carrey does an amazing job portraying Truman’s story. This movie inspired one of the very first stories I created, and it continues to have an influence on my work.

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Some books about and souvenirs from some of my favorite movies.

As Cheryl St.John says in her book Writing with Emotion, Tension, and Conflict, watching a movie counts as work as long as you’re taking notes. Movies can have a huge impact on your writing, so try watching all kinds of films to find inspiration. I also love finding inspiration from television shows, with some of my favorites being Once Upon a Time, Jericho, Dollhouse, Firefly, Pushing Daisies, and Battlestar Galactica.

Favorite Book Feature: Legend by Marie Lu

July’s Favorite Book Feature is the debut novel by Marie Lu, Legend. Lu has gone on to become a big author in the YA world, but I fell in love with her writing back with this first book. I picked it up because the cover looked awesome. The book description sounded so cool that I bought the book to read it, but I knew that it was going to be amazing before I even started it when I read Lu’s bio and saw that the story was inspired by Les Misérables, which as you know is my favorite story ever.

Legend takes place in what used to be the United State’s west coast, a nation called the Republic who is in an unending war with the neighboring Colonies. The book follows June, a military prodigy from a wealthy family, on her quest to hunt down her brother’s murderer. Day, the country’s most infamous and most wanted criminal is the prime suspect. Day comes from a poor, plague-ridden sector and is trying his hardest to protect his family as June tries to avenge her brother’s death. But then they learn the truth of what brought them together, and they discover what their country is willing to do to protect its secrets.

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Legend by Marie Lu

I love that Legend has its roots in the story of Les Misérables. In Lu’s author bio on the book’s dust jacket she writes that she was inspired to write Legend after watching Les Misérables and wondering how it would translate into a modern story. With June and Day she creates a prodigious detective and famous criminal, much like their counterparts of Inspector Javert and Jean Valjean, and brings them into a modern story that’s thrilling and action-packed. Because I’m in love with Les Misérables, I loved getting to watch how this story played out in a dystopian world. Day does nothing more than try to save his family, like Valjean, and June is somewhat blinded by her need for revenge and justice, like Javert. But then Lu takes this story further than its inspiration and draws these two characters together in a beautiful way.

Legend is one of only a couple thriller/action books on my favorites shelf. Action stories, at least to me, tend to focus more on the action rather than the characters, and so I have trouble following along due to my lack of interest in the characters. Lu is an exception because she excels at making you care about the characters. June could have come across as cold and calculating with her being a genius who focuses on the details. But June’s first chapter opens with her breaking her school’s rules and being a little rebellious. We instantly get this peek into who her character really is. And June’s relationship with her brother, even in the flashbacks we get after he is murdered, bring such a great emotional element to the book. Day, even though we know he is a criminal, comes across as caring and kind. His crimes are small rebellions and he tries not to hurt anyone. This book is full of action, but because Lu gets you to care about the characters so deeply, it was really easy for me to follow along.

The Legend series is a set of three thrilling books. Lu draws you in to this dystopian world and doesn’t let you go. Legend is definitely one of my favorite books, and one that is hard to forget.

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I love all three books in the Legend series!

The Little Things that Inspire Me

I love my desk. My husband and I never used our kitchen table as an actual table, so, since we live in a small apartment and I didn’t yet have my own space for my writing, I claimed the table as my own. And now that I’ve gotten used to my big table, I don’t think I could ever go back to a normal, small desk.

Having my big table gives me plenty of space to spread out with my computer and notebooks, but what I love most is that I have lots of room for little trinkets and things that inspire me. I thought I’d share some of the little things that inspire me and explain how they help my writing process.

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My Desk

 

Writing Textbooks: I have a lot of writing textbooks and references on my desk. Some are from college, some I’ve read after school, and others I haven’t gotten to yet. I have everything from a book about outlining to a baby name book. I don’t read from these every day, but just having them there in front of me reminds me of the helpful information they contain and inspires me to do better.

GenZ Publishing Swag: I love my publisher. If you haven’t check them out yet, you definitely should. They’re looking for young, new, and innovative writers. It is so hard to break into publishing, but GenZ is giving new writers a chance to share their stories with the world. So of course I have to have my GenZ bookmarks and business cards on my desk so I can remember how awesome they are every day.

Faith Reminders: My two wooden block signs are probably the most important things on my desk. One says “You are Loved,” which is something I need to remember every day. Writing is a very solitary thing, and often leaves you feeling alone. But God is with me, and I am loved. The other sign asks, “Did you think to pray?” Writing is also a very hard thing to do. Along with feeling alone, writing can also make you frustrated and make you doubt yourself. I keep this sign here so that whenever I get frustrated I can stop and remember to pray about it. And I always feel better when I do this.

Jacob: A few of the things on my desk are from or remind me of my husband, Jacob. He’s the most important person in my life, so I need reminders of him on my desk. I have a picture frame that he gave me for my birthday a few years ago, a stack of encouraging sticky notes that he’s left me, and a little jar of M&Ms from our wedding that have our names on them.

Les Misérables Lyrics Book: Of course I need something on my desk that reminds me of my favorite story ever, so I have a lyric book to the musical Les Misérables. This story inspires me so much and has had an influence on everything I’ve written, and so I have to have the lyrics close to me when I write.

Buttons: I have three buttons on my desk. One says “A Whopper of a Writer,” which I got back in middle school when I won a writing contest, and the other two are Wright State University buttons that I got when I won their 2014 writing contest and placed in their 2015 contest. I like having these reminders of times I’ve succeeded as a writer.

3D Printer Items

My husband is an engineer and works with a 3D printer. He gave me these little test pieces that he didn’t need. Two are butterflies and one is a rook, and all three have intricate designs. I know there’s a story in them, and so I keep them on my desk so I can one day find their story.

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3D printer test pieces

Somewhere Only We Know Cover: I have a framed picture of my book cover on my desk. I love to look at it and remember how blessed I am to have published this story.

I love everything about my desk. It is so important to surround yourself with little things that inspire you. I keep things that remind me of my books, my husband, my faith, and my sources of inspiration. What do you keep around you that inspires you?

 

Favorite Book Feature: A Little in Love by Susan Fletcher

The last Friday of every month this year I’m going to be featuring one of my favorite books. I’ll give a review and say why it’s one of my favorites. You can find the full list here. First up is A Little in Love by Susan Fletcher.

As I wrote about here, Les Misérables is my favorite story ever and never fails to inspire me. Les Mis is full of amazing characters, hope, redemption, and fighting for a better tomorrow. I love everything about this story, especially the character Éponine. And Fletcher’s novel A Little in Love beautifully illustrates Éponine’s heartbreaking story.

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I may be a little obsessed with Les Mis. The t-shirt on the left is printed with the text of the book from Litographs. And that’s my front row ticket for the Broadway revival.

Éponine has a very hard life. Her parents were cruel and made her steal. She was forced to be cruel as well to a young girl who came to stay with them, and she has always regretted it. She tries at times to turn her life around—such as committing to doing good deeds when she does bad ones—and she tries hard to change when she falls in love with a boy named Marius. But his love is not returned, and Éponine learns that he has instead fallen in love with the same girl from her childhood, Cosette. Despite everything she has gone through, however, Éponine is granted forgiveness and redeems herself in the end.

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More Les Mis stuff. Playbills, DVDs, and a book about the 2012 film adaptation.

I love this book because it takes one of the lesser-developed characters in the story of Les Mis and digs deep into who she is. Fletcher gives us Éponine’s entire history and shows us the reasons she behaves as she does. I enjoy having this chance to understand how Éponine could love someone so much that she would choose his happiness over her own. And I love this beautiful story of forgiveness and redemption. Éponine committed bad deeds in her life, but she chose to change her life and she did.

I also really enjoy this book because I too like to change up well-known stories. Fletcher is an inspiration to me because of how well she accomplishes this. In college I enjoyed rewriting fairy tales into my own versions of them, and I first got started in writing by doing Harry Potter fan fiction. Rewriting your own versions of fairy tales or classic stories like Les Mis can be a great way to get started in writing. It’s fun to take characters and stories you know and make them your own.

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A Little in Love by Susan Fletcher

 

 

 

Getting Re-inspired by Les Misérables

I recently had to take a break from reading and writing due to a medical condition, and I was absolutely miserable. As my stack of books from the library that I couldn’t read grew higher and my notebooks sat untouched, I grew more and more desperate to get back to my job. However, now that my eye healed a couple weeks ago, I had a lot of trouble getting back into my writing. I had spent over a month away from my current project and I felt very distant from it.

This week I was finally able to write a couple thousand words, set up my story board, and really get back into the story. And that is all thanks to one of my greatest sources of inspiration – the story of Les Misérables.

I’ll be honest—I’ve never read the book. It’s been sitting on my shelf for years, but I have a lot of trouble reading older fiction and I just have not been able to get into it. But I have seen the musical more times than I can count, including an amazing front-row experience on Broadway, and it is my favorite story that I have ever encountered.

For those of you who don’t know, Les Mis is about a French man named Jean Valjean, a former convict who broke his parole but turned his life around. He becomes a changed man thanks to the mercy of a bishop, but is hunted throughout the years by one of his former guards, Inspector Javert. The two find each other years later when Valjean helps one of his workers and promises to care for her child. After revealing himself, Valjean escapes again to start a new life for the child, and does not encounter Javert again until ten years later. The story culminates in France’s June Rebellion of 1832. Les Mis is the ultimate story of redemption, hope, fighting for what’s right, and dreaming for a better life.

I love this story, and all I needed to do to get back into my own writing was to surround myself by the wonder of this incredible story. I watched the 2012 film, the 25th Anniversary Concert, and the 1998 non-musical film starring Liam Neeson and Geoffrey Rush. I also re-read one of my favorite books—A Little in Love by Susan Fletcher, which is a novelization of the story of Éponine, one of the characters in Les Mis.

When you are feeling stuck in your creative life, surround yourself by the things that inspire you. For me, that is the remarkable story of Les Mis. This story has influenced just about everything I’ve written, and it replenishes me and re-inspires me to get back to doing the work I love.

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My Playbills and DVDs of Les Mis, along with a book about the 2012 film.