Wednesday, November 20, 2013

What Makes a Series Awesome

So yesterday marked the release of The Fiery Heart (Bloodlines #4) by Richelle Mead. As I settled in with the book, I thought back to a question that I've had time and time again: Why do I like this series?

It's no secret that I'm not the hugest fan of paranormal romance. Urban fantasy I like, but I've had trouble with PNR. Sometimes it's hard to differentiate between PNR and UF, and that's fine, but when PNR stays closer to its own tropes, trouble ensues (for me). The Bloodlines series does shake up the PNR foundation quite a bit, but is that enough? I don't know - maybe, maybe not. That's not actually why I like it as much as I do. I like it...

Because of the characters. Because of their quirks, and how those simple things make me feel like the characters are familiar. Angeline using a butter knife to make shorts, texting in all caps. Adrian medicating himself, painting while under the fervor of spirit, crafting flippant responses to deflect attention. Sydney naming her cars, clutching her cross, pushing food around her plate, constantly wearing office attire like khaki pants, ensuring that no hair is out of place. Those character quirks also work double time to point back to the world Mead has created - Sydney's khaki pants and cross being typical in the Alchemist world, etc. etc.. Better yet Mead uses those character quirks to create a signature style of humor, which is evident even from the first time when Adrian and Sydney meet and he makes some deadpan comment about her clothes.

Smirks, scowls, and the like are realistic responses, but they rarely make me feel like I know a character unless that character is the only one who has that response, or unless that response is modified so that it feels more distinct. How often does he/she smirk? How wide is the smirk? Does that smirk change your overall perception of the person? My mother once told me that I smile so widely and so often that bugs probably fly into my mouth. My organic chemistry professor once told my lab partner that I must be a delight to work with because I was smiling all the time; my partner then said that my constant smiling was "cute." People have said other things, but I wanted to point out these two observations because of the different perceptions they create -- on one hand I seem "cute," and on the other I just seem foolish, and if I had just mentioned my constant smiling, that would have also given a different impression. If a series transforms a  regular reaction into something singular -- like the eyebrow raise from Eugenides in The Queen's Thief series -- or tailors specific behaviors for specific people, it's almost a guarantee that I'll at least be interested in the characters because they'll feel that much more real to me. Plus the humor and world-building opportunities -- there's so much that can be done with character quirks!

Do you notice and/or care about character quirks while reading? Who are your favorite characters and why? Are you enjoying The Fiery Heart? (I did something bad. I flipped to the end. Couldn't help it -- after all the review mentions, I had to know.)

PS - bookish rounds tomorrow.

12 comments:

  1. I think I sometimes notice quirks, but then after the fact, I can't think of them. While reading, I notice many things though, so I do agree. It might not exactly be quirks, but just the movements and the way the writers weave words, it does make the characters feel familiar and that's the best thing to feel when reading.

    Also, when did you change your template/design? I like it!

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    1. Yes! It is not something I necessarily notice while I'm reading, but it's the sort of *effect* I notice and then can pinpoint later. The movements, definitely, and the syntax for the writing. Yes. 100% agreed, Sunny :).

      Hmmm, I think I changed it around this time? Nov. 20th? That week or so. Sorry o.o. I no longer quite remember the day. Took me a bit to tweak the design.

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  2. I read The Fiery Heart yesterday and I loved it. And you're right, the characters completely make this series, I feel like I know them. This is the first one of the series that the overarching back stories take over and even though, when I think about it, not a whole lot happens, I just don't care because I love reading about these characters. All of the characters, but especially Sydney and Adrian (Sydrian...love them together) have grown so much, but still retain the essential parts that make them who they are. And it is the little things that add up that make those characters so relatable and likable. And if you suck me in with the characters, I will just keep reading. And loving every single book. ~Pam

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    1. "This is the first one of the series that the overarching back stories take over and even though, when I think about it, not a whole lot happens, I just don't care because I love reading about these characters." --- YES. That is a perfect way to describe the series. I think VA had a lot more action and definitive plot but I know the characters in Bloodlines a lot better than those in VA. And Sydney and Adrian. Ugh, so much love for that romance and how the two of them work together. And what you said: "And if you suck me in with the characters, I will just keep reading. And loving every single book."

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  3. I love those quirks! I'm actually collecting quotes for a discussion post about a specific quirk, to illustrate why I like that particular one. I haven't even started in this series, but growing fond of characters is one of the best things that can happen with a series :) and those quirks always makes it easy to connect them: like you really know them.

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    1. OOOOO I'm looking forward to reading this discussion post when I'm finally done with all these comment replies! I definitely agree that certain character quirks are more popular than others too. :)

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  4. WHAT WHAT WHAT WHAT IS.. IS.. YOUR.. BLOG :D It's different! :D And you're back to blogger comments? This is just too darn weird right now, but I love it!

    "Because of the characters. Because of their quirks, and how those simple things make me feel like the characters are familiar. " -- agreed! Hahaha. Angeline and her all caps are hilarious.

    I totally get what you're saying. I think that quirks are what make us special. While you have a constant smile on your face, people often ask me if everything's alright because they feel like I'm about to cry at any point when I'm just rocking my serious face. I mean.. come on! It's just my face :D I'm not one of those people who constantly laugh, I laugh when the joke is worth it. I do have a best friend who laughs all the time and people love being around her because she makes them comfortable and they know that she's always smiling and laughing and it really is something that you want to experience more. I think that's what the quirks are about. They're (usually) appealing and invite others to taste some more :)

    I haven't really thought about this topic, but now that I think about it, I love the same things about these characters. I also love how Gin Blanco from the Elemental Assassin series (UF one) by Jennifer Estep always waits patiently before jumping into situations and how her step-brother Fin always calls people on their BS because he's just that good. I love how Ronald Weasley says bloody. I love so many other little things. Like.. Celaena Sardothien craves for sweets and gorgeous dresses. It's these little things that make them special. Lovely discussion, cupcake!

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    1. Hahaha well I hope the layout was a good weird. I like that it's cleaner and easier to read (I think at least). And I went back to blogger comments since Disqus didn't work and well, I've always wanted to have blogger comments :).

      "people often ask me if everything's alright because they feel like I'm about to cry at any point when I'm just rocking my serious face. I mean.. come on! It's just my face :D I'm not one of those people who constantly laugh, I laugh when the joke is worth it." -- we might be polar opposites, siiri :P. I laugh a lot. I smile a lot. I smile for no reason, without realizing that I'm smiling, and I have wondered about people before who I can't read (e.g. a girl who always seemed to have a disdainful expression, but it's as you said, it's just her face!).

      Yesss, Ron's quirk especially since it's shared by a lot of English people, but is also specific enough to him in the series. And Celaena and her sweets and materialism. Thank you :D :D. And you and your "cupcake" endearments ;). <3

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  5. Characters make the entire book for me. Sure, the plot can be awesome, but without characters who are equally as awesome, the likelihood of me picking up the series is slim. If Adrian Ivashkov wasn’t in the Bloodlines series, I would have probably not read it. :P He has a way of making my heart flutter. And when you add in Sydney and the others to the mix, hello awesome interactions! Let’s have more please!

    A character’s quirks make a book for me because it characterizes them from others and relates them to us. Without it, I would have a hard time feeling anything but indifference for them. And that would be incredibly sad.

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    1. "If Adrian Ivashkov wasn’t in the Bloodlines series, I would have probably not read it. :P He has a way of making my heart flutter. And when you add in Sydney and the others to the mix, hello awesome interactions!" --- True. As much as I like Richelle Mead's writing and I like Sydney, I think I was more attracted to the idea of seeing Sydney and Adrian interact in the Bloodlines series. I like Eddie and the others, but it's mostly Sydrian who steals the show.

      "A character’s quirks make a book for me because it characterizes them from others and relates them to us." -- 100% agree :).

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  6. I just finished reading The Fiery Heart a few hours ago and I love it. I wasn't expecting much from it except for Sydrian moments. Yeah, I like the book because of these two and the other characters but plotwise, nothing much from it.

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    1. But hey, at least you're still taking enjoyment from those Sydrian moments. The romance is a part of the plot, so you're still taking *something* plotwise from TFH and the series ;).

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