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Top Ten “Wanna Be Her”s

Yesterday we covered the top ten fictional crushes, and while I was compiling it and looking at various books and movies, I realized that there are female characters in those books that I would love to “be”. Certainly not all the time, but if I got to step into a character’s shoes for a day, these female characters would be my top ten.

Why females? Mostly because if I included males on this list, I’d never get it narrowed down. So here we go.

1. Polgara (from The Belgariad/The Malloreon series): Supposedly the most beautiful woman in the world, three thousand years old (and still has the body of a twenty-something), and a powerful sorceress. Seriously. Fun times there.

2. Nymphadora Tonks (from Harry Potter): Not gonna lie. If I could have one super power, it would be to change my appearance at will. Vanity aside, how cool would it be to get to be anyone you wanted? The possibilities would be endless. Plus she snags Remus Lupin, so, you know. Not a bad deal.

3. Fox (from the movie Wanted): She’s so kickass she makes me want to learn how to shoot.

4. Bella Swan (from Twilight): Before you feel like smacking me for this, I’d do it for one single reason: to tell Edward Cullen to go stalk someone else (though if he shaped up, maybe he’d get to be my boyfriend). And the free trip to Italy.

5. Katniss (from The Hunger Games): Kickass. Strong. And the opportunity to hang out with Peeta and Gale. Hello. Definitely not on a Hunger Games day though.

6. Belle (from Beauty and the Beast): One of my favorite Disney movies. My freshman year in high school, a few of my friends and I (jokingly) decided we would all work at Disney when we were older, and we would be the princesses. With my coloring and heritage, I was a shoo-in for Belle, and I wasn’t complaining.

7. One of Charlie’s Angels: I’m really not picky here, as long as I don’t have to feather my hair.

8. A Spice Girl (they made a movie, remember?): Getting to drive around the UK in a bigger-than-it-looks tour bus meeting famous people and lip-sync in front of millions and get paid for it? Sure. Plus I’d get a fun nickname.

9. Jane Jones (the movie Closer): She is seriously screwed up in the head, but she knows what she wants, and she goes for it. One of my all-time favorite characters.

10. There are so many more, but I think it would be fun to be Aphrodite for a day. Just for the hell of it.

So many choices, and I’m positive I’m forgetting some of my favorites, but if I could step into a character’s shoes for a day, these would definitely make my list.

Top Ten Fictional “Crushes”

So I realized that limiting this blog to long posts about opinions on various writing topics is sort of silly. That’s not who I am, and I might as well let my freak flag fly, right? We all have one. (Name that movie time! It’s one of my favorites.)

I’m going to start off simple and try to ease into this. Try to make it interesting for you as well as me, and generally try not to blow too much hot air into the blogosphere. I’m blatantly stealing this from a good friend of mine, Sarah Reck, whose blog you should check out.

Top ten fictional crushes. Bear with me, because when I say crushes, I don’t actually mean crushes. I’ve never been that kind of person, and while I have absolutely nothing against the idea of getting crushes on fictional characters, I just don’t. So we’re gonna go with top ten favorite characters who I might agree to go out with if they asked me nicely.

I’m not limiting this to literature, by the way. Books, movies, and TV, here we go.

1. Bill Weasley (from the Harry Potter series): Why Bill? Well, he has long hair, and I have a Thing for that. He enjoys traveling, has a huge family, a bit of a rebellious side, and is just a general all-around good guy, but not so good that it’s cloying. Very important, that.

2.  Gale (from The Hunger Games trilogy): See Long Hair Thing (henceforth to be known as LHT). Stands up for what he believes in, a hard worker, loyal, values his family, general good stuff here. But also that same hint of rebellion.

3. Jasper Hale (from Twilight): Shut up.

4. Michael Vaughn (from Alias): Okay, TV show. I watch a lot of TV. This character is the reason I waded through five seasons of Jennifer Garner.

5. Wash (from Serenity/Firefly): Or Mal. Or Simon. But probably not Jayne. Why? Two words: Space Cowboys. Mostly Wash though, because really, he’s Wash. If you’ve seen this series/movie, you probably understand.

6. Spencer Reid (from Criminal Minds): LHT. Well, up until the most recent season. But also, he’s sweet, he’s socially awkward (I adore socially awkward), he’s weird, he’s smarter than an entire roomful of rocket scientists, and he’d be away working half the time, leaving me plenty of time to write (and to miss him).

7. Poseidon (from Percy Jackson, the movie): Another set of two words: Kevin McKidd. And fragile. And lonely. And I’m pretty sure there was a leather jacket involved somewhere.

8. Remus Lupin (from the Harry Potter series): Okay, so two Harry Potter characters. Truth be told, I could fill this list with Harry Potter characters, but we’re going with my favorites. Most fan girls I know say Sirius, but he’s too much of a bully for me. Remus is gentle, intelligent, a tad bit rebellious, stands up for what he believes in, are we sending a pattern yet? Also, he’s broken in the way that having someone who loves him would go a long way to fixing him.

9. Daniel (from Love Actually, played by Liam Neeson): All right, so he’s a lot older than me. So let’s de-age him to his thirties or so, and I’m game. Grieving widower, great with his step-son, not afraid to use pop-culture icons (Leo, Kate, and never let go) to make his point for him. Generally this has a lot to do with Liam Neeson though, as tragic as it is that life imitated art in the grieving widower part.

10. Prince Caspian (from the Chronicles of Narnia): LHT, and our last set of two words for the day: Ben Barnes. Really, that’s all you need to know.

That was fun (and possibly more revealing than I’d like, but hey, why not?). Anymore top ten lists anyone wants to see?

It’s kind of like…

Teenagers are forced to fight to the death in a government-sanctioned arena with media watching their every move, backpacks full of supplies, and only the last one standing gets to live.

You’ve read that before, right? I mean, I know I’m not the only person who’d read and loved The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins. But it isn’t The Hunger Games I’m talking about – it’s about a little-known (in America, at least) book called Battle Royale, by Koushun Takami.

Both have similar premises. Both have similar elements. There has been much hoo-ha raised over this all over the net, and if you’ve read review of The Hunger Games on Amazon, it’s kind of hard to avoid hearing about Battle Royale.

However, at the end of the day, they are not and will never be the same book. Despite their similarities, these two stories are executed in such different ways: one with one culture in mind, and the second with another, completely different culture in the forefront. Just reading the first chapters of each makes this abundantly clear.

Battle Royale hasn’t stopped the tidal wave that is The Hunger Games, and I’d wager that The Hunger Games‘ popularity has even helped the sales of Battle Royale in America. So why all the fuss? Even if Collins was aware of Battle Royale before she wrote her books, so what? They aren’t the same book. Yes, there are similar ideas, but frankly if you pick up any two books in the same genre – especially within the YA subset – you will probably find similarities between them.

Just because there’s another book out that’s similar to an idea you had, whether you had it before or after you became aware of that book, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t write your story. You will, without a doubt, execute the story differently than the other author, and frankly teens love fads. Once they read a book they love, they’re eager to gobble up every other book like it on the market. Riding coattails isn’t exactly what every writer dreams of, but if it’s a story you’re passionate about and desperately want to tell, then write it anyway. The worst thing that can happen is it doesn’t get published.

But isn’t that better than having a story eating away at you? Than having to deal with what if I had written that anyway?

Write the story you want to write. As long as it’s not about a boy wizard going to a magical school called Hogwarts, where they play a game on broomsticks and an evil Dark Lord wants to kill him, or about a girl who moves to a small town in Washington and falls in love with a vampire who looks eerily like Cedric Diggory, chances are you’ll be okay.

And if you’re not, so what? At least you have that story off your back, and there is no better way to learn to write than to write as much as you can – and to learn from the mistakes you made while doing so.

Your book should have its own flavor, its own twist, its own feel, its own characters – and it will, simply because you are not Suzanne Collins or JK Rowling or Stephenie Meyer. But if you have a semi-similar premise, don’t sweat it. The market is rife with teenagers meeting their supernatural soulmates in biology class, given a second chance after dying to fix the wrongs in their lives, or extraordinary teens going to special schools (or camps, cough, Rick Riordan) to help develop their talents. And you’d never compare Ally Carter’s Gallagher Girls series to Harry Potter, would you?

…would you?

Once upon a time, on the first day of a screenwriting class I took, we were each asked to go around the room and pitch our stories by comparing it to other movies. Twilight meets When Harry Met Sally, or Titanic meets The Little Mermaid – it’s considered a good thing to be able to do that and set off bells in the producer/executive’s mind, not in the least because they know that the movies you’re talking about have been successful, and therefore there is a good chance that the story you’re pitching will be successful as well.

As long as it’s executed correctly, that is, and isn’t actually Twilight meets Shallow Hal or something.

The point is, don’t purposely mine other books for ideas, but if something strikes you because of a book you’ve read, you don’t have to ignore it, either. There is no such thing as the original idea. Even Collins (and undoubtedly Takami) were influenced by Greek mythology and Roman gladiators. And if you happen to write a book that complements a bestseller nicely, you never know; maybe yours is the one those readers will pick up after they finish.

Worry about writing the best story you possibly can and making that story your own. Let others decide whether or not it’s too similar to be marketable, because you never know if it is until you’ve written it.