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Lorde – Melodrama

Melodrama is the album that started it all for me. All I know is one fine morning, I went to school and my best friend told me to listen to an album by a woman who went by the stage name Lorde. And because I trusted his opinion regarding books, I assumed I would like his recommended music too. So I went home and downloaded the album, listened to it and liked it.

The next day, when I went back, my best friend started asked me if I’d listened to ‘that’ line in ‘that’ song which was so deep and poetic. While I nodded my head, I realized I’d never really paid attention to any of the lyrics—I never had, no matter what the song was.

So that day, I went back home, listened to the album again as I read the lyrics, and my mind was literally blown. I realised then that songs were also, in many ways, poems. I realised how important the lyrics were to the making of a song—and I realised just how much I loved Lorde.

She certainly does have a way with words. Pure Heroine, her debut album, was probably my favorite up-til that point, because it was one of the few that was talking about things I could relate to; growing up, being a teenager, etc. Her views about the world were very similar to my own, but then, a few months later I kind of forgot about her when I over-listened to the album.

I didn’t really come to back to music, after that, until Melodrama was released three and a half years later.

GREEN LIGHT

It was also her first single, and is very matter-of fact and straightforward. The song provides a perfect analogy to moving on. It talks about not being able to move on from a break up, and waiting for the ‘green light’ so she may move past it, but the ‘green light’ isn’t coming.

The song starts out very angry, with lyrics like, I know about what you did and I want to scream the truth. She thinks you love the beach you’re such a damn liar, with the word ‘liar’ lingering in your ears like an echoing whisper. The words are very intense, as is the way in which they’re spoken.

Then the song transitions into the hook, Well those great white they have big teeth. Hope they bite you, thought you said that you would always be in love. But you’re not in love no more. Did it frighten you? How we kissed when we danced in the light up-floor? This is again a very angry verse where she hopes that her ex-lover is eaten by sharks, because he said he’d always love her but didn’t. This rage-filled hook is sung in (in contrast to its meaning) a very childish, high-pitched harmony, almost like its a nursery rhyme being sung to a baby.

Then the upbeat piano kicks in, and the angry tone of the song shifts all of a sudden. I hear sounds in my mind, she sings happily. She could be referring to how this breakup has inspired the sounds of Melodrama itself, since it is a break-up album.

Honey I’ll come get my things but I can’t let go, in contrast to the lyrics, once more the melody is incredibly catchy and up-beat. Here, the anger is gone and there is a clear sense of longing in her voice, and then all of a sudden, the anger and the longing are mashed in one when there’s that high-pitched harmony cry of I’m waiting for it! That green light! I want it!

I also really love the second verse of the song, sometimes I wake up in a different bedroom. I whisper things, the city sings them back to you. Well those rumors they have big teeth.

Now the lyrics of Green Light are pretty surfaced and straightforward, but what really redeems that is first of all, I think the genius metaphor of the green traffic light, and secondly, the hurricane of emotion that this song is, the emotion she’s put into not only the lyrics but her voice as well.

Also, if you watch the music video for Green Light down below, you’ll notice that it’s all shot in red with hints of green and blue, as she dances under the red traffic light. I just think it’s genius to use the lighting that way, because she’s waiting for the green light, which hasn’t yet come.

SOBER [*]

This is one of the most well-thought-out tracks Lorde has ever done. It narrates the story of a party, where Lorde walks in and meets a new person, and falls right for him. The song is about the thrill and spontaneity of the love and the party.

The song begins in a very unique and hooking way, with a muffled yet high harmony of midnight, lose my mind being repeated over and over again.

After this intro, the beat kicks in and the verse begins. After each verse, Lorde sings, but what will we do when we’re sober? The verse always talks about some thrill or rave that she’s feeling/having and then it’s suddenly countered with the line but what will we do when we’re sober? So basically, she’s lost, drunk, hopelessly in love in the party but at the back of her head she’s wondering, if she’ll regret this overnight love, or will she still have the same feelings?

Some of my favorite lyrics are we’re sleeping through all the days…I’m acting like I don’t see every ribbon you use to tie yourself to me…we pretend that we don’t care, but we care…can we keep up with the ruse? We’re king and queen of the weekend, ain’t a pill that could touch our rush (but what will we do when we’re sober?).

If you want to be really literary and pull a metaphor out of everything like my Literature teacher, you could say that the song mirrors life itself, and the temporary pleasures and distractions of the world.

My favorite lines from the song, however, are in the last verse in which she reiterates the ‘dancing’ she mentioned previously, but here instead of dancing with her lover, she’s dancing with—

Midnight, we’re fading
‘Till daylight, we’re jaded
We know that it’s over
In the morning, you’ll be dancing with all the heartache
And the treason, the fantasies of leaving
But we know that, when it’s over
In the morning, you’ll be dancing with us.

HOMEMADE DYNAMITE [*]

I do believe Homemade Dynamite continues the story of Sober. It’s about meeting someone new as well, and their telling each other lies, and showing off their best first impressions, and feeling…explosive, to put it simply.

A couple rebel top gun pilots flying with nowhere to be. The fact that she has used this line to say that they both are at the party with no particular aim other than to forget their heartbreak just illustrates what an amazing lyricist she is.

Let’s let things come out of the woodwork, I’ll give you my best lies, I’ll tell you all my best lies. She’s just met this person, so she’s not telling him her deepest secrets, obviously, she’s trying to make herself look better. Notice how the two lines are contrasting each other in terms of their meaning.

Our rules, our dreams. We blind. Blowin’ [it] up with homemade d-d-d-dynamite. I just thought this was worth mentioning because of the d-d-d-dynamite, which sounds a little something like the countdown right before a bomb would go off. Speaking of which, a lot of the production under the chorus of this song also sounds chaotic, like things are ‘blowing up’.

The bridge of this song is also a genius moment, where everything suddenly stops, and then those high-pitched harmonies kick in, saying now you know it’s really going to blow. And then makes the sound of the bomb going off with her mouth. (In the official remix below, the bridge comes at the very end).

Might get your friend to drive but he can hardly see. We’ll end up painted on the road red and chrome, all the broken glass sparkling. I guess we’re partying. Only Lorde can create that rich imagery, and only she can describe a car crash like that.

I’ve linked the remix here because I think it’s interesting how it blends so many unique voices of R&B singers/songwriters like Khalid and SZA with Lorde’s voice so well.

THE LOUVRE

This song is about the starting stage of the relationship that kicked off in Sober and Homemade Dynamite. She talks about how exciting and wonderful and perfect the start is and how fast it passes.

I overthink your p-punctuation use. Lorde and the way she uses her stammers…This line is so true because when someone has a crush on someone or they’re both still getting to know one another, each punctuation mark in each text message makes them contemplate what mood the other person is in or if the text message was sent angrily, or was it just an extra punctuation mark that made everything sound serious even though it wasn’t?

Our days and nights are perfumed with obsession. I am your sweetheart, psychopathic crush. I love the context she used the word ‘perfume’ in, and the way she calls herself a ‘psycho’ over her lover.

Megaphone to my chest. Broadcast the boom-boom-boom-boom and make ’em all dance to it. Her heart is beating so fast that if someone put a megaphone to her heart and broadcasted it, people could probably dance to it—that’s just how casually excited she is for the relationship.

Now if you notice, the Louvre has one major instrument throughout it’s verse and hook; a guitar. It’s a gentle but fast strumming of the strings, denoting the gently but quickly escalating relationship, and the hastiness of their love and how fast everything is, like a rush at the beginning.

A lot of people think the chorus of the Louvre is very…anti-climatic, if you will. It doesn’t really resolve the tension built up by the fast strumming guitar and the rise of the hook. But I think that’s just genius. I think the reason the Louvre doesn’t have a crazy ultra loud pop chorus is because it was never supposed to. It denotes, again, the hastiness of the love Lorde is experiencing, and how quick and restless it is.

And if you’ve heard Pure Heroine, you’ll know that anti-climatic choruses, unresolved tension or even no chorus at all are a few of the hallmarks of Lorde’s songwriting. Ribs, Buzzcut Season, Still Sane, No Better, Biting Down, The Love Club are all examples of this. And even songs like Tennis Court and Royals don’t have crazy loud choruses. In fact, Tennis Court and Royals have a rather catchier hook than a chorus, and I love that Lorde continued that in Melodrama.

Blow all my friendships to sit in hell with you. I’m not even going to try to explain this. I just love this line, because I feel like when people are hopelessly in love, they start to say stupid dumbstruck things like ‘my lover is my best friend’ which just is not and will never be true.

But we’re the greatest, they’ll hang us in the Louvre. Down the back. But who cares? Still the Louvre. I just love the witty humor in this line, casually thrown into the emotional roller coaster that is this song. She’s so hopelessly crazy in love she’s starting to think that their love is so great it deserves to be hung up in the Louvre—not so great that it’ll be hung in the front of the museum—perhaps somewhere in a dark room, but still in the Louvre.

Another thing to note along with the build-up of tension and it never being released would be that the Louvre has a whole minute-long fade-out. A lot of people, again think that it’s lazy and boring, but in my opinion, it’s a stroke of genius. It represents the hasty feelings of love literally fading away, until the love doesn’t exist. And then the next song, Liability opens up on the stage of the break-up.

I also really enjoyed the acoustic session of the Louvre. The visuals of the video—the lighting and the colours—are just what I envisioned the Louvre to be like, and I don’t even have synesthesia.

LIABILITY

Liability is probably my favorite Lorde song ever. It’s the most stripped down I’ve ever heard her, and I’ve never heard a better piano ballad. There’s so much vulnerability and sadness in this track.

The song begins continuing the relationship from the previous song, except now, the ‘rush’ of the beginning is over, and they have broken up. Guess I’ll go home. Into the arms of the girl that I love, the only love I haven’t screwed up. She’s so hard to please, but she’s a forest fire. I do my best to meet her demands…At first you’re confused, because she says into the arms of the ‘girl’ that I love.

Then she goes on to sing, We slow dance in the living room, but all that a stranger would see, is one girl swaying alone, stroking her cheek. Here’s where we get the big reveal, and the confusion is cleared. She’s talking about herself, and she’s the only love she has been left with. She’s not content with herself, and is trying to meet her own demands, but she can’t. And she’s stroking her cheek because she’s crying (in case that wasn’t clear).

They say you’re a little much for me, you’re a liability…So they pull back, make other plans, I understand, I’m a liability, I’m a little much for everyone. The main theme of the song is the feeling of being a burden on other people, to be a person everyone has to care for, and being the one that’s left out. But what really punches you in the gut is that she says, I understand, I am a liability, and the fact that she’s taking the blame for herself.

The truth is I am a toy, that people enjoy, till all of the tricks don’t work anymore, and then they are bored of me. I can’t even say anything before this line. Even though Lorde did say this was the most ‘melodramatic’ song of the album now that she looks back, but in the moment, these feelings do feel real, not just like drama.

I know that it’s exciting running through the night but every perfect summer’s eating me alive until you’re gone. I’m better on my own. She tries to tell herself that she can do it alone. And the lyric about summer is probably one of my favorites off of the album, just because its so…jarringly vivid.

HARD FEELINGS/LOVELESS [*]

This is a very slow song, very reminiscent of her last album, and captures the moment when you’ve just ended a relationship with someone.

It begins with Lorde whispering, go back and tell it. This signifies the second part of the album, where she shifts into past tense. From this point on, she starts to look back at the relationship in flashbacks.

Let’s give it a minute before we admit that we’re through. Lorde described this song, I think, as the moment when you’ve just ended it but are clinging on for the extra second, and are just sitting there because if you leave, it’ll make the end much more real.

I remember the rush, when forever was us, before all of the winds of regret and mistrust, now we sit in your car and our love is a ghost. The ‘forever was us’ and the ‘rush’ are lines that remind me of the Louvre, because it also talks about glorifying the relationship—the only difference is, this time it’s in the past tense. I also love the idea of the ‘winds’ and the very last phrase, ‘our love is a ghost’ is just beautiful.

These are what they call hard feelings of love. I love how she puts two different ideas together; the idea of ‘hard feelings’ and the idea of ‘love.’ Hard feelings are usually feelings of hate and ‘cold shoulders,’ but it makes an interesting combination when it is put next to the idea of love.

I light all the candles, got flowers for all my rooms. I care for myself the way I used to care about you. This shifts the tone of the song a little, and loses the soft spot for the ex lover.

You’ve outgrown a lover. For some reason, I love this expression.

Now I’ll fake it every single day ’til I don’t need fantasy, ’til I feel you leave, but I still remember everything, how we’d drift buying groceries, how you’d dance for me. I’ll start letting go of little things ’til I’m so far away from you…Again, there is nothing to explain, I just love this verse so much.

Then the beat of Loveless kicks in, and the whole song flips. Loveless is completely different from Hard Feelings, Bet you wanna rip my heart out, bet you wanna skip my calls now, well guess what? I like that! She’s being witty and deciding it’s the lover’s fault that they’re over.

Look out, lovers!  L-O-V-E-L-E-S-S generation. This line is my favorite from the song. It talks about how ‘love’ has become a word so commonly thrown around, it’s lost its value. It isn’t important anymore. People get together and break up so quickly. This little phrase perfectly describes our generation.

SOBER II (MELODRAMA) [*]

Sober II, the title track, continues the idea of Sober, and what happens after the party is over. It begins with really melancholic violins, and perfectly captures the mood of an ‘after party’. Lights are on and they’ve gone home, but who am I? She’s lost herself in the thrill of the party. Oh how fast the evening passes, cleaning up the champagne glasses.

All of a sudden, the mood of the song shifts from the majestic violins and cellos. There’s a quick series of gunshots, and then: All the glamour and the trauma and the [goddamn] melodrama. All the gunfights and the lime lights and the holy sick divine nights. I was so glad that she continued the themes of Pure Heroine in this record, because when I heard Green Light, I was afraid that this would just be a break-up record that I wouldn’t relate to, but thank God she still kept those themes about war and violence and the artificial world in this record.

They’ll talk about us, all the lovers, how we kissed and killed each other. Oh God, there’s no point in explaining this.

The production on this track is absolutely stellar. The lyrics themselves last only two minutes, and that’s including the orchestra of violins. I feel like my soul is leaving my body whenever I hear this track, no joke. I love how it, too, fades out, with the weird background noises, and the high pitched screams of we told you this was melodrama, you wanted something that we offered.

WRITER IN THE DARK

In this song, Lorde channels her inner Taylor Swift and addresses her ex, saying that he probably regrets being in a relationship with her, because now she’s making songs about him. Bet you rue the day you kissed the writer in the dark, now she’s going to play and sing and lock you in her heart.

Break the news, you’re walking out to be a good man for someone else, sorry I was never good like you…I did my best to exist just for you, stood on my chest and kept me down, hated hearing my name on the lips of a crowd… Lorde is calling herself the ‘writer in the dark’ and says that despite her best efforts, the relationship was born to die—and she might just be blaming her fame for it.

I am my mother’s child, she sings in a heart-breaking voice, almost as if she is crying, and if you were crazy Lorde fan, you would probably know that her mother is also a poet. But in my darkest hour, I stumbled on a secret power, I found a way to be without you. Who could ever think to write it this way?

SUPERCUT

In this, Lorde looks back at her relationship one last time, but this time focusing only on the good parts, and wishes she might have tried to salvage it. The visions never stop…but when I reach for you, there’s just a supercut of us.

I play a supercut of us, all the magic we gave off, all the love we hadn’t lost. I mean, all the poetry classes are happening right here in this song.

In your car the radio up, we keep trying to talk about us, I’ll be your quiet afternoon crush, be your violent overnight rush. She puts two different stages of the relationship together here—the crush and the break-up. She has been his lover as well as his ex lover.

In my head I do everything right. When you call, I’ve forgiven that fight. This just evokes so much sadness in me, and again, she’s thinking of what she couldn’t done differently to save the relationship.

Supercut also fades out, with a few muffled cries of in my head I do everything right repeated a couple of times. This again, like the Louvre represents that right now she’s haunted by the ‘supercut’ of the relationship, and the good times she had with her former lover, but these feelings too will fade away. And in the next two songs, you can tell she is no longer haunted by the breakup, because the songs focus solely on herself.

Another thing that I think is worth watching is the acoustic session of Supercut that Lorde did, which is just beautiful.

LIABILITY (REPRISE) [*]

This one refutes the first track by the same name, and goes to say but you’re not what you thought you were. She’s picking herself up and telling herself she’s better than just a liability. The first verses of the song are also beautiful, but I’m not putting them here because they lose meaning out of context. One line that I really like is all of the dreams that get harder, which I think is so true. Dreams do keep on getting harder to achieve.

PERFECT PLACES [*]

What a PERFECT way to conclude the album. This talks about finally being able to let go of or of teenage and growing up. This is the first and last song on the album that uses the pronoun ‘we’ not for the couple but for the young generation altogether, which is why it reminds me of Pure Heroine (also just the instrumentals are very minimal, like the ones in Pure Heroine).

I hate the headlines and the weather, I’m nineteen and I’m on fire, means that everything is being dramatized far past the point it needs to be, and it’s frustrating her. At least, that’s what Lorde has said. This is again, very melodramatic and the headlines and the weather definitely sound like something an angst-y teen would complain about. There could be new interpretations, obviously.

Feel the party to my bones, watch the wasters blow the speakers, spill my guts beneath the outdoor light. This references the party culture, which she feels like is needed because it’s distraction from the ‘melodrama’ of the world around them—reminiscent of the song from her last LP, Buzzcut Season.

All of our heroes fading, now I can’t stand to be alone, let’s go to perfect places. In this line, she’s lamenting the loss of role models, and saying that we young people don’t have the right role models to look up too because all the good ones are ‘fading’.

All the nights spent off our faces, trying to find these perfect places. What the [hell] are perfect places, anyway? Prior to this chorus, Lorde talks about transitioning into adulthood, opening up, moving on from the breakup, drinking, and just being free. So she’s almost there, but then she realizes she doesn’t even know what her destination is? What does she want, and where is she going? She’s lost her role-models, and is lost herself.

Really, the song is leaving the album open-ended. She’s asking if complete satisfaction, success and happiness is attainable, and if so, how? What defines these goals? How can one say he/she has attained them?

I love how raw and fun the album is. In Pure Heroine, her voice was much…sweeter, I think, and now that she’s grown her voice has thickened and I love how she continues to use that dry and raspy and raw voice to her advantage in vulnerable songs like Writer in the Dark and Liability. It feels so…imperfect, I think, with moments like the bridge of Supercut where the music starts and she sings in a quivering voice, and then screams loudly as the song rises again, and the part in Sober where the music stops and she whisper-sings, and the bridge of Homemade Dynamite when she imitates an explosion with her mouth—it just feels so casual and I love that about it.

I love all the jarring surprises the album holds, like in Sober—the start of that song, then the trumpets and the sudden screams and the “Jack and Jill get [messed] up and possessive when it get dark” moment. The transition from the hook to the chorus in Homemade Dynamite and Perfect Places—the weird flutes and noises and of course, the little “cht cht,” which resembles the clicking of a gun. The moment when you hear the gunshots in Sober II and the song completely shifts. Those weird “woahs” in Sober II also hit home so hard. Then, those strange but beautiful instrumentals in Hard Feelings, and the way it just completely takes a 180 degree turn into Loveless.

Overall, I love how sonically cohesive yet experimental this record is. I love that she departed from her original style from Pure Heroine, yet still kept pieces of her music from there—like the high pitched harmonies, the minimal but immediately captivating beat in Perfect Places which reminds me of 400 Lux or Royals, the anti-climatic choruses. In my opinion, this is a pretty perfect record.

Many of Lorde's songs contain explicit words. The songs which do use such language have a [*] in front of them.

Revisions & Other Things (An Update)

I’m not sure if I mentioned this or not, but I finished the book I did for NaNoWriMo (if you follow me on Instagram, you’d know, because I was going crazy about it) at a crazy word count of 107,000 words at the start of the year. Since then a lot has happened, and I haven’t chatted on where I’m at in so long!

So I reread my first draft and astoundingly, I didn’t hate it (Surprise, I know, right?! I liked something I’ve written???). I noted some things that I had to do; namely develop some characters that I felt were cardboard cut outs, fix some unrealistic plot lines, diminish inconsistencies and contradictions, wrap up sub-plots and add more to balance the pacing, and of course, the writing.

As I said, I didn’t hate it, even though I read it two months after I’d written it. All the problems were the problems I already knew I would have to fix before I had re read the first draft. While writing the draft, I hadn’t enjoyed writing the POVs of certain characters, which was how I knew they needed development. I also realised how much the book was dragging (the dragging was necessary but the boring scenes could be changed). And I saw the sub-plots that were weak and I hadn’t been able to handle properly. A lot of the things mentioned never came to play.

Now if I was to fix all of that using my original draft, it would never have worked out. EVER. It would have been so messy, I would get confused on where I was and what I’d been doing, or anything, for that matter. There were new scenes I needed to write and better previous ones, so doing that in the same draft would have made things confusing.

So I resorted to a new draft, and am writing it from the start. And I can say, I’m so proud of myself for making that decision. I was so excited about the new way the story was coming out (I made a lot of changes) that I’ve already written 30,000 words when I started it only a few weeks ago. I really enjoy writing the characters I previously hated writing or felt were bland, which is a good sign that they’ve been bettered. The plot is so much more realistic. At the end of writing the first draft, I actually made a glossary of all servants, guards and stuff serving each country/family similar to the ones at the end of the Game of Thrones books and also wrote short stories to create the history of the families and countries, their lineage, and events of the history of this world, etc. I’m putting that to good use as well. I cut down on POVs, since the last draft had a lot of unecessary POVs and now I use only the POVs required to tell the story at this point. Plotlines are coming together and new sub-plots are coming up that will hopefully help the build up to the climax feel faster and less of a drag.

In this draft, however, I’m focusing on plot and character only, not prose. Once this is fixed, I can start editing the prose in a new draft 3.0.

As dreadful as scratching everything and starting anew sounds, I actually am feeling much better about that because otherwise, all of these new plotlines and character arcs wouldn’t have come up, and besides, I feel much better about the story in general.

My process consists of a few new things. While writing, I have many other documents open at my fingertips. They’re mostly related to historical fashion, terminology, etc and often healing/poisoning. So whenever I need information, it’s at my finger tips. I also have the thesaurus and dictionary open, as well as the previous draft. Basically, everything is easier and pre-planned.

I can’t really tell you much about why it’s called Project Power (yes, I called it project power), except that power here does NOT refer to electricity or energy. The book is a political drama set in the past in a fantasy world, and that’s all I’m going to give you to go on.

Right now, I’m making my way across the 30,000 word mark. Hopefully I’ll be at the end of this draft at the end of summer. So that’s where I’m at right now, I’ll keep you updated along the way.

Modern Books: Are They Meaningless?

Are Modern Books Really That UselessIt irks me beyond words when people tell me to read classics and not modern books and even more when they tell me to write books that are set in the ‘actual’ world and based on ‘actual’ characters and not containing ‘fictional monsters’. It bothers me even more when people see my bookshelf and tell me to start reading ‘actual’ books that are ‘intellectual’ and ‘grown up’ and classic books that are ‘useful’ and not modern books. (just writing this is infuriating me right now).

Since a day ago, I have decided that my mission from this day forth, in this world, is to prove to people that YA fantasy or dystopian or even contemporary isn’t actually useless, and it’s just not being used to its full potential.

See, when you’re writing YA, you have an entire generation in your grip, which is why what you put on the page is so important–because what you’re writing will affect that entire generation. YA is such a powerful and impactful genre, and whatever is categorised under it is capable of making a change in the future.

A classic is describe as anything that transcends the boundaries of time. Something that explores a theme that will always be a part of the human race no matter how far into the future.

MODERN BOOKS: MIDDLE-GRADE FANTASY

For the purposes of this argument, I’m going to take Harry Potter. Harry Potter explores the themes of friendship, death, love, evil versus good, family, home, loyalty, courage, racism/discrimination, etc. All of these things affect the characters in the story at some point, and play a major role in their character arcs. And are most of these themes universal? Yes.

Loyalty, courage, home, family, evil versus good, love, death, friendship are all things that will exist among us forever. So why do people tell me to ‘grow out of Harry Potter’ and why does the older generation thrust incomprehensible classics onto me at this age, when I could learn the same lessons and appreciate them much more (because I can actually understand them) in a much more interesting way; through a story about dragons and wizards and what not.

Millions of children read Harry Potter. Thousands of girls start to find a role model in Hermione. So many boys find themselves in Ron. Thousands of people find themselves changed by the morals of the story. And thousands more start reading because of Harry Potter. That’s the power it has between its pages.

MODERN BOOKS: ADULT FANTASY

Let’s take another example, and one you’ve seen before on this blog: Game of Thrones, which is a VERY popular modern book (Okay, yeah it’s not that much of a modern book, but it’s not classified as a classic either). (I know, I know, Game of Thrones isn’t YA, but in this post we’re focusing on all modern fantasy, despite what the title says) I was reading the Introduction to the illustrated edition of the first book, and in it, John Hodgman said something that captured everything I wanted to say about this series: soon enough, he realised that he wasn’t reading a book about dragons and white walkers at all, in fact, this was a book about monsters far worse than dragons or white walkers: people.

For the purposes of this demonstration, I’m going to compare this to our very favourite, Macbeth. (Don’t come at me with rocks just yet, Shakespeare fans). Macbeth is a similar story in terms of political intrigue and courtly drama with a hint of supernatural elements in it.

The witches in Macbeth can be compared to Melisandre in Game of Thrones; both of the characters incite a certain king/lord to strike for the throne. While Shakespeare does it in a more poetic and symbolic way, Martin does it in a way so as to hit the nail with his target audiences, which probably won’t be interested in Shakespeare–whatever the way, the message is the same.

Both Macbeth and Game of Thrones centre around the themes of greed and power. Littlefinger from Game of Thrones is a physical manifestation of greed for power. Macbeth becomes somewhat the same towards the end. Cersei in Game of Thrones could be compared to Lady Macbeth; though they have their differences, in terms of greed for power, their roles are quite similar. Macduff could be compared to Stannis, though again, there are differences but they stand similar in terms of their status in their stories.

Now I’m not saying one is better than the other, because if I did, all dead english teachers ever would rise from their graves and murder me. But my point is, the message is the same. Just because modern books are twisted with fantasy on the top doesn’t mean they’re meaningless or worse. Martin did it for the people of his time, Shakespeare did it for the people of his time. You can’t really say Martin’s stories are meaningless or worse, not when the our standard of good and bad stories has changed so much and we judge things differently (yes, read it again, I said changed not dropped). Now if you can’t dig deep into your fantasy reads–that’s not my fault, and nor is it the fault of the writer.

MODERN BOOKS: YA DYSTOPIANS

Let’s look at some of our dystopians. Some of the biggest classics in the world are dystopians. 1984, Brave New World, Fahrenheit 451, etc. Dystopians transform minds. They have power to do so much.

The Hunger Games is such a good example of a dystopian, and it is one of the very popular modern books. It explores the themes of media, classes in society, love, survival, sacrifice. The media theme is so powerful. You see this unreal image of Katniss and Peeta being portrayed to the districts. It really shows that media portrays wrong images of right things and right images of wrong things, which is a lesson this generation could definitely do with.

Now I’m not saying don’t ever read classics. Classics are great too. But when you’re in your teenage, and all you want to read is a book about dragons and kings, classics will only push you away from reading as a whole. That is, of course, unless you want to read classics yourself.

So, there you have it. Modern books are not useless. Surprise, parents! Now go get your child a good book that he/she actually wants to read. But if they’re okay with classics, you do you.


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How Game of Thrones Evokes Emotion

Why Brandon Sanderson is a King of High Fantasy

How Game of Thrones Evokes Emotion

Game of Thrones spoilers coming up for books and the show. When it comes to successfully writing tragedy, two of the most important elements in a story is character, and empathy. A successful tragedy will always evoke the viewer/reader’s emotion. But in order for the tragedy to induce emotion, empathy must be set up for the characters first.

If a reader has no attachment or empathy for the character upon whom the tragedy befalls, it won’t evoke emotion and the lack of emotion with butcher a tragedy. If a story has flat characters, the story will just be a plot. Looking back, the biggest flaw of Instrumental Kings was insufficient characterisation, no build up of empathy, flat characters and way, way too much plot.

The story starts right off with action, and dives deeper into action. If I were to look at it now, there are many scenes that are completely irrelevant and do nothing whatsoever to advance a character arc. Which is why Liam’s betrayal, the fight at the end – they’re all meaningless – and all because of the lack of one thing: empathy.

Martin pulls this off incredibly well in Game of Thrones. How do we know this? Because every second you’re worried one of the characters will die, and when they do, you cry your guts out. I watched some video essays, paired it with what I learned in Literature, and here’s the end result:

Learn How to Create Compelling Characters and Evoke Emotion in Your Writing from Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones Puts Everyone at a Disadvantage

If you look at every major character in Game of Thrones, every single one of them is at a disadvantage when they start off or as the story progresses, be it physical or mental. Whether it’s because of where the world has put them or because of themselves.

Example: Bran is a cripple, that’s his disadvantage, Daenerys is a slave to her brother’s desires. She’s also a woman, which automatically puts her at a disadvantage because that’s how the world of Westeros and Essos works. Arya and Sansa – the same thing. Ned Stark’s disadvantage is his honour which will ultimately result in…well, you know what if you’ve read it. Theon loses something he is greatly proud over. Jamie is put into a straight disadvantage because of his hand cut off – it also is a mental disability because it was his sword hand, something he was immensely proud of.

Why do we attach to these characters so quickly? The answer is disadvantage. So that, right off the bat creates some amount of empathy for a character.

Characters in Game of Thrones Have Clear Motivations, but Too Many Obstacles

Every character has a clear motivation in Game of Thrones (they change as the story moves, but there is always one motivation). Ned wants to see the kingdom be pure and not corrupt, Arya wants to be able to defend herself as a girl, Cersei wants power, Daenerys wants her throne back, etc.

But what makes these motivations so…meaningful? Of course, there is the back story behind them (such as Daenerys and her family having been overthrown) which adds dimension to a character, but even more so, what makes these motivations truly emotion evoking is the obstacles that stand before them.

Every other lord and lady is corrupt and Ned himself is too pure, which will eventually…well, you know what. That’s his obstacle. Too many things to fix. Arya’s obstacle (For the first book at least) is society and the eyebrows that will be raised. Cersei’s obstacle is her husband, Robert. Daenerys’s obstacle is poverty.

Game of Thrones Contrasts Characters We Love With Those We Hate

George R. R. Martin is best at doing this. Sage Henry, from Just Write Media put it this way: morality is relative in stories. He argues that we never judge characters by what they are as themselves. We’ll always classify them good or bad by comparing them to others. For example, if one puts Jaime next to Ramsay Bolton, Jamie will be a good character, but if we put him next to Ned Stark, the same Jaime will become a bad character.

This technique is the reason Brienne and Jaime’s relationship is so complex and why it’s the main event to develop Brienne’s character. Because it makes Jaime look bad, and Brienne look good. This technique is also used with Theon and Ramsay, with Ned and Cersei, Arya and the Hound. Which, by the way, sometimes, this technique can have the opposite effect. For example in show, in Season 2 with Arya and Tywin Lannister, you actually start to sympathise with Tywin, and the same is the case with the Hound and Arya.

See what it does?

Martin Makes Those Worse Characters Treat them Badly

Ever remember what Theon did back in Book 2? Took Winterfell, killed Ser Rodrick, tried to kill Bran and Rickon, and became a big antagonist. But then, Book 3 rolls around, and by the end, we pity him dearly. Why? Because of Ramsay, and how he broke him and took from him the thing he valued most, that he thought put him above his sister Asha/Yara. Cersei does the same thing to Ned and forces him to give up his honour. This again ties with the disadvantage thing. If it’s a worse character that puts them at a disadvantage, the effect will be doubled.

The Game of Thrones Puts Them Into Impossible Situations or Against Each Other

Martin constantly puts his characters into situations that are either too harsh for them to face or are made out to be. This is used multiple times. Brienne versus the Hound. For Brienne, a woman, it would be an impossible task to defeat someone notorious for being a killer. Sansa versus Joffery or Ramsay. Sansa is so delicate, and for her, it feels impossible to navigate out of bad marriages.

But the biggest toying with emotion Martin does best is pitting characters we already love against each other. This somehow confuses you and you suddenly don’t want to choose who to root for. This is seen with Davos versus Tyrion. Catelyn versus Tyrion. Jaime versus Brienne.

And what’s more? Each situation has consequences, and characters are affected by them each time.

Actions and Consequences

I think we all can agree, Martin’s claim to fame is being ruthless with characters. That’s what makes us love them. The constant fear that they’re going to die.

Season 7 of Game of Thrones lost this fear, and was a major flaw for it in my opinion. There was no consequence. When Daenerys flew to King’s Landing on the back of a dragon and a horde of savages, none of the important characters were even hurt despite being in the middle of the situation. And the lack of consequence makes it feel as though they weren’t in the situation at all in the first place.

Every impossible situation in Game of Thrones (till Season 7, at least), characters come out changed, dead and hurt in some way. Which brings me to my next point.

Toys With Other Emotions and Provides Dilemmas

Martin plays not only with empathy, but also with other emotions. Trauma especially, in the case of Theon and Hodor, as is revealed in Season 6. Furthermore, he also gives them dilemmas. One of the biggest in the series questions to political system of monarchy – and why does Daenerys deserve the throne of Westeros? Just because her father was once a king who went mad? The show further elaborates on this by ironically turning Daenerys into her own father and showing that power always corrupts in Season 7.

These are all universal questions and themes that Martin explores that we all know or have felt that humanise characters in our eyes and make us love them and root for them.

Martin Never Does What the Audience Wants

This the reason Game of Thrones differs from other stories. Martin never delivers what you want deep down. He demonstrates this by bringing characters so close to meeting…and then pulling them apart. From example, when Arya stands at the Bloody Gate, Sansa is in the Vale, right there, but just because of insufficient communication, Arya leaves thinking there is no one there to care for her. This tactic is used EVERYWHERE throughout the series.

Killing characters we love and taking from them their most valued tools are the prime examples of this technique.


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Why Brandon Sanderson is a King of High Fantasy

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Why Brandon Sanderson is a King of High Fantasy

If you don’t know Brandon Sanderson, and you want an example of a good YA (or maybe New Adult, NA) high fantasy, you need to get to him ASAP. In my opinion, he’s one of the few unique high fantasy writers in the YA/NA fields, and he’s a word wizard. Here’s why:

Why Brandon Sanderson is a King of High Fantasy

Brandon Sanderson Knows the Difference Between Tropes and Cliches

This is something that may end up leading to a future post, but these days, YA fantasy is not what it once was. Gone are the days of The Lord of the Rings and the other classic, unique, and rich high fantasies (although LOTR I think is a blend of middle-grade, YA, and New Adult). But back to the point: YA is losing its uniqueness and its originality. Ideas are being recycled over and over and over again, tropes and cliches are hard not to find. I feel like its the same story over and over and over again.

Corrupt government. The Chosen One. Magic has been gone for centuries, and now it’s waking up again. Badass, sarcastic female protagonist. Annoying, stupid, stubborn female protagonists. Love triangles; the devilishly handsome and funny (who is obviously going to win) person and the meh person. Female protagonist who “let out the breath she didn’t know she was holding”.

These are all tropes that I can find you at least 5 versions of in YA. And when used in the same way, they become cliches. But Brandon Sanderson has a way of taking these tropes and making them feel not like tropes.

Brandon Sanderson’s books do have corrupt government. They do have the magic has been dead for centuries trope. But they’re dimensional. And that’s where the line between cliches and tropes is drawn. Cliches are the same trope over and over again, in the same exact way. Tropes are more broad, and vague. They can be different.

The corrupt governments have dimension and purpose and reasons behind them. Magic has been dead for centuries has a dimension and a reason behind it. Brandon Sanderson’s books are planned. The Lord Ruler doesn’t just want power; there is more to it.

Brandon Sanderson Creates Unique Worlds and Systems

The worlds that Sanderson creates are incredibly rich, immersive and diverse. I’ve only read Elantris and Mistborn, but they are enough the convince me. They manage to be unique. They manage to take evil and good to whole new levels. They manage to surprise you with the complexity of the worlds and the systems.

Let’s take the magic system of Mistborn for example (no spoilers). You eat metals to gain magical abilities, and each metal is associated with a kind of power. That’s definitely new, and something I haven’t seen before.

Let’s take the world of Mistborn. The evil is so evil, that the grass, leaves and trees have been brown for centuries. Flowers, colourless. Instead of water, ash rains from the sky. It’s so unique. I bet you haven’t heard that before in any YA book.

He just perfectly blends political intrigue and fantasy together…It’s just the perfect blend of A Game of Thrones and the Lord of the Rings. That’s why I appreciate Brandon Sanderson. He’s put so much into creating this world and into making it different.

Brandon Sanderson Creates Believable Geography

This is unexplainable. But if you see the map of the books, each and every hill and gorge and valley and crevice and lake is there for a reason. He didn’t just put it there. It was there for a reason.

There’s a lot of geological research behind it all. And again, that’s why I love his books so much. There’s so much effort put into the detail, it’s literally unbelievable (get it?).

Brandon Sanderson’s Realistic Plot Lines

The best thing about him, or more specifically Mistborn, is a realistic plot line. Kel didn’t just decide to overthrow the Lord Ruler because he was brave and wanted to try and be unique, and be the uniquely un-unique protagonist who takes up the daring task.

It was because he heard of a way to defeat the Lord Ruler. That motivated him. It was because he heard stories of a world, long ago, when water showered from the sky instead of ash, where plants were green. That gave him inspiration. Reason. Purpose. Something to fight towards, and to fight for.

That is what makes, in my opinion, the plot line so…realistic and believable.

Brandon Sanderson’s Immersive Writing Style

His writing style is just perfect. He writes excellent dialogue, the way he describes feelings is rich and vivid. He uses the right kind of language for the right setting and vibe. His choice of word and the setting of every word to pull off an impactful sentence is remarkable.

To quote what Arizona Republic said about Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander, “The pages practically turn themselves.” That applies to Sanderson just as rightfully as to Gabaldon. His books are page turners – they’re long, but immersive. That’s why I applaud him – for keeping a reader interested in the book every second, all through 700+ pages. That’s quite a feat to achieve.

If you want to take help, youtube up; he has a million lectures on there about writing, outlining, characters, world building, etc. They’re amazing and very helpful, so be sure to check those out…But that’s it for today. Hope this was helpful. Free for comments down below. I’ll write more sometime again.


Other Posts:

How Game of Thrones Evokes Emotion

Lorde: Is Modern Music Really Meaningless?