Artistic License

Creators are allowed to be inaccurate if the inaccuracy serves the story better than accuracy would – tvtropes

So I just watched Midnight Sun. I wasn’t quite sure what I was expecting from the trailer, but I thought what the heck, an innocent hopefully somewhat cheesy teenage flick is just what I need today. And I thought that was what I was going to get for most of the movie.

Then…

(obviously SPOILERS for the movie Midnight Sun.)

… then the movie suddenly pulls the rug out from underneath me and instead of giving me cheesy-mushy-teen-HEA-feels it gives me twist that makes me totally annoyed, which in turn makes it impossible to “enjoy” the depressing and tear-jerker ending.

How does it do this?

Well, by killing the main character for being exposed to about five seconds of sunlight. Or it doesn’t actually kill her right away but it does trigger some sort of thing in her brain that makes her suddenly stop using makeup and gives her hand tremors. Then she goes out in the sunlight for a longer time for a romantic afternoon sail with her BF which (presumably) kills her.

This immediately made me go

WHAT?

Because that just makes no sense. She’s not a vampire for fuck sake (and not even most vampires would have died from that). Less than one minute of sun kills her? Or at least off her body so she starts to die?

So this made me desperately want to google this disease just as I was supposed to be getting all sad and upset that she was going to die (and had broken up with her BF.) Not good.

A quick google search let’s one determine that while Xeroderma Pigmentosum is a real disease it doesn’t kill you like that at all. It usually kills the sufferers of it because they get skin cancer. Because they have these double sets of genes that make their skin unable to protect itself from the sun.

So Katie (Bella Thone) should have gotten skin cancer and died from that. She also would have been able to go outside in the day as long she wore proper protection and sunscreen, especially since they seem to be living somewhere close to Seattle and everyone who’s read Twilight knows that Forks is in that same neighborhood. And it’s the rainiest town around. And no clouds means less UV light (I think). Especially in winter.

So yeah, Katie wouldn’t be spending her summer’s tanning on the beach but never going outside during the day is kind of overkill. Or maybe not. I don’t know more than what a quick google search has told me about XP, but it seems like this was highly exaggerated to make a more angsty teen movie.

Which I get.

I mean I could buy the whole “not going out during the day at all” concept. Because it’s fun. And maybe it’s her dad being overprotective. For reals. Maybe the plot twist could even be that she’s not as sensitive to the sun as everyone thought. Or something. Dad’s just been exadreating the whole deal to keep her safe or whatever.

Instead, a minute in the sun turns this from cute feel-good movie to A Walk To Remember lite. But instead of making me reach for tissues it makes me feel like I’m watching a fanfic that’s been made into a movie. A badly written fanfic that someone didn’t research.

Or just took too much Artistic License with it.

And yes, despite what Bob Ross wants you to believe (or it might be more true for painting) that’s not okay.

Because just like the definition at the top says “creators are allowed to be inaccurate if the inaccuracy serves the story better than accuracy would” when your inaccuracy actually draws the viewer (or reader) out of the story, that’s not serving the story.

But Alyssa, you say, you write stories about werewolves and wraiths and stuff! That’s totally out there. That’s lots weirder than changing up a disease so two seconds of sun kills a girl. 

Actually, it’s not.

I’m not saying you don’t have to suspend your sense of disbelief to read stories about shapeshifters and magic like BOUND TO YOU. You do. But if you accept that you’re reading a story about werewolves then you’re fine. Because you’ve already decided this isn’t our world. It plays by different rules. So you accept magical monsters and witches and mate bonds. Because within the universe it’s explained and works (at least I hope that’s what you come away feeling).

When you’re writing a book set in what appears to be the here and now, the normal everyday world, you have to be careful. Especially when you have someone die from something like two seconds of sun. And have a disease that people can easily look up and find out the symptoms and how/ in what way a person can die from it. Because your viewer or reader needs a far lower suspension of disbelief while watching this story than when they’re reading about werewolves.

Think about it. If Katie was a vampire (maybe even half vampire, which would make it harder for her to heal sun damage?) then accepting that she’d been exposed to sun and that it now was killing her, would have been far easier to swallow (for me at least).  I would also have figured on some magical cure being found and her being saved and a happy ending (humm, that’s a pretty cool idea, maybe I should write something along those lines!) but that’s just me.

Vampire problems…

Anyways, what I’m saying is taking artistic license is a slippery slope and clearly sometimes harder when working in what is supposed to be the real world. Our world. But even writing fantasy, just being all ‘oh yeah, witches have acid for blood’ or ‘the dragons can fly at 200 miles per hour for 10 hours straight’ runs the risk of simply being too out there and thus pulling your reader out of the story.

Like the Game of Thrones episode where first Gendry runs back to Eastwatch, a raven flies to Dragonstone and Dany flies her dragons beyond the wall in what? One day? One and a half? That totally didn’t work and pissed me off so much I now just hate that whole episode.

Or like the whole Fifty Shades of Grey book series where the author taking artistic license with love. Because that’s not what’s really going on in those books (but I guess you have to be willing to suspend your disbelief pretty seriously to read them anyway). We also got the book Fifty is based on where Meyer’s took artistic license and made her vampires sparkle (why?) which I know turned quite a few people off. Or be it something small, like having witches being burnt at the stake in Salem (where witches were all hanged) or having every person on TV/movies have their finger on the trigger all the time (you don’t put your finger on the trigger unless you’re about to shoot someone. Like the second before. It’s all in the gun safety manual, apparently.)

Almost every book, movie or show will have had someone take a little (or a lot) of artistic license. Because you can’t research everything perfectly and even if you did, your story probably wouldn’t work without the changes. Like Midnight Sun. The whole end is built on this artistic licensed version of how XP kills.

So what’s the take away from this?

Everyone takes some artistic license. It’s just the way it is. Changing facts/ taking artistic license to make the story better is fine. Just make sure you actually have to make that change. Research a lot and try to find ways of getting your characters from point A to B without adding something outragous or unbeliveble.

Also be careful, because while we all do this to make our projects more fun and to make the plot make sense, you don’t want to go changing glaringly obvious things.  Because while some reader will buy it, many will feel cheated and even become frustrated with the story and you as a writer, maybe even starting to feel like the can’t trust you. And you want the reader to trust you, to know you will deliver a good and believel story. I mean, why else would he/she buy your next book?

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My Timeless Season 2 Finale Wish List

So, I told myself I was going to post something about my book coming out a few weeks back. I really did not mean to post two Timeless posts back to back. Because this is not a blog about Timeless or even TV-shows, it’s about books…and writing tips…well, it’s supposed to be anyways.

But with only one week to go until Timeless is over for this year (because I refuse to accept the possibility of Timeless being canceled!) I had to write and post this little “wish list” for my hopes and dreams and expectations of Timeless’ season 2’s finale!

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Things I want in 2×09 + 2×10! 

Obviously SPOILERS for 2×08 – The Day Reagan Was Shot

Also this promo

With no further ado, here is a list of questions I want answered, characters I want more of and all around stuff that I think would be awesome to see in season 2’s finale (and/or season 3).

1. Jessica explained

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So even before the OMG WHAT? ending of 2×08, I think most of us were kind of freaked about Jessica and wondering WTF she was doing and how she was alive along with a number of other things.

Is she Rittenhouse? (At this point most signs point to Yes, right?)

How is she alive? How did Rittenhouse manage it? Did they time travel back and pick her up and save her that way (and maybe she was always alive and that’s why Wyatt going back to save her didn’t work)?

Or did they go back and recruit her long before that night she was meant to die?

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Most important – why did they save her? I doubt it was to make Wyatt feel less guilty…

Was it Carol Preston’s last attempt to get Lucy to join Rittenhouse/ come back to her? How did they even know Lucy/Wyatt was a thing (maybe it was as obvious to them as to the rest of us)?

Was it just to mess up the team dynamic?

Did they hope to change things so Wyatt never was on the time team (he only remembered Jessica being dead because they were in Hollywood when Rittenhouse ‘went back’ and saved her – if they had been in present – the time team’s memory would have just changed too, right?) and if Jessica hadn’t died, Wyatt’s life might have looked very different (even if it does seem like he ended up on the Time Team anyways.)

Clearly, something shady is going on with her and the mysterious alive brother – which parallels the two brothers on tonight’s episode – and the “pregnancy” which feels very much like a way to distract the hell out of Wyatt and stop him from asking questions. (Fangirlish awesome review of the ep. points out the different possible pregnancy scenarios.) Frankly out of the ladies in the Bunker isn’t Lucy the most likely to be the one with a “bun in the oven” after that spontaneous night in 1941? (I mean I hope not, due to large amounts of vodka she’s consumed since, but would still make more sense than Jessica.)

On to the next question is, if she’s Rittenhouse, even as a ‘sleeper’ then why hasn’t she DONE anything (other than make all Lyatt fans hate her)?

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Rittenhouse wants Lucy dead (and the rest of the gang too) and they want the time machine, either for themselves or destroyed. Why not just blow the bunker to hell as soon as Jessica called in and told them where she was (and don’t pretend Rittenhouse wouldn’t kill one of their ‘own’). Or does she not know where the bunker is? She seems to have access to the internet so getting a message to RH wouldn’t be that hard, would it?

So what if she not Rittenhouse? Or is she part of some sub-group of Rittenhouse with a different plan than the Carol/Emma/Nicholas fraction? Something else entirely?

I really hope we get answers to most of these questions and then I figure Jessica will die (or maybe they could stand her in the past.) She’s just not interesting enough and once Wyatt realizes he loves Lucy and Jessica is revealed as Rittenhouse I’m not sure she has a future.

2. The Journal Explained

We got a hint of this at the end – five years from now (or so) – Lucy will go back in time to give Flynn the journal. For some reason. I mean obvs, he needs it since it’s the catalyst for everything.

One of my theories is that the journal is from a totally different timeline entirely – like maybe one where Lucy is actually part of Rittenhouse?

And in that alternate reality, things played out very differently? Because clearly, Lucy knew who killed Flynn’s family when writing (will know when she writes it? time travel. confusing.) the journal and who a lot of people in RH were (and that for example, her mother was Rittenhouse) but she didn’t put those things in the journal. Why would she not put those bits of crucial information in the journal?

Maybe she would join/ be recruited into RH not knowing what it was really about? Maybe she was approached by her bio dad after her mother died in the original timeline? Then much later figured out their plans?

Maybe there are different ‘fractions’ of Rittenhouse? How else could Ethan Cahill have gathered all that info that they used to take down RH but a large chunk of the organization survived? Why else would Lucy’s mom say everyone was ‘so proud’ of her. Maybe they used her to take down another fraction of their organization, leaving only their (more zealous) group?

So maybe the journal is from a totally different timeline we’ve already completely diverged from? Or is it all a loop? Will the series end (in five years :D) with Lucy going back to give Flynn the journal that starts everything?

I don’t think we’ll touch much more on the journal in this season, but I really would love to know more about it and where it is RIGHT NOW! What happened to it? Lucy had it when her mom kidnapped her, right? Does Rittenhouse have it now? And if so, is that why Lucy didn’t put everything in it? Did she know it would end up in enemy hands? Did something in the journal make them bring back Jessica? Because she wrote Wyatt was obsessed with her death? Did she write stuff in there to throw RH off? Hey, that’s actually a fun theory!

3. Lyatt

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So if we don’t get some of the Lyatt angst resolved in the finale I’m going be seriously pissed. Most important of all I’d really like to see Wyatt pick Lucy before Jessica is revealed to be Rittenhouse.

With the whole pregnancy thing, I’m not sure we’ll be getting that.

But so far the writers have not led us wrong, so I’m hoping they’ll do this part right too. Okay, there was the bathroom joke. And Wyatt acting kind of like an idiot after seeing Lucy with Flynn… and the bringing Jessica to the Bunker bit might have been better handled a little differently. Okay, so there is some stuff but I’m hopeful things will turn out okay.

I did hear that season 2 was planned with a season 3 in mind and so we won’t be getting a lyatt reunion, but I’m hoping that’s bull. We have something that looks like it could be a Lyatt kiss about to happen in the season finale promo so I’m thinking we’ll at least get a little bit of it. Everything might not have been worked out, but I’m hopeful. Last years finale managed to get a whole lot of stuff packed into it and it was only one ep!

To be honest, though, I would be fine with a somewhat ambiguous ending for Lyatt this season as long as I knew we were absolutely 100% getting season 3. Because a lot of stuff have gone down between them and now we got a (pregnant?) Jessica thrown in the mix. That’s a lot to sort through in just two episodes.

Thought I would love Wyatt saying something along the line of this…

 

(possibly when talking to Carol. See nr. 8.)

 

4. More Flynn (and Emma)

I really enjoyed the Flynn/ Rufus team up last week. Even if pretty much Flynn with anyone is a really fun dynamic, Flynn and Rufus are just super-duper amazing together and I want more of it. In fact, I’m thinking “Flynn and Rufus” could be the next Mulder and Scully! The Amazing Time Traveling Dicks!

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Flynn it up!

 

Also while we’re at it: more Flynn / Emma would be fantastic. I always found Emma kind of interesting, even when she was a bad guy without much backstory, but with the few scenes we got with her in 2×07 I now absolutely need more of her. Especially her and Flynn arguing and giving each other looks. But all around I’d like more of Emma. Like just her dealing with Nicholas and being bad ass for Rittenhouse all while wearing her smirky face!

5. Destiny /Fate/Visions/Free Will /Choices /Changing the Future (Rufus Not Dying)

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This is something the show has been teasing since season 1 – what is meant to be? What’s destiny? Is Lucy’s sister supposed to live and Jessica supposed to die? Can Jiya see the future? Is the future set in stone? Did Lucy have that drink because she wanted to or because she was meant to? Was JFK always meant to be assassinated?

I know we can’t get any real true answers to any of this, but they’ve been talking a lot about destiny and Jiya’s visions and choices and stuff this season, especially focusing on Riya.

And while it’s all very fascinating and I’d love more talk about it (like could we have a whole episode in the bunker where the whole gang just sits around talking time travel problems and choices and butterfly effects and the grandfather paradox?) There is one very important thing about the whole destiny thing and Jiya’s visions, that needs to be proven wrong.

It’s a pretty obvious one.

Rufus needs to not die.

Unless they’re going to use him dying to somehow propel them into trying to go back to their own timeline and create lots of interesting time travel loop/ paradoxes/ wonky stuff. Which leads to him not dying. That’s the only way I would be okay with him dying – if it was for time travel awesome mindblowing stuff to happen. And he came back (never really died?)

6. Something Actually Having Changed BIG Time When They Get Back From The Past

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So far, even big things, like the Hindenburg not crashing and a rocket not going off (saving thousands of people) in Europe during WW2 seems to have changed surprisingly few things. I mean sure, for Lucy personally, the loss of her sister and return of her mother changed things. Jessica coming back changed Bunker life. But mostly, things have stayed the same in the world.

I think having something HUGE change would be really interesting. Perhaps after a mission that doesn’t seem that important. Just because there is such great stuff that could happen. Lots of alternate reality possibilities to explore. Rittenhouse sleepers don’t always need to be the focus…

There are some hints of something going down differently with the civil war in the latest promo and having the time team fail and come back to a totally different world would be really refreshing.

In fact, I’d love for this season to end with them coming back and thinking they’ve maybe fixed things, only to have the TV show then some huge war or like the Hunger Game only real (okay a long shot, but something else horrible). Returning to a very Rittenhouse-ish world, maybe not quite a Handmaid’s Tale, but something serious wack would be one heck of an ending.

And it would be a great jumping off point for season 3. Then next year it would be about actually changing the world back to normal again rather than just stopping Rittenhouse, which I think would be awesome and force the team to ask a lot of questions and interpret actions and reaction and how thing ‘reverberate’ through time/butterfly effect stuff.

7. What Happened During the Missing Six Weeks

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So just what happened to Lucy during the six weeks she with Rittenhouse was never actually explained much. Wyatt tried asking her about it and in episode 2+3 there were some small references to it, but since Jessica came back Lyatt heart-to-hearts have been focused on other stuff. Which I’m cool with and everything…

But seriously, Lucy has been through a lot. So even if she was just locked up in a room and had Rittenhouse propaganda thrown at her for a month and a half – that is still something she needs to actually deal with, talk about. Maybe she did talk to Flynn about if off screen 2×05? Or maybe that’s why she’s sleeping with a bottle of Vodka under her bed (is she still doing that five years from now when she writes the journal? That’s a terrifying idea.) Some mention of it could have been made in last weeks episode (I don’t think there was but correct me if I was wrong) with Alice in jail and Lucy maybe mentioning a little offhanded how she knows how it feels? Too late now though.

I’d just like a little bit more of this, maybe a little hint to what actually went down, the next time Lucy meets back up with her mother.

8. Carol / Wyatt Meeting Again

This is something I’d just love to see. Wyatt did spare her/ couldn’t shoot Carol, and it would be interesting to see if this makes her possibly do the same for him. Or at least maybe treat him a bit nicer if Wyatt ended up somehow captured by RH. Or they could have a chat if they captured her. I’m not picky.

Maybe she’d even listen to him about how much she’s messed Lucy up and that might help turn Carol around to their side…which sort of brings me to this next one.

9. For Lucy To Get Amy Back and Carol (To Have) Die(d) of Cancer

This is a bit of a wishful thinking thing, but I’d love to see Lucy actually have something good happen to her. Maybe it’s more of a show ending / fanfic thing than a wish for seaosn 2, but I really would like Lucy’s sister coming back and Carol having died from cancer to happen.

I think the cancer thing would be a pretty “good” way for her to go. Partly because it would be heartbreaking for Lucy to have to kill her mom. And if someone else on the team killing her did that would mess with her relationship with them. We already know  Wyatt can’t/won’t do it, but Flynn or Agent Christopher shooting her would still be hard for Lucy. And at this point, I just want thing not to be so DAMMED HARD for her. It’s like come on! Give the poor woman a break for F’s sake.

I mean sure, there is Rittenhouse killing Carol. But that would be really sucky of them (unless she totally betrays them and decides to be on the Time Team’s side, which we’ll see about) and even then it would be a bit sloppy storytelling. Which is not Timeless

But if Carol does change her mind and teams up with Lucy and co, I think a good ending would be Carol agreeing to help Lucy get Amy back even knowing she will die in the process. That would really be the best for Carol to really make a menz. In fact it’s the only way for her to even sort of make up for doing this to Lucy.

 

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This breaks my heart every time…

 

6 Reasons (Besides The Obvious Ones) Why Timeless Is Awesome

So for those of you who don’t know (and quite possibly) have been living under a rock, Timeless is this super cool time travel show that got un-canceled because the fans loves it so much!

Me included!

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Besides the great premise which is both fun and somewhat educational, we got interesting characters (both in the “good” and “bad” guy camps) and enough of a mystery with first Flynn and then Rittenhouse to keep the suspense up. Plus every week a new set of era-appropriate costumes!

While those bits are all great, part of why I love this show is all the small details that just make you either laugh, go ‘awww’ or ‘hum, I wonder how that might affect the timeline’.  There is also the whole time travel bit that I’m still not hundred 100% about how it works, but that makes me want to watch more to understand things better.

Awesome thing 1 – Their “Fake” Identities 

From Lucy’s “This is Doctor Dre and I’m Nurse Jackie, we’re from General Hospital” to “Juliet Shakes-man” to “I’m Dr. Quin and I’m a medicine woman” or even her using their normal names and being all “You never heard of Wyatt and Lucy?” when talking to Bonnie & Clyde, whenever Lucy is picking their names it’s sure to be something that makes you crack up a little (at least I do).

The rest of the gang have clearly picked up on this too, Wyatt’s fake FIB badge names him as Agent Mulder and one of Rufus’s driver’s licences says Wesley Snipes and he calls himself Denzel Washington and Kanye (which elicits the hilarious response ‘whoever heard of a name like Kanye, sounds made up to me‘).

These are just some extra little fun touches but they add so much. It’s a ‘hey, this is serious but we’re still normal people’ vibe to the show. And let’s be honest, it would be really easy to just use TV and movie characters (and actor names) when pretending to be someone else in the past. It’s fun, easy to remember and takes the edge off the seriousness of the situation a little.

The “Ma’am” Thing

So Wyatt and Lucy’s first meeting goes something like

Lucy: Are you asleep?

Wyatt: No, ma’am.

Lucy: Oh, okay…Do you know why we’re here?

Wyatt: No idea, ma’am.

Lucy: You know, we’re pretty much the same age, you can just stop calling me ma’am.

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So yeah, I think this was pretty much when the shipping for these two began (for me at least). But it could have been in the Lifeboat (the name of the time machine) when he once again calls her “Ma’am” and she tells him not to.

Then we have him calling her ‘ma’am’ after helping her by talking about finding a reason to fight and after she thanks him he says “Sure thing, ma’am” and they’re looking at each other all adorably. Now the ma’am has gone from something he did to annoy her to something else.

The next ma’am moment is when he tells her he’s stealing the lifeboat and going to get his wife back. Which is an all-around heartbreaking scene, made even more so by the conversation Lucy has with Jiya about it later (“Wyatt told me.”), but anyways. He calls her ma’am and by this point it just makes you go ‘aaahww so cute’. At least I did.

So with Wyatt stealing the time machine and all he gets shipped off to a black site and Lucy and Rufus get stuck with another soldier. A buddy of Wyatt’s actually. Only when Fake!Wyatt goes all ‘ma’am’ on Lucy, she’s like “Lucy is fine” and you can just see it’s totally making her think about Wyatt.

Last one his the funniest one, when yet another soldier) – this one, one of the bad guys – calls her ma’am, she’s all “Don’t you ma’am me!”efbfecc9b968dea4adca4fc5f15282a4

Okay, I’m not sure if I explained that but just go watch the show and listen for the ma’ams and you’ll see how the ma’am thing is just a nice little touch that adds a lot.

The Gang Feels

So starting out neither Lucy, Rufus or Wyatt know each other. We already got the (sort of) meet-cute between Wyatt / Lucy and the time travel reveal (Rufus already knew about it since he’s working on the project.)

The gang goes on their very first mission and by the end of it they’ve been arrested, escaped from prison, stopped a bomb from going off and grounded an airship by pretending to be terrorists, watched a woman die in front of them. Pretty intense first few hours of knowing each other. And by the end of it (and through the following episodes), they kind of bond.

Trouble is Lucy has some secret conversations with the bad guy and Rufus is recording them for the other bad guys. Which is really sucky for Wyatt who is all “I don’t trust either one of you”. But it makes them saving, helping and re-learning to trust each other even more awesome.

The banter about stealing cars and who is better at hotwiring them is fun. Chocodiles. Lucy being kidnapped and the guys going to save her (and ending up needing to be saved by her) is so sweet. Wyatt asking Rufus to go with him to save his wife in the past, him telling Lucy because he trusts her and just the all-around team feels throughout.

29e59a734f535590663a043a4dd06cfd.jpgPoint is, the team is great especially when they’re saving each other or just completing the mission or do something funny or awkward or future-related together. They’re like the Scooby Gang (only grown up and with time travel instead of vampires) or at least giving me similar feels. Which is great because Buffy was the first TV-show I fell in love with.

Lyatt (Lucy / Wyatt)

If you read my post about my favorite love stories, you know I’m a big fan of action/ adventure with a romantic sub-plot. Timeless has that in both Lucy / Wyatt and Rufus / Jiya, even though my shipper heart beats extra strong for Lyatt because of the potential for angst with them. You know with the whole he has a dead wife that could possibly come back (because of drama, probably right when Lucy / Wyatt get together) to life/ never have died.

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Things to come…

Also, I like that there hasn’t been a huge focus on the possible Lyatt romance, instead letting season 1 kind of lay the groundwork for things to come. Sure, we did get that  Bonnie & Clyde ep where they were pretending to be a couple which was kind of fun (and awkward). But what really makes me ship these are the small things like Wyatt helping Lucy with her seatbelt in the Lifeboat, how they just look at each other and help each other deal with the trauma of being time travelers (and other stuff). I love organic relationships a lot more than the ‘omg we met two minutes ago, let’s get married’ ones and I feel like Lucy and Wyatt got something that’s grown pretty naturally.

Number 5 &6 on the awesome list are Amy + Changed Timeline (Need More Of It)

So Lucy’s sister Amy going missing (or well being erased from history) and Lucy trying to get her back is just a really cool touch. Plus even though we didn’t get to see much of them together, I really liked what we got from the sisters, it was sweet and nice.

And while I really hope Lucy gets her sister back I love that they did change things big time for Lucy in the Pilot and kind of wished more things they did in the past would alter the future/ present somehow during the season. Like them actually coming back to a different world because the screwed up somehow. I get that there was so much going on in season 1, they didn’t have time for that, but part of why time travel timeless season 2is so interesting is the possible ways the world could change. Is it a butterfly effect (one small thing become a huge one) or more of a fate one (smaller changes will correct themselves) and even though the show has touched on fate/destiny / free will, I’d love to get more of it.

In fact, I want a lot more time machine stuff and questions answered in general.

Like, it would be good to know just how it would work if one of the team members accidentally erased themselves in a Grandfather paradox kind of way. Like how Flynn suggested Lucy might not exist after he took out Rittenhouse. Would they come back and just not have ever existed and kind of slowly begin to fade (Back to the Future style), leaving the rest of the gang to try to go back to fix things? Get arrested because no one remembers them going in the time machine?

Or are the protected in the lifeboat? Amy’s picture stayed safe in there and then remained afterward (could have disappeared once they got back to the present/ out of the Lifeboat) as did Lucy’s memories of her.

Does that mean the time machine exists outside of space-time? Agent Christopher wanting to keep her USB stick of her family in there seems to imply that is how it is. Do Lucy, Wyatt and Rufus exist outside of time too now? Does Jiya with her weird flashback?

Then if Flynn managed to destroy Rittenhouse and they went to a future without Rittenhouse (who paid for the building of the machine) would the Lifeboat remain because once built, it is outside of the time-space stream? Or would the machine blink out from existence since it wouldn’t exist in the new present?

And, a question I’ve been wondering about since day one…

How does the time machine teleport?

HOW?

Is it a Tardis? If so, where is the Doctor?

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How J.K. Rowling changed the world! It’s all about timing.

Since writing about best sellers and what they might and might not have in common I’ve been thinking about the timing of books and how it might influence their success.

But before that, let me just mention that this week 9-16th Febuary (2018) there is a ARC giveaway over on Goodreads for my book BOUND TO YOU.  Check it out and maybe you’ll get a chance to read it before everyone else!

Back to the blog post

Let’s go back to the good old 90s. Back before YA was so huge,  e-books hadn’t been invented and this was how we watched TV.

Okay, maybe the TV had been around for a while but still, it was a very dark time. Because Harry Potter had not yet arrived to make our lives awesome. In fact, I still remember back before I started waiting for my Hogwarts acceptance letter (which I’m still waiting for. Clearly someone in admissions screwed up big time.)

Anyway.

Harry Potter came along, beautifully and funnily written with a strong and clear plot. It was the start of the young adult genre, of children and teen lit that was more than it had been.

But, remember how Rowling got rejected a whole bunch of times before someone finally took a chance on her?

(Well maybe you don’t, because who likes to tell that story, but that’s what happened.)

My theory is that Potter came along at the right time, just exactly the right time for that big middle grade / young adult book revolution the world was ready for. One of the people she sent it to realized as much and the rest is history!

Point is, she started it – because Harry Potter an amazing story, it’s well written, plotted and it was just what kids and their parents were hoping for. Waiting for. Dreaming of.

If it hadn’t been as amazing as it is, it wouldn’t have hit so big and remain on the best selling charts over twenty-years later. Maybe it would have slowed down

How JK Rowling changed the world

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the YA revolution and all the books that have come after it would have been different. Maybe some of them wouldn’t even have come out.

So did Rowling start the young adult book revolution or was it the timing? Would some other book that we now don’t even remember have come along and taken her place if she hadn’t finished the first Harry Potter book? Or did she start everything? Did the world change because of her?

A combination of these?

Or am I just a crazed Harry Potter fan, trying to give credit for something totally unrelated to one of my favorite book series?

I don’t know. But I do believe that timing at least had partly to do with Harry Potter is one of the most famous characters in the world. The book is brilliant, but would the world have gone for it a decade earlier? We can’t know, but it’s interesting to speculate.

Moving on to the next YA book that hit big.

Twilight

I’d like to say Twilight is both a response to Harry Potter and a reaction to the scary modern world. Arriving as we all became more aware of general creepy dudes able to pray on young girls via the internet / social media + increases in terror and school shooting Bella’s protectors aren’t just big and strong human guys. One is an unkillable vampire and the other a werewolf. They both want to protect her and would die to do so.

In a world full of a lot of scary shit, I think part of the appeal of Twilight might have been the idea that the magic (which was feared just a generation or two ago) would be used to protect us from the normal ordinary dangers that suddenly felt so much more…well, dangerous. Bella was the perfect reader insert and despite the scary situations Bella ends up in / gets herself into, she is always saved by one of her boyfriends or one of the vamps.

Following on this came books like The Hunger Games and Divergent – where the girl can kick ass on her own and Percy Jackson where the main character is part god. (Also books like Vampire Academy and Mortal Instruments fits in with this genre, where the hero discovers he/she is something more).

Are the reader for these books the same as the ones who loved Twilight? The girls who got tired of reading about Bella being in distress? Or is it the next generation, boys and girls born a few years later?

Adults?

(Fun fact: 70% of YA and teen books are purchased by adults (18-64), so even if some of these are parents, quite a few buyers of YA are reading the books themselves.)

I think sometime during the early 00s YA books became something different. They became normal books with teenage protagonists.

Yeah, for those of us who have mostly read books published post 2005-ish, it’s kind of hard to think back to before that. Maybe we didn’t even read YA books before that (I didn’t since I’d just about become a teenager then) and so it’s hard to understand but for a really long time books for kids and teenagers were more about teaching, scaring, warning, dictating to kids.

Now, this started back during like the early days (we’re talking a few hundred years) when books first and reading start becoming a thing. Books, for both adults and teens alike, were used more as learning tools than for enjoyment. Even books that seemed to be fun and fiction often had some sort of message – such as listen to your parents, girls play with dolls, boys pull pranks and such.

Just like fairytales back in the day, this was just how it was. You had a message and you made sure the book or story made it clear to everyone what it was so it could help them do what you thought was right.

For adult books, this was phased out more and more (even if some people still write with a very clear message in mind, be it about the evils of communism, the greatness of faith or to make us aware of increasing social classes) but for kids and teen books, that teaching tone stayed for a long time.

Just ask your parents, or check out your grandma’s attic and read some of those books. Maybe you’ve read Narnia or seen the movie? There is some very clear Chosen One, Judas, Son of God symbolism going on there. Or Tom Sawyer? Or Robinson Cruzo (which was a children’s book to start with). There is often some moral or lesson to be learned. Even when there isn’t, the tone for children and young adult books, used to be very different.

But it’s not anymore.

Young adult books are just books with heroes that happen to be teenagers. There are genres (for a long time children’s books were either red/ blue or sorted into a few simple stacks by a few different, often gender-based criteria. Like SF/Fantasy + Cowboys for boys and Horses + High School for girls.)

These days there are YA books in every genre: crime, romance, mystery, horror, fantasy, drama, science fiction, dystopias and HBTQ and more. Any kind you like. The only difference is often a happier ending, less death and violence (maybe excluding the Hunger Games!) and younger characters, compared to adult novels.

So it’s no wonder adults are reading these books (because who doesn’t like a happy ending?) because these days they are just books. Often with really fun/ interesting concepts and way more straightforward than some adult novels.

It’s not just about the age or teaching a lesson. Everyone can suddenly pick one of these books up to read and enjoy it. So it becomes about the idea, the society we live in and yes, the timing. All those things influence the success of a novel.

So Twilight, the Mortal Instruments and The Hunger Game are books for everyone – not just teens. So it’s not just the social group we define as young adults we need to look at to maybe see why timing has been part of why these books have become successes.

Twilight might have partly become such a hit because it gave a sense of protection from the scary world – using what once was scary monsters to do so.

The Hunger Games maybe gave us a reflection of our world, for while we don’t kill our classmates or co-workers, sometimes both school and work feel like a fight. Right? It’s a struggle. Only the best ones get that scholarship, that promotion. In a world of dwindling resources and more competitive work environments, and government and politicians that don’t keep their word, is it no wonder a book like The Hunger Game became a hit? We’re all a bit disillusioned and we watch more reality TV than any other generation…

Following along this vein are all the half vampire, half-god, half-angle books. When we’re competing for everything, it’s comforting to know you got an ace up your sleeve. This also ties in with Twilight ‘the world is scary’. Only in these books the characters know why the world is scary and dark – and are part of fighting it. Divergent combines this with every teen (and adult too) hatred for being labeled, by having the main character be ‘divergent’ and unable to be labeled as one specific thing.

Not quite a young adult we also got the very successful super bestseller Fifty Shades of Gray, which is similar to Twilight (which make sense since it was a Twilight fanfiction) in many ways. Here you have Anna being “protected” by Christian – who might not be a vampire or werewolf – but he does have a boat load of money. And that’s almost as good. Even if the price for being with him comes with kinky sex the heroine isn’t to keen on, she ends up being willing to pay that. For love, sure. But also part of the safety and wealth he offers I imagine (I can’t say for sure as I only read book one of this series.) I’m sure no one says as much in the book or if they did Anna would probably deny it, but for a lot of people reading Christian Grey’s wealth is part of why he can act the way he does and why a woman might let him.

In a lot of ways I think 50 Shades (and many other similar that flooded the market after its success) can be seen as exploration and a sort of modern-day fairy tale? A dark one, for sure, where the princess chooses to be a willing captive.

Or is it a disillusionment – the new fairy tales often feel darker (thinking of the upswing in live action fairytale movies in the early 10s). Maybe we’ve lost our belief in them, or at least original Disney versions? Or maybe this isn’t really dark, maybe this is the new fairy tale? A reflection how we want the good old days but with new twists?

I don’t know.

Maybe all the darker stories from the Hunger Games to Fifty Shades to Maze Runner and even The Fault In Our Stars or Thirteen Reason Why is reflecting, perhaps, a new generations view of the world. A world now full of things we fear; poverty, sickness and terror. A future where things have gone downhill to the point where we let children kill each other on live television?

That’s a depressing thought.

I for one hope this isn’t the case, and I don’t really think it is. Society goes through phases and so does genre popularity. For a while, there was vampires, werewolves, gods. Then there was dystopias and re-makes of fairytales. Are we still in the dystopia phase? I don’t know. What comes next? I don’t know.

But probably something. Maybe the thing that gets the timing right. The thing we’re all hoping for, hungering for, even though we don’t know it. And here timing is key I think. You can write a great book but unless the world is ready for it (or perhaps if they’ve had enough of books like it) it won’t be successful. Or not as successful. And even if you write a book that is slightly above mediocre – a book with a theme or new idea that the world wants or become fascinated with can become the next big thing.

So…

It means, think a little about what you’re writing. Has it been done a thousand times before? If so, how do give it a new twist? Meyer made her vampires sparkle (and she made the “vegetarians”) that was new. Collins had her death matches be televised (believe it or not she wasn’t the first to ever write about kids killing each other as part of a government conspiracy.)

Sometimes all you need is a twist on something old and that makes it totally new. Totally relevant. Because that’s the big thing here. The timing, well, it’s just an extension of relevance.

What are problems that are relevant to you, today? The people around you? If those people are teens – that’s great, but often problems and moods are bigger than just one age group. So be aware of the world around you. The problems and struggles. And see if there is some way to corporate them into your book.

Happy writing!

Did you enjoy this post? Here are some others that might interest you.

All Best Selling Book Series Have This In Common

Mary Sue – Who Is She and Why She’s Bad News For Your Story

Inside the head of a boy…(How to write from a guy’s POV)

Writing Promt

All Best Selling Book Series Have This In Common

 

What Best Selling Books All Have In Common.jpg

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A while back I read Story Engineering by Larry Brooks and since then I’ve been thinking a lot about best-selling novels. SoI decided to find out what / if, what the best selling book series from the 90s to present day (Jan 2018) have in common. Just because it’s fun and interesting. There might be some ramblings here, it’s basically me just taking you all through the process of my thoughts on the subjects and sharing the what and why behind it.

I started off with this list of best-selling books over on Wiki: Best Sellers.

Went down to book series and changed the settings to first release and picked the ones with the first book in the series published between 1990-present day.

That got me a pretty good list but there were still a few things that needed to be taken into account. Such as origin language, nonfiction, written by multiple authors and such things.

I cut the nonfiction and books first printed in a language than English (there were only a couple).

Wiki has it all sorted into a couple of categories so I’ll go with those too.

More than 100 million copies

Here we end up with

  1. Fifty Shades of Grey (125M)
  2. Diary of a Wimpy Kid (194M)
  3. Twilight (120M)
  4. Robert Langdon (200M)
  5. Harry Potter (510M)
  6. Goosebumps* (350M)

These are in order of most recent publication date, not most sold copies, (those numbers are in the brackets.)

*Here it’s worth noting that while the first 5 series have between 4-12 book, Goosebumps have over 62 books in print. This means that while this is a popular book series, the numbers are somewhat misguiding and therefor it’s in cursive.

Between 50 million and 100 million copies

  1. The Hunger Games trilogy (65M)
  2. A Series of Unfortunate Events (65M)
  3. Jack Reacher (60M)
  4. A Song of Ice and Fire (60M)
  5. Alex Cross (81M)
  6. Magic Tree House series (70M)
  7. The Wheel of Time (80M)

Same thing here with the order (most recent release first). Here we also have the Magic Tree House series which is 56 books compared to the others which are between 3-22 books.

Between 30 million and 50 million copies

  1. Divergent trilogy (35M)
  2. The Inheritance Cycle (33M)
  3. Junie B. Jones (44M)
  4. Harry Bosch (42M)

Here Junie B. Jones stands out with 30 books compared to the rest which have 3, 4 and 15 books in the series respectively.

Between 20 million and 30 million copies

  1. Dork Diaries (25M)
  2. Percy Jackson & the Olympians (20M)
  3. The Southern Vampire Mysteries (20M)
  4. Artemis Fowl (21M)
  5. The Sword of Truth (25M)
  6. Captain Underpants (26M)
  7. Outlander (25M)
  8. Maisy (20M)

Here we have Maisy with 23 books compared to the others that are hoovering around 10 books or so.

Between 15 million and 20 million copies

  1. The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency (15M)
  2. Bridget Jones (15M)
  3. His Dark Materials (15M)

So not much to say about those, the Ladies’s Detective agency has 9 books but that’s not a upper huge number of books, at least not to merit a note.

___

This gives us a master list of 28 books, but if we ignore ones I’m feeling are here mostly because the huge number of books in the series (these are in red), this leaves 24 books.

  1. Fifty Shades of Grey (125M)
  2. Diary of a Wimpy Kid (194M)
  3. Twilight (120M)
  4. Robert Langdon (200M)
  5. Harry Potter (510M)
  6. Goosebumps (350M)
  7. The Hunger Games trilogy (65M)
  8. A Series of Unfortunate Events (65M)
  9. Jack Reacher (60M)
  10. A Song of Ice and Fire (60M)
  11. Alex Cross (81M)
  12. Magic Tree House series (70M)
  13. The Wheel of Time (80M)
  14. Divergent trilogy (35M)
  15. The Inheritance Cycle (33M)
  16. Junie B. Jones (44M)
  17. Harry Bosch (42M)
  18. Dork Diaries (25M)
  19. Percy Jackson & the Olympians (20M)
  20. The Southern Vampire Mysteries (20M)
  21. Artemis Fowl (21M)
  22. The Sword of Truth (25M)
  23. Captain Underpants (26M)
  24. Outlander (25M)
  25. Maisy (20M)
  26. The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency (15M)
  27. Bridget Jones (15M)
  28. His Dark Materials (15M)

So these 28/24 book series are the ones we might call the best selling book series of the 90s and 00s. Some of the books were published during the 10s such as 50 Shades, part of Twilight and Divergent and some of these series are still ongoing but still, most are 90s and 00s publications. Meaning it normally takes at least a decade to get on this best selling list.

The two I had never heard about when starting this are Dork Diaries and Harry Bosch. The remaining I have heard of. I’ve read about half and watched most of the others in their adapted form (TV/Film).

Let’s see them all in order of most sold books.

  1. Harry Potter (510M) (Book 1 alone has sold 120M copies)
  2. Goosebumps (350M)
  3. Diary of a Wimpy Kid (194M)
  4. Robert Langdon (200M)
  5. Fifty Shades of Grey (125M)
  6. Twilight (120M)
    • Under 100M books sold
  7. Alex Cross (81M)
  8. The Wheel of Time (80M)
  9. Magic Tree House series (70M)
  10. The Hunger Games trilogy (65M)
  11. A Series of Unfortunate Events (65M)
  12. Jack Reacher (60M)
  13. A Song of Ice and Fire (60M)
  14. Junie B. Jones (44M)
  15. Harry Bosch (42M)
  16. Divergent trilogy (35M)
  17. The Inheritance Cycle (33M)
  18. Dork Diaries (25M)
  19. Captain Underpants (26M)
  20. Outlander (25M)
  21. The Sword of Truth (25M)
  22. Artemis Fowl (21M)
  23. Maisy (20M)
  24. Percy Jackson & the Olympians (20M)
  25. The Southern Vampire Mysteries (20M)
  26. The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency (15M)
  27. Bridget Jones (15M)
  28. His Dark Materials (15M)

Here we can note that for example the ten last on the list put together dosen’t even amount to half the Harry Potter sold! The top three book series totals over 100M books sold together but only the top six have sold over 100M copies and 14 bottom (50%) of the list have sold less than 50M books each.

So just like with wealth (the 8th richest people in the world have more wealth than the 50% poorest) there is a seriously big gap for the really big sellers like Harry Potter, Fifty Shades, Wimpy Kid, Langdon and Twilight that clearly not many ever make the jump to over 100M books sold in a series (much less on one book, like with Rowling’s Philosopher’s Stone which has sold over 100M copies alone).

____

So, now comes times for some fun statistics!

How many of these best selling series are:

Middle grade books?

Young adult novels?

Fantasy novels?

Crime/ mystery novels?

Romance?

Let’s check!

Middle Grade: Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Harry Potter, A Series of Unfortunate Events, Dork Diaries, Percy Jackson & the Olympians, Artemis Fowl, Captain Underpants, His Dark Materials.

That makes for a total of 8

Wow!

That’s more than I expected, about 1/3 of the total number of the best sellers.

I’m a little iffy about putting Harry Potter here but since Harry is 11 when the book starts and it is read by a lot of kids I’m figuring it still counts. Also His Dark Materials might also be considered a YA book since it contain some pretty deep stuff. But I think my mother read it to me when I was like 8-9 and I loved it so I’m leaving it here.

Young adult novels: Twilight, The Hunger Games trilogy, Divergent trilogy,

That’s a total of 3.

Huh. I thought the YA category would be more impressive.

Fantasy novels: A Song of Ice and Fire, The Wheel of Time, The Inheritance Cycle, The Sword of Truth

Here we end up with 4 series.

The Inheritance Cycle might also fit into the YA category but I feel it is more fantasy than young adult somehow and that’s why I put it here.

Crime/ Mystery novels; Robert Langdon, Jack Reacher, Harry Bosch, Alex Cross, The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency,

5 books series here! I kind of expected more from this section too. Don’t know why but I feel like there are a lot of popular crime / mystery novel series out there. A few of the series I cut because they weren’t in English, were mysteries so maybe that’s why?

Romance: Fifty Shades of Grey, The Southern Vampire Mysteries, Outlander, Bridget Jones,

4 here too! If you count Fifty Shades of Grey as a romance…maybe it should be in the Crime section 😛 no, I shouldn’t be mean to one of the best selling book series out there. Clearly something about it made people love it even if I can’t understand it!

The Southern Vampire Mysteries should/ could possibly go in the mystery section but I’ve only read one of those books and from what I remember of it and the TV series True Blood (and it might be more different from the books than I recall, I’m not sure) the love story / personal drama stuff trumped the mystery bit so that’s why I put it in the romance section.

Grouped by my Genre split up + Number of copies sold

  • Middle Grade (8)
  1. Harry Potter (510M)
  2. Diary of a Wimpy Kid (194M)
  3. A Series of Unfortunate Events (65M)
  4. Captain Underpants (26M)
  5. Dork Diaries (25M)
  6. Artemis Fowl (21M)
  7. Percy Jackson & the Olympians (20M)
  8. His Dark Materials (15M)
    • YA (3)
  9. Twilight (120M)
  10. The Hunger Games trilogy (65M)
  11. Divergent trilogy (35M)
    • Fantasy (4)
  12. The Wheel of Time (80M)
  13. A Song of Ice and Fire (60M)
  14. The Inheritance Cycle (33M)
  15. The Sword of Truth (25M)
    • Mystery (5)
  16. Robert Langdon (200M)
  17. Alex Cross (81M)
  18. Jack Reacher (60M)
  19. Harry Bosch (42M)
  20. The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency (15M)
    •  Romance (4)
  21. Fifty Shades of Grey (125M)
  22. Outlander (25M)
  23. The Southern Vampire Mysteries (20M)
  24. Bridget Jones (15M)

This is some really interesting statistics don’t you think? I mean Children’s Book series beat all the other categories with dubble the number of books. Does that mean kids are bigger readers? Parents want their kids to read and buy them books? Kids are easier to hook on a series and will keep on coming back for more?

Also quite a few of the MG books have male main characters – why?

And why are all three of the young adult books main characters females? And why are two of them involved in love triangles? And two of them set in dystopian worlds?

For the fantasy books, I thought there would be less of those than there ended up on the list. I’m fans of three of them (never really go into the Wheel of Time) and know those three all have dragons in them. Two of the four have pretty clear bad guys while the others are a little bit more grey (I think?). I think all of them have love stories(but the Sword of Truth is the only one where there is a HEA. Kind of.)

In the mystery category we have three police / straight forward-ish detective series and two with guys with mad skills (Langdon and Reacher) ending up solving crimes/ troubles in various locations. This isn’t really my genre – I really enjoy the Reacher books and read some of the early Langdon books though, but can’t say much for the police procedurals.

As for the romance section, well I have read the first book in all of those series. None of them are my favorite romance books, even if Outlander does have it’s cute moments and so does Bridget Jones and so I’m not totally sure why they’re so big.

My suggested explanation is that the romance novels (except Fifty Shades) have been in print for over 15 years and all of them been made into movie/TV adaptions which I believe have helped increase their popularity.

Fifty Shades I can’t explain other than it was the first erotica and kinky book that somehow manged to make it into the mainstream and much like the book it was based on (Twilight) it got really popular because of the ease of which the everyday gal (or guy) could put herself in Anna’s shoes. Because Anna have very little personality, just like Bella!

But let’s go back to the middle grade, young adult and fantasy books. Because those are the genres that I find really interesting. In fact I’m going to compile a list for just those books! I’m also going to add the number of books in each series.

This leaves us with 15 books.

  1. Diary of a Wimpy Kid (194M) – 12 books
  2. Twilight (120M) – 4 books
  3. Harry Potter (510M) – 7 books
  4. The Hunger Games trilogy (65M) – 3 books
  5. A Series of Unfortunate Events (65M) – 13 books
  6. A Song of Ice and Fire (60M) – 5 books (7)
  7. The Wheel of Time (80M) – 15 books
  8. Divergent trilogy (35M) – 3 books
  9. The Inheritance Cycle (33M) – 4 books
  10. Dork Diaries (25M) – 9 books
  11. Percy Jackson & the Olympians (20M) – 5 books
  12. Artemis Fowl (21M) – 8 books
  13. The Sword of Truth (25M) – 12 books
  14. Captain Underpants (26M) – 12 books
  15. His Dark Materials (15M) – 3 books

Now I’ve not actual read Diary of a Wimpy Kid, A Series of Unfortunate Events, Dork Diaries or Captain Underpants. Probably because I’m not one of the intended audience. I have seen some TV adaptions of Unfortunate Events and part of the Wimpy kid movie though. I’ll also admit am I not totally up to snuff on The Wheel of Time or Artemis Fowl either.

I have however read every book in these series more than once

  1. Twilight (120M) – 4 books
  2. Harry Potter (510M) – 7 books
  3. The Inheritance Cycle (33M) – 4 books
  4. Percy Jackson & the Olympians (20M) – 5 books
  5. The Sword of Truth (25M) – 12 books
  6. His Dark Materials (15M) – 3 books

and still think they’re good reads (Twilight can be debated but it does have something that pulls you in and keeps you reading.) So I feel I pretty good about analyzing them at least!

____

In Order of Most Sold Books 

Now let’s put them in order of most sold books (I’ve also added the date the first book in the series was published since the number of years the book has been in print is interesting).

  1. (1997) Harry Potter (510M) – 7 books
  2. (2007) Diary of a Wimpy Kid (194M) – 12 books
  3. (2005) Twilight (120M) – 4 books
  4. (1990) The Wheel of Time (80M) – 15 books
  5. (1999) A Series of Unfortunate Events (65M) – 13 books
  6. (2008) The Hunger Games trilogy (65M) – 3 books
  7. (1996) A Song of Ice and Fire (60M) – 5 books (intends to write 7)
  8. (2011) Divergent trilogy (35M) – 3 books
  9. (2002) The Inheritance Cycle (33M) – 4 books
  10. (1997) Captain Underpants (26M) – 12 books
  11. (1998) The Sword of Truth (25M) – 12 books
  12. (2009) Dork Diaries (25M) – 9 books
  13. (2001) Artemis Fowl (21M) – 8 books
  14. (2005) Percy Jackson & the Olympians (20M) – 5 books
  15. (1995) His Dark Materials (15M) – 3 books

Looking at copies sold Harry Potter with the 510 million books stands out quite a bit compared to the rest of them. Potter is also the first big hit in Children’s books (I’m unsure if His Dark Materials were best sellers back when they first came out. They might have been because they are awesome. But the sales numbers are a whole lot smaller than for Potter, and they’ve been in print for twenty+ years.)

Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Twilight are pretty impressive in the number of books sold especially since they’re both from the later 00s. Diary of a Wimpy kid has 12 books though, compared to Twilight’s 4  and Potter with 7 but still, well done Wimpy Kid.

The more recent series (started during the 00s) seem to hoover some around 20-60 million copies sold and 3-5 books. I think this might be because around this time the market for MG/ YA books exploded and e-book and self publishing became a thing. Ebooks are making books cost less to produce (like nothing) and it’s giving people world wide access to more titles.

It’s probably going to be hard for any book out do Harry Potter and Wimpy Kid for the next few years since it clearly takes a while to build up to such huge sales. But we might se a new “phenomenon” like the Fifty Shades of Grey which has sold 125M in 6 years or the Hunger Games more “modest” 65M in 9 years.

In the future I think there will be more books / series that end up in the lower end of this spectrum, (10-25M book sold). Mostly because with more readers than ever (because the world population is always growing) there is a constant expanding audience. But with that being said there is also the expanding pool of material and sub-genres and ability to choose what we want to read individually via the internet /ebooks (instead of  relying on what was is stocked by the local book store). These are all making it so that more variety of books are sold and hence less chance of one book becoming really big.

Number of Books

Now let’s talk number of books in the series. I added this because that’s a very interesting aspect.  All the ones on my 15 fave list have between 3 and 15 books, seeming to either come in around 3-5 books or 9-15. Harry Potter, Artemis Fowl and Dork Diaries books have the less common but not totally out there 7/8 books.

So why 3-5? Or the higher 9-15?

My hypothesis here is – the series with more books, each book is generally shorter and intended for a young audience. So the Diary of a Wimpy Kid, A Series of Unfortunate Events books and Captain Underpants should all be shorter. Let’s go check number of pages on Amazon!

Wimpy kid – 221 pages.

Unfortunate Events – 162 pages

Underpants -125 pages.

Okay so Wimpy Kid is a bit longer than I expected but the other two are about half the length of a “normal” book. Make sense, since these are for a younger audience who might prefer a shorter book, right?

There are also two fantasy book series, which each are 12 books long and each one of those 12 are a door stopper in of itself. These are long because they are about a larger cast or a larger event such as a full on war / power struggle etc and because fantasy books “are” long.

So unless you’re writing for kids or writing high fantasy, maybe the 3-5 books is the preferred series length?

Then again, the most successful book on this list have 7 books, so maybe it is the more the merrier? I guess it depends on what kind of story you want to tell.

Order of Release

Let’s re-organize our list of 15 by the date the first book in the series came out. Remember, these books were not always best sellers on the first book so you might be surprised at the age of some.

  1. (1990) The Wheel of Time (80M) – 15 books
  2. (1995) His Dark Materials (15M) – 3 books
  3. (1996) A Song of Ice and Fire (60M) – 5 books (intends to write 7)
  4. (1997) Captain Underpants (26M) – 12 books
  5. (1997) Harry Potter (510M) – 7 books
  6. (1998) The Sword of Truth (25M) – 12 books
  7. (1999) A Series of Unfortunate Events (65M) – 13 books
  8. (2001) Artemis Fowl (21M) – 8 books
  9. (2002) The Inheritance Cycle (33M) – 4 books
  10. (2005) Twilight (120M) – 4 books
  11. (2005) Percy Jackson & the Olympians (20M) – 5 books
  12. (2007) Diary of a Wimpy Kid (194M) – 12 books
  13. (2008) The Hunger Games trilogy (65M) – 3 books
  14. (2009) Dork Diaries (25M) – 9 books
  15. (2011) Divergent trilogy (35M) – 3 books

Here we can clearly see the evolution of the MG/ YA genre, starting with magic in Harry Potter followed by Artemis Fowl, Inheritance Cycle and then Twilight and Percy Jackson. Then we move into dystpoia with The Hunger Games and Divergent. In the late 00s we have, for the slightly younger audience, Wimpy Kid and Dork Diaries.

Note that all none of the books since about 2000 are adult books (this includes the mystery/romance section up top too (except 50 shades).

I repeat; no new best selling serie for adult has “started” since the early 2000 with the exception of 50 Shades (there has of course been new books in these ongoing series during this time.) This is very cool and really seems to mean the place to be (or more accurately; to be writing) is MG and YA.

Even in the fantasy books characters are often fairly young, such as Eragon who starts out at 15 (I think?) and the Stark kids in the Song of Ice and Fire are all teens and many of them have POVs (Jon, Sansa, Bran, Danny).

So characters around 11 or 16 seem to be really popular in best selling series. The 11 year olds seem to grow up about 1 year per book while the teens often stay 16-17 through out the series (this is kind of just from what I remember, pretty sure it’s mostly right though).

World / Setting / Genre

Another things I find super interesting about these fifteen books is the fact that only 2 of them are set in our “normal” world. The Dork Diaries and Diary of a Wimpy Kid, which are both humorous lighter books than the rest on the list (excluding Captain Underpants) and set primarily in a ordinary world, with character’s attending middle school. Captain Underpants also fits this starting out, even though we then, via hypnosis get a superhero, it is still primarily our world.

So out of 15 books 2 (3) are set in the real world.

Then we have 5 “kind-of” our world; Harry Potter, Twilight, Captain Underpants, Percy Jackson and Artemis Fowl are all set in the present day but with a hidden world of magic (or superheros in the Captain Underpants) but with most people being clueless about it and only the characters and readers being “in” on it (except maybe Potter, where you have this whole hidden comunity).

Then finally we have the totally different worlds from our own which the renaming 8 fit into.

Out of these 3 are dystopian – A Series of Unfortunate Events, The Hunger Games and Divergent.  These are all magic-less worlds that our world could become. I’m counting A Series of Unfortunate Events  here because it’s a odd, dark world even if it is not perhaps a straight up dystopia.

Then there are 4 series set completely in a secondary fantasy world – Wheel of Time, Sword of Truth, Song of Ice and Fire and The Inheritance Cycle.

Last, His Dark Material which straddles the line between a sort of alternate early turn of the century with magic in book 1 and then actually introduces “our” world in book 2, is a sort of mix of alternate history, fantasy and portal fantasy.

Summary: Books about other worlds/ times seem to have a distinct advantage/ interest more readers at least in the MG/ YA and fantasy section. (Most of the mystery/ romance books from the big list are more grounded in reality though).

It seems magic, alternate histories/ futures or straight up magic worlds are really interesting to people and makes for great story telling.

Plot!

So I’m betting you know the plot to most of these books are about, even if you haven’t read them. But just for fun let’s list them and add a quick one liner to each. (I’ve put them in the most sold order again.)

  1. Harry Potter – A boy wizard destined to fight the dark lord start magic school.
  2. Diary of a Wimpy Kid – The tale of a “Wimpy Kid’s” life in middle school.
  3. Twilight – Girl moves to small town where it always rains and falls in love with a vampire who struggles with wanting to drink her blood / kill her.
  4. The Wheel of Time – Fantasy epic. Lots of battles and stuff. Not really clear on this one.
  5. A Series of Unfortunate Events  – Three kids are repeatedly almost killed by their weird uncle who wants their fortune.
  6. The Hunger Games trilogy – In a depressing future USA, a girl fights in a televised death match against 23(?) other teens.
  7. A Song of Ice and Fire  – The war of the roses. With dragons. And sex.
  8. Divergent trilogy – Society tries to put girl in a box. She rebels. Then the whole state kind of rebels.
  9. The Inheritance Cycle – Boy finds a dragon egg. Egg hatches and now the evil overlord wants to kill the boy.
  10. Captain Underpants – Kids turn their principle into a superhero from their favorite cartoon.
  11. The Sword of Truth – A hot magical woman shows up and guy find out he has magic destiny/ duty to destroy an evil overlord.
  12. Dork Diaries – Girl starts a new private school. Dosen’t fit in.
  13. Artemis Fowl – Overly smart boy captures fairy to ransom her.
  14. Percy Jackson & the Olympians  – Boy finds out he’s a demigod and there is about to be a war unless someone finds Zeus’s stolen lighting bolt.
  15. His Dark Materials – A girl tries to find her kidnapped friend. Lots of really awesome and weird stuff happens while she’s doing that.

What did we learn from this? Well, it’s pretty easy to explain just what the plot for each book is (with maybe the high fantasy books being exceptions since they’re often very long and about great big wars and such.)

Most also have very clear and memorable main characters. 3 of these have the name in the title. Two have Dorky/ Wimpy as a description of the main character. The rest have titles like Hunger Games and Divergent’s that both refer to the main thing in the first book (as does The Sword of Truth), giving us a hint what the main theme is and back when the book was new, made us wonder what these “Hunger Games” might be.

Random side note

I really like the Better Novel Project and think analyzing best sellers is fascinating – if you haven’t checked that site out you totally should.

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Better Novel Project blog = awesome!

So what have we learned from all of this?

In the past two decades or so book series that have become best sellers have between 3-5 books (unless high fantasy or shorter books then 10-15 books in series). They’re set in a world with magic hidden from the “normal” people or a dystopian / alternate history.

Or if they’re fantasy novels – in a secondary world.

Main characters are often preteens or mid to late teens, even in fantasy.

Even a best selling series will probably not make it past the 50M books sold, much less the 100M, but they’re still best selling and most of us will know the title and basic premises.

Male main characters seem a bit more common in MG books and female heroines in YA. Love triangle in two of the YA books, but it’s good to note these are all sub-plots and not really the focus of the books (well maybe a bit in Twilight).

But perhaps most interesting and important is that almost all of these books have a easy to remember plot / tell me what it’s about / pitch sort of deal. Even though several take place in alternative worlds from ours, they’re easy to understand and explain to possible readers.

So what makes books best seller?

Does these statistics give us any clues? Will writing a YA book series with 4 books set in a dystopian future or fantasy world with a love triangle be guaranteed to become a best seller? Or should go for a magic school and evil overlord? Vampires? Is there some super change best selling formula?

As much as I would love to say yes, I can’t.

You can surely up your odds by writing series with some of these things. Problem is, if you write a Dystopian and try to have it published today – you’re 5-10 years late to the party. Same with the magic, vampires and such.

Because a big part of why things become best sellers are timing.

Yup.

What becomes populate often has as a lot to do with the world as with the actual book. Timing is important. And usually only one book will hit it real big, only to be followed by others in similar spirit relatively quickly (think back to the number of vampire books back around Twilight’s release, how Divergent’s success partly comes from the fame of the Hunger Games and the dozes of BDSM books that have followed Fifty Shades and done very well for themselves.)

Because best seller are timing as much as a great story and as we’re moving forward all the time a book that might have hit big in the early 00s isn’t going to today. As the world changes, society changes, there are different things that call to readers to certain books.

Can we still learn something from all these Best Selling Statistics I’ve drugged up?

If it’s all timing and luck pretty much, is it all useless?

No.

I find it amazing to be able to compile statics for these best sellers. To know that the MG/ YA genre is historically the one that has the most best sellers. That younger protagonists even in fantasy are common. That magic and alternate worlds are extremely popular. What number of books most series have.

That I can make a list that I (and anyone else that wants) can use as a jumping off point.All Best Selling YA Book Have This In Common5

Best selling book have…

Title: Contain the main event, character or other important and attention grabbing thing

Plot:  Easy and clear to explain in a sentence or two.

World: Often a hidden magical one in the present day or a non magical dystopian future.

Character: Either young (11) and growing up during the series or 15-17 years old (and stay that way. MD more often boys, YA more often girls.

Romance: Often part of the YA + fantasy stories, but not really focus. Some of the YA have love triangles.

Series length: 3-5 books for YA.

Theme: Something that resonates with the time or mood of the intended audience at the time of release.

Time to Fame: It often takes a long time to actually get on the best selling list on wiki, but often best sellers become popular within a few years of their release. TV shows and movies being made often make people remember or re-discover a book and increase interest in it (duh!).


None of these elements on their own guarantees you a best seller. Nothing can do that. Not being a brilliant writer, having a great story/ premises, or the right aged character or world to set your book, will do that.

But it will help. These stats show you what has been popular in the past; what people enjoy reading.

And while you should be write things you enjoy reading, it’s good to know what others love too.

To read those book, to analyze them and see what made them work. To think about them in the time they came out. To think about the issues of today’s world and how those might effect your future readers. Think about the fun interesting ideas explored with in them – magical schools, dangerous death matches and kinky sex – these concept existed before these books made them big. But we still think of Harry Potter, The Hunger Games and Fifty Shades of Gray as the “creators” of these things. Maybe the next big thing is already out there, a amazing topic someone has just been waiting to turn into a brilliant story?

Maybe you can be that person?

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Did you enjoy this post? Here are some others that might interest you.

How J.K. Rowling changed the world! It’s all about timing.

Mary Sue – Who Is She and Why She’s Bad News For Your Story

Inside the head of a boy…(How to write from a guy’s POV)

ARC copies + Preorder Time!

Writing Promt 2

Mary Sue – Who Is She and Why She’s Bad News For Your Story

She’s got your favorite name, she’s got soulful eyes that change color, she’s the most beautiful girl ever. Everybody loves her – pets, kids, parents and all the guys (even the bad guy wants to sleep with her and falls in love with her and might even change sides for her.) She’s Miss. Perfect, and anyone who dares to insult her must pay. She’s the perfect version of you.

 

mary sue - why we hate and love her

Pin Me!

 

Mary Sue concept comes from fan fiction and is a self- insertion of the author into the fandom. She have of course existed in original fiction long before fan fiction. Only in fan fiction she is often much more obvious and annoying.

Mary Sue is often named things like; Raven, Hunter, Saphira, Serena, Arwen, Ivory, Alexandra, Glory, Violet, Elisabeth or any combination of these and similar names. Sereabeth or Elexandria or maybe Ravshpire. She also has a lot of names –(Like: Raven Serenbeth Holyadria Samson Black) like five or six of them and they all mean something that has to do with her character.  At least one of the names is one the author call himself or wish she was called. Or maybe one of her/his screen names…

She of course is stunningly beautiful and the author spends A LOT of time describing her with difficult words no one really knows what they mean but they sound pretty. She has purple or maybe golden hair (or Raven black with pink high lights works too), emerald, violet or even color changing eyes and probably a special birthmarks or tattoo.  Also, she’s got a sad past, mostly with dead parents and abusive (half of the time sexually abusive) step-dads or boyfriends. She is a tortured soul and everyone must agree that the way people have treated her in the past is awful.

She not only exceptional in the looks department, but she also has a special destiny and powers far beyond anyone else. When she goes to fight the bad guy she defeats him without any real problem – or if she fails she angsts about it for several paragraph and a minor character (since everyone but Mary Sue is minor character) has to tell it wasn’t her fault and she doesn’t have to worry because everyone still likes her.

She can also sing and play lots of instruments for no good reason and has lots of money also for no real reason.

Now you’re starting to worry – if you can’t have a nice, lovable, attractive character with a special destiny, named something cool, what fun is your book going to be? You don’t want your hero to have crocked teeth (of course guys can be Mary Sues – or Gary Stu as they are mostly called,) lots of zits and average powers. You want her to be a superhero.

Don’t worry. Everything is okay in moderation, and most heroes have some Mary Sue attributes.  The trick is not to let them take over.

Your hero can be attractive – just don’t let the whole first page be about just how awesome his muscles look or how expensive all his clothes are. She can be an orphan raised by mean people, but don’t let them be horrible abusive people that are out to get her because you want the reader to feel bad for her. If they are mean there has to be a reason. Your hero can have special powers and an odd scar (you remember Harry Potter right?) but he has to have flaws (but being clumsy like Bella Swan is not a flaw – sorry S. Mayer –it’s a semi-cute quality. Being blind, anger management problems, being dishonest, a germaphobic, uncontrollable blushing, having a fear of commitment or just being very selfish, are flaws.)

There are lots of Mary Sue test you can take, but a lot of characters in fantasy will score high because most of the time in fantasy there are prophecies about chosen ones and special powers and marking. You can mostly ignore a high score, just as long as your character still is a character not a stereotype or the perfect you. Just make sure you’re being honest with yourself!

Did you enjoy this post? Here are some others that might interest you.

How J.K. Rowling changed the world! It’s all about timing.

All Best Selling Book Series Have This In Common

Inside the head of a boy…(How to write from a guy’s POV)

Writing Promt 3

The First Book Comes…First!?!

I spend a serious amount of time trying to find books to read. I mean I sometimes spend more time looking for something to read than actually reading it. One of the things I hate most about lists (mostly on blogs and forums) is that people sometimes list their favorite book in a series instead of the first one – like if this for example:

My favorite fantasy books

1. Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix

2. The Good, the Bad and the Undead

3. River Marked.

And so on.

All of these are some other number rather than the first in the series. And I so wish people would post the first in a series. At least with book series where you need to read the first few books to “get” the world. (That would make the list – 1. HP & Philosopher’s stone 2. Dead Witch Walking 3. Moon Called)

I get that some people might just love one of the books super duper much. But frankly it makes it a lot hard to figure out if you read book# 1 of the series and hated it or if you might want to read book 1 before reading  the suggested book which nr #X in the series. So when not referring to a spec topic, why not just put the first book in a series first? If you love some books of the series more you can mentioned that in your “read why” section maybe?

It might sound be weird and a little wonky of me but I want to read a book, I don’t want to start with nr. 5 in the series. I want the one first and then the rest. Especially with books that are a SERIES. Which a lot of Urban Fantasy and Fantasy books are and what I read most.

At the same time I get that if you’re searching for ‘hunky millionaire’ books, you might just want books with hunky millionaires and not all books might feature that (even in the same series.) This is more common with more stand alone romance novels with a new couple in every book. Then I think it’s totally fine.. I mean sometimes you just want to read about a hunky rich dude, right?

But you gotta admit it’s kind of weird when you got to ‘best young adult novels’ and get Catching Fire instead of the Hunger Games as number one. As Goodreads thankfully these days always have the series along with the title in a (parenthesis) this is less of a problem than it used to be back in the “good old days of yore” when you looked up lists on blogs and forums more often than not. But still for me the first book still comes, well, first.

 

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