Writing

Unpopular Writing Opinion: Why I Wish Readers Would Accept Any Time Setting in Stories, Regardless of Publication Date

When I say any time setting, I mean any time setting. I firmly believe that authors should get to set their stories whenever they want and readers should accept and deal with the time setting. I don’t agree with the ridiculous rules that authors should only set their books in contemporary settings or historical settings, but nothing in between.

It all started out when I wanted to update my book, “The Frights of Fiji,” then titled, “From Frights to Flaws,” and I sent it to an editor. Throughout the manuscript, the editor kept complaining about the years mentioned and the fact that the story was set in 2010, even though it was first published in 2013. They seemed to tell me to update the setting to 2018 since many middle grade readers then were babies or really little. I was very offended and told them I highly disliked someone telling me when I could or could not set my stories. Then the editor felt me and said that they supported my idea of setting my story whenever I wished and that they wouldn’t tell writers when they could or couldn’t set their stories. That year-change was merely a suggestion. Yet, they also pointed out how kids today wouldn’t be able to relate to pushing buttons on phones. Um…hello? They’re going to be reading books way more primitive than that. Definitely for school. They’ll read books where candles were used since electricity didn’t exist, horse-drawn wagons were the main means of transportation because there were no cars. They’re even going to read stories where pants didn’t exist and men wore robes and togas, like in ancient times, B.C.E.

Also, must I mention that it was not until the 7th “Harry Potter” book was published that I discovered that the characters were much older than I thought. I had grown up thinking “Harry Potter” was set in the 2000’s thanks to some hints from the movies, which I watched before the books. But when “The Deathly Hallows” was published, I discovered that the events of the series happened in the 90’s, from when before I was born up until I was 4 years old, excluding the epilogue. Yes, it was a shock and disappointment at first. But I eventually got past it and accepted it, especially since the first 3 books were published in the 90’s. And no, it wasn’t because J.K. Rowling was a very big-name author.

Even on a website, someone pointed out why “Harry Potter” was set in the 90’s, and said that it could’ve been set earlier, but no one would relate to it as easily. Once again, kids have to read books like that for school. And I’m sure there’s a reason why English curriculums often require stories set too early for students to relate to. It’s probably to learn the differences. Do you think a lot of school kids now or even 30 years ago could relate to characters, like Tom Sawyer or Romeo Montague? Probably not. But that doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy it, even if they have to read it. When I was in school, there were very few books set around times we students could relate to. One I remember was “Rabbit Hole”, which I read in 12th grade. There was a scene with a video cassette, which suggested that the story couldn’t be set later than the 90’s or early 2000’s. While it felt a little awkward, it didn’t keep me from enjoying the story. Plus, it was required, so I couldn’t stop. I still liked the story, as it was.

Another time, after I republished “The Frights of Fiji” in 2018, I sent my sequel to be edited, as well. Once again, the editor removed the year I stated in it, 2010, and said it would make the story outdated. Bull poo. I even told them why I stated the year it was set. The editor said that authors can set their books whenever they liked, however, it should only be stated if important, otherwise it’s distracting. Garbage! The first book had already been published and the year, 2010, was already written as its time setting. So, I had to say the year book 2 was set.

When I started a post about this on a writing forum, while a few took my side, others did the opposite. They saw the idea of a book being set in 2010 and published in recent years as a bug and being awkward. When I said that changing the year would mess up dates and events, they saw that as nonsense. They picked it up differently than I intended, though. In book 1, my MC’s 13th birthday plays an important role. It also has to fall on a Saturday, and in 2010, her birthday, April 17th, fell on a Saturday. Had I changed the year, I would have had to either change her birthday, or make it a different day. But between 2013 and 2018, hundreds of people have already read the book’s first edition, so it would have looked bad to change the year setting.

Another person on that forum said that unless a story is centered around a certain historical event, like 9/11, it should not be set post-2000. Bird poo. And some other writers agree. They said that it would be hard to market a book set many years in the past without a reason. One writer said that a book published today that is set in 2006 without a reason looks bad. Another said that authors shouldn’t date their stories. They should be contemporary all the time and that readers should get to fill in the year themselves. Bull poo again.  

Why can’t readers see older settings from this century as a chance to learn more about those years? Seriously, what’s wrong with learning about things like flip phones, DVD rental stores, and other “outdated” ways of life? It really shouldn’t hurt. Readers should see books like that chances to be educational in terms of learning the differences of life then versus now. A book set in 2006 and being published around now should be acceptable in mainstream publishing. There’s nothing wrong with learning anything. Of course, that is as long as it’s not harmful. After all, we do or did have to learn history in school. And that is to learn not just how life was different than, but also the mistakes or bad decisions people made so that we don’t do those ourselves.

To me, fiction is only outdated if it’s offensive, such as the use of racial slurs or the damsel-in-distress trope. Basically, anything that would be insensitive to people today shouldn’t be used in writing. But years? Big deal. Authors should get to date their stories, set it in whatever years they wish, and readers should be more open to that. I wish that’s how it would be.

cooking

When I Made White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake

During quarantine, I missed a lot of my favorite commercial foods. One of those included white chocolate raspberry cheesecake from the Barnes & Noble café. It was super-delicious—both that and the one I made.

There is a lot involved, though. You have to make raspberry preserves, crush Oreos and bake them as a crust, and melt white chocolate as well as prepare the actual cheesecake.

While this particular “error” worked out in the end, I melted white chocolate chips instead of using the special kind the recipe recommended since I did not have it. However, that substitute was technically incorrect, and would have messed up the final creation. Luckily, though, my mom taught me a trick to avoid a bad cheesecake. That was to add milk to the white chocolate, but a little at a time. And guess what? It resulted in a great dessert. I would eat the cheesecake pretty much every day.

Aside from the white chocolate thing, the raspberry preserves, Oreos, and cheesecake were no problems preparing. Like many, I stress-baked when pretty much nothing was open. I’ve baked a lot less these days. However, I did make rainbow cupcakes from scratch recently. But I might save that for another post.

fiction

Harry Potter Mystery: How Has Not One Muggle Felt Sorry for Harry When Growing Up with Abuse from The Dursleys?

For 10 years, from right after his parents’ deaths and until his 11th birthday, apparently nobody was nice to Harry, not even outside his home. His abuse was looked over at school and he was always bullied. Even the teachers didn’t seem to do a thing about it. I know Harry was born in 1980, so much of his childhood before Hogwarts was in the 80’s. Still, I have trouble finding something like this believable.

Yet, there were no new students or staff at Harry’s primary school who were horrified. No teacher wanted to help him with his stress or stand up for him when others bullied him. No student wanted to do the same.

Also, most people, especially in an area where Harry lived, don’t see the same people every single day. There would have been lots of visitors, new residents, deliverers, vendors, and many other people not native to Little Whinging or Privet Drive. And it seems that nobody has been appalled by how the Dursleys treated Harry. Not one individual has reacted with, “Oh, that’s terrible! Aw, that poor kid. I wish I could help him. I feel so bad for him.”

Unless there are charms that keep muggles from feeling sorry for Harry, I don’t find something like this too credible. There has to be kinder, empathetic, and even highly-sensitive people in the “Harry Potter” universe. Many muggles would have been upset to hear about how the Dursleys mistreated Harry. They would have felt sorry for him and even disgusted with how Dudley got spoiled. Even if that type of treatment wouldn’t have gotten the Dursleys in trouble with authorities at the time (not just because Dumbledore might have used magic to prevent that since Harry needed to be with a blood relative to stay safe from Voldemort, but also that the laws about child safety were different then, according to my research), Harry would have encountered at least a few muggles who said that they felt terrible for him and showed their sympathy to him. More would have said how sorry they felt for Harry in front of him, whether directly at him or to somebody else. A lot more would have said it out loud, but either not in Harry’s sight or would have thought it in their heads. At least a couple of muggles would have gone to the Dursleys and asked if everything was okay, and if they found out the truth, they would have felt horrible for Harry and showed it.

Lots and lots of people would have also ruminated and obsessed over how Harry got treated by his relatives, day in and day out. They might have even been down about it to others, talked about it a lot, and tried to do something about it, even if they couldn’t.

If the series were truly believable, Harry would have met or heard countless amounts of people who didn’t like how his relatives treated him and said how terrible it must’ve been for him, and how bad they felt for him. Maybe Harry would have even had a kind mentor nearby who wanted to check on him and be nice to him. Even in the 1980’s, before the Internet, the fact that Harry was abused would have made it to others, and a good number of them would have been horrified.

travel

How I Packed for Traveling in Recent Years

Okay, okay, I can assume what you’re thinking. Traveling is probably not the best option now. And I have no plans to go anywhere outside Long Island, New York, any time soon.

However, when it does become safe and normal again, these tips can apply. They also could apply if you’re driving somewhere local and have to stay there overnight. For example, when Tropical Storm Isais hit, I lost power and my parents had to leave town for business purposes. So, I stayed with a family friend not far from me until my electricity restored.

Anyway, here are some suggestions for packing, whether you must travel or not. I will exclude anything related to the pandemic as they are currently mandatory, but won’t be for the rest of time.

1: Airing out and rolling clothes instead of folding them

This saves a lot of room in bags, especially if you have to fly on a plane. But even if you don’t, whether you take a train where restrictions might be more relaxed, or drive and have pretty much no regulations other than your own, this technique still comes in handy. You will be less likely to receive muscle aches and exhaustion from taking it around.

2: Pack only what you know you’ll use.

I emphasized the word, “know”, because I truly mean it. When I was younger, I would pack lots of things I ended up not using like magazines, books, and other items. Now I would pack less and only include things I am a hundred percent certain I’ll use. And I did.

Although this time is not exactly the ideal time to travel, unless you absolutely have to, these tips can still be used once it is. Even if you are staying at someone’s house overnight and they reside within minutes from you, it’s still a good idea to consider these packing methods. Less can be more at any time. Hopefully within less than a year, the part about the pandemic and travel restrictions will no longer be relevant.

TV show

Holy Magic Mackerel! I’ve Noticed These Details in “The Fairly OddParents”

As a childhood favorite, I not only learned a lot about “The Fairly OddParents”, but I also picked up many details, both as a kid and now as an adult.

You probably know the premise: a young boy named Timmy Turner is miserable and has two fairies that grant him wishes. But he has to keep them secret, or else he’ll lose them forever.

Anyway, if you’ve watched a lot of the show, you might follow this better. So, without further ado, here are some insane and interesting details from the show.

1: A lot of deus ex machina moments

If you don’t know what it is, deus ex machina is a term for when something in a story happens merely for plot convenience. It is often frowned upon in creating any form of fiction, written or visual.

But one detail I found that constantly happens throughout the series are characters saying, “It’s not like this (whatever it is) will happen.” And then it does. Or when somebody watches TV, the hosts or reporters will say things to the viewers as if they knew who was watching and when they were. Even as a child, I found this a little annoying, although I didn’t know the term, deus ex machina. Nevertheless, it didn’t stop me from enjoying the show.

I must also mention the convenient use of tomato-throwing when people are mad at something or somebody.

2: Characters seem to be “stupid” and not notice anything, just for plot convenience

In the episode, “Chin Up!”, Cosmo and Wanda appear as their normal fairy forms, in front of a bunch of people. Timmy freaks out loudly, and reveals that if anyone finds out they’re his fairy godparents, they’ll have to go away forever. But Wanda tells Timmy that the others will think they’re big kids in costumes, and somebody walks by and compliments on their “costumes.” This is very unbelievable. Timmy would have lost his fairies from there, even though they kind of are at fault. Moments like this occurred several times throughout later episodes, too. Characters would speak their thoughts out loud and nobody would pay attention or even seem to hear. Another aspect that’s not believable. But I guess that is enough with the criticism.

3: There are a lot of similarities to “The Simpsons”

I noticed this in recent years. Some details include how Mr. Crocker sounds like Mr. Burns from “The Simpsons”, although they’re not voiced by the same actor. Vicky’s head changing to something related to one of the episodes about to show is also similar to how the couch gag changes for different stories of “The Simpsons.”

4: Wand magic doesn’t always work fully

I assume this based of the events in the episodes, “Babyface” and “Teacher’s Pet” (no relation to the Toon Disney cartoon or movie). In the first one listed, Timmy accidentally runs into a daycare away from Francis and a bunch of other big, mean kids. So, he wishes to be a baby in order to hide from Francis. However, not long after, he realizes that he can’t talk. Therefore, he can’t wish himself back to being age 10 normally. That being said, he can still read, spell, and think like a 10-year-old. He points to the blocks and Wanda agrees with the idea to spell out his wish. But if the magic worked fully, not only would Timmy have lost his ability to speak, he also would have forgotten to know how to spell, read, or even think and solve problems like an older kid. In fact, he would have put the blocks in his mouth as that’s how babies explore their world. Yet, then there wouldn’t really be a story.

In the episode, “Teacher’s Pet”, Timmy wishes to be teacher’s pet, and Cosmo and Wanda’s infant son, Poof, grants him the wish and turns him into a guinea pig. He can still talk, though. Once again, if the wish worked completely, Timmy would only be able to squeak and function like a real guinea pig, and not a human.

There you have it. I hope you find this list helpful.

cooking

Cake-Decorating Techniques I’m Glad I Learned

Image from Pixabay

I’ve been baking and cooking since I was 12. I’ve also learned to decorate cakes and other baked goods around that age. Of course, I struggled several times, especially in the early days.

However, I’ve been making a lot of my own occasion cakes in recent years, because one of my friends is allergic to peanuts. Unfortunately, many bakeries aren’t nut-free, including near where I live. In fact, although I reside outside New York City, allergy-friendly bakeries are rare.

Nevertheless, I still enjoy my homemade cakes and cupcakes. The interest worked out very, very well. So, without further ado, here are the techniques I am thankful for learning.

1: Crumb-coating

This is when you put a plain layer of buttercream all over the cake and put it in the refrigerator to cool. That way, you don’t end up with crumbs in your icing. That is when you put the next layer over it and you can be free to do what you want. This might not work for whipped cream frosting, though.

2: Whipped buttercream technique

You do the usual for making buttercream icing, but add extra milk (a little at a time), and whip with an electric mixer for as many as seven minutes or so. That way, your buttercream can turn out similarly to whipped cream icing. There are a few reasons it might work. One, colors tend to come out bolder in butter cream than whipped cream. Two, writing on a cake is easier with better with buttercream than whipped cream. Three, there is a special trick to whipped cream icing that keeps it from sinking into the cake. That is adding unflavored gelatin to hot water, letting it cool, and then incorporating it into the whipped cream. It’s fine, but a little more work, depending on your needs or desires.

3: Less can be more

Good cake designs don’t always have to have lots of decorations. In fact, a minimal amount can be just as beautiful, if not, more. That’s what happened when I prepared for my 26th birthday party in November 2019. I had a lot of cooking to do, so I just made simple flower-like borders around the cake’s exterior (not attached), wrote “Happy Birthday, Sunayna” with buttercream on a piece of white chocolate, and that was it. It still looked great.

So, there you have it. I hope this helps.

movie

Oh, I Just Can’t Wait to Compare and Contrast “The Lion King” Adaptations (1994 and 2019)

Pretty much everyone I’ve met has enjoyed 1994’s “The Lion King”. Many consider it their favorite movie. Only one person I’ve met has said that she wasn’t really into “The Lion King.”

Obviously, I’ve seen the cartoon of it and enjoyed it. In fact, as a high school senior, I enjoyed the film so much that I performed the end credit version of “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” at a school spotlight night (like a talent show).

Anyway, the cartoon depicted and released a lot of emotional experiences to the audience. The songs are great, the characters are well-developed, and the mood is powerful.

That being said, someone pointed out that there might be some damsel-in-distress moments. The person said that rather than resolving Scar’s abuse of power on their own, the female lions wait for Simba to return. He was assumed dead, though. Yet, when Nala found him and he refused to come back since he thought he was responsible for his father, Mufasa’s death, Nala didn’t seem to take a lot of action on her own.

Another moment that stands out to me is the line Mufasa says to Simba after he goes to the elephant graveyard, “You deliberately disobeyed me.” Yes, they were different tones, but I consider that kind of lazy, unless there’s a purpose (i.e. “My boy, my little Hercules,” from 1997’s “Hercules”). It was as if the writers copied and pasted that same line, whether or not Microsoft Word existed.

Nevertheless, the animated version of “The Lion King” pleased me very much. Sadly, when the live-action remake came out, it didn’t cause any emotional reactions or anything nearly as much the way the cartoon did. In fact, it was pretty much a carbon copy of the 1994 adaptation. Most scenes were the same shots, but in a “live-action” way. It was mostly realistic CGI, except for one scene, and obviously, because getting those types of animals to act is too dangerous. Despite that, animators need to draw from live models of those creatures, and who knows how those animals stay calm and not maul or hurt anyone?

While the remake did reduce the “You deliberately disobeyed me” line to one use, the facial expressions were quite limited, and I couldn’t get into it nearly as much as the animated movie.

I would rate the cartoon 5 out of 5 stars, but the reboot 2.5 out of 5 stars. Even my friends didn’t enjoy it too much, either.

Writing

Unpopular Writing Opinion: Why I Wish Readers Would Accept Characters’ Physical Appearances as Written

As a writer, I have to follow creative writing rules and standards in order to please readers. As much as I’m okay with most of the craft guidelines, there are a few aspects about readers that I wish were different. That is how I wish readers would be more okay with characters’ physical descriptions. Please note that I am not criticizing anyone who believes the opposite of what I do. I respect others’ opinions. But this is how I actually feel.

Just because there are no pictures in novels (excluding graphic novels), that doesn’t mean the writers shouldn’t physically describe their characters. However, most experts say to keep the descriptions to a minimum or only describe what is important and let the readers picture them their ways. In fact, some people have even said that they will rebel against the characters’ description and picture them their own ways. For example, one might picture a blonde character dark-haired, which I think is silly. What if that blonde character is from a bestselling book that becomes a movie and that same character is also blonde in the film? It’s not like you could file a complaint to Hollywood for that.

But I really disagree with the guideline of not describing your characters a lot. I would say that authors should get to describe their characters however they’d like and have as many physical attributes as they want. That being said, they shouldn’t describe everything. That’s because it would be too much to remember and would bog down the narrative. The only time I’d understand readers getting upset over physical descriptions is if the traits were offensive (i.e. never say something like, “Mr. Yang looked at me through his squinted eyes.” That’s a big no-no!).

I have a feeling that readers forget that characters’ physical appearances get presented to them all the time outside novels. They see how characters look in movies, TV shows, live performances, comics, picture books (if they are, have, or work with small children), and graphic novels. If they’re okay with Wonder Woman having dark hair or Timmy Turner having blue eyes, I wish they would feel the same with a novel character being described with red hair, or green eyes, and so on. But even one person said that they still didn’t like being told what the characters look like and said, “We have movies for that.”

Which brings me to my next point: the readers don’t own the content—the writers do. Therefore, I think they deserve the right to describe the characters to their readers. If only the readers would acknowledge that the characters are somebody else’s creations, property, and copyright. Therefore, if only they would accept that another person created the content and gets to have a say in their appearances. If readers really like a certain physical attribute of a person, they should create their own characters with those. You know the old saying, “You get what you get and you don’t get upset.”? I wish I could apply that to readers when they find out about a character’s physical appearance.

TV show

Beware! It’s My Top Memorable Moments from “The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy”

A skeleton is friends with two children. There is Mandy, who has a dark attitude and hardly ever smiles, despite her blonde hair and pink top. Then there is Billy, who is enthusiastic and silly.

This show aired on Cartoon Network for a while in the 2000’s. It was a great show.

Now here are the top memorable moments from the show.

7: When Grim wore a bra

Okay, okay, I can guess what you’re probably thinking. But it’s true. There was one episode where his cloak was removed and he had a bra on. Really.

6: When Billy’s friend, Irwin, turned into a dog

Billy found a dog with glasses, not realizing that it was his friend, Irwin. He asked his parents if he could keep him. His mom said no, but his dad said yes. Then, at some point, Irwin turns back into a human in a stadium, naked in front of everybody.

5: When Grim and Billy switch personalities

Grim acts silly like Billy and Billy behaves like Grim. Eventually, their physical appearances switch, too.

4: When Billy loses his sight from a video game

Billy presses his eyes against the TV monitor while playing a video game, which could have ruined his eyes, according to Mandy. And it did. At some point later, Billy even thought Mandy held up 74 fingers.

3: When Billy and Mandy told stories

Mandy’s story was so inconsiderate and lazy. It went, “Once upon a time, the end.” Then she told a story about Humpty Dumpty where it ended where everybody had eggs for all three of their meals. However, Billy’s involved a villain who couldn’t defeat anyone because they were so happy. Even he became joyous, himself.

2: When Billy and Grim celebrated Mandy’s “birthday”

Billy has Grim help him plan a birthday bash for Mandy. When Mandy arrives, Grim and Billy go, “Happy birthday, happy birthday, it’s your happy day.” But Mandy reveals that her birthday isn’t for another 5 months.

1: The song, “Under the Ocean”

Ah, a parody of “Under the Sea” from Disney’s “The Little Mermaid”. This was a great moment.

So, there you have it.