Apr 15, 2010: (Cross Posted from blog.blogfiction.org) Charlotte [a fictional college blog] is, as you may have guessed, is a blog about the fictional person, Charlotte Faulkner and her first year in college. I had read some good reviews and was really looking forward to reading it despite the fact that it was currently on hold. Here is what I found.
The plot is fairly simplistic. Charlotte just got out of high school and is going to college. She has a crush on a guy from her high school who is continually stringing her along. The blog concentrates more on introspection, (late) teenage angst, and coming-of-age.
The story is presented as a standard blog fiction, that is, a single fictional character writing a blog. The blog makes some use of it’s format. Relevant pictures are occasionally included. Also, it will link to things that the character is talking about or interested in. Also there is a character and plot summary pages to let people catch up quickly.
Posts are usually pretty long at 1200+ words. But since posts are only updated weekly, it’s an expected length. Unfortunately, the author usually responds to comments instead of the character. Starting in 2009 the author tried to change that with some mixed success.
The posts are in real-time so one day for the reader is one day for the character. However, there are a lot of flashbacks in the beginning. The story is currently on hold with no known date of return.
As far as age appropriateness, there are allusions to sex, but nothing graphic. Also, a couple f-bombs, but nothing gratuitous. Other than that, it’s pretty clean.
There are a lot of things I like about this blog. I don’t know how else to put this, but the writing is beautiful. I don’t just mean "good imagery" – even though there is – I just thoroughly enjoy the way the author puts words together. Example:
"Maybe if I was to confront the cold, to challenge it, instead of hiding, then I could walk with confidence. If I were to strip off my layers and run outside and let the icy air whip at my body, feel the cold seep into my skin, and raise my arms and embrace it, even, and scream this doesn’t hurt, you’re not hurting me, I’m okay, -- then maybe I would smile at the weather report, spend the winter shrugging instead of cringing. Maybe."
A great thing about the blog is that Charlotte seems real. She is a complicated, conflicted person. The character is get my initial interesting because she is such a paradox. She is smart and intellectual, but can still acts dumb. She respects authority, but is willing to rebel at injustice. Charlotte isn’t a contrived person she is someone that I feel I could meet, have drinks with, and befriend . . . well . . . my wife might have a problem with that . . . but at least be Facebook friends with her.
Something else the writer does well is create the feeling of the first year of college. As I was reading about her experiences they felt real because they were so close to my experiences my first year. It made me feel nostalgic to want to go back to that period. Whether it was signing up for classes, or taking that first shower in the dorms. She does a really good job of capturing the experience. Some things were different, of course, but overall I felt like she really captured what it would be like to go to college in 2008.
Finally, my favorite part of this blog is the way current events are incorporated into the character’s life. She mentions small things like Facebook losing scrabble, and big things like the American Presidential election. It’s a perfect example of my Instant Literary Reaction observation.
Because there are so many good things about this Blog Fiction, it took me a long time to figure out why I didn’t enjoy reading it. The realization came when I tried to summarize the plot.
Nothing Interesting Ever Happens!
Now, someone who has read the blog might disagree. They might say "What about when Paul got a girlfriend? What about when Riley tried to sleep with Charlotte?" Bah! I said, "interesting". None of those events are interesting because none of them are brought about as a consequence of Charlotte’s actions. Instead what happens is one random event after another. Those things would’ve been interesting if Charlotte was a real person and was my friend, but she’s not, she’s a fictional character.
For a Character in a story to be remain interesting, they need 2 important things. A desire and a will to go after that desire. The story begins when said character decides to go after that desire allowing them to demonstrate their will to get it. Charlotte has desire, but we never see her will to go after her desire because she never decides to go after her desires. In fact, I am completely convinced that Charlotte is completely unable to make a meaningful decision. She never even decides NOT to go after something. She just worries about it until the decision is made for her.
The main object of Charlotte’s desire is a boy from her High School named Paul. Paul and Charlotte are officially friends. Unofficially, they are slightly closer than that. Charlotte wants her and Paul to be an official couple, but Charlotte never does anything about it. She never tells Paul about her feelings. She never does something to get him to notice her. All she ever does is react when Paul gets a real girlfriend.
Even after Paul breaks her heart, she never decides to try and ignore him. Her friend, in fact, has to be the one that deletes his phone number from her cell phone. She then goes on to still respond to his occasional texts. Charlotte does the same thing with other would-be boyfriends, Justin and Riley. She never decides to push them away or let them chase her. She just ponders what to do until the next random thing happens in the story that gives her something else to ponder.
Her roommate is another decision she never makes. Her roommate is cheating on her boyfriend, but Charlotte sits around trying to decide what to do until the roommate breaks up with the boyfriend and the problem is solved for her. Also, her roommate might be anorexic. Does Charlotte ever decide to confront her? Purposely ignore it? Nope, she just wonders how to bring it up, but never does.
I think she only made one major decision in the course of a year which is when she decides to study abroad in Spain. The problem is, she only did that to avoid making the decision about how to react to Paul kissing her. Yikes!
Another thing that makes it hard to read is the constant flashbacks. They are so completely unnecessary. Every flashback could be eliminated by just stating "Charlotte has a serious crush on Paul. Paul leads her on, but never commits". In fact, you could parachute into just about any point of the story with only that factoid and you will not have missed much.
In the end I have to conclude that Charlotte’s inability to make a decision is supposed to be a major theme of the story. However, it also makes the story very boring. Witty observations and good writing skills can only carry a fictional person so far in holding my interest.
My final conclusion is going to be as paradoxical as the Charlotte character.
The writer does a lot of things right that I wish other and future blog fiction writers study and consider emulating. I think the good descriptions and the beautiful way she writes should be emulated. The author had good knowledge of the subject matter she was writing about. Also, the way real events were incorporated into the story was brilliant.
However, despite all this, in the end, I was left bored. The Plot – or lack thereof – didn’t hold my interest. I guess Charlotte’s inability to make a decision was supposed to be a major theme of the story. If that is the case, the author succeeded at that, but it’s a Pyrrhic victory at best because it just wasn’t that interesting to read about. That’s why I cannot recommend this to a reader. Overall I give it a 4 out of 10.