Little Women Enthusiast Reviews PBS’s Masterpiece Adaptation

Little Women Enthusiast Reviews PBS’s Masterpiece Adaptation

A little disclaimer: being an aspiring filmmaker, I tend to look at a movie most critically and judge it by its content, presentation, what emotions it evokes, and its takeaway. I do like to be truthful in my views, however I will attempt not to make the following as blunt as my original draft. 😊 Do remember, this is only my personal opinion.

Second disclaimer: this review DOES include spoilers.

Costumes

There were two or three scenes showing the girls in corsets. Firstly, the March sisters did not wear corsets that early into the book. Secondly, the ones used are from the wrong time-period. Meg’s corset was styled from the late 1700s while Jo’s corset was that of a Victorian design. That’s a 100-year gap between the two, and neither were exactly accurate. Furthermore, they were not wearing the corsets correctly. This caused the corset lines to be seen through some of the dresses, also revealing that they were not wearing corset covers.

Regarding the dresses, I’d have to say that most of them would be considered accurate, however, many were ill fitting, which would have been unusual considering that the Marches did their own sewing and tailoring.

In two different scenes, Jo can be seen wearing some sort of odd floral bathrobe, which does not say “1860s.”

In the boating scene, Miss Vonn is wearing a blue, English 1770s styled gown, and even though she was from England, it was established in the book that her family was wealthy, therefore I doubt she would have to wear a 90-year-old dress.

Makeup 

The makeup director seemed to know little of historical beauty. Each of the March sisters were in more modern makeup styles, including mascara, eye liner, lipstick, and blush, especially little Amy. While some of these beauty enhancers had been used subtly in the 1860s, none of the March girls would be wearing it around the house, and especially not to bed. Also, Laurie was for some reason wearing noticeable makeup.

Acting

The main issue with this adaptation perhaps was that the acting was over rehearsed and, in some cases, insincere. I may be quite spoilt by the 1994 version where every single line was performed brilliantly and believably, however good acting should be a main focus in the creation of any film, and one might say that this version fell a little short.

I found some flaws in the portraying of the characters, as well. Timid Beth is too scared to even enter Mr. Lawrence’s front gates, though eventually gets up some courage to go into the house and sit at the piano. She is frightened when Mr. Lawrence tells her to stop, however is smiling without a care in the same scene when this stranger of an old man comes to sit and listen to her play. She doesn’t even appear to be nervous. I know I would be!

The relationship between Jo and Amy seems much harsher than in the book or any other version. One could even say that Amy was plain evil toward Jo and the rest of her family, and much more ill-mannered overall. Her actions, replies, and glares were certainly on the modern level of bad behavior. Furthermore, I found that Jo attacking Amy and slapping her in the face was overly dramatic.

Considering the filmmakers had three entire hours to fill with the book’s contents, I felt that there were not enough moments of true loving connection involving the March family. Marmee appeared as a very independent woman who seemed to know little of her daughters’ true feelings and oft gave poor advice at the wrong times (like in the attic after Amy burns Jo’s manuscript).

Music

The soundtrack trilled of modern breathy humming and ukulele strumming, which stands as an unusual choice for this newest version of Little Women. Perhaps the idea was to be set apart from the traditional orchestral music of historical productions, and if this was indeed their true intention, they were successful. I think that the music would be enjoyable for a different setting, though to pair it with forever famous “Little Women” can detract from the story and draw us away from 1860s New England.

Screenplay 

The opening credits were unusual, however I found that I enjoyed their presentation. On the other hand, the opening scene was quite the contrary. The overall feeling was that we were watching them doing something of a repulsive nature, when really the girl’s main deed was to each snip a lock of hair to send to their father. By the editing and acting, it seemed as though the March sisters were doing this sweet gesture with an odd sense of wickedness. Let me just say that it was strange!

Also, Mr. March is certainly more present than in the book or other film versions, showing him caring for a dying slave in his chaplain’s tent. I think the decision to actually show Mr. March’s life in the army prevents the viewers from feeling how the March girls felt. They couldn’t see their father, spend time with him, or truly understand what he was going through. They were left only to know things by what could be relayed through a pen, and the fact that we were seeing the real picture while they were not seemed to eliminate the viewer’s desire to know, which differed from what the March girls were presently feeling.

I think that it would have been very smart to use two different actresses for the role of Amy to play her different ages, however this version had one actress play both the adolescent Amy and married Amy, which I felt weakened the overall effect and story.

Additionally, there was a “half-undressed” scene that I saw as unnecessary. There were also two different mentions of suicide which I thought was irrational extra drama.

Lastly, I did not admire how all Biblical lessons that are readily available to acquire from Little Women, were excluded, or replaced with feminist views. In the book, when trouble hit the March family, they called upon God for strength. In this new version, the girls drew strength from their “womanhood” and powered through with female independence, instead of harnessing God’s love to continue with their difficult lives as they did in the book.

Flubs and Mistakes 

The green-screening and CGI were quite recognizable.

When Jo runs into the woods to get a stick to rescue Amy, (which seems to be difficult even though she was in a late-winter forest) she returns with the stick and somehow has stabbed her hand and is covered in blood. Additionally, her cheek was also bleeding, while Amy, who was in the water for over a minute and a half, didn’t even catch cold. It takes about 15 minutes for one to get hypothermia and die, so let’s be thankful that Jo didn’t run any further into the woods than she unnecessarily did!

When Jo gets her hair cut, it is styled in a more modern fashion and there were no cut marks.

Beth’s hands were not moving at the piano while it was playing.

In one scene, every single CGI snowflake were falling up.

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In conclusion: I must say that this miniseries does get better with each episode. By the end, there is a good quality to it that can possibly smooth over some of its faults. So. . .

Is this version of “Little Women” an accurate representation of Louisa May Alcott’s wonderful book? No.

Will watching this miniseries before reading the book hurt your reading experience? I think so.

Is this version historically accurate? Not quite.

Overall, is the 1994 Little Women version better? The answer is quite obvious, my friends.

Should you bother to watch this miniseries if you love the book? Yes, but be discerning and keep an eye out for its discrepancies.

Am I being too frank in my review? Probably.

Am I a crazy history loving girl who gets slighted when I meet someone who has never read Little Women? Yes!

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Have you seen this miniseries yet?

If so, what did you think?

Am I being too severe in my truthful opinions again? 😊

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Megan Joy

Guest Post // Tips for Writing Disabled Characters in Your Stories

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Today, I’m excited to introduce to you a guest blogger! Her pen-name is Penny Wood and below you can read her post about writing disabled characters into your book or story.

“Penny Wood is soon to be a homeschool graduate after being educated at home her entire life. She loves animals, writing, laughing with her sisters, and is a hopeless Pinterest addict. She blogs at A Southern Belle With Stories To Tell about movies, Christianity, writing, and anything else that pops into her mind. She lives in a tiny North Carolina town with her parents, two sisters, and her crazy dog, Buddy.”

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Have you ever wanted to put a disabled character in your novel but weren’t sure how? Maybe you were worried you’d “get it wrong”? In writing my novel, The Summer I Saw Blue Peak, I learned a lot about disability and how to execute it in writing form, and it’s something that’s been on my heart to write lately. It was a little nerve-wracking at first to me, too, but I’ve learned a few things over time and I’d like to share with you some tips on how to write them into your novel.

Research, research, research

Maybe some of you are groaning right now, but research really is the best way to learn how to correctly portray disabled people in your novel. You can find out about lifestyle, daily activities, hobbies, and technology through research. You’ll also discover that many stereotypes about disability are surprisingly not true. For instance, it is a common misconception that blind people touch people’s faces to figure out what they look like, but actual people who are blind will tell you over and over that this is not true. Every author’s worst nightmare is getting told that they don’t know anything about their writing topic. Don’t let that be you; do your research!

Ask them for yourself

This is probably one of my best tips. There are many disabled bloggers and vloggers out there who are very happy to talk to you about their disability if you ask. It will seem strange at first, but we authors are known to do weird things for our books, so you might as well get used to it. 😊 People are so kind and gracious when you ask. I love contacting real people because I get tailored answers to my questions and I end up with a new friend, too!

(Note: Please do not ask rude or private questions. It’s okay to be curious, but everyone knows that some boundaries should not be crossed. I am disgusted with some of the questions disabled people get asked that are really no one else’s business. Don’t go there, it’s just not nice.)

Remember that your character is a person first and disabled second

When writing a disabled character, it’s easy to get caught up in the “s/he is blind, deaf, et cetera” and forget to develop a personality for the character (this is even more important if the character is your protagonist.) The character still needs a rich personality, likes and dislikes, funny quirks, and not-so-nice flaws. They are a person just like everyone else and need to be treated that way as you develop them in your writing.

Don’t go with what you might have seen on a TV show or movie, or even another book about disability

Chances are, they probably don’t have it right. Disabled people are very much stereotyped, often by television and books. It is painfully obvious who has and hasn’t done their research when it comes to the disabled characters (if you’ve ever seen a western featuring a blind person, you know what I’m talking about). This goes back to research again, so no, watching your favorite TV show that has a disabled character in one episode does not count as researching it! 🙂

It’s probably not a good idea to actually pretend to be your character

If you walk around your house wearing a blindfold or earplugs for a year, you’ll probably end up in the hospital. Maybe, if you’re sitting still, you might close your eyes for a second to notice how amplified everything else becomes, or how it might frustrate you if you lived in a wheelchair and had to do everything sitting down (but don’t actually rent a wheelchair or walk around with your eyes closed). My friend Cheyenne Raphael made an interesting point when she said that when you do that, all you will be thinking about is how hard this is, and that’s not really how disabled people think.

I hope I have encouraged you to start using disabled characters in your stories or have helped you to continue writing about them. Keep up the good writing work and thank you to Megan Joy for letting me be a guest on her awesome blog!

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Thank you, Penny Wood, for being today’s guest poster!

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Have you ever written a disabled character into a book or story?

Have you checked out Penny’s blog yet?

Do you want to be a guest poster on Simply Megan Joy? Just contact me so we can talk!

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Megan Joy

12 Ways Get Your Book Started

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Writing a book means being inspired by something and then transferring that inspiration into words, sentences, and chapters. There is something that sparks our imagination and urges us to begin writing in fury, typing down the story that we so much want to tell. However, what happens when you’ve no idea how to begin your story and have no inspiration to get started?

Now, I’ve never had trouble starting a book, but instead my dilemma is with finishing them. I write out the plot, get more than half way complete, and suddenly a new story pops into my head. It seems as though there will never be enough time to write down all the stories I want to tell! Nevertheless, I do get stuck in my writing sometimes which calls for inspiration. So here is a list of twelve ways to find inspiration when you want to begin writing a book (or finish one!).

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Go on a spontaneous walk or plan out a long adventurous trek. Either one is sure to spark your inspiration. Let your feet take you to an unknown destination and enjoy your time venturing.

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Sometimes, reading a classic work of fiction can help pull us into the world of writing. It inspires us to mold our own stories and put together a plot of our own. Little Women, Anne of Green Gables, and The Secret Garden are some great classics to read.

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Yes, I’m sure we can all go back into our distant memories to recollect a time when to find someone’s phone number, you had to look it up in a book that was mailed to you once a year, called a telephone book. If you still have one laying around today, you may not be able to use it as it was originally intended, however it is very possible to extract some inspiring ideas from it. Open it to a random page and point to any last name. Turn to another page to find a first name to go with it. Do this over and over, and soon you’ll have a whole book’s worth of characters to write about!

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Playing a musical instrument can be so inspiring; whether it be a piano, violin, guitar, flute, ukulele, or yes, even a harmonic or recorder. Go outside and play; see if the birds sing along. Listen to nature and hear what it says! You’re bound to have something to write about when you come back inside.

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Create a story-inspiration board and pin any photo you come across that looks interesting. The pictures that urge us to know the stories behind them are the ones that give us inspiration for writing, so be on the look out for those. Also, you can always make those boards private if you don’t want to share them with your followers.

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Get onto Spotify and play your favorite instrumental track. Listen to your favorite movie scores or find something new! I’ve found it helpful to create a separate playlist for each of your stories; it definitely helps to get you into the world you’re writing about.

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It doesn’t matter if you aren’t an artist. The point isn’t to create a masterpiece, but to create something that will get your mind flowing and open to new ideas. Draw a mountain, a dog, a person; it really doesn’t matter!

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Pack snacks, pens, and a notebook, and take a trip into the nearest bustling city. Roam the streets, people watch, or find a little café to write in, and just take in everything that you see, and use it to propel you into your writing.

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I’m not kidding about this one. Not only are you doing something profitable but cleaning out your closet or work space can also provide you with tons of inspiration. You could come across old letters or memorabilia hidden away that spark ideas for writing. If not, the cleaning will bore you so much that you begin daydreaming about anything other than cleaning, giving you ideas for a book!

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Visit any thrift shop and look around. I’m sure you’ll find something inspiring. Go with a list of things to find, like a book dated before 1900, a vintage jewelry box, or old ice skates. Anything you find that interests you can be the starting point for a book.

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For me, some of the most inspiring moments happen when watching a really good movie. If you want to write a story set in the 1820s, watch Sense and Sensibility; not so you can copy it, but to draw ideas from it; how they spoke, dressed, and acted. There’s something so motivating in seeing a movie set in the era in which you intend to write!

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Talk with other writers and aspiring authors in person or through blogs. Sometimes just reading about what others are writing, will get you thinking about forming a plot of your own! It’s always fun to know what others are doing in their writing. Below you can find a list of writing blogs to visit for more writing tips and stories!

Reveries // Ruffles and Grace // Once Upon an Ordinary // Charis Rae // Invisible World // Claire Rachel // Liv K. Fisher // The Writing Writers // Forever and Everly // Peeking Beneath

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Do you enjoy writing?

What are you working on right now?

Do you think any of these 12 ways would be helpful?

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Megan Joy

Quote of the Week // 43rd Week

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Beverly Cleary, born in 1916, has composed nearly fifty fiction books for children and young adults. Though most commonly known for her “Ramona” series, she has written two other crowd favorites, “Henry Higgins” and “The Mouse and the Motorcycle.” During her long life, Cleary was given The National Book Award, The Newbery Medal, and The Laura Ingalls Wilder Award. Today, at age 101, she has retired from writing, though she still hasn’t lost her good humor. During an interview for her 100th birthday, she was asked if she was excited about her age, to which she replied, “Well, I didn’t do it on purpose!”

After Clearly learned to read in the second grade, she found that she wasn’t interested in many of the books she found at the library. She thought of them as boring and drab. She wanted to read something with character and spunk! Forty years later, she published her first book, one that checked every box of what she would have wanted to read back in grade school. She was determined to write something that would change the options children had when choosing a book to read, and she succeeded!

To every writer; one of the reasons we write is because we want to tell a story, not just any old story, but a different story. We write the books that we want to read, something that is unique, special, and inspiring! Like Beverly says, if you don’t find the story you’re looking for, write it.

This doesn’t just apply to writers. It’s good advice for every musician, filmmaker, artist, and designer. If you don’t find what you’re looking for, create that thing, enjoy it, and share it with others. Sing a new song, shoot a new movie, paint a new picture, or design a new room. We shouldn’t be bound by what others have already created! Make something new yourself, and use it for good. If you can dream it up, you can create it!

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Do you write fiction books?

Have you ever realized that you write the books you want to read?

What is your favorite Beverly Cleary book?

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Megan Joy

Five Writing Misconceptions

Five Writing Misconceptions

Being a writer, I’ve gone to seminars and conferences, read countless writing books and articles, and was given advice by real authors on how to make my books the best that they could be. I, at one time or another, believed what I was told, and altered some of my work to fit with “the right” criteria. That was a mistake. Here’s a list of five writing misconceptions that I was told to believe.

 1. “You must begin your book with an exciting scene.”

I was once told that my book had to begin when everything is changing for my main character: “when their world is turned upside-down” so you can grab your reader’s attention. I found a few things wrong with this advice, the first being, if we all started our books the same way, they wouldn’t be special or unique. It would be pretty boring to read the same kind of introduction in every book you open, wouldn’t it? The second problem I saw was, if we began our story when the character’s world is turned upside down, how would we know what is normal for them? Without any background story on our character, how could we distinguish oddities from their ordinary life? We wouldn’t know their everyday standards. The reader must connect with the character before he or she can care or worry about what is going to happen to that main character. Creating a subtle backstory first can help the reader to recognize abnormal happenings from ordinary ones. Beginning your book with a calm opening about the character’s everyday life is absolutely fine; there are so many famous classics that begin with a simple scene, like Anne of Green Gables, A Little Princess, and Sense and Sensibility. These authors didn’t follow the rule of the “dramatic opening scene” yet they have all have become enormously popular, selling a few million copies of their book!

2. Your book should contain 70% dialog.

A published author once told me that I didn’t have enough dialog in my books. I went on to learn that publishers sometimes determine your book’s success by the amount of white space on each page. Having a full page of dialog will provide more blank spaces than a full page of narrative, therefore, I was told that more “talking” is always best. So I decided to test out this theory and wrote a short book mainly full of dialog. It was choppy and not well explained, might I say. I couldn’t elaborate on descriptions or explain the surroundings without having someone speak it aloud. This idea of “lots of dialog” is a modern concept, so I can see how it would work for books taking place in the modern world, but if you enjoy writing historical fiction like I do, then this “all dialog” theory probably won’t work. It’s just not realistic.

3. Tell your reader instead of showing.

I’ve heard this one a few times. Some say that a writer should tell the reader about something, not show them, to keep the pace moving. I however, disagree. I find it much more interesting if I am actually shown something and not just told about it. The difference can have a lasting impact on the reader. Here is an example I made up:

Telling Version: “The boy told his dog to stay. The dog stayed.”

Showing Version: “He held out his thin little hand like a fireman stopping traffic as he slowly backed away from his fur-matted friend. Oh, how those four dirty paws wanted to bound across the space between them and gift the boy with a thousand slobbery kisses, but being the keen and obedient dog that he was, he planted his feet in the dewy grass and vowed to keep as motionless as the statue he had seen in the park.”

Both versions were each made up of only two sentences, telling the same story, yet they are both extremely different. Which one provided the most information? Which one would you be more likely to continue reading if it were the opening of a book? Which one do you find more interesting? Probably, the second one is the answer to all of these questions. The second version let us know that: the boys was small, the dog was scrawny, the dog loved the boy, the dog was obedient, it happened in the morning (dewy grass), and they take walks in the park together. The first version didn’t tell us any of that!

4. End each chapter with a cliffhanger.

Many say that to keep your readers flipping pages, you must create a cliffhanger at places where the reader is most likely to put the book down, like at the end of a chapter. I find that this strategy just isn’t realistic. Yes, cliffhangers are exciting and can add a bunch to your book, but one in every chapter is a bit excessive. Besides, if you have to bait your readers with a constant strand of dangerous and uncertain situations to stay seated and continue reading, it may not be a very interesting book in the first place.

5. Reading will make you a better writer.

Now, parts of this phrase are true. Reading other books can definitely help you with writing your own book. But when people give this advice, they forget to mention that it depends on what you read! If you read a lot of terrible books over time, you may find that you morph into having those same writing habits and write terribly! While at the same time, if you read many great books full of beautiful words and brilliant plots, your writing is more likely to improve. It is like that saying, “You are what you eat.” Instead it’s, “You are what you read.” If you want to write inspiring things, read inspiring things!

Bonus misconception: The publisher is always right. 

This is quite far from the truth! Many people I’ve met dream of the day when their book is accepted for publication. When they get turned down, they revise their work to fit the publisher’s standards. Then if their book is accepted they allow the editors to change whatever they see fit, slap a generic unenticing cover on it, and ship it out. Sadly, this happens a lot and many just accept it because they want their book published. But the publisher is not always right and you shouldn’t have to be forced to alter your hard work to please someone in order to get published. You don’t have to submit to what publishers say, because they’re not always right!

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Do you like to write fiction?

Were you ever told to believe one of these misconceptions?

Do you have any other writing myths or misconceptions to share?

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Megan Joy

7 Tips for Writing Prep

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Hello, all! Yes, today is April Fool’s Day, but I’m not much of a prankster, so don’t worry. I won’t force any mean jokes upon you!

Today I want to share some practical tips that I have for the preparation of writing. These are some things that I like to do before I start writing, so that you can pen your best!

Tip #1: Sit by a window.

I’ve found so much inspiration through windows, whether they overlook a wide field, a tall forest, or a busy city street. There’s always a story waiting to be inscribed through a window. It’s like looking at a moment in time through a frame.

Tip #2: Get something to drink.

I must always have a glass of ice water nearby when I write. It really helps me to concentrate on my writing. If you aren’t fond of water, you could drink tea, lemonade, or hot cocoa; whatever you like.

Tip #3: Get a snack.

This is like tip #2. You could just have a small dish filled with pumpkin seeds if you want. Popcorn, homemade cookies, crackers, or fruit are also good snack choices to eat while writing.

Tip #4: Listen to music.

Music is a great way to find inspiration to write. If you’re writing a fictional novel set in 19th century Ireland, listen to the music from that era. If you’re writing a story about the Great Depression, listen to music from the 1930s. Make your own playlist of songs you like. If you want to listen to a playlist already made, go check out my playlist on Spotify. Just type the words “Perfect Sounds for Writing” into the Spotify search box and click on the playlist by anneshirleyofgreengables. Yep, that’s me!

Tip #5: Consider a pen and notepad.

Sometimes, lugging around a computer and charging cord just isn’t practical. At times, it’s better if you use a physical pen and notepad. It can also be more fun if you normally type on a computer. It’s usually slower than a computer, but it’s also a great way to write, because on paper, you can also draw illustrations along with the words.

Tip #6: Wear something comfy.

Comfy pants and a warm sweatshirt is one of the best outfits to write in because it’s so relaxed. Wearing uncomfortable clothes while writing can be a distraction and not very relaxing.

Tip #7: Set a timer.

Sometimes I write my best when I set a certain amount of time and try to write as much as I can before the time is up. It helps to look back and see how much you’ve accomplished in that amount of time. Then, if you have more time to write, just set the timer again.

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There you have it! Seven tips for writing preparation! Now go ye forth and write!

 Megan Joy