Vocabulary and Listening – Story Behind the Story: An Interview with Novelist Cassandra Clare

Judith Rumelt (born July 27, 1973), better known by her pen name Cassandra Clare, is an American author of young adult fiction, most known for her New York Times bestselling series The Mortal Instruments. The first installment of The Mortal Instruments, City of Bones, is scheduled to hit theaters in August 2013. Following in the blockbuster footsteps of Twilight and The Hunger Games, City of Bones is said to be on its way to becoming the next big teen-book-turned-movie sensation.

Reprinted with permission from the Wikipedia (wikipedia.org)
In this exercise, you will watch Cassandra’s interview with Holly Black in which they talk about the themes, the characters and the readers of The Mortal Instruments.



Before watching the video, familiarize yourself with the following entries.
  1. Clary, Jace and Simon – the main characters of The Mortal instruments around whom the story revolves
  2. demon - an evil spirit or devil
  3. Shadowhunter - a demon hunting race that has survived for over one thousand years in the story of The Mortal instruments
  4. a love triangle - usually a romantic relationship involving three people
  5. character development - the changes in the status of a character as the story unfolds
  6. resolution - the part of the story's plot line (story line) in which the problem of the story is resolved or worked out
  7. City of Glass - the third book in The Mortal Instruments series


Video ©Simon & Schuster


Vocabulary in context

You can improve your memory of a word by associating it with its synonyms. A synonym is a word that has the same, or nearly the same meaning as another word.

In the exercise below, three synonyms are provided for each bolded word in the following sentences taken from the talk. Watch the video again and observe how these words are used in a larger context. Select the synonym that best fits that context. Consult a dictionary when necessary.

Using vocabulary I

I. Complete the following sentences using the words in the box. Use the correct grammatical form of the words.

1. complaint
2. satisfactory
3. resolve
4. suffering
5. torturing
6. sprinkle
7. sincerity
8. quest
9. spectacular
10. was foreshadowed

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Using vocabulary II

II. Some of the words above look or sound a lot like other words which actually have very different meanings/usages. These words can be easily confused and are often misused. To strengthen your knowledge of these confusing words, complete each sentence below with one of the words provided in pairs/ trios. Consult a dictionary when necessary.

word definition
complaint (n.) the act of complaining; an expression of grievance
complain (v.) to express resentment, displeasure, etc., esp. habitually; grumble
compliant (adj.) complying, obliging, or yielding

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word definition
satisfaction (n.) the act of satisfying or state of being satisfied
satisfactory (adj.) adequate or suitable; acceptable
satisfying (adj.) something that makes you feel happy, especially because you feel you have achieved something

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word definition
sincere (adj.) not hypocritical or deceitful; open; genuine
sincerity (n.) the condition of being open and genuine
sincerely (adv.) if you say or feel something sincerely, you really mean or feel it, and are not pretending

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word definition
suffer (v.) to undergo or be subjected to (pain, punishment, etc.)
suffering (n.) the state or an instance of enduring pain, etc.
suffering (v.) present participle of suffer (v.)

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word definition
resolve (v.) to solve or end a problem or difficulty
revolve (v.) to move or cause something to move around a central point or line

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word definition
quest (n.) a long search for something that is difficult to find, or an attempt to achieve something difficult
request (n.) the act of politely or officially asking for something
request (v.) to ask for something politely or officially
require (v.) to need something or make something necessary

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Transcription Story Behind the Story: An Interview with Novelist Cassandra Clare (1:04-4:50)

Holly Black: So speaking about structure, one of the things I’ve heard you talking about before is: how much you like to set up love triangles, and why you like them, and I was wondering if you would talk a little bit about that. I knew we’ve had this conversation many times, and I always enjoy hearing your take here.

Cassandra Clare: I know that not everybody loves love triangles as much as I do but I truly do. I mean (pointing at Holly) she doesn’t like them. Um, for me, love triangles are fabulous themes for character development because usually at a love triangle if you do it right, the two points of the love triangles you will have two choices that you can make. Um, represent choosing different kinds of life for yourself. So really in, for instances, in the Mortal Instruments, Clary chooses between Jace and Simon. And Jace represents the magical world, the shadow world, as well as demon hunters that she has only just encountered. It’s very dangerous but also exciting. Simon represents the normal world, having a normal real life, having a family and children, having the kind of life she always thought she was gonna have. So choosing between these two boys is also about choosing what kind of life she wants to have for herself. For me, love triangles when they are fun, when they are done right, they teach you these things about the characters.

HB: In the Mortal Instruments, you had a lot of characters and you had Clary. You had Jace. You had Simon. You had sort of your main characters, but a lot of people came on and off the scene throughout the series. Are there any characters you wish you had a little bit more time with?

CC: Okay, um, I will say a character who really only appears in the third book, although his appearance is sort of foreshadowed in the earlier books. His name is Sebastian. He’s on the cover of the third book, which you can see over there. Many people have asked me if that’s Simon or if that’s Alec. It’s neither of them. It’s Sebastian. This is the first book in which he made his appearance, but my cover designer felt that his appearance was spectacular enough and he won the cover. He is also a shadow hunter. He comes from Idris, which is the shadow hunter’s home country, and um he is someone that Clary meets when she travels there, who helps her with her quest to find something that will save her mother and, since I only got to write about him in this third book, I kind of was sad that I didn’t get to spend a little bit more time with him because he’s a lot of fun. For me, he’s different from the other characters.

HB: Alright, the final question for you and this is asked with complete sincerity. Is it true you collect the tears of your readers? And if this is true I wanna know what is it that you are planning on to do with them.

CC: They keep me young, I’m actually seventy-five years old. (Laughs) I just have to sprinkle them on me every morning.

HB: And how did you collect them I was wondering...

CC: They emailed them to me, in attachments. I don’t enjoy the pain of readers, even though at many times get many emails from readers, they’re like “why are you torturing us with this, uh, you know, romance of Clary and Jace, with these other unanswered questions? Why won’t you, you know, tell me, tell me the ending?” Um, I never tell the ending I do believe that the best way to experience the resolution of a plotline or question is to read it. It’s not as much fun if somebody just tells you what happens. Um, I don’t enjoy the suffering of my readers, but I have always been a reader who, you know, reads books and get extremely invested in them and suffers when bad things happen to the characters, but I feel that that also compounds my enjoyment when the book is resolved in a satisfactory way. Without the pain, you don’t get that happiness. (laughs) and so I hope when people finish “City of Glass” they will feel that their suffering is worth it. If not, you can mail all your letters of complaint to Holly and she’ll pass them on to me.

HB: So remember, you can turn to the last page first.
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