Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Big News!

Last week, a little after posting my last entry, I received some very exciting news. My novel, The Shifting, has been accepted for publication! The publisher is a small, new one called TM Publishing, whom I met at a Publisher's Fair on campus. This is the YA fantasy I wrote for my thesis. Here's my query letter for it:

For a world that has magic down to a science, the rules are about to change.
Sixteen-year-old Sarah Flinn thinks she wants a change: she is a “double recessive” and lacks the gene for controlling the power known as magic. It doesn’t matter how many As she gets in her physics class or how many prizes she wins running cross country; to the rest of the world, she is handicapped.
Twenty-six-year-old Thomas Carter is not as crazy as everyone thinks he is. At sixteen he had an accident that gave him the ability to see into a parallel realm that is full of a wilder, more ancient kind of magic than what humans use. For ten years he has served the Other Realm, saving lives but losing his reputation in the process. For all this, he would like things to stay as they are.
But then Thomas’s wife vanishes and Sarah’s magically gifted friend Ryan casts a spell that not only causes him to be possessed by an ancient evil but also brings the human world into a dangerous collision with Thomas’s Other Realm. Sarah, Thomas, and Ryan must end the spell by journeying across a wilder, more magical America than they have known before, fighting against dragons, skinwalkers, and ultimately the dark being known as the Shifting that would use Ryan for its own evil ends.
Everything is changing, and if a magic-less teenager and a man who has a darker past than he knows can’t bring back stability, two worlds will die.

And then I list the word count (74,400) and some personal details. Well, I'm excited. The title may change, and I don't know anything about the timeline for this being published, so stay tuned for more news. I will not hesitate to share what I know.

In other news, I'm now writing an interesting story that is actually live-action. I don't mean like a play. In order to keep my friend entertained over a long, hot summer I have put together a little quest, or adventure, to get her out of the house and exploring the town. It's kind of fun to do since my main character is a real person - this is a story where I won't be able to control all the variables. The game has just begun, so nothing has happened yet. But that will change, my friends, that will change. I hope my friend can keep up!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Myths and Legends

Sorry for not showing up with a brand new post last week - I was out of town for my sister's graduation and sadly, had other things to do. Besides, by me not posting you were spared my rant about how popular literature has gone downhill in recent years (because that's what I would have posted on). But I still feel like I need to say that a book series that needs to steal 80-90% of its words from another series and drip with X-rated content to sell is textbook bad writing. I'm looking at you, Fifty Shades of Gray.

Anyhow, on to another topic. I just came back from seeing Wrath of the Titans in the local dollar theater and I got inspired - to write about my views on myths and legends in storytelling. In short: I'm a big fan of using them. For the long version, keep reading.

I know I've already posted my opinion of retellings, but here it is again specifically focused to mythology. Folklore is very easy to retell because the stories are so old that the storyteller can take any kind of liberty he or she wants with it. Many of these stories also have multiple versions anyway - in some tellings of "Little Red Riding Hood" the title character dies, and in others she is rescued. And in other, more modern versions, she totally kicks the trash out of the wolf. These stories have survived because they are adaptable, able to mold themselves to their modern audiences. I include Shakespeare and superhero stories in this category - they can be told in many different ways, in different settings. There are only a few details that need to be present in every story, and the rest is subject to interpretation.

Now, myths are valuable even outside of retellings because they appeal to the subconscious. I could get into the Hero Cycle and Jung's collective subconscious here, but I'll leave that to the links. The truth is, using elements of myth in building a story make it stronger. For example, having an invincible character with one weak spot hearkens back to Achilles, reminding the reader of the mythic hero's fighting prowess, pride, and eventual downfall. The writer can use the parallels to add depth to the character. What if this character isn't much of a fighter? We get irony. Mythic allusions add emotion and subtext to a work - see T.S. Eliot's "The Wasteland". They can also, if the story is fantasy, give it a "real world" feel because they use faery elements the reader already knows.

Storytelling has a tradition stretching all the way back to the myths and legends of ancient days. I think it's a mistake to ignore the power they have in modern writing. After all, if the myths weren't good, they wouldn't have lasted long enough for Rick Riordan to make his fortune off them.

Monday, June 4, 2012

News and Romance

Well, I do have some big news this week. I finally heard back from a publisher about Nightshade (they said no), and then I sent The Shifting to another publisher that had also rejected Nightshade but wanted to see other stuff by me. Also, I got a job - I will be teaching kids how to write like college students. Yay!

This week I've kind of been on a romance/fairy tale high, so I thought I'd talk about writing good romance. I read a lot of YA, so most of my comments will be directed toward romance for teens. Some of my favorite writers for this are Alex Flinn (see her fairy tale adaptations) and Meg Cabot. Meg Cabot has kind of a formula, to the point where I can predict who the lead female is going to end up with: lead female has a crush on/is dating some popular guy, another guy enters the scene, hilarity/plot twists ensue, and the lead female learns that her crush is not right for her and this other guy is. While I don't much care for formulas (it leads to writers getting sloppy), it kind of works here. The books are different enough in the details it doesn't feel too familiar.

Then again, we're talking about romance here. There's only so many ways it can end, and no one really reads romance for the intellectual stimulation. Unless you're reading Jane Austen. Then you can wax eloquent about the satiric plots and characters. That doesn't mean that romance is a foolproof thing to write - it can be done really poorly.

First off, writing romance as a genre is an excellent opportunity to work on writing supporting characters. Many romances are comedies, which gives writers the chance to create fun, goofy secondary characters. If the romance is more serious, supporting characters can be deep, wise, nurturing, etc. I've noticed that badly written romances have lackluster supporting characters, but then, most bad writing does.

The hero and heroine should have characteristics that the reader understands are attractive. One complaint I've heard about the "Twilight" series is that it's hard to see what Edward sees in Bella. I'm not going to get into that, but I get the meaning. Love is often arbitrary, but it's easier for the reader to follow the story if he/she can put him/herself inside the narrative and relate to it.

Lastly, I caution about the excess of physical displays of affection in any form. Writing romance is about having the characters find true love, not true lust. And while love has its physical side (note I said excess above), too much takes away from the story. I start to wonder if there's anything deeper for the couple than hourly makeout sessions and if they really can make it after the excitement wears off. In my opinion, it's better to show the couple going through difficult things together, or talking, or fighting, or bantering. It's just more mature.

Romance is a tricky subject to write on because it's so subjective. It can be done a lot of different ways depending on the subject and the audience. But that doesn't mean it's okay to throw all the regular writing guidelines out the window.