Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Many Genres, One Craft (Part 5)

Ten Ways to Avoid Losing Your YA Reader by Patrice Lyle: Teens aren't dumb, so don't dumb down your writing.

Even though I majored in Literature when I was doing my undergrad, I still liked to read YA stuff every now and then to counteract the classics I was studying. I'm actually reading The Hunger Games trilogy now, and am on the third book right now and it's one of the best books I've ever read (and I've read a LOT). I think what I like about YA is that the language is so real and easy to relate too that I get swept up in the story line and with the characters much faster than I do if I were reading a Jane Austen piece. Sure I liked Elizabeth Bennet, but Katniss Everdeen... now that's a girl I would like to sit down and have a conversation with.

When I was younger, all I wanted to do was write YA, but as I got older, I developed my style and genre more and realized that my... let's say taste and language... aren't necessarily for kids. BUT with that said, I'm still very interested in it, and somewhere along my career I would like to put out a YA Paranormal Romance which is why I found this article so helpful. Lyle makes a ton of great points in this piece: "Matters of the heart are major issues to teens," "Teens are dramatic and they love reading about other teens on the awkwardly confusing albeit magical road to love," and "Am up the emotion in your story [and make them] relatable and true to life. This is why every once in a while, I'll pick up a YA vampire book and read it. This way, I can see what writers in the genre are doing and why it works -- also, it lets me see what cliches I hate so I can break away from them and maybe add some flavor of my own.  I just have to watch my tongue-- Mother's don't like it when you use the *F* word a lot in books that their teenagers are reading.

If You Write it, They Will See It: Picture Book Illustrations from the Writer's Point of View by Karen Lynn Williams: Writing for a picture book is a lot like watching  the opening scene to My Bloody Valentine.

Like any sane person, you're probably reading that and going WTF? But stick with me here. For those of you that haven't seen the 2009 (?) remake of the film, the beginning is without a doubt my favorite opening scene in horror.  Harry Warden wakes up out of a coma and slaughters EVERYONE in the hospital, leaving blood splatter on the walls, body parts scattered everywhere, bleeding hearts in candy boxes and (the best part) a severed arm laying on a cart where the blood runs down to the fingers and then drips on the floor. And no one says a word. If a writer could paint this scene for me using words, I would probably shiver from excitement because when I watched it...I loved it, but if I read it... I would go nuts with (creepy) excitement.

Williams states that "[she] came to realized that if [she] writes[s] evocatively and with passion and emotion and honesty that the illustrator will be able to do what is needed to create illustrations that not only match the text but extend it." I think this is why I like graphic novels so much, because the writer says just enough to get the emotion across, and then the artist takes it to the next level.  Would I ever work on a picture book? Actually I think I would. I think it would be cool to do a kid's book about monsters, but from a friendly perspective. And I most certainly would do a graphic novel!! SO if you're an artist reading this and you're thinking the same thing... but are looking for a writer... contact me. I have some crazy ideas I've been working on.

I Write Short Stories by Michael Bracken: Write short stories!! They are fun, give you a break from your novel to explore other avenues and widen your chances of earning publication credits. This I need to start doing... but I have a hard time breaking away from poetry :p (my first, true love).

Magical Realism as Genre: Or Waiter, There's an Angel in My Soup: by Jason Jack Miller: I want to go through the wardrobe and enter Narnia...

I adore Magical Realism and Fantasy, but I've never tried writing it. I love to read it and watch it...but I think it really takes one hell of an imagination in order to do it. One of my goals in this program is to look into world building (please offer a class for me!!) and maybe try mapping some stuff out when I need a break from my novel. Since I like to paint, I think I could whip up some cool exercises in this.. but it's more than just creating and using your imagination. You need to take a basic belief system (whether it be supernatural, superstition, etc.) that is grounded in real life events and then build around it so your readers will start questioning it, and if you're really good... believing it. "[Readers] only consider something supernatural when other explanations have been exhausted. And even then, the suggestion of the fantastic is accompanied by doubt and uncertainty."

Now I'll let you in on a secret. I believe in ghosts, and I believe in magic. So when I read Harry Potter as a child, it took little to convince me that this world was real. In fact, I had deja vu a lot (still do) and was convinced that my owl had just got lost somewhere along the way, but that I would find out soon enough that I was a witch. And hell, J.K. Rowling still has me waiting for my acceptance letter into Hogwarts, so it can happen!

The Pot-Bellied Pig Method of Critiquing by Kaye Dacus: Be a good listener and grow a tough skin.

I love and hate critique sessions because while I think I'm good at taking constructive criticism, if someone phrases it meanly... I'll break.  You can tell me I suck and you hate my stuff but as long as your nice about it... it's cool. I get it. It's not your cup of tea. Just don't be rude.

What I really liked about this article is that Dacus is so real when talking about critiques that it makes me feel better that I'm not the only one that feels this way. She talks about having a tough skin, being a good listener and keeping in mind that you're NOT writing for your critique partners. I was really excited when I read this, because I can't tell you how many people in my undergraduate groups would read my stuff and go "You're gross. I hate this." Really? You'd think I wrote horror or something. But nevertheless, I wasn't going to stop being gross just because he/she didn't like it. Fact: If I had to deal with his/her sappy, romance crap... then he/she could deal with my cannibalistic, heart eating character.  When it comes down to it "writing is still a solitary business." And if I've heard it once, I've heard it a thousand times --- you have to be true to yourself. If you don't like a change someone made or commented on... don't use it. But consider why they said it in the first place.

Michael A. Arnzen writes about this more in his article Working the Workshop: How to Get the Most Out of Critique Groups (Even the Bad Ones):
  1. Ask for amplification
  2. Request Definitions
  3. Demand Examples
  4. Challenge Vagueness
  5. Get Concrete
  6. Check Sources
Asking WHY someone thinks the way that they do is important...especially if you don't feel the same way. This will give you insight into how other readers might perceive your work.