Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Literary Inspiration: Valentine by Tessa Hadley

"I wanted everything I learned to be an opening into the unknown, whereas Gerry's knowledge added up to a closed circle, bringing him safely back to where he began, confirming him."

-Tessa Hadley. Valentine. The New Yorker. April 8, 2013.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Reasons to Write Every Day

Because your subconscious is smarter, quirkier, braver, darker, and funnier than your conscious mind but only emerges if you provide ample blank page space and pretend to be looking the other way.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Sound Structure: The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson

Ever since Twilight grabbed the attention of millions of readers by beginning with the ending, the action prologue has been a staple of young adult literature. It may be overused, but it's a favorite for a reason. When Stephanie Meyer opened with Bella facing certain death at the hands of an unnamed tormenter, she was making a promise to the reader: stick with me through the slow character introductions and world-building, and I'll give you adventure, romance, and death-defying danger.

In a larger sense, the action prologue, and all tweaks to the simple chronological story structure, are about enhancing the impact of plot and character moments. For example, a love story told from the moment a couple meets to the moment they break up might be sad. But if the writer starts in the middle of the relationship and only flashes back to the first meeting after she details about the breakup, the hope and happiness of those early moments acquire a tinge of tragedy because the reader knows what the characters themselves do not: this story ends badly.

The characters in Alaya Dawn Johnson's The Summer Prince know that their story will end badly. Or at least, they should. June and her best friend Gil are in love with the new Summer King, but in their home city of Palmares Tres in future Brazil, the Summer King is always killed at the end of the year. Johnson uses an unusual narrative structure, mixing voice and time, to both solidify this event's inevitability and call it into question.

***WARNING: I deploy mild spoilers in order to discuss this book's structure in detail***

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

To Coin A Phrase: Sloppy Firsts

Celebrating innovative use of language in YA.


A feeling, activity, or discussion topic that, despite causing pangs of shame in the participant due to being spiritual or inspirational in the style of talk show host Oprah Winfrey and physician and author Deepak Chopra, is nevertheless effective at spurring the participant(s) to happiness and positive action.

Original Usage: "After I don't know how many miles, I stopped thinking. I know this sounds all Oprah-Chopra, but everything got in synch: the beat of my breath, the flow of my feet, the rhythm of the road, the bursts of color blurring by."
-Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty
(2001. Crown Publishers, New York. p. 84)