Monday, August 30, 2010

My WIP: I'll give you three hints

I'm almost, almost ready to start blabbing about my new WIP, and if I'm daring enough I will put up a little excerpt. For now, here are some clues:

1) It has lots and lots of violins in it. (Note: not the ones made by my husband, although that is what is pictured.)

2) It is set in Italy, in the eighteenth century.

3) This is the main character's family crest. I have yet to figure out the dolphins. Any experts out there?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A scientific experiement (sort of) regarding The Hunger Games

So, did you see my poll? (I'll talk to myself while you look over there and vote...)
I actually just like polls, collecting data, etc. But I have another reason for creating this one, and I need you to help by commenting after you vote.
See, I've got this theory...based upon, like 4 people so far (which is why I need you). I think most adult female writers want Katniss to end up with Gale. I think most adult male writers want her to be with Peeta. (Teenagers seem to be very split, so I can't make any guesses for them...)
My husband Mark just read the first two books for the first time and is loyally supporting Peeta--with very intelligent literary arguments, I might add--while I insist that it would be betraying the readers if she doesn't end up with Gale...unless he turns out to be really her cousin or something. I argue that we've been let in on the "secret" of Katniss loving Gale and would only be satisfied if that secret love for him comes to fruition. Mark counters that we've also been let in on the secret love Peeta had for Katniss for years and it would just be depressing if they don't end up together. (I suspect he thought me very callous when I said the logical literary outcome would be for Peeta to die sacrificially like Sydney Carton in A Tale of Two Cities...)
What do you think?
Besides that I'm crazy for blogging about something so trivial. But come on, you know you were thinking about it already. :)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

And the research towers high

I am deep in the heart of research--though I wish I was actually researching on site at that lovely city on the left. Can I just say I am so excited about my new WIP?
(Random fact: did you know that the residents of Cremona, Italy were once so obsessed with sweets that the government made it illegal to consume more than two sweetmeats per day? All I can say is, the poor writers. How could they survive without chocolate?)

Monday, August 2, 2010

On God, Fate, and Metaphor

I recently heard a well-respected author give the following bit of advice at a conference for children's writers:

“I challenge you to write without metaphor. We all know God doesn't exist. We all know that nothing happens for a reason in life. So when you force such occurrences, such literary devices, into a book, it will never be true to life or as powerful as it could be otherwise.” (The quotes are loose, as I was not able to write it down at the time and had to rely on my memory.)

Um...yeah. How's that for an inspiring clump of words? “Nothing happens for a reason”?? Really? “We all know that God doesn't exist”? Forgive me, but I haven't yet arrived at that pitiable state. Why are you writing for kids if you insist on portraying for them a false world, a world without hope? Do you think you're helping them? Do you think that what the world needs is jaded, depressed individuals?

There have been too many occurrences in my life that have proven to me that things happen for a reason for me to fall into doubt. Enough that when I don't understand something, I just have to trust that it is only because I can't see the whole story.

The beauty of literature is that, for once, we are able to see the whole story.

Take one of my favorite kids' books ever: Holes, by Louis Sachar. Can you remember the first time you read that? That tingly, wonderful feeling as everything came into place at the end? Did you get shivers hours later as the full significance (and metaphor, ahem) of the title hit you? Did it take you days and weeks to stop thinking about what a great story it was? Well, that story was ABOUT fate. Full of metaphors. And I think the reason it resounded so strongly with its audience was that we all recognized, somewhere deep inside us, the truth it contained. Things happen the way they do for a reason.

I know that everyone in the world has probably thought, “Why me? Why is this happening to me?” Certainly I have, lots of times. But it is in developing myself as a writer that I begin to find answers. Because, guess what? I have to allow lots of bad things to happen to my characters. If I didn't, they would never grow. They would have no inner strength, no virtue, no personality. No story. So maybe I'll never technically know why...I had to be born with a condition that required major surgery when I was 13. Or why I had to move 10 times as a kid. Why friends and family members had to die. Or even why my softball teams had to be particularly awful no matter how much I prayed that I could hit just one homerun. But I do know that all these things made me who I am now. And I kind of like myself now. I wouldn't trade my difficulties for anyone else's either...probably because I wasn't meant to handle anyone else's difficulties. I had a brilliant author edit them away from my story so I could become me.

So I have a different challenge for you: use metaphor. Allow fate to show its face in your stories. And remember, through every difficult writing day, through every trial that keeps you from writing, through every rejection letter and harsh critique, that things happen for a reason. Look forward to who you're becoming.