Posts tagged ‘thoughtsonwriting’

September 19th, 2011

Anticipating Anything?

by Madeleine Rex


Castle is my healthy obsession. It makes me so happy that I’ve occasionally cried for joy while giggling and clapping my hands. And I like to think that I benefit from it, too (see My 2D and Paper & Ink Families).

But that’s not the point. Well, there’s not really much of a point for this post (blame hours of homework for every lame attempt of mine at blogging), but I want to ask: Is there anything you’re eagerly anticipating? School? A book (whether it’s one you’re waiting for or your own)? A movie? A friend’s visit?

Anticipation is so exciting, isn’t it? Sometimes, it’s so great it’s better than the actual event/occasion itself. Ideally, while we’re reading, the anticipation pays off. The term “page turner” is applied only to books that make the reader feel such a potent feeling of anticipation that they’re almost tearing pages out of the book in their haste to turn them. As a writer, it’s crucial that we can induce anticipation in a reader, no matter what the genre. Can none of us say that we hugely anticipated events in Looking for Alaska just as we did those in The Hunger Games?

No matter what the genre, no matter what the story, that thrilling sense of anticipation is crucial. And then comes doing good on your promise. Being disappointed after anticipating something for weeks/100 pages is like reaching the peak of a roller coaster and then realizing it levels out from there instead of giving you that gut-tingling surge to the ground. Create anticipation, allow the reader to cash in on it, and you’re on your way to being a rip-roaring success.

How do you make a reader feel anticipation? Have you ever been let down after anticipating a major event for a long time? What are you looking forward to now?

June 27th, 2011

There’s So Much More than Meets the Eye

by Madeleine Rex

DISCLAIMER: This post is not intended to dampen the morale around here. I simply want to address a few issues and clarify things for those who might be confused. I hope that the ultimate message here is a positive one, and I certainly mean the closing paragraphs to be uplifting.

There was a lot of buzz concerning the Slate article written by Katie Crouch and Grady Hendrix, the authors of The Magnolia League. It’s an article concerning the “realities” (note the quotation marks) of YA and writing YA. The article outraged many YA writers, and I’ll admit that I wasn’t entirely impervious myself.

Once everybody had made their way through it (eyes rolling intermittently), my twitter feed was clogged with upset tweets. Regrettably, I added to the negativity, but a few fellow writers calmed those of us who had lost our cool. I decided to take a some time to let the article’s contents settle in my brain before confronting this blog post.

The article is supposedly the inside-scoop on YA and oftentimes discusses the contrast between YA and literary fiction. Typically, I’d think: Yay! People will hear the truth about the YA and why it appeals to so many. Fantastic, right? Unfortunately, though the writers of the article talk about the benefits and draw of YA, they do so rather condescendingly, depicting YA as a sort of “cop-out” genre for writers who want to work and make money fast (authors who essentially want instant gratification) and readers who want beach reads with little depth or truth-telling.

While I’m sure this is the case for some YA writers and readers, it’s undoubtedly the truth for readers and writers of any genre. In other words: It’s not the genre, it’s the people in question. However, can it really be said that YA is as frilly and superficial as they seem to think it is? Is there no truth-telling or emotional depth? Of course there is! There’s loads of it! Particularly if you look in the right places. Consider John Green’s books, or Melina Marchetta’s. There are brutally honest portrayals of characters’ rough teenage years out there that have captivated audiences of every age. And despite the popularity of dystopian and fantastical books in YA, there are many talented authors that manage to infuse those books with realistic characters who have the same complicated emotions and problems teenagers like myself are forced to confront in our everyday lives. As writers of young adult, most of us strive to be as truthful as possible in an effort to connect with the real teenagers who are our target audience. Any additional frill and frufru is simply included to make the story and plot as much of a fun and adventurous jaunt as possible.

Also, it cannot be said that YA authors don’t spend hours critiquing their own work to make it as impeccable as possible. The claim that YA authors only write 2 or 3 drafts is an absurd generalization. Stephenie Meyer might have written Twilight in one fell swoop, but I think we’ve all come to realize that Twilight is not the only, nor the best, example of young adult fiction. YA is a vast and expanding genre that encompasses myriad topics. There are subgenres galore, and every reader has his or her own preferences.

Of course, I’m taking a risk by writing this post at all – and I might be insane to post it – but I believe something needs to be said beyond 140 character spurts of frustration. I don’t want to make a fuss, but I want to clarify for those who might have read the article that are not young adult fiction writers. Never believe in stark generalizations, but even more to the point: Don’t sell YA short, and don’t for a minute believe it is substandard. Why is it that Young Adult is thought to be petty simply because it incorporates some plotlines that aren’t profoundly serious? YA, like every genre – from middle grade to literary fiction – is simply targeted toward a specific audience and therefore strives to incorporate aspects into the story that are regular problems in a teen’s life.

I love young adult, not because I don’t want to invest my time or take my plotlines seriously, but because I love the audience, the genre’s potential, and simply love writing it. That is why YA is awesome. (And I’m sure it is way better than prom.)

P.S. If you haven’t read it already, head over to my “Dear Writers, Respect YA” post from awhile back.

May 6th, 2011

Learn from the Classics

by Madeleine Rex

We’ve read some very well-known books in my English class this year (many of which I’d already read). We began the year with Of Mice and Men, a book I’m a huge fan of. However, it wasn’t until I dug into it for a second time with the aid of my fabulous (or “rad” as one of my other teachers described her) English teacher that I realized just how spectacularly detailed Of Mice and Men is. There’s something that writers like Steinbeck have managed to do with word choice that gives their words layer upon layer of meaning.

There’s a passage in which Steinbeck describes Lennie’s and George’s physical features, such as the way they walk and the angles of their face. It’s mystifying. I’d never noticed before reading it in class that Steinbeck manages to write the sentences in a way that reflects the image he’s trying to create. The words he uses to describe George’s skinniness are, well, skinny words, and vice versa for Lennie.

Ray Bradbury accomplishes something similar in many parts of Fahrenheit 451. When we’d discuss the intricacies of Bradbury’s or Steinbeck’s word choice, I was almost exhausted by the very thought of putting that much consideration into the words I choose. Certainly, diction’s important to me and something I love to deal with, but I can hardly imagine creating something so complex. It’s far more fun as a reader to untangle the meanings of specific paragraphs or individual sentences of other people’s books.

In Les Edgerton’s Hooked: Write fiction that grabs readers at page one and never lets them go, he says:

…every word needs to count and to represent much more than the few syllables it takes to utter.

Some writers have truly taken that advice to heart and created magic. I aspire to be half as brilliant before I die. Leaning to play with words and create illustrious images is a process I’ve yet to master and likely never will. But isn’t it fabulous to read a paragraph in a book and simply gape at it? Stare at it for ten seconds, and then reread? I love it when I come across something so magnificent that I wish I could tattoo it on my mind and carry it around with me as a constant reminder of what words can accomplish.

Someday, I want to make someone feel that way. Don’t you? Let’s look to the masters. Reread those books you were forced through in high school because there’s a pretty decent chance you’ll learn more the second time around. Don’t analyze. Analysis is too cold. Savor. Enjoy.

P.S. I just got my 100th follower! Thanks, Vy! There’s a giveaway coming up soon! Goodness knows you guys deserve it for putting up with my irregular posts!