Links Galore

Lots of good links for today:

Links Galore

Lots of mid-week link goodness:

  • When number thirteen happens, I tell Walt he either has to read the book immediately so we can talk about it or I tell him the entire plot.
  • Great tips and mistakes to avoid in worldbuilding.
  • This is why I don’t bring up writing with most non-writers. (Or writers, actually. I don’t talk a lot about my WIPs.)
  • Fiction is my favorite, but sometimes we need a little nonfiction.
  • Some people come up with great titles without any problems; for the rest of us, it’s a lot of work and brainstorming.
  • How to successfully read in front of people (or at least not freak out).
  • Common pitfalls in story openings.
  • We should all live like a happy author.
  • I think the recent BBC Persuasion and Sense and Sensibility should be bumped up higher, and can we please strike Bridget Jones from the list? (Yes, I have strong feelings about Jane Austen adaptations.)
  • I’m kind of addicted to Dance Academy, and I had no idea that YA author Melina Marchetta wrote an episode. (If you haven’t read Jellicoe Road yet you need to now because OH MY LORD THE FEELS.)
  • Today in reading cuteness, pugs!
  • Want to learn how to write and sell children’s books from the best literary agency around (including my wonderful agent, Taylor Martindale)? Now’s your chance!

Links Galore

Lots of good links for today:

Read Outside Your Genre, Eat Chocolate, and Other Writing Advice from Joss Whedon

Frequent readers of this blog will know that I’m a big Joss Whedon fan. Buffy started during my formative years and it definitely helped me figure out how to grow up and face the weirdness of middle and high school. What better person to get writing advice from than the man who makes TV shows/movies/videos that give me all the feelings?

My Whedon feelings.

This interview with Whedon has lots of fantastic advice about the writing and creating process. Even though Whedon mostly speaks to screenwriting and movie-making, I think it all still applies to writing fiction. We always hear “read a lot” as writerly advice, but I particularly like Whedon’s take on making sure to expose yourself to a lot of books/movies:

“Constantly watch things and things you don’t [normally watch]. Step outside your viewing zone, your reading zone. It’s all fodder but if you only take from one thing then it’ll show…I read The Killer Angels. It’s a very detailed, extraordinarily compelling account of the Battle of Gettysburg from the point of view of various people in it and it’s historical. It’s historically completely accurate, and the moment I put it down I created Firefly, because I was like, ‘I need to tell this story. I need to feel this immediacy. I so connect with that era, the Western and how tactile everything is and how every decision is life or death, and how hard it is and how just rich it is, and how all the characters are just so fascinating.’ But so I should be on the Millennium Falcon. Now, if I only watched sci-fi I would have just had the Millennium Falcon part, which has already been done, but finding that historical texture, it literally, I put the book down and started writing Firefly.”

How cool is that? And it makes so much sense–if you only read things within your category or genre, you’re not expanding your potential inspiration to anything that hasn’t already been written for your readers. Not that you should skip reading within your genre–I hope that if you write YA, you also enjoy YA–but it’s a great reminder to look outside of that sphere of influence. So often I feel like I have so many awesome YA titles on my to-read list that I don’t tend to as much adult fiction or non-fiction or poetry as I’d like. This seems like an excellent reason to dive into a few non-YA titles I always have on the back burner.

Make sure to click through for the rest of this excellent interview–if only because Joss also advocates the use of chocolate as writing fuel. Yeah. Dude’s a genius.

YA Heroines and High School Mentors

Even though I was a big reader as a teen, I also watched a lot of TV. This list of 9 Female Characters We Wish We’d Been More Like In High School is a pretty excellent reflection of my television heroes. (Veronica Mars, I still want to be you.) In YA, we have an abundance of female characters who are role models in dealing with everything from cliques to evil governments to man-eating wild horses. So, in no particular order:

Lyra Silvertongue from the His Dark Materials series
Why she’s cool: She’s one of the few people in the universe who can read an alethiometer. She hangs out with armored polar bears. She saved all the souls in the universe. She’s clever and rebellious. She has a daemon.
Why it would be good to be her in high school: She’d totally be the girl getting you to skip class so you could go have an awesome adventure and take down the establishment.

Frankie Landau-Banks from The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks
Why she’s cool: She can outwit her private school’s oldest secret society, plan awesome pranks, and stand up to the patriarchy.
Why it would be good to be her in high school: A lot of teens might be insecure, but Frankie’s not afraid to let anything hold her back. I wish I had that kind of confidence and motivation in high school.

Alanna of Pirate’s Swoop and Olau from The Song of the Lioness series
Why she’s cool: Alanna is a redheaded, magic-doing lady knight, who snuck into knight school by pretending to be her twin brother. Girl has guts and then some.
Why it would be good to be her in high school: Alanna would totally be that girl who was captain of the soccer team, dated the hottest guys, and was awesome to hang out with.

Weetzie Bat from Dangerous Angels
Why she’s cool: Weetzie is a cross between a punk rocker and a fairy princess, living in a kind of magical version of LA with amazing, kind of magical friends and fighting against/learning to accept the darkness.
Why it would be good to be her in high school: Weetzie might not fit in, but she would be that girl who always wears something awesome and knows where the good bands are playing.

Puck Connolly from The Scorpio Races
Why she’s cool: In order to save her family home, Puck enters a man-eating horse race–with her regular horse.
Why it would be good to be her in high school: Puck is the ultimate underdog. But when she’s faced with some major challenges, she tackles them with a tenacity and a ferocity I wish I had when I was facing big math tests or family drama.

Veronica FitzOsborne from A Brief History of Montmaray
Why she’s cool: Veronica is poised, beautiful, the heir to the throne, and (above all) scholarly.
Why it would be good to be her in high school: Veronica would be that girl who makes everything look effortless (straight As! captain of the debate team!), and you wish you could hate her but you can’t because she’s so damn awesome. (I was way more like narrator Sophie in high school.)

Tris from Divergent
Why she’s cool: A lot of YA dystopian characters wish they didn’t have to run from zombies/take down an evil government/survive a creepy life-or-death game. But Tris gets an adrenaline rush from the action and wants to help people–a trait I really like.
Why it would be good to be her in high school: Tris doesn’t always look before she leaps. In high school, I always looked before I leapt. (Heck, I still do.) I could have used a little more of Tris’s daring.

Georgia Nicholson from Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging
Why she’s cool: She deals with normal life stuff (crushes, parents, cats) but also has a wicked sense of humor
Why it would be good to be her in high school: If you can’t change your normal life drama, you might as well be funny about it.

Ginny Weasley from the Harry Potter series
Why she’s cool: I know, I know, everyone always talks about Hermione. But I really like Ginny. Sure, she had a rough first year, but after that she comes into her own–rocking the Quidditch team, doing well in school, and fighting in Dumbledore’s Army. Heck, she manages to get Slughorn’s attention, and usually that’s reserved for major wizard legacies.
Why it would be good to be her in high school: Ginny seems like she’d be the girl everyone admired–smart, talented, but low-key about it. She does what she wants and doesn’t take crap from people.

Which YA ladies would you want/have wanted to be in high school?

Clear Eyes, Full Pages

Writing is a tough business. No matter how great your book is or how successful you end up being, you’re going to face a lot of rejections and get bad reviews. Everyone has times when they think “Can I handle this?”

Today, I think we all deserve a little Eric Taylor inspiration:

If I knew more about football, I’d make a metaphor about writing and touchdowns or punting or running all the yards. Instead, I’ll just say, “Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose!” We may not wear identical jerseys or have marching bands, but I think we can all use a little inspiration. If that’s not enough inspiration for you, Tami Taylor is cheering you on, too:

And if you haven’t seen Friday Night Lights yet, Netflix that right now. (After you get that chapter/section done, of course.)

Links Galore

Lots of good links today.

Get as Excited as Joseph Gordon Levitt About Your Favorite Book

You know how you know reading is cool? When celebrities get super excited about their favorite books, like a young Joseph Gordon Levitt did in this episode of (Teen Celebrity?) Jeopardy back in 1997:

Although I prefer Franny and Zooey, I dig Levitt’s style.

Confession: since I watched 3rd Rock from the Sun back in the day, a little part of me feels like I grew up with Joseph Gordon Levitt and am unreasonably proud of his current success as an actor. Like I expect to see him at the family reunion or something.

It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

In honor of Mr. Rogers’ birthday today, YA author John Green shares a few cool facts about the man who helped make children’s public television a true force for learning and growth. There were lots of piece of trivia I didn’t know, so make sure to check out the video:

We should all endeavor to be as kind and thoughtful and curious as Mr. Rogers. Maybe instead of DFTBA we should say DFTBLF–Don’t Forget to Be Like Fred.

Happy birthday, Mr. Rogers!

PS–It’s also the birthday of one of my favorite children’s authors, Lois Lowry. Happy birthday, Lois! Thank you for bringing so many amazing books into the world.

No One Is Safe in Your Book

Joss Whedon will hurt everyone you love.

The other day I was talking to Walt about the new draft I’m working on, and how I’m excited to get to a certain part, in which everything will go wrong for the main character. “No joy for anyone!” I exclaimed.

I don’t think this is an unusual cry for authors. We need to push our characters into tough situations and make them confront their own fears/judgments/faults. Otherwise we’d all be writing stories about happy puppies who take a nap and smell flowers. (Actually, that sounds pretty good…)

One author who understands the necessity of making bad things happen: Joss Whedon (aka, Light of My Life, Yoda, etc.). The First Novels Club has a fantastic post about “The Joss Whedon Effect” and how Whedon (and authors like him) don’t always give characters happy endings:

“…I love unpredictable authors.

In their books, no one is safe. Happy endings aren’t guaranteed, and there’s a good chance a book will break your heart, even if it cobbles the pieces back together…Life can be unfair to good people, and good people can make terrible, terrible choices (and suffer the consequences)… If you’re lucky, his characters get a happy-ish ending that’s entirely different from what you hoped for. But it’s totally right, because what happiness he gives them, they’ve earned.”

I love this sense of “no one is safe.” If you know a character is never going to lose anything, the story can feel flat and boring. But knowing that a character could put his loved ones in danger or jeopardize her morals makes the story way more compelling. You’re worried about the character; you understand just what’s at stake; you know that this could all work out really, really badly. For example, in Serenity a certain character is killed toward the end of the movie. It’s sudden and pretty unexpected, and after that I spent the rest of the movie thinking “Oh my lord, they are ALL GOING TO DIE.” Okay, so not everyone dies, but killing off this character really raised the stakes for the rest of the movie. It’s so freaking sad and I still get emotional thinking about it, but it had to happen. (Damn you, Whedon!)

And this isn’t just about vampires or the apocalypse. Even characters in quiet contemporary need to be pushed to their limits. Maybe they make bad choices or lose loved ones or fail miserably at something. Because that stuff happens in real life, too, and can push your character toward real growth and change.

I know this is something I need to work on, and it’s something I’ve seen in other writers’ drafts–we stop just shy of really pushing our characters and our books to those tough limits. To making our characters make the hard choices, to dragging them down to their worst levels, to putting them in tough situations without an easy (or even clear) way out. So try to push your characters a little further. Make them really suffer before they earn that happy ending (or not!). It may seem cruel or hard, but it’s worth it in your story. Dare to be an unpredictable author!

(image: Joss Whedon at the 2010 Comic Con in San Diego, by Gage Skidmore via Wiki Commons)