Monday, June 17, 2013
The saddest (fictional) thing I've ever seen was in a cartoon.
Futurama is funny and sardonic and typically makes me laugh. It's famous for catch-phrases and hilarious characters and funny one-liners, and unique characters, and well-written plot lines.
And for the saddest fictional story line in the history of ever.
"Jurassic Bark" has all the things that make up a classic episode of Futurama: there's the science fiction bits (time travel and a futuristic world), there's the funny stuff, and...
Well. There's a tragedy. That's not typical of Futurama. This is a show that's quick to poke fun of society, people, and the world in general, but it keeps the tragic on the low end.
But this episode.
Man. This episode.
The tragedy comes out of freaking no where. No one--well, at least not me--expected it. I was blind-sided by what happened--and by my emotional response to it. Even now, if I see this episode playing, I shut off the television and run to the other room.
Something similar happened last year when I was watching Adventure Time, my current obsession. Adventure Time is just carefree fun--there are people made of candy, there's silly plot lines, it's just pretty much hilarious fun.
Seeing this episode gutted me. And it got me thinking: why was my emotional response to these two episodes so strong? Just hearing the music from "I Remember You" or the opening scene of "Jurassic Bark" makes me tear up--in shows that typically make me laugh.
And that, I realized, is the key. Futurama and Adventure Time are both really light-hearted comedies. They're cartoons for Pete's sake! Which means when I see the really, truly, tragic side of the worlds in these shows, I'm blindsided.
A tragic story can't be tragic all the time. The power behind the punches in "Jurassic Bark" and "I Remember You" comes in part because they're not expected. Light, funny, amusing stories and then bam! something tragic. That's the sort of emotional blind-siding that will last in a reader.
The same is true, by the way, of comedy. JK Rowling was particularly brilliant at this. The overall plot of the Harry Potter books is actually quite drama-filled: a boy must sacrifice himself and others in an effort to take down evil. But she liberally sprinkles the world with bursts of funny--a line of dialog there, a fun bit of magic here. And, of course, the coup de gras:
Of course there are ways to make a tragic--or comic--story in other ways. But for me, I've personally found the most meaningful, most resonating, and most emotional stories come from books where you don't expect the emotion. If you want to make a lasting impression on the reader, couch your tragic story in a comedy; put something comic within the tragedy.
Monday, June 10, 2013
I've had several people ask me what Reddit and AMAs are, so here's my (much abbreviated) explanation of the community:
If you've never heard of Reddit before, you should definitely consider joining the community! Reddit is called the "front page of the Internet" for a reason--everything is there. Basically, Reddit gathers together "subreddits," which are focused places for people to discuss things they like. For example, there are subreddits for fandoms like Doctor Who and Firefly; there are ones that are instructional and informational, like Writing and Travel; and there are ones where you can ask questions, such as AskHistorians and IAMA.
IAMA is short for the phrase "I am a..." and AMA is short for "ask me anything." So people who have a unique experience or interesting job or what-have-you, will go to the IAMA subreddit and offer for people to "ask me anything." This is what I'm doing today with Julie Cross--it's essentially a forum for people to ask us anything.
If you're still on the fence about joining Reddit, I also want to point out two very awesome subreddits. YALit is a place where people go to discuss YA books and literature, and YAWriters is a place specifically for those who want to write YA, or are interested in YA publication. I'm actually one of the mods of YAWriters. We recently did query critiques for all the members, and we have a full schedule of events, including future AMAs with authors, agents, and more; pitch and sample critiques, scheduled discussions, etc. So if you're interested in writing for a YA audience, consider joining us!
And meanwhile, feel free to ask us anything! (Our AMA link won't go live until noon, EST, and we'll be taking questions all day and answering as many as possible.)
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Today on the blog I have the very great pleasure and honor of hosting an author I've admired for years. Natalie Whippleis the author of TRANSPARENT, a book about a girl who's born invisible in a world where having super powers can be very dangerous indeed. It made me cry on the airplane. Twice. And it also made me laugh. On the airplane. Once, while I was also crying. The people sitting next to me thought I was insane, and I have never seen anyone leap up out of their seats so quickly after landing.
While I loved the set-up of the book--invisible people are awesome, yo!--the scene that was the most powerful to me was also the most human, and had nothing at all to do with super powers. Hurry up and read this book so I can talk to you about how awesome that scene was (which, sadly, is also totally spoilerific and I can't talk about it here).
In addition to being a brilliant author, Natalie's also a fantastic blogger (hers is one of the blogs I read pretty dedicatedly), she looks great in heels, and she's an amazing artist! And Natalie's here today to talk about the connection between art and words--and to showcase a beautiful piece of original art she made for TRANSPARENT's release! (Which is today. So, you know. GO BUY IT NOW PLEASE.)
Monday, May 20, 2013
There are many thingies happening in the immediate future! Thingies that I want to make sure to share with you!
First: Charleston. Or, as I will no doubt be calling it, Chah'ston. Like "dahling."
And finally, I have one more event. This is in my hometown area of Asheville, NC, and I'll be with two of my favorite people!
With Nova Ren Suma, Stephanie Perkins, and me!
at Malaprops Bookstore
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Yesterday, author Carrie Ryan released a new e-short set in THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH world. The story, "What Once We Feared," is available now, and it has my husband, the resident zombie expert, saying:
I just really liked it."
For the record, this is my fave Carrie Ryan story, too :) You can read more about Carrie's inspiration for the story here and you can buy your own copy here--just $1.99!
Monday, May 13, 2013
So, the husband and I were recently watching Doctor Who, as we are wont to do.
And we noticed something.
And, sadly, rather frequent.
A plot hole.
Well, actually, several of them. Sadly, in the past few seasons, the Doctor's been riddled with them. Rules are established in one episode and ignored in another. Characters feel one way, then change their minds with seemingly no reason. Logic sometimes fails.
Now, first things first: no writer is perfect (and no show is, either). But thinking about my issues with Doctor Who led me to this comment showrunner Steven Moffat tweeted, and that led me to the idea for this post.
|Found via stfu-moffat.tumblr.com|
(Also more here.)
Moffat makes an excellent point here--actually, several. First: All stories have plot holes.
Cracked has a great (nsfw) article on 5 Gaping Plot Holes many movies have that we easily forgive. Of course we don't really question why all the bad stuff happens to the same guy in all the Die Hard movies. Despite the fact that Joss Whedon made fun of it in Cabin in the Woods, we forgive the horror movie victims when they split up and go down the dark alley alone.
All stories have plot holes.
One of my favorite quotes when thinking of stories is by Mark Twain: “Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; truth isn't.”
When creating a story, one thing the writer must consider is believability. All stories require the reader to suspend his or her disbelief for a certain amount of time. And the reader will forgive certain things. Is it really likely that everything happens to the main character in a short amount of time? No. Is it really likely that a teenager can solve all the problems in a YA novel? Honestly, not really. But the thing is, in a story, we're likely forgive certain things. We know we're reading a story, so we're okay with the timeline being shortened or the characters being quick witted, because we want the story.
There is, of course, a limit to the reader's suspension of disbelief. In a fantasy, we'll believe in magic for that world, but there needs to be a system to how that magic works--you can't just wave your wand and have everything fall into place. In a sci fi, we'll believe in warp drive, but (unless you're Anne McCaffery) don't add dragons. And a contemporary romance can have a happily ever after, but probably not Jedi mind tricks.
It comes back to logic. There's a famous principle applied to writing called "Chekhov's Gun"--it comes from Chekhov's famous quote in which he says that if you see a gun in the first act of a play, it must be fired before the end. In this conversation, what it means is that you have to layer in the clues. You need to show the possibilities before the characters live them. If you set rules for your world, you have to follow them.
Let's go back to the second part of Moffat's tweet: "[plot holes] are only visible to the bored."
As long as the reader is entertained, the suspension of disbelief works. When I'm reading a romance, I want my happily-ever-after, and I'll forgive a pile of coincidences to make it happen. But every reader has a limit. When the reader reaches that limit, however, there's no going back. Therefore, establish the rules, the logic, the world, and the characters, and follow the rules you, as a writer, make.
That said: story comes first. While it is true that I've descended into a loop of pointing out the plot holes in Doctor Who with my husband, it's also true that I'm on the edge of my seat waiting for the next one. Plot holes exist in all fiction. How many and how big is a judgment call on the part of the writer--just be aware of what you're doing, and the choices you make as a writer.
This post is a part of my series on writing.