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Posts tagged ‘Sarah Mussi’

A Page-Turning Plot = A Character-In-Action (Secrets Of Narrative Drive), by Sarah Mussi

A plot driven by a character-in-action is the most compelling kind of story and the one that will most effectively create narrative drive. So I’m going to list a few things to consider around this point.

I’m suggesting that a page-turning plot = a character-in-action

If character is conveyed by the decisions a person makes under pressure or when faced with situations that force that person to the extreme, then pressure on someone can be said to be motivation

This leads me to :

Secrets of Narrative Drive

Secret Number 9

drum roll…  tada!

Dramatic action is equal to decision 

This means that character is shown through the decisions someone makes. Decisions in a novel can be:

  • internal (resolutions), or
  • external (actions).

External decisions are made by the character. They are proactive. They do not happen to the character, with the character’s actions treated as a function of things happening to them. The character’s decisions become the reader’s means of working out the character’s motivations. In other words:

  • The goal of the character is shown in actions.
  • Motivation is what makes the story dramatic.
  • Obstacles are what creates conflict.
  • A character-in-action with obstacles shows external or dramatic motivation.
  • Why a character seeks out conflict shows internal motivation through goal orientation.
  • This adds up to ‘something meaningful is going to happen’.

So how you can use this secret?

  • Make sure your protagonist makes decisions that result in action.
  • Make sure each decision to act takes your protagonist further toward their goal.

WATCH OUT FOR THE TENTH SECRET OF NARRATIVE DRIVE COMING UP IN MY NEXT POST

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Sarah Mussi’s author website: www.sarahmussi.com

Sarah Mussi’s bio page

***

United States (and beyond)

    

United Kingdom (and beyond)

    

Australia (and beyond)

The Door of No ReturnThe Last of the Warrior KingsAngel Dust     Boys without NamesThe HuntingVibes

Writing Teen Novels
www.writingteennovels.com

Sustaining A Plot With Obstacles And Sub-Goals (Secrets Of Narrative Drive), by Sarah Mussi

In case you are a newcomer to this series of posts, I’ll summarise briefly what I have set out to do in them and how far I’ve got.

In post one I said: Getting teenagers to read is a tough job. I pointed out that we know they have plenty of other things do with their lives, so as writers for young adults we need to roll up our sleeves and apply every tactic known to the craft of storytelling to get them not only to pick up our books but to carry on reading. So far I’ve shared seven secrets that have helped me do that. They are:

  1. Create a collision course for your protagonist and your antagonist
  2. Relegate ‘literary genius’ to second place
  3. Create a promise that something is going to happen
  4. Make sure that ‘something’ matters very much to your protagonist
  5. Be wicked and mean to your protagonist
  6. Make sure your protagonist has a clear dramatic goal
  7. Make sure every action your protagonist takes is a step toward achieving the goal

That’s as far as I’ve got – so now for secret number eight.

Secrets of Narrative Drive 

Secret Number 8

drum roll…  tada!

Each focused action taken by your protagonist should rarely be achieved 

Here’s why:

  • If each action is met by an obstacle, each obstacle results in a sub-goal
  • The plot (drawn from the character) becomes movement toward your protagonist’s goal through obstacle and deflection toward a sub-goal, encountering a new obstacle, deflection toward a new sub-goal and so on until the climax of the story
  • This creates the continuing tension of something meaningful always about to happen… while delivering happenings

So how you can use this secret?

  • Make sure your protagonist fails in each action toward their goal.
  • Make sure it is the action itself that causes the failure
  • Create a new ‘sub goal’ to overcome the problem an obstacle poses to your protagonist achieving their goal

WATCH OUT FOR THE NINTH SECRET OF NARRATIVE DRIVE COMING UP ON MY NEXT POST

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Sarah Mussi’s author website: www.sarahmussi.com

Sarah Mussi’s bio page

***

United States (and beyond)

    

United Kingdom (and beyond)

    

Australia (and beyond)

The Door of No ReturnThe Last of the Warrior KingsAngel Dust     The Gypsy Crown (Chain of Charms)Code Name VerityCleopatra Confesses

Writing Teen Novels
www.writingteennovels.com

Maintaining Suspense Throughout Your Plot (Secrets Of Narrative Drive), by Sarah Mussi

When I set out to write Angel Dust, I came up with the concept that had in it the six ingredients of narrative drive I’ve discussed in previous posts. Below is my story concept for Angel Dust, to demonstrate how the first six secrets actually work in practice:

Serafina is one of the Seraphim, celestial beings who wait upon the right hand of God. And life in Heaven is sweet. Eternal happiness with more eternal happiness for dessert.
So who can blame Serafina when she is on duty at the Pearly Gates for gazing down onto Earth and looking longingly at one of the more serious bad boys in South London?
Before she realises it, she is staring down to get an even closer look. And Marcus is certainly worth looking at!  Tall, broad, gorgeously fit with glowing skin and glittering eyes, a god amongst men – if such a thing can exist.
But Heaven has rules. Rules that even angels must obey, and when Serafina is ordered to deliver Marcus his death, things start to go seriously wrong.
First of all she saves his life instead of ending it. And when she tries to put that right, she seriously messes up his death.  Soon she is in too deep. She is terrified God will find out. To make matters worse,  Serafina is falling in love and she realises that, if she is to keep Marcus with her, she must save his soul, for he is on borrowed time and not bound for Heaven.
If only there were more time. Time for him to repent. Time for her to win his love…
But Serafina hasn’t got time. She must make a split second decision. There is only one solution. Send another in his place to Hell to buy more time, by making a pact with Lucifer…

At this point you can see how it starts to work.

Create a collision course for your protagonist and your antagonist

Angel versus Devil.

Create a promise that something significant is going to happen

The outcome of who will triumph (Angel or Devil) is uncertain, therefore something has to happen.

Make sure that thing that is going to happen matters to the main character

The ‘something’ is Marcus’s soul. Getting sent to Hell or being saved and allowed to go to Heaven are high stakes.

Be wicked and mean to your main character

Being in love is a kind of jeopardy. Serafina is suffering and she has failed in her ‘task’. She has crossed over to the ‘dark side’ without meaning to and is in danger of bringing God’s wrath down on herself. Mean enough?

Create a goal for your main character

Serafina’s goal is set from the minute she sees Marcus. She is determined to save him from Hell. (The Devil wants exactly the opposite – to claim Marcus’s soul and take it to Hell.)

So what happens next? How do you develop a story idea to make it stay interesting throughout the whole story arc.

Secrets of Narrative Drive

Secret Number 7

drum roll…  tada!

Focus every action of your main character toward achieving something that moves them nearer to their goal.

The continual expectation of something significant about to happen keeps readers determined to find out what does happen.

Just think of the football match again. Most people prefer to watch it live. This is because once the outcome of the match is known its narrative drive is gone. Fans might still watch the match on a re-run but now their focus will be on other things i.e. not on the suspense of ‘who will win’ but on understanding the mystery of ‘how it happened’, which in itself is perhaps a subtler compulsion and worthy of a whole new series of posts.

How can you use this secret?  

  • Create a number of plot points (sort of steps) that will be needed to move your protagonist nearer to their goal.
  • Make sure each of these points in someway reverses the fortunes of your main character or forces your protagonist to make a choice and act on it.

WATCH OUT FOR THE EIGHTH SECRET OF NARRATIVE DRIVE COMING UP ON MY NEXT POST

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Sarah Mussi’s author website: www.sarahmussi.com

Sarah Mussi’s bio page

***

United States (and beyond)

    

United Kingdom (and beyond)

    

Australia (and beyond)

The Door of No ReturnThe Last of the Warrior KingsAngel Dust     Tarzan: The Savage LandsMary, Bloody MaryHurricane Song

Writing Teen Novels
www.writingteennovels.com

Characters With Goals (Secrets Of Narrative Drive), by Sarah Mussi

I’ve been posting on the topic of the secrets of narrative drive for a while now – and you may be thinking that you now know everything there is to know about it, and I can’t possibly have anything else to say – but that’s where you’d be wrong. There’s as much to come all over again. But before we press on let’s take stock of what I’ve covered so far:

1. Create a collision course for your protagonist and your antagonist

2. Relegate ‘literary genius’ to second place

3. Create a promise that something is going to happen

4. Make sure that something matters very much to your characters

5. Be wicked and mean to your hero

So what’s next?

In this post I’m going to share with you …

Secrets of Narrative Drive

Secret Number 6

drum roll…  tada!

For a character to succeed against the odds and overcome their nemesis they must have a goal. 

I mentioned in post one that I believe if the protagonist and the antagonist are after conflicting goals and on a collision course, then we have drama-worth-waiting-for in the making. After that I haven’t said much about goals in general.

Narratives are often the personal journeys of human beings and there is nothing more fascinating than people – especially a person with a powerful longing. So to root for a character and to be curious about what will happen to them, then to turn the pages to find out is a natural human instinct. It shows we believe in our characters and we want them to succeed. Of course, for a character to succeed they must have a goal. A character’s goal can change in a story but their ‘wanting’ must remain. Caring about what a character wants and whether they will get it is what will stop readers from putting your novel down.

How you can use this secret? 

  1. Create a character who has a clear goal – not just an internal longing but something demonstrable like winning the tri-wizarding cup – i.e. a dramatic goal.
  2. Visualise a scene where your protagonist either achieves this goal or loses it.
  3. Focus every action of your protagonist on achieving this goal

If you can do this, you are well on the way to keeping readers turning the pages.

WATCH OUT FOR THE SEVENTH SECRET OF NARRATIVE DRIVE COMING UP IN MY NEXT POST

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Sarah Mussi’s author website: www.sarahmussi.com

Sarah Mussi’s bio page

***

United States (and beyond)

    

United Kingdom (and beyond)

    

Australia (and beyond)

The Door of No ReturnThe Last of the Warrior KingsAngel Dust     Rise of the Heroes (Hero.Com)Boys without NamesThe Final Four

Writing Teen Novels
www.writingteennovels.com

 

Creating An Underdog Character (Secrets Of Narrative Drive), by Sarah Mussi

This post, I believe, reveals one of the most important secrets in harnessing narrative drive. If you only do this one thing, it will go a long way to creating enough pace and tension to see your character through most of the story, without losing your teenage reader. It is a common enough ploy. It’s the cliff in the cliff hanger, the drama in melodrama, the thrill in a thriller.

 

The Secrets of Narrative Drive

Secret Number 5

drum roll…  tada!

Stack the odds against the main character 

Why will stacking the odds against the protagonist help create character empathy, ensure page turning and enthral your reader? Here’s why:

  • People dislike unfairness.
  • We root for the underdog.
  • We despise villains and overlords.
  • We’re naturally wired to rebel against tyrants.
  • The more unfair treatment is ladled out to our heroes the more we care about them and want them be free of their oppressors.
  • The braver the underdog the more we are hooked into their story.

Fair enough?

If the reader has already invested empathetically with the protagonist, then stacking the odds against them will help readers care about your character  and what happens to them.

How you can use this secret?

  • Treat your character unfairly
  • Put them in jeopardy Injure them, if appropriate
  • Don’t let up on them for more than a page
  • Don’t rescue them.

Can you think of how this device is used in novels you’ve read?  What about The Hunger Games - just try to count the ways that Katniss is:

  • Treated unfairly
  • Put in jeopardy
  • Injured
  • Not let up on
  • Not rescued.
  • Tricked
  • Oppressed
  • Hunted

Need I say more?

WATCH OUT FOR THE SIXTH SECRET OF NARRATIVE DRIVE COMING UP IN MY NEXT POST

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Sarah Mussi’s author website: www.sarahmussi.com

Sarah Mussi’s bio page

***

United States (and beyond)

    

United Kingdom (and beyond)

     

Australia (and beyond)

The Door of No ReturnThe Last of the Warrior KingsAngel Dust     The HuntingNecromancing the StoneSparkRikers High

Writing Teen Novels
www.writingteennovels.com

Creating Empathy For Your Characters (Secrets Of Narrative Drive), by Sarah Mussi

Just in case you are only now joining this series of posts, I’m going to reiterate a brief resume of my opening comments in post one, where I wrote that getting teenagers to read is a tough job. I pointed out that we know they have plenty of other things do with their lives, so as writers of novels for teens we need to roll up our sleeves and apply every tactic known to the craft of storytelling to get them not only to pick up our books but to carry on reading them when they’ve got past the initial storytelling hook.

In this post I’m going to share with you more on narrative drive and how to keep teenage readers glued to those pages.

The Secrets of Narrative Drive

Secret Number 4

drum roll…  tada!

  • whatever is ‘going to happen’ must matter to the reader 

To put this in context, remember in post three I wrote that the reader needs to be made the promise that ‘something is going to happen’ and that it will be worth reading on for. In order to encourage your reader to carry on reading you need to let them know the outcome is important.

Here’s the trick - you can only make the final outcome matter if the reader empathises with the protagonist.

So how can you seduce a reader into empathising with your main character?

I have a plan…

How you can you use this secret? 

  • Create a character who is likable (it sounds simple but you’d be surprised how often this is neglected).
  • Create a character who is a bit like your reader.
  • Give your character a huge hunger for a positive final outcome.

You can probably work out why the protagonist needs to be like your reader but why the ‘huge hunger’? As soon as we know someone wants something very badly we tend to want them to get it - in short we (mankind) love to see people’s desires fulfilled.

WATCH OUT FOR THE FIFTH SECRET OF NARRATIVE DRIVE COMING UP IN MY NEXT POST

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Sarah Mussi’s author website: www.sarahmussi.com

Sarah Mussi’s bio page

***

United States (and beyond)

    

United Kingdom (and beyond)

     

Australia (and beyond)

The Door of No ReturnThe Last of the Warrior KingsAngel Dust     VibesProject 17Raven SpeakAcross the Universe

Writing Teen Novels
www.writingteennovels.com

Month In Review with Steve Rossiter (March 2013)

Writing Teen Novels has reached the end of its third month of articles for 2013, from this year’s line-up of novelists from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

Thank you to all the contributors, to everyone who has been reading the articles and those who have connected with Writing Historical Novels on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or Tumblr, or via Novel Writing Quotes on Facebook or Google+.

The purpose of these Month In Review articles is to:

- provide a handy list of links to the articles for the past month, then to

- relate some of the content of these articles to my own novel writing to help novel writers and other interested people discover the month’s content and gain some insights into ways the month’s content can be engaged with in a practical context.

Articles for March 2013

Are Teen Novels ‘Genre’ Fiction? by Elizabeth Wein

Using Art In My Teen Novels by Stephen Emond (graphic novelist)

Writing ‘Unlikable’ Characters In Teen Novels by Amy Kathleen Ryan

Selling Your Teen Novel Manuscript by Laurie Faria Stolarz

Unreliable Narrators In Teen Novels by Beth Revis

My Novel Writing Process by April Henry

Editing A Novel: The Necessary Evil by Lish McBride

The Process Of Writing And Revising My Novels by Monika Schroder

Finding A Good Literary Agent For Your Novels by Paul Volponi

Research For My Teen Historical Novels by Carolyn Meyer

Developing The Story For My Novel ‘The Puzzle Ring’ by Kate Forsyth

What Is At Stake For The Characters In Your Teen Novel?  by Diane Lee Wilson

Voice In My Teen Novels by Kashmira Sheth

Why I Love To Set Novels In British Columbia by Sam Hawksmoor

Setting Up A Suspenseful Plot (Secrets Of Narrative Drive) by Sarah Mussi

On Novels That Are For-Teens-By-Accident by Bernard Beckett

Beginning Your Novel With A Great First Chapter by Pauline Francis

Getting An Agent And Publisher For Your Novel by Andy Briggs

This month’s articles and writing my teen novel

Sarah Mussi wrote: A strong opening must promise the reader that something worthwhile is going to happen because this will make the reader feel it is worth carrying on reading. This sounds simple but it’s a bit more tricky than it seems.
Firstly, ‘something worthwhile is going to happen’ should not be confused with curiosity. Mere curiosity, or not knowing something, is not enough to stimulate the interest of the reader over the course of a novel. Secondly, the willful withholding of information in order to ‘arouse interest’ or ‘create a surprise’ can be extremely annoying.  Anyone who has ever had the misfortune to read a book like this knows the feeling. It’s counter-productive. It’s BOOK DEATH! So you have to be very cunning.

Monika Schroder wrote: Once I have finished a full draft it goes through numerous revisions and each of these revisions focuses on a different aspect of the manuscript. In an early stage when I revise for plot I tweak and streamline the events along the story’s arc. I cut scenes or write them more tightly. Another revision focuses on the character development, making sure that I have kept his or her development clear and the character’s traits are consistent throughout the story.
After the larger structural problems are fixed it is time to improve syntax and word choice.

Kashmira Sheth wrote: Our inner world is colored with our outer world. The physical surroundings, including weather, seasons, terrain, plants, animals, and people have a profound impact on how they express themselves. For example, a character living in a desert might use a spiky cactus to describe a prickly personality, while a character living near a rocky beach may compare it to sharp rocks. A character’s profession will also shape the way they talk and think.  A poet may describe a sunset differently than a scientist, even though they are both watching the same sunset at the same time and same place. The metaphors and similes our characters use or don’t use reflect their environment and their backgrounds. This makes up part of their voice.

For my own teen novel in progress, set in 1939 Poland and discussed further in the January and February Month In Review Updates, my approach includes going back to revisit the first chapter as part of the editing and rewriting process to ensure it performs the important role of effectively introducing readers to my main character and drawing them into the story. As Sarah has suggested, there is a difference between skillfully crafting a sense of anticipation and story momentum by raising unanswered questions in readers’ minds as part of a satisfying story experience versus simply withholding information you would otherwise provide in the belief that withholding this information will create suspense.

Of course, while the first chapter of a novel holds a special place as readers’ entry point into a novel, it is not just the first chapter that can benefit from being re-shaped with the benefit of the big picture context gained from of a complete draft of the novel. With this big picture context in mind, the essence of each scene and the contribution it makes to the story (eg. revealing character and dynamics between characters, and showing character-change and changing dynamics between characters) can be fine-tuned so the components of the story work in unison to more effectively convey a satisfying reading experience.

Kashmira’s point that ‘our inner world is coloured by our outer world’ is something I have considered, and continue to consider, in relation to my novel. My main character, as a teenager in 1939 Poland, does not have day-to-day familiarity with contemporary things like computers or the internet, television, rock music, mobile phones (or even widespread access to home phones) and other electronic or communications devices, passenger aircraft, widespread access to motor vehicles, widespread commercial use of plastics, the United Nations, the Holocaust, the outcome of WW2, nuclear weapons, the Cold War, satellites, space travel, and whether there was intelligent life and societies on neighbouring planets. This means many concepts which could come to mind for a contemporary character cannot come to mind for my character in 1939 Poland. Day-to-day concepts which come to his mind may have more to do with things like agriculture, livestock, horses and horse-drawn carts, railway travel, communicating by posting letters, the outcome of WW1, instrumental music, folk songs, books and paintings. Contrasting a contemporary character with one from the past provides a clear example of how a character’s ‘inner world is coloured by their outer world’, but this applies equally to different characters within the setting of a novel. Each character in a setting does not experience the absolute entirety of that setting, just as no person experiences the absolute entirety of the planet, country, region, state, city, street or even the house where they live, due to the physical limitations of only being in one place at a time. Each character will experience different parts of their setting and have different thoughts than other characters, which will influences which parts of the setting they subsequently experience and what they then think, and so on, building up in each character a unique ‘inner world coloured by their outer world’.

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‘Month In Review’ Updates

For more articles on writing novels you can check out Writing Historical Novels and Writing Novels in Australia.

You can connect with Steve Rossiter on Facebook or on Google+.

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Writing Teen Novels
www.writingteennovels.com

Setting Up A Suspenseful Plot (Secrets Of Narrative Drive), by Sarah Mussi

I hope you have been sufficiently hooked to follow my series of posts. (Maybe it’s time to observe that getting people to read a blog post is a tough job too!)

Never mind. As a writer of young adult fiction I have learned a few tricks of the trade and the one thing that I’ve learned over the years that has been most effective in hooking Young Adult readers is how to harness the energy of narrative drive.

For narrative drive helps create compelling stories and keeps the reader glued to the pages. So let’s get straight on with…

The Secrets of Narrative Drive

Secret Number 3

drum roll…  tada!

  • A strong opening must set up the promise that something worthwhile is going to happen.

But why? I hear you ask. And these are the reasons:

A strong opening must promise the reader that something worthwhile is going to happen because this will make the reader feel it is worth carrying on reading. This sounds simple but it’s a bit more tricky than it seems.

Firstly, ‘something worthwhile is going to happen’ should not be confused with curiosity. Mere curiosity, or not knowing something, is not enough to stimulate the interest of the reader over the course of a novel. Secondly, the willful withholding of information in order to ‘arouse interest’ or ‘create a surprise’ can be extremely annoying.  Anyone who has ever had the misfortune to read a book like this knows the feeling. It’s counter-productive. It’s BOOK DEATH! So you have to be very cunning. These are the main things to remember and pitfalls to avoid:

  • Readers want a good ride, but
  • Readers are concerned the investment of their time and money will be wasted, so
  • Readers, especially teenage readers, are suspicious of writers.

So how can the writer convince the reader to keep on turning the pages?

The reader needs the promise that the reveal is worth waiting for, that the ‘something that is going to happen’ cannot be missed out on. In short that it is meaningful.

So how you can use this secret? 

  1. The battle of forces between the protagonist and the antagonist sets up the first expectation that something will happen, because only one force can win.
  2. So be sure you focus on the main conflict – keep it in view at all times.
  3. It also makes sense to establish what is at stake for each of these two opposing forces – in football if we know it is the World Cup they are playing for we are significantly more interested in the outcome of the match.

There are many examples of plots where ‘something worthwhile is going to happen’ is at the center of compelling storytelling in fiction. It’s called suspense. Can you think of any brilliant examples?

WATCH OUT FOR THE FOURTH SECRET OF NARRATIVE DRIVE COMING UP IN MY NEXT POST

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Sarah Mussi’s author website: www.sarahmussi.com

Sarah Mussi’s bio page

***

United States (and beyond)

    

United Kingdom (and beyond)

     

Australia (and beyond)

The Door of No ReturnThe Last of the Warrior KingsAngel Dust     The RepossessionThe Traitor's KissShades of Earth: An Across the Universe Novel (Across the Universe)Winter Town

Writing Teen Novels
www.writingteennovels.com

Narrative Drive Is Not Related To Literary Merit (Secrets Of Narrative Drive), by Sarah Mussi

I started this series of posts by observing that getting teenagers to read is a tough job, and that we writers of young adult fiction needed all the tricks of the trade we can learn when taking it on.

I therefore pledged to disclose some of the many secrets I’ve learned over the years that have helped me hook young adult readers and keep them craving more.

And the biggest secret of all is how to harness the energy of Narrative Drive.

As I wrote in my first article, Narrative Drive helps create spellbinding stories. It keeps the reader glued to the pages. So let’s get straight on with…

The Secrets of Narrative Drive

Secret Number 2

drum roll…  tada!

  • Narrative drive does not necessarily have any literary merit.

This is an odd one and when I first discovered it I thought: OMG, surely not! All good writing should aspire to having literary merit. But after close reading of very many non-put-downable texts, and avid viewing of endless totally addictive TV dramas, I discovered that it is quite true. Just like all those yummy sweets that disappear one after the other from the bag and are definitely not good for your waistline (and even more disastrous for your teeth), so too the truth is: Narrative Drive only has to create a compulsion to carry on reading in order to work.

True Narrative Drive that will keep your readers glued to the pages only has to have:

  • the ’wait a minute; I just have to finish this chapter’ compulsion, and
  • the ‘I must find out what happens next’ appeal

And if you doubt my words, you only have to think of a second rate TV soap opera. Nowhere is addiction to narration more evident and empty of substance.

So how can you use this secret?

  1. Focus on the battle of forces between the protagonist and the antagonist.
  2. You don’t have to worry about ‘depth of meaning’ until a compelling interplay of forces is planned out.
  3. Make sure your story idea has strong conflict.

We have many examples of stories with little ‘literary merit’ in fiction and in film that nevertheless hold people’s attention.

WATCH OUT FOR THE THIRD SECRET OF NARRATIVE DRIVE COMING UP IN MY NEXT POST

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Sarah Mussi’s author website: www.sarahmussi.com

Sarah Mussi’s bio page

***

United States (and beyond)

    

United Kingdom (and beyond)

    

Australia (and beyond)

The Door of No ReturnThe Last of the Warrior KingsAngel Dust     The Puzzle RingGlowDeadly Little Voices (a Touch Novel) (Touch Novels)The Hunting

Writing Teen Novels
www.writingteennovels.com

Month In Review with Steve Rossiter (January 2013)

The Writing Teen Novels 2013 line-up was launched on January 1st with a diverse range of novelists from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and New Zealand as monthly contributors. Each monthly contributor now has their first Writing Teen Novels article online.

Thank you to all the contributors, to everyone who has been reading the articles and those who have connected with Writing Historical Novels on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or  Tumblr, or via Novel Writing Quotes on Facebook or Google+.

The purpose of these Month In Review articles is to:

- provide a handy list of links to the articles for the past month, then to

- relate some of the content of these articles to my own novel writing to help novel writers and other interested people discover the month’s content and gain some insights into ways the month’s content can be engaged with in a practical context.

Articles for January 2013

What I Did Wrong And What I Did Right On The Way To Becoming A New York Times Bestselling Novelist by Beth Revis

Some Themes For Teen Novels by Elizabeth Wein

Why I Write Mysteries And Thrillers – And Read Them, Too by April Henry

I Was A Teenage Artist by Stephen Emond

Voice In Teen Novels by Amy Kathleen Ryan

Why I Write For Young Adults by Laurie Faria Stolarz

On Finding Story Ideas by Kate Forsyth

On Story Development by Andy Briggs

Teen Fiction: A Definition? by Bernard Beckett

Getting ‘Great Ideas’ For Novels by Carolyn Meyer

Combining Personal Experience And Imagination For Writing Novels by Kashmira Sheth

Why I Write Young Adult Novels by Lish McBride

What Is The Appeal Of Teen Dystopian Novels? by Sam Hawksmoor

How Reading Berlin Newspapers From The Fall Of 1918 Helped Me Write ‘My Brother’s Shadow’ by Monika Schroder

Why I Made The Switch To Writing Young Adult Novels, by Catherine Ryan Hyde (guest article)

On Creating Conflict (Secrets Of Narrative Drive) by Sarah Mussi

Choosing The Right Story For Your Teen Novel by Paul Volponi

Historical Teen Novels: Fact, Fiction And Friction by Pauline Francis

Writing Narrative Point Of View In Teen Novels by Diane Lee Wilson

Approaching the writing of teen novels

Beth Revis wrote: “Do the things you fear. Don’t try to be like everyone else. Care more about the story than the market.”

Elizabeth Wein wrote: “I don’t write teen novels. Most of my novels are about teens, but I have never once in my life set out to write a ‘teen novel’.”

Guest contributor Catherine Ryan Hyde: “It helps to remind myself that when I was 14, my favorite book and movie was Midnight Cowboy, though my parents didn’t know it. That’s how I assess the reading level of a teen.”

Laurie Faria Stolarz wrote: “I knew that I wanted to target readers that were like me as a young person – those who found themselves getting discouraged by reading, whose minds tended to wander as soon as they got bored on the page. I wanted to create high concept, page-turning books that would grab the reluctant reader and get them excited about reading.”

Lish McBride wrote: “The writing coming out of Young Adult and Middle Grade sections makes my imagination burn and my heart glow with pure, unabashed joy. There have always been writers and editors that take writing for kids seriously, but now they’re being let onto the playing field. It makes me happier than you can ever know to be part of that team.”

Paul Volponi wrote: “After having written 10 novels for young adults, I believe that the most challenging aspect of writing a YA novel is choosing the right story. Why? You’re probably going to live with that story every day for a long while. In my case, it usually takes me anywhere from 10 months to a year to complete a novel. Then, following the initial writing process, there will probably be several more months of working with the editor representing the publishing company, making modifications on the novel. So there is little doubt that you need to choose a story that inspires you.”

I am currently writing a teen historical novel set in western Poland in 1939. The basic premise is that a teenage boy living with his family in Bydgoszcz in western Poland discovers at the outbreak of WW2 that he was adopted and his biological parents want to take him to Berlin, but he has different ideas. The story follows him as he tries to bring his family in Bydgoszcz back together amidst the German invasion and occupation.

I live in Australia and, like Beth Revis recommends, I’m not being like everyone else; writing a teen historical novel set in wartime Poland is not an attempt to hitch onto market trends and be just like the current bestsellers. It has originality but can also fit firmly into genres such as teen novels, historical novels and wartime novels. Like Elizabeth Wein, I am writing about a teenage main character but not necessarily writing a ‘teen’ novel in the sense of following criteria to fit a specific idea of what ‘teen’ novels should be. The novel I’m writing is intended for teenage readers and adult readers. The subject matter means I would not be actively promoting the novel to pre-teen children, given the setting in the opening months of WW2 Poland and being written for teen-adult readers in mind, but, as Catherine Ryan Hyde indicated, many young readers read above the recommended age-range. I first read one of Stephen King’s adult horror novels when I was 9 and enjoyed it because it didn’t talk down and overly simplify things like many of the novels I had read that were recommended for my age. Whereas Laurie Faria Stolarz has an emphasis on catering for reluctant readers, my natural emphasis for teen readers is probably more toward creating something which will entertain and intellectually stimulate Honour Roll students and intelligent adults, while still being accessible and emotionally engaging for more reluctant readers. As Lish McBride pointed out, there is a lot of sophisticated and entertaining fiction available to teen readers now. My approach to my novel-in-progress is not to focus on a simplistic action-adventure approach to war, nor a simplistic anti-war morality tale, or something similar, but a story about things like family, friendship, courage, responsibility, joy, sorrow and striving against adversity. Another key aspect of my approach for this novel is in-depth research; I want my depiction of the setting to stand up to expert scrutiny as well as the story being entertaining and intellectually stimulating for teen and adult readers. All this amounts to a story I am happy to write, revise and edit over a long timeframe then discuss with people over an even longer timeframe.

Teen readers deserve novels which are not a simplified version of adult novels but sophisticated and entertaining novels created with as much effort and attention to detail as adult novels.

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For more articles on writing novels you can check out Writing Historical Novels and Writing Novels in Australia.

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Writing Teen Novels
www.writingteennovels.com

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