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Posts tagged ‘YA science fiction’

Bringing English 101 To Your Novel, by Beth Revis

I love finding meaning in literature. It’s like a puzzle for me – piecing together the symbolic clues the writer has left in the text. My favorite classes in high school and college were the literature interpretation ones.

That said, a lot of times people hate those classes. Some people hate all those literary devices and all that analysis (I don’t know why!).

The thing is, a lot of those things we learned the definitions of in English 101 are really essential to a story. Some of it’s vital and some of it contributes to what I call the re-readability factor, when readers only see the depth of that part of the story on a second read-through of the novel.

Here are some of my favorite literary devices to read and write:

Foreshadow: This one is so easy. I fall into the Kurt Vonnegut camp. Something from the first chapter should reflect the rest of the story. More than that, you should think about making it work for the whole series if you are writing a series. Consider JK Rowling: minor mentions in early books have huge importance in later ones (polyjuice potion, anyone?).

Symbolism: Do not place too much emphasis on this. Nothing kills a story like heavy-handed symbolism. The story is the most important thing here. A few subtle details and symbols can really help make a story important. Think about the movie The Sixth Sense: the color red was subtle, but tipped the viewer into a whole new understanding.

Homage/Easter Eggs: This is my favorite thing to add to a story: little nods and details to other books or movies. They don’t change the story but they can make a reader sit up a little straighter when they notice. For example, in my novel Across The Universe, Amy is frozen in cryogenic chamber #42: a nod to Douglas Adams’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy.

Circular Structure: Essentially, circular structure is when the story comes full circle. JRR Tolkein did this in The Hobbit - Bilbo starts the novel at the hobbit village and ends the novel there. Of course the characters changed – but there’s a parallel, circular aspect to the story. When thinking of your own novel – particularly if it’s a series – see if you can use circular structure to bring the reader back to the beginning.

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Beth Revis’s author website: www.bethrevis.com

Beth Revis’s bio page

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Across the UniverseA Million Suns (Across the Universe)Shades of Earth: An Across the Universe Novel (Across the Universe)    The Night She DisappearedBlack Storm Comin'GenesisHurricane Song

Writing Teen Novels
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Sci Fi Novels For Teens, by Beth Revis

When I first finished Across the Universe, one of the first things I did was head to my local bookstore and ask for comp titles (titles that I could compare to my own). My bookstore had only a handful of examples to show me – The Host, Ender’s Game, and… that was it. Fortunately, Young Adult science fiction (or YA sci fi) is definitely changing and is certainly on the rise.

If you’re like me and always on the look out for new YA sci fi, here are a few recommendations to get you on your way:

  • These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Megan Spooner. This is one of my favorite reads of the year, and it’s stunningly gorgeous. This novel is told from multiple points of view, alternating between a teenage war hero and a pampered rich girl, both of whom are stranded on a planet after an interstellar space ship crashes. With a brilliant twist at the end that made me nearly fall out of my chair, you won’t be able to put this one down.
  • For Darkness Shows The Stars by Diana Peterfreund. This is my only recommendation today that still takes place on Earth – a far-into-the-future Earth where mankind’s recovering from its own destruction. And the best part? This one’s based on Jane Austen. I bet you didn’t see that coming! Be sure to check out the sequels, which are picking up other stories from the past and putting them in a modern, sci fi world.
  • Black Hole Sun by David McInnis Gill. This is definitely a sure bet for any teen boys and reluctant readers in your life. This novel is all about the action – on a different planet, in a world that will appeal to fans of Firefly.
  • Starglass by Phoebe North. This debut novel will definitely make you think. I’m still in love with a scene near the beginning where main character Terra finds a message carved into a tree – a tree on the generational spaceship in the middle of space.
  • If you’re more into short stories, there are two dystopian anthologies out now: After, edited by Terri Windling and Ellen Datlow, and Shardes & Ashes, edited by Melissa Marr and Kelley Armstrong. While not strictly sci fi, these anthologies do have some sci fi stories (and all the stories incorporate a futuristic, dystopian world). With a large variety of stories in each anthology, you can’t go wrong.
  • There are also my own space sci-fi books, the Across the Universe trilogy.

As you can see, there’s a wide array of sci fi on the market now – it’s one of the fastest-growing genres in the YA field. Be sure to check out these and many more titles.

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Beth Revis’s author website: www.bethrevis.com

Beth Revis’s bio page

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Across the UniverseA Million Suns (Across the Universe)Shades of Earth: An Across the Universe Novel (Across the Universe)    SparkDark Hunter (Villain.Net)The RepossessionCode Name Verity

Writing Teen Novels
www.writingteennovels.com

Voice In Teen Novels, by Amy Kathleen Ryan

I get asked a lot in my classes on writing how I make the voice for the teenager ‘authentic’. I think my answer is frustratingly esoteric, but it works for me: I don’t try to sound like a teenager at all. I don’t try to include current slang, or fads, or anything that actually separates me from teens.  I’m a generation older than they are and there isn’t anything I can do about that. Their youth, their teenaged rambunctiousness, their clingy jeans and their weird hairstyles — if I get bogged down in all that, it alienates me from them too much. In other words, I can’t be really authentic in my YA voice if I think of teenagers as the “other”.

Instead I try really hard to get down to the basics, and simply imagine a young, inexperienced person stuck in the situation I’ve created for them. I focus on creating a real, whole character who behaves in all the unexpected, strange ways people behave when they’re confronted with the challenges of life.

Some writers have a totally different take on this question, and they’re not wrong. Many YA writers I know spend time with teens just so they can listen to the way they talk, notice their clothes, and their many changing fads. This can be a good approach too, but I would suggest that even writers who are observing and studying young people, when they’re in the task of writing, are still thinking of their teen characters as people first. Probably all those anxieties about linguistically masquerading themselves fall into the background when they’re drafting.

My only caveat with this approach is that if one tries too hard to sound “current,” one could end up with a book that doesn’t age particularly well. Imagine reading a book written during the 1970s when all the kids were saying, “Far out,” and “Groovy.” Do you want to read that book now? I’ll bet you if you take a look at the books that have endured over the decades, you’ll find that none of the characters sound like the cast of The Brady Bunch.  If plain old lovely English is good enough for the likes of Judy Blume, Madeleine L’Engle, and Katherine Paterson, it is certainly good enough for me.

Besides, there’s so much more to voice than shallow, faddish verbiage. If you get the concerns of a young person right, their frustration with the limits to their own power, their inexperience when dealing with oftentimes adult issues, their very human fears about not being strong enough or pretty enough or smart enough… If you hit all these notes right, the voice takes care of itself. The concerns of a teenager are, in the final analysis, not too different from the concerns of an adult. Where do I belong? How can I be happy? How can I find love?  Who am I? The older I get, the more I realize that we are all like children, continually bewildered by a random, unpredictable, chaotic world, no matter how old we happen to be. If a writer remembers that, s/he can create believable characters of any age.

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Amy Kathleen Ryan’s author website: www.amykathleenryan.com

Amy Kathleen Ryan’s bio page

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United Kingdom (and beyond)

   

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GlowSparkVibesZen and Xander Undone    Shades of Earth: An Across the Universe Novel (Across the Universe)Angel DustPhantoms in the Snow

Writing Teen Novels
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