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Posts tagged ‘teen fiction author from Albuquerque’

Writing Description In Novels, by Carolyn Meyer

Writing description is like writing a dream. As you search for words to capture the sense of where you were, what you felt and what you saw, you try to visualize the way it was. When I describe my characters, the space around them, the way they move, their gestures and their tone of voice, I imagine myself present in the story.

The more information you have about your characters and their lives, the easier it is. When you’re writing for teens, you must imagine the location in great detail: the schoolroom, the playing field, the horse-drawn carriage or the car. You won’t use all the details, of course. It’s like exploring the prop room backstage at the theatre: you go in, take what you need and leave the rest.

I found the dream world of Victoria Rebels easy to access. Queen Victoria kept a diary and drew pictures of herself and people around her. Artists painted her portrait against vivid backgrounds. Far more challenging was Beauty’s Daughter, a novel about Hermione, the daughter of Helen of Troy. Hundreds of years passed before the Greek poet Homer dreamed his two great epic poems, The Iliad and The Odyssey, describing the Trojan War and its aftermath, on which my novel is based. Descriptions of bloody battle scenes offered no help in telling the story to teen readers. Shards of ancient pottery present stylized pictures of ladies in long gowns playing lyres, weaving on looms and drinking from goblets, but those are meagre sources on which to build the dream world.

Occasionally I’ve had the rare chance to see for myself the details that bring the dream to life. When I visited Shrewsbury, England, where Charles Darwin grew up, I made a cold-call from a payphone to the owner of the house where teen-aged Charley courted his sweetheart, Fanny Owen. The owner graciously met me at the bus stop in a nearby village and drove me through his “patch” of perhaps two thousand acres to Woodhouse, a splendid white mansion on the brow of a low rise, overlooking thickly wooded grounds. Four massive Greek columns supported the grand portico. It wasn’t hard to imagine Charley arriving on horseback, entering the great hall with tapestries and paintings covering the walls and a broad staircase leading up to a gallery.

But it was the library that most interested me. This was where Charley intended to propose to Fanny before he left on his journey on the Beagle, asking her to wait for him but having no idea when he’d return.

Painted the soothing green of moss, the room smelt pleasantly of leather and tobacco. Books bound in leather and stamped in gilt lined shelves reaching to the high ceiling. Fanny sat down on a bench covered in yellow silk and patted the place beside her, smiling up at me. I was too nervous to sit.

“Will you wait for me, dearest Fanny?”

“Your future is so unclear! How can I promise to wait when I’m not sure what I’m to wait for?”

I had everything I needed. I was in the dream.

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Carolyn Meyer’s author website: www.readcarolyn.com

Carolyn Meyer’s bio page

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The True Adventures of Charley DarwinIn Mozart's Shadow: His Sister's StoryVictoria RebelsWhere the Broken Heart Still Beats: The Story of Cynthia Ann Parker     The Girl Who Was Supposed to DieGlowHappyface

Writing Teen Novels
www.writingteennovels.com

Getting ‘Great Ideas’ For Novels, by Carolyn Meyer

Just to set the record straight: I did not plan any of this. My first published book, Miss Patch’s Learn-to-Sew Book, was a how-to book for little girls. When I was a student, history bored me silly – too many battles, too many treaties, too many old guys in uniforms. Who cared? Not me. I certainly didn’t expect to go on to write more than twenty young adult novels about historic characters, ranging from the Tudor queens to Cleopatra and introducing Mozart’s sister and Degas’ model.

But somehow along the way, as I struggled to find myself as a writer, I discovered that I really liked doing research. It was interesting, even fun, and a lot easier than actually writing. Then one day in a fast-food restaurant in Texas I picked up a pamphlet describing the story of a young white girl captured by Indians and kept for 25 years before being “rescued” against her will by the Texas Rangers. What a story! What a great idea!

An editor thought so, too, and Where the Broken Heart Still Beats was published in 1992.  (It was reissued in 2012 with a new cover.)

But it hasn’t always worked out so neatly. In addition to the published novels, I’ve come up with other “great ideas” unlikely ever to see print. I once visited the little historical museum in my hometown and noticed a handwritten document, an agreement between a girl’s family and a man who wanted to take her on as an indentured servant; after seven years she’d get a bed, a table, and a few other items to set up a household. I thought I had a terrific germ of a novel for teens, but no editor was convinced. Or maybe I simply failed to present the idea compellingly.

The point is that you never know when or where a Great Idea might show up. I didn’t expect to find one in a Dairy Queen in Texas, but there it was.

Sometimes the historical period and the setting kindle the Great Idea (Texas in the 1800s) and sometimes it’s the character (Cynthia Ann Parker is a Texas legend; schoolchildren learn about her in state history class). If I’d pursued the indentured servant idea, I would have had to create the character from scratch.

Google didn’t exist in 1992, nor did online booksellers. Now when a Great Idea is sparked, I check to see if another writer has had a similar inspiration. If the story has already been written, I look up how recently the book was published, and then I decide if my idea is better – or if I can approach it differently.

In order for a Great Idea to fly, you must have a clear notion of your audience. The more accurately you can define your potential teen readers, the more focused your writing will be, and the more likely you are to persuade an editor that this is a Great Idea that will sell.

Victoria Rebels (January 2013) wasn’t even my own Great Idea. I emailed my teen fans for suggestions, they responded enthusiastically, and Queen Victoria got the most votes.

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Carolyn Meyer’s author website: www.readcarolyn.com

Carolyn Meyer’s bio page

***

United States (and beyond)

    

United Kingdom (and beyond)

    

Australia (and beyond)

Victoria RebelsBeware, Princess ElizabethWhere the Broken Heart Still Beats: The Story of Cynthia Ann ParkerIn Mozart's Shadow: His Sister's Story     Eleven ElevenKeeping CornerNecromancing the Stone

Writing Teen Novels
www.writingteennovels.com

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