Alanna, The First Adventure By Tamora Pierce

This last week I have started to re-read probably one of my favourite series from an author whom I would consider to be most influential on my writing. The Song Of the Lioness Quartet by Tamora Pierce. I have to admit, if I was allowed to meet any author I wanted, this is probably who I would pick.

AtFA_Cover2The first book in The Song Of The Lioness Series is Alanna, The First Adventure. The story is centred around Alanna, a girl who doesn’t want to grow up to be a lady. She wants to be a knight and perform great deeds. But only boys are allowed to train to become knights so she cuts her hair and trades places with her twin brother. Taking the alias of Alan, she goes to the castle to prove her worth.

I loved re-reading this novel. I first read it years ago when I was still in primary school. My copy is looking more beat up than the picture to the left but it’s still whole. As a tomboy, the character of Alanna really spoke to me and I’m happy to say still does. This is the first time I’ve re-read Alanna since becoming a writer myself. It’s amazing the little things you start to notice. Tamora Pierce is a master of moving the story along without denying the reader. The short novel encompasses four years of Alanna’s life yet the story rolls smoothly from one incident to the next.

I have trouble with this when I write. It’s hard for me to write the passage of time. Reading this novel has reminded me that sometimes just a few words is all that’s needed.

I’m continuing onto the next book in the series today, In The Hand Of The Goddess. If you haven’t read this series yet, I recommend you place it on your list. It was the spark that ignited my passion for both reading and writing.

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On Writing By Stephen King

These last few days I have been reading On Writing by Stephen King. I was given it as a gift. The book itself is split into three sections. The first is a memoir of his early life and how he came to learn about writing, the next is a breakdown of his best tips and the last is a description of his accident and how he recovered.

On Writing

This is a fantastic book and I suggest you pick it up and give it a read. It’s relatively short yet packed full of insight. I won’t go into too much detail here but Mr King has some fantastic tips for writers, whether you are new or just looking to hone your skills.

I feel that my writing will only improve from having read On Writing.

Everyone Loves Free Stuff, Right?

Hey guys! Apologies for not posting for a while. I’ve just been completely flat out. But get excited because at the moment I’m working on a whole heaps of giveaways! So stay tuned if you want to win some awesome stuff.

Street Team Anyone?

Hey guys! I’m thinking of putting together a Street Team to help spread the word about my novels. Who would be interested in joining? There would be plenty of swag and other perks 🙂

Dystopian World Building in Young Adult Lit by Guest Blogger Eric Staggs

This week my blog is taken over by writer, publisher and all around nice guy Eric Staggs. The topic he’s chosen to write about is….

Dystopian World Building in Young Adult Lit

When I was studying creative writing during my undergraduate program, one of my professors suggested that Young Adult literature wasn’t just kid’s stuff. In fact the high-end age was 22 years old. This factoid stuck with me for many years and as I watched the fiction scene change and evolve, I started to really reconsider the audiences of Young Adult fiction.

From Divergent to Hunger Games, and Mazerunner, YA fiction has become more complex, darker and embraced the dystopia. Not your traditional fare for nine-year olds. Even Harry Potter ostensibly the ultimate children’s series, becomes darkly upsetting. This departure from the expected opens doors to audiences who would traditionally avoid Young Adult literature.

One of the keys to creating a believable dystopia, which in itself provides characters with limitless challenges, is creating a consistent internal cosmology. Thankfully, authors are taking this cultural trend seriously, and creating fully fleshed out, believable worlds. As readers are exposed to more stories, more plots, in a way they become as expert as any veteran writer. An evil king just doesn’t cut it any more.

Complex systems of government are created – through research into history, politics, and often, inspired by current events. Here’s where the internal consistency comes in. An author can push the limits of plausibility through consistency. If a duck talks, that’s weird. If all ducks talk, then it’s not such a big deal, not such a shock to the system. So, in the example of Hunger Games, an oppressive oligarchy that sacrifices children in a ritual arena suddenly becomes much more plausible. When President Snow tells us (readers and viewers) through actions and dialogue that the 74th annual ritual sacrifice of children is about to occur, we accept it. It’s the 74th, after all. They’ve been doing this for sometime. It’s expected.

So how does a writer go about pushing the limits and boundaries of what audiences and readers will accept? There are a few techniques that are sure to help.

Notes

Take copious notes. Write down everything about your world. Imagine, George R. R. Martin, author of Game of Thrones and his note keeping. His work is obviously not YA, but his setting is elaborate and detailed. I imagine his notes system is some thing like a giant library, deep underground.

Timeline

It’s important to take the time to document the history of your setting. The earth (our earth) has been around for a few billion years – long enough for several civilizations of humans to rise and fall. In fact, the earth has been around long enough to have non-human species evolve, rise up civilizations, and fail. Long enough for all evidence of those civilizations to disappear. No, you don’t have to document the entire prehistory of your world. But, knowing the lineage of your heroes, villains and supporting characters isn’t a bad thing. Understanding your world’s history will help you in moments when the writing is coming slow. Depending on your story’s time scale, going back a few generations is a good place to start.

Research

Real world civilizations have some common factors – laws, resources, borders, and governments. How do these things work? If you’re writing about fascists, you’d better do some research on historical fascist regimes. The world you create will be more detailed – more believable. You will increase your plausibility and help you audience stay immersed in your tale.

These steps are going to create a flood of materials. You’ll have plenty of background information to pick and choose from. Don’t feel you’ve got to include it all – in fact you shouldn’t. But details make the story real, research reinforces internal cosmology and settings don’t just appear – they have a past, an origin.

 

Eric Staggs (www.ericstaggs.com) is a writer and publisher. As founder of Spectacle Publishing and Great Lakes Games, Eric works with authors at all stages in their writing careers. Learn more at his website.