Saturday, August 11, 2012

Something new

I just did a rare thing. I read two dystopia books, back-to-back.  Worthy of note is I don’t often read two books that quickly and that close together. Credit summer vacation, friend to many a teacher.

Every writer needs to read, and in copious amounts. I’m aware. I wasn’t a kid naturally drawn to reading as a way to spend time. It wasn’t hard. I just didn’t love reading. Since the writing bug struck, I have been reading more. Nowadays, however, it’s kid’s lit rather than adult fiction. I have a lot of catching up to do.

Unusual, too, is the fact that dystopia is not my kind of read. I am appreciating fantasy more than I used to. But dystopia to me is disturbing and that makes it depressing.

On the other hand, dystopia can be exciting and a fast ride. As in all fiction there must be story. The two I read involve teen characters, one a boy and the other a girl – and no, it wasn’t Katniss. Both characters are thrust into worlds new to them and only through sheer perseverance by the main character will they get through.

From a craft point of view, one was very well written, the other good. I’m trying to understand why, or what makes one a better story.  It seems it has something to do with the connection the author has with their main character. They have to know that person and understand them and know exactly how that mc is going to respond to situations.

In one of the dystopias, the voice of the mc is true. The author knows her character. She responds logically to situations. In the good story, the mc isn’t as focused. He’s in a tough situation but doesn’t seem to be concerned. The mc is not true to himself. Plus a writing no-no is committed. The mc has to explain to readers that he is in danger or feeling confused, and too many times. Writers must trust the reader to figure those things out on their own. Let the reader connect with your character, too.

So, what is an MG writer to take from such an exercise? You need to read. To be a better writer, you have to read. If you want to improve your writing, pull out of your comfort zone take a serious look at a genre foreign to you. And if you’re writing fiction, you better know your character, make them true.

Bruce Luck 

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