Friday, August 21, 2009

Going Back in Style

This post isn’t about writing, but this time of year always makes me wish I was a teen again. Back to school time, though dreaded when I actually had to go back to school, brings back good and bad memories. I miss school supply shopping (okay, I still go to Target or Staples and stock up on pens, notebooks and Post-its because I can’t resist. Have you seen those awesome pencil books that are made from recycled plastic??? I WANT ONE!) and clothes shopping. I’ve been out of high school now for twelve years (wow, time flies) and as an adult I really don’t have anything in my life that is an excuse to go out and spend hundreds of dollars on a new wardrobe. I wish! I used to love to see the new fashion and pick out what I was going to wear the first day. Growing up in Southern California, the only problem was most of my school clothes were for winter- sweaters, pants, jackets- and it was still 90-100 degrees. So either you sucked it up, sweated through your day and worn the new stuff, or went with an outfit everyone had seen during summer. What a dilemma!

It was always exciting to see who grew taller, who hit puberty and who went from not interesting to hottie. You know the girl/guy I’m talking about. The one who you never looked at and then when he/she walked into the room on the first day of school you were like “Wow, who’s the new guy/girl?” only to realize it was just the guy/girl you barely knew existed the year before. Now, I’m not saying this like I was Miss Popular, I was anything but. Everyone, no matter what group you were a part of always had that one “who’s the new person?” moment.

Bringing the post back to what made me think about being a teen (besides everyone starting school) is my recent visits to the dentist. I don’t know how many of you had a retainer or braces when you were a teenager, but I’m sure quite a few of you had or have them now. I had a retainer for quite awhile which was the reason for my beautiful straight teeth until my wisdom teeth showed up on the scene. Unfortunately, my dentist didn’t want to pull them because I started to get my wisdom teeth at an early age (I think I was like 12 when they started to come in). He always said, “When you get older, you’ll have enough room for them. No worries.” Several years later, with my wisdom in place, my nice straight teeth were no longer. My front teeth were pushed out and one in particular stuck out more than the others. To be honest, they really aren’t that bad, but as an adult, it is one of the things that I hate about myself, always aware of my crooked teeth. I’m not sure why it bothers me so much, but teeth are one of the things that I notice the most when meeting someone, probably because I’m so aware of my imperfect smile.

Flash to a few months ago at the dentist. He asked me if I liked my teeth and I told him I wanted them straight but didn’t want to go through the awkwardness of having braces as an adult. I’m already too aware of my mouth/smile, I don’t need to be a metal mouth. I had flashbacks to all of my friends in the 80’s that had the whole contraption with the neck gear and rubber bands. No thank you!

Who knew that orthodontia had come such a long way since the 80’s! I’m now proud to say that I have Invisalign (wow, this sounds like a commercial. I swear they aren’t paying me for this! LOL) and my front teeth will be straight in as little as four months. You can barely tell I’m wearing anything and I can already tell the difference. Despite feeling like a kid again, lisping my way through words that have an s or th in them, I’m so stoked.

I guess this is a post to remind the adults that it’s never too late to fix the little things that drive you nuts, no matter how old you are! Sometimes it’s nice to relive those awkward times even if it’s to remind yourself that it is good to be an adult. As for the teens out there, try to live in the moment. As hard as school is and as mean as kids can be, trust me, you’ll miss those simple days when you get old. You may look back and thank your lucky stars for your straight teeth.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Questions for Aprilynne Pike on YAedge Book Club

Have a question for Aprilynne Pike that you've been dying to ask? She has been kind enough to answer any questions regarding writing, Wings or teen fiction! Just post your question in the comment section here, at the YAedge Book Club by Saturday, August 22, 10am PDT.

While you're at it, don't forget to join in on the Wings discussion! The second set of questions will be posted soon!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Developing Story Arcs for a Series

Like the magnet on the YAedge mirror says “I chose the road less traveled. Now, where the hell am I?” There’s a reason we have that phrase featured front and center on our blog graphic.

I’m not the best plotter. I admit it. I usually wing my first draft and end up tossing half of the book because it wasn’t focused, or buried the real story under fun-to-write, but ultimately useless tangents. Kinda like that sentence…lol…

Keeping this in mind, imagine how I mentally cringed when my writer bud, Kitty Keswick and I decided to write a YA paranormal series together. That’s right, an entire series! The premise and characters ROCK, however, so there was no way I was bailing on the project. But the reality of choreographing the major/minor plotlines, developing characters over multiple books, creating backstory and then planning to leak that information in controlled bits throughout the series – holy, good God! And what’s more, we’re writing separate books, in sequence according to a strict timeline, with some unique characters, but a lot of them appear in all the books.

We had to create character cards for each major and minor character – physical descriptions, likes, dislikes, friends, enemies and throughlines/motives. We HAVE to know each other’s plots/characters as well as if we were watching Buffy season 6, for the millionth time. (Love the Buffy/Spike sex, seriously.)

But wow. Talk about a plotting nightmare.

Then I had a major brainwave. If we have to know our stories like our favourite TV shows, then damn it - we’d plot our series like a TV show. Each book would be an episode, each episode would build to its own resolution, yet still contribute to the overall story arc – leading to el grand finale in the final book.

Okay – that’s awesome. But how do you plot a TV series? I don’t really know how the studio guys do it, but after reading up on screenwriting, storyboards, index cards, beat sheets, etc. I’ve been able to wrap my noggin around the basics – enough at least to figure out a formula for our series.

It goes like this. Establish the different plots, separate them between overall story arc scenes and individual episode scenes – then mesh them together using the Three Act system (Act I – setup, Act II – conflict, Act III – climax).

So each episode, or book, comes down to a formula something like this:

- Plot A: major plot points that have to happen for the overall story arc of the series (30% of book)
- Plot B: major plot points for each episode and its own main characters (70% of book).
- Add a beat sheet of key interactions between characters that cross over from different episodes and key resolutions that must occur to keep the reader satisfied.

NOTE: as we get closer to the end of the series, the percentage of Plot A increases substantially. This keeps the momentum going, driving the story ever onward.

We now have a six book series, in sequence, with a record of how much of the overall story arc to focus on in each book - building the series to its dramatic end. (2 books for Acts I, II and III)

Cool, eh? And I never would have thought of it if it weren’t for the boob tube. ;) Is this close to how studio writers approach plotting out a series? Who knows, but it’s working for us. Now for the fun part – finishing the first drafts for this monster.

Want more information on writing scripts? Check out Script Frenzy (a writing competition, but the site has great tips)