Reboot, Remake or Revival?

Spocks

Spock explains to Fake Spock why the universe sucks, now.

Recently, my sister told me that J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek films are reboots, not revivals. You know the ones: where Christopher Pine replaces William Shatner, the planet Vulcan blows up and Spock logically responds by making out with Uhura? Right. Those films. My sister, who was a Trek fan even before I was, says that she can enjoy them as completely separate stories from the originals. That would make them a reboot: a story with the same origins and premise, but without being tied to existing continuity.

But those films aren’t reboots. They’re the worst kind of continuation; the kind that erases the original continuity. Continue reading

What the heck is ‘Voice’?

bram_stoker

He was a great author, but Bram Stoker didn’t have the voice we want to read now.

Every writer who’s submitted anything has had so sit through a stern lecture about Voice. “The Voice isn’t quite right.” “Publishers are super-attuned to voice.” Or, my personal favorite: “Your narrative has no voice.”

No voice? None? With thousands of words filling hundreds of pages it would have to at least sound like me. When I speak, people hear my voice, so surely it’s the same when I write.

Agents may have been sparing my feelings when they gave me these actual points of feedback. They couldn’t have meant the narrative was silent, so maybe they just didn’t like the writing. I think there’s more, though. I think part of it might be that they want something in #ownvoices. Continue reading

3 Reasons to Rewrite the Marginalized

MedievalWoman

Women were known to fight in Medieval battles

It wasn’t long ago that academic medievalist and author, Adam D. Jones, shut down an argument by tweeting that women played much more prominent roles in medieval society than most of us realize. Despite that contribution to history, though, our fiction would have us believe that they spent their time languishing in locked-up towers, waiting for princes or knights to finally get off their horses for the rescue. Only recently have authors begun cladding medieval heroines in armour and chain, and some of those authors are copping more than a bit of flak for it in the often-hostile Twittiverse.

Jones says they’re right, though… and that’s the first reason for authors to rewrite what we think we know about minorities. Continue reading

The Magic of the Mundane

It’s not the magic that makes a story. It’s the ordinary guy who makes it magical.

charmedsymbol

The Power of Three needed a fourth…

I’ve been watching a lot of Charmed lately. No, not the stylish reboot, but the original white-girl series that helped make way for a better deal than girls had back then. My discovery of the series is thanks to a beloved student whom I’ll call TLT, who insisted that I watch at least the first three seasons. Since the show is older than she is, I thought I had better see what kept her coming back.

But here’s my shameful little secret: I’m now into Season Six.

The question, then, is what kept me coming back? I guess it was partly the much-needed replacement of hard-hearted Shannen Doherty with her surprisingly funny successor, Rose McGowan. Maybe it was partly the development of Leo, the witches’ own personal Great Gazoo who would appear inside sparkles to save their lives and sire their spawn. Maybe I just like watching those stained-glass windows shatter. What it wasn’t, though, was the magical powers or the nasally delivered rhyming couplets. It wasn’t the interminable series of failed dates with mannequin co-stars, nor the increasing density of Alyssa Milano’s makeup.

Mostly, what kept me coming back was a supporting character named Darryl. Continue reading

Putting the ‘Wealth’ back in ‘Commonwealth’

GCCommonwealth_GamesAs the Commonwealth Games wrap up here on the Gold Coast, it’s easy to feel proud of our city. Not only did we manage to host athletes and other visitors from around the world, but we managed to do it in an atmosphere that was all at once festive and civilized. We celebrated the spirit of friendly competition between nations, and looked on in awe at the persistence that it takes to succeed. As so often when athletes gather, they modelled the values of hard work and respect.

Here’s the thing, though: why do we so often notice those values mostly in athletes?

After all, everyone must know a store manager who was promoted because he was willing to work a double shift. We all must have heard stories about an entrepreneur who kept her business solvent by promoting it online late into the night. Surgeons pull marathon shifts in theatre to keep us alive, and teachers go bleary preparing feedback to keep us educated.

Dare I say it? Writers, especially, have to push and push themselves just to get a novel into the marketplace: even a beloved bestseller. Continue reading

Are Trends Really a Novelist’s Friends?

Will hashtags help or hurt Too Much Information?

When I first decided to focus on submitting novels, I assumed that trends were my friends. With all the #MSWL listings asking for them, I tried to write using strong female voices; because they dominated Young Adult fiction, I tried to create paranormal characters. By the time I had written revision after revision, though, I found that agents were already looking for LGBQ voices instead, and that the teenage obsession with friendly monsters had given way to the Dystopias that had probably always lived inside them. In other words, writing to trends was as often harmful to my chances as it might have been helpful.

KatnissVsBella

Katniss made us forget Bella, but neither are trending now.

How do we judge, then, whether something trendy will serve to enhance an agency query or just give it a shelf life? By the time my editor, Matthew Bird, gave me the tools I needed to craft my sixth revision of Too Much Information, the novel already had plenty of trends in it. It features a teenage girl, after all, who awakens from a coma able to see that everyone around her is a ‘Bully’ or a ‘Misogynist’ or a ‘Murderer,’ just by looking in their eyes. The novel is a murder mystery, but about a super-power that Jessica feels is a curse. It has girl-power. It has wacky sidekicks. It has threats from the darkest corners of our real-life fears, and teenage protagonists learning to face them.

It was about to get a whole lot trendier, though: some say too trendy.

Continue reading

Age 14: The “Right Age” for Current Events

It’s a tentative statement to make, but age fourteen seems about right, to me, for a reader to start learning about current events from their fiction.

Teenagers really should know more about events in the world than almost anyone. One would think that globegirlwith several phones, a tablet and a laptop constantly in tow, that they would be barking out current affairs and world trivia quickly enough to leave Anderson Cooper red-faced. We all know where we turn when we want data on the latest trends in fashion and entertainment, so why aren’t the most wired-in people on earth equally versed in global trends?

socialmedia

No Increase in Public Knowledge

The fact is, though, that they aren’t. According to Randi Mazella, as of 2014, there was “no increase in public knowledge” among this age-group Continue reading

Constant Change

I apologize if you’ve seen this already. I posted it yesterday as a guest-post on Cow Pasture Chronicles. It’s another attempt to express what has been troubling me about the friction between creativity and social media, and so important to me that I decided I need it here, too. I hope Sheila doesn’t mind. 

oceanThe ocean is constantly changing.

It churns millions of gallons between continents every year, and each cupful of water on one beach could well have visited another. Enslaved to tidal forces even greater than itself, movement and change are essential to the ocean; they keep the life underneath it thriving, and sculpt the land between it. A still ocean, one imagines, would surely herald a dying world.

Of course, the ocean isn’t all that changes. Timber wheels evolve into rockets so powerful that they break the force of the very gravity holding that ocean here, so that we can watch a privileged few explore the distant force of those tides. Literature changes, from just a few men being watched playing women on a small wooden stage, to women directing masterpieces that are watched on screens worldwide. And communication changes, too, perhaps most of all; a single letter that was once an act of true devotion is now a daily expectation, to be read and discarded with a swipe.

All the while, the ocean keeps churning Continue reading

Know your Target Audience… or paint them a target.

To finish the series, “How to Follow Writing Advice that Makes No Sense,” consider another rule of thumb that successful authors so often seem to break: ‘Know your Target Audience.’

Concept of targeting people

Writers need to know what to know about a target audience who doesn’t even know…

Trends in fiction are rarely predictable. Innovation devolves into cliché in about the time that it takes most busy people to get around to reading last year’s bestsellers, and this can frustrate that habit we formed as kids to stay ‘on trend.’ This is because it is often those without full-time careers—most notably, young readers—who channel the rivers of popularity when it comes to reading. For that reason, when it comes to understanding how to ‘Know your Target Audience,’ it may be best to focus on the target audience that changes the most often: young readers.

 

Anyone who has worked with children or teenagers knows how quickly they feel pressure to change their tastes. When something ‘sick’ becomes something ‘sweet,’ and then something else is sick because it’s sweet, the challenge of knowing this audience becomes similar to memorizing geographical formations down the side of the nearest active volcano. Ironically, successful authors who seem to break this rule—who publish runaway hits that seem to set new trends—may actually be the same authors who follow it the most closely. These may be the geniuses who have figured out that, for this audience, every trend is doomed at any moment to grow ill (which is entirely different from being ‘sick.’) These creators know exactly the ways to build on trends by painting whole new targets for their audience. Continue reading