I desired dragons

I desired dragons above all things. JRR Tolkien

“I desired dragons above all things. Of course, I in my timid body did not wish to have them in my neighborhood, intruding in my relatively safe world, in which it was, for instance, possible to read stories in peace of mind, free of fear.“

J.R.R. Tolkien, On Fairy-Stories, 1947

Writer Friends

Emidio_AngeloMutual admiration, mutual criticism, mutual support —  I’m my writer friends’ biggest fan.

emidio angelo-kid stuffThese framed cartoons in Penn Wynne Library, my home away from home which was recently renovated, were created by Emidio Angelo for Penn Wynne’s last renovation in 1989. Angelo (1903-1990) was a cartoonist for the Philadelphia Inquirer, and the two Victorian women pictured here are Emily and Mabel, the stars of his 1950s syndicated strip.



Four Rules for Writing a Sequel

Writing a sequel is both harder and easier than starting with a blank page. You already have characters and a world — but how do you make it all hang together?

Four Rules for Writing a SequelWhen I wrote Deadwood, it was a standalone. The story was resolved at the end, and I didn’t see how it could continue. Some readers asked if there would be a sequel, and the answer was no.

Then I found another story for Martin and Hannah. I had other projects before it came to the surface, and it simmered for a long time (nearly burning dry and setting off the fire alarm along the way). But now, with Deadwood out in the world, my thoughts have turned back to the world of Deadwood and my 12-year-old characters. I want to be in their heads again, and at last my Deadwood sequel is turning into work in progress. and not just another item on my story-ideas list.

It’s a new mystery, not a part two, a duology, a trilogy, or a series. It’s fun to be in the world of Deadwood again, and so familiar seeing it through the eyes of Martin and Hannah. But I’m finding a new set of challenges.

I went looking for some sequel wisdom, and here are four rules I found.

1. “Plan ahead of time.”

Miss Literati – How to Write a Sequel the Right Way –  “Though some can get away with creating a sequel at the last-minute, it may be a better idea to plan ahead of time.” Oh well. Too late for that. Hopefully I can keep my threads straight.

2. “Guts are mandatory.”

Caragh M. O’Brien, Writing the Second Book: Not Any Easier –  Caragh O’Brien, author of the brilliant Birthmarked trilogy and upcoming The Vault of Dreamers, didn’t started planning her trilogy while editing book one, so she was able to avoid writing into a box — but she still had a lot of work to do in creating new challenges for book two. Guts were mandatory for everyone too: “In fact, my earliest draft was such a mess that it frightened my editor, Nancy Mercado.” The published book, however, improved on the first.

3. Don’t let “back story and infodumping take center stage.”

Lydia Sharp, On Writing Sequels –  Lydia Sharp (Twin Sense) talks about writing and reading sequels — specifically, the sssue of backstory and infodumping. How much do you need? How do you remind both readers of the first of what has happened without beating them over the head? I’ve decided that while  drafting, I’ll backstory and infodump my heart out. I’ll include it all now, then edit out what isn’t necessary. Easier to delete some things than not write them at all…

4. “Don’t let acute sequelitis happen to you.”

Nathan Bransford, former agent and middle-grade author of the Jacob Wonderbar books, says that Acute sequelitis means being too attached to your characters and world so that you write a sequel to a book when no oide dreams of a massively long series when the first book in the series doesn’t work out.”

As a writer approaching release of my first book, point number four is a little touchy, so I’m going back to number two — Caragh’s advice. Now that I think about it, I’m one for four on this list.

Guts may be mandatory, but nothing else in writing is.

From reading or writing sequels, what advice do you have? I could use it…

Adapted from a post originally published on Operation Awesome. 

Who Tells the Story?: Everyone is the hero of their own story

On Wednesday, I took my daughters to see Maleficent. We’re going to see Wicked on Broadway today with Girl Scouts, which makes this Misunderstood Women Week.

Yesterday my older daughter mentioned Morgan La Fey, who she knows mostly from the Magic Tree House and Sisters Grimm series. I said the character she was really from King Arthur and that in that story, she wasn’t a good guy. Her eyes widened and she said, “Morgan La Fey is a bad guy?”

And of course my answer was, “It depends who is telling the story.”

Everyone is the hero of their own storySympathy for the Devil

Jane Eyre was one of my favorite books as teen, and then in a college course on postcolonial novels came another favorite, Wide Sargasso Sea.  Jean Rhys’s retelling of Jane Eyre from the point of view of Antoinette Cosway — Rochester’s wife —  showed me that the mad woman in the attic may not be at all, but simply not able to tell her own story.

Retellings of classic tales from other points of view is a favorite form of YA and MG, and the viewpoint of the villain makes a story immediately fresh. There’s a reason little girls (and big ones) related better to conflicted Elsa in Frozen than open-hearted Anna. We all feel misunderstood at times, told to hide what makes us special, cast as the villain in narratives told about us.

Its frequently said that everyone is the hero of their own story. Every villain has motivations that could make them just as interesting as a main character — or more interesting.

Room for Both Sides of the Story

When I read Wide Sargasso Sea, it was both a revelation and an immediate, but it didn’t replace Jane Eyre for me. I could love them both — both novels, both Jane and Antoinette.

Similarly, there’s room for both sides of the story, even in a novel with a single point of view.

  • Before you write, ask yourself, whose story is this?
  • How would it change from another point of view?
  • How would your antagonist tell it?

What’s your favorite retelling from an antagonist point of view? Do you consider and write your own stories with the antagonist viewpoint in mind?

Read original the story on Operation Awesome >>