The Story Behind the Story, Writing

Stalkers: The Unseen Fear.

This week as I battle my way through National Novel Writing Month (better known as NaNoWriMo), I thought I’d share with you the inspiration behind my current work in progress.

During my late teens and into my early twenties, I had the feeling that someone was watching me.  Either my imagination was getting the better of me or I was completely paranoid.

To get to work, I used to park my car at the nearby station car park and catch the train into Sydney.  Coming home from work one afternoon, I discovered a note on my windscreen.  Thinking it was a flyer, I grabbed it and went to sit in my car.  Upon reading it, I soon discovered that it was a note addressed to me from a complete stranger.

Someone was indeed watching me.  The fear was real.  The situation wasn’t helped that during this time my parents would go away on trips, leaving me alone for weeks on end.  I dreaded those nights alone in a big house, with one elderly neighbour my only call for backup.  On the other side of our house was a large park, dimly lit.  It was no wonder I made a habit of looking out the windows regularly and investigated every noise the house ever made.

My reality has since become perfect fodder for a novel.

Do you ever get the feeling that you are being watched or perhaps even followed? Do you like being home alone at night? Are you participating in NaNoWriMo? Do you write what you know?

Free image by Salvatore Vuono courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Books, Monsters, Myths & Mayhem, Writing

Raising the Stakes – More Vampires in YA Fiction?

Whenever I had visited the local bookshop these past few months (okay, Big W, I admit I’m cheap), I would be dismayed at the sight of so many paranormal romances within the Young Adult section. Back in July, after reading the discussion post on Wonderous Reads Are You Over Paranormal YA? it made me consider my options as a writer of the paranormal. Here’s some of what people had to say:-

  • Young adults are becoming tired of paranormal romances.
  • Young adults might want paranormal, but no more vampires, werewolves, fairies. (Note to self: what other paranormal is there?)
  • Young adults would like to see paranormal from the viewpoint of different countries.
  • Young adults want strong female protagonists (think Hunger Games).
  • Fantasy and horror genres may be the next big ‘thing’.

Now, admittedly this is just a handful of people’s opinions (with some handy information for a writer), however, it made me wonder that perhaps my very own YA vampire novel would have to remain in the bottom drawer for many years yet. Then came the announcement of a teenage writer landing a six-figure deal for a vampire story. Was it right or wrong in believing that readers were ‘over’ vampire stories?

Considering the positives of this announcement it is good news for writers in the paranormal/horror genre.  It gives new writers the opportunity to get published.  As writers, we need to come up with new ideas, as clearly evidenced by the reader’s comments.  With genres becoming more and more intertwined, the possibilities are becoming limitless.

When Harry Potter was released, there was a surge in the popularity of fantasy fiction, which was good news for fantasy writers.  Like everything else, trends come and go, and when it is the time for our chosen genre we just have to ride it out, until it is some other genre’s turn.  We write in our chosen genres because we love it, not because we want to write whatever is popular and this passion will come through in our writing.  Ever since the publication of Dracula back in 1897, vampires have stayed in the public’s imaginations, so they will always be a part of our psyche. They have evolved over the years because there were writers who were willing to do that for them.

I’m prepared to raise the stakes and breathe life in my vampire novel once again – are you?

Are you over paranormal for young adults? Do you see this announcement as good news for the future of the horror/paranormal genre? What do you see as being the next ‘trend’ in young adult fiction?

Image by Debbie Johansson.

Writing Process

Stuck on Character? Interview Your Protagonist.

Recently, I’ve gone back to working on my first YA novel.  I have had a long journey with this novel (five years to be exact), continually tinkering with it, simply because the novel hasn’t been good enough for me as an author to send out.  I was continually changing viewpoint, never completely satisfied, and I couldn’t understand why.

After having kept some distance from this novel, I could always look at it with fresh eyes.  Sometimes, however, as authors, we can still be too close to our work.  We need a different set of eyes to tell us what we can’t see.  I was told by an expert through a critique that the protagonist of this novel was ‘not quite there yet’.  My main character obviously needed more work.  The only way to go about it was by simply asking questions.

I made a list of all the characters within the novel, including minor ones and began interviewing them.  As I worked on this technique, I found myself getting inside their heads more and discovering what made them tick.  Along the way, I discovered that the second most important character within the novel was crying to be heard.  The best way I found for me to do that is to write in first person.  I began writing her words, continually asking her questions along the way.  By doing so, I wondered if she would become my new protagonist, however, my entire story would change, and that was not the story I intended to write.

By using this technique, I discovered new things about some of the minor characters, helping to add more conflict to the plot.  All that remains now is to use the same approach on my protagonist.   I’ll just have to ask the right questions.

Writing Process

Finding the Write Angle: A Different View.

When you look out the windows throughout your house you always get a different picture.  Changing the angle on a subject with a camera can also give you a different way of looking at something.  It’s the same scenario when changing viewpoints with characters in a work of fiction.

When writing the first draft of my young adult novel, I told the story from the viewpoint of my protagonist, but I felt something was missing.  The story was fine; it would engage the reader and keep them turning the pages, although, telling the story around a young girls’ death requires the readers’ sympathy.  The reader could sympathise with the protagonist, who was the best friend of the victim, but what about the victim’s family, and more importantly, the victim herself?  The reader needs to know that character, and the only way that can be achieved is if I allowed the victim to speak.

Having read some of the works by James Patterson (does that man ever experience writers’ block?) I can see why he is onto a winning formula.  Keeping his chapters short and telling his stories through the viewpoint of more than one character, not only engages the reader, but also makes them understand why a character acts the way they do.

So now I need to go back and write from the viewpoint of the victim, leading up to the time of her death.  I’m sure it won’t be a pleasant experience, but if I can write with great feeling for this character, then I’m sure to be on to something for my readers.

Image by Debbie Johansson.