Patricia Wrede’s Treasure Trove

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I have been catching up on reading Patricia Wrede’s  blog. What a treasure-house! It is full of information about writing fiction, writing science fiction and fantasy, plotting, characterization, world building,  the business of writing, and the writing life.

In addition, her website is full of wonderful things including: lists of her books, a short bio, answers to frequently asked questions (Will she write a fifth Enchanted Forest book? Yes, she hopes t.o), links (including one to her wonderful World Building Questions, which were invaluable to me when I started out writing fantasy), and of course, her blog–which I already mentioned.

She even has a new book out, Wrede on Writing,  based on “her best blog posts.” Buy the book or enjoy the serendipity of the posts in their chronological order. Wrede has been a part of the science fiction/fantasy world and that of young adult literature for decades. I love her novels. I am grateful for her generous spirit. Check out her blog or her books. You will not be disappointed.

 

Wonderful Words on Voice from Jewell Parker Rhodes

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I can’t write the story until I get the voice of the main character in my head. Sometimes that can take months or even years before I’m ready to start writing.

So in that sense, the orality of writing is very important to me. Orality is how I get into the character. Then when I revise, even when I’m not reading it aloud, I’m hearing the voice inside my head as I’m writing.    

 ~Jewell Parker Rhodes

So, I fell a little behind in my magazine reading. Actually, I thought I was caught up, but I found the March 2011 behind a pile of more recent periodicals and have only now been enjoying it.

In the “How I Write” column at the back of the magazine, Jewell Parker Rhodes discusses why she writes, where she gets ideas, voice and more.

This particular quote really struck me because I’ve been reading a lot of books about characterization and plotting in the last few years, and many set up a strict dichotomy saying you are a plotter (plot comes to you first and you work out the details before you start writing) or a pantser (character comes to you first and you just write, permitting him or her to lead you into the story). The theory seems to be once you know what you are, there are steps you can take to streamline and improve your writing.

However, I’ve never felt either of those paradigms described me. Like the “pantser” I don’t start writing without a character. However, unlike the “pantser” once I have a character, I don’t sit down and just start writing. Instead, I start collecting. My character “talks” and I engage in a lot of “what if-ing,” and slowly the shape of the story to come emerges in the interacting between her voice and my questions. I jot a lot of notes. Eventually I sit down and attempt to lay them out in chronological order and, at last, am able to write.

Because of this process, I have come to think of myself as a plotter. However, I could never begin plotting if I had not heard my character’s voice. Is it possible that makes Jewell an I “voicers”?

Best Book of March–Jennifer Donnelly’s “Revolution”

rev_coverIt has recently come to my attention–ie. I discovered the book sitting under a half-eaten, one pound box of Sees candy and an 2″ by 3″ acrylic box full of multi-colored standard sized paper clips–that when I returned home from spring break, I had forgotten to update my book list with the best book I read all the month of March: Jennifer Donnelly‘s Revolution.

I first encountered this book while shelving returns in the high school library where I worked. I immediately added it to what has already becoming a voluminous “Roberts’ Books I Want to Read” list. When I returned to work in September, now full-time at a different location, the Downtown Learning Center, I was delighted to find the book was on our shelves, too! However, I was in the middle of reading something else and figured I’d check Revolution out next.

Unfortunately, by the time I finished whatever it was I was engrossed in, a student had checked out Revolution. Phooey! I started reading something else, figuring when she turned in the book I’d check it our right away.

However, the school I work in is a GED center. Thus, our students graduate whenever they complete their last test. The reader of Revolution? She graduated in October, and evidently not finished with the book, it graduated with her.

Finally, this March, I got my hands on Revolution. As soon as I  began reading, I was hooked. This is a fabulous novel whose story follows the lives of two characters–Andi, in modern times and Alexandrine, a young woman who lived during the run-up to and aftermath of the French revolution. I’m not giving away anything. This information can be found in the front blurb.

Initially, being a historical fiction lover, I was a teeny-weeny bit disappointed that the first third of the novel was set in modern times. However, it was gripping, and I almost immediately cared about the main character and what she was dealing with in her life, so I was in no way reluctant to push on.

The second third of Revolution alternates back and forth between Andi and Alexandrine, and you grow to empathise with  the 18th century French girl as well. And the last third of the novel immerses Andi in Alexandrine’s world. The structure fascinated me, because as a writer, I have been drawn to ideas for novels that spanned two worlds or two time frames and had never  considered this kind of structure for executing them.

This novel is gripping–stay up way too late reading at night and hitting snooze multiple times each morning until the absolute last-minute to get up for work–gripping. I most definitely recommend you go acquire a copy of it now.