Tag Archives: fiction

The Question of Rape and Dark YA

I recently came across an essay written by Eve Ensler that is powerful and heart wrenching. It’s a must-read for any woman who has suffered or potentially will suffer at the hands of a rapist. And yes, every last woman is at risk no matter your age, religion, race or socio-economic standing. It’s also a must-read for fathers and grandfathers, uncles and brothers and church leaders and politicians. All of whom are also at risk of being assaulted by another human being or of loving someone who has been.

Ms. Ensler’s essay is one of the most articulate, honest and heartfelt answers to the question of what rape does to the human soul.

It is one of the reasons behind YA’s dark nature: reality is terrifying. Also, for some kids, fictional characters–found on their library shelves at school–are the only people they trust to help them navigate the tragedies of their lives. They are the ones who don’t judge.

Dark YA does not perpetuate dark themes. Rather it examines all angles of tough issues and gives kids hope. It declares that they are not alone in their struggles. It proves that someone, somewhere cares. It shows that someone inexplicably gets it. Gets them.

It strengthens and helps heal as it gives voice to the reality–so tragic and terrifying–that many of us will never understand. Knock on wood.

Read Eve Ensler’s letter on rape. Support the ones you care about. And for the love of all that’s human, don’t be so quick to decry dark YA themes that sicken you or make you uncomfortable. Because reality is such that someone already experienced the pain you can’t stand to read, and more will follow.

Hurt does not discriminate. People do.

Dark YA can help break down the walls and heal a nation that suffers by its own hands. So, please help me make a list of novels that aim to do just that.

I’ll start: Want to Go Private? by Sarah Darer Littman

Writing Research: Pain or Pleasure?

I don’t write sci-fi or medical thrillers or historical anything.  Not because I don’t love reading them, but because the research needed to make the finished product accurate and believable is outside my realm of capability.

And yet, I research heavily for almost everything I write.  For an entire year before penning Whispering Minds, my YA psychological thriller, I scoured the annals of psychology and read book after book–both memoirs and hardcore textbooks–to get a broad understanding of my subject matter, as well as a very nuanced view of individual cases.  And I have a psychology background!

Before penning even one word about my Native American MC, I read countless websites, highlighted hundreds of passages in several new books I purchased and conversed with real-live Indians.

Now, I find myself steeped in viewing youtube videos and reading a multitude of new books on a certain delicate subject.  And this is just the start.  Over the course of the next six months, I will continue to ferret out as much information as I can on the matter, although, barring a strange occurence, I don’t plan to start this next novel until November.

I’m an information junkie.  I love reading about any and every topic I can think of.  I love piecing together little things to create something new and exciting.  I love writing fiction.  I love the creative license it gives me to manipulate facts within the realm of acceptable.

But first I must learn the realm before I can push the outer boundaries.  And so I research.  To me, reading about obscure topics is exhilarating.  Research of this kind is so much pleasure that I almost feel guilty.

How about you?  Do you research your novel ideas before ever writing, or do you wing it and confirm facts later?  Or do you simply write within the realm of the “common known” to avoid painful research?  Or, conversely, do you write so far out of the realm of normal that you create a world of unknowns?

Does research give you hives, or do you derive pleasure from tracking down any and all information you can on a topic?  What does research look like for you?

Curious minds want to know.

100 Legos

I could, quite possibly, be the world’s worst mom.  I certainly would make one lousy elephant.  Forgetting Book It’s, show and tell and snack are my most consistent flaws.  You’d think I’d have it figured out after the fourth kid.  But no, the 100th day of school (and the requisite 100 small things) eluded me yesterday. 

I wonder if I can begin a new literary genre: bad moms?  If so, I would surely make the endcap…

Anyway, just as I pulled up to the drop off circle, I noted a mom standing beside her car with a box of cereal on the roof.  I have no idea what it was doing there, but it triggered a mild panic attack, followed closely by the realization that I had, again, failed to remember an important event in my kids’ academic careers.

“Youngest,” said I.  “We forgot your 100 things for your 100 days of school.  Let’s go home and get them.”

“That’s okay, Mommy.”  Maybe the new genre should be Bad Moms and the kids who still love them. 

So, home we went.  Me rattling off all the different things we have in the house that equal 100 pieces.  Him vetoing every one of them.  Me growing increasingly distressed that we will have nothing suitable to share with his friends.  Him oblivious to the fact that if a mom could fail kindergarten, I was well on my way.

Enter my epiphany just as we rounded the corner of our street.  I gave it one last shot.  “Legos?”

We rushed inside, dumped the bucket of 2074 legos onto the floor and began counting out pieces and dropping them into a baggie.  Of course he picked the oddest pieces.  Strangely shaped ones, half bodies of Lego men and tree parts.  His teacher was going to think we’re schizo. 

One hundred pieces later, I grabbed the instruction sheet off the counter, noted that Youngest was supposed to present his conglomeration of 100 things as a riddle for his peers to guess.  Enter the brown paper bag (to hide the plastic-bagged Legos) and some quick thinking and he’s smiling when I drop him off.

Crisis averted. 

Writing is kind of like that.  We start with an idea–which can roughly be summed up in 100 words.  We gather together the pieces and put them into a paper bag.  Then, we provide a teaser and pray that our readers will be interested enough to open the bag and see our masterpieces.

The tricky part is sticking all those odd shapes into a cohesive unit.  I’m quite sure the kindergarten teacher expected a bag full of Cheerios.  Or maybe M&M’s or Skittles.  Not, however, a mixed bag of cereal and candy to create a new category of 100 treats like I pieced together for my DD on her 100th day of school.

But that’s the fun in writing.  Finding new ways to create compelling stories.  Bringing together new elements in a category all their own.  Delivering something unexpected and delightful rather than mundane and common place. 

The literary landscape is changing.  Subgenres pop up all the time.  While our economic climate makes it risky to take on a newbie, a unique conglomeration of words, ideas and characters just might be the ticket to breaking in.

If you were to create a new subgenre, what would would you piece together?

I cannot tell a lie…

As writers, we have the innate ability to bend the truth, create amazing characters and weave together fact and fiction.  As humans, we often tell fish tales to make ourselves or our situations sound better, worse, happier, sadder or more thrilling than reality. 

In light of our propensity for falsehoods, I present to you: 

Two Truths and a Lie

The object of this game is to bluff your way through three statements.  Two of them must be personal facts, while the other will be a fib, exaggeration or outright whopper.  Commenters will then try to guess the  lie.

My Two Truths and a Lie

  1. I can deadlift a canoe–pick it up from the ground and carry it over my head–solo.
  2. My sister ran over my forehead with her bike–it left a dent, but didn’t seem to leave lasting brain damage.  At least not that I know of…
  3. I won a second place trophy in a real live rodeo–for keeping my seat on a calf for 1 minute 8 seconds.

Any one is welcome to participate in this game.  To play, simply follow the super cinchy directions–or as many as you feel inclined to do.

  1. Leave a comment guessing my lie and your reasoning behind it.  Snickers of disbelief are acceptable.  After all, I am a writer of fiction.
  2. Show off your believability quotient by posting this game on your blog.  If you’re so inclined, you can link back to my blog.  If not, that’s okay too.
  3. Let us know in your comment if you are posting and leave a link.  We would love to harrass you learn more about you.

Just an FYI, about everything I ever write is a fib of some kind.  My life really isn’t as exciting as I try to make it sound. 

Or is it?

 

My Holiday Gift to You

Two things struck me this morning as I got ready.  One, I’m a liar.  And two, I’m a creature of habit.

I think all writers are, by nature, liars.  Or at least fibbers.  We have to be to make all these things up.  Yet I’m guessing that not all writers or even liars, and certainly not good moms, teach their children to lie.

Last night I lied to my Middle Son right in front of Youngest.  And Youngest caught on admirably for his wee age and joined me in the ruse.  Oh Hannah, slap on the shackles and take  me away to the naughty mommy farm.  I don’t deserve these precious kids.

Anyway, we were in the store picking up last minute gift tags, tape, school holiday gifts and a present from Youngest to Middle.  During the “what to buy the school kids” debate, both boys decided they wanted a Bakugan–for themselves.  (Which could be spelled wrong, as I don’t really know what these things are, other than a boy game with little balls that smash into each other and “break”.)  Middle in particular wanted these delightfully expensive toys.

When he walked around the corner, I whispered to Youngest that he could get one for his brother for Christmas.  Like all kids with big ears, Middle returned and demanded to know what I had whispered to his sibling.  With a straight face, I said, “I told him I would buy it for his birthday.”

Youngest, with an equally straight face, continued.  “I really want this and it might not be here for my birthday.  Mom says I can’t open it until then.”

I worried that he believed my lie and I was now locked into buying this set of “broken” toys for a January birthday when all I really wanted was to get out of the store with my Christmas shopping done. 

Youngest turned to me and winked.  What a LIAR HEAD!  I had never been so proud of his cunning.  Then I panicked.  Maybe lying is genetic.

 Truly, I think it might be.  At least the propensity for it.  Otherwise how would he have done it so smoothly at the tender age of five?  Without prompting? 

I won’t get into the moral issue of fibs, white lies, exaggerations, sarcasm, falsehoods or whoppers, in part because I don’t know if one can truly distinguish one from another.  A lie is a lie no matter how small and regardless of purpose.  Or is it? 

The Easter Bunny.  That dress looks fine.  I like your new haircut.  Nope, I’m not mad.  The fish was this big!  Need I say more?

I’ll just say that I’m less concerned with the collusion that Youngest and I perpetrated than with habitual lying.  Partially because habits can be troublesome if they are of the wrong ilk.  I like some of my habits.  For instance, I don’t have to remind myself to brush my teeth.  It’s one of those good habits.  Followed by shuffling into the kitchen to  make coffee, getting the kids up and blogging (when Real Life does not intervene.)

This morning, I shuffled and measured.  Mindlessly.  DH is gone and yet I, a creature of habit, didn’t adjust for his absence with the coffee.  I still made ten cups, because to do otherwise would actually call on brain cells that otherwise don’t get activated for this task.  Hence the word habit. 

I am a creature of habit and I lie.  This morning, I choose to applaud these quirks.  I think they make me a better writer.  I write (or engage in other writerly activities) almost everyday. 

Without this habit, my writing would still be in the “hobby” stage rather than the “serious-about-getting-published” stage.  This habit has made me a better, stronger and more active writer.

Now for the lying.  Not quite so easy to justify, though if I creatively give it another name I can tweak it to sound amazing and admirable.  Please follow my logic:

  • Lie
  • Fib
  • Fabrication
  • Imagination
  • Creativity
  • Fiction
  • Novel
  • Publication
  • Author
  • Best-seller

Okay, you get the picture.  Writers are amazing at conjuring up what if scenarios and pairing them with endearing characters and enticing plots.  All made up in our heads.  And if it is not real, then it must be false and any falsehood, by definition is a lie.  See how this circle works?

By nature, writers use their gifts to tweak reality and stock shelves across the world with fiction.  We expand on the truth, for every book has a small kernel of it, and give our readers a delightful surprise.

Imagine how thrilled Middle Son will be to tear away the wrapping from his gift and find his heart’s desire.  That is how writers want their readers to feel.  When we can elicit that same excitement from between the covers of our books, we will feel the heady rush of joy that Youngest will feel on Christmas Eve. 

My gift to you this season is the permission to lie.  Habitually.  Use your talent to expand on reality and create magical worlds with endearing characters and enticing plots.   Believe me when I say that in the world of writing, fabrication is a good thing.

What gift do you wish to pass on to your fellow scribes?

~cat