Michelle Taylor will be joining us as an intern handling our WOW Wednesday posts and helping to keep us connected to the YA community. More on all that later.
Since our new contest is going to be based on brilliant openings, I wanted to share one that I love from Kimberly McCreight's THE OUTLIERS:
Why are the bad things always so much easier to believe? It shouldn't be that way. But it is, every single time. You're too sensitive and too worried, they say. You care too much about all the wrong things. One little whisper in your ear and the words tumble through your head like you're the one who thought them first. Hear them enough and pretty soon they're etched on the surface of your heart.
But right now, I've got to forget all the ways I've come to accept that I am broken. As I sit here in this cold, dark room, deep in the pitch-black woods, staring into this lying stranger's eyes, I need to think the opposite about myself. I need to believe that I am a person I have never known myself to be. That in my deepest, darkest, most useless corners lies a secret. One that just might end up being the thing that saves me. That saves us.
I love the premise here, but most of all I love the juxtaposition of the two paragraphs, the abstract and the concrete.
And Speaking of Abstract and ConcreteI have few words of wisdom to impart today--honestly, the more I learn as an author, the more I realize that I know nothing. Writing is art, not science, but more than any other kind of art, writing is a question of herding catlike ideas that try their best to wriggle out of whatever containers you try to confine them within.
I'm deep in thought about revisions, about making a manuscript bigger at the same time that I make it smaller and clearer, and I had a wonderful conversation about that with Susan Sipal yesterday. As always, Susan is utterly brilliant. One of the things that she reminded me about is that themes and important moments all need visual anchors. This isn't just a symbol in the sense that we, in school, considered symbols the bane of our existence. A visual representation is truly the anchor for an idea that can drive the book.
Wikipedia (because I'm too lazy to go to my dictionary right now) defines a symbol as:
A person or a concept that represents, stands for or suggests another idea, visual image, belief, action or material entity. Symbols take the form of words, sounds, gestures, ideas or visual images and are used to convey other ideas and beliefs.
Today, I'm going through my manuscript and considering how to make my scenes do double duty by showing how things work in a more visual, tangible way. Yes, I already have symbols and visual anchors--my new manuscript is a fantasy, so those are part of the world building. But I haven't yet driven them hard enough.
Symbols are the glue between plot and abstract idea, and as such, they can let us show the abstract in a concrete way without long explanations. Now, I don't mean symbols like the color red, or a flower, or something so small that we'll drive readers crazy hunting for the deeper meaning in the every day. I'm talking about the things that everyone remembers.
Symbols and Moments that Make the Books
THE HUNGER GAMES. How much less effective would the book have been without the visuals that accompanied Katniss' farewell to Rue, the gesture, the flowers, and the song.
DIVERGENT. The choosing ceremony and the leap of faith into the Dauntless compound were both very visual and very symbolic. They made the opening of the book for me.
AN EMBER IN THE ASHES. The facelessness of the masks in the military empire, the way Elias wants to cling and suck at him when he tries to wrench it away. That's utterly brilliant symbolism.
What About You?
What kind of visual representations do you have in your own books? What are your favorite visuals and moments from young adult books? What makes them successful and memorable?
Wylie hasn’t heard from Cassie in over a week, not since their last fight. But that doesn’t matter. Cassie’s in trouble, so Wylie decides to do what she has done so many times before: save her best friend from herself.
This time it’s different, though. Instead of telling Wylie where she is, Cassie sends cryptic clues. And instead of having Wylie come by herself, Jasper shows up saying Cassie sent him to help. Trusting the guy who sent Cassie off the rails doesn’t feel right, but Wylie has no choice: she has to ignore her gut instinct and go with him.
But figuring out where Cassie is goes from difficult to dangerous, fast. As Wylie and Jasper head farther and farther north into the dense woods of Maine, Wylie struggles to control her growing sense that something is really wrong. What isn’t Cassie telling them? And could finding her be only the beginning?
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