Sunday, March 31, 2013

World Building A to Z: Architecture, Ancestry, and the Arts

Welcome to Day 1 or Day A of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. A big THANK YOU to Arlee Bird and his awesome team at Blogging from A to Z for setting this whole thing up. 

This month, I will share details I've noticed in world building and establishment of setting.

Architecture: How do houses and buildings look like in a world? What does the architecture of a place tell you about how design is valued within a culture, and what construction materials are available?

Examples: The architecture in The Flintstones have quite a down home appeal with its chunky boulder rock models. Real estate from The Flintstones is different from houses and buildings in The Jetsons, which appear sleek with rounded edges and lots of glass.

Ancestry:  What position or use(s) does an elder have in the family and in society? How do people view their elders?

Examples: In CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY (MG) by Roald Dahl, Charlie's grandparents snuggle together in a quaint little bed as if they're having at a 24/7 slumber party.  Charlie choosing his grandfather to accompany him on the tour of the chocolate factory hints that the story is also about the bond between a boy and his grandfather.

In THE GIVER (YA) by Lois Lowry, elders don't seem to be valued much. In the community Jonas is raised in, once someone has reached a mature age, they die by lethal injection. 

The Arts: What do people consider the arts? What does the appeal of a certain art form tell you about its consumer?

Examples: In the TV show Frasier, Frasier loves the opera and couture art. He and his brother Niles are proud of their refined tastes and even consider themselves superior to others because of this. 

I like watching dance movies. So I recently saw Magic Mike on DVD with a girlfriend, and while I will pass on sharing commentary about the chief attraction of the movie- this is a family-friendly blog after all- I will say the dancing and choreography was very polished, and the male lead was appropriately cast. In Tampa, Florida, where the movie is set, male exotic dancing is considered "the arts" to college girls and bachelorette party goers who comprise of a significant demographic of this world.

What other examples can you offer from books, TV, movies, etc....where architecture, ancestry, and the arts make a distinctive appearance within a world or setting?

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Announcing: World Building A to Z

Thanks to Mina Lobo and David Macaulay for hosting The Big Reveal, a blog hop where participants of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge can announce their theme for next month. 

Last month, I posted a bunch of love themes and indicated that my postings hint at my theme.  What these songs all have in common is that they come from stories with rich settings and world building. 

The theme for my posts in April: World Building A to Z

I am not a veteran world builder. To decide how certain elements in the world for my WIP can be presented, I have to consider examples of how those elements have appeared in other stories I've read or seen, whether in a book, on TV, or in a movie. My posts will consist of me thinking aloud examples of world building and details from story settings.

Some of the points are things I've come up with on my own, and some of my points will be derived from other places, such as the resources I've listed in my post, Worldbuilding Resources.  

When people think of world building, they might assume that the genre of the story must be fantasy, science fiction, or have a historical context. But even contemporary fiction can come with unusual settings. So my posts would spotlight a variety of genres. 

At the end of the month, I will return to this post and list the topics I'd written about for World Building A to Z so world builders can come here and click on a topic that they want to read about without trying to sift through 26 days of posts. 

Are you participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge this year? What would you like to see in a guide about world building?

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Meeting An Author Crush: Joyce Carol Oates

I have so many author crushes. An author crush, defined by moi, is someone who is so epic and brilliant in their writerly ways that I get all giddy with little doves circling around in my stomach as I think about the possibility of meeting them....and talking to them... in person! 

Last week, I met one of my author crushes- Joyce Carol Oates. She was giving a talk at Kepler's in Menlo Park to promote her new book, THE ACCURSED. I've been reading her stuff since I was in college. She was giving her talk on a weeknight. To make it to the talk on time, I had to skip out on dinner. So as soon as my wonderful husband got home to take over the childcare, I shoved a handful of spinach crackers into my mouth and took off.

I arrived at Kepler's a few minutes before the talk began and picked up a couple of her books. While I was waiting in line to pay…

…Spotted: Joyce Carol Oates strolling into the bookstore looking very elegant in a black hat and a matching long coat. She spoke quietly to one of the staffers and disappeared into another room before her talk began…

During the talk, I was relieved that other audience members were taking pictures of Joyce with their phones because it made me feel less uncomfortable about whipping out my own phone to get a few shots.

After hearing the stimulating talk, I waited in line to have my books signed. When I met Joyce, I told her I really liked I'LL TAKE YOU THERE- it’s her novel about a girl, academically inclined and somewhat naive, attending college in the 1970s. In an interview, Joyce had once revealed that the book was her most autobiographical work of fiction, so I thought it was a fair question to ask if writing the book gave her closure for certain challenges she'd faced when she was younger. Joyce said it did. I told Joyce that her book helped me think about my own college experience. She asked me where I went to college, and I told her.  Before I took off, Joyce said something to the effect-so please don't quote me on this- that in writing I'LL TAKE YOU THERE, she learned to look back at herself in the past with forgiveness instead of irritation.

I thought about what she said while I drove home.

Back at home, I found that I had spinach in my teeth from the crackers I'd eaten earlier.   So now I can tell people I met Joyce Carol Oates...with spinach in my teeth.

Who are your author crushes? Have you ever met an author crush? 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

IWSG: When I Realize My Idea Isn't Original

It's IWSG day..thanks to the wonderful Alex Cavanaugh for hosting this monthly event.

I follow a lot of industry professionals on Twitter- authors, literary agents, editors, and other folks connected with the publishing industry, particularly in the kidlit sector. An agent that I've been following recently tweeted that she's been getting queries about characters in YA [doing exactly what the MC in my YA story is doing]. She wrote that this isn't her thing. 

As I read that tweet, my cheeks pinkened (a new word I made up). I wanted to crawl under my sheets with a giant spoon, a carton of cookies and cream ice-cream, and mumble-sing "I Dreamed a Dream" over and over again. 

I will not wonder if other agents and editors feel the same way as this agent. (Repeat that ten times to myself.)

I know I sound quite naive, but I'd also thought that my story idea was so original. So original that  other writers can't possibly be querying about this because that would mean my story isn't that original. How often do writers think that about their story gems? Yeah, I know. 

Hope is a fragile, delicate bird, the kind with the flimsiest looking wings. But in my journey as a writer, its reassuring presence keeps me going. So my bird Hope will be perched on my shoulder while I finish the rest of my WIP.

Have you ever encountered an industry professional who said your story wasn't what they were looking for? How about realizing your "original" idea isn't so original?

How does Hope look like to you?