Monday, 5 November 2012


We've all read, time and time again, about how important those first few pages are, but getting them right can sometimes take a few attempts. You might have to scrap a favorite scene and try again with something new, or just rework and tighten what you've already got. Even then, maybe it'll always feel like there's something to tweak...

With all that being said, below is the first page of my YA novel, UNKNOWN ELEMENTS. At least it's the first page today. :)

There was a steady humming, but otherwise, everything was still. And completely dark.

I closed my eyes again, trying once more. Same as before--a wall of black.

Moving my head, I felt the fabric shift around my hair. A tightness pulled on my wrists and ankles, as I tried to reposition my contorted body. They’d secured me well. Whichever one of them it was.

Working through the fuzzy memories that flashed through my mind, I could see the mistakes I’d made, the choices that led me here--bound like an animal, in the trunk of a car.

To think, a week ago, I’d been sitting in class, just like everyone else. And now... My odds weren't good. Nonexistent might be more accurate.

I held my breath as the car began to slow. Veering off the smooth pavement, gravel now crunched under the tires before we pulled to a stop.

The trunk release clicked open. Its hinges creaked. Gulping the stale air silently, I readied myself for anything.

Rough hands grabbed me, harshly maneuvering my body out of the tight space. Biting down on the inside of my cheek, I fought the urge to yell and scream.

Flinging me over his shoulder, the man had yet to say a word. Only the bitter winter breeze, swirling around us made any sound.

But, I knew what he wanted. It was what they all wanted.

It had gotten her killed. And now I was next.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Showing vs Telling and Egg Whites

I'll be the first to admit, there are specific ways to improve your writing. Spell check is a big one. Proof-reading is up there, too. But the “Show vs. Tell” concept is dubbed as a popular mistake made by many.

I get it. It makes sense. The reader feels more connected if they can live in the moment instead of being told what happens.

In re-examining my own work to improve areas where I’d fallen off the Show horse and told a scene instead, well, it got me thinking.

It reminded me of the concept of folding in egg whites when baking--like with a cake, for instance. You can make a perfectly decent cake even if you just mix in the egg whites with a heavy hand (or in a rush, I’ve even been known not to separate them at all, adding them in whole!) Fact is, you still get a cake at the end. And a scratch cake is nothing to scoff at.

Will it be as fluffy and light as if you had gently incorporated the air you’d whipped just perfectly into those egg whites? No. Will it be an astounding masterpiece, the best cake ever? Probably not. But it’s still a cake. And depending on what other flavors you’ve added in there, and how it’s presented--think chocolate hazelnut frosting, or pastry cream with fresh raspberries as a filling--it still might be a damn good cake.

Does that mean you shouldn’t fold in your egg whites, or follow the ’show don’t tell’ philosophy? Not at all. Depending on your end goal, that might be precisely what you should be striving to do. It's just a matter of considering why you're writing or baking, and who your audience will be. Trying to land an agent or publishing deal--I'll be aiming to showcase everything I've got.  Christmas baking on the other hand--my family tends to value quantity above all else!

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Genre -- to stay true or switch it up with adaptations?

With the popularity of remakes, reboots, and reinventions, I find myself considering the importance of genre to a story. Specifically, how much is genre an integral part to any given piece of work? Is this one of those fundamental elements that one can alter or would changing it skew the story so greatly, it would critically shift the entire premise and/or make-up of its internal structure?

Take for instance Romeo and Juliet. Baz Luhrmann’s film adaptation was great. It was quite faithful to the original while still finding its own way, offering a beautiful new interpretation. I guess what I’m asking is--what would happen if you made it a happy-ever-after? (I’d never dream of it, but you see my point.)

Isn’t tragedy intrinsic to the storytelling here? From the initial familial conflict, to the fall of Mercutio and Tybalt, through to the heart-breaking end for both Romeo & Juliet and the repercussions for the rest of the players all round; it seems to me that the genre is almost the foundation for the entire play.

Maybe it would work if you tried to switch up something like The Wizard of Oz into a black-comedy thriller framework... But then again, it would also mean a dramatic change in the intended readership as well...

Currently writing for a YA audience, my next question might not be so easy to answer. For argument’s sake, let’s say we agree it’s sacrilegious to give Romeo and Juliet their happy ending. Yet how should the final scenes be approached if you were to adapt it to a current day setting? I mean, ethically, should we be condoning/supporting/illustrating this kind of exit strategy? (Or overall violence in general for that matter, to people who aren’t really deserving so to speak.) I get that it’s already out there, that everyone’s read Romeo and Juliet, but by making it more accessible, more modern, more high school, does it change anything?

The same goes for any of the great tragedies--how does one tackle multiple deaths--specifically murder or suicide--in a contemporary (non horror) YA adaptation? What if it was for a Middle Grade manuscript? How much can you alter the tragic nature, without losing the essence of its beauty?

Of course, perhaps the easiest solution is just to stick with the comedies instead!

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Storytelling--A Dying Art?

Everyone has a story to tell, so the saying goes.

It’s funny how things work out. Almost ten years ago I was writing my final thesis on the art of storytelling--considering its role in cultures around the world and questioning whether or not North American society was still fostering this powerful form of communication today.

Never would I have guessed that I’d become a storyteller in my own right. At that point, writing wasn’t a passion; it was barely an interest. (Let’s be honest--writing for pleasure was a foreign concept to me entirely.) My curiosity in storytelling stemmed from the progression of a story as a means of effective communication, to how it often translates into oral retellings or theatrical performances, handed down for generations.

So, needless to say, I’m perhaps more surprised than anyone that Writer is the title of my day job, and even still, that I’ve now found a story of my own, clamoring to be unleashed.

Cliched but true--sometimes you never can tell which direction you’re actually headed in until you’re there.

Having recently finished my first novel under my own name, as opposed to one commissioned for someone else, I’m embarking on the intimidating publishing route.

Academically, I’m still on the fence about whether we embrace or even really teach storytelling anymore, but now in the query trenches with so many others, it seems like there are plenty who have something to say.

Stay tuned for details on my contemporary YA tale UNKNOWN ELEMENTS that has a liberal dash of action, mystery and romance. Think Jason Bourne action, Dan Brown mystery, and sweet young love.