Well, first off: Merry Christmas Eve! I hope the year is coming to a fabulous end for all my fellow readers and writers. Second off: I’m back to participate in this month’s prompt for the Teens Can Write, Too! blog chain. (Shout-out to Lily at Lily’s Notes In The Margins for coming up for the awesometastic prompt!) For those of you unfamiliar with TCWT, it’s a blog that provides information and advice to young writers, and it can be found here. Every month, TCWT has a blog chain featuring a specific prompt, and I think this month’s is really pretty cool:
“What works of fiction have taught you by example, and what did they teach you?”
“Wonder” by R. J. Palacio
I swear I could talk all day about the lessons this book taught me. It was basically the first book I’d ever read that featured a disabled main character who wasn’t entirely defined by their disability. And as someone who writes books like that, it gave me the uplifting message of, yes, that’s perfectly okay to do in a manuscript. I’d always worried my manuscripts were somehow offensive, but “Wonder” made it pretty clear: just because a character has a disability doesn’t mean every sentence in the book has to revolve around it.
“Redwall” by Brian Jacques
Oh, “Redwall.” How I love thee. I devoured this entire Middle Grade series in elementary school–it was the first real fantasy series I’d read, and it caused me to fall head-over-heels in love with the genre. Even though I didn’t really start writing until high school, reading “Redwall” taught me a lot of lessons about writing that stick with me to this day. I think the power of friendship is the one that I appreciate the most. Sometimes I feel like friendship is kind of a forgotten component in YA–authors get so focused on romantic relationships, that they forget that friendships can be just as emotionally powerful. Brian Jacques certainly never forgot that, and the friendships in his series are still some of my favorites.
“Twilight” by Stephenie Meyer
Here’s the thing: I’m not a big fan of “Twilight.” But I still consider it one of the books that has had the most influence on my writing. Why? Because it taught me about the power of characters. When I was in seventh grade and the Twilight craze was in full swing, I remember demanding my friends to tell me what they liked about it. Because, honestly, I just didn’t get it. I’d ask them, “What about the overly flowery prose? What about the weak main character? What about the improbable romance, and Edward’s stalker tendencies, and the dialogue that’s just kind of laughable at points?” And their response would almost always be something along the lines of, “Who the hell cares about all that? Jacob and Edward are soooo hot!” They were able to overlook tons of flaws because of their love for the characters. And that caused a huge breakthrough moment for me. Even if I somehow had the most brilliant prose, pacing, and plot in the universe, no one would give a crap about my writing unless it contained characters they could fall in love with, or at least sympathize with.
“The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins
Alright, confession time: I just read “The Hunger Games” for the first time this year. But I truly fell in love with the series, and one of the reasons is because it revolved around loyalties to family. I think “The Hunger Games” did a marvelous job of depicting the struggle of staying loyal to yourself while also staying loyal to your family. It’s something that I don’t see often enough in YA, which I find a little strange, because it’s such a prominent issue in the lives of many teens. But “The Hunger Games” was an awesome lesson in how to incorporate strong family ties without making your character entirely dependent or submissive to elders.
“Crank” by Ellen Hopkins
Whenever I read “Crank”, I’m reminded of that quote Ernest Hemingway said in a statement directed toward William Faulkner: “Does he really think big emotions come from big words?” I feel like Ellen Hopkins lives and breathes the message of this quote. There is nothing pretentious about her novels in verse, and a lot of the short chapters are really quite simple and almost stark. But they pack some of the biggest emotional punches I’ve ever encountered. Reading her books always reminds me of the important lesson that you don’t need fancy-pants prose to make a bold statement.
“Boy Meets Boy” by David Levithan
This book is just way too cute. And that’s kind of a shocking thing, because most LGBT books out there are extremely dramatic in a very serious way. Don’t get me wrong, some of those serious LGBT books are my favorites. But reading “Boy Meets Boy” taught me that even cutesy, romantic, silly stories can be chalk-full of important meaning and messages.
Thanks for stopping by to read this month’s TCWT post, and make sure to take a peek at the other blogs participating if you get a chance!
10th – http://kirabudge.weebly.com/
16th – http://miriamjoywrites.com/
25th – [off-day]
31st – http://teenscanwritetoo.wordpress.com/ (We’ll announce the topic for next month’s chain.)