Sound and Silence: Shaping the Mood

Someone shrieks. A parent scoops up a child and flees. Gazes swivel skyward as a sudden crashing sound shatters the brittle quiet. The thumps and thuds of hurrying feet sound a timpani beat on the stairs.

What is this? The aftermath of a horrible crime? Fear engendered by a natural disaster?

No. This is a three-year-old’s birthday party that I recently attended. Taken out of context, the sights and sounds above have a veneer of tension and horror. (Perhaps the notion of a three-year-old’s birthday party fills you with horror now.)

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When a bunch of small children congregate in one space, you might imagine you’re in a war zone when you catalogue the amount of spillage, breakage, and yell-age (not a real word, but appropriate) taking place. Somehow seven small children can seem like 30, especially when they’re sugared up.

Actually, the most eerie sound at the party was the sudden onslaught of quiet. All of the children were upstairs in one child’s bedroom being very quiet. The silence sent every parent rushing up the stairs to see what was going on.

Since I was in charge of games at this party, I was privy to the most sounds: shrieks, protests (“I didn’t get a turrrrrrrrrrrrrrrn”), and questions. (“Where’s my baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaalllllll?”) I wondered what the neighbors thought of all of the sounds coming from this place.

Expectations factor into how sounds are received. Because we expect a bunch of kids ranging in age from 2 to 7 to be loud when they congregate, screams aren’t as ominous as they would seem coming from a crowd of adults at a non-sporting event. Therefore, our heart rates remain even when we hear them, unless we recognize the switch in a child’s tone (from excited to upset).

violin1The birthday party reminds me of something to which I need to pay more attention in my writing: sounds and their effect on a listener. Consider the way sounds shape our reaction to scenes in films and shows. We’ve all seen horror movies where high- or low-pitched instruments are the signal that something awful is going to happen. At the Moving Image Education website, I found a quote that encapsulates this experience:

Pitch can greatly affect audience response: a low rumbling sound might imply menace, while a high, sustained note might create tension.

If you’ve got time and don’t scare easily, you can watch one of the most famous scenes in cinematic history—the shower scene from Psycho (1960), one of director Alfred Hitchcock’s most famous films. (Seems a lot tamer than movies today.) Listen to the music and how it affects the mood of the scene.

If you watched the scene or remember it from the past, did you notice the quiet at the beginning? That aspect makes the murder all the more jarring.

In a book, an author has to work hard to help a reader correctly interpret the mood. For descriptions of sounds, we have to rely on figurative language and other well-chosen words to create a frame of reference for the reader, since he or she can only “hear” through his/her imagination. (For example: “I said, no!” Jessica’s “no” sliced the air like a knife.)

I usually look at the behind-the-scenes documentaries of shows like Clone Wars or movies like The Lord of the Rings to learn what sound engineers do to create sounds that add to our experience of the media. A great online resource for the use of sounds to convey mood is the article, “Change The Sound, Change The Mood,” at NHPR (New Hampshire Public Radio). Click here for that article. If you have time, check out the videos that show how the mood of well-known movie trailers drastically changed as the music used in them changed. (The revised Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory trailer made me laugh out loud. The boat ride is key.)

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The boat ride from Willy Wonka

How has a sound affected your mood lately? How do you use sound in your writing to heighten the mood? What book or poem have you read recently where the descriptions of sounds made the text even more vivid?

Birthday hats from trendymods.com. Violin from bibleconversation.wordpress.com. Willy Wonka boat ride gif from pandawhale.com.

The Stanton Effect: Drama Is Anticipation Mixed with Uncertainty

6a00d83451b64669e2017c3652fef8970b-250wiI’d like to welcome back to the blog Laurie Morrison, who is an awesome teacher, young adult novelist extraordinaire, and a great friend from VCFA. You probably know her from her blog, which you can get to by clicking here. Laurie’s guest post is for the series, The Stanton Effect: Inspiration from a TED Talk. You can find Andrew Stanton’s TED Talk here.

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After reading Laurie’s post, please stick around for a special announcement. And now, I’ll turn the blog over to Laurie.

Last weekend, I went to the Writing Novels for Young People Retreat at Vermont College of Fine Arts, and I got some very helpful feedback on the contemporary young adult novel I’m working on. Four other writers read the beginning of my work in progress, asked some great questions, and offered some wise suggestions.

“Try to avoid a mean girl as an antagonist because it’s predictable,” one told me. “There isn’t going to be a love triangle, is there?” another writer asked. “That guy doesn’t end up being the right one for the main character, does he?” someone else said. “And I hope her mom gets redeemed a little.”

I haven’t finished drafting this new novel yet, and these other writers’ thoughts helped me crystallize my sense of where the story is going. They confirmed what I had planned for some parts of the plot and encouraged me to reconsider others so that the story will be satisfying but not predictable.

As I watched the Andrew Stanton TED talk that L. Marie shared, the insight that stood out to me was the idea that drama equals anticipation mixed with uncertainty. I take this point to mean that readers should have an idea of what they hope will happen at the end of a story. If there’s a romance element, as there is in my work in progress, that romance becomes more compelling if the reader is rooting for a certain outcome. However, the reader should also feel some genuine uncertainty about how (and maybe if) that outcome will happen.

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With some kinds of stories, readers come in with expectations about the kind of ending that’s in store for them. If a book has a fairly light, humorous tone, as my stories tend to have, readers anticipate a happy ending of sorts. But the challenge, as Stanton suggests, is to balance that anticipation with enough uncertainty so that the conclusion of the story won’t feel too easy. The ending should feel inevitable but not obvious.

I’ve been reading a lot of great books lately, including Sarah Tomp’s My Best Everything, which came out recently, and Emery Lord’s The Start of Me and You, which comes out at the end of this month. Both of these books are contemporary realistic YA. Both are well written. And both manage to balance anticipation with uncertainty. But the two books have very different tones, and therefore they handle the anticipation-uncertainty balance very differently.

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In Sarah Tomp’s My Best Everything, I never took for granted that there would be a happy ending. The book has some lighthearted moments, but an ominous feeling pervades the narrative. The main character, Lulu, makes moonshine to earn the money she needs to pay her college tuition, and even though Lulu doesn’t always realize just how dangerous the moonshine business can be, Tomp makes its perils very clear to the reader. The ending has an inevitable feeling, since it capitalizes on elements that are raised throughout the story, but it definitely isn’t predictable. I wanted to get to the end of the book precisely because there was so much uncertainty: about whether or not Lulu gets to go to college, about what happens to her relationship with the boy she’s falling for, and even about whether or not that boy survives.

In Emery Lord’s The Start of Me and You, the characters deal with plenty of heavy stuff, but based on the tone and the way the book is packaged, I was expecting a happy ending. There’s a love story at the center of the novel, and I would have been very disappointed if Paige, the main character, hadn’t ended up with the guy I wanted her to end up with. Even though I anticipated something pretty specific from the ending, the novel has enough uncertainty to be very compelling. There are some believable obstacles that keep Paige from getting together with the right guy too soon, and Paige’s love story isn’t the only part of her journey—she has a lot of other important, satisfying relationships and goes through a lot of other growth. I wanted to keep reading to find out how close to the end Paige and her guy would get together and whether I would be satisfied with the way it all happened, and I also wanted to see how the other elements of her journey would turn out.

My work in progress is more similar in tone to The Start of Me and You than My Best Everything, so my challenge will be to make readers root for an outcome they’re pretty sure will happen while incorporating enough obstacles and surprises to earn a happy ending. As I keep writing and revising, I’ll definitely keep thinking about maintaining an effective mix of anticipation and uncertainty, as Andrew Stanton suggests.

Thanks, Laurie, for a great post! Other posts in the series can be found here, here, here, here, and here.

Speaking of good books, I’m delighted to announce the winner of Breaking Sky by Cori McCarthy.

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Drum roll, please. . . .

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The winner is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Laura Sibson!

Laura, congratulations! Please comment below to confirm.

Book covers from Goodreads. Anticipation poster from redvinesandredwine.blogspot.com. Uncertainty sign from abouthydrology.blogspot.com. Drum roll gif from giphy.com.

Happy Spring—My 300th Post

You have to laugh at weather in the Midwest, otherwise you’d cry. A lot. I mean, look at this—a bouquet of snowflakes arriving just in time for spring.

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Ooo. Ahhh. That brisk spring breeze. Watch as I celebrate burgeoning spring by shoveling snow and brushing it off my car. Cheer as I tiptoe daintily along the snow-covered path to get the mail. Strap in as I navigate the slippery, snow-covered streets. (Uh, can you tell I’ve been watching too many Honest Trailers?)

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So spring is on a slight delay here. I don’t do well with delays. But even with the snow, I’m reminded of the new life inherent with spring. Trees bud. Birds mate. Easter beckons.

We make plans, don’t we, as we contemplate warmer weather and being seen without heavy winter clothes or visited by people who have been cooped up inside all winter. You know what that means. House painting. Spring cleaning. Shedding winter pounds. (Which I was informed I need to do, since my cholesterol and blood pressure are both high—facts I learned after waiting over an hour to have a five-minute conversation with a medical practitioner.)

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Spring also means tackling other projects that could lead to a changed life. You know what those are. Finishing novels, poems, graphic novels, or screenplays. Getting queries out. Waiting for someone to respond to those queries. Eating ice cream. (Wait. How did that one get there?)

What is it about spring that makes us long for change? Perhaps because it is the first full season of the year (winter doesn’t count, since it carried over from last year) and we’re ready to begin anew. We have a clean slate.

Spring is the time to make life glorious. How are you planning to change your life this spring? If you can’t think of a plan, here are some suggestions off the top of my head:

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When you can’t find a flower, make your own, then give it to someone who needs it more.

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Be a wildlife champion. Look what someone left by the dumpster for the birds, the coyote who occasionally visits, and the stray cats roaming about (who might have met the coyote).

Happy spring! Thanks for helping to make this blog one for which I wanted to write 300 posts. :-D

Bathroom scale from deals.plethoraa.com.

Preexisting or Made Up?

Have you read a book or seen a movie recently where the technology seemed almost laughably dated, though it was probably cutting edge when the book or movie debuted? I can’t help giggling when Cher (Alicia Silverstone), Dionne (Stacey Dash), and others in Clueless (1995) whip out huge mobile phones with pull-out antennas. Or check out The Matrix (1999), where Nokia phones with sliding covers looked sleek next to landline phones but seem dated to our twenty-first century mindsets. At least the phones changed as Matrix sequels debuted.

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Dionne and Cher in Clueless

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Trinity in The Matrix

I also giggle every time I watch an episode of an animated show like Justice League from the early part of this century and see someone hold up a videotape or a floppy disk. I used to use both back in the day.

Technology and other aspects of life change so quickly. Kids today might not even recognize some of the items some of us used when we were kids. If you have a spare seven minutes, you might watch this video made by The Fine Brothers last year, which features kids reacting to a Nintendo Game Boy from 1989. Their reactions are priceless.

Nothing dates a book or movie faster than the inclusion of game systems and other products, trendy stores, TV shows, or celebrities. What’s hot today may be cold tomorrow. (MySpace anyone?) But if you’re writing a contemporary book, in order to be realistic and appeal to your audience, you have to mention at least some products, stores, TV shows, or celebrities, right? After all, readers need a frame of reference. It’s easier to mention PS4, because we have a mental picture of what that is. (If you don’t, click on PS4 above.) But consider how dated even that console may seem in five years. Probably as dated as some of the phones below.

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As I work on my WIP, I find myself making up most of the products and celebrities named, the exception being well-known people from the past or sports celebrities who set a record or won a coveted award. Making up people and products is easier than trying to guess which celebrities or videogames will still be popular in four or five years. Maybe some games like Pokémon might still be around. Consider how long it’s been around in our time—since 1996. But I don’t want to take a chance that a currently well-known game system will still be popular or a beloved celebrity still in everyone’s good graces and not incarcerated.

There are some existing products I might keep——like Coca-Cola or Rice Krispies®. Those have been around for decades. But I’m having fun inventing my own games, song lyrics, celebrities, TV shows, etc. Making up products gives me much needed world-building practice.

Rice Krispies

What about you? Do you use preexisting items in your stories or do you make up products, trendy stores, or celebrities? Is it safe to assume that certain products will have a longer shelf life, and therefore are safe to mention?

Alicia Silverstone as Cher and Stacey Dash as Dionne photo from tulsa20something.com. Carrie-Anne Moss as Trinity photo from photocritiques.blogspot.com. Mobile phone evolution from storify.com. Rice Krispies from Walmart.ca.

Check This Out: Breaking Sky

Break out your flight suits, kids! Today on the blog, we’re going up, up, and away, with the totally awesome Cori McCarthy. She’s here to talk about her new young adult novel, Breaking Sky, published by Sourcebooks on March 10. Perhaps you’ll recall that Cori was here in 2013 to talk about her first book, The Color of Rain.

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BSky Cover FinalCori is represented by Sarah Davies. Here is the synopsis for Breaking Sky:

In this high-flying, adrenaline-fueled thriller, America’s best hope is the elite teen fighter pilots of the United Star Academy.

Chase Harcourt, call sign “Nyx,” is one of only two pilots chosen to fly the experimental “Streaker” jets at the junior Air Force Academy in the year 2048. She’s tough and impulsive with lightning-fast reactions, but few know the pain and loneliness of her past or the dark secret about her father. All anyone cares about is that Chase aces the upcoming Streaker trials, proving the prototype jet can knock the enemy out of the sky.

But as the world tilts toward war, Chase cracks open a military secret. There’s a third Streaker jet, whose young hotshot pilot, Tristan, can match her on the ground and in the clouds. Chase doesn’t play well with others, but to save her country she may just have to put her life in the hands of the competition.

Exciting, huh? Stay put after the interview for a giveaway announcement.

El Space: Four quick facts about yourself?
Cori: (1) I am restlessly creative. (2) I do not like sweets, desserts, or chocolates, but if you place a bowl of pasta in front of me, beware of losing your fingers. (3) My goal for retirement is to live in the New England woods, writing full time without access to the internet. (4) My two big brothers are my heroes—well, tied with Walt Whitman.

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El Space: Tell us about Breaking Sky. What was the inspiration behind it?
Cori: The inspiration was about ten different elements coming together. I wanted to write about an unlikeable character. I wanted to write about fighter jets and militarized youth. And perhaps most importantly, I wanted to write something fun.

Front CoverEl Space: You’re known for your strong characters. How is Chase different from Rain in The Color of Rain? What aspect of your interior life did you give to Chase? Why?
Cori: Rain is all survivor’s heart, and Chase? Chase is a bit of a jerk. I have, at many points in my life, been a bit of a jerk as well. The problem is that I sometimes become obsessed with my creative ambitions, and I don’t always notice when I’ve hurt someone’s feelings or neglect them. Chase feels as badly about mistreating the people around her as I do, and she is constantly trying to rise above it. But as I have learned over and over again, it’s not easy to change who you are. Harder still to apologize for it in a way that doesn’t sound like an excuse.

El Space: Congrats on the movie rights to your novel being sold to Sony Pictures. How do you wrap your mind around that? What scares or excites you about the thought of being “the next big thing”?
Cori: Thank you! The movie news was as unexpected and as it was exciting, and I’m not sure that I have wrapped my mind around it. There’s an element of Hollywood that just can’t be predicted. Will the movie happen? Yes, no, maybe! I’m along for the ride. As far as the title “the next big thing,” I know less about processing that than I do about Hollywood!

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El Space: You’re also a screenwriter. How did that training enhance your writing of Breaking Sky?
Cori: Screenwriting taught me how to plot. Hands down. If you’re a writer who is having trouble plotting, I highly, highly, highly suggest taking a class or reading a book on writing screenplays.

El Space: Do you or someone you know have a military background? How much research did you have to do to write Breaking Sky?
Cori: I chose the Air Force because my grandfather and father served in the Air Force, and my big brother is currently a Master Sergeant in the Air Force. They inspired me, and then from there I did copious amounts of research. I read firsthand accounts of fighter pilots stretching all the way back to World War I. At the same time, I created a fictional jet and academy so that while I could use my research, I could also set my own rules. I mean, I don’t think anyone could write a book about West Point without having attended West Point, so I made up the United Star Academy and the streaker jets.

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Air Force bombers

Blank TShirtEl Space: I read an article online where a female recruit discussed her participation in basic training in the Air Force. She mentioned:

Around your 5 WOT [week of training], your flight can start designing a flight t-shirt. . . . . Let your shirts’ design represent the essence of your flight.

I love that idea. As an author, you’ve gone through a “basic training” of sorts now that your debut period is over and you have written multiple books. What would you put on a T-shirt to show where you are today—the “essence” of your career?
Cori: What a cool question. I think my t-shirt would say: CHASE RAIN. Beyond being my characters’ names, that’s pretty much what I do every time I sit down to write a book. I pull things out of the air and try to make sense of them. For every book that I’ve sold, there are two more that aren’t going anywhere outside of my computer. Some days writing feels Sisyphean. Some days it’s poetic. Most days? It’s the best job on the planet.

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El Space: What genre do you plan to tackle next?
Cori: For some crazy reason I’ve decided to write a contemporary story told from five different points of view! It’ll be out March 2016 and is called, You Were Here. I’m excited about it but also terrified because there are no flashy speculative fiction tricks. No distracting jets or heartbreaking prostitutes. This is a story that will allow every single person who reads it to peer directly into my soul. Will anyone like it? I have no idea. . . .

I’m betting we will, Cori. Thanks for being my guest.

If you’re looking for Cori, you can find her at the usual places: her website, her author page on Facebook, and Twitter.

Breaking Sky is available here:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Indiebound
Great Lakes Book and Supply

One of you will win a copy of Breaking Sky just by commenting below. The winner will be announced on Thursday, March 26.

Author photo and book cover courtesy of Cori McCarthy. Walt Whitman photo from Wikipedia. Blank t-shirt from youthedesigner.com. U.S. Air Force bombers from osd.dtic.mil. Sisyphus from arrowinflight.wordpress.com.

Is There a Perceived Age Limit for YA Authors?

I hope you had a pleasant St. Patrick’s Day. Though I’m not Irish by any stretch of the imagination, I celebrated with some friends who throw a fabulous party every year.

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Jordie mistakenly believes that the wearing of the green means this.

Moving on, last week I had an eye-opening conversation with a teen. I’ll call her Sarah, though that isn’t her name. We started off talking about Veronica Roth’s announcement on Twitter concerning her new book contract. If you have no idea who Veronica Roth is, I’ll tell you. She’s the author of the Divergent trilogy, a young adult dystopian series. A movie adaptation of book 2, Insurgent, will premiere on Friday, March 20.

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When Sarah asked what type of book Roth would write, I shrugged, having only read the Twitter announcement, which was understandably succinct. Here’s how part of the conversation went.

Me: What if the new series is for adults? Some YA writers go in that direction once they have a successful series under their belt.
Sarah (frowning): She’s still in her 20s, right?
Me: (shrugging; remembering back to the time when I saw Roth at Anderson’s Bookshop, an independent bookstore in Naperville): I guess.
Sarah: Well, she should write YA.

We continued talking about the issue until Sarah’s brother asked me which videogames I’m looking forward to this year. But I couldn’t help reflecting on whether or not other teens had a perceived age limit for young adult authors. I’ve written young adult fiction. While I won’t tell you how old I am, I can say that I was in my 20s when Noah got the call to build the ark. Does that mean I shouldn’t write YA novels if I’m not in my 20s or even early 30s? (And yes, I could keep going higher up the age chain.)

Perhaps the question sounds ridiculous to you in light of authors you know who are “seasoned” in age, yet write YA novels. But some teens, as Sarah proved, have definite assumptions about age. I think she would be surprised to learn that the average age of the people in my grad school program, writing for children and young adults, was well above 30.

Oddly enough, when I was in my 20s, I tried my hand at writing adult fiction—the result of being told that “real” writers wrote adult fiction. I failed miserably at it, but at least had entertained myself for a time.

f1f21692fb02f3442735a930b8b09539A friend and I started writing YA fiction when we were 14 and 13 respectively—the result of reading a boatload of outdated books from the 1950s at our local branch library. (That library really needed some new books.) The stories involved people “going steady” while hanging out at the “soda shop” and listening to records on the “jukebox.” Never mind the fact that neither of us had seen any of those things outside of an Archie comic book. So those stories weren’t realistic. Actually, they were closer to parodies than anything else.

Since we also were heavily influenced by Harlequin romance books, we wrote novels with adult protagonists also. We made sure that we included first-kiss scenes that took place around page 106 in our handwritten novels and a betrayal three quarters of the way through the story, as per the formula.

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Old Harlequin romance books

I never once thought I had to be a specific age in order to produce a story for a certain age level. I guess I’m weird that way. So when someone has a preconceived idea about the age “best suited” for a project, and I don’t fit whatever mold he or she describes, I usually feel the need to challenge that expectation. After all, sometimes you have to take a metaphorical rock and send it flying through the glass window of a preconceived notion. That’s the only way to evoke change.

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Whether you’re 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, or 150, if you’ve got a story for a particular age level, write it. And don’t let anyone else—especially society’s preconceived ideas—stop you. If someone tries, feel free to give that person the look.

gopher-lookBy the way Cleveland.com had the scoop on Roth’s new series:

“I want to continue to write for my teenage readers,” [Roth] says. “I finally can announce my new project. It’s going to be a space opera. I’m still in the early stages of writing, but I’m really excited about it.”

What story are you excited about? Have you ever been told that there are certain age levels for certain audiences? How did you respond?

Veronica Roth from hollywoodchicago.com. Book covers from Goodreads. Shattered glass from jazzadvice.com. Dramatic prairie dog gif from boingboing.net. Archie comic book from pinterest.com. Harlequin books from etsy.com.

Artistically Sincere

Do you get Brain Pickings? I had to pause after typing that question, since it conjures up differing images, some grosser than others. By Brain Pickings, I mean this newsletter produced by Maria Popova.

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An article on André Gide, a French author, inspired this post. I can’t say I’m familiar with Gide’s work, though he won the Nobel Prize in 1947. I learned through the article that was an avid journaler. What struck a chord with me was Gide’s study of “the paradox of sincerity, the difference between being and appearing, and the monumental question of what it really means to be oneself.”

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I immediately thought of the word authenticity—keeping it real. Here’s the definition that pops up when you Google sincere.

sin•cere
sinˈsir/
adjective
free from pretense or deceit; proceeding from genuine feelings.
“they offer their sincere thanks to Paul” . . .
• (of a person) saying what they genuinely feel or believe; not dishonest or hypocritical.

I can’t help thinking of reality TV shows that purport to show life as it really happens for some. Sorry. I’m skeptical of the sincerity of many of those shows, since “real life” can be edited to fit a time frame. But how much of “myself” do I present to the public? At home, I might leave dirty socks on the floor. In public I often present the “self” that’s all part of putting my best foot forward. In other words, the “edited” me that tries to fit in to society. Sometimes that means I don’t say what I genuinely feel if hurting someone will result. (Like, “Wow, that tie your wife gave you is hideous.”)

184698To aid in the discussion of sincerity, Popova used quotes from Gide’s book, The Journals of André Gide. A quote that really stuck out to me was this:

When one has begun to write, the hardest thing is to be sincere. Essential to mull over that idea and to define artistic sincerity.

I mulled that over in regard to my current WIP—a middle grade contemporary fantasy novel. How much of my writing, I wondered, is really sincere or a sincere desire to cater to the ever-shifting market? Is it possible to be both?

I’m reminded of the Twilight craze some years ago and how in 2010 or so I thought to jump on the bandwagon by writing a vampire novel. For the life of me, I can’t remember the name of that story or where it is. Maybe it’s just as well. I couldn’t get past four pages of that manuscript. The main character was a college student watching a vampire movie on television with her best friend whom she secretly liked, but who liked some other girl. Aside from that boring beginning, I had no clue what she wanted (besides that guy) or how I would bring something new to the table in regard to vampires. So I quickly abandoned that story.

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Three years ago, one of my grad school advisors suggested that I write a middle grade story. Many authors were turning out middle grade manuscripts and agents were taking notice. I tried to take her advice, but couldn’t come up with a manuscript beyond one involving a character I barely knew and a vague idea I’ve since abandoned. The two pages I wrote felt too much like the Twilight-esque story—me trying to write a story without having a sincere passion for it. I couldn’t go on with it. Instead, I completed the two young adult novels and sent both out on querying rounds to agents. Couldn’t get a nibble on one. The jury’s still out on the second.

While working on a sequel to my second young adult novel, an idea for a middle grade novel came to me that felt sincere. How do I know it is? Because when the main character and her conflict came to mind, I sat down and quickly wrote the first scene without a struggle. I wanted to know more about her and how she would react to conflict. I also had a sense of her family dynamic, which enabled me to write the next scene and the next. Before I knew it, I had written two chapters and enjoyed the process.

I recently searched my computer and found three other attempts at a middle grade novel that went nowhere. I didn’t even remember one of them.

Artistic sincerity means feeling the story bone deep—having a sense of the characters and their quirks—something I lacked with my other attempts. What does sincerity mean for you and your writing? How do you know when you’re being artistically sincere?

Popova, Maria. “André Gide on Sincerity, Being vs. Appearing, and What It Really Means to Be Yourself.” Brain Pickings RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Mar. 2015.

André Gide photo from blogdejoaquinrabassa.blogspot.com. Brain Pickings logo from traveler.es.