Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Is This Why I Write for Teens?

#amwriting #writing #inspiration #kidlit

Even though I'm long removed from my teen years, I still get the giggles and find myself acting silly with some of my grown-up friends. With three kids of my own, including a couple of teenagers, I look for humor in life's situations. Is this why I write for teens?

The days of my seventeenth year play over and over in my memories, like a song stuck in my head. My senior field trip to Washington D.C. would make for some great scenes in a book: accidentally ordering calamari (a whole squid stared back at me with beady black eyes) at some famous Italian restaurant, arguing with the waiters in Spanish (because, after all, I took two years of that language) only to reorder eggplant on a plate, and an exploding can of Coke in the D.C. airport (right before we boarded our plane).

I think by now, you know I was never a shy kid. Our class visited the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, and we hung out with the Hope Diamond. The 45.52 carats of blue diamond won me over, but my best friend and I soon tired of diamonds and dinosaur bones.

Next, we discovered the Air and Space Museum. These were pre-911 days with minimal security. As the day lagged, the tour guide lulled us to sleep. The fact that we were hundreds of miles from our parents spurned us to jump ship. We skipped the rest of the tour, found the top floor and created our own entertainment. I hopped onto a small stage and pretended to flirt with a mannequin while holding his hand. He posed perfectly for a picture, wearing a space suit.

The entire museum, at that time, sported little white buttons you pressed for an interactive guide--a voice recording telling you more information. I spotted several and kept pushing them. Then I found a red one, pushed it, and read the sign above: FIRE ALARM. Uh, oh. My finger was still on the button, pressing down. Should I let go or keep pressure on it, forever? Where's the panic button when you need one?

The faint alarm sounded. No armed guards stormed the castle, not even a warning shot. A trail of tears, I mean laughter, could be heard all the way to the mall, the Washington Mall; it's just grass really. So, we avoided jail time and off we went to see The Wizard of Oz, I mean Dorothy's shoes from the movie held in the Museum of American History, luckily without being arrested.

If you write for kids or teens, where do you get your inspiration?

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

It's not a Competition or Is It?

#writetip #amwriting #conflict #competition

Once again, I remember back to my golden school days spent in private education. I lived for spelling bee's, writing contests, and academic meets. I didn't always come in first place or second. Many white ribbons line my memory box. I was also on the swim team, earning countless colored ribbons over the years. Competition is good for the soul and good for your plot.

A heavy dose of competition is just what this red-headed runt needed back then. Sick of coming in second or last, I kicked it into high gear and won that reading contest in 4th or 5th grade. (competition) The next day, to my horror, the teacher had pinned another student's reading badge to the board for first place. (conflict) I wanted to kick that boy really hard in the shins! He always kicked me in P.E. whenever we played soccer. (more conflict) My teacher kept apologizing for the mistake. I think said boy had enough blue ribbons to decorate an entire soccer field. (more competition) I forgave my perfect teacher, performed a happy dance around the sulking boy and refrained from kicking him.(resolution!)

As a mother, I don't like to see bad things happen to my children. But I also know disappointments, mistakes and suffering can help motivate them to do better the next time. At first, I found it very difficult to include conflict and tension in writing. Once I started, and realized my fictional characters won't feel a thing, it got easier. Insert evil laugh. Now, I hunt for ways to make my characters pay the price to be in my novels. Is there something wrong with me? I keep telling myself not to worry about it. They'll get over it.

Does competition play a big role in your story? Is the clock ticking? (But, please refrain from actually writing "the clock is ticking"!! ) If you are writing for a younger audience (mid-grade/YA), competition is key. Who or what is your MC competing against? Time, a bully, a team, his best friend, an alien world full of, well, aliens? Increase the tension and conflict by adding this element to your novel. The rush of competition will catapult your story forward with nothing better than pure adrenaline.

October #IWSG

Come join Alex J. Cavanaugh and the Insecure Writer's Support Group. We discuss our fears, insecurities, ups and downs of the writing p...