Archive for June, 2011


Writing Road Trips

June 28, 2011

Sometimes, writers need inspiration. Sure, we can find anecdotes from our families, our friends, and maybe even from doing the laundry. However, when separating the darks from the lights just doesn’t cut, we need new form.

Every four months or so, I go on an overnight writing retreat. There are a few writers’ havens nearby which offer a cheap bed and a small town full of secrets waiting to be told.

This past week I tried something new and traveled to the plains of Colorado. The winding road reminded me of the Nile, as I followed a thin river slightly surrounded by green brush but with vast dead earth beyond. While it wasn’t the best venture for scene writing, I did come across a few colorful characters.

My small motel proudly served a free breakfast, complete with fried eggs, hash browns, buttered toast and a choice of bacon or sausage. At least there was a choice in the matter. I found a table near a group of older men who the waitress knew by name.

While I ate my salty eggs and drank black coffee, I listened to the men. It may have been America, but it was definitely a different country. While racist slander wasn’t what I had in mind when I left on this particular retreat, their conversation made my imagination roll. I wondered about their wives, their homes, and whether or not they left bags of Doritos in the back of their trucks. I may or may not write a book with such characters, but they sure helped my creative process.

Next time you’re stuck, try something new. Be an observer to characters you don’t know and write about what you see, plus what you don’t. I promise, you’ll be writing for hours.


Dystopian Summer Reads

June 21, 2011


Question: What do these four young adult novels have in common? Answer: A dystopian theme.

And what, exactly, is a dystopian theme? A dark, disturbing future. Dystopian novels have been around for awhile, but they’ve recently swamped the YA market. These four novels tackle issues of love (and lack of it), evil empires, and ways of living different than the Red, White, and Blue.

While all of these novels have fantastic followers, Hunger Games grabbed the market a couple years ago and became so popular it’s currently in movie production. Honestly, I’m not one for dystopian novels, but I couldn’t put it down. Think Survivor meets Lord of the Flies with high action and philosophic questions.

The question I have is, what is it about dark futures that make readers want more dystopian books? Is every day teen life so stressful that it helps to read about something darker? Does a small measure of fantasy, no matter how disturbing, bring relief to the daily grind? Maybe teens need to visualize victory and believe they can conquer the big, the bad, and the ugly.

Let me know what you think and give one a try. At the very least, you’ll be hip in the teen market this summer.