Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Tuesday Muse: Pixar's Rules for Storytelling

Today's Tuesday Muse is this article on storytelling rules learned from Pixar's writers and animators, because whatever we think of Pixar's politics, I think we can all agree that they know how to tell a darn good story. These rules offer excellent insights on building character, getting your manuscript out of a stuck place, and figuring out story structure. Here are some of my favorites:

#1: You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.

#4: Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.

#11: Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you’ll never share it with anyone.

#14: Why must you tell THIS story? What’s the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That’s the heart of it.

#20: Exercise: take the building blocks of a movie you dislike. How d’you rearrange them into what you DO like?

Now, head on over to the Pixar blog to check out the rest!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Tuesday Muse: A Thank You to Jean Craighead George

After Maurice Sendak's death two weeks ago, I was doubly saddened when I learned last week that Jean Craighead George, too, had passed on. She is this week's muse, and my own muse in a hundred small ways so much a part of me that I'm hardly conscious of them.

If Maurice Sendak shaped the field that I work in, well, then Jean Craighead George shaped me. I spent my childhood ankle-deep in mud or tangled in thorns, fishing for tadpoles in the brook behind my house or following foxes to their dens. Raised in the epitome of suburbia, I nonetheless learned to read the slight disturbances in grass and shrubs that betrayed a deer trail even before I learned to read words on a page. The wetlands and the woods felt like an extension of my soul.

In Jean Craighead George's writing I found that same utter devotion to nature multiplied a thousand times over. I discovered a world in which nature was home and hospice and mentor—too formidable to be a utopia, but nonetheless the stuff of pure, distilled dreams. I ground acorns into meal alongside My Side of the Mountain's Sam, soared and hunted with Frightful, and dreamed of waterfalls with Alice. I romped with wolves like Julie did, and after I turned the last page of Julie of the Wolves I hunted down every bit of information I could find on wolf pack interactions and saved quarters until I could sponsor a wolf at a nature reserve. For want of wolf pups, I named a gaggle of goslings after Julie's wolves. I still, to this very day, see hollowed-out trees and can't help but dream of slipping away to live in them.

It's not difficult to see the trail I took to publishing when one compares my high school English papers to my lackluster performance in Biology (I could never seem to find the same wonder in naming cell parts that I found in studying wolf pack dynamics), but in another life I could easily have found myself in a tent on the tundra, tracking and tagging wolves like Julie did in Julie's Wolf Pack. And there will always be a part of me that needs that pilgrimage to the Catskills, so close to me here in New York but part of another life. There will always be a part of me that's more at home on the mountain than on the M train, a part of me that skims across the top of the snow like molten silver and howls to the moon at night.

My very own Frightful
So thank you, Jean Craighead George, for making the earth your home and inviting thousands of children to join you there. Thank you for creating a world without parents, in which nature taught all the lessons we needed to learn. Thank you for awakening my wonder at the natural world, for making me dream of falconry and tanning leather, and for teaching me a new and invaluable way to see and appreciate and utterly love this complex, harsh, beautiful earth, bursting with life.

Wherever you are, I hope you run with the wolves and fly with falcons.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Of Thrones & Tempting Trailers: What Do You Like in a Book Trailer?

I don't often use this blog to blatantly push or promote Bloomsbury & Walker books (in fact, I don't really think I've shied away from putting them under the same analytical lens I apply to all of Young Adult lit), but today I do want to share a project that I'm immensely proud to have worked on: the book trailer for Throne of Glass, which debuted recently on MTV.com's Hollywood Crush blog.

By the by, if you like the trailer and want to read the book, Sarah Maas is holding an ARC giveaway on her blog through the end of this week.

Now, I want to know: what do you think of the trailer? More importantly, since I'll likely be working on many more of these over the next several seasons, what do you usually like in a book trailer? What do you never like to see? How much do book trailers affect your interest in a book, usually?

I'm looking forward to hearing from you!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Tuesday Muse: Maurice Sendak

Today's Tuesday Muse is (and couldn't possibly be anything but) Maurice Sendak, the much-beloved author and illustrator of Where the Wild Things Are, In the Night Kitchen, and many more books for children. It seems that children's literature has lost a number of its greats in the past year, but Maurice Sendak's loss has hit particularly hard. Perhaps that's because it would be difficult to name another author and illustrator whose effect on the field that I work in and love has been so profound. I truly don't believe children's literature could be what it is today without him. And for a man who saw much of society going downhill around him, he nonetheless maintained a childlike sense of whimsy and an ability to tell stories that inspire.

I leave you with some Maurice Sendak quotes on writing for children which The Telegraph quoted last week:

"No story is worth the writing, no picture worth the making, if it is not a work of imagination.”
"I refuse to lie to children. I refuse to cater to the bullsh*t of innocence."
“You cannot write for children. They're much too complicated. You can only write books that are of interest to them.”
“. . .from their earliest years children live on familiar terms with disrupting emotions, fear and anxiety are an intrinsic part of their everyday lives, they continually cope with frustrations as best they can. And it is through fantasy that children achieve catharsis. It is the best means they have for taming Wild Things.”

Thank you, Maurice Sendak, for understanding children—and for understanding dreams—in a way that few people do.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Tuesday Muse: The Most Astounding Fact about the Universe

"We are part of this universe. We are in this universe. But perhaps more important than both of those things is that the universe is in us. When I reflect on that fact... many people feel small, 'cause they're small and the universe is big, but I feel big, because my atoms came from those stars." — Neil deGrasse Tyson

Need I say any more? Life is pretty astonishing.