Hello Writers and Readers, and welcome to (sadly) the final article in the series of Teen Author Boot Camp articles, at least until next year. But this article is still going to be great as it is from an awesome author, Brandon Mull, who is the author of such books as the Fablehaven series, Beyonders series, and the Five Kingdoms Series. He was great to hear from at the conference, and was the last keynote of the day. He covered an array of topics, all of which melded into the idea on how to write a good story that both you, and your audience, will enjoy. Just as we hope you enjoy this article.
In writing you need to find the small human details in a world, or the small inhuman details that build up your made up, but amazing, world. You can take these details and create settings, relatable characters that your readers can fall in love with, and make dialogue that can either be taken seriously or humorously. Like how finding just a random quirk in a way a character speaks, walks, or just does something are all details to give your character a unique, and memorable, signature.
Books can fall apart if your main character (or any character) are not important to the main plot or story. If your story were to happen without a character, and nothing would change, that’s a surefire way to decided whether someone is needed in your plot-line. You want your characters to be an integral part of your story, not just a lens in which to view it all happening, then swiftly move onto the next plot-point. This is called being a ‘reactive’ character, where as you want your character to be ‘active’. Your conflict also has to be important, with high stakes that draw the reader in and make them read deep into the night, unable to put the book down because they want to know if the character wins, or if they lose and everything dies. We have used an example of this previously, where you don’t want your stakes to be that Timmy has to defeat the Dark Lord because otherwise he’ll get a mild cold, you want it to be Timmy has to defeat the Dark Lord or else the universe will blow up.
Brandon Mull discussed how books are kind of weird, like how we just take words and spin them all up into lucid realities and worlds, essentially hallucination. A good story should be able to make your reader so invested in this illusion that you’ve created, that once they put down your book they’re going to have a bit of rough patch getting back into reality. Just blankly staring around their surroundings, going, “Oh yeah… this is reality…”, then feeling kind of sad for a moment before picking up another book to start back up on the hallucinations.
Some people are skeptical of whether or not they should call them self a writer because of some benign thing they have yet to do, like publish a book. Mull solved this issue of our mind, by giving a simple definition of a writer, “You’re a writer, if you write stuff.” and it really is that simple. And some of you may be saying, “But I haven’t written anything in a while.” that doesn’t matter, as long as you’ve been thinking about what you’re going to write. If you’re giving some percent of your mental capacity to thinking about your stories, then we consider you a writer, here’s your badge kid, you’re officially a writer now.
Some writers think that in order for a story to be good it has to teach something, like a moral, or life skill, but this is not always the case. It’s all fine and dandy if your story has a moral or some kind of lesson in the end, but not everything has to be this way, sometimes you can just write a great story that people enjoy and then if they find meaning in it, then good for them, we’re not gonna put them down for that. Also trying to find a lesson for a story after you’ve come up with a plot can end up looking poor and sloppy, like you just haphazardly tossed it in there, making the supposed meaning of your story meaningless. If you want to write a story on some issue, or a moral trait that you think the world needs, then plan on writing that and weaving it into your plot.
Brandon Mull told us to escape into our minds, because our minds are where the world we imagine become the most real and vivid that they’ll ever be. That is often the issue with trying to write, you start with an idea and fantasize about how epic it will be, then as the pen hits paper you suddenly lose all of your previous confidence in your story. Brandon Mull even dealt with something like this, where he wanted to write, but as he did so he realized that it sucked, but he still trudged through and wrote some awesome best-sellers. He told us at the conference that it is hard to communicate what is in our mind to the world, but we must learn to do it through word choices, characters, and every fiber of our stories.
We have talked about voice on here before, but we shall reiterate once more as it is important. Voice is your unique signature, or style, that marks you down as an author. But it can be hard to develop your voice, Mull gave us advice to find our favorite scenes from our favorite authors and find out how to write what you liked. But be careful you’re not just copying the author, you need to be doing this to help develop you as a writer, not just to copy another writers work. Learn to write specific scenes as well, because these scenes are what draws a reader into a story.
When writing you should draw upon your own experiences in everyday life, write what you know. You know what it’s like to be sad, to be angry, to be happy. Even if those emotions only happened for moments, you still have some source to draw upon. Googling ‘what is happiness’ is going to show you a lot of psychological stuff that can be summed up by just the fact that you know what it is, because you have experienced it at one point or another.
As a writer you need to be honest with your readers, this might not make sense to some of you seeing as our job is to make stuff up, but that is not the sort of honesty we are talking about. We are talking about the honesty of what you believe to be true and just. Share that with the world and they will find you enjoyable, but of course if what you find true and just to be killing puppies then they will find you a little bit less enjoyable (maybe less is to weak a word… maybe). But if you think about it the people who you like the most in real life are the ones who are the most honest and genuine people, so why not give your audience this. Write what truly matters to you, and what you think the world should hear, and write how you want.
A book is just a simple organization of letters, symbols, and words that create a complex and interesting story in a readers head. That is an authors goal, getting their story embedded into the reader’s mind, leaving a permanent mark on them that they will, hopefully, cherish fondly. Books can also teach people about them selves, connecting them to roots they never knew they had. Books are truly powerful forces.
We would like to thank Brandon Mull for giving his amazing keynote at Teen Author Boot Camp, we would also like to thank the wonderful people who set up the conference, as none of these articles would be possible without them. And a personal thank you to you for reading (goodness this sounds like we’re about to quit, but we’re not).
Go check out Brandon Mull’s neat stuff in the links down below.
To go to Brandon Mull’s website by clicking here.
To go to Brandon Mull’s Amazon click here.
Thanks once again Readers and Writers, see you next week.