Thursday, November 29, 2012

Well, Waddaya Know

Since I didn’t win anything in last night’s Powerball drawing, looks like it’s back to the keyboard. That’s okay, because yesterday I won something even better: Evernight Teen accepted my novel! I can now add YA to my list of conquered genres. I haven’t read extensively from the modern YA shelves, but I used to read a ton of science fiction and fantasy, and a lot of times it amounts to the same thing. (Heinlein’s advice on writing juveniles: “Make the protagonist 17 years old, then write it the same way you’d write any other book.”)

Here’s Slayer for Hire in brief: a fan obsesses over the star of her favorite TV show. Then she meets him in person and discovers he’s a douche. Lucky for her his co-star is a hottie of the highest order. They end up fighting vampires together. Yes, there are vampires in it, but they’re secondary characters and wind up getting slain. It’s an anti-vampire vampire novel.

The hottie co-star is based on an actor I’m currently obsessing over. Jared Padalecki’s been very, very good to me. I’ve put him in three books now, with a possible forth poking around in the underbrain, waiting for inspiration to hit. I’ll get to Misha’s book someday. Jensen? Sorry. You had your shot. You’re done. You get a cameo in Misha’s book. You’re Captain Kirk and Jared’s Spock, and Spock was always my favorite. Better luck next show.

Yeah, I remember the thrill of seeing my favorite actor on screen. I had a major fangirl crush on Harrison Ford for decades. It made writing Billie, my female protag, that much easier because I’ve been in her shoes. Write what you know.

That’s basic writing advice, but is it any good? Depends. If you’re a doctor, writing medical thrillers is pretty much a no-brainer. On the other hand, I doubt very much if Stephen King has ever personally faced ghosts, aliens or demons, or lived through the flu-induced end of the world. I myself have written M/M, and I’m fairly sure I’ve never been male, either gay or straight. Nor am I a shapeshifter. If I was, do you think I’d be living in my current shape?

It works if you use “write what you know” as a starting point. Ever been cold? Ever gone outside in a snowstorm? Then you can write about somebody lost in a blizzard, or growing up on an arctic planet. You’ve grown up, haven’t you? That makes you a potential YA author. Ever taken a vacation at the beach? Go ahead and write that mermaid story. Hell, you can write it even if you’ve only ever been to a river or lake. Who’s to say there aren’t fresh-water mermaids?

I used to consider myself a SF/fantasy fan, and attended my share of cons in the ‘80s and ‘90s. I’ve watched the costume contests and attended the filksings (yes, that’s spelled correctly). I’ve sat up until 4 in the morning watching Japanese anime—in Japanese. I’ve experienced the culture shock of returning to the mundane world after three days surrounded by people in costumes and alien makeup. I saw William Shatner in person back in the late ‘70s. (He’s shorter than you think.) I once spoke to Darth Vader. (David Prowse was a guest at a con in Philadelphia. I was poking through stuff at a dealer’s table, turned around, and there he was. “Hi,” said I. “Hello,” said he. That was my conversation with Darth Vader.)

In short, I’ve been exposed to fandom and remember the fangirl mindset, and I know what it’s like to crush on both an actor and his fictional character. Writing Billie wasn’t much of a stretch for me. I’ve never worked in a diner, but I did work at a McDonald’s. I’ve spent time behind counters. I never waded through a swamp to catch a glimpse of Harrison Ford, but I’ve waited all week long (and boy, did it feel long) for my favorite show with my favorite star to come on.

You probably know more than you think you do. Use those memories. Talk to other people and use their memories. Start with the basic experience and extrapolate from there. Stephen King’s novella “The Body” (filmed as Stand By Me) sprang from a friend’s recollection of the first time he saw roadkill in the street. Everything else was Stevie drawing on the memories and emotions of his childhood.

In fact, knowledge of people and how they feel and react is pretty much all you need. Human nature hasn’t changed in thousands of years. If you know people, you can write anything.

Now that I’ve added YA to my resume of genres, I’m beginning to feel invincible. Maybe it’s time to dust off the Gerald S. Parker pseudonym and get cracking on those horror/thrillers. Sooner or later, one of these genres is going to earn me a living. Happy writing, everybody!


Savanna Kougar said...

Pat, it's so cool about your first YA book. If I had all the time in the world, I'd give it a shot. Although, my teenage years were vastly different than most of my contemporaries, so I don't really have that... except for a broken heart scenario... to go by.

Anyhoo, my brother... I think it was back in the mid eighties... saw William Shatner in Las Vegas, and said the same thing about him being short. Talk about someone with true resilience, and staying power. I admire Mr. Shatner for that, and for his sense of humor.

Pat C. said...

Broken hearts ... we've all got those. It's one of those universal tropes.

The other funny thing about the Shatner appearance was the audience reaction when he came out. It was kind of hesitant. We weren't really sure it was him. Then we realized it was and everybody clapped. Yeah, I like The Shat. He's a great guy.

Savanna Kougar said...

That's what I've always heard about The Shat. I knew a couple who met him when he was showing his saddlebred horses, and had nothing but good things to say.

Pat C. said...

I still have his "Get a life!" skit from SNL on a VCR tape somewhere. Can't watch it because the VCR broke. Darn. Oh well, bet it's on YouTube.

Savanna Kougar said...

Probably is, but, gosh, if you find a working VCR at a garage sale, snap it up in case the web bites the dust. Or is so censored all that content is removed.

Yep, now I do remember that skit! lol...