On War, Kittens, and Writing Boys

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This is Wally, one of my foster kittens last year, with Invincible Summer by Hannah Moskowitz. I think I may have to do another photo shoot with kittens and books?

I have a piece of paper titled “Story Ideas” where I write down those random one liners or story starts that I don’t know what to do with yet. I’ve also put stickers on there because I keep finding stickers or other scraps of paper that seem important. It looks like a collage at this point.

I’m getting somewhere on this rewrite/revision of the YA dystopia. Somewhere awhile ago (okay fine, I’ll actually go get the link) I had some links about secondary worlds and worldbuilding. One of the things that stuck with me from that viral link clicking I did that day was that secondary worlds shouldn’t feel like Earth. They should be–gasp!–otherworldly.  And I went back and stared at my first draft of this story. Yep. It was earth. I put some extra toxic acid rain in there and put 3 suns in the sky, but it was Earth, basically. Same culture, only humans, same technology, no weird animals. And I understood the point.

So I let it sit and stew in my head, and decided my story didn’t NEED to be secondary world, so it SHOULDN’T be secondary world. If the need wasn’t there, then it was unnecessary, and I needed to be harsh and cut it off. We’re back on Earth. The important details about setting in my book (the smallness of the “state”, the isolation, the environmental degradation) are all Earth-able aspects.

I also read two books (War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning by Chris Hedges and Beautiful Souls by Eyal Press) which a) interest me because that’s what I studied in college but also, b) related to my story. I found some interesting psychological, sociological, and political theory points that help me to understand character motivations.

Here are some interesting quotes from each of them.

Displacement is one of the fundamental tools warlords and states use to prosecute a conflict. –War is A Force That Gives Us Meaning by Chris Hedges

Displacement is also a tool that authors use to prosecute a conflict. Physical or mental displacement. What does displacement do to us as a people? It separates us. It forces us to find a community, to forge new relationships, to question where we were before, where we are going, to question our morals and our decisions, it makes us weak and it makes us vulnerable.

It also made me think about even minor instances of displacement. Floods. Natural disasters. Our identities are so tied to place. It’s amazing, isn’t it? Even Neil Gaiman noticed this in Coraline when he wrote: “It is astonishing just how much of what we are can be tied to the beds we wake up in in the morning, and it is astonishing how fragile that can be.”

But reconciliation, self-awareness, and finally the humility that makes peace possible come only when culture no longer serves a cause or myth but the most precious and elusive of all human narratives. — War is A Force That Gives Us Meaning by Chris Hedges

I did not see the truth at all in the Balkans, and I was there over 10 years after the (arguably civil) war of the 1990’s between Croatia/BiH/Serbia. A lot of credence has been given to Rwanda’s gacaca courts and South Africa’s Truth & Reconciliation. I’m still fascinated by this process: when the people who shredded the country apart either by their inaction or their actions are the same people who must put it back together, how can you trust there will be truth? The gacaca courts were an amazing part of that process. You cannot prosecute half of your nation, and you cannot allow your workforce to languish in prisons, and you must be able to understand what happened.

(Side note. When I went to look up to see if there was a central project for the gacaca courts, I found out that they officially ended a few days ago. If you’re interested, check out this article or this government (read: biased) website on them or this one.)

According to [Hannah] Arendt, the “rules of conscience” were “unpolitical” because they were “entirely negative”: “They do not say what to do; they say what not to do. They do not spell out certain principles for taking action; they lay down boundaries no act should transgress. They say: Don’t do wrong for then you will have to live with a wrongdoer.” –Beautiful Souls by Eyal Press

“There is a difference between personal decisions and the moral code on which such decisions are based. The decisions we may finally make alone; the code we almost certainly share.” –Michael Walzer, quoted in Beautiful Souls by Eyal Press

I absolutely loved Beautiful Souls by Eyal Press. Four stories of people who, to paraphrase the subtitle, said no, broke ranks, and heeded the voice of conscience in dark times. If you’re going to pick up a book this week, it should be this one.

A few blog links for you!

The YA Curator broke down the major YA publishers and imprints!

Then I scrolled down in YA Curator, read a review of a book labeled “new adult”, which is how I would label SOMETHING LIKE NORMAL by Trish Doller, and then I thought, “What’s New Adult really?” and then I kept scrolling and the YA Curator was all “Hey girl, don’t worry, we got all your answers right here.”

I think this thingy I’m writing now (We All Fall Down’s rewrite) is probably upper YA/New Adult, but if people aren’t buying it, then should I just call it YA? Oh wait. No one’s buying YA dystopia anyways. Sigh. I’ll be sitting on this one for awhile.

What Teenage Boys Are Going Through (or, a discussion at Absolute Write about the angst of teenage boys. Hint. It’s not a lot different from girl angst, just with a lot less Cosmo.)

WARNING: THIS LINK CONTAINS NAUGHTY WORDS ABOUT NAUGHTY BITS: Speaking of Cosmo! Jezebel rounded up 44 of the most RIDICULOUS sex tips that Cosmo’s given teen girls. Yep, I write a lot of YA. No, I don’t write very many sex scenes at all. But this IS what our audience is reading (so the next person to tell me that Looking for Alaska was too racy for teens will probably cause me to laugh so hard my coffee comes out my nose). So keep that in mind for characters, and for the love of god, please don’t write characters having sex like this.

Oh, and I got a 7×7 award from Lora Palmer so look for that from me in the future!

Here’s another cat (foster cat: Audrey). Because I can(can, can).

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