Archive | January 2014

Friends Forever

Relationships are the basis for most stories. Whether it’s family ties, a love interest, a beloved animal, bonds of companionship, or the protagonist’s relationship with the antagonist, the theme of how characters relate to one another is a crucial element. A story with no relationships is like an omelette without eggs.

For me, the most compelling relationships in stories are friendships. Maybe it’s because close friendships have always played a pivotal role in my own life, but there’s something about a firm bond between characters that makes me root for them all the more. Most of my favourite works of fiction have close friendships at their centres. Fitz and the Fool. Frodo and Sam. Holmes and Watson. Locke and Jean. Harry, Ron, and Hermione. Sara and Becky. The Doctor and his companions. Lyra and Will. Buffy, Willow, and Xander. The list could go on and on, and I’ll probably think of several more after I’ve posted this. (Double points for anyone who knows all those references…)

Friendships play an important role in my own writing, although I think that’s more true of my novel-length pieces than short stories. There’s less time to develop relationships in a short story, and friendships are complex, nuanced things. It takes space to show the depth, history, and loyalty between two (or more) characters. Frodo and Sam’s friendship would have a lot less meaning were it condensed into 5000 words. I’m not even sure you could scratch the surface of Fitz and the Fool in that space. In fact, all but one of the examples above come from multiple-book series (if you count The Lord of the Rings as a trilogy) or lengthy television franchises. Maybe it needs to take that long to develop a meaningful bond between characters. Something you can care about, cry about, pile all of your hopes into. Friendships are what get us through the tough times. In fiction, friendships are often what get characters through the final hurdle. It’s about the strong characters being able to rely on others and the steadfast loyal characters being there regardless of what the protagonist is about to face.

Maybe I’m a sap, but that stuff inspires me like little else. When it comes down to it, that’s surely what’s really important in life. Is that why it’s such an enduring theme in good storytelling?

Winter

I recently read Winter, the latest book from the talented Sarah Remy. It’s a YA tale of urban street kids, intricate subway systems, a murderer on the run, and exiled people of the Fae. Oh, and it has an awesome talking mouse.

There is a host of varied characters and the setting is wholly tangible. As with The House on the Creek, it was easy to become immersed in this world, and for a while there I was a virtual Washington, D.C. resident as I raced about its streets with the book’s characters. There’s plenty of action and adventure along with a gradually unfurling backstory of betrayal and banishment. There’s magic and nasty monsters alongside the more human baddies.

I should probably admit that fairy lore isn’t one of my favourite themes. I enjoy it well enough, but it’s not a trope that’s ever completely captured me. It’s possibly part of the reason I didn’t engage as entirely with this book as with other works by Sarah Remy – but then, it’s also aimed at a younger market which may have had some impact too.

Don’t get me wrong – this was an enjoyable read, with unusual themes and characters and some speedy page-turning moments. My only criticism would be that I found it hard to really engage with any one character, possibly because there are several points of view used repeatedly throughout the book. I couldn’t quite latch onto one. My favourite was definitely the POV of Winter, the protagonist of the title, but he is sadly given a mere two chapters to himself. He’s superbly written and I found myself wishing for more time in his head. That said, I do understand the need for multiple viewpoints, especially when several crucial events are taking place for different characters in different places. And, judging by the cliffhangy ending, I’m guessing we’ll be seeing more through Winter’s eyes in the follow-up, Summer.

All in all, this was a fun read that I’d definitely recommend to younger readers and anyone who enjoys tales of the Fae.

You can read more about the series here: The Manhattan Exiles.

Or buy the book here: Winter (Book One of The Manhattan Exiles).

Welcome, 2014!

The Christmas decorations have been taken down and my house is looking bare and sparse. Kind of like my poor neglected blog. At last, I have a chance to rectify that…

2013 was a good writing year for me. I wrote seven completely new stories and finished polishing an eighth which I started in 2012. I made inroads into my new novel and solved a major dilemma regarding my previously finished one. I sold three pieces, two of which have already been published. I entered some writing competitions. I submitted every polished story and received some great feedback from editors and fellow writers. I had several stories make it to final rounds before being rejected… yes, still ultimately rejections, but hopeful ones! I have five stories out at the moment and two more waiting for final revisions before I let them loose.

And I’m looking forward to getting stuck in. The year is full of potential. Just look at all the great stuff that hadn’t yet happened this time last year!