Category Archives: ya

The Writer’s Tool Belt by Brad Cameron



Today I’m welcoming Brad Cameron to guest on my blog.  

Brad is from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and currently resides in the Pacific Northwest. He is a middle school Humanities and Language Arts teacher who has been inspired to write Young Adult Fantasy through his countless hours of teaching and reading to students. He is an avid follower of all things mythological. When not writing, Brad spends his time in the outdoors either on his bicycle or motorcycle touring the stunning countryside near his home. Brad is currently working on book three in The Zeke Proper Chronicles, The Gates of Asgard, due out in the Summer of 2013.

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One of my greatest joys as an author of Young Adult Fantasy Fiction is the opportunity to visit with some of my readers: elementary, middle, and high school students who’ve weaved their way through the streets of Alder Cove alongside Zeke Proper, the hero of my fantasy series. During their journey the students have begun to discover Zeke’s unique connection with the Norse gods and in some cases, the renewal of some long forgotten myths. During my visits, I am constantly told that when they read the stories they often feel as if they are “right there” that they can see, feel, hear, and sense what is happening in the story. The comment is often followed with the inevitable question: “How do you make the images so clear?” My response is always the same: I strap on my writer’s tool belt. 

The contents of my tool belt, when finally exposed, reveal no great secrets. The tools are the ones that English teachers have been talking about for years: metaphors, similes, personification, etc. However, like any tool, its proper use is paramount. Descriptive writing is so much more than just smattering many detailed words on paper. Descriptive writing is constructing the proper words with images that are familiar to the reader. 

Imagine that you are in an unfamiliar country, struggling to learn a new language. A stranger among your small group of new friends begins to tell a joke. When he finishes, everyone, including himself, begins to laugh, but you stand there, looking embarrassed and confused. However, the problem isn’t that you didn’t understand the words he used; you’ve been studying hard, so you know what the words mean. The problem is that you didn’t comprehend the context of the words. Perhaps the joke depended upon your need to understand a particular cultures’ idiom or custom with which you are completely unfamiliar. Or perhaps the teller wanted you to rhyme a word with another in order to understand the punch line. In either circumstance, you’re baffled, and a little disappointed, because you missed something that was apparently quite funny. A writer, in order to be successful, can’t afford to baffle or confuse his readers. He has to choose words and context clues with which the reader is familiar, thus pulling him/her into the scene so that they can see, feel, taste, or hear whatever it is he is trying to describe.

As an example, I will use a passage from Book 2 in The Zeke Proper Chronicles: The Serpent’s Ship. In this scene, Zeke is engaged in an early morning run near his home. The story begins to take on an ominous impression. 

“Zeke’s chosen route headed up Pike Street where his own house stood, quiet and sleepy, like its inhabitants. The road stretched for a quarter mile before taking a slight left turn and coming to a dead end. Zeke entered a cul de sac where the houses seemed to circle in a protective arch. Zeke passed through a cleft between the homes, still bent against the force of the wind and rain and found himself on a sodden trail where muck, fallen leaves, and pinecones littered the ground. He tried hard to keep to the edges of the path where the ground was more firm, but instead kept finding himself slipping into the middle of the trail where the rain accumulated, causing his feet to slosh and stick with each step. When he lifted his foot, the earth emitted a disgusting farting sound that, despite the discomfort he felt, made Zeke laugh, a tight smile etched across his strained face.” 

In this example, I try to use images that would be familiar to most students: the long march to school on a blustery, cold day. And the sound of a fart? Well, let’s face it; we all know what that sounds like. Imagining Zeke’s early morning trek, then, should not be difficult. Creating authentic images is imperative to good writing. A reader who has lost his vision of the story stops reading.


You can find Brad and his work at the following links:
 
Link to Twitter: @camgang817 https://twitter.com/camgang817
Link to Facebook: The Zeke Proper Chronicles http://www.facebook.com/#!/TheZekeProperChronicles?fref=ts
 
You can find my guest post on Brad’s blog, on researching the fantastical, here.


Sabriel – Ciara Ballintyne Talks Young Adult Fantasy Fiction

I’m not a huge fan of Young Adult fiction – but I don’t mean in a way that looks down on it as somehow inadequate. The whole Young Adult genre almost completely passed me by. It wasn’t all the rage when I was a young adult, and I jumped feet-first into adult fantasy fiction at a very early age. I dabbled in a few books that are now classified as Young Adult, but I don’t think they were called that at the time. Even now I struggle to know if something I’ve read is Young Adult or just adult. 

So when I was invited to do a guest post on Young  Adult books on Lost In Fiction UK, I was lost for words. But, in the end, I concluded that one of my favourite books, Sabriel by Garth Nix, is indeed a part of the Young Adult genres and so I sallied forth to talk about it. 

You can find the full post here.

As an interesting side note, I noticed a picture of Captain Jack Sparrow appeared when Googling ‘Sabriel’. Weird. 

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