Posted in Books, Writing

Why People Love to Read about Work

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In his 2000 craft book On Writing, Stephen King says,

People love to read about work. God knows why, but they do.

What is it that’s so fascinating in reading about someone’s job in a novel? I don’t know about you, but when the protagonist has a profession that plays a large role in the story, I get excited.

I’m curious about what he or she does for a living.

And I want to see that profession developed on the page, not just tossed aside like a quick description.

We’re all interested in what people do to make money. In what people do for 40 hours or more a week to earn a living and put food on the table.

But, for the most part, we never get an inside look into what other people do for jobs. We hear stories from friends, we see news reports on TV, we visit the doctor and the dentist of course, but rarely do we get up close and personal with someone’s occupation.

That’s what’s so great about fiction. Whether the book is written in first person or third, if the author takes an interest in the lead character’s profession and doesn’t push it aside in order to get to the plot, then the reader often gets an intimate look at the person’s job, and all those details, at least to me, are fascinating.

I’ve written nineteen novels to date, but sadly, I haven’t written about work very often because, well, I write mostly middle grade and young adult novels. The jobs for my characters are pretty much school, sports, extracurricular activities, homework, you know… things twelve-year-olds and sixteen-year-olds do. Many of my characters have ambitions for what to do later in life for work, like Max in my recent middle grade novel who wants to be a horror movie director.

The parents in my stories always have jobs, yes, but I often don’t give a glimpse into their occupations because the focus of the narrative is always on their son or daughter, and what’s going on in his or her life. I’ve had scenes at the parents’ work before, like in my novel Happy Birthday to Me, in which the protagonist’s father is a slightly demented plastic surgeon. And in another novel I wrote, the unpublished Magic Hour, the main character’s father is a world-famous magician, and we actually get a glimpse at one of his shows in the final act.

But showing people’s work is something I can do more of in the future, because I do love writing that stuff so much, and I certainly love reading it.

When an author puts a lot of effort into research, and then develops not just a flawed, three-dimensional, super interesting character but also that character’s work life, a job that one might not know anything about, I’m delighted in the details, in the scenes that show what he or she is passionate in doing on a daily basis. You get to be told a great story but also learn something new you didn’t know before, get insight into a profession you might have thought one way about but now feel totally differently toward.

Again, this is why fiction is so amazing. Non-fiction too, of course. And so many films and television shows. To get a glimpse into someone’s occupation, how it works, why it’s important, what it means to that character, is a truly special part of storytelling.

And when that job comes alive on the page in a way that’s authentic and true, there’s no telling how many compelling directions the author might take you.

Posted in Books, Writing

5 (More) Craft Books to Read if You Want to be a Writer

Earlier this week I took a look at five amazing craft books that have inspired my writing considerably. Today, I wanted to look at five more that I adore and think you should definitely take a look at!

1. If You Want to Write, by Brenda Ueland

This is one of those rare books that writers can turn to time and time again in their lives when they get stuck, when they feel like they’re doing mediocre work, when they’re not happy with their writing. I stress this isn’t a book that shows you how to learn to write better descriptions or characters, or reflects on themes and point of view and how to get an agent. It’s a book of inspiration that writers can breeze through anytime they need a kick in the pants to get better in their writing. And it forces them to always, always, always tell the truth.

2. Zen in the Art of Writing, by Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury is one of the most popular and important authors of the twentieth century, and this, his one and only non-fiction book, is worthy of study by all who are interested in writing, because he offers sound advice on how to better your writing, produce more writing, always write from a place of truth. Ultimately, this book, like Ueland’s, makes you fall in love with writing all over again. Also, I stress that both Ueland and Bradbury have not written how-to writing books, so much as inspirational writing books. They are books you take nuggets from, not study from front to back to learn how to be a better writer. I found Ueland’s book more inspirational and better organized, but Bradbury’s book is still worthy reading for all aspiring writers.

3. Wonderbook, by Jeff VanderMeer

My friend Shaunta Grimes gave me this book as a birthday gift a few years back, and I absolutely delighted in every page of this thing. Wonderbook is unlike any other craft book on the market. It’s fun, but not frivolous. It’s colorful, but not for kids. This is the perfect kind of craft book on writing you need when you are truly down and don’t believe in yourself. Trust me — ten minutes with this book, and your creative juices will be flowing again!

4. Writing Irresistible Kidlit, by Mary Kole

I know not all of you write middle grade and young adult fiction like me, but I feel like the final two books on this list will be super helpful for you even if you don’t write MG or YA. Writing Irresistible Kidlit is a supremely helpful tool for writers. It goes beyond being a simple how-to by infusing the author’s personality and passion into the text, and instead of writing dry prose only meant to educate, Kole’s frankness throughout the book makes her tips even more useful.

5. Writing Great Books for Young Adults, by Regina Brooks

This is another book aimed at MG and YA writers I turn to from time to time. Brooks’ main focus in this craft book is to discuss the key elements of novel writing, like character and setting and theme. And, like with Writing Irresistible Kidlit, someone writing an adult novel could still get a lot out of this craft book — author Brooks touches on aspects of storytelling in a general sense in every single chapter. I’d highly recommend you check it out!

Posted in Books, Writing

You Need to Remember to Write Books that Entertain

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In his 2000 craft book On Writing, Stephen King says,

Book-buyers aren’t attracted, by and large, by the literary merits of a novel; book-buyers want a good story to take with them on the airplane, something that will first fascinate them, then pull them in and keep them turning the pages.

All sorts of books are written and published every year, and there are all sorts of book-buyers who are looking for different kinds of things. Some people love to read romances, and some people love to read mysteries, and some people love to read young adult novels, and some people, yes, are looking for literary novels.

I’m one of the latter. I write books for the middle grade and young adult market, and I have a particular passion for genre books like thrillers and horror novels, but what I actually love to read the most, the kind of book you’d spot me curled up on a couch actually reading, are literary novels, the bigger the better. I love literary novels about family especially. I finished Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere three weeks ago, and I’m still thinking about it. Two of my recent favorites are The Nix and The Goldfinch, two massive books I loved every minute of.

So, yes, some people like myself seek out novels with a high degree of literary merit.

But you know what the truth of the matter is? King is exactly right: most people want to be entertained. Most people want a book that will keep them glued to the page from beginning to end because of a fascinating story, and three-dimensional characters, and surprising plot twists.

Most people aren’t going to pick up a novel, buy a novel, read a novel, because of its literary merits. They want page-turners, whatever genre that may be. A page-turner can of course be any kind of book. A page-turner can be a literary novel! Little Fires Everywhere is an example of a novel with a high degree of literary merit and yet it totally reads like a genre thriller, one that keeps you guessing until the end.

And this is what takes me to the perfect kind of novel, at least in my eyes. It’s what author Benjamin Percy describes in his fantastic craft book, Thrill Me: Essays on Fiction, saying,

Toss out the worst elements of genre and literary fiction — and merge the best. We might then create a new taxonomy, so that when you walk into a bookstore, the stock is divided into ‘Stories that suck’ and ‘Stories that will make your mind and heart explode with their goodness.’

Ultimately when something is JUST a literary novel or JUST a genre novel, we’re approaching iffy territory. Because only a select few are going to get a lot out of a literary novel that has no attention paid to genre conventions or expectations, where the story just languishes on the page and nothing ever happens to excite the reader to continue on.

On the other hand, when a book is a cheap and poorly-written genre novel that’s book 47 in a series and that has no real literary merit of any kind, that author is doing a disservice to the reader as well. Some readers adore series, where they know the characters, are familiar with the plots, and these kinds of books are used to pass the time and not much else. That’s fine, I guess.

But when literary fiction and genre fiction are merged, something extraordinary happens. Now you have page-turners that don’t make you feel like you’ve been stuffing cotton candy down your throat for the past two hours. Now you have fast-paced, thrilling novels that leave you feeling smart when you finish them, not dumb. That leave you feeling good about yourself.

So when it comes to the writing that you do, try to merge the literary with the genre. This process makes for the best books, and on the same token, you’ll still be pleasing the book-buying public while at the same time you’re offering something that’s just a little bit more.

At the end of the day, you want people to read your book. And you want them to read the next one, too. Make your work so compelling, in both your storytelling and in the way it’s written, that once they’ve picked up just one of your books, they’ll be hooked to read everything else you put down on paper.

Give your book at least some literary merit, I beg you.

But don’t forget to entertain the hell out of your reader at the same time.

Posted in Books, Writing

5 Craft Books You Need to Read if You Want to Be a Writer

There are a lot of craft books about writing out there, but these are the five that have helped me develop as a writer considerably…

1. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, by Stephen King

This one might be an obvious choice, since I’ve been writing posts about this book going all the way back to last summer, but I really do think this is the one essential craft book read for any aspiring writer. Stephen King breaks down all the major elements of what it takes to be a novelist in very clear, engaging ways to the point where I like to read through this text at least once a year.

2. Writing the Breakout Novel: Insider Advice for Taking Your Fiction to the Next Level, by Donald Maass.

This is a great book to read for those of you who are writing well but who could be writing even better. Maass used to be a literary agent, so he’s read a ton of manuscripts, and he takes you through, step by step, what it takes to write a novel that breaks out from the pack. Really helpful advice from beginning to end.

3. Thrill Me: Essays on Fiction, by Benjamin Percy

This is the newest craft book on this list, published just in 2017, and let me tell you, it will blow you away. What Percy explores is the relationship between literary fiction and genre fiction and how the best of authors blend the two together to make for truly superior fiction. Percy’s imagination and wit are all over the book, and his many chapters on the craft of writing will inspire you for months to come.

4. Self Editing for Fiction Writers, by Renni Browne and Dave King

This craft book is for those of you, like myself, who struggle in the self editing stage of writing a novel. I have no trouble any longer writing the first draft of a book, but what I continue to have difficulty with is revising and editing my work with a critical eye. This book shows you what you need to look for when you revise, and all the ways you can make your book monumentally better before you query it to a literary agent.

5. The Elements of Style, by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White

The oldest book on this list, and still a goodie. It’s super short, with no fluff or long passages worth skipping. Everything in this craft book is essential information, and what’s so great about it is that you can read through the whole thing in an hour or two! It’s one of those texts you should have at the corner of your desk so that you can flip through it from time to time. The Elements of Style is well worth a look if you’ve never picked it up before!

Posted in Books, Writing

What Should Be the Word Count for Your Novel?

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I recently published a post about why it’s important to write short novels, especially at the beginning of your publishing career. Write a novel that’s too long for your genre and your age market will mean instant headaches both for you and for the people you’re pitching the book to. Write a novel that’s too short? Not ideal, but still a much better option than going too long.

What’s most ideal is that the word count of your novel falls within the range of books in your genre and age market that have sold before. You don’t have to hit the magic number. There never really is a magic number. But you should fall within the range whenever possible, especially when your book is polished and ready to go on submission to agents or editors.

From what I’ve gathered from writing novels and querying them to agents, along with research I’ve done online, here are some guidelines you should follow for word counts…

ADULT LITERARY NOVELS (70,000–110,000)

For a typical adult literary novel, you’re looking at a range anywhere between 70,000 words and 110,000 words. Adult novels I would argue has the largest range, in that you could make the case for shorter works (The Road, by Cormac McCarthy, is only 58,000 words) and novels that go way above the high end (The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger, is 155,000 words).

But if you’re an unpublished author querying an adult novel to literary agents, I guarantee you that anything less than 70,000 words and anything over 110,000 is going to raise some eyebrows, and not in a good way. Querying your adult novel at 140,000 words will eliminate probably ninety percent or more of the agents you’re querying. Querying your adult novel at 52,000 words will also make a literary agent think you haven’t done your homework.

I’ve written three adult novels, but have only queried one of them. Each of the three revised and polished manuscripts came in between 75,000 and 85,000 words. The perfect number you should aim for, at least in a first draft, is 90,000 words, and then you can revise the work to your liking, making it shorter or adding more. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: unless you have a really good reason, you should try to keep the book under 100,000 words when you get to the querying stage. You don’t want to scare away agents because they see that your book is 104,000 words, instead of, say, 96,000 words. Aim for 90,000 words, and then go from there.

SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY NOVELS (90,000–130,000)

The big exception to the “never go over 100,000 words” rule is if you’re writing science fiction and fantasy novels, especially for adults. Since you are creating entire worlds from scratch, you are meant to go longer in these genres, and anything less than 90,000 words might be looked at with concern. I’m sure 85,000 words is probably OK, maybe even a little less, but once you start dipping under 80,000, you’re probably too short.

110,000 words or so seems to be the magic number for science fiction and fantasy. The Martian, by Andy Weir, comes in at 104,000 words, although Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline, comes in a lot longer at 136,000 words. Again, don’t feel scared to query if your fantasy novel is 120,000 words and you feel like you’ve cut everything you can, but at the same time, don’t query your fantasy novel if it’s at 200,000 words either.

MYSTERY & THRILLER NOVELS (70,000–110,000)

At the low end of this genre for adults is cozy mysteries, which clock in around 70,000 words, and at the high end are more literary adult thrillers that clock in well above 100,000 words. One of my favorite novels of recent years, Gone Girl, is a whopping 145,000 words, wow! And the recent bestseller The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins, is 101,000 words. I think your best bet for mystery and thriller novels is something around 90,000 words.

ROMANCE NOVELS (70,000–100,000)

Romance novels typically come in between 70,000 and 100,000 words, although of course there are exceptions. Nicholas Sparks’ The Notebook is only 48,000 words (holy moly!), while Kristin Cashore’s Graceling comes in at 115,000 words. But for the most part, aim for anything between 80,000 and 90,000 words, at least for the first draft. Notice, for example, that Sparks’ novels became a lot longer after The Notebook, often reaching 80,000 words or higher.

YOUNG ADULT NOVELS (60,000–90,000)

Okay, now it gets a little tricky. I’ve been writing young adult fiction for nearly ten years now. I’ve queried YA novels as long as 92,000 words and as short as 58,000 words. You know when I had the most success? When I queried YA novels between 65,000 words and 75,000 words. Again, a little on the shorter end — but also not too short. I think anything 60,000 words and up will be fine, while 90,000 and under you’re probably OK, although it still might be in your best interest to go below 85,000 words, at least during the querying stage.

What gets tricky about YA is that there’s a flood of different genres. Yes, if you’re writing a fantasy or science fiction YA, you may be able to go above 90,000 words. Think of The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins, which is 99,000 words, and Divergent, by Veronica Roth, which is 105,000 words. But still, keep in mind, anytime you go above 90,000 words, you risk alienating more than a few literary agents with that super high word count.

If you feel your story needs to be long, don’t make it 65,000 words because you feel like that might get you a better response from agents. By all means, go to 90,000, or even 95,000. But ask yourself, if that novel is sitting at 109,000 words, if you’ve done everything you can to make it shorter. Does it really need to be that long? It’s worth asking yourself, and maybe taking another month or two to try to get it to a more reasonable length.

MIDDLE GRADE NOVELS (20,000–60,000)

I have written three middle grade novels to date, one of which is on submission to editors, and another of which is currently in the revising stages. I made a huge mistake when I attempted my first middle grade novel — the first draft came in at 85,000 words. I since revised the book five times and got it down to 70,000, but in looking at the 80,000-word second draft recently, I realized that the story I wrote actually works better at the longer length than at the shorter one. So I’ve put it aside for now, thinking maybe one day, when I have some middle grade books in the world, I might be able to return to it.

My second middle grade book I wrote, the one currently on submission, varied in lengths from its first draft to its latest draft over the course of three years. The first draft was 41,000 words. At it shortest, about five drafts in, it was 34,000 words. At its longest, during a heavy revision process with my agent, I got it up to 45,000 words. The draft that was submitted to editors is 43,000 words. I think 43,000 words is a solid length for a middle grade novel, one that’s long enough to tell a complete story with lots of detail and character development.

But you can definitely go longer than that. My third middle grade novel, which I’m currently working on, came in at 60,000 words for its first draft, and is now at 56,000 words after its second draft. Why is this newer MG title so much longer than the last one? Ultimately it comes down to the story I’m telling, the amount of characters, the length of time that passes in the story, the emotional stakes. I felt that this one needed to be on a bit of the higher end of MG word counts, but also not so high that someone might care to skip it.

Middle grade can go as low as 20,000 words for younger MG readers (think The One and Only Ivan, by Katherine Applegate, which is 26,000 words) and then reach 50,000 words and up for the older MG readers (think Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library, by Chris Grabenstein, at 47,000 words). There is the occasional exception, like Wonder, which is 73,000 words. But it’s absolutely in your best interest to get your MG novel below 60,000 words before you query.

In Conclusion

Make your novel as long as it needs to be, while at the same time keeping it in the range of your genre and age market. You can shout to the rooftops all you want that your novel has to be 160,000 words, but nobody will ever hear you. Feel free to go to the lower end or the higher end of the range, but unless you have a really strong reason why, don’t fall or rise completely outside of it.

At the end of the day, you want to get your novel published, don’t you? The world needs your stories. Don’t make a stupid mistake like the wrong word count to prevent them from reaching the masses.

Posted in Books, Writing

Why LGBTQ Young Adult Fiction is Not a Genre

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Many often argue that young adult fiction is a genre, but even though a reader may find young adult books on a different shelf in a bookstore than the mystery section or the romance section, the work itself does not encompass a specific genre, the same way that middle grade and chapter books and picture books are not genres. The young adult label is generally thought of as an age range for readers, in this case, twelve or thirteen and up (although many readers read YA books at a much younger age, and of course adults read it, too). One wouldn’t consider an adult work of fiction to be a genre, the same way that a young adult novel shouldn’t be considered as one.

The other main reason I wouldn’t consider young adult fiction a genre is that young adult books can be a work of other actual genres — mystery, romance, horror, science fiction. If young adult was a genre, what would the science fiction element of a young adult novel be considered exactly? And just because something has LGBTQ characters and themes, does that make it a genre?

My answer is a definite no, even if I considered the wider net of all young adult fiction to be one. While bookstores are starting to (finally!) dedicate shelves specifically to LGBTQ YA fiction, considering these kinds of books a genre would necessitate the requirement for a straight-themed YA fiction genre. The same way that genres like mystery and romance can appear in young adult fiction, they can also appear in all kinds of LGBTQ fiction, adult and young adult, which makes me consider these kinds of novels more a designation of interest rather than an all-encompassing genre of one kind of book.

Despite my insistence that LGBTQ YA fiction is not be considered a genre, these works definitely have similar tropes and conventions. The first major element often found in these books is the emphasis on the family unit. While family is an important aspect to any young adult novel, it’s especially important to LGBTQ YA fiction because the main characters are often going through internal struggles that the parents play a major part in.

In Benjamin Alire Saenz’s Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, for example, one of the two protagonists Dante is unable to come out to his parents because for a long time he feels disconnected from them. Saenz writes,

“The thing is I love my dad. My mom too. And I keep wondering what they’re going to say when I tell them that someday I want to marry a boy” (227).

Sometimes the drama is so heightened that one of the teen characters has to fight back, as Cameron does to her Aunt Ruth in Emily Danforth’s The Miseducation of Cameron Post after she ships Cameron off to a gay conversion camp and then pretends like nothing is wrong when she comes back to visit. Cameron screams at her Aunt Ruth,

“‘You can’t ship me away to get fixed and then show me off as your dressed-up niece starring in the role of Maid of Honor!’” (343).

To exclude the family element in a gay YA novel robs the story of drama and truisms, and these three novels offer great examples of how to use the family element well.

Another convention of LGBTQ YA fiction is the isolation theme. In Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, Aristotle doesn’t discover he is gay until the final few pages, and instead most of the time fights away feelings he has for Dante. Saenz writes,

“Maybe moms and dads forgot about this one small fact: being on the verge of seventeen could be harsh and painful and confusing. Being on the verge of seventeen could really suck” (239).

Anyone being on the verge of seventeen knows life can be difficult in all sorts of ways, but it’s especially hard for many closeted gay teens to find a light in their world. This theme is also present in out-and-proud characters, as in Alex Sanchez’s Rainbow Boys when Nelson says,

“‘I get bashed every day for being queer, and I haven’t even kissed a guy yet […] that’s pretty pathetic’” (89).

A third convention is the theme of a gay teen’s first kiss, which is often presented as a major plot point in each LGBTQ-themed YA novel. In David Levithan’s Boy Meets Boy, Levithan writes,

“I touch his lips, I breathe him in. I close my eyes, I open them. He is surprised, I can tell” (61).

Even John Donovan’s I’ll Get There. It Better Be Worth the Trip, published in 1969 and universally considered the first gay young adult novel, features two characters kissing:

“I guess I kiss Altschuler and he kisses me. It isn’t like that dumb kiss I gave Mary Lou Gerrity in Massachusetts before I left. It just happens” (150).

The truth is that every young person’s first kiss is a monumental event, and it’s even more monumental for young LGBT individuals because the kiss means even more. When this particular book was published, homosexual practices were illegal in every state but Illinois, so the fact that he got any homosexual subtext through in this published work is quite astonishing. He features the two characters kiss, per the quote above, but he also kills the protagonist Davy’s dog in the final few pages and makes Davy think it was his kiss with his friend Altshuler that murdered the dog. Donovan writes,

“It’s my fault. Because of everything I did. It wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for me. It is too my fault! All that messing around. Nothing would have happened to Fred if I hadn’t been messing around with Altshuler” (180).

The never allowing a gay teen to actually be happy in young adult fiction finally became a thing of the past with Rainbow Boys and especially Boy Meets Boy. Rainbow Boys is a serious novel, with attention paid to homophobia on behalf of Jason’s athlete friends and his closed-minded parents, but this was one of the first LGBT YA titles to have all three main gay characters find love with others by the end, and, more importantly, peace with their sexuality; at the end, Sanchez writes,

“Maybe [Jason] was in love with Kyle. Would that be such a bad thing?” (228).

Boy Meets Boy fights the conventions of LGBTQ YA fiction by featuring a world where everyone is accepting of gay teens. Unlike the other YA novels on my list, this book’s central drama is not whether the main character Paul will come out to his parents or if he’ll be ridiculed by bullies at school, but if he will be able to find true love. Levithan in a way treats this like any straight YA novel would read, without the isolation and family drama aspects. He writes,

“We hold hands as we walk through town. If anybody notices, nobody cares. I know we all like to think of the heart as the center of the body but at this moment, every conscious part of me is in the hand that he holds. It is through that hand, that feeling, that I experience everything else” (136).

This was the first novel to my knowledge to treat young gay love in this accepting way, and this thinking paved the way for more complex LGBTQ YA titles that went beyond only the coming-out and isolation themes.

Works Cited

Danforth, Emily. The Miseducation of Cameron Post. New York: Balzer + Bray, 2012. Print.

Donovan, John. I’ll Get There. It Better Be Worth the Trip. New York: Dell Pub Co, 1969. Print.

Levithan, David. Boy Meets Boy. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2003. Print.

Saenz, Benjamin Alire. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. New York: Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2012. Print.

Sanchez, Alex. Rainbow Boys. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Younger Readers, 2001. Print.

Posted in Books, Writing

How to Define Literary Fiction

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Style of the Prose and a Focus on Character Development (Required)

First and foremost, literary fiction is more concerned with the style of the prose and a focus on character development above all else. A literary novel should still have an engaging story, but the emphasis will be on complex prose and rich characterization, both of which can be found in the following two lines from Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch:

“Did she see how my mother’s nose had the tiniest bump at the top, where she’d broken it falling out of a tree as a child? Or how the black rings around the light blue irises of my mother’s eyes gave her a slightly wild quality, as of some steady-eyed hunting creature alone on the plain?” (30).

With these lines, Tartt demonstrates the qualities of her literary writing with specific, commanding prose that gives the reader insight into the main character Theo’s mother. Authors of non-literary novels are not concerned with any characters’ bumps on their noses or rings around their eyes — their intention is to get basic character descriptions and motivations out of the way so that they can set their sights on the inciting incident of the plot — while authors of literary novels pay close attention to these tiny details, going beyond description by delivering similes and metaphors and bringing the reader the kind of unique sensory images he would not find elsewhere.

Attention to Character Over Plot (Required)

However, complexity of prose and focus on character development are not the only defining characteristic of a literary novel. Attention to character over plot is a major element to be considered. Instead of writing a story that sets out to write a high-stakes plot that takes the main character strictly from A to B — think a Dan Brown thriller like The Da Vinci Code or a suspense yarn by Dean Koontz — an author of literary novels will spend less time focused on the plot itself and more time developing the main characters.

Ambitious Point of View (Optional)

Point of view is often, although not always, another characteristic, given that third person omniscient allows an author more freedom to describe what’s happening both inside and outside the characters’ minds, and go more into specific detail with description about anything he wants. While The Goldfinch is unique in that is a literary novel told in the first person, not third, it has characteristics of third because the story’s being written by Theo as an adult looking back over his life, giving the events of the narrative less intimacy and more room for retrospection with this clever use of temporal distance.

Historical Setting (Optional)

Another element to consider is historical setting, which often, but of course not always, makes necessary the use of complex prose to bring to life a place and time that many readers may never have been. Many recent award-winning literary novels are set in the past, like Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See (which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction this week) is set in 1930s Paris and 1940s Germany, and Matthew Thomas’s We Are Not Ourselves is set in 1941 Queens.

Literary Example #1: Brokeback Mountain

A work of fiction I find particularly literary is the short story, “Brokeback Mountain.” This short work from Proulx (The Shipping News) features many of the elements I have discussed above. First, of all the prose I have examined in these books, hers is by far the most complex. Take for example her description of the Wyoming setting:

“Dawn came glassy orange, stained from below by a gelatinous band of pale green […] the sooty bulk of the mountain paled slowly until it was the same color as the smoke from Ennis’s breakfast fire” (9).

This is a particularly fine sentence because it not only gives the reader a beautiful image of the setting he is being placed in but it also goes beyond mere imagery by relating the descriptions to something one of the two main characters is doing, not being completely separated from the story at hand. In addition, Proulx uses her complex prose that bring out the beauty of an act that most would have found reprehensible in 1963. After Ennis and Jack has sex, she writes,

“Ennis lay spread-eagled, spent and wet, breathing deep, still half tumescent, Jack blowing forceful cigarette clouds like whale sprouts” (24).

Instead of writing something simple about how ashamed they might have been or scared how others may find out about their sexual act, she presents these two characters in unique and striking detail the peace they’ve made with their current circumstance. Also, the aforementioned historical setting of 1963 Wyoming makes this more literary, as does the third person omniscient point of view, the only title on my list that has the omniscience. Proulx writes,

“They never talked about the sex, let it happen, at first only in the tent at night, then in the full daylight with the hot sun striking down, and at evening in the fire glow, quick, rough, laughing and snorting, no lack of noises, but saying not a goddamn word” (28).

This sentence goes beyond one character’s thoughts that would be used in first person by incorporating what both of the characters are doing with a brilliant use of setting that give her prose more complexity.

Literary Example #2: The Goldfinch

A literary work can reach a wide audience if it has an engaging story to spellbind the reader that goes beyond pretty prose and sharply drawn characters. The best example of a recent literary novel that has branched out as a massive hit in the book market, while also retaining highly literary qualities that won it the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, is the aforementioned The Goldfinch. Many casual readers might have scoffed at a 771-page doorstopper of a literary novel, but the fascinating story, which features themes of isolation, parental loss, friendship, thievery, and love of art, takes center stage. Early on, Tartt writes a line like,

“Whenever we struck a bump, my teeth rattled, and so did the religious claptrap dangling from the rearview mirror: medallions, a curved sword in miniature dancing on a plastic chain, and a turbaned, bearded guru who gazed into the back seat with piercing eyes, palm raised in benediction” (13).

With a less compelling narrative, a line like this might be too showy and unimportant, but in this case, Tartt is effectively setting up the opening act of destruction and getting the reader attuned to her main character Theo’s voice.

Literary Example #3: A Home at the End of the World

Another example of a literary work that has reached a wide audience is Michael Cunningham’s A Home at the End of the World. This extraordinary novel, released in 1990, was part of a new wave of gay fiction titles that included Edmund White’s A Boy’s Own Story and Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City series, books that showed realistic life of the gay man in the post-AIDS era. Cunningham writes astonishing prose throughout this book, but they never go too heavy with imagery, never too specific to the point of exhaustion. In the head of the main character Jonathan, Cunningham writes,

“My blackened eyes glittered like spiders above the lush white froth. I was not ladylike, nor was I manly. I was something else altogether” (10).

With these few well-chosen details, he gives the reader a strong sense of the character by showing, not telling, how he feels about his appearance. The book is told in the first person but from four different perspectives, offering a complex and rewarding experience for the reader, allowing a minor character like Jonathan’s mother to offer her two cents about how she feels about her son:

“I feared my own son, out in that wild place so far from other beings. We had protected ourselves with silence because our only other choice was to howl at one another, to scratch and bite and shriek” (293).

While his prose is always complex, Cunningham makes this accessible to more than just gay readers by offering these different perspectives that bring insight into this complicated time and place.

Works Cited

Cunningham, Michael. A Home at the End of the World. New York: Picador, 1990. Print.

Proulx, Annie. Brokeback Mountain. New York: Scribner, 2005. Print.

Tartt, Donna. The Goldfinch. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2013. Print.

Posted in Books, Writing

Why Reading is the Cornerstone of a Writer’s Life

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In his 2000 book On Writing, Stephen King says,

Reading is the creative center of a writer’s life. I take a book with me everywhere I go, and find there are all sorts of opportunities to dig in.

I’ve written about this a lot on here, and I still believe it’s true after all these years of actively writing fiction: reading is just as important every day as actually writing. You can write book after book after book without actually reading anything… but the writing won’t be any good. Unless you’re a genius writer, you’re going to need to read, too.

But you have no time to read, right?

Yes, of course, the question becomes, when do you have time for read? I know. I get it. Some days I struggle to find the 2-hour window to get my words down for the day, or to revise the latest chapter on my work-in-progress. And now I have to find time to read, too?

Finding time to read, let alone write, is especially difficult for me during a teaching semester. I’m already reading dozens of essays, articles and books for my next class session. The amount of reading I do for my teaching job is a lot, and yet I still feel like this doesn’t really count as my reading for the day. Reading for the creative person should be reading for the sake of joy. To be told a story not for your work but for the pure love of the narrative.

Can you read anything?

Sure, you can read anything you want, no matter what you write. I personally write middle grade and young adult suspense novels. And so often I feel like I should be reading more MG and YA suspense, or just more MG and YA. But you know what I love to read more than anything else? Non-fiction books, and adult literary novels. I’m a huge movie buff, so I particularly love tell-all books about Hollywood. I got my BA degree in Film in Los Angeles and lived there for eight years, so stories about film artists and big successes and faded dreams are some of my favorites. I also adore reading big, thick adult literary novels. This past year I discovered the work of Sarah Waters, and I’m in love.

Am I going to try to write a Sarah Waters book next? Probably not. What matters is that I read it and love it and want to go back to it. And you know what? It doesn’t hurt to read up. It doesn’t hurt to read a novel that you feel like if you live to be 1,000 years old you’ll never be good enough to write. Because it makes me always strive for better no matter what I’m writing. To try to get better with each work, with each year.

But if you want to read junky novels, go for it! If you want to read plays or screenplays or poetry, by all means. Try to avoid certain types of magazines, I’d say, like celebrity gossip stuff that will probably fry your brain before anything is ever fed to it. But no matter what, if you want to be a writer, read, read, read.

When Should You Read?

So how do you find time to read? It depends on your job, and your circumstance, of course, but what I try to do every day is this: twenty minutes of reading upon waking up in the morning. Whether that’s a chapter, or two chapters, or just three pages, begin your day with a little bit of reading. You don’t have to lie in bed for an hour reading, flipping through fifty pages or more. Just a little to get things going.

Next, I try to read for thirty minutes in the early evening right before I make dinner. Especially in the winter, when the sky gets dark at five o’clock, I often turn to my TV to watch an episode of a show or an entire movie, but since I like to eat dinner a little bit later, typically between 7:30 and 8:00, I usually find a window of time between 6 and 7 to read a little bit. Again, nothing major. Not a hundred pages. I aim for ten pages, maybe twenty, and then I begin to cook dinner.

Lastly, I try to read soon before going to bed, although I admit that gets harder the older I become. I used to be able to slip into bed at 11:30 and read until 1:00. Now I get in bed at 11:30, and I’m out by 11:40. There have been nights I fell asleep with a book in my hands, and when I woke up in the morning, the book was somewhere on the floor. Worse, since I didn’t put the bookmark inside, sometimes I can’t remember where I left off!

So I don’t read right before I go to sleep anymore, sad to say. One thing I did try just recently was reading in the bathtub around ten o’clock. Last week I had a cold, and I decided to take a bath to relax. I brought a book in with me, took the bath for about forty-five minutes, and I read nearly fifty pages of the book by the time the bath was finished. I continued taking a bath late in the week even when my illness had evaporated. I just loved not having a phone to look at, no TV to stare at, just the warm bath and a good book in my hands to keep me company.

Yes, You Need to Read if You Want to be a Writer

What’s most important is that you find the time to read if you want to write. Aim for at least 30 minutes a day. That can be 30 minutes straight. That can be three 10-minute sessions at different times of the day. Or, of course, read a whole lot more! Once in a while I’ll curl up with a good book on a Sunday afternoon and just read and read for hours. Doing so reminds me of those lazy summer days when I was nine. Doing so reminds me of why I love reading in the first place.

Stephen King is right: reading is absolutely the cornerstone of a creative person’s life, and if you find time to read every day, your writing will only get better and better. Remember, you don’t only have to read in your genre, although you definitely should seek out lots of books in your genre (and age market, too).

But at the end of the day, read anything. Read what you want! And the creative juices will flow for you throughout your long writing life.

Posted in Books

Why I Love the Rainbow Books: Rainbow Road

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Rainbow Road concludes one of my favorite YA trilogies, in the installment that may be the best of them all. Alex Sanchez could have done the same old-same old with this third book, but instead he made the wise choice and did something a little different, in a scenario that puts Jason, Kyle, and Nelson in a car together for two weeks, keeping them connected for the book’s entirety as they come to terms with their futures.

These books have given me so much pleasure, and I’m thrilled Alex Sanchez wrote three of them. Rainbow Boys is all about first love and coming out, while its sequel Rainbow High, picks up right where Rainbow Boys ends. In a sense, Rainbow Boys and Rainbow High are pretty much the same book, with more development in the second book about Kyle and Jason’s blossoming relationship, and Nelson’s infatuation with a boy who is HIV-positive.

Rainbow Road is something different, though. When Rainbow High ended at the senior prom, I assumed the third and final book would pick up at the prom, then go through to graduation, and maybe a little after. Instead, Rainbow Road flashed forward three months, to August. The boys have graduated from high school, and college life is mere weeks away (at least for two of them). Kyle is about to leave, and isn’t sure if his relationship with Jason is going to last long-distance, and Nelson still isn’t sure what he wants to do. Will the three friends ever spend any more quality time together?

A fantastic opportunity presents itself when a high school in Los Angeles asks for Jason, an athlete who publicly came out senior year, to fly across the country and give a speech to its students. Instead of fly, however, Jason and Kyle decide to head to L.A. by car, and they ask Nelson to come along for the road trip. In the first two books, there were very few scenes that ever go all three of the main characters together.

But in Rainbow Road, they’re together almost the entire time, and it makes for some great dialogue, funny scenarios, and memorable moments. They meet a transgendered man, escape homophobic rednecks, watch in awe at the love shared between two men who have been together for twenty years. Rainbow Road offers a great journey for the reader, as we get one last opportunity to spend time with three characters we’ve come to know and love. And in the end, all three characters are left at a place where, as we hoped, all their dreams just may come true.

Now having finally come to the end of this story, I have two questions. One: how do I get readers, both gay and straight, to give these books a try? And two: would Alex Sanchez ever consider writing another sequel, where we get to see where Kyle, Jason, and Nelson are 10 years or more after the events of Rainbow Road? I would love to catch up with these characters a decade later, to see how they’re doing. But even if Sanchez never writes another word on these characters, I am grateful for this beautiful story, which started with a closeted jock walking into a gay and lesbian youth meeting, and ended with the same young man telling a large audience of gay students the story of how he came out, stood up to his father, fell in love, and stayed in love.

Posted in Books, Film, Filmmaking, Screenwriting, Writing

Why Authorship Matters When it Comes to Adaptations

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In the early 1970s, Stephen King was like any other aspiring novelist: writing manuscript after manuscript, working hard to improve his craft, hoping for someone in the publishing industry to take a chance on him. While teaching high school to make ends meet, he began writing a novel called Carrie, a spooky horror tale of a plain-faced high school loner who has the ability to move objects with her mind. Soon after completing the manuscript, he sold his novel to Doubleday and then quickly to the movies. The acclaimed 1976 film Carrie, directed by Brian De Palma, not only catapulted King to the A-list of novelists, but it also started a trend of adapting King’s work to other mediums, including a notorious Broadway flop, two additional feature films, and an audiobook recorded by none other than the Oscar-winning star of the original movie.

A novel being adapted to both film and theater isn’t unheard of — two famous examples are The Color Purple and Mary Poppins — but it is unusual, and what can’t be denied, particularly in the case of Carrie, is how different artists bring their own visions and sensibilities to their versions of the work, in each occurrence taking someone else’s property and making it his or her own. This then raises the question: who in each of these cases is the true author of Carrie? Many might argue that King is the one and only author of Carrie, that the many adaptations are simply different spins on the exact same story, that no matter the scene alterations or song additions or endless diversions from the original text that King and King alone is the only true author of these works. However, despite King’s origination of the story itself and his influence on all the adaptations that came later, it’s clear in looking at the works themselves, from their variety of styles to their successes and failures, that the author of Carrie definitively changes from one project to the next.

King’s 1974 novel is a slim and experimental work of debut fiction, certainly not something on the surface that begs for adaptation to film or musical theater. The book has an odd structure in that only half of it plays out like a straightforward narrative, the story of a sixteen-year-old named Carrie White who’s bullied by the other girls at school when she has her period for the first time in the locker room and thinks the blood running down her thighs means she’s dying, King writing, “Carrie backed into the side of one of the four large shower compartments and slowly collapsed into a sitting position. Slow, helpless groans jerked out of her” (8). Carrie has always struggled to fit in, soft-spoken and shy, unattractive and pimply-faced, but the humiliation in the locker room sends her to the darkest of places, her religious zealot of a mother at home named Margaret not helping in the way she torments Carrie on a nightly basis. Even worse is Carrie’s fear of her increasingly disruptive telepathic abilities, not just the ability to shut books and heavy doors with only her mind but her ability to float various items through the air like she’s an all-powerful witch.

Things look up for Carrie though when a cute boy at school named Tommy asks her to be his date for the prom, and even though she believes deep down Tommy’s playing some kind of trick on her, she agrees to go and is amazed when she not only has an unexpectedly romantic time with one of the most popular guys in school but also wins prom queen next to Tommy’s prom king. The night gets better and better for Carrie, but then as soon as she reaches the podium, a bucket of pig’s blood is dumped on Carrie’s head, leaving her hair and her dress in red ruins, King writing in his exacting manner, “[Carrie] looked like she had been dipped in a bucket of red paint” (136). And then in classic King fashion, Carrie unleashes an all-out assault of her telepathic abilities on the crowded auditorium of unsuspecting victims. After she wipes out hundreds of people young and old, she returns home, kills her mother, and dies when her own house crumbles in on her.

This half of the book one could argue calls out for film treatment, but the other half, in which King includes fake newspaper clippings and extended courtroom depositions and interviews with the massacre survivors, disrupts the narrative pacing and doesn’t make for easy translation to other mediums. For example, toward the end King includes specific definitions to slang terms, like this one: “to rip off a Carrie: to cause either violence or destruction; mayhem, confusion; (2) to commit arson” (198). Also, King gives away many of the narrative’s surprises at the beginning of the book, like when he reveals on the second page that “what none of them knew, of course, was that Carrie White was telekinetic” (2). A lot of these specific details and early revelations add to the world King has created, but how does something like that make it to screen?

To do the novel justice as a film would have had to blend segments of fake documentary snippets with the more cinematic narrative, but screenwriter Lawrence D. Cohen was smart to nix all the experimental material in the book and focus completely on the harrowing story at the heart of the project — Carrie’s tumultuous journey that ends in tragedy. And an even bigger stroke of genius at the time was the hiring of the up-and-coming director Brian De Palma, who had made a name for himself on horror films like Sisters and Obsession and was known for his dazzling cinematic style. De Palma could have tried to translate King’s novel beat by beat without offering his own take on the material, but instead he brings his unique gift for storytelling to his version of Carrie, which at the time was his biggest hit to date. Many argue that De Palma’s film is better than the novel, even King himself: “He handled the material deftly and artistically and got a fine performance out of Sissy Spacek. In many ways, the movie is more stylish than my book” (Rogak 82).

But whether the film or the novel is necessarily better isn’t the argument here, although it deserves to be noted; the argument is whether or not King is the true author of the 1976 film, and I believe De Palma’s fascinating stylistic approach to the material proves he and he alone is the author of the film. Take the opening for example, the way he reveals Carrie in the locker room. Instead of the novel, which cuts straight to Carrie in the shower, the film features an extended tracking shot that follows various naked and almost-naked women in the locker room for at a minute or more until we finally find Carrie huddled in the mist of the shower, the haunting musical score playing underneath that effectively builds a sense of mystery. Or take the prom bloodbath scene, in which De Palma amps up the tension by not only drenching the film stock of the sequence in dark, eerie red, but also using the unusual and unsettling and rarely utilized split-screen format.

And then of course there is that shocking final scene, “perhaps the film’s greatest departure from the novel,” in which Sue Snell, played by Amy Irving, walks up to Carrie’s grave, only to have Carrie’s hand shoot out from the ground and grab Sue by her wrist (Magistrale 3). This is a scene I would argue made the film the hit that it was, De Palma giving the audience one of the all-time great boo scares before the end credits. Additionally, in her book Haunted Heart, Lisa Rogak writes, “Some things had to be changed in the movie. In the book, as she wandered back home in shock after the prom, Carrie blew up a few gas stations, which sent the entire town into flames. De Palma struck it from the movie because the special effects would cost too much” (82). The author of a novel doesn’t have to worry about a budget, doesn’t have to worry about how to capture an entire city burning to the ground on rolling cameras, but a filmmaker has to take into account so many elements to get from pre-production to post-production, and in this capacity De Palma made important artistic and budgetary decisions to create his legendary horror film.

These reasons for why De Palma is the author of the film and not King takes us to a deeper, more complex scenario: is the director of a film always the author, even if that director follows the novel his film is based on extremely closely and doesn’t offer anything remotely innovative in terms of style? Ultimately the decision to stay close to an author’s text and not take the material too far sideways is, in a way, a major authorial decision, and it’s the decision directors David Carson (Star Trek: Generations) and Kimberly Pierce (Boys Don’t Cry) both made in their respective versions of Carrie. Carson’s 2002 TV movie is the most faithful adaptation of the novel to date, staying closely tied to the book from beginning to end, including its depictions of some of the aftermath of the massacre in ways that the 1976 movie never touched on, with a “screenplay [representing] an accurate picture of the source material’s complete storyline” (David Nusair). However, De Palma’s film is so beloved and familiar that it’s been difficult for filmmakers to pave new ground with this source material, the 2002 version suffering from “an almost excessively low-rent feel that’s perpetuated by Carson’s less-than-cinematic directorial choices” (David Nusair).

Furthermore, Pierce’s 2013 theatrical film, despite updating the story to modern times, with the bullies taunting Carrie with their cell phones in the locker room, and offering new tricks of special effects, like giving Carrie at the prom the ability to fly, ultimately skews closer to the book than De Palma’s film, particularly in the way it gives the character of Sue Snell, who begs her boyfriend Tommy to take Carrie to the prom, a bigger role throughout. Also, like in the novel, Carrie is less a tragic figure in Pierce’s film adaptation and more of a purely vengeful source of rage at the end, with Pierce “making us complicit in Carrie’s violence. The demise of the villain that was presented in such a matter-of-fact fashion in the 1976 film is instead depicted [in this version] in long, grotesque detail” (James Berardinelli). In the end, both Carson and Pierce made specific decisions, some for the good and some for the bad, to their own adaptations that make them the specific authors of these films.

The adaptation one would argue is most separate from the novel and clearly is the work of a different author than King is the 1988 Broadway flop, Carrie: The Musical. Universally considered one of the most wrongheaded theater adaptations ever made, this musical tells the novel’s horrific story through, bizarrely, singing and dancing. It’s possible for horror to work in the musical medium — Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera is currently the longest running musical on Broadway, and The Evil Dead: The Musical has been performed all over the United States to great success. But Carrie: The Musical had a lot of problems going for it, starting with a disastrous preview in London before, as John Kenrick says in his book, Musical Theatre: A History, “the producers ignored all warning signs and brought the show to Broadway with only minimal revisions” (354). For the New York production, the stage was painted completely black, and the show featured a song-and-dance number at inappropriate times, like in the brutal slaying of pigs that only gets a couple of pages in the novel and less than a minute of screen-time in the De Palma film. Additionally, there’s a moment where “a blood-soaked Carrie dripped her way down a long, impossibly white staircase [that] left many audience members laughing out loud,” suggesting that the make-up effects could have used a few more weeks of prep time to reach a point of believability (355).

Another problem with the show, an unfortunate authorial decision on behalf of its director Terry Hands, was its tone, as Ethan Mordden explains in his book, The Happiest Corpse I’ve Ever Seen: “[There was] a complete lack of humor. By 1988 we were used to dark shows, but most of them could at least affect a little sarcasm here and there” (67). The show closed after five performances, and nearly thirty years since it’s hilariously quick Broadway run, Carrie: The Musical has “proved to be the most infamous flop musical of its time, one whose title remains a byword for theatrical disaster” (Kenrick 354). Mordden additionally says, “There’s no other flop like it; there’s no other show like it” (69). But how can this be? How can a highly successful novel that was translated into one of the most beloved horror films of the 1970s, one that broke records at the box office and secured Academy Award nominations for both its female leads, have been turned into a disaster of a theater production? The reason is that King is not the author of this project, and neither is De Palma. The reason for Carrie: The Musical’s failure is purely one of authorship, director Hands not having a firm grasp on what makes the original story so compelling, and additionally not understanding how to translate that story into an emotionally resonant stage musical. Carrie: The Musical is the most fascinating example of authorship because it shows how different artists can create not just successful adaptations but also ones that are downright embarrassing.

The one medium of adaptation that doesn’t necessarily make a case for featuring a different author than the novelist himself is the audiobook. Unlike a film which has a specifically structured way to present the story of a novel, and unlike a Broadway musical which by its nature will need to create much of the book of the show from scratch to pave way for lyrics and music, the audiobook is simply a person reading the novel out loud. In the case of the 2005 audiobook of Carrie, Sissy Spacek, who played the title role in the 1976 film, lends her vocal talent as the sole reader of King’s original work. Bringing her soulful, calming voice to the project, and allowing the listener to hear King’s classic story through her words, Spacek “easily [recreates] the moods of that odd young girl” and “successfully takes on the personae of the small town’s other disparate residents” while also “[moving] smoothly from the magazine, newspaper, and official reports to dramatic scenes” (Publishers Weekly).

But could one really argue that Spacek is the author of the Carrie audiobook? I still say yes, although in the case of the audiobook I would argue that she’s the co-author with King. When a reader is alone and spending his or her time with text on the page, the author in this example is the one and only author of the text. If a teenager picks up a hardcover or paperback or ebook of Carrie, he or she will take a journey with the storyteller of the novel, who in this case is Stephen King. However, when someone speaks the words of the book to the listener, the experience between author and reader becomes a filtered one in which there is a third important body in the middle. That third body, whether he or she expects to or not, becomes co-author of the text by infusing the words with pauses and meaning, and bringing personality to all its characters. Spacek is not just robotically reading words on the page; when it comes to the “teenagers, teachers, moms, patrons, the town drunk — Spacek finds a voice for each of them” (Publishers Weekly). In the case of an audiobook, a person listening in the car or at home falls under the spell of a speaker infusing the novel’s words with a special and notable personality, not merely the words themselves, so I would argue that King and Spacek are effectively co-authors of the 2005 audiobook.

In looking at the various adaptations of Carrie, it should be clear that each new version of King’s story invites a different author to interpret the words on the manuscript page and make it his or her own, whether it’s a film, a piece of theater, or an audiobook. These various authors have the ability to build upon the original text, completely alter the text, sadly destroy the very nature of that text, but in each case, a different person is bringing his or her own talent and energy and thoughtfulness to one singular story that is inarguably part of the public consciousness and a highly significant entry in the horror canon, both in literature and in film. King will always be the original author of Carrie, but other authors like De Palma, Carson, Pierce, Hands, and Spacek have given the rich material further life in their respective adaptations. King is one of the most influential authors of the last fifty years, but it needs to be said that he’s not the author of every version made from his work; hundreds of talented artists have brought his stories to life with their own styles and visions through a vast collection of mediums that prove how incredibly unique different authors can be. Even when they’re all telling the same story, there’s always something new to discover.

Works Cited

Berardinelli, James. “Carrie (2013).” ReelViews. James Berardinelli, 18 October 2013. Web. 17 Feb. 2017

“Carrie.” PW.com. Publishers Weekly, 28 October 2013. Web. 17 Feb. 2017.

Kenrick, John. Musical Theatre: A History. The Continuum International Publishing Group Inc: New York, 2008.

King, Stephen. Carrie. Doubleday: New York, 1974. Print.

Magistrale, Tony. The Films of Stephen King: From Carrie to Secret Window. Palgrave Macmillan: New York, 2008. Print.

Mordden, Ethan. The Happiest Corpse I’ve Ever Seen: The Last Twenty-Five Years of the Broadway Musical. Palgrave Macmillan: New York, 2004. Print.

Nusair, David. “Four Thrillers from MGM.” Reel Film Reviews. David Nusair, 26 July 2014. Web. 17 Feb. 2017.

Rogak, Lisa. Haunted Heart. Thomas Dunne Books: New York, 2008. Print.