The best of 2017

2017 was a pretty dizzyingly great year for pop culture, with some genuinely classic albums, movies, TV shows, books and moments. Here’s our take on some of the revelations of the year, as well as our attempt to identify the ULTIMATE THING OF THE YEAR.

REVELATIONS OF THE YEAR

Just how good Jason Bateman is at directing. Like, really, seriously good. OZARK was a revelation in many ways (across-the-board excellent performances being one of them), but in large part because of Bateman’s effortlessly expert and dynamic way with shooting scenes.

Ozark JB

How many of THE FORCE AWAKENS’ plot points Rian Johnson could casually toss over his shoulder in THE LAST JEDI and still craft such a richly extraordinary, franchise-redefining experience.

TLJ Leia 2

How DOCTOR WHO could make us fall in love with a new Doctor with just one word (“brilliant!”).

Dr Who first moment

How much more fun GAME OF THRONES is when characters don’t have to travel in real time anymore.

got7_0420_3980_layout_v553_.JPG

On a related note… ICE DRAGON!!!

ice dragon

Porgs tho.

TLJ porg

How STRANGER THINGS could so successfully shift gears right before the finale in the clearly brilliant episode seven where Eleven goes looking for her sister (much of which was down to the truly astonishing, visceral directing of Becca Lou Thomas – give her all the franchise immediately!).

ST ep 7

GLOW showed us that a TV show about a cheesy 80s ladies wrestling TV show could be revelatory, inspiring and addictive, and could give Alison Brie and Betty Gilpin beautiful and fantastic roles that they so wonderfully OWNED.

GLOW Ep 7 Transformers

That in the midst of the SUICIDE SQUAD and JUSTICE LEAGUE dust-ups, the DCEU managed to bring us one of the year’s defining and most inspiring movies in WONDER WOMAN.

WW no mans land

2017 in photo form

TOM HOLLAND IN SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING.

spider-man TH and RDJ

In fact, all of SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING

spider-man ship

Trying to keep it together in 2017

We all know M. Night Shyamalan is a genius director and James McAvoy is one of our greatest living actors, but that still didn’t prepare us for quite how flawless, atmospheric, terrifying, emotional and powerful SPLIT would be. And it definitely didn’t prepare us for THAT ENDING, nor the fact that GLASS will be released in a year’s time!

split JM

How dropping the X-Men movies’ increasingly complex timelines allowed James Mangold to create the elegiac yet emotionally bone-crunching LOGAN and deliver not only the greatest X-Men movie of all time, but also one of the greatest movies of all time.

logan comic book

Ryan Graudin showed us how utterly fresh and unexpected and moving and romantic a dazzlingly complex and breathlessly tense time travel story could be with her masterpiece INVICTUS.

Invictus cover

ULTIMATE THING OF THE YEAR

OK. Here goes. It’s tough. Really tough. You had Alison Brie in GLOW, Porgs, an ice dragon, STRANGER THINGS, the Spider-Man we’ve always needed, a hugely inspiring and moving female superhero movie courtesy of Gal Godot and Patty Jenkins, the greatest Wolverine movie ever (and one of the standout movies of the year) in LOGAN, one of the purest and most inspiring performances of one of the greatest superheroes ever from Melissa Benoist in the CW’s SUPERGIRL, Porgs, one of Patrick Ness’s most quietly stunning and ambitious novels yet (RELEASE), one of the most hypnotically beautiful novels ever written (Laini Taylor’s STRANGE THE DREAMER), Laura Dern’s purple-haired and unpredictable brilliance in THE LAST JEDI, which was also a STAR WARS movie that felt like nothing we’ve ever seen before while connecting so deeply to our love for the franchise, a knockout YA Princess Leia novel from the queen of five-star Star Wars novels Claudia Gray (LEIA, PRINCESS OF ALDERAAN not only showed us the future general in the making and the very beginnings of the Rebellion, but also beautifully depicted Leia’s childhood friendship with future Vice-Admiral Holdo), a dark, funny and emotional DOCTOR WHO spin-off show called CLASS that was absolutely—thanks to showrunner Patrick Ness and his wonderful cast—one of the great shows of this year (or any year), Porgs, and a time travel YA sci-fi that was maybe the most fun and brilliantly constructed piece of pop culture this year in Ryan Graudin’s INVICTUS… DAMN. That’s Kendrick’s masterpiece, not an exclamation, although, damn… What a pop culture year to celebrate!

However, if we have to choose one thing, somewhat inevitably, it’s gotta be… THE LAST JEDI.

TLJ Holdo

Vice-Admiral Holdo, one of The Last Jedi’s most original, awesome, inspired and inspiring new characters

Rian Johnson followed our heroes on their darkest journeys yet while inspiring us, making us laugh, tapping deep into the way Star Wars felt when we watched it as kids…

TLJ Luke Falcon

…yet still managing to reposition the entire franchise to point it to a new future, and somehow landing on the kind of note of poignant hope we really need this year.

TLJ Crait Walkers

Because 2017 often felt like we were standing in front of these guys

It was a joyous movie, an upsetting movie, a thrilling movie, a spooky movie, a movie that made you cry with deep nostalgia as well as fresh heartbreak, a movie that kept you on your toes, but above all, it was a movie about believing in the possibility of a beautiful future.

And who doesn’t want to believe in that?

On that note… Wishing you all a Happy Holidays, and a wonderful New Year!

 

 

Advertisements

New YA Patrick Ness TV show alert!

One of the greatest YA writers of all time—two-time Carnegie winner Patrick Ness—has a new TV show starting on BBC America this Saturday!

It’s bitingly funny, beautifully diverse, insanely emotional, and super intense. It’s a grounded sci-fi show set in a high school, a little bit like Buffy, but darker and edgier. And ruder.

Here are 5 reasons why you need to watch it!!

Class - Ep6

Editing: Dialogue

Have you ever been in such a rush to get to the reveal in a book that you skim through the descriptive paragraphs and just focus on the dialogue? As writers and lovers of writing, we can’t really condone this (every word counts, man!), but there’s no denying that this happens, and that it’s really tempting, especially in YA or thrillers or any kind of story where you just NEED TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS NEXT RIGHT NOW. You know how that goes. It’s easy to focus on dialogue: that’s often the strongest component of a piece of writing. Not only does it further the plot, but it also reveals more about the character who’s speaking. It shows you the characters’ dynamics with each other, as well as their perception of the world, and of themselves.

So yeah, dialogue’s kind of important.

Think of just about any Shakespeare play, and you’ll realize that in the last 400 years, the play you’re thinking of has had an unfathomable amount of actors in the role—from the Doctor to Sherlock in one particular case—and set designs that range from historical to futuristic. Every director has added something of themselves to the interpretation, and each crew, from makeup to lighting, manipulated the mood. And of course those actors all made the roles their own.

Hamlets

Yet the dialogue has rarely changed. Even Baz Luhrmann didn’t touch Romeo or Juliet’s lines (there’s some cutting on occasion, but the majority of the lines tend to be left alone). Because everything, from their attraction, their hope and their despair, comes through in their dialogue.

As you go through your draft, make sure you do a pass where you only read your dialogue. Make sure it gives you a sense of your characters—both those talking and those listening—your plot, and your setting/world.

In some ways, dialogue is the spine of the story. And that spine needs to be strong. Which means it needs to feel authentic and organic. Each line needs to hold up on its own. Each line needs to clearly belong to the character that said it. If you read just the dialogue, it should be obvious who is speaking, and it should illuminate who they really are.

But it’s not all about what they say. It’s about what they don’t say. Think about any conversation you’ve had recently. How much of what was said was actually unsaid (yeah, we just blew ya minds!). How surprised would you be if your boss told you that she was angry at you for misspelling her name on the presentation because her stepfather never adopted her and refused to accept her as one of his own even though she was just a baby when her mother married him?

You might wonder if she was high. No one gives you all the information when they’re not under the influence. Not just because people might prefer to be cautious with TMI, but also because not many people are that self-aware in real time. If you write a character who narrates everything like that, chances are, they won’t feel authentic (unless that’s a very, very specific character choice on your part). When you’re writing a first draft, the characters often narrate, very clearly, everything you want them to say and feel. It’s one of the key jobs in the edit to cut down that dialogue, mess it up, make it oblique, less obvious, less on the nose about what it’s trying to be.

 

It’s not easy. It takes a lot of practice. Even if you’re writing novels, you should read a lot of screenplays, because great screenplays are full of beautifully concise yet meaningful dialogue. It’s also important to listen to the people around you. Yes, we’re telling you to eavesdrop. We’re also telling you to start some conversations where you ask all the questions, so you can listen to how fragmented answers can be, and how rarely people directly and cleanly talk back and forth. Call your friend who literally NEVER STOPS TALKING. We all have one (what’s up with that?). You’ll hear some almost musical, free-flowing stream of consciousness dialogue. (Sometimes you need to write long monologues for characters). If socializing isn’t your bag, watch some great TV. Maybe not your everyday glossy procedurals, which lean heavily on exposition and on the nose conversations. Look for shows that are STRONG on character dynamics and revelations, shows where dialogue is a weapon, a shield, a cloaking device, an illusion. Give us some examples you say? Alrighty then.

Gilmore Girls

Gilmore Girls

This show is a MASTER CLASS in how characters can communicate their feelings while talking about literally anything and everything else and doing it all really really fast until the truth comes out. Did we mention the speed? Characters talk so much and so fast on this show that one of their hourlong scripts, which would usually be 50-ish pages, can often run to 70 pages or more.

Game Of Thrones

Ramsay Rickon

No show has more information to hand out than this one (not even procedurals). There are SO MANY old white men to remember, but through some brutal, thrilling and visceral dialogue, you can figure out who everyone is and where they’re coming from without anyone standing around listing their credentials to one of the few remaining Stark kids (too soon? Seriously, zag, Rickon!!)

Jessica Jones

Jessica Jones

This is a great example of how  a character’s dialogue should define them. (And it’s also really fun dialogue for actors to tear into — that’s important). If you watch the show on mute, Jessica is just a grunge girl having a really bad couple of weeks. Volume up, she’s more terrifying to cross than the Hulk, and more entertaining in her self-loathing than Tony Stark. She’s a formidable, complex character with layers on layers on layers, and it’s all there in the dialogue (although shout-out to Krysten Ritter for her astonishingly powerful performance of that dialogue).

ANYTHING BY JOSS WHEDON

Whedon Buffy

Buffy and Firefly are particular standouts, but Whedon can literally not write a line of dialogue that isn’t witty, subtly revealing, and generally staggeringly good. Whedon is brilliant at making even the most incomprehensible of creatures (i.e. the Hulk) relatable and tangible. (“That’s my secret. I’m always angry” is one of the simplest and most devastatingly powerful lines of dialogue EVER). The key to being relatable and tangible is making the character sound grounded, and like someone you could be friends with. Even the bad guys/girls. In fact, especially them. Nothing makes a villain more compelling than the fact that you almost want to root for them. (Well, nothing except a black mask and cloak and some heavy breathing). Yeah, sometimes you need the villain to be utterly, jaw-droppingly awful—(f**k you Ramsay Bolton)—but even then, some element of outrageous charm can go a long way.

So, there’s a lot to think about when you edit your dialogue. That dialogue has a lot of work to do, and it can’t look like it’s doing any work at all. That’s the challenge, but also the reward. So go talk to some people, watch some TV, read some scripts, and make your dialogue really sing.

Editing: Character

All you have to do is take a quick look at any Tumblr account and you’ll see how influential a character can be. Characters become your friends, your mentors, your inspiration for trying something you never thought of before. They can feel closer to you, at times, than your own family.

Doctor Who Tumblr

As a writer, you never know which of your creations will click with your readers. All you can do is give each character a whole life. Even if the plot doesn’t allow for you to divulge all the details, you need to know them. It’s that in-depth understanding that will come across in every move your character makes, every line of dialogue, and how they influence the plot.

So, go through your first draft and list out your characters—describe what they look like, know the key events in their past, work out who their family and friends are, even their health. What secrets are they hiding? What do they desperately want? What scares them? And, most importantly, how did they get to be in this story? Once you have those answers, you have the beginning’s of your story’s canon. And the more familiar you are with your canon—the stronger your grasp on your characters and their world—the better your story will be.

Now go through your draft again and make sure your characters’ words and actions reflect who they are.

Giving your characters those dimensions will prevent them from being flat, a cardboard cutout that you’re moving around to make your plot work out—someone the audience will forget. Think of your last plane, train or bus trip. When was the last time you saw someone generic, that didn’t have something interesting about them? It rarely happens. Everyone always has a little something of their personality peeking through. The woman in a business suit carrying a Hello Kitty lunchbox… or the little boy in a school uniform and faded, oversized army jacket. Everyone has something different and unique about them; so should your characters. Make them shine with individuality. Make them as real as the people you travel to work and/or school with. You can do this with dialogue that reflects their quick thinking and their worldview, the way they dress, the choices they make, etc.

A quick, and possibly slightly controversial, note about your main character: While it’s okay to have them exist in a story that they simply witness and report on… let’s be honest, the best stories have a protagonist that influences events, that drives the plot, even if it’s just some of the time. It’s even better if all of your characters impact the direction of the story.

Which brings us to Raiders of the Lost Ark. It’s a great movie. A perfect movie. But, as Amy in The Big Bang Theory pointed out, Indiana Jones doesn’t seem to influence any of the events as they unfold. The story, as she describes it, would pretty much have been the same had Indy not been there. Now, this has been proven to not be the case—there are multiple ways that Indy influences what happens, but the point is that you don’t want the fans of your story to feel like Sheldon while he’s listening to Amy deconstruct one of his favorite movies.

BBT Raiders

It’s not true about Raiders; don’t let it be true about your story.

Give your characters responsibility and agency, a past, insecurities and hope. Give them life.

In turn, they’ll give your story a life of its own.

 

First drafts

You came up with a great idea.  A killer idea! You made some notes in your phone, or your current favorite writing notebook, on post-its, old envelopes, or even on your laptop. You pictured scenes while listening to awesome songs.You can imagine the movie version so clearly! (that guy from Teen Wolf would crush the lead role, right?)

Tyler Teen Wolf

That one

There’s just one teeny, tiny technicality: you have to actually write the damn thing.

Which is where the beautiful, messy pain of first drafts comes in.

Whether you’ve put together an outline, like we talked about before (which makes the draft your second step), or whether you’re an organic-style improviser and this is your first time putting words on a page for your story, you still need to get your raw material together. Outline or not, roadmap or not, you still need to start this journey and tackle a first draft.

And oh, that first draft is a complex beast for us writers. On the one hand, it’s truly amazing: you can write ANYTHING YOU WANT. You’re free flowing, improvising, letting those gorgeous ideas flow right from the muse and onto your page. You can write [make this better] and [funny line here] and [science this later], and that’s okay! You can write alternate versions of the same scene, or of the same line of dialogue. You can write out of sequence. You can write whatever you want. 

 

Doctor Who guitar

This is what first drafts feel like. Cool.

The key thing is, you’re WRITING. You’re getting your story down. Even more than that, you’re putting the heart and soul of your story on the page (the body and brain of it will show up later… right now you’re dealing with the essence of your story).

This is where we turn to that pesky other hand.

It’s probably not very good.

There. We said it. #SorryNotSorry

Your dialogue probably won’t be diamond-sharp or leaping off the page with fresh, vivid originality. Your scenes likely won’t start or end the way you want them to. Your characters might not do the things you need them to do. There will be lots of those comments like [make this better]. Everything will be really, really messy. Mind-bogglingly messy. At the exact midpoint of cleaning out your closets messy, when apparently everything you own is scattered all around you and NOTHING MAKES SENSE ANYMORE. It’s like you’re building a house, and this is the stage where it looks like you’re actually destroying one instead. Basically, it will feel like you  have no idea what you’re doing.

But here’s the thing. It’s all okay. Why, you ask? How could all that possibly be okay?!

Because that first draft is actually PERFECT.

Wait, what?

Yep. It’s perfect, because it contains everything you need to make a wonderful, amazing story. All your jumping off points are there. Your characters are there. The things they need to say are there, in one form or another. And, most importantly, the solutions to pretty much all your narrative problems are going to be there too. You just might not realize it. This is why it’s so important to NEVER EVER EVER CENSOR yourself when writing a first draft. LIKE, EVER. If it comes into your mind, put it on the page.

Everything you write is a clue or a seed or a possibility. You might find, when you’re editing your big finale, that you need a thing, or a character, or a piece of information. The great news is, whatever that thing is that you need, it’s probably lurking somewhere earlier in that first draft. Because first drafts are perfect, gorgeous things.

No story can exist without a first draft. Having an ungainly, unwieldy mess of a document is an incredible thing, because it means your story is now on the road. It didn’t even have wheels before and now it’s rolling down the writing highway. It still needs a few other things (by few we mean like, thousands), but it’s on the move, and you can see that signpost up ahead that says Editsville is the next stop). As Shannon Hale said, writing a first draft is like shoveling sand into a box so that you can build castles later. You can’t build a sandcastle without the sand, people. The first draft gives you all the raw material you need. And it’s exhilarating.

But trust us… it’s not as exhilarating as the next phase: editing. This is where your story’s soul will be crafted, finessed and sculpted into something cleaner, shinier… gleamier? The soul will not change. You cannot break your story and you cannot break its soul. Editing will take it to a higher plane of existence, man.

Jeff Bridges Tron Legacy

Yeah

But we’ll talk about that next time. For now, luxuriate in knowing that you managed to put an entire version of your story on the page.

You’re amazing!

 

Influence Is Bliss, episode two: Russell T. Davies

How do you know when you’re watching something written by TV writer, showrunner extraordinaire and all-round genius Russell T. Davies? You’re probably crying.

Russell T. Davies

Russell T. Davies

And by the way, those tears probably started in laughter. Which happened in the middle of a thrilling action sequence in which the characters you LOVE are thrown into high stakes peril, and have to use extreme cleverness to save themselves from a situation that somehow blends terrifying concepts with overwhelming heart, soul and emotion.

That’s just an average scene for Davies, because he is the master of the human heart. When he REALLY wants to mess with you, it’s just devastating.

Davies is best known for his tremendous resurrection of the longest running sci-fi show in TV history, DOCTOR WHO (it first aired in 1953!). This tale of a time-traveling Time Lord known only as The Doctor who journeyed through the universe in a TARDIS (a time machine in the form of a blue police box), usually in the company of one or two humans who were looking for adventure, was originally a much-beloved, yet quaint, show on the BBC. It was known for its charm, inventiveness, futuristic electronic scores and less-than-stellar special effects. Sadly, over time, ever more ridiculous storylines resulted in the show being axed in the eighties, seemingly never to return (with a brief exception in the form of a TV movie that popped up in 1996).

The TARDIS. There's a reason why it looks like that.

The TARDIS. There’s a reason why it looks like that.

However, Davies, who, despite his roots in the gritty, everyday dramas of everyday people, was a huge sci-fi fan, and a fan of the show, rescued it from its cancellation wasteland in 2005 and rebooted it into a glossy global phenomenon.

How did he do it?

With brilliant writing. With feelings. With, as the ultra-smart and Scottish late night talk show host Craig Ferguson describes it, a healthy dose of “intellect and romance.” Because no one does feelings quite like Davies. His stories and scripts are overflowing with heart and emotion. And they’re extraordinarily clever too. But it’s not the cleverness that keeps us there: it’s the people. Davies’ background in writing astonishingly great dramas about “everyday” people was key to the success of this most fantastical of shows. Davies knows how to give us the shortcut right into a character’s soul, and make us feel what they feel. Although the show is called DOCTOR WHO — and although Davies did reimagine the Doctor as intelligent, bold, and very funny, as well as being a dangerous and charismatic hero-figure — he was the first to truly realize that the heart of the show (one of them at least) should be the human companions that accompanied this alien Time Lord. Because they were our stand-ins. Our view into the conceptually mind-bending experience of actually traveling through time.

The Doctor (on the left) and friend

The Doctor (on the left) and something REALLY SCARY on the other side of the wall

Davies was rebooting a sci-fi show and making it fresh and “now.” He could have focused on spaceships, spectacle, action. Instead, to begin this new journey, he crafted a beautiful hour of television that showed us how a girl with dreams plucks up the courage to try and chase them. And so his first episode, the one that relaunched the show, was simply titled Rose, after the girl who decides to give up her life on Earth to follow the Doctor into the stars.

Rose Tyler, played so perfectly by Billie Piper

Rose Tyler, played so perfectly by Billie Piper

Rose Tyler is an ordinary, working class girl, living a regular life, living with her mother in a tiny flat, working in the local department store, just trying to get by. But she dreams of so much more than that. When she gets chased by mannequins possessed by an evil alien lifeforce, has to deal with her store blowing up, and, in one brilliant scene, fails to notice that her boyfriend’s monosyllabic responses are not due to his disinterest but the fact that he is a replica created by the aliens, Rose realizes that life doesn’t have to be ordinary, or even safe. She chooses the thrill of the unknown, and accepts the Doctor’s offer (once he’s saved the day), to journey with him. The smile on Rose’s face as she runs into the TARDIS is one of the emotional high points of the entire show.

Davies understands what it is to dream of something more than what you have, and how you can become something extraordinary when you’re in the most challenging of situations. His characters, his writing, resonate so powerfully. As writers often like to say on Twitter, his writing has ALL THE FEELS.

His era of Doctor Who ran from 2005 through 2009, and it was extraordinary. It’s up there with the best of TV sci-fi like BUFFY, FIREFLY, STAR TREK, BSG, FRINGE, and Davies’ own WHO spin-off, TORCHWOOD. Davies wrote a book about running DOCTOR WHO, called The Writer’s Tale. If you are writer of any kind, a storyteller of any sort, a fan of the show, a fan of sci-fi, a fan of TV, an aspiring showrunner, or just interested in how stories are told, you need to read this book. It’s one of the greatest books about writing, about stories, about TV, ever written. You can see the detailed evolution of stories from initial idea to treatment to draft to shooting script. It’s fascinating, and it shows you above all how important character is.

It doesn’t hurt that Davies is a genius sci-fi writer, able to spin incredible ideas together and create deep and detailed worlds, often one after another to fulfill the hungry demands of a long-running episodic TV show. And he subtly layers in long-running arcs that build to insane crescendos like a boss.

But whatever he is writing, however fantastical the setting, Davies’ primary concern is always the character, and how to make us feel.

And boy, does he make us feel.

Writing is our TARDIS

Why do we write?

It’s a question writers often get asked, and probably one we think about all the time anyway. There are a lot of answers to that question; as readers and fans you’ve no doubt seen a lot of them. It’s something writers love to talk about, and we always love reading and hearing what our favorite writers have to say on that subject.

Most of the time, for us, we write because we don’t know how not to. We just can’t not write. Whether it’s sitting at the desktop or laptop, putting notes down in a phone, or using actual pen and paper by scribbling in one of our several thousand notebooks, or grabbing the first thing we can find (ripped open envelope, back of an already used post-it, margin of a magazine… back of our hands even)… inspiration and ideas strike constantly.

It happens all the time, and everywhere.

Out walking, sitting on a train, having a coffee, when the lights are out and just before falling asleep, watching TV, watching a movie. Being a writer means being on call to the beautiful muse, 24/7.

There are other reasons too: writing keeps us sane, helps us make sense of the world (and of ourselves)… but perhaps most importantly of all, we just love it.

We love it so much.

It’s an absolute blast, writing and being a writer. At its best, it feels like being in Pink Floyd or Muse and playing a guitar solo in a stadium full of screaming fans.

Just another Wednesday night, sitting on the sofa with the laptop

At least, it feels that way. Except, here’s the thing: when you’re a writer, there’s usually no one else there. That stadium is empty, most of the time. The truth is, being a writer is very much a “loneliness of the long distance runner” kind of activity. You’re running through an unforgiving landscape with no idea where the end of the race is going to be. But if you want to get there, you have to just keep running.

…or just keep swimming.

There’s really only one way to sustain that kind of existence: you have to love the crap out of it.

And we so do.

One of the most thrilling things in the world for anyone is possibility; but for a writer, the absolute most thrilling thing needs to be making possibilities become real, tangible, actual. You’re architect and craftsman, designer and builder. Yes, you have to be made of steel sometimes; you have to have an absolutely endless appetite for creating, for that thrill of coming up with something new… and for putting in the hours, weeks, months and maybe years to see it through.

And then, maybe, to spend that much time again getting rejected.

What?! Yeah, ‘fraid so.

So you have to really love it, because if you are in that phase of sending your work to others (agents, competitions, managers, other writers) and not hearing what you wanted to hear, you still need to be coming up with the next thing, and the next, and the next. Your desire needs to be immense, indestructible. Just like Celine says, your heart must go on (no, we can’t believe we went there either). You have to be utterly and hopelessly in love with this thing. Because it will hurt. It will be dark, sometimes. But you know, that’s okay, if you love it. That’s okay, if the sheer act of putting words on paper or on screen makes you feel like you’re Dave Grohl blasting out a Foo Fighters song at the Grammys.

Rocking out son

That absolute blast, that thrill of possibility and exploration is what drives us. The open road, the open sky… the open universe. We love launching ourselves into new worlds. It’s like being explorers, or mountain climbers. There’s a lot that goes into it, but the feeling when you discover that miraculous new world, or see that incredible view from the summit, is the most wonderful thing. We want it, over and over again. We’ll always want it.

Basically, being a writer is like having your own TARDIS.

This is what it’s like in our heads

You get to travel in time and space and see wonderful, mind-blowing things. Dreams that surprise you, scare you, change you. Every time you open a new Word doc (or Final Draft, or even just a blank piece of paper), it’s like the TARDIS has landed, and just like the Doctor, you have no idea what’s on the other side of that door. But you can’t wait to throw that door open and throw yourself into whatever adventure awaits.

Brilliant

Fantastic!

Getting Altered: Genetic Experimentation and Freaky Science in YA

Inspired by a recent tweet of Jessica Khoury’s, which posed the question why does there seem to be a rise in the number of ‘freaky science’ YA novels, we got to thinking… Firstly, that Freaky Science is a brilliant category title which should immediately be a section in all bookstores and added to Amazon’s list of categories. Secondly, that’s a really great question.

Here’s our take:

The possibilities of genetic experimentation have always been flowing through popular culture (The Fly, Jurassic Park), and they’ve particularly been in the air since 1999, when scientists first mapped the human genome. But recently, as observed in the great post that Khoury was referencing, it seems to be exploding in YA.

So why now?

Because YA hasn’t fully gone there yet. It’s still relatively unexplored, fertile territory. It’s a new planet, ready for our Curiosity rovers. And no one loves new planets like a YA writer.

Fiction is a beautifully insatiable hungry beast, always looking for the new. And YA is like fiction on steroids. And probably a couple of Red Bulls. That’s why YA is so damn great: it searches out the new and finds endless ways to use it, expand upon it, and mash it up with something else. It dives into the wonderful depths between genres and returns to the surface with tales of wonder. YA writers are, at their core, pioneers.

Genetic engineering and experimentation is basically a fantastic metaphor for YA. There are those in the industry who can get stuffy about genre/category boundaries. But as Donald Maass said last year, genre is dead. YA writers laugh in the face of boundaries. YA writing loves to combine the DNA of multiple genres to create beautiful, unique creatures. And let’s face it, if we “behaved” and didn’t break the genre rules, there would be no Buffy, no Firefly, no Doctor Who. Species survive by evolving, by changing their DNA. Literature is no different; and YA is the thrilling, defining example of that.

So bring on the genetic experimentation YA — it’s not just a metaphor for everything we do as writers, it’s also an extraordinarily rich source of creative potential. Just like life itself, there are endless possibilities.

We can’t wait to read all of them, starting with Khoury’s own Origin!