Endings

Seeing as the year is coming to an end, and this will probably be my last blog for the year, I thought I’d take today to talk about endings, books where the last few pages were really the backbone of the whole thing.  For some books, the wrap-up isn’t just the last few necessary pages, but a way to take the story in a direction nobody expected.

Freak the Mighty — One of my older brother’s favorite books growing up, and mine too, this is the tale of Max, a big kid who’s typically known as the tough guy of the school, and Kevin, nicknamed “Freak” for his small size and the fact that he had a seizure disorder. Though the book has an ultimately encouraging message of breaking down barriers, it’s the last few pages of the book that make it, where we realize the impact “Freak” has had on Max’s life, and ours, too. You can really tell a book is good if you already know the ending and it still affects you.

Goosebumps — Though not much of a shocker today, the ending of pretty much every Goosebumps book was enough to terrify you when you were 10. R.L. Stine proved himself a master of twist endings, and the popularity of the books really reflect that. I remember sitting around reading Goosebumps books with my mom and grandma and being shocked at the last few lines of every one.

Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark Trilogy  —The crazy older brother of the Goosebumps books, The Scary Stories trilogy was enough to keep most kids up at night, and can still send a chill up our backs 10 or 12 years later. As is the case in pretty much any scary story, the ending is the backbone. It’s so frightening that it’s earned a spot on the top 100 most challenged books in school libraries, and to this I say congratulations. You know you did something right when your horror book is being taken off the shelves for being too scary. As a survivor of middle school, I am proud to say that I read each of those books two or three different times, and writing this article is only making me want to read them again.

Shel Silverstein’s poems — A master of comedy and prose and occasional heartfelt messages, Shel Silverstein’s pieces in many cases relied on the very last line of the poem, in which the narrator reveals something about himself or the situation that makes us break out into laughter. From dropping an ice cream cone, to forgetting to build the bottom of a boat, to establishing that the narrator is an inch tall, anything and everything can be expected from Shel Silverstein’s poems. These were some of my favorite books growing up, and I read them several times over as well. Come to think of it, those poems might’ve been one of the things that made me want to be a writer, remembering the laughs they brought my family and I, and hoping I could someday do the same for somebody else.

Anyways, that’s all for today. Feel free to leave in the comments your own experiences about writing and endings.

Playwriting

Recently, I’ve gotten kind of into plays and playwriting, so I’ll spend this week talking about the craft of playwriting, important aspects, as well as advantages and disadvantages.

Playwriting is arguably one of the most unique aspects of writing in several different ways. It uses dialogue and stage direction to set the scene and move the plot forward. We often hear about how characters must drive the plot, and nowhere is this more true than in playwriting, where all we have are the words and actions of those onstage. Unlike in novels, we don’t have several pages to describe setting, and therefore characters must decide that, too, by reacting to the world around them.

Dialogue: Dialogue takes center stage in plays because it is mostly through what is said and what is not said that we learn what we need to know about the entire story. This can be both helpful and troublesome, because while we can portray a lot through dialogue, we also must show when a character is lying and their attitudes towards what they or those around them are doing since we cannot simply state it or put a thought somewhere near their dialogue. Plus, the age of long, Shakespearean soliloquies is sort of over. That being said, there is a way out of it: musicals. Oddly enough, though many types of plays don’t include soliloquies anymore, it is not uncommon to see entire songs devoted to the inner thoughts of characters in musicals and operas. If that isn’t an option, as it isn’t in many cases, use asides and make your characters interact with several different people. How they react to each one tells us who they’re lying to, and why.

Stage Direction: Just as important as dialogue, and not quite as common, is stage direction. Telling an actor various movements to make and inflections to take when performing can tell us a whole lot about character, and much like dialogue, it is based on writing and directing style. Personally, mine is minimalist. I don’t like dictating everything the actors are doing every moment, so I include stage directions only when necessary. Then I see what the actors glean from the dialogue, and how they set up the character’s personality.

Setting: Setting is a different thing entirely. Since this is a stage, your setting is basically  going to consist of a few pieces of furniture or a rock and a bush and the rest will be implied. Again, we must use dialogue and stage direction to imply it more than see it. For instance, accents, slang, foreign words thrown into otherwise familiar dialogue and things of that nature tell us a lot about where we are and when.

Acting: This is the one thing that in no way is going to be up to the writer. Presenting the story you’ve created to the cast is as far as you can go, unless you plan on casting or directing it yourself, which does occasionally happen. This is why I go with a minimalist perspective on stage directions. My job is writing, and their jobs are directing, acting and casting, and unless I give them room to experiment with what they see in the play, it feels like I don’t trust them. Remember, this is their job and their passion, so chances are they’re pretty good at it.

I like plays a lot, simply because there are some things that can better be seen through a play than a novel or short story. Aside from using mainly dialogue and a handful of action, playwriting is also the only literary medium where you have to rely partially on the perceptions and ideas of others to make your point.

Mom and Dad

Some of our earliest memories are usually our mother and father reading to us as kids, and I am no exception. Seeing as both of my parents’ birthdays were just this past week (April 6 and 9), I thought I’d bring up some of their favorite books, or things they first introduced me to.

Little House on the Prairie — Written by Laura Ingalls Wilder, a young pioneer girl growing up in the late 1800s, the “Little House on the Prairie” series are my mother’s favorite books. She’s always had a fascination with pioneers and frontier life, so she reads about it as much as she can.

Fullmetal Alchemist  My dad first introduced me to it a year or so ago, and, though I don’t read a lot of manga, this really grabbed my attention. Set in a fascist country called Amestris in the year 1914, “Fullmetal Alchemist” is the story of Edward and Alphonse Elric, two alchemists (essentially magicians working for the military) that have attempted to bring their mother back from the dead, leaving one with two bionic limbs and the other as a walking suit of armor. Now, dedicated to getting their bodies back, their quest will lead them through the upper echelons of the military, following a mystery of a violent civil war in a neighboring land, and strange super-humans that seem to be against them every step of the way.

The Polar Express — My mom loves Christmas, so it’s no surprise that she introduced me to this book, as well as every Christmas movie I’ve ever seen, which is quite a lot. A children’s book about a mysterious train that shows up on Christmas Eve to take kids to the North Pole, “The Polar Express” is an award-winning story that expresses the joys of childhood innocence.

Shogun —  It was maybe a few years ago when my dad first showed me this novel. The complex story of an Englishman named John Blackthorne who lands in Japan in the year 1600, “Shogun” gives a vivid description of feudal Japanese culture, as well as a complex power struggle between warlords Toranaga (based on Tokugawa) and Ishido (based on a Japanese daimyo, or feudal lord, named Ishida), which has been intermingled with a smaller, nonviolent power struggle between the Japanese and Portuguese Jesuits, who seek to capitalize on Japanese trade as well as convert as many of them as possible. Now, caught up in the jumble of events, Blackthorn must serve Toranaga as a samurai while simultaneously trying to secure trading rights for the English and Dutch, and pursue a Japanese woman named Mariko whom he’s fallen in love with.

Our parents have a huge impact on our lives, so it’s no surprise that they can occasionally introduce us to some of our favorite stories. To show my gratitude for that, I thought I’d introduce some of their favorite stories. What are some of your parents’ favorite stories and what did they introduce you to? Feel free to post in the comments.

Fiction in Modern History

It is a known fact that it is very difficult to make it as a writer, particularly as a fiction writer. That is why it is so amazing when a book not only makes an impression, but changes the course of history as well. That being said, I thought I’d use this week’s blog to pay tribute to a few of those books. Keep in mind, I’m going to be sticking to fiction, so certain noteworthy titles, such as Elie Wiesel’s “Night” and “The Diary of Anne Frank,” won’t be on the list for this reason.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin — Harriet Beecher Stowe’s piece protesting the evils of slavery as the title character is ruthlessly mistreated and continually tries to justify it gives a startling account of the realities of antebellum Southern aristocracy and plantation life. The book became so popular and became such a rallying cry for abolitionists that Lincoln is quoted as saying, “So you’re the little woman that started this great big war.”

All Quiet on the Western Front — Though not a huge fan of protest novels in general, I must say that I love the way this was handled. Written by a German war veteran named Erich Maria Remarque, “All Quiet on the Western Front” is a horrifying account of trench warfare in the last days of World War I. It is through the eyes of the narrator, Paul, that we experience the vicious tactics of both armies, including gas, machine guns and desperate charges across a no-man’s-land. Weaved through the horrifying scenes of combat are various comments on Prussian society, as well as various excursions into French towns showing how close citizens were to the lines in World War I.

Animal Farm — George Orwell’s book on the Russian Revolution and the rise of the Soviet Union serves as a stunning protest to Stalinist politics. Though a socialist himself, Orwell wrote “Animal Farm” and “1984” to condemn the more radical communist policies that had given socialism a bad name. It is also interesting to note that “Animal Farm,” though specifically detailing Stalin’s rise to power, outlines characteristics of every totalitarian regime that rose to power between World War I and II. One chapter details Napoleon (Stalin) viciously executing other animals who claim to have spoken with his exiled political opponent, Snowball. This not only mimics Stalin’s genocide of political opponents, but also Hitler’s SA, a strong-arm of the Nazi party who became infamous for violently beating political opponents on the streets of Germany. Ironically, they themselves were later beaten and executed en masse under Hitler’s orders by the then-new-and-now-infamous SS. Though less violent in general, Mussolini’s black shirts similarly marched through Italy in an effort to oust the current government. However, unlike Orwell’s idealistic farm animals, both the Nazis and Italian fascists failed in outright rebellion and were forced to gain control through more political means.

The Jungle — Written by a muckraker named Upton Sinclair in the early 1900s, “The Jungle” showed the horrors of the Chicago meat-packing industry, which operated with no guidelines, allowing for filthy workspace, underpaid immigrant labor and even the occasional rat stumbling into the machinery and ending up as part of a sausage. The book elicited such a horrified reaction from the public that reforms were enacted, calling for cleaner conditions and higher meat standards.

Throughout the ages, books have had a huge impact on human thought and action. Though it’s rare for a book to have an impact large enough to change history, some have done just that. They have showed us that any unbridled system, be it socialism or capitalism or even nationalism, can have appalling results. Others have taught us the horrors of war, or shown us places so oppressive that war may be the best solution. It has been argued that history isn’t recorded in textbooks but won by nations. I disagree. History, in a greater sense, is recorded and changed through the journals and stories of normal citizens and soldiers. It always has been, and it always will be.

Film Adaptations, pt. 2

Several weeks ago, we looked at good movie adaptations of books, but more often than not, directors feel the need to take “creative liberties,” and oftentimes ruin the movie entirely. So, this week I thought I’d take a moment to discuss the most inaccurate movie adaptations ever, both the good and the bad.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit? — Though, in my personal opinion, an amazing movie, it cannot be argued that “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” was nowhere near close to “Who Censored Roger Rabbit,” the novel it was based on. In the book, which is set in the 1980s, Detective Eddie Valiant is sent to solve the murder of Roger Rabbit, a newspaper comic character, whose temporary stunt double is wandering around with Eddie and helping him solve the case, as he deals with various newspaper comic book characters. Disney completely changed it, as it usually does with everything, turning Eddie Valiant into a quick-talking, alcoholic, 1940s detective who is hired to solve the murder of Acme, a major cartoon producer, accompanied the whole way by Roger Rabbit, in the film an archetype slapstick cartoon character from the 1940s. Though I don’t usually agree with Disney on anything, I actually liked what they were able to do with this movie, using their resources to paint a mysterious plot in a colorful world where classic cartoon characters live alongside humans.

Willie Wonka/Charlie and the Chocolate Factory — It is a rare book that is popular enough to warrant not just one movie, but two. Unfortunately for Roald Dahl’s classic novel, neither adaptation is very accurate. The first film, made sometime in the early ’70s, is by far the more popular and more accurate one. Though the character of Willy Wonka is changed remarkably from the book’s mysterious, actually rather grim persona to a more lighthearted trickster, the moral is still there in the same comedic, cheery and at times off-the-wall manner that Roald Dahl is famous for. The more recent adaptation, however, is nowhere near as popular or as accurate. Making the kids slightly older and adding a somewhat darker nature to the entire film — including changing scenes, trying to update the music, adding bits that had little or no relevance and other factors besides — took out the childlike nature of the entire piece, which sort of destroyed the basically allegorical backbone of the entire story.

Watchmen (Cinema Version) — Though I’m a huge fan of the graphic novel, I have to admit the cinema version was horrible. What ruined the film for me wasn’t so much that they changed the ending. Their ending worked just as well as the book’s ending did. What ruined the film was that they took out the comic book excerpts, which help to set up the main themes of the story and add more weight to the plot. That being said, I must champion the four-hour extended version of the same film — long but definitely worth it. In this version, the comic book sequences and even the exchanges between the teenager and the guy running the comic book stand are put back in, and add pretty much everything the cinema version was missing.

Anything else by Disney — Anybody who’s watched a Disney movie as a kid and then taken a history or literature class as a teenager probably knows that Disney has no respect for accuracy. I understand that they’re trying to make things family-friendly, but as has been proven by “Toy Story,” “The Princess and the Frog” and a few other movies besides, this can be achieved without ripping off an already-existing plot. One of the biggest offending films is “Mulan,” which has actually been banned in China for historical inaccuracy. Aside from changing her name from Hua Mulan to Fa Mulan, for reasons I don’t quite understand, they also changed the situation. Though Disney’s war is a generic Hun invasion, Hua Mulan’s conflict was actually a civil war between two smaller states, which happened quite a lot in the ancient world. I don’t understand why Disney was so much more comfortable tackling an invasion. Doesn’t it boil down to the same thing?

The other Disney movie that I couldn’t stand was “Anastasia.” Though more closely based off history than a book, this film is so inaccurate that it makes no sense. It follows the story of Anastasia, a Russian princess who supposedly escaped during the Russian Revolution. I’m not sure why Disney didn’t do the real story, even if they had to clean it up a little bit. A war where a princess is displaced? Check. A violent leader who would probably kill her if he could? Check. A quest to a foreign land in an attempt to find refuge? Check. Seriously, Disney, this was right up your alley. Why did you change it? If you’re afraid of offending people, then just don’t take on the project, but don’t change the whole story.

There have been some very inaccurate adaptations of books, poems and even history hitting the big screen over the years, and a select few have pulled this off well, but the vast majority don’t even come close. In my opinion, the best advice for filmmakers is do it accurately or don’t do it at all, and I’m pretty sure most readers would agree.

Crossovers

I wasn’t sure what to blog about this week. I could have played on the theme of movie adaptations and do the worst ones, but seeing as I haven’t seen very many movies lately, I felt ill-prepared. Then I saw a gaming channel on Youtube talk about game crossovers, and, let’s confess, there are some stories that would look awesome together.

Marvel and DC — I realize it may be sacrilege to think of the biggest rivals in the comic industry joining together, but I’ve heard it happened a few times, and it should happen more. Who among us would not love to see the Green Goblin get transferred to Arkham, or Deadpool, and since Captain America and Superman both stand for the American way, wouldn’t a team-up make sense? Please make it happen.

Harry Potter and Tom Clancy — Okay, I know Tom Clancy is dead, but I was going for concept. Several times during the series, Harry mentions that he wants to be an auror, but the only exposure we get to that is the actions of The Order of the Phoenix during the rise and fall of Voldemort and the Deatheaters. What exactly does an auror do when an evil anti-muggle cult isn’t taking over the government, and for that matter, what does the government do? Is the wizarding world harmonized or are there diplomatic problems there as well?

“Percy Jackson” and “Harry Potter” — Notice how there are several references to Greek Mythology in the Harry Potter series? Notice how both worlds — the Greek and wizarding — use magic to separate themselves from humans? In “Percy Jackson,” there’s even a word for it: the “Mist”. Suppose the earth weren’t split into two worlds, but three: human, wizarding and Greek mythological. For whatever reason, they were separated from each other — except maybe wizards don’t have as strong a “Mist” around them, which allows them to see certain Greek creatures such as centaurs and “Fluffy,” Hagrid’s Cerberus-esque dog. What if the “Mist” disappeared and suddenly wizards and demigods found themselves meeting for the first time? I would love to see this.

“Artemis Fowl” and detective novels — It would be hilarious to try to see a detective hunt down Artemis Fowl, because, though most of the time, he was the good guy, he did commit quite a few crimes. To make this even funnier, have the detective be Fletcher from “Half Moon Investigations” so that we’re torn on who to side with.  Maybe there’s even something bigger that they have to team up to find and stop.

“Wizard of Oz,” “Peter Pan” and “Alice in Wonderland” — I know these are children’s books, and classics at that, but suppose they were three different countries in the same magical world. The evil Red Queen of Wonderland, the pirates of Neverland and the wicked witches of Oz are somehow all teamed up, or maybe fighting against each other. The plot I had in mind (keep in mind this would be a young adult story and I’ve admittedly been thinking about the plot for quite awhile): Wonderland is a nightmare. The queen of hearts (royal family) is on the throne, forcing the spades (peasants) to toil on various building projects, having her clubs (soldiers) push them around so that they’re too scared to revolt, and using a mixture of bribery and deceit to keep the diamonds (nobles) from arming themselves (and possibly even the spades) and turning on her. Meanwhile, the queen is also making secret deals with the pirates of Neverland, who, with Peter missing, are free to kidnap whatever Lost Boys they find and sell them into servitude in Wonderland. Meanwhile, a witch is now running Oz, and she has her own plans. She kidnaps Peter Pan so that the Lost Boys are defenseless, and plants various spies into the spade class. Once the spade class has grown from an abundance of kidnapped Lost Boys, she’ll descend on Wonderland with her flying monkeys and use her spies to incite a rebellion so that she’ll have control of both lands. Now, it’s up to a runaway spade from Wonderland, a good-witch-in-training from Oz and a rogue Lost Boy of Neverland to save all three lands and restore the old leaders.

There’s the stories I want to see mashed-up. Please feel free to post in the comments what stories you think should be mashed-up, or what you think of my ideas in general. That’s all for this week.

Film Adaptations

One of the most recent trends with books is that the most popular ones are constantly being made into movies. In fact, it seems like now more than ever, some of the highest grossing films are book adaptations. So, I figured I’ll spend this week outlining some of the best adaptations, at least as of late. Keep in mind that I haven’t seen a lot of movies recently, so if some aren’t on here, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it wasn’t good. It may just mean that, having not seen the movie, I don’t feel right to judge.

The Hobbit — It was a bold move, taking the plot of “The Hobbit,” interlacing several elements from “The Silmarilion,” and splitting it into three movies, but I would trust nobody but Peter Jackson to do it. As much as it goes against my — and for that matter any book lover’s — code to say, I actually liked the movies better than the book. Not because I’m lazy and don’t like reading. That’s not true at all. But I like the depth that the added elements put into the film. As great as “The Hobbit” was, it focused exclusively on Bilbo, and the film kept Bilbo’s tale at its core, but the added scenes and history made me understand that there was a lot more to this tale than just a hall under a mountain. I could sympathize with Thorin, the battle-scarred king trying to regain his throne, and the elves, who, after years of isolating themselves in the forest, were starting to feel the frightening impact of Sauron’s imminent return.

Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows — I know it’s been a while since it was released, but the filmmakers definitely got something right in the last two installments. Making the wise decision of splitting the last book into two films, the filmmakers were able to capture all the important elements of the story without butchering anything like they did with the fight at the ministry in book five (seriously guys, not cool). Not only did they give the book its proper depth, but also its accuracy. The cardinal rule with book adaptations is keeping it accurate. These stories are famous for a reason, and you’re going to lose a lot of viewers if the fans don’t get what they want. I’m not sure why, in a competition between author and director, some directors still think they’ll win, but that’s an issue for another day.

The Hunger Games — Granted, I still haven’t seen “Catching Fire” yet, but if it’s anything as good as the first film was, I know I won’t be disappointed. As with “The Hobbit,” the slight changes made to “The Hunger Games” only added depth to the plot, like a somewhat crucial few scenes which showed the seeds of revolution starting to take root in Panem, which, by the way, is ironically Latin for “bread” (Well played, Suzanne Collins, well played). This was one of the shining hallmarks of film adaptations, an accurate story with very few changes that ultimately give it a small bit of extra depth. I understood every character, portrayed just as accurately as in the book. The whole thing was brilliantly cast and well-directed, so the movie lost almost nothing in the adaptation. All in all, brilliantly done.

Ender’s Game — It’s been years since I read the book, but the movie brought it all back for me. I understood Ender’s plight, and the plight of the world several years after an alien invasion. It all made sense to a point where, for an anti-war allegory, you could even sympathize with the opposition and understand that nobody is truly evil. I understood how the commanders had gotten frightened and took the intention of protecting their world too far. It was one of the few movies with a message that didn’t seem preachy or self-righteous. The only thing taken out of the novel was the subplot detailing the writings of Ender’s siblings, which I understood the exclusion of. Given that it dealt largely with Cold War politics, it wouldn’t have made much sense in a modern setting, though it did take something away from the context of the story. All in all, an awesome movie that brought the fantastical setting of battle school to life, and almost exactly as I imagined it.

We live in an age of movie adaptations, but in the last few years, some have really shined. They keep with the plot and change only what needs to be changed — either for updating or because certain aspects from the book can’t be implied or directly stated the same way they can in books. Ultimately, these were films that made a lasting impression on me, and I have no doubt they made an impression on the leaders too.

Popular Authors

Last week, I talked about current trends, and I think I may have mentioned some of the authors that started them. For instance, the paranormal romance trend was started by Stephanie Meyer’s “Twilight,” though the paranormal aspect may be traced to J.K. Rowling. The dystopian trend was, of course, started by Suzanne Collins, and the zombie trend by Max Brooks. There are also some very skilled followers in these genres. For instance, Cassandra’s Clare’s “City of Bones” series and Veronica Roth’s “Divergent” — send-ups of the paranormal and dystopian genres, respectively — are gaining incredible popularity.

However, though many popular authors are inspired by trends, there are a few relatively modern but incredibly popular books that haven’t. For instance, an addictive read and among my favorite books of all time is Markus Zusak’s “The Book Thief.” Telling a frighteningly accurate tale of life in Nazi Germany through the eyes of a little girl is interesting enough, but having the whole book narrated by Death adds a heartbreaking sense of reality that Liesel’s (the protagonist) tale cannot quite provide. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that the main character’s story is flawed. On the contrary, it is astounding, but Leisel being a little girl rather than, say, a soldier or a politician, means that we only see the details that might personally affect her corner of the world, and therefore we need Death to occasionally cut away and add in that bit of perspective on battlefields, death camps and the bigger picture in general. Zusak does this perfectly and the result is mind-blowing.

Another of my favorite authors is the incredibly popular Eoin Colfer, who has written so many gripping books and memorable characters that it’s hard to pick just one. His most popular character is Artemis Fowl from the series of the same name. The reason I loved these books was that though the setting was fantastical, and so were some of the characters, it didn’t read that way. Though I’m always one for a good hero story, I loved the fact that Artemis wasn’t a hero. He was a preteen criminal mastermind who seemed to be out for himself. What made him so addictive was that he always had something up his sleeve, but you never could tell what it was. In the later books, he starts working with the fairy world he has just discovered and consequently robbed to stop more dangerous criminals in both his world and theirs.

“Airborne,” another of Colfer’s popular pieces, is your typical vengeance tale with a very interesting twist. When Conner’s parents are murdered, Conner must set out to confront the man who killed them. However, this quest will lead him into several new situations, which will require him to call on his wits and his passion for flying to find his way out.

By far, however, my favorite of Colfer’s books is “Half-moon Investigations.” A modern film-noir story with a comical preteen narrator, “Half-moon Investigations” follows young Fletcher Moon, cruelly nicknamed Half-moon due to his height, as he tries to unravel a case where a fellow student is being framed. On the way, he will bump heads and even form an alliance with the most crooked family in town, get beaten with a cricket bat and discover a strange group of little girls whose sole goal seems to be getting every boy kicked out of school. It is a hilarious read, and I highly recommend it.

There are many popular authors in the world, some of which have spawned their own trends, but that doesn’t mean that they’re the only good writers out there. Sometimes, if you want to find something really good, you might have to look in a less-obvious place.

Current trends

Everything has its trends. Pop culture has its fads and big stars and various other things. Books have plots and character archetypes that seem to repeat in many of the books written during certain periods of time. For instance, current trends include paranormal romance and dystopias.

I’ve read recently that paranormal romance is starting to decline. Not being big on romance, I was actually happy to hear that. I’ve never understood how romance books got so popular. It baffles me that people can come up with so many different ways for a relationship to unfold, but that’s just me.

Personally, I’m fonder of dystopias. The basic idea behind them is that the future is horrible, and since humanity has developed some strange obsession with finding out how things could go wrong, there is literally an infinite list of ideas that could spring from this. Among the more popular books with this theme are “The Hunger Games” trilogy, which started the trend, and the “Divergent” trilogy, both of which I’ve read at least partly (I still haven’t finished the “Divergent” series) and loved.

The last current trend that comes to mind is zombies, started, I think, by Max Brooks’ novel “World War Z,” which is, again, a great book. It talks about a gigantic zombie outbreak severe enough that all the world is dragged into a global conflict to fight them off. However, I must say that, as far as plot goes, my all-time favorite zombie story was actually in a video game. Imagine a world torn apart by a man-eating fungus that has forced humanity into a walled, largely fascist society in which a civil war rages between the government and a democratic militant group known as The Fireflies. Amidst this chaotic scene, a shady character must work for The Fireflies to escort an immune teenaged girl who might be humanity’s only hope of a cure. On the way, they’ll run into zombies and rampant bandits as they traverse post-apocalyptic America. I am of course talking about “The Last of Us.” In the video game industry, plot isn’t really a necessity, so when a game comes along with a good story, the gaming world takes notice.

With all the recent trends, I can’t help but think what’s going to be next. Personally, some of the things I’d like to see are:

  • Alternate History—There are just so many things that can be done.
  • Neo-noir—Detective novels first became a trend in the 1800s and continued into the 1940s. Personally, I’d like to see a new futuristic twist on the genre: the dark, gritty underside of the future as seen through the eyes of a detective.
  • Society reboot—Sort of like dystopias, except not necessarily horrible and not futuristic. Einstein said that he didn’t know what World War III would be fought with, but World War IV would be fought with sticks and stones. Suppose there was a disaster bad enough to set humanity back to early society. Who survived? Who’s in power? What’s it like to live in this shattered world?
  • Empowered—Suppose something happened where the diseased or disabled were turned into super-humans, or somehow made more powerful than the average person. What would be the result?

Publishing

It is every aspiring writer’s dream to finally get their work in print, to see their ideas in the public eye, but how to do it? I’ve asked myself this question many times, even written a term paper on it. Unfortunately, the facts make me no less frightened than I was before, since literary agents don’t often represent young writers and most books don’t make much money.

The good news is that if you know how, getting published is very doable. Though I’ve never done it personally, I’m hoping to get some of my work published soon, and from what I’ve heard, it’s best to start big and work your way down. Go for well-known publishing companies, ones that are constantly turning out bestsellers, and don’t get discouraged when they reject you, because they don’t often publish young writers either, but you never know. Keep going down the list. Chances are, if you found your idea interesting, somebody else will too, and you’ll find a publisher. The reason I suggest going down the list is because you don’t want to sell yourself short. Larger, more well-known publishing companies means more publicity for the book and probably more money for both of you.

Of course, nobody can get published without a manuscript, and every manuscript must have a few essential ingredients. The first ingredient is a query letter. Simply put, this is like a resumé for writers, only slightly different. It will have a brief paragraph explaining who you are, what you hope to achieve in the industry, and what this particular manuscript is about. The other ingredient is of course the manuscript itself, which you have spent hours slaving over and doing your best to perfect. One piece of advice: Be patient and send to one company at a time. Though multiple submissions is a quicker process, what do you do if more than one company wants the manuscript? Also, don’t get offended if a company asks you to change a few things when they accept the manuscript. This is normal, and is not meant to be an insult. Your business is creating. Their business is audiences, which means you must work together to make the creation more accessible to the audiences. It’s like a machine. The cogs must work together.

Another important factor to take into account when submitting for publication is subject matter, and I don’t mean that you can’t write more mature stories. What I’m saying is don’t send a Valentine’s Day piece into a Christmas magazine. Look for where your piece fits and send it there. I’ve heard that a lot of good stories get rejected because they just didn’t fit the guidelines.

In the digital age, it is much easier to get published than it was before, but this has advantages and drawbacks. First off, the ease of online publishing means that you can get your pieces to the public quickly, and to a massive audience. The drawbacks are that the piece is unedited, so it may not be as good as it could be. It is also competing for space with countless other pieces, which means that it may not get much notice. Plus, no publisher means no publicity, and therefore less attention. All in all: Though online publishing is easier, I’d recommend sending to a company.

We all dream of publishing, but it’s a complex business with many rules and pitfalls. However, if you know these rules, such as where and how to send your manuscript, there’s room for your piece in the great world of publishing.