Book Nerd Guest Post
LAURENCE KLAVAN wrote the novels, “The Cutting Room” and “The Shooting Script,” which were published by Ballantine Books. He won the Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for the novel, “Mrs. White,” co-written under a pseudonym. His graphic novels, "City of Spies" and "Brain Camp," were co-written with Susan Kim and published by First Second Books at Macmillan. His short work has been published in The Alaska Quarterly, Conjunctions, The Literary Review, Gargoyle, Louisville Review, Natural Bridge, Pank, Stickman Review, Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, among many other journals, and a collection is forthcoming from Chizine Publications. He received two Drama Desk nominations for the book and lyrics of "Bed and Sofa," the musical produced by the Vineyard Theater in New York and the Finborough Theater in London in 2011. His one-act, "The Summer Sublet," is included Best American Short Plays 2000-2001.
Is there such a thing as a formula for storytelling?
SUSAN: No, not like plugging names into software and hitting enter. I’m actually kind of leery about craft books: “just do this, this, and this, make sure you have an inciting incident and a complication, then a reversal in your second act, blah blah blah”… it’s like trying to give someone directions on how to build a bird, because they’ve examined birds on a dissecting table and have lots of theories. That being said, I definitely think there are elements that are extremely useful for 90% of all great stories ever written. First of all, you need good characters: and by that, you need to know how they act when they really want something and how they act when they’re in trouble. In fact, you define character by their actions: characters aren’t just a list of adjectives, but reactions and behaviors in specific situations. And your characters need to want things… and not just, say, another helping of dessert, but something big, vital, the kind of thing that changes one’s life: love, power, revenge, forgiveness. You then have to think about what are the obstacles to that want: your protagonist’s stepmother and stepsisters won’t let her go to the ball? The beautiful cheerleader has decided she wants to date the cute new boy? Your protagonist’s brother wants to get the inheritance instead of her?
If there’s a flaw to a lot of first drafts, it’s that the stakes are way too low and that the protagonist is too passive. You might argue that that’s your intention… but trust me, it’s hard to keep your reader engaged when nothing matters and your hero just sits around, waiting for someone else to save the day. But other than that, there are no real rules.
No one dares to leave the District—the towering structure of glass and steel that is their protection against the unruly bands of Outsiders that roam Mundreel and the deadly rain that carries the disease that kills all over the age of nineteen.
This skyscraper stands amid the urban devastation, the city rumored to have once been called "Montreal." Esther and her allies have created a haven on the rooftop, a garden that flourishes, and a home for her new baby, hidden from all but the very few who know her secret. But as Gideon's power grows and factions form, the ultimate darkness is born from greed, and Esther must find a way to save the citizens from themselves.