Bird Face Wendy

Things relevant to reading, writing, publishing or marketing teen fiction.

Turn Up the Music in Young Adult Fiction

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Image courtesy of Morguefile free photos

Name one non-living thing that teenagers everywhere love: music.

It may be Christian rock, country western, hip-hop, or the traditional music of an exotic culture—but I haven’t known a young person from any background who didn’t enjoy some type of music.

Featuring music, or a love of it, is a great way to make a story and its characters more relatable to a teen audience.

Sometimes music is fundamental to the story and the main character. Sometimes it plays a supporting role, with the love of a certain type of music appearing as one facet of a secondary character’s personality. The plot or main character arc may depend on music to motivate a character to act and change, or a character’s involvement with music may influence another character’s feelings for him.

Examples of contemporary YA fiction employing music in the storylines are Sarah Dessen’s This Lullaby and Just Listen, Michelle Buckman’s My Beautiful Disaster, and Judy Blume’s Here’s to You, Rachel Robinson. A friend and fellow author also suggested a YA fantasy novel, Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonsong. In my novels, 8 Notes to a Nobody and 10 Steps to Girlfriend Status, one of the main characters plays the clarinet, and her music is an important part of her life.

Before you search your favorite music to incorporate it into your fiction, a word of caution about including any part of a song’s lyrics: you might get into trouble! Lyrics are copyrighted, and it’s difficult (or expensive) to gain permission to use them unless you know the artist personally. However, in the U.S. any song or musical work published in 1922 or earlier is in the public domain.*

Society tends to associate particular musical instruments with certain looks and personality types, but if you think outside the (music) box, they needn’t be stereotypical combinations.

When you imagine a male teenager who plays electric guitar or bass, how do you picture him? Is he a bad-boy rebel with long hair and a sketchy reputation, or a modern-day Buddy Holly with close-cropped hair and glasses? If that musician is a girl, is she a Shania Twain or a Cindy Lauper?

How about a female flutist (a.k.a. flautist)? Do you imagine someone outgoing and a member of the marching band or a lover of the classics who is quiet and shy? She may be a serious student, or perhaps she uses her music to escape her troubles at school or at home. If your male character plays the flute, does he date a girl in the student orchestra, or is he an introvert? Does he play classical music but listen to hard rock? Does he study the martial arts?

If you employ irony by pairing a musician’s love of a particular instrument with that of a hobby that seems to contradict it, you can make a character even more memorable. Is the cello player also a skydiver? Does the drummer rescue cats?

Playing music can be a diversion, a forced extra-curricular activity creating conflict with a parent, or perhaps a young person’s primary focus and anticipated career. Your teen character may play the organ at church, compose guitar music for a band, write lyrics in secret, or work in a recording studio—for fun, for profit, or to gain experience.

Bonuses in incorporating music into a story come not only in more relatable, three-dimensional characters, but also in creating believable settings and scenes with easy-to-use sensory details.

In addition to the obvious instrumental sounds, consider other sounds as well as the marvelous sights and smells surrounding the playing of music. Think of the aromas of wood or a leather case—from an acoustic guitar or a cello, antique or brand new. Light plays with musical instruments, bouncing from metal horns and showing off a violin’s luster. Back to sounds, some of the most interesting are those that occur before and after the music plays. Sheet music rustling, discordant tuning, cases rattling or scraping the floor, locks snapping shut. Use them to show joy, frustration, or anger.

Remember that teens all over the globe can identify with other teens who love music or are involved with it in some way. Your story will truly resonate with them when the music one of your characters loves happens to be the music they love too.

Which YA novels have you read that feature music?

*http://www.pdinfo.com/public-domain-music-list.php

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10 Things I Learned From My Facebook Party

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Image courtesy of Morguefile free photos

… that might help with yours!

Last week I hosted a virtual event celebrating the release of the first two novels of my Bird Face series. The party was great fun, but as one author friend recognized, a lot of work.

There’s nothing like attending a few Facebook parties to get a feel for their dynamics before you make the decision whether or not to host one. I popped into several as I geared up to create my own. I recommend you visit a few—to participate in or simply “lurk”—and pay attention to the following.

  1. If you’ve selected a location city in your true time zone for the Facebook account that is associated with your event, the time zone for your party will be correct. I didn’t have a city designated beforehand, and my first party notification showed up with the wrong zone. If you don’t want to give your exact location on Facebook, choose another one in your time zone. You will see a time zone indicated on any Facebook event page you visit.
  2. Choose the day and time period for your party carefully. I had to consider a number of things. School had started, so teens and teachers were busy during the middle of the day. Football season had kicked in (no pun intended), and high school or college games might be scheduled on Thursday, Friday, or Saturday evenings. The Friday of the week I chose happened to be 9/11, so I didn’t want to use that day. I chose Thursday and decided to start the party right before lunch (mine), which would be morning on the U.S. west coast and lunchtime on the east. I hoped that would catch interested stay-at-home parents, home educators, and people on their lunch breaks. (Someone dropped in for a while before heading to work.) The party hours extended until 7 p.m. to include people after school and after some day jobs in most time zones.
  3. Choose the length of the event to suit yourself and anyone helping you. There’s nothing wrong with a short party of two hours. Mine was long for more reasons than I mentioned above. One reason was that I recently moved and didn’t know when I’d make the acquaintance of enough people to invite to an actual party. Another was that I no longer work a day job, so I figured I might as well make the most of a virtual party.
  4. As discussed in Behind the Scenes—12 tasks for book authors before the release, have at least one giveaway. In addition to your books and books from other authors, consider some unusual items that relate to your story. Either hint about the connection or come right out and say it. The most popular giveaway at my party was an art print donated by a book illustrator that related to my character’s love for animals. If your party is short, you may have time for only one or two giveaways. I had twelve. Remember—for any giveaway that you are responsible for shipping or mailing, the cost for that might be more than the value of the giveaway. But for me, having fun with my party’s attendees was more important.
  5. Make the criteria for entering each giveaway you planned interesting but not too exclusive. I scared myself during two of them. One novel being given away was about twins, and I asked for comments to be about twins the person commenting knew. I wanted the comments to be entertaining, but it took so long for anyone to comment, I wondered if perhaps not many people knew or remembered twins. Another novel was about angels. I’d heard a lot of guardian-angel stories in my life and thought that sharing a true-life guardian angel story would be a good criterion for commenting and entering the giveaway. Again, participation was minimal. Sometimes the criterion for a giveaway was simply to express a desire for it. Sometimes including a photo gave the commenter an additional entry.
  6. How do you schedule the giveaways? I struggled with this the most. In the initial planning, I thought I’d have each giveaway run two hours but overlap. Then reality set in. I was afraid I would lose track. I was glad I decided to have one contest (with me as judge) that ran most of the party but have the other giveaways last one hour each (except for a special one that extended to two hours). I did run two one-hour giveaways simultaneously when it seemed appropriate. For example, during a giveaway for boys, I also ran one for girls. However, I made all giveaways start and stop exactly at any given hour. So a giveaway might read like this—2:00 – 3:00 p.m.
    GIVEAWAY blah-blah-blah, and state how to enter.
  7. There may be lulls in participation activity, but there may be times when you need someone to fix you a snack because you’re afraid to tear your eyes away from the screen. I experienced a 30-minute period of no activity during my lunchtime (contrary to what I believed would happen), so I made sure to stretch and take care of personal matters.
  8. I cannot stress how important having prepared posts ready and waiting on a Word document was. It allowed me to play with the timing and wording of giveaways in advance. And I was able to copy from the document and paste each new giveaway onto the Facebook event page in a second as an old one was ending. I was able to easily repeat later in the day a giveaway that had no activity earlier. It happened to be the one for the art print, which became wildly popular by evening.
  9. Obviously, you must picture your giveaways so people know exactly what they’d receive if they won. I had a folder on my desktop containing all the book covers and other images I needed for my posts. So … copy and past the necessary text, attach the correct image(s), and voila!
  10. On everything but the contest, the names of the entrants were written on squares of paper, folded up, and placed in a “hat,” which was actually a bowl. I used two bowls at once because of the way I structured my party, but you might do something different. The winning name for each giveaway was drawn from the hat/bowl. This worked fine. I announced the winner immediately in a comment on that giveaway’s post and asked the person to message me with the needed e-mail or physical address, as the case may have been. For winners who did not contact me by the end of the party, I messaged them. If a winner was a friend of a friend, I also messaged her for help.

In the end, my party was worth the effort. Not only did I attract new readers to my books but also to the other authors’ that donated theirs as giveaways.

If you’ve hosted a Facebook event, how did it go? What can you share that you learned? If it was a book launch party, I’d love to hear if you experienced anything very different from mine.

Cynthia

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Have You Heard? Bird Face is back, Bay-baaaay!

sw_Listening_sa209430-2  The first two books of the new Bird Face series have been released by Write Integrity Press! Look for 8 Notes to a Nobody and 10 Steps to Girlfriend Status in paperback and Kindle versions on Amazon. Please consider asking your school, public library, and local bookstore to carry them too. You are an important voice to spread the messages that Wendy’s stories have for young people: they are wonderful, valuable, powerful, and worthy of love.

8 Notes to a Nobody Cover Final Front10 Steps to Girlfriend Status FRONT COVER

I’m so grateful to you for sticking with me on this blog throughout the long process of finding a good home for Wendy and her friends. I will continue to share with you the joys and struggles of writing and getting published. I hope you’ll also share yours with me.

See you again soon!

Cynthia T. Toney

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