Bird Face Wendy

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

Guest Marissa Shrock Tackles Heavy Topics in Fiction

FirstPrinciple   Today, the Bird Face Wendy blog welcomes Marissa Shrock, author of The First Principle. Ms. Shrock fills us in on how she handles controversial issues in her fiction: 

The First Principle is a young adult dystopian thriller that tackles some heavy topics. During the process of writing the novel, I wondered many times why I’d decided to deal with controversial issues such as government control versus personal liberty, pregnancy termination, and salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.

But these issues and beliefs are important to me, so it’s natural they worked their way into my novel. However, because of the divisive topics, one of my biggest challenges was making sure the story didn’t become preachy. Here are three rules I kept in mind.

  • A good story is more important than teaching a lesson. When I wrote my novel, my goal was to tell a compelling, fast-paced story that would appeal to teen readers. To do this, I studied the craft of writing fiction and used various techniques to create tension and suspense. I didn’t worry about teaching a lesson because….
  • The characters learn lessons through their struggles. My protagonist Vivica must comply with her country’s mandatory pregnancy termination law for underage girls or seek the help of a rebel group to save her unborn child. This is a gut-wrenching choice because she comes from a wealthy and influential family. The story’s themes emerge as Vivica wrestles with her choice in the sanctuary of a…
  • Believable, yet fictional, story world. There’s an inherent level of safety in science fiction, and I used this to give my readers the sense that what they’re reading could happen without blaming any particular group or government that actually exists today. I created a futuristic society with a government that attempts to control the population and other areas of citizens’ lives. I even had some fun inventing government branches such as Population Management, Health Management, and Agricultural Management.

Tackling heavy topics in fiction isn’t easy, but I’m glad I did. Keeping these rules in mind helped me craft a story that entertains and deals with controversy.

MarissaHead   Marissa Shrock is a middle school language arts teacher and the author of The First Principle, a young adult novel. Marissa’s writing has appeared in Evangel, Encounter, and Book Fun Magazine. She loves shopping for cute clothes, baking for family and friends, traveling to new places, and playing golf.

Find Marissa and more information about her book at  http://www.marissashrock.com and on Goodreads.

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The Other Good Stuff Inside Your Book—My Fave 5

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Image courtesy of Morguefile free photos

A short discussion in a writers group I belong to prompted me to write this post. The question presented: What should an author say in the Dedication for a book?

First, I’m not sure an author needs to dedicate a book at all. I have a novel near my desk right now that doesn’t include one. But I gave my two cents worth in the discussion as to the individuals an author might mention.

That led me to think about all the other stuff, in addition to the manuscript, that an author writes or provides the publisher before the book is sent to press. Constructing or selecting them takes careful thought and precious time, so why not prepare them in advance?

Dedication:

This is usually short and poignant. I’ve seen a single name as well as one or two sentences, and sometimes they bring me to tears. The dedication mentions someone or something that inspired or supported you, your writing, or this particular book, but not necessarily took an active part in the writing or production. The dedication doesn’t have to mean anything to the reader. It indicates a close personal relationship with the author, and only the dedicatee needs to understand it. Yes, “dedicatee” is a real word.

Acknowledgments:

Now we get to the thanking, sort of like an acceptance speech at the Oscars. The big-name authors tend to keep it down to a single paragraph or page, if they provide one, and it usually appears near the back of the book. Most of the authors I read include one to three pages of acknowledgments, three being rather long. But I actually read them. Mostly to see if any of the individuals mentioned are also  in my acknowledgments. (I belong to a large network of writers that support one another.) Usually the acknowledgments start with thanking a spiritual influence, work through the publishing professionals that made the book possible, then the writing/critique partners, and end with family members or a spouse. Some authors give entire names, others only first names.

Select Quotations:

These sometimes appear right before the body of the work. I haven’t selected or included any in my books so far, but I often enjoy reading them in others. Sometimes authors choose biblical or other spiritual verses, or quotations from favorite authors or other notables. The quotations usually hint at themes or the author’s personal feelings.

List of Resources:

If a novel for middle grades or young adults addresses issues like mine do, such as coping with Alzheimer’s or adjusting to a blended family in 10 Steps to Girlfriend Status, the author or publisher may wish to include a list of resources in the back of the book. I appreciate such lists when I read fiction, as young readers, parents, and educators probably do.

Discussion Questions:

Discussion questions come in handy for book clubs, librarians, parents, and educators. I include these. When writing them, I find myself digging deeper into the themes of my stories, and that benefits me when I speak about them.

There are additional pages that an author or publisher may include in novels or anthologies, fiction or nonfiction, prose or poetry.

The five I’ve mentioned are the ones I encounter most often and enjoy.

What is the most memorable dedication, acknowledgment, or quotation you’ve seen in a book—or perhaps written? How do you feel about resource lists and discussion questions?

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