Thursday, May 10, 2012
Guest post by Intisar Khanani
Princess Alyrra’s strength lies in silence. Scorned by her family, she avoids the court, spending her time with servants. When her marriage is unexpectedly arranged with the prince of a powerful neighboring kingdom, Alyrra feels trapped. As the court celebrates her match, dark rumors spread about the unexplained deaths of the women of her new family. Alyrra begins her journey with mounting trepidation. Betrayed while traveling, she seizes an opportunity to start a life away from court.
Walking away from a prince whom she doesn’t know should have been easy. But from the moment she sets eyes on him, Alyrra realizes that her freedom could cost him his life. Without any magical defense of her own, she is plunged into a lethal game of sorcery and deceit. Now Alyrra must decide whom she can trust and what she’s willing to fight for—before her silence proves fatal.
The author, Intisar Khanani grew up a nomad and traveler. Born in Wisconsin, she has lived in five different states as well as in Jeddah on the coast of the Red Sea. She first remembers seeing snow on a wintry street in Zurich, Switzerland, and vaguely recollects having breakfast with the orangutans at the Singapore Zoo when she was five. She now resides in Cincinnati, Ohio, with her husband and young daughter. Intisar writes grants and develops projects to address community health with the Cincinnati Health Department, which is as close as she can get to saving the world. Her approach to writing fantasy reflects her lifelong passion for stories from different cultures. She is currently writing a trilogy set in the same world as Thorn. This is her first novel.
I started out writing scenes by the textbook: following the much vaunted advice about moving action or character development from point A to point B over the course of a scene, developing in-depth character descriptions, having beats in your dialogue, etc. Sometimes it worked, and sometimes writing scenes was excruciating, which meant loads of revision before it was ready to be shared. I’ve since learned to scrap the advice I’d so carefully gathered and focus on how my imagination works.
Here’s an example: I am working on revising the first novel in a trilogy set in the same world as Thorn. I knew there needed to be an interaction between the main character, Rae, and a thief called Bren. Because Rae had just come out of a harrowing experience, I needed something light. For a couple weeks, I wrote stilted scenes trying to go from A to B and didn’t like my results. Then, all of a sudden, I had a vision of Rae and Bren sitting on the floor, their backs against a bed, laughing like the best of friends. That was it: the heart of the scene. I started building the moment first, asking myself what was on the floor, whose bed it was, what the light was like in the room. Then came the questions of how they got there, and what would happen next. The scene spun out from there, connecting to the previous scene and opening up possibilities for the next one.
Sometimes I stumble along building a scene until I find the heart of it, and sometimes all I have to go on to build the whole scene is that kernel at the heart: a line of dialogue, a glimpse from the corner of the main character’s eye, a touch. Once I have the central moment of the scene, I start building outward—forward, backward, over and around—until the rest of the scene falls into place. Eventually, I line up my scenes and build in the connectors that are missing to shape the scenes into a full storyline.
My best advice, then, is to find works for you. Writing should be fun. It’s work, there’s no arguing with that, but it should be the kind of work that you look forward to doing. What kind of writing advice has worked for you? What hasn’t?