Young Adult Round Table Discussion, Part 2

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Join me as I continue talking with Beth Kephart, Elizabeth Mosier, Siobhan Vivian, and Melissa Walker.

Wittle: Which story telling device makes for a better story, plot driven books or character driven books? Why?

Kephart: Books have to have both.  It wouldn’t be right to choose.  I don’t care how robust your plot is if your characters are paper thin.  And if all you have are characters, then you aren’t going to go anywhere at all.  Plot lives inside characters; it springs from who those characters are.  And characters must be carried forward on the wings of plot.

Mosier: Both.  Plot arises from character, in life and in fiction.  Everything about a story—who tells it, why it’s told, why it matters—depends on the characters who populate the tale.  Ask Charles Dickens, a man who knew from plot, but whose characters endure because they are so well drawn, so real.

Vivian: I think it depends. An amazing, unique plot can float a book just as an amazing, unique character can.

Walker: It varies from author to author, I’d guess, but for me the characters always come first. I’ve tried writing the other way around and I end up with wooden people walking around in my plot. If I can hear the main character’s voice, clear and true, then I know I can plot something for her. Also, as a reader, I follow a character I love, not a good plot. The latter strings you along, but the former takes you with them, side by side.

Wittle: What advice have you been given about writing you would like to pass along to others?

Kephart: It will be hard.  You will feel lost.  You will chase your own tail, run in circles.  And then one day the storm clouds will part.  Persistence will be your greatest quality.  Reading the books of others will be your comfort.

Mosier: The poet Ellen Bryant Voigt once said, “It’s a draft until you die.”   It’s important to be willing to play, to experiment, to see your work as fluid while you’re drafting.  But while I’m still alive, I’m so grateful for a deadline!

Vivian: Finish something. You’ll learn a million and one lessons by telling a story from beginning to end.

Walker: I just heard author Allen Zadoff say something like, When you’re working on a draft, don’t screw the guy who’s going to sit down and pick it up tomorrow. Meaning, set yourself up to move along swiftly the next day as you write. Sometimes that may mean stopping in the middle of a sentence, just so you can hit the ground running when you start again… but it always means knowing what comes next when you put down the pen, so to speak. I love that advice!

I would like to personally thank the authors who were willing to give up some time to have this discussion with me.

About the Authors:

Beth Kephart’s seventh YA novel,SMALL DAMAGES, due out in July, has received starred reviews and early acclaim. She blogs at http://beth-kephart.blogspot.com/.

Elizabeth Mosier is the author of The Playgroup, part of GemmaMedia’s “Open Door” series to promote adult literacy, and My Life As a Girl (Random House). Find Elizabeth at www.ElizabethMosier.com

SIOBHAN VIVIAN is the author of THE LIST, which has received stars from both Publishers Weekly and Kirkus. Her other novels include NOT THAT KIND OF GIRL, SAME DIFFERENCE, and A LITTLE FRIENDLY ADVICE. For more on Siobhan, go to www.siobhanvivian.com

Melissa Walker is a Carolina girl who lives in Brooklyn. She’s a former magazine editor turned Young Adult author, and the co-founder of iheartdaily.com. Her latest novel is Unbreak My Heart. For more information on Melissa, go to  http://www.melissacwalker.com and http://www.iheartdaily.com

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