Brandon Mull’s Creative Juices

Brandon Mull writes for boys using his relentless imagination and his scouting experience.

He has written Beyonders, Fablehaven, and Five Kingdom among others.

Mull says in an interview with Tori Ackerman, “I wanted to go to a world where there was a lot to discover, but still light and fun.”

If Brandon Mull’s series appeal to every demand of one’s imagination, it’s because the author wanted his worlds and characters to be fresh and new.

With so many retellings inspired by legends and folklore, authors who bravely come up with new worlds are harder to find. Kids are drawn by the novelty of his worlds.

For example, Brandon Mull came up with mysterious castles in the air and jumping swords. Even if the sword is a valuable weapon in one world, it is useless in another. Brandon Mull came up with very distinct worlds within worlds. That’s why the books are reminiscent of framed stories like the Arabian Nights. Each episode brings new discoveries and surprises.

The books are movie-driven with episodic adventures, as well as dialogue-driven. Short, snappy episodes do not mean that the plot is less complex. Obviously, there is a lot going on, but each episode is a new adventure bringing on new characters, even late into the story. The ideas are big, but the way things are explained are simple and accessible. Heroes are driven by the moment, by their instincts rather than by their experiences, but they always come up with smart, creative, and resourceful solutions. Yet, in these fast-paced stories, dialogues go on and on for pages without being boring. That’s because dialogues are used to describe the worlds and their mechanics. They are fascinating.

Brandon Mull says in an interview with Book Zones Boy’s Life, “Scouting has significantly helped my career as a professional writer. To create stories, I need details, and my experiences in Scouting helped me learn at least a little about a wide variety of things.”

Mull’s epic fantasies bring to life ordinary kids who survive by their wits in wild worlds. Kids can easily identify to courageous and tenacious heroes. Mull manages a large cast of characters, realistic endeavors, and honest characters with a strong sense of right and wrong. In Fablehaven, Kendra and Seth’s job is to protect magical creatures contained in a reservation. The sense of danger is always present. Characters are sacrificed. Miracles happen too. Treacherous characters make the lives of the heroes difficult. The reader roots for heroes who do not hesitate to take risks, calculated or not. Not only the pace is fast, the adventures constant and the creatures interesting, but also the main characters barter with each other all the time. Their relationship battles between love, hate, and teasing. Many Brandon Mull’s characters challenge each other verbally, adding tension and fun to the chapters. Kendra reflects at the end of a Fablehaven’s adventure, “Many of her experiences here had been dreadful. […] Life would seem so dry after the extraordinary events of the past couple of weeks.”

All in all, Brandon Mull attracts kids by appealing to their sense of adventure and curiosity. The kids want to know what creatures or monsters are in the book. They know they will be surprised. They also appreciate things that blow up, things that get punched, new creatures, cool little guys, things taken from the mythology and from the pop culture, and non-stop action. The quick, dynamic plots sustain little introspection, but they explore new ideas for kids, out loud. Brandon Mull’s stories are a delight because they are full of imagination, conflict, tension, extreme measures, driving motivations with high stakes, and quirky heroes with weaknesses. It’s a new epic that’s tailored for boys and for kids who dream of quests and new worlds.

Resources:

 Brandon Mull’s website. http://brandonmull.com/

Writing Excuses.http://www.writingexcuses.com/2008/10/19/writing-season-2-episode-2-how-to-write-for-children-with-brandon-mull/

Writing Excuses. http://www.writingexcuses.com/2008/10/27/writing-excuses-season-2-episode-3-characters-with-brandon-mull/

20 Thrilling Books for Kids Who Like Percy Jackson. http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/books-for-kids-who-like-percy-jackson/

♥♥♥

If you liked this article, visit Sussu Leclerc at Novel Without Further Ado.

A follow up on Twitter or Pinterest is always appreciated.

Thank you for reading.

 

 

 

 

Creative Cross-Pollination

Cross-pollination: the transfer of pollen from one type of plant to another type of plant of the same species, often by insects or wind.

When you’re working really hard on a writing project, tunnel vision can creep in. It makes sense. Your life is busy, the publishing industry is slow, and you need to finish your book yesterday. So if you have time to do anything, you focus on books written in the genre and age-group that you’re writing for. You follow writers, editors, and agents in that specific field. And while some of that intense, single-minded focus is absolutely necessary, I’m going to encourage you to be open to cross-pollination.

Cross-pollination for plants is necessary for their survival. Some trees, such as willows, depend on it because willows don’t have male and female plant parts on the same tree. For other plants, cross-pollination ensures that the successive offspring are diverse, robust, and potentially more likely to survive changes in the environment, such as drought.

In order to create books that will stand out in the marketplace, I believe it’s necessary to open yourself up to influences outside your literary ‘gene pool.’ Suzanne Collin’s The Hunger Games is a case in point. In an interview, Collins noted that she’d read the Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur when she was eight and it had stuck with her. And then,

One night, I was lying in bed, and I was channel surfing between reality TV programs and actual war coverage. On one channel, there’s a group of young people competing for I don’t even know; and on the next, there’s a group of young people fighting in an actual war. I was really tired, and the lines between these stories started to blur in a very unsettling way. That’s the moment when Katniss’s story came to me.

Collins had already absorbed a literary precedent (Greek myths). Her open mind then took in a story of children in war (journalism/non-fiction) and a story of children in a competition (reality TV): those disparate sources came together to create a literary work that was compelling, complex, different—and an enormous success.

So go ahead, blur the lines. If you write MG fantasy, read PB non-fiction. Read biographies, like the one that inspired Lin-Manuel Miranda to create Hamilton. Read manga and a book of obituaries. Go to the circus and think about writing. Listen to podcasts about the past. Learn a new language, do something you used to do when you were younger, sing in a choir. Take in the ballet, watch a documentary, visit an art exhibit or an ethnic grocery.

I think most writers do this very naturally; but this year, one of my goals to cross-pollinate more consciously. I’ve set aside pages in my journal where I’m listing the disparate things that spark something for me. Interestingly, the more I do this, the more I see.

So, be the bee. Blur the lines. Stay open to the wind.

I’ll be tweeting cross-pollination inspiration under the hashtags #amwriting, #creativity, and #crosspollinate, as well as on my blog. I hope you’ll join in with what inspires you.

This week’s inspiration: a man devotes himself to sculpting espaliered trees.

 

Further reading:

Austin Kleon’s book Steal Like an Artist and his blog

Jessica Crispin, The Creative Tarot

Cheryl Klein, The Magic Words

 

IMG_1617 GITA TRELEASE writes YA fantasy. She was born in Sweden and has lived in France, Italy, and the United States. In her former life as a college professor, she taught classes on fairy tales, monsters, and Victorian criminals. Along with her artist husband, teenage son, and Maine Coon, Gita divides her time between a boarding school in Massachusetts and the wild Maine coast. Her current project takes place during the French Revolution: hot-air balloons and gambling, decadence and dark magic. Connect with her on Twitter and Instagram.

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Creativity is Messy. Get Over It!

Maybe the hardest part of creativity is to face the critical eyes of others. We have been raised to see organization everywhere, respect schedules, be on time, be logic, put things where they belong, put things in boxes. Although there is a lot of value in being organized, there is also a lot of value in creativity, in being messy. No one more than writers and artists know that.

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By Milena palakarkina (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0] , via Wikimedia Commons
Artists, and true innovators in art, publicity, marketing, engineering, etc., defy this basic rule: organization is everything. Learning to be creative, to use intuition, imagination, and being able to express emotions are part of every successful businessperson and writer’s toolbox.

Creativity is messy, yes. So get over it!

My kids know this.

I know this.

You know this.

We might forget it sometimes.

When my homeschooled kids have been peppering their little creative workshops all over the house and we have our hands covered in paints and goo and we juggle with parts and pieces, sometimes it feels like too much.

But what we tend to forget is that their minds are working hard. Kids need to be messy, just like us. Often we insist that they be organized and clean. If we only knew what a little dirt can accomplish!

Things are not what they seem, especially in art.

Your mind, as a writer, will go every which way. Let it!

Your mind at times will go through rollercoasters and your feelings will be all over the place. Let them!

It’s good for you.

You can always warn others that you are in your creative mode, and that won’t be forever. We need to be like that to get to the bottom of our creativity.

Look at the beautiful things we can create with a piece of wood and wire!

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Image by Mikelvaras (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
It looks messy at first sight, but flash a good light over it in the right direction, and look at the wonderful organization!

Creativity is messy, yes, and for everyone who wants to be successful, it’s a patchwork, a mosaic that comes together harmoniously in the end.

The secret of creativity is: Do not see yourself through other people’s eyes.

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By couscouschocolat (Flickr: DSCF0509) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Do no see yourself as a puzzle builder just because it’s more organized. The problem with puzzle builders is that, if you miss a piece, you will be stuck.

Heard of writer’s block?

Picture yourself as someone who organizes his or her own hodgepodge. Be messy, at first: scatter around you notes and sketches, ideas and combine what does not go together at first glance. Then find the logic streak and build on it.

Build a mosaic.

Mosaics are made with random pieces, but they do make beautiful artwork, don’t they?
Allow yourself to be messy, then put all the pieces at your disposal, and find the harmony, your harmony. Be on your way to success.

___________________

Sussu

If you liked this article, visit Sussu Leclerc to read more writing articles at Novel Without Further Ado and follow her on Twitter. Your support is always appreciated!

 

 

Happy NaNoWriMo!

NaNoWriMoToday marks the beginning of the frenetic bundle of amazingness that is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). This month, thousands of writers around the globe will try to write a 50,000 word first draft of a new story.

With an all-star line-up of NaNoWriMo Pep Talks, and hashtags on Twitter for both writing tips and daily sprints, this month is a great time to start writing that novel that you’ve been meaning to write for ages.

Here’s what the some of the Pennies have to say about their own NaNoWriMo experiences:

Julie Artz: I first learned about NaNoWriMo in 2012. And even though my story that year unraveled at 22,000 words, I was hooked. I came back in 2013 with a little bit more advanced planning and claimed the winner’s badge a few days before month-end. In 2014, I used the month to finish a story I started earlier in the fall. And in 2015, that manuscript made it into Pitch Wars. It was that 2013 story–a middle-grade post-apoc with steampunk elements–that first caught my agent’s eye. She offered a revise and resubmit on the manuscript, but, with her permission, I sent her my newest story instead. And the rest is history. This year, I’ll be cheering you all on from the sidelines as I revise for her instead of drafting, but it will be with a pang of envy, because I’ve got this new story idea that’s just itching to be written…

Jessica Bloczynski: In the fall of 2013, I ran out of every episode of Star Trek Netflix had to offer. I even suffered through Enterprise. I was bored. Climbing the walls bored. Honestly, finding NaNo was a fluke. I stumbled upon a Facebook group of folks doing NaNo together and an idea that had been riding around in my head for about a year spoke up and demanded to be written. And I figured, why not, might as well put my creative writing degree to use. I started writing, did writing sprints with friends and shared snippets of my WIP with other newb writers. Basically, I found this amazing, encouraging community and instead of writing my book alone, I wrote it with thousands of others. That’s a powerful feeling. At the end of November I had a very messy draft, that would, in the fullness of time, become the sci-fi novel that earned me a spot in PitchWars 2015. My advice? Do it. DO IT. Do it for the confidence it builds, the community you find and 50,000 words you can shape into something wonderful. And remember, it doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be finished. Go Nanokids!

Mark Holtzen:  I first participated in NaNoWriMo when I was stuffed in a room with gobs of swarming third graders five days a week and I had two kids under five at home. I had no time and even less energy, but I figured if I was ever going to write a children’s novel in a more efficient way than my first one, I’d have to find the time somewhere in the day. O’dark thirty seemed as good a time as any. The timing wasn’t great–after three days of getting up early I’d pass out at 8:30pm, but that month did get me into the habit of staring at my computer screen for an hour each day. Sometimes I only managed forty minutes, sometimes ten, but I learned the important part was visiting the story once every day. It turned out to be a great thing to share with my students as well.

The Shadows We Know by HeartJennifer Park: My up-coming debut, The Shadows We Know By Heart, was a NaNo project in 2014… I didn’t win, but it jump started the draft and I got a lot of work done on it… I’m going to use this Nano to finish possible book 2. Definitely start strong and surpass your daily word count when you can, because I always lose the week of thanksgiving because of kids and traveling and just being busy… we’re moving this month, so I’ll be surprised if I make the 50k… but there’s always hope! And what I love the most about NaNo is that the momentum really carries through into the following months… I probably get my highest word counts in the months following NaNo because it’s so motivating, and you get to the point where 3000 a day is easily attainable. And I’m competitive, so if friends are doing better than me, I’ll work that much harder. And, no matter whether you win or not, we’re all doing it together. So it’s good to know that when you sit down to get that word count out, so is everyone else.

Kristi Wientge: I’ve participated in NaNo in 2012, 2013 and 2014. I won each of those years. Part of it I attribute to my inner drive that will NOT let me NOT do something I say I’m going to do. The other part I attribute to organization. I use notecards to map out my days. I also jot down notes and names and things I know I’ll forget later on, but don’t want to waste the time to scroll through finding. Usually, I have the first seven cards mapped out. So, my first week goes smoothly. Then, I do the next week and so on. It gives me structure, but still allows me to be flexible. Typically I use a Save The Cat type of beat bullet point to keep me on track and to ensure I actually complete the story. But, if I really find myself stuck, then I take the day to free write from one of the character’s POV’s. It’s words and it counts!

Happy NaNoWriMo writing friends! Share your NaNoWriMo story in the comments below.

Claim it!

via GIPHY

When I had my first child, sure my life changed. My sleep was dictated by her cries. I had to take her with me on all my errands and be sure there’d be a place I could nurse. Worse case, I had to time my arrival so I could feed her in the car.

No more running in shops or popping out for a coffee. There were schedules to follow and a baby to entertain.

But, overall, my life was like a less selfish version of its former self. I still worked. Colleagues and students called me by my name. In fact, many didn’t even know I had a family.

I was still Kristi or Mrs. Kristi.

Then, six months into my second pregnancy, I quit my job. My hair went from curly to straight. I only interacted with mothers. I was sick and tired and hungry and sweaty.

All. The. Freaking. Time.

The people at my daughter’s school, art class and music class called me, “Sylvia’s Mommy.” When I walked down the street with a big belly, pushing a stroller, I was invisible. Everyone looked at my cute toddler’s face and smiled at her. I was suddenly no one.

Just a mom.

That’s how it felt, anyway. Eleven years later, I’m only just now rebuilding my identity. I had three other children, went through the ups and downs over and over. I’ve had to be called “So-and-so’s Mommy” for much longer than I ever intended.

My writing felt like a selfish indulgence. So much so that I’d squish it in between naps and after bedtimes. I only told two people that I was even doing it. All the while, unhappily ticking the “homemaker” box on forms for doctors, schools, etc.

Last year I signed with my agent. I still ticked “homemaker” because I convinced myself that my book hadn’t sold yet so technically I wasn’t an author.

Then, my book sold. I still ticked “homemaker” at the gynecologist.

I signed my contract and I still hesitated and let my hand hover over my children’s Punjabi school form next to the line: Mother’s Job:_____.

I STILL wrote “homemaker.”

I told myself that I’d write “author” once my book comes out in print.

BUT, why?

Why should I wait? What if my book gets bumped and doesn’t come out until 2018 instead of 2017?

If a friend asked me, I’d be telling them not to be silly, write “author.” Why won’t I let myself write it?

Being an author is like being a homemaker. No one really knows how much time, effort and work you put into things. Like when I do a really thorough cleaning of my flat. I feel like I accomplished something. Then, the kids get home from school, have a snack, run around outside, invite neighbors in. By the time my husband walks through the door, he wonders what I’ve actually done all day because the house and dinner are kind of all over the place.

My writing time can be the same. I spend hours working and reworking only to have family say, “You’re STILL working on that? How long does it take to write down some words?”

Recently the FOWP group shared our favorite writing quotes. Mine? (It’s funny now that I think about it!) Here it is: Claim it!

Yep, I’m pretty sure it was from a NaNo pep talk.

So, all of you who have a manuscript hiding in a drawer or maybe you’re in the query trenches or maybe your book is on submission…still. Claim it!

Posting this is my promise to myself that after claiming it to all of you, I’m going to claim it to myself as well. I promise to take a photo of the next form I fill out and post it here. You better be sure I do!

 

Photo on 3-19-15 at 1.23 PM #2Kristi Wientge is the author of KARMA KHULLAR’S MUSTACHE out summer 2017 with Simon & Schuster BFYR and is represented by Patricia Nelson at Marsal Lyon Literary Agency.