Why Readers Are Fantastic

I was at my local library the other day (remember how you were supposed to go there??) and they were hosting a used/discarded book sale. Unable to resist the stacks and tables loaded with books, I started browsing. Somewhere between fourteen excess copies of The Firm and the occasional Ann Patchett or Cormac McCarthy it hit me: readers are fantastic!  Readers get more opportunities out there than any other consumer, and we're smart enough to know our own tastes, share our opinions, and chose how we access books.

Short Story: Easy Enough

Photo courtesy Boaz Yiftach
He loved to play the game. Pay a visit. Fix the target. Collect the reward. Easy.

Jackson sat up and trimmed his thumb nail with the blade of his hunting knife, the sound etching into the night closer to his ears than the crickets. A snap. He glanced across the open desert. No one else knew he was out here. Well, no human. As he scanned the rocky landscape, distinguishing cactus silhouettes from straggled trees, he caught sight of it—a coyote.

Continuing to drag the blade over his thumb, his eyes stayed on the animal. Jackson’s horse grunted and shifted her feet behind him.

“Be cool,” Jackson said, his voice loaded with the same grit which filled Nevada.

Why We All Want to Be Katniss

I'm more than halfway through reading The Hunger Games now after having enjoyed the movie, and I'm about as sucked into the story as the rest of the world, teens and above. Katniss Everdeen is in the literal fight for her life, and the world around her isn't forgiving. This is great fiction: conflict, danger, emotional turmoil. As readers we love to explore a world unlike our own, and gladly trade our life drama for a fictitious one where we don't have to suffer the consequences. What makes The Hunger Games so enthralling is that deep down, we all want to be Katniss.

Now, I'm not saying we each want to be the main character, the hero, the potential love interest, or the unlikely victor of our stories. What I mean is this:

Total Side Note: Margaret 1, World 0

Just throwing this out there into the world that there's been much healthy debate about my novel Burning Spirit's presentation in first person, present tense.
I've gone back and forth about what to do and if it should be changed to past tense for the sake of marketability and publishing trends, etc., etc. I've even been told by a critiquer, whose critiques I adore, that present tense is good for short stories, but past tense is the "correct" form for novels.
Well, I went on vacation this past week with The Hunger Games on my Kindle and lo and behold, it's first person, present tense. In no way am I saying I can hack it like Suzanne Collins, but I am saying I now firmly believe I'm okay to leave my book as is in the tense department.

Items of Importance

Whenever I read novels or watch movies, I love when there are key physical things incorporated into the plot. I call these "things," Items of Importance.

In Harry Potter, a major Item of Importance is Dumbledore's wand, made from an elder tree. Major plot lines are constructed around it, yet most of the time we hadn't given it any thought; we didn't known it was even important, until it was. Recently, I read Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus and red scarves are used as a way to identify other "dreamers" in a crowd. The scarves become so real in this already visual tale, that I could imagine people lined up for book signings wearing them the same way kids wore Harry Potter glasses to the book and movie releases.

Items of Importance have a place in our minds because we crave for elements around us to have power or symbolism, and we want to be near to those things even when it's only in our imaginations.
As I'm writing and editing my novel Burning Spirit, I'm consciously aware of how I want to give you a few special Items of Importance to follow and hang on to. So far these include: