Hello writers! Welcome back to another post highlighting the amazing lessons we can learn from other writers. This is a brand new series on the blog. Every Thursday we'll be dissecting what you can learn from these authors and why it's important. Last week we launched our series by discussing Sarah J. Maas's Throne of Glass series. To read it click the link here: #ThingsLearnedFromWritersThurs: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas.
Reading gives us infinite gifts as writers. It shows us how to refine our craft, gives us inspiration, and guides us through the ups and downs of storytelling. It provides us with an escape, comforts us, and gives us a platform through which we can actively express ourselves. Whether it's language style, worldbuilding, character development, or simply how authors piece together a specific scene, each writer brings new techniques and ways of expressing concepts to the writing desk. It's important to deconstruct and analyze how other authors have found their success so that we too may formulate stories that leave their imprint on the world.
Writing Pro Tip: Create a "names" list on your phone or in a notebook. Use it to jot down the names of people, places, or titles to use as inspiration in your next novel.
Image Credit: Tamora Pierce's
professional author site. 6/23/21
Tamora Pierce is an American writer of YA fantasy fiction and is best known for stories featuring young heroines. Her first book series, The Song of the Lioness, followed the main character Alanna through the trials and triumphs of training as a knight. Today she has influenced many young readers and writers alike and has written numerous novels set in the world of Tortall. She is also the author of The Circle Universe series along with several smaller works. To learn all about her novels, visit her website: http://www.tamora-pierce.net/.
For those who have not yet read the series, here is a quick synopsis of the first book:
In a time when girls are forbidden to be warriors, Alanna of Trebond wants nothing more than to be a knight of the realm of Tortall. So she finds a way to switch places with her twin brother, Thom. Disguised as a boy, Alanna begins her training as a page at the palace of King Roald. But the road to knighthood, as she discovers, is not an easy one. Alanna must master weapons, combat, and magic, as well as polite behavior, her temper, and even her own heart.
Filled with swords and sorcery, adventure and intrigue, good and evil, Alanna’s first adventure begins—one that will lead to the fulfillment of her dreams and make her a legend in the land.
What Can We As Writers, Take Away From Her Novel?
*Not* One Of The Boys
In this series, the main character Alanna of Trebond must hide her identity and dress as a boy in order to join the rigorous training program that turns the sons of noble families into fully trained knights. To do this she's got to make other eleven-year olds believe that she's one of them...or risk severe consequences. What makes this common trope stand out from the rest of the crowd is that her ruse isn't over-exaggerated. Alanna never tries to be "one of the boys" nor does she think like one. She remains distinctly herself, all sass and fiery temper included. It makes the charade believable and ultimately it helps her successfully achieve her goals. We also don't have to cringe our way through reading along, something we can all breathe a sigh of relief about.
This is an excellent example of everyday magic. We see it in Alanna's interactions with The Goddess, her cat faithful, her suspicions about Duke Roger, but also in other normal aspects. There are healers, magical diseases, and other cases within the world of Tortall that manifest throughout the series. It creates a very down-to-earth type of magic that is woven seamlessly into the narrative. Here Alanna herself has magic, and yet it's not the focal point of the series. It is merely a natural step in her journey towards growing up, a common theme amongst Pierce's novels.
A Goddess On Earth
A fun way to incorporate a "guide" character, Pierce allows the gods who reign over the realm to manifest on earth in a human-ish form. We see this in her second series, The Immortals, as well but here in Alanna's story it's kept simple. The Goddess appears in numerous fashions to help her through her journey, warn her of dangerous, and to be generally cryptic in a way that both frustrates and captivates.
Animals As Best Friends
What would be cooler than having animals talk? While this is commonly associated with magic or with Disney princesses, Pierce uses it to give Alanna a gift that will bless her with friendship, protection, and a particularly sarcastic companion. Black cat Faithful features a lot of unique qualities and "witchy" vibes without there being any direct references to the occult. He is, of course, a fantastic opportunity for Pierce to bring in some medieval superstitions and stigmas regarding black cats that adds to the fabric of her medieval world.
Friendship Over Love
A common cord throughout the series is Alanna's tendency to put friendship over love. Rather than showcasing the desire to settle down, marry, and have a family, Alanna gives us a heroine who was ahead of her time. She wants a career, to travel, and the last thing she ever wants to do is have children. It gave young girls a role model beyond traditional women's roles where previously there were few examples. One realistic aspect of this character trait is that it does reflect what many girls experience growing up. Fear of dating, not wanting to sacrifice their goals for a partner, and wanting to keep relationships simply platonic are all ideas previously unexplored in young adult literature.
Diverse Examples of Masculinity
Another stand-out feature of this series is how male-dominated the cast is. Due to the unique situation Alanna finds herself in, she is literally the only female for the majority of her story. Growing up disguised as a boy, in a boys-only school setting, her supporting cast is predominately male. Rather than raising two-dimensional or worse, stereotypical male egos, Pierce provides a prime example of what diversification in masculinity should look like. From the scholarly father figure Myles of Olau, to the devious romancer, George the King of Thieves, to Prince Jonathan's protective mentor vibe, there are so many different types of men represented. No two characters are exactly alike, and even background characters are well fleshed out.
Writing a Young Adult or Middle-grade novel? Don't miss out on the chance to learn from this amazing author!
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Photo Disclaimer: I do not claim ownership of the image of the author or the cover of her book. These were borrowed from her official author website cited below. Accessed on 6/23/21.
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