Friday, August 1, 2014

Jay Asher & Stephen Chbosky: Mystery and Grit: Writing Realistic Page Turners

Jay Asher's debut teen novel, THIRTEEN REASONS WHY, spent over two and a half years on the New York Times bestseller list (and began as a SCBWI Work-In-Progress Grant Winner!). His second book, THE FUTURE OF US, was coauthored with Carolyn Mackler.

Stephen Chbosky wrote and directed the feature film adaptation of his novel, THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER.

The mutual respect and admiration each has for the other already makes this session a great one.

When Jay thought up the idea for THIRTEEN REASONS WHY, he was afraid. It was not the type of book he thought he would want to read. That's when he decided to focus on making it a page turner.

Stephen has learned more about the page turn by watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer because it's all about what happened or what happens next.

Jay notes that his books are more plot driven suspense and Stephen's more character driven suspense.

Jay was thinking about the reader the whole time he wrote THIRTEEN REASONS WHY, thinking about what he wanted to say and what he wanted the reader to be thinking about. He wanted the reader to always be guessing what's going to happen next. If they're right, they'll be happy that they were, or if they weren't, hopefully they will be surprised by what happened in a good way.

Jay needs an ending in mind to shoot for, not that it means the ending might not change. He still needs to leave some room for the story to surprise even him as he writes it. He loves those moments. Let your characters sometimes surprise you.

Stephen echoes the same thoughts: If I know everything in the beginning then there's no room to make it better.

Jay wanted THIRTEEN REASONS WHY to read clean so that it would read quickly, building suspense and not allowing the reader to come out of the story.

Stephen on confusion: It's confusion if the reader is lost and doesn't know what's going on but
it's great suspense if the reader is guessing what the confusion is.

Jay Asher: Your book has one main thing that has to be solved that the reader knows will be solved at the end, so along the way the reader is going to need some micro-mysteries along the way to keep them reading forward to the end.

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