In this second collaboration inspired by their writing blog (The Curiosities, 2012), three fantasy novelists aim to illuminate their craft through stories created for that purpose.
Stiefvater’s Petra is a bright, klutzy teen with a gift for oratory, hired to read to an elderly shut-in who affirms Petra’s undervalued gifts while modeling the gracious poise Petra longs for. Though grateful, Petra senses a sinister, hidden agenda at work. In Gratton’s novella, set in a world recovering from war, a young, disillusioned soldier returns to the site of his deployment, this time to deactivate deadly bombs, and there finds love that draws him out of his comfort zone. Yovanoff’s tale, in several iterations, portrays a girl haunted by a boy recently drowned in a shallow creek. Through short essays and annotations, the authors share the challenges and dilemmas they faced writing these stories. Stiefvater and Gratton, especially, offer advice and encouragement to aspiring writers: tips on characterization, worldbuilding, theme, revision, and more; they point out where and why they changed, condensed, or deleted scenes. Yovanoff’s tale is weakest, the dead teen serving mainly to showcase the protagonist’s sensitivity and alienation, and it conveys a chilly narcissism that distances readers. That is echoed in vague, abstract annotations too inward-looking to empower novice writers.
At its best, this is an accessible guidebook for creating fiction that illustrates the complexity of the process while offering practical tips for managing it. (Fiction. 12-18)