January 14th, 2013

Lisa Coffee

Connectivity and Character Traits that Matter

 

This Saturday, Agent Jen Rofé spoke at the San Diego SCBWI meeting.  She had many interesting insights into what makes an excellent manuscript.  One thing she emphasized is how great books have connectivity.  Nothing is in the book that won't come back again in some meaningful way. She explained how Harry Potter, Hunger Games, and Twilight achieved such connectivity.

For example, Katniss hunts for food back in District 12.  Her hunting ability is then crucial to her survival in the Hunger Games arena.  In Twilight, Bella Swan has a strange brain signal that prevents Edward from hearing her thoughts.  When Bella later becomes a vampire, her brain-blocking abilities allow her to shield her family from the bad vamps.  In an early Harry Potter scene, we learn that Harry can speak to snakes.  He uses that skill to maneuver through many sticky situations later on.

I'm sure we can think of many other examples.  I was recalling how a main character in Susan Patron's The Higher Power of Lucky is obsessed with tying intricate knots.  In virtually every scene, he's carrying around a piece of string.  In the end of the book, this character has to use his knot-tying skills to save Lucky when she falls down a well.

In A Prayer for Owen Meany, the characters constantly practice this crazy alley-oop maneuver ("The Shot")--a skill that eventually allows Owen to dispose of a grenade and save a bunch of children.

I've previously posted about the quirky and cool character traits that Stephanie Perkins infuses in her novels.  These characteristics come back and play key roles in the plot.  Stephanie explained that she starts with the character traits first and then lets them add to the plot.  In that way, character can inspire the direction of the story. 

So after you create these great characters with their unique quirks, have them contribute to the plot later on (and thereby avoid the problem of the Forgotten Mannerism).  

Can you think of any other good examples of connectivity in your favorite YA reads?