October 4, 2011

Audition Blog Tour! Guest Post by Stasia Ward

As a fan of YA Bliss, I am thrilled to be stopping by on my AUDITION blog tour. Since Sabrina is a fan of dystopian fiction--and hosts her own YA Historical Fiction Challenge--I thought I'd talk about the concept of CHALLENGE in YA literature.

Put simply, a challenge is a summons to engage in a test of skill or talent. Challenges, large and small, fill our lives. It's a challenge for me to get up at 5 AM every morning--this, by the way, is the result of a "summons" from my early-bird five-year-old. It's another kind of challenge to write a novel. In a way, life can be viewed as a stream of challenges.

As a reader, I like to reflect on the trials main characters face. In dystopian fiction like Suzanne Collins' (awesome) THE HUNGER GAMES, the challenges for Katniss are literal life-and-death. In Stephanie Perkins' (equally fantastic) contemporary tale, ANNA & THE FRENCH KISS, Anna's challenge is to take risks for love. Within each of these novels, one could list myriad smaller hurdles each protagonist must vault.

As a writer, I have learned that one way to frame a challenge is to set your character in a new environment. For Katniss, it's the terrifying Arena. For Anna, it’s Paris, and while she struggles, readers wallow in the gorgeously described city of light. Though I write realistic fiction, my environment in AUDITION is the somewhat rarefied world of ballet. I tried to render it in such a way that readers can delve into the unfamiliar/familiar and see the threats, the difficulties that lurk behind the mirrors and beyond the footlights.

If you’ve got a manuscript in progress, challenge is a plot fundamental. Authors are advised to develop "elevator pitches" for books. These are quick summaries for agents (who, supposedly, aspiring writers meet willy-nilly in elevators across the globe!). Here’s the short form: "Protagonist A wants B (the challenge) but does/learns/realizes C en route to D (the outcome of the novel).” Drafting an elevator pitch is a good test to see if you’ve got a strong plot thread.

In AUDITION, Sara observes that every day seems like an audition to her—every day is a challenge. As a word nerd, I could go on and on about challenge in story structure, as life metaphor, as…you get it. But, I'll wrap up here by saying that I underestimated the challenge (and general scariness) of being a debut novelist but I hope that I will survive, pen in hand, to write another day!

Thanks for reading and good luck with all the challenges (literary and otherwise) that you face today!

For more about reading, writing, and the journey to publication, visit Stasia's Blog. Or catch her live at bookstores on the book tour!

Don't forget to enter the Blog Tour Giveaway!


  1. This is awesome. I don't think I'd ever stopped to actually think about what helps drive a story - a good story - and it is challenge, and seeing how the character(s) react and respond. And yeah, I'm sure it's a HUGE challenge to then turn around and write :o)

    Very much looking forward to reading Audition!

  2. Thanks for having me here at YA Bliss! Loved sharing my challenges with you :) - Stasia


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