Monday, 16 March 2015

The backbone of the story...

Today, I'm going to be talking a little bit about the background to Synthetica.

There are a lot of  dystopian/sci-fi/apocalyptic YA books out there which seem to have one central theme: all of the protagonists are fighting to overthrow some kind of government regime. I know that not all YA books within these genres contain this theme - there are some that don't, and then there are some which do, but they deal with it a lot better than others.

For whatever reason, the main character is often 'chosen' in some way to lead the resistance against this oppressive power. Which they often manage to do against impossible odds, without getting all sweaty and falling in love with a cookie cutter, I mean, handsome, devil-may-care male lead in the process.

I have no problem with this. The Hunger Games and Divergent count among my favourite YA books of all time (if I'm completely honest, I think Divergent may actually be my favourite, full stop). I love to read (and write) YA, simply because it allows me to escape reality into these fantastic worlds, where the protagonists fight against all odds to do what they believe to be right. It's great, and I love, love, love it.


I can't lie. My patience is starting to wear slightly. I can deal with oddly constructed love triangles. I can deal with whiny heroines/heros. What I can't deal with any more is the flimsy premise that some of these main characters have for miraculously meeting the head of this so-called totalitarian government and then either a) being forced to work for them or b) being recruited to work against them.

When I read, I want to be sucked into the character's world and feel what they're feeling, and see what they're seeing. The world can be as fantastical as you like - talking dragons? Shape shifting puppies? Twenty feet tall cupcake monsters? - I genuinely don't care, so long as the author can draw me into this crazy world and make me believe it could be true.
But readers can tell when something is so obviously done for convenience - such as the MC randomly meeting the President, or the King or Queen, or whoever, just so they can fight them later down the line. It jars. It takes you out of the novel's world, and makes you think, 'hang on, what just happened??' Once this thought happens, it's very hard (for me at least) to get back into the story, because I finally myself gradually getting more and more annoyed at the characters, and the ease at which they overcome obstacles or manage to overthrow an entire government.

So I knew from the start that Synthetica was never going to be about bringing down a government regime.

There is a reason why I love Lord of the Rings. And Harry Potter. And Batman. And any Marvel comic/film. Each and every one of the character's battles was personal. The reader could connect with what the character was doing, and why. We get to see their inner turmoil, see what makes them tick, see them agonise over their choices, and - ultimately - defeat a villain.

And that, right there, is why I wrote Synthetica the way I did. I wanted Anais' battles to be personal. I want readers to love her when she gets it right, and hate her when she gets it wrong. I want people to like her and dislike her in equal measure. Sometimes, I dislike her and the choices she makes, but ultimately, I still want her to succeed against her own enemy - the Hacker. The reason I loved writing Synthetica so much is because I felt I had so much more scope with the story by making Anais' enemy a real person. Firstly, how do they even become enemies? How does the Hacker make his plans personal to her? Why does she need to stop him? How will this obsession (on both their parts) affect their relationships with other people?

I haven't answered all of these questions in this book. But I definitely kept them in mind while writing Synthetica; and the second book in the series is going to focus on that final question in particular.

I just hope you all enjoy reading about Anais' world as much as I enjoyed writing it :).


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