Things are in a bit of a holding pattern while I wait for my sister-in-law to finish her final proofread and for my friend Tricia to start on the cover artwork, so I’m going to take this opportunity to talk a little bit about what my soon-to-be-self-published YA novel Action Figures is about (an what it’s not about).
This is the one-paragraph summary of the novel that led off many a query letter:
Carrie Hauser never expected her parents to get divorced. She never expected to get dragged halfway across the state to start life over in a new town. And she definitely never expected a dying extraterrestrial to give her superhuman powers.
(I hate writing these summaries. They make everything sound so meh.)
But, since I’m not writing a query here, I get to be less formal in describing the concept, so here it goes: Action Figures is a sci-fi edged superhero story focusing on a group of teenager superhero wannabes as they get dumped head-first into their first adventure. The story is told from the perspective of the aforementioned Carrie Hauser, a 15-year-old girl who, as the story opens, is still reeling from her parents’ sudden divorce and getting ready to start her new life in a strange town (“strange” having multiple meanings here).
I chose Carrie as the narrator because, first and foremost, she was by far the most likeable and sympathetic character (and a lot of fun to write), but I also liked the idea of a superhero story featuring a female protagonist.
Joss Whedon once remarked when asked “Why do you like to write strong female characters?”: “Because you’re still asking that question.” That’s especially true in the superhero genre, where male leads outnumber the female leads by a HUGE margin. Batman appears in five titles, Batgirl and Batwoman have one each, and that’s just one of many examples I could cite. The comics industry has gotten better about opening up to female readers, but they still have a long way to go (and, in my opinion, the industry is not doing itself any favors by producing clumsy ‘female-friendly’ fare like Marvel’s new line of teen-friendly romance novels).
One of my goals with Action Figures is to provide a superhero story that is accessible to female readers, especially younger readers, more through providing them with an interesting heroine rather than through some ham-fisted attempt to girly it up. I’m not toning down the action and/or punching up any romantic story elements, I’m just telling a fun superhero adventure story that just happens to star a girl.
I’m also not infusing the story with a heavy-handed morality tale. This is not — at the risk of showing my age — an ABC Afterschool Special. This is not a “very special episode” deal. Sure, it’s somewhat inevitable that the stories will touch on issues that are not unfamiliar to teens, but the adventure elements are not going to take a back seat to exploring the issues-du-jour through the characters. It’s awkward and obvious and detracts from the point of the book, which is to give readers something fun to read.
So, that’s a basic intro to the novel. Down the road I plan to post a couple of sample chapters so folks can get a taste of the story and, hopefully, find it so much to their liking that they want to read the whole thing.
2 thoughts on “Action Figures – What It’s About”
Excellent approach. Having already had the privilege of reading the whole thing, I can say that there’s no shortage of chapters that really grab the attention!
Personally, I’m glad that you’re going this route. Yeah, there’s a lot of noise out there, but good work will find its audience. And I think that it’ll be a lot easier to convince a trad. publisher to take a flyer on your work if you’ve already got something of a following (these days even the stodgiest houses have people paid to keep an eye on what’s hot in cyberspace, and ‘nothing succeeds like….’)
“One of my goals with Action Figures is to provide a superhero story that is accessible to female readers, especially younger readers, more through providing them with an interesting heroine rather than through some ham-fisted attempt to girly it up. I’m not toning down the action and/or punching up any romantic story elements, I’m just telling a fun superhero adventure story that just happens to star a girl.”
WHAT IS THIS MADNESS!?!?! DON’T YOU KNOW YOU’RE UPSETTING THE NATURAL ORDER OF SOMETHING SOMETHING SOMETHING?
…Looking forward to this, Mike. Kate had only good things to say about it…