You wouldn’t know it from her YA thrillers set in small-town Maine, but author Megan Miranda lives in Charlotte, North Carolina. Her well-received debut novel FRACTURE was published by Bloomsbury in 2012 to a Starred Review in Publishers Weekly, followed by a sequel this year and a standalone thriller in between.
Miranda will be speaking and signing books at the South Carolina Book Festival this Saturday in Columbia, on a panel with fellow Carolina authors Jessica Khoury and Megan Shepherd called “Science and the Supernatural in YA Fiction.”
FRACTURE is a creepy page-turner that seeks to blur the line between scientific phenomena and the paranormal. High school bookworm Delaney Maxwell (what a name!) falls into one of Maine’s frozen lakes and stops breathing for eleven minutes. By the time her friends rescue her and the paramedics take over, she’s declared dead.
But not for long. Delaney’s body miraculously recovers before slipping into a six-day coma. When she wakes up in the hospital, she feels perfectly fine. Despite MRIs indicating massive neurological damage to Delaney’s brain, everything seems to be working fine, until she’s inexplicably drawn to people who are near death.
Somehow, Delaney knows when someone near her is going to die. First in the hospital, and later in her neighborhood and all over town. But it gets even creepier: someone else is always on the scene before she is. A man named Troy Varga.
Here are a couple things writers can learn from Miranda’s slick YA debut:
Pick a Season
Too many short stories and novel manuscripts I’ve workshopped and consulted on could have taken place at the height of summer or in the darkest days of winter, but I couldn’t tell you which, because the writer couldn’t either.
The rhythms and textures of our lives are inseparably dependent on the time of year. Good fiction is, too. Setting a novel–or a few chapters–near Christmastime infuses your prose with a completely different feeling than setting it around the Fourth of July does. The sights, smells, and sounds of winter are remarkably different than those of spring, summer, and fall.
Grounding your fiction in a specific place in time is just as important as grounding it in a specific place in space. Seasons breathe life into your prose, like the wintry landscapes and intimate interiors in FRACTURE.
Hold Your Cards
Some novels tell you exactly what to expect on page one. And that can be a good thing, especially for the readers who “page-browse” bookstores, reading the first few paragraphs of a number of books until they find something they like.
But sometimes, particularly when your novel depends on mystery and suspense, it’s okay to “hold your cards to your chest” for a few chapters. Your readers don’t have to know, on page one, that they’re reading a paranormal romance or a psychological thriller. You can ground them in reality first, and keep them guessing as to what direction your story’s going to take, as long as you infuse those early pages with some foreshadowing.
FRACTURE uses a literary device called prolepsis in its first chapter, flashing forward to the story’s inciting incident (Delaney’s “death”), before starting the narrative a little earlier in time. After this “flash-forward,” nothing particularly paranormal or supernatural happens for a while, as the story focuses instead on character- and world-building.
Agents reading your novel manuscript don’t necessarily need to be hit over the head by the tropes of your genre on page one. That’s what a query letter is for: use the synopsis in your query to clearly position your novel in the market, and focus on writing the best prose possible on page one of your manuscript.
Miranda has another novel due out next year, SOULPRINT, which sounds like a real doozy.