From Sarah, With Joy

Writer of all things kid lit.

Here there be kid poems.

Monday, December 11, 2017

A Writers First Baby-steps To Plotting A Romance



Sometimes I think we go through paradigm shifts as writers. The writer we thought we were is suddenly no longer the writer we now know ourselves to be. It's as if we're a cute little Charmander with no conception of the power we will one day have as a mighty pen-wielding Charizard. We evolve. We level up.

This can take many forms. Maybe it's a form change. Maybe we've been trying to write short stories and we realize we're actually super great at poetry. Or we've been turning our nose up at epic fantasy but you've secretly got epic world building abilities and can write sorceresses like nobodies business. If you're a Geodude, own your Geodudeness. Don't be a Squirtle. Unless you're a Squirtle. Then be a Squirtle.

Of course figuring out what kind of pokewriter we really are takes a lot of time and experimentation. And maybe our true form is something like the head of a Pikachu with Rapidash's body and the soul of a Snorlax. (Behold the mighty Snorlax soul, hear her snor.) Point is, whatever monstrosity your writerly self evolves into, just be the best monstrosity you can be.

Which brings me to my latest personal writerly evolution.

In high school I had a very specific view of my writerly self. In class we were reading stuff like King Lear and Crime and Punishment and Cry, the Beloved Country, and A River Runs Through It. I wanted to BE Norman Maclean. For our big book projects one semester my teacher assigned me Moby Dick because he thought I could handle it. (I went to a small private school and had the same English teacher for all four years of high school, so suffice it to say, we all knew each other REALLY well.) Outside of class I read Charles Dickens and Jane Austen and Amy Tan.

Then I grew up.

In college I found a new part of myself. My college roommates introduced me to Star Trek and Avatar, the Last Airbender. I spent a year watching all eleven seasons of Frasier and ever chick flick I could find in the days before Netflix.

Most of all I saw all the glorious young adult and middle grade books I'd missed out on. I discovered Geraldine McCaughrean and Gary Schmidt, who both pretty much changed my life. I'd read and totally adored Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume as a kid and reading these books was almost like coming home again.

Point is, we all have different phases and interests that combine and mash together to form us into, well, us.  My particular mashup means I am absolutely rubbish at world building. Seriously, watching me try and world build is like watching an elephant seal flub across a beach. I've just never had the immersion in world building that it takes. (Basically my only child/teenhood exposure to sci fi and fantasy was Lord of the Rings and Galaxy Quest.) BUT, it does mean my writing is crisp and clean, and I'm prepped like a squirrel with walnuts when it comes to character development and a youthful, earnest voice.

So we play to our strengths. We wouldn't use a fire pokemon to fight a water pokemon, right? We would put a child molester in prison, not the Senate, right? Let's not be silly here.

In high school, if you told me I'd be working on a YA romance I'd have laughed in your face while hiding my copy of Twilight under my copy of Hamlet. But now I've realized how much certain romance stories have stuck with me, and meant to me. Maybe not Twilight, which was largely enjoyable, though not my kind of romance. But Jane Eyre is my kind. Eleanor & Park is my kind. I'm evolving, guys.

But with every evolution, new challenges arise. You don't grow a third leg without some stumbling, you know? So if you're in my situation and looking for crutches, check out Sarah Eden's blog and her incredibly useful 9 point story structure for plotting romances. I've never been steeped in the regency or traditional romance genre, and for those of you who live there, spread your wings and fly you beautiful pokewriters you. But even if you just have a small romantic subplot, Sarah Eden's powerpoint will save your tucus.

So go, writers, go.

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