Michele Regenold, Writing for Kids from the Boondocks

A blog about writing for children and the quest for publication.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Preparing (or not) for Vermont

I received a packet of info from Vermont College recently to help me prepare for my first residency in January. The packet included a sample schedule for the residency--and it's jam-packed with seminars and workshops and lectures. Good God, do these people ever rest?

My first residency, which will be 11 days long (new students arrive a day early), starts January 8. In preparation for it, the packet suggested I read one or two books on craft such as James Cross Giblin's book on writing for young adults. I've probably read a hundred or more books on craft, including Giblin's. I'm kind of addicted. Reading them is also one of my favorite procrastination techniques.

One of the other suggested titles was Marion Dane Bauer's What's Your Story? A Young Person's Guide to Writing Fiction. I hadn't read that one so I picked it up at the library. Bauer is also on the Vermont faculty, so I figured it behooved me to learn about her philosophy of writing.

One of the things I love about non-fiction for kids is that the writers of these books spell things out in a way that writers for adults often do not. There must be some assumptions about audience that writers for adults are making that writers for kids are not.

Anyway, in the chapter on focusing your story, Bauer addresses theme. I didn't really get this during my novel writing class last spring, but Bauer explains it in a way I do get. She writes, "When you know the solution to your story problem, you will also know the theme or point of your story." Aha! That makes perfect sense.

Her section "Discovering the Beginning in the Ending" is also helping me think about my YA mystery in a different way. Obviously a mystery has to resolve the mystery at the end--find the arsonist, the killer, etc. But how do I link the mystery, the external story problem, to my main character's internal story problem? I'm working on that.

Basically she wants things she can't have. She knows, of course, that she can't have her father back (he died before the start of the story), but she wants to persuade her mom that moving cross country was a bad idea. Her mother will never be persuaded of this for reasons the main character has yet to discover. So the only thing that can happen, since outward circumstances can't or won't change, is for the main character to accept the changes. And she's fighting that all the way.


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