Worth Reading

First off, I hope everyone is well, staying safe, and contributing to the safety of others. David and I are okay and very grateful that dogs don’t get the virus.

And, letting you know, in addition to my ongoing daily Facebook reading of a chapter of Ella Enchanted, last week I did a Q&A talk, also on my Facebook page, sponsored by the Harold Grinspoon Foundation and PJ Library. It’s still there, so you can watch and listen. I can’t say how heartened I was when both Melissa Mead and Christie V Powell showed up in the comments scroll.

Now for the post. On December 5, 2019 NerdyNiña wrote, When you’re writing a fairy tale retelling, how do you make it have a real plot? I’m trying to write a mashup of “Sleeping Beauty” and “Rapunzel.” I have my characters, and a good idea of the themes I want, but I don’t know what to have happen to make it a story worth reading. Can anyone help?

Several of you weighed in.

future_famous_author: What I do when I don’t know what kind of story to write is that I just make a new document on my computer (or get a new page in a notebook) and use bullet points. Write what comes to your mind. One time when I was doing this I ended up with a really good story. One of the words that I wrote, though, was a llama, and I did not use that word. And maybe rereading the fairytales, if you haven’t already done that, would help you. Maybe think about how you want to start it and just start writing. I have done this often, where I don’t have a plot, just a character, and a beginning, and the story ends up really good.

Yay! future_famous_author uses lists! I use bullet points, too.

Melissa Mead: I pick the parts of fairy tales that make me ask questions or roll my eyes. For example, with “Snow White,” I’ve always wondered “Why would the Prince want to kiss a dead girl?”

(Gail, if this is an out=of-line shameless plug, rather than an example, please remove it!)

Here’s one answer I came up with: https://dailysciencefiction.com/hither-and-yon/twisted-fairy-tales/melissa-mead/white-as-snow-red-as-blood

Me: Not a shameless plug. That was one of my questions when I wrote Fairest.

Raina: If you’re talking about coming up with plots in general, Gail has a ton of great posts in the archives tagged “plot” or “plotting”. One thing that also really helped me was learning about story structure and beat sheets, such as the Save The Cat method, which is what I use. (You can find the book Save the Cat: The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need by Blake Snyder at your local library, or google one of the free summaries online.)

Thank you, Raina!

More Raina: If you’re talking about fairy tale retellings specifically, I think a good thing to remember is that (generally) your story should be an original story first, and a retelling second. It can definitely borrow characters, events, and themes from the original, but your priority should be making sure that those characters, events, and themes all contribute to making YOUR story, rather than trying to make everything match up to the original. For me, the litmus test is when a retelling is able to stand on its own as an engaging story, even if the person has never read the original fairy tale. (Though of course, if they’ve read the original, they should enjoy it even more because they’ll be able to spot the parallels!)

future_famous_author: In my version of “Little Red Riding Hood,” Red was actually friends with the wolves, and the “big bad wolf” was a man who was trying to kill the wolves and wore a wolf hide. I hardly followed the storyline of LRRH at all. I had some wolves, a girl with a red hood taking treats to her sick grandma at the beginning, and some bad guys who try and stop her.

Oy! The worth-reading worry! This is a question we should never ask: not when we’re thinking about what to write, not when we’re in the thick of it, not when we finish, not when we revise, not when we send out our query letter, which will not contain words like, “I’m not sure this is worth reading, but I hope you will think it is.” !!! And not even when it’s published or ten years later. It is a question not worth thinking! It doesn’t help; it just hinders. The only important initial question is, Does this interest me?

I agree with everyone above about fairy tale retellings. Mine have run the gamut from close to the original to light years away. Right before I started writing Ella Enchanted, I read Beauty by Robin McKinley, which I love. This retelling of “Beauty and the Beast” hews close to the original and yet stands as a unique creation. I’ve never managed to be that faithful. It’s an achievement–

–that we don’t have to achieve–

–unless we want to.

Most fairy tales have been around for hundreds of years. They’ve lasted because they’re exciting; they’re generally short and packed with action. And they touch deep places in us. For me, the original “Cinderella,” for example, is at bottom about feeling unappreciated–even though I didn’t take the story that way. Cinderella does everything right and tries so hard, and all she gets is grief. We aren’t told if she loves her stepfamily, but they certainly don’t love her. Everybody (or almost everybody) has felt undervalued and misunderstood.

We can use those deep meaning to fuel our plots. The meaning you take from a fairy tale is likely to be different from mine. For me, for instance, “Hansel and Gretel” is fundamentally about abandonment, but for someone else it might be about poverty. “Snow White” makes me think about jealousy and rage, but others may find kindness and love–in the generosity of the dwarfs.

If we go with abandonment, we can give Hansel nightmares and make Gretel more conscientious than a child should be, because both children sense that their parents are unreliable. We can invent earlier incidents during good times when the parents behaved irresponsibly. We can bring in the witch during one of those incidents. If we know what the underlying big issue is, we can figure out how to structure our story. Once the two of them are in the witch’s cabin, knowing what we know about each of them, we can decide how they’ll be together in that very small space. If we’re following the fairy tale, we can plan how the two children manage to stay alive but almost fail a few times. It’s all informed by abandonment and, possibly, their commitment to never abandoning each other.

I also do as Melissa Mead does: look for leaps of logic, plot turns that make absolutely no sense. Why does feeling a pea under twenty mattresses prove royal blood? Why does the prince fall in love with Sleeping Beauty when she’s, well, asleep and he’s never met her and she’s about a hundred years older than he is, even if she doesn’t look it? Why does the Beast frighten Beauty’s father and threaten him if he (the Beast) is really a good guy at heart? Why, oh why, does Snow White fall for the evil queen three times in a row?

We can contemplate these goofy parts and see how we can explain them. Let’s take the prince and Sleeping Beauty. Why does he go on the crazy quest in the first place? We can make a list! Remember nothing is stupid on a list:

∙ He’s on the lam. He stole the golden astrolabe of the Admiral of the Fleet. A party of knights is after him, and there’s this hedge.

∙ His mother insists he marry his distant cousin, Merna, whom he hates. He’s refused, and now he’s been exiled. He’s been riding for days, and there’s this hedge.

∙ He lives in the next town over, and the hedge has grown so high that it blocks the sun from the wheat fields. Crops are failing. He hacks his way through the hedge to find the authorities and tell them to trim the darn hedge!

And so on. A nice list has ten to fifteen possibilities. As you can see, these possibilities are complicated. We probably have to set them up, which could take half a novel. Meanwhile, we have to keep an eye on the sleeping princess and decide how she can complicate the problems and then lead eventually to their solution. I happen to love this approach.

Here are four prompts:

∙ Write the abandonment story of Hansel and Gretel.

∙ Write a version of “Hansel and Gretel” using poverty as the underlying problem. Or pick another issue that strikes you as at the core of the problem.

∙ Write seven more “Sleeping Beauty” possibilities. Pick one of yours or one of mine and write the story.

∙ Write a version of “Snow White” that begins in the dwarfs’ cottage and explain SW’s behavior each time the evil queen shows up.

Have fun, and save what you write!

  1. Kit Kat Kitty says:

    This came at just the right time! My friend and I decided to co-write a story, so we both made a list of ideas. Three of the ideas I came up with were fairytale retellings, and we both agreed to go with that one after we discussed it. Thank you!
    It’s a Sleeping Beauty retelling, in case anyone was wondering. 🙂

  2. I honestly don’t know what to say. Haha. I’m a very young writer and I have a ton of time on my hands due to the virus, (though I still have to do online school) and I am currently working on a story with my friend. I can always start off the book, but I never seem to get very far before I forget about it. When I finally remember about the story I read through and think, ‘Wow I really wrote this? This is garbage.’ and I’ll continue on to a different story. How do you stay true to the one book until the end? Are there any tricks to doing so?

    • Remind yourself that first drafts are supposed to be fertilizer. 🙂 The analogy I like is that first drafts are like putting clay on a wheel. You give yourself a big lump of “stuff” to work with, and THEN you make something cool out of it.

      (I still have a hard time finishing books, but it helps.)

    • future_famous_author says:

      Also, never let yourself think that your writing is bad! I know that it sounds cheesy and people say things like this all the time, but letting yourself think that what you wrote it bad just doesn’t work!

      Another thing- I have started revising/editing a first draft that I finished back in February (I was going to wait until the summer, but I have plenty of time now) and I was reading some of it and kind of thought, “ew.” I know that I just said not to think that about your own writing, but you must also remember that you get better at writing every time you sit down to type or write. For me, that’s pretty much every day. Even back in February, I wasn’t as good at description and pulling words around in the fun ways that I do now, to make the wording of the sentences not so boring.

      Just don’t give up because something doesn’t sound good to you! Remind yourself that it is good, and it will get even better. There are no rules to writing, just the stereotypes that we have created and look for in books. Your writing is good!

    • Remember that the first draft is as bad as it’s gonna get ;D. You got this.
      One of my favourite quotes is one from Neil Gaiman: “The process of doing the second draft is the process of making it look like you knew what you were doing all along.” Don’t worry if you don’t know what you’re doing. Just go for it. Slather the clay on, like Melissa Mead said.

  3. In one of my WIP’s, I have 2 main characters, George and Tanya, and a story that can be divided roughly in half. In the first draft, I had them alternate narrating chapters, but it would make a lot more sense if Tanya narrated the first half and George narrated the second half. Well, mostly. There are parts of the first half where it would be really helpful to have George narrate, and parts of the second half where it would be helpful for Tanya to narrate. But I’m worried that if I just pop in chapters, even/especially important ones, from the other MC’s POV, it’ll just seem random. I’m also wondering how to make it clear in the first half that George is going to narrate the second half without making it look like the two of them are going to get together. Any thoughts?

    • I think as long as you make it really clear whose head we’re in when, you should be ok. (I’m guessing this based on the fact that the first 7 chapters of “Malak’s book” have 5 different points of view, and while it hasn’t sold yet it did get an agent, and nobody’s mentioned that as a problem yet. So take that feedback with as many grains of salt as you’d like. 🙂 )

    • Meggie Folchart says:

      Is it possible you could divide the story into quarters? Another option perhaps is that you could make it completely random.

    • future_famous_author says:

      The only first draft that I have ever completed (I’m a young writer, and tend to story-hop) started out from one character’s POV, and then the second half was in the other character’s. The first MC, a princess, will always seem like the true MC to me, because she started out as the MC. To be honest, I wanted her to be the one to narrate the last scene of the book between her and her boyfriend, but he was still narrating. Really, I could have jumped back to her for an epilogue, and I guess that I could write the scene from both POVs and see whom I like best, but I chose to stick with the princess’s boyfriend.
      I’m not sure how much this will help, but I hope it does.
      Also, though, I would say that doing quarters or making it random would both work. You could write in diary entries, so that you can make them however long you want and jump to the other MC whenever you want. This would also work not in diary format, though I think it would seem more natural that way.

  4. future_famous_author says:

    Speaking of POVs, one of WIPs starts in one character’s POV, while the second half is in another character’s POV (the same WIP I was talking about above). I’m now working on the sequel (I know that it is strange to start the sequel when the first one is only a first draft, but it’s working for me) and I’m thinking about doing the same thing. Does that seem weird, or natural? And would it be weird to use two totally different characters and start with one before going to the other? There were some pretty important side characters that could be used.

    • I think that, as long as the second POV character is somewhat relevant in the first half, you should be fine. Also, I don’t think it’s weird to start the second book before editing the first. You’re just conserving your series momentum.

      • future_famous_author says:

        In relation to my first question, is it weird to divide the second book between two different POV characters? All characters were relevant in the first half of the book!
        The second POV character in the first book is the MC’s boyfriend (and later on husband) and the characters I’m thinking about using for the second book (I think I will rewrite what I had started writing from different POVs) are the MC’s best friends, and princesses just like her. I’m not sure how readers would feel, though, about losing the princess’ POV and not really knowing what the MC is thinking, and not always being right there on the front lines with her. I really think, though, that it would be fun to get inside of the other princess’s heads.

        • No, alternating POV’s is a perfectly valid technique, and even if the readers do think it’s a bit weird at first, they’ll get used to it after a few chapters.

          • For what it’s worth, I’m outlining a pair of novels right now for a future project. Both have three POVs. The first book has the villain (descending into villainy), and two heros (who are not romantically interested in each other). The second book has the villain’s little sister (discovering that her brother isn’t as nice as he seems to her), a new character, and one of the POVs from the previous book. I haven’t ironed out all the details, but I’m going to try :). My current WIP has three POVs–a man and woman and the journal entries of a younger girl. The two adults aren’t romantically involved (they may or may not be cousins…)
            So, play around with it! Something that’s new and interesting to you will probably also be new and interesting to your readers.

  5. Kit Kat Kitty says:

    I have another random question.
    I’ve heard different people talk about when they started calling themselves a writer. Some people say they didn’t start until they wrote a complete novel, and others have said that when they started writing, they called themselves a writer.
    So I’m wondering when all of you started calling yourselves writers or viewed yourself as such.
    (I’m sorry if this doesn’t make any sense)

  6. Gail Carson Levine says:

    I was told, from the first moment (in 1987) I started writing and joining critique groups and taking classes, that if you write, you’re a writer. I am sure this is true. So long as you write, Kit Kat Kitty, you are a writer.

    • future_famous_author says:

      I’ve been a writer since I started writing when I was about seven. At this point, and since I was in about third grade, I’ve even considered myself an author, though I’m nowhere near getting published. I see it in my future, near or far, I’m not sure, but I call myself, as you can, “Future Famous Author,” and have been for years. I used to write it underneath my name when I signed school assignments. I am an author, at least to myself.

  7. I also write a lot of fairytale retellings, and my method is usually to take a lot of liberties with the original plot points, but to capture the theme of the story (or at least how I interpret it). Most of my stories are inspired by me reading a fairytale and thinking “man, it would suck to be [insert character here]…what would it feel like and how might someone play the hand they’re dealt and persevere anyways?”

    To me, Sleeping Beauty (the original tales, not the Disney one) is about destiny and the inevitability thereof. Despite the measures the king and queen take to stop the curse, it happens anyway. Which made me think, what if Sleeping Beauty grew up knowing about the curse while believing that it was inevitable? How would it feel to live your life knowing the exact day you’re going to die? Would you adopt a carpe diem mentality and live life to the fullest while you can, try to find a solution despite knowing it’s futile, or spiral into nihilistic despair? Thinking about this, I decided to write about a girl who spends her whole life believing she’s a lost cause until she gets a chance to fight destiny for a chance to survive.

    A Cinderella retelling I’m working on came about after watching the first Thor movie and thinking “it would suck to be Loki…all you want is validation and love from your parents, but you’re always stuck in your brother’s shadow and never truly belonging in the family. No wonder he took the first way out that he saw, regardless of the morality.” That made me think of Cinderella, specifically an Italian variant titled Cenerentola whose heroine is VERY different from Disney’s “have courage and be kind” version. To me, the theme of Cinderella has always been some variant of self-improvement/rags-to-riches, so I decided to center my retelling around the idea of ambition–a girl in a bad situation who wants more to life, who’s determined to climb her way to the top, no matter the cost.

    I’ve always felt that the fairytale Diamonds and Toads is very unfair; how one good or bad deed is used to judge someone’s personality, and they end up either blessed or screwed over for life. (Though I love Gail’s retelling that showed that sometimes blessings and curses aren’t always what they seem.) I’ve always felt bad for the “wicked” sister. Not only is she punished physically, there’s probably also a psychological toll about being designated the “bad” one, and treated like that is the only thing that defines her and she deserved her punishment. So I decided to write her story, making her a flawed person who makes mistakes and suffers the consequences but decides to seize her fate in her own hands and not let a judgemental fairy define her life. The theme is about reputation, and how it’s never as simple nor as inescapable as it seems.

    I love fairytales because they’re so open to interpretation on the details, but the heart and theme of the story always runs strongly throughout.

    • “Cenerentola”? I’ve never heard of it before, and Google had multiple, very different, versions, including an opera. What version did you use? I’m writing my own Cinderella retelling, so I’m curious.

      • It’s an Italian fairy tale by Giambattista Basile sometimes called Cat Cinderella, Cenerentola, or Zezolla depending on the translation! You can find a version online here: http://surlalunefairytales.com/cinderella/stories/ceneren.html (side note: Surlalune fairytales is my go-to source for fairytale research; they have annotated tales as well as lots of international variants and links to analyses/commentary. I love exploring the site)

        Warning: there’s murder in this story. It’s not graphically described and it’s probably not any worse than some of the stuff in other fairytales, but the main character is definitely not the sweet innocent Disney princess.

    • future_famous_author says:

      I have never, ever, pictured Cinderella as a feisty, ambitious girl who wanted to be in the castle! It’s funny how Disney (maybe the original tale did this, too, I’m not sure…) has put into our minds that Cinderella was some goody-two-shoes who loved everyone she met. It makes a lot more sense, to me, for her to be some cunning and courageous woman who wanted more to life.

      • Yes, I thought so too! Disney’s version was probably a product of its time (it was from the 1950s after all), and while I don’t think that kindness and perseverance in the face of difficulty is necessarily a BAD lesson to teach kids, I do think it could be explored in a way more complex than just a character who’s nice to everyone regardless of circumstances. But a lot of the other variants feature a Cinderella who, if not an outright murderer like Cenerentola, at least have some evidence of self-determination and actively come up with their own ideas and bargain for help from allies or use the resources they have available, rather than crying in a garden until their fairy godmother shows up and fixes everything.

    • What surprised me was the elements from other fairy tales that were included. I noticed the gift-giving like in Beauty and the Beast, and the fig tree was like the trees, I don’t remember what kind, from Hans Christian Anderson’s Twelve Dancing Princesses.

  8. Writing Cat Lover says:

    I am actually writing a Hansel and Gretel retelling, and I was wondering – how do you figure out the plot? Like, I know that Gretel has to find out in some way that she has magical powers and then eventually go on some kind of quest and defeat some kind of witch, but I am still having trouble figuring the plot out and I’m always losing my way.

    I don’t know if that was clear enough or not but basically here is the summary: I need tips on plotting because all I am really doing is stumbling blindly through the fog of writing.

    • As someone who has stumbled through the fog of writing many times before (and who only really figured out how plotting works a week ago), here are a few tips. 1. Plots are the way characters try to reach their goals. So, if you make a list of the character’s goals and the things they do to achieve them,(kind of like New Year’s resolutions) you have the bare bones of an outline. 2. Freytag’s Pyramid (the upside-down triangle that shows action rising and falling over the course of the story) can apply to anything from a scene to a series. Everything has exposition, rising action, a climax, falling action, and a resolution, and if you can find your story’s inciting incident (where the rising action starts), climax, and resolution, you can fit the rest of it around those three points. 3. Feel free to stumble, get hopelessly lost, and backtrack as many times as you need to in order to find your story. It’s easier to plot the second draft than the first.

    • Kit Kat Kitty says:

      I’ve been where you are so many times before. And what really helped was reading a book about plotting. For me, I didn’t understand plots well enough to hit all the right beats without writing out an outline, and I didn’t know how to write an outline because I didn’t understand plot well enough. I was too scared of all the complicated outline methods out there to watch videos or read articles about them. But when I finally sat down and read a book about plotting (Save The Cat! Write a Novel) it helped me a lot. It has fifteen beats that I used to outline my current WIP. Of course, that isn’t the only plotting method out there, but it worked for me because it was simple, and a very universal outline (all books have most if not all of the beats whether or not that’s what the author intended. The book goes into this more, and I would highly recommend reading it.) so I was able to grasp it easily.
      Of course, if your not a plotter, being a pantser if perfectly fine! I’d still recommend reading books about plot so you can absorb all the information and subconsciously get to all the places you need to in your book once you understand what they are. This was my main problem when I tried pantsing novels, I didn’t understand plot nearly as well as I needed to.
      I guess I’m saying the best thing to do is research about plot structure, and if you want to plot, research different methods. It might not be easy, but it’ll be worth it. For once, I don’t feel hopelessly lost when I’m writing. For now. I hope this helps.
      I agree with Katie W. The first draft isn’t supposed to be perfect, or even good. I’m working on a zero draft right now, which is basically just throw-up in word form on a page, but once I’m done, I’ll have something to work with that’ll (hopefully) eventually become a good story.
      I’m sorry if this doesn’t make sense, I’m kind of tired right now.

  9. Any suggestions on a good way to show that time has passed in a book? Currently, my character is twelve, but I want him to be 17 or 18 by the time I hit my climax, that way readers will see him grow. So far I am trying to show that the seasons are changing and I have thought about using holidays almost as checkpoints.

    • Depending on what else you have going on, you might want to put in a big time jump somewhere, such as skipping directly from 14 to 16. I would suggest either making the passage of time fairly slow or fairly fast. If you do putin a big time jump, though, try to have it occur between chapters. It’s less confusing for the readers that way.

    • I vote for the big time jump. As a reader, I find it much less confusing than simply speeding up time, (i.e., skipping ahead in a movie instead of fast-forwarding.) especially if you can divide the book into parts and have the time jump take place between parts, rather than inside one. A simple “4 years later” (or whatever time interval you want) heading works wonders.

    • Do you want him to go straight from 12 to 17, or show some things happening in between?

      Here’s one way I dealt with a big time jump:

      “(Juvenile demon) dropped into a hunting crouch beside Malak, who realized with shock that (the youngster) was now as tall as he was. (JD) had changed from a spawnling to a long-legged juvenile before Malak had even thought to notice the transformation. Once, twenty years would have seemed an impossibly long time, but among Aureni years passed almost without notice. He’d lived years upon years, more than a Deeper One could count on hands and feet…”

      I hope that’s helpful!

    • future_famous_author says:

      Little Women is split into two parts, and it skips three years in between, but the important parts are told at the beginning of the second part.

    • Song4myKing says:

      Two more book suggestions, to look at and see how they did it:

      Gail Carson Levine’s book, Ella Enchanted, skips through Ella’s childhood in the first chapter, hitting only the scenes that relate to the plot. I think there are other skips later in the book, if I remember correctly. (It’s been a while since I read it, but I’m listening to Gail read it on Facebook!).

      Another great book, Carry on, Mr. Bowditch, by Jean Lee Latham, also has a lot of time jumps. It’s based on a real person, and starts before he enters school, and moves through his life until he’s in his 20s, at least. The passage of time is done very well, and uses several methods. The method that sticks out in my mind was when, in the middle of a chapter, one paragraph begins, “Two years later…” Yes, it felt abrupt (which is why I remembered it!), but the information it gave was a blow to Nat Bowditch. The abrupt delivery felt right in that case, because it helped us identify with Nat.

  10. Clare H, I’m dealing with a very similar challenge in my fairy story. My MC Lio starts off the book aged 12 and ends the book at 17. I would like to spend five years (in plot time) developing him and his relationships. At this rate, it might actually take me five years before the book ever gets finished ; )

  11. Thanks, the time jump sounds like a good idea. I mainly want to spend a little time with my character as a younger boy so that we can see his childhood friendship change into a mature relationship. Right now without the time jump I kind of feel like I’m just making up little events to make time pass, and I don’t want to bore my reader with them. Right now I don’t really have anything important to put in between ages 12 and 17, but I need to do some more planning so that may change.

    • future_famous_author says:

      My WIP has a similar style to Poppie’s, in that my MC (and her two best friends, one of whom later becomes her boyfriend) starts out in the book at fourteen, about to go into high school, and I want to end the book with her getting married. I may skip some time at the end, like to follow her through her high school years and then have the epilogue skip to her marriage. I want to show the wedding because she ends up marrying her boyfriend, and best friend, from her child hood. Kind of an obvious twist, but it would make more sense if I explained the theme, which I won’t because it would take a while, and kind of give away the whole plotline. 🙂

  12. Fiona Wherity says:

    So, I am writing a book in which the MC dies in the end, I haven’t got the slightest clue on how to make him disappear/die (he’s a spirit/creature who looks human). I also don’t know what kind of creature/spirit he should be and if he’s a spirit should he be dead? Should he be tangible or not? The other MC is human and they both fall for each other but that can’t be together for certain reasons I haven’t figured out. That brings me to my other question, why are they not able to be together? Any help is welcome.

        • I have kind of figured out what he is (either a phantom or an animal spirit), and kinda why he dies (he either can’t know that anyone loves him, this goes with the phantom, I don’t know how he’ll die if he’s the animal spirit). He is going to be tangible. That’s really all I’ve figured out and I still have to give the characters names. Thanks for the help too! 😀

      • future_famous_author says:

        One way to make a death sad is if the character who dies had a goal that they wished to reach and they didn’t achieve it. For example, maybe my MC longs to be an author, and she is in the middle of writing a novel, and she dies. Or maybe my MC is trying to get a certain girl to love him, and he’s loved her for years, but she just won’t fall for him, and he dies. Another way is if the reader was truly rooting for them to reach their goal. If the reader really wanted the MC to get published, or really wanted him to get the girl, it’s even sadder. I also read that you shouldn’t go into detail on the funeral, because it kind of takes away from the overall mood. But maybe he wouldn’t have a funeral anyway, because he’s a spirit or phantom.

        • Fiona Wherity says:

          Thank you I was thinking that the MC wanted to be loved by this girl and she loves him, but because of something he dies (because he is a spirit and something makes him die/disappear forever). He obviously ends up telling her, but they never really get to have a normal relationship because of restrictions between them. Would that be a good way to make his death sad?

  13. What you just mentioned about not having a normal relationship and then dying reminded me of Emily Bronte’s novel Wuthering Heights, which I just finished reading for a literature class, and I found the deaths in it to be very sad. The MC Heathcliff and his lover Cathy are not able to have a real relationship because of her premature death (and also some bad choices on both of their parts). Her death was really sad because she was so young and didn’t get to live a proper life, and also she never had a normal relationship with the man she loved. Heathcliff is not exactly a likeable character (in fact he’s a wicked, revenge-obsessed maniac), but his death at the end was sad too because the reader sympathizes with him due to his past suffering, and he didn’t live a proper life either because he lost the will to live after Cathy died.
    All that to say, I find character deaths to be sad if the character was young and didn’t live a complete or happy life, or if they didn’t achieve something they wanted to achieve, such as a relationship with their true love. The more sympathetic the character and the character’s loved ones, the sadder the death. Hope this helps!

    • Fiona Wherity says:

      Well I mean the character isn’t exactly old, but like a high school age, but yea I agree with you deaths when someone is young is very sad.

  14. Also, I need some opinions. Anyone please weigh in!
    In the YA novel I’m currently working on, basically there’s a dystopia that’s ruled by a mysterious behind-the-scenes dictator who ordered all the firstborn children to be killed as a “sacrifice.” The MC’s parents hid her in the basement for sixteen years and she meets a boy who lives in the basement next door whose parents are hiding him too, then he sort-of-accidentally betrays her and she ends up in the Gateway House, a high-security prison where the sacrificed kids go, waiting to be killed.

    1. Can the MC still be likeable even if she has a raging temper, like the next time she sees the boy she loses her temper and basically starts physically attacking him and yelling some really mean things? Or should I make her a little more calm and good-natured?

    2. In the Gateway House, the MC meets identical twins who have also been caught, and one of them is kind to her and the other is mean and surly. Would the mean one be more likely to behave the way she does because she blames her sister for getting them caught, or because she blames herself?

    • If your MC doesn’t know it was an accident, it’s totally understandable that she would be angry.
      Do you want this twin to be a sympathetic character? If so, she should blame herself. If not, she should blame her sister.
      That’s my opinion, anyway.

    • Probably some of both. It seems more likely that she would switch depending on how much she likes her sister at the moment.

    • Eilidh, for your first question, I think that your character could definitely still be likeable if she had a bad temper. One thought I had that might help is maybe a past experience is the cause of her temper. Maybe she’s lived with someone who had a bad temper and she never has really seen a good example of how to deal with her emotions. Also, maybe the person she is angry at triggered a bad memory or reminded her of a still fresh hurt that just made her loose control of herself. Hope that helps!

  15. Fiona Wherity says:

    I don’t know but I was wondering if any of you would like to check out a story I’m writing and maybe help me make it better. I haven’t written much but here is the link if you would like to read it:

  16. Fiona Wherity says:

    I’ll just put it here:
    Rain pattered down, creating small lakes and rivers on the tiny, winding trail. Hwayoung traveled down the muddy path, slipping and sliding along the way. Neon green fields surrounded by forests bordered the path. Large houses and farms appeared occasionally, always far apart though. In the distance, Hwayoung spotted lines of brilliant pink and white trees. The girl picked up her pace until a small picket fence came into view. When she reached it she hopped over with ease despite the fact her clothes and backpack were soaked.
    The rain was still coming down from the grey sky as she walked through the cherry fields. Hwayoung admired the beauty of the delicate trees as she walked under their fragile flower petals. Something stopped her in her tracks, under a large, white cherry tree. A boy sat on the ground, leaning against the tree across from the white one. His blue sweater was soaked and sticking to hin and his dark brown hair was damp and looked as if someone had just played with it. He opened his eyes and smiled looking at Hwayoung with pools of honey gold.
    “Hello.” The boy greeted her calmly.
    “W-who are you?” She stuttered at the boys’ ceaseless gaze.
    “My name is Moon. Who are you?” Moon inquired.
    “Um, I’m Hwayoung. What are you doing here?”
    “I’m just resting for a bit.” He answered simply.
    “Your all wet though! Here, come with me I’ll help you.”
    The girl grabbed his hand and helped him up. She led him to an enormous white farmhouse with tons of windows and a large front porch. She still held his hand and her heart raced faster and faster and her blood crashed like waves inside of her.
    “Uh…” Moon looked at their hands.
    “Oh, sorry.” Hwayoung blushed and released his hand.

    • Sounds like a good beginning. Is there anything you particularly want help on?
      I like the description. Something to consider might be adding internal thought. For instance, Hwayoung could reveal what she thinks about the rain–is it annoying? Or does she enjoy it?

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