amwriting, books, books about books, children's books, children's writing, creativity, early chapter books, Gordon Dickson, imagination, imagination, Jane Yolen, new project, Oliver Jeffers, picture book manuscripts, Terry Pratchett, wip, work in progress

Falling into Story

While thinking about what to write for this week’s blog post, I went looking for Writing Magic by Gail Carson Levine but found the book Take Joy- A writer’s guide to loving the craft, written by Jane Yolen. The book isn’t meant to be read chapter to chapter, you could if you’re so inclined; I wasn’t.

 I began at chapter three, “The Mystery that is Writing”, which is about how or why stories might blossom in our minds. Ms. Yolen wrote that she created a novelette based upon her children’s constant complaint of “it isn’t fair,” though in order for that story to come to fruition it had to wait until her children were grown-up.

Oliver Jeffers mentions on the back jacket flap of the book, Lost and Found that the premise for the book came from his childhood memory of being lost and not knowing where he was supposed to be until he’d read the label on the back of his shirt.

The story itself is about a penguin who turns up on the doorstep of a little boy, and the boy’s misguided effort to get the penguin back home. The story came from a memory but morphed into something with an altogether different perspective. Pretty cool—right?

Jane Yolen described fiction as reality surprised. And I think it was, Terry Pratchett, who said in not so many words but much better than I, that stories come from looking at a familiar thing from a slightly different angle.

This got me to thinking about the stories I’ve written. Some I know exactly what memory or memories caused them to be born. One that I thought had come to me on its own accord, did on second look reveal that it came from: a favorite movie of mine; the inventiveness of one of my daughters, who never fails to have big ideas and Spoon, the baby box turtle we rescued from under our garage door.

The story I’m presently working on also has its foundations set in history. My eldest daughter loved dinosaurs and walruses as a child. Walruses are not the go-to animal for most children and that in itself begs a story. When I originally started the story I kept trying to tell both the little girl and the walrus’ story in verse which proved difficult to say the least. Then I took the perspective of the little girl, still it was a no go, but just the other day I asked the walrus what he thought, not out loud mind you; I already get strange looks; his answers led me to the beginnings of a story in prose.

Moscow, RUSSIAN FEDERATION: A little girl looks at a walrus in a pool of Moscow’s zoo, 17 May 2006. AFP PHOTO FEDOR SAVINTSEV (Photo credit should read FEDOR SAVINTSEV/AFP via Getty Images)

Said walrus still has to dance his way out of the trouble he’s gotten himself into. He’ll figure it out; I have faith in him, and I can’t wait to see how he does it.

“Fall through the words into the story.” Gordon Dickson


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