From the All is Lost moment, right before Act 3 starts, to the Climax, The Troubled Girls of Dragomir Academy has followed each beat from Save the Cat, drawing readers in and compelling them to turn the page. But even after a stellar climax, the story isn’t done. There’s the opportunity to make the ending fully satisfying. Here’s how Ursu does it.
The book I’m working on needs an ending. I know it, and I don’t know what to do about it, because I don’t know how to write one. So I decided to see how Anne Ursu did it in her masterful The Troubled Girls of Dragomir Academy. In this series of blog posts, I’ll share what I’ve learned with you.
It can be argued that Skyler Schrempp’s debut novel, Three Strike Summer, is about baseball. Or poverty. Or migrants. Or summer. Or families trying their best to get by. Or unions. Or friendship. Or finding joy even in the hardships of life. And it is. It’s about all of these things, but my favorite part of the story is the story of sisters. Of Gloria and Jessamyn. Schrempp gives voice to a frustrating, loving, complicated relationship that grows, changes, and strengthens throughout the story.
Skyler Schrempp: “I once read that George R. R. Martin talks about writers as “architects” or “gardeners”. Architects plan everything out before building and gardeners plant a bunch of things and see what grows well. I guess I see myself as more of a gardener than a panster! Pantser implies you’re really winging it, but I feel very intentional when I write…and it’s slow…like gardening.”
In order to get early readers on board, Tim had to draw readers in from the very first page and show them what to expect from the book. His 38-word, two-spread introduction to the book is a master establishing shot that covers not just setting, but all the elements readers need to be pulled into a story.
In the spirit of Hazel’s focus on people, I want to examine how Hawes establishes such a large cast of memorable characters. In both the opening and in introducing new characters throughout the book, Hawes uses voice, descriptions, and mood to establish characters quickly.
Louise Hawes: I often spend months (sometimes years) filling a notebook with my character’s responses and thoughts before I begin writing an actual draft. That notebook is all in long-hand, as you know, and I don’t stop to edit or erase anything. My characters’ letters are in the first person, and result from a fluid, bodily connection from my heart to my hand to the page. In contrast, my draft will be typed on a laptop, the far less spontaneous product of me thinking and feeling my way into a story that features the character whose voice has already filled my notebook.
Sarah Aronson: “No two projects emerge the same way, but I will commit to this: my process is aggressively playful. It’s my policy NEVER to say no to an idea until I’ve tried it out.”
Backstory is a necessary part of telling a story, but how much to include and what to leave out can be complicated. It’s rare in books for kids to have many pages of backstory in a row (though Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate does it with style). At KidLit Craft, we’ve explored backstory in many categories and genres. Here are our favorite posts about backstory.