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.
Numbers have power, magic, even. Not the abracadabra kind, but the kind that makes a reader sit up and pay attention even though they don’t know why. Sarah Aronson understands the power of the number three as a literary device and uses it masterfully in her picture book, Brand New Bubbe.
Since I began writing picture books, I’ve longed to tell the story of my relationship with my Amah (grandmother, in Taiwanese). Even though we saw each other infrequently, I adored her. But like Kylie, my main character in Amah Faraway, I always felt a bit shy at the start of our visits–due to my own cautious nature, the distance, language barrier, and cultural differences.
The sidewriting exercise I rely on most is really simple. I write a messy, gossipy version of my story (or scene or conflict). I handwrite it, like it’s a note I might pass in class, and I allow myself plenty of gossipy digressions. . . . I’ve developed a kind of outlining process I love, but sometimes I really crave the structure of gossip, the way it’s built on cause and effect.
Framing your story with a STORY QUESTION that gets answered by the end of the novel works because it adds forward momentum, keeps your reader wanting to turn the page, and–since you delay the final answer to the question until the end–builds tension
Durham has made his job as a writer easier by having a strong turn near the midpoint of the book. He has something to build toward in the first half of Act 2 and something to move from in the second half.
In your story, consider how your character’s Lie and Fear impact the plot. And look to the Midpoint and All is Lost moments to ratchet up the stakes for your character. See how the climax resolves both the plot problem (what the character wants) and the Lie (what the character needs to change).
The strongest novels have main characters who not only want something but want something with serious stakes involved. In All the Impossible Things, Red’s stakes are whether she will ever have a home that truly fits.
analysis by Aimee Haburjak and Kristi Wright Do a search on elements of a good picture book and you’ll quickly find a treasure trove of lists. Here’s one by agent Tracy Marchini. And another by author Margo Finke. And yet another by author Kathryn Evans. Every author, agent, and editor who works in the children’s […]