I’ve been scribbling some notes for a YA story set in Washington, D.C.–not the D.C. of power and political theater but the city I know as a resident. When I say “scribbling” I really mean scribbling, with a pen, in an actual notebook (a “legendary” notebook, of all things). It’s too early to say whether this project will benefit from beginning life as hand-scrawled notes rather than as an orderly word-processing document, but I have some hopes that the jotting will jog loose some ideas. It’s good to have a home for stray phrases and fragments that present themselves. A notebook is also a good place to ask yourself questions, which can feel slightly silly when you’re doing it in a Word doc. I’m not going to become a notebook fetishist but it’s good to have another tool in the writing arsenal. And this one doesn’t require a plug or a battery charge.
Thinking about my new story and encouraged by The Magician’s Book (see previous entry), which explores what’s right and wrong with The Chronicles of Narnia, I wrote out a list of things I loved about the adventure stories I read as a kid. Here’s what I have so far:
–absent parents (lost or misplaced, dead, enchanted, negligent). Parental figures tend to get in the way of adventure. Just ask my kids.
–adventure (defined any number of ways but I know it when I read it)
–a true friend
–a worst nightmare (sometimes a person, sometimes an action or situation)
–magic (a lot or a little)
–a secret or a lie
–something to escape from?
–a going and a return
It’s far from a complete list but it’s helping me think through my story. Some of the best stories only have one or two of these elements; some have many. There are no fixed rules except this one: Don’t be boring.