This week, I’m hoping to get through some chapters of Save the Cat. I just barely started on the structure section, where he shows the basic outline he uses and starts explaining both sections. So far, the things he says are making little bells chime in my plot brain, which is good. I managed to work up a thematic premise for my WIP, and–as he does in his examples–I found a way to show that in an early piece of dialogue.
Which of course, will almost certainly change. But still…
The other thing I’m doing is going back to my shelves and rereading some of the YA books that have really hit me, in the tightness of their prose, in the way they move seamlessly through time without feeling in all those details of time-actually-passing. In some of these, the story takes place over a longer period of time than just a few days, and yet the pacing moves quickly and effectively. The best way I can describe it is a lack of any unnecessary clutter.
So far, the books on my to-read-again/take-apart list are:
- Catherine Gilbert Murdock’s Dairy Queen. I reread this in the last couple of days and am going back to look at her chapter endings and beginnings. I’m also checking out scene transitions, because she does short blips during a day, sometimes interspersed with stories about the people involved. Absolutely brilliant, as I remember, and fun to look at more closely than when the story has me in its tight, keep-turning-those-pages grip.
- Robin Brande’s Doggirl (my discussion here)
- Kathryn Fitzmaurice’s A Diamond in the Desert (my interview here) I’m not shooting for anything like as sparse as Kathryn wrote this book, but I want to remind myself of how much you really can leave out and still tell an extremely powerful, effective story.
- Jo Knowles’ Lessons from a Dead Girl (my purely emotional reaction here)
- Sherri L. Smith’s Flygirl (my discussion here)
- Sarah Ockler’s Fixing Delilah (my discussion here)
I’d love to hear any suggestions from you. (Despite the apparent slant of my starting list, the books don’t have to have the word “girl” in the title!) Remember, I’m looking for YA, in which the author keeps their focus really tight, with almost no padding between scenes, and yet manages to convey the passage of time without confusion. I want books in which the story thread is almost always at the forefront, not shadowed or taken over by transitions or background material. (I’m not at all saying that I haven’t read wonderful books that do use a slower lead-in to scene action or take more space for those transitions. It’s just that I’m trying to push myself to a new place, structurally, and I need to be looking at some good examples of stories in which that kind of structure is used.)
Thanks ahead of time for any recommendations you want to leave in the comments!