All posts by Dorian

GENERATING IDEAS FOR NOVELS AND PICTURE BOOKS #2

#2 Odd Coupling: Put Dissimilar Characters Into Unlikely Relationships

 This is a technique that has made for great stories in the past. Think The Odd Couple, (of course), but also: Analyze This, The Breakfast Club, Will and Grace, etc. These stories often have themes of friendship, loyalty, trust, respect for diversity, etc. In addition, the differences in characters often produce humorous results.

This technique has been used to great effect in YA, MG, and Picture Books. Here are some wonderful examples to check out:

PICTURE BOOKS

Jasper & Joop by Olivier Dunrea:

 In this Odd Couple with goslings, Jasper is a neat freak, while Joop likes a messy nest and rumpled feathers. They find common ground when Joop sticks his beak in a beehive and needs help.

Nugget & Fang by Tammi Sauer

Nugget, a minnow, and Fang, a shark, are buddies until Nugget goes to school and learns he’s supposed to be afraid of Fang.

Penguin and Pinecone by Salina Yoon

The title says it all. The touching and popular picture book is about an unlikely friendship between a Penguin and a Pinecone.

MIDDLE GRADE

Every Soul a Star by Wendy Mass

 Three very different characters—homeschooled Ally, aspiring model Bree, and introverted Jack—forge a friendship when they meet at a campground to watch an eclipse.

 Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White

 Who can forget the unique friendship between Wilbur, the pig, and Charlotte, the spider?

 Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick

 A teenage giant, who’s a slow learner, has a unique friendship with a tiny genius in leg braces. This was made into the film, The Mighty.

YOUNG ADULT

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

Two very different boys with the same name meet and change each other’s lives.

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor is the overweight, bullied new girl and Park is the half-Korean outsider, who has lived in Nebraska his whole life but still feels like he doesn’t belong.

The Art of Lainey by Paula Stokes

 Soccer-playing preppy, Lainey, has just been dumped. So has Micah, her tattooed, punk rocker co-worker. Using tips from Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, they pair up to make their exes jealous.

If you have any favorite examples of Odd Coupling, please don’t hesitate to share in the comments section.


Welcome to my blog!

The World is Waiting JewelryI’m well aware that the universe does not need another blog that discusses the craft of writing. There are so many excellent ones out there already. I also know that I’m way behind on the trend. That’s nothing new for me. (I still have a VCR.) However, along with writing itself, learning and talking about writing is pretty much the thing that keeps me from going crazy. So, for the sake of my sanity and for those around me, I’m adding my voice (and yours in the comments section) to the chorus.

In the next several weeks, I’ll be talking about how to generate ideas, how to begin your story, how to pump up your character’s emotional journey, and many other topics on the craft of writing. I hope you’ll join me.

Those who join the conversation in the comments section and those who subscribe to the blog will be entered in a raffle. Every couple of weeks, I’ll choose a winner at random. I have three of these necklaces (above), a mug that says I’m a Writer … Everything You Say and Do May End Up in My Novel, some autographed MG and YA novels, and other prizes to choose from, if you win. So here goes the first post …

Where do you get your ideas?

It’s a question writers always get. A while back when I first started writing, I had no problem answering that question. Ideas were everywhere. But the more I learned about how difficult it was to execute those ideas in a creative and unique way, the more I panicked. Just as soon as I got a new idea, I tossed it away, worrying that it had already been done.

I’d heard the aphorism: “There’s nothing new under the sun.” And I knew Ezra Pound’s advice was: “Make it New.” But I was stuck.

After awhile, I began studying strategies to generate ideas and realized that even if an idea is similar to something that’s been done, old Ezra was right: you can make it new.

Of course, getting the idea is just the beginning. The hard work happens after you nail down the premise. But if you’re like I was, and you’re having trouble coming up with a concept, the next several blog posts will demonstrate some strategies to help you brainstorm. Here’s the first one:

#1 Switch Up the Genre

One of my favorite genre switches was Mel Brooks’s take on the iconic science fiction novel, Frankenstein. Once he turned it into the hilarious film,Young Frankenstein, it became a classic all on its own. Another great example of a successful genre switch involves the humorous movie called Multiplicity, which was about cloning. Retooled as a thriller, it has become the critically acclaimed BBC America TV show Orphan Black.

Below are some great books for children and teens that demonstrate how you, too, can switch up a genre. Take a look at these books, study them, and find out how these authors “make it new.”

Paranormal to Humor

The Twilight books inspired many more vampire novels, but these three authors switched up the genre and made readers laugh.

Drink, Slay, Love by Sarah Beth Durst
Sucks to Be Me (and two more in the series) by Kimberly Pauley
The Reformed Vampire Support Group by Catherine Jinks

Classic Animal Tale to Ghost Story

Neil Gaiman has said that the inspiration for his award-winning The Graveyard Book came from Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book.

Contemporary Series to Historical Series

The very popular Gossip Girl series by Cecily von Ziegesar, which centered on Manhattan’s teen social scene time traveled to the 1800’s and became The Luxe books, by Anna Godbersen, another very successful series.

Contemporary Friendship Series to Murder Mystery Friendship Series

Take the trials and tribulations of four best friends (Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares), give them some threatening texts and a few murders to solve, and you have Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard.

Nursery Tale to Picture Book Noir

Humpty Dumpty and other nursery tales get a fresh twist when a hardboiled detective begins investigating the truth in Who Pushed Humpty Dumpty? And Other Notorious Nursery Tale Mysteries by David Levinthal, illustrated by John Nickle.

Adventure/Buddy Movie to Humorous Teen Novel

Agent Jill Corcoran in her first fabulous Plotwrimo video talks about how Robin Mellom’s Ditched was pitched as The Hangover for teens. Brilliant idea!

If you’ve been inspired by another work and changed the genre to write your own picture book or novel or can think of other examples, I’d love to hear about them in the comments section.