Wow, young me had no idea what she was doing.
A week ago I posted Walker Tale #2 and that younger me published before thinking it through. Now that I am oh-so-much older I’m thinking I do not know the first thing about serious writing!
I have been working on my story arc and thought I had it worked out. Boy goes on journey, has lots of episodes that each connect to a truth, and ultimately discovers…well, wait to see what. I present these every two weeks, so I have plenty of time to work out the next story and maybe even get ahead. I can do this, I thought.
So, the first thing that ran my train off the rails was reading a book on the craft of storytelling, Saves the Cat! Writes a Novel. (That’s meant to be read as “The screenwriting concept marketed as ‘Save the Cat!'” –referring to the need to create sympathy for a flawed main character by having him rescue a cat early in the story– “now turns its attention to writing a novel.” Make sense? Took me a while.) The book makes a case for hitting the essential ’15 beats’ of a compelling story. I learned a lot. I tried to apply it to the Walker Tales, and have spent more than a week falling over my feet and getting pretty depressed about my prospects as a writer.
But then I wondered, Does this story arc apply to children’s stories? If I have a long “bad guys are closing in” in the second half of Act II, am I going to alarm my young audience and their mothers? (The fathers might really like fight scenes with a gruesome enemy.) Keep in mind I present a new chapter every other week and end on a cliffhanger. I can just imagine disturbing the sleep of my innocent charges.
So, I pulled some picture books from my Grandma shelf and noticed that at least three beats were missing. The build-up of tension is not the same and the tone is lighter. So, I am going to archive the ’15 beats’ format, which I do admire, for another writing project. After all, this Tales of Walker project was my idea of a series of simple writing assignments that would help me learn the questions of writing so I will eventually be ready to hear some solutions in future writing classes. Oh, and serve the families of the church as well.
The second thing that broke down my train was the way I presented the gospel in Walker #2. It was embarrassingly sloppy. I have stewed over it for days and finally rewrote it. [I have replaced the post with the new version.] There is no way I am going to send Walker on his journey without a clear understanding that the King, Christ, died for his sins–they are that bad and He is that holy. The “Westminster Confession” of this scene needed to be trimmed to the max because this story is meant to show and not tell. I needed to show how the gospel looks in this world and that meant a certain amount of telling.
Well. Today I have made changes, printed out my copy and re-posted it here, and I am moving on. I still need to sketch an illustration and play with watercolors. If only I knew an illustrator with a sense of humor in her lines. If only I had sent one of the kids to art school for illustration… Oh, wait.
I love it! Rick says screenplays are different because of the time restraints. The writer has to get the 15 beats in the first 20 minutes. Squeeze a lot of information in and establish the problem in the first 20 minutes. I think you’re on the right track with your children’s books.