The flashing heart necklace around my neck is pulsing with the rap beat from the Heart and Soul Dance three stories below, punctuated by shouts of hundreds of editors and agents and writers dancing, drinking, and generally making merry.
Man, writers can party. Who knew?
Day 2 was filled with more awesome, including passionate talks by Artistrator E. B. Lewis and Author Marion Dane Bauer, along with an amazing agent panel. But Linda Sue Park continued to enthrall in her Middle Grade workshop, so I’ll try to impart a little of her wisdom to you.
In connecting the middle grade MC to plot, Linda Sue talked about internal quests (what the character “needs”) vs. external quests (what the character “wants”). Fantastically hands-on, she walked us through a written exercise where we identified (and shared) the internal and external quests of a favorite book.
My pick: Deryn, girl aviator in Leviathan, by Scott Westerfeld
Internal conflict: Deryn needs to fit into a world where girls aren’t allowed many freedoms
External conflict: Deryn wants to become an airman in the Royal Navy.
She noted that YA is more devoted to internal quest, whereas MG has a more even balance between internal/external quest, but that many adults enjoy both MG and YA because they are still on an internal quest themselves. This is one of those throw-away tidbits that Linda Sue just casts out to her class that leaves me with my mouth hanging open while I attempt to scribble it down.
Naturally, she had us write the internal and external conflicts for our MG novels.
Mine: Byrne Risk, middle grade science fiction
Internal conflict: Kate has to come to terms with Giver being the replacement for her dead mother.
External conflict: Kate has to save Giver from the Peace Police coming to arrest her, and find a way to liberate Giver from slavery.
Just putting these conflicts into one sentence summaries helped firm them in my mind, and made me strangely happy that they denote some of the inherent tension in the book.
Linda Sue went on to outline four types of endings, depending on whether the internal/external quests were resolved or achieved.
Happy Endings: Both quests are resolved
Hopeful Endings: Internal quest is achieved, but external quest is not.
Fable/Morality Tale Endings: External quest is achieved, but internal quest is not.
Adult existential Novel: neither is achieved (Note to Middle Grade writers: please don’t write this ending)
In one fell swoop, Linda Sue helped me understand the ending of my novel, and why I’ve always questioned whether it was acceptable for a MG book – it is more hopeful than happy, but settles somewhere between the two. Knowing that a Hopeful Ending is as acceptable as a Happy Ending was gratifying, to say the least.
Linda Sue was also incredibly accessible before and after the workshop to answer questions I’m struggling with in my own manuscript (Thank you, Linda Sue!). I’m looking forward to more insights tomorrow, but now my mind needs to rest from an extreme case of Conference Brain.