Memories and Internal Arcs, a guest post by Karina Evans
I think we all can agree that puberty is umm… an interesting time. Bodies are growing, friendships are shifting, and fashion choices are questionable. I wish I could forget some of the outfits I picked out at age eleven, but unfortunately, I have an excellent memory. Also, I have pesky friends that keep photos like this of tween me:
So, yeah, I won’t be forgetting that look anytime soon. However, my memory does come in handy when I write middle grade books. Remembering all the little anxieties I had about my friendships and my changing body helps me develop my stories and the emotions I want my protagonists to explore. When I drafted Grow Up, Tahlia Wilkins! I knew I wanted Tahlia to embark on a wild romp around town with her best friend, but, after conversations with my agent and editor, I realized it would be Tahlia’s internal journey that would be the heart of the story. In order to strengthen her emotional arc, it was beneficial for me to mentally put myself back at that age and pull from my own feelings about growing up. My memories—the good and the bad—helped shape Tahlia’s thoughts.
While drafting a book, I think it is helpful to view your story as two main arcs—the external (physical) arc, and the internal (emotional) arc. The external arc is what your characters do. Do they fight a dragon? Go on a quest into the underworld? Talk to their crush for the first time? This is usually the main plot and the attention-grabbing aspect of the book. The hook. The internal arc is just what is sounds like—the internal thoughts and desires of your characters. What are their emotions? How do they feel about the events happening in the external arc? These two arcs will influence each other, of course, but I’ve found it beneficial to treat them as two separate elements as you start to craft a story.
Usually when writers think of a new story idea, the external arc is what comes to us first. It can be harder to flesh out the internal arc (or at least it is for me!). To help develop that internal arc, I always ask myself, ‘what does my protagonist emotionally lack at the start?’ Could be confidence, or self-awareness, or a sense of belonging. This is where my memory comes in handy. Whenever I’m struggling to come up with a good answer to that question, I think back to when I was a kid and remember all the concerns and doubts that I had and see which personal emotion could best fit the character. Once I’ve figured that out, then I know the over-arching goal of the protagonist’s internal journey—to fill that emotional lack.
Protagonists in different ages groups will have different types of internal arcs. Emotional journeys in Middle Grade are very different from those in Young Adult or Adult. Think about your wants and worries when you were eleven. I’m guessing they evolved considerably by the time you turned fifteen.
Whatever age group you write for, my tip is to remember yourself in that headspace as you develop the protagonist’s internal journey. Although, I’m unclear on what memories I was pulling from when I wrote this masterpiece:
Meet the author
Karina Evans is a children’s author from Santa Barbara, California. She studied English at the University of Delaware before starting a career in the entertainment industry. Some of Karina’s favorite things are: See’s Candies, The Amazing Race, singing show tunes in the car, and volleyball. She currently lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two mischievous cats, Sir Pounce and Taika. You can connect with her on Twitter: @karinaewrites, Instagram: @karinaevanswrites, and her website: karinaevans.com
About Grow Up, Tahlia Wilkins!
In this fun and truthful romp about friendship, puberty, and growing up, a debut author gives modern-day readers their own version of Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret.
Twelve-year-old Tahlia Wilkins is ready to kick off the perfect summer, starting with an invitation to a pool party being thrown by the most popular kid in school. But when the Red Goddess of Panties, aka her first period, arrives twenty-four hours before the party, it messes up all her plans. To make matters worse, her mom is out of town, and there’s no way she’s going to ask her awkward dad for help! Tahlia always feared that growing up would be tough, but this is just not fair.
In order to save herself from total embarrassment, it will take all of Tahlia and her best friend Lily’s scheming to keep her reputation—and her favorite jeans—from being ruined. Sneak off to the grocery store only to have the clerk price-check your tampons over the loudspeaker? Check. Trick your mature teenage neighbor into letting you use some of her tampons? Check. Take a dip into a fountain to get quarters for a bathroom period product dispenser? Check, check, check!
With the hilarious and heartwarming tone of Dork Diaries, Grow Up, Tahlia Wilkins! is a coming-of-age middle-grade novel about growing up, in all of its awkward glory.
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication date: 04/19/2022
Age Range: 8 – 12 Years
Filed under: Uncategorized
About Amanda MacGregor
Amanda MacGregor works in an elementary library, loves dogs, and can be found on Twitter @CiteSomething.
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