Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Why Did I Write This Story?

Before I fall off the face of the earth (well, actually, just into the abyss that is prepping for our big move into our semi-finished reno in a couple of weeks) I wanted to get in this blog entry about why I wrote THE BREAK.

It’s the question every author should ask themselves before and during writing their book: WHY are you writing this story? If you are writing a story because something is hot in the industry (e.g. post-apocalyptic, dystopian, vampires, etc.) this post is not for you. I wish you well in chasing that elusive and all important “what’s hot in YA novels these days” trend. What I’m going to touch on is different. It is the meaning behind your story – the core truth you want to highlight, explore, reveal for yourself and, ultimately, your reader. Why is this story important to YOU?

THE BREAK began with a simple thought, one that came into my head as I saw my mom interacting with my kids in that completely unselfish, completely there, unconditional love she and my dad have for them. “This is the purest kind of love”, I thought. From there came the less happy thought, “What would my kids life be without their grandparents in it? What would they lose? What would my parents lose?”

Once those thoughts start happening then, if you’re a writer, you know a story line will surely follow. So Abby Lambert and her beloved, Nonna, were born.

Around the same time that I was thinking about writing a love story about a girl and her grandmother, I also decided to bring the aging theme – and all the constraints and difficulties aging creates – into sharp focus by making Nonna be in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. Memory - and all that means to relationships and family and the passing down of family history from grandparent to grandchild – is a fascinating thing. Without it we have no connection to each other. How does the loss of memories affect relationships? How do family members react when this starts to happen? I knew so many people whose lives have been impacted by various forms of dementia. So many times I heard people say it was almost harder to deal with seeing their parents/grandparents/spouse etc. losing their memory than if they were dealing with a physical illness.

Finally, I wanted to look at how we, as a society, treat our seniors. Much of THE BREAK is set in a retirement/nursing home. Do our young adults connect with seniors in any substantive way? What can we learn from them? What do young people lose when they don’t interact with our seniors?

All this to say, I had all of these “ideas” or “themes” swirling around my head as I plotted out what would happen to Abby and her Nonna in THE BREAK. I didn’t write the story to send a “message” but I wanted the story to have a “meaning”. To me, anyway. After all, an author is her first audience and if the author doesn’t care enough about the story then why is she writing the thing?

Here’s hoping all your stories mean something to you. Because otherwise, what’s the point?


  1. ^Interesting and poignant^, Nelsa.

    My PBs have different reasons for materializing. My upcoming MG, I believe, wrote itself. (But the revisions were work-work-work.)

    I noted that your posts always have value. It's the sort of writer you are. I don't doubt your novels do too.

    1. Thank you so much, Mirka. And a well-written PB can have so much impact with so few words that I'm in awe of writers who can show that much feeling and meaning within such a compact form.

  2. The "what if" principle definitely applies in my writing, but I seldom write poignant thoughts as much as I like to explore the absurd and silly and make it even more so. My "what if" came from my love of basset hounds and science fiction. So I wondered "what would aliens think about a basset hound if it was the first Earth species they encountered?" and a book was born--though it was a 20-year gestation process!

    1. Hi Bryan! Silly and fun and the ability to make kids laugh is one of the most important things on the planet. And basset hounds make everyone smile!

  3. Wow! I have two things to say:

    1. I can't wait to read THE BREAK.
    2. I could so have written something similar. I am, unfortunately, very familiar with the subject. (Don't worry; I'm concentrating on MG not YA at the moment.)

  4. Hi Barb: I hope you enjoy THE BREAK. And I'm sorry you are so familiar with the subject. Alzheimer's is a devastating illness and my heart goes out to all families trying to cope with it.
    And good luck with your MG!