I read a fascinating book last night. It was about a group of high school students who all have some sort of insecurity. Ironically they are some of the most popular kids in school and their leader is the most insecure of all. The leader decides he wants to take the lowest geek of the school, whom everyone torments and laughs at, and get him to be the most liked guy in school, as a challenge.
The story is told from the perspective of the leader’s right hand man. As it unfolds, you learn a lot about the characters, who all change to some degree by the end, which is a very dark ending if I’ve ever read one. It was quite depressing but fascinating. This post, however, is not about the plot itself, but the origin of the plot. In the back of the book, there was a blurb about the author in which she answers the question that is always asked of her: Where did you get the idea for this story? Crazily enough, she got the idea from a similar situation that happened at a school she was subbing at. Instead of guys mentoring the nerd, it was girls, and nothing grim came of it, but then she wondered. She pondered the idea of a dark turn for the worse in this situation. She considered the idea that one of the girls could have a very dark agenda for this makeover.
The result: “Shattering Glass” by Gail Giles. It was an incredible book, but a very unhappy ending, so don’t say I didn’t warn you when your heart feels broken and stomped on. I can’t recommend this book enough, as the chapters are mostly very short and the book itself is very short (only 215 pages in small paperback form)
So I guess the point of all this is: never doubt the smallest things as having wonderful story potential. The other point is: even if you have a very innocent and normal subject that you think could never possibly have the twists and turns that a novel should have, you can always generate the twists and turns yourself. Next time you observe something that has very little story potential, and you think it couldn’t be done, ask the what if’s. What if the protagonist did something drastic? What if his friend died? What if he did this differently? What if the stakes were raised a little? A lot? Life or death?
I’ll leave you with a quote I read in my Advanced Creative Writing textbook, entitled: “The Practice of Creative Writing: A Guide for Students” by Heather Sellers.
“There are no dull subjects. There are only dull writers.” – H.L. Mencken