Hi Holly. Thanks so much for having me on your wonderful blog to talk about my new book WISHES, DARES, AND HOW TO STAND UP TO A BULLY and how it was plotted.
Usually, when it comes to plotting a novel, I struggle with getting it all to come out the way I envision. I have a strong beginning and knowledge of how I expect it to end. It’s what comes in between that throws me for a loop. I’ll write down possible scenes, things the character(s) need to do or potential conflicts that could arise. Most of the plot ideas that end up staying in the story are ones that I discovered after many revisions.
I expect there are many of us out there with this same kind of problem.
For my new novel in verse WISHES, DARES, AND HOW TO STAND UP TO A BULLY, plotting was a totally different animal. The main character Jack spoke to me in a voice so loud and clear. He was insistent that I tell his story the way he spoke it, which turned out to be free verse. So, instead of plotting what might happen, I began to compile a list of words that would spark a conversation between Jack and me. (The title for the story at this stage was Fish, Wish, and Other Four Letter Words…hence the list of four-letter words).
Each day I’d sit down with the list, choose a word and let Jack tell me his thoughts on it. The list expanded as we got further into the story and the final version that became the book veered from the strict four letter word format. But that list is the plot, sure and true. Every crossed out word is a poem in the story. I am so intrigued by this idea, that I am ruminating on another story in verse and have started compiling my list of words.
Book Cover Blurb:
Wishes, Dares and How to Stand Up to a Bully. The novel in verse crystallizes a boy’s worries about his father, who is MIA in Vietnam, and how his family, new best friend, and a bully unexpectedly help him find the courage to do the right thing, not just the easy thing.
Wishes, Dares, and How to Stand Up to a Bully(review from Forward Magazine)
Creston Books (Apr 7, 2020)
Hardcover $17.99 (275pp)
In Darlene Beck-Jacobson’s poignant novel in verse, Wishes, Dares, and How to Stand Up to a Bully, a boy copes with the absence of his father, who is missing in action during the Vietnam War.
Eleven-year-old Jack, with his mother and his sister, Katy, spends the summer at his grandparents’ home. When he and Katy catch a one-eyed fish, they see it is as lucky; they make a wish on it to have pancakes for dinner. When the wish comes true, they wonder if the fish really is magical.
Jack relates the incident to his friend, Jill, who decides to catch the fish again. She wishes that her bully of a brother, Cody, would leave them alone, but her wish has different results. Meanwhile, Jack reads his father’s childhood diary, hoping that it contains clues about what makes a good wish so that he can make the perfect one and bring his father home. Discussions about wishes overlay the ways that the children work through their complicated situations. Its free verse lines crafted with care and concision, the book captures Jack’s emotions, and his 1960s small town setting, because of its sharp attention to detail. References to John F. Kennedy, John Glenn, and Joe DiMaggio round out the period, and the shadow of the war hangs over everything. Still, the children roam unsupervised—fishing, biking, and camping—in a world that is otherwise familiar and safe. They’re dealing with serious issues all the while, from Jill and Cody’s abusive stepfather to Jack and Katy missing their father. By the end, they have all developed the courage and strength to deal with their struggles.
A historical childhood fantasy in verse, Wishes, Dares, and How to Stand Up to a Bully blends light summer fun with deep emotional challenges.
CATHERINE THURESON (March / April 2020)
Darlene Beck Jacobson is a former teacher and speech therapist who has loved writing since she was a girl. She is also a lover of history and can often be found mining dusty closets and drawers in search of skeletons from her past. She enjoys adding these bits of her ancestry to stories such as her award-winning middle grade historical novel WHEELS OF CHANGE (Creston 2014) and WISHES, DARES, AND HOW TO STAND UP TO A BULLY (Creston 2020).
Darlene lives and writes her stories in New Jersey with her family and a house full of dust bunnies. She’s caught many fish, but has never asked one to grant her a wish. She’s a firm believer in wishes coming true, so she tries to be careful what she wishes for.
Her blog features recipes, activities, crafts, articles on nature, book reviews, and interviews with children’s book authors and illustrators.
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