Allow me to start by sharing why I think your grump-inducers can help you to determine your purpose in life and from there, your game-changing book that will challenge the status quo, educate and support your reader to make a change.
This realisation happened by accident. I was working with young survivors of sexual violence and I was grumpy. I was grumpy because of some of the messages I heard them receiving; that they were going to face a lifelong journey of recovery, that they would never be able to get over this and in more than one case, that their life was over.
These words did not come from the young people themselves, they were coming from the adults around them.
Where were the messages of hope, of courage, of resilience and frankly, of anything other than what they were hearing?
You see, that’s not my experience. I live a happy, fulfilled and fun life. If someone had told me during my teenage years that my life was over, I would have had a very different outlook.
Never underestimate the power of words, especially when they’re directed at vulnerable people at a frightening and confusing time.
That grumpiness quickly turned into a question. ‘What can I do to offer a message of hope?’
I’m not as young as I was, so while I tried to relate to young people and talk with them in a way that would give them an alternative viewpoint, the message was often received with a glazed look or a roll of the eyes. That was fair enough!
I needed another way.
I created a teenage character, Dani Moore who could relate to the young people in a way that I couldn’t. As a survivor, she could share her fears, the rollercoaster of emotions and the normal day-to-day ups and downs that carry on regardless of what you’re going through.
The most important thing for me was that the assault wasn’t made into entertainment. You always have to think about your reader and as a general rule; young survivors don’t want to read the details of an assault. The purpose of the book was to offer a new approach to surviving, not take a young person back to their darkest times. The book starts as the court case ends, so there aren’t any unnecessary surprises for the reader. This is always the most important part of planning your book; think about your reader and the message you would like them to take from your words.
I knew that Dani, with the help of the other characters in the book, would enable a young reader to see that there was another way. It’s an honest portrayal of the journey of being a survivor. There are adult characters who can share the wisdom that wouldn’t really come from a teenager and there are little snippets of self-help that the reader can try if they choose to.
I shared everything that made me grumpy.
There was an adult character who said within earshot of her daughter that her ‘life was over.’ I was able to challenge that statement through dialogue and discuss it in a way that challenged the notion, with respect, to both sides.
I explored the fears of people ‘knowing’ and experiencing the awkward stares and uncomfortable silences through Dani’s friendships and life at school, then the sixth form.
I was able to bring normal teenage life into the mix, showing that life does go on and that enjoying it is more than ok. Through the backdrop of normality, we talked about trust, shame, guilt, responses vs reactions and the choices we make on a daily basis that can shape the future we choose for ourselves.
For the Dani Moore Trilogy, I chose a diary structure, it was an accessible way for teenagers to peer into Dani’s world and feel they were getting a true account of what was going on for her. The whole point was that Dani became a trusted friend and was able to share her unfiltered truth. The message had to be authentic, so the diary was the perfect medium through which to share the story.
So, here are some questions for you as you venture into my vortex of grump:
• Identify something that makes you grumpy – just one thing to start with, if you’re anything like me, that list alone could be an epic novel.
• If you were to do something about that grump-inducer, who would benefit? That person could be the reader you need to focus on writing for.
• What information and/or story would your reader need in order for them to experience a positive shift in their thinking?
• How would that information and/or story need to be written?
Think about it; write down anything that comes to mind and send me a message if you’ve had a lightbulb moment!