When an author writes a novel, they make up the characters and the story, but the character, setting, story arc doesn’t just appear out of nowhere. There is usually a story behind the story. Often several little stories that an author tweaks and cobbles together to mold into the main character or the supporting character. Sometimes they will set their story in a real place. Other times they will create a fictional place that has aspects of places they’ve visited or lived.
In my new series, The Story Behind the Story, I want to share with you some of the stories behind my stories. Though I have never outright written a person I know into a book, I have definitely been influenced by those who have crossed my path, as well as places I’ve visited or even simply passed through throughout the many years I’ve been on this earth. Feel free to ask questions or leave comments. I love, love, love to talk books or hear moments of your own life it might remind you of.
The Ugly Duckling Story Behind the Story
Most of us are familiar with the story of The Ugly Duckling. Well, I knew one in real life. He wasn’t actually ever ugly, but he had a nerdy look about him. Big, oversized glasses, his thick hair in almost a bowl cut. Other than the nerd aspect, he was incredibly average looking. Someone who blended in and was easily overlooked and forgotten.
At the end of summer, just before I started my junior year of high school (I think. Might have been senior year) my girlfriend and I were bowling one afternoon. There were a couple boys an alley down from us and they kept talking to us. Mostly making comments about our awesome (cough cough) bowling skills. But then the comments started to get a little personal and it was clear that one boy knew my friend and had known her since grade school. (I’d only moved there a year or so before.)
But she didn’t know him.
That was a bit alarming. She asked his name, but he wanted her to guess. It was only when she started getting visibly upset that he finally shared his name and at first we didn’t believe him. I’m sure you can guess it was the nerdy boy – the one who disappeared into the woodwork – but he wasn’t nerdy anymore. He’d gotten contacts and was wearing his hair in a different style and he was really cute! He was so transformed that it took us quite a while to “see” the nerdy boy in him in order to believe he was who he said he was. His good looks had provided him all sorts of confidence he hadn’t had before either, so even his mannerisms had changed.
That one afternoon’s experience is what I drew on when I developed the character Lawrence Nightingale in The Lumpy Duckling. I wanted to show that sort of transformation in a character, but I also wanted to explore what it might do to his closest friendship. And—in my story at least—it isn’t an easy thing to adapt to.
Friendship is a tricky thing. Navigating change and growth is even trickier. Kids in their pre-teen and teen years almost inevitably loose friendships because one changes and the other doesn’t/can’t/won’t.
If you know a child navigating the trials of friendship and growth, check out The Lumpy Duckling, available in print, ebook, and audiobook.
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What memorable moment in your life mimicked a fairy tale?