Friday, May 27, 2016

The Novel's Calendar

I’m generally not the most organized person. I don’t keep a date book. I don’t record my travel expenses on a regular basis. I cram all my receipts into my wallet or dump them in a pile on my file cabinet.

And I’m lucky if I file twice a year.

In general, I warn my students that the teacher’s desk is the last place they should leave their stuff because there it will get lost.

So, not surprisingly, I don’t love keeping track of Aurelia & Roberts’ calendar.

I mean, really—the lazy part of my brain wants to say—this is fantasy. I haven’t bothered to invent a calendar for their world so why should I have to keep track of it?

But, you know, I do.

If you read a lot of modern YA, you’ve probably noticed that time-wise, the genre tends to run on the short side. For the author, this has a lot of allure. You get to fully flesh out the scenes. Nobody complains about your transitions. The pace should feel fast.

And for some books this works astoundingly well. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton being my favorite example.

But limiting your time frame also causes problems. Relationships can feel rushed, non-genuine, or superficial. You never get the long-term payoff you can grasp from a great coming-of-age novel. And vast, sweeping developments within the world? They don’t really feel real.

Don’t get me wrong. I love YA. I really, really do.

But most of my plotlines refuse to stick within a single week or a month.

And this means, things get messy.

Especially when you’re traveling on horseback across an entire country. And when news has to travel the same way.

Because in order for the followers of character A to run into the minions of character B at EXACTLY the most heinous possible time, I have to know the timeline for everything.

Which means I have to keep a calendar.