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Arts & Entertainment

Creating Plot Structure - Part 2

Judy Blume

Lesson time 14:43 min

Judy discusses how settings can act as secondary characters and how to give your book the ending it deserves.

Judy Blume
Teaches Writing
In 24 lessons, Judy Blume will show you how to develop vibrant characters and hook your readers.
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I like flashbacks. It can certainly illuminate your characters, and help you tell the story forward, once you know everything that happened. I like backstory. Backstory, to me, is very interesting. If I'm reading a book and I'm interested in the character, I want to know that backstory. That's harder to do, maybe, in a kids' book, because it may be harder for a young reader to go back and forth that way, but don't quote me on that. I'm not sure. But in terms of using flashbacks, I think, fine. And what else I think is fine is write those flashbacks. That's your backstory. And if you don't get to use it, fine. At least you know more about your character, and that's what counts. [MUSIC PLAYING] Settings. In the beginning, I never thought of settings. I was born and raised, and when I started to write in my [? twenties, ?] I still lived in suburban New Jersey, and I knew it very well. So it never really occurred to me to set a book anywhere else. Fudge is an exception. Fudge lives in New York City for the first book, but then he moves to New Jersey. Then he goes back to New York City. So I never gave a lot of thought to the settings. I mean, all the little towns in New Jersey that I knew, I would set the books there, because place wasn't important to me in those books. Later on, I wrote books where place was very, very important, where place becomes a character. And it's interesting, because if you know a place really well and you read a book that someone has written set in that place, you know, that person doesn't know this place. It's OK. It could still be a really good book, but you know that. And so I didn't want to ever do that. Summer Sisters is set on Martha's Vineyard a place where I had spent 20 summers, and I understood how it worked. And I knew it, at least from a certain point of view. I knew my view of Martha's Vineyard, and I understood it, and I understood the island. And I felt that Martha's Vineyard was every bit as important a character as Vix or Caitlin, in that book. When I wrote Smart Women, I lived in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and, again, the story in Smart Women is falling in love again at 40 and bring all your baggage and your children with you, and what is that like. And I wrote the book set in Santa Fe. And then I read it, and I thought, no. I can't do this. I knew Santa Fe really well, but Santa Fe was a small town. My teenagers were there, my husband's teenager was there, his ex-wife was there, our friends were there, and all the children's friends were there. I didn't want to hurt anyone, and I also didn't want people to play games. "Oh, I know who that is. I know who that is. Oh, did they really do that?" And of course it's fiction, but it was set in Santa Fe. So I decided to go on a quest, and the quest took us-- George went with me-- to places around the country wh...

Write timeless stories

Judy Blume broke the rules. Her refreshingly honest children’s books were banned by hundreds of libraries and loved by generations of readers, who bought 85 million copies of classics like Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret and Superfudge. In her first online writing class, the award-winning author teaches you how to invent vivid characters, write realistic dialogue, and turn your experiences into stories people will treasure.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

I learned about writing from a new perspective. Judy taught me that stories can come from even the simplest of things. She has paid her dues over the years, and has made an impact on the world through her work. Thank you very much, Judy Blume. May your days be long and all your wishes fulfilled. Andrew

This entire course was a delight. So glad I took it, thank you Judy! Great fun and very helpful, too. Have now read some of the books, as well.

I loved Judy Blum personality. It was interesting to hear about her process. I learned that you can be sensitive and gentle and determined at the same time.

I looked forward to seeing Judy on my computer screen every day. What an inspiration. She has so much heart and compassion. I am inspired to get to work and try my very best. Thank you, Judy Blume!



I’m really enjoying her class! It’s especially interesting that she takes notes about all kinds of things she sees and hears in real life and then works with them to develop a plot, character or vignette. I suppose that real life is much more interesting and creative than anything we can entirely cook-up on our own.

Jeng M.

I can see now why Ms. Blume is such a successful writer. To her, the characters she creates are real. It is surprising to me.

Cynthia P.

This lesson was both reassuring and challenging. In particular, Judy's recommendation to write about a place you know has encouraged me to re-evaluate the settings for some of the stories I would like to write. For example, I would love to write a story set in Charleston, but I don't really know it. I have only visited and I would need to go back and spend time there to write that story. After listening to Judy, I am not sure that would be enough. I have begun to pay more attention as a reader to the authenticity of the setting. I appreciated her comment identifying the place as a character. I am drawn to certain places, usually places I have enjoyed as a tourist, as settings, but I relate to Judy's feelings of being an imposter. I live in Orlando, Florida so there isn't much romance in this setting. Perhaps I need to look more closely and I will see the possibilities of this place that I know as a setting for a story.

Graeme R.

I love Judy's emotionality. It makes her storytelling all the more powerful.

Mary H.

My posted review of Deenie: Deenie changes once she's treated for scholiosis. She must wear a prominent brace for four years. In the process, she becomes more empathetic to people with disabilities. Deenie is fortunate to have good friends and teachers, who are especially kind. One thing that is indeed unique about Judy Blume, as children's author, is that she doesn't orphan her characters or remove their parents from her stories. Deenie's father is understanding but very firm; he emphasizes that she must wear her brace at all times, while her mother cries a lot. This is a well-written chapter book by a frank and versatile American author.

Mary H.

Deenie does indeed have an open ending. Thank you for your words of wisdom, Judy Blume!

Julie N.

This was maybe my favorite lesson so far. I get so caught up at times, with saying goodbye to my characters. And I think Judy touched on another very important thing when she mentioned that it was not our job as writers to always make people happy, just our job to tell our story. I'm in the outline stages of my third novel, and I was on the fence about how I might end it. I think I feel very confident that I will end it the way I had originally planned to. It's my story after all, right?

Dwight O.

I like this lesson. I write speculative fiction but I'm drawn to how Judy talks about writing YA. My teen years, my high school years -- they were interesting but I don't know if I want to revisit them and my teenage self. I'm much more drawn to the age I am now. Over 50. Maybe if I had kids, it would feel diferent if I felt I was writing for my teenage kids. I always wonder why adults like to write YA.

Dwight O.

I love how Judy talks about writing. It makes me want to know her and to read her books. I love how choked up she gets when talking about writing the end of a book and how she will miss her characters. For me, I feel excited that soon the book will be out in the world and the world can meet my characters. That makes me happy and I hope that others care about my characters as much as I do.

Rachel M.

"Write places you know." Yeah, I've lived all around Europe. But I did use my grandparents' town in one of my stories as the setting.