From Judy Blume's MasterClass

Creating Plot Structure - Part 2

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

Topics include: Using Flashbacks • Write for Places You Know • Creating Satisfying Endings • Sensing the Ending

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

Topics include: Using Flashbacks • Write for Places You Know • Creating Satisfying Endings • Sensing the Ending

Judy Blume

Teaches Writing

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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.

Reviews

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

This class has confirmed so many things in my heart about my writing process and encouraged me to put myself out there and go for it!

I love her introduction, in just few words I feel encouraged and empowered. Thank you!

First, let me say that Judy Blume is a national treasure. How lucky are we to learn from her and to benefit from her honest discussions about being a working writer. She has inspired me to keep moving forward and not to edit myself too much (at all) in my first draft. Just get it out on paper then sort it out in the next draft.

This class is perfect the way it is. Thank you MasterClass.! Thank you Judy Blume.!

Comments

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.

Nancy B.

This is my favorite lesson so far. I love how Judy starts a book with something new happening in a character's life. I love breaking things down to write scene by scene by scene. It all is so helpful and gives me new ideas for my own book. Grateful.

Mia S.

"What makes for a satisfying ending is different for everyone. I have always done open-ended endings for my children's books, because to me it's a tiny piece of a child's life, a week, month, year, maybe two years, and that kids' life is going to go on and the family life is going to go on, but whatever story I was telling is over - that story is over, but life isn't over, so I never wanted to tie it up neatly at the end. Some people don't like that, that I don't do that, but that's how I felt. 'You have to tell me what happened, you owe it to me - I read this book, was really involved, I need to know.' I can say, 'I really don't know.' I can give you a list of the things I think might've happened.' They don't buy it - 'Don't tell me you don't know, you wrote the book.' I left it like that, I felt that was the end. 'In the Unlikely Event,' they're all so connected, there's so much tragedy in the book that I wanted an uplifting ending. I've always thought of my books as, 'Life goes on and it can get better. You got through this and you're going to find a way to get through whatever comes next.' I'm an optimistic person myself, and I like to end with a feeling of optimism. By the time you get there, it's like this tremendous relief - throw yourself on the floor and scream that at last it's over. I kind of know when it's ending - I sense that it's ending. When you're just starting out, you might now, you might keep going - although I don't know why anybody would keep going if they didn't have to, it's so hard and so great to come to the end. Most of us know we're at the end, because we know the story we were telling. But again, it's that journey - I know where I'm going, it isn't necessarily exactly the way I imagined it but it's pretty much getting there, and that doesn't usually change a lot. There are stories that may go on too long and they should have ended back there, or books that have like three different endings - it could have ended here, could have ended here, but it ended there. I do have an idea when I start out where I'm going, and that would be where I am ending. Along with the tremendous happiness of finishing - getting to The End, whether that's the first draft of the 13th draft - then comes the sense of loss. You've lost these people that you've been with every day, sometimes for years. They're done, and you miss them. It's a period of almost like mourning, because they've been a part of your life, you know who's going to be there for you, and then comes the day... The longer you're working on a book, the harder it is to give them up, let them go, let them be published. It's tough. It's emotional. We're storytellers, and so storytellers do have a beginning and end. A story does come to an end, and that end is very important because readers have given you all this time, your characters all this time. It won't always be the ending that will satisfy them; often it won't satisfy them. But that's not your job. Your job is to tell the story as well as you can and end it as well as you can."

Mia S.

"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 a character, I want to know that backstory. It may be harder for a young reader to go back and forth that way, but I'm not sure. Write those flashbacks, it'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. Settings - in the beginning, I never thought of settings. I was born and raised and when I started to write in my 20s, 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. 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 important, becomes a character - 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 can still be a really good book, but you know that, and I didn't want to ever do that. I knew it, at least from a certain point of view - my view, and I understood it. 'Smart Women,' I lived in Santa Fe, and the story is falling in love again at 40 and bringing all your baggage and children with you and what is that like? I wrote the book set in Sante Fe, and then I read it and thought, 'No, I can't do this.' I knew Santa Fe really well, but [it] was a small town. I didn't want to hurt anyone, and I also didn't want people to play games - 'Oh I know who that is, did they really do that?' 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 to places around the country where I thought single women might come from different places with their children after a divorce to start a new life. We went to a lot of places - port towns, here and there, and we wound up in Boulder. In eight days in Boulder, I pretended to buy a house, took pictures, 'This is where they work, schools, restaurants,' everything. Not a good idea - I knew I didn't know life in Boulder. I have to know a place to set it there; that's me. Other people, you could do research, go spend a little time there, you can go any place, but I like to have been there. I knew enough to make it feel real to me, and that's the kind of detail I need to make it feel real to you."