Monday, July 1, 2013

An Exercise in Cheese

For the past four Saturdays I've been teaching a creative writing workshop for kids 14-18, but that's not what I find funny. What I find funny is that it focuses on YA Romance. I do not write romance novels, and I am not good at being romantic or maintaining romantic relationships so what I'm doing teaching this subject to young writers I don't know. But they let me keep teaching it and for the most part I can run it how I want. After much consideration, I decided not to start the class by saying, "Hi, I'm Genevieve Rheams, local author, with a deep fear of intimacy and very little knowledge about love." Instead I gave them this writing prompt:

Exercise: Write about how you would react if your breakfast began talking to you. What kind of food is it and what is it saying? Is it asking you questions? Can other people at the table hear it? Five minutes.

This was at the beginning of the class which was all about the arc of a plot.  So far we've covered character development, dialogue, and plot, so really teaching this hasn't been much different from teaching "how to write a book." Tomorrow, since this is the last class in this particular topic, I decided to tackle romance full on by leading a discussion on "How not to Write Cheesy." And there will be cheese!...No really I'm bringing cheese. I haven't decided if it should be cheesecake brownies, or actual cheese. These are growing girls. Ooooo, maybe nachos....

Anyway, it turns out that cheesy romance is all about your perspective. A lot of readers think that Twilight is cheesy, while others leave their bedroom windows open at night, wishing that a teenaged vampire will fly in and stare at them creepily while they sleep. One person's cheese is another's love monkey. Maybe I'll leave that out of my speech.

It is now three days later. And I FORGOT THE CHEESE. Luckily one of my students brought brownies as a last class celebration.

This is something I'm going to continue to do now that I'm part of the Young Writer's Guild of New Orleans, so next month I get to teach a new group (with hopefully some of the same faces). I wasn't sure if I would like doing this kind of thing you know, getting up and talking for two hours in front of people but it turns out that I absolutely love it. And in teaching the kids (these these smart, funny, wonderfully imaginative kids) how to write for a genre that I'm not too familiar with, I've learned some things that are important to know when writing Young Adult romance and I feel that you should know them too. They are:

1. Have brownies often.

2. Girls like boys with feelings.

3. Vampires sparkle.

4. Don't forget the cheese.

5. Female writers ages 14-18 talk a lot.

6. Females ages 14-18 most likely talk a lot regardless of whether or not they are writers.

7. There is a direct correlation between the amount of brownies a teenaged girl has consumed and the amount that she talks.

You now equipped to write your own YA romance novel. Though those last three might just be things I learned from running the group. 

Speaking of those chatty kids, in their honor I have decided to take the challenge of my own writing prompt. It was in two parts. The first part was this:

Exercise: Part 1 - A girl wakes up in the hospital. She doesn’t remember how she got there, she just knows that she was in her grandmother’s mobile home when a tornado hit. Another family had run into the trailer with them for shelter and one of them was a quiet boy about her age. She remembers the tornado right outside the window, then the boy’s face next to hers, and then nothing. When she wakes up she has bandages over most of her body, and the boy walks into her room with something in his hands. He holds it out to her and asks if she is ok. What is the object and what do they say to each other? Ten minutes.

I will not be writing that part. I will do this:

Part 2 - Now rewrite it and make it as cheesy as possible. 10 minutes.

Storm's eyes snap open. She tries to rub them, but when she lifts her hands she notices that they are in bandages. She gasps, screams, "My manicure!" and falls back onto the pillow, her golden tresses falling angelically and symbolically around her head.

At the sound of her cries, Hugh rushes into the room. His long blond hair flows majestically as he strides beneath the airconditioning vent, his magnificent chest swells beneath his torn t-shirt, his eyes are an ocean of blue tears, raging like the sea. His hands are filled with roses, the thorns of which prick him but he does not feel the pain.

"You're awake, my love!" he cries, rushing to her side.

Storm screams again. Her bandaged hand falls across her eyes. "Hugh! Don't look at me! I'm not beautiful anymore!"

"But you could never be anything but beautiful to me!" he cries. He drops the roses across her. "Look! I scoured the forests where we played as babes for the most beautiful roses! I've gathered them every day and brought them to you hoping to find you awake! And now! You are! My darling!"

"MY darling!"

She faints.

I'd go on but that was ten minutes. A little over actually. That was fun, I kind of liked it. Stay tuned for further Stories of Storm and Hugh - Desire in a Trailer Park Tornado. The love that FEMA could not replace.

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