Sunday, May 8, 2011

Story Creation: The Sisters 8



by Lauren Baratz-Logsted

I wish I could say how I create a story, that it's the same pattern each time, but it's not. With each book, it's like I'm inventing my own wheel all over again. The one exception to this is The Sisters 8, the series for readers ages six to ten that I created with my husband and daughter.

The Sisters 8 is a nine-book series about octuplets whose parents disappear one New Year's Eve leaving the girls to solve the mystery of that disappearance while keeping the household running without adult supervision. In Book 1 Annie's Adventures, a note informs them that before discovering what happened to their parents, each girl must find her power and gift. There are nine books in the series because there needs to be one for each sister and a ninth book to explain all the mysteries that develop along the way.

We write each book in pretty much the same fashion. We brainstorm the general concept for the book and then I sit down to write. After I finish a chapter, I read it to Greg and Jackie, and then we discuss what works, what doesn't work and what needs to happen next.

The Sisters 8 can be tricky. I know from experience reading to Jackie when she was younger, that most series for that age group are the same formula repeated from book to book. But The Sisters 8 is different. It's one long cycle of stories, over 1000 pages of continuing story. Yes, there are elements that are constants - in each book, the sister who is the star at the moment, has to find her power and her gift - but we like to change things up to avoid predictability. For example, in the first two books, Annie and Durinda find their powers somewhere around the middle of the story and their gifts at the very end. So what did we do with Georgia in the third book? Now that readers thought they knew what to expect, we had Georgia receive her gift in the very first chapter; of course, Georgia, being the difficult girl that she is, tells the carrier pigeon that brought her gift that it's the wrong time to be receiving it and to take it away - an impulse she later regrets.

Young readers love things like that: reversal of expectations that are still wholly fitting to the character who's doing the surprising thing.

Even though before I start writing a book in the series there's already a sheet giving me a loose idea of what will happen in each chapter, there's always room for inspiration, room to come up with things that surprise myself and the reader. Book 7 Rebecca's Rashness was published just last week. Rebecca, if you don't know, can be the most unpleasant of the Huit octuplets. Curiously, when readers take the "Which Eight Are You?" quiz at the official website, they seem to rig things so it'll turn out that they're Rebecca! If there's one thing readers can be sure of it's that when Rebecca gets her power, it will corrupt her and that it will corrupt her absolutely. So there I was, writing Book 7, trying to think of something impossibly nutty for Rebecca to do that would delight readers, and then I remembered...

Finnish Wife-Carrying!

Years ago, I was fascinated to learn from one of the morning shows about a Scandinavian sport that had previously been unknown to me: Finnish Wife-Carrying. It's basically exactly what it sounds like. Finns have these competitions where the men race through obstacle courses while carrying their wives. A fun detail: If your wife is on the heavy side or if you don't have a wife, you can borrow a neighbor's wife and carry her so long as her husband is agreeable.

Anyway, Finnish Wife-Carrying seemed to me to be exactly the kind of thing that if Rebecca had somehow learned about, she would want to try, and of course the "wife" she would choose to carry would be her sister Petal, the most fearful of the Huits. So I wrote a chapter into the story in which Rebecca sets up an obstacle course in their yard and...well, let's just say it really is nutty.

Rebecca's Rashness came out on May 2. Three days later we received our first letter about it from a fan who wrote in part: "I totally love The Sisters 8 books. My favorite one is Rebecca’s Rashness with her plans to take over the world and the Finnish Wife-Carrying races with Petal."

It's immensely gratifying to think that something that was never part of the original plan, something that just occurred to me on a whim should bring delight to readers in exactly the way I hoped it would.

Because that's the other thing about The Sisters 8. Unlike most series for young readers, which can best be described as providing an experience over and over again that is the same but different - not that there's anything wrong with that! - with The Sisters 8 we seek to constantly build on the series, build on the excitement, with each book being even *more* in some way than the books that have gone before. I hope readers will always find that to be the case.

So how about you: Do you find that when you write, even if you start with a detailed plan, some of the best ideas are those that occur to you organically?

Be well. Don't forget to write.

21 comments:

  1. Great post, Lauren. The books sound so incredibly imaginative.I will have to catch up.

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  2. Lauren, I think the Sisters 8 series sounds so cool! And it's great that your whole family has creative input. I'll bet Jackie's friends are impressed that she's an author like her mom!

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  3. Lauren, this series sounds like so much fun!! And I think it's amazing that you are doing it with your husband and daughter. I wonder what it's like having your work critiqued by your daughter?!

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  4. That sounds so cool! I love the idea of your family brainstorming together. Can't wait for my daughter to get old enough to read this series.

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  5. Thanks for all the kind comments!

    Jackie's friends have a really good time with this. They're in 5th grade now but when they were in 2nd and 3rd, I used to go to the classroom and read the books to them as we were writing them, and the class and I even wrote an entirely separate 120-page book together.

    It's not bad at all, having my daughter critique my work - so long as all *her* ideas make it into the final cut, she's very happy!

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  6. Hi Lauren
    My dughter would like to know if there are any colouring pages for the sisters 8?
    Thanks for your wonderful books.
    Sonya

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  7. My daughter just finished Zinnia's Zaniness! She has so enjoyed reading the series. When will the 9th book be published and will it explain what happened to the sisters' parents?

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    1. yeah it going to be published on august something 2012

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  8. My twin daughters and I just finished reading Zinnia' Zaniness. We mistakenly thought this was the last book in the series, until I came here and read this. We were so angry at the way that book ended until we found out that there will be one more book! We have all thoroughly enjoyed the entire series! When will the 9th book be coming out? We can't wait to get it!

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  9. When commeth book 9?
    My daughter too was disheartened at the end of book 8 - not knowing what happened to the parents.

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  10. thank you for making the books.My friends and i llllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooovvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvveeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee the books.Also when is the 9th book coming out??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

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  11. My name is Taylor. I'm a freshman in college. For the past 3 years, I worked in my local library putting books away. One day, as I was putting some children's books away, I came across "Annie's Adventures". It looked very interesting, so as I put away the other books, I held onto that one and immediately took it out. From that moment on, I was hooked on The Sister 8. I am an aspiring writer, and to me, these books were amazing. Though written for younger children, these books were able to keep my attention as well. Since I'm at college now, it's hard to get back to the library, so I was just able to read Zinnia's book yesterday. I too was under the impression that there were only 8 books, and I jumped online to find out if there was a 9th book coming. When will the last book be coming out? I am very much looking forward to it. I truly love the Sisters 8 books. I hope that someday I will be able to get my work published and it will be as loved as your books are!

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    1. Taylor you are going to be a writer and write books for children to right cause you seem like you love the sisters 8 books more than i do! From:Sun Xiong

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    2. Hi Sun Xiong,

      Yes, I am going to be an author and write children's books!! I look forward to the day when I get a book published. I'm working on a few stories right now and I hope that one day I will be an author!

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  12. hi i love your books something that me and my friend are doing is who can figure out when the ninth book is coming out first we are dieing to know

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  13. I truly love the Sisters 8 books

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  14. love the story and the books!!!

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  15. My favorite character is Rebeca to!

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  16. I love the sisters 8 series! I loved Rebecca's Rashness,but Zinnia's Zaniness is a close second. But i really enjoyed Annie's Adventures,with Georgia being mean,dropping lots of bills,causing Annie to have a complete breakdown. But with book 9 only 4 days away,i'm really looking forward to that.

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  17. Hi. My name is Marcia,and i'm 14 years old. I first started reading the series the year "Annie's Adventures" came out,and since then,i've loved the sisters 8. I was first 10 when "Annie's Adventures" and "Durinda's Dangers" came out,and i kept reading up until this year. I searched online since "Zinnia's Zaniness" came out,to see if a book 9th would be published. And with it being only 4 days away,i am happy. I loved Petal,Rebecca,Zinnia and of course,Marcia (That's my name!) Keep up the good work.

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  18. I love your books so much! The first book I read was Durinda's Danger. Ever since then I was hooked. I spent most of my time trying to place a hold on your books. Can you send all of your series to middle schools and elementary schools? you should because I'm addicted to your books!

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