WRITING . . . Larger Than Life


LLLaraI love how every book finds its way. I have writing friends who won’t start a story until they know the ending. Many of these “plotters” plot out their entire books, outlining each chapter, every scene. Other writers, the “pantsters,” write by the seat of their pants, unaware of what lies ahead in plot and resolution. Most of the time, I think I fall somewhere in between. Like a plotter, I’m uncomfortable not knowing where a story is heading. I can’t visualize and build to a climax. But I’m just as uncomfortable writing without the surprise and discovery of a pantster.

LARGER-THAN-LIFE LARA “came” like no other book I’ve written. I woke at 3 am and could hear a tough kid saying: “This isn’t about me. This story, I mean. So already you got a reason to hang it up.” I knew enough to get out of bed and write. With no idea of the plot, I felt I knew this strong, defensive kid who would tell me LARA’s story, but didn’t want to tell me hers. Each morning I couldn’t wait to write and see what would happen next. I was two chapters into it before I realized the subtle theme of bullying inherent to the story. I was over halfway through the book when I realized the narrator, who was learning how to write, was teaching the reader everything I know about writing a story. I had to go back and label chapters: Character, The Beginning, A Frozen Moment, Setting, Opposition, Conflict, Rising Action, Climax, etc.

Which kind of writer would you be?

10 Responses to “WRITING . . . Larger Than Life”

  1. Carole Calladine Says:

    Love the lead character in Larger Than Life, Lara! Glad you got up and captured her words.

  2. Topsy Turvy Double U Says:

    That sounds really cool, the way you wrote Larger-Than-Life Lara! By the way, what’s the difference between your most recent version of it and the older one? I have a copy of the older version, from 2006. I really like how you had Luke change.

    When I write I have a few scenes/sentences already in mind. Usually a (temporary) title, too. I like using analogies, although I’m not that good at them.
    “We used to have a big goldfish. He would swim around in his bowl on the desk in my room, looking all lonely-like. (When Mom suggested we get a companion for him, I said he couldn’t be missing what he hadn’t had since he was a fry. And that was that.) One day I moved the fish bowl to the edge of my desk so I could clean a sticky spot right under it. I was going to move it right back but I had a sudden idea and pulled out my spiral bound notebook to scribble it down. I got so wrapped up in my story ideas that I forgot about the fish until I bumped his bowl with my arm. As the bowl tipped, I saw him staring up at me with his mouth wide open in a stretched “o” shape. He was trapped in the bowl as his world was being turned on its side. The water poured like a waterfall to the hardwood floor, and he got swept along with the current. I tried to scoop him up, but he was too slippery.
    “The bowl had a long crack. The goldfish died.
    “Sometimes that’s how I feel — like some lunatic has turned my world upside down, and I am trapped inside. Only I am trapped inside my head and not a bowl, and I am still alive.”

    • dandimackall Says:

      What an amazing analogy! Thanks so much for sharing it with me. Don’t you think writing can help us figure out how to live, how to keep going, even when upside down? For me, it’s clinging to God, the Creator. Not sure how I’d make it though some days, some circumstances, without God.

      Again, thanks for that fish scene. It’s so well written. This newest Larger-Than-Life Lara is revised a bit, updated. Nine-eleven happened too many years ago for Laney to have been a contemporary, for example. But the biggest reason for bringing the book out again is that now it’s also in paper, cheaper for classroom use.

  3. Debi-Ann Ward Says:

    Dear Dandi,

    I bought your “Larger Than-Life Lara” on Monday night at the Ashland Library and finished reading it today. I love the story; you told it so well. I was reminded when Mrs. Smith said that Lara took all of the blame for the other kids that that was what Jesus did for us in the garden of Gethsemane. Not sure that was your intent, but that’s how it affected me. Thank you for talking about this book at the library–that’s what peaked my interest.

    I can’t wait for “With Love, Wherever You Are” to come out. I’ve told several friends about the book already, and they’re interested, too.

    I enjoyed meeting you and will make it a point to come again to hear you talk. In your newsletters, do you mention when writer’s conferences are in the area?

    Thank you!
    Debi-Ann Ward

    • dandimackall Says:

      Debi-Ann, it was delightful meeting you at the library event. Thank you so much for writing me about LARA. And yes! The redemption, the taking blame for classmates, came unplanned; but when I saw it, I burst into tears. It’s been amazing to hear from different readers and teachers. I don’t believe many “get” it in the same way you did, which does make it public-school friendly. Other readers react as you and I did, and it almost feels like the sign of the fish, recognized by the disciples, but to everyone else. Sometimes I feel as if I didn’t write that book….

      • Debi-Ann Ward Says:

        I know what you mean, but I believe books like this with a message of redemption are God-inspired. My fourth book is coming out next week, I hope. It’s part of a four book series, but it has a Christian base: the Ten Commandments and prayer–and the demigod Neptune worships our God–one of those “twists” like from Lara. Speaking of which, I love that your chapters follow the writing process of constructing a story. I dream my books and then type them up as fast as I can. Then I go back and change the vocabulary, make corrections to the best of my ability, and then ask friends to proof it. Sometimes, my stories take unexpected turns, and I like to leave myself open to those. If I planned it all out, I’d deviate from the plan anyway!

  4. Larger-than-life Lara | Library Lady's Kid Lit Says:

    […] Dandi Daley Mackall has written about the writing of Larger-than-life Lara on her blog.  […]

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