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What are your constellations?

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Sometimes I like to think of novels as constellations. What is a constellation, if you think about it? A constellation is a bunch of stars that happen to appear beside each other at a certain distance, a certain angle. And it would mean nothing if it weren’t for the lines. The invisible lines we draw between them to make them make sense, to make them into a picture, a story. It’s all about their relationships: both what we see in front of us, and what we make from seeing it.

When I’m reading a novel, or writing one, I like to think of the story as a sky, and all the different things in it as stars. Main characters are usually bright burning and easy to see. But main characters by themselves are nothing. And stars by themselves are just stars. As the story works its way forward, we find lines between them, and sometimes clouds pass, and sometimes the unthinkable happens and the sky changes slightly, or hugely and drastically, and the lines change too.

Stars don’t just have to be characters. They can be other essential relationships too – a place that your character always goes to make herself feel sane again, a nasty situation that keeps coming back at her, a daydream she keeps on having.

Sometimes I read the start of a book and can’t get past the first few chapters, and I can’t immediately say why. It’s like something wasn’t there. These are stories without enough constellations. One strong relationship can be beautiful, but most stories exist like webs, with lines woven through one thing and another and another, with stars playing their explosive part in all sorts of constellations at once.

So. If your work in progress is feeling a bit flat today, spend some time staring at the sky, and see if there are any new constellations to be made, or any stars you haven’t seen. You might be surprised.
Leila Austin

Leila lives in Middle Earth, also known as New Zealand, and writes YA fantasy.

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8 comments:

  1. Wow, that was stunning. Beautifully written and extremely insightful. It's posts like this why YA Highway is one of my favorite blogs.

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  2. I love when you compare writing to things. I always look forward to Leila blog posts :D

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  3. Such a wonderful comparison! I loved this. It's one I'm going to keep and refer back too.

    Thanks

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  4. I love this post! Bookmarking it, right now. It basically describes how I picked out my blog name, Books Like Stars =)

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  5. And along comes Leila, bitch-slapping me with her awesomeness. Wow.

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  6. LOL Michelle.
    But I agree. Beautiful post, Leila!

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Item Reviewed: What are your constellations? Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Leila Austin