Toeing the Line
I like lines. As a kid, I got very irritated with the kids who scribbled all over the page. Not because they messed up their own drawing--I mean, How did you know what the picture was supposed to be, if you didn’t stay in the lines?--but mostly because they wore down the points on the crayons, and ruined them for the rest of us.
I would not only stay in the lines, I would go over them first with my chosen color and only THEN color in the space. The edge was neater that way, with the wax line of the crayon standing out more than the printed one. Plus, then the line color matched!
So maybe it’s not so much that I colored IN the lines, as I made the lines my own.
Lines keep things in order. They keep us on the right side of the road. They tell us where our yard ends and the neighbor’s begins.
It’s not really about being an unimaginative goody-two-shoes. It’s just that I’ve always been... particular. And lines keep things neat.
And okay, I am a little bit of a goody two shoes.
Which can make it a little challenging to write YA. Because my characters HAVE to break the rules, or it would be a pretty boring book. I remember writing Prom Dates From Hell and angsting over the fact that Maggie had to sneak out of her house to continue her sleuthing. She also breaks into buildings and trespasses and sasses her elders and even (gasp!) goes to a bar when she’s under age. I think she even drinks some beer.
On the other hand, it was WAY fun to write Maggie’s first person narration, because she got to voice all the things that I am WAY too goody-two-shoes to say.
So, obviously I’m not outside the lines when it comes to content.
For me, it’s not so much about coloring outside the lines, but blurring the lines between things. In The Splendor Falls, I wanted to take the framework of an old fashioned Gothic Romance, add more magic (but more subtle than wizard and werewolves), but keep a very contemporary feel with a strong, savvy heroine. The heroine, Sylvie, has been a professional ballerina for years, despite being only seventeen, when a broken leg forces her to figure out what she’s going to do with her life now. Provided she’s not actually going crazy, since she’s seeing ghosts and feeling impossible things.
I do write right on top of the line with the age of my characters, though, because they’re all out of high school. (I’m some rebel, huh?) But that’s where the most interesting stories are. I remember thinking, the day after graduation: From now on, there is no where that I am mandated by law that I have to be. College, jobs, those are all my my choice and my responsibility.
Well, unless I got arrested.
Or joined the army. But I don’t like lines THAT much.