Uglies, Pretties, Specials, Extras

I just finished reading Scott Westerfield’s YA sci-fi series. For a long time, I was put off by the titles and cover images, thinking that this was another of those teen chick series that would make me barf. Sorry Scott! After reading other books by Westerfield–Leviathan and Mortal Engines–I decided to give the Uglies series a read. The first one pulled me in and the others kept me in the pages for days before I finally came up from my reading haze to blink. From the first page, Westerfield creates a compelling sense of place–a place I would never have imagined but one which I instantly recognized as a logical extrapolation of modern culture. The “Rusties” have basically destroyed themselves (that would be us, I think) and their descendants have created a new society in which everyone is “equal” because they’re all equally Pretty–doe-eyed and gorgeous, but as bubbleheaded as any Valley Girl ever was. If Westerfield had wandered long in the world of the Pretties he’d have lost me pretty quickly; instead, he introduced the hero he would follow throughout the series, made me care about her, and then pulled the Pretty rug right out from under her.

I’m not going to give anything away for those who might want to read the series, but what I’d like to share is how well this series fits the structure of The Hero’s Journey.

The story begins in the hero’s Ordinary World. We learn what the hero wants and enough about what’s wrong with this world to want to see it “fixed.” Soon, a mentor appears, another “Ugly” girl who likes to break the rules. Before you know it, the hero has crossed the threshold from her ordinary world into the world outside where she knows none of the rules yet must learn to not only survive but to save herself and her society. And so it goes . . .

If you haven’t read The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler, then pick it up. You’ll come to understand the power of The Hero’s Journey as it relates to story and your writing will be enriched.


About kimgriswell

I'm an author, an editor, a writing coach, and a workshop leader. I spend my days asking questions and looking (or listening) for answers, and thinking up ideas for new stories to write for my favorite audience: kids! I guess I'm just about as curious as Rufus Leroy Williams III, the intrepid pink hero of my picture book series from Sterling Publishing, is persistent. Did you know that in 5000 B.C. people blamed 'tooth worms' for their cavities? Neither did I until I developed THE HAUNTED OUTHOUSE for the Bathroom Reader's Institute. Turns out, ancient dentists filled the wormholes with metals like gold or silver. Except the Aztecs. They used a mix of iron, water, and belly-button lint. As you'll discover by reading RUFUS GOES TO SCHOOL, RUFUS GOES TO SEA, and RUFUS BLASTS OFF! I believe that reading opens up worlds for young people. Books did that for me, and I hope my books will do the same for today's kids.
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