Straight talk from the sisters about blood, sweat and ink
Masterplots Theater: J is for Journal
Welcome to Masterplots Theater! Today we’re examining Juvenile Journal, which admittedly is a term I just made up so that I have something to write for the letter J. But still, there are many books out there written in a diary format. Perhaps your own teenage scribblings would make a great story…
Journal Plot Notes:
Journals are written in the 1st person past tense simply because diaries contain details of what’s already taken place, and generally people don’t journal in 3rd person or 2nd person, but if you know of someone (or some story) that does, please share!
There is an event that sparks the writing of the diary. Even if the narrator always kept a journal, the story will start with something they feel compelled to write down because “this changes everything.”
Most Journals deal with heavy issues, like abuse, bullying, poverty, war and addiction. And even the ones that are lighter still deal with life-changing moments that feel super heavy to a teen encountering them, like a best friend moving away (SLOPPY FIRSTS), and puberty (ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT’S ME, MARGARET).
Because teenagers express themselves with more than words, these journals may include drawings and notes in the margins, like THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN and GABI, GIRL IN PIECES.
Finally, most Journals have a healthy dose of humor with their angst. Because laughing is often our way of accepting harsh truths and dealing with pain.
Example to Study:
THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN by Sherman Alexi.
· EVENT: As the book jacket accurately states, “Junior leaves the rez to attend an all-white school in the neighbouring farm town where the only other Indian is the school mascot.”
· ISSUE: Life between the reservation and the white kid school, which encompasses heavy topics like poverty, abuse, racism, and addiction.
· EXTRAS: The protagonist, Junior, is also a cartoonist, and the book is filled with his sketches.
· HUMOR: Despite the many heartaches in this story, the narrator knows how to laugh at himself and describes everything with self-deprecating yet wise wit.
UNSLUT: A DIARY AND A MEMOIR by Emily Lindin, THE DIARY OF A GIRL by Anne Frank, ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT’S ME, MARGARET by Judy Blume (though technically not a diary but a one-way conversations with God, I feel this is just a creative way of presenting a diary), SLOPPY FIRSTS by Megan McCafferty, THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER by Stephen Chbosky (not admittedly a diary, but the MC writes diary-like letters to an anonymous friend that we never meet, so it feels like a diary and may very well be one if you believe – like I do – that there is no pen pal), and GABI, A GIRL IN PIECES by Isabel Quintero.
Heather is a freelance screenwriter, game writer, and novelist based in Toronto. For more, visit her website at heatherjacksonwrites.com or follow her on Twitter @HeatherJacksonW
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