Sue: Hello, and welcome to the Mommy’s Pen podcast. I’m Sue Campbell, a writer and children’s book author. I’m here with my 11 year old daughter and cohost, Nora Campbell. Say hi, Nora.
Sue: This is now season two of the Mommy’s Pen podcast, and this season we’re talking about genre. Genre is basically a fancy way to say what kind of story you’re telling-
Nora: Yeah, except it sounds way better than that when you say it.
Sue: Does it? You like the word?
Nora: Well, it’s not that I like the word. It’s just that the other version of how to explain it is just not as sophisticated and wonderful.
Sue: I see what you mean. So for our first installment of actually looking at a specific genre, and remember we’re using the model developed by Shawn Coyne of storygrid.com. This Five-Leaf Genre Clover, we’re looking-
Nora: No, it’s a flower.
Sue: Flower, sorry. Nora thinks it’s a flower. Shawn says it’s a clover.
Nora: Clovers don’t have five petals or leaves. That’s just not a fact. I mean, it is a fact that they don’t, but it’s not a fact that they do.
Sue: Okay. We are looking at the Content leaf, or petal, whichever way you look at it. Within the content leaf or petal-
Nora: Or it could be-
Sue: There are 12 different-
Nora: Or, it could be an upside-down raindrop.
Sue: It doesn’t look anything like a raindrop.
Nora: It’s sort of an upside down one if you pointed the other end.
Sue: Oh, all of the separate petals?
Sue: Okay, okay. Do you think that this is super, super necessary for everyone to hear us-
Sue: Bicker about this?
Sue: Okay, because we’ve got five minutes before the toddler comes squealing through here.
Nora: You don’t want to have to edit all this, so just keep talking about what you were talking for.
Sue: We’re talking about content genre. There are 12 of them in Shawn’s model, and we’re going to look at the ones that are most relevant to children’s fiction. One of the ways we want to make this a little simpler for us and for the listener is to, unfortunately, basically steal an idea from the Story Grid Editor Roundtable podcast, but hey, we have a kid slant so it’s different. We’re going to use a specific television show called Spirit Riding Free. It’s available on Netflix as an example-
Nora: It’s also available on Amazon if you’re willing to pay $2 to rent it and like $10 to buy it-
Nora: So just get it on Netflix because it’s free.
Sue: Yeah, and Netflix you pay what, $10 a month period or you just leech off of your brother-in-law as someone [inaudible 00:02:56] maybe. That’s how I do it. Spirit Riding Free, it’s a great show for kids. It’s animated; it’s from Dreamworks. The writing, at least in the first few seasons that I’ve seen, Nora’s seen all the way through, is really, really good, and a lot of the episodes are actually in completely different genres. It’s going to be super fun to look at different genres using like a nice, what are they, 20 minutes long?
Nora: Yeah, they’re 20 to 30 minutes long, but last night I watched one that was 18 minutes.
Sue: Okay, so they’re nice and short. If you want to follow along better with the genre discussion, you can check out Spirit Riding Free. The one we’re going to be talking about today is from season one. It’s episode two, right Nora?
Nora: Yes, it’s episode two.
Sue: Why don’t you give a little bit of background to Spirit Riding Free overall?
Nora: Well, it’s this show about this girl named Lucky. Her real name is Fortuna, but everyone calls her Lucky. She lives with her dad in the city until she moves. We see her moving to a tiny town in the country called Miradero, and she’s totally out of place. Her Aunt Mary makes her wear this totally ridiculous dress on the first day of school, and she is so embarrassed. Then she finds some friends named Pru and Abigail after she saves them with the help of the wild horse Spirit.
Sue: Yes, and it takes place in frontier days. It takes place in the past. The first episode, which we’re going to talk about in a future episode is actually in the western genre, so we’ll look at that-
Nora: But that’s too complicated for your brains right now.
Sue: For your first genre one, we’re not going to dive into western because it’s not as popular anymore and you probably wouldn’t relate to it as well, so we’re going to start with the worldview genre, and then the subgenre for worldview for episode two is…?
Sue: Maturation. So, do you want to talk a little bit about what a maturation plot is, or do you want me to do that and then you can tell about how the episode meets that?
Nora: How about you just tell about it and I interrupt you when I want to?
Sue: Oh okay, so like usual. Okay, so the worldview genre. Basically, worldview stories hinge on a character moving from being super naïve to being more sophisticated and learning more about the world. Their world view shifts in the course of the story.
Nora: So basically they get smarter.
Sue: They get smarter, or more wise some people might say. It’s a very, very common-
Nora: But I’m very wise as it is, right?
Sue: We shall see. It’s a really, really common genre, and it’s an internal genre. In a story, you can have both an external and an internal genre. This is definitely an internal genre, but sometimes the internal genre sort of takes center stage. In this episode, I feel like this also takes center stage. There’s a little bit of action thrown in there, and we’ll talk about action another time too because there’s a lot of episodes that have the action genre.
Nora: [Yeah 00:06:18].
Sue: Basically, the story is going to hinge on the character moving from being naïve to becoming more sophisticated. When you’re talking about a genre, the way a reader knows what kind of story they’re watching is by having certain conventions in a story, and also obligatory scenes-
Nora: And this doesn’t mean that it has to be a perfect grid and it has to be totally boring. It just means that it works.
Sue: Right, so this is how you’re going to get your story to work and satisfy your reader’s expectations about the type of story that they think they’re seeing.
Sue: So when you’re talking about the conventions of a worldview story, you almost always have a strong mentor figure, which in this episode I think I have-
Sue: Yeah, exactly. Pru, Lucky’s friend; Lucky’s the main character, Pru is one of the main supporting characters, one of her best friends. Pru is mentoring her to learn how to ride a horse well enough to do this-
Nora: The Saddle Club Ride-
Sue: The Saddle Club Ride-
Nora: Which is this ride that’s just in a few days, and she thinks she can learn all this stuff. Pru is trying to help her.
Sue: Yeah, Lucky’s just learned how to ride a horse and she’s not very good at it yet-
Nora: And Pru is kind of fooling herself that can she actually teach Lucky how to ride a horse in this little time.
Sue: Right, so even Pru has a little bit of a maturation arc of her own.
Sue: So there’s a strong mentor figure. There’s also shape-shifters, so people who say one thing and then do another. I think that actually happens in this story…?
Sue: Yeah. I think both Pru and Abigail do it to some extent where they’re saying, “Yes, Lucky.” Well first, they try to convince her that the Saddle Club Ride’s not even fun and she wouldn’t even want to go.
Nora: Yeah, so-
Sue: Because they know she’s not ready.
Nora: Well it’s really funny because it starts when Abigail mentions something about the Saddle Club Ride and then Lucky’s like, “What’s that?” Abigail’s going on on how great it is and Pru’s just like, “No, no, no.” Then Abigail’s like, “It can also be really boring.”
Sue: Right. Yeah, I think that both Pru and Abigail at some point say one thing and do another.
Nora: Yeah, and also Snips is in this one.
Sue: Oh, Snips.
Nora: This is the first time we meet Snips.
Sue: Okay, do you want to tell them who Snips is?
Nora: Well Snips is Abigail’s little brother who’s pretty insane.
Sue: He’s six years old.
Nora: He has a donkey named Senor Carrots who basically obeys no one but Lucky’s aunt.
Sue: Yeah. Then Senor Carrots is like his constant companion.
Sue: Yeah, and Snips is hysterical.
Nora: In this episode, how Abigail gets rid of Snips is Snips is holding onto Senor Carrots, so she throws a carrot and Senor Carrots runs after it, dragging Snips.
Sue: Another convention, getting back to our conventions, you have some kind of “point of no return,” when the protagonist knows that they can’t go back to the way that things used to be. What do you think in that episode would qualify for that?
Nora: I’m not sure.
Sue: I feel like it has something to do with her learning to jump over things, because that’s like her biggest obstacle in learning to ride.
Nora: Yeah, mm-hmm (affirmative).
Sue: I feel like once she jumps, once she gets the courage to actually jumps, then she knows she’s going to be a rider.
Nora: [inaudible 00:10:05].
Nora: I feel like she already has that determination.
Sue: I think she has the determination, but she definitely is spooked because she keeps trying it and she keeps chickening out.
Nora: Yeah, and there’s this one part where Pru says, “Lean forward and relax.” Then, Lucky doesn’t do it, and then she says, “Okay, this time try leaning forward and relaxing.” No, she says, “This time when you lean forward and relax, try to lean forward and relax,” or something like that.
Sue: Right. Then there’s also, and we won’t talk about what this is for the thing yet because I want to through the scenes first because that’ll make more sense, but there’s also sort of an ironic win-but-lose ending. We’ll talk about the ending in a minute. Those are the conventions. There’s also a set of obligatory scenes. Obviously in any story, you need to have an inciting incident. In this case-
Nora: The west is just boring, like the Golden Goblet.
Sue: In this case, it would be the Saddle Club Ride. The inciting incident is Lucky decides that she wants to go on the Saddle Club Ride.
Nora: Well I think the Golden Goblet actually does have an inciting incident-
Sue: We’re not going talk about the Golden Goblet.
Sue: We really can’t go there right now. Then another obligatory scene protagonist has to deny, this is like straight up hero’s journey, has to deny responsibility to respond to the opportunity or challenge. Actually in this case, it’s an interest twist because you would think that Lucky would deny going on the Saddle Club Ride, but really what’s happening is Lucky’s insisting she can go on the Saddle Club Ride and she’s not accepting the fact in a mature way that she’s not there yet, that she’s not ready.
Nora: She’s just like, “I can do it, I can do it.” Then she’s like, “I can’t do it.”
Sue: Right. She’s denying responsibility to just accept that she’s going to have to wait and develop more skills before she can do it.
Sue: Then you have-
Nora: Also, she’s really upset because Snips can go on the Saddle Club Ride but she can’t.
Sue: Yeah, and he’s six years old.
Nora: There was this point where she says, “I thought the Saddle Club Ride was only for advanced riders,” and he’s like, “Yeah, like me. I’m six.” Then he holds out five fingers.
Sue: Then you have one where the protagonist is kind of forced to respond and then lashes out against the requirement to change the behavior. There’s definitely a temper tantrum in there where Lucky is mad about not being allowed to go on the Saddle Club Ride and not being ready, right?
Sue: Okay. Another obligatory scene would be the protagonist learns what the external antagonist’s object of desire is. In this case, everybody else who can go on the ride is kind of her antagonist I would say.
Sue: I would say go back a little bit from the mic because you’re varying your distance from it-
Sue: You’re practically sucking on it.
Nora: That’s disgusting.
Sue: Then you have, again, straight up hero’s journey: the protagonist is going to use an initial strategy and it’s not going to work. What do you think that was from the episode?
Nora: I think her initial strategy was like, “I’m just going to learn how to do this really fast, that’s totally possible, and then I’m going to go.”
Sue: Right, so they’re practice, practice, practicing. Pru’s running her through drill after drill after drill, and then that doesn’t end up working.
Sue: Then there’s an “all is lost” moment. What do you think the “all is lost” moment is?
Nora: Where she crashes and she can’t do it. She’s just like, “I can’t do it. This is terrible.”
Sue: Doesn’t something happen at the barn or something too?
Nora: Oh yeah. Yeah, because-
Sue: Or the fence?
Nora: Both I think, because Spirit crashes through the wall of the barn because they [seal 00:14:08] him in there and they were going to go get him right after. Then they have to remake the barn, and then at the end, they’re making like stalls with fancy signs for their horses. Pru and Abigail make one for Spirit while Lucky is off.
Sue: While Lucky is off-
Nora: Basically almost dying.
Sue: Oh, right, because she’s like, “I’m going to do this on my own.” Does she do that?
Nora: Yeah, but then she almost falls of the cliff, but then Spirit gets hurt and then she goes back with him and freaks out. Then Pru and Abigail help him.
Sue: Okay, so there’s also an action moment when the protagonist’s gifts are expressed as acceptance of an imperfect world. Where do you think Lucky’s kind of figuring it out? That moment where she’s like, “Oh?” Right when Spirit gets hurt and she’s like, “Oh, I shouldn’t have done this to you?”
Sue: Yeah. Then the protagonist’s loss of innocence is rewarded. I think that’s when she goes back to the barn and she finds that her friends, they were all kind of fighting over how the result ended up at the Saddle Club Ride, because the barn was damaged. Pru’s father forbade her to go on the Saddle Club Ride-
Nora: But then they fix the barn, but then the gate broke because Lucky didn’t jump right. Then she wasn’t allowed to go on the Saddle Club Ride.
Sue: Right, but the loss of innocence is rewarded when her two friends do something really nice for her and Spirit-
Nora: Yeah, and they make the-
Sue: And they all kind of accept-
Sue: Okay. So, I feel like this conforms really well. It kind of hits all the conventions and all the scenes.
Nora: Yeah, and it’s not that long.
Sue: It’s not that long. What do you really like about that show? I’m trying to figure out exactly what sucked us in.
Nora: I think what sucked us in was wanting to watch more than [inaudible 00:16:07]. Just watching it with her and then we just liked it. I think you liked it probably because the story structure was so good.
Sue: Yes, it’s very solid.
Nora: And I liked it because I was bored.
Sue: Yeah. It’s very, very solid. They know exactly what they’re doing. I kind of have this little fangirl letter going in my head to the head writer for the show, which I’ll probably send someday.
Nora: Please don’t.
Nora: You’ll embarrass me.
Sue: What do you have to do with it?
Nora: Well, I’m your daughter, so I’m connected to your sin.
Sue: Do you want me to tell her I don’t have any children? I’m just a 42 year old woman who’s sitting around watching kid’s shows on Netflix?
Sue: Okay, I’ll do that.
Nora: Ah, my foot fell asleep. It feels like it’s full of porridge and needles.
Sue: Okay, well we’ll be wrapping up shortly here. I want to give another shoutout to the Story Grid Editor Roundtable podcast as well as the sort of flagship Story Grid podcast, website, and book.
Nora: Their podcast, the Story Grid podcast, I mean the Editor’s Roundtable one, is so, so, so much better than ours.
Sue: It is. It’s really well done.
Sue: Yeah, they talk about what they’re going to say and do their homework and all of that.
Nora: We don’t do that.
Sue: It’s all right. This is a little taste, to give people a little flavor for why it’s important and help them take a deeper dive. Do you feel like you know why genre’s important?
Sue: You want to share it?
Nora: Because stories explode and are just like [inaudible 00:17:42] without them. It’s just like [inaudible 00:17:45] without them.
Sue: Well, one of the things that I found when I was writing my first novel, because I had no idea what I was doing, is I had no idea what genre I was writing in, and my story wasn’t working, so I couldn’t figure out how to fix it because I didn’t even know that there were a configuration for certain types of stories-
Nora: Well, there’s a form. You need to comply to it somehow; otherwise, people will just think you’re pretty insane, or they’ll just hate your book and think you’re pretty insane.
Sue: Yeah. Things spin out of control pretty quickly when you don’t even know what genre you’re working in.
Sue: Well, that’s it for this week’s episode of the Mommy’s Pen podcast. Thank you again for listening. You can read the full show notes at mommyspen.com and you can also sign up for our mailing list. If you choose, you can also leave us a rating and review on Apple Podcasts. That’s helpful, too.
Nora: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Sue: Mm-hmm (affirmative).