Are You There God

As an adolescent I was keen to get my hands on the complete works of Judy Blume, but unfortunately only a select few were available to me. I’ve only just read Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret, Blume’s first and perhaps greatest, and because this year is my year of studying John Truby’s Anatomy of Story, of course I was struck by how neatly this story fits the principles of good storytelling — whether Blume herself was analytic about this as she wrote, or intuitive.

First things first — what is the premise, and who is the main character? Truby has a W-A-C of basic characterisation: weaknesses at the beginning, action and change:

AYTG premise WAC

Next, check you’ve got the best character as your main one, using the following criteria:

Margaret Best Character Because

Requirements of your hero (or antihero):

Margaret Characterization

The main character/hero needs to make a moral decision at some point in the story:

Margaret's Moral Choice

It’s almost surprising how closely AYTG?IM,MĀ fits what Truby calls the ‘four corner opposition’:

Four-corner opposition

However your main character changes, this will be set up in the beginning. Sure enough, here is the very first paragraph, in which we learn of Margaret’s psychological weakness (scared of change, anxious to be liked by others at whatever cost).

AYTG-opening passage

Margaret has several key battles in the story, and the first is an argument with her faux-opponent Laura. After this conversation, Margaret has learned that she shouldn’t judge other girls based on how they look; nor should she be jealous. Laura teaches Margaret a little empathy. Margaret apologises.

 

Confrontation-with-Laura

 

But Margaret still has a few things to learn before her moral weakness has been corrected. Next she has the showdown with Moose, in which she learns that she shouldn’t listen to hearsay, even if it comes from her (ostensibly) best friend:

Confrontation with Moose

 

Finally, Margaret experiences her first period. The wish to start menstruating (and fill out a bra) is the main desire line throughout the novel, so when she gets a clear marker that puberty has properly begun, we have the end of our story.