Margin Notes

Craft Studio: When You Were Everything by Ashley Woodfolk

Sep
29

What I Was Reading

When You Were Everything by Ashley Woodfolk is YA realistic fiction that tells the story of the end of Cleo’s friendship with her best friend, Layla. It is organized into alternating narratives of then and now—before the incident that ultimately ended their friendship and after as Cleo develops a plan to create new memories to replace the ones that include Layla. This novel is about self-acceptance and forgiveness and recognizing that we can be more than the sum of our mistakes.

Woodfolk’s writing is detailed, specific, and colorful. For example, this passage when Cleo meets Dolly:

“Well ain’t you a cutie,” she says. “Where’d you get all them freckles?” She moves a few of the braids that are hanging over my eyes and tucks them behind my ear, and while the gesture feels like a “correction” when my mother does it, with Dolly it feels a little like love.

What Moves I Notice the Author Making:

  • I was drawn to this short passage because it communicates so much in only a few lines. It combines “small moment,” “show don’t tell,” and “compare-contrast” in just three sentences.
  • This brief paragraph combines dialogue and descriptive detail to introduce the character Dolly. The compliment followed by the intimate gesture of fixing Cleo’s hair gives the reader the opportunity to infer how comfortable and safe Cleo feels with Dolly. She has put Cleo immediately at ease.
  • The explicit contrast between how this small gesture feels with Dolly, “like love” as opposed to a “correction” from her mother, reveals important information about both women.
  • The dialogue embedded within a paragraph invites readers to examine punctuation choices.

Possibilities for Writers:

  • Create a small moment that combines dialogue and touch (or another sensory detail) to communicate something important about a character.
  • Use contrast to reveal details about two characters by showing us who they are by showing us how they are unlike each other.
  • Revise a draft in your notebook by replacing a description of a character with a demonstration.
  • Experiment with incorporating dialogue.

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