Editorial Assistance

What I Learned from Fat Kid Rules the World

*NOTE: There are slight spoilers, but really it won't ruin the book for you. Also, I made all snippets of writing advice bold so, in case you don't really care to read about my life or emotions, you can skip right to the juicy bits about the craft of writing.

The first time I read Fat Kid Rules the World, I was a freshman in high school. I don't remember how I found out about the book (maybe it was required reading for some classes?), but I do remember judging the title: "Is this gonna be some stupid revenge story? Why'd I choose to review this for the newspaper?" However, as soon as I started reading the book, I couldn't stop. I forgot all about my immature judgements.

Curt, the sickly talented guy always afraid people will bail, and Troy, the social outcast who thinks far too much and depresses himself, seemed like two halves of my whole.

I didn't really have a breakdown until my sophomore year of high school, but I could feel myself bristling even when I was a freshman. In fact, a scene from pages 146-148 made me realize I was bristling.

In the aforementioned scene, Curt and Troy are in a diner. Curt asks Troy to watch these skinny, stereotypically beautiful people eat. At first Troy starts putting himself down. He thinks about what makes them beautiful and relates it to what makes him not beautiful. Curt instantly realizes this and tells him, "You're not watching them. You're watching you. If you'd watch them you'd see it."

I remember how Curt's response really struck me. I realized, in that moment, that I'd been watching myself my whole life. Hell, I still do. People are often just one-sided mirrors to my downfalls and flaws. I exaggerate their positives and exaggerate my negatives even though I know damn well how simplified that is.

Anyway, back to the scene.

Troy goes back to analyzing them as they eat. It takes a while for him to stop watching himself - trust me, that's really hard to stop doing - but when he does stop, he finally realizes that they're just acting. They're trying really hard. There are little indications, if you look close enough, that make it clear just how unsure and unhappy they are as well. As 'perfect' as they may seem, they're really not.

Curt puts Troy's realization in words: "That moment you see through the bullshit? That's what punk music is all about. That's what anything great is all about. We're all just stuffing our faces, no matter what we look like, and people need to figure that out. When you can play that moment, you've got it."

In the very next chapter, Troy cried. I cried too. It seems silly in hindsight, that a scene as simple as that could make me cry, but it really did mean something to me. I cried because I felt like those pretentious characters trying too hard to be stereotypically beautiful and perfect. I thought, "I'm worse than a liar. I am a lie."

Minutes later, I forced myself to stop crying, promptly felt dumb for crying, and buried the moment of clarity in my mind where it would simmer until the downhill current of shit hitting the fan started a year later.

On a writerly note, Fat Kid Rules the World also taught me that book reviews can be really fun if you're passionate about the book. Fat Kid Rules the World was my very first review. I've written 50+ reviews since then.

The Second Time

During a field trip to Indianapolis with the First Friday Wordsmiths, the only club I'm able to stay in after the car crash, we visited the Konnegut Library, where Corey Michael Dalton lived for Banned Books Weeks. His section of the library, which consisted of a small desk, a futon-like bed, and a chair and tables for his laptop, was sectioned by a stack of banned books.

Sorry it's so dark, but isn't that a cool stack? It almost looks like he's in a prison, like the books. 

In that stack, I noticed Fat Kid Rules the World instantly. I remembered how much I loved it for being realistic and unfiltered. when I learned that the FFW advisor was planning for us to do a public reading of banned books on campus, I knew I would be reading from Fat Kid Rules the World. When I checked it out from the library, I intended to read a scene for the event and turn it back in. Of course, I didn't do that. Instead, just like before, I peeked at the first couple of pages and couldn't stop.

I figured I wouldn't have time to finish Fat Kid Rules the World, which is why I never intended to read it a second time, but I made time simply because I couldn't fathom not finishing it. Kudos to K.L. Going for that!

This time around, Fat Kid Rules the World taught me an important lesson about writing stand-alone books. When you want to keep the book focused, it's a good idea to choose a very specific goal to end the story on. In Fat Kid Rules the World, the goal became the first gig Troy could play in without panicking out. 

See, I'm the type of writer who always gets carried away with sub-plots. I love sub-plots, and I think my love for video games plays a huge role in that. However, I don't want every fiction book I write to need 3-14 books just to tie the plot up. I would love to write a slice of life or bildungsroman story that only requires one book to finish it, and Fat Kid Rules the World helped my mind click. Now I know exactly how to go about writing a stand-alone book.

Yes, yes, I know that's really simple, and that's something I should've known as a writer and editor ages ago, but something about seeing it effectively done in a published novel made the advice seem that much more effective.

0 Responses