Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Guest Post: Author Kami Kinard Shows How Diaries Inspire

I am beyond excited to feature a guest post by author Kami Kinard! She's here today to tell us how her own collection of diaries inspired her to write The Boy Project (Scholastic 2012).

Inspiring Diary
by: Kami Kinard

Author photo by: Carpe Diem Studios

I’ve been writing fiction for a couple of years now. Not just writing it, actually, but studying it – figuring out what it is that makes some books have a huge impact and others fall flat.

It’s complicated, of course, and it never boils down to just one thing. Good books must have compelling plots, interesting characters, and original writing. But there is another key ingredient to a good book, and in my experience, it is discussed less frequently than anything else.

Going back and reading my own diaries from middle school and high school helped me figure this ingredient out. In fact, reading my old diaries inspired me to write The Boy Project. My book isn’t based on the things that happened to me when I was in middle school. I was a pretty boring kid who loved to read and nothing plot-worthy happened to me during those years.

But the normal stuff happened. Stuff that happens to everybody. And what is a diary, but a place to write down how you feel about that stuff? Have you figured out the key ingredient yet? Let me give you another hint. I typed up a seventy-one word paragraph from my diary. Then I took out all of the words that didn’t have anything to do with my feelings. Here is what was left:

I wish
I can’t believe
more afraid
I’m glad
happy as ever
I’m so glad

Virtually every sentence indicated how I felt about something. And that’s just from one paragraph! My diaries were completely full of my feelings about things: things like  friends, family, wanting to fit in, school and boys. I don’t think I came across a single entry that didn’t have to do with my emotions.

As writers, our imaginations can supply plots, and we can develop skills to finesse language, but none of that is going to matter if our characters’ feelings don’t come across as genuine. Our books fall flat when our readers can’t identify with what our characters feel.

Kami's collection of diaries
Giving characters realistic feelings is important in sci-fi, fantasy, dystopian, and historical fiction too. One good example of books that capture teen feelings is the Twilight series. Author Stephenie Meyer takes a lot of flak for her writing style, but we shouldn’t overlook the thing she did best. The thing that made her books international best sellers wasn’t the vampires at all. It was that fact that Meyer captured the feelings of longing and desire better than most writers, and teenagers identify with those feelings.

My diaries put me back in touch with my middle school feelings and inspired me to write a book about a fictitious girl who felt the way I had about the middle school experience. Middle school girls tell me all of the time that they love The Boy Project because it is so realistic. Some say that Kara, my main character, feels exactly the way they do about things. Thanks, Dear Diary, for that!

Readers: Have you used old diaries as inspiration in writing? What do you think you'd find if you cracked open a middle school diary?

You can find Kami Kinard on her blog: Nerdy Chicks Rule, her webiste www.kamikinard.comfacebook page and on twitter.

Please check out the book trailer for The Boy Project here on You Tube!


  1. Awesome post! I burned all those diaries way back when! :) they would have been fun to look back on - shouldn't have had that bonfire! I think the emotions are really what reading and writing are all about for me too. :)

  2. Excellent post! I agree this is something that is very much looked over when it comes to figuring out what makes a book work or not. I have many, many journals from my childhood and teen years, but honestly I'm a little nervous to crack them open. Maybe someday. :)

    Also, THANK YOU for using the Twilight series as an example of something well done. I get so tired of Twilight bashing. Maybe those books aren't everyone's cup of tea, but they sure were a LOT of people's cup of tea, (and I suspect that even those how say they hate them still couldn't put them down) so I like it when other authors point out what she did well. I think you hit it on the head!

  3. Thanks for the comments! Sorry your diaries are ashes Jemi! Many others are too, from what I understand! I was nervous to crack open my diaries too, Liesl, and only did it when my writer friends chastised me into it. So glad they did! I think Twilight will never be considered a great work of literature, and I doubt Meyer set out to create one, but she did create something that made her readers FEEL. That's so important. :)

  4. This is a wonderful post! Emotion is very important in writing. If I can't relate to the emotions a character is feeling, I feel left out and left behind.

    Thanks for visiting my blog the other day!


  5. I keep thinking I should go back to my old diaries and "mine" some stuff, and this is good motivation.

    I like what you said about the Twilight books. I've often pondered what made them so addictive, and I think you're on the right track.

  6. So interesting! I was never able to keep a diary. I would get one and write in it for 2-3 days and then forget about it. It was all super lame stuff too "Today I went to the store and bought chocolate" like.. who the heck cares? hahaha. Great post!!

  7. Thanks for all the comments everyone, and to Kami for her post. I kept a diary from age 11 through my early 20s (though sporadic) and some of it is interesting and some quite boring. It's tempting to want to burn them, I don't really want OTHER people reading them, but it's a fun look back every once in awhile.

  8. I think I'll be almost afraid to read my diary in 10 years. So much angst!

  9. Thanks again for hosting Stephanie, and to everyone else who commented. You should all go back and read your diaries. Be brave! They might not be as bad as you imagine.



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