The Stanton Effect: Take the Reader Somewhere Worthwhile

6a00d83451b64669e2017c3652fef8970b-250wiLyn Miller-Lachmann is no stranger to El Space. She’s been a welcome guest here many times, especially when she has a new young adult novel to discuss. Like here. She also has her own blog here. Today, I’m thrilled to present her guest post for the Stanton series. At the end of the post, I’ll announce the winner of Amy Rose Capetta’s book, Unmade. But first, let’s hear from Lyn.

Thank you to the awesome L. Marie for inviting me to be part of this series. When I listened to Andrew Stanton’s TED talk, the point that stuck with me was, “Give a promise that your story will take the reader somewhere worthwhile.”

One of the moments that inspired me to take writing seriously enough to seek publication occurred in my first year teaching in Brooklyn, New York. My school was in a historic building that over years of deferred maintenance had become quite dilapidated, to the point that the third floor teacher’s lounge was a glorified broom closet with mouse droppings between the floorboards and plaster flaking from the ceiling. I had brought a collection of short stories to read during my free period, and as I read a story by Joan Silber, I no longer sat in this grim teacher’s lounge but in a kudzu-filled garden somewhere in the Deep South—a place I had never physically been.


Most of us can’t pick up and go wherever we want, whenever we want. But stories can take us to those places and make us feel as if we are there. Whether it’s the desert in Lawrence of Arabia, a world long gone, or a world that has never existed, effective stories make us believe we are part of that world. Stories transport us from our ordinary lives into a grander and more beautiful place. Or into a more exciting and dangerous place where we would never choose to venture on our own because we have families and school and jobs and responsibilities.

The advice, “Give a promise that your story will take the reader somewhere worthwhile,” certainly informed my forthcoming novel, Surviving Santiago (Running Press Kids, debuting in June 2015). I traveled to Chile in 1990 to witness the transition from a brutal 17-year-dictatorship to a democratic government. I saw the excitement of people enjoying their hard-won freedom while nursing wounds that had not healed. At times I was scared; at times I was awestruck; at times I was humbled. I crossed into an unfamiliar culture and heard stories of struggle, sacrifice, and courage that would have pushed me beyond my own capacities had I lived through those times.


Lyn in 1990 (left); the cover of her forthcoming novel

Stories are ideal for crossing borders of all kinds and opening up a world of people, places, and experiences. This is what I seek to do with my writing, most of which is historical fiction set in diverse countries and cultures. It’s a challenge to evoke a setting well enough that readers can see themselves within it and appreciate having made the journey with me. And if they book a flight to Chile after finishing Surviving Santiago, I know for sure I’ve convinced them that it’s worth the trip!

Thanks, again, Lyn, for a great addition to the series. The other posts in the series are here, here, here, and here.

And now to announce the winner of Amy Rose Capetta’s young adult novel, Unmade.

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The winner, thanks to the random number generator, is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Charles Yallowitz!

Congratulations, Charles. Please confirm below. Thanks again for commenting!

38 thoughts on “The Stanton Effect: Take the Reader Somewhere Worthwhile

  1. Escapism is one of my biggest goals and it seems so hard. Writing fantasy, I have to forge a world out of nothing since there’s no real world connection. Though I think there’s the other side of the coin. Using a real location means people can look it up or disagree about your description. For example, New York City can be described as a beautiful, busy area in one book while the reader thinks of it as a clogged, depressing metropolis. So I guess the author needs to find the ‘trick’ to making every location worth exploring even if the reader already lives there or has negative thoughts about it.

    Oh and confirming. Almost missed that.

    • Congratulations on winning Amy Rose’s book! And thank you for your comment. It is a challenge to write about a place when people have so many assumptions about it. There’s a new YA author from Brooklyn, Jason Reynolds, whose work really captures the neighborhoods he writes about, whether or not you know those places. He now has two books out, When I Was the Greatest and The Boy in the Black Suit.

      • Interesting. I do find it fun to read fictional stories that involve places I’ve been to. It makes me smile when I read about a character running around and I simply go ‘I know where that is’. Though it also leads to me groaning if the character gets lost.

      • When someone mentions a place I know, I really pay attention to make sure the author covered the place accurately. My friends and I howled at a Mystery Science Theater once. I forget which movie they showed, but the movie discussed Aurora, Illinois and showed a mountain. Anyone who has ever been to Aurora (or Illinois) knows that mountains cannot be found there.

      • It really is hard for movies though. They can’t always film in the place that the story asks for. I was disappointed that the movie ‘Adventureland’ was put around an amusement park in Pennsylvania when the real place is on Long Island. Used to drive by it every day for my first long-term job. Guess we have to handle it at times. Though I don’t think books have much of an excuse.

      • Books don’t. And at least movie location scouts are doing a better job nowadays of finding places that have a similar look to the locations described. I don’t mind that so much. But if I know an area lacks mountains, I don’t want to see a mountain on screen!

      • I wonder how they work landmarks into these places too. Sets and CGI seem to be the answers. Maybe for the mountain issue they simply don’t think it’s that essential unless the mountains are important to the story. It’s a really tough thing to figure out.

      • I’m trying to remember what movie that was. Even if the mountain was needed for the plot, they could have chosen a different state in which to set the plot. At least one known for having mountains.

      • Chicago is the same way. Many directors, like Christopher Nolan, like to shoot the el train so use in movies set in far different locations. A friend saw Tom Hanks when he was filming Road to Perdition in our area. She happened to be hanging around when she saw the crew filming.

      • I’ve heard the Chicago and el train mentioned before. Most people, myself included, have no idea what we’re seeing in those moments. Nothing beyond ‘a train’ really.

      • I’ve heard there are some in Europe. But I think Chicago is the only U.S. city known to have a train by that designation–elevated train.

  2. There’s nothing I enjoy more than reading a book that makes me feel I’ve been transported to another time or place. I love when the setting becomes it’s own character. Thanks for your post, Lyn!

  3. ‘…the point that stuck with me was, “Give a promise that your story will take the reader somewhere worthwhile.”’

    That same phrase has been resonating in my mind lately. As a reader, I’m eager to explore what’s written on the page. If I’m hooked into the story, I have to trust the author to honor my time commitment investment in continuing to read the novel…that it will take me ‘somewhere worthwhile.’ As a writer, that trust should compel me to offer up my best effort for the reader, as well as for myself.

    While I’m certainly not a YA reader (!) “Surviving Santiago” sounds like something I’d like to read.


  4. Well said, Lynn . . . it’s wonderful to be an armchair traveler and not have to go through TSA checkpoints or figure out time travel. Love that shot of you in 1990. I would have pulled up a chair to sit and share thoughts over a cerveza.

    Congrats, Charles!

  5. Pingback: The Stanton Effect: Drama Is Anticipation Mixed with Uncertainty | El Space–The Blog of L. Marie

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