My name is Yada Pruksachatkun, and I am a writer. In this podcast, I will talk about my writing process through the example of a prompt and a contest I recently participated in, which you can hear here. The piece you see above is the submission to the Don’t Panic contest by Lauren Oliver. She has written bestsellers such as the Delirium trilogy and before i fall. This was a themed fan fiction contest for her upcoming novel Panic.
To fill you in, ,the book revolves around a game played and organized by recently graduated high school students who makes the contestants pay a fee, and then preys on the contestant’s worst fears. The winner who survives gets the entire pool of money from the collective fees. The main characters are Dodge and Heather, a girl who has to win the money to care for her family.
The contest prompt was to pretend you were in the game and you had to face your worst fear, to write about the experience in under 1,000 words.
In actuality, I would never play Panic if I was in the book. Not because I am not courageous enough to face my fears and play the game, but because I like to think that I am courageous enough to resist the money prize.I know that I need the money less than other people, and so will resist joining so other, more needy people will get a better chance at winning. I would want to win simply to pay for college and to afford a slightly more lavish lifestyle. However, I would need the money less than Heather, seeing as her family is barely scraping along while mine is comfortable, but simply cannot pay the full $50k tuition per year. For me, another reason for joining would be the achievement. There is a part of me that is always saying, “Buy that dress,” and “do this so you can get ahead,” but I have learned to ignore it.
However, because the prompt directly says that I be in the game and facing my worst fear. That fear came from a dream of mine, in which the fear of being a failure manifested in the other people in the dream. Like I wrote in the piece, I was sitting in a classroom, and the teacher had lost faith in my ability and my good character. The sginificance in that act comes from the teacher losing faith in me, which is a symbol for failure. Then, I dreamt that I awoke in my mother’s arms, and when I pushed against her, she died. Then, she turned into me physically, and so I was staring at myself. That other me then tilted her head, and said, “Why are you such a failure?”
And that was the dream this piece was based on. So I guess my worst fear is that my teachers, my family, and even myself would see me as a failure.
After writing the actual nightmare, I had to figure out the little details of the story. Was Heather going to be in my piece? How far in the game had I gone? Just to make things simple, I decided that it was the finals, and Heather and I were the two remaining survivors. Because the style of the book was realistic, I thought maybe a hospital would be good. The final challenge for the two contestants had to be something that would make them face their individualized worst fears. So for example, one person may fear spiders the most while others fear heights. The challenge must cater to both at the same time. So i started thinking, why not a drug that made the person hallucinate their worst fears? I know that’s certainly possible, as I am a doctor’s daughter and I have done some research on this topic. After thinking about the who, when, where, I started visualizing the rules and the capacity of this game. What resources did the organizers of the game Panic have? What was the authoritative culture like between the organizers? What kind of technology is available?
When I listened to Lauren Oliver’s reading of the first three chapters of Panic, she didn’t really specify those little details such as the dynamics between the different organizers.
I decided that the organization structure would be of the two judges that Lauren mentioned in her reading being the bridge between the student organizers and the adults who held control over the resources they need. For example, when Heather and Dodge have to swim and do the “Opening Jump” from a cliff, the judges would have been the one to make this event happen by asking permission from the waterway authorities to hold the event. Then, the stronger, bigger kids would act as the guards, holding back the audience who would be watching the game. The students would have access to the local network, because, as Lauren said, nothing really happens in the small town of Carp so the game would be “breaking news.”
And last but not least, for the very end of the piece, I won and Heather didn’t. However, like I said before, I really am against consumerism and gluttony, so even if I had $50,000, and if I won, I would probably not touch the money because i know that if I did, I would be going against everything that I believe in. It’s like John Proctor in the Crucible you know? But then again, if I was actually in the moment, having gone through weeks and weeks of torture and lack of sleep, and i’m clinging on by a thread, would i refuse that much money? I can’t say. So instead, i just left the plot hanging,, not saying if I would or would not take the money.
And so that’s just a little glimpse of how i write, and for me, it takes a lot of time just to write a little piece, because I try to think of every single little to make the world and the setting of the story more real to me, and to make characters seem like real people.
I hope this helped, and if you are a fellow writers, I wish you the best! If you have any comments or feedback for the piece O wrote, or any writing processes and strategies of your own, comment!