19 Apr 2017

Unruly - Genesis of an Idea

An idea occurred to me for a potential Unruly arc.  Since there may be people looking for information on how writers, amateur or otherwise, get ideas and since writing down the thought process may help me figure out what I'm doing, here is how the concept is forming.

The idea came to me after watching the Jem and the Holograms episode, "Alone Again".  The episode turned into the series' anti-drug public service announcement, which every cartoon at the time was doing, in part to get the money available.  The beginning of "Alone Again" had me hoping for a different direction.  A new Starlight girl, Laura, who lost her parents in a car crash, arrived at the mansion because the other foster homes were full.  Laura is shy and withdrawn, and I was hoping that the ep would go into the other girls learning how to work with her while not forcing her to open up before she was ready.

Since the episode didn't deliver there, that left the idea sitting in my head.  Turns out, I do have a means already to explore that idea.  Unruly already provides the setting, the Ulrich F. Gephardt Academy for Unruly Girls, which will separate my Laura-analogue from her family without having to drop a meteor on them while also dropping the girl into a strange new environment.  And, let's face it, the Academy isn't for girls who can't stand up for themselves.

Next step is figuring out what I need for this story.  I have the girl and her basic personality - shy, withdrawn, uncomfortable around others.  She'll need a new name just to avoid confusion in the audience's mind with the Laura who already exists.  The new girl will also need a reason for being at the Academy.  The school is for girls who aren't so much in trouble but who are trouble.  Whatever the reason is, it has to be believable with her desire to be alone.

Speaking of wanting to be alone, it's hard to do that when you bunk with three other girls.  The new girl's roommates will also have to be developed.  That's not really a problem, at least for the setting.  Each girl will also need a background, including why they're at the school.  I could use the opportunity to add a few more magical students to go along with Fawna and Kristi, plus add some diversity* to the cast.

I also have to figure out what year they are in and when the new girl arrived.  I'm hesitant to have her be new along with Laura, simply because it starts looking odd to have so many new students coming in at odd times.  A natural time for the new girl to arrive would be Grade 7, like Caitlin, or Grade 9.  In the latter case, the new girl is missing two years of socialization with the other inmates, which may help with her not wanting to join the rest of the girls.

Even setting her in Grade 9, I still have to figure out if I want her story to be concurrent with the main plot featuring the seniors that's ongoing-ish or set the story back a couple of years so that the new gril is a year behind Caitlin.  This ties into the problem with having the new girl show up the same time as Laura.  I'm tempted to place the story two years prior; that way, the new girl and her roomies become the seniors once Caitlin's cohort graduates.  The benefit to this approach is that there will be a character in place for the audience when the new seniors debut.

Once I can get the above worked out, I'll still need a plot.  Laura's first weekend as an Unruly still had her thrown into the thick of things.  Even starting the new girl on the proper first day of class in September, events still have to happen.  She may not be prepared for life at the Academy, but her roomies will be ready to show the world, Oshawa, and their classmates that they haven't been beaten down.

* Diversity with Unruly is touchy.  On one hand, I do want the Academy to reflect the reality of high school populations today.  One the other, these are students who have had run-ins with the law, so adding, say, a Carribean Canadian who ran a ring cornering a third of Hamilton's illegal market is problematic, to put it mildly.  I don't want to perpetuate stereotypes.


  1. Couple random thoughts. First, it makes sense that not everyone comes into the school in Grade 7 and stays for six years, right? Some would enter during Grades other than 7 or 9, as they're found. (At the start of the year, presumably, not mid-way in, but follow with me.) When the groups of 4 to a room are formed, would, say, eight new recruits in Grade 9 end up grouped together? Or would there be a fragmenting, with two experienced students grouping with two new ones? (Maybe as girls leave the school for reasons?) Just wondering what the makeup of the new student's roommates might be, maybe they're not all veterans. You could even have one of them be a previously seen character, who ends up grouped into another room by Grade 12. (Or who ends up sent to the rival school? Or who was in Grade 12 then, and is now a graduate, like Laura's english tutor?)

    The other thought is you might be able to get away with lampshading a stereotype, in a pinch. Along the lines of saying "it's such a stereotype, they never expected it of me". As to plot, if you want to fill out the magic a bit more, maybe the new girl (or roommate) has some measure of magic potential that they had never tapped before. Or involve boys somehow.

    1. That's my thinking, too - girls come in as discovered, though Grades 7 and 9 are natural places for them to move to the new school. I'd say most start in September, followed by the start of the winter semester in January/February, and girls like Laura rare enough. I think they'd be split up and assigned to rooms with returning students, just so they aren't automatic targets by the rest of their class. They get some change at getting allies. (There is that; Alyssa would be noticed far more if she was the first in six years.) Hadn't considered having two new girls in the same dorm; that could help out. And I was thinking about having one of the roomies be someone who already appeared. (I forgot about Laura's tutor. Thanks!)

      There is that, though I think the Unruly would be using the stereotype to get others to underestimate her. I think it'll be one of the roomies who has the magical ability, but one that wasn't suspected before. And, yes, boys should be involved somehow in the girls' machinations.