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The lost outlines of "Carolyn" "Keene"
msauvage purple
cleolinda

You guys, I think I have distilled Nancy Drew books down to their essential formula. I was taking notes for the purpose of outlining my own YA mystery, and... this kind of happened.


I. Titles

A. The…
1. Mystery of/at
2. Secret of/in
3. Clue in/of
B. … the [Adjective] [Noun]
II. Friends and Family
A. Nancy’s lawyer father has
1. a deep voice
2. a handsome countenance
3. a sterling legal reputation
4. a borderline inappropriate chumminess with his daughter
B. George likes
1. adventure
2. boys
3. having a boy's name. Even though she's a girl. With a boy's name. And boy hair. Did you know? It's true.
C. Bess likes
1. pretty dresses
2. boys
3. cake
D. Bess is afraid of
1. ghosts
2. starving to death in the next fifteen minutes
E. Other friends include
1. Hannah Gruen, housekeeper/surrogate mother/origin of all tasty things
2. Helen Corning and
a. Helen’s “special friend” Buck Rodman, who may or may not be from the 24-1/2th century (old version)
b. Helen’s husband Jim Archer, who must never know about Buck Rodman (new version)
2. a judge who saves Nancy’s ass when convenient
3. a banker who lets her pry into other people’s deposit boxes
4. friendly cops who are more than happy to let Nancy do all their work
5. some school friend you’ve never heard of before and will never hear of again
6. Togo the Wonder Dog
III. Enemies
Nancy’s enemies are
A. crooks of the deepest dye
B. incompetent
C. both
IV. Plot Points
A. Please, Nancy, won’t you help us? We’re
1. orphans
2. widows
3. spinsters
4. spinsters or widows raising orphans
5. crusty but avuncular old men
6. hot
B. Nancy’s father also has a case!
1. Nancy’s father is too busy to pursue his own case!
2. Nancy’s father’s case is totally the solution to Nancy’s!
C. Romance!
1. Each girl has a “special [boy]friend,” with whom she does absolutely nothing you could not do with your brother, your grandmother, or someone you met five minutes ago.
2. Ned flirts with Nancy.
3. Nancy flirts with Hot Guy.
4. Ned sulks and/or pines.
5. Nancy can never so much as kiss Ned, because
a. that would mean she’s a SLUT who FLIRTS with OTHER BOYS!
b. then she would have to MARRY Ned and MOVE OUT of her father’s house and QUIT DETECTING!
D. Local Color
1. Nancy can travel anywhere she wants, no matter how dangerous, including but not limited to
a. New York
b. Mexico
c. South America
d. South Africa
e. the middle of nowhere
f. the wrong side of the tracks
g. Canada
2. so long as she
a. asks her father first and
b. takes two (2) other teenage girls with her.
3. Nancy will then encounter someone who
a. is expert at skiing/ice-skating/rodeo riding/"skin-diving"
b. has a disturbing amount of knowledge on dolls/keys/masks/minks/clay deposits
c. stands to inherit a metric shitload of money
d. is suspicious but hot
e. is patently the actual villain
e2. not that anyone else will notice this for another 100 pages
4. …and, if she has time, she will
a. go sight-seeing
b. stop by a quaint tearoom
c. attend a dance and/or football game at Emerson College
d. befriend an extra orphan and/or widow
e. win a competition involving mastery of some skill we didn’t know she had, like
1. gardening
2. ice-skating
3. fashion modeling
4. "skin-diving"
E. Stop meddling, Nancy Drew! We’re so dangerous that we
1. made a threatening call to your house!
2. left a threatening letter in your mailbox!
3. ran you off the road!
4. broke into your bedroom!
5. drugged and kidnapped you!
6. left you
a. tied up in a closet!
b. rolled up in a blanket! A really dangerous blanket!
c. locked up someplace where NO ONE WILL EVER FIND YOU!
1. (except that George totally does)
2. (except that Bess totally does)
3. (except that Ned totally does)
3b. (not that you’re going to get frisky, even so)
7. tried to kill you with spiders/lizards/poison gas!
8. didn’t bother to snap your neck when we had the chance!
F. Oh no! Mr. Drew has gone missing! He’s…
1. being held for ransom
2. stuffed in a secret tunnel somewhere
3. drugged and tied up in one of those hotels where they steal your kidneys
4. back at the hotel and totally fine, dumbass
G. If 4), are you sure he’s back at the hotel, Nancy? This telegram says he wants to meet you in the middle of nowhere, by yourself—oh, and bring the [Adjective] [Noun].
1. Duh, it’s a fake telegram from the villain(s), dumbass.
2. OH NOES! DADDY!
Note: Whether Nancy falls for the telegram this time is completely independent of whether she fell for the fake telegram in previous books.

H. But that’s okay! The villains can just
1. randomly kidnap all the girls, but then get caught by the police!
2. randomly get caught by all the girls, who then call the police!
I. The case is solved and you’ve been caught, you dirty villain, because
1. your third accomplice is a stoolie and a wimp
2. Nancy has, like, a frickin’ graduate degree in secret compartments
3. you just had to sit and explain your entire nefarious scheme instead of twisting her head off like a bottlecap and making a run for the border
J. But all’s well that ends well, and
1. Nancy’s client gives her a tastefully expensive memento of the adventure.
2. Nancy’s next case is already a twinkle in her eye...
2b. ... and teased in the final paragraph. Wouldn't you like to read it? It's called The Clue/Mystery/Secret of the [Adjective] [Noun].
3. No one is getting laid, regardless. Woe.



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I remember my first Nancy Drew book. I think you've quite cleverly distilled the entire series into one outline. And you must read "Confessions of a Teenage Sleuth" if you haven't already. It's a wickedly funny parody of Nancy and the Hardy Boys.

i actually l-o-l-ed.
you're so accurate!

You know that's how these were actually written, right? Edward Stratemeyer and his factory/warehouses full of typists following the exact same outline, substituting details and names. It worked for his other creations, like Hardy Boys and Bobbsey Twins. There's been some books written about him and his process. He created hundreds of series, and within each series was its own pattern.
(Of course, the rumor is that Harlequin used to work this way too, sending out Mad-Lib like "outlines" that required the "writer" to just insert new names and synonyms to create each book with the same sensibility!)

Harlequin = TRUE (sorta). There are actually rigid guidelines for those darn things that amount to a formula.

So, so true.

And I realize I may not want to know the answer to this, but what exactly does "skin-diving" entail?

One definition was basically, like, going diving in just a swimsuit (as opposed to with equipment), but Nancy's skin-diving seems to involve a wetsuit and "aqualung," pre-SCUBA. So... really, I have no idea.

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I. The case is solved and you’ve been caught, you dirty villain, because
3. you just had to sit and explain your entire nefarious scheme instead of twisting her head off like a bottlecap and making a run for the border


God bless "The Incredibles" for giving us the word "monologing".

I've been watching Thundercats on DVD, and it's simply amazing how much monologing goes on. How did I ever think this wasn't laughable?

Heeee. Now you're making me want to actually get that box of 53 original books my dad has been bugging me to take out of his garage for years.

Man, all those quaint tearooms, brave and deserving orphans, and jitterbug-competitions. And Togo!

(Is it taking it too far to wonder if Nancy constantly saving her father instead of the other way around is kind of slyly feminist before its time?)

I think the whole series is feminist before its time, because you'll notice she's always an excellent driver (as early as the 1932 books), she always stands up to whichever crook rather than run away, she goes out with Ned when she wants and with some other guy if she damn well feels like it, she's always helping out widows and orphaned girls--the whole thing is just so positive, but almost like it doesn't want you to notice, so there are no speeches about how independent Nancy is or anything.

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I think the same outline can be applied to the A-Team. Seriously.

Except with less tea-rooms and skin-diving. At least I assume/think/hope.

Oh. My. Gods. You just distilled my entire childhood down into this page. I love it. I grew up on those books. My favorite moments are when she gets caught by the bad guys and says, "I heard everything you said and you're going to jail! Now let me go!" Snerk. No habla ingles, seniorita.

HEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!
!
!
*inhales*

Poor Ned. Does he even go "skin diving"?

I'm pretty sure Ned's going to die without ever having skin-dived.

Excellent work!! Has the M15M humor I have been missing so dearly!

1. Each girl has a “special [boy]friend,” with whom she does absolutely nothing you could not do with your brother, your grandmother, or someone you met five minutes ago.

Seriously, Cleo, that made my crappyupuntilthispoint day. As well as;

a. that would mean she’s a SLUT who FLIRTS with OTHER BOYS!
b. then she would have to MARRY Ned and MOVE OUT of her father’s house and QUIT DETECTING!


Thanks!


In reply to myself, when I began reading this, there were exactly two comments. Now there are like 15. I guess I'm not the only one bored at 9:37 central time.

Ooh by the way, Happy Ides of March!

*sigh* so many fabulous memories, so many formulaic plots :D
Nancy was so wise, I remember this one time Bess said "But he has such honest eyes" and Nancy thought to herself that she'd put many men behind bars who had "honest eyes"
Oh if only I'd listened to your sage words of wise wisdom, Nancy, IF ONLY!!!!!!!!!!!!

I remember that! Don't remember which book, but I certainly do remember it.

"1. orphans
2. widows
3. spinsters
4. spinsters or widows raising orphans"

LOL

E. Stop meddling, Nancy Drew! We’re so dangerous that we

Don't forget being knocked unconscious. Every single book, the Bad Guy manages to sneak up behind her or one of her cohorts and take a swing at their head. I'm surprised Nancy still has enough braincells to continue solving mysteries, considering how many times shes been knocked unconscious and how many concussions must have resulted from that.

I really feel the urge to run down to the library and borrow all the Nancy Drew books and read them while snickering with joy.

You are a good influence.

Ahaha, this is brilliant! I feel like I've just read an entire series!

Man, I sure did love Nancy Drew. But my favorites were the Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys SUPERMYSTERIES! I always wanted Frank and Nancy together. God, I was such a nerd even at the age of 8.

Didn't they have one where they were at a ski lodge and that almost happened? And then she realized that it would be a mistake and they agreed to be just friends and hugged just as Ned walked in... I would SWEAR I remember that.

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This kills me. I'm sending it to my sister-in-law.

Hee. :D I am so nostalgic right now.

rolled up in a blanket! A really dangerous blanket!

This is where I lolled.

You think I am making that up but I am so incredibly not.

Oh man, Nancy Drew. Those were the good days. And the Hardy Boys? Same stuff, only...boys (2).

Oh, my childhood! It is ruined by happy!

My grandmother would send me one of these books virtually every two weeks. I had somewhere in the vicinity of... sixty? I believe? Are there sixty? It took up multiple rows on my bookshelves, and I hadn't the heart to give 'em away until I realized that, in spirit, Nancy will always be looking for the [Adjective] [Noun]. Ned will be crying manfully into his pillow for perpetuity. That's comforting, somehow.

Your icon makes me way too happy.

Oh man I nearly inhaled most of a mug of tea there.

Poor old Ned. Though in the eighties one he did get to be the excellent driver once I remember...still didn't get laid though. Awwwwww.

hee! Somehow, I suspect that maybe there's a formula to the Baby-Sitters Club books as well (I read more of those than I did of Nancy Drew--I used to always get mad that I could never solve the mystery). Kristy gets an idea! Claudia wears bizarre clothing and looks good in it, and can't spell! Mary Anne cries all the time! Stacey has at least 20 boyfriends, all at the age of thirteen! Etc.

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1. Nancy can travel anywhere she wants, no matter how dangerous, including but not limited to
...
g. Canada


Hee. That reminds me of the Hardy Boys book where they came to Halifax (where I live). It was awesome. Some nefarious evil-doer swallows a cyanide capsule on the Halifax-Dartmouth ferry, and the Hardy boys get chased all around the local forts. And I've been on that ferry and in those forts and I thought that was about the coolest thing ever. Of course, I was twelve at the time, but it's still kind of cool.

*totally has that book on her shelf*

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