YA Author Hayley Jackson presented a dynamic workshop on how she develops her YA kick arse characters during our Write Links meeting on the 2nd of June.
She emphasised the importance of a strong voice and giving her characters lots of layers, like an onion. She particularly stressed that it’s worth developing the characters back story as this can affect their responses and dialog, and that it is important to include characters that contrast each other.
Here is a brief description of the character archetypes. Some characters may overlap one or two archetypes as we discovered when we looked at a few popular characters. There is more to Grandma Poss than you first think!
Gives us a window into the story
Someone we can identify with
Is the character that changes the most
Has a strong will and desire that drives the story
Challenges the hero
Is the spark that sets of war
Is the call to adventure at the end of Act 1. Could even be a phone call, newspaper article or a storm
Teaches and trains the hero
Is who the hero wants to become
Hero has to prove they are worthy to their Mentor
Is or presents obstacles on the road to adventure
Provides puzzles or tests
When overcome/won over becomes the ally and or a source of strength
Whose side are they on?
Unstable/ misleads the hero
Their loyalty is always in question
Often does not think of themselves as the villain
There to humanise the hero
Asks questions that you want answered
Comic relief and bring heroes and readers down to earth
Catalyst - affects others but doesn't change themselves
So how does Hayley build her Kick Arse characters?
She dreams about them, thinks about them all the time. She makes a time and place to specifically focus on them such as the shower. She will make up a playlist for them, decide on their favourite drink, food and more!
She gives them an authentic voice by filling out a character bio which includes;
Hayley’s presentation included the established archetypes and an insight to her personal experience of creating characters. Through working through the activity sheet and sharing our thoughts we were able to learn the process of unpacking a character and met a new character Jocelyn created which I can’t wait to read more about.
At the December meeting we had the pleasure of having Dr. Zewlan Moor come and tell us all about Bibliotherapy.
Bibliotherapy is a form of therapy where a patient is given a selected reading list recommended by a professional that is relevant to the situation they are facing and is a tool to help them.
I found this article on Bibliotherapy a great explanation of its history and its different forms www.goodtherapy.org/learn-about-therapy/types/bibliotherapy. Interestingly, Bibliotherapy dates back as far as the Ancient Greeks
Dr. Zewlan Moor works as a general practitioner, but she also shares a love for children’s literature which she studied at university as well. She is combining her passions in both areas and is setting up her business, Byron Bibliotherapy.
After having an initial consultation with a patient, Dr. Moor will recommend a reading list of up to 10 books to her patients to be read over a year to help open them up about their current situation. At the end of the year, the patient can have a follow-up consultation if they choose.
Many members of Write Links encouraged Dr. Zewlan and saw the relevance of how books can help a person process what they are going through or relate to a character in a similar situation.
Literature and the Arts have a way of connecting with their audience and it is no wonder these different mediums are one way to help people heal.
Story by children's author Rebecca Sheraton.
‘Writing is fun’ or ‘Novels are an exercise in extreme delayed gratification’ — a workshop with Christine Bongers.
It is a sultry day in early November during a Write Links meeting at the State Library Queensland.
A tall, beautiful, youthful woman walks into a library meeting room... the crowd bustles, herded by another tall, beautiful youthful woman (with an intriguing European accent). The air is thick with anticipation —scraping chairs, coughs and murmurs, shuffles and smiles. Today is the day: a workshop with Christine Bongers, on the craft and pleasure of writing for children.
If shorthand were still a thing, I’d have copied Christine’s workshop, verbatim — it was that good! Here is what I gleaned:
PART I: The First Draft
“Perfection is the enemy of finishing”
All you can do in your first draft is write the first draft. Focus on character, conflict and context. Christine admits to writing and editing as she goes, but only to the point where she can move from one dramatic unit to the next.
She also believes that ‘real’ writing starts at the rewriting phase. (For Christine, writing a first draft feels like being constipated... um...).
Tip: the first draft is for the writer; the following drafts are for the reader.
Write – Edit – Polish – Think – Repeat
We do this to find out what needs to be shown and what needs to be told.
Let’s replace ‘show, don’t tell’ with ‘show and tell’.
Scenes are dramatic units where we can show. Tell the ‘unimportant’ bits in between dramatic units (more on this later!).
PART II: Structural Edits?
A structural edit is a big-picture analysis to find out if your story works. Ask yourself these questions: does it make sense? Does it work? Do the sub-plots have any use? How many characters can you kill off? Are your characters and relationships engaging, believable and well-rounded? (Christine once received a 19-page structural edit in the mail from her publisher. She survived. The baby flourished.).
Tip: you can do anything if you’re clever and you make it work.
PUT YOUR FIRST DRAFT AWAY. After you have finished the first draft (otherwise known as your baby), put it aside so that you can forget it. This will give you some perspective on how ugly (or pretty) your baby is.
Tip: Structural edits are are like autopsying puppies — do it and do it well, so fewer puppies die.
Pay attention to your main characters
Who wants to read a book where they hate the main character? They must be relatable.
Point of view
Is the point-of-view consistent, authentic and engaging? (Be ready to trash an 80,000 word novel and start again. Christine did!).
‘Voice’ is the way the words sound on the page. Watch out for little idiosyncrasies in your writing. Are there habitual repetitions you are making, without realising?
Pace and flow
Does your story move forward, does it take the reader with it? If it moves too quickly, it will exhaust the reader, wear them out. Look out for sidetracks and dead ends. Is the tension building too fast or too slow?
Tell us what your character is feeling! Not just ‘she did this, then she did this, then she did...’.
Dialogue is a vivid opportunity to move plot, reveal character and create tension.
Make it real! Give it life! Rid it of clunk! Make your characters sound true and entertain your audience. Tip: listen into phone conversations on the bus! Take note of any entertaining turns of phrase.
Tip: Story is THE BOSS. Everything has to serve the story.
Do a line-by-line scan for clichés, repetition, lazy adverbs, idiosyncratic bits & pieces.
Part III: How to Show and tell.
First, ask the experts: Don’t tell me the moon is shining, show me the glint of light on broken glass. Anton Chekhov.
Showing omits detail efficiently. It makes scenes vivid and allows the reader to experience the story through thoughts and senses, rather than through exposition.
Why not tell?
A synopsis will tell; a story will show.
Examples: ‘The crackle of dry grass underfoot’ shows us it’s hot and there’s a drought.
Make a scene bloom! How?
Show and Tell — it’s not an either/or. It’s about knowing when and how. Telling is quick, showing takes time. Know when your story needs to be slow, or where it needs to move quickly.
Tell what your reader needs to know — just enough to move them onto the next dramatic scene.
Tip: don’t tell us your character is an arrogant pain in the arse — let him swagger!
Yes, but how exactly?
Use verbs: stories are about what people DO.
Be specific: specifics tell the story. Deploy telling details. For example, imagine the new kid dropped off at school for the first time. If he is dropped off in a limo, what could that say about him? How much story could be written around that one tiny detail? Perhaps he is a pop start; perhaps his parents are drug lords; perhaps his dad is the chauffeur. Specific details build expectation and set up character.
The story is seen through the prism of the main character’s experience. Experience = ‘doing’.
Don’t be too concerned with themes — these become evident after you’ve written your story. Trust the process.
Dialogue makes the reader experience the story as if they were there — make it entertaining! It reveals character, furthers the plot and is a very good tool for subverting expectations! Don’t overuse it.
Metaphor shows actions, reactions and emotional landscape. A story isn’t just about what happens, but how what happens affects your main character. Show us how your character is changed by the story.
Thank you, Christine Bongers!
Story by Zoe Collins
Linking to the Curriculum PD was presented by school teachers Hayley Jackson and Rebecca Sheraton at Brisbane’s Write Links group.
Hayley and Rebecca showed us how to link our books to the Australian curriculum.
Books with specific links to the Australian Curriculum are more desirable to publishers. Linking to the Curriculum increases your chances of publication and your books being purchased by schools and libraries.
Please consider linking your books to the curriculum.
Where do you start linking to the curriculum?
BOOK Samples: Linking to the Curriculum ...
A: The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
Year 2 - Science:
Biological Sciences: Living things grow, change and have offspring similar to themselves.
B: If I Die Before I Wake by Martii McLean
English - Year 9
C: Meet Sidney Nolan by Yvonne Mes & Sandra Eterovic
Year 6 - History
Knowledge and Understanding:
The contribution of individuals and groups, including Aboriginal people and/or Torres Strait Islanders and migrants, to the development of Australian society, for example, in areas such as the economy, education, science, the arts, sport.
Now it’s Your Turn …
Karen Tyrrell writes empowering books to help kids live STRONG through humour and self-belief. She’s a passionate writing workshop presenter and interactive story teller wearing fun costumes.
Write with Passion - Hook, Hold and Keep Readers
Deborah Abela’s hands-on writing workshop for Write Links on 5th August, 2017 inspired so many writers, that many bussed, trained and car-ed home to rework their opening paragraphs. Others who attended critique groups shortly after, saw part of their peers’ works anew. Abela, former teacher, Cheez TV writer and author of 25 book was courageous admitting her constant doubts about her writing ability. Audible sighs of relief signalled the audiences’ appreciation for her candidness. Abela’s 15-year writing career saw her share the ‘Big Things she Knows Now about Writing for Kids’.
Write A Killer First Paragraph
Abela’s first big tip. ‘Your first chapter has to be short, sharp, solid, fast. It’s got to grab your young reader. It’s got to almost have a beginning middle and end, and a cliff hanger at the end. You want to hook them… hold them and keep them reading.’ The first lines were critical to hook the reader. In positioning herself as a ‘reader’, Abela role played asking questions after reading Gleitzman’s opening lines.
Morris Gleitzman’s Once — ‘Once I was living in an orphanage in the mountains and I shouldn’t have been. And I almost caused a riot. It was because of the carrot.’
Abela/Reader - ‘What do you mean you’re living in an orphanage and you shouldn’t have been? So are your parents still around… or not still around? What do you mean you almost caused a riot? And what… does a carrot have to do with anything? Morris has that beautiful balance between the very very serious and a lovely note of comedy.’
Also, ‘What is the story I'm trying to tell and are you doing it? With every paragraph, every single chapter, what is the story I'm trying to tell? With Grimsdon I'm trying to tell about a bunch of kids who are stuck in a flooded city and are desperate to escape.’
Kids to Lead the Action
The basics of writing for kids, ‘it must be kid-focused where often kids lead the action with maybe an adult nearby.’ Often Abela gets rid of the adults ASAP or sidelines them. She found the easiest book to do this was in Grimsdon where she flooded an entire city, rescued most of the people, took them somewhere else but left some kids behind. ‘The kids could do whatever they wanted. They didn’t have to be home for bedtime or have to explain the broken bones because they’d been on an adventure hanging from a plane.’
Abela is diligent with questioning her motives for writing. ‘Why am I writing? Why am I writing this particular piece? Is it because I'm excited… Is it a period in history I love? This story won't leave me alone... it's driving me nuts... I wake up at 3 in the morning... can't get the characters out of my head.’ Whatever your why, a passionate answer will see you committed to your project.
Novels have Behaviours
Abela said her novels had their own personality and likened them to being child-like. ‘Some (stories) come roaring out... like in The Spelling Bee. It was a delightful, playful gorgeous thing and it sort of wrote itself.’
However, Grimsdon was her naughty child. ‘No matter how nice I was to it, it would not behave. It felt like I dragged every single word out of some word rock.’ Her editor advised, 'Just write one paragraph at a time, one page at a time and you will get to the end.’
Three Story Elements
Abela explained the elements using the cake baking analogy. ’At the very, very beginning, your story needs the three basic ingredients ‘character, setting and problem.’ Put these three elements into the Plot Pot… take those characters, put them into an interesting setting… then we make as much stuff go wrong for them… .’
Abela says, know your characters like you’ve met them. Make them interesting, especially if you’re asking kids to hang out with them for a whole novel or series.
Your setting is the same. “The single nicest thing a kid has said is, ‘I felt like I was in that book.’ It means you’ve done it. You’ve created a world and you’ve created kids that feel real. And that this (world) could possibly exist. No matter your world, whether soccer fields, haunted castles or World War II, it must be authentic.”
Know what your characters want, then create problems to achieve it. ‘What is the thing your character wants the most? It’s usually numerous things, but what is the one thing driving that character? For India Wimple in the Stupendously Spectacular Spelling Bee, what she wants is to win the spelling competition.’ But first she wants ‘not to have that feeling of throwing up in front of a group she doesn’t know.’ The things you throw at your character must be hard to get, but not impossible. And it mustn’t be frustrating for the reader.
VOICE IN YOUR HEAD
Abela found a way to silence the ‘voice in your head’ that often reminds you how bad you are. She learned to become so involved in her characters and their story, that it felt like she’d forgotten the ‘voice’ was there. ‘I ignore it. I don’t give it permission… I haven’t got time to listen to you… I’ve got a city to flood or I’ve got some kids to rescue… so get out!’
The drafts goes through several stages - from a solid foundation to build your story on, to making sense, to rewriting, to fine tuning and then finessing.
EDITOR’S NOTES ARE GOLD
For Grimsdon, it showed Abela how close she was to her characters and story. When the editor said, ‘I know why you like this character, I don’t know why I should.’ In her rewrite, Abela had to transfer her passion for her character to the reader so they’d have more empathy.
‘No matter what you write, you must be passionate about what you are writing.
Abela’s books have won Australian and USA awards — www.deborahabela.com
The StoryArts Festival 2017 took over Ipswich from the 2nd to the 10th of September. And Write Links members were there to report on all the action!
The volunteers, lead by Tyrion Perkins, reported on the School Program, Adult Program and Family Program providing a stream of articles on the children's authors and illustrators presenting during the literary week.
The StoryArts Festival Ipswich began in 1995 as the Ipswich Festival of Children’s Literature and has been held every two years since then. The festival offers free sessions for children and low cost sessions for adults and young adults with an interest in children’s literature such as teachers, librarians, and emerging writers and illustrators.
The festival aims to increase an awareness of the value of the arts in relation to writing and illustration and help build and maintain increased audiences for children’s literature. The festival inspires young people to buy and read more books and gain an appreciation of the processes involved in writing and illustrating. We also aim to enthuse teachers and parents about the value of stories and encourage them to promote literature to young people.
The Ipswich Festival is organized and funded mainly by the Ipswich District Teacher-Librarian Network and now also supported by Write Links Volunteers!
The team consisted of: Tyrion Perkins, Maria Parenti-Baldy, Danielle Freeland, Karen Tyrrell, Rebecca Sheraton, Yvonne Mes, Dimity Powell and Jacqui Halpin and also included Megan Daley from Children's Books Daily.
Read their stories here:
At the latest Write Links meeting on the 8th of July, Tyrion Perkins presented a comprehensive workshop on structure and plotting novels.
She shared her considerable experience, research, notes and references. We are so lucky to have such generous members in our writing community.
While Tyrion guided us through the simple three-act structure, she was clear to point out that plotting and structure are not the first step to writing your book.
First you need to brainstorm the possibilities! Collect a folder full of ideas and use them to start brainstorming. From this explosion of creativity choose your setting, characters and themes. With these you can work out the outline of your story.
Presuming that we have an outline, Tyrion used her zoological background (and sense of humour), to show us that the next step is like constructing a dinosaur skeleton. Structure is the spine onto which we hang the head, legs, ribs and tail of our story.
Leading us through a simple three-act structure we learnt the role of each Act, the proportion of the story of each act and what should be included in each act and when.
By following the three-act structure we learnt how to;
Of course, the part we were all waiting for was how to apply this to our own work. It seems to be widely accepted that the humble corkboard is the most flexible option. Tyrion suggested that first we write down the events in our story and our character arc using the following structure list.
Tyrion says ‘While you’re finding these (events), ask yourself: Can you make any of these bigger, more interesting, and with higher stakes? These plot points define your story. If they’re not big and impressive, your story won’t be either.’
When the sheet is completed, grab your corkboard, cards, sticky notes, coloured pins and pens (or purchase Scrivener). Write your scenes on different cards. Lay them down and shuffle them about to work out which order flows best.
When you have the cards in the right order you may want to rewrite the scenes onto different colour cards to show different subplots, characters etc.
Use your structure list (above) and coloured pins and post-it notes to signal the structure points and chapters. Then bring it all together with transition scenes. Tyrion suggests working out the plot points in your favourite novels for practice.
I came away from this workshop with renewed energy for my writing. I know that I need to brainstorm and outline my story. Then plot my story using the three act structure. From there I will be able to write the story according to the (often limited) time I have.
Following this structure will give me a sense of direction and should cut down the number of rewrites. Even a pantser can benefit from using structure to iron out any problems after the first draft.
Tyrion finished by saying ‘All of these methods are open to things changing as you write but they lay a solid foundation so you know where you are going’.
I know where I’m going! Off to the shops for a corkboard, sticky notes, pins …
Report by Lucy McGinley
Lucy lives in a house where dinosaurs roam the bathroom, chess pieces invade the dinner table and bikes, tennis racquets and AFL balls fill the boot of her car. Words wrap around her like possums clinging to telecom lines, plop onto pages steadily like koala droppings and dart into the grass like blue tongue lizards! She spends her days captivating kindergarten children and her afternoons marvelling over bird’s feathers, seedpods and occasionally snake skins, with her son.
Lucy blogs on lucymcginley.wordpress.com and followthatchild.wordpress.com
Gold Coast author Kerry Brown inspired Write Links members with a hands-on Picture Book Workshop.
Kerry showed us the perfect ingredients and method to create a successful picture book.
During this workshop, Kerry shared her basic ‘Vanilla Cake’ recipe needed to write a picture book, along with personal tips and insights to create a unique ‘Masterchef’ creation.
With this recipe, Kerry Brown created her own picture books: Poppy Wash, Can I cuddle the Moon, All my Kisses and Lest we Forget.
Basic Vanilla Cake Picture Book Recipe
Combine with a cohesive thread or theme throughout.
SUPER DUPER Triple Layer Cake
Bake in the oven till picture book connects with the author, the reader and the world.
Post by Karen Tyrrell, Photos by Yvonne Mes
Karen Tyrrell writes empowering books to help kids live STRONG through humour and self-belief. She’s an experienced Brisbane school teacher, Gifted & Talented teacher and key note speaker. She’s a passionate writing workshop presenter and interactive story teller wearing fun costumes. Her acclaimed books Song Bird Superhero (Song Bird 1), STOP the Bully, Bailey Beats the Blah, Harry Helps Grandpa Remember, and Super Space Kids series ignite imagination and positive self-esteem. Karen has won 3 awards, 3 literary grants and a mentorship through the Society of Editors (QLD) www.karentyrrell.com
Presentation by Rebecca Sheraton and Alison Stegert
Article by Write Links member Kate Shapcott, photos by Yvonne Mes
Kate is an Early Childhood Teacher who likes playing around with picture books. Kate’s dream is to be snapped up by a well connected and astute agent who has fallen in love with Kate’s fabulous suite of picture book manuscripts.
Surrounded by the energetic chatter of Write Links members, we sat in anticipation of our latest professional development workshop, ‘Character Development and Tension’, presented by Richard Newsome.
Richard, a well respected author, with a love of gems such as the 'Six Million Dollar Man' and 'Dr Seuss', is also the inaugural winner of the Text Prize for Young Adult and Children's Writing and a seasoned traveller. With a background in journalism, Richard is the creative genius of ‘The Billionaire Series ’ a wonderfully crafted adventure and murder mystery with a trickle of complex characters, pitched at readers 9 to 13 years.
Richard took us through a kaleidoscope of character development and gave us an insight into his own mastery of character building. I was captivated by the importance of the ‘casting couch’ where he emphasised the importance of auditioning characters, considering the depth of complexity and believable profiling through true characterisation (characters are true when they act as if no one else is watching). Richard's acknowledgement of the importance of this in relation to picture books, got a thumbs up from me!
We laughed at his apt use of short films, to demonstrate how character development can influence the dynamics of storylines. And the importance of turning away from developing ‘stereotypical’ characters to ‘types’ of characters. It helped to generate our thought juices to think outside the box of our protagonists and antagonists through purposeful writing. Do we really need characters that don’t bring purpose to the story-line? No? – Delete! (though well-crafted sidekicks can stay).
I was never great at maths at school but when Richard gave us a breakdown on the importance of developing character relationships; maths took on a whole new meaning.
Richard mixed equation with complexity of relationship development between characters. The simple formula – when introducing relationships, like in his ‘Billionaire series’ where he created three main characters, if we add one character, this expands to six complex relationships, add one more and you have ten complex relationships to consider, etc. 'Ouch my maths head is aching!', but the potential for interaction between your characters is dialogue heaven.
Richard’s showcase of character techniques didn’t disappoint either, again sharing his insights of characterisation and developing plot. Here he took us through explicit (characterisation, narration) and implicit (describing how characters act and speak) referencing a number of great books including those by Jane Austen and Roald Dahl. The room was soaking up the array of different character introduction building techniques to draw the reader in.
Scattered through the workshop were opportunities for us to explore how to develop character profiles of our own, which I found really awesome (I also drew on some creative treasures from my neighbour Lyn). It stretched my thinking and drew out the importance of injecting and invigorating a character into life. Would my character be flat? (not complex, predictable) Or would it be round? (very complex, have aspirations, desires) . I ended up creating my rounded character 'Mystic Molly'.
I liked this hands-on workshop, it cemented the importance of how dialogue links to the dynamics of characters, especially about: not what is SAID, but what is MEANT.
I was unsure if Richard’s presentation was going to add value for me as a picture book wannabe, but I’m really glad that I came along for the ride. Richard’s knowledge of character development and tension was engaging. I have popped away some absolute gems from this workshop.
Oh, and before I forget, one of my new mantra’s for 2017 is: ‘Have you read it? It’s an insanely good book.’ I am sure to say I'll be able to say that about Richard Newcome’s next creative adventure.
For more information about Richard Newsome: www.richardnewsome.com
Contribution by Barbara Sheehy - Barbara Sheehy is an aspiring children’s author based in Brisbane Queensland. Barbara is a member of Book Links QLD (Inc), Write Links and Children’s Book Council of Australia (QLD). Attending Dr Virginia Lowe’s ‘Create a Kids’ book workshop and assessment course in 2011, volunteering for CYA’s Africa Books project, attending Write Links critique groups and creative contribution to 2016 ‘The Big Draw’ has continued Barbara’s development in children’s literature. Barbara also writes monthly blogs for the recruitment industry focusing on career advice and professional development and has been featured on Diversity City Careers (DCC) and Origin Energy’s Origin Foundation supporting children and youth through corporate partnerships.
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