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.