Isobelle Carmody, the acclaimed writer of science fiction, fantasy, children’s and young adult literature, presented an insightful workshop on authentic characters: voice, diversity and character arcs during Brisbane Writelinks Minifest on 11 August 2018.
She emphasised that the most important aspect of a novel, particularly in the young adult genre, is character. A story needs to encapsulate a central idea or question and the protagonist is used as the vessel to carry this idea or question. Isobelle revealed three important questions she often asks which helps to form her unique characters:
• Why do people do the things they do?
• Why do we act in such extreme ways?
• Where do these actions come from?
The seeds for the above are planted during adolescence which is why Isobelle is so drawn to characters in this age group. We, as human beings, react and make choices and take on persona’s to the outside world and so must our characters.
“The first journey for an author is the journey inwards.” For Isobelle Carmody, this is how original and authentic characters and storytelling are created. It is not a projection outwards but a journey about the self and of self-discovery.
Isobelle revealed that she draws inspiration for characters from certain aspects of people she knows. She mines these aspects which allows her to ground her characters in a sense of realism even when her story takes on fantastical elements.
Isobelle, during her presentation, also stressed that setting is a character. For her first published novel, Obernewtyn, she formed the post-apocalyptic setting as a mirror for her grief and dark feelings at the time. Sadly, she lost her father during this time and she imbued her story and her characters with this sense of grief, malaise and darkness.
In the second half of the presentation, Isobelle passed around a series of photos. Each person took a photo and was asked do the following writing exercises, as a stream of consciousness:
• What is the person in the photo thinking?
• What do I believe in i.e. what are my values?
• What does the person in the photo believe?
• What would my “opposite” self believe?
• Place your “opposite” in a scenario where he/she is beside a pond. What does he/she hear, feel, smell, see etc. It rains. What does the opposite do? The “opposite” meets the person in the photo. What is the “opposite’s” reaction?
By practically exploring different characters through a journey “inwards”, we learned how to construct aspects of authentic characters and create authentic voice. Isobelle asked everyone in the workshop to read out their stream of consciousness and we were able to hear how many different aspects of character and voice were created from the same set of exercises.
In summary, Isobelle Carmody believes that the creation of authentic characters is achieved via the journey inwards, by asking a key question or exploring an idea and by experimentation.
“Creating character is alchemy.”
here to edit.
Shaun has always loved stories, whether on the page or up there on the screen. A genre fiction nut - he loves sci-fi and horror but his first and abiding love is fantasy, particularly urban fantasy.
Shaun loves to write stories aimed at Young Adult readers whilst also being drawn to write for a New Adult audience - characters over 18 but under 25. His publishing goal is to give voice to diverse characters and to create authentic stories he's yearned to read his whole life.
Shaun is currently studying for his Masters in Creative Writing at UQ.
Shaun recently was shortlisted for the 2018 CYA Competition - Young Adult Section for his novelette: Hamelin.
A lot of teachers are members of Write Links and other writing groups. Their career has obviously been helpful as they know their audience. How has your career influenced your writing?
The jobs I've done in the past have been a big influence when it comes to my author path and my writing. I actually think that everything I did before I became an author was setting me up for this career, and is a massive help now.
For example, I worked in publishing, for Pan Macmillan and for Taltrade Books (now called Hardie Grant Gift). At Pan Macmillan, I was initially a publishing assistant, working for the Publishing Director, two different publishers, and the Production Supervisor. I worked on editorial tasks; chatted with authors; learnt about how print runs and reprints are decided; interacted with the sales, graphic design, marketing and publicity teams; and just generally learnt about how books are commissioned and published. Later, as a sales rep, I got to see how things worked on the other side of things, for bookshops and department and discount stores. After that, as a sales rep for Taltrade Books, I repped into non-bookstore outlets, such as gift shops, clothing stores, toy shops, chemists, hospitals, nurseries etc., and learned how books also get sold in non-traditional ways.
During my career I worked in marketing and PR roles, too, which taught me about how to work with journalists, plan and host events, create marketing materials, and research relevant media outlets. For five years I also ran my own online gift store. During this time I learned about setting up websites, search engine optimisation, online advertising, selling online etc. I also did a lot of writing and marketing, including pitching to journalists to get press placements.
My career has also included stints spent working in chain, independent, and second-hand bookstores. Plus, for the past five years I've been a full-time freelance writer, creating content for companies around the world.
All of this experience has had an impact on my author journey, as you can imagine. It effects both how I go about writing, and what I choose to write about. I think I come at things with a more business mindset than a lot of authors…which can be both a good thing and a bad thing!
Since you are so knowledgeable about the industry, do you ever have a battle between your heart and your head, over which way a story should develop?
Sometimes. Honestly, though, I pretty much think about how things will sell whenever I’m working on an idea or writing or editing a story. If I don’t think something has enough commercial appeal (in that it will be popular with both kids and adults, for a particular reason), I usually won’t spend time working on it further.
I have so many ideas, and not enough time to write, that I don’t have a problem with dropping things I don’t think will ever be published. Plus, as a freelance writer I’m very used to writing to someone else’s brief, and thinking about what others are looking for, rather than myself, so I think this makes it easy for me to be more objective.
Sometimes I wonder if I would be better off just writing purely from the heart (and I know a lot of authors recommend this), but I feel that facing commercial realities will help me to become a full-time author sooner than if I didn’t.
Someone else, with very different goals, will probably look at the writing process in a very different way, though. We all have an individual path to take, so I think it’s important to be aware of what yours is, and follow it. An approach that’s natural and works for me won’t be suitable for someone else, and vice versa.
Is your freelance writing work for children?
Most of my freelance writing work over the years has been corporate, so writing for businesses and individuals for a professional reason. However, I have done some freelance work that has been specifically for children, whether for a potential TV show, as part of a marketing campaign for a children’s product, or for apps and stories and the like. I hope to increase the amount of freelance work that is specifically kidlit related as time goes on.
Has your experience prepared you for being on the other side of the slush pile when you are sending your work in?
Definitely! I understand how publishers and bookshops (and other sales outlets) work, and what kinds of things they're looking for, plus I have an idea of how to pitch a story and what things to focus on. I’m aware of how important marketability and being commercial is, and I don't take rejections too personally because I understand all the steps involved.
During my career I always felt like I was searching for something, and not quite fitting in or finding exactly what I was after. I’d also been interested in being a writer but, to be honest, after working in publishing I saw just how hard it is to become a full-time author, and this put me off writing for around a decade.
Looking back now, though, I think everything I did over the years in my career prepared me to become an author now. I spent close to 20 years getting ready, lol! I don’t think I would have been ready earlier, and even though it took me a long time to start actually believing in myself enough to write my own books and put myself “out there”, once I did things moved along reasonably quickly.
I think the more aspiring authors can learn about the publishing industry and all the facets that are involved in being an author besides writing (that is, the business side of things), the easier their journey will be.
In your recently published picture book, the Cloud Conductor, the main character, Frankie, is very optimistic, despite her circumstances. Do you call on some of this optimism to deal with rejections and other complications in the journey to get your current works published?
Yes, for sure. I like to think I'm an optimistic person in general. I have worked hard to hone this trait in myself. I think, naturally, I can be quite melancholy at times, but I've learned how to take care of myself better, and how to handle down times and challenges more effectively than I used to. Truth be told, I actually probably spent more time working on my mindset before I picked up a pen to write a manuscript, then I have on the words and ideas themselves.
I think you have to build up your confidence, self-esteem, and resilience if you want to become an author, because there are always plenty of rejections to handle along the way. I was fortunate in that my first book contract happened quickly, but since then, I've had plenty of rejections, disappointments and other challenges to cope with.
If I hadn't worked on myself beforehand, I think I would have given up on certain manuscripts, and perhaps not even kept working on new ideas and stories either. Happily, I've found the confidence to try new styles, formats and techniques, writing wise. I wouldn't have done this if I didn't have ways of reminding myself that it's okay to "fail" as I go along.
ieanielle Freeland recently reviewed Cloud Conductor on Story Links https://storylinksau.com/2018/06/27/cloud-conductor/ and had some questions to ask Kellie.
What was your motivation behind writing Cloud Conductor?
Cloud Conductor was the first real idea I ever had for a picture book. It came about from reading an article about a sick child. It immediately hit me how hard it must be for kids who are unwell and who can’t do the things they normally love. From here, I thought about how their imagination would be one of the best things they could use to cope with this challenge.
I know how important creativity is to me, and how the imagination can help with tough times, so I thought this would be a good topic to address in a picture book. Kids need to be encouraged to see their imagination as a wonderful thing, not a bad thing!
I think we live in a society where, in general, a lot more focus is put on supposedly practical subjects and practices; creativity is often looked down upon. Kids often come out of school having lost a lot of that wonderful imagination they had when they were little, which is so sad.
But the fact is: creativity is a very important tool. It has been proven to help with both our physical and mental health, plus of course it aids us to solve problems in life and at work, and much more. I’m loving the fact that with Cloud Conductor I can spread the message to children (and hopefully remind adults, too) that the imagination is a gift to cherish.
Frankie doesn't appear to get better in the book. Is Frankie terminally ill?
Well, that’s a matter of opinion! Different people see this differently after reading the book. It was purposely left up to the reader to decide. I know how I originally saw this story in my head, but I’m not going to talk about it here, as I think it’s good for each reader to interpret things in the way that works for them.
What were you most hoping to achieve in sharing Frankie's journey?
A big goal for this book was, as mentioned above, showcasing how wonderful the imagination is. I also hope the book can be a source of hope, inspiration, and entertainment for sick children. In addition, I think the story can serve as a prompt for discussions in schools, libraries, and at home for all children about topics and themes such as illness, empathy, resilience, supporting others, mindfulness, the seasons, and much more. From the feedback I have received so far, I think my hopes are being turned into reality, which is wonderful!
Interview by Lucy McGinley https://www.brisbanewritelinks.com/lucy-mcginley.html
Write Links Meeting 29 June 2018
Blog by Tyrion Perkins
Rainforest Writing Retreat
Each year a large group of authors head for the Scenic Rim hills, to stay at O’Reilly’s and top up their writing skills, while immersed in the beautiful rainforest environment. Some love it so much they attend every year. Charmaine Clancy created it five years ago, so she could go, and it has been running each May ever since.
She showed us photos from 2018’s retreat which included talks by Kylie Chan, Brian Faulkner, and Founder of Book Cover Café, Anthony Puttee. Queenie Chan gave a workshop on graphic novels, and Robert D Gennari showed how to fight and write about it. Kaz Delaney acted as a mentor to attendees, and we drooled at the food baked by another Write Links member, Christine Titheradge.
Charmaine reported that they have now set it up as a non-profit organisation, and created a Facebook group for everyone who has attended in the past. She is also working on publishing an annual anthology. As a past attendee I can highly recommend it.
Go to http://www.rainforestwritingretreat.com for more information.
Write Links Meeting 29 June 2018
Blog by Tyrion Perkins
Social Media Marketing Plan
Ian Morrison, who has qualifications in this area, gave a presentation on Instagram and how Write Links members can use our new account.
He explained what it is: Blogging, but mainly visual. You post a photo or image and a few words of text and it goes out to any followers who can like it or re-post it to their followers. Unlike Facebook, it is one-way, so it is mostly about selling yourself. Celebrities and entertainers often use it for this end. In statistics of users, young people dominate.
Ian proposed three types of posts:
1. Group and event photos
2. Author profiles
3. Quotes/inspirations words
For the author profiles, he wants photos of you in your natural environment doing writing, or whatever you do that is related. Fun and quirky is good, such as sitting at a desk in a field or up on a roof. Something that will give the flavour of what you are about, but also get noticed. Also, a photo of your book cover.
You can’t upload photos from your computer because Instagram was created for smart phones or tablets. But for the Write Links account, members can send a photo to Ian via a special Drop Box folder and he will put it up for us. If you want to add text, you will have to send a text to his phone. You will need to download the Insta Square app to add your own account details onto the photo before sending.
The instructions for our Instagram account will be in the Drop Box. If you are part of Write Links and you haven’t yet been sent the link, message Write Links Facebook page.
Join award winning and multi-published children's and YA authors and illustrators Peter Carnavas, Isobelle Carmody and Dave Lowe for a day of master classes on Saturday the 11th of August at the State Library on South Bank.
Learn from these talented authors and illustrators, get your questions answered and your books signed.
These master classes will be especially of interest to emerging and experienced children's and YA writers, but newbies and lovers of children's literature are also welcome.
Planned by authors for authors, Write Links members and YA and Children's Book Authors Hayley Jackson and Charlotte Barkla with assistance of children's author and illustrator and Write Links Coordinator Yvonne Mes have been planning this amazing event and they know just what you are looking for!
They have aimed to give you a well-rounded day which looks at everything from picture books to writing for Young Adults and to go beyond the basics.
The presenters have been selected based on their engaging and informative presentation styles and their expertise in their areas.
This event would not be possible without the support from Book Links.
7.45am - Registration and Networking
8.15am - Welcome
8.30 am- 10.30am Peter Carnavas, Picture Book and Junior Fiction Author and Illustrator talks about picture book writing and illustrating.
Morning Tea and Book Signing
11am - 1pm Isobelle Carmody, YA and Children's Writer will look at developing an authentic voice across a novel, creating diverse characters and developing strong character arcs.
Lunch and Book Signing
2.30pm - 4.30pm Dave Lowe, Junior Novel Author will focus on instilling humour into your story and structuring your junior fiction novel.
Please note that morning tea and lunch are not included. You can purchase food and drinks from the Bookshop Cafe and Whale Mall Cafe.
Book signings will take place in the Library Bookshop across from Room 1B.
Full Day $60.00 for Book Links/ Write Links Members and students
Full Day $80.00 non members
Room 1B, State Library of Queensland
Stanley Place, South Brisbane, Qld 4101
Peter creates picture books for children and grown-ups to enjoy. He writes simple yet poignant tales, accompanied by whimsical illustrations, which combine to create layers of meaning for the reader. His books include Jessica's Box, Last Tree in the City, The Great Expedition and his latest picture book, The Children Who Loved Books, a warm and moving celebration of books and the ways in which they bring us together. He has also collaborated with Pat Flynn on My Totally Awesome Story, an action-packed comedy that manages to make kids laugh and learn how to write stories at the same time.
Peter's presentations involve cartooning, storytelling tips, illustration techniques, hands-on fun and lots of audience participation. With a background in primary school teaching, Peter has a natural rapport with children and loves showing them how they can create stories and illustrations themselves.
Peter's work has been nominated for many awards, including the Queensland Premier's Literary Award, The Children's Book Council of Australia Crichton Award and Speech Pathology Australia's Book of the Year Award. His books have been translated into many languages.
Peter was honoured to be a National Year of Reading Ambassador in 2012 and continues his role as a Love2Read National Ambassador in 2013.
Isobelle Carmody is one of Australia's most highly acclaimed authors of fantasy. At fourteen, she began Obernewtyn, the first book in her much-loved Obernewtyn Chronicles, and has since written many works in this genre. Her novel The Gathering was joint winner of the 1993 Children's Literature Peace Prize and the 1994 CBCA Book of the Year Award, and Greylands was joint winner of the 1997 Aurealis Award for Excellence in Speculative Fiction (Young Adult category), and was named a White Raven at the 1998 Bologna Children's Book Fair.
Isobelle's work for younger readers includes her two series, The Legend of Little Fur, and The Kingdom of the Lost, the first book of which, The Red Wind, won the CBCA Book of the Year Award for Younger Readers in 2011. She has also written several picture books as well as collections of short stories for children, young adults and adults.
Dave is a Brisbane-based author of twelve acclaimed books aimed at children between 7 and 11.
The ‘Stinky and Jinks’ books, illustrated by Mark Chambers, follow the exciting adventures of a boy and his genius hamster. The first book, My Hamster is a Genius, was highly commended at the prestigious Sheffield Book Awards in the UK in 2013 (second only to Tom Gates) and the series (six books) has already been translated into six languages, and has sold over 100,000 copies worldwide.
Dave is also the author of two ‘Squirrel Boy’ books, illustrated by Cate James, about a new kind of superhero, and his 73 year-old sidekick, Mrs Onions. The first book, Squirrel Boy vs The Bogeyman, won a Lancashire Fantastic Book award in 2016. Winner of Teach Primary Book Award 2018 - UK
What are you waiting for? Book your ticket now!
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.