So it seems I’ve fallen off the blogging wagon. Considering it’s been over a month since I’ve posted, I suppose you could even say I was catapulted from the rickety wagon. In fact it feels a little like I crashed the darn thing. Life has been a bit hectic of late, both within my work and personal life. But I wont patronise you with excuses – instead I’ll offer up a (hopefully) placating summary of my last month:
- Worked on final edits of Squish Rabbit, who is about to hop off to the printers
- Embarked on an interstate move from cold and rainy Adelaide to cold and rainy Brisbane (why do I always take the weather with me?)
- Volunteered at Brisbane’s CYA conference – for a more eloquent summary of the day than I could write, go visit Kathleen Noud
- QWC featured Squish on the cover of their Writing Queensland magazine – you can download a desktop version of the image here
- Attended Australia/NZs international SCBWI conference in Sydney (and got a little merry with all the lovely children’s writers/illustrators and publishers) – visit Chris Cheng’s blog for a great summary
- Featured as guest blogger on Katrina Germain’s blog for a father’s day special in celebration of her delightful new picture book ‘My Dad Thinks He’s Funny‘
- Missed out on weeks worth of sleep and then struggled in vain to catch up
There’s my attempt to resurrect the wagon of my blog. So am I forgiven?
Published June 15, 2010
Tags: baking, books, Characterisation, characters, dougnuts, first drafts, Ideas, Plotting, Writing, writing for children
Ideas are wonderful and wily things. We chase them around, trying to catch their tails so we can pull them to us and write them down – capture them on the page. Creating a new story involves not just one idea, but many. Hundreds (if not thousands) of them must be woven together seamlessly to create the many-coloured threads of a novel.
I’ve discussed before that ideas don’t just pop into existence fully formed, but must be cultivated over a long period of time. Some people let them come together naturally in their mind. Some people do writing exercises to draw them out. Today I decided to bake them into existence.
Many of you may recall that baking is often a bad sign for me – a clear indicator that I’m having a bad day and need cheering up – but not today. For me, ideas best come together when my body is engaged in an activity but my mind is left free to wander. I find if I pose myself a question at the beginning of the task, by the end it tends to be answered. So…
- The Challenge: To create lemon and ricotta baked doughnuts (with the help of my new lipstick-red Kitchen Aid)
- The Goal: To get to know several of my characters better (I’m working on a young adult urban fantasy, and have two ‘bad guys’ that I know in name alone)
I thought I’d share with you the recipe I followed for my idea chasing:
- While I combined the batter ingredients, I considered what I already knew about my two bad guys
- While I kneaded the dough, I realised one wasn’t a guy at all and readjusted my thoughts on her (a sex change takes a while to get your head around)
- While I creamed the ricotta and lemon filling, I considered what they wanted in life and the motivations that could drive them through the story
- While I cut out the dough rounds and stuffed them with filling, I wondered about their childhoods and how their experiences had shaped them as people
- While I watched the dough rise and brown in the oven, I considered the consequences of their choices and how they would carry the weight of them
- And finally, while I dipped the cooked batter in butter and rolled them in lemon sugar, I realised these two characters were more interconnected than I’d initially realised
And the outcome of all this baking and thinking? I came away with:
- Two nuanced characters that I’ve discovered I actually care about (bad bits and all)
- An appreciation for bought doughnuts (this recipe took me a good part of the day)
- A happy but very full stomach
Care to join me in a sticky lemon doughnut?
I’ve been lucky enough to have had Kate Forsyth visiting this blog for the last few days, sharing valuable insights into how she plots her novels. Although she wasn’t just stopping by for a casual chat about craft. She’s been touring the blogosphere with her latest novel, The Wildkin’s Curse (a companion novel to The Starthorn Tree).
Just last night I finished reading it, and I give you this warning: don’t read it in bed. If you do you’ll never get to sleep due to it’s un-put-downable nature. *Yawn*. Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
The back copy reads:
Zedrin is a starkin lord and heir to the Castle of Estelliana. Merry is a hearthkin boy, the son of the rebel leader. Liliana is a wilkin girl, with uncanny magical powers.
They must journey on a secret mission to rescue a wildkin princess from her imprisonment in a crystal tower.
Princess Rozalina has the power to encahnt with words – she can conjure up a plague of rats or wish the dead out of their graves. When she casts a curse, it has such power it will change her world forever.
Set in a world of monsters and magical creatures, valiant heroes and wicked villains, The Wildkin’s Curse is a tale of high adventure and true love.
There is a reason Kate has been named the queen of Australian fantasy. She creates such vivid and compelling worlds, and expertly weaves words together to form a glorious tapestry of a story. I haven’t read a classic fantasy in while, but this book reminded me exactly why I fell in love with the genre as a young reader. Kate’s early works helped shape me as an adolescent, and I know this book will do the same for others. It’s an adventure that engages the heart and mind. A tale of three lives intertwined that is both subtle and complex.
I have just slotted the book into my crammed bookshelf, in one of the precious rare spaces I carved out for it on an eye-level shelf. And there doesn’t come a greater recommendation than that…
by Kate Forsyth
The Forsyth Triangle
I have developed a diagram to help my writing students understand the basic narrative arc of stories and I’m going to share it with you all today – though if you are going to share it with anyone else please make sure you credit me!
It is based on Freytag’s Triangle, developed by the German dramatist Gustav Freytag who studied Aristotle’s Poetics. Freytag divided a drama into five parts which he named:
Exposition – Rising Action – Climax – Falling Action – Denouement
I have combined his theories with the idea of a three-act structure often used by playwrights and screenwriters.
- Exposition – background information – characters, scene, & situation – a scene that shows the normal life of the protagonist
- Inciting Incident – the catalyst that begins the major conflict – a problem or complication to be solved – the point at which normal life is changed
- Rising Action – a series of conflicts and crises – obstacles to overcome, ordeals to undergo, lessons to be learnt, revelations to be understood
- Crisis – a crucial or decisive moment in the story that has a powerful effect on the protagonist – a turning point
- Midpoint Reversal - the middle of the story, where it seems all is lost and the hero cannot go on – it often marks a movement from one place to another, whether physical, spiritual or emotional
- Climax – the turning point of the action, when tension reaches its height. The point in which the hero must not only face – and defeat – his enemy, but also his greatest fear
- Resolution – the final stage, where questions are answered and problems solved
- Falling Action - the action following the climax that moves the story towards its end – it is usually much shorter than the previous series of events
- Denouement – comes from the old French, and means to ‘untie the knot’. The final scene when all is well – ‘the feast scene’
Understanding the basic narrative arc of a story can help you make sure your story does not sag in the middle, fizzle out at the end or drone on for too long at the beginning (the most common mistakes I see in manuscripts!)