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All posts for the month August, 2012

Writing – How do you choose a setting?

Published August 21, 2012 by loonyliterature

 

 

English: Enid Blyton's former house "Old ...

English: Enid Blyton’s former house “Old Thatch” near Bourne End, Buckinghamshire, England (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

At the moment, I am writing a free in between story for our willblyton.com website.  It is called” Will Blyton and The Maggoty Motleys” and I’m being either brave or stupid as the work in progress is being posted.  The Will Blyton books are aimed at 9-12 year olds and explore time travel and will be introducing William Shakespeare and his plays in the books and free stories.

 

The setting for Will Blyton and The Maggoty Motleys is a children’s literary festival in 2006.  This probably seems like a strange place to set a children’s story but around that time my family were going to a lot of children’s literary festivals and seeing a very mixed bag of children’s writers. This was one of the reasons I felt the urge to set a children’s story at a fictional festival.  Seeing such a range of different approaches is truly entertaining and the festivals are worth attending if it is just for that and nothing else.

 

Some of the writers embrace the idea of talking about their books as if they secretly wanted to be rock stars but it never happened.  Others dress elegantly but timidly tell of how they were told that they were a children’s writer and not a science fiction writer.  The variation is endless but I must not forget the ones who made me want to rush for the nearest exit as I wondered if it was the effort of their writing which had left the lifeless slugs drawling before me.  Forgive me for sounding wicked with the last lot but you try sitting through a session with one of them and I bet you could teach me a thing or two on evil thoughts.

 

The second reason I wanted to write a story set at a fictional festival is that I have seen the effect literary festivals have on children and their reading.  My teenage son told me recently that he believes that going to literary festivals when younger definitely spurred him on to read more.  More than that, however, I have seen and heard the excitement of children wriggling in their seats whilst they wait for a favourite author to take the chair on the stage.  The atmosphere buzzes and the air is filled with energy – yes we are talking about author appearances not football stadiums or rock concerts.  Unfortunately, only a small percentage of children get to them because not enough parents and teachers realise what excellent value for money they are – going to children’s literary festivals is not a very well-known activity, more so in certain areas than others.  It seemed then to be a good idea to set a story at a festival and hopefully it might put the idea of going to a festival to the actual children themselves.

 

This only leaves me to ask “how do you choose your settings?  Is it a desire to be in a certain time and place, something which echoes theme and plot or do you choose settings because you think they are popular with readers and will sell more books?  I would love to know your thoughts.

 

Things To Do – Writing by pretending to be a 14th century monk.

Published August 4, 2012 by loonyliterature

The wind tosses the waves about across the road.  If I stand to one side of the window, I can see the Floating Wreck Lighthouse which The Thunderous Mother runs as a museum in the summer months.  A force of electricity flashes behind the lighthouse in the shape of a fork, this eerily lights the white building up.  The huge waves slap angrily against the sea wall and the rain lashes down non-stop onto the pavements. 

I give my specs another quick clean on the bottom of my jumper and put them back on.  Standing under the yellow street light is a monk with his hood up; he goes down onto his knees and starts to pray.  The rain falls heavier as if whipping the ground but the monk does not seem to notice it. 

I open the window and stick my head out as far as it will go.  The window creaks open and the monk stops praying.  As he looks up at me, the rain hits his face.  His lips are cracked and thin under the street light.  He stares at me so strongly that my stomach churns; I can only imagine the rest of his face and I back away.

(page 14 Will Blyton and The Stinking Shadow)

When two worlds meet! Oh dear, it doesn’t quite always go to plan.

 

Hamnet has mistakenly conjured up a 14th century monk and brought him to 1970s Groaningsea.  Problems or conflict, as it is often called, is what pushes the plot along.  A great way to cause conflict is to put a character into a situation she or he is not comfortable with.  In this case, we have got a character thrown into an utterly strange world.  In the book “Will Blyton and The Stinking Shadow”, we can read how Will copes with discovering the monk is standing outside his home but we do not find out how the monk feels at that point in time. 

As an exercise to get that writing muscle flexing – why don’t you imagine that you are the boy monk, Thadeus and suddenly you are in this strange world? 

What do you see? 

What do you hear? 

What can you smell? 

What does this world feel like to touch? 

How does all this make Thadeus feel? Is he afraid or excited?

Remember, Thadeus will not recognise many of the things he encounters so he has to make sense of it by comparing it to what he knows.  Try to imagine how it feels to be Thadeus and then write a few paragraphs – you never know, once you get started, you might not be able to stop.  You could end up having a full story. 

Happy writing!

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