time travel

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Writing For Kids – Three Easy Steps to Help Kids Create Characters.

Published November 1, 2012 by loonyliterature

 

 

I see so many people who remind me of animals and I don’t mean that in a nasty way as I am a great animal lover, what I mean is if people remind us of animals in reality, why not get children to use animals as a way of helping them create characters when they write stories, act sketches or make their own comic books?   Using these three easy steps, we can give children the confidence to realise that they too can create story people.

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 Step One

 

This fun step shows children how people can actually remind us of animals and how  it actually works so that they get a full understanding of what we are trying to achieve.  I have given you  a choice of three different ways of doing this, you only need to pick the way which appeals to you the most   a) out in the field,  b )the internet or books   c) my chosen examples which are below.

 

a) Out in the  Field

 

For brave adults only, we have to play at being spies – we have to act as if we are invisible so that no-one will know what we are doing.  Sitting in busy places with a notebook offers up a glut of possibilities – train stations, bus stations, shopping centres and city centres have benches to sit upon with a notebook perched upon the knee.  The child has to remember  to keep quiet about their findings, notes can only be swapped later when safely away from the ears of the people we have written about. 

 

 b) The Internet or Books.

 

For the more sensible who don’t want to get chased by the dog walker or stressed out commuter , there is a treasure of photographs on the internet – Victorian ones tend to be very useful with all those whiskers, corsets and stern admonishing gazes.

 

 

 

c) Here are some ready made examples:

 

Boris Johnson

Is it a polar bear?

 

 Boris Johnson reminds me of a polar bear with his unruly blond mop, his big, clumsy body and his small, bear like eyes.

 

A male polar bear

A male polar bear (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

Winston Churchill.

Is it a bulldog?

 

Winston Churchill reminds me of a bulldog with his stocky body, very round face and matching round, bulging eyes.

bulldog

Meet our Winston.

 

 

Angelina Jolie

Is it a cat?

 

Angelina Jolie looks like a cat with her high cheekbones, almond shaped eyes and elegant body.

 

black cat face

Mildred or Angelina?

 

Ask the children to point out how the people in the photographs resemble specific animals.  This gives them the idea of how humans can remind us of creatures – doing this first exercise helps the children to get the hang of using animals to create human characters.  It helps them to see how it can work realistically.

 

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Step Two

 

Next, we need to  read how creating characters from animals works in a piece of fiction.  Below is an extract (page 21) from “Will Blyton and The Stinking Shadow” which demonstrates to the children how we can put animal or bird like humans into our own stories.  Ask the children to point out to you what parts of Ravensmite are actually like a raven.

 

 

 

extract from “Will Blyton and  The Stinking Shadow.”

 

I open the door and look out but there is no-one there.  The rain lashes down and a cold draught attacks my cheeks and then something appears.  

 

Standing on the path, by the front door is a tall, thin figure dressed in black.  One of his thigh length, leather boots rests on a stone gargoyle as he sharpens his curved fingernails on the back of a stone.   The nose is too large and hooked for the teenage boy he appears to be.  His coat is like bird’s feathers when they are wet and glistening.   He drops the stone and his hand disappears inside the feathered coat.  It emerges with a lump of something that I cannot identify but has a long, thin tail.   The boy crams the lump into his mouth and his tongue flicks out as he greedily gorges upon it.   He spits a small bone out, and sucks in the tail.   A harsh, watery belch follows and then he wipes his mouth with the back of his clawed hand. 

 

A hard lump lodges in my throat but I am drawn to the figure and the gargoyle as an invisible thread pulls me out into the cold rain.   The figure stops what he is doing and looks at me.   The large nose becomes a black dagger of a beak whilst the coat becomes feathers and the boots slicing talons.   It opens its weapon of a beak and caws.  Black, beady eyes glare directly at me.

 

“Watch out Blyton, Master Corpsehound has sent Ravensmite.”

 

The raven unfolds its large wingspan and flies at me.   A waft of air from its wings hits my face.   Its muscular legs shoot forward and its talons spread and point, ready to splice.   I beat it off with the pogo stick.  It veers over my head scraping my hair with its hook like talons.  I gasp as the claws scratch the side of my face.   My fingers automatically feel for the pain.  They are wet and sticky.  The raven disappears into the darkness. 

 

“Takest me back into thine abode for safety, Blyton, thou puppet.”  

 

Although I am shaking, I quickly put Hamnet into my pocket to muffle the sound of his shrill voice.  I bend down.  There is writing scraped out of the top of the gargoyle.  Before I read it, I look around for the raven, I shiver; it has gone for the time being.  The gargoyle says ‘How do we find the village?’  

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The idea of Ravensmite came from teenagers who dress in black from head to foot and even dye their hair the same colour.  They reminded me of the wonderful bird, the raven.  So this character was created by using the same exercise I am offering here.  From then on it was easy to create this shapeshifting boy as he had to have a large, beak like nose.  His nails had to be like a bird’s talons and as he was a menacing character I could use all the sharp parts of an actual raven to make him more so.

 

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Step Three

 

Once it is clear how it can work – choose an animal or bug or bird and take aspects of them which you can create a human character with.  It can be fun to use a family pet.  For instance, if I used Mildred, my sophisticated, black cat – she would  be a slim, elegant,  mysterious and beautiful character, probably a female spy.   I would take parts of her personality and put them into the character – for example, Mildred washes herself more than any other cat I have come across; she often forgets where she is going because she stops to have a wash so often.  My character then would be a spy who often got herself into trouble because of her obsessive need for cleanliness.  Mildred is also always falling off tables and chairs because when she sleeps she is completely floppy and she often rolls off things in her relaxed state.  So I would also have my spy as someone who is a bit dozy and falls asleep very easy.  As you can see, my character is already becoming quite interesting as the way she looks actually belies her personality – she is a spy but it would have to be a comic spy – I think she would get into too many scrapes to be a serious spy. 

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Main steps.

 

1) Find people or use the examples in this post to see how real people can remind us of animals..

 

2) Read the extract and discuss how a raven could be similar to a teenage boy.

 

3) Choose a specific animal and using parts of its physical appearance, create a physical appearance for a person.  Think about how these animals act e.g. bees are very busy and add personality traits to your character. 

 

 

 

At this point, the children will have created a character which they can use in a story, an acting sketch or even their own comic books.  They might not use the character straight away as the sub conscious needs to work out what to do with it.  However, I know the character will pop up in some future piece of creativity .  Have fun.

 

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.

 

How a Dead Man’s Hand Inspired Me!

Published July 11, 2012 by loonyliterature

“It doesn’t frighten me in this room.”  Bongo stands in front of the full blown photograph of Boris Death, the horror movie star, on the wall.  The room gives me the willies, but it’s private.  Bongo bends over to peer into the glass case which holds The Hand of Glory and stares at it.

It stinks!” He starts coughing as if he is going to vomit.

I remind him that it is a three hundred year old hand.

(page 34 – Will Blyton and The Stinking Shadow.)

 

When Bongo is overcome by the smell of the hand, the fictional character is actually reliving something which happened to me, which subsequently ends up in the book.

About six years ago, we decided to have a trip to Whitby, home of Saint Hilda’s Abbey and part inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula.  If you have never visited Whitby, it is an enchanting fishing village with a maze of alleyways and an atmosphere of ‘something is about to happen.’  Go at Hallowe’en weekend and you will think you have been transported onto a Gothic film set.  I will say no more on that point, as I believe, everyone should discover this event for themselves.

St Mary’s Church Graveyard – Oh those steps!

We decided to visit The Whitby Museum.  It is a most interesting place with wonderful curiosities to inspire any writer.  These include: a hangman’s locket; clogs worn by a school truant and spurs used in cock fights. 

Hangman’s Locket at Whitby Museum.

As we approached a large glass case, I became overpowered by the sweetest odour I have ever smelled.  It was a mixture of overwhelming sweetness mixed with the smell of musty furniture.  I thought I was going to be sick.  We peered into the glass case and saw a mummified, shrivelled hand. 

The Whitby Museum states:

“The mummified severed  human hand in Whitby Museum was discovered in the early twentieth century hidden on the wall of a thatched cottage in Castleton by a stonemason and local historian, Joseph Ford. He immediately identified it from popular stories of such objects as a “Hand of Glory”. It was given to Whitby Museum in 1935 and is the only alleged Hand known to survive.

There is interesting folklore behind the Hand of Glory.  Apparently, a Hand of Glory is supposed to be cut off a felon who is still hanging from the gallows and then the hand is pickled.  Somehow, this is supposed to give the hand magical properties.  Thieves would use the hands to help them do their jobs in that, if they entered a house with the hand, all the occupants would go into a deep sleep resembling a coma and be unable to awake until the burglars leave.  There are different versions of this story and can be found on The Whitby Museum website.

If the Hand of Glory had been lit, the householders would fall into a coma like sleep – Whitby Museum.

There were three other people with me in the museum and the smell came at varying degrees to us all – I was the only one who felt overpowered by it.  The only other time I have smelled a similar smell was in a holiday farmhouse we rented in France in the master bedroom.  The sickly sweet odour seemed to emerge from a locked cupboard in the bedroom.  We were supposed to stay there three weeks.  We left after a week of strange and unexplained happenings.  I will say no more – for now.

 

Ravensmite – bird or boy?

Published June 29, 2012 by loonyliterature

Ravensmite changed from a bird into a ghoulish looking boy before my eyes.

I rush to the window.   Ravensmite lands on the branch of a tree and caws loudly.   It is a full moon.  The outline of the large bird is easy to see.  Suddenly, its gimlet eyes spot something and it swoops.  It is the decayed corpse of a rabbit.  The huge hooked beak tears at the tendrils of flesh and maggots.  It gorges hungrily, the head shifting into a teenage boy wolfing at the feast of death upon the ground.   He licks the ground clean of blood and maggots.   After a final sniff around, it shifts fully back into a powerful, glistening raven again.

I took the light of the torch off the bird quickly as I could not believe what I was seeing.

How To Get Rid Of A Stinking Shadow!

Published June 25, 2012 by loonyliterature

“If you are staying Thadeus, you have to go through a rigorous bathroom etiquette as laid down by the law of The Thunderous Mother,”

“If you are staying Thadeus, you have to go through a rigorous bathroom etiquette as laid down by the law of The Thunderous Mother.”

Thadeus sits up excitedly.

“What is that master Will?”

“Oh you will enjoy it.”  I have my fingers crossed behind my back.  “Every modern day boy is absolutely mad for the rigorous bathroom etiquette.”  I suck my cheeks in to control myself.

“Wait here a minute.”

Thadeus smiles gladly.

“You are the best master ever.”

A glimmer of shame starts to creep up on me but then I think of the wind and the spit.  Being with Thadeus is like being thrown into gross weather conditions whilst indoors.

I nip into the bathroom, put the plug in the bath and turn the taps on.  Whilst the water runs, I peruse the torture chamber which is called the bathroom cabinet.   I look for a weapon, spy something which will be just right and then reach out for the antique tongue scraper.

Three years ago, The Thunderous Mother warned Dad that his breath was worse than all Bongo’s dogs combined.  Dad took the huff and bought the said tongue scraper from the antique shop.  He used it once, which is what Dad does with everything and then it got left in the cabinet.  It will do.

Next is a pumice stone which The Thunderous Mother bought Dad for his birthday.  Pumice stone, is a grey stone used to scrape the decaying feet of adults.

Finally, I seize upon a tub which has a picture of a face covered in mud.  The Thunderous Mother said that the face mask would make her look like a teenager.  She thought that the longer she left it on, the younger she would look.  It was not a happy moment when Dad had to use a chisel to remove it. 

The bath is ready.  The room is full of steam and I rub my hands together.  There is only one thing better than plotting on the bed and that is putting the plan into action.

Time Travelling Heroes – The Doctor from Doctor Who (part two)

Published June 13, 2012 by loonyliterature
Cover of "Doctor Who and the Monster of P...

Cover of Doctor Who and the Monster of Peladon

If you remember from last time, Hamnet (the Tudor boy trapped in the stone) is trying to get me back in time.  To be able to improve in our time travelling techniques, we are watching Doctor Who to pick up tips.  Last time, we had gone forward one week to April 1974.  Hamnet was insufferable.  He bragged on and on about what a time travelling magician he was – then it happened and to be honest the insult maker was lost for words.  I exaggerate; he was lost for words for a short time.

I am having problems here deciding whether to give you the news or not.  The genius inside me says that I should so that you will have something to look forward to.  Firstly, Doctor Who does not end when “The Monster of Peladon” finishes.  Hamnet took us forward in time to see “Planet of Spiders”.  It was whilst watching the last episode of “Planet of Spiders” on June 8th, 1974 that Hamnet got the shock of his life.

This image is a promotional picture from Docto...

This image is a promotional picture from Doctor Who Magazine, intended for use in the article “Sarah Jane Smith” to visually aid and provide critical commentary in describing the subject of the article. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I expect you are wondering what happened on June 8th 1974 to shock Hamnet so much.  We saw The Doctor die.  He had been fatally affected by Metebelis Crystals.  Hamnet was in such a state.  He had thought The Doctor could teach him to get back to his own time.  He was sitting there sobbing in his stone prison whilst Sarah Jane Smith sobbed on the television;  then something else happened.  I had heard about this happening before but as I had not seen it myself, I didn’t want to give Hamnet false hopes.  It is called Regeneration.  Hamnet and I watched as The Doctor changed into what looked like another person.  It was still The Doctor but he looked totally different.  Hamnet now believes that The Doctor is a far more powerful magician than Corpsehound.  He is sure that if he watches The Doctor for long enough, he will discover all his secrets. Hamnet is positive that by learning from The Doctor, he will be able to fight Master Corpsehound and release himself from the stone.  Only time will tell.  Meanwhile, if anyone knows how to improve Hamnet’s time travelling skills into the past please comment at willblyton.com

The Fourth Doctor's impractically long scarf b...

The Fourth Doctor’s impractically long scarf became an iconic image of the character. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Time Travelling Heroes – The Doctor from Doctor Who (part one)

Published June 5, 2012 by loonyliterature
Robert the Bruce

Robert the Bruce (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In Will Blyton and The Stinking Shadow, I tried to get Hamnet, the Tudor boy magician  who is trapped in the stone, to send me back to the 14th century, so that I could get Robert the Bruce to teach me how to be a warrior.  It turned out that Hamnet sometimes gets things wrong and instead brought a 14th century monk to me.  After getting me into all sorts of trouble we did manage to send the monk back in time.  Yes, we really do dabble in time travel.

English Heritage plaque for inventor of time t...

English Heritage plaque for inventor of time travel (Photo credit: jaywood_uk)

Anyway, moving on – as you know, I have waves of genius.  It occurred to me that if Hamnet watched Doctor Who on the television – it might give him some time travel ideas.  So I introduced Hamnet to my time travelling hero – The Doctor.   I love watching Doctor Who but was not sure how an insulting Tudor boy would take to it.  He watched The Monster of Peladon.  Now here is the shock.  The shock is not that Hamnet loved it; the shock is that he loved it so much, it improved his magic spells and he took us into the future.  The only reason he took us into the future was that he wanted to see what happened in The Monster of Peladon.  I don’t know about you but if he can take me forward one week in 1974, surely he must be able to go back in time. 

I questioned Hamnet about this and he thinks that he will have to focus on going forward in time for the moment.  He is obsessed with finding out what happens to The Doctor.  It is 1974 and I have no idea how long Doctor Who runs on the television.  It is great for Hamnet because it is making him focus on his time travelling skills.  My worry is that The Doctor never has another adventure after The Monster of Peladon.  Who knows what the future holds for The Doctor in 1974 and beyond?

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