TIPS FOR YOUNG WRITERS
- Keep a journal for snippets of conversation, story ideas, newspaper clippings, bus tickets – anything that might be useful in a story.
- Brainstorm your ideas. Get everything out of your head and onto paper so you can use it later. You don’t have to use it all, but get it all out, no matter how crazy your ideas seem at first.
Map out a plan for your story – starting with a problem and adding obstacles and building to a climax and a final resolution.
- Get to know your characters. Give them strengths and weaknesses that you can use in your story. Flesh out your characters so they feel real to the reader. Your reader doesn’t need to know everything about your characters, but you do.
- Give your audience an exciting start to your story. But remember it has to build to a climax, so don’t throw everything at them in the first paragraph.
- Fill in some of the background to the story as you go along, rather than burdening the reader in the first paragraph.
- Use detail to engage your reader by using all of your senses when you write. What do your characters see, hear, smell, touch, taste and how do they feel about what is going on. But don’t name the feelings: He was sad. Show the reader what’s happening: A tear ran down his cheek.
- Write like events are occurring in slow motion when you get to the exciting parts. Don’t rush the best bits of your story. Explore them with all of your senses.
- Use dialogue to reveal your characters personality, background and emotions.
- Edit your story. Read over the story, asking yourself if you have answered the questions – how, when, where, why, who?
- Remove anything that doesn’t add to your story or doesn’t quite fit. When in doubt, leave it out. Write to engage not to impress.
- Rewrite any parts of your story that need to be improved. You can add dialogue and detail to make it more engaging. You may need to do several rewrites to get it right. I do!
GET TO KNOW YOUR CHARACTER
Characters should be unique and consistent to be believable. Get to know your main characters before you start by fleshing out their background. Add tension to your story by creating characters that have strengths and flaws. Then throw them into the sort of situation that they’ll really struggle with!
- Current address
- Place where he/she grew up
- Appearance – any significant features
- Upbringing – happy/troubled family life
- Pivotal moments in his/her background – any major upheavals
- Relevant flaws – weaknesses that make conflict unavoidable
- Relevant strengths – that help achieve goals
- Relevant goals – personal/professional ambitions
A character will go through a range of emotions when faced with a crisis. This template of six phases is based on the Kübler-Ross model, commonly referred to as the five stages of grief. It is a useful model for all sorts of dramas.
If we use as an example a speed boat breaking down miles out to sea. The main character might well react in this way:
- Denial – This can’t be happening: ‘No way. It can’t break down. Not way out here. I don’t even have mobile coverage here.’
- Anger – Furious at what has happened: ‘This stupid boat! I don’t know why I bought this one.’
- Blame – No one likes to take responsibility for a stuff up. It must be someone else’s fault: ‘Whose idea was it to come all the way out here? We’re in the middle of nowhere and it’s all the dog’s fault.’
- Hopelessness – A feeling that there is nothing that can be done: ‘Now we’re really finished.’
- Acceptance – An understanding of the problem and the fact that doing nothing is not an option. ‘OK, I’ve got to work out a way to get back.’
- Action – Finally the character decides to act to solve the problem: ‘We’ll just have to swim back.’
Also see my Teachers’ Notes on the Hazard River series.