There is that sweet moment of the day when silence seems to descend and time holds still and even the bustle of a packed café remains unnoticed as you let your mind wander, take a turn down a path, untrodden, overgrown with branches forming a canopy of green, and as you wander you begin to notice the magical figures that flitter between the leaves, darting from flower to flower to add a sparkle of colour, and just ahead you glimpse a white steed, a unicorn, drinking from a brook as an elf plays a lullaby on a panpipe, an it is at these moments you paint a scene, craft a character and place them, give them words to say and a task to do, a quest to strive after, to reach for like the words you seek to place on a page, a phrase of imagination, and then you pause for a moment, look around, and realise where you are, in that café, surrounded by people.
This came about when wondering what to write. It had been a while since I wrote something new as I had been spending my time editing a book of mine ready for submission so the creative muscle was rusty. And whilst sat there in the open with a coffee nearby, it reminded me of all those times when time stood still as I wrote, how it could take you places and how a good piece of writing could also take its reader places. So I wrote about that moment.
I’ve been asked many times by children when visiting schools: “Hey, mister, what makes up a story?”
Stories are made up of different kinds of parts which help you tell the whole thing. This explains some of the DRAD.
DESCRIPTION: This is the part of the story where you use lots of adjectives and longer sentences to describe the setting or characters. You might use descriptive writing devices like power-of-3, simile, metaphor, personification. Generally, it is better not to do all your description in one large chunk and have none any where else. Usually writers drop in some description through out their story. Example: The old house stood at the end of the winding street on top of a grey hill. It loomed over the area like a dark, foreboding presence waiting for the unwise to enter.
REFLECTION: This is when the characters think about what is happening or what has happened to them or what will happen to them. It gives insight into the characters and their motivation. Example: Why did I ever come here? This was the biggest mistake of my life! Kevin is dancing with Sarah and they’re dancing real close.
ACTION: These are fast paced sections where your character is doing something exciting. It should have lots of exciting verbs (action words) with little or no description and short sentences. Example: He pulled the gun. He let off a shot. One. two. They flew over the bandit’s heads. He dived behind a rock.
DIALOGUE: This is when two or more people are talking to each other in a story. Try to avoid using lots of words instead of SAID. Usually SAID is the bet word to use. What is said is the important thing. It should be important, interesting and move the story forward. Example: I was like, ‘What do you want?’
He shuffled his feet. ‘I wanted to ask you out.’
How much of each part you have depends on the type of story you’re writing and what form it is taking. An adventure story like James Bond will have more action but a historical drama will have more description. A story told through diary entries will contain more reflection, dialogue but less descritption and action.
Get a copy of the Story Parts to print for display here: story parts
I recently was lucky enough to attend a workshop on How to Write Kids’ Fiction led by Joe Craig and Anthony McGowan as part of the Wood Green Literary Festival organised by the Big Green Bookshop. We were also fortunate enough to have Marianne Levy and Allan Boroughs (whose first book will be out next year) in the audience so there was a very good ratio of the published and would be published.
It was a very refreshing experience hearing from two writers of very different fiction. What came across was their thorough understanding of the genre they work in and enthusiasm for each other’s work as well as those trying to break through. What was of particular interest to me were their theories concerning structuring a narrative with an interesting protagonist – I guess it’s a hark back to the days when I studied Literature.
One of the points from Anthony McGowan that particularly intrigued me was the concept that the main character needs to be an orphan in some way. This is because parents or responsible adults would stop the protagonist from doing what they need to do. The orphan becomes a wanderer on their journey, receiving gifts from helpers on route. Eventually, there is a climatic battle before the end resulting in the orphan becoming a martyr somehow (my notes on this last bit aren’t great).
It struck me, that this is essentially what I did with my character Billy in my first book without realising it and got me wondering how many different ways a character can be an orphan. Here’s my list so far:
The character is an actual orphan (BFG;Harry Potter; A Series of Unfortunate Events;Walkabout)
The character is emotionally isolated from parents (Matilda;Goodnight Mr Tom; I Will Call It Georgie’s Blues)
The parent becomes lost/absent (Pippi Longstocking; Nim’s Island;Famous Five books)
The child is isolated due to a disagreement (The London Eye Mystery)
The child is isolated due to a secret (The Borrowers; The Magic Finger; The Turbulent Term of Tyke Tyler)
The child is isolated due to a physical/mental condition (Secret Garden; The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nightime; Henry Tumour)
The child is lost
The child is economically lost (Charlie & the Chocolate Factory)
The child is isolated due to social mores
The child is isolated due to a need to enact a rescue or go on a journey (Lion, Witch & Wardrobe; The Ice Palace)
There are probably many more but I can’t think of them for the moment or of examples to go with a couple of my ideas. Perhaps you could suggest some.
I did some background reading on the orphan concept using Wikipedia and a study by Kimball . If anyone can suggest a source for a more contemporary take on this, I would be grateful.