by Megan Higginson
This month my writer’s group met to discuss antagonists, the bad guys of our novels, in a courtyard of a local café, beneath a maple tree that would periodically rain gorgeous red and gold autumn leaves down on us.
The previous month we had dived deep into tone words. For us as a group, we had never looked in depth at the bad guys in our novels.
Recently, while working on my novel, I discovered a new character. I was so excited, but I did not know anything about him accept that I didn’t trust him even though he seemed nice. When Ester, who was running the workshop for this month’s writers’ group, started talking about what makes a great antagonist, we got excited. We are keen to learn anything that will improve our story, and our story telling.
Ester had been watching Cy Porter's, 'Creating the Antagonist,' on YouTube. (He really gets stuck into it about 11 minutes). As well as Cy's, 'Creative Writing: Creating Villains We Love to Hate'.
So, here are some of the questions that Ester had us ask us about our antagonist:
Allow these characteristics to become part of your bad guy creation
In her article for the Writer’s Digest, 6 Ways to Write Better Bad Guys by Laura DiSilverio, she says regarding antagonists, ‘they’re just as important to good stories as the protagonists are. If your antagonist is not fully realized, lacks depth or is a caricature of evil, your story will suffer.’
Her article brought out six points, two that I had never thought of:
All these tips show that we need to be creative in the ways we structure our protagonist and antagonist interactions. This fascinating information got Jacqui, Ester, and I enthusiastic about our current W.I.P. (Work in Progress). This was also the first month that we ended up working on our current W.I.P., and not use a prompt and make something new, and we were excited to get started on ramping up the tension in each of our stories.
In approaching my recently discovered character (in my current W.I.P.) who is a bad guy, I have come up with a new way to ramp up the tension in my story. One way is to make one of my good guys an antagonist. How can my lovely, kind, caring brother become the antagonist? I’m also playing with peoples’ perceptions of others. Are the good guys really good? Are the bad guys really bad? Do we treat others through a filter of what we have been told about them? How will this affect the interactions with the antagonists and the protagonist?
All this is brilliant in adding an extra depth to your story. I'm off to create some havoc in my story.
Make sure to check out the next two videos. These two women had some fun and creative ways to look at using antagonists in your stories.
How to Make Your Villains Awesome by Ava J (bookishpixie)
How to Write a Villain by Jenna Moreci
And for those writing kids lit, this is for you. Top 10 Ways to be Evil in Children’s Books by William Sutcliffe
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Today I welcome Robert Vescio onto the blog, to chat about his latest book, Ella Saw a Tree. Welcome, Robert!
What was your inspiration behind Ella Saw the Tree?
My children are easily distracted with television and video games that it can be difficult for them to focus. We often tell our children to ‘pay attention’ but we don’t often teach children HOW to pay attention. So I wanted to write a story that does that in a fun way.
Mindfulness is about training yourself to pay attention in a specific way. We spend so much time thinking over stuff that happens, or worrying about things that might happen in the future, that often we forget to appreciate or enjoy the moment. Mindfulness is a way of bringing us back to experience life as it happens.
What message do you hope this book will bring its readers?
Ella Saw the Tree is an entertaining story about mindfulness and living in the moment. It teaches a simple but important lesson. By taking a moment to slow down and really appreciate your surroundings even the simple things can be surprising and fun.
Mindfulness can help treat people with anxiety and depression. When a person is mindful they are focused on the present moment, not worrying about anything that went on in the past or that might be coming up in the future, concentrating on what’s happening around them and to them and not being judgemental about anything they notice.
When you’re mindful it gives you a clear head, slows down your nervous system, lets you relax and helps you cope with stress.
Ella Saw the Tree will delight all readers. Teachers and parents alike can use this story as a starting point for discussing the concept of engaging all senses and being mindful of the little things in life.
For children, reading this book will open new perspectives on the world and being present in the moment. This is a great book to be shared with children of all ages.
Can you share a bit of your journey of Ella Saw the Tree, from the initial spark of inspiration, to signing the contract, to release date?
Parents have told me that they’ve seen their children read a book and realise they have no idea what they’ve just read. They’re there in person, but their mind is elsewhere.
I’m sure a lot of parents can relate to this as well. In today’s society, children are bombarded with so many distractions that it can be difficult for them to pay attention and focus on what is important.
The hardest part about writing Ella Saw the Tree was trying to write a story that was fun and exciting for children. I didn’t want to write a story that pushed children into seated meditation and sounded too much like a lesson.
So, I started writing my story – a story that would appeal to children and make the practice of mindfulness fun. In the story, Ella interacts with a tree and sees the beauty of life through her own eyes. So, in a way, the tree is actually Ella’s teacher.
When I felt comfortable enough with the story, I plucked the courage and submitted it to a few publishers who I thought would be interested in this topic. Then out of the blue, I was contacted by Diane from Big Sky Publishing who loved the story. The story appealed to her and she felt that it was a good fit for her list.
A few months later, I received the contract and Cheri Hughes was appointed as the illustrator. It was great to work with Cheri yet again.
Between signing the contract and waiting for initial character sketches, there was some editing and tweaking done to the story to suit Big Sky Publishing’s in house style. There are always changes to be made to manuscripts. It’s to be expected.
Cheri went on to complete the internals for the book. Once they were approved, the text was added to the pages and the overall design of the book, including the cover, was finalised.
The whole process from acceptance to publication took just under a year.
The journey was both magical and exciting. Just like all of my other picture books.
You’ve had a number of books released in the past two years. What has been the most exciting part of this particular book launch?
Sharing my story and its journey to publication. I’ve really enjoyed working with Diane and Sharon from Big Sky Publishing again on this one. As always, I was involved in every step of the way. They listened and supported me. Sharon was always there when I needed her.
It was a wonderful creative collaboration between myself, Cheri Hughes, and Big Sky Publishing. Everyone has their own views and ways of generating ideas and we all learn a little something. Collaboration is an important part of the creative process because it leads to the birth of powerful ideas and products like picture books – yay!
Also, it’s great to see so many of my fellow authors keen to help, share, support and promote my work. Asking for support can sometimes feel intimidating, so it’s great to see writers and authors go that extra mile to help out when someone asks for support. We are very fortunate and blessed to have a thriving community of writers in Australia that are willing to help and support and promote our work which is just AWESOME! I am so grateful to each and every one of you. I cannot thank you enough.
What else do you like to do?
Apart from writing and spending time with my children, I love to read.
I am obsessed with Disney.
I love chocolate cake with chocolate icing.
And … I love gelato!
Ella Saw the Tree is available now to purchase through all good bookstores and Big Sky Publishing: http://www.bigskypublishing.com.au/Books/Children/Ella-Saw-the-Tree-HB/1172/productview.aspx
You can follow Robert's blog tour:
Just Write For Kids: Robert Vescio’s Story on Mindfulness Opens our Hearts
Kids Book Review Giveaway: Giveaway: Ella Saw the Tree
Kids Book Review: Review: Ella Saw the Tree
Emma Middleton: Sharing 'Ella Saw the Tree' With Robert Vescio
Pass It On: Ella Saw the Tree - Blog Tour
Boomerang Books: Doodles and Drafts - With Robert Vescio
Creative Kids Tales: Tour at the Tales. Ella Saw the Tree
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If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to like and share.
A guest blog post by Jacqui Johnson
Teacher, writer, friend
Building on a previous Writers Group ‘Setting that creates atmosphere’, this month I wanted to focus on developing the use of ‘word choices to affect mood’. Each time we get together, I am so thankful and amazed at being involved in a group which has such talented writers who can spin a few words into such eloquent phrases. I know this is an area I need to build, thus becoming my focus topic for the month’s meeting.
Initially, we read Cris Freese’s article, Use word choices to set the mood. It gives an example of how to use one setting, and create three different moods through word choices.
Building on this idea were three other articles by fiction editor Beth Hill. Her article, Zeroing in on words, gives practical advice to build on sample sentences for specific purposes. Keep readers close to the action and emotion article draws on the ideas on personal connection between readers and your text. Whilst, Tone, Mood & Style – the feel of fiction, goes into great detail about tone, mood and style mixing practical advice and examples you can use to sharpen you craft.
As a writing activity to build on what we had read, we brainstormed several settings and were to choose one to create two different pieces of writing. Our focus was on keeping the setting consistent whilst changing the tone, style, and mood through our word choices. Below are the drafted pieces we each created.
Ester’s piece based on ‘the beach at dawn’:
Megan’s piece based on ‘a wooden cabin near a mountain-top lake’:
Thriller: The dark cabin crouched in the shadows of the nearby pine forest. A chill wind howled through the pines, sounding like a hoard of ghosts. Stacey’s heart pounded. Cold penetrated her thin jumper making goose bumps rise on her arms. Her hair prickled up the back of her neck. The slamming of the back door decided her.
Stacey burst out of the front door making it jump on its hinges. She raced down to the shore where ice gleamed like teeth at the edge. She wondered if she should chance the freezing water. The still black water beckoned, and she said yes.
Fantasy: The dragon, Narli, burst out of the sparkling blue water of the mountain lake. Spiralling ever higher, Narli danced on the warm thermals, racing the eagles to greater heights. Tiring of the game, he finally flopped himself onto a warm ledge with a broad grin, and smiled down at the cabin bathed in sunlight below.
My piece based on ‘a kid’s park at night’:
Once again, all our pieces take on a slightly different feel based on the types of writer’s we are, experiences, passions, and motivations from our underlying ‘writer’s voice’.
Have a go at these and let us know how you go. It's fun!
Growing and sharing as part of a writers group is an inspiration and a good challenge. I encourage everyone with a passion for creating stories to go outside your comfort zone. You don’t need to be a ‘closet author.’ Develop your craft by participating in a group where you can cultivate your love of creating literature.
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Are you overwhelmed by fear? Is fear stealing your joy? How can you overcome fear? Please check out my video as I share my heart, my experience with living in fear, and how I have broken free, and am now enjoying my life.
I am not a counselor. If you need expert help, get it, please.
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What do zombies and I have in common? Sounds like a start of a bad joke doesn’t it? Or maybe a good joke, depending on your point of view. I've recently been inspired by Adam Wallace's book, 'Zombie Inspiration.' Once I could get past the gross stuff (you know, the rotting skin, mushy brains, and the gross jokes), I understood what Adam learned going through a zombie apocalypse. Why did I read Zombie Inspiration?
I've had a major fatigue flare in recent months (along with two pain flares from the end of November 2016 to end of February 2017) to the point that I was so exhausted I was having blackouts. (Fibromyalgia is throwing me something new). My doctor advised me to cut my hours at work from 12.5 hours a week to 8 and to take it easy. Well it's worked. No more blackouts. I still feel like a zombie, well, more like how I would normally perceive them; groaning, moaning, not capable of much.
How I've been inspired
I read a review about Zombie Inspiration and it prompted me to pick up Zombie Inspiration and the book turned everything I knew about zombies on their head. Here is what I learnt about zombies.
Who'd have thought that you could learn so much from zombie's? According to Adam, ‘Zombies have a really bad reputation, but I knew that under the rotting skin, the mushy brain, and the desire to bite my face off, zombies are AWESOME! It's true! Zombies aren't just grunty-groany face-biters - I mean, they are that, but they're so much more as well! See, zombies do these amazing things we can learn from to make ourselves amazing too, like setting goals, focusing, working really, really hard and more.’
'See, zombies do these amazing things we can learn from to make ourselves amazing too, like setting goals, focusing,working really, really hard and more.’ Adam Wallace
At the moment, I feel like a zombie much of the time. My brain is often in a fog, dulled by pain, medication, and lack of sleep. However, I have a goal. I want to write. I want to share my stories. So, groaning, shuffling forward, my eyes ever fixed on my goal, I move forward. Nothing, not even utter exhaustion, or pain, will keep me from my goal. I sleep. I wake and keep going, one groaning step after the other. Instead of groaning 'brains,' mine is, 'Write story,' 'Write blog post,' 'Write!'
On my blog you will find:
You can find more about me, and read my children's stories at Creative Kids Tales
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