Films and books tell the same thing to their audience – stories.
Books tell their stories by creating an imaginative world inside the reader’s mind, letting them see the colours and experiences as they flip through each page. By contrast, films show their audience what to feel by visually spoiling the audience.
These storytelling differences are why many book readers often feel disorientated when they watch film adaptations of their favourite books. The colours that they see; the touch and smells of the adventures in the story; even the portrayal of the protagonist seem vastly different from what they have perceived through their imagination.
The reason behind these differences is quite simple. Often, the screenplay writer film is not the same as the original author. What the audience sees in the film, is what the screenplay writers visualised the book to be, rather than what the writer originally intended.
After all, not everyone sees the same red colour. What might be maroon to some, might be wine-red to others.
On the other hand, viewers and critics feel much more connected to a screenplay adaptation that is written by the original author. The original author knows his story best, and he knows the key scenes that are in the story. He prioritises the feelings and sensations of the character and the motivations that drive the story.
In the end, a writer and a filmmaker may want to tell the same story but use different voices to tell that story. Whether or not the same red colour from the novel appears on screen, can depend on who is writing the script.
Are you planning on taking your novel to the next step? Want to show off your work on the big screen, then strap up your writing supplies and head down to our 3-day writing course “Screenwriter’s Bootcamp with Veny Armanno” to learn the fundamental understanding of writing a movie script and the essential skills needed to develop a professional screenplay.
Assortment of coloured pens (adjust to individual taste)
Laptop with a Backspace button
1 cup of Chamomile Tea
1 paper shredder machine
1. Preheat the keyboard by typing the events of your story. What is the primary plot arc that you want your readers to know? See the story through your viewer’s eyes. Your audience does not know the twists and turns your plot takes: What do you want your synopsis to show?
2. Mix your novel’s background. Establish the reality of your novel. List the important conflicts and events that help shape the plot and how it affects your protagonist.
3. Add in your characters. When we read stories, we often empathise with the main characters of the story. Which of your target audiences would you like to relate to? What challenges make your character stand out?
4. Bake your synopsis for 5 minutes. Make sure that you remove any unnecessary details. The publisher, editor, competition assessor or even grants body want the specific details and unless they ask for a longer synopsis, keep it short, sweet and succinct.
Want more great recipes for baking a synopsis? Come join our workshop “Cooking Up a Synopsis” with Laurel Cohn on the 10th of March 2019.
“If I waited for perfection… I would never write a word.”
You finally got a hit of inspiration. After hours of brainstorming and countless post-it-notes, you finally came up with the perfect scenario for your inspiring characters. You write a few lines but find your mind is not in the right place.
You had gusto! You had momentum!
All that seems to be gone now, and you still haven’t moved past “Chapter One”. You quickly fall out of it, abandoning your masterpiece for other projects, but your idea is still tugging at the side of your brain. Your inspiration was one-of-a-kind, and you were sure that this was the one.
How can you get it back?
Well, we understand that it is hard enough to write a sentence, let alone a mind-blowing novel. However, the daunting churn in your stomach that you feel is normal for most writers. The initial rush of excited-ness faded, leaving you at a loss of how you should proceed with your manuscript.
So how should you keep your writing momentum going all while avoiding the creative slum? Here are some quick suggestions!
- Expand your story
Take your sentence of inspiration and expand on it. Think what are your character’s favourite or nasty habits? Figure out what adjectives or verbs can be associated with your character’s temperament. Researching a certain topic can provide a clear understanding of what your topic might be, and from there you will be able to define the challenges and solutions that you need to resolve. Once you have a mind-map surrounding the main details of your idea, it can be easier to write the little details in.
- Set some time aside to write
Believe us when we say we know how hard it could be to set aside time to write. Amongst the crazy schedules and never-ending chore list, it is hard to find some quiet alone time for us to focus on our writing. But you will have to be firm about it and make some time to write. Take an hour everyday to sit down and only think about your story. Let your chores and stress worry themselves after the hour. During that time, shut out all distractions and resist the urge to nit-pick at small details like a pen out of place or the wrong drink in your hand. Once you find yourself concentrating on your words, you will notice the momentum slowly come back to you.
- Don’t be afraid of mistakes
Nobody writes a bestselling novel on the first draft. Even the most accomplished writers have had to go through endless corrections and re-drafts before their story is finally complete. Therefore, don’t aim for perfection on the first try, instead be brave and write your words boldly. Get your editor or an honest friend to read your drafts. Listen closely and fix those mistakes. Through writing and correcting, your story may end up in an even better place than it was before.
Still want more tips? Boil yourself a cup of tea, grab a notepad and head down to our workshop “Writing Your Way Through: Narrative Structure and Momentum” by Kathryn Heyman on the 9th of March 2019 for more solutions on how to maintain your creative momentum till the final word.
As writers, one of the biggest problems we can face is a lack inspiration…
So you’ve set a goal to up your writing game in 2019 and (finally) finish that manuscript you started this time last year. Or maybe you’ve decided it’s time to take your writing hobby more seriously and turn it into a part or full-time career. Yet, when it comes to putting pen to paper, you find you’re struggling to get started or keep up the momentum required to reach the finish line. As writers, one of the biggest problems we can face is a lack inspiration. We either find ourselves scraping at the bottom of the inspiration barrel or so overwhelmed with ideas, that we’re unsure which one to pick or how to execute it. But never fear, our top three inspiration-busters are here and ready to help spur your creativity.
Sometimes a bit of fresh air and the chance to take your mind off the situation at hand is all we need to refill our creative tank. A change of scenery not only helps clear your head, allowing you to return afresh, but can also help relieve stress, which is known to hamper imagination and creativity. So put the pen down, close your laptop and go for a short walk in the great outdoors! Allow your mind to float to anything but your seemingly blank page or Word document. Watch a bird make a nest in a nearby tree, enjoy the laughter of children playing in a nearby park or take Fido for a walk. The perfect idea pops into your head as you do so.
Create a physical ‘Creativity Tank’
Repurpose an old glass jar or cardboard box as your ‘Creativity Tank’; a physical object to which you can add all of your creative writing ideas (the good, bad or outright crazy) when the thought first strikes. Keep scrap paper or sticky notes nearby and whenever an idea pops into your head, jot it down and add it to your ‘tank’. It could be an obscure name you overhear on the daily news (perhaps a name for a future character), a scene from a movie (a potential setting for a future fiction piece) or even a line from a song on the radio (a possible title idea). You could even encourage others in your household to add their own ideas to your ‘tank’. Then next time you’re stuck with pen in hand and rather blank page, you can dive into your creativity tank and use one of the ideas you’ve collected. Don’t forget to put them back either – they might come in handy more than once.
Observe, observe, observe
How often is it that we find ourselves so busy or wrapped up in our own little worlds that we take very little notice of what’s going on around us? This inspiration-buster, while similar to taking a walk outside, is all about combining observational skills with imagination to spark your creativity. Listen to ambient conversations as you wait at the checkout to buy your groceries. Take a walk down a pathway or road you’ve never bothered to explore. Strike up a conversation with the person sitting next to you on the bus. You never know what you might discover or where it may lead.
If you’re eager to learn even more techniques to encourage your creativity and maintain your creative mojo, head along to our ‘So You Want to Write?’ workshop on March 2. Led by Kill Your Darling founders, Hannah Kent and Rebecca Starford, this workshop is one not to be missed! Register online via Eventbrite.
As we approach our Novelists’ Bootcamp, we’ve done some research into survival.
Now, we are Australian, so survival is in our blood. Surely no other nation of people can slam a door fast enough to keep a fly out. But seriously, there are some key things required in order to survive in the wilderness; clean water, shelter, fire, navigation tools, something to signal SOS and medical supplies. While all of these items would come in handy if you were stuck in the Australian outback for a night, medical supplies wouldn’t be much help if you’re trying overcome a sudden bout of writers’ block. With our Novelists’ Bootcamp weekend fast approaching, we thought we’d create the ultimate writers survival guide complete with all of the essentials you’ll need to get through that next project…
Blank paper (our version of clean water): An abundance of blank paper is absolutely necessary. Who can you write if you have nothing to write on? Without a never-ending flow for your thirsty ideas to grow on they might just wither away.
Comfy space (our version of shelter): it’s very important to keep yourself protected from distractions and to give your body support. Find a space that puts you in the zone, but also allows you to maintain a good, comfortable posture.
Tea and/or coffee (our version of fire): burning the midnight oil is going to happen no matter how much we plan and we’re going to need something to keep us going. Get to know your local coffee shop or better still, DIY, and brew up a storm in the comfort of your own home!
Mind map (our navigation tool): this might be the most important skill, knowing when you’re getting off track and how to get back. Map out your idea so that even if you keep on with your tangent you can check where you strayed and know how to bring it back.
Emojis (our version of an SOS signal): let your friends know that you’re about to embark on a writing journey so, one, they don’t freak out when they don’t hear from you in more than 48 hrs, and two, you don’t get distracted by the equivalent of a search party on social media because of your MIA status. We recommend though, just in case you do fall down the rabbit hole, you come up with a rescue signal (i.e. an emoji) with so they know to come rescue you.
Google docs or Drop Box (our version of medical supplies): losing a lot of blood is a medical emergency, and losing even a few hours worth of writing seems like just as big of an emergency, especially when it leads to meltdowns and panic attacks that might lead to needing real medical attention. So let’s eliminate unnecessary stress right from the get go and back up our writing.
Now that you’re all kitted out, we hope you’ll get your creative boots on and submit an application to join us on our Novelist Bootcamp. For more information, visit Eventbrite.
Memories can be both beautiful and traumatising. Some we hold onto with mysticism, like Jay Gatsby, and wonder if they were ever real, and others can instill so much fear that we don’t actually remember them.
Our memory is also extremely fascinating. Have a read of some of these fun facts we found:
Procrastination is important for memory
– this is because our brain connects dots while we work on more menial tasks.
Memory and storytelling are a match made in heaven
– weave the information you’re trying to remember into a story and tell it.
Good memory requires good sleep
– sleep is particularly important for processing long-term memory.
Memories with emotion are prioritised
– the more intense the emotion, the more likely you are to remember the event.
Scent can trigger a memory
– in fact, scent can be a very powerful memory tool.
The procrastination and storytelling facts definitely take the reign as our favourites.
These facts can turn into some handy tricks to help harness your memory, from recreating a meal to help remember that family dinner no one wants to talk about, to going to bed half an hour earlier.
And because we’re writers, what would be the point of remembering all these moments if we’re not going to write them down? ‘Memoir: a book of your own’, is a workshop for intermediate writers and above to delve into the culture of creative non-fiction and help translate personal stories into exciting narratives.
‘Memoir: a book of your own’. For more info or to register click here.
A while back, I was working on a multimedia project. I’d joined the project team for a Skype call which included project mentor, Brian Cain. Brian is a Creative Director who’s worked on HBO’s True Blood and Game of Thrones, among other things. We were discussing something about the narrative driving the project, I can’t recall what, but I do recall Brian’s contribution. He said,
‘everything has to have a narrative purpose.’
Brian’s words have stuck with me. They are golden words, worth remembering.
I’ve been writing and editing for a long time. I’ve written and edited massive policy manuals and reports for non-profit organisations. I’ve drafted and edited countless briefs for government ministers (Queensland Treasury call their briefs billet-doux. Yes, really). I’ve written and edited academic articles, strategic and operational plans, research reports, successful grant applications, budget submissions, Government employment policies, guidelines for multi-million-dollar programs, major consultation reports requiring analysis of thousands of lines of data, evaluation reports and so on and so bloody forth. And, over the past few years, I’ve edited and published picture books, short stories, flash fiction and novellas.
Brian’s words stick with me because they explain a lot. Picture me ten years ago (picturing a small, harried owl is fine), staring at a computer screen, sobbing quietly to myself as I try and edit a major policy document written by a committee of 60 public servants. I’m muttering things like ‘Why is that there?’ ‘How is that relevant?’ ‘Is that even a word?’ ‘Who would read this?’.
Here, I’m struggling to edit because the document I’m working on has no narrative purpose, no intended audience, no consistent author voice. It’s a BIG problem with many Government policies and reports: so many words, so little thought about who’ll read them or why.
But, what is narrative purpose? It’s the reasoning sitting behind every word you’ll ever write—Terry Pratchett imagined it as an element called Narrativium. So, if your antagonist (we’ll call them Cuddles) is climbing a mountain, there’d better be a reason why. When Tolkien sent Frodo and friends over an icy mountain, he used the challenge to reveal things about his characters, their world and their protagonists. It drove the story forward. So, Cuddles needs a reason to go over the mountain.
Yes, yes, Sue. But you’re going on about writing, not editing. True, but narrative purpose also drives editing decisions—development editing decisions, structural editing decisions and most copy-editing decisions.
For instance, in development editing an editor works with you to (SURPRISE) ‘develop’ your story. It’s essential when your narrative purpose isn’t clear. At this stage, your characters may be under-developed or extraneous, your author voice may be inconsistent, and you’ve probably got too much background or logistical information (the stuff writers need to know, but readers don’t) weighing down the plot and pace. Here, editorial advice will be oriented to helping you clarify the purpose of each character, each setting, each bit of dialogue. It’s the same for the other stages of editing, too.
So, when editing or being edited, remember Brian’s words, AND don’t forget to remove the thats—they’re rarely necessary.
Where are you right now? If you’ve got a few minutes to spare or are feeling bored, we have an exercise to help keep your creative juices flowing. Let’s get started. Wherever you are, make a list of inanimate objects you can see, then pick three! We’re in the office at the moment so this is our list:
- Pot plant
- Permanent Marker
- Paper Clip
- Glass window
We’re going to go with: pot plant, glass window, and phone and to use these objects as inspiration for a character.
Let’s start by breaking down the objects into descriptive words:
– ceramic pot, symmetrical pattern, sturdy, small, green and white, a little dry on some edges…
– clean, rectangular, tall, tinted, transparent…
– lots of buttons, loud, grey, twisted chord, rings…
And so the brain storming begins!
For each object, pick the words you like and expand on them. Before you know it, you’ll have the basics of a character up your sleeve!
Because it sounds like fun we’re going to that with our ‘phone’ and call him Phillip.
Phillip is the kind of man who loves to hold conversations, sometimes too many. He has an opinion about everything and it’s very easy to press his buttons. He’s the kind of guy you have to have around for parties, but you can only really handle him in small doses. If his friends were honest, they’d say he can actually be a bit annoying sometimes, and boundaries aren’t his strong suit, often rocking up on their doorstep just before dinner time – uninvited. For a man who is never short of something to say he’s definitely short of clothes; he has 4 grey shirts and a red one for when he’s feeling extra savage, blue jeans, beige chinos, a pair of slides and sneakers.
And voila. An instant character. Now it’s your turn!
If you like creating characters and want to learn how to give them depth and make them engaging and authentic, check out our workshop on ‘Building resilient characters’ with Cass Moriarty, Sunday, February 10.
As writers, we like to find our little corner, whether that’s somewhere in nature, or our kitchen table, and sit and think and sit some more and maybe write something down and not be disturbed. Most definitely though, we DO NOT want to be asked, ‘So what did you write today?’ Because there’s nothing more frustrating than having to explain how ending up with nothing really was still doing something. Right? Of course, if we did happen to write something there’s NO WAY we’re going to be sharing until it’s absolutely perfect, so people should really be more patient and just wait until we’ve written something we’re proud of and then maybe we’ll let them read it. Or not.
While it might seem like living the dream, despite those interruptions from people of course, what happens when we really do start jotting down a good idea? How do we persist with it? We’ll never know if it has the potential to be more than just a thought unless we keep going. Even when what we’re writing starts to become something we don’t like that doesn’t mean stop – it means revise. Try as we might to avoid answering those tough questions, there comes a time in every writer’s journey when going it alone stops being enough.
Do you have the courage to ask a friend, ‘Hey, can you check in with me once a week to ask what I’ve been writing?’ or once a month if you’re not writing full time?
We’ll let you in on a little secret…if it’s your idea then you won’t be mad when they ask!
This doesn’t have to be a person who knows anything about writing. In fact, the less creative they are the better, because then they’ll just flood you with compliments about that paragraph you know is nothing snazzy. We don’t mean avoid proper constructive criticism, because that is essential, but it can wait until later. Find someone you’re comfortable sharing your thoughts with and who will be interested to hear about wherever your writings been taking you, even if you haven’t written anything. If you’re able to be honest with this person about why you haven’t written anything, then you’re still moving in leaps and bounds, and you can start to take action.
What do you do next then? Maybe after all that, you don’t have a draft, but you have an idea that’s been smashed to pieces, regathered and fleshed out into characters, settings, sub plots and symbolism and is ready to be written. Maybe you do have some of that draft work done and you’re ready for some more serious nudging and feedback from like-minded creatives! Whatever stage you’re at with your masterpiece we hope you remember the importance of accountability – even though the thought is frightening. And for those of you who like jumping in the deep end, sign up for ‘Year of the novel’ and give yourself the accountability you need to accomplish your goal. With five full-day workshops scheduled throughout the whole year, what better way to keep persisting than by going through the process with fellow writers and fantastic support from professionals?
To register for ‘Year of the Novel’ or for more information click here.
If you’re a writer who struggles with matters related to confidence, you’re not alone. Many emerging writers are hard-pressed to believe in the value of their creative work. They often question the power of their words, the resonance of their ideas, even their worthiness to write. A woman in one of my workshops once said to me: ‘Who am I to write?’ I immediately replied: ‘Who are you not to?’
It’s common for those new to the craft (and those not so new) to feel daunted by the sight of a blank page…all that white space that needs to be filled. The challenge of attempting to make something out of nothing—indeed, to make something meaningful out of nothing—can at times feel overwhelming. Anxiety and uncertainty creep in, generating something akin to creative paralysis. If this all sounds familiar, here’s some advice: Don’t let self-doubt take hold! Writing is hard work: it’s not easy to find the right words, craft sentences, build paragraphs, paint scenes, and, ultimately, construct a story. The last thing you need to do is make the job even tougher by committing acts of psychological self-sabotage.
The good news is that writing doesn’t always have to feel like a task of Sisyphean proportions; there are ways to make the creative journey a little less arduous. On that note, listed below are a few hacks for helping to generate creative momentum.
Start With One Character and Build From There
Getting to know your protagonist or, more specifically, getting to know your protagonist’s particular set of circumstances, will help tremendously when it comes to drafting your narrative. (This guiding rule applies to both fiction and memoir.) Let your protagonist lead the way a little in terms of revealing the primary scenario destined to take centre-stage in your story. Invite your protagonist to offer up important information about their fears, hopes, dreams, even their sauciest secrets. Ask them: What is it that you want? Why do you want it? What is in your way or preventing you from attaining this goal? How far would you go to get it? Etc. When you tune into a character in this way, you’ll soon be able to imagine them moving about, acting on their thoughts, interacting with others, as well as making choices and decisions; from there, repercussions will follow. And, alas, you’ll have drafted a set of cause-and-effect events largely driven by a character’s circumstances, otherwise known as a plot. You can then record various plot points and endeavour to shape these into a draft story arc.
The arc of a story is simply its beginning, middle, and end. When opening your narrative, look to sketch out events and circumstances brimming with conflict and unanswered questions. The middle of your story should be embedded with a sense of rising tension, action, complications, more questions, along with a few answers to partially satiate a reader’s curiosity. When ending a narrative, strive to depict the overall outcome likely to result from your character’s circumstances, while also providing more answers for readers, and a sense of resolution. By this stage, you should have a significant amount of creative material to work with, and other key characters (related to the protagonist’s circumstances) will have entered your mind. Suddenly, the task of building your storyworld will no longer seem anywhere near as intimidating as it had before you commenced the drafting process.
Work with Scenes
Once you’ve brainstormed some ideas around character and plot development, it can help to envisage a few scenes. In these scenes, allow your character to perform: describe their behaviour, how they talk with others, the decisions they make. This scene-oriented approach to writing is a key ingredient of “showing” rather than “telling”, and will help bring your character to life. It’s also vitally important to “anchor” your scenes in a sense of place and time. This means you need to depict a clear setting for your character to inhabit, a setting that a reader can clearly “see”, as they would if viewing a movie. Brainstorm significant details relevant to the setting and the protagonist’s circumstances. Use your senses: convey what your character might see, hear, smell, taste, etc. Providing sensory-rich detail is on par with opening the door to your storyworld and allowing readers to take a ring-side seat from which to view all the unfolding action and drama. Producing scene-based writing, as opposed to serving out generous portions of narrative summary, is a great way to engage readers. It’s also a terrific remedy for writer’s block.
Write with Others
Something inexplicable happens when there’s a group of writers working together. It’s as if some sort of strange alchemy comes into play, unleashing a powerful creative dynamic that most people, if not all, can tap into. I’ve seen this dynamic unfold time and time again in writing workshops over the years. In such scenarios, I rarely witness anyone who is completely stuck for ideas…usually, something will come to mind. So, if you haven’t already, you might like to consider joining a local writing group. It need not be an ongoing commitment, but it could be just the little push you need in order to kick-start your creative momentum.
If you’d like to access more tips on crafting engaging narrative, while writing with others in a workshop-oriented environment, then check out the 4-week Introduction to Creative Writing course that I’ll be running at the Queensland Writers Centre as of Wednesday January 30. Classes run from 6:00 – 8:00 pm. Hope to see you there!
There is something very very terrifying about submitting your writing, whether it’s your first time, fifth time, or you’ve been published multiple times over the decades. It’s terrifying because being rejected or being told that that chapter you loved needs to be revised never goes down easy… no matter how many successes you’ve had. So today, instead of giving you a lecture on getting up, dusting yourself off, and starting again, we thought we’d just skip to the part where we say,
‘We think it’s incredible that you have an amazing passion for writing. We want writing to be something that brings you joy. Knowing you choose to write when you could be doing thousands of other things instead brings us so much joy and we support you in your journey.’
It’s true that sometimes what we need is hard-to-hear honesty, but that doesn’t eliminate the fact that we also need positive encouragement as well. Check out these quotes below. We hope they’ll make you feel warm and fuzzy and energized:
Now that you feel empowered and supported, register for our ‘Submit and stand out’ seminar, with Sally Piper, on the 2nd of February. Get in the loop for all the magazines and competitions waiting for you, as well as invaluable advice to help you make your submission stand out!
Click here to resister.
“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”
– Jane Austen
Has there ever been a more iconic opening sentence in a novel? Jane Austen may not be every reader or writers cup of tea, but there’s still much that can be learned from her to help improve your own writing and understand the basics of storytelling.
Who was it that said people like to look at people? And where did the concept of humanising designs come from? We think that applies to writing as well as art and design, and Jane Austen had the knack of unveiling it in her novels. Of course, all novels have characters, protagonists, antagonists, and they all engage with other characters and settings, but there’s something about social situations, serendipities and gossip that can be irresistible. Perhaps it’s because when we read Austen, we get to be a wallflower in the ballroom and soak up all the interactions and try to connect the dots. So how does she do it? Jane does it through:
If you want to know more about the character you’re creating, try making them interact in a setting with lots of people, not just busy spaces, but packed and confined social spaces where they’re known. What do other characters think of your character? How does your character think of them? Does your character’s behaviour or dialogue change when talking to their family at home compared to at a wedding?
Use dialogue to drive the plot forward and reveal information as well as action and narration. When it comes to narration show don’t tell. When it comes to dialogue though, it’s socially acceptable as readers to eavesdrop, so give your reader something irresistible to overhear.
We may not be able to offer you a one-on-one writing workshop with Jane Austen, but our ‘Introduction to writing’ course comes with all sorts of tips and techniques to keep the ideas progressing and support your unique style.
Check out the event by clicking here.