Archive for Writing Tip of the Week

Figuring out your main characters is just as important as figuring out your plot.

So you have worked out a plot. You know how your story starts and where you would like it to end but before you can begin writing it pays to think about your characters. I have some rules that will help you write great characters and also help you write great stories

1) Don’t have too many. Lots of characters are not only confusing to write about, they are confusing to keep track of when you read

2) Its often less important how they look (blue eyes and blond hair is unlikely to have any affect on how they solve their problem and achieve their goals in your story) and more important how they behave. Are they polite and respectful, angry, sad, or rebellious? Are they good at art, maths, good with friends, awkward, or shy??? Do they watch a lot of tv, or read a lot of books? Are they sporty and adventurous? Do they pick their nose, obey their parents, lie, or avoid their homework?

3) Little details can tell you a lot about a person. Do they wear nail polish to school when the school rules forbid it? Do they wear odd socks because home life is disorganised or they think it looks cool? Is that scar from an accident or where they were marked by their enemy? Do they sniff a lot (allergies, bad cold, bad habit?)?

4) The better you know what kind of person your main character is the easier it is to figure out how they are going to deal with the problems you throw at them in your story. Are they the kind of person to solve their problems alone or will they get friends to help? Do they have special skills or talents or are they brave and determined?

5) In the best stories the main character will change or learn something as they solve their problem. Maybe they are a loner who needs to work with others to fight the bad guy. Or perhaps they have to overcome their shyness or their fear. if you have an idea what that change is it will make it easier to write the story.

6) The right name can make a big difference. Calling your character Myrtle or Arthur will have a different affect on your reader, compared with calling them Hannah or Josh. Voldemort would never skip, sing nursery rhymes or smell flowers but then Suzy is unlikely to use the killing curse.

7) Don’t be afraid to have your character behave or react as you would behave or react. It helps make them more real to your reader.  My characters often have bits of me in them but because I mix in some qualities I would like to have and then add a few other qualities no one can tell which part is which.

8) No one is perfect. Your character shouldn’t be perfect either. The best characters have good qualities as well as bad qualities.

Good luck with your characters. The better you know them the easier they will be to write about and the more fun they will be to read about.

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Tips on plots

A good plot makes for a satisfying story. Good plots have good beginnings, good middles and good ends. They usually start with a problem (or an event that creates a problem) for the main character(s) to solve and  we follow the plot along as the character(s) try to solve the problem or take the steps necessary to solving it, until they sort everything out at the end.

I don’t plan my stories out in great detail before I get started but I have a good idea of how I want the story to go and what my ending looks like. Just like the reader, I enjoy being surprised by the story as it develops, but knowing where I am heading makes the it easier for me to get the story to work. For me, knowing who the main character is helps me write the story. If I know the kind of person they are it is easier to figure out what they are going to do in certain circumstances. And knowing what ‘kind’ of story I am telling helps as well. If its horror I know they will maybe be facing some fierce scary monsters in the dark, at night. If its suspense then I don’t know what the monster looks like but they make a lot of loud noises, throw a big shadow and make my character sweat and tremble. If its action then I want my character running, jumping, and maybe fighting. If its fantasy then I get to imagine special powers and special creatures and decide whether they are good or evil. Knowing all this makes it easier to write a good middle. So before you start writing you need to know

1) What the ending (solution to the problem) is

2) What kind of person your main character is

3) What kind of story you are going to write

The best endings are the ones where we have all the information/clues to work it out for ourselves but we are still surprised. It doesn’t work so well if your ending relies on new information not already in the story.  And just like our main character(s), our plot needs a personality. Is it gutsy with a sense of humour? Or serious and athletic? Or is it chatty and relaxed? Nervous and worried? This is the story’s voice and if we can have the same voice all the way through, despite the ups and downs of the characters adventures, no matter how dark or dreadful things get, then the reader has something to rely on as they follow the story through to the end. Writers have to be surprising and reliable all at once!

Next time I’ll talk about creating great characters

Happy writing  !

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Where do ideas come from?

As well as talking about books and reading on this blog I thought it might be useful and fun to talk about writing. Over the next few weeks I’ll share my thoughts on plot and characters and names and all the twiddly bits that you need to think about when you are creating your own stories. A good place to start is ‘ideas’. A question I almost always get when I am visiting schools and talking with groups about writing  is, ‘where do you get your ideas from?’ My answer is that ideas are everywhere – out there in the world in day to day life, out in the playground, at home, in the conversations I have with people, on tv, at the movies, in the news and newspapers and of course in the books you read. Now if you are just starting out with your writing and you are having trouble coming up with good ideas this answer isn’t very helpful at all. But there are three things I can tell you that may help.

1) Before you can find your own ideas, you must know what a good idea looks like. The best way to do this is to read a lot. If you really want to write you need to start asking why you liked a particular book and what was so good about the story. I also ask these questions when I am watching a good movie or television programme. Part of the idea for my novel Jack the Viking came from watching the third Lord of the Rings movie.  And the more you read, the more you discover how inspiring language can be. Sometimes my ideas spring from a few words that are combined in just the right way to get my brain turning excited somersaults.

2) Start with simple ideas. My summer holiday. The first time I cooked. We got a dog/a cat/ a bird. We lost a dog/a cat/ a bird. Starting a new school. The thing that went bump.

The wonderful thing about how we get ideas is that it is like a muscle. The more you exercise it, the bigger and stronger it gets and the better it works. It can take a little while to build up this muscle but giving it regular exercise is a good idea.

3) I think ideas come from 3 things – experience, imagination and curiosity. My stories tend to be a mixture of all three but if you are a bit short on one of those three things, try making up for it with one of the other things. When I watched the third Lord of the Rings movie I was curious about what would happen if you put a modern day boy into a battle from a thousand years ago and that’s what inspired Jack the Viking. But I also used my own experiences to create the central character and his day to day life, and my imagination to help describe places I’ve never been to (a thousand years ago). The more things I do and see, the more ideas I get. The more I read and watch, the more my imagination grows. The more I ask questions, the more interesting the answers are to me.

So if you are having a hard time coming up with good story ideas, don’t worry – read lots, try and think about what made your favourite stories good, practice with different ideas, and remember ideas come from the things you do, the questions you ask, and your own imagination.

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Some fun writing rules

Hi everyone, I hope you all had a great weekend. I was lucky enough to see the comedian Lenny Henry on Sunday night, which was a lot of fun. I’m still in a light mood, so thought I’d share some fun rules on writing. The biggest part of a writer’s life is checking and rechecking work for grammatical mistakes and other errors. I have a fun list next to my computer screen which helps me with this. Here are some pointers:

 1.        Don’t abbrev.

2.         Check to see if you any words out.

3.         Be carefully to use adjectives and adverbs correct.

4.         Don’t use no double negatives.

5.         Just between you and I, case is important.

6.         Don’t use commas, that aren’t necessary.

7.         Its important to use apostrophe’s right.

8.         It’s better not to unnecessarily split an infinitive.

9.         Only Proper Nouns should be capitalized. also a sentence should begin with a capital letter and end with a full stop

10.       Verbs has to agree with their subjects.

11.       Avoid unnecessary redundancy.

12.       A writer mustn’t shift your point of view.

13.       Don’t write a run-on sentence you’ve got to punctuate it.

14.       A preposition isn’t a good thing to end a sentence with.

15.       Avoid cliches like the plague.

16.       1 final thing is to never start a sentence with a number.

17.       Always check your work for accuracy and completeness.

 

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Some writing tips

For those of you who love writing, I thought I would share some tips that have helped me on my own writing journey:

* Write about what interests you and then your passion will shine through in your writing.

* Great stories involve the main character facing a problem or obstacle and overcoming it through their own efforts. The main character grows and changes as a result.

* Great stories need great characters. Characters must be both interesting and believable. And remember your main character shouldn’t be perfect: even Batman has his weak spots.

* Use all the five senses when you write; describe scenes or action using sight, hearing, touch, smell, and even taste.

* Use strong and interesting verbs. Instead of “he walked to school” what about “he trudged to school” or “she skipped to school”; they convey more emotion and meaning.

* Show, don’t tell in your stories. For example, if your character is unhappy, don’t tell your reader by writing “Susan was unhappy.” Instead show how Susan is unhappy: for example, “The tears tumbled down her cheeks.”

*Start your stories with a great hook that will make your reader want to continue reading. And end chapters with a cliffhanger or a question not answered so readers want to turn to the next chapter to find out what happens.

* Writing is a craft: the more you practice it the better you’ll get!

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Research a Story – it’s fun

One of the things I love about writing is all the interesting things I discover on the way to writing the story. Becuase I write historical fiction, there’s quite a lot research involved. I spend a whole month looking up bits and pieces before I even start to write – and the research doesn’t end until the story is done. The strange thing is most of the things I discover don’t end up in a book at all. But it still helps me write.

Research gives me story ideas. When I was writing Polar Boy, my initial idea was a story about a boy who was scared of bears. I was thinking polar bears, because they are magnificent creatures, they scare the life out of me, and I wouldn’t go anywhere near one!  As I dug deeper into my research I discovered the Vikings were coming from Greenland, at the same time as my story, heading for the same place I was. And they were called ‘the berserkers’ or ‘bears’. So immediately my plot extended and it wasn’t a Polar Bear that became Iluak’s biggest challenge. It was the threat of the Vikings who didn’t want to share the land with the Inuit people.

Research is full of snippets of day-to-day information. What should my characters wear? What do they eat? Do the doors have doorhandles? I am constantly surprises how much the details of life change from place to place and through the centures.

Another thing I get from research is a strong sense of time and place. I am an armchair writer. I never travel anywhere, although I would love to visit Japan. So when I am writing the Samurai Kids series I have to imagine I am there. I do this by watching documentaries, looking at images, reading books written by Japaese samurai hundreds of years ago and listening to shakuhachi flute music.

Sometimes I can’t find all the answers I need. I wanted my samurai kids to study origami. I knew the samurai believed it was important to exercise the mind as well as the body and in addition to fighting skills they also learned other things – like  flower arranging and poetry! And I knew origami was paractised in Japan at the time of my novel. But I couldn’t find any proof – not a sentence, not a picture. So I decided most kids love origami so the samurai kids would too and included it in my book.

Photo Copyright: Pedro Henriques

When I was researching the next Samurai Kids book, Elephant Feet (#7). I needed to know all about Cambodia. I didn’t know anything. One thing I quickly learned is it has the most amazing array of birds and animals. Many of the birds and their calls made their way into my story background like the hoopoe bird (It’s call is oop-oop-oop! You can listen to a sound file here ). But I was always gettting sidetracked by other interesting information even though I knew I wouldn’t use it. Here’s an example. I found that a new species of gecko had been discovered in the southern mountains of Cambodia. It’s wonderful to think new species are still being found but there is a sad side to this lizard discovery too. Cambodia has one of the highest deforestation rates in the world and many of it animal habitats are in danger of disappearing.

PS When I went to find a picture of the gecko on the Internet I found another new species had been discovered even more recently – a blind legless lizard that looks like a snake!

Check out my other posts here:

Making a Noise – in the library!

Hello from Sandy

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Interview with Lara Morgan

Today we’re joined by Lara Morgan, author of The Rosie Black Chronicles, which includes Genesis and the latest book, Equinox.  We caught up with Lara to ask her about Rosie Black, future technology and the best things about being a writer.

  • What five words would you use to describe The Rosie Black Chronicles?

Dystopian thriller with romantic elements

  • What idea/s did the Rosie Black Chronicles grow from?

Essentially from my interest in climate change and how it will affect us in the future, and what I see as a growth in the power and influence of massive corporations within our political and social structure. I wanted to explore what kind of future could arise if we didn’t regulate the way we are going now and the world of Rosie Black is the result of that. I’m also interested in space travel and the possibility of outer planet colonisation so I threw that in the mix as well.

  •  Who is the character of Rosie Black based on?

No one in particular. Rosie has elements of my teenage self in her, but she is also a creation of the world she’s come from – the future Earth. I’m very much interested in the psychology of people, how they become who they are so the type of person Rosie is comes from the experiences she’s had as she’s grown ie losing her mother, being poor in a broken world, as well as just her innate self. I believe in strong rounded characters so I tried to create that in Rosie.

  • If you could have one piece of technology from Rosie’s world, what would it be?

Space ships – her Aunt Essie’s little ship would be a very cool thing to have. I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of travelling through space.

  • Who is your favourite author/childrens author?

That is a very hard one to answer, but one of my favourites is Ursula Le Guin, especially her Earthsea stories.

  • Why did you want to be a writer?

It’s what gives me the most satisfaction. I’ve always been a daydreamer and writing is just a way of getting those dreams out of my head and onto the page. I just love making up stories and never feel as at peace as when I can get up from my desk at the end of the day and feel I’ve achieved something.

  • What’s the best thing and worst thing about being a writer?

Best is definitely being my own boss and being able to work from home in my pyjamas. The worst is the need to promote yourself. These days being writer means having to be good at self promotion as well as promoting your work, building a known name, and that means talking yourself up at events and gatherings and that doesn’t come naturally to me, or I think most writers.

  • What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Make sure you finish what you start. I’ve spoken to many aspiring writers who focus too much on fine tuning a first chapter, or first few chapters, before they’ve finished writing the story all the way through to the end and that is a fine way to ensure you never finish anything. And you can’t get unfinished work published. It is hard and the temptation is to think that if you just get the first bit right then the rest will be easier, you’ll have a better idea, but really that only works for a minute amount of people. Usually the best way to get the story right is to write it all the way through to the end, not worrying too much about how some things might not quite make sense, or some metaphors are terrible, or your dialogue sucks, but going forward anyway until you finish it. Then you go back and start to refine it. You have to allow yourself the room to make mistakes in the first draft safe in the knowledge that only you will see it. And I mean no one else, really, don’t show it to anyone, not even your mum. That’s what works for me anyway – and for many, many other writers. And read everything. Writers read, it’s essential.

Check out Lara’s Facebook page to find out more about the Rosie Black Blog Tour http://www.facebook.com/therosieblackchronicles

Join Lara tomorrow on the Booksellers New Zealand blog.

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Grammar is a Buzz

When writing fiction it’s often better to ‘show’ the reader what is happening, than ‘tell’ the reader everything. For example, you can tell the reader, ‘Ziggy was sweaty’, but I’d rather show the reader with ‘Sweat trickled down Ziggy’s neck.’ Adding sensory detail helps to show what is happening – it helps the reader to picture what a character is experiencing.
One way to make sure you’re not ‘telling’ too much is to use verbs (eg. trickled) rather than adjectives (eg. sweaty). For example I might write, ‘Florian was angry’ (adjective) but ‘Florian smashed (verb) his fist into the wall’ is stronger.  And  Sting is a better title than ‘Sharp thing’. If you have to use adjectives then one adjective per noun is enough; and you don’t need many adverbs either (eg. not needed in: Florian angrily smashed his fist’)

This is my last post. Thank you Zac and the Christchurch libraries, it’s been fun.

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Forces of Writing

There are four forces involved in writing fiction: imagining, writing, editing, and hoping.
1. Imagination is the basis of all writing. This force is centred in your brain which is incredibly powerful at wielding it. The force of imagination has infinite range and you’ll find there’s no shortage of story ideas in the world. Science is a wonderfully bizarre source (I even used it to frame this blog). Photo: story characters are everywhere.

2. Writing is work. It seems to be such a weak force: putting one word after another; sentence by sentence. But if you keep going, the force evolves the words into something remarkable– story.
3. Editing is the refining force in fiction. It’s a strong force that can be applied by cutting needless words and shaking the story up.
4. Hope is vital for a writer. When you feel your story is worthless and you think you can’t write, hope keeps you going. Like gravity, it keeps writers grounded, and like imagination, it has infinite range.

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Get Writing!

Oh dear. My month as Star Author is rapidly drawing to a close. I have really enjoyed spending time, if only virtually, in Christchurch.

As this is one of my last posts, I thought I might stop talking about myself and offer something to you.  If you are reading this, chances are you love reading and/or writing. So I thought you might enjoy some quick writing activities that you can do  to get yourself writing. Grab a pen and paper, and sit yourself down, then choose one of these exercise and just write.

  1. Write a sentence where every word starts with the next letter of the alphabet – a, b, c and so on. (for example A brown cat dropped everything…). Don’t worry if it is silly or even ungrammatical. Just see what comes out.
  2. Write for as long as you can without using the letter ‘e’. Again, don’t worry if it’s a little ungrammatical or silly.
  3. Same as 2, but this time see how long you can write without using the word ‘and’.
  4. Find five random words by opening a book or dictionary and picking the first word you see on five different pages. Or get someone else to give you five random words. Then write a sentence, paragraph or even a story which includes all five words.
  5. Open the book you’re currently reading (you are reading one, aren’t you) at any page, and copy out the first sentence of the second paragraph. Now, close the book and start writing, using that sentence as the first sentence of a completely new piece of writing.

Chances are, none of these exercises will produce an absolute masterpiece. But they will challenge you, might make you laugh, and will help get your creative juices flowing.

Have fun. If you’re brave enough, post one of your efforts here as a comment for the world to see.

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Getting Published

Yesterday I drove up to Mundaring, a little community just outside of Perth, where my friend, artist Frane Lessac, and I spoke to a group of people about how to get published. It was a really fun session, with Frane and me each sharing our journey to publication and then talking about the dos and don’ts of getting published.

When I sat down to blog today I thought it might interest YOU to know just how a book gets published. So, here goes.

First, long before a book is something  I can hold in my hands or tell the whole world about or even read, it is just an idea. My ideas come from all over the place – from things I see, things that have happened to me, things I read about, or silly ideas which just come to me.

When I get an idea and decide to write about it, the next thing I do is plan my story. Usually the plan happens in my head – I spend a lot of time thinking about who my main character will be, and what will happen to him/her, and I work out what the main conflict or problem will be, and how it will be resolved at the end.

Once I have a pretty fair idea of what is going to happen in my new story, I write the first draft. This might take only minutes, if it is a picture book or short piece, or days and months if it is longer, but I do try to get the whole  first draft written as quickly as possible before I get distracted by the next big idea.

Once that first draft is written, I put it away. I don’t reread it it, or share it with anyone for as long as I can stand. This creates distance between me and the story, and means that  when I get it back out a month or more later, I am able to see what needs to be fixed – as well as what works, of course. Then I rewrite and edit and rewrite and edit and tinker until the story is as perfect as I can make it. Sometimes this takes many many months, or even years until I am happy with a story.

But, eventually  my story is ready to submit and I send it off to a publisher. Sometimes, the story comes back to me with a letter saying it won’t be published (there are lots of reasons for this) but other times, thankfully, I get a phonecall or email from the publisher to say they will publish my book.

That’s when the hard works starts, because no matter how good I thought the story was when I submitted it, now I have to work with an editor to make it even better.  And sometimes this can take a lot of phonecalls, emails and, of course, writing sessions. – which can take months.

When the text is finalised, the  publisher chooses an illustrator, who then works on the illustration in consultation with the editor. I don’t tell the illustrator what to draw or how to draw it, though I do get shown initial sketches and have the opportunity to provide feedback.

When the illustrations are finished (which can again take months and months or oven years) , the publisher puts words and pictures together and the book is finally ready to be printed.

Then, at least a year after I had that first idea – but usually two or more years – the postman brings me a parcel, with copies of the new book for me to enjoy, and copies of the book are then available in bookstores and libraries for people to read.

It’s a long process –  Head Hog took six years to finally be published – but when I hold a new book in my hands for the first time I always feel  really proud.

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New Zealand’s ‘devils of the night’ – the giant weta

cristy burne and headsHi! I’m Cristy Burne, author of the Takeshita Demons books and Star Author for July.

July is nearly over, so don’t forget to enter our Make a Monster competition and win a copy of Takeshita Demons! We’ve had some awesome entries so far!

As some of you already know, I love writing about monsters and crazy, spooky things.

Well, some of the craziest, spookiest things are not imagined in books or stories. They’re real!

A great example — and a spooky creature I  love — is New Zealand’s giant weta.

What a weta!

Giant weta have been around for about 190 million years, and they look like it too. The giant weta on Little Barrier Island, off the coast of New Zealand, are known as ‘devils of the night’.

Their Maori name, ‘Wetapunga’, translates to ‘god of ugly things’.

Here are some cool facts about weta:

– Giant weta are orthopteran insects of the family Anostostomatidae. They look like wingless, leggy grasshoppers, and their bodies alone can reach around 8cm in length.

– They can weigh more than 70 grams, or about three times the weight of a house mouse.

– Many giant weta are not really so giant, and smaller species such as the Nelson Alpine Weta tip the scales at a not-very-scary average of 7 grams.

– Wetas are more likely to dine on treetop leaves than small children. They’re too heavy to jump, have no wings, and are slow to get around, making vegetarian cuisine the more affordable menu option.

– In a fight, wetas are sadly ill equipped, with only their spiky back legs and devastating bad looks for defence. Some will even roll over and play dead in an attempt to trick would-be predators.

– New Zealand’s new predators — the rats, cats, stoats and hedgehogs — often find that giant wetas make a decent-sized snack. This means giant weta populations are dwindling, and where Wetapunga were once common in the north of the North Island, they are now found only on Little Barrier Island, off the coast of Auckland.

– One weta species, the Mahoenui, returned from mainland extinction when it was discovered in 1962 hiding out in some gorse bushes in the North Island; the spikes of the introduced gorse had kept hungry hunters at bay. This weta weed patch has since been declared a protected area, and more than 200 endangered weta have been relocated to Mahurangi Island, in the hope of baby wetas on the way.



Aren’t weta awesome?

I find when I am having trouble thinking of something to write about, I can find inspiration in real life and amazing science. There are always strange things happening in the real world.

Where do you get your writing inspiration?

Anyone ever written a story about a giant weta?

If you want extra weta inspiration, you can get more weta-riffic facts from NZ’s Department of Conservation.

Happy writing and reading!

Cristy


Cristy Burne
Author of the Takeshita Demons series

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5 Japanese demons you may know from books and movies – Cristy Burne

cristy burne and headsHi!  Cristy Burne here, author of the Takeshita Demons books and Star Author for July.

I hope you like scary stories, because that’s exactly what I like to write. And believe it or not, the Takeshita Demons books are based on truth.

That’s right! All the Japanese monsters I write about are real…I didn’t make them up! In fact, I was only inspired to write Takeshita Demons after I started studying the history and mythology of Japanese monsters (or yokai in Japanese).

The Filth Licker and more…

Monsters in Takeshita Demons (like the Filth Licker (aka-name), the Snow Woman (yuki-onna) and the  Cut-throat Demon (nuke-kubi)) have been part of Japanese mythology and stories for hundreds of years.  They’re much the same as vampires, werewolves and fairies in Western culture.

Many of Japan’s demons are very unusual, but here are some you may recognise…How many do you know?
Don’t forget to enter our Make-a-monster Competition: invent a demon and win a prize!

5 Japanese demons you may know from books and movies

Hanako of the toilet1) Toire no Hanako-san

‘Toire no Hanako-san’ means Hanako-of-the-toilet. Hanako is the ghost of a young girl and she haunts particular toilet cubicles, usually at school. Remind you of anyone you might remember from a certain school for wizards?

In Japanese legend, Hanako is usually shy…

BUT…if someone is mean to her or teases her, then…watch out!

If you want to meet Hanako, you need to knock three times on the door of her haunted toilet and call out: “Are you there, Hanako?”.

Why don’t you give it a try next time you’re in the school toilets?

2) BentenThe goddess benten

Aha! I bet you thought Benten was a boy with a really cool wrist watch! You did, didn’t you?

Well, think again. Benten is actually a woman with eight arms and a whole bunch of dragons as friends. In Japanese mythology, Benten is one of the 7 lucky gods, and she’s around 1500 years older than the Benten you might know.

Still, the goddess Benten is a good person to befriend: she can help make you rich and give you good grades at school (she’s also the goddess of wisdom and prosperity).

yagyo-san3)  The headless horse

You’ve heard of the headless horseman, right? He’s a famous legend that grew from a character in a story published in America nearly 100 years ago.

But…have you heard of the headless horse?

The headless horse is the favourite method of transport for a Japanese ogre called Mr Yagyo, or Yagyo-san.

Yagyo-san has been around for hundreds of years, coming out only once a year to wreak havoc on the human population. On this one day — the day before Japan celebrates Setsubun, the beginning of spring — Yagyo-san roams the streets tossing spiked soybeans at people.

According to Japanese stories, the only way to escape is to lie face-down on the ground with a pair of sandals on your head.

ningyo_japanese_mermaid4) Mermaids

When I say ‘mermaids’, do you think of beautiful half-fish, half-woman creatures with long golden hair and perfect skin?

Well…that’s not the only kind of mermaid in the sea!

Japanese mermaids are called ningyo and although they are half-fish, half-woman, they’re not exactly what I would call beautiful.

I’m researching ningyo now as part of the next Takeshita Demons book… Apparently, eating the flesh of a Japanese mermaid can make you immortal, and even just seeing one can add three years to your life. Pretty cool, huh.

(Japanese mermaids also have some unfriendly friends, like the sazae-oni, a poisonous demon formed when a very old sea snail mutates into an ogre.)

tengu5) Tengu (or the tengu’s invisibility cloak, at least)

Tengu are a half-bird, half-humanoid Japanese demon that live in the mountains. You often see tengu masks in Japan and they feature in traditional Japanese stories and theatre.

But, you probably know the tengu’s cloak more than the tengu.

Tengu have many special powers and own many magical objects, not least of which is the invisibility cloak.  This is a cloak that makes you totally invisible when you wear it. Ring any bells?

There is another story of a tengu who owns a magical fan that can make your nose grow. In the story, the tengu accidentally fans himself… Maybe that’s why he looks how he looks!

So what’s my point?

My point is that you don’t always have to invent everything when you’re writing a fantasy or horror story.

Some of the craziest things you can imagine happen in real life (just read the newspaper sometime!). Some of the most unbelieveable things ever are actually true (700 million people around the world have blood-sucking hookworms in their guts). And some of the best writers and books use little bits of history and science and real-life-fact to inspire their incredible stories.

So, when you’re writing your own stories and books, take some time to research some real-life topics that might be relevant. The Christchurch library has a huge non-fiction section filled with heaps of fascinating facts and stories…. Check it out and you will be amazed!

How many of the demons did you know?
Any fascinating facts you’d like to share?
Drop us a comment!

And don’t forget to enter our Make-a-monster Competition: invent a demon and win a prize!

Happy writing and reading!

Cristy


Cristy Burne
Author of the Takeshita Demons series

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Writing Tip of the Week – Jackie French

This week’s writing tip comes from Jackie French, author of Diary of a Wombat, Hitler’s Daughter, A Rose for the ANZAC Boys, and Oracle.

“I think the most important thing about writing is having confidence – because if you think you can write well you write in your own voice, not copying ideas and expressions and characters from other people.”

 

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Writing Tip of the Week – Brian Falkner

This week’s writing tip comes from Brian Falkner, author of Tomorrow Code, Henry and the Flea, Brainjack, and his new book The Project.

“Writing is like learning to walk. You fall down, you get back up and try again. Little by little you learn from your mistakes. You get better and better at it, and one day it just happens and it is a magical moment.”

If you want to find out more about Brian Falkner’s books and writing, you can visit his cool website or read his Star Author posts here on the blog.

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Writing Tip of the Week – David Hill

This week’s writing tips comes from New Zealand author David Hill, author of See Ya Simon, Fat, Four-Eyed and Useless, and Running Hot.

“a. Read heaps. The more you read, the more ideas you get.
b. Don’t throw any of your writing away.
c. Start sending work away to places like The School Journal.”

You can read our full interview with David Hill on the Interviews with New Zealand Authors page.

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Writing Tip of the Week – Erin Hunter

This week’s writing tip comes from Erin Hunter, creator of the Warriors and Seekers series.

“Make sure you read a variety of stories: fantasy stories teach you about making up completely new worlds, crime-solving stories teach you about handling a complicated plot, stories with lots of characters teach you how to describe relationships.  Also, write as many stories as you can, even if no one else reads them.”

If you want to find out more about Erin Hunter and her books, check out her website.  One thing I learnt from her website is that ‘Erin Hunter’ is actually four different authors writing under the same pen name.

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Writing Tip of the Week – Jeff Kinney

This week’s writing tip comes from Jeff Kinney, author of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series.

“I would recommend to any kid out there to keep a journal. Most of my friends can’t remember much about their childhood at all, and they wish they could. Even if you only keep a journal for a short while, I guarantee that you’ll treasure it for the rest of your life.”

Check out Jeff Kinney’s very funny website if you’d like to find out more about the author and his books.  You can also watch video’s, play games, and go behind-the-scenes of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid movie.

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Writing Tip of the Week – Steve Cole

This week’s writing tip comes from Steve Cole, author of Astrosaurs, Cows in Action, Slime Squad and Z-Rex.

“Grow a very thick skin and ask for criticism.  Listening to criticism can help you to write better.  Also, write as much as possible – the more you do, the better you get.”

You can read our interview with Steve Cole here on the blog.  Also, check out Steve’s website for more information about his books, videos and cool free downloads.

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Writing Tip of the Week – Andy Griffiths

This week’s writing tip comes from the very funny Andy Griffiths, author of Just Tricking, Just Stupid, The Bad Book, The Big Fat Cow that goes Kapow, and many others.

“[Get a cheap exercise book] and start writing in it every day… five minutes a day to start with, and gradually increase to at least thirty minutes a day. You get better at writing like you get better at everything else: constant practice.”

Check out Andy Griffiths website to find out more about the author and his books, and watch some cool videos.

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