Posts tagged Susan Brocker

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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The Witch, the Wardrobe and the What?

I read about a study carried out recently which found that fewer children these days know about famous characters from classic children’s books. When questioned, some kids thought Aslan was a giraffe and that the wardrobe led to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. Very few had heard of Anne of Green Gables, Heidi, Jemima Puddleduck, or Pippi Longstocking.

The study suggested the characters are unknown due to the rise of TV and video games. But interestingly, only half had heard of Harry Potter despite being the star of hit movies! I’d love to know from you avid readers out there if you’ve heard of these characters, and what are some of your own favourites from classic books? I’ve always loved Heidi, and now I have a goat herd of my own I can play at rounding goats up on the hills…

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Al Capone and the seven basic plots

I live on a small farm with my horses and many others pets. I recently bought another horse whose name is Al Capone. He’s a beautiful jet-black boy with a small white star and looks to me more like Black Beauty than Al Capone! But his name really intrigued me. I knew that Al Capone was an infamous American gangster back in 1920s Chicago. I looked him up in the library and found out all these fascinating facts about him and suddenly I had an idea for a historical novel rattling around in my head.

But before I got carried away, I thought I should check first that other stories hadn’t already been written about him. I discovered that quite a few children’s books have indeed been based around him, including one intriguing title called Al Capone Does My Shirts! So I decided not to write this story as it’s already been done.

Then I remembered reading an article once about how all stories can be reduced down to seven basic plots:

1. Rags to Riches

2. The Quest (I thought about my own The Drover’s Quest)

3. Voyage and Return

4. Comedy

5. Tragedy

6. Rebirth

7. Overcoming the Monster (I thought about my own Saving Sam)

What makes stories unique is how the authors tell them. So, even if a hundred books have been written on Al Capone, so long as I approach the idea with a fresh and interesting angle it really doesn’t matter. Think of the books you’ve read lately – can you fit them into the seven basic plots above?

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Our War Horse, Bess

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Have any of you seen the recent film The War Horse, based on Michael Morpurgo’s brilliant novel? I still haven’t worked up the courage to go and see it because I know it will upset me too much. The main reason is that not long ago I researched and wrote the true story of New Zealand’s very own war horse, Bess.

During World War One, New Zealand sent over 10,000 horses to fight in the war. But unlike the war horses in the film, most of our horses were sent to the Middle East to fight in the desert. They took the men into battle and had to face searing heat, thirst, hunger, and weariness but they never failed their masters. Of all the horses that served throughout the entire war in the Middle East, only one came home. Her name was Bess.

 I read many of the diaries and letters of the soldiers, called Mounted Riflemen, who rode, lived, and sometimes died with their horses and it was very moving. They became very attached to their horses because they shared so much. I’ve heard the film is moving too; did any of you see it?

 

 

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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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Ideas for stories are all around us

Often when people discover I write stories they want to know where my ideas come from. I tell them that it’s from the things I love and the things I’m interested in. When I wrote The Drover’s Quest, I’d already read many history books about the West Coast gold rush days and I was interested in what life must have been like “back then.” I remember reading about a group of bush bandits called the Burgess gang who murdered gold prospectors, and from there a germ of a story festered in my mind until The Drover’s Quest formed.

 

This has been true for many of my books. An idea will bubble away and slowly grow. I always keep a notebook to jot down these ideas. For example, a haiku (poem) at the site of an old Japanese prisoner of war camp near Featherston in the Wairarapa inspired another book I wrote called Dreams of Warriors. The haiku reads:

 

Behold the summer grass

All that remains of the

Dreams of Warriors

 

Not many people today know that NZ had a POW camp in World War 2 where we imprisoned captured Japanese soldiers. This story is about a special friendship that grows between a Japanese prisoner and a New Zealand girl, born out of their common love of horses. Do any of you have a favourite book with this familiar theme of unusual or unlikely friendships (for example, the pig and spider in Charlotte’s Web)? My favourite of all time is The Snow Goose, by Paul Gallico.

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Boom towns and wild mountain roads

Hi again after some wet and blustery days up here in the North.

I thought some of you might be interested in a few of the fascinating facts I learnt about our history while researching The Drover’s Quest. For example, did you know that during the heady West Coast gold rush days of the 1860s, Hokitika was one of NZ’s biggest towns? It was chock-full of pubs (at one count 84 hotels lined Revell Street), dancing halls, and gambling dens and home to colourful characters like Fenian Jenny who liked to dance in emerald green petticoats, and diggers with funny names like Johnny the Rat and Alex the Greek.

 The road through Arthur’s Pass had only just been completed, linking the goldfields to Christchurch. About a thousand men had hacked out a route through the rock and thick bush, using only pickaxes and shovels. It was a hair-raising journey across that early road. In those days, Cobb and Co was King, with many people travelling by coach across the treacherous Pass to get to the wild West Coast. I read amazing stories of runaway coaches and horses hooning down steep mountainsides, or else crossing raging rivers like the Waimakariri in flood, or the Taramakau, nicknamed the Terrible Cow. Exciting days!

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