Valuable advice and summation of what it takes to ‘keep it simple’ yet relevant and powerful in the art of storytelling. Something I sometimes struggle with but endeavour to achieve in picture book writing.
“A big story is about a small moment.” ~Matthew Dicks
Think about that for a moment (not a small one).
Every book you have ever read is about a small moment—an epiphany when a character realizes an emotional truth with complete clarity.
Let me provide examples:
THE MONSTORE is not just about a store that sells monsters. It’s about a brother and sister who learn to appreciate one another and cooperate.
7 ATE 9 is about number 9 realizing his worth.
LITTLE RED GLIDING HOOD is about not judging someone before you get to know them.
Before I read Matthew Dicks’ STORYWORTHY, I used to phrase this “small moment” concept differently. I would explain that a story, especially a picture book, required an emotional core. Now I realize that is an amorphous blob of a statement.
In other words, not very helpful.
Likewise, if I told you my manuscript…
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As children’s authors, we often live the lives of our heroes vicariously. It’s much easier, safer and cleaner that way. However, part of me still relishes the breathy feeling of discovering the missing link for myself, trekking down the baddies armed with nothing more than a sharp pencil, and surviving a mutant alien invasion with all of my limbs intack. It’s thrilling stuff living in the heart of your own adventure and being your own hero, and the reason choose-your-own-adventure style storytelling is so popular with young and old alike. It’s also why I decided to ‘choose’ a different path in my story creation, for a short while at least.
Last year I embarked on a writing adventure that challenged my ability to pen such a story suitable for the digital format. Story City is a FREE downloadable app using GPS and geocaching technology to inspire people to get active and physically immerse themselves in real-life choose-your-own-adventure stories. It ingeniously unites our modern-day love affair with technology and the need for fast access entertainment with a solution to stave off obesity and anti-social behaviour that can be associated with our overuse of modern devices. In otherwords, it gets us out there on the streets living and breathing stories in the real world.
Of course many of the multi-genre and variously rated stories don’t take place in the real world as such. Themes are as diverse as your imaginations but they all share a common thread; their settings are based on real-world locations giving users a fascinating sense of place. Users can choose stories that most appeal to them, then from a starting point, they are in full control and can choose where and how the adventure unfolds. Each tale has several endings. The beauty of this style of storytelling is that there can be no true disappointing ending. If you aren’t satisfied with the path you chose, go back and choose another! Even if you choose the same direction over and over again, chances are the location will evoke a different sense of reality for you; the weather may be different, the sounds, smells and people surrounding you may have altered subtly. The scope for continued enjoyment is off the Richter Scale with Story City! Ultimately, it’s plain old-fashioned fun, suitable for young and old, Luddites and techno junkies, locals and tourists.
In addition to this, Story City uses local writers, illustrators, musicians and voice-talent to produce the stories. There is nothing better than homegrown to add a delicious dollop of authenticity and pride.
When I was accepted to be part of the Gold Coast team, I was thrilled to be part of the Story City family which has live working stories in Adelaide, Brisbane and the Gold Coast with more planned for other regional and capital centres and a notable list of commendable authors and artists including fellow SCWBI members, Isobelle Carmody, Kim Wilkins, Tim Baker and Trent Jamieson to name just a ridiculous few. But I also shivered with panic (on the inside where nobody would notice, mind) I mean I usually struggled to come up with one acceptable ending, let alone up to eight!
Despite scathing deadlines and a collection of plot lines more convoluted than a bowlful of spaghetti and the odd dejected child wondering when she was getting her next meal, I managed to produce The Chapel of Unlove. Mine’s a quirky, spoof type tale based in the surreal surroundings of Sanctuary Cove at the north end of the Goldie (where I live). It’s fantastical, fun, and kid-and-family-friendly but touches on a few of the delicious life-parodies one can encounter here on the Gold Coast which naturally involves pirates and Elvis impersonators. What more could you ask for?!
I encourage anyone with a passion for adventure and a quest to be their own hero to experience the stories of Story City. If the chance to be a contributing artist or writer comes to your town, I urge you to consider pouncing on it. Preserving the art of storytelling in a multi-sense way whilst actually making stories immediately accessible in the hands of our audiences is a marvellous opportunity not to be missed. I learnt a lot. I’m edging over into the realm of plotter vs panster thanks to this project. And I had a heap of fun along the way.
Over the next month or so, I hope to divulge more of the hows, whys and whos behind my Story City Creation. You can follow those posts at Dim’s Write Stuff. Visit the Story City website to register your interest as a future contributor or simply learn more about the team behind the stories behind the adventures!
Story City Gold Coast is presented by Story City and funded by the Regional Arts Development Fund. The Regional Arts Development fund is a Queensland Government and City of Gold Coast Council partnership to support local arts and culture.
Dimity Powell is a published children’s author and SCBWI member residing just around the corner from Bat Man on the Gold Coast. She is the official Blogger coordinator for this year’s 2016 SCBWI Sydney Conference. You can follow her reviews on Kids Lit at Boomerang Books Blog or visit her at Dim’s Write Stuff.
Republished from Sheryl Gwyther‘s writers’ blog …
When I run writing classes, people often ask for hints on how to become better writers (and so do children – thankfully, for a future of great stories still to come!)
These are the essentials I pass on…..
Have an active imagination. Always ask, WHAT IF?
Be an acute observer of people, nature, places and things. Learn how to develop an ‘artist eye and ear’. Be aware of all your senses, totally.
Read voraciously (like a foraging seagull) with a hunger for story.
Learn by osmosis, and from the wise advice of the experienced and the successful; to glean more information on how to do it better from books and the web, and also from workshops run by those who have been ‘through the mill’ themselves, and who’ve gained much knowledge from their wide experience.
You will face manuscript rejections – regard them as your apprenticeship. Even experienced writers get manuscripts rejected. We are a small market in Australia. Unfortunately, a fact of life.
Never give up. If you are truly meant to be a writer, perseverance and toughness is essential at those most vulnerable moments of painful rejection or ‘so-so’ reviews. But you will pick yourself up, learn from the experience and start editing and re-writing to make your story even better.
- Join a small writers’ group you can trust in – everyone there will understand the mountains we travail in this job; they will support, just like you would do in return.
- Join a support network like the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators … a global network. We have an excellent regional group here in Australia and New Zealand.
ENJOY THE JOURNEY!
Image: Johannes Vermeer’s portrait of a writing woman in 1670-71. One of his beautiful studies of women in the sublime light of his studio. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lady_Writing_a_Letter_with_her_Maid