It’s Friday! And that means it’s time for Pass the Book Baton. Every week Alphabet Soup features a book creator who will answer one question before throwing a new question to the next Friday visitor. (It’s kind of like a book relay in slow motion.)
Today the book baton is passed to Geoff Havel. Geoff was born in the mountains of New Guinea and now lives in Western Australia. His first book — Ca-a-r Ca-a-a-a-r was written during uninterrupted sustained silent reading in a year 5 classroom at Walpole Primary School. His latest book is Dropping In — an action-packed novel that explores friendship, bullying, and living with a disability. (You can read a sample chapter of the book on the publisher’s website.)
You might recognise some of these books by Geoff Havel:
Every so often I come across a story that cries out to be told because it might make a difference. One such story was The Grave of the Roti Men. I was travelling back to the ferry terminal on the island of Roti in Indonesia when we passed a road turning off towards the ocean. I asked another traveler where the road went and he replied, “The Village of Widows and Orphans.” Right then I knew the story had to be told and I was the one to tell it.
It was the same for Dropping In. The story sort of dropped into my lap when I saw three boys rolling down my street on a couch skateboard they had built. It wasn’t long before I had a clear idea of the three main characters and what the book would be about. I am proud of both those books because it feels like they were meant to be written and I was the one to do it.
And now Geoff Havel passes the baton to the next Friday visitor — Kylie Howarth. Her picture book illustrations include lively textures created from paintings by her two young children during their backyard art sessions.
Geoff asks: “How much of your love of stories and your ability to write them comes from your own childhood on a farm and how much comes from being surrounded by children now?” .. Check in every Friday for questions and answers from children’s authors and illustrators. .. See you next week!
Aleesah Darlison has over 20 books published in Australia. Her latest picture book is Zoo Ball and the best part is that it is illustrated by Australian school students! Aleesah is visiting today as part of a Blog Tour to celebrate the book.
Have you ever wondered where authors get their ideas from? Read on!
As an author, I’m often asked ‘Where do you get your ideas from?’.
For me, generating ideas isn’t the problem. Why? Because ideas are all around us!
Ideas for stories are in everything we do, everything we hear and everything we see.
We can collect ideas from conversations, from holidays we go on and places we visit, from stories friends tell us, from articles we read in newspapers, from things we experience ourselves, from news reports on TV, and from our imaginations.
Ideas start from the smallest, most simple seeds. The hard part is recognising a great idea and being able to turn that into a short story, a picture book, or a longer work such as a novel.
If we keep our eyes open, our ears open and our minds open, we find that ideas will come far more easily to us.
It’s always a good idea to write these ideas down, or if you have an iPod, iPhone or voice recorder of some sort, to record the ideas on those devices so you save them for later.
Another way to collect ideas, ready to use in a story, is to brainstorm or mind map them.
Brainstorming is a loose form of planning that people of any age can work with.
If you’re worried about where to start your story, what sentences to form, or the correct grammar to use etc, brainstorming lets you cut everything back to its most simple form. You can use single words or pictures (by drawing your own, printing pictures off the internet or cutting photographs out of magazines) to record your ideas. Each item you place on your page or mind map acts as a story prompt, a place to jump off and start writing.
Three terrific things about brainstorming:
Allows you to put all of your ideas on paper in the one place quickly and easily
Helps you plan a story before you start
Allows you to work through various options and combinations of ideas until you find one that works best
Here’s an easy example of brainstorming to start with.
When choosing a main character, or characters for a story, I start with the three categories:
Then I might list 10 or 20 or sometimes 50 different items under each of these headings.
Let’s look at animals (my favourite).
On a blank piece of A4 copy paper, write the heading ‘ANIMAL’. Now list 10 animals. They might be your most favourite animals. They might be your least favourite animals. They might be animals that you’ve seen books on before. They might be animals you’ve never seen books on before. My ANIMALS list would look like this:
The idea of brainstorming is not to use every idea we write down. It’s to use our best ideas only. And if you’re like me and listed lots of animals, you probably couldn’t fit them all into one story — not very well, anyway.
So let’s choose two animals from the list. I choose:
Now you have two main characters for your story. You can choose any combination of characters that you like.
Give each character a name.
My meerkat is called Millie. My dolphin is called Bubbles.
While you’re brainstorming your animal main characters, you might already be getting an image in your mind of what they look like. It’s a good idea to draw your characters too. This helps you visualise them and they become more real to you, the author. And if your characters are more real to you as the author, they will be more real to your reader.
You can now follow this process for brainstorming problems your characters might face.
Do they get lost?
Are they trying to save the world from destruction?
Or is it their first day at a brand new school?
There are almost limitless possibilities.
When you’ve brainstormed and mind mapped as much as you can, it’s time to write your story.
Introduce your character and their problem quickly. Drop your reader straight into the action then spend the remainder of the story having the character try to solve their problem.
Remember to pace your story well. Include a beginning, a middle and an end (resolution).
Don’t solve your character’s problem too soon in the story. Make sure you build the humour, tension or drama until you reach a climax.
When you’ve finished your story, always be sure to edit it to make sure it really is as good as it can be. Then you’ll be ready to share your story.
Best wishes Aleesah Darlison
Zoo Ball is unique — it’s written by an award-winning author and illustrated entirely by Australian school children. The publisher, Wombat Books, ran an illustration competition. Winners for each page were chosen and the overall winning entrant was also asked to illustrate the front cover. With the launch of Zoo Ball, 23 young illustrators were published — before they’ve even finished school!