Posted in fabo story, The Winners!, writing tip

Kathy White’s FABO Judge’s Report

It’s been a lot of fun reading your stories about Aunt Lillian and that poor kid who’s bleeding on the rug.

What I loved most was that every single one of your stories was different. Madeline’s slug was sucking the colour out of the room, which was a very clever idea. Some of you turned Aunt Lillian into a hero, others turned her into a villain, and one fed her slug soup (Tingmeng, St Cuthberts). Some brought out bazookas (Skye, Waipahihi School), slingshots, and massive quantities of salt in the battle against vampire snails (Finn, Aidanfield Christian School), a ‘summoning animal’ (Katie, Waipahihi School), aliens looking for a host body (Peter), a shapeshifting slug on the rug (Skye), and a creature that burrowed its way through the skin, breaking bones as it went (Bridget, Milford School). Jared’s main character metamorphosed into a slug. YUK! Some of you made it mega-YUKKY by replicating the single slug into hundreds when you tried to destroy it. I like this concept of trying to fix something and inadvertently making it worse (it happens to me all the time!) I’ve always liked tall tales and this story starter allowed you to take it to the extreme if you wanted.

Two bits of advice for improvement in future stories – remember to stay focused on telling THIS story. Don’t dilute it by trying to include another story idea if it doesn’t fit well with the logic of your main idea. If you made this a thriller, you’d focus mainly on the unknown and frightening bits. This story was told from inside the main character’s head, which meant you had access to all their thoughts and fears. Having said this, you could just as easily turn this story into a hilarious tall tale with one disastrous thing happening after the other. Some of you did this brilliantly. And as a general rule, if you choose to tell your story in past tense, stick to it.

There were so many great things about your stories. Here are a few highlights.

Best twist in the middle of the story (going from something that was frightening to funny) – After what seemed like forever I saw pale light encasing me from corners of my eyes, then what seemed like a muffled giggle escaped from under the bed. Then there came a howling of laughter. I dropped to the floor and there was my little brother- Andrew, squirting the tomato sauce bottle as hard as he could, his slime still sitting there – the so called slug was unmoving as it wobbled back and forth for eternity. Meanwhile the sauce soaked into the rug. I knew Aunt Lillian would kill Andrew but not before I had my payback …. (Henry, Milford School)

Best beginning – You know when you flip a ladybug onto its back and it waves its little ladybug legs around, stranded… that’s probably what I looked like right now, add in a Tasmanian Devil scream to the equation and BOOM! You’ve got my current situation. (Pip, Mahana School)

Fabulous imagery – The blood kept on pouring out of my leg like a massive, never-ending waterfall (Ben , Reignier Catholic School), Susan screamed and shouted but nothing came out. She was a remote controlled car and was helpless (Jared, Milford), My brother was in his room, mucus pouring out of his nose, a river cascading into the sea of tissues at his feet (William, Milford), and … blood gushing down my leg like an exploded pipe! (Katie, Mahana School).

Top marks to Bessie from Houghton Valley School for a smooth blend of action and description – I groped for a weapon. My hands hit a white table lamp. I smacked the slug…it burst with a loud comical pop like in a cartoon. The next bit was not cartoonish. As I wiped slug juice from my eye a bloody torrent whipped through the air. MY blood! It gathered in the empty slug skin and then the skin merged together. A new cricket-bat sized slug!

Rose (Vardon School), and Zoey (Waipahihi School) wrote great dialogue. Kyra (Kingsway Christian College) was exceptional at showing her character’s thoughts and fears and used evocative language. All of the children at Willowpark School did a good job with descriptions, and deserved top marks for their use of the words pulsating, exsanguinated and mucus.

Some of you, like Madeline of Birkdale Intermediate and Matthew of Tawa Intermediate just wrote really well in all sorts of ways that deserve applause. All of you did something well. That made it incredibly difficult to choose winners. But I have.

Tatiana Austin is the winner and Pip Coakley and Jessie are highly commended this week. I loved Aunt Lillian as the unexpected hero, but the thing I loved most was the way she used the first person point of view to tell her story, displaying all her main character’s thoughts and fears and sense of humour. It was just fabulous from beginning to end – a great overall story.

As for Pip’s entry, I fell in love with her voice and writing style. At times her cautionary tale is funny, and other times, it’s thought-provoking. She focused on the positive side of the situation, which was unique. Leeches do have medical benefits, and I liked the way she stretched the idea into something fantastical, ethical and philosophical.

And Jessie, you made me cry. You took it as far as it can go and yet kept it all so real. Well done, everybody.

Tatiana, Jessie and Pip, can you super cool kids please email me your address so I can send you a little something.

WINNER – Tatiana Austin, Amberley School (aged 11)

What the…?

I stared at the blood that slowly dyed the white rug red, trying to figure it out. That’s when it dawned on me that the ‘slug’ wasn’t on the rug anymore.
It was up my leg.

But it wasn’t a slug. Slugs don’t have razor sharp teeth on the bottom of their slimy bodies. Slugs don’t rip through human skin, pushing their teeth until they reach the pulsing veins. All in all, slugs AREN’T vampires.

But this one was. And I didn’t like it. I grabbed one of the white cloths hanging in the corner of my room. I wacked the filthy creature again and again, but the only thing I gained was blood marks and slime.

The slug didn’t like being wacked. No… Not the slug.

The slime. The slug was slime.

The slug slime thing deformed to its natural state. Now slime doesn’t sound like the strongest substance on the planet. But what people don’t know is that slime is tough. That slime is strong.

Slime is liquid steel.

Well, a gooey version of liquid steel.

It slithered around my leg, tightening its grip. It placed its blood-sucking fangs inside the wound, and bit.

I aimed, and plunged with all my might at the slime.

However, you can only do so much with a cloth. The slime fled from the smack of the cloth. I ended up smacking the injury, blood suddenly flowing rapidly from the wound. I screamed in pain, dropping the cloth. The slime slithered back toward me in hatred.

Oh yeah, how do you know if a ball of vampire slime is happy and is angry? Well, look at its teeth. Usually, their teeth would be nothing but helpless shards of stones, only glistening jewels stuck in muck. But when he is enraged… Well, it wasn’t pretty. His teeth sprouted, teeth curving wickedly to form daggers. A transformation. That’s all you need to know.

I backed into the corner, so close to the door. If I got out, I’d be safe. Safe…

I reached over to the white fabric, the cloth, gripping it like it was my last chance.

The slime followed my path of blood, sucking up every last drop. At least Aunt Lilian won’t notice the new red dyed onto the rug, however she would still scream at me for the slime that had replaced the marks… Aunt Lilian!

My mind tried to push the words out of my mouth with all my might, but I only squeaked it.

“Aunt Lilian…” the words were nothing but a wisp of a whisper.

The slime went up to me, and dug its jaws into my wound. I slammed the cloth again and again, but the slime didn’t stop. I wanted to scream, I wanted to dig my fingernails into the living goo’s back. Wanted.

I lost feeling in my hands and legs. But I still had some control in my mouth.

“Hell! Go move your slimy butt to hell!”

Now, I know that was kind of a lame thing to say, but I’m not a person who curses other lives and other people. What did you want me to say to the vampire slime slug? THANKYOU?!

That did it. My vision drained away from my eyes, my mouth struggling to breath. And then I knew. I knew that the slime had exsanguinated me. Then the slime opened up its mouth, rising to my face…

The door slammed open. I felt the wind from the door in my face, and you would think that when you are about to die, everything would be faint, blurred. But oh no, the wind smacked me in the face, and it smacked me hard. Painfully hard.

The figure stood silhouetted in front of the opened door, like a person on the top of a mountain, a person on the tallest tree in the forest, a super hero arriving at the fight-scene, or, in my case, an aunt standing tall in front of my bed room door.

I felt my heart start pumping again; the slime fell back, away from my face, away from me. Breath rushed towards my mouth in short sudden gasps.
Aunt Lilian’s piercing voice cut through the air at me.

“I keep telling you, Rachel, DON’T go out to the waters. Slugs and slimes, REMEMBER?!”Aunt Lilian shrieked.

Aunt Lilian was wearing gloves, gumboots, and in her right hand was a witch’s broom, and in her left hand, a bottle of spray-able vinegar. The outfit oddly suited her, Aunt Lilian had always been one of those ‘clean clean clean’ aunties. Oh yeah, and the gloves and gumboots were all clean and polished, with a spray of vinegar. I knew because the smell of vinegar flooded my room. Ugh.

The slime began to shrink, squirming and slithering to the rug, where it could flee and escape. Aunt Lilian was quicker.

“AND WHERE DO YOU THINK YOUR GOING?!” Aunt Lilian roared at the slime, chasing after it. The slime shrank some more, allowing it to move more quickly. Unfortunately, for the slime, Aunt Lilian was quicker.

She smacked the broom onto the slug with such force I knocked back, too. Then Aunt Lilian switched to her vinegar, and sprayed. Sprayed like a skunk, I tell you. I swear I saw a puff of green squirt out from the bottle. It landed onto the slime. It withered and squirmed madly. And then the slime died.

I breathed a sigh of relief. Aunt Lilian whipped around, her hawk-eyes narrowed as she looked me over.

“What are you going to do with socks like THAT?!” she shouted, her finger almost sticking to my sock.


But I wasn’t thinking about all the scrubbing I was going to have to do, as punishment. I had seen toads, fish, and slime, even a platypus family.

But before I went back to New Zealand, I needed to see a crocodile.

HIGHLY COMMENDED – Pip Coakley, Mahana School (aged 12)

You know when you flip a ladybug onto its back and it waves its little ladybug legs around, stranded… that’s probably what I looked like right now, add in a Tasmanian Devil scream to the equation and BOOM! You’ve got my current situation.

I grabbed my selfie stick and cautiously approached the foul beast. As I crouched beside it, I noticed the mucus spilling out of the slug like creature. Its skin was bumpy like a snail’s and stretch marks were evident on the middle part of the body. Reaching out, I gently pushed the pulsating lump with the picture taking device that was in my hand.

Stirring, the creature makes a strange noise.

“Shebang I am!”

Confused I poke it again, this time it says,

“Shebang I am, Shebang is here to help Georgia!”

I guess I was puzzled, or maybe it was the shock, but I spoke back!

“W-w-what do y-you help with?” I stammered.

“I h-help you t-to be h-h-healthy.” Shebang mocked me.

Taking a deep breath, I tried to calm myself down. This slug thing, that was sucking my blood, was helping me?

“How?” I enquired, my voice sounding much more confident than I felt.

Shebang shook his head. “When I suck your blood I take out all the mucus in your body, and if you are mean, deceive or back-stab, I will magically disappear” He replied. I peer apprehensively at the remains on the floor.

“Yes, that’s your gunk.” The Miniature Thrasher Whale next to me explains, seeing my stare.

My sight was suddenly shrouded by black dots and I was getting increasingly dizzy.

▴ ▴ ▴ ▴ ▴

All was calm in Aunt Lillian’s house, the birds chirped, people laughed. Shebang sat peacefully in his tank. Suddenly the door opened, a girl strolled in, following her were flashing cameras, journalists and microphones. The girl grins and leads them over to the tank at the side of the room, trying to show them the rare species that supposedly sits there. But it’s too late, Shebang is gone, his trust destroyed by the traitorous girl. Georgia stares in disbelief. Realising her mistake she quickly ushers the people out of the house. The journalists, thinking Georgia wanted publicity, begin to hit Georgia, until all that remains of her, is a beat up piece of worthlessness.

HIGHLY COMMENDED – Jessie, St Cuthberts College (aged 12)

I thought nothing of it as Aunt Lilian rushed to tend to the cut. After all, it didn’t hurt and there wasn’t even that much blood. Aunt Lillian thought that I was too frail, so she made me sit down and read my comics while she scrubbed hard at her rug.

Little did I know that, that would be the last day of truly feeling at peace.

The cut was much, much more than what Aunt Lillian and I had thought. I remember the way Aunt Lillian screamed in the morning. Her newly bought, crisp white sheets had been soaked with my crimson red blood. Head pounding, fingers trembling and my entire leg red I had tried to get up but my efforts were useless. As Aunt Lilian bundled me up in the sheet, she whipped out her cellphone and called Mum.

Honestly, the memory of Mum’s crying resonated with me the most.

The next few days I don’t recall. Apparently, after being rushed into the Emergency Hospital, the doctors and nurses all panicked, but Aunt Lililan told them to shut their faces and help me. This made me laugh. According to Aunt Lilian, the doctors didn’t know what was wrong with me, So they rushed me to Starship Hospital in Auckland. In a blur of ruby lights, wind whistling and several white figures, we boarded a helicopter.

Arriving into the hospital seemed quite effortless, almost as if I had just woken up there. Aunt Lillian didn’t tell me but it was pretty obvious. They had clearly knocked me out with some gas and chemicals. I didn’t get why everyone was treading so carefully around me. I remember thinking that teenagers don’t need chemicals or gas. After all, being almost 11 years old is basically almost a teenager. Aunt Lilian said I had “undergone a very serious and sore surgery”. Soon after that “sore and serious” surgery, I recall Mum dashing in like there was something really important.

“Oh God. You okay? Are you hurt? Were you any trouble for Lilian? Oh talk to me Josie!” cried Mum with every single bead of spit she could utter.

“Geez Mum, I’m fine. Really” I murmured awkwardly. There were plenty of people staring. Good thing I was being whisked away before Mum had anymore saliva to drizzle.

Now as I think, I really should’ve said something like, “ I love you,” or “Don’t worry Mum, relax” but I guess there’s no time for that. I’d been furiously trying to remember what happened in the last few weeks of my life. So that when I’m reborn, I’ll remember Mum and Aunt Lilian. What were the chances that, that little bloodsucker was an endangered and highly poisonous African leech. Disgusting, filthy little slug.

I know you’re probably wondering why the doctors would tell me “You’re going to die”. Well, I’m smart. Words like ‘amputation’ and ‘internal infection’ mean that I’m gonna die.
To whoever who reads this, just remember Josie Linn, was a super cool kid.

Posted in Enter Now, fabo story

Enter The New FABO Competition Now!

Kathy White is the next FABO judge, and her story starter has just been posted!


Finish the story. Send it in by Friday August 5th (so don’t rush – you have heaps of time).

Here are a few extra tips

Ask yourself ‘What’s the problem?’ in this story.

What kind of story do you want to write? A realistic story or a tall tale? Perhaps a doomsday story, adventure, thriller, mystery or horror? This will affect the ending that you choose.

Add a surprise or twist to the story before you finish. Readers always like a surprise.

Extra challenge: Try to use one of these words somewhere in your story – pulsating, mucus, or exsanguinated (that last one is quite horrible so I’ll understand if you don’t want to use it).


Aunt Lilian re-decorated after I visited her at Easter. She said she couldn’t get my tub of slime out of her brown shagpile carpet. She wasn’t very happy about it. Nor was I. I’d only just got that slime for my birthday!

Now, everything in my new room, from the chenille bedspread to the plumped pillows and the cotton floor rugs, are as white as an English Christmas. Why on earth did she choose WHITE? Doesn’t she know about the time that Mum bribed me to eat a tomato, and I was sick down her favourite white jumper? It’s a recipe for disaster.

“Where are you putting those boots?” Aunt Lilian’s sharp voice made me jump.

I looked down. My boots WERE filthy. I’d just got back from looking for platypus in Froggett’s pool, and the ground had been very squishy at the creek edge.

“I’ll leave them at the door,” I said, quickly undoing the laces. Then I long-jumped onto the bed before she got a closer look at the other filthy parts of me.

“I’m not sure why you kiwis feel the need to spend so much time outdoors,” she said, growling at me over her horn-rimmed glasses. “This is Queensland. There are crocodiles in the water, remember?”

I nodded enthusiastically. Australia was so COOL!

She rolled her eyes at me and turned to go downstairs.

I peeled off my socks and was about to throw them into the corner of the room when something slimy plopped onto the rug. At first I thought it was a slug but this wasn’t the kind of slug you find in your cabbages. Those ones are small, but this one was the size of a golf ball.

That’s when I noticed the blood running down the back of my leg onto Aunt Lilian’s rug.

Now you finish the story! Go to the FABO website to write what happens next.

Posted in fabo story, writing tip

A New Fabo Year Is Starting April 4th!

The Fabo team have struggled out of our writing cave. We’ve kicked aside the rubbish heap of old stories, broken sentences and worn out ideas. A new Fabo Story season is just around the corner!

Our first step was to fight over who would go first. Melinda won.

‘We need a story setting,’ the team cried.
How about a school?

‘We need a challenge,’ the team roared.
Let’s have 5 bonus words that have to be used in each story.

‘We need kids who want to write stories,’ the team whimpered.
That’s where you come in!

How To Enter Fabo

A new Fabo story starter will appear every two weeks from April 4th, with breaks for school holidays.

On April 4th, Melinda Szymanik will give you the first story starter – so don’t start writing until then!

Melinda will also give you five bonus words. You must use them somewhere in your story.

A prize will be awarded to the best story and/or most creative use of the bonus words.

Each story should be less than 500 words and must follow on from the story starter.

fabo writing tips

Posted in fabo story, Prizes!, The Winners!

Kathy White Announces The Winning FABO Story!

Wow! The FaBo stories took directions I wasn’t expecting this time. Some were funny, one rocketed into sci-fi and one in particular featured a strange boy who barely said a word. He didn’t need to speak – he gave me the shivers just by what he did.

Some of you wrote something that wasn’t connected to the story starter. Some were only a few lines and needed a bit more to be a full story, and some needed to be checked for grammar and spelling, but on the whole, you did a great job. The stories I liked most were the ones with vivid descriptions of characters and places (Will), with realistic conversations between characters (Ava and Tashya) and a well-rounded story (Peyton). I liked the pace in Reuben and Kyle’s stories, and I loved the thoughts and fears of the main character in Amelia’s story. There were also some wonderful ideas – riddles (Helena), a magic notepad and pencil (Amanda), and codes (Madeleine).

Peyton Morete described the characters so well that I could see them. I ran downstairs and slung my backpack over my shoulder. Chloe had her pink miniskirt on and her purple tank top. Her sassy queen bag lay on her converses.

And then Peyton gave the story an interesting twist. Keegan and Chloe’s mum got changed and walked down the stairs, wearing a red dress and hair spiraled down in curls – just like the miniature wax figure in the front seat of the yellow VW.

The dad in Will Isaac’s story had died in a tragic car accident and the kids missed him terribly. It was a great idea, and Will did well to capture the sadness in the detailed memories about Keegan and Chloe’s dad. “… dark brown eyes, all-time favourite yellow suit (it was incredibly ghastly but I didn’t want to tell him that), his blue tie with cars on, and his incredibly polished R.M. Williams boots.”

I loved the detail. It made his dad come alive in my mind.

A good story becomes bigger when characters want something badly and they have to struggle to get it. That’s often what motivates them to do something extraordinary. It also needs to have a beginning, middle and end. Sometimes you find a great story by starting with your main idea and asking questions, such as “What happened to their dad on that tragic day of the accident?” Perhaps the items in the box were clues to what really happened to their father. What if there was a sinister element to his car accident? Or perhaps their mum lied about it? Why would she lie? Finding that out could spark off the rest of the story, with Keegan and Chloe going back in time to prevent it happening.

In a good thriller, the stakes need to be high.

It was difficult to choose a winner this week, because so many of you did something well. In the end my shortlist was Ava, Amelia and Peyton, because you all wrote well and you had a beginning, middle and end. Amelia, your story had a mood and tension that no other story had. It was like we were listening to your character’s thoughts and fears, and it was beautifully done. “I heard a bang in the middle of the night and in the morning my red headed friend randy was gone. There was no box or sign or note just the shoes of randy.”

It was a tough decision, but the prize this week is going to Peyton Morete of Te Horo School, for a well-balanced story with good pace and unexpected twists and turns. Congratulations, Peyton, and thanks to everyone for writing such entertaining stories for us to read. Email me your postal address, Peyton, so I can put your prize in the post.

– Kathy.

Kathy’s Story Starter

The doorbell rang.

Mum groaned, nearly stabbing herself in the eye with her mascara. ‘Why does it always ring when I’m in a hurry? Can you answer that, Keegan? I haven’t cleaned my teeth yet.’ She breathed into her hand. ‘Good gracious, I smell like a gorilla’s armpit.’

Keegan sighed and slid off his bar stool, vegemite on toast in one hand, and a Go Pro attached to his head. He had been filming all weekend for a school project called ‘BSI: A scientific investigation into boredom, during which he had fallen asleep in his food twice. He could have drowned in his bolognaise or got a bit of corn stuck up his nose. But did anyone care? No. His sister Chloe muttered ‘Gross’ like she’d swallowed a snail, and continued doing inane snapchats with her friend Marty. And his mother? Well, his mother did what she always did.

‘Have you tidied your room yet, Keegan? There’s a good boy.’

She was so busy these days, she wouldn’t notice if he died and rotted on the carpet. She would step over his fly-infested corpse in the hallway and moan that he was always leaving stuff around. Keegan sighed deeply and opened the door.

Standing on the doorstep was a man in a red-and-yellow uniform. He grinned widely and thrust a rectangular box into Keegan’s hands. ‘Special delivery for K Bennet,’ he said, handing Keegan a clipboard and pen. ‘Sign here.’

Keegan put a vegemite fingerprint and a squiggle on the dotted line. He couldn’t stop looking at the strange aquamarine eye printed on the box lid.

‘Enjoy,’ the man winked. ‘Oh, and happy birthday.’

Keegan frowned. ‘My birthday’s in January ….’

Chloe poked him from behind. ‘What is it?’

He shrugged and lifted the lid.

Buried under the tissue was a small yellow car (a VW), a wooden cat with a long neck, and a notepad and tiny pencil.

‘What the …?’

Chloe snatched the card out of the box and read. ‘Happy birthday. We’re going back. We have to change the world, Keegan. We have no choice. P.S. Don’t forget the chocolate.’ Chloe looked up. ‘You have some weird friends, dude.’

‘Not half as weird as this,’ Keegan said, lifting the little yellow car into the air. There in the back seat were miniatures of Keegan and Chloe. And driving the car was ….

Peyton’s Winning Story

dress-clipart-red-dress-mdMum. She was wearing her red skinny dress and her hair spiralled down in curls. She looked amazing, her makeup made her features stand out. She didn’t look like herself, she looked like a… a goddess.

“Kids, I am just quickly changing. This outfit is too ick. Please get ready so we can leave.” Mum yelled from upstairs.

Geez, she was so messy these days, what was I to do.

“Keegan, clean your room up now.”

I groan, my go pro bobbing on my head as I bounced up the stairs.

After I had chucked everything into the wardrobe, I ran downstairs and slung my backpack over my shoulder. Chloe had her pink miniskirt on and her purple tank top. Her sassy queen bag lay on her converses.

I groaned, “Mum! Hurry up!”

“Just a minute!”

Normally that meant she was going to change her appearance again but who knew. But this time we heard her clattering down the stairs.

When she came around the corner, I nearly choked. What the…

She wore the red skinny dress and her hair was spiralled. This couldn’t be happening.

Chloe had obviously noticed, “Isn’t that like your toy car, K?”

“Hmm?” Mum asked as she reached over to get her purse.

“Oh yeah, I got this present for my birthday. You are wearing exactly the same clothes. It is weird”

Mum smiled at me and started to hum. This was weird.

She pats my shoulder and whispers in my ear.

“Go get in the car please.”

I groan, “Fine.”

I wander out to the car and strap myself in. Life was cruel.

I look at the car and look at Chloe, she is wearing a pink miniskirt…. Oh my god. What the hell.

I quickly zoom my eyes at my little wax body and see myself wearing the jeans and shirt I was wearing now.

This is weird, then I realised. Our car was yellow…

What. The. Hell.

I close my eyes and hear Mum and Chloe enter.

When we start to drive, I start playing with the car. Racing it along the seat, dodging the rocks that were spilled on the VW seats.

It was actually kind of fun to be back in my childhood memories. Then I made the car hit a big rock, denting the front of the car and smashing up Chloe and Mum.


Suddenly the car screeches and I see a massive boulder on the road, we swerve but hit it. The car groaning and grumbling.

Then I realise before I black out. The note said we had to go back, We have to change the world, we don’t have any choice. I did go back to playing with this car. The world has changed because I don’t have a mum anymore. I don’t have anyone. There was no choice. This was always destined to happen. I blame whoever sent this. It was them! Or was it me…

Posted in writing tip

Come To Time Out’s Teen Book Club!

Are you an avid teen reader? Come along to Time Out’s Teen Book Club on Friday August 29th at 4pm and you can:

– Get some tips about writing comedy.

– Talk about books and writing.

– Hear about 99 Flavours of Suck.

– Ask me any questions you like!

Where: Upstairs at Time Out Book Store, 432 Mt Eden Road, Auckland

When: 29th August 2014. 4pm – 5:30pm

RSVP: Either call 630-3331, or email to let them know you’re coming.

It’s going to be a fun hour and a half and I really hope I’ll see you there!


Posted in writing tip

What’s in a name?

Names. Like naming children, naming our characters can be a daunting prospect. Get it right and our characters and their names are a seamless whole,the words tripping off the tongue and sticking in people’s minds – Harry Potter, Voldemort, Frodo and Bilbo Baggins, Verruca Salt, Lyra Belacqua and Thursday Next. A good name fits the character like a glove, suits them and can provide an additional clue to who they are or be an extra riddle to challenge the reader.

Sometimes characters turn up with their names already attached. The result of a sort of writer’s intuition, that name is often the best choice. Trust your instincts. However sometimes I find when naming multiple characters in a longer piece of fiction that I have subconsciously made many of the names start with the same letter and changes are necessary to avoid confusion. A book of baby names (or two) is a good resource. If you are writing historical fiction, try the internet. I also check out Births, Deaths and Marriages columns for names and also sit through movie credits with pen and paper at the ready. Movie credits can be a fantastic place to find interesting and unusual names and I’m not just talking about the actors. Sometimes the foley artists, the special effects guys and the grips have the best names. It is a good idea if you are getting into this writing gig for the long haul to collect names that you like or that have a strong connection for you. Like screenwriters who write scripts with particular actors in mind I have several names I am keen to write stories around. However liking a name is not always enough on its own to make the name right for your character. It still has to fit with who they are, how they behave and when and where they lived.

Names must suit the tone and setting of your story. Names are era, socio-economically and of course gender sensitive. For example, think of the names Nigel, Rupert, Bruce and Matt. Or Charlotte and Tiffany, Kylie and Lisa. What about Mabel or Myrtle and Agnes or Jeremiah. Paddy and Duncan could have a Scottish background while Marcelle and Dominique are most likely French. And what about Inga, Olga and Hans? It can be tempting to use unusual names and this can work really well, but it can also fail miserably. Standing out is not always the right thing for your character. If you are writing for children, everyday names can make it easier for the reader to connect with your character. Of course while unusual names can be a curse in a novel or short story they can be the whole point in a picture book, for example Hubert Horatio Bartle Bobton Trent, Mog, or Hairy McLairy and Bottomley Potts. In picture books, rhythmic and rhyming qualities may be the deciding factor. In my picture book The Were-Nana, while rhyming wasn’t an issue, choosing the name Simon for the brother gave me the opportunity to echo the Simon Say’s children’s game in several places. This name also helped with the rhythm of the story. The name Nana Lupin from the same book is a play on the root word for wolf.

Phew – there is a lot to take into consideration when naming your character. It can be one of the hardest decisions but ultimately you want it to look like it was no trouble at all. And like naming your own children, if your character makes it in to print the book will have to live with that name for the rest of its life. If you think the names will stand this test then you’ve done your job.

Good luck with your writing


Posted in writing tip

Your first rule for writing – there are no rules

Hello faithful readers (and writers). I thought I’d get the ball rolling with some writing advice that I think every writer should know before they read any other writing advice. This is one of my most important writing tips – there is NOT one proper way to write. Yes, it does help to follow all the usual rules of grammar about verbs and nouns and adjectives and sentence structure and all the usual rules of punctuation about fullstops and commas etc…but otherwise you should just follow those bits of advice that work best for you and DON’T WORRY about the rest.

The following article about this very topic was written by the very experienced writer Nicola Morgan and appeared on her blog which is full of great advice, inspiration and other sensible stuff that will most likely help you enormously.

There are no rules for writing – just results

You want to know how to write? Well, I cannot tell you. Yes, I have written more than half a million words on this blog; yes, I’ve had a large number of books published; and yes, I am writing a book called Write To be Published. And yes, aspiring writers ask me and other writers things such as, do you plan? Do you talk to your characters? Do you outline? Keep spreadsheets of characters? Know the end before you get there? Use Moleskine notebooks? Talk to yourself? Drink lots of coffee? And I have answers to these questions but the answers and the questions are entirely irrelevant to you.

Entirely. Irrelevant. To. You. And. To. Everyone. Except. Me.

This is because how a writer writes is entirely irrelevant to anyone but the writer. All that matters is the result: what you write, what the words sound like when you’ve written them, what readers think of them, whether they work.

The method, the route you take, matters zilchly. No one cares whether you plan or whether you fly by the seat of your pants. No one cares whether you interviewed your characters or spent the night dreaming of them. Well, OK, they might care, but only out of weird reader interest. If you are asking these questions in order to find out how to write yourself, you are barking up the wrong tree.

Please. Just write your book in whatever way works for you, even if that means hanging from a chandelier naked. It will be judged only on the result. Don’t get hung up on method, or at least on other people’s methods. You will find what works for you and that’s all that matters.

Fair enough; sometimes another writer’s method is worth trying, to see if it might work better for you than the one you use, and for that reason the questions are not entirely pointless. But only as long as you never get hung up on the answers, and never worry if you are doing it differently from others.

Just write, eh?

When you look gorgeous, I do not need to know how you got dressed.

Merry christmas and happy holidays everyone – take care and see you next year – Melinda

Posted in writing tip

Tips for Writing A Great Story

Have A Good Hook…. Readers aren’t going to continue reading unless you have a really good lure to get them engaged.
The First Act…. The first three chapters… the set up, introduce the characters, the setting and the stakes. (about 20 to 25% of the story)
The First Plot Point…. Stories are a series of scenes but some scenes are game changers. The first plot point introduces a game changing event or element to your story which changes the course of the story.
The first quarter of your book hinges on the Inciting Event (Hook) and the Key Event. (First Plot Point)
The Beginning Of The Second Act…. The Main Character is still reacting to the First Plot Point but things are about to change…
Midpoint….(Second Plot Point) A major game changing event happens and the stakes are now very high. What will your Main Character do….
The End of The Second Act…. The Main Character must make the decision to take charge and drive forward to the end of the story. (To Act and Not React)
You are now 70% of the way through your story. You have upped the stakes, made the Main Character take charge and now things are really hotting up.
The Beginning Of The Third Act…. Events are set in motion to get to the
Climax…. This is the event that the whole story has been working up to…. How will the Main Character overcome the stakes? Game changing scenes come thick and fast. The Main Character has to be nimble to get through them all…but at what cost?
The Resolution…. How has the Climax changed the Main Characters world? This can be from a page to a chapter where all questions not answered in the climax get resolved.
Maureen Crisp 2012

Posted in writing tip

What Should You Include In Your Story?

Remember that although you work out the history of a character and the reasons for things happening, you don’t have to include everything that you know in your story.

It’s tempting, especially when you’ve come up with such fabulous traits and explanations, but the trick is to select what needs to be in this chapter, what can be revealed later, and what can be left out completely. You want to include just enough to keep good rhythm and pace in the story, and you also want to leave some gaps for your readers to fill in the details.

Including too much information slows things down and the reader can get bored. But you still need to make sure you include ‘enough’ information for the reader to figure things out for themselves. Tricky, huh? That’s the writer’s challenge.

– Kathy White