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HAZARD RIVER SERIES – FREE Writing Activities – Story Setting

This post and activities are by J E Fison, author of the popular Hazard River Adventure Books for kids.

There are some places that are so special you just have to write about them. The Noosa North Shore in Queensland is one of them. A lot of people know Noosa – beautiful beaches, great restaurants and shops. It’s bordered by a national park on one side and a river on the other – a perfect place to holiday. But not so many people know about the North Shore – on the other side of the Noosa River. It’s accessible only by car ferry, so it’s mostly undeveloped – a great place for an adventure.

I went there a few years ago on a family holiday. My two sons teamed up with friends and spent the summer exploring sands banks, building bush camps, pulling down camps, making rafts, riding along dirt tracks to the beach, dodging snakes, avoiding sting rays. I was so inspired by the place I used it as the setting for the Hazard River series.

The series chronicles the adventures of four children, Jack Wilde – the narrator, his brother Ben – the ‘Stink Collector’, their neighbour Lachlan Master – the ‘Master of Disaster’ and ‘Professor Bigbrains’, Mimi Fairweather, who lives on a yacht in Hazard River. The gang comes up against rogue miners, smugglers and developers while holidaying at Hazard River. In between tracking down the baddies, the kids fall into quicksand, get stranded on boats, find messages, discover super-cool secret bases and abandoned boats.  They play pranks on each other, get lost, get found and get into a whole lot of trouble.

There are now six books in the series – Shark Frenzy, Snake Surprise, Bat Attack, Tiger Terror, Blood Money and Toads’ Revenge – all set on Hazard River. A map at the start of each story gives readers a clear idea of where everything is. The map is also useful for me to keep things consistent. It’s amazing how easy it is to get places and names mixed up, when you are writing, if you try to keep it all in your head.

It’s also good to know everything you can about your setting. The more you know, the more convincing your story will be. If you set your story on a river, you need to decide if it’s narrow and brown or wide and blue. Is it in Queensland or Victoria, the Amazon or the Rockies? Is the kind of place where you might see a red-belly black snake (found on the east coast of Australia) or are you more likely to see a diamondback rattlesnake (found in the desert of the USA)? Will there be crocodiles or funnel webs, tigers or lions? They all live in different parts of the world and if you are writing something that is realistic (not fantasy) you might need to do some research to find out what belongs in your setting.

Because my setting is based on a real place, I have a clear idea what everything looks like and what normally happens there. It doesn’t mean I have to stick to the truth – that wouldn’t make a very good adventure series. But it gives me a place to start and that makes my job as a writer a whole lot easier.

Try these exercises:

1. The Hazard River series was inspired by a family holiday on the Noosa River. Try writing your own story about a family holiday that went wrong.

2. Blood Money came from a story that I read in the newspaper. Two boys found a bag containing $100,000 when they were fishing in a quiet creek in New South Wales. Try writing the events of Blood Money as a news story. The most important information goes at the beginning of the story. You need to include who, what, where, when and how.

3. Toads’ Revenge (like all of the Hazards River stories) is told from Jack Wilde’s point of view.  Try writing one of the chapters from Lachlan Master’s point of view.

The Hazard River series is J.E. Fison’s first fiction series and is published by Ford Street Publishing with front covers by Deltora Quest illustrator, Marc McBride.

See www.hazardriver.com for more information and watch the book trailer at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GZP4wqrSQSk

Also see Julie Fison’s tips for young writers at juliefisonwriter@wordpress.com

You can read teachers’ notes for the books at http://www.hazardriver.com/Teachers__Notes.html


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