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FELICITY PULMAN – JANUARY FEATURE AUTHOR

Felicity Pulman

From January to March, it’s all about “fantasy” here at Writing Classes For Kids and we’re going to meet some fabulous authors and get their tips.

Bestselling Felicity Pulman is our January Feature Author and she’s also generously donating two of her books for our ‘First Quarter’ writing competition.

ABOUT FELICITY PULMAN

I’ve written numerous novels for children and teenagers, most notably Ghost Boy, the Shalott trilogy and the Janna Mysteries series.

My novels reflect my fascination with the unknown in our world, like ghosts, reincarnation and time travel, along with my interest in Australian history and also medieval time, and my delight in writing crime and mystery stories.

I often have to do quite a lot of research, which is always a good excuse to travel!  Most recently I visited Norfolk Island to research my new novel, Hearts in Chains, which will be published by Harper Collins next year.  This is a story of a love that lasts through time, from the brutal 2nd penal colony in the mid-1800s to the star-crossed ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and their difficulties in the present.


HOW FELICITY WRITES

I recently completed the Janna Mysteries, my medieval crime series for teenagers (although adults seem to love them too!)

Because I live in Australia and the books are set in England, I had to make several research trips to walk in my character’s footsteps and see what she sees on her quest to find her unknown father and avenge the death of her mother. It’s important to create a credible setting, so I visited all the places Janna went to on her quest, including a huge forest, a working farm, a water mill, an abbey (I had to go to France for that), Wilton, Sarum, Winchester and Oxford.  

I always walked with pocket guides to flowers, trees, birds etc so I could identify what Janna would have known.  I found this    ‘dreaming time’ really helpful and often inspirational – like when I took a side trip to Stonehenge. I had no intention of sending Janna there, but when I saw those huge monoliths I imagined a bleeding body stretched out on one of them, and I knew I’d have to use that image somehow. This became the central inspiration for Book 4, Willows for Weeping.  Guide books are often sold at these historic sites, which are also really helpful. 

Even more important than setting are characters, and they drive the other crucial component: plot.  

Authors usually draw on their own experiences when creating characters.  For example, in Book 3, Lilies for Love, Janna spends time at Wilton Abbey with the nuns, learning how to read and write so she can read her father’s letter to her mother and hopefully find clues to his identity.  I used my horrible experience in an all-girls boarding school to envisage a closed community of women and to create the characters of the nuns: the rivalry, jealousy, ambition, loves and hates that led to some of the crimes and mysteries Janna needed to solve. 

Sometimes I wrote something that turned out not to be true once I’d researched it properly, and then I had some rewriting to do.  But I also learned to trust my instinct and explore whatever ‘crazy’ idea might pop into my head (like Stonehenge) because those ideas often turned out to be vital either to the plot or to the development of the character.

Writing the story is the fun part, but after that you have to get serious about editing and polishing your story to make it the best it can be before sending it to an editor – or a teacher!

FREE WRITING ACTIVITIES

Writing activity (a):  Imagine that you live in medieval time. Who are you and what do you do? Describe your day, where you live, your family, your work, your mates, what you wear, what you eat, etc.

Writing activity (b):  You live in medieval time and your best friend has been murdered. How would you go about solving the murder without modern technology (eg finger printing, DNA testing, etc) to help you?  What steps would you take? What techniques might you use?  What sort of knowledge might be helpful?

All Felicity’s books, including the Janna Mysteries series, are available through www.amazon.com either in paperback or e-book format. 

 Felicity Pulman is donating two books to our Writing Classes For Kids 1st Quarter competition, so make sure you enter. Competition closes 31st March. See our competition page for details.

 

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10 TIPS FOR WRITING A GREAT FIRST PAGE

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FIRST PAGE CHECKLIST

1. Introduce the main character – Your reader will want to know who this story is about. If they love your main character, they will want to read what happens to them.

2. Hook the reader – You need to intrigue and excite your readers. Make your beginning so interesting that they want to read on

3. Set the tone – Give the reader an idea of the sort of story this is by the tone and content. For example if it’s going to be a humourous adventure then start out funny. if it’s going to be horror, then start scary.

4. Use action not boring stuff. For example, if someone opens the door and there’s something scary or surprising on the other side, start with the door opening not the person walking to the door. Start at the action.

5. Make it clear to the reader why your main character is in the scene. Why is your character in this particular place at this time?

6. Let the reader know what’s at stake. What is your character’s problem or what do they stand to lose if things don’t work out the way they want them to?

7. Introduce conflict – Give the reader a sense of what’s at stake, what is the conflict?

8. Don’t introduce too many characters too early – If you introduce too many characters on the first page it will confuse the reader.

9. Stick to one scene -Don’t confuse the reader by jumping from one scene/place to another on the first page. If you overload the reader with too much information they get confused and might not absorb important information that you want them to.

10. Use a strong voice – Make your main character unique. When they speak or act, the reader should be able to recognise that it’s your main character doing these things even if you don’t say who they are.

WRITING ACTIVITY – HOW WELL DO YOU KNOW YOUR CHARACTER?

From the first page of your story, your reader will need to connect with your character so you will need to be well connected with them to. You will need to see inside your main character’s head. You will need to know how they think and how they would react to a situation.

Here’s an activity to test how well you know the main character in your story.

1. Your main character has just started at your school. It’s your job to introduce them to your classmates. In 50 words or less introduce your main character. What are the most important things about them? What are the things that people might like to know.

2. Your school principal is not who they say they are. It turns out they are a baddy intent on the school’s destruction. At the next school assembly they have a plan to kidnap the school captain. Only your main character knows about it. How do they react? What do they do to save the school captain and the school?

I hope you find these tips and activities useful. Happy writing and I look forward to seeing your competition entries.

Dee:)

 

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