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Punctuation – A Writer’s Magic Wand

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Screen Shot 2017-03-13 at 2.29.04 PMPunctuation can do amazing things for your story.

In fact, punctuation tools are a writer’s friend, a writer’s magic wand.

Punctuation helps create the mood or tone of our stories. It helps us get the response we want to what we have written. It allows us to control the way a reader thinks and reacts to our work.

Punctuation is not just about rules. It’s there to help the reader know how to read what we have written. It helps them immerse themselves in the experience of our story.

Here’s how:

  1. Full stops tell the reader when to pause.
  2. Exclamation marks tell them when to pay attention!
  3. Paragraph breaks make a reader stop and think about what they have just read. This helps them absorb and recall important information.
  4. Talking marks help the reader know exactly who is speaking. So it helps them get to know people they are reading about, and understand their place in the story.
  5. Our sentence breaks help create the mood of the story. For example, short, sharp sentences create tension, but long lyrical ones can help us picture a setting.


Long sentences create atmosphere

After an hour or so, the rocky ridges and snow-covered cliffs gave way to thick forests so deep that there was no sunlight except for narrow stems of gold that filtered between the rows of tall trees. *

Short sentences create tension

Everything happened in a split second. Austin didn’t have time to react. He barely had enough time to realise that the cougar was flying towards him.

Talking marks and line breaks make it clear who’s talking

“You saved that man’s life.”
The boy stopped running. “Henry, his name’s Henry.”
“You saved Henry’s life.”
The boy shrugged. “We take care of each other.”
The man took the boy’s arm gently, as if to stop him running off again.
“I know somebody who can help you,”
The boy felt a spark of hope. He didn’t know how they would survive the Paris winter. *

Screen Shot 2017-03-29 at 10.35.12 PMPunctuation tips

  1. Read your work out loud and listen to where you pause. When you pause for breath, that’s where you need a comma or full stop. Or get someone else to read your story for you and listen to where they pause.
  2. Every time a different character talks or does an action, start a new line with this new speech or action.
  3. Break your work up into paragraphs. This makes it easier to read and helps the reader to stop and think about the piece of text they have just read, and pay attention to important information.can

If you want to be a writer, remember that punctuation is your magic wand, and can turn your work from something good into something great!

Happy writing :)


* Writing passages used in this post are excerpts from my new book, K9 Heroes, to be released by Scholastic Australia in August 2017.


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JH Blue Outside 2 small

JH Blue Outside 2 smallI’m going to be posting regular writing tips from authors in a new series of blogs here on Writing Classes For Kids.

I’m so happy to be able to start off the author writing tips series with Jacqueline Harvey, the popular and thoroughly nice author of both the celebrated Alice-Miranda and the Clementine Rose series.

Fans of Alice-Miranda will be thrilled to know that there’s a new book out, Alice-Miranda in Japan – and it’s full of travel, treasure and trickery in bustling Tokyo.

It’s a fabulous story with lots of mystery as Alice-Miranda takes us on another exciting adventure.

Over to you Jacqueline to tell us about the writing process.


Why I wrote this book

This is the ninth book in the Alice-Miranda series.  Alice-Miranda had lots of great adventures and I enjoy writing the books where she and her friends are at school every bit as much as the ones I’ve set in far flung locations.  Alice-Miranda has visited New York and Paris and sailed on the Royal Yacht Octavia from Barcelona to Venice.  Generally I will set a story at school then one away, so it was time for another journey.  I love travelling and often use some of my own experiences to inspire things that happen in the books.

Tips for Young Writers

  1.  Use places you’ve visited or are familiar with to inspire your own writing.  I first visited Japan in 1994, when as a young teacher I accompanied a group of Year 5 and 6 students on a school excursion. It was my first overseas trip and I fell in love with the country and the people and have been back several times since.
  2. When you travel, keep diaries and take lots of photographs.  They will help you to remember things and come in handy sometimes when you’re stuck for ideas.  I kept extensive diaries during all my visits to Japan and now I blog about all the places we go – so I share my travels with others.
  3. Research – the Internet is your friend!  Anything I wasn’t sure about with regards to the story, I researched on the Internet.  I also used Google Maps to refresh my memory about locations and routes between places.  Tokyo is an amazing city.  I remember one Saturday night being utterly dumbstruck, standing still in the middle of a traffic island in Shinjuku, watching the waves of people moving around us.  It was like Sydney on New Year’s Eve, except that this was just an ordinary Saturday night.  My opening chapter really harks back to this experience except that of course it’s not me in the story, but instead a young runaway.
  4. Seek help from experts.  I had a friend help me with the language translations as my Japanese is very limited.
  5. It’s your story – have fun with it. I write as if it’s a movie playing in my head.  I also edit as I go and read the work aloud – with the accents of the characters too.  This really helps me to get inside their heads and be part of the action.2013-10-28 12.15.06

Alice-Miranda In Japan Hi Res CoverABOUT ALICE MIRANDA IN JAPAN

Alice Miranda and her friends Millie and Jacinta are in Japan for their school holidays because the family cook, Dolly Oliver has been invited to speak at a conference.

But when Alice-Miranda is given a necklace by her father, the girls become  involved in an exciting mystery, and Alice-Miranda finds herself being followed by some pretty nasty people.

Alice-Miranda makes a new friend in Japan, but Kiko is not what he seems.

In Alice-Miranda in Japan, Alice-Miranda gets to mix with royalty when she’s invited to dinner at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo.   But why is the Emperor so sad and how can Alice-Miranda help him?

This story has so many twists and turns, you’ll be wondering what’s going to happen to Alice-Miranda next.

This exciting new book in the series captures the culture and customs of Japanese living.2013-10-28 12.17.53

Alice-Miranda In Japan is available from Dymocks, QBD, Big W, K-Mart, Target, Collins, Booktopia and most independent bookshops.  The series is also available for e-readers through Amazon Kindle, Google Books, iBooks, eBooks and Kobo.

Find out more about Alice-Miranda and her other adventures at her blog

Thanks for visiting Jacqueline and thanks for the great writing tips.

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