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Author Archives: White Rabbit

About White Rabbit

We are inspirational gurus for the aspiring children's writer.

Discovering Insight from Your Writing

bookbirdsAs writers we start the journey as any adventurer. We prepare by packing our creative backpack – a nice hot cuppa next to keyboard, a few pieces of chocolate for emergencies and our favourite writing spot to help us drop into the zone. Then, we begin. Through our stories we reveal the most noble and enduring facets of our protagonists and in a way we are revealing a glimpse into who we really are as people. Story is more than writing fantastical threads, its a way of weaving into a greater mythology of what it is to be human.

Yes, the White Rabbit sometimes emerges from the dark hole with a philosophical carrot to hold up and tempt you to ask, what insight and wisdom do I gain about myself from my writing? So I am speaking to the writer who is you, and not to the audience that you write for. What can we learn about ourselves through the stories that we write?

Story is a gift that not only is a wonderful world to get lost in but can have a strong impact on our inner development. So here is a challenge to gain some insight into who you are as a writer. Spend some time reflecting and journalling on your heroes and your villains, what aspects of yourself do you see in each of them? What hidden motivations and expectations unfolded through the process of the story? If you reflect upon these patterns in terms of what goes on in your life, what does this reveal to you about how you relate in your world?

Without story, life becomes a book cover with no pages – beautiful on the surface but not very fulfilling. Take the time to really look at your stories and discover what sustains you, what is meaningful to you and what you have endured in your life to become who you are today.

Somewhere in the storytelling is an essence of the real you and here is a opportunity to find a deeper understanding in what you write.

WARNING possible side effect: this exercise may get the ball rolling for some of you who are stuck in your writing. Gaining a new perspective by turning inward can infuse that muse, releasing your creative energy!

 
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Posted by on March 19, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Off with their heads – murdering those inner critics.

Whoever said that writing and illustrating for children was an easy and mellow occupation must have been madder than the Mad Hatter – sorry Dawne for using you as an example of nutty, whacko and a few cows short in the top paddock. This world of children’s literature is not about cute, fluffy bunny slippers and happy-go-lucky gnomes skipping in a meadow. For a more realistic image of what it is like, try imagining those bunnies with large, pointy teeth and ferocious appetites. Or gnomes with cleavers, pillaging and creating chaos. Facing that blank page can be terrifying.

The worst culprit for us creative folk in this genre is out inner critic. That horrid little part of our psyche that basically tells us, without hesitation, YOU STINK! This little demon has the ability to immobilise our creative flow and leave us blubbering in front of our computers. Inducing a “I can’t” psychosis – I can’t write, or I can’t draw, or I can’t do this.

Well the White Rabbit and Mad Hatter say enough playing nice, it’s time to get nasty and bite those critics back….HARD. For those of you who joined us on the BiPolar Express and enjoyed murdering our inner critics (in a most creative way I must add), you will be familiar with this concept of payback.

This little exercise is aimed at bumping off that inner critic and freeing your creativity. There are no limitations on how you would like to do the deed, in fact, the more imaginative, the better!  And I promise, we won’t tell anyone.

EAT ME DRINK ME:

Relax for a moment. Close your eyes and allow yourself to hear your inner critic. Get a good sense of where it dwells, how it feels, how it makes you feel, how it looks. For the next 15 minutes we want you to use one of the murder weapons below and write or illustrate about silencing this inner critic, in the most creative way possible. There is no right or wrong way, so have some fun.

Murder weapon #1 An anchor

Murder weapon #2 A shoe

Murder weapon #3 A slice of pie

Murder weapon #4 A monkey and a piece of string

 

Once Upon a Time: the power of story

There are many places where a story comes from. It can evolve from mystery, authority, poetry, serendipity, or tenacity. The story comes from your own experiences and as a writer, you need to use these experiences to infuse your characters. Try and recall the first time you went to the beach – how did it smell and feel? Was it a windy day, or a hot day? What did you do?

Even as illustrators, these experiences and memories help recapture the picture and allow us to draw from the heart. Can you recall what expressions and actions were involved in this first trip to the beach? Was it a bright day or a dull, cloudy day? All these will effect how the illustration will look. Remember, an illustration is the story that runs parallel to the words.

Be alert! Start paying attention to what is around you.

Start paying attention to what is going on around you, a story could be lurking within. Look into history, watch/read the news, even listen and observe what is happening while you are sitting in a cafe sipping your latte. Listening to conversations is a great way to get a feel for dialogue – just make sure you do this with subtlety. Research is 10% of the story and the other 90% is your imagination.

There are so many different opinions about the writing process and often they conflict with one another. So in the madness of the Mad Hatter and White Rabbit, we say, DO what you need to do, and don’t allow all the rules to bog you down. Just write yourself into your words and into your characters, and write the entire story without going back over it and without worrying about length. With this method you will be able to get that story idea out on the page and you will know where you are going.

Once you have your story down you can start adding layers and revising. Think of yourself as a sculptor, adding layers and layers of clay, building up the art through backstory, feelings, opinions and details.

So lock up that editor within and JUST GET YOUR STORY OUT!

“We shouldn’t worry about the dos and don’ts. Thou shat not will be forgotten, but once upon a time is always remembered.” -Philip Pullman

Eat Me Drink Me:

Writers:

Grab a newspaper and/or magazine. Clip words and random phrases and see which one jumps out at you and then just write for 20 minutes.

Illustrators:

Do the same as above. Now illustrate the scene you have randomly created.

 

Characters Think and Feel

Okay, so actions give us the basic understanding of personality, but if we really want to get to know our character, we also have to know how they think and feel about these actions. Here is where your characters potential lies and how they will ultimately decide what is right and what is wrong.

Now here is the twist – our characters may think rationally but may find themselves behaving irrationally because of how they feel. Just like us, our characters think with their heads but can often feel with their hearts. This means that within your story, your character can experience the whole spectrum of emotions including love, hate, anger, jealousy, guilt, embarrassment, or fear. These feelings themselves can be expressed in their actions (overtly) or kept secret (thinking in their heads so only the reader knows).

Ah what a tangled web we weave in character development – there are so many options. Are you feeling like Frankenstein yet? Because this is what it is about – creating characters by putting all the bits and pieces together and hoping that creative spark brings them to life!

EAT ME DRINK ME:
Now here is where that journal comes into action – a writing/illustrating exercise.

Your character is trapped inside the witch house on a dark, stormy night. They will have to spend the night on their own.

Writers: write a short paragraph on how they feel and what is going on in their head.

Illustrators: draw how your character is thinking and feeling. Try capturing the right emotion through facial expression and physical expression.

 
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Posted by on July 7, 2010 in Characters Feel

 

Characters Do Things

The biggest decision you’ll make is to know what your character will DO in your story. Story characters are never passive, they take action, and how they act will predominantly depend on their experience, background and personality. A character who has been stung by a bee will react differently when a bee buzzes close by, than a character who has not been stung.

Here’s an example (and please do not try this at home – I am a professional chicken) The Mad Hatter will continue sitting and reading her book when a bee flies by, whereas I, the White Rabbit, will throw my book, spill my drink and madly dash indoors because I have been stung and am allergic to bees.

So here is your first infusion exercise to character development. We want you to start a character journal. Even as an illustrator, a good way to know your story characters is to fill out a characterisation sheet. Here’s a sample below you can use, and of course you can add more questions. If you aren’t currently writing/illustrating a specific character, create one on the spot. You may surprise yourself and get a start on a new novel or picture book!

EVERYTHING I KNOW ABOUT MY CHARACTER

  • Name (including last and middle names) and age.
  • Nickname (and how they got this).
  • Physical description.
  • Family members/friends/pets names and ages.
  • Favorite person and why.
  • Least favorite person and why.
  • Best friend (how long and why).
  • Favorite food.
  • Least favorite food.
  • Favorite color
  • Favorite word or saying.
  • Living situation.
  • Bad habits.
  • Secrets – could be a secret wish.
  • Enemies.
  • Any allergies.
  • The thing they are most scared of.
  • The thing that makes them laugh/smile/feel happy.

Actions reveal the personality behind them…and so in your character’s shoes, you will be responding to things you see, hear, smell, taste and touch in your journals. You must stay true to your character when you are attempting this exercise. Remember, when a character acts consistently, that character then becomes believable.

 
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Posted by on July 7, 2010 in Characters Act

 

Give Yourself the Right to Write Crap

You sit there staring at that blinking cursor and you at least give yourself credit for sitting still in front of the computer without distraction. And there is a brief pause….of about a few hours and still nothing on that screen. Sure, you’ve done a bit of surfing on the net to get some background or info on your story. And hey, you had to check your email and respond to those pressing forwards that keep circulating. But the writing part of your writing is left…empty…cursor blinking.

And why is it such a hard thing to do? We love writing don’t we?  I think the hardest part of starting to write is locking up that inner critic. That editor within that just wants the perfect first line, the flawless first paragraph….a first page that can almost evoke a religious experience it’s that good. Well, no wonder we can’t bloody write!

So let’s give ourselves the permission to write crap. Just get it all out on the page and indulge in the freedom of letting go and simply expressing yourself. If you think about writing in this way it really makes the whole process so much more approachable. You have to get to the heart of your story first and worry about the critic later. The first draft is never going to be good enough, so just accept that it has to be good enough for now. As YA author Libba Bray said at a writer’s conference, lower your standards, let the madman out and type your first shitty draft!

Embrace this new way of thinking about your writing and just see how many more words and how easier it is to start hitting the keyboard when you allow yourself to simply write without inhibition. Once you have your story down then you can go back and start adding layers and revising.

But for now just sit down and write!

*So here’s a thought…what kind of writing habits do you have? Is there a ritual before you sit down and write? Time of day that you are most productive? Personally, I like to leave myself on a hanger with the manuscript…stop somewhere it would be easy to pick up writing from. So in the middle of a thought, I stop typing and then I find it so much easier to continue the next day.

 

She said what?

The final touch for your character; the icing on your character cake; and what makes them totally believable is what they say and HOW they say it. Each character needs to sound unique so that even without a tag, the reader knows who it is speaking. For instance, if I was to say, “Off with her head!” – you know exactly who it is speaking without me having to mention who it is. Unless of course, you are unfamiliar with the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland. The important thing here is that the way a character speaks, like how they act, has to stay true to their character. In this sense, the tag can almost become obsolete.

And speaking of tags, keep them simple. “Said” becomes invisible – if you must “told” and “asked” are also tags that blend in and disappear. If you feel the need to add more oomph to the tag, then perhaps think of using a action before or after the character speaks.

For example: The White Rabbit frowned, shaking a paw at the busload of children’s writers. “There’s not need to add a flowery tag when you have an action sentence before or after the dialogue!”

Get the point?

EAT ME. DRINK ME:

So lets try this out. Remember that journal you went out and bought? Well, add this exercise:

Writers: write a conversation between your character and a new character you meet  – (note: this needs to be based on someone you may have bumped into or noticed in the supermarket; school; library etc). Remember that the dialogue has to be without any tag lines. You should also include how your character feels about the person, how they act and how they think.

Illustrators: ok so we can’t exactly draw dialogue but how about capturing the actions and expressions as your character meets this new character for the first time. Imagine the dialogue they are having and draw this interaction without words.

 
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Posted by on June 17, 2010 in Characters Speak