Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Story Seed / Writing Tip #9 Zig Limple Plip Snurp

For the next few months my blog is featuring writing tips gathered from my own experience of growing story seeds into published books. 
(c) 2013 Ruth Ohi
The Story Seed: It was something a friend told me that sprouted this book idea. “My little guy talks non-stop except it's not really words, it's just sounds--- like a baby magpie. It's driving all three of us crazy.”

The Book: Katie's Babbling Brother (illustrations by Ruth Ohi, Annick 1992)

The Writing Tip:  
    Tip #1 : Sometimes you have to give up something very good in order to make your story even better.  Magpies are a medium-size bird, rather like a black and white crow.  Their babies really do chatter away in some language that sounds almost human and I LOVED the fact that my friend used them in her description. But right away I had a problem. Not everyone knows what a magpie is. 
         Would it work if I wrote it as babble instead?  "Bimble dee izzer? Gararumph iggle de snorkum zot! Sisbah yup yup.”  Hey! I really liked the babble!  And I soon discovered, while reading early drafts aloud to children, that they totally delighted in the babble language. This would work even better than I'd thought!      
Tip #2
Look at the world through a child's eyes.  With the babble firmly in place, I began to write.  However it soon became clear that the story wasn't working.  The babbling was good but the family parts - especially the bits about Mom and Dad - were boring. What was wrong?
           Experienced writers will have guessed my error. Because I'd gleaned the story seed from an adult, I'd unconsciously adopted an adult point of view. I'd used Mom and Dad's frustration as the main focus for the plot. But a kid's story should NOT be about an adult problem.  It should be about a kid's problem! 
            I couldn't write from the baby brother's point of view - he didn't even have a problem.  He was perfectly happy just babbling away.
             That's when I realized the real problem in the story belonged to five-year-old  Katie. She had a little brother whose non-stop noise drove her crazy but, even more importantly, it stole all the attention away from Katie herself. Yes - that was where the story was to be found! 
              (Katie's unorthodox solution to her problem turned out to be a bit of a stumbling block to my wonderful publishers for a year or two... but that's a blog for another day.)

(c) All Rights Reserved. All blog text(except comments by others) copyright Hazel Hutchins. 

No comments:

Post a Comment