Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Story Seeds / Writing Tips # 20 - Science for Small Folk

Continuing my current blog theme of 1) a tiny, real-life seed from which one of my stories unfolded and 2) a writing tip that helped the seed grow into a finished story. 

The Seed:  It was a game we played whenever summer thunderstorms appeared on the horizon: a flash of lightening and we'd start to count.  One-one-thousand. Two-one-thousand.  Three...
The Story:  One Dark Night   Viking, 2001. Picture Book. Illustrations by Susan Kathleen Hartung

The Writing Tip: It's science of course! Light travels much faster than sound. But for this youngest crowd, I knew I couldn't start quoting the speed of light or explaining sound waves.
        I stripped things to the basics. I did want to include information about distances (each three seconds translates to about one kilometre distance from the storm; each five seconds about one mile) but even then, I didn't do it textbook style. I wove that information into the fabric of the story using the counting itself.
       Can you guess another concern I had while writing the story? A book is a much quieter medium than a storm.  I had to find some way to heighten the dramatic interest.
       That's when a momma cat appeared on the page--a stray cat intent on saving her three small kittens from the wildness of the approaching weather.  
       As she deposited the kittens at Johnathon's feet between claps of thunder, my story-brain took another little leap. There are many types of storms in life.  Jonathan  would be staying with his Grandparents, safe from some undefined storm as well.
       A quick recap:
     1. Strip the science down to basics.
     2. Avoid over-explanation.
     3. Ensure the story elements are every bit as strong as the science elements.
     4. Search for layers that might not, at first, be apparent.

And next time you see a flash of lightening, start counting!

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

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