Friday, 14 September 2018

Hello! I'm talking to you! Who's your reader?

by Addy Farmer

Let me tell you straight off that I opened this new post with NO IDEA what to write about. My fellow bloggers have done it all, really they have and done it brilliantly. So ... why bother? Why should I write anything at all? Am I just filling space? Honouring a committment? Fulfilling a self-aggrandising ambition which included seeing my name in as many places as possible? Um, maybe. And probably all three but it's also about a need to talk to someone out there about what the flip I'm doing being a children's author. It's about talking to people who understand that it's not all about launches and cake. Or wine and cake. Or cake.

Lemon drizzle - my favourite

Is anyone listening? Have I got your attention with CAKE? Well, if that's so then I must be talking to the vast majority of children's writers, because in my experience, rather alot of us like cake. I hope I know my audience. Why do we write with an audience in mind? For me, it's all about HEART.  The nine year old protagonist in my WIP is based on and written for a nine year old from a primary school I worked in. I want him to identify with my protagonist and feel that this book is for HIM alone (and the millions of other readers who will also buy it). And maybe, just maybe it can make a difference to someone.
Image result for kids audience
So not only do you excellent readers want to see cake in my blog but you also want a cracking personal story of ambition, struggle and eventual success. Give me a moment on that one.

Image result for mountain climb black and white
I've no idea what's going on her but it looks like a struggle to me
And call me a custard cream if I'm not correct in assuming that you also want a few TOP TIPS on how to make your writing shine by knowing your readership?

Well, here are some tips for you based on my writing for junior children with a school element involved...
  • find out what your chosen readership enjoys reading! Simples. Try seeing if a school will let you in - schools generally love volunteers. My WIP is 'funny and magic' - so many children love funny stuff - but if it doesn't suit you then DO NOT FORCE IT. Find another way - magic/football/pets/therearemore. Have combos e.g. funny magic; magical pets; footballing dogs.  
  • note quirks and habits which will make your characters stand out e.g. I noted so many children played with the wretched plastic trays placed directly under the tables or fiddled about with pencil sharpeners or took hours to wash up the paint stuff or gave out letters with a great deal of fussing ... it goes on
  • understand the way a school works - it's changed since you were young! School is such a massive part of a child's life that it's important to know roughly how stuff is taught and timetables
  • Know more about the culture in primary schools today or at least in the school you research! Schools have staff who specialise in nurturing pupils/teaching English as  foreign language/SENCO support/booster classes. So much! 
  • You don't have to include everything of course but any research will shine through and will help bring a story and characters to life and into the hands of your chosen reader

Identify books which are similar to yours
Once you recognize who your competition is, it may be easier for you to pinpoint your potential readers because chances are, you share the same target audience.

Having trouble identifying your target audience?
Ask other authors or industry professionals for help! There's a certain SCBWI conference coming up in November in Winchester ... it's a great place to find out about publishers' target audiences and lap up their knowledge. Also children's authors love to help fellow authors at these dos. 

Kids seem a bit happier in schools nowadays

Some stories that speak to their readers

Harry in his cupboard - alone and friendless except for 1 000 000 000 readers who felt his pain and his thirst for something more than this

Harry Potter by JK Rowling

Dogger by Shirley Hughes is about the terrible anxiety of losing a beloved toy, the unsentimental love of your hero big sister and the immense happiness of finding it again. It is the world of the four year old completely.

Then there are the teen/YA reads - the Guardian has a great list of books where readers have so identified with the story or the protagonist that they have saved lives. Can't say fairer than that.

Friday, 7 September 2018

My First Year as a Twittering Author - brilliant!

by Em Lynas

First, I need to say  I did not want to join Twitter because I didn't 'get it'.

What was the point of twitter?
Who was tweeting who and why.
What was the point of me tweeting?
Would it be time consuming?
Would there would be NASTY TROLLS!
Would it ALWAYS be confrontational so I wouldn't say what I really thought in case I was rounded upon by the aforementioned NASTY TROLLS!
And - the clincher - Donald Trump is on twitter.

But when I was lucky enough to get a three book deal with Nosy Crow!

I was advised to tweet if I was comfortable doing it.

So I had a go but I was thinking this:

What the heck do I say?
Buy my book? No.
Who should I follow? (Not Donald Trump)
Should I just like lots of tweets? Is that stalking?
Should I retweet EVERTHING by EVERYONE to make friends?
Shouldn't I be writing? 

But then I thought:
Oooo look! I can quote a retweet with a comment EXCITING!
Oooo look! I can see who other people are following and follow them!
Oooo look! People are following me! (Not Donald Trump)
Oooo look! Someone has retweeted me! With a comment!
Oooo look I've been #FF'd  (Follow Fridays)

And then I thought:
This is fun.
This is time consuming.
But is it useful?

YES! It's all three because this is what I have DISCOVERED on Twitter in just one year of twittering:

Fantastic book bloggers like
Jo Clarke @bookloverJo
Catherine Friess @storysnug
LibraryGirlAndBookBoy @BookSuperhero2

Teachers who LOVE BOOKS

Authors who are SO SUPPORTIVE

Initiatives to encourage reading for pleasure
North Somerset CBG and the NorthSomersetTeachersBookAwards #NSTBA

Organisations like:

And these twitter interactions led to invites:

To join in with the Great North Author Tour organised by Richard and Mel of Drake's Bookshop

To pop in for book signings in
Waterstones in Harrogate, Yarm and Middlesbrough
Indie Bookshops such as - Seven Stories where I got to write and draw in the Visitor Book!

To teachers getting in touch to book school visits which is fantastic because I LOVE being with the kids especially the ones who know my books better than I do.

Picture by Richard Drake - Hats by me.

This is just a flavour of why I am now a twitter fan. I've only just touched on the fabulous community of author, illustrators, librarians, bloggers and teachers who all have one thing in common - they love books for children.

I have a feeling I'll be updating this post as I remember the people I've missed out! 


Friday, 24 August 2018

Choosing Character Names by Kathryn Evans.


Why do character names matter?

  • If your book is published the world will have to live with your choice for a while. More importantly, you'll have to live with it.
  • Getting the name right will help you develop your character. Sometimes I borrow someone's name that fits my character and change it when I've found a suitable replacement.
  • The right name will help your reader draw a picture of your character and set the time, place  and genre of your story.
Take these few examples:

  • Dr Frankenstein would not have been the same had he been called Dr Faffenbine.
  • Scarlett O'Hara might not have had the same impact as  Poppy O'Lovely
  • Edward Hyde would not have been as menacing as Teddy Dysguise
  • Hagrid would have been perceived differently were he called Hacket
  • Severus Snape would not have been as terrifying as Arthur Apple
  • Peter Pettigrew is the perfect name for a snivelling, grudge holding, pathetic  coward and even hints at what his body can do.

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Spoilt, clever, finally heroic Scarlett O'Hara

How do you choose names?

Sound it Out.

Different sounds give us a different emotional responses.
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  • Hissing sounds such as s and z can put us on alert.
  • Sounds such as sh and zh are calming
  • Breathy sounds are unthreatening, such as H and F
  • Murmuring sounds are comforting - M and N for example.
  • Snappy sounds such as T and K are slightly aggressive.

Listen to some different names aloud and see how you respond to the sounds.  Does it feel right? Is that how you want your character to be viewed? 

Word Association

Certain collections of sounds remind us of other words. Hagrid sounds a little like 'hug'.  Snape sounds a lot like 'snake.' J.K. Rowling takes great care in naming her characters - it's especially important when there are so many of them. They need to be right and they need to be memorable. Luna Lovegood is another good example - Luna, to do with the moon but associated with loony - and Lovegood, all the pure and lovely things. 

Names from  history can help us out as well - Douglas Adams reluctant hero Arthur Dent in Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy has a perfect name. Arthur is steady and reliable,  possibly even boring BUT it is also the name of one of our most famous kings. And just in case the name sounds a bit too heroic, the surname Dent knocks the shine off. Arthur Dent,  it absolutely sums up that character.

Generate by Genre

In science fiction you can use names to establish difference and you can probably make it up - Hitchhikers characters Zaphod Beeblebrox and Trillion immediately tell you those characters are out of this world.

In historical/geographical fiction you need to do your research. In Candy Gourlay's Bone Talk she uses character and place names to conjure a time in Filipino history when America invaded. It's beautifully and accurately done: Samkad, Kinyo, Luki, Tambul names of a time and place.

Suzie Wilde does the same in her viking novel the Book of Bera - she uses names to weave a tapestry that feels right.

Where do you find names?

  • Keep cool names you come across. If I like a name, I sometimes keep the post it notes used at book signings to remember.  You could devote a few pages in your ideas notebook for good names.
  • Google baby name lists. You can find lists by decade right back to the early twentieth century.
  • Have a file on your phone so when you pass names of places you can make a quick note next time you stop. There's a sign post for three villages that I drive past sometimes, Norney, Shackleford, Hurtmore. Brilliant surnames that are in my 'one day' file.
  • Steal people's names - sometimes it might be temporary while you develop a character., sometimes it's forever. I've asked people if I can use their names before - they're usually pretty happy about it.
  • The phone book. I know, they don't really exist anymore but I have an old one I keep for this purpose!!
  • Religious texts are great places to find names - and you can associate them with certain stories. 
  • History - J.K.Rowling is . master at this - she knows classical texts, mythology and basic history and uses it. The etymology of her character names is fascinating. 

Image result for bumble bee
Dumbledore is an archaic word for bumblebee.

I use these techniques  when choosing names. In More of Me, I needed a name  for my main character that spoke of her innocence and corruption by external forces which led me to Eve.  That became Eva because I also needed a name I could morph into new names - the other versions of Eva were originally going to have all have different versions of the same name but that wasn't practical because of school.  I wanted something that sounded brittle and edgy so Eva, became Teva.  It was a happy coincidence that Teva is Hebrew for world/nature.

Teva's best friend Maddy is British with Pakistani parents. Finding the right name for her mattered hugely, I wanted a name that could be shortened to an anglicised version but had roots in her parents heritage. Her full name is Madeeha.

In my new book, one of my characters is called Shem. I wanted a name that told of the boys history but also sound sullen and recalcitrant. Shem was one of Noah's sons who was saved on the Ark. The 'sh' sound smacks of silence, and Shem sounds a little but like 'shun'. Perfect for my character.

Get your names right and you can reinforce character descriptions, or maybe subvert your readers impressions, whichever, if you do it with thought, it will make your book better and your characters  more memorable.

 Kathryn Evans is the award winning author of More of MeA gripping thriller with a sinister sci-fi edge, exploring family, identity and sacrifice. She loves faffing about on social media: find her  on Facebook and Instagram @kathrynevansauthor and tweeting @KathrynEvansInk. 

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