Sep 26, 2010

Learning and Writing

It's been a busy writing time for me lately - and I'm loving it. Today I'm off to a writers workshop in Canberra on writing thrillers. Okay, my writing is for kids, but they like a thrill too.

This week I undertook the first module for my course Online Writing Books for Children and Young Adults through the Sydney Writers' Centre. The course offers PDF handouts and MP3 downloads. This week we looked at some beliefs about children's books and explored our own history with reading. We also had an exercise in writing, we wrote a vivid memory from our childhood and then rewrote it from a different character's point of view. It was a good way to explore different angles of the same scene. 

Have you had a scene which is pivotal for the main character but have a secondary character just sort of standing there? How about trying to write the scene from their point of view? It can give them more value.

Anyways I must dash to make my workshop, but here is what I wrote for my writing task (and probably not well edited so excuse any bloopers):

The Lie:

We are quiet because Miss Coombs is speaking and we love her, and we’re nine and afraid of getting in trouble.
Ever so carefully, I tear a lined piece of paper from my book. Then I start to write, asking Cathy about her holiday plans. I hope Miss Coombs won’t notice the scratching sound my pencil makes on the paper. I slide it to my left. Brian Smith takes it with a stupid grin on his face. He’s pulling some expression, like he’s smiling while someone punches him in the gut. Now he’s reading my note?
I nod towards Cathy and when he still doesn’t get it, I point at her. Finally, he slides it on.
‘My family is going to Scotland.’
I write back that I’m going to my Dad’s in Queensland. Slide.
‘Sounds boring’.
Some friend!
‘I’m moving up there, so I won’t be coming back’ – I lie.
That’ll show her.
She cries. Not just tears – big loud hiccup sobs.
Miss Coombs snatches the note. She calls me up to the front of the class. All the kids are looking at Cathy. Not me.
“Charmaine, did you write this?” Miss Coombs asks.
It’s hard to meet her steady gaze. In her hand I see the note. My palms feel sweaty.
“Yes Miss.”
“Is it true?”
I should tell the truth. I should.
“Yes Miss.”
Miss Coombs’ face goes all... weird, and she... hugs me!
I’ll tell the truth tomorrow, it’ll be fine. Won’t it? Miss Coombs announces my plans to the class and informs them we’ll be having a farewell party at the end of the week. Oh-oh.
* * * *
Girls are stupid. They ruin our footy games. We can whack Roger right into the ground and the teachers laugh, but tap Poppy Salvietti and you’re sent off because she cries. They’re always crying about something. Now we have to do dancing for sport. Dancing! Yesterday Charms was my partner, which is not too bad (better than the blubbering Poppy Salvietti). Charms is okay, for a girl.
Not that I like her or anything. Maybe I’ll see if she wants to play tag at lunchtime. I’ll ask. It’s no big deal. I’m gonna do it.
Wha…? Charms just passed me a note. She must like me! What do I do? Okay, look cool. Can she hear my stupid heart pounding so loud?
There, gave her my best smile. She really digs me.
She looks… confused? Annoyed? I should read the note! My hands are fumbling, why’d she have to fold it up a zillion times?
‘What are you up to for the holidays?’
Huh? Not, do you like me, or, I like-like you. Maybe she wants to catch up over the break. I’ll bet that’s it. I bring back the smile.
Ow! She elbowed me! Now she’s nodding and pointing to McMurray, the girl that sits on the other side of me, Charms’ best... friend.
I slide the note to McMurray and sit back in my seat. I’m just sliding notes back and forth. Great! Now McMurray’s crying! How do they ever make it through the day?


  1. Sounds like a fabulous workshop ~ love that you shared this piece from two different POV's...really added depth.

  2. Interesting contrast, Charmaine. It took me a while to see that the two scenes were the same, the perspective was so different.

    The second one gave real depth because of the previously passive intermediary's emotional involvement. Something we weren't aware of in the first take.

    However, we've now lost sight of Charmaine's internal motivation for the lie and her reaction to getting found out. If this story were to continue you need some way to bring those out. That's the trouble with close POV's - you can only be in one mind at a time.

    Good luck with the workshop!

  3. Very cool idea! Thanks :) Have fun at the workshop!

  4. What a great workshop to take! Love your examples, too!

  5. Must be workshop season. I have a slew coming up.

    I enjoyed reading your exercise with the notes and the lies. Made me feel like I was in school again. In a good way.

  6. Sounds like a helpful and fun workshop.

    Can’t wait to find out if they have the farewell party!)

  7. Very sweet story. So cute - learning the ways of life.

    Have fun at your workshop.

  8. Thanks everyone for the comments and feedback! At first I wasn't going to post my response, but I thought it might help to see what I did (both for what can work and what you can get wrong). I did find I was more interested in the scene from another point of view, but as Botanist pointed out, it does then lose the whole 'lie' as a premise.

    Our next task is to create a character outline, so I'll let you know how that goes! :-)

  9. Oh, those are just great. I was pulled into the action. And, what a great set-up for drama with the lie!!