Wednesday, 31 August 2016

How to Turn an Idea into a Story.

Many of us, at one point in life or another, have had an idea to write a story. You've come up with this idea that is unique and interesting. Certain elements from things you love, combined with something amazing and original, that you really want to share with the world. It's absolutely amazing, and you have no idea why no one has told such an awesome story before! Technology today is making it easier than ever for the average bloke or sheila to publish a novel online, and there is no reason you can't do it too. I've had a few people ask how I managed to write and publish my first novel, Amulet of Aesterus, so I've written a small post on achieving that first step: turning an idea into a story.

Maybe you've grabbed a pen and paper, or jumped on the computer and written down some notes or ideas? Perhaps you've even started writing something epic, but you got caught up with your job, family, and everything else that makes life so busy. Maybe you've only thought about it, but haven't written a single thing? Perhaps you've already written a complete story and wondering what to do next?

Regardless where you are, the first thing to do is plan your story. Your story should contain five key elements: characters, setting, plot, conflict, and the resolution.

1. Characters
At this point I'm going to assume you have a good idea on who the (main) characters are in your story. It's a good idea to keep these characters true to themselves so they are believable. The tree hugging hippy that wishes everyone peace would seem a bit odd, if half way into the story, he began to murder bad guys, then go back to his usual persona without remorse afterwards. Same with a relentless warrior who never backs down, suddenly backing down, because he wants to be peaceful towards the protagonist who he had just met. I keep a separate text file with all the character's information for reference, (as well as other reference documents!). You probably won't have any issues memorising the behaviour of your protagonists. The dark merchant from chapter three who reappears in chapter twelve though, did he have a raspy voice, or masculine? Did he wear a hood or not? Reference sheet! Scrivener is an incredibly valuble tool for keeping track of anything and everything. I highly recommend giving the free trial a go.

 2. Setting
This can be as big, or small of a task as you want it to be. If you are writing a fantasy, sci-fi or anything in a world that is not our Earth, you may need to create the lore of the worlds in your story; the creatures, the technology, the currency, the weather and so on. Alternatively you could use the world we live in now, exactly as is, or with certain changes. If on Earth, where will the story occur, New York City or around the corner from an outback Aussie pub?
The most exciting thing about creating the world in which your story is set, is that you are limited only by your mind. I'm not going to go too far into the art of world building, as it is a massive theme, however I personally would recommend against spending too much time focused on this element. There's no such thing as spending too much time creating your world, universe and the laws, although if you spend spend too long in this phase, you might get stuck there permanently. You may also find it difficult to create a story within this world, especially one that takes advantage of everything you have created. The progression of your story, theme and characters may even make you want to go back and change some of the laws you had previously set in stone. At the end of the day, this is your world you are creating, so don't let anyone else give you any limits, but don't let it stop you from writing your story.

3. Plot
Once you have created your world, or figured out where you want your story set, it's time to figure out what you are going to write. If you know how you want your story to start, then start typing, get it started! The art of story writing is massive, deep and there is much to learn, but the most important thing to writing your first story, is to write your story. Learning and studying how to be a good writer is great, but means nothing if you do not get writing. If your goal is to get a fifty (or 75, or 100, or 500) thousand word story written, there is only one way to do it! The plot is how your story starts. What your characters plan to do. Maybe that's fight bad guys to save the princess, maybe it's about having a few drinks up the pub the day the aliens landed. Again, this is your story!

4. Conflict
This is where the story gets interesting. The conflict messes with the plot and really adds the excitement and spice to your story. If the protagonist was just drinking up the pub the day the aliens landed, had a good feed then finished with him going home to bed, it wouldn't really make a good story. If he got totally pissed, blacked out, woke up with an alien in his bed, the girlfriend on the couch and his dog now a dinosaur, you probably have a bit more of an interesting story. Retrace those steps and find that car, dude. 
Same with the hero going to save the princess. If he just walked up to the evil king, punched him in the face and took the princess, it would be kind of lame. If the protagonist was interrupted by ninja orcs on flying elephants who were going to blow up the princess unless the hero gave them next week's winning lotto numbers, it would be a little more interesting
The conflict is what will make your story exciting. You have set the scene, introduced us to the character(s) and we know their intention, but now this!

5. Resolution
Your story is going great, everything is in place, but it is time for it all to wrap up and give your story some closure. Endings don't always need to be happy and positive. Maybe the princess was in love with one of the ninja orcs all along, you had the protagonist kill him, now she hates the protagonist? Didn't see that one coming! Sequels are great too, but if you are telling a story, you really should finish with a resolve. Don't leave the reader in the dark until the sequel is released, give them a climax that has them screaming for more!

At times while writing your story, you will find you'll have bursts of creative energy and others where you are not so creative. I'd highly recommend you use and abuse these creative bursts as much as you possibly can. There are ways to help induce more creativity, (travel anyone?), but when you get in a slump, it can be difficult to get out. If you really do want to write, you will find a way to make it work. If you make excuses not to write, (work, family, tired), they will justify you never completing your story. Keep at it, work hard and you'll complete your story!

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

The Duyfken visits Bunbury


In 1606, the Duyfken, a small Dutch ship, was the first European ship documented to find Australia. The crew were the first to chart the western side of the Cape York Peninsula. The Duyfken was part of the Dutch East India company and frequently journeyed into Asia, trading for one of the most valuable commodities of the time, spices.

In 1999 the replica was completed and embarked upon its maiden voyage. The replica is now based in Fremantle on the Swan River, where it operates as a tourist attraction. The ship also often embarks upon trips around Australia and occasionally internationally. Hearing it was appearing in Bunbury, Jeni and I decided to check out what it was all about. For a small boarding fee, you were given an audio guide along with plenty of interesting information about early pioneers and the discovery of Australia. Old European maps with a completely bare space of ocean where Australia is appears quite amusing. It is also good to know that the early pioneers believed the reason Australia was such a big continent, was to balance the weight of the northern hemisphere and stop it from turning upside down.

When you board the ship you instantly feel like you are stepping back through time. The replica is made as similar to the original as it could be crafted. A good portion of it was also designed by eye, rather than plans, this was how ships were made back in those early times. Despite it's small size, exploring the ship feels like an adventure on its own.

The captain was the only one to have a cabin of his own, his room had two small beds, and he would have shared his cabin with any merchant that was with them. Just outside the cabin is the whipstaff, a steering mechanism which is literally tree root used to control the rudder.

On display they have wooden bowls, spoons and mugs just as they would have had back in the 1600's. The crew would have also had a knife, and if any of their wooden utensils needed replacing, they would have hit up the cook for a piece of firewood and made the replacement. Below the deck the floor was fitted with Dutch bricks, these would have been used for trading for spices. A few spices, which are incredibly common in the modern world, were also on display. Back in the 1600's spices were ridiculously valuable and the crew was not allowed below deck on the return trip or they would be severely punished.

They also had a heap of extra ropes down below. The amount of ropes these old sailing ships used was phenomenal! Up the front of the ship you can check out the small cooking area. Right up the front you can feel like the "king of the world" and check out one of the massive anchors of the ship. It was really cool checking out the Duyfken and we really gained an insight into how things would have been 400 years ago.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Fremantle Prison

Fremantle is a location we have been meaning to check out for a while now and we finally get there only to end up in prison! Don't worry, we haven't been up to anything dodgy, the place actually ceased operating as a prison in 1991. Today, the World Heritage Listed prison operates as a museum to give people an insight as to how the early convicts were treated. The Prison offers a variety of different tours; Doing Time, Great Escapes, Tunnels, Torchlight and a Fremantle Prison Art Tour. Due to time restrictions we were only able to do the first two on this trip. 

During the Doing Time tour you go for a walk through the prison blocks and get a feel for how rough these convicts had it. It was also interesting some of the reasons the Brits would ship folks off to our beautiful country, basically to be slaves. Everyone has heard of the old bread stealing stories, but people were even shipped over here just for vagrancy. It's hard to fathom that a couple of hundred years ago, you could wind up within a life of slave labour just for being unemployed!

The Great Escapes tour gave us a good insight into how far some people went to break away from the prison. One fella who resided on the 4th floor managed to hack through a couple of bars on his window. He couldn't quite fit through though, so he saved up his butter, lubed himself up and squeezed through the small escape he had made. He than grabbed the drain pipe, slid down, probably a little faster than he had expected, only to be found with a couple of broken legs, crying in a heap the next morning! Another fella was notorious for escaping, kept on doing it even when they put weights around his ankles. He even smashed down a wall one day when he was chained up, the guards thought he was breaking rocks, well he was, just more limestone than the guards would have wanted! In the end he scored special hardwood to line his cell to prevent him from escaping. The guide we had for this tour, Ian was a top story teller, constantly giving a feel of how it was for the convicts and their need for escape, all the while throwing in a few laughs to lighten the mood. Originally WA didn't want to have political prisoners, woman prisoners or criminals who hate committed atrocious crimes, but eventually they ended up with all three. There are a lot of Irish descendants here in the west, and a lot of them originated from political prisoners. One of the only prisoners to escape and stay out (without dying) happened to be an Irish fella by the name John Boyle O'Reilly and years later, he ended up bringing six of his Irish mates away on the ship known as the Catalpa. There wasn't many escapes by the females, however one of the bigger ladies ended up knocking out the matron during an argument, she was found later that evening up the pub. The lifestyles these early convicts had was pretty terrible and it is no wonder that they did whatever they could to get out, even if that meant searching for an early grave!


Death was the easiest way to escape the Fremantle Prison!