How to plot a pageturner: C.S. Pacat

November 1st, 2015

Plotting to create ‘narrative traction’, the page turning quality that drives readers through a book (and keeps them up until 3am)



  1. To learn new way of thinking about both writing and reading that raises your awareness of how page turning quality is created
  2. To learn techniques and strategies for  writing narrative traction


What is plot?

  • Plot is just one thing after another – plot is what happens
  • Plot is the book’s middle, beginning, and end
  • Traditional Three Act structure – plot has a shape


Act 1

Inciting incident – client commissions for a job


Act 2

Dark moment


Act 3

Build up to climax


Narrative traction 

  • Is the page-turning quality that drives readers through a book
  • It is not generated by accident
  • Use of specific techniques to create the desired result

Tension is NOT narrative traction

  • It is the promise that what is about the happen is something that the reader wants
  • It occurs when we believe that what is about to happen is even more interesting that what is happening now [my emphasis]
  • Not the same thing as escalation
  • Interest shifts to what happens next

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Opening keynote address: Graham Simsion – Men in romance

November 1st, 2015

Graham Simsion is the author of The Rosie Project, background is in script writing

He is the only person who could have written The Rosie Project, but everyone has the ability to write their own story.

Male protagonist (Don) was easy to write, Rosie was the hardest – was originally called Clara but she was too much of a magical pixie dream girl so Simsion worked with his wife to create a believable realistic background

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Opening address: CS Pacat ‘The courage to be romantic’

October 4th, 2015

CS Pacat is the author of the ‘Captive Prince’ trilogy.  Captive Prince and Prince’s Gambit are currently available, and Kings Rising will be available in February 2016.

“In order to write romance we must allow ourselves to be seen, really seen, and that is an act of great courage.”  – CS Pacat

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Pitch Perfect

August 27th, 2015

Kate Cuthbert (Escape digital imprint) and Sue Brockhoff (Harlequin Single Title) 


Pitching is way to get attention, get to know editor or publishing house

Good way of getting manuscript in front of editor


Before you pitch:

Are you ready?


  • Who are you pitching to?
  • What are they looking for?
  • What are they not looking for?
  • What are their parameters? Eg genres and subgenres, word length etc (category is 50 – 60k, while single title is around 80k – 90k)
  • Do your plans and theirs coincide?

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Angela Ackerman – Show don’t tell pt 2

August 26th, 2015

Describing emotion: balancing show and tell

Body language and action


Internal sensations



Body language

In active storytelling, action is king

93% of all communication is non verbal

  • Primal instinct is at work (constantly aware of our environment)
  • We are all adept body language readers (and so are our story readers)
  • Use body language to convey your character’s comfort zone & emotional range


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Angela Ackerman – Show don’t tell pt 1

August 22nd, 2015

Sharing characterisations & emotions without telling or info dumps


Do more with less

If you are describing appearance, also include emotional description

Learn to convey information with powerful word structure rather than writing it all out


What does ‘Show, don’t tell’ really mean?

  • It is the drop in your stomach when you jump out of an aeroplane
  • It is the crunch of your feet as you walk across leaves
  • Sound of birds
  • The chafe of cold iron against skin

Take your readers on a sensory adventure

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Angela Ackerman: Larger than life characters Pt 2

August 22nd, 2015

And the flipside is using flaws / negative traits

Hobble your character with flaws

  • A flaw is a negative quality that emerges in a character’s personality as a result of an emotionally hurtful experience
  • Just as we have a survival response for physical dangers (fight or flight), we instinctively protect our emotions from harm as well
  • Flaws act as unhealthy emotional armour to ensure the same emotional pain doesn’t happen again

Flaws have deep roots, it is hard to get rid of them.

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Angela Ackerman, Larger than Life characters Pt 1

August 22nd, 2015

Building a hero / heroine from the ground up 

– What makes a reader fall in love with a character?

– How can we create these types of characters ourselves?

– How to create deep compelling characters that stick with a reader.



Reader fascination:

  • Offer a view into the characters and his world that is both compelling and addictive
  • Provide experiences that are new, yet rooted in real human experience


  • A powerful bond that forms when the character’s experiences triggers the reader’s own emotional memories


4 elements to reinforce empathy and fascination

  • Realism
  • Recognition
  • Worthiness
  • Emotional connection

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RWA Conference 2015 – Melbourne

August 22nd, 2015

And so, dear readers, it is once more unto the breach…

An interstate trek, stranded at airport for ages as shuttle didn’t turn up, eventually finding and checking into hotel.  Followed by an attempt to register the day before the conference opened (foiled!) so as to avoid a stupidly early start on Friday.  Alas, stupidly early start it was…

The high level outline of my program at Romance Writers of Australia 2015 ‘Get Fresh’ conference is as follows.


  • workshops
  • cocktail party


  • core conference
  • awards dinner


  • core conference

Some of my friends from previous cons are around, but only attending the social functions (going to the Melbourne Writers Festival instead).

It is a shame there is no literary stream this year, I would have really enjoyed it.

Birdie birthday

July 21st, 2015

One of my colleagues had her birthday a while back, and I wanted to play around with some new papers and wooden embellishments I got around Christmas time.

Birdie birthday - front

Birdie birthday – front

The papers are from Prima Marketing’s Epiphany collection (specifically the Striking Appearance design), which has distressed, watercolour-esque backgrounds with black doodle style images.  There is a light and whimsical feel to them, even the ones that have black backgrounds and borders.

I took one of these with a birdcage design down the side.  Trimmed the paper and edged it in burgundy, and layered onto black card, then a bit of lace wrapped down the right side.  One of the offcuts had a butterfly design on it, so I also edged it in burgundy and layered onto the first piece, overlapping the lace.  Then I used one of the matching bird wooden embellishments, which had already been painted in a whitewash.

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