Archive for the ‘literature stuff’ Category

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


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


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


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.


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.

Breakout 4: The Dark Side: Psychology, psychopathy and stalking – RWAus14

August 26th, 2014

I have to admit that I had a great time at the dinner on Saturday night, and went to a room party afterwards.  I decided to sleep in a bit on Sunday morning so I missed the first session of the day (which was noted as TBA in my schedule anyway), and got there in time for my first breakout session.


The Dark Side:  Psychology, psychopathy and stalking

Professor Karl Roberts

  • Chair and Profess of Policing and Criminal Justice, University of Western Sydney
  • Professor of Criminal Justice and Criminology, University of Massachusetts, MA
  • Expert witness in the UK

This was an excellent, informative session, and provided a lot of information and ideas for those writing crime, suspense, romantic suspense, mystery, thriller or other sub-gentres in the crime category.  Over all I would say it was one of the best all weekend, aside from the Friday workshop.

HOWEVER – and I don’t want to direct this at anyone specific (and I probably wouldn’t know their names anyway) – it also suffered from one of my pet hates.

Professor Roberts took questions from the floor from the start.  People were asking specific questions that presumably related to what their own story.  He jumped to the end of his presentation and despite saying he would go back, he didn’t really.  The whole presentation got derailed by those who only wanted to discuss psychopathy because it related to their own writing.  A lot of the information in his slides wasn’t even shown to us let alone discussed (I think a lot of it was on the psychology, but I’m not sure).

While I had some questions myself, I refrained from asking them at the time.  He provided us with his email address and said he was happy to answer questions we have that way.  I hope that in the future people will be less selfish about hogging the presenter’s time, because I for one was extremely frustrated we missed out on so much content.

And I would suggest that in future, all questions other than clarifications be kept to the end.

And now, on to the presentation we did get:

What do forensics psychologists do?

  • focus on human behaviour
  • assessment
  • human performance
  • explanation of motivation
  • clinical – psychological problems
  • forensic – specific application to crime and offending


Little Gems – Moonstone: Official Launch – RWAus14

August 24th, 2014

Little Gems official launch:  Moonstone

Little Gems - Moonstone 2014

Little Gems – Moonstone 2014

Cover design:  Sheridan Kent

Contest winners:

Josephine Brown—The Minstrel’s Trial
Rowena Candlish—Minnie’s Year Of Living
Rowena Candlish—Jake’s Best Friend
Heidi Catherine—My Moonstone Love
N.F. David—Luna and the Moonstone
Fiona Greene—The Moonstone Legacy
Jennifer Hoff—The Farewell Letter
Fiona Kekic—The Heart Surgeon
Linda Knightley—Moonlight On Water
D.D. Line—Moonstone Hill
Patricia Poppenbeek—Catch Of the Day
Anne Prince—The Real Thing
Michelle Skidmore—Moonstruck
P.J. Vye—The Girl Who Refused To Marry

Little Gems Anthology 2014 – Moonstone is available now


Keynote address: Cherry Adair – RWAus14

August 10th, 2014

Cherry Adair is an award-winning and best-selling South African American romantic fiction writer. She lives near Seattle, Washington.

She is a six-time finalist for the RITA Award given by Romance Writers of America, and she has been nominated for the Career Achievement Award for Romantic Suspense from Romantic Times two times. Her book Hide and Seek tied at number eight with author Nora Roberts for Romance Writers of America Top Ten Books of the Year in 2001.

Has series that involves operatives in Terrorist Force Logistical Assault Command (T-FLAC), a fictional secret counter-terrorist force, started in 1994.

Cherry is a funny, entertaining, and engaging speaker with great sense of humour (in a dry self deprecating way that fits with my sense of humour).  She kept getting off on tangents, and distracted herself a lot.   Talks often about bringing ‘the 5 year old in her out’ (5 on the inside, sometimes 3).

Wrote 17 books before she sold

  • all a learning curve
  • don’t think what you are doing is a waste of time
  • try not to get frustrated

Despite the chaos, she gave a very interesting presentation, the rest is below. (more…)

Writing the knockout novel: Pt 7 – RWAus14

August 10th, 2014

How to write Dazzling Dialogue for your characters.


  • Dialogue is a compression and extension of action


The 8 essentials:

1. It has an agenda
Every character who says something in a scene should want something
A way to create instant conflict is to have characters express different agendas via dialogue

2. Flows from character to character
Make it sound natural, what that character would say
Don’t do an info dump via dialogue

3. Conflict or tension

4. Just right in tone

5.  Just right for each character:

  • Vocabulary (education, social class)
  • Expressions (peer group, regionalisms)
  • Syntax (word order, native vs non native speaker)

6. Try to put something unpredictable in every scene
Might be an action (egtapdancing on a boardroom table)
Might say something unpredictable

7. Compressed
Cut it back
More white space for reader
Make it less wordy

8. Subtext
Like an iceburg
Scene is taking place on the surface
What is not said is based on what is below the surface

  • Eg Character web
  • Back story
  • Theme

More details under the break


Writing the knockout novel: pt 5 – RWAus14

August 10th, 2014

The mirror moment and door #2.


The Mirror Moment

Write your novel from the middle

  • James Scott Bell


Midpoint (of story, may not actually be):

A look in the mirror

  • Who am I?
  • What have I become?
  • What MUST I become?


  • I am probably going to die
  • Finding strength to keep going


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