Monday, April 29, 2013

Kindergarteners ask questions about writing

This week I got a letter from a kindergarten class full of questions about writing. I'd love to be able to read the answers that other writers gave them.  Here are my answers:

 How do you get all your ideas for your stories?

Ideas are everywhere.  
Especially if you start asking yourself -- What If....

When you write fiction, you might think about these things:
What if people could do magic, if they were partners with special magic animals? (my current book)
What if you tried to think of everything you could do with your toes?  ( Busy Toes by C.W. Bowie -- I'm the W part of that pen name)
(This book was written by three writer friends: The C is for Claudine Wirths, the W is me, and we shortened Mary Bowman-Kruhm's last name to Bowie. C.W. Bowie!  We had fun writing this and the companion book, Busy Fingers.)

When you write nonfiction, you might be asking yourself -- what do I want to know more about?
I used to live in Maryland, with is near the homes of a good many of our first presidents.  I visited the places they lived and worked and wrote biographies of them.  
(George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe)
I love to fly -- so I found out all about the Wright brothers who discovered the scientific rules of flying, and wrote two books about them.
(The Wright Brothers   and    To Fly, the Story of the Wright Brothers.)

           How did you learn to be an author?

Do you like to read -- or have books read to you?
Do you like to learn about things and explore?
Are you already telling stories?
Then you might become an author.
You learn by reading/ reading/ reading/ writing/ writing/ writing, and reading some more.

 How do you publish them out to the world?
There are many books on this subject to help new writers plus there are writer's groups that will help you.
It's a long process.  You write the best book you can, then you send copies of it out to publishers who publish that type of book.
While you are waiting, you write more books.
You wait a long time and keep sending copies out.
When a publisher likes what you wrote, they then ask you to revise the story.  This is just like the teacher saying -- make it better/ correct this/ add that.  You revise many times.
Finally it is published and there it is -- a real book!

How many days did it take you to really think about the characters and to write the book? 

This is different for each book.  It can take a day or several years to write a book.  But that's just the beginning.  Then you have to revise and make it better before you send it out.

 How do you know when to make another chapter?

I like to end a chapter at an exciting spot so that the reader has to turn the page and can't wait to read the next chapter.

 How do you make books interesting?

If it's not interesting to me, how can I write about it?  I don't want to be bored.  I like to find Fascinating Facts -- things that interest me that I know will also interest my readers.  Did you know that Francis Scott Key got wounded in the war of 1812 -- by a slab of flying bacon that someone had thrown!  
The thing the Wright brothers wanted most when they returned from the Outer Banks after having flown the first heavier than air flying machine -- was a glass of milk!  See if you can figure out why.

 How do you make up the characters?  How do you know what to do in the story, when you just begin?

Sometimes characters come to you and begin to tell you your story.  Yes, authors have people in their heads talking to them.  My friend gets mad at her characters because they keep on talking to her even when she wants to go to the bathroom.
I don't hear characters -- I see them.  And I have a general idea what happens in the story.
My magic animal story came to me as a picture book.  When I presented it at a writer's workshop, I realized it wasn't a picture book -- it was the outline of a story -- and I've been writing it ever since.  No, it's not published yet, but I have hopes it will be in a couple of years.

Some authors can't follow a plan with their story, because the characters take over and decide to do something different.  Patricia Wrede was writing a story where she planned that something would happen in a small village, then the four characters would take off through the countryside trying to reach another village.  It didn't happen. Every time she got the characters headed toward the village gates, they would decide to go hide in someone's empty shed or something.  Although they never left that village, the story was still an exciting chase and the mystery was solved.

I find it easier to have a goal that my characters are heading for -- all I have to figure out is how they get there.  (and to accept it when the characters change things.  In my magic animal story, a new character suddenly appeared in Chapter 5.  I certainly didn't expect a Pixie to appear and it takes until almost the end of the book for the main character to find out what he is and how they found each other.)

 How do you know how to finish a story?
That's hard.  
The best answer is -- the end Must reflect the beginning.  If you read my book, To Fly, the Story of the Wright Brothers, and take a look at the first few paragraphs and then look at the last paragraphs, you will see that they are reflections of each other.  This happens in fiction as well.
The end also must be satisfying.  You don't have to tie up all the threads in the story -- just the main ones -- leaving the reader to believe that these characters keep on living and maybe have other adventures after the story's end.
Did you ever hear a story that you wanted to keep on going after it stopped?  

The ending can be a surprise.  It can be happy.  Books you will read when you are older can end with sadness.
But everything in the middle -- the conflict and suspense --  should logically lead to this ending.

In the picture book, Where the Wild Things Are, Max is sent to his room without supper. He imagines  that he escapes to the place the Wild Things live, but when he returns from his adventure --  he finds his supper -- and it was still hot.   This ending satisfies.

Wishing you the best of luck writing YOUR story.

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