A couple of days ago I got an intriguing mail from a Year 7 student called Andrew, who lives in South Australia. I’ve reproduced part of it — and my answers to Andrew’s questions — below.
As part of my personal project study I am writing a humorous novel and I would appreciate your input in answering some questions (it would keep my teachers happy too!). I hope that you can find the time to reply. Your answers will be included in my project folder.
And my answers to Andrew’s questions:
Where do you get your inspiration from to write stories?
From a mix of real life, science, history and culture. For example, TAKESHITA DEMONS was inspired by my time in Japan, my experience as a new kid at school, and my research into Japanese mythology. I’m currently writing another book partly inspired by my time in Geneva with the Large Hadron Collider and Roald Dahl’s THE WITCHES.
What steps do you take to create a story?
I smash a few ideas together and see what happens. If I get an interesting idea, I try to think of where that idea might go. I think of characters, give them interesting characteristics, then put them in awkward positions.
On average how long does it take to write a story?
There is no average! Some take much longer than others. TAKESHITA DEMONS took just three weeks, writing about 1000 words a day (which is only three pages!). MONSTER MATSURI took about a year, because the ideas were undeveloped and I was busier in my life.
What things do you find humorous?
The unexpected. You can often create this by using ‘the rule of three,’ which lets you make a list of three things, where the third in the list is surprising. Like this song lyric from Seth Sentry’s ROOM FOR RENT:
That’s why the real estate agent hates us
We get dirty looks from our neighbours
We get noise complaints from our neighbours
We get internet from our neighbours
So the first two items are things the grumpy neighbours do to the singer, but the third is something the singer does to the neighbour, so it’s funny.
What is the worst way to start or end a story?
– Start: Worst is an ordinary, boring start. You have about half a page to impress a reader. If you don’t, they’ll put your book down.
– End: Worst is an end that does’t satisfy the reader. I hate cliffhanger endings, because it’s not fair to the reader.
Have you had any stories rejected by publishers?
Only about a billion. But that’s part of being a writer. The worst thing that can happen is that they say “No thanks, not this story,” so rejection’s not actually bad.
Can you sum up your writing style in 5 words?
Quick. Funny. Sparse. Sporadic. Plot-driven.
Good luck writing your novel Andrew!!