OUR INSIDE VOICES!

I’m thrilled to announce the recent release of Our Inside Voices – Reflections on COVID-19 – a rapid creative response to the strange and scary times we now find ourselves in.

Earlier this year Matthew Wengert – publisher at AndAlso Books who published Bjelke Blues last year – approached me about co-editing a collection of stories about the COVID crisis. So, along with Caroline Gardam, Louise Martin-Chew and Nathan Shepherdson, I put up my hand to help out. This collection of over 50 short stories, essays, poems and memoir pieces reflecting Australia’s early experiences with the pandemic, is the result.

It’s a wonderful collection featuring great Queensland writers like Nick Earls, Jess White, Samuel Wagan-Watson, Angelina Hurley, Amanda Niehaus, Warren Ward, Andrea Baldwin plus artists, Patt Hoffie, Michael Cook and Stephen Hart who bring a really interesting perspective. My favourites are Sam and Angelina’s pieces reflecting the Indigenous experience, Sarah Klenbort‘s beautiful memoir piece on how children have been impacted, and Karenlee Thompson‘s short fiction “Meg and the Margarets” which brings some much-needed quirky humour to the book. Proud to have had my own story “The Gentleman Caller” about a lonely woman’s misadventures with a nuisance caller also included.

You can get a copy now at all good Brisbane independent bookstores or buy online direct from the publisher at AndAlso Books.

Michael Cook – Living the Dream

This fabulous image by Michael Cook was a hot contender for the cover. You can check out Michael’s latest exhibition here.

Great to have this book out in the world! My only hope is that we don’t need a sequel!

Stay safe everyone and keep smiling.

Lots of love

Edwina xx

WILL SHE OR WON’T SHE? – SHAPING PLOT THROUGH CHARACTER DECISIONS

Recently I attended a Screen Queensland, Wendall Thomas screenwriting workshop on developing plot through decisions.

Wendall’s main message was this – Structure your plot through character decisions.

As we know the very best plots spring from the intrinsic motivations and flaws of our characters. Their goals, hopes and weaknesses create meaningful plotlines that are compelling because we are invested in the characters. Alternatively, plots that are imposed on characters can feel contrived and don’t have the same emotional drive that keeps us reading.

According to Wendall, each decision has three elements.

MOTIVATION – what situation/idea/goal/event forces a decision upon this character?

DECISION – what choice do they make in response to that motivating factor?

And finally

CONSEQUENCES – what events does the characters decision set in motion?

These elements remind me of my days teaching kids with behaviour disorders in juvenile justice centres. On every wall were posters proclaiming a very similar process to get them to reflect before they took rash actions that could potentially land them in even deeper trouble. STOP. THINK. OPTIONS. CONSEQUENCES. ACTION.

Stop and Think before you act!

A character has to act not just react. This process of shaping the plot through their decisions forces them to take active responsibility and turns a sappy passive protagonist into a vital force in your story, novel or screenplay.

In all forms it’s important to transform these internal decisions into external actions. To not just say, Bobby realised that killing the cat would get him in trouble, but to show Bobby, swinging the cat by the tail until it shrieked, but then stopping, holding the cat to his chest, wrenching its face up to look in its eyes, then setting it free.

Dora Marr – Boy with Cat

Each decision has its consequences. Some good, some bad. As Wendall kept saying – every decision takes your character one step forward and then two steps back.

Let’s just say Bobby made that decision to set the cat free, but it was wounded and someone had already seen him with it. When it limped home, the owners called the police and Bobby was arrested. As the police approach him Bobby starts throwing punches, swearing and reacting as he’s always done, but one of the officers speaks kindly to him and Bobby thinks better of it and calms down. Goes with them peacefully. 

After the inciting incident that sets up our story, the protagonist must decide whether or not to take up the challenge it presents. Once they do, they are propelled into the second act and continue to make decisions that move them one step forward and two steps back all the way through to the climax. Some decisions seem sensible, but others, motivated perhaps by their fatal flaw or a deep-seated weakness, we know from the start are only going to make things worse, much worse.

At the watchhouse, Bobby is taken aside by a corrupt officer who tells him he’ll let him go if he becomes an informer and feeds him information about the drug running bikie gang Bobby’s violent uncle heads. Bobby shakes the corrupt officer’s hand, puts the cash in his pocket and we know things are only going to get a whole lot worse from here.

So remember, MOTIVATION, DECISION, CONSEQUENCES and show us those decisions in ACTIONS that manifest the characters feelings and realisations.

As we hurtle towards the climax of our stories, propelled by decisions that really aren’t going so well, the decisions become increasingly reckless as the character is put under more and more pressure. Consequences get more and more dangerous.

Let’s say after informing a couple of times, Bobby sees Uncle Roger stash a couple of gym bags full of cash under the house before he heads out on his Harley. Bobby gets his phone and clicks on the police officer’s number. But then, just as the officer answers, Bobby shoves the phone back in his pocket, and scrambles under the house, emerging with a bag full of cash.

Then he turns up at his young girlfriend’s place and tells her to pack a bag. They’re both heading off down the street when the cat he hurt crosses their path. His girlfriend stops to pat it and they waste precious time. The bikie gang roars around the corner.

UHOH!

Decisions that your character makes early on in the story manifest themselves in consequences in the final act. Bobby’s decision to become an informer brings him into all sorts of dangerous circumstances he could have avoided. Even the cat plays a role in delaying his escape.

In every book you read and every film or TV show you watch, keep an eye out for how those character decisions are shaping the story.

And if in your own story your character isn’t making any decisions of their own, but is only reacting to external forces, give them some backbone and get them making decisions to give your plot a whole lot more OOMPH!

Start making history with your stories

Hope that helps you whip your stories into shape.

Keep smiling and keep writing through all the madness now surrounding us.

All is well. 

Lots of love

Edwina xx