THE IMPORTANCE OF GROUNDING YOUR READER

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What does it mean to ground your reader?

It means you should give your reader enough clues at the start of a story or scene so that they can imagine the setting and protagonist.

Many of my students start straight into the action of their stories, leaving such things as the name, sex and age of the protagonist and where the action is taking place, a mystery. They say they like to reveal these things as the story goes on.

However, while this may work in film when the audience can see a character and setting in action, readers of prose are left scrambling in a dark void, trying to find something, anything, to base their experience of the story upon.

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The writer has a clear image of the scene in her mind. The writer knows where and when and who, but the reader can’t find a way into the story unless the writer shares some of this knowledge.

You can still keep many aspects of your story mysterious, but please, let the reader in on the essentials.

Where are we? When?

Who are we with? Name them.

What’s going on?

Why – you can let that unfold more slowly.

For instance, instead of

She rolled over.

“Get up!” a strange voice said.

She got up and ran as fast as she could in the other direction.

By just filling in a few important details you could have:

Rosemary rolled over in a pile of leaves, deep in the forest. She had no idea how she’d got there, but she recognised the forest as the place her grandmother took her to collect mushrooms in Autumn.

“Get up!” a strange man’s voice said from behind her.

Rosemary bolted upright and leapt to her feet, running as fast as she could away from the voice, along the secret paths her grandmother had shown her.

The mystery of how and why Rosemary has found herself in the forest, and who the stranger is, are still intact. But in the second example the reader can envisage the scene. Not only that, we have an idea how old she is, younger rather than older, and we are more likely to care about her because she has a relationship with her grandmother.

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Because all readings are subjective, with the reader imposing her own world view on the story world the author created, the forest may not be exactly the same as the writer envisaged, but the reader has somewhere to place the action, a protagonist to relate to, and is much more likely to keep on reading.

It only takes a line or two to fill in those important specific details to give the reader enough clues to enter your story world at the beginning of your story.

You’ll need to do the same work of grounding when you start a new scene as well. This can be as simple as, Three long years later… Or … Back at the busy cafe Fred stood in the line for coffee.
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It only takes a few telling details to set up your story world and protagonist in time and place so your reader isn’t left flailing in the dark, struggling to find a way in.

 

Yes it’s a writers job to keep secrets from the reader and reveal them slowly to keep the reader hooked, but some things, like who the protagonist is and where the story is set, are essential to establish right at the start so that the reader can even begin to enter your story world.

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Hope that helps!

Take care and keep smiling. Remember writers need never be bored stuck at home, there’s always more stories to write.

Now get writing 🙂

Lots of love

Edwina xx

 

 

 

Last Chance to RELAX AND WRITE in the Mountains!

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Had enough of all the craziness? I know I sure have.

Escape all the madness and find yourself in this picture instead. Come along to my next retreat MARCH 27 – 29 2020 in Highfields. Relax with yoga, get writing with inspiring workshops, and have fun with a group of like-minded creative women.

The whole weekend, including fabulous vegetarian meals, morning and afternoon teas and suppers, rustic accomodation in a beautiful location, 4 creative writing workshops and 2 yoga classes, plus a fun bonfire night, for only $400.

Every activity is totally optional so if you’d rather sleep in than do yoga, or go for a walk than attend a workshop, that’s all perfectly fine. This is YOUR special weekend to reboot. Sleep the whole weekend away if that’s what you need most.

It’s important to me to keep the prices affordable. I know writers mostly aren’t flash with cash. The workshops, fun and people however are TOP CLASS 🙂

So what are you waiting for? Come along and Relax and Write in the Mountains.

Numbers are strictly capped at 15 participants so I have plenty of time to give everyone.

BOOK HERE or CONTACT ME for more info or any questions.

HURRY only 4 spots left!!

Treat yourself to some nurturing of your body, mind and spirit. Here’s what past retreaters have to say about the experience.

We’d love to see you!

Lots of love

Edwina xx

UPCOMING EVENTS 2020! REGIONAL TOUR OF QUEENSLAND- YIPPEE!

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I’m super excited to announce that through February and March (with more planned for later in the year) I’ll be travelling around my home state of Queensland running workshops for people who suffered abuse in institutional care, as part of my work at Lotus Place. This wonderful project is organised and funded by the Truth, Healing and Reconciliation Taskforce and Micah Projects. If you identify with having been abused in institutional care you are most welcome to attend. Please just ring Lotus Place first to get in touch and confirm your attendance. I’d love to help you get those stories out of your head and onto the page.

While I’m on tour I’ll also be holding some Bjelke Blues events – all free and open to everyone. So do come along and say hi.

While I’m in Cairns I’ll also be running a Life Writing Workshop in partnership with Cairns Tropical Writers and QWC is hosting a Memoir workshop in Esk. So if you live out woop-woop (as we like to say here) please come along and get writing!

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THE HEALING POWER OF STORY WORKSHOP.

MONDAY FEBRUARY 3rd 10 am – 3:30 pm at Bundaberg Regional Library

This is a Lotus Place/ Micah Project – strictly only for participants who have experienced abuse in an institutional setting, out of home care included. It is free for participants and funded by the Truth, Healing and Reconciliation Taskforce and Micah Projects.

People wanting to come along should ring Lotus Place on 3347 8500 to check eligibility.

Bjelke Blues AUTHOR TALK

TUESDAY February 4th 10 – 11 am

Bundaberg Regional Library

ALL WELCOME! FREE! But book your spot here

TOWNSVILLE

Bjelke Blues AUTHOR TALK

SUNDAY February 9th 10:30 – 11:30 am

MARY WHO Bookstore. 414 Flinders St, Townsville QLD 4810

FREE but please phone MARY WHO to book  (07) 4771 3824

THE HEALING POWER OF STORY WORKSHOP.

MONDAY FEBRUARY 10th 10 am – 3:30 pm at Lotus Place NQ, 382 Sturt Street, Townsville Q 4810

This is a Lotus Place/ Micah Project – strictly only for participants who have experienced abuse in an institutional setting, out of home care included. It is free for participants and funded by the Truth, Healing and Reconciliation Taskforce and Micah Projects.

People wanting to come along, please contact Lotus Place NQ on 4724 2559 or email lotusnq@micahprojects.org.au to check eligibility.

CAIRNS

Bjelke Blues PANEL DISCUSSION

Wednesday February 12th 10am -11 am Cairns Central Library

With local contributors Christine Howes, Chris Morris and Bill Wilkie.

Hosted by the Cairns Tropical Writers Festival. FREE BUT BOOK HERE

THE HEALING POWER OF STORY WORKSHOP.

THURSDAY FEBRUARY 13th. 10 am – 3:30 pm at Cairns Central Library

This is a Lotus Place/ Micah Project – strictly only for participants who have experienced abuse in an institutional setting, out of home care included. It is free for participants and funded by the Truth, Healing and Reconciliation Taskforce and Micah Projects.

People wanting to come along, please contact Lotus Place NQ on 4724 2559 or email lotusnq@micahprojects.org.au to check eligibility.

LIFE WRITING WORKSHOP

SATURDAY FEBRUARY 15th. 10 am – 12:30 pm at Stratford Library, Cairns

Come along and explore your creativity with this half day workshop guaranteed to get you writing!

$35 or $30 for QWC or Tropical Writers members.

See here for more info and to book 

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MEMOIR WORKSHOP ESK:

February 22 2020-  9:30am – 12:30pm: Esk Library

FREE! Proudly brought to you by the QLD WRITERS CENTRE

SEE HERE TO BOOK   

Esk Library PHONE 07 5424 4080

BOOK YOUR SPOT NOW!

MACKAY

THE HEALING POWER OF STORY WORKSHOP.

MONDAY MARCH 9th: 10 am – 3:30 pm at Jubilee Community Centre, Gordon Street, Mackay  

This is a Lotus Place/ Micah Project – strictly only for participants who have experienced abuse in an institutional setting, out of home care included. It is free for participants and funded by the Truth, Healing and Reconciliation Taskforce and Micah Projects.

People wanting to come along, please contact Lotus Place NQ on 4724 2559 or email lotusnq@micahprojects.org.au to check eligibility.

ROCKHAMPTION

THE HEALING POWER OF STORY WORKSHOP.

WEDNESDAY MARCH 9th: 10 am – 3:30 pm at ??

DETAILS FOR THIS WORKSHOP ARE YET TO BE CONFIRMED  

This is a Lotus Place/ Micah Project – strictly only for participants who have experienced abuse in an institutional setting, out of home care included. It is free for participants and funded by the Truth, Healing and Reconciliation Taskforce and Micah Projects.

People wanting to come along, please contact Lotus Place NQ on 4724 2559 or email lotusnq@micahprojects.org.au to check eligibility.

ADDITIONAL HEALING POWER OF STORY WORKSHOPS ARE PLANNED FOR LATER IN THE YEAR in BRISBANE TOOWOOMBA, GYMPIE AND GOLD COAST.

BOONAH

BUILDING YOUR CAREER AS A WRITER WORKSHOP

SUNDAY 3 MAY 9am – 12:30 as part of the Boonah Writers Festival

Register for the Boonah Writer’s festivalto join the fun weekend of writing and hobnobbing with writers 🙂

And so on… I’ll keep you posted!

Relax and Write in the Mountains 2020!

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I’m thrilled to announce a special introductory and memoir writing retreat at Camp Koojarewon in Highfields north of Toowoomba.

Is your creative spirit crying out for a little TLC? Always wanted to write but don’t know where to start? Need to reboot your writing mojo and be inspired to tackle that project you’ve been thinking about forever? Come along and regain your love of writing and life at the next Relax and Write Retreat

From 2pm FRIDAY 27 MARCH – 2 pm 29 MARCH 2020

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Join like-minded women in a fun and supportive environment discovering just how much some deep relaxation can ignite your imagination and get you writing again. Relax and unwind with gentle morning yoga sessions and get writing with innovative workshops to help move those stories out of your head and onto the page.

“I feel transformed, as a writer and as a human being.”

Bianca Millroy – participant NANOWRIMO retreat 2019

 The program includes two yoga sessions, four inspiring writing workshops covering the basics, plus advice on editing and submitting your work. Two nights basic dorm accommodation plus delicious vegetarian meals, morning and afternoon teas and a special dance night are included.

“The fully-catered retreat environment was comfortable and stress-free. Edwina and her team create an atmosphere that encourages, motivates and inspires.”

Gay Liddington – participant NANOWRIMO retreat 2019

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Maria, Kathy and Jude – triple retreaters!

Connect with other creative women in a beautiful, peaceful location, be inspired by practical, informative workshops, stretch and relax with yoga and release your inner-goddess dancing under the stars. No more putting your dreams on hold. Treat yourself to this special weekend nurturing your writing spirit. You deserve it!

RETREAT PROGRAM All activities are optional

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FRIDAY 27 MARCH 2020

ARRIVAL from 3 pm

5 pm – Meet and Greet

6:00 –  DINNER

6:45 – 8:30 WORKSHOP 1– Your Stories

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SATURDAY 28 MARCH

7:15am – 8:30 – Gentle morning yoga and breathing

8:30 – BREAKFAST

10:00am – 12:30 pm – WORKSHOP 2 – Writing from start to finish – developing a plot and a plan

12.30 pm – LUNCH

1 – 4:00 – FREETIME and FEEDBACK SESSIONS

4 – 6:00 pm – WORKSHOP 3 – Character and Dialogue

6:00 pm – DINNER

7:00– 8:30 pm – DANCING and chatting around the bonfire

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SUNDAY 29 MARCH

7:15 – 8:30am – Gentle morning yoga and breathing

8:30 – BREAKFAST

10:00 – 12:30 – WORKSHOP 4 – Where and how to submit work, goal setting, questions and collage

12:30 – LUNCH

1:30- 2pm DEPARTURES

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Editorial feedback sessions with Edwina available on request $50 extra for those needing advice on a project.

FEEDBACK DETAILS – email Edwina your first 10 pages plus your synopsis at least 2 weeks prior to retreat for full edit/advice plus 20 minutes meeting time. Massages will also be available at extra cost.

COST for the weekend of writing, fun and feasting, including accommodation, all meals, 2 yoga sessions, 4 creative writing workshops and a dance night. Transport not included.

 $400 all inclusive!

EARLY BIRD $360 -Pay $200 deposit before 30 January 2020

PAY YOUR DEPOSIT HERE

then Drop Me a Line to let me know you’ve done so and I’ll secure a spot for you.

OR contact me to pay by Direct Deposit: preferred : )

Contact me any time for more info or with questions. edwinashaw@icloud.com

A very few single rooms are available for those with special needs at slightly extra cost. Contact Edwina.

Remember – as Heidi said “I knew the mountains would make her well!”

Heidi

The Magic of Magnetic Island

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Oh yes, it really is that beautiful! I arrived home last night from a wonderful extended stay on Magnetic Island, just off the coast from Townsville in North Queensland. Wish you could have been there too! Traditional home of the Wulgurukaba People and a true piece of paradise.

We had so much fun on retreat. A fabulous group of writers, from absolute beginners to those with books under their belts. Now freshly-minted mermaids!img_3710.jpg

It all started with drinks on the verandah with tame blue-winged kookaburras eating out of our hands. Those beaks were a bit scary!

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Champagne still in hand, workshops started and writing dreams began to take shape.

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Then dinner up at the Amaroo restaurant with all the gang : )

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Mornings were filled with yoga and dance with our resident dancing queen Lalita Lakshmi!

Then we got stuck into the business at hand – writing! With two writing workshops covering all the basics and focusing in on character development to shape plot we were plenty busy enough. We got lots of writing done and had masses of information to absorb, so we needed our princess naps in the afternoon.

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Some  retreaters took advantage of the extended break and explored the beautiful island and had a walk and a swim.

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Dinner on Saturday night was at Bikini Tree Restaurant where my friends Jen and Dan had prepared a delicious and plentiful Indian feast.

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Even though we were stuffed to the gills (as mermaids get very hungry!) we managed to rouse ourselves for my personal highlight of the retreat  — candle dancing on the beach! The photo is blurry but you get the general idea of the fun of it. Lalita led us all in a joyful and playful celebration of life. I’m definitely keeping Lalita and dancing as part of the retreats.

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Sunday and more yoga and dancing and deep relaxation, some goal setting and another favourite part of the retreats, collage! Some collages were fun, some surprising, and others full of wonderful wishes that I hope all come true.

After farewelling all the lovely retreaters, my friend Vahida and I stayed on at Magnetic for another week, working on our own projects. Then Vahida left too, and I worked on in paradise editing a book for a friend of mine who lives on the island. Took the manuscript to the beach and worked on the sand : ) Yes! It’s not a bad life.

So now I’m home and back in the saddle, ready for more.

Life Writing Workshop this weekend at the CYA Conference Everything is a Genre Day. For the weekend (or day) ticket you get as many fabulous workshops as you can handle.

The following weekend I’m presenting Building Your Career as a Writer, at the QLD Writers Centre. You can come along in person or participate online as the session is streamed. I call this workshop – Many Fingers Many Pies, because it’s all about how to make money writing or doing things related to writing. We all have bills to pay, but it’s very nice to pay them by doing what we love.

And on Saturday 20 July I’m at Sunnybank Hill Library for a FREE WORKSHOP on the basics of creative writing. Would love to see you there. Come along and say hi : )

While I was away I also received feedback on my feature film screenplay from a Los Angeles script editor, so I’ll be busily redrafting over the next few months. Cross fingers it makes it to the big screen.

Coming soon is the launch of Bjelke Blues, a book of stories about life in Queensland under Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen, that I’ve been collecting and editing for AndAlso Books. Super excited about that. It’s heading to the printers very soon. As soon as I have the cover I’ll be showing it off. Launch is booked for Friday August 23. More on that later,

Next retreat is set for November 8 – 10 at Burleigh Heads. I’m designing it as dual purpose.

A planning and writing retreat to super boost people doing NANOWRIMO.

And for those women with a finished manuscript (or almost finished) already done, a feedback and redrafting weekend, with personalised feedback from me on the first 10 pages and your synopsis and also feedback from a small group of your peers. That way you get to talk about the book you’re working on with people who understand just how much work you’ve done and how precious your project is.

If you’d like more information about the Burleigh Retreat, would like to secure your spot, or just sign up for newsletters to keep you up to date with the retreats or to receive my hints, tips and opportunities GET IN TOUCH.

Hope to see some of you soon at one of the workshops.

Happy Writing till then!

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Lots of love,

Edwina xx

 

WOOD NYMPHS WRITING RETREAT!

A wonderful time was had by all at the latest Relax and Write Retreat up in the hills and among the trees at Highfields.

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Fourteen women feasted and rested, stretched, danced, laughed, relaxed and wrote in good company.

The lovely folk at Camp Koojarewon took really good care of us, providing delicious vegetarian meals and treats. Everything was spotlessly clean and they built fires to keep us warm, making sure we were all well fed and comfy.

We had the whole camp to ourselves, so even though we were in dorms we were able to spread out and have lots of space to ourselves. The ground were beautiful with lots of walks to explore.

Highlights for me were the crazy fun of scarf dancing and all the great writing that was done in the workshops. I especially loved our workshop out on the verandah where it felt like we were in a tree house.

 

Monique provided glorious healing massages, we ate like queens, and enjoyed the company of other writers, learning from each other and being inspired.

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Come along and join the fun at the next one.

RELAX AND WRITE ON MAGNETIC ISLAND – tropical far north Queensland. June 21 – 23 2019.

More information about that coming soon!

Contact me HERE if you’d like to be kept in the loop for retreat news and for writing hints and tips and publishing opportunities.

Until then – HAPPY WRITING! May the joy of the retreat wood nymphs be with you!

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lots of love

Edwina xx

 

 

 

“HELP!!!!” she screamed loudly. Do’s and Don’t’s for Writing Good Dialogue

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Dialogue is the most immediate mode of expression in writing prose. Used correctly it brings your writing to life, be it fiction, memoir, creative non-fiction or even personal essays. It’s importance in screenplays is vital. Done well, dialogue can move the plot forward, build multi-dimensional characters and add layers of complexity you didn’t even know were there.

However, it can be notoriously tricky, and some new writers find it so difficult to manage that they avoid it completely to the detriment of their writing. So here are some of my best tips for writing effective dialogue.

DOKeep it short and sweet – or not so sweet. While there is sometimes a place for a poetic monologue the best advice I’ve ever been given is LESS IS ALWAYS MORE. Cut the beginnings and endings of your dialogue sentences. Cut excess sentences altogether. How can you say it with less? How can you almost say it, so the reader has to fill in the blanks themselves?

DON’TUse dialogue to explain or describe what went on in a previous scene. If a reader has read that scene, they’ll get it. If the dialogue isn’t adding a radical new viewpoint, or revealing information we didn’t already know, then never ever look back!

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DOMake sure the reader knows which character is speaking. The easiest way to do this is with proper punctuation and speech tags.

Each first line from each speaker is indented and the dialogue itself is enclosed in quotation marks. For example:
1.         “How do I punctuate dialogue?” Julie asked.
2.        “That’s simple,” said Edwina. “Find a good book that uses classical punctuation and follow their lead. The main rule is to put your punctuation marks inside the quote marks and to indent the first line but not the others.”

You don’t need to use classical punctuation, but it makes dialogue much easier to read. Some modern authors eschew it and use italics or other forms of punctuation, but I often then find it hard to tell who’s speaking and get frustrated. Suit yourself, just make sure it is clear who is speaking.

DON’TGo all fancy pants with your speech tags. “Said” is almost always best. It becomes invisible to the reader. Words like murmured, stammered, shouted, protested, and argued have their place, occasionally, but are best avoided. “Lied” is an exception. Keep it simple superstar!

DOGround your reader. This is good to keep in mind throughout your whole story, but especially in long stretches of dialogue when your characters can become talking heads floating in space. Even if they are floating in space, most especially then perhaps, slide in a few words describing setting or actions, that place the conversation in a context.

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DON’TPut everything in. If your characters are out for dinner, for example, we don’t have to read their whole conversation about what they’ll order, and their interactions with the wait staff, unless this contributes to character development or plot somehow. If it’s boring in real life, it’s extra boring on the page. Writer friends of mine have learnt this the hard way by transcribing recorded conversations. Your job as a writer is to trim out the boring bits and leave us with the juicy titbits!

DODifferentiate the speech patterns or habits of each character. After a while your readers should be able to tell each character apart from the way they speak. If your characters are all from similar cultural backgrounds this can be trickier, but if you listen in on conversations around you (put in your earphones, but don’t have your music on, and eavesdrop to get an idea of how people differ) you’ll see how we all have our own individual tics.

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DON’T Use capitals to indicate shouting, that’s what an exclamation mark is for.

DOUse character actions beside their dialogue to not only indicate who is speaking but to add to the tone or develop an undercurrent of meaning. For example:
1.          “What time is it?” Joan lifted her head from the pillow.
And      “What time is it?” Joan threw the saucepan full of cold soup at Brian’s head.

DON’TUse adverbs unless absolutely necessary. If you’ve done everything else right you just don’t need them.

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Here are the links to a couple of stories that use dialogue exceptionally well for you to get an idea of just how effective it can be.

Denis Johnson, “Steady Hands at Seattle General” – it doesn’t use classical punctuation, but it’s genius at creating an entire story almost solely in speech.

“Reunion” by John Cheever. It hasn’t indented the first line of each speaker but again, the dialogue demonstrates character in a way nothing else can.

Try writing your own story almost all in dialogue. Make it a hospital story like Denis Johnson’s or a reunion like Cheever’s.

Let me know how you go.

If you’d like more hints and tips on writing see my post here

or CONTACT  me HERE to get regular (but not too regular!) writing advice and news.

And if you’d enjoy a whole weekend full of learning about writing then come along to my next retreat, More information HERE.

I’d love to have you along.

Lots of love,
Edwina xx