Author, Catriona Hoy is celebrating the launch of her fifth picture book, “Puggle”, which she says now qualifies her to call herself a children’s writer – personally, I think she was one way before then.
Catriona writes wonderful books about real things, but turns them into fiction. She’s here today to give us some tips on how she does it. Over to you, Catriona.
TURNING FACT INTO FICTION – by Catriona Hoy
If there was one tip I could give about turning fact into fiction, it’s the obvious one. Research!
I regularly write non fiction for some childrens magazines. With non fiction I usually have a topic and a brief, so the shape of the writing is there so to speak. Once I have researched, collated and refined my material, the smaller subheadings begin to emerge; pretty much like writing an essay.
However, with fiction, it is more difficult. My new picture book, Puggle, began with an idea. My imagination was captured by a cute baby echidna that I met at the home of some wildlife carers. I loved the name and wanted to write a story but the shape wasn’t there yet. The idea sat around somewhere in the back of my head, brewing away.
I kept in touch with the wildlife carers and they told me of Puggle’s progress as he grew and began to learn the skills he would need to survive. While I waited for the shape of the story to come, I found out all I could about echidnas. I searched for photos online, compiled lists of interesting facts and made a timeline marking out the milestones in Puggle’s life.
I distilled all the information down to the essentials, what would be the most important points. Then the story began to take shape.
Puggle just getting spines
There was the beginning and introduction, then the explanation of how Puggle came to be with his carers. Then forward in time to trace Puggle as he grew up. Because the house was filled with other animals, I began to mark time passing with the exit of some of these animals as they became well and returned to the wild.
The challenge with turning fact into fiction is that it has to be a readable story, the language has to flow, the story must be interesting, we must love Puggle…otherwise it will sound like a piece of research that has been turned into a story and is more suited to a nonfiction book. So I think the key is …EMOTION. You have to love your characters and they have to feel real to you and other people.
With Puggle, one of the obvious markets is the educational one; therefore I really had to resist the temptation to give Puggle human emotions. The nearest I came to it was ‘ milk smelt very, very good.’ I had to get into character and imagine I was a baby echidna.
Finally, for me, verifying the text is important.
As I write picture books, they are short and therefore not too onerous to read. I established contact with Dr Peggy Rismiller at the Pelican Lagoon Research Centre on Kangaroo Island. She generously read the text and advised on any areas that she thought needed tweaking. Likewise, the carers in the story also gave me their advice. (Including the fact that they would have euthanized the magpie with the broken leg …but I didn’t think that was appropriate to include!)
If anyone would like to see pictures of Puggles, there are some gorgeous ones on my website and some information about some of my other books.
Thanks so much for dropping in Catriona, and telling us your story and sharing your helpful tips. (Believe me, Catriona’s pictures are seriously cute, you will definitely want to see them).
Catriona is visiting us on her blog tour. Here’s where you can catch her in cyber space over the next couple of weeks.
Blog Tour Dates
April 12 http://scribblygum.wordpress.com/
April 13 https://deescribewriting.wordpress.com/
April 14 http://sallymurphy.blogspot.com/
April 15 http://www.letshavewords.blogspot.com/
April 16 http://orangedale.livejournal.com/
April 17 http://sherylgwyther.wordpress.com/
April 18 http://angelasunde.blogspot.com/
April 19 http://katswhiskers.wordpress.com/
April 20 http://belka37.blogspot.com
April 21 http://sandyfussell.blogspot.com/
April 22 http://trudietrewin.com/blog-ramblings/
Hope you enjoyed Catriona’s visit as much as I did.