To celebrate the recent publication of the second in the very successful Stunt Double series, I’m absolutely delighted to welcome Tamsin Cooke to The Reader Teacher today!
Without further ado, here’s Tamsin’s guest post ‘Planning a story is like planning a stunt’ where she talks about being a proud planner when writing; her inspiration for Jungle Curse from a rather eventful dog walk and her brain scrambling with creative ideas…
Title: Stunt Double: Jungle Curse
Author: Tamsin Cooke (@TamsinCooke1)
Publisher: Oxford University Press Children’s (@OUPChildrens)
Page count: 288
Date of publication: 5th July 2018
Series status: Second in the Stunt Double series
Perfect for Year 5, Year 6 & Year 7.
1. Action-packed 💥
2. Elephants 🐘
3. Blockbuster 🎬
Planning a book is like planning a stunt
Some authors have a great idea and just start to write. Well, I’ve tried this before, and my story goes nowhere. It just meanders along, with no sense of purpose.
So I am a planner and I’m proud. And I think planning a book is like planning a stunt. You need to ensure there’s a set up, everyone’s in the right place at the right time, there’s dramatic tension, and there are no holes in the story – just like you don’t want any holes in your safety equipment!
I know lots of people, especially children, who groan at the thought of planning, but this is part of the story process that I love. This is where you can allow your imagination to go wild. Once you have a seed of a story, you can play with ideas.
The inspiration for Jungle Curse came from a dog walk. Having just narrowly missed being hit on the head by a falling branch, I then had to pull an aggressive attack dog off my lovely pet Labrador, when I thought – what else could go wrong on this simple walk? Then I froze because an idea struck me. What if things kept going wrong on a film set? What if people started believing it was cursed?
My brain started scrambling in all directions. I had so many ideas for what could go wrong and what could make it go wrong. Over the next few days, dramatic scenes played in my head, and I filled notebooks, as my story came alive. However, my ideas were jumbled, with no sense of sequencing. If they were a stunt, people would definitely get hurt. Imagine someone had to jump out of a plane – I would have sent the stunt team to one place, the safety equipment to another. So I needed to put my ideas in order.
I wrote a title of each big scene onto a Post-It note. Then I sequenced them, working out which scene needed to go where; which one worked best at the beginning; which one needed to go towards the end; some I got rid of, filing them away for another book. Soon I had a whole list of events where my characters were challenged and grew. My floor was completely covered in Post-It notes. I transferred the titles to my laptop, using a programme called Scrivener that helps separate the scenes.
Then I started to write. This part of my process is most accurately described as ‘word vomit.’ The words spill out of my brain into my laptop. There are always typos, half written sentences and imageless descriptions. It is awful writing, but I don’t care because at this point I just want to get the story out, and no one gets to see it at this stage.
But it is often at this moment that my pesky characters can derail my plans. As I’m writing, it becomes clear that they might not want to carry out what I’d planned for them. For example, I wanted Finn to have an argument with a certain character. I tried forcing him, as I thought it would make a great scene, but somewhere at the back of my mind he was nagging me – telling me this was wrong. In the end I had to cut it because he was right. Finn would not get into an argument with that certain person.
Once my ‘word vomit’ is complete, otherwise known as the first draft, I am ready to start writing the real thing. I write the first scene again in detail. Then I edit and edit and edit… until I’m pretty happy with this one section. Then I move to the next scene and repeat. These scenes become chapters and soon my writing begins to resemble a book. This is the equivalent to rehearsing a stunt, where you make sure the performers know exactly what they are doing.
When it feels complete, I read from the beginning, going through each chapter slowly and carefully, making sure there are no plot holes. I edit again, ensuring the story flows. Often I’m reading aloud. This is when the cameras would be rolling and my stunt performer is falling through the sky.
With stunts, you need to make sure everything is in its right place and all the equipment works. You don’t want to have a faulty parachute. With a story you want to make sure everything works too, that the plot makes sense, and the characters behave in a believable way. Most importantly with a stunt, you need to make sure no one gets hurt. Well… in real life no one was hurt while I wrote Jungle Curse. Words were deleted, there was some wailing, and a few nails were bitten – but there was no lasting damage!
Tamsin Cooke, author of Stunt Double: Jungle Curse
Tamsin loves to travel, have adventures and see wild animals. She’s fed a tiger, held a seven-foot python and stroked a tarantula, but she’s too scared to touch a worm. She lives in Somerset with her adrenalin-junkie family. When she isn’t writing, she can be found reading books, eating jelly beans or tromping through the woods with her soppy dog.
Tamsin is back with the heart-stopping Jungle Curse, second book in the Stunt Double series with OUP Children’s.
Huge thanks to Hannah and all at OUP Children’s for inviting me to host this guest post! Extra thanks to Tamsin for taking the time to write her really insightful guest post!
Stunt Double: Jungle Curse (Book 2) is available to order online or from any good book shop.
Stunt Double (Book 1) is available to order online or from any good book shop.