Guest Post: Planning a story is like planning a stunt (Stunt Double: Jungle Curse – Tamsin Cooke)

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… 


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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
ISBN: 978-0192749840

Perfect for Year 5, Year 6 & Year 7.

#3Words3Emojis:
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.

Hole picture.jpegSo 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.Jungle curse.jpg

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?
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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.

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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.

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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. Cutting scene.jpeg

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.

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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

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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.

You can find out more about Tamsin at her website or by following her on Twitter: @TamsinCooke1.


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!

Mr E
📚


9780192749840
Stunt Double: Jungle Curse 
(Book 2) is available to order online or from any good book shop.


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Stunt Double (Book 1) is available to order online or from any good book shop.

Blog Tour: Review: Planet Stan – Elaine Wickson (Illustrated by Chris Judge) & Guest Post: Infographic: A visual representation of information or data, as a chart, diagram or image – Elaine Wickson

‘A highly entertaining ad-VENN-ture that’s loveably BAR-my with hilarity, humour and hap-PIE-ness in all the right places… surely making it a serious (or should I say, not-so-serious!!!) contender for the Lollies (Laugh Out Loud Book Awards) 2018.’

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Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: Planet Stan
Poets: Elaine Wickson (@elainewickson)
Illustrator: Chris Judge (chrisjudge)
Publisher: OUP Oxford Children’s (@OUPChildrens)
Page count: 240
Date of publication: 5th April 2018
Series status: First in a series of 3!
ISBN: 978-0192759047

Perfect for Year 4, Year 5 & Year 6.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Hilarious 😁
2. Out-of-this-world 🌍
3. Chart-tastic! 📊


SOMETIMES the only way to make any sense of my life is to put it all into charts and diagrams . . . BUT even that just makes me realize how far away from normal my family is, especially my little brother Fred!

I hope that you’ll find some useful survival tips in this book, but if not, then at least it’ll cheer you up to know your life is considerably less chaotic than mine!


The first line(s):
Mum! Fred’s been keeping snails under my bed again…
They say we’re all made of stardust.’


Review:
Welcome to Stan’s universe! As the first line suggests, Stan’s life is anything but usual. With a younger brother, Fred – who Mum describes as an ‘effervescent force’ – leaving snails under Stan’s bed and ladybirds in his lunchbox; squeezing toothpaste in his slippers; licking all the crisps; chucking Stan’s pants out the window and cutting holes in his favourite T-shirt AND that’s not all as the list could go on and on and on… you can see why Stan often finds himself in quite a predicament.

To help make some sort of sense of it, Stan uses a mix of charts, diagrams and infographics to explain everything. And when I say everything, I mean everything. Ranging from a ‘cross-section of [his] younger bruv’s brain’ to a Venn diagram of the ‘common (or should I say not-so-common) multiples’ between him and his out-of-this-world brother, and even his ‘My General State of Mind’ sliding scale on each page.

For as long as he can remember (and as long as he can remember asking Mum for one!), Stan has wanted a telescope because he loves everything space. Just as Stan is obsessed with space, Fred adores dinosaurs. In his case, one particular dinosaur exhibit at the museum named Rory who is not only part of Camford Museum’s history but is also part of the residents’ own history as he’s long been there since they were growing up. However unfortunately for Fred, he hears news that dearly-loved Rory’s skeleton is going to be removed from the museum sending him in to meltdown…

Whilst Stan tries his best to look after Fred and lift his spirits AND keep his group of equally disorderly friends on task with their entry for the science competition with first prize being THAT telescope, both his and Rory’s passions in life force the two of them to work together. But will Stan complete Operation SWAT (Stanley Wins a Telescope) in time? And does he end up feeling ‘Over the moon’ or in a ‘Black Hole of Doom’?

Sprinkled with fantastical space facts aplenty with Stan providing a social commentary far beyond his years and reminiscent of a young Sheldon Cooper, it’s a maths, science and infographic fan’s dream of a read. As it’s more than just a read. Elaine, with the help of illustrator Chris Judge’s larger-than-life infographics, really shows the power of how applying infographics in a inventive and innovative way can convey and tell a story just as well as and at times even more fitting than words could possibly hope to achieve. Further to this, Planet Stan could be used in school as a different and light-hearted way in to introducing data handling involving bar charts, pie charts and Venn diagrams to children.

This is a highly entertaining ad-VENN-ture that’s loveably BAR-my with hilarity, humour and hap-PIE-ness in all the right places… surely making it a serious (or should I say, not-so-serious!!!) contender for the Lollies (Laugh Out Loud Book Awards) 2018.

It also shows how sibling rivalry can turn in to the best kind of brotherly love; the importance, inspiration and sense of awe and wonder that museums can hold for children and adults; and finding out that we have far more in common with each other, even when it can sometimes first seem like we don’t have much at all. And also one of life’s most (ahem!) important lessons. If all else fails, make sure you have cake. Cake-on-a-stick!

‘A highly entertaining ad-VENN-ture that’s loveably BAR-my with hilarity, humour and hap-PIE-ness in all the right places… surely making it a serious (or should I say, not-so-serious!!!) contender for the Lollies (Laugh Out Loud Book Awards) 2018.’

HUGE thanks to Elaine for writing such a super guest post about the power of infographics!

Big thanks also to Hannah Penny at OUP Children’s Books for sending me a copy of this beautiful book and inviting me to take part in Planet Stan’s blog tour!

Planet Stan is available to pre-order now online or from any good bookshop.

Mr E
📚

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Today I am also very fortunate in that I am delighted to welcome Elaine Wickson to The Reader TeacherHere, she shares with The Reader Teacher readers all about the infographic and shares some of her very own that’s she made about herself, which are guaranteed to make you chuckle! She explores their history right back to 1801 and also explains what Florence Nightingale had to do with pie charts.

Infographic: A visual representation of information or data, as a chart, diagram or image”.

What with Twitface, 500 telly channels, and phones for hands, it’s not hard to see why eye-catching infographics have become so widespread – they are perfect for short attention spans.

‘Infographic’ sounds like a word from our internet era, but it’s been in use since the 1960s, and an idea much earlier than that. William Playfair invented the pie chart in 1801, but look what Florence Nightingale did with it – she turned it into a rose chart (also known as a coxcomb), to show parliament they needed to sort out army hygiene.

Florence Nightingale Rose Chart

There are infographics all around us, like the London Underground map, and Ron Swanson’s Pyramid of Greatness. Take your pick from Quick Facts About Mars, Unravelling Death in Game of Thrones, or Tracking a Book from Idea to Completion. You can even relive the ENTIRE story of Star Wars Episode IV – dazzling, but it may result in “scrolling-wheel finger”.

I’m sure there’s a sciencey explanation as to why we process visual stuff more easily, after all pictures can speak a thousand words (although obviously it depends on the words).

Stanley Fox uses all kinds of infographics in Planet Stan, such as a Periodic Table to remind him what ‘elements’ his brother is made from, or a Lego Death Star Impact Chart which actually explains meteorite craters.

With that in mind, I thought I’d share some infographics about me!

 

I love pictures with stories – my eyes can’t wait to reach them as I scan the text. I have such fond memories of laughing at The Bash Street Kids in buzzy-bee summer hols; scrutinising panels of a fairy-tale comic book that belonged to my Mum; and losing hours with a just-right sunbeam and my 1001 Questions and Answers book (non-fiction is not just for Christmas). Also picture books. Sigh. Why do adults give up picture books?

My infographics are cheeky. They look like pictures, but squeeze in extra bits of story. Like the pie chart to describe someone’s character, or the recipes for disaster likely to befall you when out with a younger sibling.

So, if you were looking for a more sciencey explanation about the visuals lowdown – here’s an infographic about infographics: https://neomam.com/interactive/13reasons/

And if you want to fall down an infographic rabbit hole, take your pick from:

Elaine Wickson, author of Planet Stan

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Elaine Wickson writes stories in a Plotting Shed at the bottom of the garden, surrounded by foxes and fairy doors and more woodlice than she’s comfortable with. When not writing, she loves gazing at stars, trees, and books, preferably whilst eating cheese.
Planet Stan is the first in a series, about a boy who charts his life through infographics.

You can find out more about Elaine by visiting her website or following her on Twitter.