Posts Tagged Lorraine Hellier

What’s Your Theme?

Having a theme for a novel or story is something I’ve always struggled with. I can cope with the internal and external conflicts that a character must have and the plotting of the ‘journey’ each character must go on, in order to emerge, changed in some way, at the end of the tale. The theme is something much bigger but also much simpler than all of this other detail. The theme will not be mentioned explicitly in the story but will occur and reoccur subtly throughout the narrative in the actions of your characters. The theme will generally be something to do with being human, for example growing old, maternal love or keeping secrets.

I don’t believe it’s necessary to have the theme before starting a fiction project because often it will evolve organically. For example you may notice that your characters are all motivated by greed, be it in slightly different ways, maybe one is greedy for money but another is greedy for fame and attention.

So what made me start thinking about theme?

A friend of mine, children’s author Lorraine Hellier sent me a useful link to an article on theme on the Reedsy blog. The article compares the structure of a novel to an iceberg split into three sections:

  1. Plot i.e. the events of the narrative. This is the smallest part of the structure.
  2. Story i.e. internal and external character conflicts.
  3. Theme. This is the huge chunk of iceberg beneath the water and drives both the plot and the story.

I’ve found this a useful concept to muse on as I ponder over what should happen next or how a character should act/react in my current WIP.

Knowing your theme makes it much easier to tell others what your book is about. Instead of delving into the detail of the plot, start with a sentence on the theme, for example, “It’s about how power corrupts.” (Animal Farm by George Orwell)

Why not take a look at the Reedsy article and let me know what you think?

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Flesch Reading Ease and Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level test

If you write for children it’s important to know that the language and sentence structures within your work are suitable for the age range of your target reader. For the rest of us, it can be useful to get an idea of how accessible our writing is, i.e. is it understandable to most people or are our sentences and words too long?

The children’s author Lorraine Hellier recently introduced me to a function within Microsoft Word that measures the readability of manuscripts. It’s very easy to set up. Within Word take the following steps:

  1.  In the ‘File’ tab, click ‘Options’.
  2. Select ‘Proofing’.
  3. Ensure the ‘Check grammar with spelling’ box is selected.
  4. Select the ‘Show readability statistics’ box.

Next time the spell check facility is used within a document, at the end you will be shown a  ‘Readability Statistics’ pane. Among other things this shows the Flesch Reading Ease Index, the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level and the percentage of passive sentences.

The Flesch Reading Ease index works on a 100 point scale, the higher the index, the easier a document is to understand. A score between 60 and 70 is acceptable for most documents.

The Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level gives a manuscript a US school grade level. This link gives a conversion from US school grade to age and to UK school year. Roughly, the US grade + 1 = UK school year. For example 5th grade = year 6 = age 10/11.

Writers for adults will find the passive sentence percentage most useful. Eliminating passive sentences makes any writing more immediate and effective. We often write passive sentences without noticing, so this is a great tool for highlighting the need to go back through a story and rewrite these phrases.

How easy to read (and active!) is your work?

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Meet Children’s Author – Lorraine Hellier

Fellow Midlands-based writer, Lorraine Hellier , has asked me to tell you about her latest book. It is the fourth in her children’s Serendipity series and is called ‘The Boy Who Tricked Trolls’.The Boy Who Tricked Trolls by Lorraine Hellier

The blurb about the book is tantalising:

Alex discovers the secret passage through a Grandfather Clock which leads to a fantasy world on the island of Serendipity. Desperate to help rescue little Amy, he and his friends are captured by trolls in the underground caves. How will he escape?

“Despite being part of a series the book can be enjoyed as a standalone novel,” says Lorraine. “The story is reminiscent of C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe and it will appeal to readers aged around 7 to 11 years.”

Lorraine is a retired dental therapist and now visits schools encouraging children with her reading and writing workshops. She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and also attends the same writing group as me – Lichfield and District Writers.

“The advice and encouragement of other writers is invaluable,” she explains. “I would recommend anyone new to writing to make contact with other authors for support.”

Having finished the hard graft of producing the book, Lorraine is now busy organising events to make sure it reaches as wide an audience as possible.

“I’m also working on the second draft of book 5 in the series,” she continues, “and preparing activities for children at my author events and school workshops. Plus, I’m making notes about other ideas before they take over my head!”

Lorraine will be promoting her book between 10am and 3pm at Lichfield library on the 8th September 2012 and also at Burntwood library on the 22nd September at the same times. If you live in the Staffordshire area why not go along and meet her?

Signed copies of Lorraine’s books are available via her website and the novels can also be bought through Amazon. They would make the perfect present for junior school children (and don’t forget, Christmas will be upon us before you know it!).

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