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‘We are writers…we are adventurers in human imagination’

Morris Gleitzman, Author and Children’s Laureate, visited Saints on Wednesday 29 May, running sessions for Years 5, 6 and 7 students. His presentation revealed his struggle to find ‘the secret’ to writing from the age of 17. To discover ‘the secret’ he spent many hours in libraries reading only the first page of many stories to formulate how stories begin.

Initially he couldn’t spot anything similar, but he persisted in his pursuit and discovered that first sentences in books always start with a character having a problem in their lives. As soon as there is a problem, there are at least two possible endings which then gives the reader a reason to keep reading. Problems also give characters real emotions which allows readers to connect, relate to and identify with the feelings of the characters.

Creating a central character with a problem, provides students with a great strategy to begin their narrative writing. They are then able to engage the reader with an emotional hook, as Morris reflected on emotion being a universal language. He left us pondering how we, as writers, can improve our characters so that the reader can live the story through the character’s eyes.

Through his Felix book series, Morris wanted to explore a strong friendship that had no internal problems. He wanted to see how extraordinary external pressures would impact this incredible friendship, so he based the story in the most unfriendly situation imaginable, World War 2. He wanted readers to discover that friendship ‘doesn’t need money or heroic deeds or contacts in high places to enjoy this precious gift….just that special person.’

Alison Winter and Sue Dansie