David Flin, Publisher
Published 5 November 2020
A story comes in three parts
In the last blog, Andy Cooke described how he put together the Shadowlands Chronicles. Different authors develop their stories in different ways. Sometimes, the same author will develop different stories in different ways. For example, when I was developing Green and Pleasant Land, I took inspiration from a number of poems from Kipling’s Barrack-Room Ballads, a much under-rated resource, in my opinion. By contrast, the next book in the series, Clouds Unfold, was a combination of identifying specific scenes, such as the Crossing the Line ceremony, and simply letting the characters “do what they wanted to.”
Different people have different ways of developing a story. However, all stories need three things. No, not beginning, middle, and end, although stories do need those. What all stories need are interesting characters doing interesting things in interesting places. Characters, plot, and setting. Those are the key elements to any story.
If you don’t have interesting characters, no reader is going to care what happens to them. Interesting characters aren’t perfect, nor are they completely useless. Believable is the key. Strengths and flaws. It’s a matter of getting the readers to care about what happens to the characters.
How do you write believable characters? The answer is to pay attention. There’s dozens of believable characters around you each and every day. Make use of them. Does your teacher have a strange accent and support a football team from the other end of the country? Do they get annoyed when the same people have forgotten their homework yet again? You can incorporate that. Say you are writing a story about a villain with some not-very-bright sidekicks – you’ve got your speech patterns right there waiting for you.
You’ll not get more realistic than real life.
You’ve also got to make the setting interesting. It can be somewhere the reader can relate to, like a school; it can be somewhere familiar, like a school, but with a twist – maybe it’s a school teaching undercover spies; it can be somewhere unfamiliar, such as Tolkein’s Middle Earth.
Whichever it is, you’ve got to draw the reader into the setting. You don’t do that by a simple description. Take two leads into a setting, and see how they contrast in drawing the reader in.
“It was a bright, cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” (1984, George Orwell).
“It was an April day, just after the middle of the day. The weather was clear, allowing for good visibility, but cold. Not cold enough to be freezing, but cold enough that you wished you had worn a thicker coat.”
The second just slows things down, while the first raises questions that makes the reader curious.
The third element, plot, is what the characters do in the setting. If they’re not doing anything interesting, the reader will quickly get bored. In the next blog, I’ll look at what makes an interesting story.
Andy Cooke, Author of Shadowlands Chronicles.
Published 26 October 2020
“I see faeries”
Last time, I described how the basic concept for the Shadowlands came about – emerging from my subconscious and then being beaten into shape until it came blinking out into the light of my conscious mind.
How did it get from that to a full-on story?
I had the two worlds, the “different sky”, the Cave as a portal, a couple of major characters, a theme I wanted to develop, and the place. That’s not a story, though. That’s an incomplete pile of ingredients. It’s not even half-baked.
What makes a story? You can get a whole bunch of books describing things like: “Three Act Structure” or “Five Act Structure”, “Call to Adventure”, “Build to Climax,” or whatever. But the thing is – if you’ve read widely and immersed yourself in stories, you already have a grasp of this below your conscious mind.
Published 22nd October
Themes of the Future
As you will have seen Sergeant Frosty Publications will be producing four books a month. From February, we’ll be having a series of themed months. All of the books published that month will have a common theme to them. Aimed at different ages, of different styles, and by different authors, the books will focus on a common theme.
In February, our theme is the Titanic. Dozens of films and books tell of the fateful voyage of the Titanic, a liner which sank on 15 April, 1912. We’ll publish a number of books, some fictional, some factual, that look into that event.
Andy Cooke, author of the Shadowlands Chronicles
Published 17th October
“There is another sky”
“How do you come up with your stories?”
It’s a question every author is asked. Quite understandably.
More specifically, how did I come up with the Shadowlands?
The answer is almost a cliché. It was in a dream. Or possibly a daydream. (I’m prone to both).
I woke up (or blinked and started to focus on what I should have been doing) with some words going through my head: “There is another sky.”
I’ve been reading fantasy and science fiction since I was tiny. Narnia, Middle-Earth, The Dark Is Rising – all stories we know and love. My mind was well prepared to run with it.
Published 15th October 2020
Why on Earth have you done this?
Last time, I explained about the origin of the name Sergeant Frosty. This time, I’m going to be a bit more serious, and explain why I decided to start Sergeant Frosty Publications.
I’ve been writing in various formats for over 25 years; mainly technical articles for magazines and newspapers. During that time, I’ve been editor of various magazines, again on technical matters. It was all fairly ephemeral stuff; people were interested in a piece for a month, and then it was old news. After a while, I found I was writing similar things time after time after time.
So, I decided to start writing fiction. The technical articles paid the bills, and the fiction was fun to write.
Published 29th September 2020
The First Blog
Welcome to the launch of Sergeant Frosty Publishing. We will mainly produce books on historical fiction for children and young adults. I have been asked: “Why Sergeant Frosty? Why a snowman dressed up as a Royal Marine?”. It all started a long time ago, in 1972 in fact. That winter, a group of Royal Marines were involved in an exercise up in Arctic Norway. The plan was, apparently, to see how easy it was to send reinforcements there.
I know that now. What we knew then was that we were in a deserted part of Arctic Norway in winter, and everyone seemed to have forgotten about us. We were on a hill. Once we had made our positions secure, there was very little for us to do except wait.