Elaine Forrestal

Realistic Fiction / Fantasy Workshop

Duration: Full Day

Can be adapted to suit a range of ages and situations

Realistic Fiction

Story ideas are all around us just waiting to be snapped up. Be a detective and carry a notebook and pencil. Write down the things that you notice. Good writers are keen observers. It is often the small details that bring a story to life.

  1. Watch the people in the room, in the playground/ at the football/ in the supermarket. Choose 1 person to describe – hair, clothes, eyes, skin.
  2. What if that person suddenly fainted/ pulled out a gun/ began to transform into an alien? Choose one of these scenarios and write a report for your school newspaper.
  3. Now pretend that you are that person in the incident you chose to describe and re-write your report as a story.

The idea for my novel Leaving no Footprints came while I was walking along the beach with my dog. A boy and his dog walked past me and I noticed that neither of them had left any footprints on the sand. Was this a real boy and a real dog? Had I imagined them? Or did they have some sort of magic powers? They seemed real, but what was allowing them to walk on the beach without leaving any trace of their presence?

Fantasy

Perhaps the boy and his dog are weightless?

Try writing a story about how they came to be that way.

Has some weird disease or alien presence removed their insides leaving just the outer shell?

Are they the ghosts of a boy and his dog who were washed out to sea and whose bodies were never recovered?

Remember that for any fantasy to work it must have its feet firmly on the ground. It must have enough accepted logic about it for the reader to suspend their disbelief, even temporarily.

Check out your favourite fantasy writer. Make a note of whether they have taken ‘real’ characters and put them into a fantasy world, or invented fantastically weird characters and set them down in our familiar world.

Realistic fiction

If the boy and his dog are real, what explanation can there be for the fact that they leave no marks on the beach? Is the sand too firm? Do they walk on the edge of the world where the water washes away their footprints before they are made?

Who is this boy with the dog? Where have they come from? Where have they gone?

Who is the person watching them?

Use one of the descriptions from your notebook. Or invent new ones.

Give your characters names. You will be surprised at how much the act of naming a character tells you about their personality and circumstances.