I’ve previously reviewed Starchild #1 by Vacen Taylor and the sequel, The City of Souls, is out now. Vacen is an interesting author because her background is in scriptwriting and I think this comes through in her fiction. She has very kindly agreed to have a chat and share some secrets, plus her tips for getting youngsters started with screen writing AND there’s a giveaway to win all four books (but you’ll have to scroll down for that).
How does your scriptwriting background influence your fiction writing?
Writing scripts requires a very different style of writing and requires different formatting. The other thing to remember in scriptwriting is there are no internal thoughts, so sensory details need to be found in the character’s actions but also be found in visible and audible emotions.
In screenwriting the writer would be working to reduce the details but be visual and emotional, writing as succinctly possible. Remember a feature-length screenplay is 110-120 pages in comparison to a novel which could range from 40, 000 to 100,000 pages depending on the age group and genre.
This understanding can be great for learning how to write tightly, but it can also encourage a writer to write so tightly that it fits into the reduced amount of pages. I often feel that this is a reason why my novels flow so fast because I have learned to write so tightly. So, it can be negative in some aspects.
When you write scripts, a writer is also thinking about budgets and settings. Both make a massive difference in whether the film or television series would be feasible to produce. When I participated in a short course in screenwriting, I quickly learned there was a lot more to think about when writing a script. I had to develop a script from a source text and on a tiny budget. These parameters played a significant part in my reasoning for everything; for example, the time of day or night, due to lighting cost, the sun is free!
Alternatively, when a writer is creating a novel, it is not essential to think about the cost of a budget or setting that might be a condition in filming. This freedom means when a person is writing a novel there is more room to be super creative with creating worlds. That doesn’t mean fantasy concepts don’t end up on the big screen, but they are more expensive to make, and budget considerations will drive the film’s end product. Whereas if I were writing a fantasy script, I would have to be continuingly thinking about budget and setting costs amongst other things.
Which character in Starchild are you most like and why?
These days I would say Mia, a resilient, self-confident and independent woman. Working with young people in my day job in the field of alcohol and other drugs, I believe a vital skill in supporting young women and men is to be resilient and independent myself. Role modelling is an important part of this work alongside a sound education and understanding how to link theory with practice and in many cases real life lived experiences. It’s also vital to maintain empathy for others around us and in the community. Which is part of the reason some of the characters are empathic to others, but I would hope people see the contrast between the empathic characters and those who lack empathy in the series.
What do you include in your character profiles?
I use a character profile sheet. Each sheet has everything from necessary information on it like, name, age, birthplace, gender and nationality. In another section, I concentrate on hair colour, eye colour, height, tattoos, scars etc. The next section includes information on a personality like, best and worst trait, secrets, enemies, what they like or don’t like. I also have a part for family, parents, siblings, boyfriends, partners and pets. Other information I include is a friends list, jobs, standing in the community or school setting.
You’ve built a very detailed world. What was the inspiration?
I have always been interested in energy. But the type of energy I am referring to within the series is found in the body. In the back of the book the powers of the nations are divided into 7 types from a particular source spot on the body. This is based loosely on the Chakra or energy points or nodes in the body. Forming the powers from this source inspired me to write the story. I gave each spot a strength, but with that, I realised I would be dividing the nations. It’s something like how the world of today is divided into countries and the country’s people. Which also inspired me to bring children from different nations together and along with that a mysterious child attached to a prophecy. From then on, it would be about friendship, courage, change and doing what is necessary to help each other. The Age of Akra is only a glimpse of the whole story. By the end of the third book, Long has changed a great deal and so has Akra.
What are you working on now?
I am working on three YA novels. One has been adapted from my short story, The Returning which was published as a shortlisted entry for the Queensland Writers Centre. The other two, first, being an apocalyptic and the other a paranormal both still requiring the ability to create unique spaces and settings that surround the characters.
Other than your own (of course), what are your favourite MG fantasy reads?
Song for a Whale by Lynne Kelly. And I’m looking forward to reading Far Away by Lisa Graff
There are lots of creative writing competitions for children, but do you know of any that specialise in scripts?
I am aware of many here in Australia. Here are a few.
ATOM Awards http://atomawards.org/ for Primary and Secondary students.
CinéfestOZ Short Film Competition https://cinefestoz.com/festival-program/cinesnaps/short-film-competition/ Encourages South West [WA] Western Australia n students 13-18 years old to explore the medium of film and use multi-media formats for production.
FlickerUp https://flickerfest.com.au/how-to-enter-flickerup/ National competition for primary and secondary school students or film-makers under 18 years old.
Sydney International Festival of Films by Children https://www.bardicstudio.com.au/festival-information
Thank you for inviting me to answer your questions. J
Back to the book. Here’s the blurb …
A gripping forest adventure full of mystery, betrayal and courage.
When a new sealer boy joins the journey, Mai, Long, and Akra are confident their challenges have come to an end. But as they embark on their journey once again, they find themselves having to escape from the clutches of dangerous enemies.
They travel to Naroan – the forest lands of the soulbankers, the regulators of life and death. Against the backdrop of rules and suspicion, the children are challenged with unravelling the mystery of the Silvershade, which has been calling to Akra from the moment he arrived in the forest city. But Long is tormented by his doubts – he must face a deadly power from the Underworld before it takes him into the darkness.
Will the dark pebble take Long along a road of no return? Or will his friends find a way to help him?
Win a set of all four books …
If you can’t wait for the competition, here are the purchase links
Vacen Taylor is a children’s author with a portfolio of screenwriting and stage play achievements. A selection of her poetry has been published in Art and Literature Journals. One of her plays was selected to be part of the Playwrights Program 2017 and then directed and performed as a performance reading at HOTA (previously the Gold Coast Arts Centre).
Her feature film script received a special commendation for Best Unproduced Screenplay titled Grandfathers at the British Independent Film Festival in 2018. The logline can be found under Special Commendations for Unproduced Screenplays here.
Her TV pilot for a series (teleplay) was selected as a semi-finalist in the Hollywood Just4Shorts Film and Screenplay Competition in Los Angeles, CA. This pilot was listed in the top 50 for the Cinequest Screenwriting Competition in 2018.
She presented the first mental health panel at OZ Comic-Con in 2017. This panel was a fantastic opportunity to discuss openly and honestly about artists and their mental health to help support wellbeing, foster connectivity and provide a culture of support.
In 2018 she presented the panel, ‘An artist’s guide to creative happiness: How to strengthen your creative performance’ at Oz Comic-Con in Brisbane. Her panels are extraordinary opportunities to explore ideas with people who are currently working in the industry. She aims to discuss subjects like individualism, the community, mental health, wellbeing, happiness, creativity, co-creating and self-awareness which often leads to interesting questions from the audience.
What else does she do? Vacen is also a creative workshop facilitator and proficient in, teaching, speaking and concept creation. Guest Speaker. Workshop Presenter. Creative Panel Facilitator. Mentor. Support Worker. Counsellor. Social Welfare Advocate.
AND IF YOU”D LIKE TO SEE WHAT VACEN LOOKED LIKE AS A CHILD, YOU”LL NEED TO SIGN UP TO THE #KIDSCLUB Join the free #kidsclub
Social Media Links –
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/vacentaylor/
Pinterest – https://www.pinterest.com.au/vacentaylor/
Twitter – https://twitter.com/VacenTaylor