A boy, a thief and a messenger

Thursday 16th May 2019

The Dunedin Writers Festival Students Story Builders Workshop provided a unique opportunity for students to learn from the very best.

Dunedin Writers and Readers Festival
Dunedin Writers and Readers Festival

On Friday the 10th of May, the Year 10 Extension English Class, the Year 9 Creative Writing Class and Senior English students attended the Dunedin Writers Festival Students Workshop at Otago Girls' High School. 

Headlining this event was two internationally renowned authors John Boyne and Markus Zusak. John Boyne is famous for penning ‘The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas’ and Markus Zusak is best known for his books ‘The Book Thief’ and ‘The Messenger’.

Dunedin Writers and Readers Festival - John Boyne reads from his new novel, 'My Brother's named Jessica.' — Image by: Sharron Bennett

They were both excellent speakers, but some of the key points we learned were:

John Boyne told us that you don’t need to follow all of the rules you may find online as their usefulness varies from person to person. He also mentioned that when writing from a child’s perspective, he tends to make the other major characters kids of a similar age, while older children or adults become minor characters in the story (if he doesn’t remove them from the story completely). John Boyne also reminded us of the importance of checking our writing then rewriting, over and over again. He also told us that he does this at least 13 times! We were told to get an app on our phones that switches off all cellular and wifi use for a set amount of time so we could focus on just our writing and that we must do this most days if we want to improve.

Dunedin Writers and Readers Festival - Markus Zusak explains the importance of detail in constructing a believable story. — Image by: Sharron Bennett

Markus Zusak taught us to know the minor details. If we want to make our stories believable, we need to remember and include details in places we might not tend to put them. He explained that this is because by including minor details, the reader believes the story to be more realistic than it actually is. He too told us to rewrite, rewrite and rewrite and to expect that our first few stories might not be amazing, so we shouldn’t get disheartened and use every story as a way to improve.

Overall the trip was a fantastic experience and that we took a lot from.

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