Victoria Williamson - Where Do Ideas For Stories Come From? (The Fox and the White Gazelle Blog Tour)

It's a pleasure and a delight to be hosting a guest post from Victoria Williamson.  'The Fox and the White Gazelle' was published on the 19th April 2018 by Kelpies of Edinburgh. 

Reema runs to remember the life she left behind in Syria. Caylin runs to find what she's lost. What follows both characters in this book makes for a thought-provoking and moving journey. It takes you through a set of emotions that will stay with the reader. It's a life story that came from a seed of reality and ends in the realm of fantasy. Nature versus nurture with a strong sense of belonging. 

Many thanks to Victoria for sharing this post with us all. I hope you enjoy - thank you for taking the time to read it.  

One of the most frequent questions an author gets asked is ‘Where do you get your ideas from?’ 

That was an easy question to answer when I was six or seven: I stole them. And not even subtly. There was no half-hearted attempt to disguise the plagiarised re-telling of books I’d read, tv shows I’d watched or films I’d seen. My early ‘books’ were made of pieces of paper stapled together and filled with scenes from my favourite cartoons. The first play I wrote and performed with some friends in my P3 class was a rewrite of the plot of The Worst Witch. I retold the stories that excited me, imagined myself going off on the adventures I read about and saw on the screen, and changed a few details here and there to make myself the hero of these tales. 

And soon a funny thing happened. The adventures began to take on a life of their own. I was still writing stories about the Thundercats or dreaming up mysteries for Tintin to solve. But the plots were new, and all of my own making. Later, when I stepped through the magical wardrobe in my imagination, instead of finding Narnia on the other side, it would be a different world, peopled by characters I had invented, with stories all of their own I had never read before.

That’s why as a teacher I get a bit annoyed by the insistence on ‘originality’, particularly for children in the early years. It’s one thing for a twelve-year-old to hand in a half-hearted retelling of a tv show for a creative writing exercise, but surely we should be helping younger children to become enthusiastic writers by letting them tell the tales that truly thrill them? ‘Write about anything you like’ is so vague that adults who’d love to write a children’s book are left scratching their heads wondering where on earth they’re going to find a great idea, so why do we expect small children to be able to do this from a young age? Yes, children have vivid imaginations, but if you listen carefully, most of the stories they’re telling are about tv shows they’ve seen and books that have been read to them, just like mine were. The children who are encouraged to write these down while they’re still excited about them, instead of being told to think up something completely new, are often the ones that, years later, become authors with stories of their own to tell. 

And like many authors, even as an adult I spend a ridiculous amount of time living in my head, in worlds filled with characters I had invented from tv shows, films and books. Some of the best stories I’ve written in my head but never committed to paper are fan-fiction episodes of Game of Thrones, Doctor Who or Supernatural. Writing well requires constant practise, just the same as playing the piano proficiently or playing a great game of tennis. But just like practising the piano or tennis, there’s no need to do something new every time. Writing has its scales and service games to rehearse too, but they needn’t be a chore. 

I often say to writers who are struggling to come up with ideas to go back to writing the way they did when they were very young, before the need to be original became a stifling requirement. Turn writing into a game, and rediscover the excitement of slipping into the role of your favourite character, battling monsters or flying dragons in magical faraway lands that are already 

out there waiting for you. Soon you’ll be meeting unexpected characters and coming up with different plots along the way, and with a bit of luck and a lot of practise, some of those will turn into brand new stories that have never been told before.

Victoria Williamson grew up in Kirkintilloch, north Glasgow, surrounded by hills and books, and started writing adventure stories at an early age, with plots and characters mostly stolen from her favourite novels and TV shows! These days her stories are all her own, featuring the voices of some of the many children she has met over the years on her real-life adventures around the world.

Victoria has been a teacher for many years, working in all sorts of exciting places from Cameroon, Malawi and China to the UK. She has lots of educational resources available to go with her books, and she is very happy to visit schools to talk to students about reading, writing and the issues raised. 

You can find out more about Victoria by following her on Twitter or visit her website.