FLYING THROUGH CLOUDS – Blog tour – Day 4
Written by Michelle Morgan
CATEGORY: Young Adult
RRP: $18.99 Pbk
PUBLISHED: 2 April 2017
My Writing Process
Flying through Clouds is my new historical novel for young adults, and follows on from my first novel, Racing the Moon. Although both novels share the same main character and are set mostly in Sydney in the 1930s, the stories are quite different, and so were my motivations for writing them. Flying through Clouds is about Joe Riley’s dream of becoming an aviator and his problematic transition from adolescence to adulthood. It was inspired by two historical events – the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in March 1932, and the landing and take-off of Southern Cross by Sir Charles Kingsford Smith on Seven Mile Beach in January 1933.
Before writing Flying through Clouds, I immersed myself in research. I wanted to understand how people lived in the 1930s and become familiar with that world before developing my characters and narrative. I read books about aviators, the Depression and Australia in the 1930s; I watched videos, listened to podcasts and searched for old photographs and newspaper articles. To make the story interesting and intriguing, I needed to build tension, create conflict and throw up some challenging situations for my main character. I also wanted the novel to be more than about flying. I wanted to explore Joe’s journey through adolescence and his relationships with his family and friends. To do this, I had to create sub-plots, secondary characters and themes that would resonate with readers today.
An essential element of any story is getting the voice right. This depends on who your narrator is and what perspective you’ve chosen to write from. With Flying through Clouds I chose to tell the story in the first person from Joe’s point of view and mostly in the present tense. I wanted readers to be able to experience the world of the 1930s through Joe’s eyes, to be accomplices in all his well-intentioned but bad choices. But the first person also has its limitations because the narrator can’t possibly know everything that’s going on around them or inside the heads of other characters.
It was challenging to develop the voice, behaviour and personality of a teenage boy growing up in the 1930s. I read widely but also observed significant males in my life, and dug deep to find the rebellious teenager within. Apart from developing Joe’s voice, I had to develop personalities and behaviours for all my characters.
I often use dialogue to reveal character. My enthusiasm for using dialogue springs from my love of theatre and playwriting. When I’m stuck, I read more books or search for old photos or watch videos for inspiration. When I have a good understanding of my characters and the setting, I plot the main turning points of the story. And there’s no story without conflict. But the conflict has to come from the interaction of my characters. I evaluate every scene that I come up with – What impact will it have? How credible is it? Will it drive the story forward and develop the characters?
Each turning point in the novel had to come at just the right time and create tension, as well as propel the story towards the climax. Critical feedback from professional editors is crucial to developing a manuscript towards publication, and I was fortunate to work with two talented editors. A structural edit led to a much tighter plot and a reduced word count. The copy edit a year later picked up problems with grammar, style, voice, punctuation and minor inconsistencies in the text. The copy edit also inspired me to further develop voice and characterisations.
When writing for teenagers, it’s important to have interesting multi-dimensional characters and a strong narrative. I hope that Flying through Clouds engages readers with its compelling blend of humour, drama and historical detail.
Flying through Clouds is available now at bookshops, educational and library suppliers, and can be ordered on Michelle’s website.
Find out more about Michelle and her books on her website: www.michellejmorgan.com.au
Check out Dee White’s blog tomorrow at https://deescribewriting.wordpress.com/ for Day 5 of the Flying through Clouds Blog tour.