I hope you'll enjoy this edition of my newsletter, and also that you found the previous edition in the archive. It's still there! The Art of the Story Archive

The aim is always to include

...something you'll find useful

...something you'll find interesting

Topics in this edition are...

Distinctive Characters

My Favourite Illustrators

For Fun

Writing and Editing a Picturebook

Top Tips

Writing Industry Business

I'll appreciate any feedback you can give, questions you'd like me to answer (or find answers to), and suggestions for future editions...

This is just the second edition that I've written. I'm hoping to produce a new one about every 6 weeks – but the actual time will vary.


Peter Taylor
57 Remick Street
Stafford Heights
Queensland 4053 Australia

Distinctive Characters

So, you are going to write a story, and its characters will be...

To make them believable, you need to know everything about each character you create.

You need to be able to feel what it's like to walk in their shoes.

Most writers make a list of facts for each, like: Where was the character was born? Where did they grow up? Who are their parents? What sort of relationship do they have? Any brothers or sisters? - And their age? Your character's schooling; physical health; squint or stammer; ability to look after money; hobbies; what books they read; tv or radio preference; dress sense ...and a lot more.

Then comes developing each character in a way that only you can imagine – What secret are they keeping? What frustrates the person most? What are their views on religion? What do they most like / dislike about them self? What are they apathetic about? What makes them angry?...

Then go deeper still:

You are your character.

Feel their greed; their remorse; rudeness; vanity; exhaustion; moodiness; panic...

And what voice are you going to give to each? If you were blindfolded, you could still tell which of your own friends was speaking to you. Can your characters be recognised in your dialogue, without the need for telling readers who is speaking? For the most part, you still do need to put in the names – particularly in books for children – but it is the aim to make each character have a different speech pattern, use different phrasing. Really listen to real people. Do they finish sentences in particular ways? Use certain adjectives / slang words a large number of times?

Interesting characters can be built partly from people you know or observe:

The mother in law who is a wonderfully serene lady – until anyone derides her favourite football team.

The man who always coughs with a phlegmy rattle just as he hands you a drink.

The annoying "Okay dokays!" phrase used by the guy in the fruit shop.

The woman who sweeps the road outside her house and, if looks could kill, would vaporise each passing motorist with her icy stare.

My Favourite Illustrators

In the last edition of 'The Art of the Story' I started a section on 'Early Illustrators of Books for Children'

As in my choice of Hogarth for the last edition, Thomas Rowlandson is not actually noted for illustrating children's books – yet I believe his work was a big influence on later specialist illustrators.

Thomas Rowlandson was born in London in 1756. He had a good education, studing in France and at the Royal Academy, but his merchant parents were not nearly as affluent as his aunt - who Thomas later lived with for some years, and whose fortune he eventually inherited.

Whoopeeeee!!! Drinking and gambling money almost unlimited.

Yep! It ran out!

In one session he was supposed to have stood at the gaming table for a day and a half without even pausing to eat.

He gambled away everything – but was so talented, and his artwork was so loved, all he needed was his pencil, etching needle and a box of colours in order to earn all he required and a lot more.

Others became wealthy by creating and selling fakes to satisfy the demand.

Rowlandson was one of the earliest artists to embrace etching as a technique, and it allowed him to draw with energy and vigour - far more so than was possible by engraving. He used his needle to remove wax from the prepared surface of metal plates, which were then placed in acid to 'etch' the lines into the surface. The rest of wax layer could then be removed, ink rubbed into the lines, dampened paper placed on top, and the plate and paper rolled through a press to produce the print.

At a Conference, Susan Sherman, Art Director of Charlesbridge Publishing, suggested a useful exercise is adding liquid paper to a drawing to remove as many lines as possible yet still maintain the energy and feeling in the picture. She also emphasized the importance of expression in faces and especially the eyes.

This economy of line and expression in the eyes was a hallmark of Rowlandson's flamboyant prints.

I have put two examples from my collection on a page on my website

Prints by Rowlandson

If you’re touring London, all his residences were close to The Strand – though few exist in their original state. One was a house in Pall Mall, demolished to allow the expansion of Carlton House, the columns from which were used for the portico of The National Gallery. (Carlton House, where George III’s mother lived, though often compared to Versailles, was not good enough for the Prince Regent, and the columns are now all that remain.)

Rowlandson also lived in an attic in 1 James Street, close to Covent Garden Tube Station. It’s a short street, and the pubs are all that remains from his period. Thomas would have known them all well.

Another house was 2 Roberts Street, which has been modernised but still exists as offices, and his last one was 16 John Adam Street.

His printing business was 52 The Strand (now part of a larger building – the Halifax Building Society) and it’s guessed that his local ‘watering hole’ was the famous ‘Coal Hole’ up the road towards the Savoy.

Residences with his Aunt were 103 Wardour Street (at present a Japanese Restaurant) and 50 Poland Street which has also been merged with the building next door for 'Centaur'.

Information on the residences comes from my good friend John Gardiner – author of wonderful plays and musicals for adults and children. If you're wondering what to perform next, please visit his sites: www.johngardiner.net (plays) and www.gardinerandparrmusicals.com

For Fun

Do you know which libraries worldwide hold copies of your book, or any book of your choice? You can check at:


This is a great tool to play with, but it's not 100% accurate. It only provides info for libraries in their particular system. I know one of my books is in well over 100 Australian libraries (I get the payments!), but it doesn't show them.

Also, I got a different set of results when I typed in my name and followed the links, than when I typed in the book title.

It was great to find the books in places I didn't expect and in countries in which they were never published.

Writing and Editing a Picturebook

Since the last edition of 'The Art of the Story', I've added some more edited versions of my picture storybook text to my website. There are now 5. If you'd like to see how the story has changed from edit to edit, you can start at http://www.writing-for-children.com/Wind.html and links are provided to the later ones.

I believe it's now finished, but I could still give it another tweak before submitting it to agents or publishers.

Top Tips

A feather is the best thing to use to remove loose particles of pastels, chalks or any other medium that is easily smudged.

If you are sketching, you'll find that you can get a large number of tones using dark 'coloured pencils' and the result will smudge less than if you'd used graphite based ordinary 'lead pencils'. (Both will leave a mark on the opposite page of a sketch-book – but the mark from coloured pencils will be palest.

Writing Industry Business

If a publisher says they require exclusive submissions, and you are willing to do that, write 'Exclusive' on the envelope and also in the cover letter. Your submission will be looked at before those in unmarked envelopes, which, I'm told, will be opened later and sorted accordingly.

However, if you send to a publisher that accepts simultaneous submissions, and you tell them your manuscript is offered exclusively to them, they may consider you foolish to tie it down needlessly. Moreover, they know they can take as long as they like to read it, and it will almost certainly remain unread for longer.

More in the next edition…

That's it for this one.

Best wishes,


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