Welcome to Cabin Tales: Spooky Stories for Young Writers. This is Episode Two: Nasty People meet Nasty Ends. It’s a long one at 50 minutes. I’m Catherine Austen. And my guests today are great Canadian writers Karen Krossing, Monique Polak, and Tim Wynne-Jones. Today we’ll be talking all about characters.
Trigger warning: Today’s story includes cruelty, crime, references to suicide, and a fairly disgusting parasite. So if you have a special sensitivity to any of those things, skip ahead 10 minutes when you hear the musical bar near the beginning of the story. Or download the “fright-free” version below.
Listen to the full original episode:
Download the full original transcript:
Listen to the “fright-free” episode:
Download the “fright-free” transcript:
[3:10] Story: “The Spot”
[14:35] Commentary: Introducing characters
[15:50] Excerpt from Dracula by Bram Stoker (1897)
[18:30] Copy the technique
[19:15] Introducing a character from an omniscient point of view
[20:10] Excerpt from The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket
[22:15] Copy the technique
[23:00] First person narrators as characters
[23:50] Excerpt from The Universe versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence
[25:20] Copy the technique
[26:30] Interviews: favourite villains and other characters
[27:05] Karen Krossing’s favourite characters
[28:40] Monique Polak’s favourite characters
[30:35] Tim Wynne-Jones’ favourite characters
[32:35] Interviews: empathizing with characters
[32:35] Karen Krossing on empathizing with monsters
[35:45] Monique Polak on empathizing with all characters
[36:45] Tim Wynne-Jones on taking his characters everywhere with him
[38:25] Advice for young writers on developing characters
[39:15] Tim Wynne-Jones on drafting to discover a character
[41:00] Monique Polak on stealing characters
[41:45] Karen Krossing on observing setting as a character
[42:20] Character Exercises to find plot
[43:45] Story Prompt: “The couple at Swimmer’s Graveyard”
[48:00] Write your own tale
You can find a mini-lesson on developing characters and a template for young writers on Catherine Austen’s blog.
[48:45] Monster movie line
“Nasty little fellows such as yourself always get their comeuppance.”
[49:10] Thanks and coming up on the podcast
I want to thank today’s guests – Tim Wynne-Jones, Monique Polak, and Karen Krossing. Next week, we’ll have Episode 2.5, “Author Interviews about Character.” My guests next week are Caroline Pignat, Rachel Eugster, Amanda West Lewis, Lori Weber, and Jan Coates. Thanks for listening.
Host: Catherine Austen writes books for children, short stories for adults, and reports for corporate clients. She has given creative writing workshops and presentations from coast to coast. She lives in Gatineau, Quebec.
Music: Music on the podcast is from “Stories of the Old Mansion” by Akashic Records, provided by Jamendo (Standard license for online use)
Art: The image on this page is a cropped B&W version of an illustration by Paul Helleu from a 1913 collection of his work.
Karen Krossing wrote poetry and rants as a teen and dreamed of becoming a published writer. Now, she’s the author of seven award-winning novels for kids and teens, including Punch Like a Girl, Bog, and Cut the Lights, with two picture books on the way. Karen encourages new writers through workshops for kids, teens, and adults. She lives in Toronto, and you can find her on Instagram and Twitter or at www.karenkrossing.com.
Monique Polak is the Montreal-based author of 29 books for young people. She is a two-time winner of the Quebec Writers’ Federation Prize for Children’s and YA Literature. She has been teaching English and Humanities at Marianopolis College in Montreal for over 30 years. She is also a columnist for ICI-Radio Canada’s Plus on est de fous, plus on lit! As you can imagine, Monique operates at high speed to get all these things done. But she brakes whenever she hears (or smells) a good story. To learn more about Monique, visit her website at www.moniquepolak.com.
Tim Wynne-Jones has written 35 books for adults and children of all sorts of ages. He has won the Governor General’s Award twice and the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award twice, most recently for the thriller, Blink & Caution. He has twice won the Arthur Ellis Award of the Crime Writers of Canada, as well as the Edgar Award of the Mystery Writers of America. His books have been translated into a dozen languages. Tim was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2012. His latest novel, The Starlight Claim, came out in 2019. Visit Tim’s website, Tim’s blog, or find him on Facebook.