Characters are one of the most important elements in a good story. Think about the last book you read that stayed in your mind for days. What did you remember the most? Was it the setting, the story, or the main characters? For me it is always the characters. And they are just as important in a short story or poem as are in a novel. If your characters are not real and memorable, your story will fall flat.   Many writers make the mistake of having characters who are too similar to each other and not well enough developed. Humans are not the same; we are multidimensional beings.
Developing your characters so well that you know them as well as you know yourself is vital. Not only does it make it easy to write, but it also makes it much more interesting for your reader. A well-developed character jumps off the page and into the heart and/or mind of your reader, and makes them want to stay with the story until the end.
What do you need to make this happen? There are so many important things to learn. In the Gondor Writers’ Centre two day intensive character workshop, we teach you how to make your characters unique and memorable. This workshop examines the many personality types we meet and shows you how to portray them effectively. For crime and mystery writers, the character workshop includes an examination of criminal types and what drives them to commit crimes.
Workshop: Creating Memorable Characters. Tutor: Elaine Ouston Sat, July 25th and 26th, 10am to 4pm  2 day intensive workshop. Course cost: $100

Accommodation:  As our accommodation is not yet ready, accommodation is available at the nearby Kilcoy Motel for those who wish to stay over. You can have a look at their rooms on their website

Optional extras: For two day workshops, we would love our attendees to stay around for a social gathering after the Saturday workshop, so we have decided to offer a Barbeque dinner on the Saturday night. A light lunch will also be available both days.

Full weekend package: Includes 2 day workshops, lunch two days, evening meal at Gondor Saturday night and accommodation at the Kilcoy Motel:

For more information go to Book now: Phone 07 54 981 332 or go to the bookings page to book

CAN’T MAKE IT ON THE DAY? Now you have 2 alternatives. Skype in or go to an online video conference page and join in a live workshop.
Our first Skype session went off without a hitch. The attendee was happy with her experience and the knowledge she obtained. The only thing she said was that she was a little lonely and wished she could have been here to share the experience with others. We have a solution. Gather a couple of writing friends at your place and Skype in or video conference together. Each person would have to pay for their place, but if there are 3 or more the discount would apply.
Please indicate when you book that you want to be linked by Skype or video conference. For Skype, send us your Skype profile. For video conference we will send you the link after you book. Limited numbers, so book early. You will be sent the worksheets and notes so you can participate along with the attending students.
You can still enter our competition. For Skype participants, your 15 minute evaluation will be on Skype, and for Video Conference participants, your consultation can be by Skype or phone.

For more information go to Book now: Phone 07 54 981 332 or go to the bookings page to book

AUGUST 8th & 9th: Charmaine Clancy, popular  children’s author, is also an  indie publisher, workshop presenter and co-coordinator of   the yearly Rainforest Writing Retreat. With a focus on improving literacy in young people, Charmaine’s books are aimed at reluctant readers and have proven extremely popular, receiving 5 star reviews and experiencing strong sales. She posts advice and news for writers at

Charmaine’s workshop: Writing Scary Stories. Crank up the tension and suspense in your horror writing. Whether you write fun spooky tales for kids, gothic ghost stories, or gory horror, there are essential elements to every good scary story. Learn how to plan, plot and create suitably spooky settings, creepy characters and suspenseful situations for a story to rival Lovecraft. You’ll also find out where the best markets are for your scary stories. Workshop cost; $160.
Full weekend package: $300 with share accommodation in 3 bedroom cabin. $320 if single motel room accommodation.

August 15th: Tutor Ron Day   Business writing:   * Newsletters – Reports   * Work rules – processes and   procedures * Job descriptions * Job applications * Cvs Those working in a business and those who would like to secure a position, need to be able to write in a positive manner that others, employers or customers, will understand and relate to. This workshop will help you develop the skills to become a polished communicator.

Course cost: $50

August 29th & 30th: Tutor Elaine Ouston Strengthening your writing:

The use of word pictures, metaphors and similes, show not tell, and the ability to create rising tension are all important tools. How to use these tools to create your masterpiece is covered in this workshop. Two day intensive.

Competition: Send through the first 20 pages of your manuscript (any genre) by August 20th.

Course cost: $100

For more information go to Book now: Phone 07 54 981 332 or go to the bookings page to book


Always wanted to write a picture book and have it published? Now you can find out how it’s done.

Aleesah Darlison_hi resPicture Books: Making It Count by Aleesah Darlison 

There’s something magical about picture books.

Many of us harbour the dream of becoming a picture book author. Teachers, librarians, mums and dads, grandparents. Anyone who has ever loved books, anyone who has ever had children and clocked up hours of bedtime readings. Anyone who has ever dreamed or imagined that they were creative. I’d wager just about everyone out there has thought at some stage or other that they could write a picture book, or thought, ‘I couldn’t do any worse than what’s already gone before, right? How hard could it be? It’s only a few hundred words.’

There surely is a picture book in us all.

Whether you’re seeking commercial publication, or whether you want to self-publish, or whether you simply want to write for the pleasure of it, or to share with close friends and family, we all have the right to write.

Whenever I run a picture book course or speak to beginner writers, one of the first questions I’m asked is ‘Do I need to find an illustrator for my book?’.

This is a common misconception people have when they’re starting out. The answer is ‘No’.

Unless you’re thinking of self-publishing, the task of finding an illustrator is undertaken by the publisher.

Publishers work with several, if not many, illustrators. They may even have a ‘stable’ of illustrators who they regularly employ on projects, whether they are picture books, chapter books or book covers.

Authors may not even know the illustrator who is commissioned to work on their picture book. I’ve worked on a book where the illustrations were done by two manga artists living in Japan. Other books I’ve worked on have involved illustrators who live in different states.

Different types of relationships will evolve on different projects. This is all normal.

What the publisher wants to see from an author is fresh, clever, original words. And usually words alone. Your words have to stand out. They have to SING.

Another question I’m often asked is, ‘Does an author need to include illustration instructions within their manuscript?’.

There are two schools of thought on this matter. Some authors and industry experts believe it’s crucial to include illustration instructions. Others believe minimal or no instructions are better and that the text should be able to stand on its own. I think somewhere in the middle ground is best. You don’t need to include copious amounts of illustration instructions about your characters or setting or plot. Editors and illustrators don’t need to know that your main character is wearing a red dress or red shoes, for example, unless it’s critical to the story.

But they may need to know that your main character is, for example, confined to a wheelchair, or a panda bear not a human. When I submit a picture book text to a publisher, I only include the most minimal, most important illustration instructions to provide visual clues. And when I do, the instruction is bracketed and in italics. For example: (Max lives in the city. PK is his dog.).

The best advice I can give to picture book authors is to make sure your manuscript is well and truly road-tested before you submit it. You usually only get one shot at a publisher with any given story. So make that shot count.

Aleesah Darlison is a multi-published, award-winning children’s author. She writes picture books and novels for children and young adults, both in the contemporary fiction and fantasy genres. Aleesah’s picture books include Spider Iggy, Our Class Tiger (2015 Environmental Society Award for Children’s Literature Shortlist), Little Meerkat, Bearly There, Puggle’s Problem and Warambi (2012 CBCA Notable Book Eve Pownall Award: Non-Fiction; 2012 Wilderness Society Award for Children’s Literature Shortlist). She has also written several novels and series for children including Ash Rover, I Dare You, Little Good Wolf, the Totally Twins series and the Unicorn Riders series.

Aleesah will have loads more information about picture books to share in her upcoming Introduction to Making Picture Books workshop at the Gondor Writers Centre on Saturday 18 July. Aleesah’s workshops are always extremely informative and inspirational. Book now to avoid disappointment.

Video conferencing and Skype connection is available for all workshops.

URL:  *  Facebook:

Bookings and information at:



15 05 15 room view 1There is much talk about hooking the reader in the first page by creating an inciting incident and posing a question that they want answered. But that is not enough.

The goal for every writer should be to compel readers to stay hooked until the story ends. To hypnotize them into staying with the book. To do this requires much knowledge and skill. Too many books promise a great story, start and end well, but sag in the middle.

The reader gets lost in the mundane waffle of the middle chapters and gives up. Some of the important elements to hook your reader are pace, foreshadowing, building expectation, creating questions, planting seeds and creating rising tension.

How to do all of these things and more are what you will learn at the Keeping Them Hooked workshop on Saturday 20th June at Gondor.

To book go to

I hope to see you there.



Don’t forget that from July, our workshops will include an opportunity for 4 lucky winners to have their manuscript assessed by our exciting presenters and one to win a FREE workshop! Check out the exciting workshops at

Evoking emotion in your reader is essential.

This emotional connection enhances their reading experience and makes your story memorable.

Charles Dickens said, ‘Make them laugh, make them cry and make them wait.’

Another writer, whose name escapes me, said, ‘Make them laugh, make them cry and scare the pants off them, and you’ve got them hooked.’

One of the important emotions mentioned here, humour, is one that many writers don’t believe they need to know how to write. After all, they argue, I’m not writing a comedy, my book is romance, SF, fantasy, crime etc. (choose one). But humour is an integral part of all of our lives. Our ability to laugh and desire to do so serves essential life functions; it lessens tension and anxiety.

When speaking about preparation for an expedition, Edmond Hillary is quoted as saying, ‘I’ve also regarded a sense of humor as one of the most important things on a big expedition. When you’re in a difficult or dangerous situation, or when you’re depressed about the chances of success, someone who can make you laugh eases the tension.’

This is what we need to do to some degree in our writing. Many famous writers include humour in their stories.

Stephen King is one. If you are a fan, and have his novel 11.22.63 lying around, read the first few pages. The start of the story (the inciting incident) is a sad story of his protagonist’s marriage break up, but he throws in a humorous line every now and then to break the tension.  Like on page 12 where he is talking about a diner where he regularly eats, and says, ‘I had been in just yesterday, to grab an early supper. A Fatburger, fries, and a strawberry milkshake. I believe it’s important for a guy living on his own to hit all the major food groups.’

This one line, in the middle of a paragraph full of tension, makes you smile.

Using humour at the right place, to lighten some of the darker situations in your story or provide a moment of relief for your reader, can cement the bond your reader has with you as a writer and with your character. Studies have shown that humour enhances our connection to what we are reading and makes us remember it more.

It also gives you, the writer, a boost. By challenging you to add another element to your story and finding the funnier side of what you are writing, you can lighten your mood and enhance your creativity.

Many people think of humor as exaggeration or fabrication, but it can be added in many ways, some of them as simple as a comparison jokes with a metaphor or a simile chosen specifically for comedic effect: like the old saying, ‘Getting Joe to buy a beer is like pulling hens’ teeth’.

Michael bauerKnowing how to write humour effectively is a specialist subject. But it is something you can be taught. Someone who makes a living out of writing humour is Michael Gerard Bauer.

Michael is a multi-prize-winning, Brisbane based writer of YA and children’s books. His first novel The Running Man, published in 2004, received immediate acclaim, winning the 2005 Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year for Older Readers.

The first book in the YA series Don’t Call Me Ishmael! was published in April 2006. It is a comedy set in a boys’ school where Ishmael and his intrepid band of grade nine misfits take on bullies, bugs, babes, the Beatles, debating and the great white whale, in the toughest, the weirdest, the most embarrassingly awful … and the best year of their lives.

Michael’s most recent publications have been the very popular Eric Vale series and its spin-off series, ’Secret Agent Derek Danger Dale. These hilarious books for younger readers are fully illustrated by Michael’s son Joe Bauer. His books are used widely in schools and are currently translated into 12 languages and sold in over 40 countries.

His stories are often about serious issues that children face every day. They are deep and meaningful and help to guide the reader to handle difficult situations in their lives. But these messages are delivered in a light hearted, humorous way that makes the reader want to read on, and then read more of his books.

If you want to learn how to inject some humour into your writing, Michael is conducting a workshop at Gondor Writers’ centre on June 13th.  Who better to learn from than the man who makes a living out of writing humour.

Michael’s Workshop: How to Write Funny.

In this workshop we look at the basic question, ‘What makes something funny?’. Once we’ve identified the key ingredient of humour, we will apply what we have learned to important aspects of storytelling, such as plot, character and language use, in order to produce laugh out loud results.

I thought I would end this post with a little humour from some famous people:

If the English language made any sense, lackadaisical would have something to do with a shortage of flowers. – Doug Larson

It took me fifteen years to discover I had no talent for writing, but I couldn’t give it up, because by that time I was too famous. – Robert Benchley

When I was a little boy, they called me a liar, but now that I am a grownup they call me a writer. – Isaac Bashevis Singer

If you’re interested in improving your writing by attending Michael’s workshop, please phone 07 54 981 332 to book or go to  


Can’t make it on the day… no problem, just Skype in. Please indicate when you book that you want to be linked by Skype and send us your Skype profile. Limited numbers, so book early. You will be sent any worksheets and notes so you can participate along with the attending students.


Get your writing friends together and save money. Group discounts apply to groups of 3 or more for all of Gondor’s workshops.

How do you create realistic fantasy worlds?

stephen KingDid you ever wonder how Stephen King, J. R. R. Tolkien, J K Rowlings or award-winning Marianne de Pierres created the amazing worlds in their books? These and other successful fantasy writers found the magic to create realistic fantasy worlds, but they didn’t find it in a book. They spent many hours working out what worked best.

Creating your fantasy world means building a world based upon reality and making sure that your reader knows the rules of that world. Your characters must remain true to those rules throughout your story. For your readers to accept and continue reading your story, they have to believe in your world and accept what is happening to your characters.

J R. R. Tolkien begins his Lord of the Rings series with The Hobbit, by creating a world so real that it has become a classic upon which so many others are based. Tolkien brought us Middle-earth and the lovable hobbits, with incredible description and attention to details. The story contains all the elements hobbit coverof a traditional fantasy with a bumbling hero, an enchanted talisman, dark magic versus the good wizard, and, of course, the quest.

How do you go about creating a reality that readers will accept as readily? There are several things to take into consideration. Your setting must be believable. If magic is involved, you should define the rules of magic and stick with them throughout your tale. Characters should dress appropriately for the period of your story as well as use weapons appropriate to your world.

Peacemaker coverBut there is much more to learn to get right. Take a short-cut in your learning process and get it right the first time. Aurealis award-winning author Marianne de Pierres is willing to share her secrets at the Gondor workshop on May 30th.

On May 31st she will show you how to effectively research and what to put in and what to leave out. You can choose to do both days, or just one.

Get a group of your fantasy and science fiction writer friends together and come to Gondor for a fun and informative weekend.

Can’t make it on the day? Skype in instead. You will still be able to ask Marianne questions and take part in the day.

Phone 54 981 332 to book or go to our bookings page, fill in our form and choose your payment method.

How to kill your character

It doesn’t matter how well a novel is plotted or how exciting the action is, if the dialogue is flat or forced you lose your reader. Learning to write dialogue is a major challenge.

Nothing can kill a character faster than the words they speak. Dialogue is one of the main ways a reader gets to know a character.

There is good dialogue and there is bad dialogue and, depending on which you are writing, it will make or break your story. Nothing engages a reader more than realistic dialogue and nothing disgruntles a reader more than a phrase that is contrived, clichéd and unnatural; it will pull a reader away from your lovingly crafted prose quicker than a flat character or a thin plot could ever do.

Their personality is revealed in every word they speak, and in their actions, and it’s the writer’s job to make sure the dialogue is appropriate and sounds natural to that character. What to put in and what to leave out, so that you aren’t boring your reader with unnecessary dialogue and so your dialogue sounds natural, is also important.

It is not too much of a surprise, then, to discover that writing dialogue is one of the most challenging elements of fiction writing and one which takes time to master. This is a skill that can be learnt.

The next workshop at Gondor Writers’ Centre explores ways to make sure you aren’t killing your character every time he opens his mouth.

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Workshop: Writing believable dialogue: Tutor Elaine Ouston
Making the dialogue suit your character, add depth to the scene, and show emotion is an important part of making your character believable. In this workshop, we will examine how to make your character’s voice authentic by examining the speech patterns of people from different walks of life and learning what to put in and what to leave out.
Course cost: $50 One day—10am to 4pm.

Places are filling fast so book now on 54981 332 or go to the website and book and pay there.


So what exactly is a plot?

Entrance signA story is a series of events recorded in their chronological order.

A plot is a series of events deliberately arranged to reveal the dramatic, thematic, and emotional significance of the events.

Barthe DeClements said: “Get your character in trouble in the first sentence and out of trouble in the last sentence. Pacing of plots is crucial; never give the reader a place to put the story down. This focus on tension on every page begins at the stage of slogging out a plot and continues till the last copyedit.”

A Plot is the bare bones of a story – it a series of events which is driven by the protagonist’s attempt to resolve a source of conflict. The protagonist’s actions and reactions to a set of problems, obstacles, or ordeals guide the plot. I believe that the main cause of writers block is not having a well thought out plot before you start. Having a guide allows you to know exactly what you want to happen in the next scene.

To me, to write a story of any size without a plan or plot is like going on a journey without a map or GPS. But some writers feel it limits them to only writing what was contained in the plot, and doesn’t leave room for any of those great leaps of the imagination that can take them in all sorts of surprising directions. That is not how it works. Plot lines are only a guide. As creative ideas emerge, most writers adjust their plot line to suit.

I think P.G. Wodehouse said it best: “The principle I always go on in writing a novel is to think of the characters in terms of actors in a play. I say to myself, if a big name were playing this part, and if he found that after a strong first act he had practically nothing to do in the second act, he would walk out.

“I believe the only way a writer can keep himself up to the mark is by examining each story quite coldly before he starts writing it and asking himself it is all right as a story.

“I mean, once you go saying to yourself, “This is a pretty weak plot as it stands, but I’m such a hell of a writer that my magic touch will make it okay,” you’re sunk.

“If they aren’t in interesting situations, characters can’t be major characters, not even if you have the rest of the troop talk their heads off about them.” (Interview, The Paris Review, Issue 64, Winter 1975)” ― P.G. Wodehouse

The plotting workshop on April 18th at Gondor Writers’ Centre shows you how to build a story structure that will give you direction but not restrict the creativity of the process of developing your story. It covers the questions you need to ask to move the story forward, scene by scene.

To book phone 54 981 332 or go to

This is workshop is followed by;

A two day workshop: April 25th and 26th from 10 am to 4 pm both days. Tutor: Sheryl Gwyther

Day one: Crafting unforgettable characters: Story characters underpin their stories plot. If not fully developed they’re like paper-dolls. This hands on workshop will teach you how to create engaging, believable characters.

Day two: Writing successful stories. In this workshop, you will write a story using characters you developed yesterday.

These workshops are meant to follow each other, but you may choose to do only one of them if you wish.

Two day workshop cost $160 per person. One day $80. Accommodation can be arranged if required. Ask for the cost when you book.  Phone 54 981 332 to book, or go to for more information on these workshops and the rest of the year’s program.


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