Discussion Questions & Writing Exercises for Chasing Danger
Sara has developed the following creative writing exercises and discussion questions for her Chasing Danger series.
Write a Mystery the Chasing Danger Way
Sara's worksheet outlines a step-by-step process on how to write a mystery the Chasing Danger way.
Chase idealizes her father and learns something shocking about her mother. Through the course of the book, Chase struggles to understand if something in her DNA might make her ‘bad’ like her mom. This is the age-old nature versus nurture debate: We are who we are because of our DNA. OR We are who we are because of what happens to us. What do you think? What does Chase decide?
Chase is a fairly unlikely hero. Her first reaction when pirates hijack the island is to hide, but she quickly realizes that it’s up to her to save the day. Do you think she was smart or stupid to put herself in harm’s way? How would you react in a similar situation?
Courage comes in all shapes and sizes. Day-to-day acts of courage — small words and deeds — can make a big difference. For example, it takes courage to stand up for someone who is being bullied. What other small acts could be considered courageous? How could you be an everyday hero?
Chasing Danger is set on a fictional island in the Maldives. What makes this location perfect for action and adventure?
Chase and Mackenzie are complete opposites. Compare and contrast the two main characters in Chasing Danger. What are their strengths and weaknesses? How do they complement each other? How do they antagonise each other? Do you think Chase or Mackenzie could have saved the day if she was working alone?
Creative Writing Exercises
Character Development – Creating a hero
There’s no such thing as purely good or bad characters. All characters should be created perfectly imperfect. For example, Chase is a bit impulsive; she acts before she thinks. She also has an overactive imagination that can help and hinder her. When creating heroes, make sure to give them skills (i.e. Chase’s athletic ability and Mackenzie’s brains), but also give them faults. I always give my characters a fear because everyone is afraid of something. What is your hero most afraid of? You can bet that characters will have to face their biggest fear in the course of the story. I also give my characters secrets; secrets that I know will come out at some point in the story. Create a Facebook profile for your character. What image does your character want to project to the world? Now create a secret diary for your main character. Have them record their hopes, fears, dreams and secrets.
Setting and Description – Bringing a setting to life
Some writers believe that setting doesn’t matter. They set their stories in a generic city, for example. A story in Paris is very different than a story set in London or the Shetlands or Brighton. Setting matters a great deal. Can you imagine Harry Potter taking place anywhere but Hogwarts? Always consider how the setting you select will enhance your story. Why can your story only take place there? Authors often create maps, find pictures or even visit their locations. If your story could happen anywhere else then your setting isn’t working hard enough.
Chasing Danger stories are set in exotic locations. The first book is set on an island in the Maldives. The next book is set at an ice hotel in Sweden. Pick your favourite holiday destination or someplace you’d love to visit as the setting for your story.
Write down one thing about the history of the place. If you don’t know an actual fact, make it up.
Shut your eyes and picture the setting. Name two concrete things you see. Be specific. It’s not just a building. It’s a 10-story skyscraper that reflected orange in the setting sun. OR The city pavement was the colour of the sky before a lightning strike.
Now pretend you are in the scene. Name something you smell and something you hear. For example, the back of the school bus smelled like stale crisps and vomit. AND The traffic rumbled along the street below like a hungry stomach never to be satisfied.
See how Chase describes her first snorkelling experience on pages 29 – 31 in Chasing Danger.
Show, Don’t Tell – Breathing life into your story
Readers don’t want information. They want to experience the scene as if they are living it alongside the main character. A common pitfall of writers is to tell or explain what’s happening instead of letting a scene breath and really come to life for readers.
The paragraph below tells readers what is going on.
Chase Armstrong has been dumped on a 12-by-12 floating dock in the middle of the Indian Ocean. She’s waiting for transportation to an island resort when she sees a fin. She thinks it’s a shark and it’s heading right for her. Chase has no way to defend herself. She’s terrified.
Read pages 7 – 10 from Chasing Danger, starting with the line “I searched for any sign of life.”
Each scene should have combination of:
Orientation – where are we in space and time?
Action – something needs to happen.
Description of the setting and/or character – we need to see, hear, taste, touch and feel what’s going on.
Dialog – readers like to hear the characters speak. What your characters say should demonstrate something about the character but also move the plot along.
Not every scene will have all four elements, but it’s a good practice to try to include all four elements into the scene you are writing.
Can you bring the following scene to life by using orientation, action, description and dialog?
Chase and Mackenzie are visiting Brighton Pier. Chase thinks a teenage boy is following them. Mackenzie thinks it’s Chase’s overactive imagination playing tricks on her again. As Mackenzie stops to buy candy floss, the boy snatches her backpack with her new computer. The girls chase the boy, weaving in and out of tourists, the carousel and dodgems. They work together to retrieve the backpack on the trampoline, but the boy gets catapulted off the pier and into the sea – only he can’t swim. The girls are able to rescue the boy.
For inspiration, read Chasing Danger chapter 14.