Joe Wilson, author of The Island That Didn’t Exist, invites you to get writing with our latest story writing starter…

‘Just imagine’, I like those two words, very much. The ability to imagine is the greatest joy of a fiction writer. After 25 years as a journalist (a broadcasting journalist), I can write that with certainty. It is a spectacular release to follow your storytelling instincts knowing that it doesn’t have to be real.

There are no microphones, cameras nor editing equipment. There are no people you need to interview who don’t want to be interviewed. There are no places you need to get to that won’t let you in. There are no things you need to know that won’t make themselves known. It’s just you, a laptop and imagination. What joy.

But it has to seem real, doesn’t it? It has to be believable.

The inspiration for my story, the starting point, came from something I could see but I couldn’t reach. It was an island. An island that was uninhabited and closed to visitors – according to the sign on the shore. But if it was closed to visitors how could we be sure it was uninhabited? So ran my logic and the imagination followed.

An Island offers the perfect location for a story, it gives you the freedom to imagine everything about your own setting. Who, if anyone, lives there? What sort of landscape is it? How do you get there? There are so many possibilities. All you have to do is fit them within the island’s shores!

You may possibly be wondering why I called my main character ‘Rixon Webster’. It’s a good question. I’m not completely sure. But I deliberately combined an ordinary surname with an unusual first name. That, I think, is the theme of my book; juxtaposing (just supposing) the normal and the remarkable.

Naming the characters in your story can be huge fun; it can also help you think about the theme of your writing. See if you can come up with a character name made up of opposites, like Rixon Webster.

Rixon is an ordinary boy who ends up dealing with extraordinary things. This can be a good starting point for a story. It’s very important to have a central character who readers can identify with. We can all see something of ourselves in Rixon. But if the story was just about his normal life he would spend the book being a bit bored at school, worrying about his parents, trying to sneak as much time as possible on his laptop and wondering if there would be pizza for tea. I don’t think anyone would read past chapter two. So, something bizarre and exciting has to happen.

Excitement is a key part of it for me. I have always loved sport. In fact, reporting on sport has been my job for over 20 years and still is. There are lots of reasons why people like sport but I think the main one is that when a match starts no-one really knows how it will end, that’s the exciting bit.

Think about the ways in which the excitement of sport can inspire the excitement and structure in your story. That useless centre forward who hasn’t scored for 12 games might suddenly rediscover his form and volley one in from the edge of the area. With 1 second on the clock, a buzzer beating 3 pointer might suddenly steal the game. The sprinter who is certain to win the 100 metres might pull her hamstring coming out of the blocks!

The possibility of these kinds of things happening is why we keep coming back to sport. The possibility of the next page taking you in a completely different, unexpected, direction is why we read books. But when it comes to fiction the writer is in complete control of that story. Wow, what a gift, just imagine that….

You can hear Joe talking to Nikki Gamble In The Reading Corner