Tag Archives: Roald Dahl

The definitive guide to writing by Roald Dahl

It’s always a highlight speaking at schools during Book Week. This week I was invited to Mt Eden Normal Primary and Kelvin Rd School in Papakura. The kids were awesome, crude, funny and polite. Before I read my story The Dog That Ate The Bathroom I asked what goodies their own dogs had brought home. Bras. Sausages. A cat. The list went on. My daughter recently wrote a story called Cinderella’s Bad Day whereby the poor woman dies every day in a myriad of ways. Shot by a creepy hobo. Killed in a rabbit invasion. Picked up by an Enderman and dropped into hot lava and eaten by robotic crocodiles. Every time I thought a particular death might be too graphic the kids squealed with delight.

It reminded me of a list Roald Dahl’s list of what children love:

Being spooked






Chocolates, toys, money

Being made to giggle



Unorthodox methods

Marvellous/funny/incredible places

New inventions

Secret information

Time travel

Seeing the villain meet a grisly death

They love a hero and love a hero to be a winner

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Stay at scool, kids

Stay at scool, kids

Currently reading Roald Dahl (More About A Boy) from our local ‘liebary.’ The man himself would have loved this. Graffiti on my book! I’ve made it!


Proof everything stinks till it’s finished

Dr Seuss said that – and I reckon he was onto something. 

Here’s proof:

In 1964, Roald Dahl’s ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ was published by Allen and Unwin in the UK. It took over two years to write and underwent multiple transformations. Here are a few:

Originally there were ten kids – in the end Dahl settled for five.

There was no mention of Grandpa Joe

Until the very last minute, oompa loompas were called Whipple Scrumpets.

The original title was ‘Charlie’s Chocolate Boy,’ mostly because in this version Charlie Bucket climbs into a ‘chocolate boy’ mould in the Easter Egg room and is encased in chocolate. He is taken to Mr. Wonka’s house as a present for Freddie Wonka (Mr. Wonka’s son) and while there, Charlie witnesses a burglary. As a reward for helping to catch the thieves, Mr. Wonka gives him his own sweet shop, ‘Charlie’s Chocolate Shop.’ 

Also in the original manuscript, ten golden tickets were hidden in the Wonka chocolate bars every weekMr. Wonka gave a tour of his factory every Saturday to that week’s lucky recipients. In this draft, Charlie finds a ticket on his first attempt. The other nine children on the tour are not introduced to the reader until they meet their respective ends.

Everything stinks till it’s finished. Things change. New characters appear. Have no fear. Just get it on the page!

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