Let's read the opening passage from That Eye, the Sky.

Dad has the ute going outside. I am behind Mum. Her dress has got flowers all on it, none of them much to look at. Her bum moves around when she laughs. Dad always says she has a bum like an angry mob which means nothing to me but a lot to him, I reckon. I can hear the rooster crorking out the back. He's a mean rooster—goes for your pills when you collect the eggs.

"Seeyaz." That's Dad going. He revs the ute up. He's in a hurry, going to town for Mr Cherry.

"Wave him off, Ort," Mum says to me. She always reckons you should show people you love them when they go away because you might never see them again. They might die. The world might end. But Dad's only going to town for an hour. It's business for Mr Cherry. And there he goes, out the drive and onto the road.

This snippet is typical of That Eye, the Sky: simple but complex.

The action is simple: a boy watches his dad get into a ute and drive away.

You could literally write, “I watched dad get in his ute and drive away” and you would have told exactly as much story as this snippet.

But the details are complex: this simple action is mixed with character and world-building detail: flowers on the dress, bum like an angry mob, a mean rooster, a house that’s away from town, obligations to Mr Cherry, beliefs about saying goodbye, beliefs about how routine and safe this trip will be.

And these details aren’t random; they’re chosen to create a subtle sense of foreboding, where the narrator feels the trip is safe but the reader fears it’s not.

In this lesson we’re going to set a similar scene.

  • A world in which to set your story, including a place where the story begins
  • A narrator
  • A victim who is departing on a journey
  • A secondary character who is kind of in charge
  • Someone or something doing something off-camera
  • And it’ll help you to have some idea of what Bad Event is going to befall the victim.


A lot of what we’ll be unpacking in this scene is the relationships between the characters.

Let’s get started!