I remember when I discovered the magic of poetry.
Ok, stick with me, here. I promise not to get all woo-woo on you.
Poetry was an art form and words were used as the poet's medium, like a painter would use watercolors. I learned that poets had the ability to use common words in uncommon ways, to create completely new meanings.
To me, that was powerful.
3. Word & Story Love
Writers love words. Like a foodie loves different tastes and textures and compositions. Young writers do well when building their vocabulary - or even learning different meanings for common words. They learn how to manipulate words and use them in fun, unique ways. They start to appreciate the magic words can wield.
Ask your young writer to start keeping a list of their favorite words. These can be people’s names, song titles, colors, words they love the meaning of, words they find funny, words they love for the way it sounds on their tongue.
We Love Words!
one exercise we workshop together is collecting words: interesting, unusual, and common words. Words we love the sound of. Words we love to shout or whisper. Words that make us laugh out loud, or give us a crystal clear image. Words are powerful.
I like to keep my favorite words on a page written in different colors or styles or angles. Sometimes just randomly selecting a couple favorite words can spark a story idea.
Take a list of words and see how they can be combined to create a story, or a scene.
Try it! Use as many of these words to start a story. Set a timer so you'll writer faster than your inner editor.
Learning to appreciate good storytelling is key for writers. What are your child’s favorite TV shows, movies, video game storylines, song lyrics, poems, comic strips, anime shows?
Have your young writer reflect on these and note in their notebook why they love these stories: what makes the characters so memorable? What makes the plot line interesting (hint: the obstacles!)
Although I’m a writer, I love to watch and suggest TV shows and movies to young writers as inspiration. Movies and TV are much quicker to digest and discuss than full novels. A great Netflix series that has a compelling story line and fully developed character arcs is the show Stranger Things (this may be a bit scary for young children.)
Following stories is good practice for the young writer to learn about character development: the main protagonist of the show always starts out doing what they do in their normal everyday, nothing's-going-to-happen life. Then. Something changes.
Something changes that's big enough to rock the Protagonist's world, to get them to do something different.
This is where the main goal and conflict are introduced, thus setting in motion the plot of the story.
As the protagonist goes through obstacles and emotions, he/she grows in some way.
A well-told story will have supporting characters with their own issues to solve, as well as a possible parallel story of a minor character - or - the antagonist.
One of the best sites I've seen on breaking down the plot points of books, movies, short stories, and video games is K.M. Weiland's Story Structure Database. Here, she has curated hundreds of well-known stories which are broken down beat by beat to describe the hero's journey. It's so interesting to see how other writers craft their stories.
And it's amazing study-work for us story-writers to learn more about the way a story comes together. How to plot a successful story with a satisfying ending.
To inform, to entertain, to connect. This is what we do as writers.
I bet your Reluctant Writer already has a favorite movie, book or video game he or she can tell you all about.
Ask them! Then, ask them to write down what they love about these stories. Learning to recognize story beats and look for patterns will develop their writing muscle!
Tomorrow, in part 4, we'll talk about how writers Observe + Dissect the images, and details that surround them everyday.