by Rob Melton based on ideas/lessons from writers Karen Karbo, Chelsea Cain, Ariel Gore and Lee Montgomery and the Writers In The Schools program
The general format is a three-week workshop in whichstudent do a number of structured freewriting assign-ments and activities and expand one of their piecesinto a 3-5 page, 1,000-word short story that usesdialogue, description, narrative summary, and plot.
ADVICE FROM WRITERS:
1. Cover your eyes when listening to a story, Listen forthe one best line out of the piece and memorize it.Write it down, or say it back to the author.2. Get past sight information, and use smell, taste, touch.(Use highlighters in different colors, one color for eachof the senses.)3. Use stage directions to naturally move a characterthrough a scene.4. Use telling details.5. Use mood/attitude to create subtext.6. When you are crafting your plot, take the advice fromfilm school: Something that happens to turn the actionaround and send it in another direction. Initially, itneeds to be something that frustrates your character.What does your character want? Why can’t they get itnow? Start the story with action.7. Three essentials when creating an invented character(when in doubt, make it up): 1) the character is definedby what he or she
like — physicality, dress, smell(too much cologne); 2) how they
, what they do,action; and 3) how he/she speaks, talks, or not, cam beimplied; what they
.8. Point of view: Recommend first or third person.Writers struggle with who to have tell the story. Lot ofcontemporary writers use first person. Traditionallythird person omniscient. Write first person point of viewfrom your character the first day. On the second day,turn it around so the he or she in your story becomesthe I looking at your character.9. The longer a piece, the more companionable youneed to be. Short pieces are better if they are weird andshort.10. Part of being a writer is being an actor. This is theenergy, engine of a story. You always want drama.
Crafting the Narrative
Assignments and Activities For Writers by Writers
11. Advice: Nobody in their heart of hears wants to readabout religious or political views they don’t agree with.12. As a writer, you are always looking for a balancebetween what is familiar to your readers and what isforeign to your readers. The more foreign what it isyou’re talking about, the more familiar elements mustbe. People are curious about things they don’t under-stand or haven’t been through.In freewriting, be quiet and listen for your inner voice.Let it guide you. Follow its lead.
WRITING EXERCISES FROM WRITERS:
13. Pick one of the following that describe a character,and write a 1-1/2 page story: paranoid, in love, de-pressed, obsessed, a miser who has won the lottery. Thestory must be in first person.
It is 4 p.m. on Christmas Eve,and the character hasn’t done any shopping yet. The character goes to the mall to do shopping for one hour.
Everyone writes the same scene.14. Identify three things that make you angry or afraid,and write a paragraph. You cannot say “I am afraid ofrats....” Say, “When I was a child I enjoyed the darkuntil....”15. Brainstorm a list of 6 story ideas. When you findsomething interesting, your mind and hear sit up andtake notice. There is a place where good writing comesfrom. The only good writing you will do is what inter-ests you. Start with something meaningful and embel-lish it from there.16. Ahead of time, clip full page magazine photos ofone or two people without advertising or words on thepage. Pass out photos of the characters from themagazines. Starting with the character’s name, write apresent tense narrative. Collect descriptions. Tackpictures to the wall. Read descriptions and see if classcan guess which descriptions match which photos.Think about how effective it is to describe your subjectin that moment. Underline your favorite sentence inthe story.17. Write a profile about a person, about who they arestripped of what they usually project. To tell the truth isthe highest purpose of a writer. What makes greatwriting is that it rings true.18. Give each student a piece of paper with a word on itthat could be a personality characteristic. Describe thisperson eating in the cafeteria using this characteristic.Think about what they’re eating and how they areeating it. The words to choose from are: lovely, nervous,