Fiction Writing - Activity Sequence
Day 1 – What is fiction? (Ordinary small moment)
What do we know about fiction?
- Realistic fiction
- Not Realistic fiction
Where do writers get their ideas?
- Ordinary lives translated onto a page
- Thinking of stories we wished existed
- Ask, “what stories do we wish existed
Let these questions lead you to think about the characters that are involved
Share a story starter: "I was sitting at dinner with a friend and heard this sound (clopping of hooves) “what does that sound like to you?” (Horse) I turned around and to my surprise it was a person’s shoes. It was the heels making the sound. However, I thought WHAT IF it was a horse.
Day 2 – Building the character: “We need to know them better than we know ourselves and live inside their skin and see through their eyes.”
- A common misconception is that stories revolve around plot, but in truth the plot means nothing if we don’t learn about the characters?
- Writers do not go from having an idea to writing a draft.
- We need to bring the people of our stories to life.
Introduce character development exercise – creating internal/external
- Characters need to be believable and be realistic even in when you are writing fantasy.
- Which means we have to think critically about what makes sense (i.e. patience and teaching go together)
- Create our characters to resemble someone we know
- Check to see if these features make sense (is it believable: test of believability
Students begin creating their characters
* Extended Work *
o Practice writing a sentence that introduce reader to the character through show not tell
o Sentence one: Max has a younger brother. They often get into arguments. Max can be stubborn.
o Sentence two: Max slams the door shut to his room after getting into a heated argument with his younger brother. He refused to listen his brother side because Max knew he was right.
Day – 3 Character (continued) challenges and motivations
- Everybody has wants and obstacles that get in your way.
- So to make characters believable we need to think about what they might want and what is getting in their way.
What does your character want (desire)
What gets in their way (obstacles)
(How to write wants and obstacles)
Max slammed the door shut to his room after getting into a heated argument with his younger brother. He refused to listen to his brother side because Max knew he was right. He paced back fourth muttering to himself, “how could he think that the two plus two is six, after I told him it was four. I mean seriously!” But even though Max knew he was right, he couldn’t help but notice the tears dripping down his face. He was older than his brother by five years and he should have been more patient, more understanding, more mature, a better older brother.
Practice writing story about character motivation into a scene.
Day 4 – Plotting - (Misconception) Writers just pour a story onto a page. But writers have basic outlines or timelines.
- Introduce students to story mountain
- Visualize the actors journeying uphill, against obstacles
Steer away from writing in a chain of equally important events. A story is not a string of scenes, it is carefully thought out. Just like climbing a real mountain, as you get closer to the top the obstacles get harder and harder and when you reach the top it is like reaching your goal. And after you reach your goal it’s all down hill
- Introduce Story Mountain with plot points
- Read Jack Keats’ Peter’s Chair (Outline story) using Mountain organizer
- Show the plotted Jack Keats' story to class
- Class plots their story using mountain work sheet
Day 5a – Setting & Scenes (Show don’t tell)
- Introduce show, don’t tell model
- “Instead saying that Sally is mean a writer might write about Sally kicking her families pet cat”
- Use a gesture as example of showing rather than telling
- Writing scenes
- Start by writing a summary of the scene
- Show summary of my story
- Now turn that summary into a scene
o Remember (Each plot point on the mountain is a small moment in the story for us to expand. However you want to stick that small moment.)
Day 5b - Setting & Scenes continued
- Introduce setting
- “Setting is very important for orienting our readers. Readers feel comfortable in a book that tells them where they are, what time it is, what date it is, is it the weekend”
- Read my story without setting example:
Max didn’t know what to do. He looked at his younger brother, “Hey, are you mad at me?” Max said.
“No, are you mad at me?” He asked.
I took a deep breath. “No. I don’t think so.” Max said.
“Great, then let’s race.” He said
This is a great scene with dialogue, but I feel a little disoriented because I need a setting to clue me in on where they are. Watch what happens when I include the setting:
Max didn’t know what to do. He looked at his younger brother, “Hey are you mad at me? He asked as they walked down the side walk together.
“No. Are you mad at me?” Will responded
A car whizzed passed them, kicking up water from the rain filled gutters at it drove by. Max thought about what Zoe was asking, and shifted the umbrella so that it protected Will as well as him. With his other hand, Max tugged on his backpack straps. His bag was heavy from all the homework our teacher had given him.
“No. I’m not mad,” he said.
Will smiled at Max from beneath his yellow rain hood. “Good.” Then let’s race!” Will took off ahead of Max, splashing through every puddle on the sidewalk. The rain streamed down on him. Max pulled in his umbrella and took off after him. Max caught up with will and they both laughed all the way home.
Do you see how the characters are not floating anymore; we have oriented them with setting? Go back and write complete scenes with added setting.
Day 6 – Continue writing the draft (translate scenes onto page)
- Translate scene onto rough draft
- Write the story following your mountain, the plot points and the sticking to each of the small moments.
Day 7 – Powerful endings
- Endings are so important for readers to feel satisfied.
- You don’t want an ending that leaves too much unanswered, but you want an ending that’s believable.
- And no matter what, you want a story that ends and doesn’t ramble on.
- Typical ways I watch writers end there stories are
- “Then Max saved the day!”
- “Max and Will lived happily ever after
These are what I call hallmark, cliché ending that don’t have substance
- Other endings I see:
- “Then Max and Will got ice cream and they got two scoops of chocolate and then they played basketball and then they went to baseball game together. “
- So how do we end?
- Brings the story full circle
- The trick is to look back at the beginning and see what the problem was. You want your ending to address the problem of your story
Example ending: When we got home, Max took a deep breathe, “Okay Will, go get your backpack, I’ll help you with your work.” Will looked hesitant, but Max reassured him with a head nod, letting him know that this time would be different.
Does this address the problem? Do we feel satisfied with knowing the answer to the problem?
Day 8 - Editing
Spend the class editing our work
- Students read over their work to catch mistakes or awkward sentences
- Students then pair up and share their work with each other
Day 9 - Publishing Party
Parents come to class for the day to celebrate their child's published fictional story.