Having taken ELA for many years, you’ll have a background understanding of many elements involved in developing stories. Within this Creative Writing course, though, we are able to expand that understanding and understand more specifically some of those elements, such as different plot structures than the familiar one you’ve commonly studied. (See image)
Text Handout: Pgs 17-22
Section Work Resources/Links:
Pg 1: List of popular titles developed in fiction
Pg 2: Testing the Worlds Collide Theory
Example: Resident Alien tv show (trailer video)
Pg 2: Genres of Fiction – 2 minute audio podcast on the “shortest [story] in the history of literature (embedded below)
Reading and recognizing the techniques and methods of good writers helps build good writers.
We’ve recently spent some time studying the beginning of two different novels. We read them without their titles, so we had no context of what we imagined the stories would be about. Through this process, we used Active Reading to comment together and point out the many things we recognized as we slowly read the pages. Our observations included elements of the writing like:
recognizing the first phrase from paragraph 1 was mirrored in paragraph 2
the narrator was speaking in First Person “I”
a comment about the narrator’s “dad’s voice” made us suspect the dad was passed away or gone
the word selection and topics developed a humorous tone (“talking anus”)
the narrator was childish but knew a lot of adult things
the sentence syntax/construction developed a very chaotic narrator’s voice – lots of interrupter phrases, inserts, and long, long sentences
the writing was likely developed for a more adult audience, since teens aren’t likely to know many of the initial topics the narrator covered: Shakespeare, the Beattles’ song title used as a phrase in passing, French words, the Paris museum
altered use of dialogue in the writing – developed between two speakers but within the same paragraph instead of a new line per new speaker.
the tired, somewhat depressed tone of the narrator: using the dismissive words occasionally (“anyway” 2x, “anymore” in one page)
predictions as to who “Ron” is – mentioned as if he is in a close relationship with the narrator’s mother. “Money can’t buy me love, obviously”(3) Writer casually includes Ron without telling readers who he is to the narrator for another few pages.
After reading and sharing our observations together, we each took some time to journal our reflections on:
What we liked about the writing.
What we disliked about the writing
How cleverly the narrator’s personality was established
Observations on the author’s choice of Point of View – how it may have changed the storytelling to have chosen a different P.O.V for that specific story
With a text selection on your own, read and record on the text your observations related to the style of the writing, development of the initial elements of literature (setting, characters, tone, and initial problem), like we’ve done together. You’ll have two samples to choose from.
Once done, reflect in your journal on the same topics:
What you liked
What you disliked
Establishment of narrator’s personality
Two or three specific developments of the writing (phrases, sentences, conflicts, etc) that you liked in particular.
One of the most important parts of learning is the reflective process for the learner. It’s like a feedback loop or a litmus test of sorts – when you continue to look at recent or current work and assess it asking yourself questions like:
is this work I’m proud of?
is this writing piece a good representation of my abilities as a writer?
is there anything in what I’m writing that’s challenging me, my development of ideas, my creativity, or my style of writing?
what’s my attitude towards the work I’m developing? Am I doing it with intent or am I falling into passively writing without being thoughtful or purposeful in it?
what is my goal in my recent and future writing pieces? am I focusing on improving syntax (sentence structure)? Am I trying to develop more consistent use of punctuation and mechanics? Am I focusing more on a full story or realistic characters, over careful sentence development?
am I trying to write like anyone else? Am I feeling self-conscious of what I’m developing? Am I comparing myself to another writer who’s invested more time in their writing style than I have?
am I doing this just for a grade (in Creative Writing class) or am I doing it for some personal reasons/enjoyment?
In your ELA classes, this type of Metacognitivepractices (learning about yourself as a learner) are called AR Tasks (Assess and Reflect Tasks). Here’s your first one in Creative Writing 20.
Consider these questions in relation to the last 1 or 2 writing pieces you’ve developed, based on the Senses Image Cluster work.
To remind you of those steps, you’ve recently done the following:
selected a location with ambient sounds and used it to brainstorm and Freewrite the 5 sense elements you’d expect in that sound environment (volleyball tournament, country garden, camping location, or fireplace setting, for example)
You developed a Writing Activity #1 based on that Freewrite and sensory elements. There was formative (during the writing) feedback given.
You developed a Writing Activity #2 based on the same sensory focus and received formative feedback on this as well.
You’ve taken some time to review and make edits/corrections to your writing and should start recognizing the types of common errors you’re making in the writing as well as some of the positives/strengths in what you’ve developed.
Now, consider the following questions for your AR Reflective Task:
What are your main errors in the writing you’ve recently developed? Are there constant errors you can identify as well as some occasional errors?
Do you recognize/understand how to avoid some/all of these errors? Explain what you need to do instead to avoid some of the biggest/most constant errors.
What do you like about what you’ve written in these recent samples? Identify a few specific things you like most.
What could your goal(s) be to improve in the short term (near future)?
Identify one change in story direction you could have taken with your writing piece.
One of the most important elements of writing that influence the reader’s experience is strong sensory development, especially in helping develop sceneries. There are many ways to practice or develop this skill, but using an Image Cluster to purposefully list elements of each sense while in that environment will help you recognize and develop some of these elements more naturally in your own creative writing.
Click the chart to the right to expand the Image Cluster Sample
Scene Sources: Pics or Vids
It may help you to use a scenery image or even video of ambient sounds of a setting. Some examples are posted for you below.
Before you Freewrite: Select a source to develop at least four aspects of that environment for your five senses: sound, touch, sight, taste, and smell.
During your Freewrite: Remember the rules – don’t stop, keep the pen moving, don’t censor it, no correcting or editing, no rushing- just continued writing, and see where your consciousness takes you with it.
After this Freewrite:
Read through what you wrote and count how many of your Sense Elements you brainstormed ended up included in what you wrote.
In reviewing what you wrote, identify any examples you would describe as Show, Not Tell writing.
Use a highlighter over the text and select parts of the Freewrite you especially liked that you would pull and use in some creative writing you may do in the future.
Reflect on doing the Freewriting by hand – if you used a specific pen, did it write smoothly for you? Could you feel a difference in the feel of what you were writing? Do you like the feel of the writing or as you write are you wishing instead you could be typing it? Do you think what comes out of the Freewrite would be different at all if it were typed instead of written? Is there a difference for you? If so, can you describe it?
Strong writers have reflected on many of their own preferences or biases in writing, which often is relayed to readers through the characters developed. One well-known French author constructed a Questionnaire for writers to fill out that asks them 35 questions to make them reflect on some of their habits of thought, preferences in what they read, and other questions. From that, it can help them become more aware of their writing habits or even be used to help de
velop realistic characters in their texts.
Instructions for you:
Make a Copy of the following Google Doc that includes the list of 35 questions. Take time to reflect/respond to them; you could even consider doing them out of order or returning to responses and changing or adding to answers.
Once done, we’ll share some of the responses you’ve developed. We can choose this sharing to be done anonymously.
Make sure you share it back to me @ my gmail account.
Pick one of the prompts to develop a response to it.
Pick any 2-3 of the Questionnaire prompts that you responded to that relate to the Writing Prompt you’ve picked. Make an effort to include some reflection in the writing of your responses to the questions.
You’ve likely had some practice before with descriptive writing, but this is one of the most essential skills of a writer, to be able to activate the senses of the reader. Studies have shown that a reader’s brain responds in much the same way as if they were truly experiencing the event they’re reading. This will be felt all the more real if a writer is able to use the Show, Not Tell descriptive writing technique best.
Watch this short video to be reminded of how important sensory writing is for the reader to experience.
Your Writing Challenge Today: write a gross description
Parameters of the task – stay within these lines
it has to be a real event, your own experience, or at least based on it
you can only use between 100-150 words.
This means each word and phrase is a precious resource, like money spent. Make sure you’re spending wisely. If a sentence doesn’t include something that matters, then maybe you would consider developing another phrase.
You cannot include anyone from our school in the writing. (Let’s keep friends out of the grossness!)
To write what is gross, you have to write with your senses, descriptively.
There are websites you have used before that can be supportive with unique adverbs or sensory phrases. Don’t be afraid to use them.
For some, it’s an effort for them to understand how time taken Before Writing begins can be the most productive part of the process. Too often, young writers jump into writing. Give yourself time to pause, think, consider whether the first idea you want to run with is the best of the ideas you can develop.
Your brainstorming could be developed on paper or in your Google Doc.
One practice you’ll hopefully develop through this writing course is recognizing the need to pause and think, as a habit, before responding.
This also eventually means not being afraid to remove things you’ve written, if you later feel they’re not as valuable or worth keeping.