I have to apologize for being out of the loop for the past few days for the three of you who read my blog. LOL. Anyway, it's been one of those weeks that went by in a blur and there was a lot to get done.
This post is for the writers out there who have no clue what they want to write, or how to go about it. it's really for anyone who has ever wanted to write but kind of got stuck in the how to. This is actually my lesson plan from yesterday's 8th grade program and it's how I also work with adults when they are just starting out in the process. If this interests you, please start with last week's post on "Writing Like and 8th Grader and Cooking Like a Chef." I will plan on posting "The Writer Lesson Series," on Friday mornings so if you are following the program, then you have some time to do the exercises and build from them.
If you are a teacher and want to use these lesson plans to teach creative writing skills, please feel free to do so.
I hope you enjoy, and if you have any questions, comments, or if you do write out the what if... exercise and then proceed with this one and want to post in the comment section, please do so. Some of this may be elementary for advanced writers. This lesson is intended for anyone just getting started.
Here we go:
Setting a Scene
Books are built from chapters, and chapters are built from scenes, and those scenes are built from your what if questions. When you begin to write your story you will have a clear overall direction of where you want the story to go because you will have a complete outline to work from.
However, before we dive right into writing our stories/books, it’s important to learn the mechanics of scene setting (how does a scene work and what makes it work?).
When setting scenes, you will have a point of view character, at times you may also have a secondary character who could be a supporting character, an antagonist, or another character somehow involved in your story.
Pont of view character will be your main character (protagonist). For your stories/books, you will be staying with one point of view. This will make it much easier to write.
What are the points of view?
First person (I, We)
Second person (you)
Third person (he, she, they)
The first person can have a limited point of view because they only know what is going on from their perspective.
I don’t recommend using second person at all because it’s a difficult p.o.v. to write in, unless you want to use it for short story format or essays.
Third person point of view can be from a close third, which means staying totally in that he/she p.o.v. Or, third person can give you as a writer a little more freedom to be intrusive, which means although you are writing in third person, you can also have the narrator (you—the writer) on board. This is also called omniscient, or some writers refer to it as a God p.o.v., because it can be all knowing.
Narration in scene setting and the use of external and internal process:
Narration can be done from the first person. For instance, here is an example from a book I’m writing currently that is from first person. Here my main character Vivienne is entering the barn and calling out for her pony. I want you to take note of how she describes the barn/scene:
“Hey, George,” I called out as I walked through the breezeway of our barn. The scent of fresh cut hay, soil and horse mixed together made me smile. I can’t imagine how people live in the city. It just could never smell this good! My voice echoed off the metal siding of the white barn. On the way through the breezeway, Charlie, Bravo, Cookie, and Lola stuck their heads out to see me. Our chestnut colored mare Cookie started tossing her head up and down, up and down. “I know, I know. You want a cookie.” I got a real clear image from her of an apple treat, which is what we call “cookies.” That’s how we came up with her name. Cookie adores cookie.
Do you see how when Vivienne describes the barn, she refers to what it smells like? The sound of her voice echoing off the metal siding? Then there are the visuals themselves of the horses, the white barn, etc.
What if I wanted to do a description from third person in scene setting? This is a short scene from another book I have about an eleven-year-old kid who has a gift called audial telepathy and she knows some government secrets that some very bad people don’t want out in the world. By reading this paragraph, where do you think she is?
Bushes scraped against Hope’s legs, scratching them. The smell of sage tickled her nose. She hated that smell—sweet, sour, strong. The teachers burned it all the time in the meditation room saying it was good to clear out any negativity. Negativity? Who were they kidding? They had to burn a lot of sage for that in that stupid place.
The kid (Hope) is running through a wooded area.
In the first scene with Vivienne, I also had her use dialogue to set the scene. She is talking to the horse Cookie, who in her own way is communicating back to Vivienne.
In the second scene, Hope gives the reader what is called an internal. Internals are important to your story because they allow the reader to know what your character is feeling with “telling” them, but rather showing them. For instance can you tell how this character Hope feels about the school she was at? She doesn’t “tell” the reader until the last line when she says that the place was stupid, but the reader knows how she feels about it in the third sentence on. Read it again: The teachers burned it all the time in the meditation room saying it was good to clear out any negativity. Negativity? Who were they kidding?
An internal thought is what the main character Hope is using in this scene. When she thinks that one word “negativity?” the reader is immediately in her direct internal point of view. A internal is always from your p.o.v. character.
An external thought, event or description comes directly from outside the p.o.v character. It is the narrator or (you, the writer) telling the story, or scene.
The bolded lines are Hope’s internals. Everything else is from the narrator/writer:
Hope thought she had them fooled. “Thought” if she played dumb, they’d let her and her mom go. They had with that other kid—Joey Reynolds. Or at least, she saw them all get into a car one day and leave. One of the doctors and a teacher and Joey and his mom. Everyone knew that Joey didn’t have the gift. It didn’t take much or long to figure that out. Did they drop him and his mom off somewhere with a house and a pool and a neighborhood with normal kids who didn’t see or hear or know things that no one else did?
Dialogue in a scene:
For grammar sakes: When you “tag,” your dialogue, I want you to use said, replied, or asked to begin with. We can get tricky later on.
Look at the book you are currently reading to get paragraph formatting down. The key to remember is this:
Each new line of dialogue, when switching characters is a new paragraph.
“I don’t like fish,” I said.
“Too bad because that’s what we are having,” Mom replied.
When you tag your dialogue with said, asked or replied you will always have quotes around the dialogue, a comma at the end of the sentence and before the quotation.
Another way to “show” the reader who is speaking is through action.
“I don’t like fish.” I stomped my foot.
“Too bad because that’s what we are having.” My mom slammed the refrigerator door and set the fish down on the counter.
When using action after a sentence of dialogue, you will put a period at the end of the sentence and then quotation marks.
The key here is to remember that if you tag with said, asked or replied, use a comma. If an action is going to be used to show the reader who is speaking, you will use a period, question mark, etc.
Two exercises. Write a scene (at least two paragraphs) first from first person p.o.v., and then from third person p.o.v.
In the scene, I would like you to have two characters. I want you to use dialogue, and I also want you to show who is talking in at least one of the sequences through action. They need to be two separate scenes. The idea is to get you comfortable with scene building and also to see if you prefer writing in third person or first person.
I want the scenes to have some kind of emotion in them—joy, anger, fear, sadness, etc. They need to evoke a feeling from the reader. I also want you to use more than one sensory in the scene: smell, sound, touch (feel), visual, taste. I would also like you to try and use an internal at least once, and using externals are a given as you will need to give some description to set the scene.
Here are some examples you can use if you need help getting started.
1. A character loses the big play-off game for his/her team, and the coach speaks to him/her afterward.
2. A character is told he has just won something she/he really wanted to win
3. A character discovers that he/she has some sort of magical power
4. A character believes she/he and his/her friend are inside a haunted house
5. A character loses something important to another person and must tell him/her.
6. A character decides to cheat off another student on a test
7. Two characters are lost in the jungle, woods, at sea, etc…
8. Write one of your own using your what if… exercise from last week.
Good luck and have fun!