Writing stories is Fun. Let your imagination run.
Right around this time of the year students in middle school and the first two years of high school are prompted by their teachers to write scary stories and in some schools, it is also a contest event for which the winners get a prize. As a teacher, I often followed along but was rather mortified by the lack of imagination and the loss of opportunity. My favorite thing to do was read aloud one of Edgar Allen Poe’s ghost stories and if possible find the narration on a YouTube video for us to enjoy.
We’ve seen how scary it can get at school, so why keep doing the same thing year in and year out. Kids get sick of the same routine. Shouldn’t teens be prompted to write a story about how to handle bullying, teen choices, nutrition, fitness and sports, science fiction, and arts instead of another scary story?
Give a story a moral.
When it comes to writing a story it doesn’t mean it has to be totally devoid of meaningful content, On the contrary, stories teach us useful life lessons without telling or push selling like some nonfiction articles for teens do. they either sound wikipediash or persuasive. But if given the chance to choose their most comfortable zone, teen students may come up with a whole lot of good content.
Choose your battleground and your avatar.
The trick to writing a story is choosing a hero, developing his/her world and then getting a call to action from somewhere. That somewhere needs to be developed, too. Both protagonist and antagonist must be fully developed characters with a clear arc. That means that they begin somewhere and end up somewhere else.
- protagonist world
- antagonist world
- What do each of them want?
- What and who stand in their way?
- What can they do to get what they want?
- How can getting what they want be possible?
- Think of at least three obstacles and their solutions.
- Failure is important. it creates twists and turns in the plot.
- The bigger the obstacle the more difficult it is to get.
- Don’t use good luck as a solution or bad luck as a problem.
- if you come up with new characters don’t forget to go back to the set up (the first act where you show the hero’s world and the problem sets in), then connect the new character to the problem or to the hero’s or the antagonist’s world.
Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart, for instance, is a superb narrative in which the protagonist narrates a story to prove his sanity. But in fact, the protagonist is the antagonist and the old man and his eye are the antagonists of the protagonist in the protagonist’s insane mind.
The narrator (protagonist) wants to get rid of the old man’s evil eye but is too afraid to (obstacle 1 is fear), then the old man is dead and buried under the house. The protagonist wants peace now but new antagonists come. The cops are convinced there is no trouble but when they chat in the old man’s room, the protagonist starts to hear the sound of another antagonist or obstacle to his peace, the old man’s heart. But the old man’s body had been cut int pieces, so we know the guy is insane but thinks he’s not.
Moral to the story: We sometimes do the wrong thing but think we’re right and when people believe our lies, we feel guilty and give ourselves away.
Question: why did Poe choose the title The Tale-Tell Heart for this story? Whose heart is he referring to?
What does our heart tell us? We can now begin to talk about the nonfiction angle to this story. Does the heart contain our memory, too? How did Poe know this before modern science proved it?
Read this article about the heart’s brain and see if you agree with me.
Then write your own tell-tale heart story. What did your protagonist do that he/she regretted doing but couldn’t stand to keep it a secret and found a way to explode with the truth?
Sometimes friends tell and then gossip starts.
This has been a lesson in writing.
By T. A. Terga @TAT Productions