On the third day of the Young Writers’ Summer Studio, we worked on our story’s Setting and Pacing.
First, the students were to bring in or draw a picture describing the setting of their story. It could be the town, the spaceship or even as small as the main character’s bedroom. The writing exercise was to use our 5 senses (Sight, Smell, Taste, Touch and Sound) to describe this picture with words. I added how the details should be true to the story’s genre (mystical words for fantasy, creepy adjectives for horror, etc.) and how the details should be used to share more of what’s going on in the story. For example, one character walks through his creaky 100 year-old house on the day he moved in to find unusual paintings hung on the walls. One was of a man burying his wife, another shown a close up of a skull. All were painted by the house’s last resident. These details gave a visual description of items in the house, told their own story (maybe a secret past) and a bit of history on the woman who lived there previously. All important to the mood and pacing of the story.
Next, we discussed more pacing techniques. Flashbacks and Foreshadowing. I used handouts from the Writing Workshop Survival Kit by Gary Robert Muschla and we highlighted the phrases in each story that showed examples of flashback or foreshadowing. I have some pretty bright students; they picked up on this quickly. I’ll know next time to skim that lesson a bit.
By the third day, the students had gotten “comfortable” with me. To a teacher, that means rambunctious. It was time to take it outside.
With our notebooks, we sat in the cool prickly grass and I talked about another key tool writers use: Observation. For two minutes we were to sit or lie quietly and absorb all that was around us. Again, we used our five senses and this time described our surroundings. I urged them to dig deep in their imaginations and then use these descriptions in different Figures of Speech: Similies, Metaphors and Personification. How fun to hear what everyone wrote!
Then – pop quiz! They were to test their Power of Observation and describe the room we had been using the past three days (without peeking in the windows!) These young writers rocked! They wrote about details I hadn’t even noticed!
The rest of our writing time was spent working on our stories up through their climax, remembering the elements of observation, details and pacing throughout.
Tomorrow would be a rest from Fiction and a trek through our personal stories in the form of Narratives.
To be continued tomorrow…