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'Structured Story Writing'

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Story ideas abound in the minds of children. Unaffected and unfiltered, young people make for creative, inventive writers who have the potential of hitting the right emotional notes. However, there is a tendency among young kids to get a touch carried away. Kartik Bajoria, Writer, Educator and Moderator tells us how to write a structured story

Some children have a germ of a brilliant idea but struggle with fleshing it out and crystallizing it. Others have a superb ending but not as compelling a lead-up. Still more have all the right ingredients but the amount of weightage they place on each aspect of the story – beginning, middle and end, tends to be skewed.

For parents, teachers, and mentors, there is an effective way of guiding children in this regard. To present them with a structure that will help them organize their stories in a logical manner, mapping out the crucial plot & character points of their stories, even before actually writing them out. I have found that the Short Story Fiction Writing Format is an ideal starting point, and that is what I shall share and demonstrate through an example.

SAMPLE STORY
Following is a story that I have adapted from a Short Film. It serves as a very simple yet cohesive sample that contains all the important elements of a good short story. Let us read this first.

‘The Gift’
There was once a boy named Steve. He was about eleven years old. While most of his classmates and neighbourhood kids played outside, Steve would stay at home. He would constantly be glued to the television, playing video games all day long. Anything or anyone that disturbed him, irritated him. Seeing this, his mother was naturally very worried. She was desperate for her son to go out and play. Interact with other kids. Be social. Mingle with the outside world.

One day, she had an idea. One that she was convinced would solve her son’s problem of being antisocial and not having any friends. She came home that afternoon to find Steve playing his video games as usual. The living room where he was sitting was dark. Steve had put down the blinds so that he could see the television set clearly. Though it was a lovely, bright, sunny day outside, just the kind that one would not be at home; Steve was in hiding, as always. His mum came in looking worried. But then she put on her happiest smile and placed a box at the table in front of Steve and said, “hey Steve, look what I got you!”

Steve, although a bit angry because his mother had intruded in his gaming, became curious about the contents of the box in front of him. He opened it, and out popped an adorable little puppy dog! The cute pet dog jumped onto Steve and started lovingly licking him. Steve was, for a moment, amused. He was happy, until he soon realized that his mother had got him a puppy that had one leg missing! “why would she do such a thing!” he wondered, and quickly tossed the puppy aside and returned to his game, now even more angry than before. It was as if his mum had played some dirty joke on him. “got me a defective puppy!” he thought to himself.

The puppy limped all around the place. He spotted a little ball at the corner of the living room under the table. It was really hard for this innocent little puppy to get to the ball. Not having one leg made it even harder. But he persisted. Got the ball out. And played with the ball all by himself. He would keep falling but did not give up. Despite his disability, he entertained himself and was having a great time.

All this while, Steve had been observing the puppy’s activities from the corner of his eye. His anger was starting to lessen. In fact, he was so amazed that despite being less abled, it did not matter to the puppy, who kept trying, and kept playing.

Suddenly, Steve picked up the ball. What was he going to do? Was he going to take the poor puppy’s ball away? The puppy looked at Steve with wide open eyes, tail wagging. Even Steve could not resist his charm and got up. When he arose from the sofa, he reached out to a crutch. Even Steve had, just one leg. Limping with the ball in his hand, and his new puppy following him, he went towards the door of the house and yelled out “mom, we’ll be outside, playing!”

STRUCTURE
Now let us the examine a classic Fiction Writing Structure given below.

Fiction 3 Act Structure
TRUCTUREACT 1- Introduce Main Character/Characters - Introduce Status Quo of Main Character/s
(what they do in their everyday lives, their established regular daily lives)ACT 2- Disruptive Event (may be positive or negative) that changes their Status Quo
- Outcome of Disruptive Event (immediate impact of disruptive event)ACT 3- 2nd Disruptive Event (which initiates realization)
- Realization
- Twist/Reveal

RATIONALIZE STORY & FORMAT
If you now equate the sample story with the format, you will realize that:
ACT 1 – Paragraphs 1 & 2 of the Story
ACT 2 – Paragraphs 3 & 4 of the Story
ACT 3 – Paragraphs 5 & 6 of the Story

IMPORTANT POINTS

  • Stories are primarily about People, not Places, Things & Events
  • A good story is one where the main Character goes through a Change/Realization
  • The Change/Realization that the main Character experiences must be brought-on by a Significant Event

It is easy to fall in love with our own ideas and not want to stray from them. However, if children can use the above structure to ‘map’ out their stories before the actual writing process begins, over time and with practice, they will start writing tales that have ‘real’ characters and are much more compelling.

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