Leading a Writing Group - Session 5

There are many ways to tell stories.


I wanted to introduce the idea of using fictional reference material in a story. So, the prompt was to use a letter in the story. I went over a few different ideas on how you could do this: a letter on a table, in the mail, nailed to a tree, on the ground, a text message, a whiteboard, etc. I also reminded everyone that I make the rules, but included in my rules is that you can break the rules. If something strikes you, write what you want. The important thing is to try hard, to write something down, to keep going.

I, myself, was surprised at the direction my story went. Here it is.

- - - - - - -

John Carter of Manhatten was walking home from a movie premiere. The air was crisp and smelled of pollution, as cities do.

A light wind picked up and blew garbage from one sidewalk, across the road, and into the fence on the other side, like a city tumbleweed.

John Carter of Manhatten loved the city. The sights, the sounds, the people, the smell. He stopped and gazed at the sky. The light pollution stopped him from seeing a single star, like living in a bubble.

This darn wind though. Mother nature trying to impose herself on an otherwise ideal night. John Carter of Manhatten pulled his jacket tighter together in the front and leaned into the wind. And just as he stepped forward a piece of paper hit him in the side of the face.

He pulled it off and went to toss it aside, but as it passed in front of his eyes he noticed bright red lettering. This piece of paper hadn't been blowing along the street for long. It was still clean and crisp.

Instead of tossing it aside he brought it closer. "URGENT" was what was written in that bright, bold red.

He turned it over and unfolded it. It was a short note. "Threat Immanent. Evacuate to G4 safe site immediately. Top Secret."

John Carter of Manhatten read the note two more times. Then he let the wind of mother nature carry it across the road and into the fence on the other side.

That was the only warning he received before it began.

- - - - - - -

Two of the kids got the reference to John Carter of Mars. I didn't realize until after I read it to the group that it's basically the reverse of the John Carter story. In that story he goes to another planet and fights with aliens. In this story I would probably have aliens invading.

Alien stories are the archetype of the encounter with the stranger, with magic through technology. To a large extent they've taken the place of the ancient gods.

I was in the city a few days ago. Everytime I go there I remember that cities kind of suck. So, I was making a characterization of a city lover, with a slight hint of satire. That was just my mood at the time.

The kids understood the idea of incorporating the letter well, and were able to work with it. It's interesting watching them problem solve their creations. It's a unique skill.

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