Leading a Writing Group - Session 6

Our prompt went through three evolutions. First, I proposed the idea of interstitials. That's where a sentence has dialogue, then description, then dialogue again. I just think they're cool, and therefore feel like everyone would be interested in them. I also think it lets you see how much a single sentence can really do. Since it didn't seem popular I went to option number two, a scene where the hero and the villain meet for the first time. But, I was asked if the scene could be people other than the hero and the villain meeting. And, of course, I think artistic creativity must necessarily be flexible. Our prompt ended up being, a meeting of two characters.


Xavier did well. We had a small discussion last time about how I don't expect a certain thing to come out of the writing, I don't require anyone to follow the prompts, but I do expect effort. That turned out well. He came up with this story where the names were a mixture of crazy letters. I think that comes from some role-playing game that he likes. He was trying to describe this structure in his story that was unique, a kind of building. While reading it he felt the urge to add some details off-the-cuff. I went over how to do that, and just the idea of doing it, in the writing instead of trying to adjust it in the telling. He had an idea for an expanded story, which is great. And now, instead of having extra time because he didn't have enough to write, he had too much to write and ran out of time, which is great. Stories expand, they grow, they never need to end, because a new one begins.

Bella wrote a story in first person journal entries, which was pretty cool. She also had a time jump in her story to "One month later." It was based on a trip she and her mother took to a shelter to get a cat. She wished they had dragons, lol. She mentioned that because I had mentioned dragons before. The cat's name was Butterfly, and she changed that to Fluff.

Lexi wrote a frame story of a mother telling her kids a bedtime story. I like frame stories. This one was about prom night, where a monster emerged and was chasing this girl down the hall.

I have been thinking about the format of the group a bit. The kids are immersed in generating their own stories, which is great. But, I want two things. I want to be able to connect them with some ideas about story structure, sentence structure, rhetorical devices, narrative devices, etc. I think I might just present these at the beginning as a little lesson, somewhat apart from the writing prompt. I've been doing that a little anyway. Then, if they feel engaged by one of the ideas they can use it. The second thing is at the end. The kids listen to each other's stories, but they don't comment too much. Sometimes on the content, but very little on writing techniques or structures. One reason for this is lack of knowledge, which my short lessons at the beginning will work on. The other thing is that it almost seems like the kids are playing next to each other rather than with each other. Story creation is a type of playing. The psychologist Jean Piaget talks about playing next to each other as opposed to with each other as a developmental stage in kids. So maybe I'm running into that, or that as part of every learning curve, or maybe I just need to facilitate it more. I emphasized comments a bit in the first lessons, they didn't catch. Now I've just been commenting to provide an example, and then I'll reemphasize the idea later. There are always things to try.

I had a false start when I started writing this time. Here's the first line that I wrote.

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"You can't do that, he said as he

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Then, it just wasn't coming to me. I start writing without a plan, so that can happen. I restarted, and here's how that went. (I usually don't like the idea of starting with weather, but it just came out. I think that I was able to put an interesting twist on the style.)

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It was a sunny day full of clouds. A perfect day.

Tom had walked into a meadow expecting nothing, seeking nothing, except an escape. An escape not from the work, but the futility of the work.

Now someone was approaching him. They weren't walking down a road, or a trail, or a path. Just straight across the meadow. It seemed that he moved through the grass rather than over it. The flowers seemed to part before him.

The man had a walk of ease and intent, he was headed somewhere, and he seemed to be headed straight at Tom.

Tom didn't notice, but he had stopped walking. He stared at the man with a blank expression of curiosity. And the man stared back, with the slightest hint of a smile tugging at the corners of his eyes.

"Greetings," said the man.

"Hello," said Tom, in what he thought was probably his normal way. He didn't usually pay attention to how he talked to people, but for some reason it seemed like he should be doing better.

"Are you John von Carry?" asked the man.

"No," said Tom. Tom worked with von Carry, worked for him is more like it. John von Carry was a genius, and famous for being a genius, but in the last four years that Tom had been working for him he had had exactly one visitor, and that didn't go well.

"Well," said the man with a smile, "who are you?"

"I'm Tom," said Tom.

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I have a unique style, that's for sure. They call that "voice" in writing. I have an unusual perspective on almost everything, and I think that comes across in my writing, which is why I sometimes get comments from people that they really like how my writing sounds. My secret? My intuition is different.

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Read more of what Jeff deems worthy of attention at: http://www.JeffreyAlexanderMartin.com

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