Exploring the Case Study of an Eight-Year-Old Second Language Speaker's Writing Process Using Transcription and Dialectic

This is one of the most interesting things I've ever done, and my list includes making a mistake skydiving, being trapped on a ledge and stepping into a crevasse mountain climbing, being hit while running with bulls, scuba diving through jellyfish, whitewater rafting, mountain biking over the cascade mountains, being poisoned while on the beach of the Indian Ocean in Kenya, getting a black eye and a bloody nose in a giant tomato fight, and many other things. My point is, it's awesome!

My article from a couple of days ago was about the Pokemon story that I wrote for Parker in one class, and how he came up with the ideas for his own story. When we started this lesson he said, "If I can write a Pokemon story I will die!" I associate that kind of phrase with teenage American girls, but it basically means it's so good that it's overwhelming.
Here are the notes that we had to work with from our last lesson.


(Parker's Story)
character - parker 
plot - catches pokemon
character - pikachu caterpie charmander and more, up to 6
starting setting - in home, then go everywhere
plot - pikachu is given to parker, caterpie is caught in a forest, charmander he catches in lava stone
                                                 Go! Pokemon!                                                             


I asked Parker if he wanted to type or he just wanted to talk and have me type. He could type out this story but it would take him a lot longer with a lot more small corrections and I really just wanted him to focus on the story. So, we began. He decided to change something and incorporated me into the story. I asked him what happened first and he said, "I go to Jeff's home and Jeff gives me Pikachu." That's so interesting. His natural storytelling voice is first person present tense. I imagine if it was a real story it would be in first person past tense, but since he's making it up right now it came out in present tense.

I asked him "why?" He came back with the obvious answer that Jeff (me) had Pokemon. Of course we could have gone in the direction of wondering why I had Pokemon and how I had gotten them, but we didn't, we just took that as a given. Instead, I asked how Parker knew. He said that he had heard it on the news. This is interesting because right now we're basically doing an outline. It's a fairly detailed outline, but it's still abstract. After I wrote these three things down Parker corrected me and said that the "I's" should be "Parker." This just blew me away. Even though it's natural for him to tell the story in the first person he thought that it should be written in the third person. I didn't expect that at all, and I will probably be pondering that for a long time.

So here's what it looked like so far. (Parker added the arrows because he thought that they should be there to separate that part.)


<Parker goes to Jeff's home and Jeff gives Parker Pikachu. Jeff had caught some Pokemon. Parker finds out on the news. >


At this point I was getting a little nervous. I wasn't sure if he was going to be able to actually make the narrative himself or if all he was going to be able to do was make an outline like this that I would fill in. If that was the case I was afraid that both of us would feel a bit let down. He wanted to keep going on like that, the next step being "Go get Pikachu," but I wanted to change gears and actually lay down some story so I stopped him. I told him to tell me what happens first, where Parker finds out about Jeff's Pokemon, but to tell me like he was seeing it. Then, magical things started to happen.

This is exactly how Parker told it.


One day Parker is walking on the street and someone is saying "Special news! Special news! Who wants to read the special news!" And Parker says "I want that special news." So he reads the special news. It read "Jeff Catches Special Pokemon Named Pikachu!


There are a few issues, a tense disagreement and extra conjunctions, but who cares?! That's an awesome opening to a story. I was amazed. It was such a turn from what we were doing with the abstract outline just a few seconds before.

I wanted to build some momentum off of that so I asked "What happens next?" Now, Parker switched between first and third person in here and I tried to just type it in third person. Several times he corrected himself from the first person to the third person too, which I hadn't told him to do at all. It's so interesting what he says next. Here it is.


Parker knows the news and he walks and walks, but he doesn't find Jeff home. So he goes on a bus to another city, but there's no Jeff. So he goes by ship to America and Parker finds Jeff. When he gets in Jeff's home Jeff is smiling at him and Jeff asks "What do you want?" Parker says "I want the Pikachu, pleeeease!" And a sound from under the table. Parker heard "Pika-chu!" And, Pikachu jumped out and used a storm "Piii-kaaa-chuuuuuuuuuuuuu!" And Parker sleeps.


That's so amazing! Think about ancient religious and mythical stories. Read Parker's last paragraph again. Does it seem similar? It seems very similar to me. I didn't guide that at all, it's the way that it came to him. Parker did add a number of the "u's" in that last Pikachu because he didn't think I had enough. I had absolutely no idea where this story was going at this point. I thought about reining it in a bit, but you know how I like to explore. So, instead, I said "What happens next?" Here's what Parker said.


When he wakes up he's in the forest and Pikachu is standing on his head. And Pikachu is tickling Parker. And Parker laughs "haa-haa-haa." And a caterpillar jumped on the Pikachu and Parker said "No, it's a caterpillar!" When Parker stood up he saw the caterpillar is not a caterpillar, it's a special caterpillar named Caterpie. And Caterpie kicked Parker into a pond. And Parker was angry, so he caught Caterpie, and punished Caterpie. And Parker saw a boy. He said "I want to kill you with a Pokemon." Parker said, "You want to kill me! No way!" And Parker says "Go Pikachu!" "Thousand shark!" "Pikaaa-chuuuuuuuu!" And Pikachu killed that boy. And more boys came. And Pikachu used thousand shark to kill them.


Even when I was just re-reading that I laughed out loud when I read the part about Caterpie kicking Parker into a pond. That was so surprising. It makes an interesting jump from the Caterpie incident where it goes fairly abstract, and then all of the sudden there's some boy. I'm thinking that who these boys are will be revealed a little later, but that is pure conjecture.

That last paragraph is such an interesting mix between humor, action, and Old Testament style violent encounters. I need more time to process it. I think there is so much to be learned from studying Parker's writing process. It's about digging into the narrative structure of the human mind at the most fundamental level.

It's also very interesting to me how he uses dialogue, uses concrete details, and moves through some sections very quickly at an abstract level. It has a unique mix to it. It's an interesting voice that I kind of like. It reminds me of some excellent short stories I've read that do some of the same things.

That's as far as we got today. At the end I told Parker that maybe next session we'll finish the story and then start going through it again to revise and edit things to make them better. He laughed at me and told me that we aren't even close to the end of the story. It was great. The new plan is to keep going until we find an end to this story. Then we'll go back and work on some revisions and editing. I imagine that it will be quite the adventure.


I've written two fictional pieces that I like so far.

"The City of Peace" - A future science fiction utopia/dystopia action adventure in a framed story of a father telling his son a story about the child's grandfather.

"The Birth of Hanniba'al" - A dark, somewhat alternative, historical origin story for the Carthage General Hannibal.

Here are three of my most popular posts.

"The Make of a Great First Line in Fiction"

"A Letter to My Niece in 2034"

"The Most Important Question in Philosophy - Part 4 of 4"

You can find more of what I'm doing here: JeffreyAlexanderMartin.com

You can support this page at https://www.patreon.com/jeffreyalexandermartin

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