The first writing prompt and contest for our re-grouping.
Over the years, I have read many books on writing. Most of them are aimed at "perfecting the craft," finding your "voice," or getting that manuscript "out of the slush pile." All of those things sound wonderful, and, each of those books have one common theme: the basics of storytelling. So, I thought it would be fun for our group to go on an adventure together via writing prompts and contests that all stem from the basics of storytelling.
I'm sure many of you out there are thinking "I know how to tell a story". Obviously, or, you wouldn't be here. But, I am talking about using storytelling in all of its forms, or, at least as many as we can come up with. This way we will get to experience all there is about writing for children. We can each branch out into other genres and media. All the while, working towards our goals of perfecting the craft, finding our voice, and getting our manuscripts out of the slush pile.
It might be a little difficult at first, especially for those who think "I am the greatest writer of children's (insert your style or form of writing here) ever," and, "I do not WANT to branch out. New things are scary." You might even think, "if I spend my time on other writing, I will never get my manuscript finished." This, I promise you, will not be the case.
Studies have shown, and I have experienced this in my many years as a professional regular
human being, that one of the key ways to improve your own job performance is to do other jobs related to yours. This is true for all aspects of the writing world. And, I'm not saying, let's all go turn into literary agents overnight. I'm saying that for those of you who strictly write poetry, YA lit, picture books, etc., if you experience writing different genres and styles, who knows, you may find something you are good at, or, *cringe* actually have fun writing. It's an awful thought, I'm sure.
So, let's begin our journey with ways to put pen to paper and get those creative juices flowing. Yes, I'm talking about writing prompts. I used to think that prompts were a colossal waste of time and energy. This was because I felt they were not directly related to what I was working on, so they would not succeed in doing anything but wasting my time. However, once I gave them a shot, I discovered the amazing power they yielded.
Writing prompts get your brain into "writing mode." They are guaranteed to get you writing. Once you start, you may not be able to stop. Sounds great, right? So, let's get started.
We will begin by getting back to the basics. What is a story? It is a telling of an event in time, real or imagined. Some stories are super short, like flash fiction. Some are so long they will put you to sleep trying to
finish them. Some are full of excitement, and some are boring. But, they all have three things in common. Every story has a beginning, middle, and an end.
Your mission, should you choose to accept it: Tell me 5 stories in 3 sentences each. Sentence number 1 is the beginning. Sentence number 2 is the middle. And, sentence number 3 is the end.
They do not have to be plot outlines of a novel, or a movie. They can be the story within the story--simply, a chapter or scene in a characters life.
I have included attachments of a lesson plan from Lakeshore Learning. This lesson is designed for 3rd-5th graders. They are to read each story and outline them in three sentences each. In the lesson plan they describe it to the kids as a plot summary broken down by First, Then, and Lastly. These stories are good examples of how to write stories that children in that age group can read and comprehend easily. There is also a story summarizing activity that allows you to view each scene as the story moves along. This just looks like fun. Maybe a good activity for school visits.
The story "Found" can be summarized in the following sentences:
1. Robby found a wallet with money in it that he wanted to spend.
2. He found a name and address in the wallet.
3. Robby decides to return the wallet and money to its owner.
This is the story "First Snow":
1. Maria woke up and saw that there was snow on the ground.
2. She went downstairs and saw her little brother getting ready to go out in the snow.
3. She put on her own snow gear and they went outside to play.
That's it. Not very exciting. Not terribly long. But, a beginning, middle, and end. Short and sweet, and right to the point.
Speaking of short, sweet, and to the point: Let's talk about flash fiction for a moment. Flash fiction, also known as microfiction, or short short fiction, is defined as a story usually 300-1000 words containing classic story elements: protagonist, conflict, obstacles or complications, and resolution. The story is "whittled down to its essence, whilst remaining complete." Unlike a short story, some of these elements can remain unwritten due to the short word length.
Flash fiction seems to be all the rage with teens right now. It is a creative way for them to express themselves, without penning the great novel. It is definitely a growing genre. What if? online magazine accepts flash fiction strictly from those under the age of 19. There are even some websites and online magazines such as Flash Fiction World and flashfictiononline.com that are entirely devoted to the genre. Upon perusing these websites, it seems to me that many of the stories are not full on novels or short stories that have been shortened, but, short chapters or scenes that are told from the perspective of one character. Almost as if the character is reliving a moment in time, or recalling a memory. These stories are very much in the characters mind. They may not be long, but, they reel you in, evoke emotion, and make you relive their tale.
Now we get to the contest part: Take one of your plot summaries from the above writing prompt (or an extra one you wrote), and tell it in the form of flash fiction. It must be between 300 and 1000 words. Include a word count, and age group you are writing to, or whose perspective you are writing from. Then post it here as a whole or post the item so we can go to it and fully read, rate, and review it. Deadline is September 15th at midnight. New prompt/contest will go up the next day.