Breaking Storytelling with Process

I started writing when I was eight.  I loved writing adventures.  Before class, I’d get a sheet of notebook paper and write my stories (and sometimes when I was bored during class).

My friends loved reading the stories, and I had several who got involved by drawing pictures.  That was just too cool.  Pictures can add another layer to the story.

I didn’t think much about any writing technique when I was doing it.  I was just imitating what I saw in the many mystery novels I was reading.  I wrote mysteries like Nancy Drew and Trixie Beldon, with my own character Sharon McCall.

So I was horrified when I read this article by a well-meaning teacher who thinks schools should teach children storytelling.

It’s this paragraph that I have the most problems with:

We shouldn’t be asking children about fronted adverbs, but about act structures, character arcs, reversals and the qualities of protagonists (and antagonists). What is the difference between real speech and fictional dialogue? What constitutes a dramatic event? The list goes on and on.

Craft is character, setting, plot, story.

Process is three act structure, character arcs, and reversals.

I would not want to be a student in her class.  She would have sucked the joy right out of storytelling trying to teach how she thought I should write.

What is this obsession with trying to force people into a certain way of writing? Wouldn’t it be much simpler to encourage the students to read lots of books and write stories that those books inspire?

I’ve been trying a research technique mentioned in a book called Becoming an Every Day Novelist.  One of the important things about writing fiction is to do a lot of reading of history.  But that’s been difficult for me.  I don’t always like the book–a lot of the books feel dry.  Plus, sometimes I get a book that interested me when I got and then doesn’t a few days later.

But J. Daniel Sawyer suggests starting with Wikipedia and reading something every day and following the links.  I’m finding it’s fun because if I don’t like a topic, I can wander onto another.

These are the topics I checked out this week.

  • Richard Oakes
  • Zenobia
  • Quintus Publilius Philo
  • plebs
  • praetor
  • super user
  • stalagmites
  • U.S. Route 113
  • Thunder River
  • Powell Expedition
  • Naked Woman Climbing a Staircase (a painting)
  • Ballet Technique
  • Scots Monastery
  • Umbrella
  • Elephant
  • EIN
  • Star Wars
  • Golden Gate Bridge
  • Bridges
  • Dams

I’m only doing about half an hour a day, following whatever catches my interest.

2 thoughts on “Breaking Storytelling with Process

  1. Pearl R. Meaker May 28, 2017 / 1:40 pm

    I agree with you, that teacher would make it all work and no play, and part of a story well told is playing in your world.

    I like the “Every Day Novelist” idea! 😃 I’ll have to give that a try myself.


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