Home » Education and Reference

Is Your Home School or Gifted Writer Missing These Professional Story Structure Skills?

Mar 12, 2008
If you got a dollar for every time you told your kids to plan their writing, you'd be living on a tropical island now, right? The only trouble is, it's hard to show children HOW to plan.

We've all seen examples of poor planning:

* Movies that have great starts, terrific characters, fascinating plots - and an ending which is flatly disappointing.
* Books that get bogged down with 57 characters and 49 locations leaving you bewildered and bored.
* And then there's real life. The handyman who pulls apart the lawnmower to fix it, and only when it is in 42 bits around him does he discover he needs specific wrenches (trip to neighbour), an instruction booklet (search 47 files in a cabinet), cleaning fluid (trip to hardware store) and finally - it's all done, all fixed, but oops, forgot the oil!

Failing to plan is planning to fail. Good stories (like movies, books, poems and even jokes) all follow a similar structure.

1. Start with a bang - put the main character in an action scene. A fight, a rescue, a sudden danger.
2. Back fill - the who, what and why are filled in WHILE the action unfolds. (Not in big slabs at the beginning.)
3. The main problem is introduced.
4. Complications and more problems. Things get very bad indeed.
5. Tension scene where hero/heroine fights against incredible odds. Surely they must fail....
6. Climax - incredibly, wonderfully, they win!

So how can you help your kids to plan? Speaking something aloud is often a test of how well we know the subject. So use this to help kids get a great story plan in their minds BEFORE they write.

Once kids know about the story graph, get them to come to you with a story 'mapped out' in their head. Now ask them to tell you their idea. However, to keep them specific and to make sure they have all the sections covered, YOU scaffold them all the way through it.

Following the six point outline above, here are some sample questions to ask your kids at each stage:

1. The Action Start.

* So what's the start of the story?
* You have to start with a bang - what's a great action scene you could use?
* What's something exciting your characters could do to show how clever they are?
* Your character is really brave - what's something he/she could be doing to show this?

2. The Backfill - often this is done as the starting action is unfolding. We don't need huge slabs of explanation.

* Why are they there?
* What's a quick way you can tell this?
* In one sentence say why they are scared/over confident/angry.
* Can you get someone to say the main character's name so we know it without being 'told'?

3. The Main Problem.

* Right, now what is your main character's problem?
* If your hero is going to help a friend, find a big problem for them to face.
* Saving a cat up a tree is sort of a small problem. Can you think of something more powerful?

4. Even More Problems.

* We need even MORE problems. What will they be?
* Things must be very bad indeed for your hero. What else can go wrong?
* Give your hero a really hard time.
* What more can happen? What would really make your person scared?

5. The Big Tension Scene

* Ready for the tension scene? What happens? Will your character survive?
* Give lots of detail of this scene. Picture each step in your mind.
* Your reader must think your hero will fail. Make it REALLY hard.
* Make your villain or problem even bigger than your hero.

6. The Climax

* And now for the big climax. How does it all end?
* What's the hero going to do to win?
* The hero must solve the problem. How?
* It sounds really exciting. How's it going to end?

Often I put in really basic or even silly ideas, just to get the ball rolling. However, don't put in too many ideas or rush to fill the silences. Let your kids do the thinking - that way they 'own' the story.

And remember, kids don't always HAVE to write the story, to practise their planning skills. Just playing with ideas, brainstorming a story a night, is fun - and terrific training for their planning skills.

(c) Jen McVeity, National Literacy Champion.
About the Author
The fun Seven Steps to Writing Success program, by successful author, Jen McVeity, is in 900+ schools. Suited to the home school curriculum & gifted children, it has rapidly increased students' writing skills and enjoyment. Visit http://www.sevenstepswriting.com for top writing tips and activities - more in the free Parent Newsletters. Click on 'Sample' tab for a free Story Starters Worksheet.
Rating:
Please Rate:
(Average: Not rated)
Views: 207
Print Email Report Share
Article Categories
    • Artists
    • Gambling
    • Humanities
    • Humor
    • Movies
    • Music
    • Photography
    • Tattoos
    • Television
    • Classic Cars
    • Motorcycles
    • Recreational Vehicles
    • SUVs
    • Trucks
    • Vans
    • Branding
    • Business Opportunities
    • Careers and Jobs
    • Corporate
    • Customer Service
    • Direct Mail
    • Entrepreneurship
    • Ethics
    • Financing
    • Franchising
    • Home-Based Business
    • Human Resources
    • Import and Export
    • Leadership
    • Management
    • Market Research
    • Marketing and Advertising
    • Negotiation
    • Network Marketing
    • Networking
    • Organizational
    • Presentation
    • Project Management
    • Public Relations
    • Small Business
    • Strategic Planning
    • Team Building
    • Telemarketing
    • Training
    • Data Recovery
    • Databases
    • Games
    • Hardware
    • Networks
    • Operating Systems
    • Programming
    • Security
    • Software
    • Spyware and Viruses
    • Accounting
    • Credit
    • Currency Trading
    • Debt Consolidation
    • Insurance
    • Investing
    • Leasing
    • Loans
    • Mortgage
    • Mutual Funds
    • Personal Finance
    • Stock Market
    • Structured Settlements
    • Taxes
    • Wealth Building
    • Coffee
    • Cooking
    • Gourmet
    • Recipes
    • Wine and Spirits
    • Acne
    • Aerobics
    • Alternative Medicine
    • Beauty
    • Cancer
    • Cosmetics
    • Depression
    • Diabetes
    • Diseases and Conditions
    • Fitness Equipment
    • Fitness
    • Hair Loss
    • Heart Disease
    • Medicine
    • Men's Health
    • Muscle Building
    • Nutrition
    • Skin Care
    • Supplements and Vitamins
    • Weight Loss
    • Women's Health
    • Yoga
    • Arts and Crafts
    • Babies
    • Collecting
    • Elderly Care
    • Genealogy
    • Hobbies
    • Parenting
    • Pets
    • Pregnancy
    • Woodworking
    • Feng Shui
    • Gardening
    • Home Appliances
    • Home Security
    • Interior Design
    • Landscaping
    • Affiliate Programs
    • Article Marketing
    • Auctions
    • Audio
    • Banner Advertising
    • Blogging
    • Broadband
    • Domain Names
    • E-Books
    • E-Commerce
    • Email Marketing
    • Ezines and Newsletters
    • Forums
    • Internet Marketing
    • Link Popularity
    • Pay-Per-Click
    • Podcasting
    • RSS
    • Search Engine Marketing
    • Search Engine Optimization
    • Security
    • Social Media
    • Spam
    • Video
    • Viral Marketing
    • Web Design
    • Web Development
    • Web Hosting
    • Copyright
    • Cyber Law
    • Intellectual Property
    • National, State, Local
    • Patents
    • Regulatory Compliance
    • Trademarks
    • Buying
    • Selling
    • Baseball
    • Basketball
    • Boating
    • Cycling
    • Extreme Sports
    • Fishing
    • Football
    • Golf
    • Hockey
    • Hunting
    • Martial Arts
    • Running
    • Scuba Diving
    • Soccer
    • Swimming
    • Tennis
    • Dating
    • Divorce
    • Marriage
    • Weddings
    • Astrology
    • Buddhism
    • Christianity
    • Faith
    • Hinduism
    • Islam
    • Judaism
    • Meditation
    • Metaphysical
    • New Age
    • Cable and Satellite TV
    • Cell Phones
    • Communication
    • Gadgets and Gizmos
    • GPS
    • Satellite Radio
    • Video Conferencing
    • VoIP
    • Addictions
    • Coaching
    • Goal Setting
    • Motivational
    • Stress Management
    • Time Management
    • Clothing
    • Electronics
    • Fashion
    • Gifts
    • Jewelry
    • Causes and Organizations
    • Environment
    • History
    • Holidays
    • Men's Issues
    • Nature
    • Philosophy
    • Politics
    • Women's Issues
    • World Affairs
    • Air Travel
    • Camping
    • Cruises
    • Destinations
    • Outdoors
    • Article Writing
    • Book Reviews
    • Copywriting
    • Fiction
    • Non-Fiction
    • Poetry
    • Quotes
    • Screenplay
    • Tools and Resources