Sally Odgers sodgers at
Fri Aug 10 21:20:18 EDT 2001

> they are good guidelines, though.  You have to start with "show,
> don't tell" just as you have to start with the five-paragraph
> essay.  Then you just have to remember to teach people that they
> can certainly break those guidelines, if they understand why they
> are doing so and what the effect is.

That's it exactly, Deborah. The thing is, it seems most people don't get
taught that. Or else they are told once, while the absolutes are drilled in
on the tell-me-three-times rule.

I didn't mean to upset any writing teachers out there - well, I'm one
myself! However, in my classes and one-off assessees, I see a combination of
two major problems. Structure never seems to be taught at all, while odd
little style things, like "said" and "show" are over-taught.  It isn't
enough to tell kids a story has "a beginning, a middle and an end", because
that leads to the dreaded Mexican Witch Hat shape. It's better to say

Situation (then explain that with several well-known examples)

Then -

Reason (then demonstrate that as well)

Then -

What Happens Next? (to show plot development)

Then -

In the End  (to bring a conclusion.)

I can teach that equation in half an hour to a class of 10 or 11 year-olds,
and the improvement in their stories is startling.

Er - Situation -  Sophie, the luckless eldest, is turned into an old woman.

Reason - The Witch of the Waste sees the power Sophie doesn't know she has
and steps in to stop her.

What Happens Next? - Sophie, intrepid in her apparent age, encounters Wizard
Howl, and the two of them join forces to outwit the Witch of the Waste, sort
out a fire demon and solve Howl's King-proposed problem.

In the End - Sophie is restored, and accepts her magic gifts.

The formula doesn't work as readily for a novel as for a short story (What
Happens Next is overloaded), but it does work.
Sally O.

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