Piecing Together Stories
[[This piece I wrote, originally, on March 11, 2010, as a lesson for my daughter's 4th grade class, after I taught a writing camp at her school. I may very well turn this into a series, for kids, on how to become a more engaging writer. Again...keep in mind this was originally written for 4th and 5th graders.]]
In school we’re told a story has a beginning, middle, and an end. We’re also told when we tell a story that a story should start with the beginning, move to the middle, and then to the end. We’ll get to how to “show” a story later!
A lot of times, when we tell stories, we DON’T tell them from beginning to end! As a matter of fact, when we write or tell [or show] stories, it doesn’t matter what “order” they’re told. You watch a lot of movies and TV shows that “show” the story “out of order.” A lot of shows start out showing the end, or middle, first, and then they go back and show you how it all started, don’t they?
Think about it.
Pretend you have a dog, named Jake. Imagine Jake ran away, you looked for him, found him and then brought him back home. Now, imagine you tell your friends about it. This is probably how it would go:
“Hey! Guess what? My dog, Jake, ran away. But we got him back!”
You just told the END of your story, FIRST, didn’t you? You might go on to fill in the details of how it all started, how you searched for Jake, and how worried you were, but you’d probably wrap up your story quite nicely in a matter of minutes.
Stories are kind of like recipes for cookies or cheesecake: it doesn’t matter [much] what order you mix the ingredients, just so long as it tastes good, right? Stories really aren’t much different!
Here’s a quick example of a story beginning at the end:
Max was dead. It was my fault, and there was nothing I could do to change it.
Pretty interesting, isn’t it?
It makes you want to know what happened, doesn’t it? You want to know who Max was, and you want to know more about the person who feels responsible for Max’s death, too.
In this example, a story has begun at the end. Or has it? The great thing about starting a story this way, is you can “trick” the reader into believing what you want him or her to believe, and add details only you know, when you want to—just be careful not to make something up that won’t be believable to your reader; you don’t want your reader to get mad and feel like he or she has wasted his or her valuable time!
The point of this exercise is to remember a story is kind of like three, separate strips of paper: one labeled “middle”, another labeled “end” and another labeled “beginning.” So long as you “tape them together” and the ends come together to form a circle, or even an “Infinity” loop [adding a “twist” to your story], keeping the details together to make sense, you’re likely to have quite a nice story to show others!