Helping Young Writers

January 24, 2011

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Sometimes you get the opportunity to help a young writer.  If you have a child, those opportunities can arise just because of curiosity, other times to respond to class assignments.  The most tempting error that you can commit is “giving” the young writer the story.  You have to restrain yourself to just suggestions.  I have an example that actually occurred this weekend.

My son is a freshman in high school.  His assignment is a short story that includes a protagonist, antagonist, conflict, climax and message.  The first step was to establish an environment.  Since we were driving around in the mid-west, with single digit temperatures and snow, I suggested a cold location, possibly a creek bed frozen over.  My son changed that to the main character’s back yard playing foot ball with his buddies.

Next came the conflict.  We talked about finding a puppy in distress.  The hero should obviously show compassion and try to help the puppy, but his parent have a strict no pets policy (similar to our family policy).  This established several conflicts that he will follow, doing the right thing while defying his parents, leading to a climax of direct conflict with his mother.  Then my son added his own twist, the friend will encourage him to continue hiding the dog.

With just a few ideas back and forth, he had the basic story in place.  He already had several stories that he had worked on in the past, but he chose to create something completely new.  His goal was to address all of the elements suggested by his teacher.  The assignment itself provided the stimulus to even start, bouncing ideas with me drove him to more creativity, and I hope a complete story. 

I am excited at my son’s commitment to writing well.  I truly believe that all creativity helps young minds develop and keep poor habits from developing instead.  We have spent many idle hours (driving during vacations, evenings before bedtime when the internet was down) developing ideas.  My son has thought about game themes, stories, even possible movies and actually worked on many of the ideas.  The more he worked, the more he wanted to try and think about.    This is the type of positive feedback that will help him grow into a fine young man.  With that in mind, I encourage every young person to write down their ideas and develop them.  Keep writing!

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