Wednesday, September 05, 2012

WWYWWQ #1 2012-2013 School Year

As many of you know, this past January, I started my Wednesdays Weekly Young Writers Writing Questions postings, trying to gather as many writing questions from the classes I've worked with in the first part of the school year and answer those questions on my blog. Some of the questions have required a little research and some have been general knowledge to most writers.

It's that time of year to get started on the WWYWWQ postings.

The first posting comes from one of Mr. Hughes' classes (he is teaching 4th, 5th and 6th grade writing classes this year) as well as a subsequent posting on my friend Faye Tollison's blog.

I'm sorry I don't remember which student asked the question or whether it was from the 4th, 5th or 6th grade, but credit does go to one of those classes for this question: How do you know when to end the story? or basically how long should a story be?

My answer to the class and students was - A writer ends the story when the story is finished. It could be 10 pages or 100, but only when the story is completed should you decide how long it will be. Ther are always exceptions to this but if you haven't answered the question posed by your story, then it isn't long enough or completed.

Ms. Faye poses on her blog the question of where a story should start - At the Beginning. Reading her posting, after the original student question had been posted, gave me the idea to combine the two.

Where exactly does a story start? According to most sources on the craft of writing, one never really starts at the very beginning as that is backstory - the story behind the story, building your characters up and breathing life int them. One should start in a crucial point in the story and weave all the backstory in throughout in bits and pieces as the story progresses.

An example from my own writing is Imogene: Innocense Lost. The backstory starts in 1945, the birth of Sarah Beth (Imogene's mother), at the very end of World War II. That isn't where my story starts though. My story actually starts in 1980 and then shows you what happened between 1970 and 1980, while finding out why 1945 is so crucial to the storyline as well. The premise for the story is that Sarah Beth (mother) and family, which includes Imogene, take a vacation to China (still have to decide which country in China or city to use specifically) in 1970. While there on vacation, Imogene is kidnapped. Sarah Beth and her husband search for a long time before finally returning home to the United States but make the trip over the 10 years searching for their lost daughter. Sarah Beth won't give up and at the 10 year mark, she makes her final trip, alone, leaving her husband and son at home in Washington to search for Imogene. The year 1980 is crucial to the story ecause in 1981, the United States passport laws changed. Imogene being 15 in 1980 makes it the last year for Sarah Beth to find her and get her out of China on the passport she has from their original trip since Imogene was only 5 at the time and was on her mother's passport. (In 1981, the government stated that all children would have their own passports with a guardian (parent or otherwise) signing them; and at the age of 15, they had their own passports with the child signing them.) So Sarah Beth has roots in China (the hint to 1945) and only finds out on this final trip in search for her daughter.

I don't start the story in 1945, rather June of 1980. As for how long it will be, there is no telling as I've only written 3 pages and a few scenes for a total of five pages so far. Nothing substantial except a killer hook paragraph.

This story is inspired by some pictures on this website (pictures 23 (this is link between Sarah Beth and her daughter), 38 (this is the start of the story) 10 (this just reminded me of a shop in China that carry things like mood enhancing powders or strength enhancements), 20 (this is the wall where the hidden city is), and 41 (this seemed like the fencing around the shopowner's home - and as the story progresses, you'll find out who the shopowner is)), and I even printed out the photos and pasted them on a sheet with a tentative outline. This story will be less dialogue than any of my oter stories as it is a personal quest and Sarah Beth has very little interaction with other folks. Truth be told, I don't really know if I have it in me to really write this story, but I'm going to try.

So where does your story start and how long should it be? Start at the turning point in the story and write until the question posed by the backstory has been answered and the story is completed.

More questions to come - ya'll keep on writing until you have completed the story. See you in the postings - Mrs. E :)

No comments: