Hook, Line, and Stuck

Wait. Don’t go. You read that correctly. But, you’ll say, what kind of writer are you? It’s hook, line, and sinker, you’ll grumble. And of course, you’d be right. But Poetic License is also a thing, and I am taking some here. My creative writing workshops for kids started, as I mentioned previously with the power of the girl writer. My first class was two girls from WIS and one from Murch, a DC public school.

I had set up my classroom and walked downstairs to meet the girls in the lobby to show them the way. Alas, there were only two girls waiting.  The third student was a no-show. It’s ok because the two students I had more than compensated for the lack of the third Thursday student. I came up with a small lesson plan for the beginning of a story, which I vetted with Madeline who assured me that all the concepts made sense. I talked about introducing the characters and giving them a personality and a backstory, setting up other characters in their world. Next up was the introduction of the conflict, where I talked about the protagonist and the antagonist. Of course, kids aren’t going to understand that concept, until you call them good guy and bad guy. That particular lesson caused a bit of incredulity on the students’ part when I started talking about Harry Potter/Voldemort, and Percy Jackson and just about everyone. “You’ve read them? You’re old.” was the general consensus. I read them, and between you and me, they are way more fun than books for grown-ups. I talked about point of view, and the general consensus was that the third person was the easiest to write.  Next came how to start a story and we went through action, dialogue, narration, and description. The last concept was the Hook. That thing that grabs the reader, pulls them into your story and makes them want to read more. It can be a question, use of descriptive words, or leaving the story a mystery. I asked if anything was confusing and whether there were questions. Apparently, I was pretty clear and all the kids were on the same page because they piped up and said, “No questions, we got it.  You want us to write a hook to a story. What story?”

They’d hit the nail on the head and were quicker on the uptake than I was. Luckily, I had found a sort of story generator called Story Starters at scholastic.com that was a slot machine and generated random prompts with different genres like mystery and sci-fi. You also got to pick the grade you’re in and I thought that was a nice touch. I also gave a couple of prompts that I came up with on my own. One student used the random prompt generator and the other used one of my prompts.

It was a great experience for me as well. What would have happened if I had been encouraged to translate my love of reading into a love of writing? I can see you’re all nodding your heads thoughtfully. But wait, you mutter, where’s the stuck part of the erroneous cliche?

Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten. The next class I had was more of a tutoring session than a class. You see, I only had one student sign up for that class. She was a 9-year-old who was a precocious as they come. She was also a WISKid and so we bonded.  When given the option for a prompt, she chose the Scrambler option from Story Starters. It was a learning experience for me as well, as I hadn’t chosen the Scrambler option while I researched. So, we did it together. What emerged was so nonsensical, we looked at each other and simultaneously chorused “Next!”.  So we spun the wheel again, so to speak, and we are now engaged in an adventure about a girl who sails on a ship with a cheerful captain, who discovers a secret waterfall. A bit complicated, no? But intrepid she is so she decided to stick with it.

For this student, I became more involved in the writing process, as almost immediately, she said: “I’m kinda stuck.” So I started by asking her questions about her main character, who it turned out was named Annabeth. My young budding writer had a love of all things Rick Riordan, hence the character name. Since I do as well, we were off to a good start. Through question and answer, we gave her a best friend sidekick, a dad who was sailing for work to Haiti and set up the problem. It turns out that our heroine is afraid of storms and losing her dad. Kids come up with some very grown-up ideas.

What happens next, you ask? You’ll have to wait for the next Inkreadable Installment to find out.

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