Developing Story Arcs with Sarah Weeks

One of the key and most practical take aways I had this summer from the Teachers College Writing Institute was during my session with author, Sarah Weeks. I attended her class on writing children’s books. She shared with us the importance of a balanced story arc in children’s stories. We examined how the best children’s books out there had really strong story arcs. She had story arcs written out for various well known children’s books. We looked at the story arc of the action in the story, which showed what was happening in the beginning, middle and end. Then, she had us also examine the emotional story that the character went through.

The next step was to start creating our own story arcs for the picture books we would write that week. She shared with us how some teachers, actually had a piece of string that they used to represent the arc. Another method was to use post-its. One color post-it would represent the action of the story, and another color post-it would represent the emotional story arc of my main character. I really loved using the post-its verses just writing it down in my notebook, because I could move around the post-its, add more details, and I could clearly distinguish between the two different arcs. After many hours, I finally had a story arc for my children’s book (still a work in progress).

Last week, I found myself whipping out the story arc I created this past summer, during one of my mini-lessons for our fantasy unit. My students were collecting ideas for their fantasy stories and we had just gone over the story arc of The Paper Bag Princess. I modeled for them creating a story arc of the action and then the emotions of the princess. Then, I showed them the story arc that I created for my children’s book as another model.

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Then, I had them create their own story arcs. I gave them post-it notes, bigger sized white paper, and let them go. I encouraged them to be creative and manipulate the size of the post-its as they needed. I had a few students add another arc, of the setting, with another post-it color. Another student included small drawings on her post-its along with the description. I even had some students layering the post-its on top of each other as they added more details. As the students worked on their story arcs, I kept emphasizing the importance of how having a strong story arc would help them write a better story. Plus, it would make the drafting process a lot easier.  And this was a lesson I definitely learned after spending many hours writing and revising my own story arc this past summer.

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31 Days of Writing

I’m already on day 11. It’s been a busy month of March. I’ve been blogging every day for the slice of life challenge hosted by Two Writing Teachers. It’s a blogging challenge they do every month in March. The challenge is to write every single a day a “slice of life” and to post it on your blog. I love this challenge in so many ways. This is my second year participating in it.  Here are reasons why I love this challenge and why you should join next March! (Sorry, I should have posted this before the challenge started…)

1) Nurturing the writer within. As a teacher of writing, I think that it’s so important to continue to write. Why not practice what you preach. I know I need to do a better job of keeping up with my writer’s notebook. This challenge helps me get back into a routine of writing and remembering what it’s like to just W R I T E.

2) Building your readership & blogging community. Even after the challenge ends, I continue to try to read many of the bloggers that I’ve met through the challenge. Plus, it’s a great way to meet other bloggers and build your network/PLC.

3) COMMENTS!  I got over 30 comments on my first post this year! I was blown away. It’s always so encouraging when people leave comments no matter how short or long. It really helps affirm me as a writer. Comments fuel the writer!

4) Everyone has a story to share. I know some of you might be saying, I’m not a writer. I have nothing to write about. It’s NOT true! Everyone has a story that needs to be heard. Yes, some of the things I write about maybe trivial, but it’s all part of my s t o r y. Through this challenge already, I’ve written about so many things that are deep and dear to my  heart. I’m reminded that I write, not only to be heard, but to help me process and reflect on this amazing journey we are on.

5) Prizes! Yes, there are prizes as well! If you slice everyday and put your blog post link on the two writing teachers blog each day, you get a chance to be entered in the raffle at the end of the challenge to win some amazing prizes including professional books, hand stamped moleskin notebooks, books and more. 🙂