In class we are working on personal narratives. Students use strategies such as thinking of a person, place, or thing to remember significant events in their lives. Then they write a story about it.
The climax of the story is the easy part. That is usually the event that pops into your memory first. For example, do you remember what your best friend was wearing at your fifth birthday party, or do you remember that you blew out the candles on the cake and sprayed frosting all over her?
From the memory of the climax, students work on rising action and falling action. Initially, they want to start every story with waking up and brushing their teeth. So a story about a ride at Disneyland starts with getting up, brushing teeth, riding eight hours in the car, getting into the park, having ice cream, lining up for the ride, and oh did I tell you I’m finally tall enough?
In actuality, the story was about the excited revelation of being tall enough to finally ride Thunder Mountain Railroad. It had nothing to do with brushing teeth, so it should not have started there. I guess you could say that every personal narrative starts at the moment of the author’s birth, but to make a great story the author needs to focus the story on the smallest moment possible: a morning, an hour, an instant. The internal thinking that leads up to standing next to the height measurement, memories of past failures, sets the mood. When the author finally gets the go-ahead to board the ride, the reader feels the same exhiliration.
If you always start with getting up and brushing your teeth, the reader is as bored as you are by the details of daily life. Focus on the heart of the story and the immediate emotions and events just before and after it. Then you will have a great small moment story.
On my Kindle: Nefertiti by Michelle Moran
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