Archive for July, 2015

The school year is just about to begin for my students. Like seems to be the case far too often, there are new requirements for what to teach and how this year. The new requirements call for more reading and a whole lot more writing in all subjects. As a writer you would think that I am happy with this. Well, as a social studies teacher, I certainly am. I think that students can benefit greatly from learning how to write informatively. As a writer, I’m not quite as thrilled.

The thing that I’m concerned about, as a writer, is that we aren’t quite teaching the love. I’m going to borrow some lines from Joss Whedon here to make my point. You can know all of the grammar and tools for proving a thesis in the ‘verse, but if you don’t have love then writing may shake you right off as surely as the worlds turn. I worry that as the students get older, we are requiring less and less creativity from them. Non-fiction writing is a crucial skill in today’s world, and I don’t think that it should be less emphasized. However, fictional, creative writing seems to be falling away. I fear that we may be taking the love from the writing, and if that’s the case, then writing may become a matter of nothing more than work for future students. Writing will shake us right off from a lack of love.

I am not recommending any kind of change in standards or anything like that, nor is this any kind of complaint against current standards. This is a plea to the teachers, parents, and writers out there. Even if it isn’t in the standards or expectations, we need to make certain and instill some of that love for writing into our children. Many students love to read, but I wonder if any of them realize that it is up to them in the future to provide the stories that the next generation will read. If we don’t try to instill some of that love into the students, then the next generation may not have the gripping stories to mesmerize them that previous generations have enjoyed. I teach some creative writing as an enrichment course. Do I think that everyone in there leaves with a love of writing? Absolutely not! But if I can get three or four students a year to gain an appreciation for writing and maybe help foster a talent they have for it, then I feel that I have accomplished what I set out to do.

We certainly need to teach our students how to write and explain things with informative texts. It is a skill that they need to learn. But to my fellow teachers, parents, and writers out there, try to find the opportunity to instill a love for writing whenever you can. That is something that many of the children want to learn. That’s important for their futures, too.


This week I look at time periods. Are they important? Is there anything that you should know if you are trying to set things into a different time period? Future, past, or present? When do you like to set your writing?

Well, a day ago I posted a vlog talking about the usefulness of short stories in helping you get through writer’s block. Naturally, plenty of people want to know how they are supposed to write a short story to help get them past their writer’s block if they can’t think of a basis for a short story. Here are a few prompts for short stories that you can use:

Write a story about the first time a character has to mow the yard.

Write a fictional family history about people moving into a house that is empty in your neighborhood.

Write a story based on your favorite song.

Write a story about one day told from the perspective of your pet.

Write a story about a leaf being carried along in a stream.

Write a story about writer’s block (I thought up a book idea that way once.)

Write a story about your first crush.

Write a story about the perceptions of Earth by a person from another planet/universe/dimension.

Write a story about five people in a plane that is flying overhead.

Write a story about teaching someone to play cards/poker.

There’s ten quick story ideas to help get you started, and those were just off of the top of my head. What about you? Any good story ideas?

In this week’s vlog I talk about short stories, why they can be useful, and where to get ideas from. I mention a few ideas and would love to hear some of your own writing prompts. I plan on posting more prompts later this week.

I’m sure that many of you have thought about why it is that you like to write in whatever form that you write in. Of course, you have to ask yourself if it is a good reason. Obviously no one else can judge that but you, but can you say that your reason helps your writing? Does it add a passion, a heart to what you are doing? Sure, most of us had our first experience with writing as a result of a school assignment, and doing the writing as an assignment isn’t always going to produce your best work, but when you write voluntarily, what is motivating you? That is the question that I ask on this weeks vlog. Take a look!

Just the other day I was watching a movie with my wife. I thought that the movie had potential, but I kept getting really confused during a good portion of it. Terminology, technology, concepts, and relationships that I didn’t understand or had never heard of kept popping up. I was getting lost in trying to figure out some of the minutiae instead of enjoying the storyline of the film. This is a problem that I have begun to see in movies as well as in books. The writers don’t seem to want to give any background early in the story. So when should you and how much should you give?

There are some times when giving the back-story is part of the story itself. You don’t always want to tell everything up front. Instead, you want to have it divided out because it helps to drive the story. That can work out wonderfully. The youth novel Holes wouldn’t have been nearly as good if the entire background of the main characters was given in the beginning. It became a driving force in the storyline. If that is how you plan to have your story flow, go right ahead. However, make certain that you are dealing with characters, situations, and terminology that is familiar to the average person. You do not need your reader to get bogged down in trying to figure out what on earth you are talking about because you are using unique terminology. I will admit to having closed books and turned off movies because I wasn’t able to figure out what they were talking about. If telling the background isn’t a driving force in your story, then I would suggest getting that background out there as soon as possible. Your reader wants to know whose lives they are following or what situation they are watching unfold. Even Star Wars gave enough background to understand that there was a civil war taking place and that the Rebels were desperately trying to find some advantage to use against the much larger and stronger Empire. If you can’t learn from Star Wars, who can you learn from?

The next thing that I find useful to point out as part of the background is enough information to educate your reader. A very dangerous trap that I have seen many writers fall into is that they assume that the person reading their book has a similar education to themselves. I’m not talking about college degrees here. I am referring to practical experience that impacts the terminology that you use or the processes that you might choose to not explain because you are so accustomed to them yourself. The safest bet is to never assume that your reader is familiar with what you are talking about. Just because a reader has chosen a military adventure doesn’t mean that they know the difference between a carbine and a lmg. Just because someone chooses to read a legal thriller doesn’t mean that they know what an indictment is (a large number of people don’t). Some writers are concerned that they might make their audience think that they are stupid if they explain everything. If that is your concern, then have an ignorant character. Very often the people involved in different situations have no experience with whatever is going on. Let the character ask the questions that the audience might have. The audience doesn’t get lost and you have a new, useful character for your story.

Be imaginative. Create your own stories. Create your own people. Create your own universe. Just remember that your readers, your audience cannot see into your imagination. You have to use your talent for story telling to draw them into your imagination. It’s what some of the greatest stories do.