The purpose of this blog for teachers and my mission as a kids’ book author who does frequent visits to schools is to MAKE WRITING VISIBLE. So much of writing is invisible, inside our brains. That’s where we get our ideas. That’s where we figure out what will happen in our stories. That’s where our creativity lives. That’s where our characters come to life. But are there ways to make all those invisible happenings more visible? YES! I believe we can and we must. By making writing more visible, we take the mystery out of the process. We offer young authors help and hope for becoming better authors. So please join me in MAKING WRITING VISIBLE!

Three Story Questions

Discuss the following questions with your students. Better yet, watch the video above together as a class and then talk about what you learned from it.

1. What three PARTS does every story have?
A beginning, a middle, and an end.

2. Which of those story parts would be the HEAVIEST if you could somehow lift them?
The middle would be the heaviest because that's where most things happen in the story. The character may try over and over again to get what he or she wants. The middle of a story often has a pattern that repeats. You can count pages to see that the middle of picture books as well as the middle of chapter books have many more pages than the beginning and the end have. When students write, remind them to make certain that their stories need to be heaviest in the middle.

3. What DIRECTION should the middle of a story go--downhill, be level, or go uphill?
A story should NEVER go downhill in the middle--that means you used your best ideas early and then your story will seem less interesting as it goes along. A story should never get less interesting as it goes along.

Some stories are level in the middle--which means that what happens in the middle is all equally exciting or dramatic and the events could even be switched around and it wouldn't matter. The middle of WILD CHILD is level. Autumn's bedtime excuses of wanting a song, then a snack, and then her PJs seem equal. No one excuse is a bigger deal than the other excuses.

Some stories go uphill in the middle--which means things get more exciting or dramatic as the story goes along. The middle of PIGS IN THE MUD IN THE MIDDLE OF THE RUD goes uphill. More and more animals get in the road as the story goes along; and as a result, things get more chaotic over time. Plus, in PIGS IN THE MUD the last animals to get in the road are the bulls, which are the biggest, most dramatic animals.

Use the STORY DIRECTION HANDOUT below to have students find books that are level in the middle as well as ones that go uphill in the middle. Then have students look for the story direction in the middle of their OWN stories. Challenge them to write middles to their stories that are level or go uphill.


Stories referenced in this blog:
Wild Child by Lynn Plourde & Greg Couch
Grandpappy Snippy Snappies by Lynn Plourde & Christopher Santoro
Pigs in the Mud in the Middle of the Rud by Lynn Plourde & John Schoenherr
The Napping House by Audrey & Don Wood

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STRONG nouns, STRONG verbs

Descriptive writing is good, but too often authors depend on adjectives and adverbs to do the describing. Writing is stronger when writers use STRONG nouns and STRONG verbs.

For example, instead of saying, " The large, shaggy dog was breathing noisily with its mouth open," say, "The sheepdog panted." A much stronger word picture! Or instead of writing, "The very small dog was making an irritating noise," write, "The toy poodle yipped." Once again, a stronger word picture (for more on writing word pictures, check out the "Word Pictures Blog").

See the video above for more examples of strong nouns and strong verbs. Share the video with your students for a mini-writing lesson (they'll enjoy and hopefully remember the noun and verb "muscles" in this video as a reminder when they write). Then have your students do the Strong Nouns, Strong Verbs handout below to practice writing their own strong nouns and verbs.

As always, be aware as readers. Have students point out strong nouns and strong verbs they find when they read books. Then encourage them to review a piece of their own writing from their writing folders. Have them use a highlighter to mark strong nouns and strong verbs they used in their pieces. Next, ask them to revise and add stronger nouns and verbs to places in their writing pieces that could benefit from them.

By all means, share some of your young authors' strong nouns and strong verbs in the comments section below. Thanks and have fun making writing VISIBLE!



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