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The Seven Sentence Story

This is the first week for fiction writing in my Creative Writing class at the high school, and once I got past my introductory material, I talked to them about plot.  It's not enough, though, to lecture on the subject.  I have to come up with exercises to demonstrate, reinforce or practice the idea, so I came up with this this morning.  I don't believe it's original to me, but I don't know if I've ever seen it before either.  I think the kids will have a lot of fun with it however.  We'll read our mini-stories to each other when we are done.

I thought about this exercise last night and wrote it this morning in the last 30 minutes, so it may (must) need fine tuning.  I'm particularly disappointed with my example seven-sentence story.  It's neither charming, clever or funny.  I'll know more about the effectiveness of this lesson plan after the kids do it.

An Exercise in Plotting: The Seven Sentence Story

 We talked about plot having several components: an inciting moment, rising action, a climax and a denouement.  One way to see how a plot can work is to build a plot skeleton, a very short story, stripped of everything except the plot.

 To write this kind of story, you are limited to only seven sentences.  Each sentence has a specific role.

 #1:        Introduce what the main character wants and the first action he/she takes to accomplish the goal.

 #2:        The results of the action the character takes from sentence #1 has to make the situation worse.  The character should be farther from the goal now.

 #3:        Based on the new situation, the character takes a second action to accomplish the goal.

 #4:        The results of the second action the character takes from sentence #3 is to make the situation worse.  The character should be even farther from the goal now.

 #5:        Based on the new situation, the character takes a third and final action to accomplish the goal.

 #6:        This third action either accomplishes the character’s goal, fails to accomplish the goal, or there is an unusual but oddly satisfying different result of the last action.

 #7:        The denouement.  This sentence wraps the story up.  It could tell the reader how the character felt about the results, or provide a moral, or tell how the character’s life continued on.

 Example Story:  Tiffany’s Homecoming Disaster

1)     More than anything in the world, Tiffany wanted Brad to take her to homecoming, so she asked her best friend, Cindy, to find out if he liked her.  2) Cindy was charming, clever and funny when she talked to Brad, and before she could bring up the subject of Tiffany Brad asked her if she would like to go to homecoming with him.  3) Sad to learn her best friend had betrayed her, Tiffany decided to convince Brad he’d made a mistake, so she approached Brad’s friend, Larry, with a plan to make Brad jealous.  4) Unfortunately, Larry got into the playacting too well, and actually fell in love with Tiffany.  5) In frustration, Tiffany met Larry at Starbucks to have a heart to heart talk about why he couldn’t possibly be in love with her and why Brad and Cindy were a bad match.  6) But during the conversation, Larry was so charming, clever and funny that Tiffany realized she liked him too, so she asked him to go to the dance with her.  7) The two couples decided to double date, and it was the best homecoming ever.

 If you would like to enter the 7-Sentence Story Contest, See the rules here.

Comments

jimvanpelt
Oct. 12th, 2007 05:35 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the thought. I denouement sometimes and don't others (if you don't mind me verbing the word). For the kids, talking about a denouement is another way to help them understand climax and epiphany.

I'm also really stressing today that this exercise is just a pattern for practice. I don't expect that they'll write their stories this way, and I don't think anyone I know does. How artificial would it be to start with the thought in mind, "I think I'll write a story today where my character will try and fail twice, and then try and succeed on the third effort"?
redwill
Oct. 12th, 2007 07:42 pm (UTC)
:) I do mind, actually; if I ever find the smirking bastard who first used 'impact' as a verb, wallowing in mirth in his stinking, offal-filled burrow under the newsroom where he works, I will kill him where he lies.
swan_tower
Oct. 12th, 2007 10:10 pm (UTC)
And then drop his body atop that of whoever first created the atrocity of "impactful"?

I'm actually not too fascist about verbing nouns and the like, but Gott in Himmel, "impactful" makes me want to stab myself in the ears.
redwill
Oct. 13th, 2007 01:51 am (UTC)
I think something of greater weight and penetrating ability would be desirable.