Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Can a Setting Be a Character?

The following post was written by Cynthia Chapman Willis, a wonderful middle-grade author. Please visit Cynthia's website and consider adding her titles to your library

Have you ever read or heard that a writer should consider setting to be a character in a story? Have you ever read a story in which the setting came alive? Or, the details, moods, and symbolism of a story brought it to life? I have. And I must say, the right setting details can make an almost magical difference to a story. 

Think about a story with a vivid setting. I bet it evoked emotions in you as reader. I bet it added to the characterizations in the story. And, I bet that setting changed and developed ever so subtly. Maybe it even included specifics that set the mood and the tone of the scenes. Perhaps the setting even took on a life of its own. Didn’t this use of setting enhance the story? I am guessing that it did. 

All of this started churning around in my head as I started reading a novel in which the setting is, so far, a character. The night air breathes, the floors moan and whisper under the weight of someone’s steps, the moon hides behind clouds and peeks out every so often. Goosebumps, anyone? At this point, the setting is a creepy sort of character setting me up for something scary. And I can’t wait to read more.

Enough about what I think. What do YOU think about setting?

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Be a Pencil and Keep Your Writing SHARP!

With all the focus on the Common Core these days, students don't get to do much creative writing. As a writer, this makes me sad. Too many students think they're awful at writing just because essays are not their thing. If you're one of those students beating herself up because step-by-step writing is not your strength, perk up! Here is an activity to get your imagination going! And....focusing on details may even help you with the essays, too! 

This is a fun writing activity one of my teachers did when I was in school. She had us imagine we were an object and fill in the chart below. Then, we'd use the details to write about our typical day. At the time, I chose pencil, so that's what I put in the chart. Check it out! 

Life of a Pencil: 

What I see: students writing, the SmartBoard, the floor 

What I feel: feet trampling over me in the hallway, sweaty fingers squeezing my skinny body, an awful headache as students erase their mistakes with my head, pain in my toes as students sharpen me

What I smell: the inside of gym lockers, pizza in the cafeteria, chewing gum 

What I touch: crisp, white paper, messy backpacks full of sticky things, kids' ears as they put me behind them 

What I taste: dust, pencil shavings from the sharpener, nervousness from all students taking a test 

My hopes and dreams: To one day be a pencil on display in a museum where people can come and admire me 

My biggest fear: Being forgotten

Now you try it! What object would you like to be? 


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Rock Your Story with Story Rocks

Do you have rocks in your head? I do!
Rocks are in my thoughts a lot now since my new picture book, THESE ROCKS COUNT!,  rolled into libraries and bookstores just in time to celebrate spring.

When doing research to write my new book, I spoke to many wonderful scientists called geologists who love to study rocks. They helped me learn how much rocks count in our world. I couldn't type this sentence without rocks, which are used to make parts for computers like the one I'm using right now. Rocks are used to make many items we use every day, such as telephones, televisions, and even toothpaste!

Rocks can be used to inspire fun story ideas, too. STORY ROCKS are fun to make and you can trade with friends and classmates to create a unique and exciting story.
1. Go outside and find about ten small rocks to paint.
2. Wash dirt off rocks and let them dry.
3. Paint an image on your rocks. A person, place, or thing, such as the examples in the "Story Rock" photo.
4. What story can you tell with your rocks? The images on your rocks should help shake up your imagination. Expand and elaborate. Your story rocks can be used to create a mountain of a story. You can even trade rocks with your friends to help more story ideas rock and roll.
5. Write your story.

Have fun! All story ideas ROCK!

Thursday, March 6, 2014