Sometimes in teaching you have these moments that are pure bliss. They come out of the blue and make me feel like a winning contestant on a game show. Teachers aren’t supposed to stop everything and start jumping up and down and waving their arms, so I make do with popping eyeballs and an enormous grin. I had one of these moments in my online creative writing club this week, thanks to an 8 year old author.
My online creative writing club authors had so much fun with anthropomorphism last week that they asked for a deeper dive this week. I put up some slides of a sloth, two baboons, and a snow owl, and I asked them to give the animals names, personalities and thought bubbles.
Next, they got to pick any animal or object they wanted and build their own stories. I put a basic plot map on the screen and suggested that they spend extra time thinking about what kinds of problems they wanted to give their anthropomorphized characters.
That’s when an 8 year old author made the observation that’s been confounding me for my entire life.
He looked up and said, “If you want to write a good story, you have to be cruel to your hero.” To make it even better, he said it in his British accent. That’s an astonishing level of emotional awareness for an 8 year old. It’s also a really important concept for anyone who wants to write a story that won’t put their readers to sleep.
Coincidentally, I’ve been thinking a lot about this topic, and really struggling. A few days ago, I was hiking and thinking about my heroine. I knew what had to happen in the scene that I was working on, but the mom in me just wanted to fix everything for her.
When my little 8 year old author found a way to articulate the inner battle I’d been having, it was a eureka moment. I wanted to jump up and down and shout “that’s it, that’s it! Sometimes you have to be cruel to your own characters.
There are many creative writing classes and clubs on Outschool. Use this link to get to my creative writing club, and have fun browsing from there.
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