Book talks for readers at Chisago Lakes Middle School.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Seize the Story by Victoria Hanley

I would like to play "Name That Story" with you. I'll describe a basic story plot and then you try to guess the name of the story, if you can. The story might be familiar to you in the form of a movie, novel, or fairy tale. Let's start:

#1 The hero needs to make a journey. Companions are chosen to go with. Many dangers await the hero and his/her companions on the way. They are tested beyond their limits and face ordeals that seem impossible. In the end our hero triumphs.

#2 The hero is thrown into an unknown world. The hero explores an unfamiliar world and never completely feels comfortable in it. A sinister force rises up in the way of the character's path and complicates things. The sinister force almost takes over, but the hero narrowly escapes. There's no place like home, and at the end the hero returns back to his/her familiar surroundings.

#3 The hero comes under the spell or influence of a dark or supernatural power. The threat of this power appears to be held in check, but then the dark power becomes more oppressive and puts the hero through a living nightmare. The hero eventually sees the light and becomes transformed.

I didn't list all of the plot structures most successful movies and novels follow, but a number of stories familiar to you will fit into one of these basic plots I described in "Name That Story."

Stories follow accepted patterns. Think about the Harry Potter series. Some key plot elements found in Harry Potter also exist in other stories, such elements as: a mistreated orphan, a rags-to-riches experience for the hero, a gift or mark that sets the hero apart from others, the theme of an ugly duckling that discovers he is a swan. I bet you have read other books that have some of these same features.

Looking at the basic plot structures that most all stories follow is just one of the many illuminating sections on writing fiction in the book, Seize the Story, by Victoria Hanley.

Her book is for teens who want to write fiction and maybe even want to become an author someday. This is one of the best books I've seen on the subject. I know there are a few of you who like creative writing, if so, this book is for you.

Remember, Christopher Paolini, the author of Eragon, Eldest, and Brsinger, was just a teenager when he finished writing Eragon, his first book in the Inheritance Trilogy which came to the attention of another famous writer you may know named Carl Hiassen.

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