Teen Short Story Writing Circle 2014-04-21

Three Steps of Critique

We started class today by going over our objectives when critiquing another writer’s work. I have no doubt this group will develop into a great circle of literary critics — they just need a little practice!

Each week we will have three to four writers share their work at the beginning of class. If you don’t share one week, you will automatically share the following week. You can read the story you wrote that week, or choose another that you haven’t had a chance to share yet. We’ll also take turns sharing our in-class writing, as well.

Remember, in critiquing another’s work, we:

  1. First, tell the author what we think the story is about and what we think the piece is trying to do or accomplish (this is more abstract, but there should always be something).
  2. Second, say what you think is working well. This can help the author write more of what works in the future.
  3. Third, give constructive criticism that addresses a specific improvement. This is definitely the most challenging aspect of critique because no one wants to hurt anyone’s feelings! I did most of the critiquing today with the hope that as we become more comfortable with one another we’ll feel confident jumping in and adding to the discussion.

Plot Structure and Narrative Viewpoint

Next we reviewed plot structure and narrative conflict. Many students are probably familiar with these concepts but I provided them with a handout which they can use in crafting their future short stories. We took our invented characters from last week and gave them a major challenge to overcome. After writing for only a few minutes, the students came up with some great challenges for their characters. I appreciate how each student uses our in-class writing time — some write easily and without hesitation, others take a few moments to gather their thoughts. Both approaches have merit and I encourage each individual to continue to utilize the one that works best for him or her. Our in-class writing time is meant to provide an extra challenge — thinking creatively “on our feet” so to speak!

Then we moved on to talk about narrative viewpoint and discussed the advantages and disadvantages of writing in the first person vs. the third person narrative. We wrapped up class by starting another short story prompt. This time the task was to present the same story from two different viewpoints. Students can continue this story at home, or the earlier prompt involving their invented characters. Additionally, I gave everyone four more prompts — two that focus on plot structure and two that focus on narrative viewpoint.

Homework Students should choose from any of the prompts just described, start a new short story of their own, OR continue any story they have started at home or in class. Everyone should have plenty of ideas by now!

As mentioned before, I will be working with students individually on polishing three of their stories before we wrap up our class on May 19. In preparation, please follow the formatting requirements from the 4/14/14 class notes as you write your stories — it will save you time in the end!