The Land of Oz

Doing CI is of course always required. We have to learn how to circle and all that. But that is just the mechanical part of TPRS. The art lies in the personalization (P). In personalization lies the answer to the mystery of TPRS. I just sense that.

It is like in the Wizard of Oz when the film goes from black and white to color. This is what personalization does for a story. And this is a good question. What kind of mystery do we need to unlock about personalization in order to be able to move our stories into living color?

What, after all, is meant by personalization and PQA? I tried to describe above how talking about Jenny’s grey and lazy cat was indeed PQA centered around that student, but that is was boring. At least it was some kind of ultra low level of PQA.

Then I suggested to you that adding in bizarre details, furnished by the class via the magic of circling, would make the PQA more personalized. So circling got us a mean and ugly cat, and with it, a heightened sense of interest. So that would be a kind higher level of PQA. But still not living color.

A lot of experienced TPRS teachers function at that level of the slightly bizarre to the very bizarre in their stories. The class takes the PQA around Jenny’s cat and makes their own cat.  They “extend” the PQA.

But the area that interests me, and I think one that interests a lot of people, is how to get more personalization beyond the extended PQA into a story. This is the question du jour, at least for me, at the time of the writing of this book. It is the question I most love to talk about with my colleagues. It is why I often (not always, because I love to work from story scripts as well) go to the Realm, where personalization is so heightened.

So I ask myself, what is it about the Realm that makes the kids so riveted to the CI? What is the nature of personalization in the Realm, and how can that be applied to regular stories? I would like to make that link.

Molière had this word “vraisemblance”, or “believability”. His genius was to focus on only one human flaw, like avarice, and exaggerate it in his character, but not so much that it became unbelievable. He twisted a character into a level beyond normalcy, but not too far into the bizarre. Harpagon was really quite normal. Molière wanted to instruct his audience in this way (“elle corrige les moeurs en riant…”).

Applied to our stories, that would mean that we might be able to create real interest in our stories by creating this same kind of blend in our own actors. I am not talking about plot, here, which can become completely whacky and usually is totally unbelievable. The plot may become crazy, but the character, in this line of inquiry, might need to contain some element that links it to the real students in the room.

Look at other literature that interests kids. If Harry Potter were some kind of phantasmagorical figure it wouldn’t be that interesting to kids.  He is a normal kid, but he has magic powers. Look at anything that really captivates kids these days. The characters in the Tolkien trilogy are, like Harry Potter, just beyond real, but not just beyond believable.

What if we took a quality of a real kid, just one thing, and magnified it in our stories? It might work. Do we really want to try to take a story, with all the totally crazy plot events going on that define TPRS, and build it around Jen and her cat? No, but we might want to build it around Jen’s habit of making both her cats wear wigs, and work that into a story like Amy Catania’s The Hairdresser.

That is why I ask, in my new questionnaires, that my kids answer the questions about themselves with partially make believe answers.  I am still testing it, so I’m not sure how it will work.

Actually, I have two questionnaires, one for regular stories and one for the Realm.  The kids are to answer the questions with a small degree of real world accuracy and a lot of make believe. You should see the answers!

The boy who works at the bakery has created a hilarious thing around bread. His goal in life is to win the tri-annual village bake-off against Fisho, the rival baker across town. He wants also to bake the biggest loaf of bread ever baked, a kind of super baguette, one, as he says, is bigger than Dallas.

I have actually laminated those questionnaires because they get all crinkled if I don’t. If a kid is involved in a story, I grab their questionnaire and try to work it in, but that is hard because of all the other stuff going on. 

Perhaps, once you get the PQA down, maybe you will want to explore this area of how to effectively personalize a story. It is one area where I feel I need support from colleagues, and why I am interested in TPRS Learning Teams that meet together often.

Thus, I strongly recommend joining a TPRS Learning Team, or starting one if there is not one in your area, rolling up your sleeves, and getting to work!

The results of the hard, emotional work are worth it. There will be a moment, and I would love to be there when it happens, when your story, because of personalization, goes from black and white to living color, and you will be in the land of Oz.  Bon Courage!

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