Keep The Story Simple (KTSS)

Q. My stories get very random. How do I reach into that flow of language and pick out what is important enough to keep circling and keep repeating? In the first ten to fifteen minutes of one class I presented these expressions:

were in a plane on the way back from Alaska
saw a coloring book
broke a window
jumped out of the plane
landed on a whale
shot her onto a boat
I couldn’t figure out what to circle, and what to leave alone as an established detail. I wrote everything new on the board, and asked a few questions (a plane or a helicopter?) but basically ended up wondering if anyone actually acquired anything from it. They understood it but did they acquire anything?

A. The kids probably got a lot less of that than you may think. Kids are really good at giving the impression that they understand when they don’t really. If you were bouncing merrily around, as your question implies, you were going too wide (out of bounds) and probably too fast as well.  So KTSS (Keep The Story Simple)! 

Good stories, ones in which the kids actually acquire the language, are not necessarily chock full of hilarity and action. In my stories I try to build interest not through action but through character development and emotion. I choose story scripts not for how funny they are but for how simple they are. When they are simple it is easier for me to focus on building emotional interest, which is very important to me.

If your story wasn’t slow and repeated and compact, and it doesn’t sound as if it was if you introduced all those expression in just ten or fifteen minutes, then the kids probably enjoyed the weirdness but did not really acquire as much as you think. I suggest that you try to simplify and stay on one thing and use that one thing to build one clear emotion.

I remember there was like a whole year when every story I got into was slam all over the place. But I learned to tighten things up and make simpler stories and focus more on what the characters were feeling and now it is better.



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