Bend 1

7th Grade Writer’s Workshop
Writing Realistic Fiction
Bend One
Creating and Developing
Meaningful Stories and
Teaching Target
You will begin to collect ideas for
stories by paying attention to the small
moments around your own life.
Session 1 – Imagining Stories from
Everyday Moments
Where do you think authors get their ideas for books?
John Green – Gets his ideas from people – types of people, people with a problem,
people at a certain point in their lives
JK Rowling – Was stuck on a train – when the idea for Harry Potter came to her –
so locations can inspire a story
Tim Green – Interests and personal experiences – many of his books are set
around a sporting event – he used to play football for the Atlanta Falcons so he
draws on his experiences
Finding Small Moments Strategies
Think of…
 A time when you had very strong
 Of a person important to you
 Of the first time you did
 Of the last time you did
 Of a time you learned a lesson
from something you did or
 Of places you have been or like
to go
Example: Places I have been and
Strong emotions
 I was taking my first trip out
of the country to visit my
daughter in New Zealand.
My parents dropped me off
at the airport in Chicago. I
was so excited to use my
passport…when checking in
I put it in the wrong slot and
got it stuck…
As I remember that time I think of ways to use that story to write others…
More Ideas
 As I was working on that story, many ideas popped
into my head for fiction stories that I could write.
 Maybe I could write a whole fiction story a woman that
travels and keeps doing things backwards.
 Maybe I can write a story about a passport and all the
places it has been.
Small Moments Strategy Handout
 Think of a small moment that has happened in this
classroom so far this year.
 Use the small moments strategies chart if you need it
 Now turn to a partner at your table and share your
 Make sure to tell it with dialogue, action and thinking.
 If, as you’re telling your partner a story, you get an idea
for a possible fiction story that could be built off of it, go
ahead and share that new idea too.
 Great fiction ideas reside in small moments from our
REAL life experiences and emotions.
Writer’s Notebook
 Spend the next few minutes, jotting down small
moments from your lives, using the handout
Are you stuck?
 Think about the ‘setting’ of events. Almost any location
will work to help you produce a fiction story.
Principal’s office
grandmother’s kitchen
fast-food restaurant
On your handout add these 2 strategies:
 Think about a place that matters and jot
about the small moments that occur there,
choose one, and write a story.
 Then, spend a few more minutes jotting small
moment stories in your writers notebooks.
Assessing our writing
 Let’s look at the Grade 6
Narrative Writing checklist
 Printable Copy
 Assess this small moments
story with me
 Printable Copy
 This often takes me more
than one look at the story to
check all the areas!
Example Story:
 “Hi! Good morning everyone,” I heard the
teachers say as we hustled through the
front doors of the school before the bell
rang. I pulled my backpack up on my
shoulder and turned left. Then, all of a
sudden I felt it. The ground was wet,
from all the snow that had melted off of
everyone’s warm winter boots. It was
enough to send me sliding down the floor
at lightning speed. Before I knew it I had
fallen, onto my butt, in a puddle of dirty
water. “Did you see that?” I heard
someone whisper. “Are you ok?”
someone else stammered. My mouth
dried up as I quickly stood and ran to my
Now you try
Using one of the small moment stories you have
• Read the story and assess your own writing with
the check list
• Star two or three things you think you are doing
 Carl Hiassen admits that he reads newspapers to get
inspiration for his fiction stories. He looks for
interesting and quirky stories that really happened
and imagines how he might change them.
 On a separate sheet of paper, jot down as many ideas
as you can for fiction stories. Look at a blog or
newspaper for inspiration if you have time. You will
be showing me this in class tomorrow, so make sure
you do it!
Session 2-Imagining Stories You Wish
Existed in the World
 Teaching Point: Today I want to teach you that writers
collect ideas for stories by both discovering tiny
details that could blossom into whole stories and by
thinking about stories that they believe should exist.
 Think “How can I write a story for people like me so I
can see myself in books?
 We like finding ourselves in the books we are reading. It
makes it more exciting to us.
 Examples: books on divorce when our parents are splitting
up, books on being selected last for a sports team, etc…
Demonstration-Past Student
 First, A new student thought about the books they wanted to
read. Wished there was more books about people like her who
were new to school and the area. Maybe about a girl that wants
to be more popular than she is.
 Her story plan: A girl who is new to the area lives with both her
parents but she thinks her father works too much. She wishes
her father were around more because when he’s around she
feels less lonely. But his job keeps him far away and the little girl
tries to put on a brave face so her parents don’t worry about
 Can you see how when she wrote she jotted a few sentences like
how she might actually write the story? She didn’t just tell what
her story idea was.
 Here’s an idea you should hold onto: when you are collecting
ideas for stories in your writer’s notebook, you get ideas not only
from rereading old entries, but from thinking about books you
wish existed in the world!
Your Turn…
 So let’s try it with this example, “I wish there were
books about kids who aren’t that good at sports.”
 Remember that to make that wish into a story idea,
you need to invent some details.
 You can do so by asking questions of your story idea.
Why isn’t the kid in the story good at sports?
 Which sports?
 What has happened lately that shows these
Turn and Talk Tell your partner how you could turn this into a story
idea. Remember to think about the character, his or
her traits, and their struggle. Think about the
characters wants and what he or she does.
 Who would like to share their detailed story idea with
the class?
Another method to creating
 Think about an issue that is important to you, and create a
character who struggles with that issue.
 Examples:
Maybe honesty is important to you, so you write the topic at
the top of the page and then you brainstorm all the
stories that could stem from honesty.
You could write about a character who lies and gets caught
or about a parent who insists on honesty, except one
time the kid caught their parents lying.
 Using the ideas list you have generated or one of the
ideas from today…begin a small moment story.
 Write the first paragraph that introduces the story
and characters
 If you like it keep going, if you don’t try another idea!
Continue collecting story ideas!
 You can use any of the strategies we’ve learned or
others that you invent. Add the following to your
 Add these to your strategy handout!
1. Read about current events and be inspired by true
events that could be fictionalized.
2. Ask, “What stories do I wish existed in the world?”
Let this question lead you to invent a character with
traits, struggles and actions.
Time to Share!
Symphony Sharing
Rules for Symphony Sharing:
1. No commenting. Just listen to the story ideas!
 I want to give you a chance to share your ideas, quickly,
before writing time is over. When I point to you, give a
short synopsis of just one of your story ideas. Tell us:
The name of your character
What his or her struggle or longing is
The circumstances he or she is in that swings the story into
Complete the handout for one of the following:
 From your list - Choose a meaningful story idea!
 Think about which story idea you like best.
 Which of these stories feels the most meaningful to you?
 Or you might consider, which one does the world need
you to write?
 Don’t write the story itself for homework! Just
complete the handout provided!
Session 3- Developing Believable
Characters through Scene Boot Camp
 Get out your homework from yesterday!
 Teaching Point: Today I want to teach you that, just as
people take a car for a test-drive before buying it,
writers take their characters from a possible story out
for a test scene. They place their characters in
everyday scenes, outside of the storylines, and then
see how their characters think, move and act.
Writing Advice
 A few years ago, I was on a story for a college writing class, a fiction
story, and I was just at the beginning. I wasn’t exactly sure how my
story would go or what my character was really like. But then my
writing teacher made a suggestion. She said I should take out my
notebook, set aside the story I was thinking about, and just place
my main character in an everyday scene. You know, like washing
dishes, or getting up in the morning, or having dinner. Something
the character does almost every day, as a way to get to know who
the character really is, what the character thought about, wanted.
So I tried it. I actually tried just getting my character ready for bed.
But, as I wrote the scene, something really interesting started to
happen-not only did I get to know the character better, but it
almost felt like the character was coming to life, almost as if she
was writing the story.
What is a scene composed of???
 Are small moments or mini-stories
 Include a clear setting that is woven throughout the
 Have characters who are thinking, talking, acting, or
perhaps doing all those things
 Contain a character motivation and obstacle of some
Watch Video Clip to identify parts of good scene!
Boot Camp Procedure
 We will be writing a scene boot camp.
 I’m going to lead you through a writing exercise where you
write as fast and furiously, getting as much writing down
as possible, while you also practice your scene writing
 I’ll give you a little tip, then I will model it with my own
writing. Then you’ll give it a go.
 We will repeat the procedure a few times.
 Just remember that not everything I teach you will be
something you will be able to do or will work for your scene
right now. That’s ok! Just keep working on the last thing
you were working on and then catch up with me on the next
 First, I need to think about the character and story idea I chose: the girl who
knows it’s silly to feel this way, but she wants to be popular-mainly because
she has a birthday party coming up and wants people to come to it.
 Now, I have to think a bit about who she is as a person and jot a few notes.
Parents are old fashioned
Esmerelda-beautiful name but not usually associated with popular people
Wants friends and is friendly
Tries too hard and comes off weird
Now you try it!
Next Step
 Now that you’ve created a quick background for your
character, let’s try them on for size in an everyday scene.
 I’m going to start with Esmeralda having lunch at school.
 Esmeralda walked into the lunch room, holding her lunch
bag in her hands. Even though everyone else in the school,
it felt like, bought school lunch, Esmeralda was a picky
 Now you try it!
 As I was writing, I learned something about
Esmeralda-that she is a picky eater. She is different
even when it comes to lunch.
 I also learned something about my writing! I wrote in
third person, but I’m wondering if it might flow better
if I wrote in first person?
 Realistic fiction allows for either.
First Person
 I stood in the doorway of the lunchroom, half hiding
behind the vending machines, clutching my lunch
bag. There were a few kids who also brought their
lunch from home, but almost everybody else bought
from the cafeteria. I waited for Tilly to come through
the kitchen doors. Then waved to her as she headed
to our table, the one closest to the janitor’s closet.
 Thoughts? Which version was better?
First Person is Better…for now!
 Did you see how I developed the setting a bit more
and started to work in a little bit of information about
Esmeralda as I wrote? I tried to show what she was
feeling-that she was nervous-by having her hide
behind the vending machines until she saw her friend
head for the table.
 Try your own scene writing! Be aware of the setting
and the character’s feelings!
Show not Tell!
 Make sure your characters are doing things! Small (like
folding a piece of paper) or big (like getting into an
 Your characters might be talking or thinking.
 Make sure you show and not tell.
 Try again!
 Remember to include what the character is feeling. But don’t
tell us. Think of small actions that can show us!
 Add dialogue
 Describe what the character wants in this scene and what
obstacles are getting in their way.
Other things to think about…as you
continue to write
 Show the setting. Where is the character right now?
What little detail of the setting can you mention?
 Describe what the character is thinking.
 Make sure someone says something in the scene you
are developing.
 Show your character’s actions.
 Have your character make a decision.
***After they’ve written for awhile…
How to Write Compelling Fiction
 Brainstorm a great story idea (small moments, places, events, issues,
struggles, stories you wish existed in the world).
 Make your characters come alive.
Generate traits
Reveal wants and challenges
Consider character’s attitude toward self
Explore character’s relationships with others.
Describe character’s movements, facial expressions, tics, style, quirks, etc…
Make sure your character does things, big and small.
Show feelings
Include dialogue
Develop the setting
Try different points of view (first and third person)
 Test-drive your character in scenes.
Options for working today…
 Work on your character
development today OR
 Finish finding the perfect story to
write about and then move onto
character development
 If you need help developing your
characters—See your teacher at the
writing table.
Character Development
Internal Characteristics of your Character
External Characteristics of your Character
 Finish developing your character if you haven’t
Session 4 - Time to Share!
 Today to begin you we will ask some of you to be
brave and share some of your work from yesterday.
 Share
 Your best sentence
 Your best paragraph
 One way you are showing something about your
character not tellin
Session 4-Giving Characters Struggles
and Motivations that Mirror Real Life
Character Development
Internal Characteristics of your Character
External Characteristics of your Character
 Creating a character traits “T” Chart
 Internal Characteristics:
Physical Abilities/Inabilities
Glasses/No glasses
Braces/No braces
Race/Ethnicity (this could be internal as
When you are done with the main characters make smaller
 External Characteristics:
You already have much
of this information –
chart what you see in
your story and ideas
charts for any minor characters you have introduced.
Today’s Teaching Point:
 Good characters in fiction have real life struggles that
they need to deal with. They also have things that
motivate them to overcome their struggles. This is
something we must put in our writing!
Identifying Characters Motivations
and Obstacles
Identifying Motivations and Obstacles in Movies
In your writer’s notebook jot the obstacle or motivation
for the main characters in each of these clips:
 Forest Gump
 Soul Surfer
 Pursuit of Happiness
Explore Your Character’s Motivations
and Obstacles
 What Esmeralda Wants (Motivations):
Lots of friends
No enemies
To be invited to lunch tables
To make sure no one feels left out and to be
friendly to everyone
 To have a boyfriend
 What gets in the way of Esmeralda (Obstacles):
Her shyness
Her lack of self-esteem
Her nerdy appearance
Her friends who are just like her
Former best friend befriends the school bully
and picks on her
Characters Struggles and Motivations
Obstacles/What Gets in the Way of those Wants
Your Turn!
In your writers notebook (date your
entry)…explain what your character
wants and what gets in their way.
With a partner…
 Discuss your main character and any important minor
Begin with a specific compliment.
Then move onto one specific suggestion or tip.
Question one another!
Make necessary changes to your character!
For the rest of class today…
 Finish developing your main character Use the T-Chart to
help you.
 Develop any minor characters that will be a part of your
story! Use a T-Chart to help you.
 Use the T-Chart from today to finish giving your main
character motivations and obstacles.
 Do your minor characters need motivations and obstacles?
If so, fill out the T-Chart for them!
 Today is the last in-class day to develop your characters!
 When you are finished you can read your SSR!
Session 5
Recap – Getting ready to Plot your story
 We generated ideas
 Looking at the everyday – small moments
 Thinking about a setting
 Stories we wish existed in the world
 We thought about the main character in our story
Background Info – Family, Name, Quirks
Internal and External Characteristics
Motivations and Wants
We put them into everyday situations and watched how
they would react
Session 5-Plotting with Tools
Your characters are alive – you know all about
them…so what story will you put them in?
Teaching Point: Drafting possible plots for your stories.
Fiction writers plan by plotting the arc of the storyand specifically, by aiming to intensify the problem.
They do this by using what they know about plotting
and then choosing a variety of tools to help them
Kurt Vonnegut-Anecdote
 Story arcs are commonly used when
planning a story.
 There are many options!
 We are going to take a look at one
author who laid out many different
story arcs:
1. Man in Hole He described it this way:
“You will see this story over and over
again. People love it and it is not
copyrighted. The story needn’t be
about a man and a hole. It’s this:
somebody gets into trouble, gets out
of it again. It isn’t accidental that the
line ends up higher than where it
began. This is encouraging to
Another one…
 What does this story describe?
 It’s a famous one!
 The arc begins low and a truly
despondent girl whose mother
died and whose dad remarried a
horrible woman with two
horrible daughters who treat the
girl like a servant. Things are as
bad as they could be for this girl.
Importance of Using Story Arcs
 They help you to figure out the rises and the falls of
your own plot because they remind you that it isn’t
one event after another, with no real change or climb.
 They also show you that something is going to
happen, and things are getting tough. Then
something changes that solves your character’s
problem. After that, things change and your character
is different, and there isn’t a feeling of anticipation
Typical Stories
 Earlier this year, we discussed how stories usually go-that
the main character has wants, and something gets in the
way of him or her getting them. So the character
encounters a problem (or multiple), which give movement
to the story. Often, the problem intensifies before getting
resolved, with the character experiencing several
challenges along the way. Or it gets resolved a different
way than the character imagined or hoped for.
 Each scene builds on the one before it!
Thirteen and a Half
 Read the story together
 Discuss: how the story went, how the events fit
together, and what its shape is.
Thirteen and a Half Story Arc
 When the author began writing this story, she
probably didn’t know exactly which choices she
would make, so she tried out different scenarios!
Esmeralda Story Arc
 When we plot our Esmeralda story…
 Character will struggle to achieve what she yearns for
 She will make choices
 Some choices may not work out (don’t know which ones yet)
 Something will happen though that makes a difference!
 She will find a way to resolve the struggle or she will change
her sense of what she wants
 As our story arc climbs and changes, Esmeralda will take
actions and things will happen as a result.
Partner work
 With a partner, create a possible plotline for the
shared class story on Esmeralda.
 Remember we left her – going into the cafeteria with
her bagged lunch even though everyone else bought
lunch. She was waiting for her fried Tilly.
 Use the story arc!
Esmeralda Story
Esmeralda walked into the lunch room, holding her lunch bag in her hands. Even though
everyone else in the school, it felt like, bough school lunch, Esmeralda was a picky eater.
I stood in the doorway of the lunchroom, half hiding behind the vending machines, clutching my
lunch bag. There were a few kids who also brought their lunch from home, but almost
everybody else bought from the cafeteria. I waited for Tilly to come through the kitchen doors.
Then waved to her as she headed to our table, the one closest to the janitor’s closet. As I walked
past Liz and Maeve’s gossip table, I overheard them. As the two girls talked, I felt
I slowed so I could get a good listen. “I know, right?!” said Liz. Maeve giggled and responded,
“Yes, Tilly’s hair today is atrocious! Who taught her to style hair?” The room felt really hot all of
a sudden. I was beginning to wish I had worn a lighter shirt. This one was making me sweat. Just
then I noticed that they knew I was listening in. I didn’t know what to do.
I looked down at my phone, checking for text messages that weren’t there. Then I noticed how
dirty it was and made myself concentrate on slowly cleaning the screen with the bottom of my
shirt before continuing my journey to the lunch table and to Tilly. After lunch the rest of the day
went fairly quickly and before I knew it I was sitting on the steps of the school waiting for my
bus to arrive when suddenly, Maeve came up and invited me to the party!
Partner work continued
 Talk with your partner and think about what the first scene
in the arc should be.
 The starting scene should bring Esmeralda to life, show
what she yearns for, and show the trouble (which we
already know will be her conflicting feelings of wanting to
be popular but not wanting to change who she is go
become well liked).
 Remember, things need to escalate and become more
difficult before they change, so think about how we’ll
make Esmeralda's problem get worse.
 Turn and begin planning the start of the arc.
Share with the class!
 Volunteers to share their beginning of their story arc???!
 Now, close your eyes and imagine what might happen
 Now talk about it! Keep in mind, you need to SHOW (not
summarize) her struggle, and the problems need to get
 Turn and plan
 As you go, draw your story arc together on a separate
sheet of paper, labeling it like you saw in the sample
Thirteen and a Half
Share with the class!
 Summarize what Esmeralda has done/felt so far in
your story arc.
 Remember many times we need to experiment
before we make a selection!
 Another summary???
Your Turn…
 Go back to your own story and begin creating
multiple story arcs for your story (draw them out like
the example if that helps you!)
 Aim for 2-3 different story arcs, each one should
naturally be better than the last one.
 Too easy/hard? Instead of an arc, try using a timeline,
storyboards, flowcharts or a list. Find a method that
works best for you!
 Remember…
How to Write Compelling Fiction:
 Brainstorm a great story idea (small moments, places,
events, issues, struggles, stories you wish existed in
the world).
 Make your characters come alive.
 Test-drive your character in scenes.
 Plot several versions of your story, aiming to intensify
the problem (use arcs, timelines, storyboards, etc…)
Mid-Work Teaching
 Don’t forget: the shape of a story, where it starts and
ends, says a lot about what matters to the author!
 If the story is about the importance of fitting in-or
how much it doesn’t really matter if you are true to
yourself-then it makes sense to have the beginning of
the story with a character struggling to fit in and the
last scene be a scene that clearly shows how the
character feels now about fitting in.
 Stop and ask yourself, what is my story really about?
You are now ready for the grade 7
 Great job writers! You’ve grown leaps and bounds so
 As I pass out these checklists, pick out a few scenes
that you want to assess.
 Assess yourself on those scenes!
 Now, set two or three goals for yourself and write
them in your writers notebooks. Add today's date and
use the grade 7 checklist to create them!
 A good writer can know if they are on the right track if they can
say what their story is about in one sentence.
 Esmeralda Story: Esmeralda is a girl who likes being different but
part of her wants to be popular, so one day she goes to a party
and finds herself having to decide whether it is more important
to be popular or true to herself.
 Tonight:
1. Finish your story arcs.
2. Pick one that you think describes how your story goes and
then try your hand at writing a one sentence summary. This
might take some time!
***Tomorrow we begin drafting our stories!

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