Short Story Ideas: Chick Flick Action Story

Damsel in Distress/Platonic Ideal: Super smart and hot

Creator made a weapon and then lost it. Quest: Find it and destroy it. Wants to make something better.

Trickster/damsel befriends creator, tricks him into finding the Magic Weapon. Once they find it, she steals it and threatens the platonic ideal.

Has known platonic ideal for whole life. She’s liked him for his whole life. As soon as he starts to like her, he gets distracted by the damsel.

Notes from Study Hall Brainstorming Session

It’s not as if anyone really needs to search long for an excuse not to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November.  “I don’t want to” generally seems to do the trick.  The organizers of NaNoWriMo, tricky writers’ code for National Novel Writing Month, seem to pride themselves on this being an entirely voluntary event.  No one is getting paid or tricked or tortured.

Still, the issue of wanting to doesn’t apply to me.  I do want to write a novel, very much so, and have wanted to participate in NaNoWriMo for the last few years.  (Basically, ever since I met Anna Barton, Prodigious Novel Writer/College Student.)  At the beginning of the month, I more than flirted with (courted?) the thought of jumping on board.  How long would it take, I wondered, to write the required 1,500 words a day?  November 1 is a holiday in Germany, set aside to venerate the saints that Germany stopped venerating approximately 500 years ago, so I had plenty of time.  I wrote my 1500 words and went to bed.

Flash forward two weeks, to when I’ve become a story processing machine.  A few days ago I assigned an “Archetypal Short Story” to my eleventh graders.  Their mission: To create a coherent short story out of five randomly drawn character and situational archetypes.  In theory, this should work, and every combination in my grandly named Jar of Fortune has already been told somewhere.  In practice, many of my students are struggling to put the pieces together.

Anyone overhearing us in the library during study hall would be party to some odd conversation:

T: My characters all have, you know, Norsic names.

Me: Nordic names?

T: Yeah, that’s what I meant.  Did you know that Dustin is Nordic?  And it’s like a normal name.

A: So… can I combine the Platonic Ideal and the Trickster?

Me: No, they don’t go together.  The Platonic Ideal is perfect.  She can’t be tricky.

A: How about the Damsel in Distress?

Me: She can be the Trickster.  You could either have an Ideal Damsel or a Tricky Hot Girl who’s in trouble.

A: Definitely the Tricky Hot Girl.

I’ve never taught archetypes before, and have only encountered them briefly, once or twice, in my own education.  Ironically, the most memorable and coherent lessons I ever received on the topic came in tenth grade, in a class that I didn’t really like.  Still, I’m having fun with them, learning alongside students to see the frameworks that hold our stories together and make us love them.  As always happens when I indulge in the pleasure of assigning fiction, I remember that at least part of everyone loves this, the giddy glee of creation.

With all of these stories in the air, fragments of characters and plot lines demanding my attention, I haven’t written 1,500 words daily.  I’ve returned to my original document a few times, planning for the future, and started my own archetypal story.  Mostly I’ve helped kids arrange the variables in order, sorting through the details of their own imaginations and shining light on shadowy turns of plot.  Someday I hope I’ll join in the fun,  twisting together my own 50,000 words for 30 days, but for this year I’m content, living and participating in the particolored worlds created by my students. I’m still swimming in words this November, even if they aren’t always my own.


3 Comments Add yours

  1. Donna says:

    You have expressed the past 26 years of my life so well as I’ve watched my children create and discover their own voices in this world. And what joy it brings when those voices are so similar to mine. How I rejoice to hear the contentment in your voice. I’ll look forward to that novel someday. For now, you are writing on the hearts of your students whether in a desk or along a hiking trail.

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