Sarah Avery (dr_pretentious) wrote,
Sarah Avery

The WOW Book

"Real grown-up writers need to think about that, too," I told my oldest niece when she explained her WOW stories. Her first-grade teacher asked her to keep a notebook and write to the following formula: a character Wants something, encounters an Obstacle, and somehow Wins. Any character, desire, obstacle, and win will do. I'd never heard the beginning-middle-end recipe put quite that way--I prefer the Somebody Wanted But So Then formula over here, but then, I've never taught professionally with kids younger than 13.

"Once upon a time, there was a dog named Ella, who wanted..." Kate got stuck there for almost half an hour, in her first-ever experience of writer's block.

"Ask your Aunt Sarah," everyone told her. "This is her kind of thing." And it was.

"Who be president?" I proposed.

"To play outside," said Kate.

"On Mars?"

"In the backyard." She recorded it carefully in her composition notebook.

"At chess?"

"With a ball."

So she's writing mainstream literary fiction, and I'm a cheery genre hack. At least (A) I got her unstuck, and (B) she kept faith with the story she wanted to tell.

Maybe if I started keeping a WOW notebook, myself, I'd learn how to write short stories that are actually short. Maybe this is how other people get their stories to weigh in under 5,000 words. And wouldn't that be a handy skill in my line of work?
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