Sunday, September 9, 2012

September 10 Creative Writing Course Assignment

Greetings! Welcome to our online creative writing course for the 2012-13 homeschool year. This course will run from September through May with a minimum of three lessons per month. Why study creative writing? How will studying writing affect my personal or career goals? If you want to see my thoughts on this, you can read my notes from this blog post:

Some key notes and tips as we begin:
  • Creative writing is just that--creative. I will note problems with grammar or spelling that affect your message, but I will not be working with you to perfect your grammar or spelling. That needs to come through other language arts materials you are using. (Some assignments will actually require you to break certain grammar and spelling rules.)
  • Your assignments will vary each week. Some may seem difficult for you, while others may seem ridiculously easy. Each assignment has a purpose, however. If I ask you to write a poem one week, I am not assuming that each student will go on to be a poet. However, practicing a variety of writing styles helps you think through creative options for other assignments and strengthens your overall writing skills. 
  •         If you get stuck, try 30-second free writing exercises. What does that involve? Set a clock alarm or timer for 30 seconds. Write about your subject in pencil without stopping for the entire time. If you are writing about birds, for example, your writing may look like this:
         Birds are colorful and musical. They live in my backyard. I saw an owl when I was hiking last week.      My grandmother had a pet bird that was yellow. Some birds migrate depending on the season. Big Bird lives on Sesame Street. Robins live in our backyard. Our birdfeeder attracts hummingbirds. I can’t think of anything else to say. I don’t know how to identify bird calls. I saw a pelican by a pier on vacation. It ate a flounder. (Notice that I kept writing even when I had no thoughts on birds--the topics change frequently--some thoughts are about food while others are about children’s TV shows. But now I have some thoughts down on paper that may lead to paper ideas, poetry ideas, story ideas or ideas for an ad.)
  • Think of your intended audience. Are you writing for friends, for potential customers, for unknown readers, for church members, for siblings? Your word choices will be different for different age groups and different social groups.
  • Think of your purpose. Are you trying to inspire someone, cheer up someone, make someone laugh, make someone think deeply about a subject? Your tone affects your purpose. 
  • You may have heard that some writers got paid by the word, but in today’s market, concise writing wins the prize. 
  • E-mail questions during the week if you need more information. When you are done--e-mail the assignment to me. 
  • It’s hard to proofread my own work even though I proofread for several organizations/magazines. Please pardon any errors on my part!

We will discuss more of these topics each week, but now for your first assignment--something just for fun:

Each of these assignments should be written in paragraph form with complete sentences. You can choose the tone (funny/serious/inspirational). You can write in first or third person (saying I/we/me or he/she/they). Students can choose which assignment they want to complete. You do not have to stick with your exact grade level--these are just suggested grade levels.

Skills you are working on: descriptive character development and exaggeration.
You are going to create a larger-than-life, idealized version of you. See below to see why I started with this assignment.

High school:

To help me get to know each of you, tell me about yourself as though you were a larger-than-life character in a movie you are writing the script for.  Write as if you are selling this character to me-- a person who might fund your production. The character must stay true to who you are (your gifts and talents) and what your interests and beliefs are, but must have exaggerated characteristics. In other words, if you are a scout, your character should be the best scout in the nation--more badges and more leadership than normally expected. If you are a singer, your character should shock the audience with the beauty of your voice. In 500 words or less, answer the following questions.

1. Where does your Movie Self live? A rural area? A City? Another planet? All three places? Near a church or a gym?

2. What five adjectives describe Movie Self? Adventurous? Charismatic? Introverted?

3. What are the spiritual practices or motivation for Movie Self? Reflective prayer? Modern worship? Teen retreats? Silent retreats? Intense study? Inspiration of others?

4. What will you title the autobiography for Movie Self after the film is a success? Travels of a Restless Mind? Following the Heart of an Athlete? Path of a Peaceful Heart? Adventures of an Avid Angler?

5. What two other things should the audience know about Movie Self?

If you have trouble answering these questions, think of movies that have been popular lately that were inspirational, yet entertaining: Courageous, The Blind Side, Fireproof, etc. Think of the characters that were based on reality, but still seemed larger than life in the films. Write yourself into a similar movie based on the reality of your life for this assignment. Are you more determined than others, more motivated than others, more talented than others, more faithful than others as your Movie Self?

Middle school:

To help me get to know each of you, I want you to tell me about yourself as though you were in a television show based on your life. In 500 words or less, answer the following questions, adding some details that are fictional, but would be interesting to the story:

1. What would the title of the TV show be?

2. What type of setting would your character live in?

3. What would your signature clothing be? A leather jacket? Jeans? A bonnet?

4. How would the show always end? With music you play? With your favorite quote? With a joke? With a prayer you say daily?

5. What two things should we know about your character in the show?

If you have trouble answering these questions, think of TV shows that have been popular that were inspirational or targeted for families, yet entertaining: Little House on the Prairie, Andy Griffith, I Love Lucy, The Waltons, etc. Think of the characters that were based on reality or seemed realistic, but still seemed larger than life in the shows. Answer these questions as if you are selling this character and show to me-- a person who might fund your production. 

How could this assignment possibly be helpful to me?

Writing a character profile can be helpful in many ways. First, many of you will be writing college essays one day. You can begin by sketching out your strongest gifts and traits. You will need to magnify (never exaggerate as we did here, however) your strengths. Also, you may choose to write family biographies for a genealogy book or profiles for a website or magazine. If you interview someone, you will need to learn to identify the traits and talents that should be highlighted in a feature. Most features are limited to 850 words. Shorter profiles run from 250-500 words.

Here are some examples of features articles I wrote:

Quote of the week just to make you think:
“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.” --Thomas Merton

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