TIPS FOR TEACHING STORY DEVELOPMENT
Instruction in Story Development is hands-on, writing in the room, reading the writing for tone and voice and rhythm, listening to scenes performed—a kind of living laboratory for writers and writing.
We write in the room because the typical UWX student has a full schedule—career, family, daily commute—the pressurized burden of bringing home the bacon. We write in the room to enhance creativity, to set the writer free for a finite period of time. For a busy professional trying to write, this room writing time is gold, a sacred space saved for words.
We write in the room to gauge progress. Writers who stop to think and reflect and judge the words could be in trouble. Writers who write hot energize the room when they read aloud. We write in the room to capture the collective energy of the group. Writing together—doing “writing practice”—bonds the writers in the room into a fighting unit. Writing in the room, writing under the clock, lulls the writer’s interior editor/critic/judge. Writing under the clock releases the raging bull of creativity, a startling yet heady experience for the neophyte writer because it unleashes the creative forces trapped deep inside. Writing is a lonely business where writers are often isolated. We write in the room to build a support network for the systematic production of words.
After they write in the room, writers type up what they wrote. As the typed pages pile up, the writing confidence grows. A scene fleshes out. A third character enters a two-person scene, changing the scene dynamics. This scene, given new life, generates two more scenes.
Writers in Story Development get feedback on their words from having their scenes performed by a cast of fellow writers. Feedback comes from surrendering the work, letting go of the pages. Feedback comes from listening to others read your words. And some of the best feedback comes from the kitchen timer.
A time limit of 5 minutes for each performed scene establishes collective ground rules. Wordy writer A, for example, hoping to cheat the clock, writes an 8 page scene heavy with monologue. When the timer beeps at 5 minutes, the scene is 3 pages away from its climax. Writer A has to stop writing anyway. No exceptions for Writers A, B, C—no one. Time is merciless, yet objective. Art that suspends the moment must still exist in time. Readers are busy. Audiences get restless. In Story Development, time becomes the heavy weight teacher.
Instructor feedback comes on a case-by-case basis as the instructors guide the writers deeper into creativity. At the end of each unit—Foundations, Scene and Plot, Form—the instructors produce a feedback sheet that gathers together advice and comments on the work of each writer in the course. When the feedback is shared with the entire class, writers glean insight from the efforts of other writers.
To see an abbreviated course outline, click on these links. Sessions for Story Development will be upload every Saturday for 3 weeks. Please check back for Parts 2 thru 4.
Any questions? Requests for the full course program? Leave us a note. We’ll reply.
© All Rights Reserved. Jack Remick and Robert J. Ray.