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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

I ask them for help and ideas.

Friday a kid gave me a brilliant idea.

We are digging deep into planning for our #NaNoWriMo novels.

We start in a little over a week.

I am completing the same assignments as the students.

Partly, this is a personal challenge.

I hate writing fiction and making stuff up.

Partly, this is a modeling opportunity.

If I can show kids how I am trying to do it, maybe it will help them.

Partly, this is a community building thing.

We are all in this together.

And if I can do it, so can you!

Regardless, it is difficult and terrifying.

My efforts are, in my opinion, pretty weak.

Every day, I tell kids what I am thinking about.

I tell them what I am struggling with.

I ask them for help and ideas.
Friday, students were working on several tasks.

Two of those tasks are novel related.

First, we are completing what I call the Big 5.

This is a series of five questions that establish the basics of the novel idea.

They include the setting, characters, premise, purpose, and plot.

Second, we are completing character profiles.

The protagonist needs a detailed profile that includes 46 questions.

The same for the antagonist, if it a person.

Or a second protagonist, if the antagonist is abstract.

In addition, five characters need brief 7 question profiles.

Details will help us keep moving in November.

We have already written what I call IDEA LISTS.

I made a list of 25 lists I thought would be helpful.

We each chose at least five to complete.

So we all have a lot of information to work with now.

The basics of my novel are evolving.

I know the main character will be a teen girl named Mandela Oxford.

I know what she looks like.

She was adopted and has a sister and parents.

I know the antagonist is her Uncle Asp.

I know the genre will be near future sci-fi, so I can invent cool, convenient technology for my story.

And that is about it.

One of the things I have mentioned to students is an idea for a contact lens that is similar to Google Glass.

One of the frustrations I have is that I am not sure why my antagonist is my antagonist.

I have been really struggling with the motivations and connections of my characters.

Friday morning, I sat down with a young man who was stuck.

He asked me to tell him about my story.

I did.

Then I got to the part about the contact lens and how I wasn't sure what to do with that idea.

He piped up immediately:

"Oh, so, like when computers take over and get in people's brains?"

Oh. My. God.


Suddenly this whole world of possibilities opened up for me.

Maybe Evil Uncle Asp isn't himself.

Maybe there is a larger plot component here where an AI is manipulating people.

Or maybe someone is controlling people using an AI.

I don't know, but I can see the potential.

All I have to do is decide which way to go.

This little moment made my day.

I swear I told every single class about it.

I smile whenever I think about it.

For real, I genuinely need that kind of help with world building.

Even better, I could not have orchestrated a more perfect demonstration of mutual support in the writing process if I thought about for a year.

It was priceless.

Getting ideas from kids, a good thing.

Showing kids how to get ideas from each other, a good thing.

Creating a supportive writing community, a very good thing.

Win. Win. Win.

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