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Story Mountain Although A Great Creative Writing Tool, Cannot Fill Gaps.

Writing a story can be loads of fun. Children generally enjoy letting their imagination travel far and wide. Some even draw inspiration from the books they have read or movies that they have watched. Stories written this way either tend to be very straightforward or tend to go in bit of an illogical direction and then coming to an abrupt end.

A story mountain which is widely used story structure allows children to break up their stories in to several stages-

  • Beginning

  • Conflict

  • Rising action

  • Climax

  • Resolution

Proficient writers manage to get past these stages with ease but less proficient ones struggle a bit. They then to draw inspiration from movies that they have enjoyed watching and write as if they are watching a video. Video has the advantage of visuals that are already visible to the viewer and hence the text involved in the movies don't need to describe the visuals. Apply this in writing, it makes it harder for the reader to understand where something is happening, what is happening and why. It becomes worse when events seem disconnected and wholly random making the story a difficult read.

story mountain

How to enable less proficient writers to make use of this excellent tool?

There tend to be gaps in the story mountain as some very important connecting details are missing. The child tends to leave out these details in the process of unravelling what their imagination is showing them. The speed at which the visual move in their mind is a lot faster than their ability to write. Hence important details are assumed or considered obvious for the reader. Writers, especially children are unaware of the fact that the reader cannot see what the writer is seeing unless the writer writes it down.

Let's take an example.

I am going to go on a picnic today. The marshmallows are spoilt. I have only 5 mins before it is time to meet my friend. I run to the closest store. They don't have marshmallows and hence I buy a pie instead. I see my friend and go on a picnic.

The end.

The person writing this story has made sure to fit the story into the story mountain structure- it has a beginning, a conflict, rising action to a certain extent, climax and then the resolution. But it is hardly an interesting story.

The picture below is a representation of the story mountain in a slightly different way. The lavender boxes are the various elements of the story mountain. The orange boxes raise questions about lack of details or lack of logic. These help the writer to see their entire imagination on one page and hence paves the way to raise questions about possible gaps. The 5 'W' questions 'Who', 'What', 'When', 'Where', 'Why' and 'How' help immensely when children are encouraged to use them as required.

story mountain and writing

Given the above rough story map here is the complete story rewritten.

I am going on a picnic today. I have been looking forward to it ever since Emily and I discovered that we love bird watching. I am so excited. I can't wait for it to be time to leave. My to do list on the fridge includes an item- "Take marshmallows for the picnic." I almost forgot. Our plan is to feast on marshmallows while we wait to sight the migratory birds by the side of the lake. I open the storage cupboard to grab the marshmallows packet I had bought some time back. Something seemed off. "Don't tell me that is fungus!" The blackish greyish spots on those beautiful pink and white marshmallows stare back at me. I throw the packet in to the trash can. Then I remember that I need to take out the contents, segregate before I throw them away. Ugh! I have to do this. It's about being a responsible citizen. The clock is ticking. I am running out of time. I must leave to meet my friend in the next 5 mins.

I tell myself that I can sort it out. There must be something else I could pick from the pantry, but there is nothing interesting. Sunflower seeds won't do! Urgh! No chips! No junk food!

"Think Jane, Jane think!" I tell myself. Then it almost felt like a light bulb glowed on top of my head, just way it does in comics. I can pick up marshmallows from the local department store close to Emily's house. I take my cycle and go through all the short cuts. The department store has run out of marshmallows but have delicious apple pie instead. I take it and reach Emily's house ten minutes late.

Emily's dad is dropping us off at the bus stop. We are to board a bus there to the nearest tree park alongside the beautiful lake called Inkdragon. Inkdragons are amazing birds who were spotted there briefly awhile ago and since then the lake got this name. Had I been any more late, we would have missed the bus. That would have been awful. We had booked tickets already for the bus ride to the Inkdragon lake. They allow only a few visitors at a time to make sure that the birds are not disturbed. There are a whole lot of restrictions at the spot. Although we are allowed to bring food, there is a separate area for food with glass partitions behind which you can see the birds and enjoy your snack.

As we sit in the bus together, the smell of delicious apple drifts towards our noses. I tell Emily all about the change in plan. "This is good too!" she says and the bus starts. We are on our way to hopefully a memorable bird watching event in our lives!

Adding many details along the story map, raising logical questions, researching information to ensure that one's story doesn't border too much on sheer imagination which might lead to super illogical events etc, has helped this writer write a longer story that is definitely far more engaging than the just the couple of lines that was shown earlier as an example.

Problem solving skill intertwined with writing

Writing an entertaining story needs action, suspense, humor (is hard), an interesting problem and an equally interesting solution. If the solution is predictable or obvious the reader is likely to lose interest. It needs to be unexpected and really good. Which means the writer needs to think hard of various ways in which their imaginary problem can be solved. This involves thinking, reading to find information, keen observation and perhaps even fact checking if required. A simple act of story writing becomes a lot more than creativity but encompasses a vast arena of knowledge waiting to be found. A child who discovers this is likely to become curious, read more to learn more. There is room for developing keen observation skills too. All of this cannot happen just with a story mountain. There needs to be more and plotting it on paper, looking for gaps by using the 5 'W' questions and how helps children write better stories and benefit from the process in multiple ways.

finding the missing piece


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