Jonathan Rogers of Grammar for Writers teaches high school students how to improve their own creative writing by examining the literary elements of four stories including some well-loved classics. Students will hone their craft in this seminar series from a literary scholar and published author.
Dr. Rogers has written The Wilderking Trilogy, The World According to Narnia, and other books.
This set contains all four courses in the series:
- Writing Through the Wardrobe
- Writing with Hobbits
- Writing Through To Kill a Mockingbird
- Writing with the Bog Owl
Wardrobe Writing Exercise #1
Your suggested writing exercise for this lesson revolves around narration and point of view.
In Luke 15, Jesus tells the Parable of the Prodigal Son using an omniscient narrator. The narrator sometimes shows things from the younger brother’s perspective, sometimes from the older brother’s perspective, and sometimes from the father’s perspective (though the narrator doesn’t really get into close third-person except possibly with the younger brother, when we get a little peek at his inner monologue).
Your writing exercise is to retell this familiar story from the point of view of one of two main characters.
Retell the parable using the older brother as a first-person narrator. Or, retell the parable in close third-person from the perspective of the father.
Remember, whether you’re writing in first-person or close third-person, you’re only showing and telling what your point-of-view character can see and hear. You have the option of telling what’s going on inside your point-of-view character’s head, but you can also choose only to show what your character sees by looking out. That’s up to you. However, according to the rules of close third-person and first-person narration, you can only get inside the head of one character (your POV character).
Wardrobe Writing Exercise #2
In one paragraph, describe a person (fictional or real). But here’s the catch: You can’t describe the character directly. You can only describe one room in the character’s house. To put it another way, describe a room in such a way that the reader feels that he or she knows the person who lives there.
Hobbits Writing Exercise #1
It is not unusual for external, non-character-driven events to happen to the characters in a story. But a good story can’t be driven only by external events. It’s not enough to have things “happen to” your characters. Your reader always wants to know what the characters are going to do—how they will exert their wills, pursue their desires, alleviate their fears. That is the essence of character-driven action.
For this lesson’s writing exercise, you will practice mixing external action with character-driven action. Write a scene in which two characters experience the same external event, but act very differently in response to that event.
Hobbits Writing Exercise #2
Write a scene in which dialogue leads directly to physical action.
Mockingbird Writing Exercise #1
This is a two-part exercise about first-person point of view:
- Pick a familiar fairytale or folktale and retell it in first person from the point of view one of the characters.
- Then tell the same story again, in first person from the point of view of another character.
Mockingbird Writing Exercise #2
Skim two chapters of To Kill a Mockingbird and note every place where Harper Lee shifts from writing in-scene to writing out-of-scene, or vice versa.
Now go back to the out-of-scene sections. What does Harper Lee accomplish by pulling out of scene? Some of the possibilities from the video lesson include:
- Providing exposition or background information
- Conveying necessary information
- Moving the story along or skipping ahead
- Establishing tone and voice
Bog Owl Writing Exercise #1
The opening scene of The Bark of the Bog Owl takes place at the edge of the forest—or, if you prefer, at the edge of a clearing. Edges and boundaries, the meeting of two worlds, are fertile ground for storytelling.
For this week’s exercise, write a scene that takes place at an edge or boundary—the edge of town, the edge of a forest, the boundary between two neighborhoods or two countries. Let’s see what kinds of things happen where two worlds overlap.
Bog Owl Writing Exercise #3
Think of a familiar character from literature, history, or folklore, and drop that character into a setting that is familiar to you. What happens next?
Examples: Rip van Winkle wakes up in a Starbucks; Cleopatra makes a Zoom call; John the Baptist visits First Baptist Church.