What do you think?

I often write to figure out things. This is typically scrawled in a notebook that no one but me sees. I follow winding trails of thoughts, capture snippets, and try to come to deeper understandings. I tell you this as part of a disclaimer. Usually I go to those notebooks before blogging about something that is nagging at me. I sort out some of the initial messy thoughts before I share the tangled ideas in a public forum. Blogging then helps me refine my thinking.

Tonight’s post isn’t refined. Instead it is the kind of initial thinking that usually goes in that notebook. I know others have written about this topic with a much greater understanding than me. In fact, my plan is to read some of their thoughts this week. This is a post just sorting out some of the things I’ve noticed and to try to figure out why it is harassing me at the edges of my mind.

Here’s what I’m noticing:

Often young writers rewrite movies, tv shows, video games, or books when given the chance to develop their own writing idea. Sometimes they take characters that already exist from one of these sources and use them to write their own story.

Why do they do this? I’ve noticed it before and I’m sure you have too. I know I can just say “Don’t rewrite a movie…blah blah blah” and they will stop stealing existing story lines. However, I don’t want them to stop just because I said so, I want them to stop because they’ve developed as writers. I want them to move past rewriting other people’s stories and to developing their own.

So I’m asking myself why do they do this in the first place. Here are the scrambled thoughts in my mind. I’m hoping you add some of your own in the comments section so I can come to a deeper understanding.

  1. It’s easier to write a story that I already know how it goes than to create a new one from scratch.
  2. When I can picture a story in my mind, I’m able to write better than when I’m not able to envision the story. So it makes sense that if a young writer has a vivid picture of a movie, tv show, or video game, then he would be tempted to rewrite it.
  3. I wonder if it has to do with confidence. Do young writers believe in themselves enough to trust their own ideas are good enough?
  4. I notice less experienced writers are the ones who have a tendency to swipe favorite story lines. I wonder if this is a form of scaffolding for them. It makes sense to think of this as scaffolding.
  5. Maybe they don’t think their own ideas are worthy. Maybe they aren’t sure how to find an idea to write about. If I offer minilessons about getting and developing ideas will this issue go away?
  6. It annoys me when young writers rewrite an existing story. I think this is why I usually just tell students to stop and force them to move on. This year I want to understand the reason why they do this and to help them grow and mature as writers.
  7. In the WFMAD Challenge last week, Laurie Halse Anderson encouraged us to borrow a classic story line. Her post resonated within me. One of my strengths as a fiction writer is character development, however plot is a little (okay a lot) tougher for me. As I followed her advice I found a renewed energy for my story. So if Laurie Halse Anderson recommends borrowing a story line, I’m thinking there is value in it. Now she doesn’t advocate to steal the story, so there is a segue that will need to be taught…still I think this is an important thing to remember. I wonder if I could offer this segue in a minilesson.
I’m looking forward to your comments and to experimenting a little with these kinds of writers.