Classroom Slice of Life Story Challenge: Day 17 of 31
It’s Day 17 Classroom Slicers!
Today, let’s begin at beginnings. The introduction of a piece is the writer’s chance and obligation to do so much – set the stage, introduce characters, foreshadow the trouble brewing, hint at what the piece is really about.
A classic lesson in the writing workshop teaching of Lucy Calkins and the Reading and Writing Project is to study published leads for inspiration.
A favorite narrative writing mentor of mine lately is Pecan Pie Baby by Jacqueline Woodson. The text begins:
Just a summer started leaving us and the leaving brought all those colors to the trees, Mama pulled out my winter clothes.
“Time to give away the stuff that’s too small,” I said. “This didn’t used to be a mini-dress.”
Mama smiled. “Let’s keep it, Gia.”
And I knew what was coming next–more talk about the ding-dang baby.”
What a stunning introduction. Woodson manages to both be literary and maintain a child’s voice, all the while conveying setting, introducing characters, and establishing tension in just a few lines. Here are just a few of the tips that can be extracted from studying this lead:
- Establish setting through the experiences of the characters. Think about how a character might describe the passage of time or the location, and emphasize details that the character would prioritize.
- Consider beginning with the characters involved in a scene that at first glance seems commonplace but that actually reveals some of the tension at play.
- Keep dialogue tight and focused. Everything the characters say should serve to advance the plot, reveal tension, or provide information about the characters. For example, in this lead, with just two lines of dialogue, Woodson reveals that the characters are Mama and Gia, that Gia is growing up, and that Mama is preparing for a smaller person to come on the scene.
- Establish early on from whose perspective the story will be told, and only reveal the inner thoughts of that character.
Today, as you write, consider choosing a favorite text and studying the lead for ideas on how to revise your lead to more fully bring out your meaning and voice. You might even try using more than one text and writing your lead more than one way, then choosing the one that works best.
WRITE a slice of life story on your own blog.
SHARE a link to your post in the comments section.
GIVE comments to at least three other SOLSC Classroom bloggers.
- 31 Slices (ideas for topics)
- Essential Information
- Q&A About the Classroom Slice of Life Story Challenge (watch a video call with elementary school students)