Thinking. Don Miller is inspiration.
On Monday mornings for half an hour I go into the year six classroom at school across the road and take a small group of kids for creative writing. I'm teaching them about the elements that must go into every story - starting with the character and What The Character Wants.
It's true - every good story must have a character that you care about, and who Wants Something. Usually, something very important. And something that they have to work hard to get.
I get the kids to make themselves into fictional characters and start writing a story with this sentence:
The thing ................... wanted most in the world was................. because..............
They have to think of at least three or four reasons why they want the thing that they want. And then, they have to think up the same number of obstacles in the way of them getting what they want.
The second part of the story goes like this:
But there was a problem...
And there, folks, pretty much, is your story.
Character. Want. Obstacle.
If the character wants whatever it is enough, they will overcome the obstacles to get it. If they don't, well, it's a non-story.
I got most of this from Don Miller's book A Million Miles, which I have blogged about before. Basically, it has inspired me not only to go ahead and pursue my dream of writing fiction, overcoming the obstacles of time and laziness, but it has also provided me with a way over the obstacle I always had - which was that I didn't really know enough about how stories worked.
So, thanks Don Miller. Year 6 is thanking you too. At least I hope they are.