LESSON 2.4
Design the Story

Many beginners at writing make a basic mistake: They start writing right away.

Would you start building a house without creating blueprints? Would you enter into an important basketball game without a game plan?  The same is true in writing. Design before you write.

Begin with the Troublemaker

First, decide who your troublemaker is. For that, you need to brainstorm. We will cover that in the next chapter. For now, use the talking dog or one of the other troublemakers from the previous lesson.

Enter the information into your chart  if you haven’t already.

LH

VP

RH

Main Character

Verb Phrase

A troublemaker

I

had a problem with

a talking dog. 

Brainstorm the Problem
the Troublemaker Causes

What problems can the troublemaker cause? For example, what kind of trouble can a talking dog get into?

Task 2.4.1 – Small Groups

Your teacher will divide you up into teams.  You will have three minutes to brainstorm as many ideas as possible.

  • Do not argue.
  • Do not waste time going into detail.

The team with the most ideas – not the best ideas – wins.

Your team must have at least 20 ideas. Each person must contribute at least two.

Task 2.4.2 – Small Groups

  1. Delete any ideas that do not “fit” the troublemaker. For example, if the troublemaker is a talking dog, the “peed on the carpet” doesn’t fit.
  2. Delete any ideas that are automatically true. For example, “He caused a lot of trouble” does not tell us what the dog did.

Example:

  1. because it told my mom my secrets.
  2. because it would not stop talking.
  3. because it made prank phone calls.
  4. because it spoke Athabascan, and I’m the only person in the village who can.
  5. because it made prank phone calls in Athabascan.
  6. because it kept embarrassing me.
  7. because it kept winning oratory contests.
  8. because it told batters my Native-baseball[1] pitching secrets.
  9. because my other dogs were jealous.

Task 2.4.3 – Small Groups

Grade the ideas.  Do not argue.

A = Adults are not likely to think of the idea right away AND are likely to say, “Wow!”

B = Adults are not likely to think of the idea right away.

C = Adults are likely to think of the idea right away.   

O = Out

On my way home from school I met a talking dog. It became a troublemaker—

    1. because it told my mom my secrets.                                                                       B
    2. because it would not stop talking.                                                                           C
    3. because it made prank phone calls.                                                                         B
    4. because it spoke Athabascan, and I’m the only person in the village who does     B
    5. because it made prank phone calls in Athabascan.                                                  A
    6. because it kept embarrassing me.                                                                            C
    7. because it kept winning oratory contests.                                                                B
    8. because it told batters my village-baseball pitching secrets.                                    A
    9. because my other dogs were jealous.                                                                       B

No A Ideas?

If you don’t have three or more “A” ideas, then do one or more of these:

  • Brainstorm more
  • Funnel
  • Piggyback

Funneling

Funneling means “to make an idea more precise.”

Task 2.4.4 – Small Groups

Funnel one of your B or C ideas.  You can even funnel an O idea if you wish.

For example, maybe you funneled “because it bit the mailman.”  Here are your ideas:

  1. because dogs shouldn’t bite people.
  2. because the mailman was mean.
  3. because the mailman teased the dog.
  4. because the mailman teased the dog about talking.
  5. because the mailman doesn’t like me.
  6. because the mailman wouldn’t speak Athabascan.
  7. because the mailman said bad words to him.

Cross out ideas that do not fit the troublemaker:

  1. because the mailman teased the dog about talking.
  2. because the mailman wouldn’t speak Athabascan.
  3. because the mailman said bad words to him.

Grade the funneled ideas.

  1. because the mailman teased the dog about talking.          B         
  2. because the mailman wouldn’t speak Athabascan.           A
  3. because the mailman said bad words to him.                    A

Piggybacking

Piggybacking means “to come up with similar ideas.”

Let’s say you piggybacked on “because it told my mom my secrets.”  You might end up with —

  1. because it told my mom that I was sneaking out at night.
  2. because it told my mom that I like Julia Smythburg.
  3. because it told my mom what I got her for Christmas.
  4. because it told my mom the secrets of the universe.

Grade the piggybacked ideas:

  1. because it told my mom that I was sneaking out at night.     C
  2. because it told my mom that I like Julia Smythburg.             C
  3. because it told my mom what I got her for Christmas.          B
  4. because it told my mom the secrets of the universe.              A

Task 2.4.5  – Small Groups

Piggyback one of your B or C ideas.  You can even piggyback an O idea if you wish.

Prioritize the A Ideas

Continue doing more brainstorming, funneling, and piggybacking until you have at least three A ideas.

Now you need to choose which one you want for your story.

Do not argue! Instead, use a Decision Chart.

Task 2.4.6 – Small Groups

Decide on three ways to evaluate. Here are some examples:

  • Which do I most want to talk about?
  • Which most likely will interest adults?
  • Which will be the funniest?
Check:

Is there an st word in each one?  Yes: most, most, funniest

Are they all positive?  Yes.

                        (A negative would be):

Which do I most not want to talk about?

Which is not likely to interest adults?

Which is least funny?

Task 2.4.7 – Small Groups

Fill out a Decision Chart.

Idea

want to

adults

funniest

Total

Athabascan prank calls

4

3

4

11

Alaska Native pitching secrets

3

4

1

8

mailman + Athabascan

2

2

2

6

mailman + bad words

1

1

3

5

There are four ideas, so your best idea will be a 4.  Your worst will be a 1. 

Enter a 4, then a 1

Idea

want to

adults

funniest

Total

Athabascan prank calls

4

 

4

 

Alaska Native pitching secrets

 

4

1

 

mailman + Athabascan

 

 

 

 

mailman + bad words

1

1

 

 

Then decide on the second best and the second worst. (And so on for more ideas.)

Check each column to make sure you did not repeat any numbers.

Add up the rows. The highest number is what you will tell your story about.

Idea

want to

adults

funniest

Total

Athabascan prank calls

4

3

4

11

Alaska Native pitching secrets

3

4

1

8

mailman + Athabascan

2

2

2

6

mailman + bad words

1

1

3

5

In Case of a Tie

In case of a tie, flip a coin.  If more than two ideas tie, then put slips of paper into a jar.

Task 2.4.8 – Small Groups

Fill in your chart’s What/Why Statements.

The what is made up of the LH-VP-RH.  The Why is made up of because why.

WHAT STATEMENT

WHY STATEMENT

LH

VP

RH

because

Why

Main Character

Verb Phrase

Troublemaker

because

Problem

I

had a problem with

a talking dog

because

it made prank phone calls in Athabascan