Welcome to author: ViJi Chary: Porcupine Seeds
Guest Post: Story Line or Action: Which creates an effective story?
Story Line or Action?
An effective children’s story is a combination of story line and action. The action captures the readers’ interest. But the underlying message of the story line makes the story believable.
My story ideas come from incidents from a child life, news articles or observations that involve children. Most often, I find the punch line or climactic scene first. Then, I work backwards to develop the main character, dialogue and setting.
Before Porcupine’s Seeds was written, my four year old son and I were planting seeds in pots. My son tripped over the threshold and the soil and seed scattered all over the floor. This became Porcupine’s climactic scene.
Once, a story came from a conversation with my friend, Monica. She relayed a story of an Easter egg hunt in her home. Her older son hid all the eggs. Her younger son and his friends could not find the final egg. It blended in with the lemons in the lemon tree. This was a perfect climactic scene. I wrote “The Easter Egg Hunt”, a short 100 word story for Highlights for Children.
Another time, I took my daughter and her friend, Ani, bowling. Ani tried to tap dance while he was waiting. The incident sparked a story idea incorporating different dance traditions. I wrote “Brianna’s Beats” for Hopscotch for Girls.
A children’s story is geared to a young intelligent audience. If they do not find a message or character development in the story line, they will sense something is amiss. The main character’s persona needs to grow by the end of the story. He or she cannot be the same person that was introduced at the beginning of the story.
In Porcupine’s Seeds, Porcupine does not just grow sunflowers. He also gains confidence. In “The Easter Egg Hunt”, Dominic unravels the mystery behind the hidden eggs. In his revelation, he feels empowered. And in “Brianna’s Beats”, Brianna learns different beats from different dance traditions. With her new knowledge, she wants to incorporate them in one dance, showing her creativity.
The growth of character in a story cannot be merely told to the reader. It needs to be seamlessly shown through the character’s action and dialogue. In turn, these actions and dialogues have to be in line with the character’s personality. Young readers are astute. They are sure to spot a story that is sloppily put together and does not feel right.
Starting with the story line works best for me. I follow it with careful development of the main character. This unfolds the message of the story naturally and subtly resulting in a complete and strong story.