Thursday, 22 November 2018

The beauty of "The Story Moment" is the key to giving my writing the kick in the pants it so desperately needed - This Week's ReadItTorial

Over the last 8 weeks of the "Writing for Children" course, we've learned a lot about "The Story Moment" in middle grade fiction. Our tutor, Nicola M. Brown describes it in a way that always reminds me of spinning plates, but it's actually been a revelation to fully understand just how important the story moment is, and how you need to support it by nurturing and feeding it with peripheral information as your story unfolds.

I've read Cressida Cowell's "How to Train your Dragon" series alongside my daughter (who actually prefer's Cressida's new series "The Wizards of Once" more) and in last night's classroom session it really began to  make a lot of sense how clever Cressida is at structuring her stories to keep that meter / flow needle from wandering too far away from the story moment.

Cressida Cowell's hugely successful "How to Train your Dragon" series, a masterclass in maintaining the moment!

So imagine your paragraphs and sentences as being like the dead centre of a measuring device (trying to think of a good comparison - say a set of weighing scales or an oscilloscope perhaps).

If your story maintains the 'story moment' then the reader is right there, in that moment, at that time.

Every time you move your needle away from dead centre (perhaps to go into an elaborate description of something, or a memory, a recollection or flashback, or a piece of world-building) you're taking the reader out of that moment and into a different timeframe where - alas - they can end up being bogged down.

Writing for Middle Grade doesn't always allow writers like me (who are completely in love with elaborate descriptions and metaphor) to get away with moving away from that story moment for very long.

Cressida keeps that meter more or less dead centre the whole time, but subtly feeds her story with the enrichment of character and world-building in tiny little nuggets of information that she slides in between the passages of dialogue.

One thing I've noticed in the time we've begun reviewing more middle grade books together, is that C absolutely craves stories that stay within the story moment, and it's amazing how many commercial middle grade novels break this rule very early on, leading to a story getting bogged down in the first chapter or so as the author struggles to balance those spinning plates in a way that will keep a child's attention locked on.

I think of all the sessions I've attended during this class, 'the story moment' was best described and made most sense last night. Writing fantasy stories is the most fun, and it's the genre I'm always drawn to in my own writing - but sometimes it takes someone else pointing out something that, on reflection, seems so simple to really revolutionise the way I've been thinking about and approaching writing for kids.

Absolutely brill, but now to put it into practice!!