In addition to being a writer, I am also a book-bound librarian. To remain certified as a librarian practitioner, I have to take training throughout the year. A hot topic for the past two years has been Common Core. Whether or not I agree with Common Core, as a librarian, I am expected to understand its application in the public library setting. When parents come in requesting books at a certain reading level dependent on Common Core, I am prepared to lead them in the right direction. This has gotten me thinking about other areas and subjects that might relate to this new teaching and learning standard. Writers, whether focused on fiction or working as a content writer, can benefit from the approaches and activities now deemed CC-approved. The following Common Core activities can help you boost and organize your creative thinking.
When reading your own work, fiction novels, or informational text (aka nonfiction), ABC Graffiti gives you the tools to build your vocabulary and to create continuity in your work. In this exercise, list the letters of the alphabet along with several spaces between each one. While reading something, whether an online news article or your short stories, jot down words that stand out in your mind next to the letter with which they begin. For example, for this paragraph, next to “A” you might add “ABC Graffiti.” List words or phrases that are:
- Unfamiliar or that you need to define
- Original words constructed by their author
- Words that stand out, whether for good or bad, in text
- Names, places, and labels of items that strike your fancy
- Emotional words that feed the feeling of a story
- Regional or reflective of a place or time
If you are writing a story or article use this practice to help keep the reading level at an even keel, an especially useful practice when writing for a particular age group, i.e. young adults. You can also break down your stories using ABC Graffiti to maintain the flow and feeling of your story. Words or phrases that don’t mesh well with the others in your work should either be reconsidered or used for their striking impact. When you are doing research, ABC Graffiti helps you break down a resource, such as a news article or opinion piece, so that you can identify key points, people, or places.
The What and the Who
As you write an article or fictional story, fleshing out text can, at times, feel contrite. Whether you are dealing with an actual community or you are making up a fantasy land, you can “mind-map” the time and place of your article or story with this technique. Start by drawing a bubble around the place and time in which you are focusing on, then stem outward from the center bubble with bubbles that include:
- Historical or Important Events
For those writers looking to dig deeper into the civilizations which they are researching and writing about, here are branches to add to the mind-map:
- Social—daily life, commerce, entertainment, tradition, foods, class system
- Symbolic—written/oral language, art, mathematics, rituals
- Science—technology, nature, medicine
- Religion—folklore, mythology, gods/mortals, afterlife, spirituality, death
- Politics—power structure, prestige, law, rights/responsibilities
You can be as detailed as you want with your mind-map depending on your needs. For instance, if you are writing web content that is about a particular event, you might use this technique to think of ways to connect to other places or times within your target community. For example, in an article about the flooding of Katrina, use this technique to look at the entire population changed by the flooding, the history of the flooded areas, and the political implications of the floods.
In a fictional work, you have more freedom for creativity. The mind-map of time and place can help you to look at areas of the social structure and history of your story that you might have otherwise ignored. While you may have created a social class system for your fictional society, you may have left out entertainment or foods. The premise here is to help you expand your creative horizons to become more kaleidoscopic.
Miranda B is always on the hunt for new approaches and techniques that will help her, and hopefully other writers, to create imaginative and moving works as powerful as Harry Potter still is for her.