Creating Other Worlds- Writing Fantasy & Science Fiction

Blog, She Wrote: Creating Other Worlds- Writing Fantasy & Science Fiction

Ethan, our 11th grader, is a writer. He loves to create worlds and activity within them. When he was younger, his stories told a tale, but they often didn’t end concisely. Or they simply ended. A bit too concisely. Now that he is half way through high school, we’ve been honing in on his interests and his course work reflects this. Enter novel writing courses. For the past two years, he has immersed himself in the many worlds of his novel settings. Do you have a student who loves to write science fiction and fantasy?

Creating Other Worlds- Science Fiction & Fantasy Writing

If you are unfamiliar with the genres, suffice it to say the world in which the story takes place helps to set these stories apart from just any adventure tale. In some way, the author of a fantasy and science fiction novel will build a world. Sometimes the author creates a whole new fantastical world and sometimes it is a world within our world.

The basic story structure is carried over into “other worlds”. In both fantasy & sci fi literature one main thing is the game changer.

  • Science Fiction- You’ll find one main scientific breakthrough or advance which changes how the story will play out or it can be a single change in history that gives the story its twist.
  • Fantasy- There will be something else magical about the world. For example, in Narnia the animals talk.

Resources for World Building

Does your student like to write and immerse himself in new worlds? Here are a few links from the website Go Teen Writers to help students think about their world building.

Worldbuilding is a lot of work! That’s why learning to write an adventure first is a good idea because it takes place in our world and you can concentrate on the story itself rather than building a world at the same time. If you have a student working on writing herself a world, these posts will be very insightful.

Blog, She Wrote: Creating Other Worlds- Writing Fantasy & Science FictionUsing Other Worlds Curriculum to Teach Fantasy & Science Fiction Writing

Other Worlds is the science fiction and fantasy expansion module from One Year Adventure Novel by Daniel Schwabauer. Ethan, our 11th grader, has been working with the curriculum for a year. I asked him for his take on the program and here’s what he said:

  • One Year Adventure Novel (OYAN)- has to be completed first. The Other Worlds curriculum is based on the original OYAN and referencing the original lessons is helpful as you go along.
  • The Tools Are There to Be a Finisher- You still need to bang out twelve chapters, but the OYAN model is helpful in finishing your storytelling.
  • There’s a Basic Story Structure- Which is carried over from OYAN. Three acts with four defining scenes. The outlining of the events in your novel is important for the story.
  • History of the Genres- You’ll learn how science fiction and fantasy got their start and who the major players were.
  • What Makes Science Fiction & Fantasy?- There are 10 to 12 lessons devoted to what defines these genres.
  • Collision Course Anthology- Is a collection of stories and excerpts from fantasy and science fiction which help to illustrate Daniel’s lessons.
  • Community Forum- For students of OYAN & Other Worlds. This is a community of writers where you can get advice on developing characters, general writing tips, get help with story ideas, engage in novel critiques, contribute to a collective novel, etc.
  • Summer Workshops- Every summer OYAN students gather from all over to listen to seminars and work in critique groups to improve their writing and learn writer’s craft.

As the teacher and a mom I’ll add a few more tidibits I like about the curriculum:

  • Video Lessons- They are thorough and so well done. I enjoyed watching them with my student and I’m looking forward to seeing them again with Rebecca this year.
  • Great Talking Points- As you progress through the curriculum, there will be a lot of opportunity for discussion. This has been invaluable in our homeschool. We’ve talked about books- classics and modern and read even more. It’s been fun to talk about books and about life with our teens based on the lessons.
  • Engagement- Whether it’s the online community of teens or the regularly scheduled evening webinars and summer workshops, the author and his wife interact with and encourage your student as do the other students.

Science Fiction Writing Sample

Blog, She Wrote: Creating Other Worlds- Writing Fantasy & Science Fiction

Having completed the outline over the last school year as an elective, Ethan has been working on the novel. I’m not sure it has a name yet, but the first chapter is complete. He said I could share it with you all as long as I let you know it’s a work in progress! This is the first three paragraphs of the first chapter. Currently, he’s working on a prologue.

I woke with a start at the crack of lightning overhead, drowning the room in a flash of light. The whole house shook when the thunder came a moment later. The rain pelted down, making little ‘ting’ sounds as it hit the roof and gutters. A dull roar built up in my head; each raindrop seemed to increase the pressure inside. With a sigh I pulled the blankets up a little farther up and rolled over. A moment later I pushed them back down and rolled the other way. Another crack lit up the sky.

I looked at the clock. 11:43. It was still early. And the storms were as bad as they ever had been. There were no good explanations. No explanations at all, in fact. Except one.… Whispers, rumors moving through the populace. Tales of a people who- No, I thought. But there was no doubt that the storms were getting worse. And there was nothing the government could do this time.

I slipped my feet from underneath the covers and onto the hard wood floor. The old boards creaked as I put my weight on them. I tip-toed down the hall to the old study. My exhaustion vanished in there, I was able to sleep. Why can I sleep in here? But I didn’t really care why, I just came to rest. I closed the heavy door behind me and sat in my father’s armchair to wait out the night.

His writing has really matured over the last few years since he initially started OYAN in 8th grade. It’s been enjoyable to watch the process. These days he writes (even in the summer) about an hour a day on average, but he said it should be more. I’m excited to see how his writing schedule takes shape this fall as he enters into a variety of writing courses.

Other Resources for Teaching Science Fiction & Fantasy Genres

Given that Ethan has such a profound interest in writing and literature, we’ve been taking advantage of opportunities as they come along.

  • Speculative Fiction Writing Workshop- At our local library. A local author is teaching “other world” writing through twice weekly gatherings for teens. At the end, their writing will be included in an anthology which is published.
  • Dystopian Literature Class- As part of our two hour, ten week co-op, Ethan is taking a dystopian literature class in which they will read and compare Fahrenheit 451 with The Hunger Games- a classic sci fi novel with a modern tale.
  • World of Imagination: Fantasy & Science Fiction Literature- Taught through The Potter’s School, these are two one semester courses. They will make the bulk of his English course for the year.

Do you have a student who loves to write stories? Do you have a big fantasy and science fiction fan in your home? Enjoy the journey with your student and engage in their world with them!

How to Build up A Repertoire of Words

Blog, She Wrote: How to Build up A Repertoire of WordsThis post may contain affiliate links. Thanks for your support!

It’s easier to write when you have the tools to work with and one tool which goes a long way is vocabulary. Today’s post is all about How to Build up A Repertoire of Words.

Blog, She Wrote: Story Cubes Review at Curriculum Choice

Ideas on How to Play with Words

Enjoying and playing around with words is a great way to build up a repertoire of new words. Sure, you can focus on vocabulary and word exercises and programs, but an authentic approach helps you to hold on to the new words better.

  • How to Make a Word Collage {& Why}- A post from earlier this school year on how to use a thesaurus and art supplies to reflect on a word and all its uses and meanings. It’s one of our favorites and my word kids love this activity.
  • Five Ways to Play with Words- A post I did for Bright Ideas Press in the fall on all sorts of ways to get to know words.
  • Rory’s Story Cubes- Fun way to create story and practice words with friends or alone. This one is my recent review over at The Curriculum Choice.
  • Writing with Word Cards- Give word cards kids have to use in their writing. They can be ordinary or not, but always try to give a new word.
  • The Dictionary Quest- The perfect activity to make friends with a printed dictionary. Use the dictionary to explore a word and the words around it. Those of us growing our vocabularies before the internet, have the advantage of wandering through print dictionaries and stumbling across all sorts of words surrounding the target word. Use this activity to investigate new words. At random!

Blog, She Wrote: The Ultimate Guide to Establishing a Reading Culture in Your Home

Reading Builds Vocabulary

The more kids are exposed to words in a variety of contexts, the more they get to know new words. Be sure to get your kids reading- whether they like the process or not! Madeline L’Engle said it well when she talked about how we need many words to make sure our thoughts can stay big (that’s the Heather Woodie paraphrase).

The more limited our language is, the more limited we are; the more limited the literature we give to our children, the more limited their capacity to respond, and therefore, in their turn, to create. The more our vocabulary is controlled, the less we will be able to think for ourselves. We do think in words, and the fewer words we know, the more restricted our thoughts. As our vocabulary expands, so does our power to think. – Madeline L’Engle

If you need ideas for how to getting ready to be a regular part of your home, here are a few I’ve compiled.

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Coaching Writing Helps to Build a Word Repertoire

One of my favorite things to do as a homeschool mom is to banter with my kids over their writing. From the youngest to the oldest, it is always an engaging time to see what their vision is and to hear them tell about their writing choices. Often, we’ll talk about using strong words to replace weak choices so they can convey a thought more precisely.

  • Resources for Coaching Writers- Do you need some help finding things that will help you to work with your students? This post is full of books, websites, and general information on working with student writing.
  • Coaching Writing Pinterest Board- This board has all sorts of ideas on how to work directly with student writers. Mostly for middle and high school students, you’ll find many resources here.
  • Essay Rockstar- Do you find that you have trouble being a mentor to your student’s writing? Essay Rockstar could be the tool you are looking for to have occasional or routine outsourced help with writing.

Whatever you choose to do to enhance your use of words, make it fun. Try out new activities and think about words. Use them. Try them out. Surprise people with them. Make words enjoyable. Play with meanings. Challenge yourself to find precise words. See how your use of language changes and see how your writing changes. Join your kids with word challenges. See what happens!

A Homeschooler’s Guide to The Persuasive Essay

Blog, She Wrote: A Homeschooler's Guide to the Persuasive Essay

This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for your support!

If you have a middle or high schooler, chances are you’ve come across the requirement for a persuasive essay. What’s the big deal about writing one? Why is it a good idea to teach your student to write a good one? Here are some tips for you in A Homeschooler’s Guide to The Persuasive Essay.

What is a Persuasive Essay?

A persuasive essay tries to convince others to agree with our facts, share our values, and accept our arguments and conclusions.

When Do We Use The Persuasive Essay?

Students might wonder when the time is right for a convincing argument. These are common occasions for just that:

  • Editorial comments- ranging from letters to law makers to convincing your boss to try a new method in the workplace. We try and win arguments all the time!
  • Speech writing
  • College Entrance Exams- like the SAT require an essay with a solid argument

Blog, She Wrote: A Homeschooler's Guide to the Persuasive Essay

Ways We Engage with The Persuasive Essay in Our Homeschool

In our homeschool we use strong persuasive essays in a variety of ways. It’s a long practiced skill at our house and the results are effective.

  • Permission- to be allowed to do something new or buy something they want or to do something they love. They know the best way to Dan is to offer a well written argument explaining their cause.
  • Speech Writing- Ethan chose to do a speech for 4-H public presentations this year. His speech is titled, “Video Games: Harmful or Helpful?” and is about violence in video games. It has served him quite well and he qualified for the state competition which is tomorrow.
  • High School Literature Class- Excellence in Literature often will ask the student to form an opinion on a literary topic from a book or to compare elements of a book and explain their decision.

Resources for Teaching The Persuasive Essay

So, how do you go about preparing your students to write a persuasive argument. The trick is to be compelling while being concise. Your student needs valid arguments and a logical organization of the facts. Here are a few ideas for practicing the persuasive essay:

  • Topic Lists- It’s helpful to have many prompts or topics in mind that a student could use, but the best essays often arise out of a subject that is near and dear to your student’s heart. Relevance makes the task easier. Choose a topic a week and have your student write. Practice makes perfect- especially when preparing for exams.
  • College Board Site- The company that creates the SAT offers help for students preparing for the exam. Note that the class of 2016 (Ethan’s class) is the last to take the current form of the SAT which includes the mandatory essay. This year’s freshman will have the option of taking the essay portion, but it won’t be mandatory.
  • Essay Rockstar- Fortuigence offers a course in Mastering The Persuasive Essay. Your student can take a four week class with a mentor who will give personal feedback as they work through the essay on a topic of their choice. Ethan’s persuasive essay for this course was on the value of reading aloud in making readers.

Right now Essay Rockstar classes are 20% off through May 26, 2014 so it’s a great time to sign on. Use the code 461-0-6668488. The time limit for the class is open ended and students work at their own pace so if you register now you can start it any time.

Being able to write a strong, well organized and concise persuasive argument is a life skill every person should have. How are you preparing your students for an effective written argument?