Students… Creating Your Story


Creating Your Story
by Dr Dave Sidwell
The great philosopher, Aristotle, posited that plot was the most important of all dramatic elements. You will find that the plot (the story) for your students’ opera does drive everything else, for good or ill. Here are a few tools for helping your students create an effective Story.
First, let’s take a look at the Three S’s of a good Opera by Children story:
1.       Simplicity. Your students’ story should be simple and easy to state and remember. Their opera will be only about 10 minutes in length; they do not have time for a multitude of subplots and dramatic deviations. KISS: Keep It Simple Sweetie! If you cannot summarize the story in one or two short sentences, it is probably too complicated.
2.       Striving Together. Characters in a story strive for something together, solve a problem together, or things happen to characters together as a group. While many movies and stories feature characters who fight against each other, Opera By Children works best—and you will find the process much, much easier—when the characters all work together to solve a community problem.
3.       Sandwich. Characters follow the NORMAL—STORY—NEW NORMAL structure. A story is like a sandwich. The slices of bread are the beginning and the end of a story while the action—the meat, cheese, mayo and lettuce—is inside. A story begins when things are NORMAL (slice of bread). When something happens that changes what is normal, a story (sandwich insides) happens. When the story is over, a NEW NORMAL (slice of bread) comes into being. The NEW NORMAL is an important part of your story; don’t forget it.
A Story in Five Sentences
The Sandwich model should be applied to your students’ story, using compound sentences, as follows:
Sentence #1: Describe the NORMAL of what your characters are DOING and how they are FEELING (this is your first slice of bread) UNTIL a specific event happens to CHANGE what is normal. This event is called a “point of attack.”
Sentence #2: The characters DO something to try to deal with the event that happened (the “point of attack”), BUT they do not succeed in solving the problem. Alternatively, additional things may happen to the characters, resulting in a deeper problem. This is often a good time express their FEELINGS.
Sentence #3: The characters try again to DO something to bring things back to normal, BUT they do not succeed.  Alternatively, additional things may happen to the characters, resulting in a deeper problem. They express their FEELINGS again.
Sentence #4: The characters try, once again, to DO something to solve the problem, AND this time they succeed. They express their FEELINGS again.
Sentence #5: Describe the NEW NORMAL of what your characters are DOING and how they are FEELING. (This is your second slice of bread). This is the resolution and end of the story.
You may notice that the words DO or DOING and FEEL and FEELING are strongly noted in the sandwich story above. For each time you see DO or DOING, there should concrete action in the story that can be demonstrated later through staging.
For each time you see FEEL or FEELING, this is a good place for a song later when your students create their libretto. The librettists may also make DOING songs in addition to FEELING songs, and your students can certainly create DOING-FEELING hybrid songs. Note, however, that your students’ opera will proceed from song to song if you use this model as they sing about what they are or will be DOING and how they are FEELING.
We have created a worksheet to help you through the story-writing process. Your students can fill this out together on one master, or you may simply use it for your own reference as a teacher.
Opera By Children
Story Worksheet
Once the boxes are filled in, create your sentence by combining information from Description and Doing boxes. Write in the present tense, as if it were happening right now. You may also add the Feeling box to your sentence if you wish. If the sentence doesn’t fit in the box provided, it is either too long or too complex. It’s time to simplify!

Description
Doing
Feeling
Sentence #1
What is NORMAL?
What are characters DOING?
What are characters FEELING?

What event happens that changes what is NORMAL?

What do the characters DO?
What are characters FEELING?
Sentence: Characters are DOING something as normal, UNTIL event happens that changes what is normal.
_______________________________________________________________, UNTIL
____________________________________________________________________ .
Sentence #2
What happens to characters AND/OR how do they try to solve the problem?

What do the characters DO?
What are characters FEELING?
Sentence: Characters DO something to solve problem, BUT they do not succeed. OR, additional things may happen to the characters, resulting in a deeper problem.
_________________________________________________________________, BUT
____________________________________________________________________ .
Sentence #3
What happens to characters AND/OR how do they try to solve the problem?

What do the characters DO?
What are characters FEELING?
Sentence: Characters DO something to solve problem, BUT they do not succeed. OR, additional things may happen to the characters, resulting in a deeper problem.
_________________________________________________________________, BUT
____________________________________________________________________ .
Sentence #4
How do characters solve the problem?

What do the characters DO?
What are characters FEELING?
Sentence: Characters DO something to solve problem, AND they succeed.
________________________________________________________________, AND
____________________________________________________________________ .
Sentence #5
What is the NEW NORMAL?

What are characters DOING?
What are characters FEELING?
Sentence: Because of the events that have just happened, the characters DO something to deal with or celebrate the new normal.
______________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________

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