Writing for Children's Magazines
An Ezine


  Is It a Story?  

  By Marilyn Kratz




Remember the old saying, "Is there a sound if a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it?" To us writers, a similar question might be, "Is it a story if the main character hasn't been affected or changed in some important way by the events in the story?" If not, the writer has merely recorded an event, and that's not a story.

The characters are the most important part of our story. Our readers need to care deeply about them or they will not be motivated to keep reading to the end of the story. Here are some suggestions to consider as you construct a story, not just an account of an event.

1. Begin with your character.

Many times a unique event sparks a story idea before you decide on the main character. But, as soon as you decide to write about an event, create the character who will experience it, and give that character a problem to solve related to the event.

2. Decide how your main character will be affected by the event.

Perhaps he or she matures in some way or learns something important. It can be as complicated as learning to accept oneself as one is or as simple as realizing that you are loved, but it has to be important to your main character.

3. Use the event to bring about the change in your character.

Here is where your skill as a writer comes through. It is not difficult to describe an event, no matter how significant or slight. It may also be easy to describe a change occurring in a person. But, if you have written a good story, the event must be the agent bringing about the change in your character. And it must be done subtly so that it seems to be the most natural result imaginable.

Here's a sample story plot that illustrates these three points:

A boy of about 12 feels powerless in the face of various natural calamities endured by early settlers. A prairie blizzard strikes. The boy must rescue his family's flock of sheep alone. The story is full of the fury of the storm and the boy’s struggles, but the real story is his triumph over his feeling of inadequacy as he succeeds in the rescue.

I don't know the answer to the "sound of a falling tree" question. I don't care to know unless you can tell me how it changes someone's life. Then you have told me a story.

Writing for Children's Magazines, August 2018            Copyright Marilyn Kratz



Marilyn Kratz has been a free lance writer for 45 years. In that time she has had 6 books and almost 800 magazine stories, articles, and poems published, mostly in children's magazines such as Highlights for Children, High Five, Hello, Cricket group magazines and church school publications. Her newest book is Quilts and Country Gardens - Remembering a Simpler Time, which is available on Amazon.com. She is a retired elementary teacher and a member of SCBWI.



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