While I was reading I felt caught up in the story-world, and I didn’t want to come back out. With my mother’s encouragement, I imagined and sometimes wrote my own pieces set in the story-worlds I loved. If I didn’t like the ending, I might write a different one, or write a continuation of the story in which things went more as I wanted them to. Or I might decide to write more about a background character who caught my interest, or write a letter by one of the characters putting their own spin on some of the events described in the book…
Putting On the Style
Sometimes, instead of writing pieces set in the story-worlds I loved, I tried writing things about my own world in the style of the authors I loved. How would Tolkien have described the twisted beech-grove in the state forest near my house? How would Robert Frost have described my redoubtable great-aunt? I liked putting on their styles and getting a fresh take on my world through their eyes.
Sometimes my family did a live lightning version of this. One person started telling a story and went on for a few minutes, then stopped at a tense or puzzling point and let the next person make up the events that followed. (At some points my mother had to set a sentence-length or time limit so that I didn’t just keep on talking endlessly and frustrate my younger brother.) Once I tried a slower version with fellow homeschool kids: each of us wrote a one-to two-page story beginning and then mailed it off to the next person on the list, who wrote a page or two of continuation.
I particularly enjoyed trying to write poems in tight forms with specific rules: haiku, cinqains, limericks, sonnets, even villanelles. The tightness of the rules was a satisfying challenge and sometimes gave me an interesting new perspective on what I was trying to say. (Wikipedia offers definitions and examples of all these forms and more.) Also, if I read or heard a poem with a rhyme scheme or an unusual rhythm that I enjoyed I tried writing one of my own in the same form.
Choose Your Own Adventure Stories
This project is time-consuming, but these days many of us have extra time… Once I wrote a Choose Your Own Adventure book for my brother, featuring some of his stuffed animals as main characters in an adventure story like the ones we sometimes played out together. The first page introduced a dramatic situation and a difficult choice to be made, and invited the reader to turn to page 2 if they made one choice, page 3 if they made the other… Each page had a short continuation of action followed by another set of choices, except for the ending pages (in which the POV character succeeded, died, or gave up). It felt like a puzzle as much as a story, since several different choice-paths might lead to the same ending. I had a lot of fun writing it, and then watching him navigate through it.