We had a special visit from author Lynda Mullaly Hunt today at our school. I knew from the surprise visit that she paid to Melanie Swider, written by Melanie on this bog here, that I would like Lynda, but I was not prepared for how much I would learn from her presentation. For those of you who are not yet familiar with Lynda's book, One For the Murphys, I recommend moving it to one of the top spots on your summer reading list.
She gave a wonderful presentation to both our sixth-graders and our fifth-graders. I missed the first part of the presentation, but was there enough to capture some highlights that I want to remember for my own writing life and share with the other writers in my world.
- Writers think of times when they have felt emotion and they use those times to weave that emotion into their stories. Lynda shared times in her life when she felt certain emotions and then pointed out places in One For the Murphys where she re-created that emotion.
- Try starting stories in the middle of the action, and not with a description. She showed an example of starting right in with what the problem would be. The length of the passage was much shorter, much more filled with nouns and verbs, and much more engaging for readers.
- Always think of ways that you can build tension for your characters. Writers always think about how they can create tension because that it what hooks readers. A great exercise is showing a picture of a situation and then talking about ways that we can build tension... SO many ways to do it! I can't wait to do this as an exercise with students!
- Choices that characters make reveal things about who the characters really are. As writers, how can we tweak actions and conversations to reveal aspects of character? Loved this as a concept.
Lynda gave one of the most honest and inspiring presentations that I have ever seen from a writer, and the children were attentive and appreciative. If you ever have a chance to meet her or hear her speak, she is an incredibly special person. Don't miss that opportunity!