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How to Write a Story Review by Kim Kargbo

By Lee Roddy
The Institute for Excellence in Writing
8799 N. 387 Road
Locust Grove, OK 74352

For anyone who has ever wanted to help their children write good stories but wasn't sure how to go about it, look no further. Lee Roddy has developed just the manual that you need, and it's published by IEW, so you know it's good!

How to Write a Story is a step-by-step guide on how to start and finish short stories that will make the task simple for every student and teacher. The book takes you through eight lessons, each one scripted so that the teacher has hardly any prep work to do to teach it. Each lesson starts with a student objective and a teacher objective, showing you right up front what to expect out of each lesson. The lessons are broken down into steps, and each step is explicitly explained so that no questions are left to the imagination. Familiar examples illustrate each step, making the concepts come to life. The lesson ends with a handout for the teacher and student to guide them through the process taught in that lesson. Lessons begin with a review and end with a summary, emphasizing the key points that must be remembered to build a well-crafted story.

The book begins with an overview of what is necessary to write a good story: the three "O's"--Objective (the set-up, situation, and character), Obstacles (a crisis blocking the objective), and Outcome (the character's efforts to overcome the obstacles and reach the objective). Each of those is further broken down in the introduction, helping the teacher to understand and explain each section accurately.

After the introduction, the lessons begin. Lesson One deals with "Ideas." Lesson Two is "Story Building," introducing the three-part structure of the story. Lesson Three is "Developing the Story's Beginning," introducing the main character, describing the situation, outlining the problem, showing the motivation that drives the character in the story, providing the objective and viewpoint, painting the setting, introducing the adversary and the other characters, showing the conflict or tension, hinting at the obstacles, adding suspense with risks, tying the story around a theme or moral, demonstrating the decision the character makes, and asking the right story question. Lesson Four is about the "Obstacles Building Tension in the Middle of the Story." In this section of the story, the plot leads to a crisis. Lesson Five discusses the "Outcome: Bringing a Story to an Exciting Ending." It teaches the three C's of the ending of the story--Crisis, Climax, and Conclusion. Lesson Six is on the development of characters. Lesson Seven is on developing the plot. Lesson Eight is on developing scenes that put live action into a dead page. The conclusion wraps up the lessons with some commitments on both the student's and teacher's part in striving for success.

A teacher's guide is also included that shows possible answers for the student worksheets. This helps the teacher in assessing the student's answers and ensuring that the answers are leading to a successful conclusion.

I highly recommend this resource for any homeschooler teaching story writing to their students. It can be used independently from other IEW resources, so it is not necessary to purchase the other IEW materials before using this helpful guidebook. The author writes in a very personable and friendly style and requests direct communication at the end of the book from students who have successfully used this method to write stories. Mr. Roddy himself is the author of many, many short stories and novels, including The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams, which was made into a TV series. He recently had his 90 th birthday but is still writing and building dreams in young writers.

Product review by Kim Kargbo, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, October 2011