Wrong advice on telling stories;Letter

15th October 1999 at 01:00
AS A TRUSTEE of a charity devoted exclusively to encouraging and enabling young people and their teachers to write, I was delighted to see the competition in TES Primary Magazine (September 24).

However, the advice on how to "make a story interesting" was, I believe, not merely unhelpful but wrong: "Use unusual words". If I do not know the child I am addressing, I do not know what her or his "usual" words are. In any case, the advice should be to choose words that most closely reflect the careful looking and listening that is needed before writing anything. Simplicity, as in the Raymond Briggs' story in the same edition, is powerful.

You do not need "unusual, funny or strange characters". How many of the most-read stories are about the ordinary person caught in a situation which demands a response beyond the normal for that person? Anyway, again, what might be an unusual character to me could well be perfectly mundane to the child who is reading this advice.

Why set it "in a strange place"? What is meant by "strange"?

What is missing is the idea of the child's need to have time to look, listen, touch and reflect, and then painstakingly try for those words that are within the child's own stock, to capture as exactly as possible what she has thought or imagined or created.

Truth expressed in as simple a way as possible is always far more powerful than a striving for the "unusual" - whatever that is.

Christopher Bowring-Carr

26 Derryvolgie Park

Lisburn Co

Antrim

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