Writing EffectiveWriting Effective Story Leads Story Leads
Dig a Potato Today!A potato grows beneath the surface in apiece of writing. It’s the thing that thereader and the writer want to dig up.A lead is like that potato. Leads are the seedsthat help a writer begin to figure out wherethe plant is growing. They are anorganizational tool, a motivational tool, anda springboard into a piece of writing. Theyalso lead us to endings.
Dig a Potato Today!Listen to the following leads. Whatquestions arise in your mind as you listen? I was six years old when my mother taught me the art of invisible strength. Rules of the Game by Amy Tan
Dig a Potato Today! You are not the kind of guy whowould be at a place like this at this time ofthe morning. Bright Lights Big City by Jay McInerney
Dig a Potato Today! The name my family calls me isMorning Girl because I wake up earlyalways with something on my mind. The Morning Girl by Michael Dorris
Leads are magicflashlights that shinedown through a story showing the writer what to put in and what to leave out. John McPhee
We are going toreview four types of leads: - descriptive - dialogue - thinking - action
Types of Leads: Descriptive Leads Create a picture in the reader’s mind. Abraham Lincoln wasn’t the sort ofman who could lose himself in a crowd.After all, he stood 6 foot 4 inches tall, and totop it off, he wore a high silk hat. His heightwas mostly in his long bony legs, and whenhe sat in a chair he seemed no taller thananyone else. It was only when he stood upthat he towered above other men.Lincoln: A Photobiography by Russell Freedman
Types of Leads: Descriptive Leads Create a picture in the reader’s mind. Mossflower lay deep in the grip ofmidwinder beneath a sky of leaden gray thatshowed tinges of scarlet and orange on thehorizon. A cold mantle of snow draped thelandscape, covering the flatlands to the west. . . .Winter had muted the earth; the muffledstillness was broken only by a traveler’spaws. Mossflower by Brian Jacques
Types of Leads: Dialogue Leads Let your characters start talking. “George, I wish you’d look at thenursery.” “What’s wrong with it?” “I don’t know.” “Well, then.” “I just want you to look at it, is all, orcall a psychologist in to look at it.” “The Veldt” by Ray Bradbury
Types of Leads: Dialogue Leads Let your characters start talking. “Where is Papa going with that ax?”said Fern to her mother as they were settingthe table for breakfast. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
Types of Leads: Thinking Leads Start with a thought inside a character . Mother taught me to be polite to dragons.Particularly polite, I mean; she taught me to beordinarily polite to everyone. Well, it makessense. With all the enchanted princesses anddisguised wizards and transformed kings andso on wandering around, you never knowwhom you might be talking to. But dragons area special case. Talking to Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede
Types of Leads: Thinking Leads Start with a thought inside a character . As a boy, I never knew where mymother was from—where she was born, whoher parents were. The Color of Water by James McBride
Types of Leads: Action Leads Set-up the action/conflict for the whole story in a few sentences. The first concussion cut the rocket upthe side with a giant can opener. The menwere thrown into space like a dozenwriggling silverfish. There were scatteredinto a dark sea; and the ship, in a millionpieces, went on, a meteor swarm seeking alost sun. “Kaleidoscope” by Ray Bradbury
Types of Leads: Action Leads Set-up the action/conflict for the whole story in a few sentences. A cold day after school. Frankie T.,who would drown his brother by accidentthat coming spring and would use a lengthof pipe to beat a woman in a burglary yearslater, had me pinned to the ground behind abackstop, his breath sour as meat left out inthe sun. “Fear” by Gary Soto
Great Leads Dig Up Great QuestionsA great lead will get the reader thinking,wondering, and curious about what’s goingto happen next.Good readers ask questions all the time whilethey’re reading although they may not evenrealize it. Wanting to answer the questions iswhat keeps us reading.
Types of Questions: Above the Surface / Below the SurfaceQuestions come in different shapes. Onetype of question is the above the surfacequestion – What happened? What are thefacts? What’s the truth? Who was with you at the store? What kind of day was it? When did it happen? Did you need stitches?
Types of Questions: Above the Surface / Below the SurfaceThe second kind of question digs below thesurface of a story and tries to root out anew thought, insight, or feeling. How did you feel when you fell off your bike? Do you remember another time you felt that way? Why did she steal the candy?
Types of Questions: Above the Surface / Below the SurfaceBoth kinds of questions can help a writerdevelop a story, but the second kind ofquestion is especially important because itcan help a writer to find new ideas andangles. What was he thinking when the hurricane blew through? How did it feel to see the house destroyed?
Notebook Entry - Asking Questions Above the Surface / Below the SurfaceOne way to practice digging questions is to dowhat journalists do. Use the following wordsto ask questions about the following picturesand leads. Pay attention to the two kinds ofquestions you are asking. Try to ask bothabove the surface and below the surfacequestions. Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?
What kinds of questions couldwe ask about this picture?1. Write twoquestions onyour paper. Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?
What kinds of questions couldwe ask about this picture? 2. Write two questions on your paper. Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?
What kinds of questionscould we ask about thislead? Many years later, as he faced the firingsquad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was toremember that distant afternoon when hisfather took him to discover ice. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez 3. Write two Who? What? questions on When? Where? your paper. Why? How?
What kinds of questionscould we ask about thislead? Every so often that dead dog dreams meup again. Dog Heaven by Stephanie Vaughn Who? What? 4. Write two questions on When? Where? your paper. Why? How?
What kinds of 5. Write two questions onquestions could we your paper.ask about this lead? If you really want to hear about it, thefirst thing you’ll probably want to know iswhere I was born, and what my lousychildhood was like, and how my parents wereoccupied and all before they had me, and allthat David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’tlike going into it, if you want to know thetruth. Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?
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