So, last night we continued the conversation on plot with a lesson on suspense. I took a tip from Bret Anthony Johnston and began the lesson by reading The Monster at the End of This Book — a great example of suspense. Then we talked about ways to add suspense to “Cinderella,” since that’s the story we used in our lesson on plot. At first, the students suggested ways to slow down the action — more stumbling blocks to throw in front of poor Cinderella and the prince. But then one student suggested using flashbacks and other points of view to add suspense. DING! DING! DING! I was thrilled that she suggested this on her own, without my having to drop hints.

For the writing exercise, I asked the students to compose a list of obstacles that could separate a character of their choosing from what he or she wants. All but one student understood the challenge and did a great job with the list. The one who didn’t still tried hard and seemed engaged, so that’s fine by me.

We had some time left at the end of class, so we all outlined a story together on the board, utilizing our combined knowledge of plot and suspense. We chose a character and his situation, and we followed him on his way to and from a climax. Everyone seemed excited to see the outline come together. Even one of the quietest students — a man who barely makes eye contact when speaking — kept tossing out ideas for what our character could do next. It was great to see him excited and participating.

I can’t believe this was already the 7th of 10 classes. Last night, the students said they hope I’ll teach another 10 classes after this! That’s probably not possible right now, since I’m having a baby soon, but it’s nice to know they’re not all secretly wishing for this course to hurry up and end!

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