Friday, March 13, 2009

Tandem story

For creative writing today, we wrote a tandem story. Actually four tandem stories.

Tandem means “a group of two or more arranged one behind the other.” Thus a tandem story is one that someone starts then passes off to someone else to continue. You can go back and forth in partners, but the four of us – Jacob, Alexandra, Larissa and I – sat in a circle around a table and passed the story to the right. We had 10 minutes to write (I set a timer), then wherever we were in the story, we had to pass it off. Each time we got a story, we read the story from the beginning, then continued adding to it for another 10 minutes. We did this four times. That fourth and last person had to end the story. No one got any story more than once and had no control over where the story went next.

It was a blast.

When we were done, I read all four stories out loud. I can’t think of when we had so much fun with our homeschooling.

If we read a story too quickly before adding on to it, we made humorous mistakes. As I was reading aloud, I caught one of my own mistakes – I had skimmed over a key detail and contradicted the previous writer – and was laughing so hard that I couldn’t read on. Larissa had to finish for me. In another story, a character introduced by the first writer was completely ignored for the rest of the story as if she didn’t exist. Oops!

We all had a good laugh and plan on doing it again someday, this time having the person who started a story write the ending to his own (now completely different) story.

If I gave everyone a blank sheet of paper to start with, I thought we might take too much time figuring out how to start. Thus, I wrote the same first sentence on each of the four sheets of paper, and we all had to use that sentence as a starting point: The frightening thunderstorm finally stopped, and the sun peeked out from behind the receding clouds.

One of the kids didn’t pay much attention to the first sentence and we had to make a small change in the beginning of that story. We had a good laugh about the sun peeking out in the middle of the night. You can take a story in a different direction, add characters, or simply “tread water” and add lots of details without saying much.

I’m going to share these stories. They probably won’t be as much fun to read as they were to write, but it’s a great exercise that I highly recommend.

(I changed the color of the font for each of the different writers.)

Story #1

The frightening thunderstorm finally stopped, and the xxx moon peeked out from behind the receding clouds.

Even though it was the middle of the night and Josh had barely gotten any sleep, he decided it was a good night to take a ride.

He had just won the grand prize in a raffle and the prize was a brand new Shelby GT-720 Super Snake.

He put on his clothes, grabbed his keys and rushed downstairs. When he came into the garage, he stood a minute and just looked at his new car. He jumped in and twisted the key. The Mustang growled to life. He opened the garage and back out onto the road. Everything was quiet, no one was awake and there were no lights. Josh left his lights off; he could see everything anyway.

His tires hissed on the wet road and made a wet spray in the back. Josh swung the Mustang around a curve and headed the car along the smooth road that wove through the woods. Suddenly he saw a dark shape hurl itself in front of the car. Josh tried to swerve, heard a dull thud, the stopped. He switched on the headlights to see better and slowly got out of the car. Something lay unmoving by his front left tire. Josh crouched down and looked uncertainly at the wounded fox, wondering what to do. He didn’t know what he should do but he felt bad just leaving it there because it definitely was alive. The fox feebly lifted its head and looked painfully at Josh.

How would he explain the fox to his parents? Josh wondered as he delicately lifted the wounded animal. And the blood. Oh, how he didn’t want to stain the interior of his brand new car. But he couldn’t just leave the fox. He decided to take off his shirt and wrap the fox in that. He had many more shirts, but only one car.

The drive home was short and slow. Josh turned off his headlights before he turned into the driveway. He decided to leave the car outside. He would have to confess about his night ride to his parents in the morning; no sense waking them up now.

Josh gingerly picked up the bundled, wounded fox and carried it to his bedroom. He would have to take it to a vet since he didn’t know what to do. He just hoped it would live. For now, all Josh could do is make it comfortable in a cardboard box and some rags that he fetched from his father’s shop area.

- - -

“Josh, what’s in that box of rags?” asked Jessica, Josh’s annoying little sister – at least he thought she was annoying – when she barged into his bedroom at 7:00 AM.

“It’s a long story…” he said.

Jessica knelt by the box and peeked inside. “Aww,” she said. “It’s a little fox. What happened?”

“Like I said,” Josh said crossly, “it’s a long story.”

“It’s hurt,” she announced. “Looks like its leg is broken. Why didn’t you fix it?”

“Fix it?” Josh asked, astonished. “How am I supposed to do that?”

“Like this,” Jess said, and Josh heard a grinding noise as the two pieces of bone came back together.

“Now give me a stick so I can wrap it and splint it.”

Josh obeyed, surprised at how his sister was handling this. At least she was being helpful. Soon the fox was taken care of and Jessica sat by its box, watching it sleep. “…And we’ll keep it forever and its name will be Sir Benjamin, and all my friends will be jealous of my royal pet.”

“Yeah,” Josh said. “Right.” Then, after thinking a moment, he suggested, “Why don’t you go tell Mom and Dad about your new pet? I can hear them talking downstairs.” Josh grinned as his little sister hurried off to tell her news.

“I’m going to school,” he called out to his parents, and hurried out to the car.

“Bye, honey,” he heard his mother call out after him.

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What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.”
— Albert Pike, Scottish Rite Freemason (1809-1891)