Write a TON of raw content
Narrate an event from your life
Now, do this
Pick an event from your life.
On your Story Starter list and your raw content, look for 5–20 minute events where you were a major actor. If you’re an observer or passive participant, the event won’t show much of who you are
As you were writing a bunch of crap, you probably mentioned events you could expand on (like, we set up and launched the model rocket or Mom and I made cookies).
Don’t pick events like this:
- A giraffe leaned over the fence and licked my face
- I saw my dad fix the lawnmower
- Someday I want to be an architect
Pick events like this:
- While I was sneaking up on the herd of giraffes to take their pictures, one of them leaned over and licked my face
- While I was helping my dad fix the lawnmower, I figured out why it wasn’t starting
- I built a skyscraper out of playing cards
If you don’t have an event that works, go back to Play with the story starter prompts page. Start at step 3 (Find at least 3 specific events) and work through the steps until you have at least 3 events.
Don’t worry about picking the right event
You’re learning a new skill, and the event doesn’t matter much. You could even write about what you do from when you get out of bed to when you leave for school. For now, find an event to use, even if you don’t think it’s. a good one.
(A few years ago, a student wrote a brilliant essay that featured how he got dressed for school in the morning!)
Write some words, poorly, with this guided audio.
Listen to this 90-second audio and immediately write for 12 minutes. Don’t be taking any breaks between listening and writing! That doesn’t work.
Listen to this
Here are some hints to help:
Pretend you’re sending a letter to your best friend or grandmother. Tell them the story about your event—get it out so they know what you did and said and thought and felt. (They’re understanding and don’t mind that it’s still a bunch of crap.)
If you get stuck, ask yourself questions like these and keep writing:
- Then what happened?
- What did he say?
- What did I feel like when that happened?
- What went through my head there?
Ask yourself these questions.
How was that different from the first three times you wrote for twelve minutes?
Some people say that writing like this makes it much easier: it gives them something concrete to grab. Others find themselves wandering around or struggling. Either way is fine. Keep on writing!
Were you trying to do something?
Were you trying to tell a complete story? Make sense? Draw conclusions? Prove something? Show a strength?
If you notice you were trying to do anything that wasn’t narrating what happened, see if you can let go. The less you try to do something, the more powerful this will be.
Read some of Barak’s raw content.
Barak is in the process of writing a college essay using the Write Like a Pro process, just like you.
This is his crap—he listened to the visualization audio (which was weird for him because it’s his voice) and wrote each of these in about 12 or 15 minutes. These events happened before he started his senior year of high school.
There’s one big difference between you and Barak (aside from him being old, of course): He’s been writing a lot longer than you. His crap is going to be closer to a finished story than yours, but only because he’s been writing for decades. He still has plenty of typos!
As you read, notice anything he’s doing that you could do. For example, could you:
- Use dialog?
- Add context or background?
- Include more of your thoughts, feelings, or inner monologue?
- Change the kinds of details your writing about?
“Eat your squash”
“Mom doesn’t make me”
“Eat your squash”
“No you can’t make me”
“Eat your squash”
“You’re my sister, we’re the same level, you can’t tell me what to do”
Things were not going well. Six-year-old me, sitting at the table, long after everyone had finished. Mom was traveling, Ann and Dad were watching from the sidelines, and Janet was running the show. She had made dinner, she was in charge, and that was that.
I was stubborn as a kid. Suppose I still am. Right is right, after all! And no one is going to boss me around. Why? Well, it just didn’t seem fair. Mom knew that forcing something slimy and gross like squash down my throat was not going to work. Peas. Sure. Lettuce with Italian dressing. Ok. Baked potato with butter and salt? Almost tasty (but not as tasty as fries with ketchup). String beans? Kind of like peas. WIlling to force them down without tooooo much of a fight.
But squash? Are you kidding me?
Janet didn’t live at home–she’s 18 years older than me, and that’s a big difference. She lived in CHicago, with her husband, Jim. Janet is pretty rule-driven (like my mom, I guess). If there’s a rule, it’s gonna be followed. And she’s tough and usually gets her way.
But, she hadn’t met me. Well. she had. Just not at the dinner table.
Janet also spent a lot of time with lttle kids. Like most of us in the our family, being part of the community was a big deal. She and Jim lived in a rough part of Chicago while he went to grad school for social work. She was a teacher or social worker at the native american center–very low income, struggling population. Kids from the neighborhood would come to Janet and Jim’s apartment and they’d feed them. For many of these kids, it was the only healthy food they’d get in week.
And Janet had a rule–if you eat at my table, you finish everything, eberything on your plate.
And there she was, visiting us in Milton, a sister I didn’t yet know very well, and what I always thought of as our table–wait what I’m trying to hard
Janet was having nothing of it. No little kid was going to get away from her table–even if it wasn’t hers since she didn’t live there as far as I was concerned–without eating those vegetables.
Ann (about 16 at the time) thought it was ridiculous. Dad was keeping out of it. I was frustrated. Come on peeople! Stand up for me! This is sooo unfair! Mom would NEVER make me eat this garbage! But no, this was to be between me and Janet.
I don’t know how long I sat there. But that squash was getting colder and colder, soggoer and soggier. And it was a nice evening. Nice like, I’m six and if I finish my dinner I can have a cookie and go play outside for a while nice. And this sure was getting boring…
So, I caved. I was weak, I admit. I let her get the best of me.
I put some of the squash on my fork.
I looked at it
I opened my mouth. I put it in. I swallowed it.
I think it got about halfway down to my stomach before my true inner self stood up strng and said “THIS SHALL NOT STAND!!!”
My body took over and back came the squash, up my throat, out my mouth, and all over the kitchen table!
Ha! You see, that’s what happens when you don’t trust yourself. I knew squash was dangerous and disgusting! I knew I shouldn’t have given in! And from the depth of my soul (er belly) I stood my ground after that moment of hesitation.
And that was that. Janet was deteated–she knew it was over.
To this day I am the only child who ever left Janet’s table without eating my vegetables.
Ice cream mafia
“Fine, have tghe police come and tell me.”
Tht’s not what I expected from being an ice cream truck driver. The ice cream mafia.
It was a weekend. On the weekends we parked the turck on museum wharf in Boston. RThere was a little bridge–right by the tea party ship museaum, a replica of one of the ships from the VBoston Tea Party. Half a block away was the Children’s Museum and giant milk bottle that served coffee and soft serve.
We parked on the street on a little bridge because on weekends there wasn’t much street to street demand for ice cream. Setting up at an event or location where there were lots of tourists was a great way to make a lot of money–especially a spot where kids and families were. Everyone loves ice cream!
It was our first weekend at the wharf–or one of the first. Alex and I were heading into senior year–17 year olds. We got up early, picked up the truck in Charlestown, loaded up the ice cream, and drove to the wharf. We got there early and parker, excited to start our new ice cream adventure and sell tons of ice cream.
And then things got ugly.
A truck pulled up and unloaded a hot dog cart. There were a couple of people–the cart owner (I think) and a younger guy who apparently would be running the cart thaat day.
“You have to move. You can’t be here. This is our spot,” the older guy said.
What are you talking about? I asked
“We have the license to be here you can’t be here there’s rules about this.”
Alex and I had no idea what he was talking about. It was a public street, we had our food truck license from the city, nothing anywhere said there were other rules about it.
I was nervous, anxious. Would we get arrested? Was this guy trying to bully us? Was there a real rule?
“We’ll have the police here and then you’ll get a huge fine and get arrested.”
This is about where Alex started having second thoughts. “Maybe we should leave–I don’t want to get into a fight”
But this just got my hackles up. I was getting possed, pretty sure that the guy was trying to play us and bully us. I thought about how my dad would handle it. My dad who’d tell of policemen who tried to shake down his business. My dad who told off a colonel in WWII for ordering his unit to do something they weren’t qualifie to do.
So I stood up for ourselves. Told Alex we’d be all right and, more importantly, it was the principle at stake. This was a public street and everyone with a license had a right to be there as far as we knew. And if not, I wasn’t going to take the word of some bullying hot dog guy
“Call the police. If they tell us to leave, we’ll leave.”
That just pissed him off. He yelled at us. The younger guy running the cart yelled at us. They said we were in soooo much trouble.
Nothing happened. They knew we weren’t moving, they knew we called their bluff and that was the end of it.
I hate stuff like that. Bullying. Playing people. There’s plenty to share. Hungry? Get a hot dog. Want dessert? Get an ice cream.
That was the first and only time we had an issue at Museum wharf. I don’t know if we just happened to run into a jerk that weekend, or if the word got out that we wouldn’t be bullied.
Read what you just wrote and do a quick self-review.
Did it take place over about 5–20 minutes and you were a major actor?
If not, be aware the next time you narrate an event. (You may have included some context or background. That counts as part of the event.)
Is this different from what you wrote before?
Look back at your first blocks of writing. Do you see a difference in the level of detail, the sense of who you are, or the depth of the story? Or, is it pretty much the same? Do you see opportunities for more detail the next time you narrate an event?
Is this moving in the direction of an engaging, authentic short story that shows who you are?
You’re probably getting a sense of what these look like by now. In the broadest sense, is that what you wrote? Your event may be incomplete, garbled, and horribly written. That’s perfect!
Which of your top ten strengths coming through?
Look through your list. See any?
Do you give a sense of what happened?
Could someone read it and have a picture of what was happening and what you were doing and saying?
Do you give a sense of your experience at the time?
Do you share what you were thinking or feeling while things were happening?
Do you share any deep thoughts?
Are there any observations or insights that you see today that you wouldn’t have been aware of or thinking about when the event was happening?
Whatever you wrote is perfect. Remember, your mission is to produce a ton of baby chicks! Spit out enough of them, and you’re good!
Narrate 1–2 more events.
Immediately before narrating each event, listen to the audio.
Add them to the bottom of the Story starters and raw content document, and use Heading 2 to name each of your stories.