Writing Assignment: Using Non-Chronological Sequencing to Heighten Suspense

Happymess kids are perfecting their creative writing skills.  Quantum is hard at work on his current narrative assignment.  The assignment is to take a small (actual) misdemeanor and turn this episode of misbehavior into a fictional narrative that evokes an element of mystery or fear.  The method?  Beginning in the middle or the end.

Quantum chose a time when he “hid” in the back seat of the car so that he could attend his older brother’s college football game.  In actuality, we knew he was there and we were delighted to have him.  In Quantum’ s fictionalized account the young boy remains hidden until he gets out, unnoticed, at a country gas station.  He intends to secretly re-enter the car but his timing is wrong and his parents, unknowingly, drive off without him.

Quantum wrote this story from beginning to end, in correct chronological sequence.  He then chose a sentence from the middle of the story,

“It was hot and stuffy in the trunk and I was getting hungry.  I was wondering if my parents would ever stop for gas…”

This became the new beginning of his tale.  From the inside of the trunk we experience the boy’s discomfort and regret.  When the boy is abandoned at the gas station he is befriended by an old man.  The man encourages the boy to call his parents and tell them the truth.

By inverting the sequence of events and fictionalizing a small misdemeanor Quantum is able to create an entirely new, and suspenseful story.   He uses extensive dialogue to express the thoughts and feelings of his characters.  After calling his parents the boy is left waiting to be picked up at the gas station.  We know the dad is angry but the reader waits with the boy, in suspense.  We can only imagine what the punishment will be.  Will the dad be as angry as the boy imagines or will Dad be forgiving and understanding, as the old man at the gas station believes?  Quantum leaves these final questions unanswered so the reader can supply their own ending.

The technique of fictionalizing a small bit of truth and then inverting the sequence is successful in creating suspense.  Starting with a misdemeanor and writing a beginning to end story with liberal fictionalization was an easy way to get Quantum writing.

We like to begin our writing sessions (after planning) with several 15 minute free-writes.  Quantum sketched out a general idea for his story, “hiding in the trunk” a climax, “lost boy” and a theme, “reckless behavior can lead to unexpected consequences” and an uncertain ending, “would the boy be forgiven?”

Once the events and order had been established, it was…On your mark, get set, GO…15 minutes of non-stop writing, no time for perfection, just get the story down on paper.

After re-reading his free write Quantum chose his middle sentence and started from this point.  He began to write more thoughtfully and slowly, really taking the time to build the story in the mind of the reader.  Now he had to make us feel the inside of the trunk, and see the barren gas station, he had to make us worry about this boy by himself, his decision to trust the only adult, an unknown male.  We were rooting for him to finally call his parents.  We knew they would be shocked and worried.  We knew they would turn around immediately and pick him up.  Of course they would be angry, but would they understand and forgive?  Most importantly, will this boy finally get to see his brother’s college football game?

By starting. In the middle, and not answering all our questions, Quantum has created a tale of mystery and suspense.  Most importantly, this technique enabled a novice writer to begin at the beginning, initially, and to feel comfortable creating an imaginary story that rings true.  Following these basic stair step exercises demystifies the writing process and brings simplicity and joy instead of tears and frustration to the creative writing process.

Happymess Kids Practice the Dark Art of Writing

Let Me Count the Days:  Homeschooling is striving to make the impossible attainable.

5 Responses

  1. Wow! I am totally impressed with this assignment and the process your child used for this. Sounds like an incredible story, and that he is doing a great job with his writing. I can only wish that my daughter would tackle an assigment so well. Getting mine to write is like pulling teeth, from something really big and mean!
    Linda
    Homeschooling mom of 1, who is happy to cook, clean, and even do windows…just don’t ask me to be my kids’ creative writing tutor.

    • Linda,
      I love your analogy! Perhaps your daughter will have fun fictionalizing some misbehaving antics! My son loves to imagine that things could have been worse than they actually were. Good Luck! Allia

  2. What a neat and different take on writing, def. going to try this with Victoria since we are almost through with learning different parts to a story. She is supposed to begin writing her very first “big story” soon and these exercises would be fun 🙂

  3. […] Happymess: A Naturally Inspiring Approach to Education Writing Assignment: Using Non-Chronological Sequencing to Heighten Suspense “Happymess kids are perfecting their creative writing […]

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