We’ve reached the mid-point of the pilot year of The (K)indred Experiment, and the end of 2016. At the risk of getting caught up in all the end of the year list-making and Auld Lang Syne-ing, this seemed like a good point to stop and take stock of the program and the progress the students have made over the last three months.
Four lessons in, they’ve been turned loose with as much information and as many tools as could be crammed into six hours with instructions to finish the first drafts of their stories.
In January we’ll start revising.
The foundation has been laid for a collection of good stories, and in the new year we’ll spend some time learning how to turn those little nuggets of fantasy–dinosaur robots, and planets made of liquid nitrogen–into fully formed science fiction stories that can stand on the weight of their own ideas.
But I think at this point it’s important to look back at all the things we’ve learned and accomplished.
The students have dragged whole worlds from the depths of their imaginations, populated with cookie-bots, dino-bots, astronauts, and even the occasional hippopotamus. They’ve mapped their worlds in full color, complete with legends and scales. They’ve learned about the arc of a story, creating and solving problems their characters face in order to create tension, and how to fill in that story arc with both description and dialogue. They’ve learned that everything in their worlds is useful and important.
I’ve learned that an hour and a half is hardly any time at all, especially on a Friday afternoon when at least twenty minutes of that is spent trying to get students to focus. I’ve learned that lecturing leads to glassy-eyed confusion, and so I will be on the lookout for more hands on, interactive lessons and examples for next year. I’ve learned that not everyone starts their process with characters, and the arc of the project might be more effective if I changed up the order of the lessons.
The second half of the program will be for polishing and presenting the time and effort that the students have put into writing their stories and building their worlds. At the end, they will have a finished product that will launch them onto the path of being creators. I hope they stick with it.
This world we live in has lost an enormous amount of creators in the past calendar year. There is a void that needs to be filled with new art, new ideas, new creativity, no matter what form it takes. It’s important.
So, as I tried to reinforce to the students before I turned them loose on their school break to finish their stories: it doesn’t matter what it looks like at first. Everything can be revised and perfected. It only matters that you do it.
Write the story. Paint the picture. Create the thing that only you can create.
We need it.