Storytelling -Write Like a Fifth Grader

writingThe very best storytellers draw you with evocative language and immediate imagery. But it starts with a simple road map, an outline, a trail…

Intro – say what you are going to say

Body – say it!

Ending – say what you said.

Without this basic framework, as we all know, everything from blog posts to e-books begins to resemble a trail of breadcrumbs already half eaten by a flock of pesky sparrows.  As homework helper in chief though, I have to say, a dose of middle school English has made me a better writer by not only focusing me on those key points, but also by providing a way to take my writing to the next level.

It’s amazing what a rubric can do to improve your storytelling! While I think, as professionals in the business of writing, we all know how to break down a piece into main idea and supporting points. What we, at least I, don’t always do in any systematic way is review for what makes an essay a story – language!

Excerpted directly from a fifth grade rubric:

Sentence variation:  Does the story include a variety of compound sentences, independent clauses, appositive phrases and introductory adverbial and prepositional clauses?

Figurative language: Is there extensive use of similes, metaphors and personifications?

Word choice: Does the story include vivid and lively verbs? Imaginative and unusual adjectives? Too many vague or overused words?

The first time I used this rubric, I must admit, I had to review what exactly some of those words mean . I always get similes and metaphors mixed up; what exactly IS an adverbial clause?  But, the process, of course gets easier and admittedly more fun. And an essay becomes a story.

These days, rather than channeling my inner Irish, I draw on my inner English teacher. Though we prefer to believe otherwise…all the best storytellers do.

headshot newMaryanne Conlin is CEO of RedRopes Digital. Though she prefers to believes she has an the Irish gift of gab, she finds finding and following the rules of effective writing probably has something to do with her writing ability.

2 thoughts on “Storytelling -Write Like a Fifth Grader

  1. This is some sound writing advice. I especially like the first point about sentence variation, because writing can get stale if all of the sentences have the same rhythm. Sometimes you need a break. Then one can ramble on until the cows come home, extolling the virtues of our fair maiden and all she has to offer the reader.

    Understanding the proper use of the comma helps, too. I still struggle with this pesky bit of punctuation, but I’m improving with time. The comma is an important tool in setting the cadence of one’s prose. It must be used wisely.

    When I was young, my mother would remark about how intently I watched television. It didn’t matter if I had seen that episode of Gilligan’s Island five times before, I still tuned out the world and soaked up every detail. Now, as a writer, I watch just as intently, but I’m looking for the aspects of the writing that make the show great or horrible, as the case may be.

    I don’t know who said it, but I like the quote, “Nothing is wasted on the writer.” It sound like you’ve already got that figured out.

    Well done on the post. :-)…oh and thank Gini for the comment, it was her tweet that sent me here in the first place.


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