Layered Writing

Sometimes we can borrow something from another art form and smuggle it over to children’s writing to be used in a slightly different way. One example of this is the “log line.” A log line in Hollywood scriptwriting terms is a kind of one-sentence summation of your script, preferably making it sound almost unbearably exciting. A log line sums up both the script’s objective and subjective story. The objective story was basically what happened on the screen: A meets B and experiences the kind of instant loathing that is sure to result in true romance. The subjective story is basically what the story is about–in human terms: perhaps something like “strong emotion is the root of romance.” A good log line merges the two halves into one sentence to describe a script or film.

Cool, huh? What does it say about children’s writing? It is the nature of art–whether children’s writing, adult writing, painting, film, sculpture–that most forms have a dual nature. They have some kind of representation of reality married to what it means. In children’s writing we tend to think of that as “story” married to “lesson”–because we think of children in terms of instruction and training. Purists balk at the idea of “lesson” and insist they should just entertain. However, much of what is entertaining in adult art contains that element of “lesson”–if you take lesson and translate it to theme.

To find the dual nature of your story in a compelling way, listen to the full episode.

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