Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Writing Coach: Alliteration

Chloë Contemplates, 2011.

Her eyes grew wider than ping-pong balls. “What are you staring at?” I asked her. “There’s something in the road,” she breathed. We hurried over to the curb. “What is it?” I inquired. My eyes were starting to get tired from squinting. “I, I think it looks like some sort of dove,” Aaron replied quietly. “The sign of Aphrodite,” I said to myself, without thinking.
—Chloë May

This is an excerpt from Chloë's novel. She's nine. Last week she asked, "Oma, will you be my writing coach?" What an honor!

She'd penned a poem for a school contest, and wanted me to look it over. It was beyond brilliant. The last stanza read:

I don't care if you live in Russia, or Italy or Ecuador;
I don't care if you're strong or wise or weak.
We're all unique. Only that matters, at the core.

(She was especially proud of the inner rhyme.) I made a few suggestions. I told her what a simile was, so she came up with an opening verse:

The world is like a camera.
Sometimes it gets out of focus.

Cameras see the beauty in things . . .

I told her about alliteration, and pointed out that she'd used it when she wrote "wise or weak, we're all unique." She caught on immediately and amended the next lines:

Cameras capture the coolness of things,
Magical moments—all that hocus pocus.

With just a description of the concept, she came up with the words on her own. I explained that personification makes inanimate objects do things people do. She thought for a second and wrote:

Cameras remember terrific times, Things that won't happen again,

(Notice the th's and the t's)

Sometimes leaving scars in our memory. Sometimes they act as a friend.

She read everything out loud, eliminated words and added syllables to get the rhythm right. I was interested to see how intuitive her wordsmithing was.

After about half an hour, her nine-year-old self reappeared. Cartwheels and back-bends replaced commas and sound-blends, and writing was forgotten.

A couple of nights later I was back. Chloë's seven-year-old sister Jessi shyly said, "Oma, I'm going to write a novel, but I don't know what to write about. Would you be my writing coach, too?"

"Sure!" I said. "You could write about something you already know, or something you want to learn."

"I want to learn about Alaska," she said, "and I want my book to be realistic."

"OK," I said. "Ask yourself some questions. Who's in Alaska? Why? What's the problem? What will it take to solve it?"

Jess's imagination kicked in, and she took off. "It could be about a girl who's parents got divorced and the mom moved to Alaska and the girl has to go live with her. And she wants to become a mermaid. Maybe the dad and mom got divorced because the mother was a mermaid and the dad didn't know, and when he found out, he didn't want to be married to a mermaid after all. So the girl realizes she's half mermaid, and she wants to have a pet and travel all around the world, but she doesn't know how."

When she stopped to catch her breath I said, "What if her pet was a seahorse and she rode him around the ocean to go places?"

Ashley, 2011

Even Ashley giggled at her clueless grandmother.

"Oma," said Jessi incredulously. "Do you know how small a seahorse is?" Her voice squeaked higher with each word. "It's only about an inch high!" Her big baby-blues rolled up to her brows. "Riding one is not realistic."

Jessi, 2011

She's hiring Chloë as her new writing coach.

Now it's your turn:

When you re-read your next blog post, look for ways to
add alliteration.


Shelley said...

Great post! What smart little girls!

VickiC said...

What talented little girls and how fortunate they are to have a mentor in Oma.
Any thoughts on encouraging kids to write and ways to help them develop their skills? I am so saddened that with the onset of mandatory testing, most writing (at least when I look at what my grandkids are doing) has been reduced to following a set format. Everything has five sentences: an opening sentence, three supporting sentences and a closing sentence.

Allison said...

I really, really want to read Jessi's mermaid novel. Love her creativity!

Grammy T. said...

So cute Oma. :)

Diane said...

They couldn't have a better coach.

Sounds like you're feeling better. I certainly hope so.

mama boss said...

Never one to notice whether or not I've used alliteration, this post had it on my mind, so I shouldn't have been surprised when it popped up in my most recent post. Thank you for helping me to have fun with writing! :)