The Write Idea: Unleashing Potential’s Afterschool Program Helps Student Writer 

Another of Unleashing Potential‘s (based in St. Louis) afterschool programs is helping youth succeed — and words, imagination, and a great mentor equal the winning formula.

Maria* knew the basics of her fantasy story: It would be styled after an old folk tale. A princess would become very sick, the king and queen would seek every type of treatment they could, and nothing would work. Finally, a mysterious woman would visit with a dried-up rose, urging the princess to crush and mix it into a tea, that the “potion” would cure her. Except the princess wouldn’t get better. She would turn into a terrible beast.

Unfortunately, as Maria worked on her story, she kept getting stuck.

But then she found out that her site manager also liked to write and knew a thing or two about the creative writing process.

“I hadn’t met someone else who liked to write,” Maria said.

This opened brand new doors. She asked if her site manager could help.

The Creative Writing Process

The site manager gave Maria these tips: Think through the causes and effects of each of the characters’ actions. Why would a mysterious woman want to turn the princess into a terrible beast? And if the mysterious woman had a grudge, why would she not show up until then?

To think through these questions, Maria drew on her own experience. She’d loved My Little Pony when she was very little, and one of her favorite episodes had involved a character banished to the woods. So Maria decided that this mysterious woman was actually the firstborn daughter of the king and queen, except that she had been cast out of the kingdom for practicing witchcraft. After many years, she had finally developed a spell that allowed her to return to her homeland for up to 24 hours.

The site manager also gave her some tips about writing better characters: Write as much about the characters as you can, even if you aren’t going to use all of it. That way, you can know your characters better.

Maria began to list attributes about her characters — their ages, their quirks, their hobbies, their passions. As she did, she found herself relating to each in a different way: One liked to draw, just like her. One always had a lot on their mind, just like her. She found herself expressing herself in ways she wasn’t usually able to utilize.

Although Maria isn’t finished yet with her story, she feels a lot better about it. She also feels like she’s improved as a writer. Creativity is one of her gifts. When she grows up, she wants to be an animator — and her site manager has helped to unleash this.

But most importantly, Maria now is honing a craft that allows her to process through the clutter in her mind, giving her more clarity and focus.

*Actual student/name has been changed to protect child’s identity

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