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Magazine Issue 78: thinking Stories
December 2016

This month: Thoughts about Thinking Stories

Article: Story Secrets
New Resources
Mike's Books
Additional Resources

This Month's Article:

Three Story Secrets

Three Story Secrets An Article presenting three techniques to help anyone make a new story - or write one that's still waiting inside.

This is a Free Sample Resource

Categories: Article, Teaching & Learning, English, Educators

Tags: Story Pixar Plot Creative Thinking
A lost coin is found by means of a candle; the deepest truth is found by means of a simple story.

Anthony De Mello

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you. 

Maya Angelou

Secret 1: There are only 7 stories

According to Christopher Booker in his definitive 2005 masterpiece, The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories, there are, rather unsurprisingly more than 6 and less than 8 basic plots. Booker identifies these, 

  1. The Quest - setting out, overcoming obstacles, find something of meaning and value.
  2. Voyage and Return - travelling for a purpose, overcoming obstacles, returning changed.
  3. Rags to Riches - becoming rich/successful, loosing it all, gaining it back = older and wiser. 
  4. Overcoming the Monster - defeating an evil and threatening adversary.
  5. Tragedy - hero with a flaw errs and brings about their own ruin.
  6. Comedy - complexity and confusion is resolved to everyone's satisfaction.
  7. Rebirth - key event forces character to change their ways for the better,

and argues that we always find one or more in most stories. Think Harry Potter or Star Wars plot lines and it'll all makes sense.

Secret 2: There are only 6 parts to a good story

Pixar, the incredibly successful computer animation film studio based in California, uses a special pitch to define all their movie plots. It goes like this:

  • Once upon a time...
  • Every day...
  • One day...
  • Because of that...
  • Because of that...
  • Until finally...

Once upon a time there was a single-parent fish called Nemo who lived with his father in an anemone. Every day they ventured timidly outside, haunted by the memory of an horrific family tragedy. One day, Nemo swam too far and was captured by a diver. Because of that he began an incredible journey on which he met new friends and had many adventures. Because of that he became more confident and determined until finally he returned home as a self-assured, assertive young fish.

Secret 3: Everyone is creative

There are two groups of people:

  1. Those who are creative
  2. Those who haven't yet realised they are in group 1.

Creativity = making something new that has value. It's more than Art, Dance or Music. Whenever you have a great conversation you've been creative; you've made an exchange of meaning (chat) that both people valued. Likewise if you get a new look or image for yourself, negotiate a solution to a problem, plan your day effectively or any number other other valuable things, then you've been creative.

Here are 2 barriers to being creative:

  1. The fear of getting it wrong (whatever wrong is).
  2. The risk of starting.

1. might take another article or two but 2. is easy. Use a Creative Matrix. It gets you going if the ideas aren't coming. Choose one thing from each column until you get a combination you like:

A.  Plot Type B. Main Character  C. What gets the story going  D. An object to include 
Quest Sequilla, a warrior princess Death of a family member A weather wand
Voyage & Return Grampule, an old and angry dwarf Invasion by the neighbouring country Servant boots
Rag to Riches Jamyle, a teenage firebrand Theft of a death necklace Future stones
Tragedy Jack, a talking wolf Tale told by a minstrel Emotions cloak
Overcoming the Monster Benita, a poor girl Birth of a dragon Memory pins


For example, Tragedy, Sequilla - Warrior Princess, Theft of death necklace, Memory Pins.

Using the Pixar Pitch: Once upon a time there lived a devious warrior princess named Sequilla. Every day she committed small crimes that no-one ever discovered. One day she stole some curious pins that turned out to remove the memory of anyone from whom they drew blood. Because of that Sequilla committed riskier crimes by making sure to prick the fingers of her victims. Because of that, her confidence grew until finally she attempted to steal the Queen's necklace which strangled her the moment she slipped it on.

Or similar.

Do share these secrets with your young writers. You might even want to make a story to help: The Quest for The 3 Secrets of Storytelling.

New Resources:

Flash Thinking

Flash Thinking A Thinking Skills Tool for making writing and thinking concise and accurate

Categories: Thinking Tool, Thinking Frames, Thinking Skills, Any Subject, Junior

Tags: Story Decision Making Evaluation
Free Standard Member Resource: Login or Join for Free to access this resource and others.

Flash Thinking PowerPoint

Flash  Thinking PowerPoint A Thinking Tool Template in PowerPoint showing how Flash Thinking works.

Categories: Thinking Tool, Thinking Frames, Thinking Skills, Any Subject, Junior

Tags: Story Evaluation Decision Making
Teacher Premium Resource: Login or Upgrade to Teacher Premium to access this resource.

Story Matrix Think Sheet

Story Matrix Think Sheet A Think Sheet using the Creative Matrix activity and SOLO prompts to help stimulate story ideas.

Categories: Think Sheet, English, Junior, Secondary, Thinking Skills

Tags: Story Creative Thinking
Teacher Premium Resource: Login or Upgrade to Teacher Premium to access this resource.

The Winter House

The Winter House A Story from Thinking Stories to Wake Up your Mind 3 showing the power of people over possessions.

This is a Free Sample Resource

Find out more or Download now:
Categories: Story, RE & Philosophy, Junior, Thinking Skills

Tags: Winter Story

Mike's Books:

Books to help you tell stories:

Thinking Stories to Wake Up Your Mind
by Mike Fleetham

Thinking Stories to Wake Up Your Mind <br>by Mike Fleetham A Book containing 27 original tales with follow-on currciulum-linked activities for Primary and Lower Secondary. Literacy infused with the full range of Thinking Skills inspired by Bloom's Taxonomy. Classroom tasks with photocopiable worksheets that will save you planning time and embed Thinking firmly into everyday lessons. 

Available in our shop

Find out more
Categories: Book & EBook, Thinking Skills, English, Junior, Secondary

Tags: Assemblies Bloom's Taxonomy Thinking Stories

Surprising Stories to Stimulate Creativity
by Mike Fleetham

Surprising Stories to Stimulate Creativity<br> by Mike Fleetham The follow-on Book to Thinking Stories. 28 original tales with currciulum-linked activities for Primary and Lower Secondary. Literacy, Thinking Skills and Creativity are combined within engaging stories and tasks saving you planning time and ensuring rich curriculum coverage. Ideal for supporting a creative curriculum. Photocopiable worksheets included.  

Available in our shop

Find out more
Categories: Book & EBook, Creativity, English, Junior, Secondary

Tags: Assemblies Thinking Skills Creative Curriculum Thinking Stories Creative Thinking

Additional Resources:

Thinking Classroom Archive:

Using Story for Learning

Using Story for Learning An Article that concisely summarises the concept of 'story' then proposes how it can enrich teaching and learning.

A story should have a beginning, a middle, and an end... but not necessarily in that order. Jean-Luc Godard

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you. Maya Angelou

What is a story? Why are stories and storytelling important? How can you enrich your teaching with stories?

This is a Free Sample Resource

Find out more
Categories: Article, Planning, English, Educators

Tags: Pedagogy Story


Storyworld: Christmas Tales Cards
by John & Caitlin Matthews

Storyworld: Christmas Tales Cards <br>by John & Caitlin Matthews The perfect Christmas thinking skills resource.

Available from Amazon

Opens in a New Window
Categories: Suggested Products, Creativity, Thinking Skills, English

Tags: Activity Christmas Story

The Seven Basic Plots
by Christopher Booker

The Seven Basic Plots <br>by Christopher Booker A comprehensive, well-written and wide ranging study of the common heritage of all stories.

Available from Amazon

Opens in a New Window
Categories: Suggested Books, Language, English

Tags: Story

Next month we think about...

Challenge 10 Toolkit - Introduction