Okay. Maybe you’ve written a fable of about 500 words, one that you might even have typed and fits single-spaced on a single page. Or maybe you did something else. Maybe you followed the rules, or maybe you didn’t. Whatever. This is not a test of your ability to follow instructions.

It’s time to try doing something “weird” to the story. Or not. Your choice.

  • Prepare to rewrite. If you typed it, save the version you have and retype it. (If it’s short, it’s actually quicker to retype than to do a find/change.) Just keep both versions.
  • If you wrote in past tense, change the verb tense throughout your story to present tense. “He ran home” becomes “He runs home.” The story is told as it’s happening. If you already chose present tense, change it to past tense. This change will alter every single sentence. Often, more than the verb has to change to make the sentence work. But verbs are actually the least of your problem.
  • You were supposed to write in third person with no I or we other than perhaps in dialogue. Take a breath. Trust me, it’s doable. Change the point of view to first person observer-narrator. Even if you ignored the rule and wrote in first person, choose another character to tell the story or make one up a new character. Remember my Bird story I published yesterday? It’s third person/past tense. I need an observer to tell my story. I might have to invent a new character, someone watching the action and telling about it in real time. The observer tells a story about your main character.
  • Add dialogue. Yeah, really.

BEFORE: In a place people think they know and not so long ago, a small bird with a black head, a grayish back, and white flight feathers picked at the ground. By nature she was a cautious person. She was busy looking for seed and finding it. She pecked at small red ants and swallowed them too. Some might have named her genus and species. She had no such names for herself. She was Bird. Everything was simple in her world. …

AFTER: All the littler People think they know this place, but they really don’t. I know it because I have always lived here and I see everything. That bird there—mindless, eating seeds on the ground, ants, heaven knows what. She takes off every time the winds shifts, everytime anything stirs and she’s off. It must be a boring life. That bird is unprepared minute by minute, but she gets by. She’s a simple creature.

“Bird!” I say, and off she flies. I want to warn her about Rat. Does she even see him?

When she comes back, I try again: “Bird! It’s just me, Tree!”

This goes on and on—I greet her, she flies away—until she finally looks before she leaps into my branches. “Oh, hi,” she says. “What did I do?” And she begins apologizing for pooping on my branch last night

  • Your story might get longer because you have to add characters talking to one another or because it starts in a different place. The plot might change. It might get funnier or sadder or find a new ending. The moral of your story might even change. All of that is fine. Let the changes happen!

When you are done messing about, have a look at both versions. Which one do you like better? What can you borrow from one to make the other better. In other words: you are on your own for draft three.

If you want to, you could post your fable (any version) as a comment. Or not. Whatever. I will post my revision at the weekend. I’m not sure I want my observer-narrator to be a tree.

NEST WEEK: [and mostly from now on] a nonfiction assignment!



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