I have a student who has some very creatiive writing ideas. She uses lovely descriptive language. She likes to write fantasy stories set in earlier times (2nd-6th centuries). Her dialogue langauge is generally not what I would call typical of the time period. She also incorporates inventions and thoughts which could not have possibly come from the time. How do I guide her without squashing her creativity?
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I would leave her alone. Since she is writing fantasy, then she has license to alter the dialogue and other details. I probably would encourage to stay away from real place names and historical figures so that no one could say she is planting anachronisms into historical fiction. Let her create her alternate universe!
Have you seen the movie "A Knight's Tale"? Sounds like your student may have seen it a couple of times and is writing along the lines of that story.
I concur with Linda. This student could be utilizing Harry Potter-style logic, and infusing older ideas with newer ones, much like the old He-Man cartoon series -- Medieval social structure and titles mixed with laser technologies and other modern innovations.
You may wish to ask this student if she meant to include out-of-place technologies in her period setting, and if so, make your judgments from there.
I agree with both posts, however I always tell my creative writing students that you must first learn the rules in order to break them. Maybe you can encourage her by letting her know that all professional authors who write time period pieces do research. Ask her to spend some time in the library reading about the time period she so admires. She could even take an historical figure from that time and fictionalize the character in a story. Encourage her to know that readers love fantasy but it must be grounded in some sense of reality. The Lord or the Rings, for example, works because all the characters in the world know the rules the world operates by and there is enough referance to the actual world to be believable.
I would expose her to other (appropriate) stories set in the same time periods. Since she likes these eras, she would probably enjoy reading more about them. Also encourage her to do research, as post 4 suggested. Try to find novels and stories that you think more accurately represent her historical time periods, and introduce her to them. If you teach a class that includes teaching a research paper, she might want to do that paper on something that has to do with her historical interests. That said, there are many books that are historical fantasy that are not exactly historically accurate in every possible way, and that's okay. Lots of young adult historical fiction's dialogue and language is not completely accurate to the time period, because the audience that is reading it would not understand old references and ways of speaking. However, your young author might also benefit from some gentle editing. Ask her questions. Point out that a particular technology in her story was not yet invented, and ask why she included it. Compliment her but also ask questions. She may not want to change things, or maybe she will once she realizes that her creations don't make sense in the historical context.
This is a fine line to walk, isn't it. You run the risk of squashing her creativity--and even her dreams--if you say too much, yet it's part of being a teacher to guide and direct for greater effectiveness. So what do you do?
I guess I come down somewhere in the middle and offer this compromise: for her own enjoyment and practice, so to speak, she should be free towrite in a way thatmakes her happy. If she's ever ready to take this to the next level (i.e., publishing), let her know you'd love to give her some ideas about how to make the great work she has even more effective.
Words have power, and I'm confident you'll deal with her in a way that is both instructive and supportive. Thanks for caring so much about one student and her gift.
Understand that your student is developing into a writer. The fact that you have to ask what you can do without squelching her desire indicates that you know it would squelch it. She writes. She writes well. She writes fantasy. Fantasy indicates she should be allowed to invent things. Where would the world be without writers like Tolkien who invented things?
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