How Robert Louis Stevenson Wrote His Stories

“There are, so far as I know, three ways, and three ways only, of writing a story. You may take a plot and fit characters to it, or you may take a character and choose incidents and situations to develop it, or lastly—you must bear with me while I try to make this clear… you may take a certain atmosphere and get action and persons to express it and realize it.”

Robert Louis Stevenson, as quoted by his biographer Graham Balfour, in A Manual of the Art of Fiction, by Clayton Hamilton

Over the past few weeks I have buried my head in books about writing storytelling, especially this manual, because we are coming into the home stretch of our development of The Lost Tools of Writing, Level II.

Four consecutive lessons or units will teach students how to create a story out of thin air, just as Level I taught them how to draw an essay out of an empty hat.

This statement by Stevenson lays out our procedure. I love the simplicity.

In the first lesson, students will learn the absolute rudiments of storytelling, just as they learned the rudiments of an essay in lesson 1 of level 1.

Then they will learn, over the next three lessons, to develop a narrative (i.e. tell a story) starting with each of the three elements: a character, a setting, or an action. Step by step, they will gain control of the storytelling process!

If you teach so-called “creative writing” you’re going to want to see this approach in action. If you have level I of LTW, keep your eyes peeled. II is coming soon (April 1, to be precise)!

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One Response

  1. Can’t wait. Very excited to see Level II.

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