Peering into Young Minds

I’ve recently come up with the idea of  having my students write some stories. I’ve always enjoyed to stimulate their creative side and I have never been disappointed, whatever the request has been, with the products of their inventiveness. I thought about organizing it in a the form of contest, according to the spirit of the previous post, so I decided that each student of one of my classes (average age 15) had to write the beginning of a story of about 100 word length. After having chosen three (or more) among them, the students would have written their sequels adding a minimum of 100 words. No student was allowed to write the continuation of the part he had written, he had to skip a turn, but he was allowed to add new material to the other stories.
In the end, groups of students would have worked on the stories for the editing and to provide them with the necessary structural cohesion.

After I read all the students’ pieces I found myself in trouble with the selection of the three best, as they were somehow very alike. As I was looking for three different topics I chose for the following beginnings:

“On a cold and windy December day. Nothing was going as it was supposed to be. Jacob was tired of his work and he just wanted nobody to bother him, therefore; he quickly changed himself, put on his running shoes and went for a run in the park. He was running thoughtlessly when suddenly…”

I thought there were many hints: Why was nothing going as it was supposed to be? Why didn’t he want to be bothered? Was he a runner too? Here comes the second one:

“The girl ran. She ran blindly through the forest, with only the light of the moon to guide her, alone and afraid, cold and hungry. She ran fast, as fast as she could, even though she had nowhere to go. She ran, her bare feet cut and bleeding, her hair streaming behind her, a flash of bronze and reddish tangling in the bare branches overhead. She ran without stopping, and each time she fell she got back up, once, twice, three times, again and again and again, more bruised and battered than before but still alive, still breathing. Still running.”

Once again somebody was running. The wood had become a forest here, but this time she was escaping: from where? Why? I thought it interesting as it could have turned into a sort of fantasy story. The last one was a little different:

“Gary, a police inspector, arrived at home after an endless day of hard work. As soon as he opened the door, he noticed something weird. He saw two notes on a table. On the first piece of paper there was written the name of his wife and a strange picture of a padlock. On the second one there was a telephone number. He was shocked. After a few seconds the phone started to ring.”

That could have become a sort of thriller, I guessed, but I was wrong. Whatever the start was, mysterious creatures, dark presences, strange women filled the following episodes becoming thus all a sort of fantasy stories. I even wrote an episode myself in order to make it all more realistic, but no way.

So I decided to publish a fourth story. I had discarded it at first, as I thought it too complicated to continue it. Here it is:

“I didn’t exist. A moment later I was there. I couldn’t know how it was possible, but I was alive. The first thing I saw was a white marble table in front on me.
I tried to move myself, but I couldn’t. I tried to shout, but nothing came out. I was full of fear, but I couldn’t tremble. A couple of minutes later, a human being came toward me. He touched me. Suddenly in my mind there were billions of
numbers. In that moment I understood : I was a
computer.”

It was Kafkaesque in a modern way, maybe that’s why I liked it. By the way, I was right, only one episode more has been added and nothing more (Do you have any ideas?).

I decided to make this project in another class too, but even if they were a little older the setting and characters were the same: woods, forests, islands, deserts and to the list of the characters above mentioned, I could add even a torturer.The world they pictured in those few sentences was gloomy, peopled by strange creatures and dangers everywhere. Nobody thought about subjcts like family matters, friends, school or even love. Not a word. But why?

On one side I may guess that at their age they are rightly ashamed to speak openly about feelings like love, for example, but on the other that depends on what they watch and the series they are fed with. They mostly enjoy fantasy stories and their scary, threatening atmosphere which is full of anxiety and distress. The gloominess of that world seems to have affected them in some way, so that they apparently are no longer able to imagine positive emotions, the beauty of nature, the light.

I’m resolved about writing myself a beginning of a short story and it will be about love. Let’s see what happens.

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Words,words,words

paese incantato

Once upon a time, in a remote part of the South of Europe, there was a kingdom sun-kissed and pine fragrant, whose blue waters lazily washed pink white beaches of shells and corals. The inhabitants of this enchanted place were also renowned for their constant effort to add to the other celebrated beauties the most precious one:democracy; because despite the country was a true paradise on earth, anybody who attempted to visit it could see that lacked the most basic foundations of social organization. Furthermore signs of moral decay could be detected almost anywhere.
“Democracy! This is what we need, and we’ll be saved”: somebody started to say.
Till one happy day, the most important people of the country decided that it was time that the first elections should be held. The hopeful citizens rushed en mass to the polling stations and enjoyed so much this ritual that decided to repeat it once, if not twice a year. Unfortunately they soon understood that democracy was not so easy to achieve. In fact election after election, decade after decade, scandals, the corruption and degradation of the political system had not been stopped yet:
“Maybe, this democracy doesn’t work here!” they wondered.
“Maybe, it’s because of the sun” pondered one “or the sea”, said a woman. Maybe. Any possible solution had been explored, besides the inhabitants of the beautiful kingdom sun-kissed, pine fragrant whose shores were washed by crystalline seas, had slowly started to desert the polling stations. But one glorious day something totally unexpected happened. There was a man, whose speeches had started to inflame the hearts of men and women again triggering a sparkle of hope. Well, he wasn’t exactly a man, he was a FOOL ,a real fool, not like those other fake fools who had ruled the country the previous years. His words were captivating and passionate and people were overwhelmed by his impetus and somebody even assured that he was a sort of wizard because he a magic panacea which would have helped heal their rotten country: the WEB. When the next elections were held, the inhabitants of the beautiful kingdom sun-kissed, pine fragrant whose shores were washed by crystalline seas went joyously to vote with the certainty that THIS time something would have changed for sure. The party of the fool conquered one-third of the voters, it had been a huge success: for the for time in the history of the known world, a fool might have changed the course of events.
” This could be a model to be exported abroad”, said a man.
“This time WE might teach something to the other kingdoms” he added proudly and the others nodded.
“Yes, let’s call it foolocracy. It will our brand all over the world”. And they quickly set out to register it.
After a few weeks, the people still crowded the public meetings of the Fool but with less enthusiasm:
“This Fool keeps on talking and talking, but when do you think he’ll start to do something?”
“Maybe, it’s not time. I’m sure he is certainly planning something sensational, you’ll see”.
But time went by and nothing happened. The Fool kept on talking and threatening the other two parties, without realizing that his followers had started to abandon him. One day, during another of his public meetings, there were just a few people who were absently listening to him when they heard just like a distant sound of something arriving. It seemed like a train.
“A train? There isn’t even a railway  here. It’s impossible!”
Everybody turned toward the strange thing that was coming closer and closer. It was actually a train, a big sparkling train with a bright flashing signboard, where there was clearly written: GREAT CHANGE TRAIN, LAST RUN.
The train was approaching quickly, so all the people started to shout to draw the Fool’s attention, who was still talking and talking:
“C’mon, jump on the train and drive us to the change! C’mon, what are you waiting for? YOU FOOOOOOOOOOOOOOoooooooooolllllllllllll!!!!!!!!”
The train had now gone. The people, now silent, were horrified, because maybe it was the heat or the rage, but everybody could see the ghastly image of the previous fool who had ruled the kingdom the past twenty years, slowly rising behind the stage where the Fool was still talking and talking and talking.
It was Sunday and another election day had arrived. The inhabitants of the beautiful kingdom sun-kissed and pine fragrant, whose blue waters lazily washed pink white beaches of shells and corals were ready to reach the polling stations to vote. But this time some of them decided not to go, because they thought that they had better spend their time doing some housework, some others had to go to an important football match that evening and needed time to arrange everything. Many others had really nothing to do, but remained at home anyway. They were puzzled because they had the feeling they hadn’t actually understood how democracy worked and needed more time to study the instruction booklet.