When Jack Gantos visited, he mentioned his “formula” for story writing:
  • Problem/Situation
  • Characters
  • Setting
  • Action/Plot
  • Crisis/Moment of Discovery
  • Resolution/Solving the Problem
  • Emotional and Mental Change in the Character (the double ending)

Also, don’t forget:
  • Theme
  • Point of View

Let’s take his formula as well as theme and point of view and begin to plan a story. Here are some details that might help:
  • Problem/Situation: What is the main problem that is the focus of the story?
  • Characters: Who is this story about? For this assignment, keep it between 1-3 main characters. Describe your characters. What are they like? What personality traits do they possess? What do they look like? You may not use all of these details, but have them just in case.
  • Setting: Where does this story take place? Be as detailed as possible in your planning. You may not use all of the details in the actual story, but have them there just in case.
  • Action/Plot: What will happen in your story?
  • Crisis/Moment of Discovery: This is usually the “climax” where the main character comes face-to-face with the major conflict/problem of the story.
  • Resolution/Solving the Problem: How the story ends. How the problem is resolved.
    Emotional and Mental Change in the Character (the double ending): How the main character is changed by the events in the story.
  • Theme: moral lesson of the story…you don’t have to come right out and say it. Readers should be able to glean it from your story.
  • Point of View: Who is telling the story? For this assignment, keep it consistent, from the point of view of only one character.

Take a look at a couple of examples.

Ms. Sanders’ Example
  • Problem/Situation: Young girl (Ms. Sanders) is scared of her mean Kindergarten teacher.
  • Characters: Kindergarten girl (Ms. Sanders): timid, immature, long chocolate-colored hair, has trouble paying attention, impulsive, does unusual things. Mrs. Whiteson: Kindergarten teacher, stern, never smiles, very strict, doesn’t seem to like little kids, short dark hair, practical, older than a dinosaur/T-Rex.
  • Setting: Kindergarten classroom divided into areas: one area with tables for working with a counter and shelves to the far left, to the right of that is HER rocking chair and an ABC rug and four book cases filled with books, in the very back...is a long skinny area to do different activities and for “nap” time. Here, on the bulletin board hangs the “tattle-tail”. There is a door that leads to two bathrooms and a metal sink for washing hands and washing out the mouths of children when they say a “bad” word. Above the sink is a window looking back into the room. Through this window you can view the “mouth washing” punishment.
  • Action/Plot: a little girl (Ms. Sanders) is scared of Kindergarten because of her evil teacher. One day the little girl does something wrong and is punished. During this punishment she realizes the importance of rules and of following them. She also learns that her teacher is only human.
  • Crisis/Moment of Discovery: One day, while trying to continue reading a book to the class, the teacher says, “Quiet students. Listen to me. Do NOT say another thing!” The little girl says, “thing!” and is punished. She has to sit outside the classroom and the teacher forgets about her.
  • Resolution/Solving the Problem: While forgotten outside, the little girl observes the class through a crack in the door and wants to tell the teacher that she has been outside for a long time, but is afraid to speak up. Finally, the teacher notices her outside and smiles at the little girl and says she is sorry she forgot about her.
  • Emotional and Mental Change in the Character (the double ending): The little girl realizes the importance of following the rules and, shocked by the smile, is not scared of her teacher any more.
  • Theme: It’s important to listen and follow rules, trust your own instincts; everyone is human (yes…even an evil Kindergarten teacher).
  • Point of View: First person….the little girl (Ms. Sanders)

Mrs. Swanda’s Example
  • Problem/Situation: ISB students and teachers realize they are with a psychotic tour guide.
  • Characters: ISB grade 6 students, ISB teacher chaperones, and Lana the tour guide who seems to have no job satisfaction and encompasses a varied range of emotions including grumpy, nice, angry, and ambivalent
  • Setting: Khao Yai Rainforest in on of Thailand’s national parks. The rest/snack area has tables for eating and relaxing and there is a large open area for games. Deer are free to amble around and are not afraid of people. The rainforest trail is a shaded, narrow, beaten down path of dirt, rocks and leaves. It meanders up and down the side of a mountain with a stream below. There are fallen trees and rocks to climb over, and the vegetation is denser in some spots than others
  • Action/Plot: Students and teachers are afraid to make any noise or do anything wrong after Lana the guide explodes over a minor infraction. They plod along the trail as quietly as possible not knowing if the slightest sound will set the guide off again. As they come upon the “Beware of Crocodile” signs, they wonder what she has in store for them.
  • Crisis/Moment of Discovery: When the group comes upon the signs and sees the crocodile on a log and possibly more in the water with no barriers for protection.
  • Resolution/Solving the Problem: Students and teachers manage to get past the crocodile but are left wondering if everyone is accounted for.
  • Emotional and Mental Change in the Character (the double ending): The character hopes Lana is in a good mood again due to a therapeutic hike with quiet and obedient hikers.
  • Theme: You never know how people (or animals) will react when they’re under stress.
  • Point of View: First person from one of the ISB participants.

Now try it out yourself. Plan your Jack Gantos Style Short Story.
  • First decide on your problem/situation. (See Jack’s story ideas below.)
  • Next fill in the rest of the formula elements.
  • Finally, Jack likes to use detailed maps to help him write. Make a detailed map with BOTH characters and setting. (See Jack's map below. Your map should have more specific details in writing.)
    • Setting: Make a detailed map of where the event happened.
      • Include as much detail as possible.
      • Details must be written AND drawn.
      • Think: Time, Place, Environment, Mood
    • Characters: Sketch characters on the side.
      • Include as much detail as possible.
      • Details must be written AND drawn.
      • Think: Feelings, Physical Description, Actions, Personality Traits

[[image:Jack's_Map:Plan.png width="415" height="325" align="right" caption="Jack's Detailed Map"]]
Jack's Story Ideas