Hi! My name is Zoe, and I’m an eighth grade student in Mr. Mayo’s third year film class: Lights, Camera, MEDIA, Literacy! Part of this year’s curriculum was to write and illustrate a children’s book with our production group. The stories had to incorporate all the elements of the plot diagram and the theme of transitions.
We began the writing process by completing a homework assignment in which we wrote about past transitional experiences, or periods in our lives where we faced tough obstacles or challenges. When we shared our stories in class we began to notice that many of our experiences were similar, so we created groups based on our shared experiences. Groups consisted of common experiences such as dealing with your parents getting a divorce, starting psychiatric therapy, coping with the death of a loved one, making new friends, gaining the courage to follow your dreams, and immigrating to the U.S. as a young child.
Once we were in our groups, we decided on a common story to express our shared experience. Most groups had two main writers, or sometimes everyone contributed to the story. I was the main writer in our group. The beginning of the whole process was choppy as you would expect. As the writers worked on the rough drafts of their stories, the other group members began doodling character and setting ideas.
We built our stories piece by piece following the basic plot structure. This consists of exposition, where the story introduces the characters, setting, and circumstances. This is followed by the rising action, when the inciting incident causes the main character to begin a journey on which they encounter many obstacles. This leads to the climax, the most exciting part of the story, usually consisting of some sort of conflict. This is followed by the falling action and/or realizations following the climax. And finally, the resolution, when the problem is resolved and the story comes to an end. The main character goes through a character arc, an internal journey, which gives them a new state of mind or a new perspective as a result of their journey.
Once our stories were about two drafts in, we began the illustrating process. We created master storyboards using large pieces of bulletin board paper in order to lay our stories out. The writers broke the story down into pages and the artists started sketching out possible ideas for their illustrations. The most important thing was to be free and loose with the drawings in the beginning. The illustration process is similar to the writing process in this way. You have to first create a series of rough sketches to help figure out what you want the illustrations to look like. This is similar to when I wrote the rough draft of my story, “Wake Up”, for the first time. You can’t overthink what you are doing. You just have to let it come out freely.
Here’s a short video of all the groups working on their master storyboards:
The illustrators then worked with a local artist, Arturo Ho, who showed them different techniques in creating their characters and settings on paper. As the artists sketched the master storyboards, the illustrations slowly started to evolve and come together. Once the master storyboards were complete, the artists began carefully creating their final illustrations. With the help of Arturo Ho, the artists experimented with watercolor and shading techniques. The end products are beautiful.
Life isn’t always what you want it to be. Sometimes, your parents get divorced. Sometimes, you have to start over in a new city, state, or even country. Sometimes, you have to seek professional help for emotional issues. But if you’re able to appreciate the difficult parts of life, you will grow to be a better person. We wrote these books for children. We want them to not only enjoy them, but to learn from them. We want them to understand the bad parts of life when they are young, so they can cope with it better when they are older. If these lessons are taught at a young age, they will be better adults. But how do you teach these lessons? You have to speak their language. That’s what we have done here.
Zoe is an 8th grade student in Mr. Mayo’s media literacy class. She wrote “Wake Up”, one of the children’s stories in the recently published book, Transitions. Zoe also wrote the prologue to the book You can buy Transitions on Amazon or download the Free PDF Version of Transitions.