Writing Trick: Fill the Balloon – With Writing Prompt

(I originally wrote this for The TeachingBooks Blog)

Remember the first time you blew up a balloon? Someone pulled a balloon out of a bag and handed it to you. Fresh out of the bag, it didn’t even look a lot like a balloon, but you could see how it could be – with a little work. And you’d seen a balloon before, so you knew what it should look like.

With the image of a balloon in mind, you filled your cheeks with air and blew into it. It started to take shape. You blew more air into it. It got bigger. Then you could really start to see what it was going to be like when you were done. You began imagining all that you could do with it. Imagined sharing it with others.

The more you breathed into it, the more you stretched it. Expanded it. Each time you breathed more into it, the tension increased. You felt like it could pop. You even braced a little, in case it did. Finally, it was as big as it could be without popping. Then you tied the end so the air couldn’t leak out. You had a fully inflated balloon.

That is writing.

You start with a story idea (the balloon fresh out of the bag). You write one sentence to sum up the story. You’ve read stories, so you know what a good one is like, what you love to read. Maybe it’s a book with all kinds of details. Maybe it’s a graphic novel with lots of images. Maybe it’s in free verse. With your favorite books in mind, keep writing. Add details to your story. That’s like the balloon as it begins to take shape. Examples of details to add to make the story start taking shape include what the character feels about what’s happening around them. What they see (maybe the ocean), hear (the roar of the waves), smell (the saltiness), taste (not all senses apply to all situations), feel (sand between their toes), and touch (water lapping at their ankles). How they react. How they talk compared to how someone else talks. What’s the character want? Need? Then you throw in conflict. That stretches the character, just like filling the balloon with air stretches it.

But don’t stop there. Keep going. Add more tension and more until you feel like the character can’t take much more. That’s the balloon getting so big you think it might pop and you even brace a little in case it does. That’s the climax of the story.

You’re almost to the end. So it’s time to edit your work, rewrite, and tie up all the loose ends so you have a complete story. 

Writing prompt: With the balloon analogy in mind, write a short story about a time when someone said or did something unkind to you.

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