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Saturday, February 22, 2014

Models for Writing from an Unlikely Source

For the longest time, science fiction and fantasy writing were considered somehow less "respectable" than nearly all other genres. The way some of my teachers wrinkled their noses at my choice of paperbacks in  middle school (Asimov, Bradbury, Burroughs, Howard) made me feel as though these books would have been better hidden under my mattress like obscene girlie magazines.

Yet at some point in time, sci fi and fantasy and all of their sub-genres became respectable, even celebrated, perhaps through their mainstream popularization in film.

What's in it for us as teachers, though, is a way to hook reluctant readers. That's a given. What's less immediately apparent is that much of the writing from these genres is actually pretty good, and could serve as models for our students' own writing.

For some fantastic character descriptions from sci fi books old and new, check out Great Character Descriptions from Science Fiction and Fantasy Books at, a daily online publication that "covers science, science fiction, and the world of tomorrow."

From that article, a description of Elrond from J.R.R. Tolkien's Fellowship of the Ring:

"The face of Elrond was ageless, neither old nor young, though in it was written the memory of many things both glad and sorrowful. His hair was dark as the shadows of twilight, and upon it was set a circlet of silver; his eyes were grey as a clear evening, and in them was a light like the light of stars."

Authors Charlie Jane Anders and Mandy Curtis reflect on each excerpt they share, and it's interesting to compare their take on the character description to your own.

Also, if you're looking for some visual inspiration for your budding Asimovs, check out one of the site's Concept Art Writing Prompts, such as Attack on Kitty Titan by Park Insu. Seriously. Because if we as teachers think that we can continue to give out lame writing prompts and story starters and truly engage and excite our students, then we're mistaken.

But offer up some of the Concept Art Writing Prompts of the past few months, and you'll have some truly inspired writers. In the case of Superhero Grandma (below) by Sacha Goldberger, the true identity of the super hero is more amazing than the costumed and caped hero.

And at the very least, if you're planning out a year that include genre book reports by months, consider adding in science fiction, fantasy, or dystopian literature as a choice. Some of our greatest scientific minds (and Grade 6 ELA teachers) were once sci fi nerds.

Disclaimer: Some stories posted on the site by readers are not appropriate for school audiences. Be aware of this before allowing students free access to the site.


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