The Secret Language of Stories (SLOS) by Carolee Dean

Hi everybody! Your long-time MUF member, Kimberley, here with today’s fantastic post!

carolee dean pics

Author Carolee Dean

I’m thrilled to introduce you to The Secret Language of Stories, created by my good friend and writing/critique partner, Carolee Dean. As you will see below she has oodles of experience doing this in the public school system as well as in classes and workshops around the country. She’s a brilliant writer, teacher and story analyst, with a terrific plan of fun writing activities to do with your students based on the 12-step Hero’s Journey. If you’re a home-school parent, substitute teacher, or writer yourself – jump right in – and enjoy! LOTS more details at the links below. Take it away, Carolee . . .

OVERVIEW

The Secret Language of Stories (SLOS) is a twelve-step story analysis I created based upon The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell as well as The Writers Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers by Christopher Vogler. Though I love both of these texts, I was looking for symbols a little more concrete for the students I work with, and terms that brought images easily to mind for them.

I use this method both to create my own novels and to teach writing to kids of all ages as well as adults. As a speech-language pathologist in the public schools, I serve students elementary through high school of all ability levels. Understanding the structure of narratives gives kids a framework not just for understanding the stories they hear and read, but also for telling the stories of their lives.

Carolee Dean pic

Carolee with one of her students

SLOS is broken down into twelve basic parts. Stories don’t necessarily contain all of the components, and they don’t always occur in the order given here. In longer stories, many of the elements are repeated. Subplots may have their own story threads and novels may include endless repetitions of the Plan, Attempt, Response sequence found in the middle section of the story. The purpose of this analysis is not to micro analyze every element of a story, but rather to help students and other writers recognize what is going on in stories and to begin to think like authors.

I like to find magazine images depicting each of these story elements and then ask student to first talk about the pictures and then write sentences or paragraphs about them. Struggling writers may also be struggling speakers and thinkers. Since written language builds upon oral language, I always try to start with a conversation.

1)      Old World – Setting and characters are introduced.

luke skywalker

Our Hero!

2)      Call and Response – This may occur during or after the inciting incident. The Hero receives a call to adventure. Sometimes he eagerly undertakes this challenge, but more often there is a period of reluctance or even refusal as the dangers of the adventure are weighed against possible benefits.

3)      Mentors, Guides, and Gifts – A mentor appears to encourage the hero to accept the challenge of the call and gifts are often given to help him on his way.

4)      Crossing – The hero decides to act and crosses over into the New World.

5)      New World – The hero faces small challenges as she learns to function in the New World.

6)      Problems, Prizes, and Plans – A clear story goal is established and the hero makes plans for how it will be attained.

7)      Midpoint Challenge: Going for the Prize – An attempt is made to attain the Prize. A shift in the story occurs.

8)      Downtime – This section shows the hero’s response to what happened during the attempt. It may be a time of celebration, recovery, healing, regrouping or sulking, depending on what happened during the attempt to attain the Prize.

(Note: In longer stories or novels, endless cycles of the plan, attempt, response sequencing continue to build momentum.)

9)      Chase – A twist sends the hero off in a new direction. Something is being pursued. The hero may be pursuing the prize or the villain, or the villain may be pursuing the hero.

10)   Death and Transformation –

Hero's Journey and Character Arc

The Hero’s Journey PLUS Character ARC

This is the point in the story where it appears that the hero will lose whatever is of highest value. Often someone dies at this point in the narrative.

11)   Showdown: The Final Test – The hero must face one final challenge to demonstrate whether the changes that have occurred are lasting or only temporary; internal or merely external.

12)   Reward –  The hero gets what she has earned. If she has passed the final test, it may be a reward. If not, there may be other consequences. Often there is a celebration and the return of the hero to the group.

This is a very brief overview of the twelve steps. For more information visit my blog at http://caroleedeanbooks.blogspot.com/ and check out the tab entitled The Secret Language of Stories. If you have questions or if you are interested in writing workshops for your staff or students, please feel free to contact me at my email (caroleedean@yahoo.com)

I also have a monthly column called The Secret Language of Stories focusing specifically on story analysis at SPELLBINDERS BOOK NEWS. To read my analysis of Cassandra Clare’s City of  Bones go to my April post at http://spellbindersbooknews.blogspot.com/2013/04/city-of-bones-story-analysis-by-carolee.html.

CAROLEE DEAN BIO: Carolee Dean has made numerous appearances as a guest poet/author at schools, libraries, poetry events, and teacher/librarian conferences. She holds a bachelor’s degree in music therapy, a master’s degree in communicative disorder and has spent over a decade working in the public schools as a speech-language pathologist.

Her first novel, Comfort (Houghton Mifflin), received an IRA notable citation. Take Me There (Simon Pulse) is a YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers. It follows the journey of a budding young poet who cannot read or write, but dreams of using words to escape a life of crime and deprivation. Forget Me Not (Simon Pulse) is a verse novel exploring suicide and the effects of cyber-bullying.

Follow her on Facebook at Carolee DeanM, Twitter @CaroleeJDean, www.caroleedean.com

Kimberley Griffiths Little is the author of three magical realism novels with Scholastic, THE HEALING SPELL, CIRCLE OF SECRETS, and WHEN THE BUTTERFLIES CAME (2013). Forthcoming: THE TIME OF THE FIREFLIES (Scholastic, 2014) and her Young Adult debut of FORBIDDEN with Harpercollins (Fall 2014). When she’s not writing you can find her reading/daydreaming in her Victorian cottage and eating chocolate chip cookies with a hit of Dr. Pepper.

One response to “The Secret Language of Stories (SLOS) by Carolee Dean

  1. From the Mixed Up Files have really been giving great, fun, and informative posts lately (thanks). This interview is great – admittedly a bit over my head 🙂 Must visit the author’s site….oh, so many things to learn!