He Who Finds Mercy series

Friday, January 17, 2014

Writing lessons from Jack and Jill

Below is an excerpt from one of my lessons I developed while teaching creative writing to children. It's not as "fun" as some of the other things I wrote for the students, but it might be helpful for you teachers out there.


You’ve heard this “story” all your life:

Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water.
Jack fell down and broke his crown, and Jill came tumbling after.

Do we really know anything about Jack and Jill?  They could be just about ANYBODY!  What if we could “hear” them speaking to one another:

JILL:  I’m so tired, Uncle Jack.  This hill is so steep.  I want to go home.

JACK:  Now, now, you know we can’t go back without the water your Mama needs to make us a fine venison stew.

JILL:  Well, I am hungry.

JACK:  See?  The stream is just ahead.  Help me fill the buckets and I’ll carry them on the yoke.

JILL:  But how can you carry all the buckets back down the hill?  It’s so steep.

JACK:  Just watch.  Oh, oh!

JILL:  Uncle Jack! 

Could you “see” Jack and Jill a little better?  Are there any hints about their age and where/when they live?  This is just the dialogue.  All you need to complete the scene is add a few details:

            Jill dropped her bucket and plopped down on a rock.  She noticed a stain on the front of her calico dress.  She sighed.  “I’m so tired, Uncle Jack.  This hill is so steep.  I want to go home.”
            Jack turned around.  He pushed up his straw hat with his free hand.  Beneath his grizzled eyebrows his blue eyes twinkled.  He shifted the carry yoke on his shoulder.  “Now, now, you know we can’t go back without the water your Mama needs to make us a fine venison stew.”
            Jill wrinkled her nose.  She could almost smell that stew.  Uncle Jack had just killed that doe this morning.  Mama was preparing the meat right now.  “Well, I am hungry.”
            Jack pointed ahead.  “See?  The stream is just ahead.”  Help me fill the buckets and I’ll carry them on the yoke.”
            Jill shrugged and followed Jack.  He set down the carry yoke. 
“Help me fill the buckets and I’ll carry them on the yoke.”
She dipped her bucket in the cold, clear water and gripped the handle with both hands.  “But how can you carry all the buckets back down the hill?  It’s so steep.”
Jack grinned and took the nearly full bucket from Jill.  “Just watch.”
He added Jill’s bucket to the two on the carry yoke.  It appeared to Jill that the yoke was unbalanced.  Uncle Jack always seemed to know what he was doing, so she followed him as he began to descend the steep hill. 
They hadn’t gone far when he stumbled on a rock and lost his footing.  “Oh, oh!” he cried just before the heavy yoke pulled him down.  His head struck a boulder, and he lay still.
“Uncle Jack!” screamed Jill, rushing forward.  Then she, too, lost her balance and began tumbling down the hill.

Now you try it!  Write the dialogue for Jack and Jill.  Make them sound like (pick one) two children  OR  two teenagers  OR  two elderly people  OR  two people of any age.

Just put their names in all capital letters, like this: 

JACK:  (write what he says)

JILL:  (write what she says)

If you do write this, I'd love to read it! You can email a copy to me at khuthjones@gmail.com. Happy writing!

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