A Pirate's Resources


Exercise 5 :: Significance :: Attention! Attention! This is important

In any story, there are ordinary things that have extraordinary meaning. In Lord of the Rings, the ring - a pretty ordinary object in our world - has incredible significance. It means something very specific, very important. The wardrobe - an ordinary piece of furniture - in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe has great significance and importance too. Names are important too - not just any paper, but the Declaration of Independence. Places, as we learned about in settings, can ground your story and give context for who your character are and how they talk and what they do. Even the things that populate your story - wizards, monkeys, or aliens - will help narrow down what you write about. All of these different details are significant in the telling of the story.

Being able to identify and recognize significant things, and give them the attention they deserve in the story, will make it stronger.

When writing about significant things, details matter.
A Pirate’s Guide is big on details - because they make all the difference between compelling writing (of any kind) and blah. So, for example, we aren’t just talking about a ring, but one that lights up with elvish words when exposed to heat, and turns the wearer invisible, and has been lost for a long time. Those details take it from ordinary to significant, and make it a valuable part of the story. The details can be about the thing, or in the name, or in the place, or in what A Pirate’s Guide calls worldlings. My computer gets upset with the spelling of that, but it’s correct - world-lings. These are types of characters that populate the story world. In most stories, the worldlings are humans. But there are other stories that have talking animals, or wizards, or living stuffed animals. Sometimes a story is populated by particular types of humans, like pirates, or children, or dancers. Being able to identify these will give your child some boundaries in the telling of their story. Because having boundaries helps us to tell the best stories, each significant thing in a story, with its details and meaning, helps the storyteller make decisions about all the other details that make up the story.

In Real Life :: In diving more deeply into this, you can ask your child to think of their favorite story, and there is bound to be some ordinary object that has extraordinary meaning in that particular story. Try finding significant objects in the stories your family tells, real family stories (like Grandpa telling about the huge fish he caught, or Aunt Rose telling the story of how she and Uncle Frank met) - there are bound to be certain things that are important to their story that might be insignificant elsewhere. As we shared in the values section, significant objects often reflect the values the story teller (or someone in the story) has, and this, in turn, helps us to understand them better.

Finding it in the Story :: you’ll quickly realize there is not a story right before this exercise, so encourage your student to think back through the story that they’ve read so far - some significant items would include significant objects :: jelly beans, bananas, treasure map, story grammar; significant names :: ‘scurvy spat’ and each of the monkey names (particularly Norman Nopants, whose name does not fit the pattern), not to mention the silly names for places (Canmerica is one example - this is also an example of rules, which is the next chapter); and significant worldlings :: talking monkeys, pirates, and kraken. As the story continues, you’ll find even more examples of each of these.