C.S. Lewis is a popular fantasy writer. He was a contemporary of Tolkien, but his books were more aimed at kids. I’m sure everyone has heard of “The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe”.
I remember reading this book when I was a kid and then read it to my kids. I discovered something upon re-reading it. The big battle at the end was a short sentence within a paragraph. That’s it. Even before the recent movie, that battle was bigger in my mind than what Lewis wrote.
and at the same moment all war-like creatures whom Aslan had led from the Witch’s house rushed madly on the enemy lines, dwarfs with their battleaxes, dogs with teeth, the Giant with his club (and his feet also crushed dozens of the foe), unicorns with their horns, centaurs with swords and hoofs. And Peter’s tired army cheered, and the newcomers roared, and the enemy squealed and gibbered till the wood re-echoed with the din of that onset.
Then, the next page is a new chapter that starts, “The battle was all over a few minutes after their arrival.”
This is all well and good. I mean, the story is told, there was a battle, they fought, the good guys won. True, that is the plot, but it’s not the story. Plot is just the sequence of events, the basic order of things happening. Story is so much more and richer than that. There can be a whole lot of story with each plot point. What we got was more plot and less story.
But even that has a background tradition. Fables and fairy tales were mostly told in that fashion. There isn’t much story beyond the basic plot points. And fantasy in the time Lewis wrote this wasn’t much beyond that point in our story history. It wasn’t uncommon to tell the whole battle in a sentence.
And this is where our kid’s imaginations can be expanded. What happened in that battle? What other creatures were there and how did they attack? Maybe some didn’t fight, what were they doing? Have the kids tell you.
And this doesn’t have to be bloody and violent. If kids have a restriction of keeping it PG or even G, they have to push themselves harder to make it interesting. That’s not a bad thing. Focus on the thoughts and feelings of the characters. Practice writing to keep it interesting and active – which usually means shorter sentences, less flowery language.
As a bonus activity – watch the battle in the recent 2010’s movie. It’s a pretty intense scene that is a lot longer than 1 sentence. Let them write their scenes first and then follow up with the scene from the movie. As another bonus – have the kids watch and novelize the movie scene. Get practice writing out what is happening on the scene. They aren’t making it up, but it’s good practice for those that want to get into scriptwriting.
I want to follow this up with examples of battle scenes – Tolkien, Riordan and more. Challenge them to find a good action scene and then write their own.