I believe stories have the power to transform lives. Like me, I believe you can do this. You can write it all. According to my mom, “an open mindset mixed with determination and a positive attitude,” will help get you to wherever you want to go.
When I reflect on my school days as a child, some of the stories I read were entertaining. Usually, they were the fiction ones, but the nonfiction ones were heavily focused on facts, figures, events, and dates. Although those things are important, I couldn’t recall a single nonfiction story that took me on a journey and captured my imagination.
A lot has changed from the days of cramming facts and figures. In the years that have followed, I have learned quite a bit as a writer. Some of the best works I’ve read are nonfiction pieces. Now, as a writer of both fiction and nonfiction, I’ll take you through the process I use to keep my stories engaging.
most authors, I start off by brainstorming. I’ll spend hours jotting down words and phrases that relates to
the vague idea for the story I’m working on. At this point, nothing is
concrete. I don’t know all the fine-tuned details of what I want to say yet,
but once I’ve settled on an idea it’s lot easier to do so. I’d recommend not
stressing about the details so early on during the writing process. I usually
This is where I allow myself to write the first thing that comes to mind. The process is the same for fiction and nonfiction.
After the brainstorming process, I start laying out the groundwork. I make a list of people I need to contact and books I need to read that pertains to my story idea. Sometimes my planning involves traveling within the country and outside as well.
During this process I’m constantly thinking about my character(s) and the story I want to tell.
Like most writers, I make a draft. The first one is always crappy. I start filling in the voids if I have the answers. If not, I reach out to my sources. Throughout the entire process I frequently ask questions about my own story. I want to know more, so I ask questions, those being; who, what, why, when, where, and how.
way you decide to document those answers is all up to you and your own personal
writing style. Personally, the hardest part is when I’m writing about my
culture. I Just want to make sure that every detail is spot on. I often clarify
my facts by finding multiple sources that provide me accurate information.
Sometimes mining my own memory is a good place to start but I always supplement
it with information from family, friends, and experts from within my culture.
fiction books, The Field and To Carnival, are written about my
culture, but it took more than four years and many trips to St. Lucia to get it
is where the magic of wordplay and word choice comes into focus. At this point,
I’m thinking about imagination, education and taking my readers on a journey.
The goal at this stage is to focus on the child and capture their attention.
always thinking about relatable themes that are universal to children
My first paragraph is written with the goal of capturing the reader’s attention. Here are some examples:
(From The Field)
The Field calls.
To Carnival: A Celebration in St. Lucia)
“Manjé! Eat, Melba!” Calls Manman Lucy. “Tomorrow’s a big day!”
The grown-ups make plans for morning. Carnival!
Melba tries to listen, but her mind wonders …
(From I Am Farmer: Growing an Environmental Movement in Cameroon)
This is Northwestern Cameroon
The rainy season has begun.
This is where you set the stage and let your voice shine. Each story has its own voice. Your job is to capture that child’s attention and keep it throughout the entire story.
Thinking Beyond the Book.
my story inspire children for generations to come? I hope so, but no one really
knows that answer. However, there is a good chance that if your story is
authentic and represents people correctly then your story might survive the
test of time.
In the end, it’s about crafting an inspiring story — one that educates and captivates readers. My process may be different than yours, but I challenge you to try mine out and see if it works for you.
Mining Memory as a Writing Tool
1. If possible visit the place or the person you are writing about. If not go to a quiet room.
2. Close your eyes and try to visualize the place/experience or person you are writing about.
3. With your eyes shut, put your five senses to work.
4. Start thinking about, the sights, the smells, the feel, the taste, and the sounds that made the place/person/experience interesting.
5. Open your eyes and start documenting what you remember in detail.
6. If possible, start asking yourself questions that begin with who, what, why, where, when and how.
7. Visit the place again. This time focus on only one of the senses each time.
8. Start including those details into your story. Remember, show not tell.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Baptiste Paul grew up in St. Lucia, where at age seven he propagated a root cutting that still produces breadfruit for his community. He holds an Environmental Science degree and is the author of The Field, which received multiple starred reviews. He is also the co-author of I Am Farmer, Adventures to School, and Peace, with Miranda Paul. His forthcoming book, To Carnival! A Celebration of St. Lucia will give readers a small taste of his homeland. Learn more at baptistepaul.net.
ABOUT THE PRIZE
Baptiste is giving a signed copy of Peace.