HOW TO WRITE w/ Professor Matt is an animated web series that teaches the basics of narrative writing.
Teachers: The best way to utilize this series is to first have your students read the sample scene, comment individually, then all watch the video together.
In this episode:
-The “Waking Up” Problem
Read the Scene
My neck was sore when I woke up. The car ride was 3 hours long; I was asleep for 2 and half of those hours. I realize that we must be close. A few minutes later, Dad tells me we’re here.
We get out of the car. It’s cloudy out. It was raining before we got to the farm. The house stood off to the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. Even through the fog you can see rolling hills covered in trees and long grass meadows for as far as the eye can see. The farmer comes out not long after we park. I stood with mom while dad went forward to introduce himself. His kids are there too. A girl that doesn’t look much older than me, and a boy who must have been about five or six years old. I try to wave at them, but they both shared the same blank expression on their faces.
The kids didn’t hold my interest for long. They weren’t the reason we came all the way out here. The farmer leads us over to the pen. There’s two of them in there. They’re both young, no more than 6 weeks old. Their fur is brown, like cinnamon. Their ears flapped through the air as they chased each other around the pen. Mom and Dad are talking to the farmer, but I’m not listening to what they’re saying. My attention is on the two puppies that are running around in front of me. It’s only when the farmer talks to me that I take notice.
“Want to go in there?” he asks me.
Before I can answer the door is already open. Now I’m running around with them. Jumping, laughing and rolling around on the ground. I try to reach out to the first pup but the second one tackles me before I can reach it. I get back up and I continue the chase. This goes on for what feels like hours. In reality, it was probably only ten minutes.
After the three of us are tired out, Mom calls me out of the pen. The farmer and the Dad shake hands and Dad heads over to the car. He opens the trunk and takes out a large, black slab of what looks like metal bars. He quickly unfolds this into a small cage. I look back to the farmer and he’s holding one of the puppies in his hands. I can feel the joy bubbling up inside my chest.
Until I look past him into the pen, where the second pup sits there, crying. The further his brother gets from the chain-link fence, the louder his cries become.
“What about him?” I ask Mom.
“You know we could only take one honey.” she tells me.
I can feel the tears welling up in my eyes. I start to cry along with the lonely pup in the pen. Mom picks me up and carries me to the car. Through the tears, I see the farmer’s children, with the same blank expressions on their faces. They watch me as Mom puts me in the backseat, with the first little puppy in the cage with me. I look out the window and I watch as the two children brings the second puppy into the house. I begin to calm down. At least they won’t leave him outside all alone.
Then I realize that the puppy next to me is crying too. I put my fingers through the bars and tell him “Don’t worry, I’ll take good care of you.”
When we get home, Mom gives me the new collar. I slide it over my new dog’s head and hold him close. It has two things written on it; our home phone number, and his name, Rocky.
Watch the Video
Now watch the tutorial and see the text the way a published author sees it. You can apply what you learn to your own writing.
*If you’re a teacher showing these videos in class, you can have your students add their feedback in the comments before watching. 1) Favorite line or image, 2) What you liked about the scene overall (what is its potential?), 3) How can it be better?
Matthew Ross Smith is an author and award-winning writing professor. His first novel, Lizzy Legend (Aladdin Books/Simon and Schuster) is out in early 2019.