Writing a Children's Story Using Circle Structure | B.A. Burgess | Skillshare

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Writing a Children's Story Using Circle Structure

teacher avatar B.A. Burgess, Writer | Writing Facilitator

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Brief Intro to Circle Structure


    • 3.

      Examples of Circle Structure


    • 4.

      The Plug-In Outline


    • 5.

      Brainstorming Elements


    • 6.



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About This Class

Write children's stories using this classic story structure!

In this course, we will go over circle structure, which is a commonly used structure for children's books. This structure allows young readers to learn valuable lessons, understand the importance of seeing a story all the way through by illustrating closed loops, and it encourages readers by rewarding their curiosity with answered questions at the end of the book.

We will go over examples of circular structure, you will learn outlines for circular structure books, that use location bases, and question or desire bases.

By the end of this course, you should have a better understanding of circular structure, the tools to brainstorm the elements of a good children's book, and the know-how to plug it into the outline and get the story done!

We are here for results, so let's get writing, shall we?

Meet Your Teacher

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B.A. Burgess

Writer | Writing Facilitator


B.A. Burgess is a multi-genre author.  She has published works of poetry, romance, non-fiction, and children's book under various pen names (or author voices as she prefers to call them).
When she isn't writing, working out, taking photos, and encouraging others to write.

Speaking of, would you like to start writing? 

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Related Skills

Creative Writing Creative
Level: Beginner

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1. Welcome: Hello friends, welcome to writing a children's story using circles structure, crafting stories and close loops to satisfy early readers and illustrate themes. In this mini course, you will gain a basic understanding of circle structure. I hope you'll use that understanding to brainstorm elements of a story. You'll then take those elements and build an outline. And then lastly, you will turn that outline into a draft for a children's book that uses an illustrate circle structure. If you have not already, I highly recommend taking my other course on children's book writing. It's how to write a children's book in seven days or less. This words. This course shows you how I write children's books and seven days or seven steps. It is what I've used to write all of my children's books that are currently published and my currently unpublished children's books. I find it useful. It will give you a time structure and it lays out things on a very, very strict schedule. Whereas this is more, this mini-course is more of an exercise of an idea. You could play around with it in a day. But what you learn in this course, you can actually plug into the seven-day structure. And that way you have deadlines and time limits. If that's the kind of thing that you're into. Who am I? Hello. Imba Burgess, also known as Barbara. I'm a writer, writing facilitator and generally curious person. I'm a multi genre author, so I write in several different genres. You might know me from my children's books because you're here. Those are written under Barbara and Burgess, which is my legal name. You may have seen my books on the CMT show Nashville. But the thing that I'm most proud of is I got a picture from the mother of a reader and he was caused playing as, as Fernando, from my books. It's always been a dream of mine to have somebody calls play one of my characters and I did not expect it to be a cat. But here we are and it's still awesome and it's still almost makes me cry. Something else you should know about me before we carry on, is that the way I teach is actionable and I do speak at a pretty quick clip if you're not familiar with me. I also tend to not edit out things like my ums and ahs, and I do drink beverages on camera, so I'll have coffee and water nearby. So if that's something that bothers you, just be prepared, it's coming. So what you'll need for this course, just the basics, right? You're going to need some time and you're going to need the materials and tools so you can use paper and pen for this. You could use lungs, it doesn't matter. I'm going to use a computer just so I can go through it a little bit faster, but you use whatever you were accustomed to using, it's totally fine. This is all about working the way that you write into a structure so that you can complete a story faster. We're also going to be referencing the ox cart man by Donald Hall, illustrated by Barbara Cooney. Let me back up a little bit. It looks like this. And we will also be referencing. Fernando learns about asking both of these illustrates circle structure in a different way. In the downloadable PDF for this course, you will find a link to a video on YouTube That's from the 1880s of somebody reading the ox cart man. You'll also find a link to a YouTube video where I read. Fernando learns about asking. You can get both of these books anywhere. Books are sold if you want a quick reference. So you can use those YouTube channels that'll be perfectly, or those YouTube videos that'll be perfectly fine. Speaking of the downloadable PDF, the third thing you'll need is to download the course PDF. There's some helpful things in there for you. So just make sure you get a copy of that downloaded for yourself. Now, if you are reading, we are going to now dive into cerebral structure. I will see you in the next video. 2. Brief Intro to Circle Structure: Okay, let's dive into what circled structure actually is. So like the name suggests, the story will loop around bringing the reader back to a place or question that was posed at the beginning of the story. So this particular structure is used in a lot of children's books because it does make it easier for the child. But like the name suggests, of course, you're going to start into place and end in a place or start with a question and end with a question. Just like every other story, circles structure stories are going to have a beginning, middle, and end. So e.g. a. Story will start in Nashville and it will also end in Nashville. So this particular structure is excellent for young readers because it creates familiarity and predictability given the young reader confidence as they read the story. So as they're going along, they might be able to guess what's going to happen next. And it really rewards them for continuing through and finishing the story with their parent or on their own. Because they think, oh my goodness, I'm so smart. And it does help them with things like noticing patterns as they get older. So often circular structure or circle structure is used to illustrate a lesson or a main idea as well. So you don't have to come back to a physical location. You can come back to a question that was posed at the beginning of the story or an idea of feeling something like that. So it can illustrate theme or main idea. Okay, So next we're gonna go over examples of circle structure. So let's pop on over there and we'll go over a few examples so that you can see exactly what we're talking about. 3. Examples of Circle Structure: Okay, Now it's time to look at examples of circles structure in children's books. So we're going to be looking at the ox cart man by Donald Hall. I think this is going to be reversed, but you get the idea. And Fernando learns about asking by me. This is a good time for you to pause the video and then you're going to watch the videos that are included in the PDF. So pause the video, look at the PDF that came with this program. And click on the videos. The ox cart man, and then click on the video to listen to. Fernando learns about asking just you. I have a general idea of the story. Then once you're finished with that, come back here and then we'll talk about it. Go ahead and pause it. Pause it now. Okay. I'm going to assume you went off and listened to these books or you have them and you read them yourself with your eyeballs. Pardon me? It doesn't matter which way you went about it. Let me get a little sip of my water. Now let us discuss Shelley. We'll start with the ox cart man by Donald Hall. So the main idea and theme of the book was circle of life on the farm. He started at the farm and he ended at the farm. And here's a short break down of the story itself. And you can see how it all loops together. He started at the farm and he loaded up all of his products to sell at the market. He walked to the market with all the things and then he sells them bit by bit. And then he walks home with a few new items. And then we end with him on the farm when he came. And then he's beginning the cycle all over again to prepare products to sell next year. That I mean, if that's not a circle, I don't know. Like it's completely a circle. That might be the easiest way to write a circular structure book, especially for children, is by location. It's a good way to warm up because it's easy for you as the writer, easy for them as the reader started a location into the location, you see a lot of books like this that are about kids going to school. And then are they start out at home and then they go to school and then they come home. And that's really good for getting kids used to the idea of going to school and spending a day and then you're definitely coming back home to worry about it. You're gonna get sad because you miss everybody and everything, but then you're going to come home and it's gonna be great. And you're gonna tell your parents or guardians or whoever you live with about your day. So there's that, that's how you do it with a location base. Now in Fernando learns about asking. It's a little bit more abstract, but it's not difficult. The main idea and theme of Fernando learns about asking is to be considerate of others, right? You cannot assume that everybody is on the same page as you. You cannot assume that everybody wants to do the same thing that you wanna do. So you need to hear other people out. This story starts with Fernando's desire to play with his friends. And he goes all about it the wrong way. And then he learned his lesson. He's like, Oh dang, I should have asked people if they wanted to play, instead of just assuming, then at the end of it, he actually gets to resolve his desire and he does get to play with his friends. So it can start with a desire or a question. And then in with the either obtaining of that desire or the lesson learned from not getting that desire. Or it could start with a question and then you can come to the end of the book having answered that question. So again, this is a little more abstract. It's not as solid as a location, it's a thought, right? So this is a thought experiment, a theme. And this is a physical location and also a theme, um, which is circle of life. And then farm start at the farm into the harm. Whereas this would start with a question, learn a lesson, end with the lesson and have the question answered. So that's the simplest breakdown. I think this is pretty easy stuff, man. Once you get it, you're like, Yes, I should have thought of this long time ago and you'll be banging out books left and right. So speaking of banging out some books, our next move is to go over a standard outline is going to be super general, okay? Then we're going to break down that outline into elements so that we can do some brainstorming of those elements. And then I'll show you how to go ahead and fill in that outline. Okay. Let's go. 4. The Plug-In Outline: Okay, Let's talk about the outline and the brainstorming of elements portion of a circle structure story. We're just going to start with the visual representation of this outline. A behold, a circle. I know you're shocked. Just something you should know. This particular circle is divided into equal segments. That's not necessarily how a story is divided. And I wish someone had told me that long ago. But in a lot of cases, the beginning segment is a lot smaller, and the ending segment might take up two or two-fifths or three-fifths of the story, just depending on the kind of story you're writing. So even though each slice of this outline Pi is equal, keep in mind that it certainly doesn't have to be. And that will become useful information to you as we get into the writing portion. But let's break this down a little bit. Obviously, we have the beginning of the story. After that there is a marker. You're going to present a marker or an obstacle. So if you're starting with a location, then you're going to slowly start to move the character away from that location, even if the character is the reader, which is always a cool thing to do with the story. But you want to present them with a marker or an obstacle that takes them further away from the beginning. Then of course you're going to have two more of those, the second marker or obstacle. The third marker or obstacle. Numbers two through four on this list represent the entire middle of your story. And this looks really dry right now, but we'll address that in a moment. Then the final thing, the fifth move, is to conclude your story, bringing your character all the way back to the first location or answering their question or satisfying their desire. So a simple plug-in outline representation of this, because I like bulleted outlines personally, it looks like this. Number one is the beginning number to the marker. Number three, a marker number for a marker. And number five, the conclusion of the story. And again, very dry. But you can live in this up. And this will actually get more words on the page when you start talking about feelings. When you talk about things that they see, that they smell, things that here and tastes. And it's also really fun to create contrast. I like it when you can contrast, especially when you're using a location. Location a versus location B, what makes them different? Or if they're if there's a question or a desire that you're trying to answer here you can contrast the feeling at the end of the book of what it was like to be without it. What it's like to have it in terms of the question or the desire. So let's use this outline for the ox cart man because we've all read this already. So step one, the beginning of the story is that we meet the farmer and he's getting ready to go on his journey. The first marker is where we see him getting ready to travel. So already he's taking things out of his home and putting them into the cart because he's definitely going to travel and he starts traveling here. And then the third step, the second marker is when he arrives at Portsmouth and he starts to sell all of his things. He does, he gets rid of them all. The third marker is where he collects a few gifts, shops a little bit, he grabs a few tools and materials, and he walks home. The story concludes with him finally arriving home with all his products. And he's, he's a changed man at that point because he had a bunch of things and now he doesn't have them. But this is also where the cycle of life of the farm starts all over again. So that's how you would do it with a location he begins at the farm, goes somewhere else, ends on the farm. And again, because we've all read, Fernando learns about asking by now. Let's use that one too. Since we started, excuse me, since this book started with a question and a desire or a desire, question or desire. There we go. So the story, Fernando wanting to play with his friends. And so the markers in this case, they're gonna be three failures. So he assumes the fly wants to play. She does not. He assumes the bird wants to play. She does not. He assumes that the baby wants to play, she does not. Then the story concludes with him realizing, Oh, I assumed that they were on the same page as me. I should have asked them first, that would have been the polite thing to do. So he learned his lesson. This is one of those situations where I probably could have made the end of the book a lot longer, but the realization and the lesson all comes at the very end. So the question of whether or not Fernando would have friends to play with was answered. He does. And he learned how to see if his friends want to play versus forcing them. So that is a simple plug and play outline for a question or desire. So let's look at it. Well, what shall I say? That's an example of how it works in that story. So this on the screen here is the simple plug-in outline using a physical location. And there is a copy of this and the downloadable PDF, you can write it down though I find things stick better when I write them down. But there is a copy of this, as well as the simple plug-in outlined for question or desire, which we'll be covering right after this slide. But let's break this one down first. So the physical location outline goes like this. Number one, story begins at location a point to the main character travels away from location a. And we described the journey a little bit. Again, using all of those thoughts, feelings, senses, that kind of descriptive detail. Number three is the character arrives at location B and then we describe it. This is a good place to do a little contrast if you want to. Number four is the main character travels toward location a and we have a description of them leaving location B. Again, contrast is good here. How did they feel before versus how do they feel now? Then we conclude the story in step five with the main character arriving back at location a, whence they came. So easy. If you're doing a simple plug-in outline using the question or less than what you will want to do is begin with a question or a desire, and then you're going to want the character to fail three times. However that looks in your story, does it matter? Have them fail, learn a lesson or be disappointed three times. And then that time by the fifth time when their success, it's really joyful for the reader and it's more satisfying. And it's always good to have reflection here. When you're writing for adults, you don't want to assume the adults are stupid, so you can leave things a little bit more or a little bit less obvious. In children's books. You can do this as well. You can make it a little less obvious if you want to, but it is good to spell it out to a degree for them. So again, here's the simple plug-in outline. This is of course in the PDF. And these are just some things you might want to tap into when you're writing your sentences and describing your settings and things, it's always good to ask yourself, how does your character feel? What do they see? And tap into the senses and don't be afraid to layout contrasts that will make the story richer for you and for the parents who have to read this. And it will make it more memorable for your young readers. We're going to stop here. I'm breaking this section into two. And in the next section, we'll do more of the brainstorming of elements. Okay, I'll see you there. 5. Brainstorming Elements: Okay, let's move on to brainstorming the elements that are going to go into this outline. So you're gonna be amazed at how many things you come up with. You're going to create lists of things that you can pull from and create hundreds of stories. And it's going to be fantastic. What we need to do with our brainstorming session is we need to brainstorm locations, questions, and desires. So you could put all of this on one sheet of paper if you want. I like to keep a running list of locations on one side and questions on one side and then desires on another. You could fold your paper into three and then do it that way or create three separate documents, whatever. It's good to have an ongoing list and it's nice if that list is 20 items long. For each. You also want to brainstorm your main character now for me, and this may be true for you as well. When I come up with a location question or desire, I already have this character living under the idea and I just kinda have to chisel them out. So doing that means once I decide what story I'm gonna go with or which element I'm going to go with. I asked myself if I see a certain type of character going through this or living there, whatever. But in the event that that doesn't happen to you or you draw blank on a character. You will have a character sheet, so you can make a character sheet and keep that around. And once you've done that and you've actually chosen it to work on your project. You're going to brainstorm three different markers for your story to plug into your outline. And then you will need to brainstorm resolutions to your story. Of course, I always shoot for a list of 20. Okay. But let me explain this a little bit further. But right now you should know that you need a list for locations, questions, and desires, main characters, a list of three markers. So I would say on every line of that page you want to list three markers that would happen in succession. And then resolutions to the story. Now the last two, the markers and the resolutions to the story, they don't exist until you've decided to commit two items on the first list. Okay? So if I were doing this in order, I would sit down and I would brainstorm my locations, questions, and desires. Before I moved on with anything else, I would choose one item from that brainstorm list. I would choose a location or a question, or a desire. In the beginning, don't choose one of each, just choose one pro tip, choose the easiest one to write about. Once that's done, I would move on to choosing a main character. And again, if a main character didn't just pop out of my head the moment I chose this location question or desire. I would then make a list of 20 characters that I could possibly write about. And you're probably thinking, Oh my goodness, how can I come up with 20 characters? Let me show you how real fast. Here's a pin. This pin is a character. Here's a notebook. That's the character. Here's a, here's a jade plant. That's a character. Here's me. I'm a character. That's, there's a bird outside that vertice character. It's like that anything can be a character in children's book man, anything, anything at all? So after I've picked my item from Section one, location, question or desired, I've chosen a main character. Now, I'm going to brainstorm three markers. So if I've chosen a location, I'm going to think of three steps away from that location knowing that the second step, the third step, you need to bring me closer back to where I began. My location was my home. It's me as a kid. I could put as my first marker that I get on the school bus. As my second marker, I arrive at school as my third marker. I'm back on the school bus heading home. And then I would conclude, which is the next part, resolving the story, they coming home. And that's how the journey would go. Pretty simple, right? So just some basic brainstorming rules for you because this is easy. I know you're excited and you're ready to dive in, but just a words of wisdom here from many, many epic failures. Set a timer, set a timer for 10 min, if you know me at all. I love a good ten-minute timer. When you're brainstorming something, you consider the page for days if you wanted to, you know, if you're if you're not disciplined. So you want to set a timer for 10 min for each brainstorming session you do. In the event that you're sitting down to do a location brainstorming session. And you set a timer for 10 min, and you only yield ten results on your page. Take a five-minute break and then set another ten-minute timer and aim to get 20 total items. So here's the deal. I don't remember where I read this, but there was a study done, a marketing study, that typically when people are brainstorming new ideas for products and marketing campaigns, the first ten or basic, anybody could have thought of them. It doesn't mean that you can't find gold in those first ten items. You certainly can. But you're going to start getting into some weird crazy stuff when you get Past item number ten. So shoot for 20 and see what you come up with. The second pro tip for the brainstorming is to pick the easiest thing on your list to write about. Don't pick the thing. You, charis. If you cherish it too much, you're going to be very careful with it. Very delicate. I'm a fan of speed. I like speed and my projects, I think done is better than perfect. And you should really adopt that mindset because the more you do the writing like this, the better your books will get overtime. But you've gotta be willing to write some just mediocre or good stuff in the beginning. It's totally okay. Because once you've finished it, you are a writer. You've done it, and that's the whole point anyway. So pick the easiest thing about which two, right? Yes. And so this little image over here, I love these images, I love brains. This shows you the order in which I would do the brainstorming. I would make a list of locations, a list of questions and desires. And then I would choose the easiest one to write about. And then I'd list the markers. I would do it that way. Of course, the main character thing is plugged in there. Some people can bypass that. I typically bypass it because I've got a main character in mind whenever I write these locations, but that's just me. But there's some notes there for you. This again, is included in your PDF. In our next video, we're gonna do a quick review. And then I'm going to release you to write all the things. 6. Review: Alright, let's quickly review everything we've gone over. So now you know how to identify circle structure in books because we did the examples with the ox cart man and Fernando learns about asking, you know, how to use circles structure with a location or question based. Again, because we did the examples and you know how to brainstorm for locations in questions efficiently. I hope. You also know you've got the outline so you know that you can just plug in these details from your brainstorming session right into the outline to create a story using circle structure. So you're basically a professional now, That's it. Easy, peasy, lemon squeezy. All you have to do now is the writing part. And that's where everybody gets hung up. So don't just watch this course and then log it away in the back of your mind as something that you did once. Practice it. Watch it again if you need to. Have it on in the background while you do your writing sessions, just to remind yourself that you can get all the way through to the other side and create stories from it. Remember that practice makes better. The more you do it, the better your stories are going to become. The possibilities are literally endless. So nobody's ever going to write the story that you are going to write. No, two stories are exactly the same. So start spinning some ideas, put them on paper and see what happens. And also remember that done is better than perfect. Time in practice is the thing that makes your writing better and your storytelling better. Not letting it sit on your hard drive, on your desk and a notebook. You've got to write it, complete it, and move on to the next one. I really hope you enjoyed the course. Thank you for hanging out with me. I appreciate you happy writing to you. Of course. If you want to follow up with me, I'm not on social media very much, but you can follow all of my writing stuff. So I've got a writing blog where I give you some articles about writing at hello, this is writing.com. And you can follow my personal log where I worried about everything else at hello, This is barbara.com. Thank you so much for joining me and I hope to see you in another course sometime. Don't forget, if you want, you can post your successes in the comments section or wherever section that is around here. Okay, bye.