Desire and motivation provide the quality, power, and credibility of why characters do what they do. This essay provides ideas and examples for writers aspiring to improve characterization and plot by expanding ideas about desire and motivation.
Drama is conflict and action, elements best presented in scene. The writer of a literary fictional story is often trained in the craft of beautiful prose for telling a story, a skill that may work against reader involvement in a dramatic presentation of the material. This essay considers the role of drama in fiction.
Hayes, J.R. & and Flower, L. (1980). Identifying the organization of writing processes. In L.W. Gregg and E.R. Steinberg (Eds.), Cognitive processes in writing. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Flower, L. (1990). The Role of Task Representation in Reading- to- Write. In V. S. L. Flower, J. Ackerman, M.J. Kantz, K. McCormick, W.C. Peck (Ed.), Reading -to-Write: Exploring a Cognitive and Social Process . New York: Oxford University Press.
Further, as classrooms change and students learn to become literate participants in particular social, political, and cultural contexts within their school environments, it will be necessary to explore the ways in which the variety of texts they are exposed to and create through writing and reading relate to their developing literate selves and the strategies they use to explore and achieve life's possibilities.
Moving beyond an examination of the ways in which writing and reading are related is research that examines how reading and writing, as processes, are used to conceptualize and communicate thoughts and ideas. This research looks at the "synergism" (Tierney, 1992, p. 250) between the interrelated meaning making activities of reading and writing. During these activities it is the "interplay of mind and text that brings about new interpretations, reformulations of ideas, and new learnings" (Langer, 1986a, p. 2-3).
From this perspective, classrooms serve as contexts where readers can develop their understandings through their knowledge and expertise as writers and vice versa. Instruction that encourages meaning making through reading and writing is based on an understanding of reading and writing as related composing processes. In the classroom, "a failure to recognize that composing and comprehending are process-oriented thinking skills which are basically interrelated...impedes our efforts not only to teach children to read and write, but our efforts to teach them how to think" (Squire, 1983, p. 581).
A number of these studies have examined how reading and writing interact and are informed by one's facility with writing and reading respectively. In addition to demonstrating that children's writing is heavily influenced by their reading experiences, De Ford's (1981) observations of first graders indicate that "there is a supportive, interactive relationship between the reading and writing processes. Children learn about how to become writers from reading as well as how to become readers. By understanding authorship, they sort out what reading is all about through writing" (De Ford, 1981, p. 657). A sense of authorship can lead to the development of critical literacy in which the reader/writer moves past simply understanding the content of the text or using it as a model to be imitated and begins to question, test, shape and reshape it (Flower, 1990). Greene (1992) expands on this notion of learning to become a writer through reading by introducing the metaphor of mining as a means of exploring writers read when they have an eye toward authoring their own texts. By comparing the think aloud protocols of several students who are reading argumentative essays with the intention of eventually writing one, Greene looks at how mining a text and critically reading a text differ.
Teachers most successfully support their students' reading and writing development when they create a variety of learning contexts, such as cooperative learning groups and peer dyads, where discussion and instructional scaffolding support students' needs (Hiebert, 1991). Within these contexts teachers help students explore their understandings by providing them with ample opportunities to consider personal responses to the texts they compose and to make links between their prior experiences and what they are reading and writing. Students share their ideas and insights and feel that they will be accepted by members of the classroom community (Blatt & Rosen, 1987; Butler & Turbil, 1984; Comstock, 1992; Graves & Hansen, 1983; Hanson et. al, 1991; Rubin & Hansen, 1986; Sternglass, 1987).
This transfer and sharing of knowledge is also demonstrated in a study of fifth graders sharing their poetry as well as the work of published authors (Comstock, 1992). Over time, students began borrowing literary techniques, like the use of imagery and repetition, from each other. They also began to look to their surroundings for ideas that might prompt them to write. Blatt & Rosen's (1987) account of a young child's ability to call on her experience as a listener and reader of fairy tales as she wrote her own also demonstrates this transfer of knowledge between writing and reading. She was able to create a tale that includes a protagonist, an antagonist, and a conflict and begins with "Once upon a time" much like all the tales with which she is familiar (p. 123).
Mining is "fueled by three key strategies that can inform reading: reconstructing context, inferring or imposing structure, and seeing choices in language...[Using these strategies], a reader can begin to make informed guesses about how to use the ideas or discourse features of a given text in light of his or her goals as a writer" (Greene, 1992, p. 155). When mining, a sense of authorship guides the reader. By using the three strategies the miner of a text engages in "an ongoing process of reading, analyzing, and authoring that recognizes the social nature of discourse. Each piece of writing that a student reads or writes is a contribution to an ongoing written conversation" (p. 158). Conversely, the critical reader engages in a search for meaning by breaking down isolated texts. Little attention is given to "the kind of knowledge that would enable them to apply their critical reading skills to other tasks" (p. 159).