Once upon a time ...
By Maria Blackburn

Video: Matt Bowden | CTY Communications

“I often have ideas for stories that allow me to write great beginnings, but I can’t seem to end things.” -- Caroline C. | CTYer, Sandy Spring 

Once upon a time there lived a girl named Caroline who liked to read and write. Fantasy and science fiction stories were her favorite, and she spent hours crafting tales of time-traveling butterflies and other fantastic stuff. “I love writing because it’s a way to express yourself while still giving something to other people,” she says.

Yet despite being a creative and prolific writer with an impeccable vocabulary, 11-year-old Caroline had a problem. “I often have ideas for stories that allow me to write great beginnings, but I can’t seem to end things,” she says.

Like most plucky heroines, she decided to take charge of her destiny. This summer Caroline took her first-ever CTY class, Modern Fantasy. She and her classmates at our Sandy Spring, Maryland, site spent mornings discussing three fantasy novels and examining their plot, structure, character development, and the author’s storytelling techniques in great detail. Their afternoons were devoted to writing stories and editing and critiquing each other’s work.
Her favorite part of the class? Learning how to organize a fantasy story from beginning to end.

By the close of the second week, Caroline could be found standing in front of class reading her latest work, a mash-up of “Little Red Riding Hood” and “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.” Dressed in a red silk cape, a basket at her feet, she relates the tale of how Goldilocks, a mean girl named Susie, sets naïve schoolmate Little Red down the wrong forest path toward certain death by hungry bears.

The story is filled with vivid imagery and perfectly chosen words, the plot is clever, and her delivery is animated. But it is the end of the tale, in which Little Red gets a ride home from the kindly bears and Goldilocks gets revealed as the villain she is, that steals the show. “Whatever happens to Susie, Goldilocks, or whatever you want to call her, I do not know,” she writes. “But it won’t be good.”

It’s the perfect ending: Simple, smart, polished. And like Caroline’s tenure with CTY, open to the possibility of a sequel. “I didn’t put a ‘The End’ on my story because maybe this isn’t the end,” she says. “It can probably be continued.”