Whenever a writer sits down at his or her computer to type a story, though it seems to be a solitary act, there are two worlds that should rise up, one on each shoulder: One is the world of imagination and past experience, the stuff stories are made from; the other is the imagined audience, the folks who will one day read this story. A good writer keeps both in mind while crafting the tale. A good writer is the bridge between these words.
Sometimes, though rarely, a story comes to you fully formed. Always, a story improves when rewritten, tweaked or adapted for the intended audience.
Every author would like to think that his or her story is a timeless work of art, but truth be told, most writers make their living writing content for web pages, corporate newsletters, marketing campaigns, television, films, magazines, and/or news outlets.
In the following assignment imagine yourself a writer for a national travel magazine. Your intended audience is both folks like you and the leading demographics for travel: young families, middle aged couples, and baby-boomers. The purpose of this assignment is to promote tourism along the Illinois River Road National Scenic Byway.
Take a Road Trip!
Your job is to simply spend a day on the Illinois River Road National Scenic Byway and write a short travelogue.
Go to Illinois River Road National Scenic Byway to plan your day. Do some of the things that you love to do: eat at a good restaurant, go hiking or shopping, plan a fun day, but also stretch yourself a little. For example, if you like to shop maybe you could also visit an antique mall or something outside your normal range. If you love to fish, plan to try a spot you have not visited. If you are a history buff, visit both a major museum and a small county historical society or living history farm.
OR plan a perfect day to explore and celebrate your hometown, your community. If you had a friend visiting from out of town what are the sights one should not miss? If some foreign dignitary was coming to visit what are the places you are most proud of and would insist that they see? Plan that day and scout out the sights.
OR put together a themed day like: all of the Frisbee golf courses along the river, from Chillicothe and Peoria to Pekin and Bartonville; or a day of bird watching from Starved Rock to Chautauqua Wildlife Refuge; or a visit to , the Peoria Zoo and the Fondulac Farm Park; or a day of different boats, kayaking, renting a jet ski and riding the Spirit of Peoria; or several skate parks or whatever theme strikes your fancy!
Plan a day that is fun for you as you explore all that the Illinois River Road has to offer.
In any case, bring along a friend and have a great day! Take notes. Take pictures!
Tell a Good Story!
Write a short story that makes the day come to life. Keep it brief, 750-1000 words. Bring the reader into the experience using all of your senses. Have an adventure so you can write an adventure tale! Use a personal narrative format, with a clear beginning, middle and end, but realize you are writing for a specific audience with a specific purpose. Keep in mind what they would look for, what they might enjoy, what questions they might ask to plan their own adventure.
Your goal is to be a cheerleader for your hometown! Without twisting arms or making a direct sales pitch, your story should provide inspiration so readers will think, “This sounds like fun, I want to go to there!” Type it up, rewrite at least a few times, and edit your story. Make pictures with your words. Sprinkle in some of the logistics like addresses, open and closing times, whether folks should call ahead and make reservations and web links so readers can plan a similar trip.
Enter Your Story in a Writing Contest!
Submit your story to www.foxtalesint.com! In the subject line make sure you type Illinois River Road. Include jpgs of two or three of your favorite photos from the day. 10 – 20 of the best stories will be posted on the Illinois River Road web page. Winners will also receive a copy of the documentary comedy “Voices For the River,” Prairie Folklore Theatre’s CD River Ghosts, and $10 for gas money to plan your next adventure!
There is an open deadline with stories being selected every month for inclusion in the Illinois River Road blog. By submitting your story you are granting us permission to use the story and the photos, though you retain copyright.