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February 26, 2013

Mary Walter students get writing tips from author

Becky Knopsnider talks with students Feb. 22 at the Morrisville school.
“Get a notebook and write down ideas. As you go through life, write down your dreams; write down things you see,” the Culpeper resident advises students.
A vivid dream was the impetus for former middle school teacher Becky Knopsnider to try her hand at writing a novel.

The result was “Dragon Fighters: The Beginning,” a fantasy adventure for 8- to 12-year-olds published by AuthorHouse in October 2011. Ms. Knopsnider visited Mary Walter Elementary School recently to share with third through fifth-grade students the steps she took throughout her creative writing process.

“Dragon Fighters” is the story of a 16-year-old boy who must rescue his younger sister who enters the forbidden Dragon Territory and is captured. Young Brand finds out that Dragon Territory isn’t what he thought it would be, and neither are the dragons that live there.

The Culpeper resident told the Mary Walter students, “I always loved writing, and when I had this dream, it made me think. A lot of writing makes you think. It makes you ask, ‘What if?’ ”

Writing the book wasn’t the biggest challenge for the novice novelist. “Writing it was fun,” she said. “Editing took much longer. I edited it over and over and over until I didn’t want to read it again. I had other people read it, and when you do that, you have to listen to what they say.”

Ms. Knopsnider told the students that when you create your own story, you need to have a setting, characters and an idea. “But we still don’t have a story,” she said. “We have all the pieces, and we have to ask, ‘Now what happens?’ ”

She reviewed the development of a story’s chronological rise and fall – from exposition to rising action to climax to falling action to resolution. “This usually happens naturally when you tell a story,” she said. “As I was writing ‘Dragon Fighters,’ it changed all the time. After you write, you have to read it over and over to try to make it the best it can be.” Simply stated, she said, a story has to have a beginning, middle and end. “You have to add the details. You have to add the voice. Everyone has a unique way of writing. That’s your voice. Any idea can be turned into a story, but make sure you’re writing so it makes sense. With a book, the audience doesn’t have a chance to ask you questions so you have to think of all the questions they might ask.”

The visiting author gave advice to students who might be interested in writing: “Get a notebook and write down ideas. As you go through life, write down your dreams; write down things you see,” she suggested. “Keep asking questions.”

“Dragon Fighters: The Beginning” is available on-line only through and Ms. Knopsnider is working on the sequel, “Dragon Fighters: The Rescue.”

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