Mr. Borilla's Short Adventure Story Contest
which inspired a lesson at WritingFix
Between fourth and fifth grade--my two years with Mr. Borilla as a teacher-- there came a marvelous summer. My best friends all had swimming pools. I learned to body surf with my older brother. And a movie came out that summer that blew my mind. I think I saw it ten times, at least. It was called Raiders of the Lost Ark. None of us had ever seen a movie like this before. So much action. So much action.
When summer came to an end, and we returned to our beloved Bullard Elementary, we asked Mr. Borilla if he had seen the film, and he admitted that he had. He also admitted he didn't care much for it.
What? We were shocked. Why Not?
Mr. Borilla said the movie was too long. He didn't want to talk about special effects. He didn't want to talk about amazing characters. To him, it was simply longer than it needed to be. Adventure movies of Mr. Borilla's youth had apparently been much shorter. He called them serials.
I had developed a pretty good rapport with Mr. Borilla by then, so I felt comfortable razzing him when I could tell he was in a mood that allowed for playful razzing. At recess, I remember approaching him one day, saying, "Oh, what do you know? You didn't even like Raiders of the Lost Ark."
"It's not that hard to make an adventure movie , Corbett," Borilla replied. "I mean, what's the definition of an adventure? Something exciting happens. Then something suspenseful happens. Then something exciting happens. Then something suspenseful happens. It's not rocket science. Anyone could write an adventure story."
Later that week, perhaps inspired by our conversation or perhaps it was his master plan all the time, Mr. Borilla announced he was sponsoring a writing contest just for his class. He was calling it The World's Shortest Adventure Story Contest. He obviously expected to prove a point. I was determined to prove my own.
For a week, we talked about adventure story basics. We brainstormed good ideas. He gave the "Something exciting happens, then something suspenseful happens..." speech a few more times, and we were off and writing.
On the day the stories were due, this is the complete story that I turned in:
The World's Shortest Adventure
by Corbett Harrison
____Something happened. Something happened. Something happened. Something happened. Something happened. Something happened. Something happened. And something happened.
The next day, Mr. Borilla handed it back with an appreciative smile. "It's good. Nice and short, but you didn't use enough transition words." In fairness, we had been studying transitional words and phrases, so I re-wrote it once more...just to see if I could get a bigger smile out of my teacher.
The World's Shortest Improved Adventure
____First, something happened, and then something else happened. When something happened later, something happened after that too. Something happened right before something happened. Finally, something happened. And something happened to finish it all.
I got the smile, but I still didn't win the prize. I don't remember who did win from my class, but I do remember thinking, "That person probably didn't even see Raiders of the Lost Ark!"
Twenty or so years later, I wrote an interactive lesson for the WritingFix website called Short Adventure Stories. It was partly inspired by the Choose Your Own Adventure Series, but partly inspired by Mr. Borilla's contest back in fifth grade. When I present this popular lesson as a demonstration lesson, I always tell the students the story you just read.
You can access the lesson and all its resources at the WritingFix website by simply clicking on the book cover at right.
I challenge you to host a World's Shortest Adventure Story Contest with your own students, and post some of the winning stories at the Blog that can be found at the bottom of the left-hand column at the lesson.