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Introduction to this Stone Soup Writing Activity

This writing activity is based on a story by 13-year-old Joanna Calogero published in Stone Soup Magazine's September/October 1992 issue, and also included in the Stone Soup Book of Fantasy Stories anthology. Read the story, "Doll Shop Magic," on our website here.

Joanna's story is a fairy tale, a story in which a supernatural force rescues a good person from a desperate situation. While it is a fairy tale, it is a modern fairy tale. The action takes place in a big city among people who all act and think like average modern people. In fact, while it is pretty clear that something very magical happens in this story to save the main character, Sam, from his landlord, Mr. Murphy, Sam is never sure what saves him. Maybe it was just luck. Maybe the girl and the doll were a dream. Sam, like most modern people, doesn’t believe in fairies.

Notice how thoroughly Joanna develops the reality of Sam’s life and problem. His city has changed, his doll store is no longer in the part of town where people shop, and the new landlord, like the city itself, is no longer friendly or tolerant.

The modern city doesn’t encourage romance and magic. And so, throughout this story, the question remains unanswered: Did more than just good luck enter Sam’s life?

Project: Write a Story in Which a Likeable Person Is Rewarded Through Magic or Luck

Your character does not have to be perfect, just likeable. But your character should be struggling against a mean or uncaring person. In traditional fairy tales the bad person is very bad: typical examples include an ogre, an evil stepmother, or an evil witch. In Joanna’s story, "Doll Shop Magic," Mr. Murphy, the landlord, plays the role of the more traditional evil fairy tale character. But Mr. Murphy is not really bad, like a criminal or an ogre. He is bad the way the modern world is bad. He is insensitive, uncaring, and inflexible towards a fellow human being.

In your story, show us how a kind person who desperately needs help finally gets it in an unexpected way. Whether the unexpected is clearly magical or whether it just seems a coincidence is up to you. Or, like Joanna, you can blur the edges between reality and fantasy so we never really know.

Pay attention to the setting in which your story takes place so that no matter what happens you give the reader a sense that at least the place and the main character are real.

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