S is also for Status Swap

Dear 8B,

Status swaps are the bread and butter of fiction writers. A change of status is the standard situation from which an author or film-maker can weave a story that fills the reader or viewer with empathy, dread, hope and ultimately a sense of relief or triumph.

Consider these examples:

  • Poor, deserving, beautiful girl escapes from a miserable fate, dons sparkling (if impractical) shoes and marries a prince.
  • Skinny boy with horrid family discovers he is actually a famous wizard.
  • Hungry, poverty-stricken boy inherits a chocolate factory.
  • The supposed fool of his family rises to the position of Roman emperor, despite his tendency to stutter and drool.
  • Young girl who loves reading saves her family from a vicious psychopath by conjuring a character out of a book to defeat him.
  • Homeless boy with athletic talent is adopted by a kind family and drafted by a top football team.
  • Brilliant young girl with neglectful family and criminal father manages to get rid of the school bully (who also happens to be the headmistress)
  • Prim and proper hobbit goes on a long journey and in the process becomes an adventurer who rubs shoulders with wizards and elves and comes home with a fortune.
  • Four working-class boys in Liverpool start a band and become musical superstars.
  • Child in Serbia survives a dangerous childhood in a war-torn land and becomes the number 1 tennis player in the world.
  • Horrible teacher gets her comeuppance when one of her students denounces her cruelty at a dazzling ball.

Not all of these are fiction, but all of them sound like fiction. Can you identify each story?

As Oscar Wilde once memorably said: “The good ended happily and the bad unhappily. That is what fiction means.”

Sad to say, real life doesn’t work like that. The poor grow poorer, tyrants seize power, and leaders often treat their people with callous disdain: life is anything but fair. Perhaps that is one reason why, through fiction, we revel in a fantasy world where the people with merit, courage and resolution win the day. They turn the tables on the bad guys. In these other worlds created from ink, paper and celluloid, there is some hope of justice, at least after the heroes or heroines have proven their steel and their resource and have prevailed.

Can you think of other instances of status changes in fiction? Add your own example from a film or a book in a comment below.

Then continue to contemplate how you can turn that human fascination with such turnarounds into a simple story encompassing just one such status change. Add photos to emphasise how the significance of your principal character changes throughout. Vary your angles, lighting and types of shot. You will be following the great traditions of the human story.

Kind regards,

Ms Green


Examples of Status Swap Situations for this Creative Task:

Your teacher makes mincemeat out of you at Parent-Teacher Night. While he shreds your character, scorns your work ethic and describes your tendency to fall asleep on Friday afternoons, you sit there sweating and wishing that you could slide under the table. All the other parents and students who are waiting for their next interview listen with a certain malicious pleasure to your teacher’s strictures. Just at the moment when you are contemplating flight through this throng of curious onlookers, your teacher’s computer is attacked by a virus. With a few nonchalant movements of your fingers, you effortlessly save all his files. He thanks you and promises you anything that your heart desires on your next report…You reply that reports don’t matter to you; you have already been offered positions by Apple and IBM and can’t decide which one to choose.


The school bully steals other students’ lunch money each morning as everyone arrives at school. Only one student, Raymond, seems impervious to the bully’s actions. Raymond is startlingly strong, despite his diminutive size. One day you see him carrying a bookcase. Then he saves everyone from the bully simply by… 


Bess is fed up with Emily for boasting about her boyfriend Harvey. “He’s tall, handsome and masculine,” says Emily. “I simply cannot stop stroking him. You wouldn’t believe how fine his hair is.”

One day Emily invites Bess over to meet the love of her life.

Harvey turns out to be…


Blake is the kind of sensitive, caring boy whom other students sometimes tease. Then, unexpectedly, the most beautiful and talented girl in the school asks him to take her to the formal. Suddenly, all the boys who used to tease him want to know his secret.


A modest and self-effacing boy, Joseph never admits to anyone that he is a mathematical genius who can do equations 5 times faster than Mr Fitzgerald and 10 times faster than everyone else in 8B. But one day, he has no choice but to reveal his brilliance…Scientific American asks to interview him. The Mathematical Journal for Distinguished Nerds asks him to submit a paper…

S is for Story

Part 1: Will 8B get revenge on the wicked Mrs Grun?

Once upon a time there was a cruel and heartless teacher called Mrs Grun. She taught in a pleasant school in the eastern suburbs and her students, a quiet, obedient class known as 8B, were modest, hard-working and well-mannered. Despite this, she was intent on making their lives a misery. They never had any fun in class, never went on any excursions and only rarely were allowed to visit the library. All this they could have borne without a murmur of complaint, but when Mrs Grun refused to let them go to the Year 8 Formal, the social event of the year, they were especially downcast.

Their predicament was made even more painful by the fact that Mrs Grun’s other class, 8U, a bunch of cashed-up bogans and rednecks who were coarse, vulgar and thoroughly unpleasant, had been told at once that they would be able to go to the ball. “Of course, my darlings,” Mrs Grun had said to them, cooing and smiling in her peculiarly repellent way, “no ball would be the same without you. I’ll be there in my turquoise and orange evening dress with shoulder pads and a bustle. I wear it every year. Perhaps we can have a photo together.”

When the students of 8B, however, begged to be allowed to go, Mrs Grun laughed unpleasantly. “You can’t go,” she said, and they could tell she was enjoying their distress and chagrin. “You have to stay at school and clean the quadrangle with old toothbrushes.”

“What?” they cried. “Why?”

“Because you are low, unworthy and undeserving,” Mrs Grun cried. “Because even if I were to let you go to the ball, you would have nothing to wear. You are all too poor, too ragged and too pitiful for words. Why, even your uniforms are threadbare. I daresay none of you have anything you could wear to such a special occasion, in any case.”

It was true. The students of 8B were all dreadfully poor. The allocations to classes always worked that way. The richest students were in 8U and the poorest in 8B. Most teachers were too kind to draw attention to this fact, but Mrs Grun was too nasty to overlook it. She mentioned the impoverished state of the 8B students at least five times every lesson.  Continue reading