In the Words of an Author: Your Story Is the Beginning of Something… and Don’t We Always Want to Begin Somewhere?
Author and Publishing Industry Expert Shares Her Tips on Books to Help All K-12 Students (and Adults, Too) Read
What makes a good story? For many students, a story is not just a fancy plot, great dialogue, cute characters, and non-stop action; it’s the form of storytelling itself.
Author Charlene Mendoza’s latest book, Literature as Exploration: Challenging Readers to Connect, Interpret, and Explore, shares all of the ways that good story telling can help teachers and learners. And in a recent media interview, Mendoza shared some of her creative tips for teaching this type of storytelling at all levels.
Talk About Where the Story Begins
Mendoza’s book starts with a quote from writer-director Woody Allen, who states that stories are “the beginning of something…and don’t we always want to begin somewhere?” Since a story is based on two entirely separate life experiences, Mendoza says, a beginning can guide the reader to a conclusion of the story. This gives the reader an opportunity to observe the story through the eyes of a reader who never experienced it firsthand.
By “exploring the viewpoint of a first-person observer of the story,” Mendoza says, readers can fully experience the story from the eyes of the reader’s subject—perhaps “a freshman in high school, who’s never read a book before, has absolutely no clue what’s going on, [and] is expected to read the great works of literature.”
Now that you’ve seen what a story looks like from a POV different from your own, you have a greater understanding of how a story unfolds. When you dive deeper into a story, you’ll understand what makes it so captivating.
Write Surreal Stories
Before any character starts to act, make sure that there’s “just enough for them to feel the presence of something that they can’t quite put their finger on,” Mendoza explains. This way, we can all identify with the characters’ feelings and attitudes, without getting too attached to one side or the other.
“Feelings can be imagined at any point,” Mendoza says. This allows readers to visualize the emotions of their characters by simply touching one page.
Learning to trust your character with their own interpretation of the world can be an important lesson that all students need to master.
Show Your Characters How to Adapt
In an attempt to learn how to adapt, many students haven’t had the opportunity to see how an actor, director, or other creative person attempts to improvise a scene. In recent movie or television shows, many scenes are scripted, but some actors or directors will improvise and create a scene that is completely unexpected.
Mendoza says that her students are shocked to find that it is easier for them to adapt to new situations and play different roles. During a class, teachers can often shape the students’ role to be more noticeable, and allow them to develop their acting skills by finding out more about what audiences are thinking and feeling.
Gain Deeper Knowledge of Emotions
When readers think about emotions, they tend to think of happy or sad emotions, Mendoza says. But what if students were to think about the emotions that accompany happiness, jealousy, anger, and the concept of joy, fear, and despair?
After all, by thinking about the emotions that surround a story or project, students are more likely to gain a better understanding of how these emotions truly impact the viewer. If they learn how to express their emotions, they are also more likely to identify with the characters that they are watching.
Charlene Mendoza is an author and award-winning content specialist in the marketing and education industries, working with everything from building content for newspapers to consulting on project development for educational publishers. At any given time, Mendoza can be found writing, editing, marketing, or speaking at educational conferences and bookstores across the country. For additional info, you can check out her LinkedIn profile, Twitter feed, and Facebook.
As she put it, “Now we want to know more about why we feel this way, why we react this way, what we can do to change our feelings…and it’s really opened our mind to feeling a little more beyond ourselves,” which is what makes good storytelling so powerful.