Secrets of a Storyteller

Work your student through this sequence at whatever pace feels comfortable to both of you.

 1. Ask your student to write down his favorite stories/movies and the ‘message’ or theme he remembers from them

 2. Then ask: Where do you think those stories came from?

  • Author’s own experience
  • All the books he/she ever read
  • Author’s imagination

 3. Let’s take each in turn starting with…Personal Experience

A. Recalling

  • Ask your student to tell about some exciting things that have happened
  • Ask him to add ordinary, everyday boring episodes
  • Remind him that he has to watch, notice and replay both the exciting and the ordinary happenings of everday life

B. Recording

  • Journalling is good way to do this…a form of Instant Replay to return to later in his own mind
  • Telling the story to someone else is also a good way to burn it in his memory. (These are the kind of stories we like to hear from grandparents – “Years ago, when I was your age…” )

 This is fun to do, all by itself. But it’s not really a story yet. It’s just a real life record.

 4. The next step…Recalling books/movies

A. Ask for other stories he may have read or seen. Ask him to think about what was exciting and kept his interest. (You probably know your son’s adventures into literature and film and can prompt responses.)

B. A similar question: What were your favorite books? What did you like about them?

 5. The biggest step…the author’s imagination

A. Remind your student that three headed dogs, wizards and monsters may be exciting, but the story teller’s secret is to remember personal experiences…what did it feel like, what was the place like, what were the smells, the tastes, the sounds.

B. Then, here’s where the imagination comes in:

  • Ask your student to think of a character…maybe someone he knows but with a different name. It could be that he really likes this person or can’t stand him or her. Describe what he/she looks like, how he/she acts.
  • Put this person in a place or situation your student recalls from personal experience.
  • Ask your writer to imagine what happens next based on his own experiences, imagination or from books or movies he has seen (Originality in plot is not imperative at this point, writing is.)  

Now he’s starting to storytell.

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