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Nanowrimo - Context

Written by Tommy Buteau
May 27, 2014

I had been reading one of David Levithan’s books, The Realm of Possibility, and it seemed like a pretty neat way to have each student create a story that was connected and yet written in different voices. In the book, there is one school, and twenty voices. Each chapter is in a different voice, and you don’t really see all of the connections between the characters till you are a few chapters in. Each of the characters are very unique, and they have their own perspective on the world. Yet, they are connected because they go to the same school at the same time.

So, in October, the month before the competition, I started to read chapters from Levithan’s book to the class. They were intrigued, perhaps because there is controversial themes and characters in the book, or perhaps because it is in first person verse, but the students engaged with the story.  

There were several ideas I wanted to convey to my creative writing students through this project, and this book helped with some of those concepts. First, the characters are talking about things that mattered to them, and I wanted the students to visualize the characters they were creating and to understand that not everything a character thinks is continuous, yet there is a foundation to characters, and people, that comes through in most of their thought patterns. Everyone falls into the idea that their perspective is “the perspective,” but one major difference between an author and a character is that the author has to see a perspective other than his/her own. Second, a story can make sense and be very powerful even if it is not linear. Third, sometimes a collection of stories about a place or an event can be much more powerful than a single story. I guess the post-modernists helped cement that idea down.

Another context study that worked well came in the form of a movie. As students were discussing what central event they might use for our story and how the individual chapter stories could be interrelated, I asked each student to turn in a five hundred word proposal detailing their central event and the required characters. While thinking and writing this, I allowed them to watch the movie Valentines Day. It worked well for this as it is a collection of interrelated characters and their stories. Most had not seen it, everyone enjoyed it, and all were able to describe how overlapping stories offer many unique ways to approach storytellng.    

 

One particular approach allowed in this type of storytelling is the art of facade–when a character says something, yet the audience understands it differently than the character does, it is called a facade. With this type of interrelated storytelling, you will find frequent examples of this because the audience has a chance to hear about a situation from many different characters’ perspectives. When young writers learn of this, it can become a game to include some connections like this in their writting.    



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