Sunday 7 February 2021

What can we do with books?

When you read a book with children, you can of course just enjoy it. You can also talk about it, listening to what children say. That's great too. 

You can talk in ways that use open-ended questions, like 'what did you feel about that?', 'what did you think about that?' 'what do you think is going to happen next?' 

You can ask if anything about that scene or the book 'reminded you' of anything that you remember happening to you?

You can ask if anything about that scene of the book 'reminded you' of anything that you've ever read anywhere else, or seen in a movie, or heard in a song?

You can gently ask why or how that reminds you. What's the link?

You can ask if they've noticed anything about 'how' the book is written? Anything at all?

One 'trigger' way to get into 'how' a book or poem or play is written is to go hunting for links, or what I call 'secret strings'. We can ask children to be 'story' or 'poem' 'detectives': find anything that links with anything else because eg something is repeated eg a phrase, a sound, a line, an image or - importantly - a feeling. Or it might be because there are opposites or contrasts - that's a link too. So long as you can explain why it's a 'string', it is a string! This way we find patterns.

Another way to look at structure is to look for 'reveal-conceal'. All stories and poems unfold. As they unfold they appear to 'reveal' but even as they 'reveal', they imply or suggest that something else might happen or is going to happen, or that there is a mystery. Writers do this in hundreds of different ways. We can hunt for these.

Writers use many ways of making us feel that 'we are there'. How? Most often by using characters' point of view of what they might see, hear, smell, taste or think. It's the 'being there' business of stories and poems. We can hunt for these too by being 'detectives'. 

Books can also (of course) be great starting points for writing.

Here are some ways:

You can just try to write something very similar but you change the 'setting' (ie where it happens)

You can try to write something very similar but you change 'when' it happens.

You can try to write something very similar but you change something to do with the characters, switch from man to woman, change the cultural or ethnic background. 

You can keep the same plot but introduce a new sub-plot.

You can write a prequel (or 'back story').

You can write a sequel. 

You can also do writing by writing from the point of view of one of the characters in a book. What does that person see or hear or think about what's going on?

You can 'interview' a character from a book. Why did you do that? What did you think when you saw that? What did you want to do then?

You can turn the book into a newspaper article. 

You can pick on a tiny moment in a book and make it into a poem or song. You can do these as 'monologues' using 'I' as the viewpoint Or 'he/she/it'. This is how musicals work.

As an experiment, take a story like 'Cinderella' and experiment with any of these. It's amazing what might come out!