Assisting Young Writers In The Craft of Storytelling
Before young writers can begin to develop a more distinctive storyteller’s voice, we must assist them to understand that writing becomes more personal when the topic or focus of their writing is limited to a specific moment in time. The closer they can get to a small moment, the more the writing comes to life for the reader. Then, if they can link more than one of these special moments along a timeline, a sense of storytelling emerges for the reader.
If your students are writing focused and clear narratives but you are not gaining a sense of the storyteller’s voice in the words, this is where the teaching focus needs to be.
The challenge is to raise the young writers sense of story. It is important for the developing writer to understand the role of the narrator. Are they aware of the narrator’s viewpoint in telling the story? This is the story within the story. What mood is created by the words? How is the plot unfolding? What is the author doing to draw in the reader? How is the author using the power of words to evoke a response from the reader?
When students are able to envision the telling of their stories in this way, they can begin to write in a way that draws the reader closer. When we approach the teaching of writing this way it assists the developing writer to develop a sense of dramatic tension.
There are many craft strategies to introduce to young writers to develop their storytelling skills. Show, don’t tell assists the reader to visualize events in a story. The inside/outside strategy allows the readers to gain a sense of a character’s internal thought processes. This takes the writing beyond descriptions of the physical world and external actions.
Developing a stronger sense of setting and characters are both vital to the storytelling craft. Dialogue can be used to reveal characters and move the story forward. It is also important to teach young writers about the role of paragraphing to highlight specific details.
I often discuss with young writers the need to tease and tantalize the reader. ‘Don’t tell them everything at once,’ I remind them. ‘Don’t blurt out everything too quickly. It’s not a race, you are telling a story and the writer controls time and events. What power you have at your fingertips. You decide how much information is given and how quickly it is revealed.’
We often investigate how our favourite authors teach us about pacing our stories at different speeds. They vary the pace. They expand moments. They move through time quickly on occasions.
Storytelling is a craft. The best writing makes you think. The writing causes you to question and wonder. Young writers need to be made aware, -writers often tell their stories many times before their words splash across the page.
As teachers we need to tell our students the whole story about the craft of storytelling.