|Stories have been written within stories for eons: the practice is as ancient as ARABIAN NIGHTS and as modern as John Bemis' new book, THE WOODEN PRINCE. Intricate to plot and challenging to execute, some books use a framework of an overarching narrative to embed other stories. Other novels build upon myths and folk tales. In this issue popular author, Jonathan Auxier, whose books often include stories within stories, gives us an inside look into story making. |
I have this problem when I’m writing books: I get lost—seriously, painfully lost. The trouble begins a little past the halfway point of the process. Pretty much all my stories involve heroes entering into new environments—places fraught with confusion and buried history, filled with characters doing things that don’t fully make sense. The hero collects clues about the past, trying to understand how her world got to be the way it is. It’s all very compelling—fun to write and (I hope) fun to read. But then, a little past the halfway point, it comes time for the hero to assemble her clues and piece together the past—to uncover the backstory that explains why things are the way they are. And that’s when my book falls apart.
Backstory is painful. Sometimes it can take years to resolve the many questions I’ve set up. My writing grinds to a halt, and I am forced to start again at the beginning and re-draft the entire manuscript—carefully re-evaluating every thread I’ve placed in the story. Sometimes I discover that I’ve created a tapestry whose many scattered threads cannot be drawn together, and I am forced to abandon the book altogether.
This happens every time.
So why do I write this way? Because I think this structure—inheriting a broken world—is the structure of childhood. We are born into a world that briefly seems harmonious and then reveals itself to be something more confusing. We begin to see cracks in the facade. Our parents suddenly appear less than perfect. Our teachers transform into adversaries. Our peers change into rivals. The systems we once blindly trusted now seem suspect. Maturity is the process of discovering that the world existed before we appeared—that our parents, teachers, and community all have their own stories.
And that before we can fully understand our own stories, we must first listen to theirs.
So, off went the three with a hey diddle dee
By the light of the silvery moon.
The cat with his fiddle, the cow, and the dog,
to bring back the dish and the spoon.
In this clever take-off on the familiar Mother Goose nursery rhyme, Stevens intertwines several Mother Goose stories as Cat endeavors to bring Dish and Spoon back into the story. Filled with puns that adult readers will enjoy and familiar characters that children adore!
Janet Stevens is an author and illustrator of children's books. Her books have won numerous awards including a Caldecott Honor. She is available to visit your school, library or conference event.
|by Joyce Hostetter|
Read an example of a story within a story to/with your students. This could be a novel study, a short story, or even a picture book. Talk about how the inner story informs the frame story or how the character of the main story relates to a character or characters from the inner story.
Encourage the students to write a story in which their character is emotionally attached to another story - perhaps a fable, a fairy tale, or a story handed down by a parent or grandparent. Here are some considerations to guide their writing:
1. Choose a main character and give him or her a problem.
2. Choose a book, fable or short story that the main
character will feel attached to for some reason.
3. How does the story the character is attached to motivate
or inspire the character to cope with life?
3. How does that story comfort the main character?
4. In what way is the main character like any of the
characters in the story he/she is attached to?
2 Teens' Takes on Three Books
by Amy and Anna Graham
Balto of the Blue Dawn is the 54th book in the Magic Tree House series. Siblings Jack and Annie have found a tree house with magical books that can take them to different places and times. They travel to Alaska to help Balto deliver medicine to sick children. Although Jack and Annie’s adventure was fun and educational, I thought their inclusion took away from Balto’s achievements.
Inkheart is the first book in a Middle Grade fantasy trilogy that follows the tale of Meggie and her father Mo. Meggie’s life is changed forever when she discovers that her father has been keeping an enormous secret. He has the amazing ability to bring book characters to life. However, Meggie learns that this ability can also be a curse when her father accidentally brings an evil villain to life. Meggie must enlist the help of some unlikely friends to send the villain back into his story. The plot of Inkheart is appealing to all book lovers and makes an entertaining novel for younger readers.
A modern classic, The Princess Bride is a story of true love, revenge, and miracles. William Goldman presents The Princess Bride as an abridgment of a novel. The novel begins with a short fictional autobiography of Goldman, describing how his father reading to him changed Goldman from a sports-obsessed ditzy boy into an intelligent well-read man. Throughout the novel, Goldman inserts his commentary into the tale of Westley saving his true love Princess Buttercup. While the actual story of The Princess Bride was quite enjoyable, I felt that Goldman’s fake life and commentary interrupted the flow of the novel.
Amy Graham is an art obsessed, home-schooled preteen. She spends her days reading and cuddling with her adorable cats.
Anna Graham is a book obsessed, home-schooled teen. She spends her days with her beloved cats while listening to K-pop. She enjoys working on her book related blog, Annalyzebooks and her YouTube channel, Annalyze.
Writing a Story Within a Story
If you want to consider writing in this genre, here is an excellent article that can help you get started.
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|We, at TALKING STORY, have decided to focus largely on writing. We'll share from our personal writing & publishing experiences and feature a guest author and also an illustrator in each issue. |
Please let us know what interests you and how we can be helpful to you or your students.
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and we'll enter your name to win one of the three books below.
Each will intrigue a young reader in your life.
If you have a book preference, please mention that. We try to honor requests.
(Or better yet, enter right now!)
Winner will choose hardback or book on CD. John will autograph
the winner's choice.
by Carol Baldwin
My WIP, Half-Truths takes place in the Jim Crow South and stars two girls--one black and one white--who discover they have the same great-grandfather. China plays an important role and when I was trying to figure out what pattern to use, Joyce suggested Blue Willow. It turns out to be a perfect choice because both girls read the book, Blue Willow (story within story) and the china depicts a story too. I supposed that makes my book an example of a story within a story within a story!
Congratulations to the winners from our Spring issue.
Joan Edwards won
BECAUSE OF MR. TERUPT
Linda Phillips won
Mary Jane Nirdlinger won ORCHARDS
- Jonathan Auxier for being our featured author
- Janet Stevens for her illustration.
- Amy & Anna Graham for introducing books.
- Joanne Hunsberger for proofreading.
- Amulet Books for Sophie Quire, Maupin House for Hands on Literature Projects, and John Bemis for The Wooden Prince.
- Linda Phillips for her photography.
- Dave Richardson for book recommendations.
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