Advanced Storytelling



You don't need to be able to assemble a motor in order to drive a car. But if you've ever tinkered under the hood, I bet you appreciate a well-made car far more than the average person.

Similarly, you don't need to be professional writer to appreciate a good story. Nonetheless, if you have ever tried to write a novel, you probably appreciate good stories even more.

At one time in my life, I wanted to be a professional novelist. I read dozens of books on "How to Write a Novel." In the end, my dreams didn't work out the way I had planned, and I became a teacher instead. But I've never regretted those hours I spent studying the craft of storytelling. I feel like they gave me a greater appreciation for the books I read and the shows I watch on TV.

How To Write a Novel

In my basement I have a box of old books on "How to Write a Novel." When it came time to write my own unit on narrative writing, I took what I had learned from reading these books, and I wrote some lessons aimed at 7th graders.

But perhaps you don't want the simplified version. Perhaps you'd rather read the words of the authors who taught me. So I went down to my basement, and I picked out three of my favorite books:

And that's how this unit came into being. This unit consists of nothing but excerpts—some long, some short—from these three books. Each excerpt is like a little snippet of a college-level course on narrative writing.

Which means, of course, that this unit is not for everyone. Some students will find the vocabulary too hard; others might not have any interest in a college course on "How to Write a Novel". That's okay.

But for those of you who are interested, I encourage you to read some or all of these excerpts.

In the Table of Contents, the books are listed in ascending order of difficulty; in other words, the book by James Frey is the easiest, while the book by Dwight Swain is the hardest.

How to Do This Unit

Start reading the excerpts, in the given order. The quizzes are mostly on the honor system.

If you find the reading too difficult, or if you start to lose interest, don't force yourself to continue. As I said, this unit is not for everyone. This unit has been included for people like me—people who enjoy looking under the hood of a well-crafted story.

Instructions for Quiz

Answer the questions.